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.

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: Donor Relations is About Management and Moving

by Matthew Leighty

Some people don’t like the term “Moves Management.”  I first learned this during my early days of fundraising when I attended the course, “Principles and Techniques,” at The Fundraising School.   In fact, you won’t find that term referenced in their entire 772 page study guide.  Recently, Leslie Allen talked about the phrase controversy in her blog post, “Who’s Movin’ Who? Renaming Moves Management.”  No matter what you choose to name it (or don’t name it), maintaining proper relationships with your donors is vital in order to fund your organization and further your mission.

So what exactly are we talking about?  It’s the systematic process of developing relationships with your donors that moves them closer to your organization, with the hope of that person making a lifetime gift.  That in mind, let’s look at the five ways we can assure this process happens effectively.  Oh, and please note — these points are “ALDE!”-themed.

1.  A – Access donor records: In today’s age, you need to have a dependable electronic program that allows you to properly track the information about your donors in a sophisticated and ethical way.

This is the first and most important key.  I’ve witnessed transitions to Banner and Raiser’s Edge.  I consider donor records software the most valuable tool I use.  Yes, even more important than my iPhone.  There are many donor management applications — everything from free to super expensive.  The key is to find the right one for you and your organization.  Most importantly, you need to know how to use it.  If you and your fundraising department can’t easily access donor information, you’re throwing away time and money.

2.  L – Lead the management process: You need to identify who is best able to manage the relationship with your top donors.

This is different than who’s going to introduce you to the donors, who’s going to ask for the actual gift and who’s going to thank them for the gift.  This is the person that makes sure each of those steps happen.  Is that you?  Is that someone else in your fundraising department?  You need someone who’s taking the lead on how to properly move the donor from discovery/introduction to cultivation to asking/solicitation to stewardship.  Otherwise, it won’t get done.

3.  D – Diversify your communication: You want to identify the best way to connect with your donors.

It’s amazing the different interests our donors have.  We could have three different people visit a donor and everyone walks away with a different conversation.  In the same way, I’ve learned many and various ways my donors like to connect.  Today, I’ve found more and more donors are beginning to use technology like Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.  Sure, phone is still great, and I’ll always conduct personal visits.  But now, I have donors that will be just as likely to text as to leave a message on my voicemail.  You might use the phone to arrange a visit, but in between, you can also email them a link to an article and share a recent video that was produced.  We need to adapt and be comfortable with diverse forms of communication or we’ll lose out.

4.  E – Ease up on the procedures: It needs to feel natural.  If your system is so systematic that donors don’t receive a personal connection from your organization, they’re not just missing out, but so will you.

In last week’s Wisdom Wednesday blog post, Gretchen Jameson shares with us what is important: “When we focus on story, we become more purposeful and focused in our communications.  When we focus on story, we operate from a position of why, not what.  We spark relationships by engaging people with the larger context of why we do what we do in the way we do it.”  This is a reminder that we can’t focus strictly on procedure.  If our actions become too mechanical, donors will feel like things being managed and not shareholders being engaged.

5.  ! – Excitement about your mission: If you don’t have passion for your cause, that’s going to come across to your donors.

Let’s please make an agreement right now.  Please, please, please, pretty please, love your organization.  If you can’t share with people why you’re changing the world, if you can’t express it in a way that makes people understand your passion for what you do, you’re doing your organization and thus your mission a disservice.  ALDE is full of people that love what they do.  This is seen through the incredible work that’s happening every day among our respective institutions.  Take what you do very seriously, but don’t forget to have fun along the way — because you are changing the world.

In Fundraising Principles and Practice, by Adrian Sargeant, Jen Shang, and Associates, we learn the number one reason people stopped giving to an organization: “They no longer felt personally connected.”  When we properly manage donor relationships people will respond with their love and support.


Sargent, Shang, and Associates.  Fundraising Principles and Practice.  San Francisco, CA: Jon Wiles & Sons, Inc., 2010.
(Sargeant is one of our keynote speakers for the ALDE 2013 International Educational Conference.)

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

Wisdom Wednesdays: Stuff, Story & So Much Spaghetti

by Gretchen Jameson

Here’s the reality. Every 60 seconds:

  • 168 million emails are sent
  • 6,600 new Flickr photos are uploaded
  • 98,000 Tweets are sent
  • 695,000 status updates are posted on Facebook
  • 600 new videos are put on You Tube
  • 13,000 hours of music are streaming on Pandora
  • 1,500 blog posts are published

Ensuring that your organization is heard in this noisy landscape must be the singular top priority of your communications, public relations and marketing efforts.

How is it going?  What is the secret sauce that launches an organization’s social media and total communications strategy to the next level?  How do you stop pushing messages and start pulling engagement?

