Your Intention: Team Retention

Leaders are bracing for 2023 to be a tough year in organizations and economies everywhere. Budgets are under review, next year’s goals may be in a state of ongoing change, and the situation may be putting your team on edge. The situation places a premium on clear priorities and confident leadership so you can keep your people focused and your association or society concentrating on what matters.

So, here are a few tips for supervisors getting ready for 2023…

Ask each member of your team these questions. Give them a week to mull them over and email their responses back to you. Then sit down and discuss the results with each individual. You may even consider sharing the aggregated responses at a team meeting or retreat.

“What do you need from me to do your best work?”

It’s essential to devote time to your team. You get busy as a leader. Competing responsibilities pull you in many different directions. You must ensure your team feels like they have the resources they need to do their jobs and that you have their back.

“How would you like to grow within our association?”

Discover where your team members want to grow. Find out what career development they need to seek out and facilitate these opportunities for them.

  • Do they need increased visibility in the organization?
  • Do they need mentoring?
  • Do they need a challenging special project?

“Do you feel like there’s a work-life balance?”

If your team has a work-life balance, they are more likely to be satisfied with their job and to perform well. Help your people prioritize a balance between working hard and playing hard. To help your team reduce their stress levels, prevent burnout, and cultivate a strong culture, you must prioritize a healthy work-life balance

“Do you feel a sense of purpose in your job?”

This question will help you connect their personal values to your association’s values. Find out what’s meaningful to them and connect the dots for how their job impacts the association as a whole. Help them understand that what they do everyday matters.

“Are you able to do your best work every day?”

This question helps you identify their strengths. You must figure out if they are playing to their strengths every day. You could even ask them a follow-up question such as: “What tasks would you eliminate if you could?”

“Are there specific activities we should be doing as a fundraising team?”

This question drives home if they feel like part of the team. Research has shown that employees who have friends at work are more successful in their careers. It’s essential to host events outside of work (you might have to get creative in this era of remote/hybrid offices) to thank your team and show them that you value them.

Powerful leadership will be essential as all organizations continue to transform into a more interconnected and interdependent workplace during whatever the “new normal” of 2023 is. Take the counsel offered in this article to enhance and elevate your leadership and personal brand within your association or society.

Michael J, Bates, MS, CFRE
Consultants in Association Philanthropy

Post-pandemic steps to an engaged and diverse board

Your board is essential for driving your mission and strategic priorities. Over the last couple of years, the pandemic has kept many boards from meetings in person. The lack of face-to-face interaction may have your board members feeling less connected and effective. Now that we are able to gather again, what are you doing to make sure your board is diverse, engaged and well-trained?

Annual Assessment

Each year, a great practice is to conduct an assessment with your board, review where your board stands today, and to determine where there are gaps.  Does your board reflect the community your non-profit is serving?  Do your board members have the expertise and talents needed to get your organization back on track and marching strongly into the future and beyond? Creating a checklist of skills and talents required will help identify collectively where your focus should be on recruiting new members. 

In addition, an annual assessment of each individual board member and the entire group will help your organization identify and stay on top of underlying issues that may be rapidly weakening the effectiveness of your board.

A Diverse Board

According to the National Council of Nonprofits, building a diverse board is top of mind for most nonprofits. Unfortunately, not much progress has been made. Following is a link to the National Council of Nonprofits’ helpful resources to increase your board’s diversity and engagement.  (We found the self-assessment on diversity, inclusion and equity particularly valuable)

Effective Board Practices

Also, at the beginning of each year or following the voting in of your newly elected members, plan a board training session and orientation for a collective review of:

  • Mission/Vision
  • Bylaws
  • Strategic plan(s)
  • Budgets and development plans
  • Financial forecast
  • Association and foundation key programs
  • Volunteer structure, roles and responsibilities statement
  • Organizational policies
  • Process for working with board members who may require training or mentoring
  • Conflict of interest documents (current and renewed each year)
  • Board role in philanthropy and fundraising

As Jonathan Schick, author of The Nonprofit Secret: The Six Principles of Successful Board/CEO Partnership reminds us, at the heart of every successful non-profit is one thing:  the board/CEO relationship.  Prioritize the processes that can keep you and your board connected and engaged.

