FUNdraising Good Times is moving!

MovingFUNdraising Good Times continues to focus on The People, Strategies & Information That Make Fundraising Come Alive! With our continued focus on helping you and your organization reach its full FUNdraising potential, we understand the need for growth and a streamlined process.

We are excited to announce that we’ve integrated FUNdraising Good Times column into our main website, At this new location, you will find FUNdraising news, publications and more, all in one place.

Bookmark the new location, subscribe to receive the column weekly in your inbox and follow us to receive the latest information on FUNdraising. Starting in December 2015, new posts to FUNdraising Good Times will only be found at the Saad&Shaw website on our new FUNdraising Good Times blog page. We hope you enjoy this resource and that your join us at our new home.

Thank you for your continued support of Saad&Shaw and FUNdraising Good Times.

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Three things to consider before applying for a big grant

Three things to considerBig money attracts big dreams. Imagine what your organization could do with a large sum of money. Large could be $25,000 or it could be $25 million. It all depends on your operating budget. Whether you say “yes” to big money, or turn down an opportunity can impact your organization – and community – for years to come. Learn three questions to ask before making a decision.

When you are approached to apply for a large grant it can feel as if your nonprofit has won the lottery. Maybe you’re a grassroots program, a national advocacy organization, or a college or university. In most cases the response is the same: you are excited and begin to evaluate how your programs fit into the grant guidelines. If the proposed grant could cover multiple years your team may feel the heavens have opened. Maybe, and maybe not.

The first pivotal question to ask when considering a major grant is whether or not it is in line with your mission, goals and strategic plan. You can contort your nonprofit and change your direction to secure the funding. But what will that do to your organization? If the grant funding is for services outside of your focus why are you changing your priorities? There are legitimate reasons to change, but make sure yours is a conscious decision. Our general recommendation: don’t chase money that takes you off course.

If you accept funds that are not line with the core work of your nonprofit you can put your organization at risk. You may find that the time and money required for grant management, reporting, and evaluation are not covered in grant funding. Paying for these can become an additional – unfunded – expense.

Second, have you planned for the end of the grant – even as you prepare to apply for funds? For example, have you considered how you will replace the funds once a grant ends? Will the new grant-funded program/ service/advocacy become part of your long-range planning or business plan? If not, what will happen to those you serve?

Third, do you have the information you need to carefully construct a budget for the proposed work? Will grant funds cover current programs, or will you need to expand programming or launch a new program? Will you need to hire additional people? If yes, where will you find the talent you need? How will you retain current and new hires during the life of the grant? What will happen if staff leave your organization? How will you replace them?

Take time to make wise decisions for your organization’s sustainability.

Image courtesy of satit_srihin at

Copyright 2015– Mel and Pearl Shaw

Mel and Pearl Shaw position nonprofits, colleges and universities for fundraising success. For help with your fundraising visit or call (901) 522-8727.

Advocacy: critical nonprofit work


Stand Beside Her is an example of a new powerful new advocacy campaign launched by Girl Scouts Heart of the South. This national campaign encourages women and girls to support each other. It’s a bold move to reduce comparisons and competition amongst women. The goal: changing our culture so every girl and woman can reach her fullest potential.

There’s something wrong when women are more than 50% of the population and we still ask ourselves “why are women underrepresented in so many aspects of our society?” At a minimum change requires new public policies, new ways of interacting with each other, new roles for men, and a change in consciousness. Stand Beside Her focuses on how we treat each other as women and encourages us to change negative behaviors we have internalized, normalized and may not even be aware of.

This is no small goal. Like most advocacy campaigns it’s about a big vision. It’s right up there with curing HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Securing marriage equality. Eliminating racism.

Here are a few things we learned: 67% of women rate mentorship as highly important in helping to advance and grow their careers, yet 63% of women never has had a formal mentor. 39% of girls have been put down or discouraged when trying to lead. And, 92% of teen girls would like to change something about the way they look, with their body weight ranking the highest.

