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Fundraisers Want Tools Too

man with tools


Call me nuts (upon fear of bodily harm), but as I conduct more and more trainings and consult with more and more advancement shops, the clamor for effective and simple tools is becoming overwhelmingly apparent. There are plenty of ever emerging social media channels to distract us, but few useful tools to help get the job done.

Like any profession, trade or discipline, well designed tools help to speed and often improve the outcome of an objective. Where would accountants be without spreadsheets? Physicians still rely on stethoscopes not to mention MRIs and ultrasound machines. And managers everywhere depend on reports to identify trends and results.

Advancement professionals are no different. When I read and hear the feedback I receive from participants of the trainings I present, in addition to our PLAN-MGO Master Gift Officer event, what is consistently reported is the appreciation for the tools I provided. “I started using the donor relationship management tool (or insert other) as soon as I got back to my office” is a common refrain. In addition to theory and examples of successful strategies that many training session provide, fundraisers need and want tools they can use to be more effective and productive.

Throughout my consulting career, I have identified many areas where a simple approach to organizing one’s thinking and strategy often also results in light bulb moments for staff. Well designed tools also simultaneously provide the means to track progress and identify the need for course correction. The array of toolsI have assembled over the years is not the stuff of rocket science, but it is the stuff of hammer and nails combined with “why didn’t I think of that” approaches to systems.

For instance:

Giving Societies: All too often giving society benefits and, as I like to call them, “engagement opportunities” are put together by annual giving officers – sometimes with the involvement of a committee – and little consideration is given to a number of variables such as: cost; who is going to fulfill the benefit; is it appropriate for the giving level; is there a WOW factor; is it aligned with your mission. There’s a tool for that…

Corporate Sponsorships: Advancement programs are increasingly discussing with their corporate supporters the notion of multi-event and multi-year sponsorship to help all parties with budgeting and time management. Laying all the options out in a schedule of benefit opportunities provides clarity and the basis for a conversation to facilitate an agreement. There’s a tool for that…

Staff Organization and Functions: This is one of our most illuminating devices for uncovering where certain advancement functions are either being overlooked or not properly addressed, or are being over-subscribed by staff. It identifies who has the primary responsibility for a function and who is in a supporting role. When you are able to see what people are actually doing in your shop, you can identify imbalances, make adjustments, rewrite job descriptions and gain realignment. There’s a tool for that…

Major Gift Ask Calculator: The vast majority of advancement offices do not have a formal process for arriving at the multi-year major gift amount to ask of a donor. While I do an entire training session just on this topic, it is important that you have back up so you can justify your ask to both the donor and to your boss. There is nothing worse than the donor being upset with the (large) size of your ask and he or she going to your boss to complain. You need to be prepared to defend and provide a rational for your request. This tool has been tested with more than 200 gift officers and has been strongly validated for arriving at figures that represents the median of the best thinking of these professional. There’s a tool for that…it is the only tool of its kind available, and it is available to you by requesting it from

Visit Copley Raff’s Tool Kit for our entire array of valuable advancement tools.

Your takes:
1. In addition to the money you help to raise for your organization, your legacy should also include documentation of your work and strategies to help the next person to assume your position.

2. Recreating the wheel is not a good use of your time, so go find some wheels and roll them into success.

3. By refining your own tools or improving those of others, you will become an even more valued professional.

For more information about Copley Raff and its spectrum of nonprofit organization management and philanthropy consulting services, and for speaking opportunities, please visit

Follow CRI on Twitter @copleyraff. For those in healthcare visit as well.

The next PLAN-MGO Master Gift Officer Event is April 8-11, 2016 in Boston.