21st Century Parks, Louisville, KY

The story of 21st Century Parks began with a successful founding campaign that raised $25 million. Dan Jones, President and CEO of the organization recalled, “We had a clear vision and outline of the project, but we knew we needed to raise more money and to strengthen our case for support to take it to a broader audience.” Upon the recommendation of Bill Juckett, Board Chairman, Mr. Jones engaged The Covenant Group to conduct a feasibility study.

“We needed a more formal test of the market and to put the whole project on more solid footing.” Jones added, “The feasibility study process provided us with valuable research, data on what percentage of donors would give a second time, a clear campaign structure, valid recommendations and a target amount to raise.”

Jones mentioned that another benefit that came from the study was the recommendation to add a seasoned, experienced Director of Development to the team. The Covenant Group helped the organization recruit Christen Boone who was just putting the finishing touches on a successful campaign at Actors Theatre. “Christen was instrumental in helping the campaign transition from theory to action. Since she had already worked with The Covenant Group on the Actors’ campaign it was an easy relationship that helped the campaign build early momentum.”

Jones described The Covenant Group as being vested in the campaign’s success. “Many consultants finish the study, give you the report and then leave. The Covenant Group was so involved. They continually touched base to ensure that we were on track.” He continued, “They are highly competent, very experienced and knowledgeable. They provided a broad perspective by equipping us with useful data on other campaigns and best practices in the field. All in all, they are excellent. In total the campaign raised $150 million.”

Jones calls the campaign a huge success. He is proud to say that 21st Century Parks achieved all that they wanted to achieve through the campaign. “As a result of the funds raised we have been able to buy 3700 acres which will be built into a 4 park system. It will open within 3 years.” Comparing the progress of this campaign to those of peer cities, Jones marveled, “There are at least 5 or 6 big park projects going on now nationally. The only one that is 100% financed is here in Louisville. When you compare the size and the pace of our campaign to those underway in much bigger cities like New York and Chicago, it is so unique and amazing what we have been able to accomplish. The Covenant Group’s work contributed a great deal to that success.”

Jones closed with a hearty recommendation. “Of course I would recommend The Covenant Group to other organizations. There is such a good spirit in the firm. It was such an easy working relationship. They are true professionals. Flexible, available… I have nothing but the highest appreciation and regard for Len and his associates.”

Covington Catholic High School, Park Hills, KY

Covington Catholic is a Blue Ribbon award winning, all-male high school in the Diocese of Covington. Recognized at state and national levels for academic and athletic excellence, the 604-member student body continues the legacy of Brotherhood; Faith; Excellence; Innovation; Service; Spirit and Teamwork that has defined the school for more than 90 years. It had become apparent to school leadership that the time was right to take steps to improve both academic and athletic facilities.  Sue Finke, Director of Institutional Advancement remembers, “There was interest in adding tennis courts.  We had also purchased a building for which we needed to define the best use and there were other projects as well.  We hired The Covenant Group to help us with outlining a campaign plan and structure to take us through a $4 – $6 million campaign.”

Sue mentions that, “For those of us who don’t do this everyday, The Covenant Group instilled confidence in us. They helped us get through the fear and apprehension by providing us and our volunteers with training and motivation.” A key component to the success of any campaign is the strength of its steering committee.  Covington Catholic recruited a solid team of 53 committee members and 6 co-chairs to lead the campaign.

She credits The Covenant Group’s training as a crucial factor in the campaign’s success. “They trained our volunteers on how to make calls and the right ways to develop and keep donor relationships. In addition to the peer-to-peer solicitation training, Finke also states that keeping the campaign on task was vital.  “They were able to apply the right amount of pressure.  If a task was not completed on time, they took an encouraging approach rather than one where they seemed upset or disappointed.  She adds, “We realized they were not just taking us through a process, but they were really vested in it. They were our biggest cheerleaders and made it feel like a team effort.  We were not left alone to try to figure it out ourselves.”

From the beginning, The Covenant Group laid out clear expectations regarding their role in the solicitation process. Finke explained, “We initially expected that the firm we hired would do more of the calls for us, but that was not the case. They taught us how to do it ourselves and that was for the better. We have built lasting relationships with donors and we will continue to steward these relationships long after the campaign is over. This is a new approach to fundraising for us.”

The basic needs goal was set at $4.5 million. Just 18 months into the five-year campaign that goal has long been surpassed. “We are just short of $7.5 million and we are not finished yet”, said Finke excitedly.  When asked if she would recommend The Covenant Group to other organizations seeking counsel she laughed. “It’s funny…the last consultants we worked with we fired…we asked lots of questions but never got the answers.  That was not the case with The Covenant Group. They were informative, direct and involved. We would absolutely recommend and use them again!”

Home of the Innocents, Louisville, KY

The Home of the Innocents offers hope for children, youth and families in crisis by providing care, shelter and support.  Unfortunately, demand for their services has continued to grow.  At a time when the Home was landlocked and overcrowded at its main facility and three other facilities across Louisville.  In order to meet both the immediate and future challenges, the Home desperately needed a new location.

That’s when The Covenant Group got involved.  Thanks to a strong capital campaign, the vision for a new facility has been realized.  Gordon S. Brown, President & CEO, stated it this way, “We called on Dr. Moisan’s company to help us plan and manage a successful campaign, and we believe their involvement was critical to our success.  We have already raised over $23 million and we will definitely exceed our $25 million goal … The more than 1,000 kids we serve every year will have a new home.  It is an exciting new beginning.”Read more

Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church, Brazil, IN

Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Parish has been serving the people of Brazil and West Central Indiana for more than 150 years.  However, in more than a century of ministry, the church had never undergone major renovation.  “We faced a crucial juncture”, recalls Pastor Father John Hollowell.  “Either we would repair the structure or tear it down.  We could not wait, something had to be done.”

To help guide them through their first ever campaign, church leaders received a list of firms recommended and approved by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. After interviewing the three firms on that list a unanimous decision was made to engage The Covenant Group.  “They just seemed like the best fit for us,” Father Hollowell stated. Immediately the feasibility study process began.

The son of the President of a Catholic High School, Father Hollowell understood the importance of the feasibility study.  “Watching my father conduct capital campaigns and having experienced them myself, I know how crucial it is to include the feasibility study as part of the overall campaign”. He added, “The study was beneficial in helping to educate the parish about our plans…having an external source to help answer questions, communicate the vision and conduct the interviews really built consensus and momentum.  People saw our efforts to involve them, educate them and maintain transparency.  This helped them feel good about making a pledge.” At the completion of the study, parish leaders decided to move forward with a $650,000 campaign.

“Professional, prompt, individualized” are words Father Hollowell uses to describe The Covenant Group.  “They really tailored the campaign to specifically fit our church.”  He continued, “Many times people who met Dr. Moisan and Joe Cecil throughout the process commented on how easy they were to talk to; how relatable and genuine.”