Girls are watching us and listening to us. How do we treat each other? And how do we treat ourselves? Each of us can be part of the solution. Invite a junior colleague for coffee. Introduce something new to your daughter. Create a mentoring program at work. Ensure you are an informed voter. Avoid negative words and phrases. Encourage others through your words. Volunteer and donate to help girls and women.

Advocacy is critical nonprofit work. It advances the work of a nonprofit in ways that direct services can’t. Advocacy opens up our thinking to new perspectives. It encourages those of us who may feel powerless to join together and make our voices heard. It is a way to engage donors in the ongoing work of a nonprofit. It is more than writing a check: it is an opportunity to open our homes to talk about an important issue. It helps build relationships within our community – and nationally. Advocacy makes the case for change. We have the opportunity to tell a compelling story and encourage others to take actions large and small, and to give. Advocacy can open up your nonprofit to energy, something most of us need.

Advocate for girls and women October 25th – 31st. Let’s choose to Stand Beside Her.

Learn more at

Copyright 2015– Mel and Pearl Shaw

Mel and Pearl Shaw position nonprofits, colleges and universities for fundraising success. For help with your fundraising visit or call (901) 522-8727.

Keys to unlocking board involvement

Part three of a three-part series

The vitality of a nonprofit lies with its board members. Their individual and collective action, engagement and clarity of mission make all the difference in the world. In this final installment of our interview with Lisa Hoffman we share her thoughts regarding the important work of a nonprofit board.

Lisa Hoffman

Lisa Hoffman

“Board members are critical to successful fundraising. They are in a unique position as volunteers to invite investment, to express their passion and say ‘join me’ in strengthening communities, cleaning up the environment and other essential causes. Fundraising enthusiasm, transcending anxieties and fears about asking, and board engagement in general are all strongly rooted in effective board development,” Hoffman shares.

“And that development begins with how board members are recruited – figuring out what kinds of people are needed, clearly conveying expectations ranging from board meeting attendance to fundraising, and new board member orientation that continuing board members facilitate. It also includes creating an intentional culture, one that focuses on relationships, commitment and accountability, and board governance policies that cover nuts and bolts like board terms and term limits – which are stewarded by board leadership.”

Part One: 3 Tips to Achieving Fundraising Success

Speaking from her experience, Hoffman continued, “most people live up or down to expectations – and that includes board members. Members of high-performing boards want clarity about the commitments they are being asked to make, and they respond to high expectations. Sometimes that response is to articulate limits – which I feel is optimal because it is honest and opens up the possibility for discussion and authentic commitment that grows from a mutual understanding of expectations.”

We also asked Hoffman about the future for nonprofits in the areas of management, messaging, infrastructure and fundraising. “I think the nonprofits that will thrive in the future will do so because of a combination of classic strengths: staff and board leadership; relationship-based fundraising combined with smart, strategic and tactical use of new and emerging communication tools,” Hoffman shared. “And they’ll remember that remembering that these tools are simply ways of connecting and engaging with people – they aren’t magical solutions. They are just additional, certainly powerful, tools in the toolbox.”

Finally, because she lives and works in San Francisco, California we asked Hoffman about engaging technology firms. Her guidance: “I think that most people, technology firms or otherwise, support nonprofits with which they share mission, values and passion. I would add that more than most donor-investors, the tech community seeks impact that can be proven, and has a deep interest in innovative and effective approaches to solving problems.”

Part 2: Resources and mindfulness in the life of nonprofits

Lisa is the real deal. She knows there are no simple “solutions” to fundraising. Rather, it’s a process. Bring your best and join with others in an ongoing process of change.

You can reach Lisa 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.

Resources and mindfulness in the life of nonprofits

Part two of a three-part series

Lisa Hoffman

Lisa Hoffman

Fundraising is fundraising, or is it? We asked Lisa Hoffman about her observations related to the similarities and differences between large, established nonprofits and emerging, or grassroots, organizations as it relates to fundraising.

“All nonprofits share a passion and commitment to create positive change in their community – local, regional, national, beyond. The vast majority of nonprofits are founded by a person or a group so driven by a cause that they decide to start an organization. I would say that even the largest nonprofit institutions started literally or figuratively around someone’s kitchen table,” Hoffman began.

