Category

Stewardship

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.

 

Fundraising for your Botanical Gardens: If I Can Do It…

By | All Posts, Boards + Leadership, Campaign Planning + Management, Capacity Building, Fundraising, Grants, Major Gift Solicitation, Planned Giving, Stewardship | No Comments

Eric Tschanz
Senior Consultant

When I arrived at Powell Gardens, I told the Board I could build their garden, but I was NOT a fundraiser.  As President and Executive Director, I soon realized the need for outside funding if the Gardens were going to grow and prosper. Membership programs were started, earned income streams were developed, capital campaigns were initiated and finally, endowment campaigns were begun.

Now, 30 years later, the Gardens have been built and are thriving – and I am not only Director Emeritus, I am also a fundraiser.

None of this happened overnight, and my evolution to a successful fundraiser took time, practice and guidance from other knowledgeable professionals. It started out as a task of which I wasn’t too sure and is now one with which I am not only comfortable but enjoy. So how does this fundraising success start?

Two traits you must have before worrying about the mechanics of ‘how to ask’ are 1) a passion for the project and 2) the ability to form nurturing relationships with your donors.  We shouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t have a passion for public horticulture, but it goes further with a complete knowledge and understanding of the project – whether plants, design or programming – and the ability to articulate what the result will mean for the community and the donor.

We often talk about cultivation and donor relations, but I believe it goes deeper: forming a nurturing relationship with the donor.  Although I am Director Emeritus of Powell Gardens and no longer participate in direct fundraising for the Gardens, I have past donors that still call me and invite me for coffee or lunch.  These are nurtured donors and true friends.

Yes, there are tips and tricks (if we must call it that) to the trade.  Over the years I had the great fortune to work with Jeffrey Byrne + Associates (JB+A) and hone my skills. Together we completed two successful capital campaigns for Powell Gardens.  Now, as a fundraiser I never thought I’d be, I work with JB+A in supporting public horticulture professionals like you.

Whether you are a seasoned veteran in fundraising, or just starting out, JB+A and I can help you achieve fundraising success for your gardens. You can benefit from our experience and expertise – and have fun along the way.

Want to learn more about JB+A and our fundraising services specifically for botanical gardens? Contact me here.  You can also give me a call or email me. I’d be happy to visit with you.

Eric Tschanz
Senior Consultant, JB+A
Director Emeritus, Powell Gardens
Past President, current member of the American Public Gardens Association

816.237.1999
Email Eric

Check out Eric’s credentials.

 

Avoiding the Thask

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

The end of the year brings with it two distinct “seasons” in the continuum of our donor relationships within our organizations.  The first of course begins in November with the season of Thanks. This is a time in which we take a moment to truly acknowledge those who have supported us throughout the year by giving of their time, talent and treasure. It is important to be thoughtful in crafting meaningful communications across multiple channels to support your stewardship program.  Hopefully you are doing this all year long when donations are received, however it is worth not letting this seasonal opportunity pass you by.

The second season that we run into immediately following the season of Thanks is the season of Giving. Kicked off the Tuesday following Thanksgiving with #GivingTuesday and running through year end giving campaigns.  We are all aware that December is the highest giving month of the year, weather that is due to the spirit of the holidays or the last month to make donations for tax deduction purposes.

Thus we come to the point of this article. It should be considered a fundraising faux pas to combine these two distinct messages with each other, creating a THASK or a thank you/ask.  While this may seem efficient through perceived cost and time saving benefits to your organization a “Thask” is the antithesis of a donor centric model, with negative impacts on your organizations culture of philanthropy.   Please enjoy the poem by Stephanie Vorhees entitled “The Thask” to fully understand the ramifications a Thask can have to your nonprofit.

By combining a thank you message with a request for funds, you have thus negated the appreciation of past support, as the donor will immediately focus on the new request for funds.  According to industry best practices, a donor should be thanked or acknowledged between five to seven times before they receive another solicitation from you.  These can be as simple as phone calls, hand written thank you notes, e-cards, social media shout outs, listings in newsletters, annual report materials, appreciation events, or any other creative way that aligns with your mission and donor preferences.

