Category Archives: Uncategorized

Your Campaign is in Trouble When…


How to Grow Your Volunteer Leadership

Leadership is at the core of successful fundraising. But who should provide that leadership? Should it be the executive director, president, or CEO? Should it come from the board of directors? Or perhaps from someone who is neither a board member nor a staff member?

Our experience has shown that fundraising is most successful when it is volunteer led. Because of this we advocate for the board to provide fundraising-related leadership and for staff to serve in a support role to the board. We also suggest participation by influential individuals from outside the organization.

Let us explain. One can feel quite victorious as an executive director or CEO when claiming, “I raised $1.2 million last year.” Even better, “I beat the fundraising goal by 7%.” But, if one person can meet or beat a goal, imagine what a team could accomplish. Fundraising is a “we” activity. Which is not to say that executive leadership doesn’t play a major role in promoting the organization and soliciting funds – it does. But that work is more successful when leveraged by introductions, recommendations, and the partnership of board members and members of the community.

Here is what our experience has taught us.

1.      When soliciting major gifts, peer-to-peer asks are most successful. In most cases a staff member is not a peer to a major donor. A staff member can help facilitate the process of one major donor asking another current or prospective major donor for a gift, but that is different from making “the ask.”

2.      Annual gifts are of utmost importance. Encouraging people to make small but consistent gifts to your organization builds a pool of individuals, families, businesses, and organizations who know what you do, believe in what you do, and tell others about your work. It certainly takes a lot of work to secure a large number of small gifts, but if you are using a volunteer-led model you should be more successful than if you use a staff-led model. A growing pool of annual donors can help convince businesses and foundations that you have strong support from your constituency.

3.      Invest in a volunteer manager. This position is as valuable as a development coordinator. This is the person who can engage, encourage, incentivize, and recognize people at all levels who host their own fundraising events to support your organization, who volunteer at events your organization hosts, and who ask their friends and others to give. A creative and engaging volunteer manager is a true treasure.

4.      Invest in a volunteer engagement strategy. With this in place you know what you want volunteers to do, how to find them, and how to recognize and reward their work.

If your executive director or development director is the one responsible for fundraising then you have not yet taken advantage of all your assets. Take a chance and engage others in meaningful fundraising. You will be amazed at what people are willing to do for you if you ask them and recognize their work.

© Mel and Pearl Shaw 2010.

Bridging Town and Gown: Looking Beyond Academic Credentials

In today’s competitive marketplace academic credentials are not enough. Recruiting educators, administrators, faculty and staff with a history of community engagement can create a double win for your campus. Members of the campus community who participate in the local community are an asset. They help bridge the gap between “town and gown” and can help attract students, resources, funding, partnership opportunities, and goodwill.

Members of the campus community are ambassadors and dispel misconceptions about a disengaged college or university when they serve on boards, volunteer their time and talent, and help other organizations and institutions meet their goals. They help attract students when they personally invite community members to campus events. New employees meet individuals and families and begin to become part of a community that may be new to them, reducing feelings of isolation.

A healthy campus and community relationship offers personal, professional, and networking opportunities to employees at all levels. A healthy reciprocal relationship also strengthens the institution’s standing in ways that impact fundraising – an all important institutional priority.

Here are 10 things a recruitment officer can do to strengthen community relations.

  1. Partner with the Advancement Department to create How to be an ideal volunteer workshop and handbook. Most advancement departments have extensive experirence engaging and managing volunteers.
  2. Include information on volunteer opportunities in new employee packages.
  3. Highlight volunteers and their service in campus publications.
  4. Meet with members of leading non-profits to learn about how they impact the local community, what their needs are, and how campus employees can help.
  5. Encourage non-profits to actively recruit faculty and staff to volunteer. Facilitate meetings between nonp-profit leaders and select faculty, staff and administrators with specific skills and connections that can make a differernce.
  6. Ask your president or chancellor to create a culture that encourages top administrators and faculty to serve on local boards and provide technical assistance.
  7. Encourage faculty to attend local events and participate in organizations related to their discipline.
  8. Identify campus ambassadors who can help relocating employees connect with individuals and leaders within the community.
  9. Offer incentives, awards, and recognition to campus members who are engaged with the local community.
  10. When recruiting and interviewing ask applicants about their community service experience. Let them know from the beginning that it is valued at your institution.