“Beyond that, the differences lie in resources and what resources can create. Large, established nonprofits usually are adequately or well resourced. Emerging nonprofits need to figure out their business models and make them work. Some grassroots organizations have accomplished this, and many struggle, for a variety of reasons.

“Any size nonprofit can have strong and engaged leadership, a clear and compelling vision, and a board and organizational culture of positive relationships, commitment and accountability, which combined yield an effective team and organization.

“Similarly, any size nonprofit can build an effective and vibrant fund development effort – it comes back to leadership, culture, and putting fundraising success factors into place. I’ve worked with a number of groups over the years that started with no money or a few hundred dollars and are today established groups with budgets ranging from $1 million-$5 million or more.”

Read Part One: 3 Tips to Achieving Fundraising Sucess

We believe that “mindfulness” impacts much of life, including fundraising. As an ordained Zen priest Hoffman has wisdom to share in this area as well. “Mindfulness – awareness of what is happening in this moment – can have a powerful impact because it encourages organizations and their leadership to look beyond their nonprofits needs and situation to the larger community, and especially donors,” she began. “Many organizations are too internally focused and don’t look at the bigger picture beyond their mission. As our colleague Kay Sprinkel Grace says, ‘People give because you meet needs, not because you have needs.’ Mindfulness can help nonprofits keep this in mind in inviting people to partner with financial support.

“Mindfulness is also a wonderful skill for board and staff to develop in cultivating and asking people to invest in their organizations. It’s easy to be so concerned or so anxious about asking for the gift that we don’t take in signals that a person isn’t ready, or that the initiative we are pushing is not what speaks to their heart and mind.”

“And, on an individual level, mindfulness can help us notice how we’re feeling and what we need for personal sustainability – so that we can keep doing the work that is so important for many years.”

You can reach Lisa 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.

3 Tips to Achieving Fundraising Success

Part one of a three-part series

Lisa Hoffman

Lisa Hoffman

If you are lucky, you are fortunate to know people who are “the real deal.” That is Lisa Hoffman. She is an experienced and talented fundraiser and coach. A woman who is both gentle and firm in her guidance, her goal is to help you reach your fundraising goals.

We recently reached out to Lisa and asked her to share some of what she has learned during her 30 years in fundraising. We began by asking about what exactly leads to fundraising success.

“Board leadership really is essential,” Hoffman began.The Board Chair needs to give generously and raise money, as well as understand their role in modeling, guiding and supporting the rest of the board to do the same. The Board Chair has tremendous influence on creating a culture of philanthropy, generosity and giving. And if there are issues with board members, it is usually the chair who needs to step up and address them.

And, the executive director or CEO needs to be one of the organization’s lead fundraisers and partner with the Board Chair on keeping fund development high on the board’s agenda and radar. Another critical part of the executive’s role is to create a culture of generosity and appreciation of the individuals and groups that support the organization. Every staff member can be a leader in raising money, recruiting volunteers and garnering in-kind contributions. The executive sets the tone and process for this kind of engagement.

Passion is critical to successful fund development. Most people don’t like fundraising, and passion for their organization’s mission is the best motivator I know of to provide the drive and fearlessness needed to raise game-changing amounts of money over the long haul.

A Plan. Our colleague Jude Kaye says that, ‘A vision without a plan is hallucination.’ I agree with her perspective – fund development, without a plan that includes mission, vision, goals and a roadmap for success, flounders.”

Related to leadership, we asked Hoffman to share what she has identified as the qualities to look for in a board chair.

“Clarity about the chair role and what leadership means: to support and drive the board in stewarding the organization’s mission and vision. That means making sure every board member understands and fulfills their role in ensuring that every aspect of the organization – how people are treated, strategic direction, finances, fundraising – reflect sound values and respect the time and resources given to the organization,” she shared.

Hoffman added, “[and] Courage to deal with issues that typically range from financial challenges to founder executive director succession to troublesome board members with integrity and skill.”

Finally, “A good sense of humor – which I think is self-explanatory!”

You can reach Lisa 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.

