Fundraising During The Coronavirus Outbreak

Tip #1:   Repeat:  We are all connected to one another, we are all connected to one another, we are all…There is no other.  No “us” versus “them”.  Nothing has pointed out this reality more than Covid-19. We are all connected on planet Earth, and are only as strong as our weakest link. So if you are serving the poor, the vulnerable, the infirm, donors are crucial to helping you meet your mission. Tell them how important they are and connect the dots for them. By helping one another, they save us all. Continue reading “Fundraising During The Coronavirus Outbreak”

Workforce Training Fund Grants: Are You Leaving Training Dollars On the Table?

Nonprofits have training needs, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has training funds available for non-routine training programs – it’s a match made in heaven! If your nonprofit pays into the state’s Unemployment Insurance tax pool, then you could be eligible for training grants.

What types of workforce training grants (WTFG) are available in Massachusetts? They fall into two different program categories, but for both programs, the training should:

  • make a difference to company’s productivity, competitiveness, and ability to do business in Massachusetts, and
  • the training should result in job retention, job growth or increased wages.

Continue reading “Workforce Training Fund Grants: Are You Leaving Training Dollars On the Table?”


Dear development professionals and other citizens interested in raising money, make no mistake, there are Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) sitting on a lot of cash right now. There has been a huge increase in DAFS since 2008, and they are not going away anytime soon. So how do we as fundraising professionals deal with this phenomenon?

Grantmaking from DAFs has slowed since 2008 – by a lot! Payout rates from DAFs have been declining slowly every year, from 2008 (20% of assets) through 2013 (14% of assets).  DAFs are not subject to excise taxes, payout rules or disclosure agreements, like private foundations. Even worse, no federal law requires that those funds ever be distributed to charity! Call your Congressperson to object, since donors get to take that tax exemption once they put their money into the DAF. It could be decades before those dollars ever find their way to a charity. Continue reading “DAF = DONOR ADVISED FUNDS OR DIFFICULT ASSET FINDING?”

Big Ideas Matter! Is Your Annual Appeal Thinking Big?

Whether it be politics or philanthropy, having big ideas and goals are crucial to raising money. Exhibit One would be the Bernie Sanders campaign, which was enormously successful considering a small-state Senator candidate who was previously unaffiliated with either major party. He raised $210 Million, from more than 2.4 million contributors. He didn’t win the democratic primary, but he changed the political landscape on how to run, how to engage people and what is possible to request of one’s government.

butterfyA lot of small actions (or contributions) can lead to big changes.  The term “Butterfly Effect” was coined in 1972 by Edward Lorenz, a meteorologist.  He had observed that something as small and insignificant as a butterfly’s wings flapping in Brazil could set off a hurricane in Texas! Continue reading “Big Ideas Matter! Is Your Annual Appeal Thinking Big?”


Those of us in philanthropy know the names Rockefeller and Carnegie well. They are large foundations that distribute oodles of money, and have for the past century. But 100 years ago, those names were associated with something else diametrically opposed to saintly philanthropist. They were known as Robber Barons. Talk about successful spin.

They literally brought bags of cash to politicians, to buy their votes. They had the enormous sums of cash, so they felt that they should have all the power. And they did until strict laws were passed in the early 1900s that limited monopoly power.  Large corporations were broken up to ensure competition and fair prices. And to guarantee that the political economy was not swayed in the direction of those with the enormous sums of cash.                                                                         man carrying moneybag Continue reading “CHARITY FOR THOSE IN NEED”

Guest Blog for Reflection Films: How fundraisers can be more successful

Recently, I was asked by Reflection Films to discuss how fundraisers can be more efficient and improve their odds for success. The results follow.

Q. How should busy fundraising professionals spend their time for maximum return?

A. It will vary a little by industry sector, but a fundraiser can never go wrong by spending more time deepening relationships with existing donors.  A nonprofit organization must continually acquire new donors to offset those that leave the area, die off, etc., but the bulk of fundraising dollars will come from existing donors.  So we need to deepen our relationships with them and our organization’s mission to increase the size of their gifts.

That said, I would recommend doing a good job in a few areas of fundraising concentration, such as major gifts and direct mail appeals, or foundation grants and special events, rather than trying to do everything without enough staff capacity. There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to ask for money.

Continue reading “Guest Blog for Reflection Films: How fundraisers can be more successful”


This long, strange winter allowed me to see more movies than usual, one of which was The Imitation Game. The movie’s subject, an English mathematician named  Alan Turing, was clearly an odd duck, to phrase it nicely. Today we would use different words. He clearly was a man with AspergAlan Turiger’s Syndrome (on the autism spectrum) – brilliant, but with no social skills ability.

As a younger man during WWII England, he was not understood, or liked. Nonetheless, the times were dire, and his brainpower was required to crack the Nazi code so that Britain wouldn’t be bombed off the map. The story chronicles how he ended up working the military’s top-secret Enigma program, and despite not being liked by the small group of mathematician code crackers, they learned to trust him and his unique gifts. Continue reading “HOW MANY GENIUSES CAN SOCIETY AFFORD TO LOSE? THOUGHTS ON THE IMITATION GAME”

Reading Ease – Can You Hear me Now?

Flip phone John M. Cataldo, aka my father, used to hate the expression “Do you get it?” or “Do you understand?”

The question was, in his view,”Have I made myself clear?” The burden is on the speaker or writer to make sure that the audience understands his/her point. Donors, foundations, corporations shouldn’t have to work hard to understand what a nonprofit is trying to convey, especially if it involves a monetary ask!

Continue reading “Reading Ease – Can You Hear me Now?”

From Whitney Houston to Children with Autism: Nurturing Everyone’s Talents

When Whitney Houston died in 2012, the nation was shocked – despite her decade-long  drug addiction – and saddened.  The depth of the tragedy, felt not only by me, can be summed up by one word:  cheated. We had been cheated of her enormous talent and gifts.

We all have God-given talents, and roles to perform here on Earth. Some are great healers; others moving writers. Whitney Houston had the most beautiful gift of song – a rare instrument that could move people to tears and joy with just her voice.                               angel with harp
Continue reading “From Whitney Houston to Children with Autism: Nurturing Everyone’s Talents”

Trends in the Grant World 2014

“It’s a jungle out there.” – Randy Newman, songwriter

The past twelve months have been very challenging on the foundation grant front. If you work in a Jungle monkey and babynonprofit, I hope that you budgeted your expected grant dollars conservatively! It has been harder to obtain grant funds recently in Massachusetts. Why?  Note the following  trends.

Continue reading “Trends in the Grant World 2014”