Category Archives: Fundraising Talk

Commentary, discussions, and guest posts on fundraising issues.

The Boss Won’t Heed Your Advice? Three Ways to Get Your Ideas Heard

Siobhan Aspinall

By Siobhan Aspinall


You know your fundraising plans are bang on, but you’re faced with a management team that resists your ideas. This is can happen in any sector, but can be a real challenge in the fundraising field.

Part of the reason is that fundraising best practices are not always widely understood, so your boss might not know how to assess your suggestions. Another tricky bit is that many fundraisers do not have the same targeted educational background as other specialists. For example: You are a working as a brain surgeon and tell your hospital’s CEO that you need sharper scalpels. Is that CEO going to second-guess you? No sir! But if you’re a fundraiser with a Bachelor of Arts in Italian Studies (ahem) the boss may be more reluctant to accept your advice.

Solution Time

Get out into the real world and bump up your education! Go to every seminar, course, webinar and conference you can get your mitts on. Go to and find local professional groups to join. Get a membership with your city’s Association of Fundraising Professionals chapter. And most importantly, tell your boss and colleagues. If you don’t share your new-found skills, how can they recognize you as the new team expert?

Or go with a virtual approach and sign up for information through blogs, e-newsletters, etc. By keeping up with evolving best practices and new ideas in the sector you will increase your perceived (and actual) knowledge value at work. But once again, don’t hide that little light under a rock – educate the whole team by sharing the information.

Consider bringing in an “expert.” You will look like a hero if you contact a colleague to present a new idea at your next fundraising meeting. Pick a trusted contact with experience and good presentation skills to talk about the ideas your management team doesn’t understand. It’s not fair, but people often value the ideas of someone outside the organization more than those of the staff! A side bonus for the colleague is that she’ll get experience in professional presentations that will help build her own career.

Note that solution #3 works incredibly well for fundraising managers and executive directors looking to educate board members. Board volunteers often have minimal knowledge (and maximum fear) of fundraising and should get ongoing education on this topic at every board meeting.

In any case, all of this information will not only bring your team up to speed, but will build your own fundraising and leadership skills as well. Good luck!

Siobhan Aspinall, CFRE has been fundraising for over 13 years for non-profit organizations including the Canadian Cancer Society, the David Suzuki Foundation and United Way. She is currently the Senior Manager of Development at Junior Achievement working primarily in grant-writing and major gifts. She teaches two fundraising courses at BCIT, consults, and is both a board member and professional development committee chair for the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She holds a BA in languages from UBC and an Associate Certificate in Fundraising Management from BCIT. She obtained her Certified Fundraising Executive designation in 2013. In her spare time, she writes for her fundraising blog and surfs in Tofino.

Siobhan Aspinall
Sand Dollar Consulting

The Value of Membership

Doug Puffer

By Doug Puffer

In 1994 many if not all of the fundraisers in the Kingston area were called to attend a seminar about planned giving: Lorna Somers* was coming to town. I had no idea who Lorna Somers was, what to expect, nor was I a gift planner, but I had been to a couple of workshops about bequest fundraising and curiosity won me over.  Until then, I thought that only churches, universities and big hospitals did planned giving: all that mysterious, funereal, back office estate and legal stuff.

Lorna’s message was a beacon.  It was enlightening.  The seminar was a thinly disguised membership drive for a fledgling CAGP and apparently we were forming a new roundtable.  Whatever that meant, didn’t matter;  I was excited by the prospect of belonging to this group. Twenty years later as a gift planning specialist, I see how important that decision was to my professional development.

“No man is an island, entire of itself”

Most charity leaders today are well aware of the importance of professionalism to the future of their organizations but I am not so sure that they know how this equates to membership in a professional association.   As a national director of CAGP, it alarms me when I hear that membership in professional organizations and hence training budgets are considered unimportant when funding falls off.  This means that fundraisers may no longer have access to the benefits that come with membership: resources (often free), discounts on valuable products and services, advocacy, access to very bright minds, advice, mentorship, communications, bulletins, continuing education credits, and dedicated education programs. These are the very things that fundraisers need when the going gets tough!

But to me the true value of membership is about belonging.  The office walls between annual giving, major giving and planned giving are gradually coming down but the vast majority of planned giving is done off the side of the desk of a gift administrator or a generalist. Where do they turn for answers to tough questions if they are not members of CAGP? This is the primary reason that I place a high value on membership.  There is always someone out there to talk with.

“It takes a community to raise a child”

AFP and AHP have created and sustain great opportunities for fund raisers to network and learn from peers and mentors. CAGP educates the broad spectrum of professionals engaged in fund raising and strategic philanthropy and has positioned planned giving in the mainstream of fund development.

“We are not alone”

The founding members of our respective Associations knew there were many notes in the musical chord of philanthropy and I will be forever grateful that they created the means to allow widespread understanding about how those notes work together.  So thanks to whomever it was that called me many years ago to listen, to learn and to drink the Kool-Aid.  I have belonged ever since and given back many times over.

*Lorna Somers was one of the main driving forces in planned giving in the early years of CAGP and is globally renowned as one of the most respected professionals in university advancement.

Doug Puffer is the Director of Planned Giving for Simon Fraser University.  He is a recognized expert in gift planning in Canada with over 26 years in higher education and environmental conservation.  His well-researched presentations have been heard at CAGP, AFP, STEP & CASE conferences and he has written numerous articles and stories about strategic gift planning and philanthropy.