If you would like to talk through any of these ideas, or if you have any questions, contact Lori Vega, Principal at CAP, directly at  Or, more information and resources are also available on the CAP website:

Winter is Coming

Your Association’s Giving Tuesday and Year-End Fundraising Campaigns Start Now

Brad Hutchins, Principal, Consultants in Association Philanthropy

What is your association’s plan to stand out from the rest during this fall’s year-end fundraising season? How will you position your cause as the best place and most impactful organization to give to?

As fundraisers, we know a year-end’s impact on giving from individuals and family foundations. For example, Cameron Ripley at Community Boost shared at a recent conference that 30% of all donations happen between Giving Tuesday and December 31st, with ten times more donors giving on Giving Tuesday compared to an average day of the year.  For some associations, that percentage can be much higher.

As with all things, thoughtful strategy, planning and promotion of your giving opportunities are required. Below are some suggestions to help you develop a strategy and plan for your Association’s year-end fundraising campaign. This outline is intended to help you get the most out of year-end giving this year and in the years to come. Remember, it is essential to put your plan in writing and include dates and goals. This guide is meant to help prompt you and help you get the most out of the last quarter of the year.


  1. Review the prior 3 to 5 years of fundraising data and evaluate trend lines.
    • Is there a difference in online giving vs. mail appeals responses and dollars raised? 
    • Are year-end donations overall rising faster than inflation?
    • What is your average gift size, and how has it changed from year to year?
    • What is are your donor retention rate?
    • Have you seen growth in the number of new and retained donors?
    • Do you see an increase in monthly giving from your donors?
    • Who usually donates annually by now, but hasn’t made a gift yet this year?
  2. Select programs and funding priorities to promote during your year-end campaigns.
  3. Establish your financial goals for those programs selected.
  4. Draft campaign language and design collateral material. Include need, impact, sense of urgency, pictures and personal stories when possible.
  5. Develop two sets of communications for each of the programs selected. 
    • One set of communication materials for your Giving Tuesday launch
    • The second set of communications for the December follow-up campaign
    • Do not forget to include in your year-end appeals family and small foundations you have identified that align with the programs you will be promoting.
  6. Develop a strong promotions calendar for your campaign.
    • The campaign should include dates for the initial Giving Tuesday campaign and December campaign, along with follow-up communications to donors. Text will change depending upon the venue.
      • Direct mail
      • Email
      • Association or foundation website
      • LinkedIn
      • Journal and newsletters
      • Other social media platforms
    • For select Associations with broader public appeal, identify outlets that can promote your campaign and mission. Consider paid media exposure.
  7. Identify staffing and year-end responsibilities to process / acknowledge gifts.
  8. Determine if you will have a matching or challenge campaign.  If so, secure those now.
  9. Identify, secure and engage leadership and volunteer support in campaign selections.
  10. If you haven’t already reviewed the capacity and accuracy of your online giving platform this summer, then prioritize resources to this today.
    • Does it track and report gifts properly?
    • Can you personalize your electronic and/or direct mail appeals and thank you notes?
    • Does it connect to any more extensive databases of records for your Association?
    • Test your online giving program—send out impact stories of prior donations or programs. Identify online giving deficiencies and needed improvements internally to make the case for future budget needs and upgrading. A solid development software system is the cost of doing business in today’s environment.
  11. Review and update your direct mail lists for advocacy.
    • Cull out your deceased donors and donors that have only given a one-time gift in memory of someone.
    • Update any out-of-date addresses.
    • Check to ensure accuracy and ability to personalize your appeals (including spouses/significant others).
  12. Create and prepare notes of gratitude to prior benefactors.


