The Weekend Briefing

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Ashleigh de Villiers is Vice President for Advancement at De La Salle Catholic High School in Portland, Oregon.
“Rob, the Weekend Briefing is always spot on, and now I have proof of my own.
“We moved our spring Financial Aid Luncheon to a virtual platform and held it last week. We waited with bated breath to see what would happen, but you know what? We didn't have to be surprised because what happened was exactly what should have happened because we did our work.
“The same work we always do for events. Secured exciting matching gift opportunities, called/emailed major donors to ask for pre-commits, created a "program" full of great storytelling, and then hit send - it was show time.
“Our bare minimum goal (cash flow projection) was $200K.
Our publicized event goal was $250K.
“Do you know where we are today? $280K and the gifts are still coming in! This total is better than the previous two years' totals. 
“But my favorite part about it all is that we had 23 staff and former staff members donate. That has NEVER happened. Compassion from within.”
What a wonderful success story. So great that current and former staff would be moved to support the students. But you know what MY favorite part about it all is?
Ashleigh and her team kept their heads up. Stayed positive. Instead of “what we can’t do” they focused on “what we CAN do.” And focused with laser intensity on the fundamentals they knew would bring success.
Brava Ashleigh!
Is a laser focus on fundamentals passe’? Out of date?
Last Monday Jeff Brooks wrote:
“Everything is different!
“Change everything!
“The only real direction to pivot in right now is to go back to what most fundraising organizations should have been focusing on all along: the basics!
“The impact of a pivot back to the basics will be profound and transformational.”
Bravo, Jeff.
Now, I will stake my reputation on what I’m about to tell you:
The basics, the fundamentals, the tried-and-true. The verities, as Jerry Panas used to say:
That is your path to success today.
My friend Amy Hunt writes from Clemson University:
“Rob, one factor critical to success is communicating clear funding needs and impact. Senior administrators on occasion find it difficult to articulate this, and it’s them we’re looking to for answers. Can you remind us how to gather this info, please? Maybe phone or Zoom chats with faculty and/or department chairs?”
One would hope in today’s climate that our colleagues on the “program” side would embrace the need to give us the tools to do our jobs. Amy is right, we’re looking to those colleagues for two things; funding priorities, and impact.
If not readily forthcoming, I’ve found the “velvet fist” approach most effective. The chief development officer, with a “cc” to the President, must communicate exactly what is needed and by when, with a “thank you in advance” to the dean, or chief program officer. And if needed, “In the most respectful way, we’re not asking for this, we’re telling you we need this.”
“Kathleen, did you and George happen to see the article in Kiplinger on tax-effective giving during the pandemic? I thought it had some great ideas. Here’s the link!
One of your fellow subscribers to The Weekend Briefing is a major philanthropist. I’m humbled by that, and by her occasional kind notes.
A few weeks ago I reached out to my friend and asked, “Any words of wisdom right now?”
“Dear Rob, 
“How lovely to ‘hear’ from you during these difficult and scary times. I hope you are hunkering happy and that your family is healthy and still speaking to one another!
“We are well and feel fortunate. So much has gone so wrong for so many.
“I have no basic advice about funding-raising currently except Giver Beware.  It’s during these times of crisis that many get on the charity bandwagon and toss large sums to entities they know nothing about.
“To donors I say, do your research, ask around and get specifics on the asker.  Is this is a legitimate or ‘pop-up’ organization, how will your funds be spend and check Charity Navigator.
“Meanwhile, we are all being inundated with emails from our beloved charities as well as ‘stranger dangers.’  I’m taking a deep breath now, waiting until all this calms down and then taking another hard, cold look at which charities I want to continue supporting annually if at all.  It’s times like these that separate the men from the boys, to use a bad cliché, and to truly determine who is making a difference and contribution to what will become our new normal.
“Warm regards and stay well.” Strong, sage advice.
Have a good week, my friends.
Rob Cummings led development shops through the 1987 Black Monday crash, 9/11, and the Great Recession. If you would like to talk about how Rob can help you and your team now, you can reach him at 

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