As we look towards the end of 2017 and beginning a new year in 2018, remember to take the time during this busy season of fundraising to truly acknowledge the impact your donors have to your daily operations, programs and services.  By taking the time to express gratitude you deepen the relationship with your donors. Let’s together agree to make “Thasking” a thing of the past.

It’s #GivingTuesday! Have you joined the movement?

By | All Posts, Current Events/News, Social Media, Stewardship, Technology | No Comments

#GivingTuesday 2017 is finally here!

#GivingTuesday unites:  individuals, communities and organizations around the world come together to celebrate and encourage giving.

Anyone, anywhere can get involved in #GivingTuesday.  And no matter who you are – individual, family, nonprofit, business – JB+A wants YOU to join the movement:  spread the word, support a cause, make a gift, share your story.

How will you participate?  Looking for ways to get involved?

Visit #GivingTuesday’s online directory to find organizations, charities, events and more!

And a special thanks to Lamar Advertising, for its continued partnership in support of #GivingTuesday!

The largest provider of outdoor advertising in Kansas City again collaborated with JB+A to support #GivingTuesday. Since the inception of #GivingTuesday in 2012, Lamar has generously provided pro bono digital billboards throughout the Greater Kansas City area to promote this global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. This year, Lamar donated eight boards over a two-week period, for an estimated 2,786,382 viewing impressions!

Top Five Ways Nonprofits Can Use Giving USA

By | All Posts, Boards + Leadership, Capacity Building, Commentary, Current Events/News, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, Giving USA, Insights, Stewardship, The Giving Institute | No Comments

Giving USA is a powerful tool:  it is the most trusted annual report on the sources and uses of philanthropy in the U.S., but it’s also a valuable resource in helping us improve philanthropy.  Nonprofit organizations can (and should) use Giving USA to help identify trends as well as opportunities to strengthen resource development efforts.

Here are my Top Five Ways Nonprofits Can Use Giving USA to improve their fundraising:

5. Understand the correlations between giving and economic factors
The stock market, personal wealth, personal income, GDP, corporate pre-tax profits and unemployment rates impact giving by all four sources (individuals, foundations, bequests and corporations). Trends are closely monitored by people “inside” and “outside” the philanthropy sector.
Be aware of changes in these indicators, anticipate how changes will impact donors and adjust fundraising strategies accordingly

4. Confirm or dispel myths about giving
Economic and political scenarios, complex societal issues, diverse giving platforms, wealth and capacity are just some of the drivers behind philanthropy.
Understand the context of these drivers, help manage expectations about giving and set realistic and achievable goals

3. Educate Board members, volunteers, donors and staff about the broad context of philanthropic giving
Help stakeholders better understand your organization’s funding patterns and potential

2. Be nimble in your fundraising and stewardship
Nonprofit fundraising must evolve as philanthropy evolves.  We are seeing an increase in the popularity of non-traditional giving vehicles (such as donor-advised funds and non-cash assets) and donors want more evidence of the impact of their gifts.
Listen to your donors and prospective donors – and tailor your strategies to match their needs and expectations

1. Recognize the “individual giving effect”
An estimated 87% of total giving in 2016 came from individuals, bequests and family foundations.
There are human beings involved in every gift; focus on developing and maintaining meaningful relationships

And remember:

Strengthen your case for support:  the best cases are realistic, relevant and compelling while being supported by the facts and clearly communicating the purpose, programs and financial needs of your organization.

Celebrate your impact: Americans give an average of more than $1 billion a day to help others.  Nonprofits and donors are doing great work.

Giving makes a difference, to both giver and recipient, but we can do more.  So spread the word about the good philanthropy has done – and the good it will continue to do.

I encourage you to download the two traditional pie charts illustrating 2016 source contributions and recipients and share with Board members, your CEO and development staff.

View JB+A’s recap of Giving USA 2017  findings here.

Check out key takeaways from Dr. Rooney’s 2017 Giving USA presentation in Kansas City.

About Giving USA
For over 60 years, Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy in America, has produced comprehensive charitable giving data that are relied on by donors, fundraisers and nonprofit leaders. The research in this annual report estimates all giving to all charitable organizations across the United States.  Giving USA is a public outreach initiative of Giving USA FoundationTM and is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Giving USA FoundationTM, established in 1985 by The Giving Institute, endeavors to advance philanthropy through research and education. Explore Giving USA products and resources, including free highlights of each annual report at its online store at www.givingusa.org for more information.