  1. Schedule, plan and share stories with current and potential donors about your organization’s impact on crucial programs over the prior year.
  2. Secure ad/display space to promote your organization and its impact on programs.
    • On your association’s website and newsletters
    • On keyword searches used by consumers and interested parties (i.e., Google, Facebook, LinkedIn)
    • As appropriate for your mission and general public appeal, consider purchasing electronic ad space to expand for overall reach.
  3. Have campaign language vetted internally for accuracy
  4. Test your message, design and layout.
    • Giving Tuesday campaign
    • Annual Giving appeals


  1. Activate and launch Giving Tuesday campaign electronically and in print week prior to and during the week of Giving Tuesday:
    • Social media and electronic campaigns include display visibility via your Association website and LinkedIn
    • Online ads and in print (as available)
    • Giving Tuesday appeal(s)
    • Direct appeals sent through the traditional mail
    • Note: Be sure to check all state registration requirements and any legal disclaimers.
    • Continue sharing stories of impact from members and/or grant recipients who have helped make those possible.
  2. Express gratitude to donors as gifts are received.
    • Include donor’s names and amounts as well as required statements for gifts of $250 or more.
    • If you have a Giving Club, mention that in your thank you.


  1. Mid-December, launch personalized second wave of appeals to donors who have not committed or donated to your  Giving Tuesday campaign using the following means:
    • Email
    • Text
    • Mail
    • Call
  2. Share information with your donors and prospects on how you are doing toward reaching your year-end goals.
  3. Continue to express genuine gratitude to donors the day the gift is received.  Be sure to include names and amounts in your thank you.
  4. Consider sending a no-cost thank you “gift” to donors at a certain level or above:
    • A song or a curated list of music
    • Access to a particular video or online event
    • Electronic badge of appreciation
    • Number of years donating
    • First donation
    • Invitation to the Donor’s Lounge at the next annual meeting


  1. Share high-level year-end results with your donors and express thanks for their support.
  2. Call your recurring and more significant donors to thank them. Share with them the impact they are making. Consider engaging key volunteers and board members to assist in this process.
  3. Begin analysis of the year-end campaign, including the impact of display ads and print and online efforts. Remember, data goes beyond the number of donations, but the total amount raised includes:
    • Retained donors
    • New donors
    • Average gift
    • Recurring donations
    • Cost to acquire donations, etc.
  4. Hold a post-campaign team evaluation session with staff to review successes, failures, goals and improvements needed for future campaigns. This review should include software capabilities, ease of making a donation and furthering recurring giving.
  5. Begin planning the next campaign.

We’d love to hear from you about your success, creativity, and pain points with your year-end campaigns. There are more ideas and opportunities that we’d love to share with you as well.

Consultants in Association Philanthropy is prepared to help guide you and your association through your year-end campaign and help you grow and expand your donations and donor base. If you are interested in learning more, give us a call at 630.965.7708 or email us at

Time for Some Thoughts About Time

Here’s a timely list of comments many of us use every day. Sound familiar?

  • I don’t have the time.
  • I need more time!
  • Where does the time go?
  • Time flies when you’re having fun.
  • There’s just not enough time in the day!
  • It’s just not the right time.
  • I don’t have time for such nonsense.
  • I wish I had the time to read a book.  (Or watch a movie.  Or go to the gym.  Or play with my kids.)
  • Well, I guess I’ll just have to make the time.
  • This is a complete and total waste of time.
  • You can’t make up for lost time.
  • I’m making incredible time! (Typically expressed when traveling a long distance by car.)
  • We need to buy ourselves a little time.
  • There’s no time like the present.
  • Time and tide wait for no man.
  • Say, do you have some time to talk?
  • I’m just killing some time.

There are sure a lot of expressions about time, aren’t there?  I don’t have an original, pithy saying like the ones above, but let me share a few observations I’ve picked up about time after 39 years in the fundraising business:

  1. The Pareto Principle still applies.  80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts.  This does assume that you and your team are focused and stay focused on the right stuff.  Google “Eisenhower Matrix” and let it be your guide.
  • By definition, you can only have one single priority.  If you have more than one of those, what you really have is a to do list.  The secret to time well spent is identifying the one tru priority in the list and focusing your efforts there—suddenly the entire list becomes shorter and less daunting.
  • Can you justify your salary on a day-to-day basis?  If you make $100,000/year, work 50 weeks/year, and put in 40 hours/week, your per hour rate is $50.  If you work an 8-hour day, and are responsible for raising money, do you generate $400/day?  If you do that, over the course of a full year, your association or society will break even on you.  But the job of a frontline development office is to do more than break even.  So, the question is this: What will you do with your time to generate 2x, 5x, or 10x of your employer’s investment in you over the course of a year?