To date, the campaign has raised $1.1 million.  “It truly is a miracle”, says Father Hollowell.  Annunciation has only 200 families and is located in an area that has experienced its share of economic turmoil.  “People were committed from the beginning, but at that point even raising $650,000 seemed like a stretch to many parishioners.  To nearly double that amount is incredible!”

Father Hollowell is pleased to report that the campaign has “totally rejuvenated our parish”. He added, “When you hit a goal like that, it builds such a sense of community.  It makes you realize there are a lot of other people who share the same vision.” Other positive benefits have included increased offertory giving as well as an upturn in special donations and volunteerism.

“Recently, we started a Society of St. Vincent De Paul outreach. The campaign helped our parishioners see how blessed we are. The momentum built by the campaign is spilling outside the walls of our church and benefiting others in the process.” When asked if he would recommend The Covenant Group to other churches seeking counsel, Father Hollowell simply concluded with “One hundred percent”.

Kentucky School of Art, Louisville, KY

The Kentucky School of Art at Spalding University (KSA) started four years ago with a vision.  Founder and Chancellor, Churchill Davenport, wanted to bring an innovative, first rate school dedicated to the visual arts to Louisville.  Through partnership with Spalding University students have a unique opportunity to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities with a concentration in Art and now a Bachelor’s in Fine Art.  Since its inception in 2009, enrollment at KSA has grown to more than 100 students today.

However, as a young, start-up organization, keeping a steady stream of operational capital can be a challenge.  Meghan Greenwell, Director of Institutional Advancement, states: “We had an influx of capital at the beginning, but then we hit a lull.  We needed a way to stabilize support and grow our donor base. We decided the best way to do that was through a capital campaign.” Before moving ahead with the campaign, KSA leaders sought the help of fundraising counsel to conduct a feasibility study.  Meghan recalls, “We interviewed several firms.  The Covenant Group really stood out.  Len made us immediately comfortable. He had such a great attitude.  We really believed that he wanted to partner with us in this journey. It was clear he understood higher education as well as our unique position.”

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St. Mary of the Knobs Catholic Church, Floyds Knobs, IN

St. Mary of the Knobs (SMK) parish had outgrown its church facility. Built in 1906 for 160 families, by 2005 the facility was serving more than 1,000 families. It was clear to the parish leaders that they needed a new church building. Pat Byrne, one of four campaign co-chairs explained, “With the growth of our school and church ministries and our future needs we knew the current facilities could not accommodate us. We had to act.”

Initially parish leaders had considered another consulting firm to help with the campaign. However, after one informational meeting with The Covenant Group they made their decision. Father John Geis, Pastor at SMK reflected, “The Covenant Group inspired us from the beginning. We saw it the first night we met with them. They were excited about our campaign.” Father John explained further, “We didn’t want a firm to come in, train our volunteers and then leave. The Covenant Group was there working alongside us throughout the whole process.”

Byrne credits the pre-campaign planning process of The Covenant Group as a key to the campaign’s success. “The feasibility study and the focus groups were invaluable,” said Pat. “They helped us listen to our members, determine the needs and priorities and communicate openly.” The feasibility study revealed that $5 – $6.5 million (at the high end) could be raised, but the parish needed both a worship center and a multi-purpose facility with a total estimated cost of $8.3 million. The Covenant Group suggested putting the full project in front of the parish, even though it was a significant stretch knowing that the projects could always be phased. Campaign Co-Chair Gary Libs added, “The Covenant Group process gave us the tools to communicate and showed us how to get people on board.”

Thus far, contributions total more than $10.9 million, with additional pledges continuing to come in. Pat Byrne recalled, “No one anticipated we could raise this amount. Even the Archdiocese is surprised. The funds raised represent about 15 times our annual giving. But it’s not just the financial results.” All of the Co-Chairs commented on the positive impact the campaign has had on the parish. Bill Sprigler noted that the church is more unified. “People are not in a hurry to leave church. They stand around talking more than they did before the campaign.” Father John adds that he has seen families return to the church that had stopped attending and he feels “a renewed and energized spirit among the staff.” Libs called the campaign, “the most exciting thing to happen in our parish in the last 100 years.”

Father John and each of the Co-chairs enthusiastically affirmed that they would unequivocally recommend The Covenant Group to other churches seeking campaign counsel. Gary Libs concluded, “The Covenant Group is superior in their profession.”

Sojourn Community Church, Louisville, KY

Sojourn Community Church has a mission and vision for the future, and they are passionate about them.  Their congregation had been growing rapidly, and six years after the church opened its doors, they were in desperate need of a new building.  With services overflowing, children’s facilities that were less than acceptable, and parking that was a challenge at best; it became obvious that they needed better facilities.  When an old elementary school came up for sale, Sojourn decided that this was the place for them.  However, they needed to raise an estimated $1.5 million to purchase the building and complete the necessary renovations. That’s when Sojourn’s pastor Daniel Montgomery called the Covenant Group.

After several initial meetings, The Covenant Group went to work and put the processes, teams and systems into place.  Pastor Montgomery elaborated, “The Covenant Group had a lot of our people in our congregation doing small tasks and that builds ownership.  They took our vision and put it into a concrete plan.  The Covenant Group helped us understand the importance of making our vision clear and they laid out the next steps we had to take to make the vision a reality.  They introduced a process that allowed everyone to hear and understand the vision, and then they showed people how they could help.”   The pastor explained further, “this process was alien to the way we did things, but the Covenant Group gave us a solid theological foundation that supported what they did, as well as some key documents, prayer support, and the requisite training for our people to be successful, all of which were invaluable.”

As pastor Montgomery explained, “With The Covenant Group behind us every step of the way, Sojourn was able to exceed our goal of $1.5 million”.  The refurbished building includes a newly renovated 5000+ square foot auditorium, an art gallery, a spacious music venue, state-of-the-art children’s facilities that include a gymnasium and a playroom for toddlers, and much more.
When asked how he felt about the Covenant Group and their contribution to Sojourn’s project, Pastor Montgomery said, “I would absolutely recommend The Covenant Group. Churches looking for theologically and Biblically driven consultants, people who operate with integrity and bring a process that includes the entire church body while empowering its leaders to achieve that vision, should hire The Covenant Group.”

Home of the Innocents – 2nd Campaign, Louisville, KY

The Home of the Innocents faced a dilemma.  They had just completed a highly successful and well publicized $25 million campaign.  The goal was to build a new facility which would consolidate onto one campus four previously separate locations.  The expectation was that the expanded space the new Children’s Village offered would serve the Home’s projected growth for at least ten years.  No one anticipated that just one year after moving into the new facility, the Home would reach maximum capacity.

Linda Medley, Vice President of Development, recalls, “We realized we already needed to look at expanding again.  We knew the public would question why we missed the mark on our forecasts, why another campaign already?”  Again the Home looked to The Covenant Group for help.  “After the success they helped us achieve with the first campaign, it was evident they should be involved again.  The Covenant Group provided a good, sound feasibility study and audit which helped us to focus on our short and long term goals.”