About The Giving Institute
The Giving Institute, the parent organization of Giving USA FoundationTM, consists of member organizations that have embraced and embodied the core values of ethics, excellence and leadership in advancing philanthropy. Serving clients of every size and purpose, from local institutions to international organizations, The Giving Institute member organizations embrace the highest ethical standards and maintain a strict code of fair practices. For information on selecting fundraising counsel, visit www.givinginstitute.org. Jeffrey Byrne has the honor of Chairing The Giving Institute Board of Directors (2015-2017).

Donor Relationships: transform donors into partners

By | All Posts, Annual Giving, Donor Cultivation, Major Gift Solicitation, News You Can Use, Stewardship | No Comments

Bruce Broce, M.A., Vice President

 A Board member once asked me if I considered our philanthropic supporters to be “donors” or “partners.” I answered by saying they ideally should be both. Every nonprofit has donors, but the really successful ones expand their relationship with their constituents beyond the financial plane and nurture them as partners who can help move forward the organization’s mission.

When it comes to fundraising, nonprofits tend to allocate the majority of their time and energy on acquiring donors. But let’s be honest, not nearly enough time is spent thinking about how to retain donors, and that’s a missed opportunity. Being a donor has become part of our daily lives; think about how frequently you’re asked to support something. Whether it’s donating $1 at the pet store when checking out, or buying a begonia to help your neighborhood school, charitable giving is often reduced to a transaction instead of being a meaningful, participatory and ongoing experience. Oftentimes, what distinguishes a philanthropic experience is what happens after a donation is made.

Your organization would be well served to review what processes are set in motion when donors make gifts. Because donors can feel like an organization’s checkbook, use the stewardship phase to further educate and engage donors. This helps them better understand the impact of their gift and prepares the groundwork for them becoming partners the next time they enter the donor cycle. Impactful and transformational giving occurs when a donor sees a partnership as the natural outcome of your relationship and the basis for how their philanthropic investment will meaningfully impact your organization.

Keep in mind that the tools that were initially used to attract and cultivate prospects tend to be set aside once they’ve become donors. You would be surprised how a donor’s perspective changes once they understand how their gift has impacted your organization. I once gave a “thank you tour” of our program, which was essentially the tour we gave prospective donors at the onset of cultivation. However, because the donor now possessed a deeper understanding of our services being offered, she said she could better appreciate the work being accomplished by our staff. As a result, her giving increased and she became an advocate of our organization within the community, championing us to potential new donors. In other words, she transitioned from being a donor to becoming a partner who was vested in the success of our organization.

A comprehensive fundraising program is as strategic and genuine in its thanks, appreciation and ongoing engagement as it is in its solicitation. Make sure your organization has a carefully designed program of acquisition, retention, stewardship and ultimately involvement of your key donors. These elements are critical to strengthening relationships with the donors you already have, and ultimately, creating lasting partnerships from which your organization will benefit.

The Customer (Donor) Is Always Right!

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Nonprofit professionals will tell you that nonprofits exist to meet the needs of our constituents. While that is absolutely true, we also have to maintain strong relationships with our donors who fund the programs that serve our constituents. When you think about it, customer service and donor stewardship are not so different. So how can we utilize the key principles of customer service to develop better relationships with our donors? Here are JB+A’s “Top 5 Customer Service Tips” to make every donor feel like your only donor.

1. Communication is Key
In the for-profit sector, effective and regular communication ensures that customers come back. Why should the nonprofit sector be any different? In fact, there’s an added challenge for nonprofits in that their donors do not directly experience the services they are paying for. For-profits can sometimes get away with a lack of communication through effective branding, word of mouth, etc., but nonprofits don’t have that luxury. The promise of the next gift can only be cultivated through effective and regular communication with your donors.

2. Consider the Competition
Lots of for-profits do a competitor analysis to distinguish themselves from the competition and snatch up the market share. For nonprofits, that market share is the donor pool. There are thousands of organizations for donors to choose from – so what is your organization doing to attract and retain your donors? Outstanding customer service is an effective way for for-profits to keep customers coming back and nonprofits can do the same. Consider how you can set yourself apart. Make donating to your organization more than a pleasant experience for your donors  – an experience that goes above and beyond the organic, emotional satisfaction they get from donating. Create a stewardship program that compels your supporters to stay involved and spread the message about your organization.

