Fundraising Fables: Retaining Fund Development Professionals

Why is it so hard tLeyna Bernstein, leadership search partners, fundraising, development director, hiring fundraising staff, recruiting fundraising staff, fundraising mistakes, fundraising careero retain fund development professionals? That’s the polite version of the question that has executive directors pulling their hair out, and nonprofit board members wondering “what’s going on?”

“One of the reasons we continue to see so much turn-over in fundraising staff is the pervasive misunderstanding of how fundraising works, shares Leyna Bernstein, founder of Leadership Search Partners. With this column we bring you excerpts from her column on Fundraising Fables. There are seven fables – Here are three.

Fable 1: We hire a development director to do our fundraising for us.

Fact: Success in fundraising comes from building a shared responsibility for cultivating and stewarding donors throughout the organization. The board and the executive director share accountability with the chief development officer. The job of your development director is to create the organization’s fundraising plan and oversee its implementation, not to make all of your asks. For this role, planning, coaching, managing and mentoring are more important tasks than solicitation.”

We couldn’t say it more succinctly. In our experience it is a lack of understanding of the fundraising process on the part of the executive director and board that leads to a harmful disconnect between nonprofit executive directors and development directors.

Fable 3: We will hire a fundraiser who will bring his donor rolodex with him.

Fact: Really? Do you give your money to the fundraiser, or to the cause? Ethical fundraisers are not going to “bring their donors with them”. While fundraisers may have existing relationships that can open some doors, and while having a fundraiser with exceptional relational skills is critical, it is your cause and impact that will attract investment.

There are two faces to this fable: sometimes the nonprofit who wants to “hire a rolodex” and other times a development professional is “selling” her rolodex. When making a hire don’t look to use another organization’s relationships – build your own, for most are not transferrable. We know of too many instances where candidates promote their relationships with donors/funders, forgetting that the relationships are really between donors/funders and the organization not the individual.

Fable 4: A track-record of big asks is an indicator of ability to be a development director.

Fact: Executive Directors and board members get in trouble when they hire major gifts officers and expect them to manage a department and build infrastructure. Many accomplished major gifts fundraisers are specialists and outstanding individual contributors. They are not necessarily suited to running a department and managing systems

This fable is also present within institutions of higher education. Failing to provide increasing levels of compensation and recognition to talented major gifts officers can lead them to apply for vice president positions which may not necessarily be a match for their skills.

Learn more by reading Fundraising Fables at

Welcome home baby boomers!

Part two of a two-part series

African American male, baby boomers, community leadership, fundraising, community development, leadership development, AARP, AgingTalented leadership is always in high demand. The question is: where do you look for leaders, who are you overlooking, and how do you effectively sustain their involvement? When recruiting talent for your organization, business or municipality make sure you consider individuals over age 55. Here’s what we know – these “so called seniors” represent a growing percentage of the population, and many have experience, education, and connections that can transform communities and organizations. They can provide valuable leadership in the civic and nonprofit sectors, when called upon.

It is important to consider individual seniors for individual positions in organizations, agencies and businesses. It is equally important to create a local or regional organizational structure that attracts and engages older individuals who want to make an impact. In many communities there is an organized effort to attract and retain young leaders. A similar effort should be made to engage older residents. Care is taken when recruiting younger talent, and similar attention should be paid to the recruitment and engagement of older talent.

For example, when looking at community development, economic growth, transforming education, or increasing cultural opportunities “seniors” can be major contributors. Many have skills, experience and relationships that have been developed over years and decades. Those who had careers as corporate executives and managers have worked in communities across the country and can bring that national exposure and learning to your local community. They can play key roles on local and state civic boards and commissions. Their strategic thinking and board service in other communities can add value to local nonprofit boards.

Creating a structure that focuses on engaging the talent of seniors can yield financial and civic rewards. Such a structure can also serve as a formal way to “welcome home” those seniors who are returning to the community after careers in other parts of the country, or internationally. Consider this: What mechanisms are in place to engage people returning home, to introduce them to current stakeholders, and to facilitate their community engagement?

