Is your organization sustainable after you’re gone?

I am writing this article with one organization in mind. However, I am hopeful that the thoughts, questions and challenges will apply and benefit many organizations, both non-profit and for profit.

The organization that I speak of was founded by a married couple twelve years ago, and it still thrives today. It was funded, in the beginning, with personal finances, the proceeds from the sale of their home and personal donations of friends and family. The female partner of this marriage was the original catalyst although today this is very much a WE project. She had years of professional experience serving a population of kids who were not receiving the advice and attention needed and deserved. She was so passionate about helping these kids who were having unsuccessful interventions from the traditional medical practices that she risked career and family to start a non-profit organization designed to make a difference.

These children served are overweight. They have low self-esteem. They are frequently ridiculed and bullied. They typically perform poorly in school. They have trouble making friends. They have occasional considerations of suicide. She knew what she had in mind would save children’s lives and would have successful outcomes.

Fast forward through twelve years of trial and tribulations, we find this organization has many documented successful interventions with more than 5,000 children and their families. They reach hundreds of thousands of people and offer expert advice about healthy eating habits, nutrition recommendations, emotional coping mechanisms, and physical activity via radio interviews, articles in publications, speaking engagements and public television documentaries. They have surrounded themselves with health and wellness expertise designing their curriculum with the help of doctors, physical therapist, registered dietitians, registered nurses, exercise physiologist, and personal fitness trainers. They have been recognized by the Cooper Institute and won awards from the National Institute of Health.

Today this organization operates a highly successful summer camp with all amenities located on 200+ acres of land that was recently donated to them. They have annual revenues from camp fees and donations near one million dollars per year. They are proud of all that they have accomplished, all of the people they have helped, all of the children who are now adults living successful healthy lives. But, with all of their success, is this organization sustainable? Can they survive twenty-five or more years after the original married couple have retired or passed on?

Let me offer this criteria for what it means to be “sustainable.”

Mission and Vision: Is the passion still alive?

All non-profit organizations have a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement. Only the best non-profit organizations are inspired by the Mission and Vision. Is your Mission and Vision powerful, dynamic, distinctive and inspirational? Is your Vision compelling and delivered in an effective way? Does your Board, staff, and financial supporters buy-in via the actions you desire and need? Are you thriving or drifting? Is the passion still alive?

Board of Directors and Volunteers: Do you have the right people on the bus? Are they motivated by the Mission and moving you forward toward accomplishing the vision?

Borrowing a question from Jim Collins book “Good to Great”, do you have the right people on the bus? Often, non-profit leadership in key staff positions or at the Board level can keep an organization from just achieving a few good things to really being all that they could be.

Are your Board of Directors members effective Ambassadors for the organization? Do they willingly offer financial support? Are they willing and able to influence other gifts?

Are your Board members Advocates for the enterprise? Do they recruit others to help out? Do they advance your story? Establish meaningful connections? Provide good oversight?

Do you have volunteers knocking on your door? Are they treated with the TLC they deserve?

Leadership and Staff: Do you have the right people on the bus? Are they motivated by the Mission? Are they serving clients with compassion? Are they reaching high expectations and getting desired results?

There is nothing more disabling to an organization than disgruntled employees. The time spent trying to retain and motivate a non-cooperative employee can destroy an organization’s effectiveness. One poor performer with a poor attitude can influence everyone in a bad way.

On the other hand, if you have a talented staff of capable people who have completely bought into the mission you have an opportunity to do great things. Talented positive people who have had an opportunity to join you in establishing worthwhile goals will invariably work beyond normal expectations to help you achieve near impossible objectives.

Brand Equity Can you take your brand to the bank?

As we know from old cowboy movies, a brand is a way of identifying ownership and an assortment of responsibilities and privileges that go with it. The rancher who put his brand on a calf was not only claiming it for his own, he was also accepting the burden of its care and feeding. The real brand was not the symbol burned into the animal’s hide… but, the persona behind it…the identity of both the ranch and the rancher.

A brand name represents a promise to all constituents and all stakeholders. What kind of “brand awareness”” does your brand enjoy today? How does the brand distinguish itself from competitors? Does the brand clearly communicate its benefits and attributes effectively?

