Do you sometimes feel like the accounting folks are just trying to be difficult?

Here are a few examples about working with accounting I heard during my latest round of presentations. Be sure to hit ‘reply’ and share your accounting stories or questions.

SIX Accounting Stories – Sound familiar to you?

  1. Your volunteer speaker goes off the script at a fundraising event and promotes his favorite project. Accounting tells you the dollars that are given are designated for his project – not the annual fund – because that was the Ask they responded to.
  2. Your donor wants to pay a major gift pledge off in 5 years – giving in years 1, 3 and 5 only-  to get to the gift level needed to deduct the gift on her taxes. Accounting tells you this can’t be done.
  3. You learn that even in the annual fund donors like options. So, you create 3 options – where the need is greatest, current programs and staff professional development.  Accounting says they will note the option in the annual fund and periodically look at the expenditures to be sure dollars given were spent accordingly.
  4. Your accounting department will not support additional marketing budget to increase program enrollment because they believe that the enrollment projections are not guaranteed to be successful and that will create a budget deficit.
  5. Your major donor wants to pay a $100,000 pledge off with a $10,000 for the first two years, then $40,000 for the last two years when she is finished with a pledge to another organization. Accounting says the amounts need to be the same every year.
  6. Accounting resists spending money donors have given for use immediately to have reserves.

These are just a few relatively simple examples of many awkward, and perhaps frustrating, conversations between the number crunchers and the relationship builders.

Accounting Basics to Remember

  1. The belief that your organization is stable and ethical is one of the top reasons, according to the research, that donors invest.  This comes from accounting adhering to proper practices, even when the donor may have specific requests to do things differently.
  2. Accountants and bookkeepers are generally wired differently than fundraisers and are less flexible and understanding of the unique relationship with each donor.
  3. You ALL are important to the success of your non-profit and to the joyful giving donors experience!

Money stairs

The Stories Continue – Here’s my take

  1. Yep…the volunteer going off on a tangent about his pet project shifts the Ask. It may not be what you intended or even what is written in the program. It is still an Ask focused to a specific project. You need to put the dollars toward that project or clarify with each donor what the intention of their gift was and process, or re-process it accordingly.
  2. Every other year pledge payments is a rock-solid solution to addressing mid-level donors impacted by the new tax laws.  They can then take the new, much larger, standard deduction one year, and give basically a double pledge payment the next to have an amount larger than the new standard deduction.  AND…remember to recognize them in giving clubs EVERY year. No, you don’t issue any sort of tax-deductible receipt – this is for recognition only so they are part of your giving family every year.
  3. Doing the annual fund appeals, looking at 3-5 general yet specific designations within the annual fund throughout the year is a good way to give donors some choice without having an accounting nightmare.  The research tells us that donors who like to have a choice will DOUBLE their annual fund gift when they are given options.  However, only 20-25% of all annual fund donors want this. For those who want the options, it brings in more money.  It DOES mean you need to be doing more with the annual fund than just operations – some programming too. The optional areas to designated must typically be funded in part by the annual fund so you will generally use the money given for that use.  In my experience, the amounts given are not large…but are good ways to more effectively engage some beginning donors in the annual appeal.
  4. There are many factors that lead to increased enrollment, paid participation, whatever….not JUST marketing. Best to set big results goals, but be conservative in the budget. It’s better to get most of a larger goal than all of an insignificant increase.  We have been trained to shoot low to be sure of success. BIG visions get BIG results.  This budget decision should be part of setting reasonable giving goals – not just a budget-gap number that doesn’t make sense with where you are with your giving program.
  5. This one is just silly. Donors should be able to break down pledge payments in any size they wish. Perhaps some accounting software is easier to use with a consistent number, but clearly, this should serve the donor in giving you money! Honor your major donor’s wishes.
  6. Saving for a rainy day with outright gifts…this is just wrong. While accounting wants to have reserves for stability, it cannot be done by squirreling away money given to use NOW. Spending that money to fund scholarships, or programs, or staff NOW is honoring the donor’s wishes. It’s unethical and wrong when a donor is believing something good is going on right now with their gift.  Additionally, the stories you can share about this giving making an impact will encourage more from the original donor and others!

