What’s My Name?

By Phil Gérard

Years ago, I applied for a position. The hiring manager’s name was Chris. On my cover letter I addressed a Mr. X. In my interview, to my horror, I learned that Chris was a woman. Since then I am paranoid about getting the name right. Whether that is the spelling, gender, the prefix, suffix, etc.

From my own experience I know that these things happen but it is shocking how many emails are addressed incorrectly. I know my name is not so common and therefore I have already abbreviated it to Phil. I want to note here that I do not care much about whether people call me Phil, Philippe, Philip, Felipe… I almost go by anything. But in writing I want to see my name spelled correctly.

The most common error is using the last name instead of the first name. Granted, Phil and Gérard are both first names but is it really so difficult to figure out in the age of email signatures and LinkedIn profiles?

People do not like their names butchered – whether it is a letter or email to a donor, a job application or an introduction to someone. Taking the time to make sure you get the name right is important. It shows that you care, that you pay attention to detail.

Here are a few common mistakes to avoid:

  • Spelling the name incorrectly. Even more traditional names can be spelled in several ways.
  • Using the last name instead of the first name. This is my personal pet peeve. Don’t call me Gérard unless there is a Mr. in front of it.
  • Get the gender right. This is what I do if I don’t know the person and addressing them the first time: I do a search online to find out (i.e. an article, press release mentioning them). LinkedIn is another good tool to use for double-checking.
  • Get the prefix (before the name – i.e. Dr.)  and suffix (follows the name – i.e. PhD) right. This is particularly important if the person has a doctor title. You don’t want to address them as Mr. or Ms.
I have butchered names in the past and it will happen again from time to time but in general this is something I am diligent about. It is seemingly a small thing but can go a long way in making a good first impression.

Let’s Be Flexible!

By Phil Gérard

Summer is officially here and I thought this might be a good time to talk about work-life balance and flexibility as part of total compensation.

Total compensation is the whole package. It includes not only salary and benefits but also other non-monetary incentives such as flexibility. In my early days as a fundraiser there was a bit of a stigma with flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting (working remotely, i.e. from home) or flex days (also called nine-day fortnight) where essentially, employees work extra time every day and enjoy a day off every other week. Fundraising is a competitive environment and asking for flexible work hours or telecommuting would have then been seen as taking a step back, not being as committed to performing at a top-level.

As recruiter, I work with different clients from diverse sectors and I am noticing a change. I always ask my clients what kinds of benefits and incentives they offer. I am noticing that many of my clients are offering flex days today. This is offered not only to supporting staff but also to frontline fundraisers. I am also seeing other interesting programs such as summer hours, where offices close half an hour earlier in the summer months or completely on Fridays.

The key for success with flexibility is that senior administration embraces it as part of the organization’s culture and offers it to all. They need to set a sign that it is ok to have work-life-balance, of course as long as performance is at an excellent level.

It is also important to note that flexibility needs to be individualized. Not everything works for everybody. Flex days are not an incentive for all. Some people like normal work hours but prefer working every day. Others love working a day a week from home while others prefer to work in the office.

Flexibility plays an important part in recruitment as well as retention. Some organizations can simply not be as competitive in compensation as the big shops. A flexible work environment can help organizations attract top talent and keep it.

I believe it will be increasingly important for organizations, especially those who have been less open to flexibility as part of total compensation, to review their approaches in this competitive job market.


The Solution to Donor Retention – Communication!

Vanessa Chase

By Vanessa Chase

Donor retention is a word that strikes fear into the heart of just about every fundraiser I know.  The problem with our sector’s current conversations about donor retention is that they all focus around how we are asking for gifts. How can we improve our asks and our data to keep our donors? The conversation needs to shift to – how can communicate better with our donors so that they continue to care and feel like a part of our organization’s family?

Why Communications Is the Solution

Donor communications ideally articulates the impact that donors are a part of and we know that that is information our donors want to hear. The Cygnus Donor Surveys of the last few years have consistently shown us that.

