Read the latest from the TGC team. Below we share our knowledge, experiences, or the latest news.

What hat do you have on?

December 3, 2020 in Uncategorized

For people who have either grown up or worked with me over the years, know that one clothing accessory for me is a must, and that is a hat. Baseball cap, scully cap, wool cap – it doesn’t matter. I can still hear my Dad say, “Wear a hat, you will catch cold!”

Many of you that manage small shops find yourselves wearing multiple hats too! Just not for fun or comfort. If this is your situation, you are not alone in feeling the stress. Fundraising goals are not shrinking; metrics remain the same, yet, who is planning your (now) virtual event? Who is stewarding your donors? Who is managing your CRM? Who is managing that grant deadline that’s fast approaching? (If you haven’t figured it out yet  – It is you!) Things inevitably start to pile up. You spend most of your time putting out fires instead of proactively mapping out your organization’s fundraising success.

So, what can you do?

1.      Evaluate your priorities. What is the most significant return on investment on your to-do list? Deciding which tasks will have the most damaging consequences if they are not dealt with is a helpful way to decipher priorities. Use this as a wake-up call on what you consider “priorities” and force yourself to figure out alternate solutions.

2.      Work Smarter, not Harder. Take advantage of technology hacks and other ways to automate some of your work. For example, if you manage social media or regularly send emails to your constituents, set up your content in advance and have it automatically post or send.  Also, are you a multi-tasker? Multi-tasking is natural when you have a lot on your plate. However, research has shown that the brain is not built for multi-tasking and does not function optimally when working in this way. For optimal performance, it is best to focus solely on one task at a time (back to prioritizing!).

3.      Share services and resources. Consider partnering with another organization to share resources that may be breaking your budget or holding you back from hiring even a part-time staff member. Or, if you are part of a system or larger entity, push for the concept of sharing staff members to keep your budget in check. Get creative with what you need.

4.      Ask for help when needed. Sometimes, no matter how organized you are or how automated and how many services you share, you still need additional support to fulfill your organization’s mission. Evaluate the return on investment if you do receive that much-needed help. Sometimes presenting data can help you make your case. This leads to…

5.      Outsource. It may be cost-prohibitive for your organization to hire an additional FTE to accomplish your goals. But, outsourcing talent on a project basis may make more sense. It is for a limited time, there are no health or retirement benefits to consider, and if you are unsatisfied with the results, it’s straightforward to make a change.

6.      Finally, embrace all the new skills you’ve acquired! Never thought you’d learn how to design marketing materials or understand the intricacies of data analytics? Now you have a whole new set of skills that will potentially serve you well in the future!

Don’t forget to bundle up! It can be cold out there!

You are adding another arrow to your quiver!

December 3, 2020 in Uncategorized

If you are like most fundraisers, you have used donor and prospect demographic data like age, gender, and occupation to segment your messaging. Yet, while demographics are useful, they do not tell the whole story.

If you have never heard of psychographics, it’s time to become familiar with this concept.

The definition of psychographics, according to, is The use of demographics to determine the attitudes and tastes of a particular segment of a population, as in marketing studies.

By its very definition, you can understand the importance of psychographics on the fundraising world. The better you know your donor or prospective donor, the better you can appeal to them in the way they will best respond to.

Are you trying to figure out which direction to take for your annual appeal letter? Are you developing a social media campaign to highlight your mission to prospective donors? Or maybe just preparing for meetings with a major gift donor. Getting to know and understand your audience gives you a distinct advantage to correctly connecting with what matters most to them. You need to understand your donors’ beliefs, what keeps them awake at night, what creates excitement or motivates them. Fundraisers have always used demographic data like age, gender, and occupation to segment messaging. But, demographics do not tell the whole story.

Psychographics has been used for years by marketing and research companies, and there is a reason for this. Understanding HOW people make buying decisions within a specific industry helps businesses create content that resonates with them. The same concept can be used for nonprofits trying to advance their mission.

Where to begin?

There are three main types of psychographic data points that are typically prioritized:

  • Interests and Affinities
  • Activities
  • Opinions

How do you gather this information?

  • Research your donors – read complaint letters and emails; read both positive and negative comments on your social media posts. Learn about what is bothering your constituents as much as what makes them happy.
  • Consider conducting focus groups with crucial donor groups.
  • Survey large groups of constituents to see what is important to them.

