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Major Gifts

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How Do You Turn a Car Into a Chair?
CURRENTS Article An anonymous alumnus of the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology auctioned off his 2015 McLaren P1—one of the world's fastest cars, which can reach speeds of 200 mph—for $2.39 million, a world-record for that model.

5 Ways Board Members Can Support Fundraising
CURRENTS Article "I'm happy to do anything, except ask for money." Work in educational advancement long enough, and you'll probably hear those words from a foundation or governing board member. For some volunteers, asking for financial gifts produces anxiety—and most people are already dealing with pressure in their life. The last thing they need is more stress from a volunteer job. Discomfort with asking can be a major stumbling block for fundraising success. But the ask is only one step in a larger creative process that's intentionally managed to attract donor investment. Reluctant board members can still help our cause, even if they're not making an ask. Here's how to play to their strengths.

Talking Shop: In with the Fund Crowd
CURRENTS Article Jonathan May launched the U.K. digital fundraising technology startup Hubbub, which serves the education and nonprofit sectors, with Duncan Knox in 2011. The company is expanding its U.S. operations after winning $1 million in venture capital funding in 2016 through the VentureClash investment challenge. Currents spoke with May while he was in the U.S. studying digital fundraising and alumni relations practices at more than 40 colleges and universities. His travels confirmed the importance of relationships in fundraising—even online. “I think there’s a lot more than technology behind the success of different programs,” he says.

Voices:
CURRENTS Article Advice on handling an advancement colleague's inappropriate relationship with a donor; Colorado State's lessons on making a recipe video; and how to avoid errors in your database's list of deceased alumni.

Outlook: Don't Discount Diverse Donors
CURRENTS Article If you assess the philanthropic landscape today, you'd be challenged to find Latinos in major staff roles, on nonprofit boards, or as major donors. As a Latino and development officer for 32 years, I've observed a range of reasons nonprofits overlook Latino communities. The main one: Because our communities have struggled with poverty and have indeed been recipients of charity, the assumption that we cannot give prevails. This is simply not true, and most people outside of Latino communities don't realize our propensity and capacity to give.

Voices
CURRENTS Article Advice on how to respond to inappropriate comments from donors; and tricks to digitally unplug.

Relationship Status
CURRENTS Article Turnover can be costly. When a donor’s key contact leaves—whether it’s the president or development officer—the donor’s relationship with the institution is disrupted. The result? Delayed or decreased giving. So how can you reduce the negative impact of presidential and gift officer turnover? By expanding the number of indi-viduals involved in donor-institution relationships and including people with greater tenure in those relationships.

Beware of Gifts That Eat
CURRENTS Article I can hardly believe that this year marks my 30th anniversary in the field of fundraising. Ever since I fell into a development job right out of college with my newly minted journalism degree, fundraising is pretty much the only thing I’ve done. When I haven’t been securing philanthropic gifts at work, I’ve been called into service at my church, the kids’ schools, and countless other worthwhile charitable endeavors. I guess I’m a one-trick pony in that regard. And I’ve loved every minute of it. Fundraising can also at times be heartbreaking, exasperating, counterintuitive, and consuming, but above all it’s gratifying. Between you and me, here’s some frank insight on less-discussed aspects of the profession.

Book [Club] Report—An Alumna’s View
CURRENTS Article CASE Online Communications Specialist Meredith Barnett has participated in her alma mater’s alumni-student book club for the past two years, leading discussions with incoming freshmen about the reading selections and talking with them about her own time as a student. Here’s her perspective on how books can spark connections.

Voices
CURRENTS Article Advice for when a colleague acts too casual and friendly with donors; how to be preapred for last-minute end-of-the-year gifts; and thougths on preparing Native American high school students for college.

Pin of Pride
CURRENTS Article How can you tell if a major gift officer secured a gift for an endowed professorship or chair? At the University of Florida, you just check his or her lapel. At special ceremonies near the end of the last campaign, the development chief and deans gave unique Gator pins to those who closed such gifts. The incentive program ran during the last two years of Florida's recent $1.5 billion campaign to help focus gift officers on securing endowed professorships and chairs.

Talking Shop: Supporting Brilliant Minds
CURRENTS Article Chris Cox talks about what philanthropy does best and how to share that messge with donors. Cox is the chair of the 2016 CASE Europe Annual Conference (CEAC) in Brussels and helped shape its theme, "The Big Shift." The idea: As governments reduce funding for higher education, university leaders need to seize new fundraising opportunities, be more entrepreneurial, leverage new sources of income, and promote the value of their institutions.

