Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ideas that work

idea icon Establishing a Successful Game Plan

"To everything there is a season.."

Summertime is the season for planning a successful development campaign for the Learning Centers. Over that past few weeks we've discussed prospect identification and review. The next important stage of our development strategy is timing. For this we use a resource known as a gift table.

For those who have not used a gift table it is a road map to successful fund raising. It highlights the number and size of donations/event receipts you will need to meet your annual fund raising goal. This vital tool is the companion to the Prospect Review Matrix insofar as it allows you to translate broad levels of capacity to specific amounts of money you will solicit.

To demonstrate this I have posted a .pdf example. In this example, the financial goal of the XYZ Learning Center is $60,000, which should approximate the goals of many of the allocated LCs this year. To make this goal, the LC must seek gifts of adequate numbers and amounts, remembering that donors do not give equally, rather they should be asked to support the LC in proportion to their interest and ability.

In this case, the highest gift sought on chart 1, and ratified by the review process is $15,000, 25% of the goal for this campaign. The top 10 gifts in this first example make up 83% of the goal, with the remainder coming from gifts from $500 or less.

Now a second option, also included, might fit ABC Learning Center, which has not uncovered as many strong prospects. The top 10 donors in this case only amount to 59% of their goal. As you can imagine, a lack of big donations requires more work for the smaller ones. Thus this table demands a lot more work at raising those gifts.

Neither strategy is wrong, there are infinite combinations of donations to meet your goal. The one immutable truth is that you are best assured of success if you have a plan based on attainable objectives.

I've posted a worksheet for your use here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

News You Can Use

It's not worth getting animated over it

One of the continual challenges we face is raising community awareness about dyslexia and our Learning Centers. For this reason the ubiquitous PowerPoint presentation has become an important tool.

Many of us put significant time into developing presentations that convey our message and maintain the attention of our audiences. But a recent study suggests some of us may be overdoing it.

A fascinating study has been released in the International Journal of Innovation and Learning. This study tested the rates of information retention of PowerPoint presentations with and without animations. The animations they tested were those where each point came up one at a time. Groups were show automated presentations similar in every way except one included these animations.

The result - while both groups increased knowledge after viewing the two presentations, the presentations without animations garnered a 35% higher rate of information retention. It seems the mind had more time to absorb all the points if they were on the screen longer (a summary of the study is on the arstechnica site).

Conclusion - if you want people to better remember the story you're telling, hold off on the PowerPoint animations!

(If you come across any news you’d like us to share, please email me or send it along.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


“A champion is someone who gets up when he can't."
-Jack Dempsey

Although this quote is not particularly polished, you can grasp the intent of Dempsey, one of the greatest boxers of all time (who was born on this date in 1895).

Champions don't stay down on the mat, they get up time and again to face the challenges before them. With the hard economy and whatnot this year, we who serve the kids and tutors at our Learning Centers are battling too. As long as we keep getting up, we're still in it.

To learn more about Jack Dempsey, visit his official website.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ideas that work

idea icon Prospecting for Gold

This posting I want to spend a little more time discussing the merits of donor prospecting and suggest some new-found advice about how to get started. On June 2 I introduced you to that concept of the prospect review matrix. Today I want to address the most burning question, "Who are my prospects?"

Of course, to reiterate, the best prospects are a combination of those with the greatest financial capacity to assist the Learning Center program as well as those who are most apt to financially support it. These two groups are not one and the same, although some names should be on both lists. As you consider what to do first, you should spend your attention on those who are on both lists first, then approach those closest to you, followed by those without strong connection, but financial capacity.

The process of review can either be conducted as a subcommittee or a group, but first, you have to prime the pump with names. How do you brainstorm those?

Recent psychology research provides helpful advice. While we often think the best suggestions come from group brainstorming, Adrian Furnham reports in "The Brainstorming Myth" in Business Strategy Review that you can get more and better suggestions by assigning your entire board to develop a list of 30 prospects each and then coming together to review the names.

Brainstorming is valuable, but a group process that begins at square one will allow for group "loafers" or people inhibited by the group. This process offers each member of your team their best opportunity to contribute, resulting in a more comprehensive list of prospects for your group to review.

I've posted a form for your use here.

Prospect review is a great tool for focusing the board on the actions that matter most.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

News You Can Use

Charity Declines Less Dire Than Feared

This optimistic headline is from a recent post of the Wall Street Journal blog The Wallet. In this posting, WSJ Newswire's Shelly Banjo reports that the dire predictions for charitable giving may have been quite overstated.

Her analysis concludes that, yes, giving was down in 2008 for the first time in more than two decades. However, giving declined overall by about 6% which is far less than the 10-30% predicted in the panic days of late last year. Some sectors, such as religious causes even saw a rise in giving. And while she warns the full effect on giving of the economic downturn has yet to be seen - the worst really began in the 4th quarter and continued into 2009 - it is clearly not the bloodbath predicted. One thing the article highlighted was the observation that when people are worried about the economy and their security, they pull back on giving. It isn't that they stop giving, however, they just tend to give less and get more picky.