Evaluate local programs that target young, talented professionals for civic engagement. Could a similar program be developed for talented seniors? What structures can be created to welcome and engage individuals who had successful careers in other parts of the country, as well as those who worked regionally? What meaningful paid and unpaid opportunities are available? This is not a generation looking to “lick envelopes” – these are talented leaders who can strategically add value and help define solutions to pressing civic issues.

Take a look around and see who’s in town. Identify who is coming home and create a strategy to engage them. It’s mutually beneficial: a win for the community, and a win for seniors. Don’t let stereotypes render top local talent invisible.

Image courtesy of stockimages /

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Grow your talent pool: recruit people over 55

Part one of a two-part series

 boomers, baby boomers, senior citizens, employment, nonprofit employment, AARP, aging, Talent Pool People over 40Are you overlooking a valuable pool of prospective employees and volunteers? Are you unknowingly operating from out-dated stereotypes of “senior citizens” and leaving talent sitting on the sidelines?

In today’s lexicon “talent” means college educated individuals ages 25 – 35. Maybe 40. But in our experience that’s a limited definition. Here’s what we know. There are many talented individuals over 55 years old who are unengaged, their talent untapped all to the detriment of the communities they live in, and employers seeking a diverse and experienced workforce. Think about it for a moment: early retirement, buy-outs, downsizing, layoffs, corporate restructuring. These all result in skilled, experienced and well-connected individuals who are no longer part of the work-force. Many have proven themselves over-and-over again in the course of their careers. They are up-to-date on technology (despite rampant jokes to the contrary), understand corporate culture, know how to work-to-deadline, mentor, strategize, and innovate. They have been doing it for years!

Many of these individuals need to continue working either full-time or part-time. Others have secured their financial future but want to remain active in the workforce and in their community. Regardless of economics most want to give back, feel connected, and contribute. And many have the skills that nonprofits are looking for. “Soft skills” include the ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously, strong written and verbal communication skills, networking, ability to work as a member of a diverse team, stability, excellent attendance, maturity, discretion, time management, decision making and more. Experience that easily translates to fund development and fundraising include sales, marketing, training and development, and team building.

If you want top talent for your nonprofit make sure you recruit in ways that result in an applicant pool that includes individuals 55 and over. If you want to attract and retain “seniors” as part of your team, take time to assess your own responses to seniors and look for organizational biases that could your workplace “uninviting.” Are younger managers experienced in managing people older than they are? What is the average age of your workforce? Will you be bringing in one older person or are there others already part of your team? Is your business culture inclusive, respectful and appreciative?

In terms of fundraising and fund development it is important to remember that many of the larger gifts given to nonprofits are made by individuals who are over 50. Having older people as members of your team is crucial. People who are well connected within your community are even more valuable. Add a history of sales or marketing and you may have struck it rich!

When looking for employees and volunteers take proactive measures to ensure your pool of applicants includes qualified, experienced and talented people over 55. The benefits are yours to experience!

Image courtesy of stockimages /

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Compromise, relationships and faith

Part three of a three-part series on private/public partnerships

Embrace, fundraising, public private partnership, how to build a private public partnership, Bayview Hunters Point Multipurpose Senior Services, BHPMSS,Saad&Shaw: What role should board members be prepared to play in developing such a partnership?

Cathy Davis: Board members have to be willing to accept greater scrutiny and more responsibility for understanding the legal implications of the partnership(s). There are many changing parts, so board members have to be willing to utilize the legal consultants and move forward at critical stages. They also need to increase fundraising capacity and promote the agency.

Saad&Shaw: In your opinion, what types of nonprofits are more suited to such partnerships?

Cathy Davis: Non-profits that are willing to take well-calculated risks are most suited to such partnerships. You have to be willing to be flexible and grow as the partnership grows. Everything will not go your way, and you have to be willing to compromise. Political connections are important for public partnerships that involve governmental assistance. The agency has to be strong enough to stand up for what is needed. It also has to be able to compromise when it is in the best interest of the project moving forward.

Saad&Shaw: In your experience, are these partnerships designed to be short or long-term relationships?