The feasibility study revealed that $16.5 to as much as $20 million more could be raised from the private sector.  The plan was to use these funds to build 4 new buildings.  The proposed new construction consisted of a shelter cottage to house the most high-risk children, an advanced therapy center, an expansion of the pediatric convalescent therapy center and an assessment center, the first of its kind in Kentucky.  Later the plan and the goal were expanded to include a fifth building, an on-campus school which would service children too medically fragile or emotionally traumatized to attend off-campus, public schools.

Medley commented, “the first campaign was easier because at that time the need was very visible.  It gave people a great chance to get involved with the Home of the Innocents.”  She continues, “With the second campaign we had to deal with a downturn in the economy and donor fatigue.  People were not as inclined to give.”  However, with The Covenant Group’s help and a committed Executive Committee the Home is well on its way to surpassing its goal.  To date, they have raised over $16 million in private support and the addition of endowment funds, government funding and other public support puts the total raised at close to $33 million.  All five new buildings are scheduled to open next summer.

Medley credits The Covenant Group’s extensive involvement as key to the campaign’s success.  “They were very involved and did a good job of preparing the Executive Committee and keeping them on task.”  She concluded with an enthusiastic recommendation of The Covenant Group. “They are very comprehensive in their approach.  They are ethical and helpful, regardless of the size of the organization.  I would not move forward with any campaign or strategy without their involvement.”

Sisters of St. Benedict, Our Lady of Grace Monastery, Beech Grove, IN

The Sisters of St. Benedict had just completed an audit conducted by the National Religious Retirement Organization (NRRO).  The original premise was to determine the funding needs to care for the growing number of retiring sisters.  However, the report also revealed an immediate need to renovate and reconfigure the healthcare space in the monastery to make it more elder friendly for our sisters.

In addition to the NRRO report, we knew that St. Paul Hermitage, home to 105 senior adults, needed facility improvements to meet the ever-changing needs of a rapidly growing elder population. The sisters knew that raising that kind of funding would require some external assistance so they called The Covenant Group.

To that end, a feasibility study was conducted and the results indicated support for a campaign goal of $6.9 million.  The sisters set the basic needs goal at $3 million to establish a charitable trust to ensure care for our Senior Sisters. A visionary needs goal of $3.9 million was set to provide funding for the renovations at the both the Monastery and the Hermitage.  Sister Mary Luke Jones, Director of Mission Advancement stated, “The feasibility study gave the sisters the courage to move forward with a capital campaign. We felt it gave us solid grounds to launch this major effort.”

The Covenant Group partnered with the sisters by training their Board and Steering Committee members in making face-to-face solicitations.  This training became crucial as the real work of the campaign got underway.  The sisters did not expect the campaign to be easy.  “We conducted our last campaign in 2003”, recalled Sister Mary Luke.  “My theme for that campaign was Lower and Slower…meaning the gifts came in lower than anticipated and took longer to realize.”

When asked if the results of this campaign have been surprising, Sister stated, “One major donor in particular has been quite a blessing.” However, she is quick to point out that every gift no matter the size is appreciated. She adds, “A campaign is a great time for us to make new friends.  People are supporting us at varying levels and helping us continue to do what we do. Every gift from $1 to $1 million is appreciated.”

Just over two years into the campaign, the sisters have less than $1 million left to raise. “We are at $5.9 million today” Sister Mary Luke reported. “We have been able to fund the Charitable Trust.  Also, we are working with the architects now and preparing to begin the renovations as soon as the campaign is complete.” When comparing the consulting styles of the firms she has worked with, she notes The Covenant Group’s “kinder and gentler approach.” She adds, “Joe and Len make sure we get the job done. They keep us organized and on task, they spur us on so things don’t get missed.” However, she is grateful that unlike some consultants with a more aggressive style they are “charming, helpful and forgiving.” She continued, “The Covenant Group is positive, easy to work with, and they genuinely want to see their clients be successful.  Of course I would recommend them to other nonprofits seeking counsel…in fact, I already have.”

Christ Lutheran Church, Louisville, KY

The congregation of Christ Lutheran Church had a dream. They wanted to install a new pipe organ that would enhance the worship experience. After some in-house fundraising, they were still well short of the amount needed to make the purchase. It was at this point that Pastor Ron Poisel began to interview fundraising consultants. After interviewing several out of town firms, Pastor Poisel met Len Moisan of The Covenant Group for lunch. “Len believed our goal to raise money for the organ alone was too narrow. He challenged us to broaden the scope of the campaign to include other renovation and improvement projects.”

Pastor Poisel continued, “The feasibility study allowed us to test the level of support for these additional projects. By expanding the vision, we found that more of our members were willing to embrace the campaign. The study also allowed us to hear from our entire church body regarding non-financial components such as strengths and areas for improvement. It uncovered solid support from our people for the campaign and helped us set a realistic yet challenging goal. Still, for a congregation with an average attendance of just over 200, half a million dollars seemed a stretch.”

Christ Lutheran wasted no time getting the campaign up and running. Pastor Poisel commented, “The campaign structure The Covenant Group provided was excellent. They helped us identify key leadership candidates to chair the effort, as well as engaging between 80 to 100 people to carry out the work of the campaign. The structure allowed our members to use their God-given talents to benefit the church community”. As a result of the training process and the solid structure, the congregation pulled together. “Joe Cecil and Len encouraged us along the way by providing examples of the campaign success of other churches. This helped our congregation realize that we too could achieve our goals.”

When asked to describe The Covenant Group Pastor Poisel responded, “Organized, encouraging, good listeners.” Then he added, “Len and Joe are men of genuine spirituality and they incorporated that into our campaign effort.” The pastor referenced 2 Corinthians 2:17: “They do not peddle the word of God for profit, but they speak with sincerity.”

One year into the campaign and Pastor Poisel is very pleased with the results. “We not only exceeded our campaign goal, but we did so without having a lead gift indicated in the top giving level. It was truly a whole congregation effort and The Covenant Group helped facilitate that. In addition, the year-end numbers revealed that congregational giving did not experience the deficit we thought might happen during the campaign effort.”

Pastor Poisel would absolutely recommend The Covenant Group to other churches. He advised, “Lots of churches try to do campaigns cheaply, by doing it themselves. That’s a mistake. Too often I have seen people leading the effort get burned out and end up leaving the church. We did not experience any of that.” He added, “The Covenant Group helped us reach our full potential as a congregation.”

Baptist Hospital Foundation, Louisville, KY

For decades, The Baptist Hospital System (BHS) has been recognized as a leader in healthcare excellence. That success has been facilitated in part by the work of the Baptist Hospital Foundation (BHF). Charitable funds raised through the Foundation help BHS maintain its high margin of excellence, and hospital officials knew that the Foundation would play an even larger role in the future. That’s why the hospital leadership decided to engage The Covenant Group. They wanted to conduct a development audit and philanthropic culture assessment to determine the most effective ways to structure and position the Foundation to maximize growth.

