Is it Time to Give Your Development Officer a Raise?

Do you have a great development officer? Has she been at your nonprofit longer than 14 months-the average tenure of a development officer? Is he a great teammate and valued member of your organization’s leadership team? Then, before he applies for another job or she gets recruited by a competitor, it may be time to give your development officer some recognition.

The U. S. has a record number of job openings. At Our Fundraising Search, we are conducting a record number of searches. It is becoming harder and harder to identify and recruit qualified development officers. If good fundraisers are hard to find and the longer they serve in one nonprofit the better job they will do, then it makes sense to appreciate your development officer today. Write him a note. Take her to lunch. Give comp time off because they worked all weekend at your events.

Salaries of the best candidates are increasing. It is very expensive to conduct a search whether you engage a firm or handle with your own resources. You may want to give your development officer a raise or a promotion. Just make sure you appreciate the passion and expertise of the one who serves in this critical role in your nonprofit. You won’t regret it.

Ethical Fundraising

My husband recently asked me if I had ever been personally affected by a “me, too” moment. Honestly, in 30 years of nonprofit fundraising, I couldn’t really point to a specific serious incident. Of course, there had been flirting and a few invitations that could have gone awry, but I was always able to take myself out of the situation and avoid being alone with the culprit(s) afterwards.

I was reminded of my own personal experience as I listened to Dr. Edward L. Queen of Emory University who recently spoke to our Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) chapter on ethical fundraising.

I thought about the time I discovered one of my employees was embezzling funds from our employer. I offered to resign since it happened on my watch, but my resignation was denied. After all, I didn’t do it and apparently it had been going on since long before I arrived. I was so incensed! The employee was released but not prosecuted and I wasn’t even allowed to mark the record as “do not re-hire.” The organization wanted to avoid a potential lawsuit. That same employee showed up again some time later employed elsewhere in the organization and again being in a position to handle money.

While there have been times I have been paid less than a man or been held back due to my age or other excuse, there was one time I believe I was hired because I was married with children. After I was hired I discovered that the person I replaced had been having an affair with one of our chief volunteers. I was however, invited to join a group of volunteers who dined weekly at a fancy restaurant for an expensive meal. A volunteer turned in his expenses every time for a tax deduction although I did not consider this a budget-relieving expenditure related to our mission. Luckily, my boss supported me, and I did not have to go to the dinners anymore. It did not stop the volunteer from continuing to request reimbursement or a tax receipt, but I never signed off on them.

All of us make mistakes and none of us is above reproach. We do have to be aware that 49% of Americans do not trust nonprofits. We need to consider our actions and how they affect our ability to raise funds to support the mission and goals of the organizations we serve.

Religious Giving is Down, What’s a Ministry to Do?

This week I hosted a webinar sponsored by The Church Network on how churches can raise capital funds. You may be as alarmed as I am to know that the percentage of church giving has been declining for 30 years.

I am convinced that churches can raise more money to meet their mission and goals by using the same fundraising techniques as other nonprofits and having someone on staff be responsible for raising funds. It can’t hurt, and it could really make a difference in the life of your congregation.

Click the book link to learn exactly how the most successful churches are increasing their giving at a time when most other churches are seeing a decrease in giving.

Good luck!

4 Primary Interview Selection Criteria

I am quizzed sometimes by candidates as to why they did not get hired. The most logical thing to do is to ask for feedback from the interviewer. The interviewer(s) is the best source of the actual answer. Sometimes, however, they are unwilling or unable to provide any helpful information. When I work directly with clients and candidates, I encourage them to consider these 4 primary categories of selection criteria: Communication, Skills, Presence, and Energy.


How are you communicating with the employer of interest? Did you apply through the appropriate channels even if you scored an interview with a higher up in the company? Is your resume up to date and error free? Did you submit a cover letter that provides clear evidence of how your abilities match the job description? Do you have 3 pre-qualified references with correct contact information?

In the interview itself, is the conversation a good balance of careful listening and thoughtful responses? Did you share your value proposition that matches the needs of the organization? Did you look the interviewer in the eye, respond clearly and calmly to all questions, admitting if you did not know an answer? Did you ask relevant questions that are not easily answered by a quick perusal of the organization website? Did you write a prompt thank-you note mentioning again why your skills are a match for this position? Is there any other follow-up on your part that might differentiate you from the competition?