3. Embed Customer Service in Your Culture
Many for-profits reward their employees for exceptional customer service and satisfaction. The most effective employee incentive programs reward creativity and initiative when going above and beyond to please the customer. Make sure your organization’s staff are committed to serving your donors as much as you – the fundraisers – are. Give them the tools and space to build their own relationships with key individuals and your donors will feel loved and recognized by the entire staff, not just the fundraisers.

4. Go Directly to the Source
For-profits utilize customer feedback in order to improve their services. Approach your donors in the same way a for-profit looking to improve its services would approach a customer. Does your donor feel properly informed about where his/her donations are going? Do they understand how their gifts are making an impact on the organization’s overall goals? Are they aware of the progress and results of your campaigns? Enhancing your donors sense of access gives them a feeling of ownership in your organization’s activities.

5. Stay Organized
Some of the best fundraisers make their supporters feel like they are the organization’s only donor. Despite the fact that nonprofit fundraisers typically juggle large portfolios of major donors simultaneously, they must be encyclopedic in their knowledge of each and every one of them. A good central donor database is key to effectively managing your donors. A  good system will ensure they aren’t contacted multiple times by different departments and your relationships with them can be tracked clearly. Most of them have built-in alert systems so your fundraisers and Executive Director can stay on top of their relationships. It’s a simply step, but it makes all the difference.

Time, Talent and Treasure: Part Three of a Three-Part Series

By | Boards + Leadership, Commentary, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, News You Can Use, Stewardship, Volunteers | No Comments

By Katie Lord, Vice President 

In this series we have examined both “Time and Talent” as it relates to the “Time, Talent and Treasure” paradigm in nonprofit donor management and cultivation.  This final segment of “Treasure” is often the one that we, as nonprofits, are most interested and influenced by because it affects our pressing financial goals.  It can often be to our detriment to focus too much on “Treasure” and, in so doing, approach our donor’s “treasure” in a transactional way, without respecting and acknowledging generational differences and preferences of how to cultivate the gift of “Treasure.”  Be sure to catch Part I’s exploration of  “Time” and Part II’s exploration of “Talent” . 

When approaching our donors about giving their “treasure,” remember that in order to create lasting bonds and build solid, long-term relationships we must have conversations with our donors about their “time” and “talent,” which they may also be willing to give.  Research has consistently shown that donors who give treasure combined with time or talent are much more engaged for longer periods of time.  Through the combination of treasure, time and talent, it becomes easier to steward our donors through extended communication and demonstrations of their efforts and how it impacts the overall mission of our organizations.

What is Treasure?

“Treasure,” as it relates to the big three of “Time, Talent and Treasure,” often seems to be the easiest to define and measure by most common practices.  What is treasure, if not the dollars that our donors donate to us and invest in our cause?  Treasure is the easiest to track, as most of us have systems and processes in place to receive, acknowledge and report donations to our organizations and Boards.  It is important to note that the very experience of giving treasure can make or break repeat donations, but that is for another article.  As we take a closer look at “treasure,” the generational differences about how treasure is given are vast.  By acknowledging these differences, we are better able to meet the needs and expectations of all of our donors which ultimately benefits our organizations in the broadest and best possible way.

Generation to Generation: The Boomers

When beginning to examine the generational differences in the giving of “treasure” it is easier to look first at the Baby Boomers.  We have the most experience and data for this generation to date and their giving habits have influenced our sector greatly. However, the giving of this generation, and its long hold as our most generous treasure givers, has not prepared us for the shifts we are seeing in the giving habits of other generations.

Boomers often give their “treasure” first and their “time” and “talent” second.  This post-war generation grew up knowing about the sacrifices their parents made for the war effort.  Sharing their “treasure” with their neighbors and country was ingrained in them from an early age.  Giving was an accepted expectation and giving on any level was appreciated.  This is a generation that does not expect major fanfare for their giving efforts, but who do value the donor acknowledgement in a timely fashion

For many Boomers the motivation to give to organizations that matter to them is “because they always have,” often to the point they may not even know why they continue to donate years later.  A perfect example of this is my own mother.  My mother gives to an organization that was important to her mother and she has kept up the tradition.  When I asked her why she still gives to them, even though her own giving priorities are different, her answer is “because it was important to my parents and I just always have.”

