Graphic: Arrow Join Now! Graphic: Arrow MY AFP Profile Graphic: Arrow AFP Canada Graphic: Arrow AFP Mexico Graphic: Star MAKE A GIFT


AFP eWire Skill Builder Printable Version: June 2, 2009

Improving Yourself—And Your Profession—Through Community  

The only way we grow and improve—as individuals and organizations, as well as a profession—is through community, and in tough and challenging times, community is critical to success.

We will undoubtedly find success as individuals. Our organizations will certainly reach their goals and often exceed them. Our profession will become stronger and better able to serve the needs of society. But all of those will happen only through people working together, united towards a common purpose.

Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Inspiration doesn’t come from sitting at a desk for hours on end waiting for the perfect idea to strike.

Success and inspiration come from interactions. As individuals, these interactions involve learning new skills, keeping updated on trends and talking with colleagues about what’s working (and what’s not). As organizations, it means constantly being exposed to different and unique perspectives and ideas and being able to nimbly respond to an ever-changing landscape. And as a profession, it means integrating the collective knowledge, wisdom and experiences of thousands of practitioners into an evolving set of standards and best practices.

That’s precisely why there are professional communities like AFP, and why belonging to an association isn’t just instrumental for personal growth and success, but is also paramount for the success of organizations, the profession and indeed all of society.

Connecting With Community

One of the reasons donors give is that they are looking for an opportunity to join with their neighbors and other like-minded individuals. They want to connect with others, be part of something bigger than themselves and feel like they are making a difference in the world.

The same is true of professional fundraisers. They too want to connect with others and find a place to belong and grow, and to be able to give back to their community. And joining a professional association is how they do that.

Professionals join associations for many different reasons. Networking. Ethical guidance. Research. Access to thought leaders and leading voices. Certification. Career advancement. Representation of the profession before the government. Staying up to date on news, trends and important developments.

But a common thread exists through all of this: One individual alone cannot effectively undertake them. It takes a group of practitioners working together— a professional community like AFP.

Whether one is trying to find a solution for a particular problem, learn new skills to open up new professional opportunities, or earn certification to ensure long-term career success, associations support individual members through the community they bring together. Without the collective knowledge and experience of the profession, individuals would be hard-pressed to overcome the challenges they face every day in their positions.

Strengthening Your Organization

Associations such as AFP play equally important roles for their members' organizations as well. The skills an individual learns through an association can pay dividends for the organization, both short-term (using new stewardship skills to solicit a major gift) and long-term (creating an organizational culture of accountability or creating new connections to under-served populations). Organizations appreciate the training associations provide because it ensures their employees are working as effectively and efficiently as possible with the latest and most proven data and techniques.

But belonging to an organization, or having a staff member belong to one, also sends a strong message to the public about the importance the organization places on issues such as ethics and professionalism. By supporting and using best practices and other universally agreed-upon policies and procedures that AFP has helped to develop, organizations increase public trust and confidence and position themselves as leaders and innovators in fundraising.

In addition, leadership development is a key area that organizations look to associations to provide. Beyond just specific skill-building, association involvement helps round out other aspects of an individual: self-confidence, mental well-being, public speaking, team building, etc. These are important individual proficiencies and aspects that organizations look for and value in their employees.

Advancing the Profession

Most importantly, by coming together as an association, practitioners advance their profession in a very concrete way.

Membership in and involvement with AFP helps to advance the professions by allowing the profession to speak as one united voice, which is especially helpful in the areas of government relations, lobbying and public affairs. Knowing that AFP speaks with the force of 30,000 members means that legislators and other officials must take what AFP says seriously. Membership adds authority and impact to the profession and its ability to shape public policy.

Membership sends an important message to outside audiences that the fundraising profession is not fragmented or uninterested in issues such as ethics and service. Rather, it is a true profession that is united under a set of ethical standards, is committed to bettering society around the world and whose practitioners are proud of the work they do.

Belonging to AFP also sends important messages about each individual fundraiser and their role in the profession. It says that he or she is dedicated to the profession and the values and principles that it stands for—that the individual doesn’t view the job just as something to do or a passing fancy, but a lifetime devotion that requires skill, training and dedication. Membership in an association is a mark that the individual is indeed a professional in the truest sense of the word.

Relating to and Caring for Others

Can a profession exist without an association? Yes, but it’s hard to see how a profession could grow and flourish without one, especially when times are toughest. After all, who would practitioners turn to if they didn’t have a repository of knowledge and a network of contacts that associations can provide? Who would be able to gather and share guidance and insights that have proven to be successful from practitioners around the world? Only an association has the resources to be able to provide these critical resources, as well as all the other benefits that help individuals grow.

