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John Marshall

Little Things Make the Difference

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John Marshall
Senior Vice President

My wife and I were recently quite nicely entertained by the movie Knight and Day starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. It’s not for everyone, but we like action movies and there was plenty of it in this fast-paced film. During a lull in the movie Diaz asks Cruise what makes him so successful as a secret agent: “I pay close attention to the little things,” was his response. His answer made me think about “the little things” in my life and the impact they have had on me and those around me.

When relating to people, it seems I have always paid attention to the little things. Maybe it goes back to when I was a kid growing up in a Salvation Army Officer-parent home and observed my folks always going the extra mile to help people or undertake one of their many acts of kindness – neither of which were intended to elicit any type of response or reaction.

Or it might have been the Stephen Covey seminar I attended several years ago “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” I learned a lot during that week, but what has stayed with me the most is the lesson on the Emotional Bank Account. It teaches that if you keep a healthy balance of positive deposits in people’s emotional bank accounts, interpersonal relationships with those you work with, friends and family members can be a whole lot better.

Have you ever worked with or for someone who seems to always be pointing out the things you do wrong while ignoring your positive contributions? I have, and it’s not any fun. These are the individuals whose emotional bank accounts with people are always awash in red ink, and like a regular bank account, things will catch up with them eventually.

I have found paying attention to the little things is really effortless and the upside can be quite substantial. I like to send handwritten notes or cards to people with a simple note of congratulations or recognition for something accomplished….maybe even a thank you where none was expected. Donors love this attention (well, most of them do, anyway) and believe me, although they may not say anything, they do remember your thoughtfulness.

I also think it is very important to do the little things when dealing with your staff or co-workers. In the fundraising business we are usually under a lot of pressure to perform and don’t always take the time to offer a “Kudos” or well-deserved pat on the back. If you are a manager, praise of a direct report for a job well done, either one-on-one or in a staff meeting, can make all the difference in the world. When I was the head of a large team a few years ago, I always ended our monthly all-staff meeting agenda with a topic entitled “Share a Kudos.” I enjoyed sitting back and listening to staff expressing their appreciation for the efforts of others within our department. There is no doubt in my mind that this activity was partially responsible for creating an harmonious atmosphere for our team.

Let me close by suggesting you don’t forget your family when contemplating the little things, especially your children. In my opinion, contentment in one’s life is dependent upon an harmonious balance between work and home, so make certain you are paying attention to the little things at home just as much (if not more) than at work.

“The little things” – they’re easy to do and bear little to no financial cost. But engage in them consistently and the benefits can be priceless.

Salvation Army Advisory Boards: In the Vanguard of the “Army Behind the Army”

By | All Posts, Boards + Leadership, News You Can Use, Organizational + Personal Development, Volunteers | No Comments

John Marshall
Senior Vice President

For the past 42 years, I have had the opportunity to work with a great number of Boards throughout the nonprofit sector: higher education, healthcare, culture and the arts, human services, etc. I have had many extraordinary experiences with a wide range of Boards” many functioning beautifully, some so-so and occasionally, well, some not so good.

If there is one organization I feel deserves special mention for its “best practices” in partnering with Boards, it would be The Salvation Army (also known as “the Army.”) Its Boards are well-organized, efficient, productive and consist of committed members who are wonderful supporters of one of our country’s most respected organizations. The Army refers to these Boards as Advisory Boards.

The Army is very careful to ensure its Boards are well organized and its members provided with the tools they will need to be successful as Army ambassadors within their respective communities.

One real advantage the Army has is its Organizational Manual for Advisory Organizations. It covers the full gamut of what is necessary to organize and run a successful Advisory Board. The Army urges its several hundred Boards throughout the United States to adhere to the policies and procedures laid forth within the Manual, thus promoting a consistency throughout the Advisory Board sector of the organization.

In addition, every four years, the Army organizes a three-day conference in which it brings together Advisory Board members from throughout the Army’s four territories for a time of further training and education, reflection, sharing and fellowship. Conferences involve fundraising professionals of great prominence as presenters and attract national celebrities such as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (a significant supporter of the Army – do you recall Thanksgiving Day’s NFL game at AT&T Stadium?) and former First Lady Laura Bush. In addition, the Army’s National Commander attends, offering words of encouragement.  Much is gained from these national gatherings and it is the Army’s hope that attendees will return to their respective communities renewed, inspired and motivated to assist the Army in its efforts of “Doing the Most Good.”