Boomers have been your most loyal annual fund donors by focusing their “treasure” on annual gifts.  Many Boomers are past the prime of their peak giving years, but many continue to work and still have large amounts of “treasure” to give and share.  Boomers appreciate being “cultivated” for their gifts in traditional ways with personal visits, on site tours and communication from staff.  As Boomers are starting to age and to live on fixed incomes post retirement, now is the time to focus on planned giving and legacy contributions with this generation.

The Gen Xers

Gen Xers, on the other hand, are truly in the middle between Baby Boomers and Millennials and exhibit far more balance in their “treasure” giving.  They usually have three to five causes that are important to them based on personal experiences or interests.  They give to organizations not only their “treasure,” but also their “time” and “talent.”  Gen Xers are a generation where all of their treasures and giving work together to make the biggest impact they can in areas of greatest interest and need.  They saw the giving of their parents, but want to be less passive in the giving of their “treasure.”  Therefore, Gen Xers combine their dollars with time and board service; staying longer term with their organizations than the Millennial generation.  Your Gen X givers will want to see their impact of “Time, Talent, and Treasure” in different ways through annual reports, metric measurements against goals and objectives and how it all relates to a long term strategic plan.

The Elusive Millennial

Millennials, on the other hand, give completely differently than Baby Boomers or Gen Xers.  They first like to give their “time” and then, if they see an impact, their “treasure.”  This is partly because Millennials are not currently in their highest earning years, but also because they value their “time” as a commodity and therefore part of their “treasure” to give.  Through stewarding Millennials to give “time” and then a follow-up with a small gift solicitation, you have a better chance of slowly upping their giving over time with incremental moves illustrating their impact and value immediately, while simultaneously capturing their longer-term attention.

Another unique trait of Millennials is that they are very social in their giving; supporting causes of friends and expecting their friends to support them and their causes in a reciprocal way.  Thus, Millennials are perfect for peer-to-peer giving campaigns.  They usually have large social and business networks that they are comfortable tapping into and their competitive nature is a strong incentive.  When soliciting “treasure” from a Millennial, more weight is given by them on who is making the ask of them at the beginning of cultivation and how it makes them feel versus the facts and figures of a campaign.  Due to their lower disposable income at this time and their social giving tendencies, Millennials disperse their “treasure” to many organizations in smaller gifts.

A word of caution when working with Millennials; even though they are not currently in their highest earning years, they will be at some point.  Millennials have a short attention span, but a long memory.  They often devote themselves to organizations for several years and then switch causes.  It is important to show them appreciation through acknowledgement, an opportunity to become more involved through junior board service or the achievement of higher levels of knowledge and responsibility in service to the organization.

Conclusions

In closing, as with “Time” and “Talent,” the giving of “Treasure” differs among the three current generations and each has their own unique nuances.  By understanding and recognizing that solicitations and approach for each generation should be different, you allow your organization to cultivate and steward your donors by meeting them where they are.  Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials have differing interpretations of the nonprofit paradigm of “Time, Talent, and Treasure.”  We, as fundraising professionals for our organizations, must adapt to the expectations, current economic state, and personal interests of our multi-generational donor base in order to cultivate long-term, consistent donor relationships and financial growth for our organizations.

 

 

 

Red Kettle Reflections

By | All Posts, Commentary, Fundraising, Social Services, Stewardship, Volunteers | One Comment

john-marshallJohn F. Marshall
Senior Vice President

Show me an Officer’s son or daughter who has no recollection of experiences with Kettles and I’ll show you someone who has unfortunately lost their memory. Every son or daughter of the regiment could sit down and share an interesting array of stories centering around either ringing a bell or playing a brass instrument on the Red Kettle. That certainly was my experience growing up in an Army home where, once we were done with Thanksgiving, we would find ourselves the very next day standing next to a Red Kettle. I guess you could say that it was just expected. I certainly have a long history of serving on the Red Kettle and take great pleasure in sharing a few favorite recollections with you.