Sue Tamme, President of the Louisville Market for Baptist Healthcare Systems recalls, “We needed to assess our current situation and get a broader understanding of our strengths and weaknesses. The Covenant Group gave us an ‘outsiders perspective’ on how we were operating internally. They brought depth, understanding and experience which were very helpful.” Tamme also noted that The Covenant Group developed a comprehensive plan with fresh ideas and they identified new internal programs that they helped the Foundation implement even before the study was completed. One of the prominent areas of need the study uncovered was staffing. The Covenant Group noted that the Foundation simply could not achieve the intended growth without the leadership of an experienced Chief Development Officer. Again BHS and BHF called upon The Covenant Group to provide Executive Search services and help them find the right candidate to fill this role.

Sue Tamme explained, “We felt like The Covenant Group had the experience, the background and the professional knowledge to understand what kind of candidate we were looking for and where to find that person. Their interview process was in depth and gave us a clearer understanding of the candidates’ true capabilities. They were able to uncover their experience, skills and track record of success and present us with a group of screened, qualified candidates that best fit the position.” Tamme further notes that the benefit of using The Covenant Group as compared to doing the search internally was focus. “With an internal search the people involved are trying to juggle many priorities. The Covenant Group was able to focus solely on finding the right candidate for us.”

The Covenant Group’s work with the Foundation has already proven to be fruitful as the Foundation recently secured the largest gift in its history. Clearly, BHF is well on its way to new levels of growth and achievement. Tamme noted that they now have a comprehensive and strategic fundraising plan in place as well as a new Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer at the helm. She believes that they are prepared to “hit the ground running.” Tamme credits The Covenant Group’s Executive Search process as being very targeted and focused with very dependable results.

She concluded by saying that she would recommend The Covenant Group to other firms seeking fundraising counsel or Executive Search services. “Their knowledge of the local community, professionalism and experience are among The Covenant Group’s greatest strengths”.

St. Agnes Catholic Church, Ft. Wright, KY

St. Agnes Catholic Church and School is a community of faith and learning that has served the people of Fort Wright since 1930. The original church building constructed in 1938 and the first school building (1955) are still in operation today. The historical beauty and utility of the church and school stand as reminders of the long-standing tradition of faith and service of St. Agnes parish. However, as structures age, updates and periodic improvements are necessary to keep facilities modern, safe and efficient. Such was the case when St. Agnes decided to conduct a feasibility study and capital campaign.

Father Mark Keene, pastor at St. Agnes recalled, “Our school building needed a series of infrastructure updates. We conducted several engineering studies which helped uncover the needs and gave us an idea of the associated costs.” After reviewing eleven different consulting firms, the St. Agnes team selected The Covenant Group. “Their process was unique. It gave us a clear model of how the campaign would be organized. This helped us envision it, and overcome our fears.” Father Keene added, “We also appreciated the way that Len and Joe brought elements of their own personal faith into the process.”Read more

Beechwold Christian Church, Columbus, OH

Beechwold Christian Church is a mission-minded congregation. With “Pursuing God, Pursuing People” as their slogan, the church was attempting to eliminate anything that would hinder them from achieving their goal. One such hindrance that needed to be addressed was debt. Patrick Mauger, Executive Minister, explained, “We needed to eliminate about $1.2 million in debt. The funds that would be freed up would allow us to make some capital improvements, increase staffing and allocate more resources into other areas of ministry such as children’s programming and missions.” As a congregation with fewer than 300 members, $1.2 million seemed a daunting goal.

After interviewing several firms, the decision was made by church leaders to engage The Covenant Group. Mauger referenced “impressive expertise coupled with the right amount of motivation” as key reasons for their selection.

He went on to recount the steps that were employed in order to ready the congregation for the task at hand. “The Covenant Group played a vital role in helping us prepare for the campaign. They really understood our DNA as an independent Christian Church.” Mauger continued, “They provided keen insights into fundraising and they led us through a strategic planning process which resulted in a unified leadership team ready to tackle the challenges of a capital campaign.”

With The Covenant Group’s offices nearly a four-hour commute from Columbus, church leaders were amazed at the high level of personal involvement of the consultants in the campaign. “They were readily accessible, engaged and gave us such a personal level of service,” the pastor marveled, “We knew they had other clients, but we always felt like we were the only one.”

To date, the campaign has raised over $1.4 million. Mauger is thrilled to say that the campaign results have accomplished what they had hoped at the outset. In addition to the funds raised, he shared several other positive benefits of the campaign. “First, our church body has a renewed sense of focus. Both the elders and the body are united in the direction we are heading.” Mauger added, “Second, our stewardship giving is also up. The campaign actually resulted in having a positive effect on normal tithes and offerings. We didn’t expect that.” Continuing the list he added that there is “a general excitement in the congregation about what they have been able to achieve.”

Mauger concluded by describing The Covenant Group associates as professional, knowledgeable experts.” When asked if he would recommend The Covenant Group to other churches seeking fundraising counsel he laughed and said, “Absolutely, I already have.”

Wellspring, Louisville, KY

Wellspring is Kentucky’s leading provider of housing coupled with services to individuals struggling with psychiatric illness. Nearly 45,500 adults in the Louisville area suffer from some type of severe mental illness. Since 1982, Wellspring has been providing supportive housing coupled with psychiatric rehabilitative services for people living with mental illness. In order to better serve adults experiencing psychiatric crisis, Wellspring developed a plan to build a new crisis stabilization unit, realizing that they would need to raise the funding to do so. With an eye towards the future, Wellspring leaders also determined that they needed to raise sufficient funding to renovate and refurbish existing structures and fund their ongoing maintenance, develop seed funding for new opportunities, and establish a centralized administrative center. To accomplish these ambitious goals they sought help from The Covenant Group.

Nancy Doctor, Director of Development recalls, “We needed a “reality check,” a true assessment of our potential to raise the needed funds. If we had tried to survey potential donors ourselves, we would not have gotten nearly as accurate of an estimate of our capacity.” She added that although she was not on staff when the decision was made to hire The Covenant Group, she immediately had a favorable first impression. Board members who had previously worked with The Covenant Group were extremely complimentary. They shared many positive stories about past campaigns where they had worked together with Len Moisan and his team. Kathy Dobbins, Wellspring’s Executive Director is pleased to say that The Covenant Group lived up to their strong reputation. “Everything The Covenant Group did to help us position the campaign in the initial stages was helpful. From the development of the case statement; to our campaign materials; to the training of our Board members in solicitation strategies; all these steps laid the foundation for eventual campaign success.” Doctor doubts the campaign would have achieved the same results without the counsel of The Covenant Group. “They brought such a high level of professionalism, a wealth of experience and a strong track record of integrity and campaign success… just being associated with The Covenant Group helped us raise more money. Their connections to key players in the community helped us open the right doors.”