Once you have gathered psychographic information, what should you do with it?

  • Create more emotionally compelling content and impact stories
  • Create a more targeted and specific Case for Support to be shared with donors
  • Reinforce your organization’s values by staying “on brand” with all of your marketing and outreach efforts
  • Create more relevant annual appeals and email solicitations
  • Use the information you have gathered for better segmented messaging based on what your donors are interested in or believe in rather than using things like age or gender.

Stay relevant!

Philanthropy Assessment & Strategic Planning During Unprecedented Times – Put Your Headlights On!

October 17, 2020 in Uncategorized

Crisis fundraising is not easy. There is no playbook that we can easily follow. Seven months ago, everything changed as Covid-19 spread through the U.S.  At first, many decided to take a “wait and see” approach and held back our fundraising activities. This hesitation lasted quite some time for some organizations (maybe you are still taking this approach where you work?), while others quickly pivoted and continued fundraising.

One thing that is true of all organizations (unless you created a strategic plan after the pandemic began), your current strategic plan is outdated and irrelevant. No, this does not mean that you must throw away what you have and start from scratch. Much of what you were doing still holds, but enough has changed to mandate a fresh look at your structure and fundraising plan. Change in crisis is complicated and sometimes leads to incredibly challenging decisions, but it is critical to future success.

Below is a suggested approach to conducting an assessment in four core phases:

Phase 1: Conduct a Design and Strategic assessment session, which will include:

  • A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis
  • Clarification on your funding priorities and funding sources, which may have changed since the pandemic began.
  • Review of leadership, staff, volunteers, infrastructure, and resources.
  • Consideration of your day-to-day operations and overall fundraising environment, assessing capabilities
  • Review of strategy, goals, mission, and vision.
  • Measuring the effectiveness of your philanthropy program in terms of ROI

Phase 2: Philanthropy Capacity Assessment:

  • Assess your CRM database
  • Database capacity and wealth screen
  • Predictive gift modeling
  • High-level initial strategies for cultivation and solicitation

Phase 3: Gather benchmark data and analyze results

Phase 4: Implementation

Based on the design and strategic assessment session results, capacity assessment, and benchmark data, you will be ready to create your updated strategic plan.

Deliverables in your 2020-21 Strategic Plan need to include:

  1. Funding priorities and opportunities determined in part by the SWOT analysis.
  • Reimagined operations, staffing, and volunteer structure, based on new philanthropy goals.
  • Specific “High Impact Actions” moves.
  • Detailed stewardship activities to ensure long-term engagement.
  • Determine state, regional, and local philanthropy capacity, taking a fresh look at your donors’ ability. There is the possibility of a shift after the pandemic began for better or worse.
  • Create a plan that creates sustainability for your organization. Make sure that you are crafting something that will help your organization flourish long into the future.
  • Shared or consulting services. This is an opportune time to consider sharing services with a sister organization or part of your system to save money. If you must right-size, using a consultant to bridge the gap can also be a way to save money.
  • Reimagine what your shop looks like in the new normal. Sometimes a crisis is an opportunity to move in a direction that you did not expect.

Anticipate multi-year goals. These should include major, planned, and annual giving. Your team should be encouraged to make bold moves here (within reason).

The Fall of 2020 is not the time for you to sit on the sidelines.  Competing organizations are raising money. Do not get left behind.

Author, researcher, Professor Martha Rogers put it plainly:

“When your headlights aren’t on, the best rearview mirror available isn’t likely to improve your driving.” Martha Rogers

Talk Less and Smile More

October 17, 2020 in Uncategorized

If you are like me, you probably have some severe Zoom fatigue right now. I long for a traditional in-person visit to a donor or even an old fashioned in-person staff meeting. I even miss airports and TSA security! But, we live in a new normal where virtual meetings and donor visits have almost entirely replaced the in-person meetings of the past. While in-person meetings can still occur (ex. outdoors, with masks, etc.) or will come back in the future, the public is getting more used to virtual conversations.   Stakeholders may prefer to hold a virtual meeting at some point in the future donor engagement cycle.  Like it or not, it’s time to embrace this new normal and lean into technology as the future of fundraising.