The Very Early Years
I couldn’t have been more than eight when I received my “baptism” into bell ringing. My father was the DYPS (the P has since been dropped) in Pittsburgh and one afternoon he suggested that I come with him downtown where he was going to “man the Kettle.” He brought along his old, beat up cornet and was joined around the Red Kettle by two others. “Here, Johnnie, take this bell and when we are not playing, ring it.” So, not really knowing what was going on, I did. The trio played some pretty interesting renditions of what should have been fairly easy Christmas tunes from the same green book and I got to stand there and watch as people threw coins and stuffed dollar bills into the pot. Now THAT was pretty neat! After we had finished, Dad packed up his cornet and we carried the Red Kettle back to the car where he placed it on my lap for the drive home. It was really heavy!

The Corps Cadet Project
“Now next Saturday kids, we are going to do a special project. So be here at the corps by noon at which time we will travel to our special Corps Cadet Red Kettle location,” stated our leader, Mrs. Mildred Hostettler. “And be sure that you dress warm: it may be cold,” she added. I looked at Don and he looked at me with an expression that said “we are in big trouble.” The next Saturday, we met in the lobby of the old Cincinnati Citadel corps and piled into the corps wagon (back in those days, it actually could hold up to 30 children) and were off to our special spot. Four hours later, and after having endured temperatures which I swear were well below zero, we returned to the corps for hot chocolate and cookies, and with a bulging Red Kettle. “Great job, kids; you have done a wonderful service,” stated the corps officer, Major Allen Weyant. I can’t recall if I had any hot chocolate but I do remember that it wasn’t until two days later that the feeling in my hands returned.

Macy’s and the World’s Largest Red Kettle
Now, I don’t really know if it was the world’s largest kettle, but we said it was. It was very likely the heaviest one as it was a 2′ high and 3′ wide cast iron monument to Christmas fundraising. It was the property of the New York Metro Division where my father was the DC at the time. It had been in operation for a number of years and every year it would receive a fresh coat of bright red paint in anticipation of being positioned just across from the main entrance of the Macy’s Department store on 34th and Seventh Avenue. It was a terrific place to have such a huge kettle given the enormous volume of shoppers going in and out of Macy’s, especially on a Saturday. That Red Kettle brought in a ton of money (literally!) and became especially full when a brass band was playing.

I was barely fifteen and just starting to get the hang of playing the tuba and my brother Norm, four years older and a trombonist, was also a regular in what was at least a quartette at Macy’s, but usually an octet on Saturdays. What was so great was that the majority of our group was comprised of younger New York Staff Band members, each a “wailer” in his own right. I cannot begin to tell you how awed I was to be a part of this group. And the music! One of the guys had a series of terrific arrangements which we would whip out and entertain the crowd with. Great stuff, but hard to play! I must admit that it was challenging to keep up with the older fellas, but I somehow always seemed to finish when they did. We would be there for eight hours and had so much fun playing and bantering with shoppers that the time just flew by.

Norman and transporting the Red Kettle
I failed to mention that brother Norm was also at that time a seasonal employee for the Division and responsible for seeing that at the end of the day the World’s Largest Kettle was placed into a van and transported the 20 blocks back to 14th Street where it was to be emptied, the money bagged and the pot stored until the next day. Well, one Saturday night, as Macy’s was closing at about 9:30 p.m., Norm was in a particular hurry. “John, help me throw the kettle into the van; I need to get going!” he said. So, we somehow managed to get the kettle into the back of the front-seat-only van and took off for 14th Street, at a pretty rapid pace. Despite my suggestion that he slow down, Norm was not to be deterred. He was in a particular hurry on this Saturday night, for whatever reason I have never learned. So here we are, me riding shotgun and Mario Andretti behind the wheel. The words “Norm, slow down, man” were no sooner out of my mouth than he executed a far-too-fast left hand turn which resulted in the World’s Largest Kettle crashing through the rear doors of the van and bouncing onto the intersection of Seventh and 35th where all of its contents spilled onto the street. I’ll never forget the look of horror on Norm’s face as he was running all over frantically grabbing at flying bills, many of which were already on their way to the Bronx . We retrieved as much as we could and made our way to headquarters, this time at a far more deliberate speed! I never did find out what happened the following Monday when Norm had to explain why Saturday’s proceeds were lower than expected. I suspect that it couldn’t have been good!

