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Recruiting fundraising champions – Some paths travelled



Along the seawall in Vancouver. Photo by Grant Monck

Recruiting fundraising champions

In fundraising, as in life, I have learned that different paths may often lead to unexpected and rewarding results. I once met a couple who represented a private foundation in a very surprising way. They were driving in the countryside thousands of miles from home. They got lost and ended up at the end of a forest road which was the entrance to a remote College campus. Instead of turning around and heading back to the main road, they decided to walk around the campus on a quiet summer day. They were intrigued with the College, picked up a brochure which included my contact information, and gave me a call the next week. This initial contact lead to a multi-year major gift from the foundation. I was very glad they took that path!

My career as a board member, consultant and fundraiser has taken many paths. During this journey, I have learned much from donors, staff and volunteers. In my recent work with clients, I have encountered a great desire for organizations to move their missions forward through new fundraising strategies, especially in the areas of major and planned gifts. At the same time, board chairs and executive directors are challenged to build internal support for this work and recruit fundraising champions among staff and volunteers. To assist on this issue, I developed a presentation on how to identify fundraising champions based on my own experience.

I started my fundraising career working at the provincial office of a well-established national charity. The organization had a long tradition of volunteer led fundraising with door-to-door campaigns and special events but wished to diversify its methods of revenue generation. The organization was enthusiastic about having me as a resource to develop a proactive gift planning and major gift program but very few staff or volunteers had a sense of what needed to be done or how they could assist.

My mandate was not only to secure major and planned gifts but to also open the minds of staff and volunteers to new approaches beyond their traditional fundraising. We developed an incredible team of grass-roots volunteers in over forty local communities aided by the support of regional staff and local community volunteers to assist with this work. This new focus on major gift fundraising and gift planning led to the first capital campaign for the organization.

Where to start?

One piece of advice I took to heart early in my fundraising career was to seek out and achieve early wins. This was important as I was new to fundraising but also critical for my organization that was in the early stages of understanding major gift fundraising and gift planning. One of the initial gifts I secured was a new life insurance policy from a long-term annual donor. In addition to my personal thanks to the donor, I asked the Chair of the local board if he would meet the donor to provide his thanks on behalf of the organization. His response was that he had never thanked a donor, but that he would love to do it! This was the start of a new path in fundraising for the Chair and a great beginning to our working relationship.

I had many motivations for the Chair to meet this donor. In addition to donor recognition, I wanted the Chair to understand why the donor had established this gift and how the gift would benefit both the donor and the charity. The meeting with the donor went very well for all concerned. The Chair gained a good understanding of the motivations of the donor and how this gift worked, the donor was thrilled to meet the Chair, and I was off to a great start in building a relationship with the Chair and the donor.

I now had my first fundraising champion in the organization and he was ready to do more!

The Chair discussed the donor meeting and the gift with his local board members and an examination began among volunteers of other possible individuals to thank for previous donations and discuss future ways to support the organization. At a provincial board meeting the initiative was discussed and other local communities began to follow the same model with success.  Our team of fundraising champions grew from there.

As a staff resource, I provided support in the form of volunteer training and technical advice as needed. The key to success is the knowledge and passion of local volunteers who are the “eyes and ears” in their local communities.

My career in fundraising has demonstrated that there are many paths to success. I have also learned that sometimes paths less travelled may yield the best results. Recruiting fundraising champions among staff and volunteers of your organization means you will be taking others along for a rewarding and worthwhile journey. It is sure to make the trip more enjoyable and the destination a shared success.

Wishing you all the best in your fundraising work in 2017!


Philanthropic Reflections – Giving of Head and Heart

Photo by Grant Monck

Giving of Head and Heart – Donations of Cash and Non-Cash assets 

When you financially support a charity, it is a combination of what your head thinks you can practically give and the passion in your heart to support causes you care about deeply. Canadians are a generous people who support many causes. Throughout most of our history, donations have usually been based on cash on hand whether you give at the door, on-line or in response to a major gift solicitation.  The challenge for charities is to unleash the wealth of non-cash assets that Canadians hold to benefit Canadian society with substantial tax benefits for donors.

