Top 3 Reader Favorites from 2013

In case you missed any of them and to be a bit reflective as we proceed into 2014, I wanted to share the top three posts that were written last year.  They cover a few of the different areas and concepts that were discussed here on The Good Steward last year and I hope that you find them helpful in your efforts this year.

  1. How One Web Search Led to a $20,000 Gift
    I shared how some smart web searching led me to a strong prospect for a fundraising effort focused on I-House’s retiring Board Chairman and the true serendipity that led to a $20,000 contribution. The title alone seems to have grabbed readers’ attention!
  2. Are You Making the Time to be Creative?
    I wrote this post while at the 2013 AFP International Conference after an especially insightful talk by John Legend. Please feel free to share in the comments how you keep those creative juices flowing!
  3. Telling Your Nonprofit’s Story in the 990 Report
    This post provides some quick food for thought around how fundraising staff can collaborate with their colleagues in the Finance Office to better tell their organization’s story through the annual 990 charitable filing.



Quick Tip: Telling Your Nonprofit’s Story in the 990 Report


Last week, Association of Fundraising Professionals International CEO Andrew Watt participated in the New York City Chapter’s Annual Membership Meeting and had a lot of great things to say.  One of the smart and particularly easy ideas that he suggested was to ensure that the organizational description in your annual 990 report really tells your story, as many individual, corporate and foundation prospects & donors access these documents to learn a bit more about your group.

Commonly, since the organization’s Finance Office compiles the 990 report, the Development staff is not included in drafting the narrative text.  Even though my colleagues and I do assist our Finance Office with the 990 preparation, I am giving this section a special look in our most recent report and will have some edits to suggest going forward.

Do you and/or your colleagues collaborate with your Finance Office on the preparation of your organization’s 990?  Have you reviewed the organizational narrative?


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Do You Survey Your Donors?

While looking through Lynne Wester’s website last year, I came across a sample donor survey that she used and this inspired me to integrate these surveys into my stewardship efforts.  As a result, I included a survey and return envelope with the annual President’s Report to Donors (which went out in hard copy and via e-mail), and was mailed to a few hundred donors last Fall.  Of the approximately 400 surveys that were distributed, I received about 7% of the surveys back (between hard copies mailed in and web submissions).

While I was primarily interested in gathering feedback from our donors on this stewardship piece that was just in its second year, I was also able to:

  • deepen relationships with donors based on their responses to a question about what areas of our work they would like to learn more about
  • gather more information about the donors through follow-up phone calls and letters

Because of the survey, I identified donors who are interested in I-House’s music programming and its history (which provided a way to connect with a donor who is a second-generation alumnus).  It also resulted in a donor making an Annual Fund gift twice as large as what she usually gives (which helped us with the multi-year challenge grant we completed at the end of last month — and about which I will be sharing in a future post).  I found this to be a really great way to touch donors without making an ask and provide a rare opportunity to get their input.  If you can, you should definitely integrate surveys into your stewardship strategy.

To learn about an interesting donor survey strategy, check out Pamela Grow’s blog post — Could You Borrow the Smartest Thing I Ever Did?

Have you used donor surveys before?  What kind of response did you get?  Did you find them useful?

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“But For Ohio State” — a lesson in inspirational fundraising messaging


I recently came across this clip announcing a $100 million gift from Leslie Wexner, the founder of Limited Brands, to The Ohio State University (where Wexner is Board Chairman).

This clip is particularly effective for a few reasons:

  • While announcing what is the largest philanthropic gift in the University’s history, it is also being used to encourage alumni and friends to take the opportunity to support the school now.
  • It succinctly shares Mr. Wexner’s story and his passion for the University — in his own words.
  • Along with gifts, the University is also seeking input from the community about what Ohio State means to them.

For more information on the “But For Ohio State” campaign, please click here.