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In Support of Transformational Fundraising


“A donation to a nonprofit organization is an investment in the community the organization serves….The philanthropic sector has an opportunity to build stronger communities through boldness, innovations, and new models for action that are based on results, not needs, on investment opportunities not institutional financial urgency…Donors do not give to organizations because organizations have needs, they give because organizations meet needs.”                                                                    Kay Sprinkel Grace


Kay Sprinkel Grace, a nationally acclaimed fund-raising consultant, is known for tracking donor trends and presenting practical, tested advice in books like “High Impact Fund Raising: How Donors, Boards, and Nonprofit Organizations Can Transform Communities,” and, “Fundraising Mistakes That Bedevil All Boards (& Staff too).” Summarized from her recent lectures and writings, here is “What You Must Know to Excel at Fundraising Today.”


Today’s donors, especially young donors, are seeking stimulating opportunities that support their personal values. They are “looking for tangible evidence that their gifts are making a difference, and want to know from the outset what the potential impact is," says Ms. Sprinkel Grace.


Ms. Grace feels that an organization’s ability to connect a wide range of people with its ever-evolving life, work, and meaningful impacts are key factors in fundraising success.


As a result, today’s effective organizational leaders are setting their sights on “the great beyond.”  They are reforming traditional fundraising efforts into comprehensive philanthropy, aka transformational giving programs. They see donors and prospects as long term social investors instead of responders to various appeals, and have established and are carefully maintaining channels for interaction, values exchange, and engagement.







Transformational Giving, continued                                                        



To these ends, today’s masters of the art of fundraising understand, believe in, and are able to generate passion for the organization’s mission, vision, and values.  They express the organization’s mission in terms of why the organization exists, not just what it does; its vision in terms of what our world would look like, feel like, and be like if it all “worked out;” and its needs in terms of capacity to strengthen the community for the long-term.


They illustrate the organization’s relevance among organizational leaders, members, clients, funders, and throughout the community by making explicit connections between the organization’s work, community needs, service impact, and the impact of financial support.


For volunteer and staff recruitment, they seek believers in the cause who can do the work, vs. those who can do the work but appear unmoved by the organization’s mission, vision and values. They ask, “How do you see yourself enthusing others about why we exist?” They themselves “master the message” for why the organization exists and include “mission moments” at all gatherings of stakeholders to generate enthusiasm and passion.


All materials are written and interactions guided with “mission match” in mind, so the organization’s mission, vision, and values can be easily found and felt. When referring to the organization, “association” vs “agency” is used to emphasize people, and to foster a sense of welcome, gatherings, and belonging. 


Today’s fundraising leaders realize that furthering an organization’s charitable purpose through charitable contributions and citizen involvement is an effort essential to long term financial health. To build stability and to engage board members in person to person fundraising, they have changed their aims from the traditional bases of appeals and events to transformational giving with the organization’s vision, values, and opportunities to influence the community taking center stage.



Expression of an organization’s vision provides the means to present outcomes on an ongoing basis to members, donors, and the community.  Reference to the organization’s values facilitates a sustained focus on the organization’s impact vs. its needs.  Organizational advocacy efforts greatly amplify one’s personal vision and values and provide the vehicle for a strong, unified voice for sought-after social change.


Ensuring long term investment means ensuring effective donor stewardship. The traditional transaction based fundraising model looks like this:



In the transformative fundraising model:



Transformational Giving, continued                                                       




The loop is a self-energizing infinity, designed to build relationships with and engage donors over the long term. In this model, either the organization or donor initiates the relationship, information is exchanged, common values are found, the person becomes engaged in the organization’s work, the relationship is nurtured through involvement, opportunities to contribute are framed in terms of opportunities to invest in a robust community asset, and the person becomes a donor/investor with whom the organization has an ongoing relationship and frequent exchange. 


Board members are essential in building and sustaining transformational giving programs. They enthusiastically serve as storytellers, bringing the organization’s work alive throughout the community.  Through their connections, interactions, and relationships they ensure organizational relevancy, accountability, and ample community collaborations.