Is there creative continuity and clearly understood language in all internal and external communications? Is your brand reputation “trusted?” How do you validate this trust?

Testimonials from Clients, Parents, and Donors:  Let their feedback inspire you.

Can you go to your website or to some printed materials to find many “testimonials” from customers, clients, parents, donors, strategic partners, colleagues and more who willing tell a convincing, truthful, inspiring story about who you are what you do?

If the answer is “YES,” great! If it is “NO,” do something, make it a priority.

Donor Loyalty: Are your donors still donating or are they making investments?

How well do you know your donors? Do you keep score? How many donors do you have? How often do they give? What motivates them to give? What is the average size of gift? Are your gift categories growing from year to year? What percentage of donors renew year after year? Are you growing gifts over $100, over $1,000, over $10,000, year after year?

Are you testing different tactics to grow revenue? Do you know what works? Are you investing more resources into development? Is your stewardship of donor resources excellent? Do you say “thank you” with sincerity and in a timely way?

One way for a non-profit organization who has been operational for ten years or more to determine if donors are willing to make an “investment” in this organization is to count their Planned Gifts, especially estate gifts.

Estate gifts usually provide larger amounts of money often set aside in reserves or in an endowment. Healthy non-profit organizations typically have 20% or more of their annual budget held in reserve.

And, by the way, a donor who gives you an estate gift is making an investment in your future. They believe what you do is important, and they believe you will be around for a long time.

Financials: Do you consistently hit your revenue goals and maintain adequate reserves?

What is your track record? For the past five-ten years do you consistently reach your fundraising goals? Do you occasionally receive a surprise large gift that inspires the organization? Have you ever received a transformational gift? Is your cash flow good? Do you maintain adequate reserves?


Have you created a “Culture of Philanthropy?”

The word “culture” is a refined understanding and appreciation for the attitudes and behavior characteristics of philanthropy. The word “philanthropy” comes from the Greek language. It means, “Love of humankind.” Philanthropy manifest itself on many levels: gifts of time, gifts of wisdom, and gifts of personal resources and giving by influencing community resources.

Has your organization established criteria and certain indicators to determine if you are creating a “culture of Philanthropy?”

When a donor calls your organization are they treated as if they have interrupted your work or as if they are the reason that you are able to do this work?

Is your organization consistently meeting and exceeding expectations? Are you considered a high functioning organization at all levels and by all accounts? Are you identifying weaknesses and taking action to improve? Have you created a desirable place to work?

And most important of all, are you good stewards of donor’s money? Have you invested wisely? Are you doing important meaningful work? Are you making a positive measurable impact? How do you know?

Now, I ask again, is your organization sustainable?



Dan Shasserre

President, CEO

SilverbackSTL Consulting








Do Something that Matters

“Be the change that you want to see in the world. ” Mahatma Gandhi

Stop! Don’t read another word. I recommend that you spend the rest of your day, or the remainder of this week, or this entire month, or longer if you wish, reading and re-reading the Mahatma Gandhi quote and then determining exactly what that means for you.

Can you internalize the significance of “being the change”. Can you explain, without falter, how the world would change? How would people living in your newly created world live, act, and interact? Start today….live with the commitment that you will change the world in some small way. Do something that matters.

I’ve just finished a book written by Blake Mycoskie. titled “Start Something That Matters.” Blake calls himself the Chief Shoe Giver at TOMS. I’m not going into his whole story but if you would like to know more you can buy the book or go on the internet to learn all about Blake Mycoskie and TOMS shoes. His story is fascinating and inspirational.

I have been in a reflective mood of late. As I approach my 69th birthday I contemplate life changing decisions, alternative scenario’s that are in my control and anticipated scenario’s that are out of my control. For instance, my mental, physical and spiritual health and well-being is only partially in my control. Poor health for myself, my spouse, or a family member can dramatically alter life’s direction. Today, we are all healthy. I’m grateful. And, I try to express my gratefulness by being a positive person, full of energy, willing to be helpful to others as much as I can be within reason.

I feel blessed to have a great part-time consulting role with Nine Network along with a few other smaller projects that keep me mentally engaged in meaningful work. Hopefully, the results of this work will benefit others.