Army Advisory Boards are successful for a wide array of reasons. However, I believe that what is most responsible for their success is their committee organization and the unflinching willingness of members to carry out their responsibilities.

What I like most about Army Advisory Boards is their clarity in purpose, outlined in a member Job Description which ensures new Board members know exactly what the expectations are for joining an Army Board. Seldom if ever will you hear a Board member say “Well, I didn’t know I was expected to do that.”

Most Army Advisory Boards have all or most of the following committees:

Executive: consists of the Board officers and in most cases the chairs of the various committees. This ensures communication on the various activities is at the highest level.

Nominating: In my estimation, this is the most important committee on an Army Advisory Board. It is responsible for identifying prospective Board members, interviewing them in advance (during which full information such as Army literature, the job description, etc. is shared), making appropriate recommendations regarding new members, ensuring the slate of Board officers is advanced for approval per policy and holding annual evaluations of Board members including the review of meeting attendance, support of Army public functions, committee participation and financial support.

Finance: works closely with Army leadership to review all aspects of financial records and to provide professional expertise when needed.

Public Relations: works with Army staff in ensuring Army messaging is appropriately targeted and that the public has a clear understanding the Army is far more than just “bell ringing and thrift stores.”

Property: partners with Army leadership in reviewing all Army properties and make helpful suggestions on the best ways to address any issues.

Development: works closely with the Army’s development staff in identifying prospective new donors, setting up appointments with prospects, participating on visits and assisting Army staff in the planning, preparation and execution of fundraising special events.

The Army is also very good in encouraging non-Advisory Board members to serve on committees such as Public Relations, Development and Property. This is particularly attractive to the community member who cannot commit to full Board membership but wishes to assist in an area of his/her real interest and expertise.

Lastly, what always makes quite a difference in how successful a Board will be is when the organization’s executive takes an active interest in the work of the Board. In the Army’s case, the local commanding officer is always expected to attend not only regular Board meetings, but also committee meetings when his/her presence is requested. In my work with the Army over these many years, I have also found that the Army’s very best Boards are due in part to the commanding officer taking a personal interest in their Advisory Board members.

Remember: personal, little things can truly make a difference.

The following is a Job Description your organization may wish to utilize for Board members:

  • Become fully informed about the programs and services of the organization and be committed to its mission
  • Be as personally generous a financial contributor as possible and lead the organization to others who have the capacity to be financially supportive
  • Serve as an ambassador for the organization within the community, utilizing your connections to access community resources and volunteers and enhance the image of the organization
  • Identify those within the community who have influence and affluence and be a leader in recruiting them to the Board
  • Attend Board meetings on a consistent basis and actively participate
  • Actively serve on at least one Board committee
  • Be willing to use your professional expertise as well as those you are professionally associated with for the betterment of the organization
  • Be willing to perform a self-assessment of your performance as a Board member and make improvements where necessary

A Remarkable Act of Generosity

By | Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, Major Gift Solicitation, News You Can Use, Stewardship | No Comments

John Marshall
Senior Vice President

We have all heard about donors making million-dollar-plus gifts and the impact such generosity had on the recipient charity. Americans are clearly the most generous people on the face of the earth with million dollar gifts occurring annually in the thousands.

Like most fundraisers, I think about what truly motivates a person to give that much away and what I can do to secure such a gift for my clients. There is no doubt a worthy organization with a particularly compelling need can be successful in attracting seven-figure gifts. But, I have found over the years, that what is almost as important is taking the time to get to know your donors and paying particular attention to “the little things.”

I’ll never forget a meeting I had very early in my career with Dr. John Hanna, former president with Michigan State University and one of the most beloved figures in the history of that school. After about a 10-minute conversation he concluded our time together by giving me some sage advice: “John, whatever you do while you are here at MSU, don’t ever forget that people always come first. If you pay attention to them and show you care every bit as much about them as you do their philanthropy, well, truly wonderful things can happen.” It was a lesson I have carried with me ever since.

