Outdoor show with the Highlights.

Here in Wisconsin, we REALLY appreciate summer! For me it means Outdoor Shows with the Highlights! Summer looks SO LONG now – yet I know WHAM – it will be September, and major year-end giving time will be here.

For Artful Donor Journeys -You must, must STAY IN TOUCH!
Sunflowers and clouds!

Yet the days can slip by. Weeks too.  I’ll argue that summer should feel different – you NEED to feel a change. It may be as simple as lying on the ground and watching the clouds float by. Ahhhh.

And hear me – your major givers feel the same way. Summer is vacations, family, reunions, weddings, music – and it goes so fast! 

What is best blend of connections that you can manage, that also keeps you top of mind with your donors and allows you the time needed to explore the best giving options for them? You may finally get that first visit or gift – be sure you don’t find yourself in December and feeling awkward about having a giving conversation after too long a lapse. This is the art and science of Staying in Touch!

The GOAL? Create enough touches that giving conversations naturally fit in without feeling “too soon.” AND, you have enough chances to HEAR from them where they are in life and how this informs their giving to you. Everyone is different but there can be some options that will feel right for many of your givers.

Every visit, phone call or note ...

Some calls can be totally conversational. In fact, thank you without your hand out can be the most powerful conversation of all. And it’s harder to do than you think! Donor retention is enhanced with touches that don’t feel processed.  It can feel like a tricky balance unless you remember that you LIKE these people AND you are excited to help them enjoy their giving.

Each Artful Touch should contain:

1. Thank you. Thank you for your support and belief in us. Enough said.

2. What their gift DOES and really does. “Don’t ever forget how your gift does X.”

3. Authentic Check-In. A sincere, “How ARE you?” is next – complete with deep listening to the answer and your comments that show you care. “Didn’t you have one graduating from high school this spring?”  

4. What’s ahead for them? “What are the big plans for this summer or will you simply enjoy your beautiful home?” This gives you their next chapter…..and your next conversation content.

5. Connect their life to your mission.  “So it sounds like you’ll be away for our summer show.” “Looks like you will be around to see the gardens in full bloom. Great – I can meet up with you when you come.” “The opening of our new emergency room will be in July. Did you know it was ready to open?” “Summer is camp! Let’s figure out when you can visit.”

6. Here’s what I’m doing now. What projects, programs, experiences are you into now with the help of philanthropy? What it the next key marker in that work? A key gift that has been received and how it is helping along with your gratitude. This is 5 sentences – not ½ hour.

What touches can be ‘evergreen’?  Happen again and again…

1. Annual event that brings you together.

2. Create one or two reasons to connect at the same time every year and plan these connections. Birthday, Anniversary, Key annual date connected to something they support, seasonal change that they enjoy hearing about.

3. Talk about when/how/who they make giving decisions and plan around this.

4. YOUR annual trip to an area.

5. Specific updates to a small segment of givers that are personalized.

6. Use variety but also respect their preferred communication method.

7. Block some time to reflect on things to share in your organization’s year.

8. Mix individual touches with the less personal touches that happen to ALL donors – the newsletter, the holiday card.

9. Leave a little something behind. Perhaps this is an individually wrapped single cookie, a sticker, a refrigerator magnet, something that is not a lot of money – but just a little something.

10. Finally – LISTEN TO YOUR HUNCHES! If someone crosses your mind and you get the feeling you should reach out—DO IT!

In both our personal lives and in our donor relationships, we all experience not getting to see people we care about enough. Acknowledge this. Then, begin an annual tradition. Find at least that one time each year when you will be sure to connect – calendar it! Discover the difference in your shared joy with your givers and your family!

Invest in JOY®


Boys & Girls 2023

WowZaa! Nothing makes me SMILE BIGGER than feeling the energy of 300 to 3000 people intent on making the world a better place!  (Makes me SING, too, of course!)  Bravo and Cheers to my incredible colleagues at NAVIGATE in Huntsville and FORWARD, the Boys and Girls Club National Conference in Orlando. It’s good to be together again!

Navigate 2023!

YOU, too, have that magic – to serve and inspire and connectfor good! Thank you!

Your job -Serve, inspire and connect for Good!

In this Part 3 of Creating an Inspiring Donor Journey, let’s focus on how you connect your givers with your giving priorities for best success.

Before I launch in, I’m sure you’ve heard all about the Fundraising Effectiveness Report findings. People around the country are wringing their hands about the declining donor giving. 

It SHOULD cause you to pause and reflect. And you SHOULD be wringing your hands!  NOT because this means there’s nothing you can do about it. If you’re thinking, “Everyone’s in the same boat. These are hard times.”  STOP!

Gather up that thought from your brain in your fingers, flick it off and say, “Thank you for sharing!”  That’s not data you want to keep in your head and mindset!  BE GONE!

You become what you think about!

Creating an Inspiring Donor Journey Part 3 – Authentically Connecting With MAJOR Givers

1. Your Givers want to be treated with respect.

Your givers are not any less passionate or excited about giving. But they ARE TIRED of being treated like they “should give.”  Some of us have money junk mindsets that make us resent wealth.  A conference speaker talked about “strength based messaging” for those they SERVE but then said it would “help get donors to open their wallets.”  This is SO hurtful! Your donors are people who care about you and your mission.