As an example, a few years ago, when I was working full time, we partnered with a women who led the Children’s Service Fund. Together, we created video programming all about heroin addiction. We ran a heavy schedule of messages addressing a severe problem faced by high-school students and their families. One of these productions included a televised Town-Hall meeting. During the one-hour show a 13-year old girl, on the brink of suicide, called the help-line phone number to get an emergency intervention. Looking back, I now judge the success of our three-year initiative with the Children’s Service Fund by this one incident. What impact did this initiative have over three years? I believe, at least one life was saved. Much more was accomplished, but nothing more important than that one girl.

Three years ago Nine Network started working with a group of environmentalist. These are interesting committed people who represent leading organizations in our region, i.e. The Nature Conservancy, The Missouri Botanical Gardens, Open Space Council, Magnificent Missouri, the Missouri State Conservation group and many others. I was partially responsible for finding the necessary financial resources in order to create an on-air, online and on the ground initiative called “Water Matters.” This past week I learned that this group will plant 10,000 trees along the Meramec River this fall. There were many other positive outcomes from all of our work together, but years from now I will bet few people will care about how many viewers we had, or how much money we raised or if we covered our expenses or not. I’ll remember that I played a small role in getting those 10,000 trees planted.

In Blake Mycoskie’s book, “Start Something that Matters” he asks his readers three questions. If you didn’t have to work for money, what would you do? What kind of work would you want to do? What cause would you serve?

So, will leave you contemplating Mycoskie’s questions. And, I leave you with these quotes for inspiration.

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” Norman Vincent Peale

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Thomas Edison

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

And my favorite….

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Mahatma Gandhi

Have I learned anything about selling in the past 50 years?

My first sales job was as a Christmas holiday part-time temporary employee at Stix Baer & Fuller, selling men’s furnishings. I was 17 years old. Stix sales training class was scheduled for one day. The curriculum was covered in less than two hours. Most of that time, as I remember it, had to do with how to ring up a sale, how to open the cash drawer, and how to run the manual credit card machine, how to complete a transaction. There was no product training. Bad credit cards were listed on a hard copy piece of b/w paper at the register. VIP that I check the list. I sold a lot of ugly ties and Haines underwear that December without knowing anything at all about sales. I just said, “may I help you” and customer after customer bought one lame present after the next. I would say “thank you very much, Merry Christmas.” And, then the next customer was standing waiting for my expert help.
My next sales job was at the outdoor Lawn and Garden Center at Famous Barr. I was the #1 seller of Lawn Boy and Toro lawnmowers that year, even though, most of my “training” came from reading the manufacture’s literature. This little bit of product information presented with confidence and a smile was all that was needed in those days. Perhaps, I achieved #1 because every other member of the department was a women. They were a lot more comfortable selling flowers and garden tools so they gave the lawnmower customers to me, as long as I shared the commission with them.
My first real sales training came when I was age 21 and I accepted a straight commission job selling pots and pans, china, crystal, silverware, stereo’s and sewing machines door to door. In four years, interrupted by six months in the US Army, I went from salesman, to sales manager, to Regional Sales Manager, to member of the Board of Directors. By age twenty-six I had offices in Boston, Beverly, Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut. I would guess that over those few years I had hired and trained more than 1000 salesman. And, despite the high turn-over, I had a sales team of at least thirty full time people making 200 or more in home calls per week producing 50 sales and over $500,000 annually. I made a commission override on all of that business. I was earning very good money for a young guy and I was working hard to get it. My work day started at 9:00 am and frequently ended at 10:00 pm or later, six days per week.
When I look back on my fifty-year sales career the training received from the now defunct, Cordon Bleu, was some of the best training I could have received. They taught me how to prospect, how to ask qualifying questions, how to cover objections before they came up, how ask for the sale, how to take seven “no’s “ before giving up, how persistence and hard work pays off. Most of all they inspired me to be enthusiastic, to set goals, to achieve them, and to encourage others to do the same.
As years progressed I have sold life insurance and health insurance, I have sold tickets to sporting events and sales promotion ideas to corporations. I’ve sold training solutions for small companies and facilitated training classes for international companies.
In the non-profit arena I have requested donations and bequests to serve the poor. I’ve asked for significant gifts from companies, foundations and individuals to support public television. All with pretty good results. I have been directly or indirectly involved in more than $75 million in donations.
So, after fifty years of successfully selling something to somebody you would think that I have mastered the art of selling. And, you might think that I could teach someone else some of the secrets that I have learned through many years of “yes” answers and the discouragement of “no” answers.
This past week, I was given a consulting assignment to help create a streamlined sales process that would lead to improved results and greater revenue for a non-profit media organization. The organization is the Nine Network of Public Media. I know the organization well. I have just spent the last five years there as Vice President of Development. I know the President of the organization well. He, too, has spent his lifetime as very successful “salesman.” So, how is it that despite his success that he is asking for help from me or from anyone? He knows there is no magic bullet. He also knows that his success has come from his relentless effort to research, learn new things, and try new ideas, trial and error achievement one day at a time.