You focus on story.  Passionate, single-minded pursuit of story sharing.

Frequently, when working with organizations on their total communications strategy, of which social media should be just one component, we discover an imbalance in messages.  An imbalance of stuff over story.

It’s been said, as we all nod, that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  Essentially people connect with stories, and you need to tell them.  I’m not just talking about incorporating donor testimonials or tales from the field into your current communications tactics.  The story you need to script first, the story that must be the umbrella over your total communications and message strategy is that of your brand.  What is your narrative?  Who are the leading characters?  What struggles are you overcoming?  Why?  Success in social media, in all media and marketing communications, hinges on your ability to highlight story over stuff.

Jay Baer, on his leading blog Convince and Convert urges us to focus on how to be social, not on how to do social.  I think this advice applies to every communications interaction.  Your goal must be to engage the other, to truly connect with meaningful messages that capture attention, harness interest and spur action.

When we focus on stuff, we end up throwing spaghetti against the wall; waiting for something to stick and then are perplexed about what causes some things to hold fast and others to slop.

When we focus on story, we become more purposeful and focused in our communications.  When we focus on story, we operate from a position of why, not what.  We spark relationships by engaging people with the larger context of why we do what we do in the way we do it.

Seth Godin looks at it this way:

Hard to imagine a consultant or investor asking the CMO, “So, what’s your telephone strategy?”

We don’t have a telephone strategy.  The telephone is a tool, a simple medium, and its only purpose is to connect us to interested human beings.

So, to pull from Seth, what’s your people strategy?  What is your message strategy?  What story are you pulling people to participate in with your organization?  Why?

Be about story, not stuff; and save spaghetti for your favorite Italian joint.

Gretchen Jameson is the Founder and Principal of purePR, a communications strategy firm focused on helping nonprofit clients amplify their mission messages.  Connect with her on Twitter or join purePR on Facebook.

Wisdom Wednesdays: A Mentor? Who, me?

by Bethany Krepela

Johannes von Staupitz.  Elijah Mays.  Robert Friedland.  Mrs. Duncan.

These names might not mean much to you.  How about Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Jr., Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey?

The first list of names is of those who mentored the second.

Bethany KrepelaALDE currently has 50 matched mentor pairs, with six members having applied for mentorships but still awaiting mentors.  Could YOU be the match they are waiting for?  It’s not just the mentee who grows from the mentoring partnership.  When you mentor someone, you learn more about yourself, your profession and why you do what you do.  It really helps you consider and discover what works and what doesn’t.

When you hear about being a mentor, this may be what you think of yourself:

  • I am not experienced enough.
  • I’ve made a lot of mistakes.  Who would want to learn from me?
  • I don’t have enough time. I hardly can get through my own to-do list.
  • I’ve never mentored anyone before. I don’t know if I would have anything of value to offer.
  • Insert your own excuse here.

Let’s consider the original list.

Johannes von Staupitz was the head of the monastery where Martin Luther was enrolled. He encouraged the young monk to pursue a doctorate in theology rather than becoming a priest after he fumbled through his first mass.  He told Luther to not rely on his own efforts or works, but to trust in the goodness and mercy of God.

Benjamin Elijah Mays was the child of former slaves who, despite having a father who didn’t believe in education, eventually became president of Morehouse College, where he met the 15-year old freshman King. Under his influence, King’s pursuit of a career in law or medicine changed to ministry, and Mays became his spiritual advisor.

Our next mentor, Robert Friedland was a drug dealer turned billionaire mining mogul.  Steve Jobs met the young parolee at Reed College.  They became fast friends, and Friedland is described as teaching Jobs “a lot about selling, about coming out of his shell, of opening up and taking charge of a situation.”

Finally, Mrs. Duncan was Oprah Winfrey’s fourth grade teacher who took time with Oprah outside of school, instilling confidence in her and teaching her a foundational truth for her life — to not be afraid to be smart.

Anyone can be a mentor.  Even you.  If von Staupitz, Mays, Friedland or Duncan waited until they were experienced enough, had met all their own goals or had enough time, who knows if their protégés would have become the icons and influencers they did?

The ALDE Mentoring Program was formed to advance newcomers in our profession.  At the same time, ALDE mentoring relationships are mutually beneficial.  Be prepared to be blessed by the experience.

Read more about the benefits of mentoring and ALDE’s guidelines, and apply to be a mentor on this page.  If you’re on the other side, and are interested in being mentored, we always encourage you to apply.  Who, me? Yes, YOU!

Bethany Krepela is a Leadership Giving Officer for Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and is based in Minneapolis, Minn.


Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print.

“Johann von Staupitz.” March 4, 2012. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved May 27, 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Johann_von_Staupitz&oldid=480231064>.