Where’s the Money?

So often we are asked “how do I find people who want to support our organization?” There are many answers to the question. One way is to engage in donor research.  To cut through the mystery around “donor research” we talked with Kevin Burns recently and asked him some questions on your behalf.  Kevin is an experienced researcher who has worked in higher education and health care for over eight years.

Saad & Shaw: Why should an organization or institution consider donor research?

Kevin Burns: There are three main reasons. The first is to gain basic information about your current and prospective donors. This can include publicly available information such as privately held company information, memberships on other nonprofit boards, and contributions to political candidates.  A researcher can also help identify new prospective donors. Finally, the work of a researcher can help your team focus and prioritize their efforts so they focus their time and energy on those individuals or businesses with the greatest interest in your organization coupled with the financial capacity to make a meaningful gift.

Saad & Shaw: Where and how do you look for information?

Kevin Burns: Prospect researchers use a variety of tools, primarily databases, to locate, cross reference and verify publicly available information. All of the information gathered is publicly available information.  Prospect researchers do not use private information sources such as credit agency information or private investigation.  Researchers adhere to a code of ethics developed by The Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement (APRA). Sources include real estate assessment and sales databases, Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) documents, Federal Election Commission (FEC) documents and general news databases.

Saad & Shaw: What kind of research do you do?

Kevin Burns: There are three main types of research. Reactive research is when a researcher is asked to find an answer to a question or series of questions. Proactive research is when a researcher is asked to search for new prospects or to qualify the giving capacity of current donors. Both proactive and reactive research can include a wealth screen. The term wealth screen refers to having a third party screening company “score” or match your data to a collection of data sources that can include philanthropic gifts to other organizations, stock holdings and sales, and memberships on nonprofit boards or foundations. Screening is a great way to prioritize and segment your donor or prospect population.

Saad & Shaw: Are there other tasks a researcher can help with?

Kevin Burns: Most definitely. Other tasks include building a campaign pyramid that illustrates the number of prospective donors at specific levels needed to meet a fundraising goal, prospecting for specific funding needs, creating pipeline reports which show how individual prospective donors are responding to cultivation and solicitation activities, and tracking news at specific organizations of interest.

Saad & Shaw: Are there sources of information you can share with our readers?

Kevin Burns: Absolutely. Lexis Nexis is an indispensable tool. However, there is a fee associated with using it. Free sources include Google and Zillow ( for information on property, county assessor websites such as  for Alameda County, or Guidestar ( for foundation research.

For more information on donor research you can contact Kevin directly at

© Mel and Pearl Shaw 2010.

Yes We Can – Again!

President Obama

On March 28th the House of Representatives passed historic health care reform. We were ecstatic! Millions of Americans and their families will soon experience a direct change in the reality of their lives – in their access to health insurance, and most importantly, in health care itself.

The next morning we received an email message from President Obama thanking us. In the email, which addressed us by our first names, Obama didn’t write about his prowess as a negotiator, or about how he is delivering on his campaign promises, or about how this impacts future elections. No. He focused his message on gratitude to us. Gratitude to the American people. His was clear. He communicated the tangible and intangible benefits that we as Americans will receive with the legislation’s passage. And he ended by reinforcing and repeating  the same empowering message he has consistently delivered – “Yes we can!”

Here’s a little bit of what he wrote to us — and millions of others:

Mel and Pearl – For the first time in our nation’s history, Congress has passed comprehensive health care reform. America waited a hundred years and fought for decades to reach this moment. Tonight, thanks to you, we are finally here.

Consider the staggering scope of what you have just accomplished:

Because of you, every American will finally be guaranteed high quality, affordable health care coverage.

Every American will be covered under the toughest patient protections in history. Arbitrary premium hikes, insurance cancellations, and discrimination against pre-existing conditions will now be gone forever.

And we’ll finally start reducing the cost of care — creating millions of jobs, preventing families and businesses from plunging into bankruptcy, and removing over a trillion dollars of debt from the backs of our children.

But the victory that matters most tonight goes beyond the laws and far past the numbers.

It is the peace of mind enjoyed by every American, no longer one injury or illness away from catastrophe.

It is the workers and entrepreneurs who are now freed to pursue their slice of the American dream without fear of losing coverage or facing a crippling bill.

And it is the immeasurable joy of families in every part of this great nation, living happier, healthier lives together because they can finally receive the vital care they need.