I’ll begin this assignment by getting some ideas down on paper. Then, I will collaborate with the most successful salesman that I know. I think I’ll start with my son, Craig, and my brother, Tim. Perhaps, I’ll write again on this topic to let you know what I learned.


Dear Charlotte, Dear Angela, Dear Donor,

In 2003, when I was the Vice President of Development of Catholic Charities in Saint Louis, I wrote a letter to a deceased woman. It was published in the Catholic Charities Newsletter. I’d like to share a modified version of that letter with you.

Dear Charlotte:

Just prior to Thanksgiving , we learned of your death. We invited you to one of our special events. The post office returned your invitation with a label marked “undeliverable/deceased.”

You passed away April 2003. It just so happens that in October 2003, Catholic Charities was going through a difficult cash-flow shortage. The leadership was having serious discussions about employee lay-offs and services cut backs. Then, the news came, some woman named Charlotte—a donor we never knew—had left four paid on death bank accounts designating Catholic Charities as the beneficiary. The total gifts exceeded $500,000. The cash flow shortage was over.

Charlotte, I want you to know that not a single day has passed when I have not said a prayer for you and for all of the people you have helped through your extraordinary donation.  I vowed from that day forward never to forget you. As an organization, we vowed to hold ourselves accountable by imagining that you resided at the head of our conference table, and from time to time, you would ask, “What did you do with my money?”

My only regret, Charlotte, is that I was never able to thank you when you were still alive. I don’t know much about you. I have no idea why you left Catholic Charities so much money. I can only guess as to what you wanted us to do with your donation.  I can only assume you wanted to help as many people as possible.  Thank you, Charlotte. (Signed) Dan Shasserre.

Now, here I am in a similar development position at Channel 9, the Nine Network of Public Media.  It was October 25, 2010 when I learned of the death of Angela. Our staff remains saddened by the news. None of us were aware that she had passed away, and Angela’s funeral services were private. Still, Channel 9 will receive a generous percentage of Angela’s estate.  Yet, I am somewhat disturbed. I’m disappointed that I didn’t know Angela. I want to ask her why? What motivated you to do this? What do you want us to do with your money? I want to ask you if I can tell others about your gift. Yes, I do want to say “thank you” but, mostly I just want to talk and listen. I want to be reminded, day in and day out, of your story—so we remember how privileged we are, here at Channel 9, that you trusted us enough to donate so generously.

I am tempted to write another letter. I want to know what motivated Angela. Was it a great appreciation for the public television programs she enjoyed, like Nova, Frontline, Masterpiece Theatre? Was it because she appreciated unbiased news from PBS? Was it something from the past, perhaps, a realization of the positive learning experience from our children programs?  Or, was Angela investing in the future of public media because she realized the potential of our collaborative community engagement projects focused to bring improvements in healthcare, education, arts and culture, science and technology, the environment and more? We’ll never know.

If you are a person like Charlotte or Angela…a generous person-one who has already decided to leave some portion of your estate to your favorite non-profit organization, please contact the organization. Speak to the planned giving officer, or anyone, and tell them exactly what you want them to do with your money. Tell them why you are making this gift. They really want to know.