Skills are the most obvious selection criteria of the 4 defined here. Do your skills, abilities and experience exactly mirror the position description or are there things you will have to be willing to learn? Have you been totally honest in answering all questions? Have you done your homework on the company? Do you know others within the company? Can you make further connections with your network and offer new ideas that might benefit the employer?


Did you dress appropriately for the interview? Are your shoes shined and did you wear your best smile? Were you well rested the night before, arriving 15 minutes early allowing plenty of time for traffic and unexpected delays? Did you warmly greet the receptionist and all employees you see? Are you at ease or nervously drumming your fingers on the desk? Are you alert and aware of the office environment and how you might fit in? Did you gratefully accept a water or coffee or other food while waiting for or as part of the interview process? I know I always appreciate it when a candidate at least offers to clear his/her dishes or recycle his/her water bottle. It is just common courtesy.

I mistakenly wore red once to my workspace unknowingly alarming my colleagues who all knew that I was wearing the team colors of the employer’s arch rivals. I have now learned to try and wear school colors or other appropriate attire when I am meeting potential clients.

A well-known local organization website clearly shows all the development team of about 40 young women who all have long blonde hair. I am more experienced, older and have brown hair, but I am thinking I may not fit in there.


How vibrant is the work environment? Is it quiet with cubicles or are there bells ringing and music blasting or something in between? In your interview are you reserved or enthusiastic and bouncing off your chair? Do you bring a burst of energy to the interview that shows your enthusiasm and readiness to contribute at a high level?

It is always wise to be yourself. Do your homework in advance of accepting any position. You don’t want any unwelcome surprises and neither does your potential employer.

Consider these 4: Communication, Skills, Presence, and Energy and good luck in finding the position that is just the right match for you.


Linda Wise McNay, Ph.D. is owner/founder of Our Fundraising Search, an Atlanta-based fundraising consulting firm which helps busy nonprofit boards and CEO’s successfully fill critical development positions.

Mentor Minutes

Ask for some Mentor Minutes. 

I did not originate this idea. I heard it from Mathwon Howard, AVP Development Programs at Emory University this morning. We were attending the kickoff of the 2018 Diversity Fellows Program of the Greater Atlanta Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. I have  heard him mention this terminology for mentoring before and I love it!

This is my fifth year of being a mentor in the Diversity Fellows Program and I can say I always get even more out of the program than I put into it. Why wouldn’t we purposely immerse ourselves annually into a new group of enthusiastic young people who want to learn more about their chosen profession? In our gathering this morning we shared not just what we do, but what our favorite app is. You can tell a lot about a person when they share and what a fun group!

Even if you are not in such a diverse group, I hope you will seek out others you look up to for advice and counsel. Ask for time on their schedules to pick their brains and ask your questions about careers or mechanics of your job. Then remember to offer those same opportunities to people who request time from you.

I make resolutions every year for me and my family. That doesn’t work for everyone. Mathwon likes commitments over resolutions. This year let’s commit to learning from each other. Grab yourself some mentor minutes!

Diversity and Philanthropy – Book Review

Book: Diversity and Philanthropy 

Author: Lilya Wagner

I have been preparing for a conference presentation on an important but somewhat difficult topic- Funding from New Audiences: How to Attract, Appeal to, & Engage New and More Diverse Audiences to Support Your Mission. Many times, I speak on topics I am fully versed in and comfortable with. Since I have been raising funds in Atlanta for 30 years, I can usually share about annual funds, and capital and endowment funds, or dealing with volunteers. This time I really must do some homework!

I was fortunate to be able to find this 2016 book, Diversity and Philanthropy by Dr. Lilya Wagner. It is chock full of helpful advice on the subject. It covers history and culture, not just in the US, but abroad. It has made me stop and think about many misconceptions in the field and how there are so many little mannerisms and language difficulties I had never really considered as being a barrier for giving by certain populations.

According to the Census Bureau one half of the US population will be non-white by 2050. We need to make sure we meet all our constituents’ needs and interests where they are.

Definitions of philanthropy differ by how people identify themselves. Community is highly significant. Family and religion and generational differences matter. Not all strategies work for these identity-based prospects.

