Wisdom Wednesdays: Sources of and Motivations for Major Gifts in 2012

by Jon Nelson

Each year brings with it new challenges.  Along with these challenges, however, are also many new opportunities.  What are these opportunities and how can you leverage them to see real growth in 2012?

Holly Hall writes about this in, “Understanding Where the Big Gifts Will Come From in 2012,” for The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s “Prospecting” blog.  She recaps a  webinar presented by consultants Robert F. Sharpe and Barlow Mann “on fund-raising advice and predictions for the coming year.”  (The webinar is still available and linked from the article.)

Jon NelsonHall’s most prominent point is that in 2012 we will likely see major changes to the tax code, many of which could affect allowances for charitable deductions.  However, these won’t take effect until 2013, so in 2012 many major donors will be searching for organizations that not only will help them achieve their normal philanthropic goals, but will work with them and their advisers in making the most of current tax incentives.

“President Obama has proposed limiting how much the wealthiest Americans can write off on their taxes for making gifts, and though Congress has not agreed so far, concern about the deficit could give the plan more traction in 2012,” Hall writes.  “Donors who are worried about the potential for new limits in 2013 may be motivated to give in 2012, or accelerate payments on pledges from past years, so they can get a healthy tax break.”

This could be your ticket to success in 2012.  Major donors are already highly motivated to give, and now they have another reason to do so.  Work to understand what makes your prospects enthusiastic about giving, and deliver on that.  With all the current reasons to give, donors may not wait long to decide, so don’t miss your chance!

As you close out year-end gifts, remember to also look ahead to 2012, and get ready to take advantage of these unique donor motivations.  Do some research through Hall’s blog post, the webinar and other sources so that you can better understand what will precipitate donations in 2012, and be ready to give donors the means to accomplish their goals.  Better yet, don’t wait for the donors to find you — actively seek them out and show them you care before they are found by another organization.  Now more than ever, being proactive and anticipating the climate is vital to growth, and even survival.

Jon Nelson, of Beloit, Wis., works in Communication Services for ALDE.  He is also Principal of Nelson Business Communications, LLC.


Wisdom Wednesdays: Conference Wisdom for Newcomers and Veterans Alike

by Bethany Krepela

This Wisdom Wednesday blog post imparts wisdom from an experienced conference-goer, Bethany Krepela.  Whether this is your first time attending the ALDE International Educational Conference, or if you’ve been going for years, read on (you definitely will want to see the packing list).  Included are great tips on how to get the most out of your conference, whether this is your first or 21st.  If you haven’t signed up yet for the February 6-9, 2012, conference in Minneapolis, register now – early bird rates expire January 6, and you don’t want to miss the chance to save $175! 

I didn’t know what to expect (or how to pack) for my first ALDE conference.

It was 2008 and the conference was in Chicago – not exactly an exotic destination from my hometown of Minneapolis.  My colleagues on campus assured me it would be a great place to network and gain additional training in the new-to-me field of development. Being that I work from home, I was looking forward to spending some non-office hours with my colleagues, too.

Little did I know that beyond the top-notch sessions and keynotes, the scheduled events and free time would surpass my expectations, as would the new friendships that would Bethany Krepelabegin.

If this will be your first ALDE conference, there is so much advice I could give you, but don’t be daunted – you’ll love it!  Come rested and with more business cards than you expect to hand out.  Don’t miss the Newcomer’s Orientation or the Welcome Event!  Visit with the vendors.  Try to find time to get away from the hotel with a new friend or two.  Bring a nice outfit for the President’s Reception – it’s truly like the Golden Globes of ALDE!

For you “young or young at heart” members of ALDE, you simply must know about “YALDE.”  We don’t have an official roster or any sort of hazing or entrance antics.  We’re just a group of ALDE folks who like to think we’re “up” on the action.  We’re movers and shakers and like to make plans and get folks involved!  All are welcome!

So, while you’re at the conference, listen around for folks talking about what “YALDE” has planned for the night, and ya’ll feel free to join in, OK?  We will also use our page on Facebook – simply called “YALDE” – to promote meeting times and places. (You can also see photos of conferences past.)  The more, the merrier.

Some of my favorite YALDE moments include exploring downtown Chicago watering holes with new friends, sharing a giant burrito with a friend at the Hula Hut on Lake Austin,


Left to right: Brittany Kallman , Bethany and Ellen Draeger hang out during the 2010 Welcome Event held at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum.

playing tambourine along with the band at Cedar Street on 4th in downtown Austin, Texas, and hanging out in the suites at the host hotels.

I am now preparing for my fifth annual ALDE conference and have had the pleasure of serving as Marketing Chair on the Planning Committee.  We are so excited to welcome everyone to Minneapolis – a truly beautiful, dynamic city.

To begin your time at the conference, we have planned a special worship service at breathtaking Central Lutheran Church, just blocks from the hotel.  Then you’ll be whisked away by bus to the historic Depot for our welcome event, which will feature Minnesota delicacies, Scotch tasting, a live band, figure skating and a curling demonstration.  The keynote speakers – Marilyn Carlson Nelson and Ted Peters – and breakout presenters promise to educate and inspire, and the networking is unbeatable.