Are You Following These Annual Fund Strategies?
CURRENTS Article The 2015/16 Independent School Advancement Survey of 352 institutions, conducted in January 2016, found major differences between what development leaders say is important and what they actually do. Researcher and consultant Ingrid Healy explains the trends.

A Gift for Ideas (and Ideas for Gifts)
CURRENTS Article Whether it's dangling from a precarious crevice atop one of the world's tallest mountains or pushing through mile 25 of a marathon, 69-year-old James Doti gets his best ideas off campus. Since Doti became president of California's Chapman University in 1991, the institution has risen to third in a U.S. News & World Report ranking of student selectivity, and its endowment has increased from $25 million to $300 million. As he prepares to retire in September 2016, CURRENTS asked for his secrets on fundraising, leadership, creativity, and having a little fun.

Thanksgiving, with a Twist
CURRENTS Article How three institutions put a unique spin on celebrating Thanksgiving.

The 60 Smartest Things You’ll Ever Hear About Fundraising
CURRENTS Article You must bring tremendous energy and enthusiasm to work each day as you meet highly ambitious goals for yourself and the institution. Here's what Jerold Panas learned in 40-plus years of fundraising about donor motivation, characteristics of effective gift officers, timeless strategies for securing gifts, and leveraging trustee support.

Outlook: Do Your Funds Need a Checkup?
CURRENTS Article Compliance checkups expose problematic spending restrictions, educate new employees on fund limitations, and ensure that fund usage reflects donor intent. They're a way to assess the fitness of funds—particularly your oldest restricted income accounts, endowed funds, and pending planned gift assets—that are key to the institution's long-term financial health.

Are You Leaving Money on the Table?
CURRENTS Article Frontline fundraisers tend to work in silos, and we leave a lot of gift money on the table. Let's banish planned giving from our vocabulary and embrace gift planning.

Breaking Up with a Prospect
CURRENTS Article Dating tips can help fundraisers learn why, when, and how to break up with a hot prospect who has turned into a cold fish. Here are some practical steps for managing the relationship, from the infatuation stage to "where is this going?" based on my 30-plus years of fundraising and 15-plus years of dating experience.

Sticky Situations
CURRENTS Article Gift officers often face emotional angst and ethical dilemmas in their dealings with donors, and the stakes are high. Handling these situations isn't easy, especially when the decisions can jeopardize gifts. Here are four case studies, based on real-life experiences, with advice on how to handle ethical issues, from inappropriate gifts to sexual advances.

Elite and Greet
CURRENTS Article Successful professionals find value in building connections and talking about their work with others in their field, which is why we created a networking program at Marquette University called CIRCLES. The program helps our professional alumni do business together—while helping us identify donor prospects.

Validating Volunteers
CURRENTS Article Remote alumni chapters can easily fizzle if volunteer leaders lack support or direction. At the Penn State Alumni Association, a recent $1 million endowed gift ensures that won't happen.

Twists and TurnsToward a Gift
CURRENTS Article Alumnus Michael Lang wanted to give to an overlooked area that fit his passion.

A Creative Assist
CURRENTS Article When working with donors, it's important to connect with the heart and the mind.

How I Closed the Biggest Gift of My Career
CURRENTS Article Five fundraisers share the dramatic inside stories of large gifts along with key insights from their experiences, from being creative to collaborating with colleagues.

Stewardship and the Second Gift
CURRENTS Article Barbara Samper would drive through Salinas Valley and see migrant workers in the field and think, "How can I help their children obtain a college education?"

A Friend to the End
CURRENTS Article In 2014, Foxcroft, an all-girls boarding/day school serving 157 students in grades 9-12, received a transformative gift of $40 million from Ruth Bedford, class of 1932.

Pass or Fail?
CURRENTS Article In response to a negative Facebook post, Jessica White, a 2007 U of M grad who serves on the Dean's Young Alumni Council, writes a blog post explaining that all alumni gifts matter.

Five Traits that Attract Millionaires
CURRENTS Article A recent analysis of institutions that publicly announced receiving million-dollar gifts between 2000 and 2012 found that mega-donors are drawn to institutions with five traits.

Ins and Outs
CURRENTS Article When managed effectively, a change in leadership can enhance rather than hurt an institution's fundraising efforts. A successful leadership transition requires, among other things, constant, honest communication with key donors.

Odds and Ends: The Giving Kind
CURRENTS Article Devoted philanthropists John and Tashia Morgridge talk to CURRENTS about the importance of writing small checks and the challenge of giving large gifts in a public manner, offer advice on how to become informed and engaged philanthropists, discuss possible changes to the U.S. charitable giving deduction, and reminisce about some of the projects they've helped make possible.