And if you have included Channel 9, the Nine Network of Public Media, in your estate plans, we have many people here who want to listen to your story…please call Jack, Amy, Dick, Nancy, Suzie, Craig, Kate and Kay. Call anyone of us–me too, Dan Shasserre, 314-512-9610.

Fundraising in this economy? I say, go for it…

According to researchers at Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropic Planning who research, write and distribute a report for Giving USA, overall donations to non-profit organizations declined 3.2% in 2009. This follows an overall decline in donation of 2.4% in 2008. While non-profit organization results varied greatly in 2009, giving from individuals, which accounts for $227.4 billion in the United States, showed no decline with 0.0% change from 2008.

Isn’t that interesting, giving from individuals did not decline, even in the midst of high unemployment and recession conditions. Realizing historically that 75% of all philanthropic giving comes from individuals, not corporations or foundations, you can see why the emphasis for non-profit fundraisers is on cultivation of individual donors.

  • Giving to the United Ways, Jewish federations and other so called public-society benefit groups declined by 4.2%; education declined 3.2%; giving to the Arts and Culture declined 2%.
  • Contributions to social services organizations, environmental organizations, and healthcare raised a modest 2-4% in 2009 after declining sharply in 2008.
  • Foundation giving dropped by 8.6% to $38.4 billion, while corporate giving rose by 5.9% accounting for $14 billion.
  • Bequest revenue from individual estate was $23.8 billion in 2009. While this category was off 23% in 2009, it holds great promise in the future for non-profits who seek these gifts. It is estimated that over the next 40 years more than $50 trillion will pass from generation to generation with an estimated $ 7 trillion or more being donated to non-profits. So, while no one can predict our economic  future, it seems reasonable to recommend specific steps that non-profit organizations can take to assure that they will emerge as a healthy entity poised for growth when the economic downturn has passed.


  1. Strengthen your Case or Support: Make sure that you have communicated effectively to Board members, staff, and donors about the tremendous positive impact that your organization has made in the past and will make in the future. Make sure that the benefits that you provide for individuals in the community are meaningful, well understood, and documented for authenticity.
  2. Create a fundraising strategy that truly excites and motivates your Board of Directors: If your Board of Directors is complacent, if they are not giving an exceptional amount of time and money to your organization, then you have a problem that must be fixed. It’s a top priority. A Board of Directors must be ambassadors for your cause, advocates for your vision, donors of time and money.  They, above all, must be willing to connect you to others like themselves.
  3. Get the staff involved: The staff must be informed, engaged and motivated. If you create an environment where employees are respected and their good work is acknowledged you can expect a high level of achievement and an extraordinary degree of commitment. So, set the bar high, establish clear goals, encourage employee involvement, acknowledge and reward exceptional performance.
  4. Renew a commitment to donors: Through personal dialog in all correspondence make sure your donors “feel” special. Nothing is more important to a donor than personal attention. Say “thank-you” more often, with more urgency, with more sincerity, with more personal attention to detail. Be a good steward of every gift to earn the right to ask for continued support with confidence of success.
  5. Create a written development plan with 3-5 specific goals for each department member: Your development department needs specific objectives with a clear written tactical plan on how these objectives will be achieved. Goals without written plans are just wishful thinking.
  6. Keep score: Reaching revenue objectives can be FUN….it’s a game. So, to win at this game you have to keep score. Look at funding trends over the past three-five years. Benchmark where you stand now in all income categories. Establish reasonable expectations for the future. Keep score. And, report weekly/monthly.
  7. Celebrate victories: There is nothing more demoralizing to staff than to do great work without acknowledgement for a job well done. Pay attention to staff just as you do to donors. Say “thank-you” more often, with more urgency, with more sincerity, with more personal attention to detail.
  8. Keep your eye on the short term while putting strategies in place for the long run: Increasing annual revenue, improving website donations, upgrading mid-range donations, increasing major gifts, gaining more gifts from corporations and foundations, all must be achieved. An effective fundraising plan should expect gifts from every giving category to go up. At the same time, future gifts through donor gift planning should be in the mix.  Create a marketing plan for Planned Gifts this year. In most organizations, planned giving gets the least amount of attention and resources. Yet, for well established organizations with good reputations, estate gifts can provide millions of dollars year after year.  Today, there are 77.3 million baby boomers in the United States alone. Sadly, only 7% of them have net assets larger than $250,000. Of those with assets, 12% will leave a legacy gift to non-profits. The amount left to non-profit organizations will be billions nationwide.  In Missouri, hundreds of millions are donated to non-profits annually. Make sure your organization deserves a gift, and then asks for it.
  9. Keep your expenses in line but give your staff enough resources to reach their goals: Take a close look at the past results in every income category. Set specific reasonable objectives to improve income in all categories. Finally, establish and monitor budgets keeping an eye on ROI objectives.  Even non-profits should track ROI in a comprehensive manner.  Think of it as good “stewardship.”
  10. Stay focused; say NO to anything that takes you off track:  It’s easy, in most organizations, to get side tracked. There is much to do, too few people to get it done. Once you have identified objectives and created a written development plan, this document must be transparent with buy in from upper management and the Board. Then, execute the plan. Say “no” to lesser priorities.