I look forward to meeting you in Minneapolis, February 6-9, 2012!  Learn more and sign up.

Items on my packing list:

  • A thick stack of business cards
  • A soft-sided bag to carry around my conference necessities in
  • Water bottle (to help save on expense and waste)
  • Eye drops (inevitably needed after some late nights)
  • A sweater to throw on over my business-caz outfits (in case the hotel is too cold)
  • A dress-up outfit for the President’s Reception
Bethany Krepela leads Luther College’s (Decorah, Iowa) initiatives for alumni programming and giving in the Twin Cities metro area.  Much of her work involves creating and marketing events for young alumni.  Prior to her work for Luther College, Bethany spent nearly 10 years at Augsburg College working as an admissions counselor and as a writer in the office of marketing and communication.  You may contact Bethany at: biermabe@luther.edu.

Young Donors are Key to Your Future — Get Them Involved

by Jon Nelson

Are you looking at graphs that always seem to have downward slants?  Are there negative trends in giving that you just can’t seem to reverse?  It could be due to the changing demographics of potential constituents.

It’s important to keep in mind that each generation of donors is different, and to keep your organization viable, recognition of their needs is vital.  Donors definitely have needs — be they wanting a warm fuzzy feeling, the opportunity to leave a legacy or the ability to gain investment income while simultaneously giving to a valued organization.  You may have understood all this already, but it pays (literally) to consider and study what’s important to each group.

The latest crop of 20- and 30-somethings certainly has needs, too, and if they are leveraged properly, your organization can truly be ready for the future.

“Young adults, struggling with student loans and small salaries, often can’t afford to write checks to their favorite causes. And many who can aren’t satisfied just making a financial contribution,” writes Melissa Korn in “Brother, Can You Spare Some Time?,” from The recent Wall Street Journal Philanthropy report.  “So instead of—or in addition to—donating money, a number of people in their 20s and early 30s are giving back to their communities by donating time, often their most valuable asset.”  The thing is, these people aren’t giving of their time just because it’s all some of them can give, it’s because they want to give of their time.  They want to be involved beyond just writing their name and some numbers on a check (or tapping their smartphone screen a few times — though you should look into that, too!).

The real kicker here is that those who get involved develop a deeper connection to what they serve and are far more likely to make major gifts once they do have the ability.  True, you may not see huge, immediate upticks in giving from those in their 20s and 30s but this is about keeping your cause going for the long run, and setting it up for continued success.  Furthermore, volunteers such as those discussed in the article may help you save resources and overhead in the meantime.  An added bonus is that they can help bring fresh ideas to your organization, not to mention their friends — and that’s good, too.  Young people are more likely to get involved in something if their friends are also interested in it and talking about it.

So, get creative, and use these motivated volunteers before you lose them … and keep in mind that losing them now could mean losing them forever.  The connections formed today because of involvement will most likely stick for life.

Jon Nelson, of Beloit, Wis., works in Communication Services for ALDE.  He is also Principal of Nelson Business Communications, LLC.

Wisdom Wednesdays: Don’t Just Try Harder: What is Your Strategy?

by Jim Galvin

I have a diagnostic question I have been using with new clients lately.  I simply ask, “What is your strategy?”  I’m surprised by the large percentage of ministry leaders who struggle to answer it.

Some leaders can articulate their strategy well.  Some recite their mission statement and confuse that with having a strategy.  Others express what I call a “default strategy.”  An organization in default mode usually tells you what they do and then has some variation on
this answer: we‘re going to do the same things in the same way except try harder this time.

Sometimes an organization should do the same things the same way.  At other times they need to make a strategic shift in order to increase effectiveness.  The problem for ministry leaders is figuring out when to pivot and when to persevere.

If you sense that your way of doing ministry is becoming increasingly ineffective, trying harder is the wrong solution.  Here are seven signs that it is time to make a strategic shift:

  • Attendance is in slow decline
  • Budget is in slow decline
  • Key donors stop supporting you
  • Client needs change
  • The culture shifts
  • New technology disrupts
  • Organizational culture has grown stale

If you sense that your strategy is in default mode, then start asking questions.  Hold strategic conversations with your staff, clients, donors and peers.  Ask them what no longer works as well as it used to.  Keep going until you have a fresh portfolio of strategic initiatives that will keep your organization moving forward.

For an article on strategy recently published, click here: http://galvinandassociates.com/downloadables/GotStrategyCCCA.pdf

Jim Galvin, Ed.D., founded Galvin & Associates, Inc., in 1999.  Based in Elgin, Ill., he is an organizational consultant specializing in strategy, effectiveness and change.  Jim has been a speaker at several ALDE events.  http://www.galvinandassociates.com

It Takes Creativity to Get Above Message Clutter

by Jon Nelson

With the astronomical number of marketing messages constituents see each day, quality is vital to having your messages stand out.  In fact, quality in general isn’t enough. Specifically, creativity is imperative.  