Board members are pleased with the results of the campaign, the proceeds of which now top $2.1 million. As a result, the new crisis stabilization unit is now operational and has doubled the services available to the community. Dobbins lists additional benefits of the campaign, “Not only can more clients be served, but our program sites are safer, more comfortable and more energy efficient. And with the agency’s new administrative center, the total workplace environment is improved. Due to the increased space, we now have in-house training facilities and we can host on-site Board and committee meetings, which we could not do before.”

Doctor concluded by saying that she would recommend The Covenant Group to other organizations seeking fundraising counsel; in fact she “does it at every opportunity.” Dobbins added, “They really meshed with us and were a great fit for our organization. They motivated our Board members to keep the campaign moving…they were vigilant and tenacious, yet respectful. Personally, more than just having received good counsel, I feel like we’ve made good friends.”

St. Joseph, Bardstown, KY

Instead of following our typical case study format, we felt it appropriate to let this original letter speak for itself.  It came from the pastor, Father William Hammer.  It was sent on 4/28/08 from the Pastor of St. Joseph parish, Father William Hammer.  His remarks were in no way solicited and we publish them with his full knowledge and permission as follows:

“I want to thank you very much for the wonderful job that you, Joe Cecil and The Covenant Group staff offered to our parish in our recently completed “A Time to Build” Capital Campaign.  From the very beginning of our initial interviews and throughout the process I have always appreciated your approach which is faith-based upon principals of good stewardship and community building.  I do believe that our parish is stronger and grew spiritually throughout the process.  Your advice and counsel insured success beyond our initial expectations.”

I remember when we approached you about our original vision of an elementary school addition for approximately $3.3 million and you encouraged us to dream bigger of a “stretch goal” which then led us to consider renovated space for a fellowship hall and we raised the goal to $3.8 million.  Then as we continued our interviews and further developed our case statement, we envisioned a new fellowship hall and raised our goal to $4.8 million.  As we approach our “A Time to Celebrate” thank you party for the over 200 volunteers who assisted us throughout the process and as we are looking forward to a ground breaking with the start of summer, we are very near to a pledge total of $5 million.

You and Joe helped us in so many ways, beginning in the feasibility phase, setting a realistic campaign calendar, providing us with draft materials we could very easily adapt, the binder of detailed job descriptions and tasks, and most importantly the training.  Throughout the many months of preparation and training I always heard very favorable feedback from the parishioners involved.  I believe we would not have been nearly as successful had it not been for Joe’s and your guidance, support and encouragement.  To exceed our “stretch goal” and to do the outreach we were able to accomplish was a daunting undertaking for a parish of over 1,800 families, but it was made more manageable with your help.  Both the parish and I are better for the opportunity we had to work together.  Again, my thanks to you, Joe and your staff.”

Ronald McDonald House Charities Kentuckiana

The team at Ronald McDonald House Charities Kentuckiana (RMHCK) understands families in crisis who deal with serious illness. In fact, children whose families stay at RMHCK tend to be the sickest. They also travel the furthest and experience the longest hospital stays. With just 36 guest rooms, too often the House is full and families have to be turned away (over 550 times in 2016 & 2017) .

CEO Hal Hedley explains, “We knew we needed to expand our capacity. We acquired the building next door and planned to renovate it and connect it to our main facility. Doing this would allow us to increase the number of guest rooms to 56. We also planned to renovate our existing facility”.  Although the original campaign target was $15 million, it was raised to $21 million due to increased construction and operational costs.

The nonprofit selected The Covenant Group to conduct a feasibility study and then help launch the super-sized campaign. Hedley credits the study with helping identify both current donors that would support the projects as well as new, prospective donors “not already on their radar”. He also noted that talking to stakeholders allowed them to uncover what questions and concerns potential donors had about the projects. “Knowing these issues upfront helped us provide clear answers that were conveyed in our campaign materials. We had the answers prepared even before the questions were asked”.

The team at RMHCK was not new to capital campaigns. In fact, The Covenant Group had helped the organization previously conduct a $3 million campaign that allowed them to renovate 7,000 sq. ft. of space. Hedley pointed out that the scope and size of this campaign were much greater with a goal of $21 million and the plan to renovate 60,000 sq. ft. that spans two buildings.

Hedley called The Covenant Group the campaign architect. “They helped put together timelines and developed a structure that made it possible for us to achieve our goals. They also helped us open doors with new donors some of which resulted in major gifts. In addition, they trained our Board to give them confidence in conducting personal solicitations”. “Thorough, responsive, strong planners, and good trainers” are some of the terms he used to describe The Covenant Group.

Today, funds raised in the campaign effort total $19.5 million, just shy of the $21 million goal. Hedley forecasts that both the fundraising and the construction will be complete next year. He added, “The campaign has helped us broaden our base of support. This will not only help us achieve the campaign goal but ensure we have the funds needed to cover ongoing operations as well.”

Hedley states that he would recommend The Covenant Group to others seeking campaign counsel. He explains, “We appreciate The Covenant Group putting together a plan that has helped us be successful in raising the funds needed to complete this transformational project”. At the end of the day it will help RMHCK Keep more families close and that is the most important result.

What Pastors Should Do Before Launching a Capital Campaign

After 25 years working with faith-based organizations, I’ve learned a few things about churches. Some experience great success in fundraising campaigns, while others leave money on the proverbial table. So what’s the difference? I believe employing the following principles constitutes a good start.


Too often church capital campaigns are driven by immediate or urgent needs…the roof is leaking…HVAC isn’t working, the foundation needs repair, etc., etc. There’s a campaign organized around an urgent plea and it fails. But your level of urgency is not always the same as that of the congregation. Not to suggest that these are not emergencies, but some emergencies are the result of poor planning.

Generally, people want to be informed and have time to understand the need. The most successful campaigns we’ve seen are ones that come from a church-wide planning process, where there’s been time to share the results and subsequent needs that came from that process. People feel better about giving when they know there’s been thought given to the process.


People who give have been taught to give; it’s part of the Christian tradition. Yet not all pastors believe that. A pastor once told me that he didn’t like speaking about giving in his sermons. It made him “uncomfortable.” Another pastor refused to pass an offering basket on weekends. Instead he put offering boxes around the church. That way when people felt led they could give without being ”hassled.” Evidently not enough people felt led, so he now passes offering baskets weekly.

That rhetoric may sound appealing, but these pastors are really shirking their teaching responsibilities. The weekly offerings support the church’s ministries and therefore their reluctance to teach on financial stewardship diminishes giving and also ministry. Consider that in Luke 6: 38, Jesus tells us to give and it will be given to us. In 2 Cor. 9:6-7 the Apostle Paul tells us that God loves a cheerful giver and whoever gives sparingly will reap sparingly. And there are many more verses on giving. That’s why the churches where we experience the most success are also the ones that regularly teach principles of giving.


It is one thing to articulate a need; it is quite another to convey the vision of what funding that need will help achieve. Vision is more about opportunity than need. Unfortunately, too many pastors focus on needs rather than vision.

Henri Nouwen explained it this way: “Fundraising is, first and foremost, a form of ministry. It’s a way of announcing our vision (a vision that usually comes from God) and inviting other people, (to join us).”