Fostering a great relationship with Accounting

Meeting with accounting

  1. Connect the donor directly to the accounting folks.  When they hear straight from the donor, they tend to want to help address the request.  Ask accounting folks to join in a visit. I have seen major changes when accounting hears directly from donors.
  2. Take time to learn more about how money is managed, interest is earned and spent in endowments, etc. While meeting with your donors is always number 1, a once-a-month hour to learn more will help.
  3. Treat everybody in accounting like a major donor. Cookies, appreciation, communication. It really is all about relationships – with your accounting colleagues and MONEY.

Remember we ALL bring our money mindset into this work. We are often uncomfortable talking about money and tend to come from a place of scarcity instead of abundance!  See your dollars growing! See your relationships doing your mission – then take action to connect the donors, and accounting, to the real reason for money – to create abundance and do good in the world!  Thank you for making it happen!

Invest in JOY®


Marcy Heim is a trusted authority in the development profession and helps organizations and educational institutions boost their major gift programs through artful, long-term relationship building that dramatically increases fundraising success while promoting increased staff job satisfaction. To receive a free chapter from Marcy’s book, Empower Your Board to Serve as Effective Development Ambassadors, click here.

Questions:  Contact KK Konicek at


Shifting the conversation to money

by Marcy Heim on September 25, 2019

My Y families can SING!!!  Energy! Caring! And giving everyone a role in the Annual Y Campaign!  YES! It was a great week with the YMCA of the Triangle in Raleigh and the YMCA in Wichita!

YMCA group photo Click on the image for video!

Indeed over 350 Board and lead staff can now ASK for Anything Artfully!  And, they embraced major shifts in thinking about that M word!  MONEY!

We agreed…. we don’t really like to talk about money.

If someone said they just got a new job would you say, “Great! What will your salary be?”  Or upon hearing about an amazing trip to Hawaii would you ask, “What did THAT cost you?”

Truth is, from little on up we are programed that talking about money is rude (unless maybe at a garage sale and then you bargain!)  We have grown up hearing things like, “There’s not enough.” “We can’t afford it.” “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” And those comments are often in hushed, troubled tones.

Now when we are talking about GIVING money I say repeatedly, “It’s not about the money, it’s what the money DOES!” Yet, we still need to talk about what investment (money) it takes to accomplish the impact and it still feels a bit awkward talking about money.

Why is there that awkwardness when we are going to talk to others – friends or acquaintances – about money?

  • Do they think we are ONLY talking to them because they have money and we want it?
  • Do we worry that they will wonder if every time we see them it’s going to be about money?
  • Do we feel they will like us less if we talk about money – it will somehow damage our relationship?
  • Will they say no to us and how will that make us feel?
  • Will we offend them?

If you are a nonprofit

While talking about money may feel awkward, we do have to find our way PAST the news of the family, the latest Y success story or the energy the new building creates on campus…to money…and what the money DOES.  What are the investment options NOW for someone who shares your organization’s values?

chat bubble with money

Here are a few ideas for you to consider as you shift the conversation to money.  I’m talking about everyday conversations you have in the grocery store, hallways of the Y, or at the soccer game to more formal ones.  Organizations and givers are different, of course, but I’m thinking some of these conversations may be helpful to you. Or they may help lead you to a more formal meeting for the next step.

Consider beginning the conversation with something like…

“How are you and the family? The dog?”  “What fun thing did you do this summer?”  “Oh, the RAIN we’ve been having!” (remember, we have to really CARE and LISTEN to the answer!)

Then perhaps these sincere openers allow you to switch to money talk…

“It’s always good to see you at the Y (or church or the library or ?) You really “get” the important role we play in this community. We appreciate you – your spark and caring – and we appreciate your gifts to us. Thank you! Let’s talk sometime about what you have in mind for being part of our work (or magic or mission) this year. I’ll give you a call.”

“It’s been a whole year since we talked about your investment in our work in this community.  We’d like to catch you up and hear your ideas, then figure out the best amount for you to give this year. Let’s make a date.”

“You know John Smith on our board. He’s jumping in to help this year with the Annual Campaign. We could have him join us in a conversation. Does that sound like a plan?”

“We are grateful that you understand that, like any business, it takes money to fuel our mission. May I share some ways that others who have your same values invest in our people and programs that may spark an interest for you?”

“Yes, those kids really are fish! It’s because of our wonderful givers that these kids can take lessons. Would you want to know how you can help?”

“We’re in our Annual Campaign now and honestly, it’s hard for me to talk about money. But I know our givers love how supporting our programs makes them feel. Do you know what I mean?”

Really…the BEST way to shift to talking about money is YOUR way – YOUR words – YOUR voice.  And if it is really a struggle for you, say so.