Out of Focus
CURRENTS Article For years, development officers have cultivated prospective donors by listening to their deepest desires. Now, development officers' work increasingly involves devising a strategy for aligning the donor's desires with the mission, goals, and needs of their institution.

True Confessions
CURRENTS Article Examining fundraising best practices is a great way to improve a development program, but looking at worse practices can also be enlightening. In this story, fundraisers reveal embarrassing blunders that subsequently may prove instructive.

Building Better Donors
CURRENTS Article This article encourages institutions to engage donors by offering them donor education programs. The author describes three types of programs: those that teach basic how-to information about donating, those that empower donors to think of themselves as philanthropists, and those that use faculty experts to provide subject-specific knowledge about topics of interest to the donors, such as the environment.

An Inspiring Life's Work
CURRENTS Article One of the pioneers of educational fundraising, David Dunlop discusses ultimate gifts and the personal qualities of successful development officers in this interview. He shares similar insights annually as a faculty member of the Inspiring the Largest Gifts of a Lifetime conference.

Onward and Upward
CURRENTS Article The vice president of development of the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts reports on new efforts at his institution and others to cultivate more gifts from midlevel donors as leadership gifts have become more scarce during the recession.

Treasure Chase
CURRENTS Article Advancement leaders from around the country and the world acknowledge the downturn in mega gifts to education during the Great Recession and discuss the best strategies for dealing with the new economy.

Reaching for the Top
CURRENTS Article Author Elizabeth Harvey, a major gift officer at Mills College, surveys eight small and medium-sized colleges and universities to discover how the institutions are scaling the very top of their giving pyramids.

Cinderella Doesn't Live Here
CURRENTS Article The annual fund is the most obvious place to go looking to develop your major gifts, but it is also the most overlooked. Here are concrete strategies for building your pipeline.

A Match Made in Heaven
CURRENTS Article Many prospects acquire their wealth through their entrepreneurial ventures. Development officers can tap into this potential through the concept of angel investing--the opportunity for donors to start a new business, champion a cause, and be directly involved.

The DNA of a Successful Major Gift Team
CURRENTS Article Teamwork is essential in a major gift office. Camaraderie and congenialty are important. But first you have to build the appropriate infrastructure—the culture, communications, expectations, feedback, technology, and learning. Then success becomes part of your genetic code.

The Pluto Principles
CURRENTS Article The quest for the planet Pluto teaches the need for persistence, research, strategic planning, and thinking out of the box--and why it's smart to sweat the small stuff. Astronomers discovered Pluto's existence by noticing wobbles in nearby planets. So if something in your development programs appears a bit off, it bears looking into. The discovery will be donors who want to make larger and more meaningful gifts.

By the Numbers
CURRENTS Article To identify what gets measured in fund-raising efforts, Bentz Whaley Flessner surveyed about 4,700 development managers and major gift officers on their expectations regarding number of phone contacts, number of face-to-face visits, and other metrics. The findings provide a snapshot of what's going on in the field and serve to establish some baselines for performance management.

Beyond Metrics
CURRENTS Article A baseline of metrics provides a foundation for the performance evaluation of major gift officers and programs. Then it's possible to move beyond the numbers to achieve transformational gifts. A wide range of perspectives from an advancement headhunter to a chief development officer paint a more complete picture of how to develop "big idea" major gift efforts.

Do Unto Others
CURRENTS Article This article describes the DISC method of categorizing personality types according to: dominance, influence, steadiness, or compliance. Once you know yours and someone else’s personality type, the author argues, you can use the platinum rule in dealing with them: Treat others as they would like to be treated, rather than the Golden Rule (treat people as you would like to be treated).

All Hands on Deck
CURRENTS Article Turnover can create havoc in an advancement office, leading to holes in the institutional memory and breaking fragile links between donors and the institution. The advancement staff at the University of Massachusetts Lowell has reinvented its operations to create a team approach that strengthens long-term relationships and focuses staff members on securing cash gifts, especially major gifts. Using a structure of four interdisciplinary teams, advancement officers focus on offering relevant alumni programs and services, meeting face-to-face with donors, involving all staff members in gift cultivation, and maintaining an attitude of mutual respect across advancement.

Vision Quest
CURRENTS Article What motivates major donors to give? This article goes straight to the source - the donors themselves. Nine benefactors of education institutions of all types talk about why they give, what they hope to achieve with their giving, what they expect from the institutions they support, and what they expect from the campus development officers who cultivate them. Philanthropists are still interested in supporting education, they say, provided the institutions’ needs are real.