When I was a VP in higher education one of the wealthiest philanthropists told me once, “I’m not interested in your need; I’m interested in your vision and the opportunities it will create.” Whether we’re working on campaigns for a new sanctuary, a multipurpose center, debt reduction, repairs or anything else, we tell pastors to focus on how much more ministry the funding of this project will allow them to achieve or how it will improve the quality of ministry.


The last thing we want anyone to think is that a few people in a back room devised these plans. To avoid this we recommend that pastors be as transparent as possible as soon as possible. From the planning process all the way through the campaign it is crucial to share information openly and frequently. Don’t assume people understand or know everything you know as pastor. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

When pastors plan, preach and teach on giving, focus on vision and communicate they position themselves for success in most initiatives including campaigns.

Building a Contagious Culture

Recent research places U.S. unemployment at 3.7% (tradingeconomics.com).   With joblessness hovering at record lows, and minimum wage on the rise, it’s difficult for employers to recruit and retain top talent.  Yet, there are companies with a kind of “secret sauce” that seems to keep staff engaged and content even in this “job-seeker market”.

Last week, the Louisville’s Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) hosted a meeting entitled, “Building a Contagious Culture”.  Scott Colosi, retired President of Texas Roadhouse (TRH), spoke about what sets this high energy, steakhouse chain apart from others.  He also related how the (TRH) “secret sauce” applies to nonprofit organizations.  This blog recaps 5 of his key points.

1.  Know your mission.  It’s important that everyone understand the organization’s mission.  At TRH the mission is simple. Legendary food… Legendary service. This common mission unites people across the brand (from dishwashers to the CEO) under a common purpose. For nonprofits, mission is key in building a strong case for support. People in all roles should be able to clearly and passionately articulate the mission. This helps them share stories of success and it provides reasons why the organization is worthy of support.

2.  Find Balance. Often organizations struggle to find an appropriate balance between discipline and fun.  Scott mentioned this as a real strength in the TRH culture.  To illustrate he shared a few stories.

For example, to keep things lively, one Wednesday someone walked a baby camel through the offices, mimicking the popular Geico commercial for “Hump Day”.  Also, he shared that TRH provides opportunities for employees to volunteer (even during work hours).

But Scott was also quick to add that while fun is important, it is equally essential to maximize productivity through discipline.  For many nonprofits, simply keeping up with the daily tasks (client needs, operations, fundraising, capital campaigns) leaves little time left for fun.  Yet, it is vital, even in the midst of demanding schedules, for nonprofit employees to find time to laugh, bond and enjoy their work.

3.  Empower Employees. Freedom to make both decisions and mistakes allows employees to contribute and be creative.  Scott noted that TRH encourages staff to try new things and challenge the status quo.  Sometimes this moves the organization in an even better direction.  Listening goes hand-in-hand with empowerment.  Effective leaders seek and hear feedback and consider new ideas from employees at all levels.  Often at TRH the best ideas come from workers in their stores. Similarly, nonprofits can learn a lot simply by seeking input and listening to stakeholders. Allowing staff and donors to contribute ideas, feelings and advice builds buy-in and often improves results.

4.  Think Long-Term.  Focusing on long-term rather than immediate results may seem counter-productive. It means doing right things immediately, even though they may be costly.  Though you may lose short-term money, such decisions can produce hefty long-term results. For example, during a slow period TRH resisted cutting staff and benefits for short-term gain. The results were long-term profitability through employee retention, perceived organizational integrity and sales growth.  While many nonprofits face similar budgetary concerns, it’s important not to lose a long-term view in decision-making.

5.  Care About People.  In the final analysis Scott was talking about building a contagious culture by respecting and caring for people, demonstrating to stakeholders that, “We care”.  At TRH stakeholders include employees, guests, investors and vendors.  At nonprofits, it’s staff, donors, volunteers and the extended community. Decisions are based not only on what’s profitable but also on what best cares for others. Loyalty to stakeholders breeds loyalty. Certainly this requires time, but personal touches tell people they’re valued, and when people feel valued results become contagious.


Saving Kids From Higher Ed Hardship

Last week I covered the continuing scandals in higher education…or at least some of it. I noted that the recent admissions scandals represent just the tip of the iceberg. Bribes and donations are exchanged for admission, “scholars” distort data in exchange for grants, riots break out with little response, tuition and fees increase excessively, Christian students are ridiculed, pro-life students are attacked, and on and on and on.

With such elevated dysfunction on campus, I wondered what parents can do. I also promised to address that issue. As we begin it’s important to say first that solutions really depend on both students and parents. What works in one place may not be right or even possible in another. That said, I offer the following ideas:

Search out the reputation, environment and surrounding communities of your college possibilities

When our kids were checking out colleges, we actually traveled there. In fact, even when they were younger, when we visited a city we also visited local colleges and universities. We talked with people, visited the admissions office, checked retention rates, ate in cafeterias and looked for like-minded organizations that support the values and interests of our kids. I also visited with security to ask about campus crime (that’s supposed to be available) and met with local pastors and others in the community. Simply stated, we were fact finding and we wanted to know as much as we could about the ethos of each school we visited.

Arrange to visit with the Dean and department heads

This is a crucial part of your visit. Try to set it up in advance, and if they’re not available that tells you something as well. Ask them questions about educational philosophy, graduation rates, post college job placements, tolerance for diverse opinions and more. You want to know as much as possible about the people who may be teaching your child. Some call this helicopter parenting, but I call it checking out your investment. Think about it, before your child graduates you will have invested anywhere from $100,000 to as much as $300,000 in after tax money.

Realize there’s no perfect college, so find one that fits

Ask questions! Will they be able to make friends? Will they be respected? Can they pursue their interests without being hassled? Use your instincts here. Sometimes kids have life long dreams of attending a particular school. Yet, as you fact-find you realize the place is not a good match. That’s why you should visit several colleges before you make a final decision. Remember, you’re the consumer. Within reason, the college should offer what you want, and that includes safety and respect for your child.

We already discussed the riots at UC Berkeley, but consider the University of Missouri. Protests about the racial climate accelerated in the fall of 2015. An African American group, Concerned Student-1950, blocked the president’s car during homecoming and issued a list of demands including his removal. One student staged a hunger strike; the black football players threatened to stop playing until the university met their demands.

Volatility accelerated and eventually the president did resign. However, their momentary triumph proved shallow, as campus tensions rose. University administrators failed to lead and enrollment growth reversed quickly. In fact, freshman enrollment fell 35% over the next two years. What’s more interesting is that black student enrollment dropped by 42%. This caused a $49 million shortfall and the university wound up eliminating 185 positions and 30 staff members.

The point here is that parents chose not to send their children to that university because the leadership allowed it to become unsafe, and you have the right to do the same. Transition to college is hard enough. Do what you can to make it easier.

