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The Unexpected Mercedes

In St. Augustine, where I live, there is an amazing organization called St. John’s Council on Aging (SJCOA). The SJCOA mainly serves the older population in our county, people 65 years and older. In Florida, this represents about 25% of our local population. The organization has a huge budget and provides vital services like Meals on Wheels, a countywide bus …

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Building a Better Vacuum

When I was growing up, we had a Hoover vacuum cleaner. It was big, it was heavy, and it didn’t work very well – that’s what I remember. In the early 1990s, in the midst of rapid technological innovation and the rise of the global internet, a teacher from the United Kingdom named Jim Dyson got frustrated with his vacuum …

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New Year’s Resolutions

As the New Year arrives, it seems like people everywhere are feeling reflective and talking about their goals, resolving that this year will be a turning point. In light of that atmosphere, today I want to share a few resolutions I have for myself. They are not new. Actually, I have the same resolutions every year! For the last fifteen …

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When Donors Matter, Culture Matters

Over the last thirty years in fundraising, I’ve encountered donors from a wide array of cultural backgrounds. As part of Taking Donors Seriously, we teach our clients to consider donors individually, approaching each one in a way that makes sense for them. This includes being culturally appropriate, which can take time to learn to do well, especially if you are …

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We Will Sell No Wine Before Its Time

Orson Welles, the American writer and director most famous for his film Citizen Kane, starred in a famous commercial in 1978. The distinguished Welles promoted Paul Masson wine with a memorable slogan: We will sell no wine before its time. It’s true that serving wine at a fundraiser may increase giving, but that is not what I am suggesting! Rather, …

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The One-Hit Wonder

When I was growing up in the 80’s there was a very popular band called A-ha. They were what we would call a one-hit wonder – you might remember their song “Take On Me.” (Take me on!) I often feel like that band, as I am also a one-hit wonder. Throughout my career in fundraising, I’ve kept on singing the …

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Multiplication is for 1st grade, not fundraising.

One of the greatest failures in a fundraising mindset is the idea that you can treat all potential donors the same. Over the last thirty years, dozens of people have told me that their fundraising solution is to ask “x” number of people to each give the same amount. I need to raise $100,000, so I will ask 100 people …

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Trust, But Verify

As a child, I grew up under the Reagan presidency, admiring him as a great president and leader. And apart from my childhood impressions, historians will tell you that a crucial part of Ronald Reagan’s success as a leader was his effective communication. For example, he would often tell jokes to win over his audience prior to sharing hard messages. …

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Discovering the Joy of Giving

One of the principles I talk about on a regular basis is that giving is a way of life. This is, in fact, one of the six principles of Taking Donors Seriously. My work constantly brings me into contact both with people who are givers and people who are not. It’s been a joy to meet people who possess the …

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Back on Course: Counteracting Drift with Living Forward

Drift. It’s pretty much never a good thing. Several years ago we owned a small boat, and midway through one of our boating adventures, the motor abruptly quit. I suddenly realized that our boat had no anchor and we were literally drifting out to sea. If it hadn’t been for my wife’s frantic yells for help to other boats passing …