Asbury College
My very first fundraising job was with the Development Department within the Metro New York’s Divisional Headquarters. I was 28 at the time and literally started on the bottom rung of the fundraising ladder. Just prior to my first Christmas there, I was assigned the task of traveling to Wilmore, KY in an effort to recruit Asbury College students as bell ringers for the Division. I was fortunate to have Lt. Col. David Moulton at Asbury (he was the ASF coordinator at the time) as my liaison and he was terrific in helping me to meet my recruitment goal of 50 students. While recruiting, I created a special “Kettle Op’s” team, one which I would personally supervise and which would be placed within the borough of Queens. This was to be an elite group, to consist of eight young men who were willing to work very long hours but with the promise of earning a correspondingly handsome level of pay. I interviewed several students, assigned most to corps and recruited what I thought was a terrific group of ambitious and competitive young men. I was able to get them situated in one of the Queens corps and they started the day after Thanksgiving. Two of them actually worked almost until the last possible moment on December 24th. That experience was among the most rewarding of my fundraising career. These young men were tireless and for the most part kept a cheerful and positive experience, despite the fact that Monday – Friday, they began in the subway stations at 6:30 a.m. and concluded at 9:00 p.m.. Like these students, I was exhausted when the experience was over, but felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment and appreciation for a team of truly special young men.

Chicago Staff Band
I had the privilege to play with the CSB 1967 – 1974. It was a wonderful experience and one I shall always cherish. Well, maybe except for one particular experience. You see, every December, the band would choose a Saturday to go caroling within neighborhoods located along Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive, an incredibly wealthy area. Now, this did not involve a Red Kettle, but we did play as we moved outside from one very tall apartment building to another. As you might imagine, the temperature across the street from Lake Michigan in December is anything but temperate. So, here we are a group of about 30-40 uniformed icicles going from one high rise to another. The idea was for people to put cash or a check in an envelope and throw it down to where we were playing and where “gatherers” were awaiting to retrieve the donations. Only one problem: those towards the top of the high rises, some of which were 20 floors high, had to weigh down their envelopes by enclosing a few coins. I was so glad to be playing a tuba when a heavily weighted envelope was descending. At least I had head cover. Those poor cornet players! The other problem was the temperature itself. We would be right in the middle of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” when half the bands valves would freeze up. We actually had one person running around providing valve oil wherever and whenever needed. Honestly, I don’t know if the Band still engages in this activity. If they do, hopefully they have special winter issue steel helmets!

With My Wife and Children
In 1984 I was recruited to the Michigan Tech Fund in Houghton, MI located in the beautiful Upper Peninsula. When I arrived, I was quite surprised to find out that there was an Army Corps in the little town of Hancock located across the Portage Lake from Houghton. I was introduced to Major Mary Postma who wondered if I would be willing to become a member of the advisory board, which I was only too happy to do. As a board member, we were expected to do our part as bell ringers during the Christmas season. I signed up for four hours on a Saturday afternoon and thought I would see if I could entice my wife Gwen and our three children to share in the experience. Gwen was happy to join in, but my kids were initially a bit skeptical. They had placed coins in the Red Kettle before but had never been on the receiving end of the experience. With a bit of prompting, all five of us arrived en masse at the Red Kettle located smack dab in the middle of the small shopping mall in Houghton. Our kids started off a bit timidly, but once they saw how sharing people were, they quickly got into the spirit of things. Our three-year old became our most demonstrative “thank-you-er” and relished the role. It was a wonderful experience, so much so, that for each of the four years we were in the UP, we made it a family tradition to spend at least half a day each Christmas Season ringing bells.

JB+A Senior Vice President John Marshall has more than 40 years of experience in the nonprofit sector — almost as much experience as he does serving on the Red Kettle. You can reach John at jmarshall@fundraisingjba.com or at 816.914.3780.