There are some steps you can take to ensure success when engaging with donors virtually. Below are what I’ve found to be the most helpful ideas:

  1. Virtual meetings may require more practice to ensure that you are comfortable with both the technology and the format. Set up a practice run with a colleague.
  2. Send a pre-visit “context for conversation” message as opposed to a PowerPoint
  3. Start with donors who are engaged with your organization and know you best.
  4. Once in the meeting, your strategy will be the same as usual: Open up with the warm conversation, connect with the donor, make a support case, negotiate the ask, deal with objections, and close the gift.

What kinds of things matter on a virtual call (in other words, what do you have to worry about with virtual asks that you never had to worry about before?)

  1. Setting up your camera in a way that frames your face and doesn’t have many background distractions
  2. You are paying attention to lighting and audio quality. Make sure there is light facing you (that you are not backlit). Consider investing in an affordable ring light. If your audio is not top quality, consider a microphone attached to your computer (also inexpensive and readily available).
  3. Make eye contact with your camera. Yes, this sounds weird. But, not making eye contact is even more bizarre. It takes some practice as you are used to looking down at your screen. Yet, as much as possible, try to look directly into the camera.
  4. And as Vice President Aaron Burr would advise, “talk less and smile more.”


October 17, 2020 in Uncategorized

“Fortune Favors the Bold”

During any crisis, the temptation is often to hesitate, to take a safe approach – a “wait and see” attitude. Frontline fundraisers, by and large, did take this approach when the Covid-19 pandemic began, and this was an understandable reaction. There was a great deal of uncertainty and many of us believed that the abrupt changes to our lives were temporary and we needed to wait it out before taking action.

Fast forward six months and we now understand that this is not a temporary situation, this is our new normal. One that will likely remain for quite some time and one that will potentially inspire permanent change in the way we do business.

So, as fundraisers, what should we do? How do we handle the current crisis that we are in the middle of? Fortunately, I have worked through several crises in the past – the aftermath of 9/11, the economic meltdown of 2008 being two examples. My experience has taught me that organizations that continue engaging donors and asking for gifts despite the crisis not only make it through but also become well-poised for success long after. Data is showing that donors are continuing to give and want to be engaged right now. Yes, your methods of engagement and solicitation will look different. But, that should not slow you down. This is a perfect time to step back and examine your strategic plan and assess your current structure. Unless it was created post-Covid-19, your strategic plan is already irrelevant. It’s time to re-assess your strategy and create a pathway that will allow you to continue fundraising in a new environment with new boldness and clarity of mission.

Be bold. Ask for gifts. Lean into your work and your mission – your organization likely needs support more than ever.


October 16, 2020 in Uncategorized

As with all industries, there are both opportunities and challenges facing healthcare at the moment. We’re going to break some of those issues down and discuss how to focus more on the opportunities and strategize on dealing with the challenges.


First, the good news there is no better time than now to be working in healthcare fundraising! Healthcare is being viewed with great positivity, and most people believe that healthcare workers are indeed heroes. In fact, according to a recent Gallup survey which tracks Americans’ views of various business and industry sectors, Healthcare went up 20 percentage points in positivity over one year ago with the majority of people surveyed having a positive overall view of the sector.

There are immense opportunities for healthcare fundraisers right now:

  1. Now is an excellent time to educate (qualify and cultivate too!) donors eager for reassurance and information from medical experts. Recruit physicians, nursing staff, or hospital executives to share facts about things that matter to your donors. Keep the information local.
  2. You may have more time to steward loyal donors – since in-person meetings are still not happening on a broad scale, this should open up time for gift officers to provide more attention to long-time donors.
  3. Your context for conversation/elevator speech should include compelling references about how critical your organization’s work is. Community members and potential donors are responding positively to this messaging right now.
  4. Non-essential medical procedures are coming back, which means more opportunity for grateful patients. Ensure you have an active grateful patient program in place and, now more than ever, cultivate those relationships with your medical staff.
  5. Your healthcare organization is likely getting lots of donations – from much-needed cash to PPE, meals, and other gifts. Be sure to capture all of these gifts and calculate the monetary value for your metrics. The donors of these items must be thanked and appropriately stewarded.

What about those challenges that we mentioned?