2. Your Givers want to MEET needs.

Kay Sprinkel Grace said it best YEARS AGO and it hasn’t changed! “In good times and bad, we know that people give because you meet needs, not because you have needs.” How well are you describing what the money does?  And for MAJOR GIFTS this is not about providing 5 meals, etc.  It’s about how their gift will move the needle and inspire hope. 

3. Your Givers want to feel hopeful with their giving.

And speaking of hope… CHECK OUT the Boys and Girls Clubs of America website for their new commitment to Strength-Based Messaging. WOW!  Dramatic and negative messaging has never been better and I have encouraged people to not write with victim and pity language – even though some believe it raises more money.  Strength-Based Messaging elevates the power people have within themselves to change their world!  (Does this sound familiar? Marcy’s “I Create My Life!”)  Here’s a quick example:

Negative  – When kids don’t feel safe, they can’t learn or grow.

Strength-Based Edit – Clubs provide safe places where young people can learn and grow.  (Kids are NOT VICTIMS, rather they are empowered!)

BIG Vision

4. Your BIG donors (really all donors) STILL want BIG VISIONS.

You and your leadership MUST articulate a long-term vision for growth and success for your organization. And this vision must address diversity, equity and inclusion. Major donors want to be confident the head person can implement the vision.


5. Donors want clear and vibrant options for giving.

Many donors (most, in fact) want to select how their gifts will be used. This begins with distinguishing between being used immediately versus endowed, and continues with choices around facilities, investing in people and program support. Creating vibrant options for giving is key to successful major gift results. 

Join me on May 31st!

6. Donors want to make a gift that is meaningful to THEM and brings THEM JOY!

Donors deserve to enjoy their giving. When we help them find ways to invest in us that serves our giving priorities while also matching their interests it’s magic! And we form life-long giving relationships! 

Your givers are not any less passionate or excited about giving. Celebrate!

So don’t start using the Fundraising Effectiveness Report as an excuse. Instead hear this as a wake-up call to change how you think about, talk about, and engage your givers. How you talk TO THEIR FACE and BEHIND THEIR BACK must be the same. And yes, you are working BOTH to raise money AND find the gift that is most meaningful for them – it’s not an either/or. 

How do I know this? When I take a look at how my coaching clients – fundraisers with genuine heart for their mission AND their donors – I see only SIGNIFICANTLY MORE GIVING!  I see a different mindset and respect for this amazing donor partnership they are creating where givers feel deeply connected to mission – and, own this, YOU!

Thank you for inspiring generosity!

Invest in JOY®


From the Mailbox to the Living Room Part 2 – Securing the first In-Person Appointment.

April 26, 2023

Over 3600 joined me for AFP ICON. Wowza! New Orleans never disappoints – it’s vibrant, colorful and full of music! For me, the ‘highlight’ was being together. Two people will forever bring me a smile of hope – Misty Copeland, our opening keynote, for the kind and positive way she embraces EVERYONE. (Her last comment […]

Read the full article →

From the Mailbox to the Living Room Part 1 – How we talk about creating an Inspiring Donor Journey

April 14, 2023

Today I’m headed to Austin to present AFP Austin’s Major Gift Intensive! Excited to share major giving magic – even more excited to be WARM! There’s still SNOW in my backyard! Along with the snow and the deep layer of accumulated leaves and branches are these determined flowers! No stopping them! There’s a lesson there […]

Read the full article →

Warning signs that it’s NOT Capital Campaign time!

March 22, 2023

Wowza. Who ISN’T talking about launching a capital campaign? To be sure….celebrating a successful capital campaign and the TRANSFORMATIONAL impact it has on magnifying your mission is just the BEST PARTY IN TOWN! Everyone is happy and excited – filled with hope for what tomorrow will bring. And most donors are already asking, “What’s next?” […]

Read the full article →

Embrace Mahalo

March 8, 2023

 Mahalo! This word brings comfort and a big smile to me! Mahalo to Troy Wada, CEO of Inpac Wealth Solutions, and the Presenting Sponsor of my day-long MORE Major Gifts – Ask for Anything Artfully Workshop in Honolulu.   Listening to the stories, struggles and successes of over 250 non-profit partners revealed a deep-set Mahalo for this beautiful place, its […]

Read the full article →

They said no, now what!

February 22, 2023

 “Been getting a lot of ‘NOs’ lately.”  That’s how our coaching call began. As we inspire generosity sometimes it seems we don’t. It can pull us down. A “No” has a different effect if it is a long-time donor or someone new you are engaging in a major gift conversation, yet all can disappoint us.   Here […]

Read the full article →

Happy Valentines

February 14, 2023

Invest in JOY®

Read the full article →

Need a Second chance?

February 8, 2023

January has come and gone. Ground Hog day has passed – Here it signaled six more weeks of our blustery Wisconsin winters!  The chances are 50-50 each year. What are the chances you’ll hit your 2023 fundraising goals on your own?  17%.   Here’s something to consider as it relates to your fundraising goals.  •    The […]

Read the full article →

Thought of you today!

January 25, 2023

It happened again! December 31st is still the champion for Most Giving in One Day. About ONE-THIRD of all giving happens on December 31 and during that last week of the year. Whew! So now what? Everyone is burned out, right? Actually, the urgency to give before the end of the year kicks in for tax […]

Read the full article →