Tax incentives for gifts of non-cash assets 

When I started my fundraising career in 1995, donations other than cash were fairly uncommon in Canada. Then in 1996, changes to the Income Tax Act began to increase tax incentives for Canadians to donate gifts in addition to cash.  There was now great potential for Canadians to support the charitable sector through gifts of non-cash assets.

At a recent AFP conference, I spoke on the topic of gifts of assets. For the presentation, I reflected on my twenty years of working with donors and their advisers, and my more recent work as a consultant with a wide range of Canadian charities.

The opportunities for Canadians to gift non-cash assets are great but the majority of Canadians and charities are not reaping the benefits. Why is this the case and what may be done?

On the positive side, many Canadians now take advantage of tax incentives for gifts of publicly listed securities. This type of gift is promoted by the charitable sector and understood by most advisers benefiting many charities and donors. But the tax benefits of most gifts of non-cash assets remain greatly underutilized.  This is unfortunate based on the increased competition among charities to raise funds and the reduced revenues of many charities that hamper fulfilling their missions.

Many charities continue to rely on traditional funding from corporations, foundations and governments with mixed results. I find this surprising since the greatest source of charitable donations may be found with individuals and the non-cash assets they hold. More and more charities are running after a smaller funding pie of cash each year.  Board members and senior staff across the country are working very hard to maintain current revenues, let alone increase resources to move their missions forward. In my view there is a major problem in 2016 with a traditional funding model for major gifts that relies heavily on the cash Canadians have on hand. 

How are professional advisers fairing with their high net-worth client base in discussions on charitable giving? A recent survey of advisers and clients across Canada, entitled The Philanthropic conversation – Understanding Financial Advisors’ Approaches and High Net Worth Individuals’ Perspectives showed an apparent divide between what advisers believe they are discussing with their clients regarding charitable giving and what their clients are hearing and wish to hear. From this survey, the focus of advisers appears to be on wealth preservation rather than developing meaningful strategies for charitable giving based on the asset base of each client.

What can be done to further promote gifts of non-cash assets in Canada?

(1) More advocacy and education of advisers, charities and donors is needed regarding the benefits of donating non-cash assets;

(2) While charities need to maintain current sources of support in the short term, there should be a shift in approach and resources over time from a reliance on institutional donors to individuals and their non -cash wealth; and

(3) Staff and volunteers involved in fundraising need to be better trained to solicit donations from individuals based on their entire asset base.

It is not easy for charities to depart from their reliance on traditional methods of fundraising or advisors to expand planning discussions beyond increasing wealth. These approaches still have a place in Canadian philanthropy and financial planning. It does appear that the survival of many charities in Canada calls for changes in how major gifts are solicited and the types of discussions both advisers and charities have with individuals regarding philanthropy. The passion of Canadians to support the charitable sector continues and the tax tools are in place to discuss donations of non-cash assets with individuals, couples and families across the country by professional advisers and charities.


Government Relations and your charity


Tulips on Parliament Hill in May

On a recent CAGP national webinar, I spoke on the topic of government relations for charities in Canada.

The main topics I covered were:

(1) What is government relations in the context of charities in Canada?

(2) Why should your charity be involved in government relations?

(3) How can charities develop strong working relationships with government?

(4) Becoming a partner with the charitable sector in government relations

Government Relations – A definition 

In researching this topic, I was struck by the large amount of material in Canada on government relations to support the charitable and volunteer sectors as a whole. To my surprise, I found very little information to support why a specific charity should be involved in government relations.  This struck me as rather odd since most of my work over the past twenty years dealing with government has been working for a specific charity.

For the presentation, I drew upon the terrific volunteers I have worked with over the years who have headed federal, provincial and municipal governments and my personal relationships with both entry level and senior public servants across Canada.

I defined government relations as:

Any lawful activity carried out by a registered Canadian charity which seeks to further its mission by improving government policies. Government relations take place municipally, provincially and nationally or sometimes simultaneously at all three levels, and involve elected officials, political advisors and public servants.