Some time ago, I was reminded of what Dr. Hanna had said while I was working with The Salvation Army in New York City, one of the Army’s largest divisions in the world.

In early December, The Salvation Army’s Greater New York Division holds its Annual Christmas Luncheon. The luncheon attracts a crowd of approximately 1,600 and serves as the official “kick-off” to the Army’s Christmas Campaign in New York City. It also is an event where individuals are publicly recognized for their extraordinary support to The Salvation Army. Since 1948, luminaries such as General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Catherine Marshall, Dr. Billy Graham, Helen Hayes, Bob Hope, Nancy Reagan, Rudolph Giuliani, Yogi Berra and many others have received the Army’s prestigious Pinnacle of Achievement Award.

In 1993, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, an elderly couple who had for years been very generous donors, were chosen to receive the Army’s Community Service Award. Shy of being in the spotlight, Mr. Smith chose not to attend but his wife Lois did and joined a very distinguished group of VIPs including Mrs. Margot Perot, wife of the noted philanthropist. After receiving the award, Lois spoke very humbly about being honored and simply stated that she and her husband dearly loved the Army and its work with the underprivileged.

The following year, one of the worst hurricanes in history struck Florida, precariously near the home where the Smiths spent their winters. Knowing they were in Florida, we decided to have the Divisional Commander (the Army’s equivalent to a CEO) call the Smiths just to say hello and to ask if they were safely weathering the hurricane.

Lois answered the call and was quick to express her appreciation for the Colonel’s call and to say that she was safe. She also shared with him that just two months earlier, her husband had passed away from a heart attack.

Prior to the conclusion of their conversation, the Colonel asked if he could offer a prayer for her during which Lois openly wept. When he concluded, she said “Colonel, when I return to the city could you please visit me in my home?” Of course, he agreed to do so without reservation.

Several weeks later, the Colonel and I were sitting with Lois in her beautiful and very posh Upper East Side penthouse home. In fact, being very private people, this had been the very first time a representative of the Army had been in her home.

“Colonel,” Lois said, “I can’t thank you enough for your phone call. That was a very difficult time for me and it meant so very, very much to me. I would like very much to make a gift in honor of my husband. Can you please give some thought as to how a seven-figure gift might be put to good use? I am particularly interested in something that will benefit children.”

A series of more visits, conversations with her financial advisor and a site visit to two locations in the Bronx followed.  We showed her two daycare centers that were in dire need of significant renovations. She soon became very interested in helping with these particular facilities and asked that we put together a request that would completely cover the cost of the renovations.

Several weeks later, back in her home and in the presence of her financial advisor, the Colonel and me, Lois signed an agreement outlining the specifics of her gift and how it was to be utilized.

Her gift was for $10 million, at that time the largest gift from an individual the Army had ever received in New York City.

Now, I am absolutely certain that honoring Lois and her late husband played a role in her making such an extraordinary gift. But I am just as certain the Colonel’s phone call, reaching out to her in a time of crisis, was even more of a factor.

The truly successful charities in the world are those which understand that stewardship is far, far more than just sending out a timely thank you letter. As Dr. Hanna said, “Don’t forget that people come first.”  It can make a huge difference – just ask The Salvation Army in New York City.

 

Charitable Distributions from your IRA

By | Annual Giving, News You Can Use, Planned Giving | No Comments

As you look to year-end charitable giving, you might be wise to look at the many benefits available to you through making a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) from your Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

As a result of the passage in 2015 of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act (PATH), QCD’s, after years of debate and delays, have finally been made permanent, minimizing the tax bite of Required Minimum Distributions (RMD).

Let’s start by reviewing just what a QCD is.

A QCD is a distribution from an IRA directly to a recognized 501©3 charitable organization. To qualify, a person must be 70.5 years of age or older at the time of the distribution, and the funds must be transferred from the IRA custodian to a qualified charity. The maximum amount that can be donated through a QCD is $100,000 per year per IRA owner. For an IRA distribution to qualify, the check cannot be made to the IRA owner but must be paid directly to the qualified charity.