Donor communications embodies transformational philanthropy, not just the transactional relationship. Your donors don’t want to be left out in the cold. Let them into your community – wholeheartedly. This is how you begin to improve your donor retention rates and develop a community that is unwaveringly loyal to your non-profit.

But there’s something else to think about here – the content of these communications. If your last newsletter reads anything like most non-profit’s websites, then you may be spinning your wheels. The content of your communications must be personal, emotional and relatable. Using stories in your communications is a great way to achieve this.

Storytelling is Where the Connection is at

We are all natural storytellers. It’s how we communicate every day with our friends, family and colleagues. But somehow when we transition into organizational communications, our natural tendency to tell stories is lost. We focus on sounding professional and respectable. But guess what – you can still sound that way when you tell stories.

Here’s the thing – donors lapse and eventually leave because they don’t feel like they have a connection to the organization. They don’t know how their gift has been used or whom they’ve helped or how valued they are. By telling them a story, you can quickly and easily connect donors to the cause in a way that inspires them and in turn retains them.

Non-profits are a natural wellspring of great stories. It’s just a matter of collecting them and sharing them more often. Here are my top tips for transforming your non-profit into a storytelling non-profit.

Tip #1 – Tell Each Other More Stories. Take 5 minutes at your next staff meeting to tell stories from your week. This is a great way to inspire one another and develop a habit a storytelling.

Tip #2 – Know what stories you want to tell your donors. When you have a clear idea of what you want to tell your donors, you can then relay that information to program staff to seek out story leads.

Tip #3 – Have a system for cataloging stories you collect. Create a Word document, a private Tumblr or another shared document where you and your colleagues can record and store story leads. This will make telling stories immensely easier.

Vanessa Chase is the President of TheStorytellingNonprofit.com and author of the forthcoming book – The Storytelling Non-Profit: a practical guide to collecting and sharing stories that inspire your community. Vanessa’s goal is to help passionate development professional learn the tools and techniques to better articulate their organization’s impact in a way that translates into more money fundraised. Prior to her work in consulting, she worked as a fundraiser at Union Gospel Mission and The University of British Columbia.

E: Vanessa@thestorytellingnonprofit.com

Why the FIFA World Cup is Good for Fundraisers


By Phil Gérard

I am not into sports. Those who know me will definitely agree. I hardly ever watch it on TV nor do I practice any team sport. Once friends of mine convinced me to play Squash. When I finally agreed and they saw me ‘play’ I was never invited again. Something similar happened with golf.

However, around this time every four years – it all changes. The FIFA World Cup is on. Something transforms me into a cheering, screaming, sometimes tear-crying maniac. It’s quite ridiculous. My children will confirm this.

I am sure there are some of you who are thinking “Oh my, even he is talking about soccer these days. Will this World Cup ever end?” There are definitely those who cannot stand it and who don’t get the hype (I feel the same with most other sports or reality TV shows).

But overall, the beautiful game is bringing people together. I just read yesterday that the FIFA World Cup is breaking viewing records world-wide this year. Wherever you go people talk about the games, their favourite teams, and players. Often we learn a bit about people’s heritage that way too.

How will I be making the connection to fundraising you will ask. It is very simple, really. Fundraisers are relationship builders, we want to relate to people, our prospects, and donors. We care about their interests. We want to break the ice and build a relationship. In order to do that we need to find some common ground. I have always found that my German background, my growing up in Europe, my ties to Mexico, my interest in food and travel has always helped me to relate with many people from diverse backgrounds and find something in common to talk about.

That’s why some recruiters (including myself) do not find a BA degree uninteresting. A BA gives you general knowledge about many things, languages, the arts, culture, geography, and so on. It helps us be a generalist and develop a variety of interests.

So maybe use the Cup as a communication starter in the next few weeks. I have found that whenever I start talking about it, even to people I don’t know well, a nice,  genuine conversation and a bit of bonding happens.