Membership in AFP is important to career development, job performance and to advancing the fundraising profession that is making an incredible difference in the world. The tangible benefits of membership—the Code of Ethics, publications and research, training programs, etc.—just begin to skim the surface of what being a member of AFP—and what being a professional fundraiser—is all about.

When it comes time to renew your membership, remember the importance of community and the growth and success that are possible through your professional association.

* * * * *

Major Gifts: It’s Not the Donation Amount that Matters—it’s the Strength of the Relationship  

By Dave Sternberg and Nick Parkevich

Contributing writers Dave Sternberg and Nick Parkevich of Achieve LLC discuss the value in measuring success with major gift prospects by the connection the donor has to you and your organization, not simply the amount of money that donor is currently giving.

We were recently visiting with an organization, reviewing their donor list as part of their new major gifts initiative.  One of the names on the list was someone with the capacity to easily make a six-figure gift.  Much to our surprise, the donor had only been giving $100 annually to the organization.  At first, we thought there might have been an error in their donor profile, since this donor is on the donor lists of dozens of other local organizations at far greater levels.

We pushed the organization to focus on establishing a relationship with the donor.  It wasn’t that they didn’t know who the donor was; they just felt like they lacked a plan of cultivation and topics for conversation. 

After several conversations it was clear that the donor was not connected in any real way to the organization.  This donor had never really been cultivated by the organization. We pushed the CEO to move quickly beyond mere pleasantries and organizational updates and to focus on the organization’s initiatives.  The relationship quickly progressed and the organization is well on its way to success with this new major donor, who has since made a gift of $10,000, followed by a $25,000 gift and the organization is now in discussion with the donor about an even larger project.

Are you facing something similar with a donor at your organization?  Consider the following strategies as you work with your next prospective major donor:

The term “major gift” is subjective.  A gift that could transform your organization might be an average gift for another organization.  One donor’s perception of a major gift could be far less than another major donor’s definition of a major gift.  The real spark happens when both the organization and the donor are on the same page with what makes a gift a major gift.  Discuss with your donor the kinds of gifts that could strengthen the organization and bolster its presence in the community.

Mass communication has its place, but would you rely on the local newspaper to notify friends and family of your wedding or to announce the birth of your child?  Likewise, your closest supporters expect to be engaged on a more personal level; they want to hear news pertaining to your organization—good and bad—before they read it in the newspaper or hear it from another source.

Are your conversations with your donors as comfortable as they are with your co-workers and friends?  If not, ask yourself why not and how you can make them more comfortable.  After all, your donors have sat through those awkward discussions and probably would like nothing more than for the conversations to be more natural. Try asking a major donor for advice; he or she will likely appreciate working with you to develop a solution.

Think beyond the simple stewardship processes and work to develop meaningful relationships—friendships—that both you and the donor would find as mutually beneficial and above all, real and meaningful, rather than artificial and financially based.  You can accomplish this by setting up quarterly meetings with your donor to discuss the progress of implementing their gift or invite them to sit down with a board member to discuss how their gift fits into the organization’s overall strategic direction.

Board Engagement
A common factor present with those organizations that find the greatest success with major gift fundraising is a board willing to interact with major gift prospects and donors. So how do you engage your board in major gift fundraising?  At the next board meeting, ask each board member to write a list of five reasons why a donor should support your organization with a major gift.  The results will give you insight on when and how to utilize them in major donor cultivation and solicitation. 

All too often we miss the mark because we spend far too much time focusing on the size of the gift, rather than developing the relationship. It could very well mean the difference between a $100 annual gift and a major donor. After all, how many of your $100 donors are ready to give you a $25,000 gift? 

Co-authors Dave Sternberg and Nick Parkevich are part of the core team of Achieve LLC, an Indianapolis, Indiana-based consultancy providing fundraising, strategy and board counsel. Sternberg is vice president and founding partner of Achieve and Parkevich serves as the director of client development at Achieve. More at

* * * * *

Preparing an Airtight Script for the Major-Gift Ask  

While board members and volunteers often shy away from using a script for making “the ask,” it is pivotal that they structure their ask ahead of time and come ready to make a solid case, says veteran fundraiser and consultant Laura Fredricks.

A script that covers all key points of the ask, and blocks out appropriate time for each, means the ask will stay on track, Fredricks says. That doesn’t mean it has to be memorized word-for-word or recited as a monologue. It just means all the important aspects of an ask will be covered, covered completely, and in a comfortable order for the prospective donor. Don’t put someone up to bat for your organization empty handed. They will most likely also come back empty handed—and ask, “Why didn’t you prepare me for that response?!”