Making a QCD from a traditional IRA appears to be more tax-efficient as opposed to a Roth IRA which can already be tax-free. Important to consider is that the distribution amount is not included as income on Form 1040. Conversely, the QCD amount is not included as part of the donor’s itemized deduction for charity.

QCD’s can be particularly beneficial to seniors who are more likely to take the standard deduction as opposed to itemizing. Whenever someone takes the standard deduction, the opportunity to generate a tax benefit from donating to a qualified charity is eliminated. So, for those non-itemizers, the only avenue available to receive a tangible tax benefit from their gift is by donating via a direct transfer from one’s IRA.

Of further significance, QCD’s can be counted towards one’s RMD for the year in which the gift is made. So, if you have to take an RMD, but feel that you don’t really need those funds, a QCD from your IRA presents a terrific way to make that mandatory required amount and at the same time receive helpful tax benefits.

So if you have an IRA and are looking for a unique way in which to benefit your favorite charity, make your RMD and benefit from favorable tax advantages, the QCD may be just right for you. QCD’s are now a permanent element of our tax laws and are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future. We encourage you to speak with your tax advisor so as to determine if a QCD is in your best taxable interests.

 

Essentials to Starting a Planned Giving Program

By | All Posts, Fundraising, News You Can Use, Planned Giving | One Comment

John Marshall
Senior Vice President

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to speak with many organizations about the merits of including Planned Giving as a component of their overall fundraising program. These have been organizations that were primarily in the process of considering the addition of Planned Giving but were somewhat hesitant to “take the plunge” for any number of reasons. Mostly, such hesitancy was due to their lack of understanding about this unique fundraising opportunity as well as their uncertainty about how to get started.

I have always maintained that every nonprofit should include Planned Giving in its fundraising universe in some fashion. It could be as minor as placing the words “Have you considered leaving our organization in your will?” on the bottom of your organization’s letterhead.

If you are at that stage where you believe now is the time to get started, allow me to offer up what I feel are five essentials for you to consider as you start the process.

  1. Make certain your Board and senior staff understand Planned Giving and are FULLY SUPPORTIVE.

Patience is absolutely required and the organization’s leadership will need to understand that planned gifts do not instantaneously materialize. They take time to be properly cultivated and may not be realized for quite some time. It is important leadership understand that planned gifts are what will help sustain the organization over the long run and can provide the resources required to create the “margin of excellence” every nonprofit desires.

  1. Identify your target audience.

“Aim at nothing and you will hit your target every time” is a phrase that was drilled into my head very early in my career. You must develop a cultivation list of those who are likely to be responsive to your organization through the various opportunities of Planned Giving – usually those who have a history with the organization and who have shown loyal financial support for an extended period of time. Those to consider for your cultivation list should include:

  • Consistent donors. Giving for five or more years or those who have given $1,000 or more at any time
  • Current and former Board members
  • Current and former volunteers
  • Current and former staff

And when considering who to identify, remember the letters F-L-A-G:

  • Frequency
  • Longevity
  • Age
  • Gender (women tend to make more bequests….men make more planned gifts by way of trusts)
  1. Determine which Planned Giving vehicles you can most comfortably offer and manage.

Please don’t promote to your constituents an opportunity you cannot manage/deliver. If you simply want to start by dipping your toe into the pool, encourage participation by way of a bequest. If you wish to take a more proactive approach, then consider the following:

  • Charitable Gift Annuity
  • Charitable Remainder Trusts
  • Life Insurance
  • Charitable Lead Trusts
  • Life Estate Contracts

If you decide to be more comprehensive in what you offer, I heartily recommend that you go to great lengths to enlist the support of professionals who can advise you in any number of ways to ensure that you are providing accurate information to your constituents. I have always recruited what I refer to as a PAC group…..Professional Advisory Committee consisting of those whose expertise relates to the estate planning arena. (Attorneys, Estate Planners, CPAs, Real Estate Agents, Life Underwriters, etc.).

  1. Determine how you will promote Planned Giving.

If you envision promoting your Planned Giving program in more ways than simply including the aforementioned sentence on your letterhead, you might want to create a promotional program which could include:

  • Direct Mail
  • Newsletters – include an article in your main newsletter (possibly with a testimonial from a donor)
  • Seminars – an opportunity to invite the professional community to participate
  • All of the above
  1. Make certain to pay particular attention to internal management issues.