Here’s a quick look at history…

While economic and market statistics are ever changing, history is the best guide we have to inform and educate ourselves during uncertain times.  Whether it is the Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam, the ‘70s malaise, the 1987 recession, the bursting tech bubble or more recent catastrophic events such as the September 11 terrorist attacks or the devastation of hurricane Katrina, media mania would have you believe that all is lost. When, in fact, in every case, we not only survived these catastrophic events we came out stronger and healthier as a nation despite them.

Consider this: In a December 1984 Time Magazine cover story, “Banking Takes a Beating” detailed the fallout from deregulation of banks.  “Bankers now face their most strenuous survival since the Great Depression,” wrote the authors.  “Because of poor management, overzealous lending and some bad luck, commercial bank profits have been battered.”  As Mark Twain once observed, “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

Then came “The Crash” on October 19, 1987.  Time Magazine’s cover story was titled “Panic Grips the Globe.”  On Black Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 22.6% in one day.  Within days of the crash, however, the Dow had recovered almost half its losses.  The year ended on a positive note, with an annual 2.3 percent return.

As for fundraising specifically, what happens in times of crisis?  Once again, let’s look at history.  Past trends help us understand what may occur the remainder in the future.

One important source for understanding the relationships among giving, the economy and crisis is The Chronicle of Philanthropy.  In a recent article, this respected publication highlights 13 major events that have had a serious impact on the economy since 1940.  All of these, it would appear, were more catastrophic than our recent recession.  In each case, the U.S. stock market generally recovered within a year to eighteen months.

This is a time to remind ourselves that we live in a land of enormous wealth and extraordinary opportunity. We can believe the newspaper headlines and television hype claiming that greed has crippled our economy. Or, you can look at the facts

  • our markets have not ceased to function;
  • our economy has not collapsed;
  • commerce still continues for all essential goods and services;
  • more than 90% of Americans are employed;
  • most companies are still operating aggressively; and
  • most non-profit organizations are continuing their fundraising plans
  • many non-profit organizations have exceeded their goals, even these past two years

Non-profit organizations need to return to their “mission” with resolve.  They need to craft creative strategies for strengthening revenue and refocusing effort.

Philanthropist John Templeton, when asked about the economy, said “No one should feel so conceited as to know the answer.”  So, while I will make no effort to predict the economic conditions for 2010 and beyond, I do believe now is the time to stick to our plans, strengthen our resolve, be motivated by our purpose, our expectations for success and the importance of our mission.


Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth
who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience
and just plain love for one another – Erma Bombeck

Letter to a Deceased Woman

There is no act of kindness greater than a bequest gift to your favorite charitable organization. Yet, only 7% of donors in America have left a gift to charity. Also, bequest donors are reluctant to identify themselves while they are alive.  This letter was first published in a Catholic Charities newsletter in 2003. It’s purpose was to remind the organization of how important each and every donor is….how we can never take their gifts for granted. And, also, to thank every generous bequest donor as we encourage others to do the same.

Dear Charlotte:

One year ago, just prior to Thanksgiving, we learned of your death. We had invited you to attend our annual Thanksgiving mass. The post office returned the invitation with a label marked “undeliverable/deceased.”