Cathy Davis: Partnerships are long term relationships that develop over time. They are with agencies, not with personnel of any of the partners because individuals change jobs. You must get everything in writing, so when individuals leave, the commitments remain. For example, due to his passing, we lost our Executive Director in the middle of the process. Our agency was committed and I was selected as the new Executive Director. Having worked hand-in-hand with Dr. Davis, my husband, I was committed to expanding the long term partnerships. Partnerships are also about relationships and you have to continue to cultivate them. When personnel changes, you enroll the next person on the importance of the project and the previous promises made.

Saad&Shaw: What can a nonprofit expect to achieve through such a partnership?

Cathy Davis: A non-profit can take on bigger projects with partners than they could do otherwise. They are able to expand their knowledge base by adding partners with specific expertise that the nonprofit does not have. Each partner has access to resources that the non-profit does not have access to on their own. Some funders require expertise that a nonprofit doesn’t have or the non-profit has yet to experience.

Saad&Shaw: How does a nonprofit begin a conversation about a private/public partnership? Who initiates this conversation? Where do you go to find out information and opportunities? How did it begin for you?

Cathy Davis: The executive director needs to begin the conversation and enroll others in why the partnership is needed and who will benefit. In our case Dr. Davis decided on the vision and then found people who would help. He bypassed people who said it wouldn’t work and went to those who supported the idea. You find the help you need by following through on leads and making friends along the way. Political allies need to be cultivated and connected to your agency’s mission. The more we put it out there, the more opportunities came our way. It was important to us as a community-based organization that we solicit the partners we wanted to work with. We interviewed our development partners and ensured that we were considered their partner, not their charity.

Saad&Shaw: What have your learned from your experience that you want to share with others.

Cathy Davis: Don’t quit until the miracle happens! Many times along it way, it did not seem that it would happen. Never lose sight of why the partnership exists in the first place. There are people depending on you to come through. At some point the project becomes bigger than you and bigger than your agency. It takes a strong partnership with the community to make a big project happen. Insert yourself and ask questions. It is important not to sell out your principles for the easy way or for money that has too many strings attached. You have to believe it will happen before it happens. When all else fails, your faith and passion for the mission will carry you through.

Learn more about BHPMSS at

Did you miss:

Part One: How to Create a nonprofit partnership with private and public sectors

Part Two: Accountability and Trust: Keys to Partnership


Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.


Accountability and Trust: Keys to Partnership

Part two of a three-part series on private/public partnerships

BayviewSeniorHousing, fundraising, public private partnership, how to build a private public partnership, Bayview Hunters Point Multipurpose Senior Services, BHPMSS, African American fundraising

Bayview Senior Housing

An interview with Cathy Davis, executive director of Bayview Hunters Point Multipurpose Senior Services, Inc.

Saad&Shaw: Based on your experience, what does a nonprofit have to have in place in order for a private/public partnership to work?

Cathy Davis: A non-profit has to have its house in order to work with other partners. For an African American agency the stakes are higher and the bar is raised higher because of the general lack of trust given to African American based agencies. You have to work harder with less and maintain your integrity at all times. That is just the way it is and surrendering to it allows you to be prepared in the ways you need to be.

The public sector requires a great deal of accountability and as non-profit we had to prove our capacity to provide services and then be able to step into the partnership. You don’t have to be perfect, but you have to be willing to change and be more accountable.

Each partner has to recognize their strengths and weaknesses and be willing to rely on the partner with the best expertise. At some point you have to trust each other’s expertise.

Saad&Shaw: What are the challenges that a nonprofit may encounter in creating a private/public partnership?

Cathy Davis: There are many challenges for a non-profit to be in a good negotiating position with public and private partners.   The board has to understand the process and be willing to risk the agency’s credibility and finances along the way. Ultimately there are no guarantees: taking on large projects requires a leap of faith. Be ready to be called a “sellout” or a “greedy” non-profit by others who are not willing to partner with for- profits or the City. You will be tested and asked to support the efforts of the City: this goes with the territory if you want funding from them. You will be told you are “too small,” you have no experience doing this, or you are “over your head” – often in subtle ways.