It is essential that you have all your ducks properly lined up, otherwise, unwanted cracks in your Planned Giving program floor may start to appear. Consider the following:

  • Personnel: who will be assigned oversight for the Planned Giving program?
  • Budget: the creation of a separate and appropriate Planned Giving budget
  • Policies and procedures should be created to establish the types of planned gifts that are and are not acceptable, gift limitations, donor confidentiality, etc.
  • Buy-in from the finance department: developing a solid relationship with your finance department in an effort to ensure clarity of understanding on policies and procedures as well as communication and accounting for deferred gifts

Taking the plunge into Planned Giving should be accomplished only after very careful consideration occurs among the organization’s stakeholders/decision makers. Properly orchestrated, the Planned Giving program can provide wonderful benefits to your donors today and to your organization in the future.

John F. Marshall is Senior Vice President with JB+A, Inc. with more than 40 years of fundraising development experience and expertise. You can contact him at jmarshall@fundraisingjba.com or call him at 816.237.1999.

Upon Further Review: More on Managing Boards of Directors

By | All Posts, Boards + Leadership, News You Can Use, Organizational + Personal Development, Stewardship, Volunteers | No Comments

John+Marshal+for+webJohn Marshall
Senior Vice President

Last year, I wrote an article entitled “Nonprofits, Boards and Managing Expectations: A Two-Way Street.” My effort was intended to share with the fundraising professional a few insights on what it takes to transform a Board from “good to great” (in the words of one terrific author, Mr. Jim Collins).

I wrote about my experiences over the past 40+ years of working with a multitude of Boards—all different, all unique—and I specifically addressed the importance of creating clear expectations (of Board members and of staff) and the great importance of having a comprehensive Board Member Job Description.

In reviewing that epistle, I realized there is even more to be said focusing on a few other insights I believe might be helpful to you as you continue the process of creating the very best Board possible. My hope is that the following will assist you in this regard.

Primary Responsibilities Associated with Board Membership
Beyond what is found in the Board Member Job Description, it is important that Board members are aware of the importance of the following:

  1. Having an understanding and keen appreciation for the mission, motive, purposes and objectives of the organization
  2. Becoming familiar with the function of and services provided by the organization
  3. Providing the organization with support, encouragement, counsel and guidance
  4. Becoming familiar with the means by which the organization operates—its sources of income as well as its areas of expense
  5. Assisting the organization’s leadership in program and financial planning
  6. Helping advance the organization within the community through personal advocacy and promotion—in becoming a bona fide AMBASSADOR
  7. Supporting the organization as a charitable organization, realizing its dependency upon charitable support of its programs, services and overhead
  8. Helping plan the maintenance and expansion of the organization’s properties and facilities from which it renders its programs and services to the communities it serves
  9. Participating in the planning, preparation and operation of a capital campaign, if and when such is deemed appropriate

The Role of the Organization’s President/CEO with the Board
I believe wholeheartedly it is absolutely critical for Board members to feel that the organization’s top leader is interested in the efforts of the Board and has a very real appreciation for their many efforts. And then shows it.  Too many times, this is either neglected, relegated to a lesser staffer or given “lip service” by the organization’s chief executive. I know that this can result in a Board having less than the optimal level of enthusiasm for the organization we all want to see.

With that in mind, here is my list of “Top Ten Responsibilities” of the CEO when interacting with the organization’s Board members:

  1. Share information about the organization’s programs and services with Board members so they are prepared to be even more effective AMBASSADORS within the community
  2. Educate the Board about the organization’s policies
  3. Make certain that Board members are communicated within a timely manner about developments/issues which may impact the organization within the community (this includes the good, the bad or possibly the ugly); most Board members really don’t want to be surprised by hearing of issues “after the fact”
  4. Attend as many of the regularly scheduled Board meetings as possible and if not possible, assign a significant member of the leadership team
  5. Share with the Board the organization’s financial position and help identify specific needs requiring specific funding
  6. Ensure that the Board holds an annual meeting—the “care holders” meeting, and attend
  7. Be available to accompany Board members on visits with those in the community possessing great influence and affluence
  8. Make certain that the Development Department has the necessary resources to support the Board in its awareness and advocacy efforts
  9. Within an appropriate period of time, make the effort to meet each member of the Board one-on-one
  10. Be a personal donor to the organization—“practice what you preach”

