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


Development Officers: Are Your Call Reports and Donor Related Emails Appropriate?

10 10 2011

I often challenge gift officers to this simple litmus test about their call reports. (I have now already made the assumption that call reports are actually being completed!) If someone read your call report would they be offended and angry?  In all fairness, they might not be thrilled that we created a record of the visit, BUT there is a significant difference between being offended and being unhappy.

The unspeakable may happen at Brown University as they are being asked to turn over donor records as a result of some civil litigation. This court order includes “unredacted” employee email that is being requested.  The issue is not about Brown, but about how development staff everywhere retains data. Reflect for a few moments about your own call reports and emails – how would they withstand the litmus test?

This is not the first run at donor records, but it is a serious concern.  Like wikileaks, some of the damage may be collateral.  Many public universities, museums, etc. have had issues with their state’s open meeting and sunshine laws.  These laws essentially create complete transparency of many donor records and select communication. In states like Minnesota, laws were passed to exempt the University and other state institutions from having to open donor related records.

Additional issues exist for development staff members who keep “other records” whether at their home, on their hard drive, or in writing in a file.  Such documentation is “discoverable” in court issues, is most likely something that should never be written down, and often lies outside of the organization’s record keeping policy.

Some quick guidelines for call reports and work emails:

1)      If you wouldn’t say it to the donor or prospect – don’t write it down, electronic is a permanent record. Use the litmus test – “If the prospect saw this…”

2)      Create a working guide for your organizatin about what is appropriate: a brief summary of the contact, pertinent details, next steps with the relationship, and a plan.

3)      Avoid judgmental comments about personalities – little good can come from them. Make decisions about the situation instead.


Good luck!

Mark J. Marshall

Strategic Cultivation: What are you doing?

27 04 2011

At my first development conference over 20 years ago, a wise gentleman shared the phrase “Don’t confuse action with progress”.  For years that phrase was on my desk in some manner and served as a directional beacon for various work efforts.

With this in mind I have seen over and over again the need for development staff to focus on cultivation.  It is the largest part of the development cycle, yet it is likely the least thought about of our efforts. There is a lot of attention on cold calling and lots of attention on solicitation, while cultivation is that critical link.

My recent article in the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy Journal (Spring 2011) shares with you insights about the Marshall Law of Cultivation: A prospect will remain unmoved or unmotivated unless deliberately acted upon.  I am pleased to share it with you thanks to the good folks at the AHP Journal. The AHP Journal is an outstanding publication that offers signiciant value to any development professional.

Click here to download the article ThePowerInStrategicCultivation-Spring2011AHPJournal-Marshall.

For a short video on the same subject, see below…