Fortunately, Teresa, one of our data entry staff members recognized your name. She remembered, years ago, you had made arrangements with four banks, to have Catholic Charities the ‘pay-upon death’ beneficiary of your money-market accounts.

You passed away April, 2003. It just so happens that in October 2003 Catholic Charities was going through an unusually difficult cash-flow shortage. By November our leadership was having serious conversations about cut-backs. Then, the news came to us, a women named Charlotte, a donor we never knew, had left us a gift at each of four banks. The total was $543,187. Our cash flow shortage was over.

Charlotte, I want you to know not a single day has passed when I have not gone to our Good Samaritan Chapel to say a prayer for you and all of the people you have helped through your extraordinary donation. Our President, Jim Stutz and I had a conversation a few day’s after depositing your gift. We vowed from that day forward we will never forget you- the women named Charlotte. We vowed to hold ourselves accountable in this way….we will imagine that you reside at the head of our meeting table… from time to time you will ask us “what did you do with my money?”

This last year, your money (and that of other donors as well), helped us to collect and distribute more than a million pounds of food to families who were hungry, more than 120,000 meals were served to the homeless, more than 1,700 unemployed adults were given job skills training and job search assistance, nearly 33,000 children and 36,000 older adults were provided compassionate care.

Charlotte, we invite you to reside at our meetings. We want to share more details. We want you to know more about our plans and aspirations. You will continue to challenge us to do more on behalf of the poor. We promise we will have a good answer to your question, “what did you do with my money?” My only regret, Charlotte, is I was never able to thank you when you were still alive. Thank you.


Daniel R. Shasserre

Dan’s Top Five Reason to Hire a Consultant, NOW July 2009

For some organizations, July 1 signals mid-year, the beginning of the dog days of summer, vacation days for you and other members of staff, a time when its hard to get things done. Yet, before you know it, another fundraising event is just around the corner. The year-end direct mail campaign has to be planned. And, by the way, how are you going to pull out from the current deficit?

For other organizations, July 1 signals a fresh start. It’s a new fiscal year, you’ve
closed the books on a difficult year and now your Board is expecting a complete turn around. The lump in your throat begins to bulge. How are you going to increase revenue in this fundraising environment?
Do you need some help?

Reason Number One…

Your Board of Directors seem to be dissatisfied with the fundraisng results, yet,
they fail to recognize their fundamental responsibilities.

Why don’t they read the by-laws and do what Boards are supposed to do? Why are they not responding as you expect them to?

What can you do to “light the fire” moving members from passive to engaged, from complacent to committed?

Reason Number Two…
Your annual fundraising revenue is off 10% (or more) and your development department has offered no viable plans to improve results.

Come on now, this is an easy one. The answer is probably found by studying your database. A quick fundraising audit will discover where problems exist, why they exist, and how to fix it fast.

So, for a “fix-it-fast” audit assessment, you may need a consultant.

Reason Number Three…

Your organization is not growing your major gift program year after year. The number of new donors is not growing, the number of lost donors is growing, and net revenue is disappointing.

This is a significant problem of great concern. A healthy non-profit organization is growing their major gift donor numbers year after year, regardless of economic conditions. If you are not, you have symptoms of an organizational illness.

Perhaps, a fundraisng consultant could help you out.

Reason Number Four…

Your organization has inconsistent planned giving results. In fact, bequest revenue is something you seldom see. Your organization has never really been much good at planned gifts. You can’t afford the expertise. Plus, are these delayed annuity gifts really worth the effort?

If this scenario sounds like your organization you are negligent-way behind where you need to be. If your organization is ten years or older and you do not have an effective planned giving program you are definitely leaving money on the table.

I can say for sure, you definitely need a consultant.

Reason Number Five…

Your organization is the best kept secret in town You have no brand image awareness.When it comes to marketing, communications, public relations you are not among the top players in the non-profit world. And, to top it off, you don’t have a budget for such things. Never had one, never will.

One of the myths that circles through non-profit organizations is that you can’t
build your brand awareness without a big budget.

Have you ever shared your problem with a consultant?