Do you have any idea how important your work is as a nonprofit leader?

You are making it happen day after day, my friend.

All fundraisers are stalwart nonprofit leaders.

Whatever your role in your organization, you are doing such important work!

You may not have the support you need — or enough resources to do good fundraising. . . .

But you are still plugging away, creating such good in the world.

I just have to tell you how much I personally appreciate what you are doing.

There are plenty of people out there in the world who you touch. You are appreciated more than you know!

Here are my encouraging words for you: 

Go for it!

You are probably one of the most dedicated people you know.

You’ve been wearing the monkey on your back for a long time, and you know it.

As a nonprofit leader, you have one of the most important jobs on earth – bringing in the resources to make the world a better place.

Never forget that!

Take a stand.

Draw a line in the sand about what you are willing to do and what you won’t do.

Confront people who block you, who mock you, or who try to hold you back.

Push back.

Create risk. And accept risk. What do you really have to lose?

Why not tell people that they can’t have it both ways.

They can’t have this new sexy fundraising strategy that they have just thought up, and still get the major gifts you need in the door.

Never be satisfied with the status quo.

You know and I both know that status quo is not acceptable. It’s deadly and deadening.

Status quo is much loved by those who want to make everyone comfortable.

But it subverts the change we need to bring to the world.

Be part of the solution.

Neutrality is not an option. You are either a part of the solution or a part of the problem.

Take a minute and watch this moving and remarkably inspirational closing plenary address.

It’s by Kumi Naidoo, when he was  Executive Director of Greenpeace International, at the International Fundraising Congress.

Know that you are not alone. Remember the ethical responsibility we all share to work for the common good.

Work the big ideas.

Find donors who only want big ideas.

This is where the energy and power is – in the big ideas that shift everything.

Smart nonprofit leaders get out to the field, recharge, and see those big ideas in action!

Create positive energy.

Be a source of optimism for those around you.

Your donors will feel your positive attitude.

Your colleagues will appreciate it. And you’ll change the world faster.

You’ll be operating from spirit .  .  .  not ego.

Have some fun.

People want to have fun.

Your donors, your staff, and your family – all want to have some fun.

Remember my #1 fundraising motto: “When in doubt throw a party!”

When you are having fun, you attract more people and donors to your cause. Everything becomes easier.

Take excellent care of yourself.

The better your self-care – the more good energy you can share with everyone.

Insist on taking your vacation. Close up your computer on the weekends.

Read Beth Kanter’s book: The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit! 

Set an example for others. (Call me if you have second thoughts about this!)

Create a team.

You can’t do it by yourself.

Keeping the monkey only on your own back won’t change the world. (Neither will working yourself to death.)

Pull your team together and set shared goals so you can create shared successes.

Build a support community for yourself.

Fundraising can be a lonely job.

You need the support of your colleagues and friends in our field – whether they are on the other side of the world or next door.

Remember that’s what AFP is for!

Find the nonprofit leader in the mirror.

Let’s not wait for leaders to change. The world needs YOU right now!

Philanthropy and fundraising really need more leaders. And that means you.

WE really are the safety net of society.  Perhaps WE are the heroes.

This is your moment.

We fundraisers have the priviledge of doing our work. We have the knowledge and we have the skills.

Sure, there are days when we all have self doubt.

But the world would be an incredibly worse place — a much more pessimistic place — without you, my friend.

This entire post is my call to action to you.

I’m here to support you, you fabulous nonprofit leader!

I’m here to help you in any way I possibly can. I’m your colleague, your partner in crime, your teammate.

I’ve got your back. Email me if you ever need me.

I’m here to remind you that you already know the answers.

And you know what to do. The world needs you – really!

Rock on, my friend!

Life’s short and the world is calling to us!


How do we attract, develop and retain good fundraisers?young_leaders_stock

At last week’s International Fundraising Congress, many of us were transfixed by a provocative conversation about “The Emerging Fundraising Leadership Challenge.