Lisa Philp, head of philanthropic services at JPMorgan Private Bank put it this way: Families are realizing these are no longer “flush times where they can haphazardly give a little here and there” if they’re going to make an impact–they’re seeing it’s time to get focused and do some planning.

What can we take from this relatively good news?

  • First, don't be shy about asking for money in this economy, people are still giving where they believe it matters.
  • People are becoming more discerning and want to make sure their giving makes an impact. We must emphasize our remarkable success rate and life-changing results at modest cost. Our strengths can help us overcome the tough economy of this fiscal year.

You can read the article at this address. (subscription may be required)

(If you come across any news you’d like us to share, please email me or send it along.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


“You were born with wings. Why prefer to crawl through life?"

Jalal ad-Din Rumi

With all the turmoil and strife currently in Iran, it bears remembering that Iran/Persia has been a cradle of great learning and beauty. Take for instance this thought by Rumi, often considered chief exponent of Sufi Islam in the thirteenth century. Rumi was known for his frantic artistic gyrations, spawning the phrase, "whirling dervish." He was a passionate and prolific writer of poetry.

This inspiration captures what we believe is within all the children we help.

To learn more about Rumi, please check this site.

Ride to Fight Dyslexia

Vic Frederick and friends ride through 50 states to raise money for Learning Centers

If you want to follow Vic on his journey, support the Ride and raise money for your Learning Center, you can find him here.

For Ride schwag, visit the Lucky7 logowear storefront here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ideas That Work - Spread Ideas Around

idea icon
Introducing the IDEA HUB FORUM!

I am pleased to announce today the opening of our Idea Hub Forum. In learning and innovative organizations great ideas and discussions are not the sole domain of the folks in the home office. More often than not good ideas and support rises up from wherever we are toiling in the fields - in Lexington, Indianapolis, Lancaster or wherever. If you have a question or and issue it is likely that someone at another Learning Center has faced it before. It is our hope that the Forum, in conjunction with this blog will work as a support to each board member as we aim to work together to make our program stronger in the years to come.

At present the forum is just starting up. We have posted in the prospect review section the Prospect Review Matrix is described in the June 2 post. But also I have posted a discussion thread on our rebranding effort. You will find in that section the criteria we are using to consider a name that can propel this program forward.

To access the Idea Hub Forum, just click here.

Please weigh in with your feedback.

You can check out our posts without registering, but must register to post. For the time being registration will not require confirmation, so do it now!

I really look forward to your feedback.

And now to announce our Challenge winner!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

News You Can Use

Make Your Friends Happier – Ask them to Give

Dick Duckworth, a volunteer who raises money for Providence sent me an article he clipped from the St. Petersburg (FL) Times that cites a March 2008 article in the journal Science.

A joint American and Canadian study of 700 people showed that increases in income have no reliable correlation to increased happiness. However, more money subjects spent on others (pro-social spending) showed a strong relationship to greater happiness.

The most telling component of the research was one where 46 students were given envelopes containing cash. Some were told to spend it on others, some on themselves, Those who were told to spend the money on others reported consistently greater happiness. You can read the article here (free subscription required).

Often we are reluctant to ask our friends to donate, thinking it to be an imposition. In reality you are helping your friend attain greater happiness. Consider how happy you are when you hear about the success stories occurring at your Learning Center. Then reach out to your friends and help make them happy too!

(If you come across any news you’d like us to share, please email me or send it along.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


He who cannot give anything away cannot feel anything either.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche was a complex writer and Philologist (one who studies religions). He wrote in a unique form, largely through short ideas, aphorisms. He is known for his thoughts on the power of the individual and self-determination. He is often associated with the movements of existentialism and postmodernism. For more information on the life and works of Nietzsche, please refer to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy .

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ideas that work -Go to the old 5 & 10

idea iconLast week I had the honor of attending the 3rd annual 5/10 Club of New Jersey Dinner. The dinner recognized the donations of individuals throughout the Garden State that have made operating gift commitments to the New Jersey Learning Centers of $5,000 or $10,000 ... and sometimes even more.

An idea born from adversity

Verdon Skipper, then Scottish Rite Deputy for the state of New Jersey faced a desperate dilemma in 2005 - a sponsor of 3 Learning Centers was stopping future funding. Skipper and his board members were adamant that the Centers would remain open. So, they first reworked the budgets. With this new (and lower) goal this team set about finding financial sources to make up for this large need. Special events could only do so much. Skipper concluded that he must find a committed core of people with the means to make a substantial dent in the fundraising goals each year.

In this light, the 5/10 Club was inaugurated.

Ducks in a row

Skipper started this endeavor the best way one can. First he pulled a team of volunteers together who were committed to the cause of supporting the Learning Centers. Next Skipper led by example and donated enough to earn the right to be a member of the 5/10 Club. He asked his volunteers to join him in this (they did). Then the team determined who might also be interested and capable of joining and determined how best to ask them. Finally they determined how best to acknowledge participation in this effort (an annual dinner).