I will suggest that elimination or reduction of lower-level administrative tasks should be a starting point.  If you are getting paid to build relationships, then that is what you should be doing.  You should not be manipulating Excel spreadsheets, generating generic acknowledgement letters, or managing the logistics for your annual meeting or golf outing.  (Yikes!)

  • Here’s an oldie but a goodie.  Knock out the most difficult or the least enjoyable task (related to you number 1 priority, of course) early in the day.  (Slight amendment: With so many of us working from home now, knock it out during your daily “prime time” window.)
  • Spend at least one hour a week alone.  Take time to think, plan, assess, and reflect.  Build it into your weekly schedule.  Developing this habit will give you amazing clarity as to what is important and in turn, how and where you should focus your time.

I’ll leave you with two great quotes about time.  Internalize them by printing them out. Then tape one to the mirror in your bathroom and the other right above the computer monitor in your office.

“Time management is an oxymoron.  Time is beyond our control and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives.  Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have.”—John C. Maxwell


“Don’t say you don’t have enough time.  You have exactly the same number of hours in day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”—H. Jackson Brown

Principal, Consultants in Philanthropy

Do Your Funding Priorities Pass the SNIF Test?

What makes a good funding priority?

It’s a question we hear often from fundraising leaders at associations and professional societies – especially as many of them increasingly look for ways to expand their giving among individual members.

Their need comes as no surprise. The development culture in our sector has evolved along a different path from most nonprofits. For many associations and professional societies, resource development has leaned heavily on sponsorships from industry – grants from corporations looking for exposure and business advantage among the organization’s membership. Today, funding patterns have shifted. Corporate sponsorship was already on the wane before COVID. But as associations canceled or shifted their annual conferences and other opportunities for exposure online, the result was a deep dip in corporate support that persists.

Associations and societies are now playing catch up, hoping to raise more funds from individuals, especially major donors. In this realm they find a different set of interests at play and, consequently, a different kind of funding opportunity is in order.  In this moment, we encourage our clients to ensure their proposed funding priorities pass what we call The SNIF Test.  That is, are they characterized by…

  • S – SOCIETAL BENEFIT.  Like donors to other nonprofits, association members want to do good in the world.  That good might take the form of advancing the profession by funding scholarships, training, etc., but many organizations are attracting increasing funds for more altruistic projects that are mission-aligned but which only indirectly benefit their members, such as public education initiatives, etc. 
  • N – NEED. It’s true that donors don’t give to “needy” organizations.  But it is important for philanthropy to be genuinely pivotal to projects the organization hopes to fund; if those programs can be funded through other means, there’s no urgency for the donor to give. Organizations must demonstrate that their aspirations need contributions to enable, expand and accelerate them.
  • I – INVESTMENT.  Every nonprofit’s goal is to attract major gifts. Whether defined as 5-, 6- or 7-figure gifts, these are contributions that rarely arise from mere duty or in response to an annual appeal. Associations must articulate funding opportunities with enough specificity and focus to both answer the questions and awaken the passions of individuals capable of true philanthropic investments.
  • F – FUTURE.  A good funding opportunity is not about “filling next year’s coffers,” but is rooted in a well-articulated vision. Fundraising priorities should be positioned as essential, enabling elements of the organization’s strategic plan to impact the profession and society.

The SNIF Test provides a practical guide to identifying and selecting funding priorities that donors will find compelling. But that’s just the first step. As the test implies, how you explain the relevance and impact of your funding opportunities has a lot to say about how they will be perceived by your donors. A carefully constructed case for support is vital. Sharpening the case for your organization and its funding priorities is vital to showing donors how they can fulfill both professional and personal aspirations by supporting your organization’s programs.

Describing your funding opportunities through the donor’s lens has never been more vital than it is today. The payoff?  Fundraising results that are nothing to sniff at.