The Weekend Briefing

"Winning: The Five Truths of Fundraising" is available now in print, Ebook and audiobook on 
Was this issue forwarded to you?  Subscribe to the Briefing at
“I just wept my way through the ‘Prom’ story in ‘Winning.’
“This book is inspiring me in ways that I must have needed – a fresh drink of water – and I didn’t even know I was thirsty.
“Thank you so much for this wonderful gift. It is such a quick read and I am loving it.”
The greatest satisfaction when you tackle a big project; whether it be a capital campaign, building a deck, or writing a book, is when you can honestly say it turned out better than you hoped it would.
A report last week from Bloomberg News:
“Family-owned Businesses Urged to Sell before the Party Ends.
“Families who own businesses are getting this piece of New Year’s advice: Sell. The potential for higher taxes next year may accelerate deals. Market conditions are ‘as good as it gets’ with buyers circling.”
The report, and related content, suggest that if a Democrat wins the 2020 election for the White House, higher taxes may loom.
One comment offered that owners of small businesses may consider charitable gifts as an opportunity to lessen the tax burden of a sale at any time, and one way can be to give all or part of their company to a donor-advised fund; that the DAF’s have the expertise to facilitate that type of gift for the donor at significant tax advantage.
Well, maybe they do. And maybe you don’t. But the experts sitting mostly idle on your Philanthropic (Donor) Advisory Council? I bet they would know how to make that kind of gift work for you.
And I bet one or more of them would be willing to craft a short article that can pique the interest of your top donors in your next major gifts email.
What should you do about this right now? For one, know who among your Top 200 donors own a family business. Make sure you see them in person in the next three months, just to visit. And make sure they know about the great investment (gift) opportunities at your organization.

Austin V. McClain was president of Marts & Lundy in the 1960’s. Marts was, and remains, in the top tier of consulting firms.
McClain said, “Do not ask for money. Do ask for a better laboratory, a better dormitory, better equipment. Talk about the ‘something,’ not about money.”
His contemporary, Si Seymour, occupies a rarified perch among our profession’s giants. Seymour said, “Nobody ever buys a Buick just because General Motors needs the money.”
“I don’t trust anybody.”
Well, maybe not with your life, or your home.
But no one ever made a truly major gift unless they trusted the organization and, especially, the person with whom they felt a relationship at that organization.
Trust is a precious thing. It’s not something you’re given. You EARN a person’s trust.
How does that happen?
I’ve been thinking about it all week and I believe it boils down to three things.
One: Let the donor drive the bus. I can feel my Grandmother Smith's reproachful look from heaven every time I say, “Not my will, but thy will be done.”
Or as we write in “Winning:” It is not always about you.
Do you want your donor to feel that your relationship with him, or her, or them, is moving at the pace you want? Or at the pace THEY want? Do they feel in control? Or not? I wrote last week, one of the biggest obstacles to trust is trying to move too fast in a relationship. So, don’t.
Two: Never, ever, appear to be a phony. My friend Suzanne Hogarty reminded us in a Briefing many years ago that “Most donors think fundraisers have a healthy dose of fake in them, and they hate it.”
Really, as you build a relationship with a donor, this is the first thing you are working to overcome, that initial wariness.
And if you give your donor even the slightest excuse to believe their initial wariness was correct, well, forget about that relationship going anywhere.
Three: Always, always do what you promised, when you promised to do it.
I’m going to tell you two of the most meaningful compliments I’ve ever received in my career. I’ve never written about either of them before.
The first was from a board member:
“I have worked with a lot of organizations, but this is the first and only organization I have ever been associated with, where I never have to worry about being embarrassed.
“Usually, I have to worry about the proper follow up, or things being dropped, or a letter not going out on time.
“I never have to worry about that here.”
That is trust.
The second was from the executive director of one of Chicago’s largest foundations. I’d called to thank her for the foundation’s mid-6 figure gift to our Campaign and I promised we would use their unrestricted gift wisely:
“We know you will. That’s why we’re giving it to you.”
That is trust.
The CPA’s and CFO’s I know would not refer to trust as a “real asset.” You won’t find trust on a ledger sheet or a financial report.
But for you and me? Trust is the most “real asset” we can hope to earn.
Do people across your organization see you? Know you? Understand what you do? Those are the first steps in developing a “culture of philanthropy” and next week we’ll explore that path.
Until then have a good week, my friends.
Rob Cummings coaches gift officers, consults on capital campaigns and helps nonprofit organizations build strong, sustainable fundraising programs. You can reach him at


Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp