DeBrief without Finger-Pointing or Blame

DeBrief without Finger-Pointing or Blame

A friend of mine recently emailed and asked for help with a debrief. Her organization had scheduled a fundraising event that didn't succeed. In fact, the organization ended up cancelling the event because not enough tickets sold to hold it successfully. Here is some of the advice I shared:


  1. Start with self evaluation – Before the debrief conversation, give your team some questions to consider before your meeting. Some people process things slowly or need some time to reflect on how to articulate their thoughts. Self evaluation before the conversation gives them this time. Self evaluation also encourages people to reflect on their own role and to take responsibility for their part in the event's success and failure.

25 Things Virtual Volunteers Can Do

Millions of people spent their Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday volunteering, a wonderful tribute to a man whose life was dedicated to public service. Tomorrow morning, children will enter freshly painted head-start classrooms, people with mobility challenges will roll up newly constructed ramps, and coat closets will be able to find the winter wear they need to keep the homeless men on their doorsteps clothed and warm because someone cared enough to sort through boxes and bags of donations and fold and hang coats and sweaters by sizes.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is a phenomenal day and what is accomplished on it annually is inspiring. Clearly, people want to contribute their time, skills, and energy to the organizations in their community. But not everyone has a day off each day to be able to volunteer.

That’s why many organizations are finding ways to help individuals and workplace teams become Virtual Volunteers. What’s more, a lot of companies and businesses are willing to allow their work teams or departments to volunteer from the office for specific times for virtual volunteering. This can make coordinating a company volunteer project a lot more hassle free.

Fundraising and President Obama's Tears

It wasn’t the facts or the arguments that moved the needle. It was the display of emotion.” That, or something very close to that—I was still waking up with my cup of coffee in hand—was what I heard David Axelrod of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago say about shifting public opinion on gun control.

CNN reported this morning that, while the American public is skeptical about whether or not the gun control measures that President Obama announced this week will be effective, they are, nonetheless, supportive, with 60% of the public supporting the measures.. Both the President's approval ratings as well as the support for his policy were on the rise this week following his televised town hall appearance, CNN reported. David Axelrod, a crack political analyst who was part of the “Audacity to Win” campaign team behind Obama’s bid for the White House, had sliced and diced the post-Town Hall polls this week. He shared on CNN this morning that it was not any of the arguments, facts, or data that were discussed during the Town Hall, but the riveting moment when the President shed tears over the loss of children’s lives at Sandy Hook, that changed the hearts of Americans.

Donor Welcome Kits: Like a Warm Loaf of Homemade Bread

A few weeks ago, Russell, my husband, and I visited a new church. As we were leaving the church, a church member gave us with a loaf of homemade bread.

What a nice welcome gift--nourishing, tasty, symbolic, thoughtful. It also served as an ice-breaker. Someone walked up to us and handed us the bread and struck up a conversation. This church did a great job of extending hospitality. We felt welcome.

That's what you want your donor to feel—like you've just handed them a loaf of warm, homemade bread and told them you are really glad they showed up on a cold, rainy Sunday morning.

Easy Come, Easy Go: More Lessons from HubSpot’s Email Purge

Last week, I wrote about HubSpot’s surprising decision to cut 250,000 email addresses from its marketing roles and what we could learn about increasing our email open and click rates. To be clear, I haven’t spoken to anyone at HubSpot, I’ve only read about the company decision to make this move in some of their blog posts like this one by Pamela Vaughan

HubSpot's move was a big step, the kind of marketing decision that, down the road, people will hail as genius or will condemn as idiotic. 

Here’s why I believe it will have a happily-ever-after ending, why HubSpot was able to do this, and one of the things that we—in the nonprofit sector—should learn from them.

10 Reasons Clean Data Should Be Fundraising's #1 New Year's Resolution


Why clean data should be your # 1 resolution:

  1. Direct Mail Appeals: The results of your direct mail appeals are driven by the quality of your mailing list.
  2. Email Marketing: The open rates of your email marketing efforts are driven by the accuracy of your email lists.
  3. Donor Retention: Want to alienate a donor fast? Write “Dear Mr. & Mrs. Jones” to Ms. Jones who divorced lying, cheating, dead-beat Mr. Jones three years ago. I can assure you, Mrs. Jones will never, ever donate again. Ditto, if Mr. Jones has been deceased for 5 years and she’s called your office twice to let you know.

HubSpot's Bold Email Purge and What Nonprofits Can Learn About Email Calls to Action

In a very bold move this week, Hubspot, a leading online marketer, purged more than 250,000 email addresses. As I’ve previously written, email addresses are very valuable to your organization. According to Blackbaud’s annual Luminated study, in fact, each individual email address is worth an average $12.46 in donations.

So one might think that purging 45% of your company’s email list is either truly inspired or totally crazy. Then, again, it might just be completely practical.

The Race is Still On

The Race is Still On

Growing up in Pennsylvania, I had a good friend named Sylvia. We swam on a swim team together. I was pretty much lousy at all sports – swim team included. Sylvia, however, had talent.

Sylvia was so much stronger and better than all of the rest of us in our age group that none of us could really give her a challenge. Near the end of any race, she'd look back at us and we were nowhere near her. She'd leave us way behind. So she'd slack off. There wasn’t any need to make a big effort. She would simply coast to a stop at the end of the race…and still win.

Sometimes the coach would give her a hard time about it telling her how many records she could hold if she just wouldn’t slack off at the end, but she wasn't especially interested in records. She was swimming for the fun of it. We were just in grade school and she didn’t feel any pressure.

It can be easy to feel like Sylvia right about now. #GivingTuesday is behind us. The end-of-year appeal letter we’ve been rushing around to get in the mail has gone out. It might even be kind of quite around the office. But it’s not time to coast to a close just yet.

Fundraisers as Change Leaders

Fundraisers as Change Leaders: Preparing the Next Generation of Fundraisers

For the last several years, we’ve been talking about a culture of philanthropy and the importance of an organization having a culture of philanthropy for a development director to thrive and for a development program to take root and grow. I believe the concept of a culture of philanthropy or the lack of one is a useful idea for understanding whether or not an organization is ready to begin and sustain a development program.

However, I also believe that part of how receptive an organization is to a development program has little to do with how it feels about fundraising and more to do with how it feels about change.