Please note the word “lawful” in the above definition. I do not deal with the ever evolving case law and regulations in regard to advocacy and lobbying in Canada. This is an area where charities should seek legal counsel.

Why should your charity be involved in government relations?

Firstly, stemming from the above definition, the goal in my view should be to further the mission of your charity and secondly to move forward the strategic priorities of your organization.

How can your charity develop strong working relationships with government? 

Very much akin to successful major and planned giving fundraising, the key is to build relationships with individuals who are key public servants and political leaders in your community. How you define “community” will be based on the geographic scope of your mission and what levels of government are responsible for public policy relating to your organization.

Examples of key players in government for your charity could be:

(i) Municipal public servants involved in your charity’s area of responsibilities;

(ii) Local members of a provincial legislature and cabinet representatives involved with your charity’s mission; and

(iii) Federal officials responsible for public policy and/or implementing regulations in regard to your mission.

To build an effective working relationship with government, your charity needs to demonstrate:

(i) Its specific expertise and why it is needed in public policy;

(ii) The importance of its mission;

(iii) Measurable goals and results to move your mission forward;

(iv) The strength in numbers of your donor and volunteer base;  and

(v) Demonstrated support by local community leaders.

Partnering with the charitable sector 

In addition working with an incredible group of politicians and public servants over the years, I have been very impressed how organizations such as AFP and CAGP have worked with their members to encourage charitable giving, the volunteer sector and effective regulation of registered charities.  I pleased to be a member of CAGP’s Government Relations Committee to assist in this work.

Most of the admirable work on government relations has been undertaken by the staff of charities. In my view, it would be much more effective if these efforts were better coordinated with key donors and volunteer partners who gift planners and other staff work with every day from Main Street to Bay Street across Canada.

If the great human resources of the charitable sector are brought together in a more concerted effort, the missions of Canadian charities and the charitable sector will move forward with government to benefit all Canadians.

For assistance in regard to the work of your charity in government relations, please contact Grant Monck at or 778-875-6220.

Making the Case for your Charity


Aerial sculpture outside the 2014 TED conference in Vancouver

Preparations are currently underway for the 2015 TED conference in Vancouver.  Walking by the site preparations earlier this week, I reflected upon the aerial sculpture outside the TED conference last year. The artwork made a statement for the conference. Many were intrigued and wondered what was happening behind the conference doors.  It signified something special and we wanted to know more!

You know the great accomplishments and missions of the charities you work for as a staff member or volunteer. How do you entice others to “look behind the door” of your charity and yearn to know more? One great tool is developing a case for support.

Making the Case in support of your charity 

In my twenty years as a senior fundraiser, I have noticed some recurring themes:

(1) The increasing competitiveness within the charitable sector for dollars, staff and volunteers;

(2) The heightened interest of charities to secure major gifts from corporations, foundations and individuals in a cost effective way;

(3) The limited staff and volunteer resources to identify, cultivate, solicit and steward donors;

(4) The desire to “move up” current annual donors to give major and planned gifts; and

(5) The challenge to meet donor prospects face-to-face.

One of the best methods to secure major and planned gifts is to engage individuals in your organization’s aspirations and needs.  These individuals may be current supporters or new donor prospects. Charities need to have a regular opportunity through face-to-face meetings to make their case and to understand individual and institutional interests be they a corporation or foundation or a couple who are long-term or new supporters of your organization.

Simple right? But what is the most effective way to secure face-to-face meetings with major donor prospects? 

To create the opportunity to solicit and secure major and planned gifts, an important part in the process starts with developing a short case for support in draft form. Requesting feedback on a draft case is a great reason to meet donor prospects. What you “hear” at these meetings will help guide your organization’s approach to present its mission and engage individuals in the work of your organization leading to financial support through major and planned gifts.

Purpose of the draft Case for Support 

(1) To tell your organization’s story

A draft case should tell a succinct story about your organization and answer the following questions:

What is the mission of your organization?

Why is the work of your organization needed?

Is there any urgency to have this work done?

(2) To provide a focus for your organization 

The answers to the questions above will focus  your organization on its primary needs and objectives while developing a narrative to engage current and new supporters.

