Transcending the Status of Development Officer to Philanthropic Advisor

8 10 2013

Every so often, development officers transcend their title and move into a special status with select donors and prospects – philanthropic advisor. This is not a title that someone puts on their business card or a simple marketing gimmick, it is the result of a high level of professionalism, commitment to philanthropy, and respect for the people with whom you are honored to counsel as they make meaningful gifts to benefit their schools, hospitals, and other non-profit organizations.

Go from "development officer" to "philanthropic advisor".

Go from “development officer” to “philanthropic advisor”.

Striving to reach this important relationship does not mean abandoning important metrics like number of donor visits, dollars raised, proposals, etc.  Nor does it mean that you buy into some unique selling system that runs contrary to good development.  While there are many similarities between sales and development work, we are not selling gift annuities, hospital rooms, laboratory space, or scholarships. Not every gift fits every donor – our task is to help each donor impact the world through philanthropy in a way that is impactful to the organization and fulfilling to the donor.

You will know you have reached the status of philanthropic advisor with a donor when they pull back the veil on themselves and their giving.  While each donor grants this differently, it usually occurs when these donors engage you in open conversation about their finances, their family, and most importantly their hopes and dreams. Furthermore, you will often find yourself at the table with their other trusted advisors: family members, lawyers, and financial planners.

While there is no magic formula, those development professionals who achieve this status with donors consistently possess the following attributes in themselves and their relationships with donors:

  •  Professionalism – Represent yourself and your organization to the highest standard – all the time.
  • Genuineness — Your interest in the donor or prospect should be real and be committed to helping them make the best possible gift they can.
  • Transparency – Always retain the right level of transparency with your donors and prospects about who you work for and what your ultimate goal is in that relationship.

It is an intense honor for donors to grant you this status. I challenge you to earn it.

Good Luck!

Mark J. Marshall





Keep Calm

29 03 2013

Keep Calm

Some simple advice that has served the world well!





22 01 2013

FOCUS - Inspiration for Healthcare Philanthropy

The Department of Health and Human Services issued its pre-publication release of the HIPAA rules modifications. The 563-page PDF is available at the Federal Register website and via web link at the BWF website. We have identified issues which we see to be significant for fundraising. There will be continuing interpretation and refinement of these rules. This advisory should serve to alert you to key components, not serve as the final word for compliance. However, BWF sees these modifications favorably supporting even more sophisticated and appropriate grateful patient and family programs.

The rules modifications include five major provisions effecting how every development professional will practice fundraising going forward:

  • Compliance of Vendors:Section 160.103 requires fundraising consultants (and their subcontractors) with access to any HIPAA Protected Health Information (PHI) will be held in strict compliance – the same as the covered entity (your hospital). This means you need a…

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“You see it all around you, good (planned) givin’ gone bad….”

20 12 2012

WillWell that is a (admittedly bad) paraphrase of the .38 Special song Hold on Loosely and it is an important issue as many people are working hard to find creative gift solutions. I have heard discussions suggesting that the 90s were the golden era of planned giving, whether that’s true or not I don’t know. What I do know is many people are working harder than ever to make gifts happen and occasionally a good gift goes bad.

I had the good fortune or misfortune (depending on perspective) to have to steward a charitable gift annuity several years ago. The gift had not been well conceived by the organization and as a result, the charitable remainder that would exist for charity would have been surprisingly small – within IRS guidelines, but small. That donor’s words have echoed in my mind ever since “why didn’t they tell me….I would have just given them the money”.

We need to make sure that first and foremost we are honoring our donor’s charitable intent. To do that and be good stewards we should do the following:

1) Expectations – Ensure that the gift meets the donor’s expectations which should include final impact, financial comfort, and timing (e.g. a deferred gift that won’t be realized for 30+ years when they hope to see their money at work).

2) Knowledge – While you are NOT the donor’s financial advisor, you should have a strong understanding of the actual vehicles you are suggesting.

3) Good Business – The financial arrangement should be good for your institution and the beneficiaries of your work. These include no undue financial burdens, risks, or long term commitments.

Planned giving remains an important tool for philanthropy, but with low interest rates, various commercial gimmicks, and some prospective donors with no charitable intent it is important to be vigilant. We need to be able to ensure it is good for our donors, organizations, and our community.
Good Luck!

