Wisdom Wednesdays: The CFRE Experience – Study Days Works!

by Matthew Leighty

I remember the day I sat for the CFRE exam.  I had to wake up very early in order to travel to a local college where I would “write the exam.”  I’ve taken a lot of exams, but writing the exam sounded much too official.  It was raining that morning, and I took that as a bad omen.  A superstition that I knew I shouldn’t allow into my head, but I did anyway.  As I thought about my purpose for being there that morning, I reflected on Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

In the time walking from the parking lot to the large building on campus where I would take the test, I was wondering if I had done enough.  Had I studied the right material?  Should I have read all the books on the CFRE recommended list?  Should I have joined the study group with some of my professional friends the year prior?  Would they let me have tissues in the room because I was fighting a cold?  Would I have to sit in wet clothes while taking the exam?

In the end, I look back at two things that can lead one to success in passing the exam:

1. The conferences and seminars I attended through various professional organizations in the five years leading up to the test, and yes, of course that includes ALDE events.  In other words, cramming will do very little to help.

2. The ALDE CFRE Study Days I attended two months prior to the exam.

The Study Days gave the overview I needed to organize my thinking.  Going over the material gave me a better perspective on how the exam was organized and the way the questions were designed.  I had never taken an exam quite like this, and knowing what CFRE was looking for gave me a real advantage.  (Register now for the Study Days.)

When people asked, “Why did you sit for the exam?  Do you really need your CFRE?  Was it worth it all?,”  I reflect back on Colossians 3:23.  If I want to work in the fundraising profession, if I want to support my organization and do whatever I can to move its mission forward, then why wouldn’t I do everything I can to make that happen?  If the CFRE would help even a little, I felt it was worth it.  Remember, whatever you do, do it with all your heart.  May God bless your journey through this exciting process.

By the way, in case you were wondering, I arrived at the exam area in mostly dry clothes.  They frisked me before entering the room, but let me use their tissues, which they had to watch me discard when I left.  … and I was relieved to learn somewhat abruptly at the completion of the exam that I passed.  Thanks, ALDE!

Matthew Leighty is an Advancement Officer at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.  He is also the Chairperson of the 2013 ALDE International Educational Conference, to be held February 8-11 in Indianapolis.

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Wisdom Wednesdays: Free Development Resources … Through the Public Library System

by Kris Blackwell

Many of us in development face increasingly tight budgets that allow for only limited, if any, resources to be devoted to research into foundation and grant opportunities.  But there may some valuable sources right under your nose.  Last year when I started at Voice of Care I was afforded two subscriptions and then we also bought one year of a grant database research program.  I also got connected with a local network of Chicago development professionals called the West Suburban Philanthropic Network.  Through one of their monthly programs, I found a FREE resource right at my local college library.

Thanks to the Foundation Center and Donors Forum, my local, community College of DuPage is the site of a Philanthropic Library Center.  To see all the items they offer just visit http://www.cod.edu/library/Philanthropy/index.htm.  To access the materials I need to be a local resident or be employed in the college district and have a library card.  I also must physically be somewhere on the campus to access the databases, which include Foundation Directory and Wealth Engine.  You should be able to meet such simple requirements in your area, as well.  In the past, I would pay to subscribe to several industry newsletters, but now I just spend an afternoon reading at the library.  Books that would have been bought online are now checked out for three weeks!

I thought that maybe I was just blessed with an excellent library system, but I researched some other cities and found that much of this type of information is usually contained at one of the main libraries in a city.  While Donors Forum just operates in Illinois, an internet search brings forth colleges in many states and countries that have centers.  Start with the Foundation Center and search Cooperating Collections to see their nearest center to you.  If one is not listed for your area, there is even an application process to start one. 

I hope this opens a whole new world of research for you!

Deaconess Kris Blackwell is Director of Development at Voice of Care, a ministry of spiritual care for people with developmental disabilities, in West Chicago, Ill.

Wisdom Wednesdays: There is Power in Promise for Relationships

by Phil Meinzen

The Critical Importance of Making a Promise

God, in Christ, made an eternal promise.  The promise is faithful to the love that God has for Creation.  As people who are created in the image of God, we bear within us promise for others and the opportunity to make a promise to others, so that through us, everything we do might be a blessing to help others flourish to be all that they were created to be.

In today’s world, we have more information available to us than at any other time in history.  We also have more opportunities to give and get involved in ministries, so it is more critical than ever that ministry leaders learn to communicate with clarity and in a memorable way.