Fredricks, who is author of The Ask: How to Ask Anyone for Any Amount for Any Purpose, likens the script for a major gift ask to a road map. There are several important components to include before you get to your destination.

First, set a time frame for the ask. Don’t spend 20 minutes of a 30 minute meeting catching up and sharing stories. That said, don’t simply shake hands and make the ask. Fredricks says, as a general rule, the ask should not take more than 25 minutes total. Start with a five minute warm-up period. Break the ice by following up on something the donor mentioned in your last meeting. Ask about children or grandchildren. Here already you need to be prepared—take detailed notes or you simply won’t remember your donor’s particular interests, family concerns, etc.

After the five minute warm-up period should come the ask. Fredricks outlines five essential steps for the ask. The ask should take six minutes.

Essential Components of the Ask

  • 1. Make a compelling case for the organization and the need for support
  • 2. Use transitional statements that specifically reference the prospect’s interest, or prior support, or both
  • 3. Ask for a specific amount and for a specific purpose
  • 4. Detail the benefits of the gift
  • 5. Remain silent

Certainly the first step is to state your case for support. Why give to you? And why now? What is the urgency? The script will contain a solid, clear and concise way of stating need. As a transitional statement, include in the script a way to tie the donor personally to the organization’s mission and current need. A good transition may be as follows:

“Leslie, your support for our mentoring program has put us on the map as the model for these community programs. We have the chance to take the program to a national level that is exciting and equally challenging. Let me take a few minutes to share with you what needs to be done to make that dream come true.”

After the transition, ask for a specific amount of money for a specific purpose. This is extremely important, Fredricks says. Don’t ask a donor to guess what is an appropriate amount. Plus, don’t keep them in the dark about who the money will help and how. Inspire them to make a difference with a particular program or project. If you are asking for an unrestricted gift, explain the benefits of such a gift. Be straightforward.

Next is your chance to cover the great things that will happen because of the gift. You’ve already stated your need, now talk about positive things that will happen once the gift is made—for the people the organization serves  and for the donor, too.

The ask concludes with the fundraiser, board member or volunteer simply being silent. You have said your piece. Let the donor speak.  This may be the hardest part of all, and reiterates the need for a script, Fredricks says. You don’t want to second guess the prospect’s reaction. Make it clear in the script to pause—and listen, listen, listen!

The Donor’s Turn to Speak

Continuing on the overall road map, step four is to give ten minutes, the largest block of time in the script, to the donor for his or her reaction, questions, feedback and overall response. Pay attention to verbal and nonverbal reactions. Listen intently and offer all the time he or she needs state questions and concerns fully. Remember, making a major gift is no easy or quick decision.

Finally, in four minutes, thank the prospect for his or her time as well as for listening to you. Wrap up with a final statement of the gift opportunity and its benefits and schedule a next meeting for follow-up. If there are questions you could not answer, let the donor know when you will get back to them.

These are some essential elements of an ask, and therefore are elements that should be clearly scripted for the person or persons making the critical major-gift ask. Fredricks lays out these and other steps more fully in her book, The Ask: How to Ask Anyone for Any Amount for Any Purpose, on sale now in the AFP bookstore.

Laura Fredricks, JD, LLC, is a consultant, author and motivational speaker for business and nonprofits internationally. Her new book, The Ask: How to Ask for What You Need and Deserve—for Your Cause, for Your Passion, and for You! will be published January 2010 by Jossey-Bass.

* * * * *

Free Ready Reference Download: Asking for Major Gifts

Successful solicitations are a team approach no matter who makes the ask! In this booklet, the reader will learn how to build the solicitation team and how to implement the steps for a successful solicitation. Available in PDF form free to members (log in required). Please scroll down to view Asking for Major Gifts booklet. Go to and click on Member Gateway. Log in and click on Member Resources.

* * * * *

Canada’s Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology Passes NPD Bill  

The Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has approved a bill that would create the first permanent government-recognized National Philanthropy Day® (NPD) in the world.

The bill, S-217, was introduced on Jan. 26 of this year by Sen. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein (Liberal, Metro Toronto) and now awaits Third Reading and final passage in the Senate.

Last year, the Senate passed the previous version of the bill and the House of Commons was poised to pass it as well. Unfortunately, the House was unable to take action prior to the election, and the bill died.

It is unclear at this point when the bill will be considered by the Senate for final passage. If needed, AFP will issue a call-to-action and ask members to contact their Senators in support of the legislation.

National Philanthropy Day

NPD acknowledges the entire spectrum of support provided by the voluntary sector and recognizes the profound impact that philanthropy has on the fabric of society. An estimated 50,000 people attend more than 125 NPD events and celebrations across North America every year. Celebrations take place in every province and major metropolitan area in Canada.