International fundraising guru Tony Elischer, managing director of Think Consulting Solutions, and 5 dynamic women:  Rory Green,  Maria Ros Jernberg,  Joanne Warner,  Elise Ledsinger, and  Lucy Gower led the conversation.

(By the way, if you have not discovered Rory Green’s hilarious Fundraiser Grrl Tumbler feed, go there right now and subscribe for some much-needed laughs!)

The presenters bemoaned what it’s like for emerging fundraising leaders who are looking for a bright future.

How do we spot, train and develop young talented  – and especially tech-savvy –  fundraisers?

Is fundraising leadership “pale, stale and male?”

Do you agree? Let’s talk about the “stale” part of the above sentence.

Everything is changing about fundraising today. (You’re probably tired of hearing me say to you, “fundraising has changed.”)

Our industry is being blown apart by new technology and new ideas.

Our industry is being blown apart by new technology tools.

Our industry is being blown apart by new technology tools.

The way we communicate is changing drastically.

What donors expect and respond to is very different.

So the stale ideas that are prevalent in so many boardrooms and executive suites are clearly not going to take us where we need to go.

And stale ideas are not going to keep talented fundraisers around.

31% of fundraisers left their jobs because of an “old-school culture of fundraising.”

What’s the old school culture look like?

  • It’s when the president of a college tells me “I don’t know whether to believe my staff.” (This has happened to me more than once!)
  • It’s when the board members think they know more about fundraising than staff does.
  • It’s when your leaders aren’t willing to try out anything new – just sticking with the same old stale fundraising efforts year after year.
  • It’s when a toxic culture squashes young fundraisers’ ideas and dreams.

Penelope Burk found that 40% of fundraisers said that conflicting opinions  on HOW to raise the money was making them leave their jobs. 

Try a “Risk” or “New Strategies” Fund as part of your development budget.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you had a budget item for new technology or to try out new ideas?

Remember, this small pool of money will very likely pay itself back before you know it!

Does your organization have a "stuck in the past" attitude toward fundraising?

Does your organization have a “stuck in the past” attitude toward fundraising?

I like fundraisers who say “give me one dollar and I’ll give you $4 back within two years.”

That’s what a risk fund can help support.

This way you won’t have to deal with the perennial, “We don’t have it in the budget.”

If you have an innovative culture, your staff feels supported to try out new technologies.

And you’ll probably emerge on top in a few years too.

Could it be that the leaders of charities do not appreciate fundraising or talented fundraisers?

Whoa! They don’t appreciate fundraising?  And/or they don’t appreciate “internal fundraising competence?”

Could it be that there is something “fundamentally wrong with the internal culture of many organizations,” in that fundraisers, and particularly talented young women fundraisers —  are not respected, appropriately rewarded or listened to?

(I have to say, what else is new here?)

The presenters called the situation “shameful at every level.”

If you want to be successful, fundraising needs to be integrated into every aspect of your organization.

Everyone needs to understand fundraising and their role in supporting donors and the overall fundraising effort.

I’ll be writing and speaking more in the coming months about how to develop a stronger culture of philanthropy at your organization.

Screen shot from the Fundraisergrrl tumbler feed!

Screen shot from the Fundraisergrrl tumbler feed! Our go-to place for humor!

Can you create a culture in your organization that inspires risk and change?

  • Can you make employees feel important and valued?
  • Can you set a good example of work-life balance?
  • Can you create a culture that values the work fundraisers do?
  • Can you make your employees feel safe and supported?

Do you want to keep your best young talent?

Then make sure you appreciate and recognize “the skills and insights of the next generation of leaders.”

I’m willing to bet our sector could do a much better job than we are doing.

Finding and cultivating new talent has got to be a priority to help lead us to a powerful and productive future.

If you agree, leave a comment!


So come on everybody – let’s make a pledge to the new ‘Grow it, Be it, Value it’ Campaign.

Join the movement to value talent, invest in the next generation, be open to change, look for and nurture new fundraisers coming up in the ranks!

Read all about the Leadership Crisis in Fundraising here. It’s worth your time but it might make you angry!

Give me a comment! Do you agree or NOT?