AdvanceWork: Sitting Pretty
CURRENTS Article Affluent individuals require a minimum of $1 million to $10 million in assets to feel financially secure, according to the "Wealth & Values Survey 2003" conducted by Community Foundations of America and HNW. Major gifts officers must therefore work even harder to convince these prospects that they can afford to support charitable causes.

Respecting the Collections
CURRENTS Article Development officers must work closely with special collections librarians to solicit appropriate gifts of rare books, manuscripts, photos, and artifacts. Getting the right gifts means understanding the library’s niche, the additional concerns that come with gifts-in-kind, and why librarians chafe at having to do special exhibits for cultivation and recognition. This article is of interest to major gift officers, fund raisers for libraries and special collections, and advancement service professionals who deal with gift acceptance.

Goals and Assists
CURRENTS Article Prospect researchers and development officers must form a partnership to identify potential donors' ability, interest, and desire to give. This article provides three guidelines for building a productive relationship and includes a table showing the differences in the information that researchers and development officers are likely to uncover. This article is of interest to development officers and prospect researchers.

Closing Remarks: Mad Money
CURRENTS Article In this humorous parody of a fund-raising call report, a fictional development officer misses cue after cue from a top donor prospect. This Closing Remarks column is of interest to fund raisers and advancement services professionals who work on donor relations, cultivation, and call reports.

Weighing Dollars with Sense
CURRENTS Article The central purpose of development offices is to raise money. But to measure their effectiveness based solely on rigid dollar figures would be shortsighted, say many chief development officers. Some of these forward-thinking managers now assess the effectiveness of their operations by how well their efforts support the institution’s mission and goals, develop new and long-term relationships with potential donors, and move prospects and donors toward greater participation in the institution.

Making Peace between Annual and Major Gifts
CURRENTS Article The difference between annual and major gifts lies more in their purpose and their relationship to the donor’s capacity than in their actual dollar amount. To ensure that the annual and major gift programs work together successfully, development leaders must articulate clear donor strategies, use the annual fund to feed the major donor program, and promote the “dual ask”--the practice of asking major donors for continuing annual fund gifts.

A Steady Ascent
CURRENTS Article Rather than follow the up-and-down cycle of campaign after campaign, fund raisers may want to consider a new approach: an ongoing major gifts effort. The author describes what he sees as the flaws of campaign-based advancement, and suggests that institutions develop continual, mission-based fund-raising programs.

Shifting Gears
CURRENTS Article Cornell University development officers successfully shifted to a project- and team-based approach to fund raising, leaving behind the previous organizational model based around schools and units. This new approach has allowed the university to raise funds for priority projects without launching an institution-wide campaign. As an example, the authors describe the successful team-based effort to fund renovation and expansion of Cornell’s music building.

Values, Vision, "Embodied Opportunities"
CURRENTS Article A principal gifts officer defines six elements to attracting principal gifts. Institutions must define their core values, identify campus priorities that go beyond parochial interests, and let potential donors know the stories behind these priorities. Such stories must resonate with the prospect's own core values. Development officers also must reach out to the prospect's intimate family and friends.

AdvanceWork: Measuring Generosity
CURRENTS Article Worth and Slate magazines print annual lists of leading American philanthropists.

Making the Ask
CURRENTS Article The authors provide faculty members with a detailed description of the steps involved in asking a donor for a major gift. They also explain common fund-raising errors and how to avoid them.

Means, Motive, & Opportunity
CURRENTS Article Development officers at DePauw University use structured, face-to-face interviews with prospective major gift donors to determine their potential for giving as well as their attitudes toward campus programs and institutional messages. The interview takes about 75 minutes and includes 50 carefully considered, standard questions. Questions cover the prospect's experience with and interest in the institution.

AdvanceWork: Dollars from Diplomas
CURRENTS Article AdvanceWork: Dollars from Diplomas

The Young and the Restless
CURRENTS Article Two trends are increasing the number of young major gift prospects: the intergenerational transfer of wealth to the baby boomers from their parents, and the increase of young stars in high-paying fields. As a group, young donors often face financial insecurity, have a desire to give back to the community, are focused on the bottom line, and may be seeking status. To cultivate young major-gift prospects, consider approaching them through other young alumni or older major givers; try a challenge; keep an eye on the annual fund for prospects; and let them start small. A sidebar profiles two top young women philanthropists.

You're Not Welcome
CURRENTS Article When a major supporter suddenly breaks off connections for no apparent reason, the problem may be burnout.

In Advance: Stop Looking for Bill Gates
CURRENTS Article Joseph M. Zanetta, vice president for advancement at Whittier College, recomends that campuses looking for major donors prospects look at their previous donors for large gifts, rather than at those who are rich and trying to find a connection to their campus.

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