This is what change looks like….

Tonight, thanks to your mighty efforts, the answer is indisputable: Yes we can.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

Once again, we suggest you take a page from the President’s playbook – be gracious, consistent, strong, smart, and focused. Always thank those who help you deliver on the mission and vision of your organization. Remember, it is not about you – it is about the cause you serve and the people who help you bring an important vision and mission to life.

© Mel and Pearl Shaw 2010.

Saad & Shaw is Growing

Chiquita Tuttle

Spring brings not only new offices, but also new team members. We are pleased to welcome a new member of the Saad & Shaw team – Chiquita Tuttle, our new Director of Fund Development Services for the West Coast.

Ms. Tuttle has an MBA in Health Services Administration and brings over a decade of strong marketing, organizational development, strategic planning and leadership experience in health service, social service and community organizations to this position. She has run her own consulting firm since 1998 working with numerous health service, social service and community organizations. Tuttle has assisted several leading faith-based and community organizations in establishing major donor and development fund programs. Her experience also includes redesigning organizational structures, administrative and financial management systems, for community trust organizations. Tuttle works with several boards in the SF Bay Area including Catholic Charities for Human Development, and has a special interest in working with communities of color on HIV/AIDS.

As Director of Fund Development Services Ms. Tuttle will work with non-profit organizations to help identify their fundraising strengths and opportunities and to explore how Saad & Shaw can help them rethink their revenue sources.

If your organization is ready to take a quantum leap, contact Chiquita Tuttle at (510) 867-7177 or

Haiti relief: how to make your gift

Haiti Relief

What can be more important than making a gift to help relieve pain and suffering in Haiti? Where could your dollars make a more direct, immediate impact than giving to bring water, food, blankets, and medical supplies and services into Haiti.

 We urge you to give. To give now. And to give a month from now and six months from now. The question is who should I give my money to?

 There are many options ranging from the Red Cross to your local church or community based effort. Evaluating how to make your gift is important. Because your money is valuable.

Ask yourself:

  1. Does the organization have experience giving to international disaster relief? If no, ask why are they collecting money for Haiti. (see below)
  2. Does the organization have the expertise and relationships to ensure that aid actually gets into Haiti?
  3. Does the organization have people on the ground in Haiti who can help ensure that short-term and long-term relief and rebuilding efforts affect those in need?
  4. Is the organization large enough to handle a major influx of financial contributions?

 While giving is of utmost importance you should also know that in-person and on-line fraud does occur in the wake of disasters and that people are taken advantage of. To help prevent being a victim of fraud do not give cash. Write a check or use your debit or credit card. Make sure the organization is a recognized charity. Make sure you know how the organization will use your money. Get a receipt that lists the organization’s tax identification number.  Check out a website of the Better Business Bureau if you have questions about how to make your gift.

 Disasters are also a time when well meaning people and organizations appeal to others for disaster assistance when they really don’t have the ability to directly impact the lives of those who are suffering.

 Yes, organizations without direct experience in Haiti or without experience in disaster relief may turn around and use your gift as part of a larger gift to an organization such as UNICEF or the Red Cross, but you don’t know that for sure. This is a good time for organizations to increase their revenue while “passing through” money to larger organizations. There is certainly no problem with giving a $100 check made out to the Red Cross to your church or a local community based effort. There may be a problem giving $100 to such an organization for Haitian relief. If you give this way, make sure that they are aligned with a larger organization that knows how to get needed people and resources into Haiti.

 Your care and concern for others is so important. Together we are making a difference. As we write this column $16 million has been given to major charities by text messaging alone often in amounts of $5 and $10. American businesses have given over $43 million. The NFL gave $2 million.  We as a country are giving $100 million via USAID. Your gift makes a difference.

That’s it for now. And as always, remember to have a FUNdraising Good Time! You can make a difference.

Fundraising for Haiti – what you need to know

Clinton and Bush Raising Funds for Haiti

Disasters are a time when we come together to support each other as human beings. Plain and simple. It’s not about politics. It’s not about religion. It’s about people. Saving lives. Food. Medical care. Clean water. A place to sleep. Everyone is getting involved. President Obama has allocated $100 million via  USAID. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush are busy fundraising. And so are many others.

Disasters are also a time when Americans give generously as a country and as individuals, families, and local communities. We give and we fundraise. We also need to be paying attention to how we give, who we give to, and how we fundraise.