Even though we live during an unprecedented time of change in technological communication, the most powerful communication is still making and keeping a promise.  It is what makes relationships work and it is still the clearest way to cut through the clutter and create a relationship with someone.  Promise communications is how God communicates and maintains a relationship with us.

Yet in our communications and promoting our ministries, we often make it difficult for people to understand what promise we are making to them.  We tend to talk instead about what we do, or what we provide, without communicating the impact we have in their world because we are extending God’s promise.

Can I Trust You?

Ministry leaders should consider how to uncover a promise that their organization can make.  Establish a platform to create communications that are compelling, differentiating and true and cause relationships to form and strengthen.

Compelling is important because it causes people to act.  Differentiating is important because it answers the question, “Why you and not someone else?”  True is important so that when people engage with your organization based on your communication, they find their experience to be in line with the promise made.

It is important that you don’t simply try to describe your promise.  Uncovering the promise requires that you listen to the audiences you serve to hear how they are thinking about you.

A process designed to help ministry organizations communicate their mission from the audience point of view results in the development of a plan for communication of a promise that only you can make — one that is compelling, differentiating and true.

For example, take a Lutheran school with a 10 percent higher college entrance rate than the public schools in the area.  With no promise communicated, area parents may not be aware that the Lutheran school offers a staff that nurtures a child with the same values that parents desire, where hope encourages the child to live their faith with love to help students flourish.  Also, what about promises of future success that will allow these children to fulfil God’s promise through service?

There’s Power in Promise for Relationships

A strong promise will move people toward action and help them have greater confidence in their investment and partnership.  It will result in an increased response from audience groups and a focused strategy for operational action centered on the key relationship strengths of the organization.

The process to “Uncover the Promise” is one that, when introduced, can help your organization discover the most powerful keys to communicate and the focus that your ministry messages, relationships and strategies will resonate with as you learn to build consistency and clarity on the experience of your promise by others.

Your mission tells them what you will be and do for others.  The promise communicates the impact your will have in their world.  It is the “so what” factor that people are ultimately seeking.

Phil Meinzen is Director of Training, Consulting & Mentoring with the LCMS Foundation.  Contact him at Philip.Meinzen@lfnd.org.

Wisdom Wednesdays: How Does Your Data Compare?

by Jon Nelson

The past two weeks we have enjoyed posts on data analysis from Heather McGinness — “When an Analyst Calls” and “When an Analyst Calls Back.”  In these posts, she discusses the importance of data analysis as it is vital to determining the health and status of an organization.  So, she asks, “Have you checked the data?”

I hope you’ve started to check your organization’s data, if you hadn’t been doing so already.

Nelson-Jon-webBut, simply comparing your data against your own data — just looking at how you’re doing this year compared with previous years — only tells part of the story.  To get the full picture, it’s imperative to check your data against industry trends and statistics.  You can do just that, for FREE, with the Executive Summary of “Giving USA 2012: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2011,” produced by Giving USA and The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University (some of the speakers at the ALDE 2013 International Educational Conference will be from the renowned Center on Philanthropy, and many who worked on the report are previous or future ALDE speakers).

Why is this so important?  It helps you understand and act on development trends.  It can explain why your organization has seen downturns in corporate giving, or increases in bequests.  For example, the report states, “Giving by bequest increased an estimated 12.2 percent (an 8.8 percent increase adjusted for inflation) to $24.41 billion in 2011.  The share of giving by bequest from itemizing estates was 85 percent of the total.”  Meanwhile, it shows that giving by corporations was relatively flat during the same period.

What does this mean?  Paying attention to giving trends helps you and other organizational leaders most effectively direct finite resources.  If there are funding sources that seem to be drying up, such as corporate giving, it may not make sense to focus staff time there.  It could be better to spend time and money working to obtain support elsewhere (bequests).

First, compile and check your internal data.  Then, compare that data against the field.  This is essential as it will assist you in ensuring your limited resources are directed to their best use.  Plus, when constituents see your care and concern with their money and potential gifts, that will encourage future giving.

To download the summary, you will be asked to provide some contact information and to “Check Out,” but it’s well worth it.  At the end of checking out, click “Pay Now.”  You won’t have to pay anything, but it just gets you to the next screen to download the summary.  If you have issues, there is a troubleshooting page that will help answer some questions.  If you still can’t download the report, contact me.

Now you are checking the data!  But how does your data compare?

Jon Nelson, of Beloit, Wis., is Associate Director for Communication Services with ALDE.  He is also Principal of Nelson Business Communications, LLC.