“I think this program is terrific and I know it could be even better with more support.  But it’s hard for me to talk about money because I’m afraid I might offend you or damage our friendship.”

I believe you will find MOST people will reassure you that they want to be involved and want to invest.

Here are 3 actions that will make you more comfortable shifting to a money conversation.

  1. Before you launch any of this make your own gift and be prepared to tell why you give. How did giving make you feel? What will your gift do?
  2. Have a specific NEXT step ready to suggest after your shift. “I will call you to find some time for us to chat more about this.”
  3. For a select few larger gifts, PROMISE to get in touch.  “Are you around Wednesday?  OK I promise to call you in the morning then.” And be sure you keep your promise. It’s very powerful.

The more you talk about money and what the money DOES for your organization the more comfortable you will be. Just like getting better at anything…practice is key!  I also believe that being honest and sharing this is uncomfortable for you will STRENGTHEN your relationships…and deepen the respect others have for you and your transparency and honestly.

You can also start singing, “People love to give me money!” (You can watch my friends at the YMCA of Raleigh singing it here).

YMCA Raleigh Love to Give me MoneyClick on the image for song!

Celebrate that you, as professional development staff, board members and program staff have the chance to help others invest in your work – making this world a better place!  SHINE ON!

Invest in JOY®


Marcy Heim is a trusted authority in the development profession and helps organizations and educational institutions boost their major gift programs through artful, long-term relationship building that dramatically increases fundraising success while promoting increased staff job satisfaction. To receive a free chapter from Marcy’s book, Empower Your Board to Serve as Effective Development Ambassadors, click here.

Questions:  Contact KK Konicek at


Are YOU worth it?

September 11, 2019

What is your value? What do you bring to your work? What to you contribute to your professional and personal relationships? What difference do you make? If you are like many non-profit professionals your value is HIGH! You deepen and enrich all of your relationships! The work you do literally transform lives daily – in […]

Read the full article →

YOU can learn from this Celebration!

August 28, 2019

What YOU can learn from GCA’s CELEBRATION! You make good happen with the gifts given to your mission through you. Let’s Celebrate!  And never forget YOU are a gift in my life! Let’s Celebrate! WoHOO! Check out this celebration! On Friday, August 23, I had the delight and honor of celebrating with my VIP client, […]

Read the full article →

Gift Agreements & Trust

August 14, 2019

Can you be trusted? This is about TRUST. Earning your donor’s trust and knowing you have set this up to honor that trust is what your agreements do. Here’s my story. You’re meeting with your new leader – the Dean, CEO, Executive Director, or Manager. Will she “get” development at all? Will she be a […]

Read the full article →

CEOs, EDs, Presidents, Deans Who GET Development!

July 24, 2019

I had a delightful conversation a week ago. The CEO of a large senior health care facility, and new member in my Dream, Act, Achieve Coaching Program ask, “What can I do to best support my new development person?” How I wish more CEO’s, Executive Directors, College Presidents, Principals, and Deans would ask THAT question!  […]

Read the full article →

How to deal with a pot-stirrer!

July 10, 2019

Dealing with a pot-stirrer. Now just what do I mean by that? Have you ever noticed how some people seem to continually stir things up?  I call them pot-stirrers. And the problem is they can make a mess of things…including your peace of mind and progress. In college, my roommate, Holly, made this amazing spaghetti […]

Read the full article →

Data only works if YOU do! Part II

June 26, 2019

Let’s get real here, folks.  Data only works if you do. You can use data for better or for worse depending on your objectives. I challenge you to embrace that data gives you the OPPORTUNITY to be successful only if you TAKE ACTION WITH IT! How many on-line programs have we purchased to never get past Module I? How […]

Read the full article →

Data only works if YOU do! Part I

June 12, 2019

Funny isn’t it?  We crave proof that we are succeeding or can be successful.  Numbers.  Data.  Somehow if we have the data then we feel more confident – confident it will work…or it won’t work!   But let’s get real here, folks.  Data only works if YOU do. Let me give you a few examples… […]

Read the full article →

Put on your Medal! Declare your Fundraising success!

May 22, 2019

Medal On. Declare your fundraising success. But first – be sure your givers are marching along on their relationships actions plans (RAPs™) and you are looking forward to a banner fundraising year! Yes? Tremendous! Glad to hear it! I sincerely believe in how you want to show up in this world.  Do you? Sheree Allison, […]

Read the full article →