The best illustrative example I have found is gala fundraising. You invite everyone, but cultural differences may keep some from attending. People who keep kosher may not attend if food offerings are not appropriate. Is dancing allowed in the culture in question? Chinese people may gamble, Muslims do not. Memorial donations may be important to some, but other people give anonymously. You may even need to reprogram your event fundraising in light of more thoughtful audience considerations.

Bottom line, we need to use best practices in fundraising to an extreme. Here are just a few tips:

  • Learn some languages.
  • Hire people who look like and know the culture of your prospective audience members.
  • Be a donor to an international organization.
  • Travel, study the history and culture of other places.
  • Get to know your prospects and their families and communities.
  • Serve the community first. Then ask-personally. Offer recognition only when requested and warranted.
  • Pay attention and keep learning!

Good luck!

Optimistic Fundraising and 2018 Tax Law Changes

I have been reading a lot about how charity donations are expected to drop next year due to the tax law changes. For months my clients and colleagues have been worrying about how to combat this decline. I, however, have a different perspective.

Maybe I am just an optimist, but I am convinced that people give to a cause because they believe in it, not because of the tax deduction. Research has shown that people give for a variety of reasons including:

  • Have money
  • Believe in the cause
  • Trust solicitor
  • Make good things happen
  • Make bad things stop happening
  • Tradition of giving
  • Legacy
  • Guilt/fear
  • Tax deduction.

The number one reason people give money is because they were asked – by the right person for the right project for the right amount of money at just the right time.

It doesn’t mean that nonprofits can become complacent. If anything, we need to redouble our efforts to share the good works being done in our organizations.

Nonprofits must share their missions and goals for the future. Clearly describe the needs of the nonprofit in a consistent, compelling case for support on the website, in other materials, on the phone and in person.

Leadership including the CEO and the board need to be involved in personally soliciting gifts for specific amounts. Assuming the organization has hired the most qualified development officer they can find, this fundraiser needs to craft a fundraising plan that is approved and endorsed by the leadership and implemented in its entirety.

Charities should not have to employ fancy new fundraising techniques to meet their goals. Although it will be beneficial to have an easy to use online giving mechanism with an option for monthly giving on the website.

What charities need to do is provide cultivation and appreciation for their donors who are making choices with what to do with their funds despite no longer having an itemized deduction capability.

Best wishes for successful fundraising in 2018!


Owner/founder of Our Fundraising Search in Atlanta, Linda Wise McNay, Ph.D. has been successfully raising money for nonprofits in Atlanta for over 30 years.

8​ ​Trends​ ​in ​Independent​ ​School​ ​Fundraising

In​ ​April​ ​2017,​ ​Linda​ ​Wise​ ​McNay,​ ​Ph.D.,​ ​of​ ​Our​ ​Fundraising​ ​Search,​ ​and​ ​John​ ​Marshall, assistant​ ​head​ ​for​ ​development​ ​of​ ​Wesleyan​ ​School,​ ​conducted​ ​a​ ​survey​ ​of​ ​almost​ ​400​ ​heads​ ​of school​ ​to​ ​measure​ ​trends,​ ​challenges,​ ​and​ ​opportunities​ ​in​ ​independent​ ​school​ ​development​ ​and fundraising.​ ​The​ ​results​ ​were​ ​surprising​ ​and​ ​significant​ ​and​ ​shared​ ​with​ ​attendees​ ​at​ ​the​ ​October SAIS​ ​(Southern​ ​Association​ ​of​ ​Independent​ ​Schools)​ ​conference.

The​ ​average​ ​school​ ​respondent​ ​was​ ​a​ ​54-year-old​ ​day​ ​school​ ​with​ ​an​ ​average​ ​of​ ​2,353​ ​alumni. About​ ​half​ ​the​ ​schools have​ ​less​ ​than​ ​500​ ​students,​ ​58%​ ​are​ ​K-12,​ ​and​ ​62%​ ​have​ ​a​ ​budget​ ​less than​ ​$10,000,000.

Eight​ ​trends​ ​emerged​ ​based​ ​on​ ​information​ ​provided​ ​by​ ​the​ ​161​ ​SAIS​ ​schools​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Southeast who​ ​responded​ ​to​ ​the​ ​survey.