The first 5/10 Club dinner was in 2007. More than $100,000 was committed by its members that year. Each year since, the size of the group and the amount this group has committed has risen.

The dinner held the last Friday in May is an affair befitting the generosity of the group. A hallmark of the event is a graduate of one of the Learning Centers describing his or her experience. This year's speaker was a young woman who came to our Centers as a freshman in high school, reading only at a 4th grade level. She and her parents would drive 2 hours a day just to get to the Learning Center. The transformation was enormous. She went from an inhibited girl barely hanging on academically to a confident National Honors Society student who is looking forward to attending college with scholarships.

This is the greatest return the members of the 5/10 Club could receive, as their many damp eyes attested. This is what helps to grow the Club every year.

Why not here?

There are people who have the capacity to make major annual gifts to your Learning Center. You can start a similar club if you follow these guidelines:
  • Determine a giving threshold high enough to be significant. Don't be afraid that it is a small club. It will grow.
  • Make sure the committee is composed only of those who are givers. If you skirt this, the success of the effort will fail.
  • Celebrate appropriately. If the level of giving is high, a good dinner is not inappropriate. It is an investment that will pay back.

Remember, this is a flexible high end program. 5/10 is a great idea, but 1-2-3 may work better for you. Or nickle, dime quarter. Go with what's best for you.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

News You Can Use

The news isn't all doom and gloom. A new poll shows that donor confidence is rising, especially among donors to faith-based organizations.
According to the latest Donor Confidence Report, conducted by nonprofit marketing research company Campbell Rinker, donor confidence grew to an index of 88.2 in April, a .7 increase from February. Faith-based charities showed the sharpest increase, up 2.07 from February. Check out the complete article here.
Although our dyslexia program is not a faith-based charity, the article does exert a good, positive indicator that donor confidence is on the rise. And the Learning Center model shares many of the elements of faith-based charities: passionate volunteers supporting a worthy cause in their communities.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”
-Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) from his book The Lorax

Dr. Seuss died in 1991, but his works and legacy live on. The author has ranked in the top 10 of Forbes.com’s Top-Earning Dead Celebrities since Forbes began compiling the list in 2001. Under the direction of his widow, Audrey Geisel, Dr. Seuss Enterprises and the Dr. Seuss Foundation have given away millions of dollars to various causes.
The Lorax was a harbinger to the environmental movement long before Americans were being encouraged to “go green.” Check out more about Dr. Seuss and his works here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ideas that Work - Prospect Review

idea icon
Where do we look first?
Strategies for seeking support.

When I begin to seek funding, I start with two basic tenets in mind –
Know the number and size of donations needed to meet the need
Start with the prospects with the greatest interest and capacity

When considering the gifts needed, one should remember that fundraising is NOT egalitarian. Usually a $60,000 goal is not met by 100 $600 gifts, it is met by PROPORTIONAL giving – donors giving in accordance with their relative ability.
This is where a gift table comes in. Consider the $60,000 goal. Given a Learning Center’s history of donations, this goal might be met by securing:
One $20,000 gift
Two $10,000 gifts
Three $5,000 gifts
Four $1,000 gifts
Ten $500 gifts
Numerous smaller gifts

Using this as a basis, the next challenge is to determine who, if properly motivated, could donate at these levels. This is the point of prospect review. There is a simple tool for this process that I have developed over 25 years of fundraising work. It is the Prospect Review Matrix. To do this effectively, do the following exercise:
  • 1. Gather together a list of all the potential donors you can imagine for your Learning Center. Include present donors, board, Masonic bodies, active Masons, foundations, parents, philanthropic people in the communities, service clubs and any other possible supporter.
  • 2. Select a committee of people who have reasonable insight in the capacity of this list (the board as a whole might do this).
  • 3. On a sheet of paper, draw a square divided into 9 boxes (like Hollywood Squares). Then place the following numbers in the boxes:
  • 531
  • 742
  • 986
  • On the vertical side of the square write $ and an arrow pointing up each row denotes a financial level (let’s say for this example, $250-$999, $1,000-4,999, $5,000+). On the horizontal side write interest and an arrow pointing left each column denoting the prospect’s perceived interest – low, medium, high. This is the Prospect Review Matrix.
  • 4. As a group review these prospects using the matrix as a guide. Only those who have knowledge of the prospect should render an opinion. Record the number associated with the consensus review, i.e: Prospect A is capable of a $2,500 gift and is highly interested in the Learning Center – on the matrix, that would render a review of “2”.
Once you have finished, group the prospects by review number. You now have a prioritized list of prospects. Start by deciding how to see the prospects from “1”s to “6”s. Consider how much to solicit each prospect by what you need and their ranking. Go see them, remembering what Benjamin Franklin said about prospects when raising money for the first public hospital in this country, “A third will give what you ask for, a third will give less, and a third won’t give.”

If you want help with this model please contact me at spekock@scottishritecharities.org.