Mark J. Marshall





The Election is Over: What is the Impact on Philanthropy?

7 11 2012

And now, back to our regularly scheduled fundraising. It was painful for non-profits to watch the amount of money flow into campaigns, super-PACs, and God only knows what else. Even worse is the amount of donors “waiting to see what happened”. There is no doubt that uncertainty is a danger to the markets and ultimately philanthropy.

Historically, the most important indicator for philanthropy is the stock market. Since philanthropy is a trailing indicator of the economy, it is important we think about the impact of the election on the economy. The Washington Post indicated that a known leader would offer a short term gains. These same short term gains will bolster philanthropist’s decision making ability – even if there may be some pessimism by select donors.

Long term, all of our elected officials need to address serious issues in the health of our economy. Issues of national debt and sluggish economic growth will continue to haunt the markets and philanthropy if there are not long term solutions.

Keep an eye on the markets and get out there with your prospects.

Good Luck!

– Mark J. Marshall





A Quick Guide to Fundraising in the Wake of a Disaster

31 10 2012

In the wake of hurricane Sandy many non-profits can toss their annual plan out the proverbial and possibly the actual window. A storm of this magnitude will have an impact on countless organizations around the country, not only in the affected area. A thoughtful, but quick re-evaluation of your program is essential.

1) What has the storm done to your case for support and organizational priorities?

Facilities that suffered significant damage may have to change plans to expand, launch new programs, etc. Be prepared to reassess priorities quickly and authoritatively. Membership, annual giving, etc. is likely to be impacted significantly. This will be a double whammy (technical term there) – your donor base may be affected as well as there is a strong sense of urgency around disaster relief. You will need to decide if the impact increases or decreases your sense of urgency.

2) Are your prospects affected?

Regardless of where you are situated in the world, your prospects nay be affected. You will have prospects in the affected regions and if not they may have family, friends, or business interests in those areas. Donors (including foundations) may shift priorities. Like the great recession, you may need to reprioritize and reassess your prospect pool.

3) What does this mean for planned activities?

Evaluate any immediate events planned in the area for the next 60-90 days immediately. This includes fundraisers, cultivation events, and even prospecting trips near the area. Contracts may force you to make certain decisions, but make decisions to move ahead or cancel with eyes wide-open and engage volunteers on the ground to read the situation properly. If you do move ahead, its likely the tone of the event will change.

Finally, a few quick to do’s:

■Contact any individuals with whom you have a strong relationship and check on them!

■Immediately suspend any telemarketing or direct mail efforts to the area (unless you are disaster relief organizations).

■Be sensitive!

■Be prepared to redraft a plan!

■Keep the folks on the east coast in your thoughts and prayers.

Good luck!

Mark J. Marshall





Last Chance for the Annual Fund! – Finish strong, start strong.

27 06 2012

 If your organization’s fiscal year ends on June 30th you have a few precious days left to meet your goal! (I did not have to tell you that, you probably are well aware.) By this point, you should have a clear idea about any gap between your dollar goals and your participation goals. There are a few things that you can do in these final days if you have not already done them!

1) Phone, Phone, and Phone! – Hop on the phone with your leadership annual donors and renew them via credit card. In some cases offer to pick up checks if need be! Enlist your major gifts and alumni relations colleagues for the final push.

2) Email! – Hit the masses with one last “friendly” reminder! This is one of the few times that we can throw most case stating out the window. One last email is purely transactional to your LYBUNTS and SYBUNTS (You may also want to include recent alumni for higher education institutions) that says “make your gift today”.

3) Check and Remind! – Make sure your leaders have all made their annual gifts (board members, administrators, and volunteer leaders). If they haven’t, ask appropriate organizational leadership to reach out to make that call!

Now, the worst thing about year end? It is followed by the new fiscal year and you are back at $0. A few quick steps to get yourself ready to go for the new fiscal year:

1) Do you have a plan for the year? And is it in writing? It should be complete with goals, strategies, tactics, and dates.

2) Close out last year – Write off any outstanding pledges before the business office closes out the books. (This allows you to calculate your pledge fulfillment and make sure all dollars end up in the right fiscal year).

3) Take a deep breath – Finding a time for professional and personal renewal adds significant value for heading into the next fiscal year and will help you use all 12 months!

Finish strong, start strong.

Good luck! 

-Mark J. Marshall