Reasons why philanthropy begins with you

Giving from the heart“What size shoes do you wear?” That was what we heard. We saw a well dressed woman casually take off her sneakers and give them to a woman who appeared to be homeless. Both were getting cream and sugar for their coffees at Starbucks. One walked out with designer sneakers on her feet while the other got into her car wearing socks.

We looked at each other. It happened in less than five minutes. A casual conversation between strangers that ended with an act of charity and kindness that made an immediate material difference in one woman’s life. If we hadn’t been sitting right next to where the conversation took place we would never have known it happened.

Something inspired the more affluent woman to take action immediately. She saw a need and she filled it. She didn’t wait for someone else to take action. She didn’t refer the other woman to a nonprofit, church, or government agency. She took the shoes off her feet and gave them to her.

It was a touchstone event for us. It reminded us that at the heart of nonprofits is passion, concern for others, a desire to make a difference. This beautiful, personal act of kindness reminded us of the goodness that surrounds us. We saw it as a reflection of the spirit, compassion, and love that is a driving force for so many nonprofits.

In this column we typically share information and suggestions related to the art and science of fundraising. Yet at its heart fundraising – or philanthropy as it is referred to in some circles – is about a love for humanity. It is that love which we need to keep front and center when we get tired, angry, disappointed, or frustrated. That is what draws so many of us to the nonprofit sector in the first place.

That love should be the cornerstone of building strong and vibrant organizations that address the immediate concerns of people in need. That love should be what sustains us in long-term policy and advocacy work that addresses the underlying causes of poverty, inequality, and injustice. Love and compassion can temper our tongues when we want to lash out at others, or when we wish people would “just give” so we can get on with the important work of our organizations.

Love in action binds us together in a united vision. Love in action keeps us at the table as board members when we disagree on a specific matter. And love in action sustains us when the road seems long and our vision appears clouded.

Our suggestion: let’s try infusing love more fully into our consciousness and our actions, including fundraising. Let us lift up those who give and invest. And let us give with an open heart.

Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield 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 fundraise without a powerful board


Fundraising in an Imperfect World– Part Two

What if your nonprofit isn’t comprised of people with power, wealth and influence? What if your board chair can’t pick up the phone and raise $1 million? How do you compete when you feel other organizations are supported by power-brokers and you can’t get your message heard?

Here are our thoughts. Use the assets available to you. Build a team and relationships that will serve you for the long run. You may be surprised by the resources and riches available within your network. Here are some suggestions to consider.

First, remember it’s hard to raise money from behind a desk. You have to be constantly out in the community making the case for your organization or institution and developing relationships. This is your work as CEO. It’s also the work of board members and your development director or vice president. Get the pulse of your community and find ways to implement your vision in partnership with others. Take names! Build your list of contacts. Stay in contact. Don’t depend on social media for your communication – build and nurture mutual relationships.

Consistently grow your list of prospective donors. If you need to raise $250,000 we recommend creating a list of people, businesses, foundations and granting agencies who can give a combined total of $750,000. You don’t have the luxury of assuming people will give the amount you request: you need enough prospective donors to cover the reality that not everyone gives. Even if you think it is a “sure deal” make sure you have a Plan B.

Talk with your staff, advisors, board members and friends. Ask them who they know and who they can influence. It’s not only high profile people who can open doors! You don’t know who knows who – if you don’t ask you may be missing an opportunity. For example, our experience has shown that barbers, hair stylists, maids, waiters and waitresses have the pulse of a community.

Keep it personal. If there is someone within your organization who knows a donor or volunteer, ask them to take the time to personally thank those who give their time and money.

Always debrief with your development director. Let him know who you are visiting. Make sure contact information for those you meet is entered in your database. Don’t assume you are the only person with relationships: ask team members for suggestions before going into a “big meeting.”

Become politically astute – know your government leaders and make sure they know you and the priorities of your organization.

You may feel frustrated that your board or staff need to “catch up” with you. Don’t let that get you down. It is your responsibility to communicate with passion and vision, set direction, and invite others to join you.

Additional reading: 10 Solutions for a board who won’t fundraise 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles 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.

