Friday, May 29, 2009

Nuts and Bolts

GrantAID Kit Changes
The Learning Centers' recent funding changes have required some updates to the GrantAid kit. The newest versions are available for download from the Learning Center website.
Remember these are general templates that should be adapted to fit your Center's needs. Changes include:
  • The Cost-effective Charity portion of the Proposal Template

  • The Fundraising Intiatives portion of the Proposal Template

  • The closing paragraphs of the LOI Template

The Proposal Template and LOI Template will be labeled with 2009 to indicate their updates.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

News You Can Use

Cherchez la femme
A recent study sponsored by the Fidelity® Charitable Gift Fund describes the critical role of women in influencing a family’s philanthropic priorities.
In about half the cases, the woman of the house is the primary decision-make when it comes to the size and priorities of her family’s donations. Further, 92% of married men say that the spouse plays a major role in their donation decisions.
When considered alongside the fact that women are the primary beneficiaries of the family transfer of wealth via bequest and that women are generally more consistent supporters of children’s causes like ours, this should serve to remind us to consider our fundraising appeals so that we address the interests of the women who may consider donating to us.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


"Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen."
-EPICTETUS (a truly laid back philosopher of the 1st century. Read more about him here.)

This is simply a reminder that good things require patience and effort. Persistence will win out.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ideas that Work - Plan before you start

idea icon "Begin with the end in mind." – Dale Carnegie
An appropriate exercise at this time of year is planning. This is something that is particularly important as FY2010 approaches. For the first time really, each Learning Center’s future success depends on your board’s ability to secure adequate funding.
This may lead you to see the task as daunting, the goal too high. As well, you may be concerned as to where the funds will come from. In both cases a plan really helps.
First, once you break the financial picture down, you may be surprised at how reasonable it can be. Second, by developing a fundraising budget and goals for each method, you can realistically create a plan and job assignments appropriately.
Start with what you already know
The first task is assess the funds that you likely will receive next year. Allocated Centers already start with $60,000 in their kitties. Then look at the monies you received by your work this year. Determine the likelihood you will receive these funds this year and discount the number as appropriate. This is a reasonable approximation of a starting point.
Now subtract your FY2010. This number is the net difference your fundraising must meet.
Decide on a fundraising mix
Ok, so let’s say you see about $80,000 as what you can count on. Your LC budget is $105,000. This leaves a balance of -$25,000. What now?
A solution is to use a mix of strategies to raise the money. First, consider if there are low-hanging fruits, people or entities that have supported you in the past, but may simply not have been asked recently. Second, are there donors who have given, but have not been asked to “step up” to a level within there abilities? Set goals for these tasks.
Now consider the events you are engaged in currently. Are they successful? Can you raise more by conducting a new event? Can you reasonably increase net proceeds from the events you have?
So let’s map this out:
Goal $125,000
Allocation $60,000
Historic support (discount)

  • Sponsor a child $10,000 (100%)
  • Grants $5,000 (50%)
  • Walk $5,000 (100%)
Net required $25,000

New/Increased Sources

  • Sponsor a Child $15,000
  • Grants $ 5,000
  • Walk increase $ 1,500
  • Wine Tasting $ 4,000
Net - $1,000
So, in this case, assuming the historic support appraisals are true, meeting the goal in 2010 requires as few as 3 new/increased child sponsorships, one or two new grants, a bit more effort in the Walk and a new event – a wine tasting. And you have 12 months to do it.
Is this achievable, I don’t know, but you have a good starting point to determine the prospects. Fill in the names of those you think can provide the extra funding. Be conservative. If you can see this is likely, then begin strategizing.
Next week, we’ll discuss prospect review.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood… Make big plans, aim high in hope and work.”
– Daniel H. Burnham
(Burnham was an achitect and urban planner. He designed the Masonic Temple Building in Chicago, once the tallest building in the world! For more on him, see this entry in Wikipedia.)

News You Can Use

How much should board members give?
There is much debate about this topic which is definitely worth a read at the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The jury is definitely out when it comes to setting standards for board giving, however it is a consensus that board members lead by example.
From my experience, it is important to gain full support of your board and to do so early. This accomplishes three things:
  • It "primes the pump" of the year's fund-raising,
  • It justifies each board member's right to ask others to support your Learning Center
  • It is looked upon by others, particularly foundations, as an indication that the board is behind their Learning Center.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ideas That Work - Tips for a successful cultivation event

idea iconMay 8th I had the honor of attending a Recognition Reception in Medina, Ohio for the Cleveland Learning Center. About 90 people attended the event that celebrated the success of the LC, acknowledged their Builders Council Members and enrolled new members (4). Three inspirational young people spoke about their battle to overcome dyslexia. The event was tasteful, but modest. It was held in the Masonic Home. A number of the Home’s residents attended. This may have been their first opportunity to hear first hand how well the Learning Center works. A silent auction additionally raised $1,000.
Why it works
The event is very efficient and focuses attention on the need to receive significant ($10,000+) commitments. The inclusion of student testimonials is and inspiring to both donors and prospective donors. Also, the implied deadline of the event causes people to make commitments in time to be included in the event. In the 2 years Cleveland has done this event, they have enrolled 14 members of the Builders Council, including 3 who made up their minds during the event. That is why it is important to invite prospective donors along with current members.
I like the use of the Masonic Home as a way to expand the audience. Pittsburgh held a successful event at a Country Club in 2008 and also had success, albeit at higher expense.
Tips for a successful cultivation event:
  • Make sure the event is tasteful
  • Invite donors and prospective donors
  • Keep the program light, but include testimonials, recognition of current donors and a mild invitation to prospective donors to give
  • Use the event as a reason to have donor prospects commit
  • Follow up with the prospective donors, reinforcing the successes and need

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Welcome to the Idea Hub!

idea icon Dedicated to the success of our Learning Centers
This blog-space is intended as a service to our Learning Centers and their boards of governors. Each week we intend to provide a stream of ideas, thoughtful observations and news that may support your efforts to grow and sustain your Learning Center. We all know how precious the work conducted at our Learning Centers is. I hope we share a dedication to seeing this program thrive.
The agenda of this blog is loose and will evolve over time, but it is intended to be useful to you. If you have any questions you would like addressed or topic suggestions, please email me at

And now for the challenge…

Win $500 for your Learning Center!
We believe that the best way to foster innovation is to communicate as broadly and transparently as possible. This means that we strive to reach as many of your board members as possible. So for the next 30 days we are running this challenge: Send me ( the emails of your entire board by June 15 so that we can include them on the distribution list for this blog. That’s it. Your Learning Center will be entered in a raffle to for a $500 donation. On June 15 we will pull one winner from the Centers that have completed this task. Good Luck!!