These citizen-volunteers help other decision makers understand that their organization, although it “behaves like a business,” won’t always think like a business since a purely economic model does not fit the work of charitable organizations.  In addition  to  their financial status, an opportunity exists to present


another bottom line with pride –- one reflecting lives and communities changed for the better.  It is through these interactions that organizational leaders build and sustain high levels of respect for the organization and the impact of its work, and are able to introduce prospects for engagement on an ongoing basis. 

Board members are also well positioned to employ transformational giving programs as the means to build and sustain an equal partnership between the nonprofit, its community, and donor-investors – Ms. Grace describes this as the High Impact Philanthropy Model:





Transformational Giving, continued                                                                          


Benefits of transformational giving abound:

¨    Stakeholders are engaged, not just involved

¨    Understanding increases of the organization’s mission, vision, and values.

¨    Beliefs are internalized through articulation to others.

¨    In responding to other people’s concerns solicitors overcome their own.

¨    Carriers of organizational values increase throughout the community.

¨    Golden opportunities exist to respond to the donors’ sense of urgency to help solve problems and address issues.



Bertold Brecht once wrote that he chose one place over another not because the first hadn’t a delectable menu, but because the second invited him into the kitchen.  In the one, he was an honored customer, in the other, he was a participant. He belonged. As Kay Sprinkel Grace says, “Let’s open our kitchens wide!”



NAYE Pocket Guides



From Kay Sprinkel Grace and Co-author Alan L. Wendroff’s Fundraising in a Changing Economy


1. Remember, philanthropy is more than money.


2. Be more accountable and transparent than ever.


3. Convey a sincere commitment to long-time donors- a gift once made has a residual that lingers.


4. If your organization is hard hit by cuts in corporate or foundation funding, convey what the cuts will mean, the difficulty of decisions required, and information about ways the best possible service delivery will be ensured given the circumstances.


5. If you haven’t been good stewards of small gifts and their givers, get busy!  History is full of big gifts from what had been basic-level donors.


6. Look for hidden wealth.  Sometimes the greatest wealth is not obvious. Watch, read, and listen.


7. Keep on cultivating past and present as well as potential donors.


8. Be prudent in organizational financial planning. Your organizational budgeting process should reflect current economics. Prudent planning that reflects knowledge of the fragile marketplace will impress funders.


9. Look to new markets, including earned income.


10. Try different timing for mailings and campaigns.  Keep track of major events in the community, and plan yours around them. Watch when the greatest influx of direct mail occurs, and plan yours for a different time.



A Review of Kay Sprinkel Grace’s Fundraising Mistakes that Bedevil all Boards (and Staff)

from Contributions Magazine.


Fundraising mistakes should be a thing of the past. Or, rather, there’s no excuse for making a serious mistake anymore. And that goes for board members, staff, novice, or veteran. If you blunder from now on, it means you haven’t read this new book which exposes the Top 40 errors that thwart us time and again.


You’re likely familiar with several mistakes to avoid. But the appeal of this book is that in one place it gathers and discusses ALL of the troublesome ones.


Some mistakes and myths will be second nature to you (but not to your board, for whom this book is mostly intended):

¨    “Tax deductibility is a powerful incentive.” It isn’t.

¨    “People give just because it’s a good cause.” They won’t.

¨    “Special events are the best way to raise money.”   ‘Not.’

¨    “You need a powerful board to have a successful campaign.”  Or, “Wealth is mostly what determines a person’s willingness to give.”  Grace shows otherwise.

¨    “We can’t raise big money - we don’t know any rich people.”  Don’t believe it. 

¨    “Most people don’t like to give.”  Actually, many find joy in it.

¨    “Without annual donors, you can’t have a successful capital campaign.”  In fact you can, but the tactics will be different.   That touches on only some of the mistakes Grace explores ... and explodes!


The book is available via or by calling 508-359-0019

Consider: The Golden Age of philanthropy is not over; it has just begun. We need to show that we have both patience and opportunities through these times. Donors are better educated, organizations are better positioned, communities are more aware of our impact and the needs we meet, and society is open to the ways in which effective donor investment in nonprofits can change people, institutions, and communities. We need to show that we are a robust part of the economy, and provide continuing opportunities for investment that go beyond money

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