Just be careful when you mention Spain, Italy, England…

Looking for a Career in Philanthropy? How to Stay Competitive in a Rapidly-evolving Sector”

Dellegrazio, Jennifer

 By Jennifer Dellegrazio

Like many fundraisers, I fell into fundraising randomly. I was offered a summer job at a local university where I discovered that I could earn a living by helping others support worthy causes. Unlike many of my fundraising colleagues, however, I knew that I wanted a career in philanthropy at an early age and landed my first full-time fundraising position when I was 21. This early, deliberate move into a high-demand and growing profession gave me an advantage; so did launching my career in a robust university advancement team of over 150 development professionals specialized in virtually every aspect of fundraising.

Eager to stay ahead of the curve in an increasingly competitive, rapidly professionalizing sector, I tracked my professional, volunteer, and educational activities from the start so I could test for my CFRE as soon as I met all the requirements. I joined the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), attended as many conferences, networking events, and brown bags as time allowed, and started a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management (thanks to North Park University’s generous discount for AFP members).

I have always been very type-A and (shamelessly) in pursuit of more credentials, which have been valuable when working with colleagues who may not always recognize fundraising as a career. Thus, it came as a disappointment when I began to realize that the certifications and degrees I have been working on are—while valuable—based on 19th and 20th century philanthropy, not the dynamic and rapidly changing philanthropy of today. We have the benefit of drawing on more than a hundred years of data and best practices, but at the same time, the textbooks, examinations, and recent proliferation of fundraising degrees are based overwhelmingly on what philanthropy was, not where it is headed or—at a more philosophical level—what it should be.

Of course it is important to learn about the history of philanthropy, key figures, case studies, best practices, and shameful failures. But donors don’t want to fund yesterday’s issues using last century’s financial mechanisms; they want to address the next big challenge in a new way. In the US, growth in philanthropic giving has largely been stagnant or in decline since the 1990s and government funds worldwide have scaled back. Meanwhile, impacting investing and remittances are on the rise and the data- and metrics-driven giving strategies of the tech industry philanthropists are pushing nonprofits and fundraisers to show results faster and more quickly than before—including in some areas where, arguably, quantification is neither possible nor relevant. Even grantmaking is being challenged as “old fashioned” by the world’s oldest grant makers. It seems everything is on the table in an era of unparalleled challenge and unprecedented change.

So how does a fundraising professional meet the needs of donors and remain competitive in a quickly changing and unpredictable philanthropic market? Study statistics to help populate metrics? Pursue an MBA or finance degree to advise impact investments? Go back to the ivory tower to contemplate the ethics of philanthropy? Perhaps my greatest and first error—and, in my defense, that of many young professionals—is in thinking that I can find a degree or certificate that qualifies me to help others make the most noble, personal, and spiritual decision of their lives: how to make a gift in support of a cause or institution that honors one’s self, or family, or the legacy of someone else. No matter what form it takes, philanthropy at its core remains a vehicle for self-realization, expression, and a joy in serving humanity. Fundraisers’ primary role is to serve the cause of philanthropy. I have come to believe that the way to become a better fundraiser is to be a better philanthropist. Give to your passions; experience what it feels like to be stewarded; see how metrics and data impact your gifts; invest in microfinance; take financial risks in hope of addressing those challenges that are worth risking it all for.

No one can teach the art and science of philanthropy. You must be willing to be generous within your own means, to take risks with your giving, and to explore the joy and meaning derived from trying to make a difference.

Jennifer Dellegrazio, CFRE is currently based in Chicago, Illinois. For the last eight years, she has worked on philanthropic partnerships with corporations and foundations for international NGOs and higher education. Jennifer has an MSc in Race, Ethnicity, & Post-Colonial Studies from the London School of Economics & Political Science and a BA in Philosophy and Politics from Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois.    

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