(3) To present a compelling reason to meet and provide feedback on your organization 

The case in draft form will provide a legitimate reason and opportunity to meet current donors and donor prospects and allow for opportunities to receive feedback on your organization’s current needs and future goals.

(4) To encourage engagement in your mission and donor support for your organization

When there is interest in your organization and engagement in the case, the next step is to discuss specific ways individuals may wish to support your organization as volunteers, thoughts on donor prospects and their own interest or that of their institution to financially support your organization in a meaningful way.

A compelling case for support will open many doors for your charity by engaging current and new supporters in the great work you do. The time to make your case is now.

For more information on developing a tailor-made case for your organization, please contact Grant Monck at or 778-875-6220.



Your Top Ten Donor Wish List

I knew a very successful fundraiser who worked for a small local hospital. Let’s call her Mary.  Mary’s main goal each January was to make a list of ten individuals she wished to develop into major donors in the future. Some of the individuals she listed were current donors to her organization, some were donor prospects she knew, and some were individuals she did not know but wished to introduce to her organization. After Mary developed her Top Ten list, it remained her permanent list for year.

Each Monday morning when Mary arrived at the office, she first looked at her Top Ten list. She then decided how she would engage these individuals in the coming week. What would she do this week to connect with these individuals in a personal way? Would it be a call or note of thanks for a recent donation or assistance as a volunteer? Should she send an invitation to an event to introduce a new donor prospect to her charity?

Every Friday afternoon her last task of the week was to review her goals with this group for the week and chart progress.

In the first year of compiling the list, Mary was able to move one of these ten individuals to a major donor. The next year two on the list became major donors and it grew from there. Each January she reviewed the list and added new prospects to the Top Ten for the new year.

Mary told me before she retired that her work on these lists formed the majority of the major donors to her charity over time.  I hope this hospital continued her great work in prospect identification, cultivation and stewardship.

Mary’s story also highlights the need for all of us to develop plans, continue to review them throughout the year and focus on a few key things each year with consistent follow-up.

Why not start your own Top Ten list this year?  If you are a board chair, it may be a Top Ten list of individuals you would love to recruit as new leadership volunteers. If you are a professional advisor, it may be a list of new potential clients. Fundraisers, you know what to do!

I would be interested to hear if anyone else has used this approach in the past and how it is working for you. For those who will try it for the first time, let me know of your progress.

Tomorrow is closer than you think.  Get started this Monday!



The economic impact of philanthropy


Newly opened Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center   (Photo by Grant Monck) 

As National Philanthropy Day will soon be upon us, I wanted to tell you a personal story about the efforts of a small group of donors, staff and volunteers and the impact they are having on a small town in the American desert. I am in southern California this week for the opening of the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center. I am proud to be a Founder of this Center.

This is the story of how a team of individuals through philanthropy are having an economic impact on a town that has gone from a pleasant resort community to a recognized international jewel of modern architecture and design.

Economic impact?  Firstly, in the case of this new Center, there were the initial expenditures of labour and materials to restore this classic mid-century modern building to its former glory. Secondly, there are the large number of people who will travel to Palm Springs specifically to visit this Center and leave their dollars in the community. Thirdly, there is the potential to revitalize this area of Palm Springs with new businesses around the Center that will have an even greater economic impact. That’s what I call stretching your donor dollar.

Staff and volunteers of charities sometimes forget the economic impact of their work beyond fulfilling the mission.  Imagine Canada states that there are approximately 170,000 charities and not-for-profits in Canada that employ 2 million people representing over 11% of the economically active population. The charitable sector in Canada represents $106 Billion or over 8% of Canada’s annual GDP. The sector is larger than either the automotive industry or manufacturing in Canada.

It is very important to keep in mind when one is recruiting community volunteers or drafting a fundraising proposal to include the “hard” facts of the economic impact of your organization in addition to the “softer” mission-based information. Do the organizations you support, volunteer or work for have this information? Do they know how to find it?

As we near National Philanthropy Day, I would suggest that the “hard” facts need to be determined and promoted by all charities and not-for-profits to show the great economic impact of philanthropy to local communities and society as a whole.

More information on the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center can be found at