Saad&Shaw: What were the advantages of creating a private/public partnership?

Cathy Davis: We needed each other to make the project happen. As a local non-profit we know what the community needs and were able to garner political support. The developer had the financial clout and expertise to build it. The City had access to funding, understood the process of working with other city departments, and was able to sell the project to city officials. We were able to access $58million for our project through City, State and low income housing tax credits. Our agency had no history in housing development and we were able to create the partnerships to make this happen for the community.

Next week: Compromise, relationships and faith

Did you miss Part 1: How to create a partnership with public and private sectors

Learn more about BHPMSS at

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

How to create a nonprofit partnership with private and public sectors

Part one of a three part series

Cathy Davis

Cathy Davis, Executive Director, BHPMSS, Inc

Private/public partnerships are promoted as a collaborative way to bring people and resources together across sectors. A recent example of public/private partnership is the development of senior housing in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point community. We are proud to be affiliated with this project and have witnessed the many twists and turns it has taken over the years. We asked Cathy Davis, the executive director of the Bayview Hunters Point Multipurpose Senior Services, Inc. (BHPMSS) to share the specifics of her partnership so that you, our readers, can begin to imagine what a partnership could look like for your organization or institution. Her story is specific to her community: your story will be specific to the community and people you serve.

Saad&Shaw – Please share with us the importance of the senior housing that BHPMSS and its partners are building.

Cathy Davis: The new senior housing will make it possible for seniors to age in a secure and familiar place — their own community — close by to friends and family. The housing is part of our vision for an Aging Campus, a concept that is already reflected in many of our current programs. When fully completed, our new supportive housing and state-of-the-art senior center will offer Bayview seniors everything necessary to make their lives comfortable and fulfilling, including: affordable housing, a safe and nurturing environment; a wide choice of planned activities (recreational, spiritual and educational); special events; preventive healthcare services; and excellent daily nutrition. We will continue the exceptional level of care for which BHPMSS is already well known: a compassionate and caring staff; a safe, secure and comfortable environment; accessible transportation; exciting field trip adventures; and creative programs and community events.

Saad&Shaw: Please describe the private public partnership that BHPMSS created, who the partners are and how each benefits the community and each of the partners?

Cathy Davis: BHPMSS initiated the public partnership for our new housing and senior center through Dr. George Davis (my husband), who was a community organizer, gerontologist and political strategist. He had a vision for what he wanted and he was willing to tell everyone about it. He enrolled the board of directors, staff, all the city officials, politicians and the community at large in creating the “Aging Campus”.

Our developer became our partner because of their respect for community building. As a for-profit developer they work with community non-profits, rather than compete with them. We found that many non-profit developers do not need another non-profit to support their work because they have the non-profit designation.

Our relationship with the City is longstanding: we are advocates and they are a funder. We attended numerous meetings, workshops and listening sessions to advocate for what was needed in our community. City funders utilize a community process and you have to be willing to play the game, the way it is played. The City benefits from a large community process that includes stakeholders and points the way.  They want to fund popular ideas that have widespread support and solve a problem.

Saad&Shaw: What is your definition of a private/public partnership?

Cathy Davis: A private/public partnership benefits all parties working together for a common purpose that ultimately benefits the intended clients. Each party has their own interest that has to be served in order to move forward. Collectively they have to be able to work as a team.

Testimonial video about BHPMSS senior housing – meet the people who helped make the vision and the dream come true.

Next week: Accountability and trust

Learn more about BHPMSS at

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

How to sabotage your fundraising efforts

fundraising errors, errors in fundraising, fundraising, planning,  donor stewardship, fundraising mistakes,Fundraising is about asking for money. That’s the common perception. But is it the truth? Here’s what we have learned from our extensive work with nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities, individual donors, program officers and foundation executives: fundraising is about much more than asking for money. Individual solicitations, proposal submissions, 5K runs, and galas are methods and tactics. Behind these are the fundamentals of your nonprofit’s business. These fundamentals often influence giving and the amount of a gift.