Scandals from the Ivory Tower

As a former administrator at two universities, I find the recent admissions scandals interesting but not surprising. Once again, the esteemed academy has been tarnished and not only by this incident. For example, the University of Louisville fired its basketball coach for allegedly hiring prostitutes and paying recruits. Shortly after that its President resigned. He was sued for allegedly misusing funds and making unusually high payments to himself from the school’s foundation.

A Leadership Deficit

If leaders create culture, then problems like these connote leadership deficits. In fact, scandals at universities abound, so fixing them starts at the top. Consider that USC fired its medical dean, an alleged drug user who regularly interacted with criminals. Conversely, UC Berkley erupted in riots, when conservative Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak. He needed evacuation by police to protect him.

In 1969 Governor Ronald Reagan intervened decisively in those Berkeley riots. He dispatched and empowered the National Guard and chastised university officials and the riots stopped. In contrast, the current university chancellor, president and governor seemingly did little to quell this most recent disturbance. In fact, one student attending the speech was pepper-sprayed by masked and violent protestors. Now that student is suing the university and the city for not protecting her.

She claims further that university administrators express open hostility toward conservatives. Evidently Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks said this about Yiannopoulos, “ (he’s) a troll and provocateur who uses odious behavior in part to ‘entertain,’ but also to deflect any serious engagement with ideas.”

We have “scholars” distorting data and lying to get research grants; professors ridiculing evangelicals and Catholics for their faith and masked protesters erupting against opposing views. Sure colleges and universities tout themselves as safe places where students can pursue “truth”, but the reality can be quite different. In fact, right now the US Justice Department reports that one-in-four female students will be sexually assaulted before they graduate, and it’s actually higher because 70% of victims don’t report it. Beyond that, some institutions have become bastions of intolerance. Raucous behavior and riots replace debate; political correctness replaces free speech.


Now comes the latest “pay-to-play” scandal. Allegedly coaches have been bribed, underperforming students have been admitted, significant payments have been made, and (for a fee) parents have had surrogates take SAT tests for their children. While Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are the poster children for this, there are allegedly hundreds more involved.

What’s interesting is that some of America’s most “elite” institutions are implicated (Yale, Stanford, USC, Wake Forest, etc.), and it’s been happening for a while. A 2009 Chicago Tribune story exposed abuses at the University of Illinois, where politically connected students received preferential admissions treatment regardless of their academic credentials. Also, the University of North Carolina offered over 200 fraudulent classes for two decades, mostly to athletes.

Though coaches are accused of using prostitutes, making payments and offering bribes to get students into schools, universities have been prostituting themselves for decades. More than a few underperforming students have secured enrollment after a relative made a significant donation to a capital campaign project.

The Perfect Storm

College costs continue to rise well beyond the CPI. Right now student loan debt exceeds $1.5 trillion, and a good portion of that is because students can’t afford college. Tuition, fees, room and board now top $70,000 per year at many colleges and $50,000 or better at hundreds more.

Consider a recent U.S. Bureau of Labor report showing that tuition and fees were 1,333.76% higher in 2019 versus 1978. Simultaneously, another report showed there are more than 100 universities with endowments exceeding $1 billion. Harvard tops that list with over $38 billion. So why isn’t there more help for students and where is all of this leading?

I believe higher education is in for a rough ride. Declining demographics, less expensive online options and rising costs have created a perfect storm. People regularly question the value of a degree. So where is the leadership and what can parents do? I’ll cover that in my next blog.

A Salute to the Heroes

Last week, our firm’s President, Len Moisan, had the pleasure of traveling to Lynchburg, Virginia to celebrate his father-in-law’s 100th birthday. While making it to this milestone is quite an achievement in itself, George Rogers is not your typical centenarian.

An American Hero

Mr. Rogers is a great American patriot, a decorated war hero and a survivor of the Bataan Death March. The March came after the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. The Japanese landed the next day near Luzon in the Philippines. In January the allied troops retreated to Manila and then to Bataan under heavy fire. On April 9, 1942, after fierce fighting, General Edward King finally surrendered.

Bataan Death March

The surviving forces, numbering about 76,000 Americans and Filipinos, were forced to march over 100 kilometers in what became known as the Bataan Death March. The trip lasted several days in scorching heat, with no planned food or water stops. Since the troops had been on limited rations, they were already weak and tired. Men carried sick friends but as they fell, they’d be shot, stabbed by bayonets or run over by tanks. By the end of the march, 10,000 men had died. Immediately, survivors were loaded into steel boxcars and shipped to Camp O’Donnell with temperatures inside reaching 120 degrees.

George and the other prisoners were eventually shipped to Japan and forced into hard labor in a steel mill. During 3 1/2 years in prison camp, George was on a starvation diet that left his 6’3″ frame weighing only 85 pounds. In addition to the hard work, he endured beatings, humiliation, Malaria, Dry Beriberi, dysentery, burying 1,600 Americans and much more at the hands of his captors.

Never Losing Hope

Despite these circumstances; he wasn’t defeated and he never lost hope. That’s what true leaders do. George survived in captivity, because of two things. First, he had faith and believed in God. Second, those beliefs helped George create a vision, which transcended his present circumstances and encouraged him to plan for the future. Thinking about Mr. Roger’s selfless service to our country and the sacrifices he and his fellow soldiers made got me thinking about other heroes who’s efforts often go unnoticed.

Heroes in our Schools

This June, my daughter will graduate high school. As I think about her journey through her educational experience, I am reminded of the many teachers, staff, and administrators who helped guide her to this point. I think about teachers, like Mrs. Higdon, who helped develop in Erica a love for math. She encouraged her to challenge herself by taking hard classes and taught her to not fear difficult content. Then, there was Dr. Bentley, her AP Physics teacher. When I questioned her readiness to take such a difficult class, he voiced his confidence in her ability to handle the subject matter. He helped Erica uncover an untapped gift in science that is driving her to study medicine as she moves into her college coursework.

There were other heroes along the way. Teachers who came in early or stayed late to help students so they could better understand difficult content, make up tests, or just provide a listening ear. There was Mr. Ross, her middle school principal who made every child in the school feel welcome. He made it a point to personally greet the students and he seemed to keep an extra eye out for those who didn’t fit in quite as easily. He found ways to make everyone feel included.

Heroes in our Community

In addition to educational heroes, I think about others in our community who give generously and unselfishly to promote the common good. I think of non-profit leaders who feed the hungry, house the homeless, provide a safe place for the abused, or a home away from home for parents of seriously ill children. I think of those who build parks, provide educational scholarships and help the developmentally disabled live lives of independence and there are so many others.

To the heroes who go to war or serve selflessly in the military, to the teachers who encourage students to dream, achieve and reach for their goals, to those who offer help to the hurting or invest in ways that make our community strong…I salute your leadership. Please know that your efforts have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. Keep doing what you do to serve, inspire and lead. We are all better off because of these heroes.

Getting to Know Your Next Gen Donors

Last week I attended an Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) monthly meeting. The topic was Getting to Know Your Next Gen Donors. The content included giving trends highlighted in a recent report “The Next Generation of American Giving”. It also included a 6-person panel discussion with 2 representatives from each of the following generations: Generation X (born 1965 – 1980), Millennials or Generation Y (born 1981 – 1995) and Generation Z (born 1996 and after).