  1. Many hospitals are in challenging financial situations right now, putting a strain on capital projects and, potentially, more pressure on your advancement team to bring in funding. Philanthropy used to be “icing on the cake” for capital projects. But, now, teams are expected to raise all or most of the needed funding. This creates a perfect opportunity to make the case to senior administrators that your philanthropy efforts will be more effective if you work together in a coordinated and collaborative effort. Recruiting leadership to help with the cultivation and solicitation of donors is an effective strategy, and your case for this collaboration has never been stronger.
  2. It isn’t easy to cultivate new donors right now. You don’t have in-person events to invite them to attend, and you may not be able to meet in person for a meal or a cup of coffee. But, as challenging as it is, donors have been growing more comfortable with virtual meetings, and, hopefully, you have been growing savvier with technology yourself. And schedules are generally easier to navigate when the meeting is taking place online from the comfort of your donor’s home.
  3. Budget cuts are a reality of many industries, and healthcare is not immune. If you are part of a healthcare system, look at the possibility of shared positions and shared resources. This is a huge opportunity to save money and offer a unique and flexible arrangement for some staff members. If you are not part of a system, get creative with outsourcing some of your needs to avoid the costs associated with FTE employees.
  4. Since many healthcare organizations are a community asset and are very rooted in their local community, many organizations tend to be very event driven. In the past, events were a fantastic way to connect with your donors and your local community. However, organizations have seen the tremendous success of moving their events to a virtual format. Seek help from those who have already demonstrated success and don’t be afraid to try this new fundraising method. Another option is to re-assign staff members who typically focus on planning events to other fundraising tasks, such as creating an annual solicitation appeal, researching prospects, stewardship activities, or even major gift fundraising.
  5. There are still limitations on visitors to hospitals. What can you do for patients and their families? Consider going back in time and call the patient’s rooms to check in on them. Reach out to family members to see if they need anything or if they just need support. Be sure that iPad and other technology is available for family members to use when needed. 

I challenge you to change those five challenges into opportunities today!

Addressing COVID-19

March 13, 2020 in Uncategorized

By now you and your organization have likely already developed and started to implement a plan to address the concerns your staff, volunteers, and donors share as they relate to COVID-19.
At TGC, we, too, are adapting to the current state of the world and have been working remotely, utilizing technology to stay in touch, and being creative in how we work with our client-partners to ensure consistency and continuity in service.
While it may set us back in our development cycle when spring events are postponed or even cancelled and when we have to reschedule donor visits, it is a good opportunity to reach out and assure donors that their gifts are still being carefully stewarded and the impact is still being greatly felt.
Drawing from our extensive and varied backgrounds, we have assembled a few lessons we’ve learned about helping donors feel secure in their investment when everything else seems uncertain. Here are a few of the big ideas we thought we’d pass along:
1. Be up front and share how your organization is reacting and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Communicate the steps you are taking to ensure the health and safety of your staff, volunteers, and those served.2. Remind donors that despite the cancellation of events, meetings, and other gatherings, your organization will continue to operate efficiently and will incorporate creative strategies to ensure your overarching mission and those it serves remain a priority.3. Communicate the importance of continued support and the vital role donors play, and will continue to play, in the success of your organization. Be sure to remind donors of the reason they support your organization and that despite any challenges it currently faces in light of this pandemic, their support and involvement is extremely valuable, now more than ever.4. Maintain constant communication – by phone, email, text – and reassure those associated with your organization that this is a temporary situation. Remind those you are in touch with that your organization has overcome other obstacles and this is simply a bump in the road and an opportunity to demonstrate resilience and creativity in managing the situation.
We are hopeful that you and your teams are staying safe and healthy and we look forward to resuming our normal business practices soon. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to any of the TGC team members with questions or concerns you may have.

Creative Ideas for Giving Tuesday

September 4, 2019 in Acquisition, Donor Relationship Management, Fundraising, Giving Tuesday, Marketing & Communications

Giving Tuesday falls on December 3 this year. GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Celebrated in the US on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and the shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, GivingTuesday starts the charitable season, when many focus on end-of-year giving.

According to the GivingTuesday website:
In 2018, 75% of those making financial contributions on #GivingTuesday were repeat donors, with a mean gift size of $105. Data shows that the holiday creates a net bump in overall yearly giving, and has proven not only to engage new donors, but to motivate existing donors to give more. Your organization will have the opportunity to join thousands of organizations around the world to encourage more generosity.

That is great news in terms of number of donors and gift amounts but it also presents a challenge as we are competing with thousands of other charitable organizations around the world. So we’ll want some creative ideas for our campaign that grab donors attention, are simple, and make it easy for them to give. Continue reading »

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