Here are a few examples of business decisions, missteps and indecisions that can contribute to a lack of investment in nonprofits.

  1. Fail to articulate and diligently pursue your niche
  2. Operate without a multi-year strategic plan
  3. Seek capital investments without a strategy for growing revenue for operations
  4. Accept a gift for a specific purpose and use it for another purpose.
  5. Be slow in sending out thank you letters. Create a form letter and send it out with a computer generated signature at the end of the month.
  6. Allocate funds in ways that are not in line with your core priorities
  7. Offer executive compensation that is out of line with salaries of other employees and the community
  8. Isolate your organization from community stakeholders, the business community and those you serve

Many of above are things we have heard from major donors. One thing we know about major donors is that not all of them start out as major donors. And many do not announce themselves as such. This is true of individual donors as well as foundations and corporations. Treat everyone well. Demonstrate that you are serious about your business and communicate that consistently in words and in actions.

Here’s a recent quote from a major donor, “You have to recognize my giving. Not just for me, but to inspire others. People don’t understand that in recognizing me you are inspiring others to give.” Don’t make the blunder of minimizing the contributions of major donors. If you don’t have a donor recognition program, put one in place. Be consistent in how you recognize donors. Value your relationships. And don’t be deceived by people who downplay a desire for recognition. Very few people will tell you directly, “I want to be recognized.” It is your job to recognize donors in a first class way. Don’t be afraid to consider naming opportunities as appropriate.

In regards to gifts from foundations and corporations: remember that people work in these institutions. They remember whether you submit your report on time, if you invite them to events, update them on your progress, and – most importantly – whether or not you achieve the goals outlined in your proposal.

Take care of the business of running a nonprofit: it will support your fundraising.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

The important role of an RFP

RFPNonprofit organizations often secure the services of fundraising related consultants and contractors to support operations and growth. Services may be needed to supplement the expertise of current staff, to add specific skill set for a limited amount of time, or because it is more cost effective to contract for services than to hire full-time employees.

Services that could be put out to bid include direct mail, special event design and management, proposal writing, feasibility studies, campaign counsel, online giving, marketing and advertising, prospect research, executive and employee search services, technology, training services and staff development, premiums and promotional materials, and phonathons.

In all cases a written request for proposals (RFP) helps facilitate a successful engagement.

While it takes time to craft an RFP there are many benefits to be achieved. First, the process will force you and your team to think through what you want to achieve from engaging an outside firm. It serves as a basis for the scope of work that will guide the firm’s work and your evaluation of it. You will have a better idea of the amount of time and resources required by your organization to support the work of the contractor or consultant. You will have created a “fair playing field” for those who are competing for your business, and a basis from which your team can evaluate proposals.

Getting started. Convene a team to create the RFP and establish a method of evaluation. Most RFPs include a brief organizational overview and history; a project description, budget, and timeframe; requirements related to experience, capacity, and technology; and submission deadlines and dates by which decisions will be made. Evaluation includes determining, for example, the importance of methodology, experience, and price. Are they equally weighted, or are methodology and experience more important than price? How will “points” be assigned? On a scale of 100, would each receive 33.3 points, or would 40 points be assigned to methodology, 50 to experience and 10 to price? Scoring RFPs reduces subjectivity, provides management with a rationale for contracting, and provides vendors with the opportunity to learn how their proposal rated and why.

Regardless the size of your organization, the RFP process provides an opportunity to evaluate proposals on an “apples-to-apples” basis. If you are not required to issue an RFP and have already decided which vendor you want to work with, think long and hard before issuing one. Staff, board members, volunteers and vendors all invest time and resources in the RFP process: a common complaint is that the process is a “sham,” as a decision had been made in advance. Finally, the RFP process can diminish conflicts of interest and contribute to transparency and accountability. It is another way to strengthen the health of your nonprofit.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Who is your ideal partner?

 fundraising, leadership, partnership, special events, fundraising campaign, how to lead a fundraising campaignHow do you become a successful nonprofit fundraiser? What is the secret to success? An engaging personality, relationships, tenacity, creativity, sales ability and consistent follow through are some of the attributes of success fundraisers. Here’s another: teamwork! Successful fundraisers don’t go it alone: they always have a partner. It is flattering and humbling to be asked to play a role in raising funds for an organization you believe in. You can increase your chances of success by picking the right partner to work with.