“Martin Luther King Jr..” 2012. The History Channel website. Retrieved May 27, 2012. <ttp://www.history.com/topics/martin-luther-king-jr>.

“Who Mentored Oprah Winfrey.” 2012. Harvard School of Public Health website. Retrieved May 27, 2012. <http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/chc/wmy/Celebrities/oprah_winfrey.html>.

Wisdom Wednesdays: Are You Asking Your Biggest Supporters?

by Fran Troxler

You work very hard to secure support for your organization.  But are you forgetting to ask some of your biggest supporters for gifts?  If your organization doesn’t encourage employee giving, you’re missing a major opportunity.  But how do you make the most of that opportunity?

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday.  My good friend and colleague Brenda Meier Kimaro and I were roommates at an ALDE conference several years ago. Troxler-Fran We love to brainstorm ideas that lift up Lutheran World Relief’s ministry and encourage people to support us.  During that informal session (sitting in our hotel room) Brenda asked me point blank: “So, when do we ask LWR employees to give to LWR?”

Brenda takes her personal philanthropy very seriously.  She was eager to give.  Immediately, I asked her to be on my committee to launch the first formal LWR Employee Giving Campaign.  That was in 2002.  We wanted to make it fun, fast and easy.  That first campaign was titled, “TnT” (Talents and Treasures).  The committee was exploding with excitement.  We felt there were so many talented people who already contributed greatly to LWR with their talents, but we wanted to encourage financial gifts (treasures) as well.

Our staff responded to that first campaign with a 100 percent-plus participation rate (we also encouraged some of our consultants at the time to give … hence the 100 percent-plus).


Snapshot of some of the LWR U.S.-based staff that have been part of the 100 percent-plus giving program. Third row, fifth person from the right is Fran Troxler. Brenda Meier Kimaro is third row, last person on the left . Both LWR donors since 2001.

There are four key elements that help make our annual campaign a success:

  1. Create a campaign committee to encourage cross-institutional participation.
  2. Just like any campaign, have a beginning and end date so that people are encouraged to give during a specific timeframe.  We usually kick off the campaign at the beginning of our fiscal year (October 1) and the campaign runs through November.
  3. Make it fun and have a theme, along with incentives to give.  We have drawings for “fabulous prizes” donated by staff.  One of the most coveted prizes has been my famous wine basket, filled with wine purchased during trips to Napa or Sonoma.  The drawings (along with games) take place at our annual thank you luncheon.
  4. Last, but not least … thank, thank, thank your donors (and your campaign committee members.)

Since those early days of LWR’s Employee Giving Campaigns, we have raised more than $350,000, received pledges for the Lutheran Malaria Initiative and had a whole lot of fun doing it.  Oh, did I mention 100 percent participation every year?!

Fran Troxler is Director, Donor Services with Lutheran World Relief in Baltimore, Md.

Wisdom Wednesdays: Marketing and Dragons – What’s Inside?

by Blake Tilley

My wife and I recently decided that our 700-square-foot house was just too small for our two boys and us.  I think my wife got tired of waiting in line for the bathroom.  The good thing about putting our tiny bungalow up for sale was de-cluttering meant the removal of a single lamp.

So now that the for-sale sign is in the front yard, we sit and wait … or do we?  Selling anything is tricky business.  There’s cost, value, quality, location (or convenience) and timing.  Will we sell our house because enough people move through it (law of average), or will time eventually, and hopefully, bring in the right buyer?  But what about impulsiveness?

Tilley-DragonMy son had a great idea to attract prospective buyers.  He’s into dinosaurs, sharks, cheetahs and dragons.  What if Dad and he put a big dragon on the driveway to convince prospects that this was obviously the coolest, and therefore best, house they could possibly ever want?  Sounded like good logic to me, so we did it.

Each year thousands of pieces of direct mail are sent across the nation in hopes that someone will support the mission.  While it’s not exactly selling, someone making a gift has the expectation of service to the mission.

Loyal donors recognize direct mail sent from their favorite ministry, they know the mission and support its service, nothing impulsive there.  Prospects, on the other hand, may need a little help opening that envelope.  Give them a reason to look inside!

Tilley-BlakeThe next time you conduct a direct mail campaign with prospect segments, experiment with a different envelope for just the prospects.  See if they are the ones who grab candy bars and batteries at the check out (or buy a house because of the cool dragon out front).

Don’t forget about the story!  That’s what compels people to give, and that’s what will convert your prospects to regular donors.  Start building that relationship.

My wife says that despite the dragon, the house still needs regular cleaning, grass cutting and aroma candles burning. Like the story in the envelope, it’s what is inside that truly counts!

Blake M. Tilley is the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications with the LCMS Foundation.