Why Board Members Lose Interest
Lastly, one of the laments I have heard far too often over the years is about how difficult it is to not only recruit great Board members, but to keep them. If you fit into that category, you might want to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Am I assigning members realistic goals?
  2. Are they receiving sufficient detail for carrying out their responsibilities?
  3. Am I allowing Board members sufficient opportunity to provide feedback? And am I listening?
  4. Am I adequately recognizing/appreciating their efforts?
  5. Am I providing ample opportunity for them to make a decision?
  6. Is the work they are tasked to accomplish truly challenging?
  7. Am I providing members with sufficient preparation and training to ensure they are successful?

No one ever said that managing volunteers was easy, especially when it comes to Board members. They can be demanding or complacent, overbearing or invisible, fully engaged or there just for lunch (if a Board member calls in advance to ask “what are we having for lunch” you most likely have a problem on your hands!).

Your task in managing these fine people is to do all you can to see their experience is a time of real enrichment, both for them and most relatedly, for your organization.

Want more tips for effectively managing Board members?  JB+A Senior Vice President John Marshall has more than 40 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. You can reach John at jmarshall@fundraisingjba.com or at 816.914.3780.

The Need for Estate Planning

By | All Posts, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, Insights, News You Can Use, Planned Giving, Stewardship, Strategic Planning | No Comments

John+Marshal+for+webJohn F. Marshall, Senior Vice President

Really successful Planned Giving officers are those who understand how important it is to impress upon their organization’s donors the need to engage in good, thoughtful estate planning. And, estate planning is far more than just creating a will, although that is normally a cornerstone to creating one’s estate plan. They also understand that when addressing estate planning with donors, the “cookie cutter” approach does not apply. “One size does not fit all.”

As you consider addressing estate planning with your organization’s donors, keep in mind that estate planning is also not a do-it-yourself undertaking. Critical decisions will need to be addressed by the donor which will often require input from a professional estate planner. Helping your donors begin to understand estate planning can start with a simple definition:

“Estate planning is the process of thoughtfully providing for the efficient transfer of one’s assets to their heirs and charitable interests in full accordance with their wishes.”

Once crafted, the well thought out and constructed estate plan, in addition to how one’s estate will be distributed, affirms what kind of legacy an individual will leave behind and the impact it will have on future generations.

Estate planning is not just for the rich or older people. Everyone should be engaged in this important undertaking. It can certainly begin by writing a will, but estate planning can also involve:

  • trusts
  • changing beneficiaries of life insurance policies and retirement accounts
  • selecting guardians for minor children
  • providing lifetime giving for oneself or others
  • minimizing taxes and other estate settlement costs
  • much more

As stated earlier, “One size does not fit all,” and this truly needs to be addressed with your donors. There are likely going to be many complex issues to be identified and discussed. You can be most helpful by suggesting they give special attention to:

  • taking a complete inventory of their personal property and assigning realistic values to the assets
  • making a list of their intended beneficiaries and noting any characteristics that may determine the method and circumstances according to which certain assets are assigned
  • making certain the spouse is “in the loop” with regard to plans; such coordination can lead to additional savings for the estate, and it can make great sense for one’s plans to be shared with as many family members as possible
  • and importantly — providing complete information to their estate planner to ensure that one’s final wishes are accurately and ultimately fulfilled

Lastly, it is important to keep in mind that stewardship and estate planning go hand in hand. Good stewardship is a lifestyle and a process, not just isolated actions or individual events. The successful Planned Giving officer understands this and will strive to assist donors towards making thoughtful decisions about their estate, decisions that can create a lasting legacy of caring and compassion.

Are you interested in learning more about Estate Planning? JB+A can help you and your organization promote Planned Giving to your constituents. Contact John F. Marshall at jmarshall@fundraisingjba.com or call 816-237-1999.