Ten solutions for a board who won’t fundraise

Fundraising in an Imperfect World– Part One

fundraising, FUNdraising Good Times, nonprofit board, Saad&ShawWhat do you do if your board doesn’t have the connections, experience or willingness to be involved in fundraising? How will your nonprofit secure the money and resources it needs to deliver on its mission?

We encourage board-led fundraising. We believe that when board members are actively involved in fundraising the nonprofit organization or institution will be more successful. Board-led fundraising includes active involvement in determining fundraising goals; identifying, cultivating, soliciting and stewarding donors; making a gift of their own; and engaging others in giving and fundraising.

But what if your board is reluctant to fundraise or simply refuses to “give and get?” There are many reasons for this response. Members may not have been recruited to fundraise. They may be engaged in campaigns for other nonprofits. They may not know how to provide guidance and direction as it relates to fundraising.

If you find yourself in this position here are 10 things you can do as a nonprofit executive:

  1. Appeal to your board to increase their participation in fundraising in spite of original board responsibilities which might not include fundraising
  2. Visit each board member individually to learn more about the “hidden gems” – those ways an individual board member could be of service, or the reasons for reluctance to fundraise
  3. Take your board on “field trips” to observe other nonprofit boards in action
  4. Ask board members to recruit someone they know – who has experience fundraising – to work with each as a partner. Working in teams with colleagues from outside the board can build capacity and expertise.
  5. Develop an alternative fundraising group such as a development taskforce, advisory council, special development committee of the board, or friends committee. These are people who can open doors, solicit, and provide guidance and strategy. They should be recruited with an explicit request to assist with fundraising.
  6. Hire a consultant to work with the board to help increase their knowledge of fundraising responsibilities and ability to participate in fundraising
  7. Assume more responsibility for fundraising. You and your staff will have to be more active and proactive.
  8. Scale your fundraising needs/goals to meet the capacity of board members and staff.
  9. Work with board members to determine which fundraising projects they could take the lead on. This can help build experience and confidence and hopefully increase their appetite for more involvement. Don’t involve board members in a big project they don’t have the capacity or experience to achieve.
  10. Keep the board informed on a consistent basis regarding the status of fundraising, funds received, prospective donors identified, potential shortfalls or surpluses and the implications.

We live in an imperfect world. Work with your board, recognize their strengths and offset their challenges.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici 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.

12 things to consider before you start a nonprofit

Thik OUtside the BoxThe nonprofit sector is diverse and innovative. People are always creating solutions to the many challenges that arise. We see a problem and seek to fix it. We experience something wonderful and we want others to share in our joy. There are two ways that nonprofits are different from for profit organizations: most nonprofits seek contributions from others as a form of revenue, and board members or trustees do not benefit financially.

Nonprofits are often referred to as 501(c)(3) organizations. This is in reference to the IRS tax code that defines an organization as tax-exempt. Here’s what the IRS says:

“The exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals.  The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.”

“The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, and no part of a section 501(c)(3) organization’s net earnings may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.”

Before you file for 501(c)(3) status we suggest you take the time to answer the following:

  1. What are the goals, vision and mission of the proposed nonprofit?
  2. Have you done the necessary research to determine if there is a need for the proposed nonprofit?
  3. Who will your nonprofit serve?
  4. Do you have community buy-in?
  5. What type of people will you need to serve on the board? Have you identified specific people who fit your criteria? Have you talked with them about your idea and their willingness to serve on the board?
  6. How will you secure the funds you need to launch and sustain your organization? Who will you solicit? How will you secure their financial support?
  7. Do you have a business plan, strategic plan and fundraising plan?
  8. Are there organizations providing similar services?
  9. What will be unique about the nonprofit?
  10. Is your nonprofit a profit making business that has “gone bad?” Is it an unsuccessful business that you want to sustain with a different tax status?
  11. Have you created a case for support that clearly communicates your vision, fundraising goals and projected impact?
  12. Do you need to obtain nonprofit status in order to bring your vision to life? Could you become a program of an existing nonprofit?

Take your time: your community is worth it.

Image courtesy of Master isolated images 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.