Here are some links you can check out for more information.

Advice on Giving to Haiti Support – guidance from the Better Business Bureau regarding how to make your gift to support Haiti.

Good Intentions Are Not Enough – learn the Do’s and Don’ts of Diaster Giving

Text and Give – how to give via text messaging. Includes a list of 21 different organizations you can give to via a text message. $16 million have been given via text messages as we write this blog!

Giving to the Red Cross – links for how to direct your giving

Updates on Giving to Haiti – stay up-to-date with information about giving and fundraising for Haiti. Information provided by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

That’s it for now. And as always, remember to have a FUNdraising Good Time! You can make a difference.

There’s always more to accomplish

Harness Your CreativityLast week we met with the executive director and board chair for an organization that is interested in raising money so they can expand their reach to serve people they aren’t yet reaching. Their history and current successes are strong and impressive. But that’s not enough for them. In fact their focus is on “how can we realign and increase our resources so we can serve those we aren’t yet reaching.”

Yes, they want to engage in fundraising. But they are also looking at revenue-producing partnerships. They have identified their assests – property and programs – and are looking at how they can use these to expand services, increase impact and increase revenue. They are looking forward. And they are making decisions and taking actions to deliver on their vision.

We were impressed. We would be impressed with this organization at any point in time. But we are particularly impressed right now. Like so many other organizations they are in jepordy of budget cuts, decreased revenue, expiring grants. But that is not their focus. Their focus is finding creative ways to engage others in helping them deliver on their mission.

Think about your successes. Think about who you are serving and who you are not yet serving. Then think about how you could serve them. Consider who you could partner with. How could you create a mutually beneficial partnership?It might seem difficult. It might feel impossible. But maybe not. We encourage you to look forward, to think creatively, and focus on your mission. You may just find answers and possibilities that can take you in new directions.

Let’s Check The Minutes

Meeting MinutesEveryone has pet peeves. We are no exception. One thing we have noticed in our work is that the quality of minutes taken – or not taken – at meetings make a big impact on an organization’s effectiveness.

Meetings are a valuable investment of time on the part of those who attend. We share perspectives, make decisions, and determine direction. Minutes are a way we can look back and recall what was discussed, decided, and the actions we agreed to take. When minutes are not accurate the result can confusion, misunderstandings, and a failure to meet important commitments.

We agree. There are many reasons why minutes may not be accurate. Here are a few:

  1. Minute taker was unable to track the conversation and record important points. He attempted to transcribe what was said instead of summarizing and recording major points.
  2. The meeting itself was not well organized or well facilitated.
  3. Agreements were not clearly stated so they could be recorded.
  4. The minutes were not completed and distributed in a timely fashion. By the time participants received the minutes they had forgotten what happened at the meeting and were left to “assume” the minutes are correct.
  5. There is no established format for minutes.

But, these can be overcome. Here are a few high-level suggestions for how to take good minutes:

  1. Record the names of all people participating. Indicate who is absent.
  2. Use the meeting’s agenda as a starting point. Record a summary of major discussion points for each item on the agenda.
  3. When you hear a decision being made re-state the decision to ensure you are recording it correctly.
  4. Record action items in a “next steps” section of the minutes. For example: Elizabeth to follow up with Mayor by Friday.

Creating and distributing accurate minutes in a timely fashion can increase the effectiveness of meetings. Here are a few “positive outcomes.”

  1. People get in the habit of making quantifiable agreements with due dates
  2. Prior decisions are easily referenced without having to revisit the whole discussion
  3. New group members understand prior actions and decisions

As always, you can be part of the solution. Here’s some suggestions for what to do if you are dealing with challenges in area of meeting minutes:

  1. When facilitating a meeting, or playing an important role, take your own notes.
  2. Cross reference these against the minutes to help ensure accuracy.
  3. Have a quick meeting after the meeting with the minute taker and the meeting’s leadership to ensure key points and agreements were recorded.
  4. Circulate a draft of minutes within 48 hours so corrections can be made before being officially sent to all participants.
  5. As a participant make sure you review the minutes prior to the next meeting so you can wisely vote to approve or modify.
  6. Make sure you know where the official minutes are kept. They should all be in one place that is easily accessible.

That’s it for now! Let us know how accurate and timely minutes help your organization.