Take as an example this video, the “Stroh Center Rap,” which was created by Bowling Green State University to thank major donors who made a new athletics center possible:

Instead of simply hosting a dinner in the donors’ honor, recognizing them at halftime of a couple games and sending them a box of chocolates, the donors were featured in a music video.   Now, with such creativity, you have to be careful.  You don’t want to upset your donors with a piece they will absolutely hate, or with a theme they can’t stand.  So, to solve this problem, and make sure the donors were OK with it, the producers not only ran the video by them, they got the philanthropists involved in it – and that is an extra feature that really takes BGSU’s creativity to the next level.  (Read about the creative process in this article, “University Thanks Big Donors With a Rap Video,” from The Chronicle of Philanthropy.)  Plus, it’s pretty funny seeing these older guys as “ballers.”

Clever lyricism also ups the creativity.  Example: “He gave a cool eight mil / His name is sure to survive / You can see it in lights from I-75.”  Another great line is: “So he can’t dunk / No, he won’t hit that three / But he will melt your face with his philanthropy.” Creativity isn’t just one great idea, rather it is taking that idea and augmenting it with numerous elements that really make people laugh, think, smile, take pause, etc.

The execution of this creativity wasn’t exactly perfect, though.  I happened to turn on the TV to a BGSU football game on ESPN where they were talking about the video and interviewing the rapper, Mikey “Rosco” Blair.  Rosco’s comments were brief and the conversation was forced – it was very awkward to watch.  He should have been prepped better by BGSU staff to really serve as a face for the school.  There’s a reason the handlers of presidential hopefuls work so hard prepping their candidate on what to say: the face of your organization needs to look really good – especially if that face is on national television.  After all, you know how awkward it can be when a candidate flubs.

However, if this video made it onto national TV, has a fair amount of YouTube views and is getting picked up by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, they clearly did something right.  My only thought was that it could have been even more effective with a better interview.

Wisdom Wednesdays: Mentoring Can Make the Difference

by Pat Bilow

In my first blog post, I wrote about two of my three biggest learning curves — writing a book that was published and starting a United Way.  Two bigger-than-life experiences for me!

And the third?  It’s all about being mentored!  How many of us are where we are thanks to people who believed in us no matter how short on knowledge we may have been?  By the time I left United Way to work for Lutheran Social Services of Northwestern Ohio, I knew that planned giving was where I wanted to be.  But how?  I had no experience and little knowledge.  Enter my number one mentor — Josef Kuckelkorn.  A retired Navy pilot who was born in Germany and survived World War II, Josef was definitely different from anyone I’d ever met.  My first impression?  “I could never work with that man.”  (God had another plan.  We are now married.)

Josef Kuckelkorn

Once I got past the German accent and his direct nature, I saw how passionate he was about planned giving.  Josef was always there to conduct seminars and workshops for me on a volunteer basis.  It didn’t take long before he gave up his insurance credentials to work part-time for LSS.  He and I became a successful planned giving team, but I didn’t do much except open the door.  He did all the technical work.

Enter Harvey Stegemoeller, my second mentor, who was then CEO of the ELCA Foundation and one of the earliest members of ALDE.  Josef and I had worked with Harvey through our donors with LSS.  During a phone conversation one day, Harvey suggested that I apply for a new position — Director for Planned Giving with Women of the ELCA.  Encouraged by Josef but believing I didn’t stand a chance, I applied and, lo and behold, got the job.  Holy cow!  Now I had to do the technical parts!  But within six weeks I

Harvey Stegemoeller

completed my first gift annuity agreement at $25,000.  That was a very much appreciated answer to prayer!

Through Harvey, of course, I was introduced to ALDE, and ALDE is where I grew leaps and bounds in gaining knowledge about planned and major giving.  This upcoming 2012 International Educational Conference will be my 23rd or maybe 24th.  I’ve lost count.  The conference always offers golden nuggets.  Just pick out one or two and grab a mentor or maybe mentor someone else.  This is a great group to be with!  You won’t want to miss the next conference in Minneapolis, February 6-9!  If you are interested in having a mentor, or being mentored, please contact Pat at pata@alde.org.

Now, who will be next to blog their professional insights?  Lots of creative ALDE people out there!  Let’s hear from you!  Contact Jon if you’re interested.

Pat Bilow is ALDE President and Senior Gift Planning Counselor, LWML, with the LCMS Foundation. She lives in Napoleon, Ohio. Thanks to Pat for her willingness to do the first couple posts as we work to gain traction with this new venture.

LinkedIn Now Allows You to Show Volunteer Experience

by Jon Nelson

So, apparently this was announced September 7, 2011.  But, I just received a notice about it from LinkedIn today, December 1.  If I’m late to the game, my bad, but I thought this was worth noting.

LinkedIn now lets users “add volunteer positions, causes they care about, and organizations they support” to their profiles, according to this press release. This is great for ALDE members, who give so much of themselves.  It’s a quality way to show your involvement in caring ministries beyond your job, and as LinkedIn notes in the email announcement I received, “4 out of 10 hiring managers consider volunteer experience to be as valuable as paid experience.”  I don’t have data in front of me, but I bet that’s even more so the case at the type of organizations where ALDE members often work.  In fact, doesn’t that basically have to be the case, since ALDE members’ organizations focus so much on service and working for others?