“Time, Talent and Treasure”: Part Two of a Three-Part Series

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Katie LordKatie Lord, Vice President

As far as nonprofit jargon is concerned, we have all probably used, or at least heard, the phrase “Time, Talent and Treasure” when referring to how we can engage individuals with our organizations.  While it may seem to be a fairly basic concept, defining it is becoming an increasingly complex matter, as definitions have evolved among different generations. In this three-part series, we will examine the components of this trifecta  individually, and emphasize how your organization can effectively create programs right now that can be easily implemented to grow your base of supporters today, tomorrow and in the future.

Talent is the second segment in this three-part series examining the “Time, Talent and Treasure” paradigm as it relates to nonprofit management. As we continue to take a deeper look at each component individually, an examination of how your organization can implement strategies that effectively utilize the “talents” of your leaders and impact your current recruitment efforts can have an immediate impact on your bottom line.

(If you missed Part 1’s exploration of “Time”, click here to access the post.)

In the “Time, Talent and Treasure” trifecta of support that we use in nonprofits to describe and measure the value of contributions that our volunteers or staff provide to our organization, “talent” seems to be the hardest to define in a universal context or to measure on a scale of impact.  This is due to its ambiguous nature and differing definitions based on the uniqueness and needs of each organization.  For the purpose of this article, we are going to define “talent” as “contributions of an in-kind service that requires special skills or knowledge to perform.”

“Talent” is tied to both “time and treasure” as it requires the donating of “services and specialized knowledge” that take time to perform and implement and would require payment if performed on the open market. “Talent” is a more refined form of volunteer service as it usually provides a business-related or operational-focused service as opposed to program support.  Such “talent” directly effects budget line service costs and can include both technical and professional services.

What is unique about “talent” is that each generation has specific talents that can be utilized by a nonprofit organization.  Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers possess a vast majority of skill sets and talents that seldom overlap and are mostly unique to their era, but are complementary to each other.  When combined through Board or committee work, each generation offers great insights and the ability to accomplish and implement a more cohesive organizational business plan that will allow the nonprofit to achieve higher strategic goals at lower costs.

For example, a Baby Boomer may perform an audit, management consulting, or financial services at no charge and be able to provide valuable sector specific expert level information, as they changed jobs and sectors less often.  A Gen Xer usually has changed jobs more often than Boomers, but less so than Millennials, and are often more likely to be self-starters, middle managers and business owners, making them excellent project managers.  Millennials know a little about a lot of different sectors as they have been exposed to more cross training and job transitions.  They have skills focusing on social media, digital marketing, information technology and event planning.  This is not to say that there are not cross-generational specialties as there are exceptions to every rule, but generally speaking, the “talents” of each generation are significant to a nonprofit’s organizational success and growth.

Thus, it is very important for nonprofit organizations and leaders to not only look at the skill sets of potential Board members and volunteers when recruiting, but to also look at diversity in age, gender and race.  It is a common mistake by nonprofit leadership to only look at “treasure” when acquiring new Board members and volunteers.  While giving capacity is a factor, it should not be weighted more than “talent,” as a high degree of “talent” is usually a predictor of later success and “treasure.”  Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have used their talents to grow into their ability to give “treasure” in their higher earning years. However, that can decrease in retirement with fixed incomes looming, creating a shift in the giving of “treasure” to the increased giving of “talent.”  Gen Xers are beginning their highest earning years and the peaks of their careers, but still wish to contribute in ways that complement their dollars.  Finally, Millennials are in their early earning years and will grow into their higher earning capabilities, but are eager to contribute now, and the best way to do that is through their “time” and “talent.”  Those organizations that seek out Millennials now will see big returns later.

In closing, the three current working generations are ripe with talent if you know where to look and how to assess “talent” based on your organization’s goals and objectives.  The most talented people in a particular field are easy to find: just look in business publications, LinkedIn and trade publications.  The same names will most likely keep popping-up.  Remember, it is wise to include the younger generation now so as to cement those relationships early and to include all levels of “talent” and professions.  By doing so, you will limit the effects of “talent” turnover and create a built-in succession plan of talented leaders within your organization.  Also, a generation’s gift of “time” and “talent” will ultimately increase their commitment to your organization resulting in the gift of “treasure.”

Be sure to read the final post in Katie’s series about “Treasure.”