During National Philanthropy Day and throughout the month of November, Canadian AFP chapters honor exemplary local philanthropists, volunteer fundraisers, corporations, foundations, media outlets, children and young adults, and fundraisers at every level for their outstanding work in and contributions to the community. They also use this special occasion as a chance to educate the public about the importance of informed charitable giving and meaningful volunteerism.

More information about NPD can be found on the AFP website. Go to and click on National Philanthropy Day and AFP Awards.

* * * * *

AFP Foundation for Philanthropy Expands Outreach with Generous Gift from RuffaloCODY  

The AFP Foundation for Philanthropy is pleased to announce a strategic partnership with RuffaloCODY, a fundraising, software and enrollment services firm headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that will provide extensive calling services for the foundation’s 2009 Every Member Campaign.

RuffaloCODY has made an in-kind donation valued at over $100,000 in calling services that will reach members of AFP, the largest association of charitable fundraisers in the world. The AFP Foundation for Philanthropy’s Every Member Campaign funds scholarships, fundraising and philanthropic research and public awareness programs about the importance of ethical fundraising and wise giving. The calling program will begin mid-May.

“We are greatly appreciative of the tremendous support RuffaloCODY is providing for the 2009 Every Member Campaign,” said Donald G. Rizzo, CFRE, foundation board chair and vice president for institutional advancement at the University of Hartford. “The professional and personalized conversations with our donors that the calling program provides will enhance our donor relations efforts and will certainly make a big contribution towards the success of the 2009 calling program.”

Founded in 1991, RuffaloCODY is one of the leading providers of fundraising, membership and enrollment management services and software for nonprofit organizations.  RuffaloCODY provides on-site management, training, consulting, direct marketing expertise and outsourced calling programs to the nation’s premiere nonprofits and institutions of higher education.  RuffaloCODY is an industry leader in the areas or annual giving, membership, capital campaign and enrollment services. The company’s website is

“RuffaloCODY is committed to delivering quality performance while pursuing the highest standards in our industry,” said Duane Jasper, president of RuffaloCODY.  “As partners with AFP, we understand the value of membership and the goals of the Every Member Campaign. We look forward to partnering with AFP in pursuit of those goals.”

* * * * *

Nominations Being Accepted Now for AFP Board of Directors

AFP is seeking nominations of qualified candidates to serve on its 2010 Board of Directors as a district director or as an at-large director. Forms are due on or before July 31, 2009. To nominate someone for AFP’s Board of Directors, go to the AFP homepage,, and click on the item in the to-do list regarding board nominations. Or see the electronic version of this story.

* * * * *

Nominations Open for Foundation for Philanthropy Board

The AFP Foundation for Philanthropy is now accepting nominations for chair-elect (due July 10) and for officers and directors (due July 24). For more information and for a nomination form please visit the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy website at

* * * * *

AFP/APRA Summit: Organizational and Skill Evolution for Changing Times

Join AFP and APRA in a collaborative summit that will inspire professionals to come together and explore new, creative ways to retool and rethink fundraising in today's changing times. The event takes place July 28, 2009, at Boston Marriott Copley Hotel in Boston, Mass. Learn more and register today! Go to and click on Education and Career Development. Then click on Executive Institutes.

* * * * *

Don't Miss Two Upcoming Great Webconferences to Improve Your Fundraising!

(To register go to and click on Education and Career Development—AFP Web/Audioconferences)

Evaluating Your Development Program – Presented by Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE
How does your development program measure up to accepted standards? Are you doing as well as your competition? Is your development program growing or is it stagnant? Does your organization have a philanthropic culture? What tools can help you assess your performance? How do you find the time to "take stock" of your program? These questions and more will be answered in Evaluating Your Development Program: How Do You Measure Up? presented on Wednesday, June 10 at 1 p.m. EDT.

Making the Most of Email Marketing – Presented by Allison Van Diest of Blackbaud
There's simply no faster or more cost-effective way to reach out to supporters and keep your organization top of mind than through a well-organized and managed email marketing program. This session will highlight proven messages to help you inspire action from your email recipients, as well as tools to help you plan, develop, launch and manage a successful program. Don’t miss Making the Most of Email Marketing: Optimizing Your Message for Today's Medium presented Thursday, June 25 at 3 p.m. Eastern.

4300 Wilson Blvd, Suite 300, Arlington, VA 22203 • 703-684-0410 | 800-666-3863 | Fax: 703-684-0540
©2009 AFP. This site content may not be copied, reproduced or redistributed without prior written
permission from the Association of Fundraising Professionals or its affiliates.
Privacy Policy | Feedback | Contact Us | Advertise with Us