If you are asked to help organize a marathon, a concert, or a phone-a-thon you can double your impact by getting a partner. If you are asked to lead a capital campaign, an alumni campaign, or local disaster relief campaign get a partner and double your impact. When agreeing to help with fundraising make your answer, “Yes, and I’d like to have a partner work with me. So-and-so is a great asset and he has volunteered to work with me on this project.”

When you have a fundraising partner you have someone to bounce ideas off of, to make plans with, and to inspire you if you feel discouraged. If you know there are times when you will be you of town or otherwise committed, your partner can fill in for you and keep the process moving. When you have an effective and supportive partner fundraising can transform from an obligation into a fun challenge. You set a financial goal and work together to figure out how to reach it.

Here are a few things to consider as you contemplate who could be your ideal fundraising partner. Reflect on who you know personally, professionally, through worship, family connections, and/or community life. It would be ideal to partner with an individual who has a track record of successful fundraising. But that alone is not enough! Think about who also shares an interest in the work of your nonprofit and its values, and who has demonstrated commitment and follow through in other areas of their lives. Think about who you have helped in the past, and who might “owe you one.” Look for a person who gets things done, doesn’t accept failure, and always has a “plan b” and a “plan c” in their back pocket. Another ideal characteristics: people who have the power, influence and wealth to easily engage others in meeting your fundraising goal. Finally, the most important characteristic is that of accessibility. You want a partner you can reach by phone, text or email and who is not too busy to give his or her full attention to your joint project. They make your fundraising project their project.

If this sounds simplistic, that’s because it is. Find a partner, put your heads together, and have some fun raising money.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Image courtesy of artur84 /

Graduating to a lifetime of giving

Graduation, alumni giving, young alumni donors, high school giving, scholarship fundraising, graduation, reunionHappy graduation! You did it! This column is for graduates and their families. We salute your commitment to your education, your future and the future of your family. Graduating from high school, community college, a technical training school, or a four year college or university is a big deal. No two ways about it. You are celebrating a milestone and the beginning of “what’s next.” We hope you will realize the economic and social benefits of your education. And we hope you will take the time to thank your family for their encouragement. It takes a lot of support to persist towards a degree and to graduate. And, as you well know, it takes money.

As a new graduate, we encourage you to make a commitment to “paying it forward.” Here are three suggestions to transform you from a graduate into a major donor. You can follow these steps even if you graduated years ago: it’s never too late to make a difference.

First, make a small monthly commitment to your alma mater. Look at your budget and find an amount you can commit to giving every month. Automate your giving through a direct transfer or debit. Set it up and forget about it. As you go through life you can increase your monthly gift. If you start with $25 a month, you can increase to $35 a month next year, and $45 a month the following year. Notice we are talking about monthly gifts. That’s because it is easier to give small consistent amounts, than it is to give a one-time larger gift. Twenty-five dollars a month is $300. But for many people, it is difficult to give $300 – there is always another need. Twenty-five dollars is more manageable.

Second, create a small giving circle to support your school. This can be formal, as in the Ujima Legacy Fund that Reginald Gordon discussed in our last two columns, or it can be informal. For example, think about your high school and the impact ten or twenty graduates can make by giving on a monthly basis. Using the starting point of $25, you could collectively give $250 to $500 dollars depending upon how many people participate.

Third, if you are a member of an alumni association take a long hard look at the expenses associated with homecoming, reunions and other special events. Can we reverse the trend by spending more on scholarships than hotels, travel, parties and lavish awards? You can make a difference in the culture of your alumni association: let’s put students first.

Over time you can grow into a major donor who shares his or her success with the school or college that prepared you for your life and career. Start small – plan BIG.

Image courtesy of iosphere /

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.