1.  Head​ ​of​ ​school​ ​fundraising​ ​experience​ ​exceeds​ ​tenure.
     The​ ​average​ ​head​ ​of​ ​school​ ​respondent​ ​has:
  • 7​ ​years​ ​of​ ​experience​ ​as​ ​head​ ​of​ ​his/her​ ​current​ ​school.
  • 10​ ​years​ ​total​ ​experience​ ​in​ ​his/her​ ​current​ ​school.
  • 11​ ​years​ ​of​ ​experience​ ​in​ ​all​ ​his/her​ ​headships.
  • 14​ ​years​ ​total​ ​experience​ ​in​ ​fundraising.
2.  Most​ ​heads​ ​have​ ​major​ ​gift​ ​experience.
  • 7%​ ​of​ ​heads​ ​of​ ​school​ ​responding​ ​have​ ​never​ ​solicited​ ​a​ ​large​ ​gift.
  • 56%​ ​of​ ​heads​ ​of​ ​school​ ​responding​ ​have​ ​solicited​ ​gifts​ ​up​ ​to​ ​$500,000.
  • 28%​ ​of​ ​heads​ ​of​ ​school​ ​responding​ ​have​ ​solicited​ ​a​ ​gift​ ​of​ ​$1​ ​million​ ​or​ ​more.
3.  Development​ ​Committees​ ​are​ ​under-utilized.
  • 21%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​reporting​ ​do​ ​NOT​ ​have​ ​a​ ​Development​ ​Committee.
  • 6%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​reporting​ ​have​ ​a​ ​Development​ ​Committee​ ​which​ ​NEVER​ ​meets.
  • 22%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​reporting​ ​have​ ​a​ ​Development​ ​Committee​ ​which​ ​meets​ ​to​ ​receive reports.
  • 48%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​reporting​ ​have​ ​some​ ​Development​ ​Committee​ ​activities.
  • Only​ ​3%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​reporting​ ​have​ ​giving​ ​and​ ​getting​ ​required​ ​for​ ​Development Committee​ ​service.
4.  The​ ​annual​ ​fund​ ​is​ ​critical​ ​to​ ​balancing​ ​the​ ​budget.
  • Respondents​ ​raised​ ​an​ ​average​ ​of​ ​$920,757.
  • The​ ​median​ ​was​ ​$350,000.
5.  Email​ ​is​ ​the​ ​most​ ​popular​ ​fundraising​ ​tool.
  • Email​ ​is​ ​utilized​ ​by​ ​86%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​responding,​ ​followed​ ​closely​ ​by​ ​direct​ ​mail​ ​and personal​ ​solicitation.​ ​Online​ ​fundraising,​ ​events,​ ​phoning,​ ​and​ ​texting​ ​are​ ​also​ ​tools employed.
  • 50%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​offer​ ​monthly​ ​giving​ ​as​ ​an​ ​option​ ​and​ ​6%​ ​have​ ​tried​ ​crowdfunding with​ ​mixed​ ​results.

[Read more…]

My Favorite Story From This Year’s SEMC Conference

super hero fundraiser

Stuart Horodner, Museum Director of The University of Kentucky Art Museum, and I presented a session on How to Be a Fundraising Superhero for Your Museum! in Charlotte at the last SEMC meeting. We began as usual with introductions to see where all our attendees were from and the positions they held. A young woman on the front row piped up and said in her intro, “I came to your session last year and I had only been on the job for 2 weeks. I went back and did everything you had said to do, and I got my first million dollar gift! I came back to see what you had to say this year.” The room went wild!

I had no idea what this woman was going to say, and it made me feel so good to hear her story. This is exactly why I do what I do. I want to help my clients and friends be successful in meeting their fundraising goals. And that is why I wrote a book for my arts and cultural clients entitled: Fundraising for Museums: 8 Keys to Success Every Museum Leader Should Know.

We had a great session. In case you missed it, much of the same material can be found at the link above.

You, too, can be a fundraising superhero for your museum!



It is the little things . . .

  • It’s remembering a volunteer’s birthday or a child’s name. It’s correcting the spelling of a name or noting a spouse’s special interest. It’s reading the newspaper and congratulating someone on a new job or promotion.
  • It’s writing personal notes regularly to say thank you. It’s remembering the anniversary of a gift or a death. It’s using a live stamp and hand addressing the envelope. It’s using the philanthropy stamp on your personal mail.
  • It’s being the fourth person to take a phone call from a man who sounds like he’s drunk and turning that call into a $100,000 gift. [Read more…]