The purpose of the session was to determine if the study findings were consistent with the actual giving behaviors of each of the respective generations. The study itself revealed some interesting results. For example, fewer Americans are giving. Even though total dollars donated continues to increase, the population of givers is declining. Research comparing 2013 to 2018 giving figures showed a marked decline in donors to charities. This is true for all generations, with the exception of Baby Boomers. Giving by Boomers represents 41% of all money donated last year and 75% of Boomers self-report giving.

The session focused on some key take-aways that fundraising professionals should consider when deciding how to approach the up and coming givers.

Don’t Underestimate Generation X.

There tend to be misconceptions that Gen X is a small sliver of the population sandwiched between two giant generations (Boomers and Millennials). However, research demonstrates there are 65.6 million people in this group. Of this population about 55% give an average of $921 annually to about 3 charities. Other studies show that amount is much higher. Also, Pew Research suggests that Gen X will exceed Boomers in 2025, making the reign of Gen X as prime donors less than 10 years away. This generation is the ideal target for bequests, planned gifts and workplace giving. Smart fundraisers will begin to plan strategies accordingly now.

Donor Retention is Becoming Increasingly Important.

The same report states that first year donor retention still remains between 25%-30%. Considering the fact that the donor population is shrinking, retention becomes even more paramount. Successful fundraisers must find new ways to keep donors. One strategy discussed suggests focusing on a multi-generational approach. Involving multiple generations of donors within a family as a way of retaining donor and affinity beyond the lifespan of the first donor. Finding ways to listen to and engage family members across multiple generations (parents, heirs) may help improve retention and increase donations. Panelists at the session cited examples that supported this fact. Many mentioned learning philanthropy from their parents or grandparents. An important idea to remember is that “Fundraising is not mining or hunting’ it’s farming.” Sowing seeds across multiple generations through relationship building and cultivation is a strategy that should reap a beneficial harvest over time. Also engaging Millennials and post-Millennials today in volunteer efforts may help them become financial donors in the future.

Create a Transparent Culture

Transparency on how dollars are used remains a key concern for many donors. Successful nonprofits create a transparent culture that communicates the outcomes from the funds raised. Donors want to see this and it greatly assists fundraising effectiveness. For all generations, except Gen Z, donors use a nonprofit’s website as the main source to learn about causes they’re considering. That means your website should make it easy for donors to find answers. They want to know how funds are used and amounts that go for programs vs. overhead. Panelists also cited referrals by friends and family as key sources to learn about causes.

While the next 10 years will see Boomers as the prominent giving sector, multi-generational strategies are vital. With Generation X on the rise it’s important to build relationships with them not just as direct givers, but also as prospects for planned giving. No doubt, investing time and resources to build relationships with Millennials will have long-term benefits.

Why are some nonprofits and churches successful while others are not?

This question comes to me in one form or another almost daily.  There are different answers for different organizations, but usually it comes down to just a few items. In fact, these are not very complex solutions, but you’d be surprised how many organizations fail to follow them.

1.     Vision – Every organization must have a vision that drives their actions. Proverbs tells us that without vision the people perish. The same is true for organizations. Without vision it’s quite difficult to recruit effective leaders or engage transformational donors. Vision is not just about what you’re currently doing. It’s also about the future and what you want to be or become as an organization.

2.     Leadership – This is true for churches and nonprofits: leadership is crucial to success. Leadership certainly includes the CEO or Pastor. Yet successful organizations also have board members who take an active interest in organizational life. They ask questions and challenge decisions. In fact, trouble often comes when board members rubber stamp decisions. They may be very nice people, but one has to ask, are they equipped to lead?

Also, even if they’re good, often there are simply not enough of them. Having only 5 or 6 board members might make for easier decision-making, but do those “harmonious” members give you the best decisions. As Tom Peters noted in the 1980s, sometimes the best decisions don’t necessarily come from harmony; they come after organizations work their way through the chaos of disagreement.  That’s why diversity in the leadership team is crucial. And, when it comes to things like fundraising, enhancing organizational visibility, or tending the flock it requires more board members to help.

3.     Information – Sir Arthur Cannon Doyle once said, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data…one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

A client of ours was getting ready for a capital campaign. They needed to find new donors, so I explained that some of those donors might be right there in their database. They theorized without facts that there weren’t any. However, we finally convinced them to conduct a database analysis/wealth screening and found 18 multi-millionaires about whom they knew nothing.

Another time we worked with a church that also wanted to conduct a capital campaign. They were convinced they could achieve a lofty goal, until we did some interviews and a church survey. Fully 65% of respondents were against the campaign. Without this information, they may have failed miserably and created a major member uprising.

4.     A Plan – People want to know that you’ve thought through what you’re doing, particularly if you want them to make a financial investment. An effective planning process starts with information gathering through a stakeholder survey.  That information helps you identify critical issues, and then develop goals, strategies and action plans to address those issues. Whether it involves enhancing or growing membership or improving services, you need a plan.

A plan also answers critical questions. Does what you’re planning make sense? Is it the best alternative? Have you considered other options? Who are the leaders and what is the timing? What’s driving your plan? All of these and more are important planning questions that should be addressed before you engage members or donors to help.

5.     Action – It is really where all of this converges.  You can have vision, leadership, information and a plan but if you don’t have action you achieve nothing.  As Mark Twain said, “Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” Organizations that achieve follow through on their plans with action.

Why Is Everyone So Angry?

As I read the news today I noticed there is a pattern to the stories. Some stories were uplifting, but most were about people getting angry. In one story a former Jeopardy champion criticized critics of the show’s new “All Star” format, in which former champions compete with former champions. He concluded by telling critics, “if they don’t like it; don’t watch it,” not exactly a great marketing strategy.

Emerging Patterns of Anger

After that I read that Spike Lee, got visibly angry and stormed out of the Academy Awards because the “Green Book” won best picture instead of his movie. I also read that Democrats are fighting internally about the Green New Deal…some like it and some don’t.

Also, most observers at the Oscars called Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s performance electrifying. However, one of the Spice Girls, Mel B, didn’t like their obvious chemistry as they performed together. She “felt bad” for Cooper’s girlfriend who sat in the first row. Then there was a story about an angry man who stabbed another man three times in a doughnut shop in California.

Of course, there are many daily stories about people who are angry with President Trump. And the anger and hatred directed towards the Covington Catholic High School students from the Black Hebrew Israelites is yet another example of this culture of anger. In fact, an NBC/Esquire survey indicated 7 out of 10 people are angered by something in the news at least once per day. There is anger about race, oppression, TV programs, losing and winning, legislation, wearing certain hats and just about anything else you might imagine…resentment, anger, outrage, violence!

Is Anger Fear in Disguise?

True, sometimes anger is justified, but increasingly the reactions we see seem to be way over the top. People fight, riot, disturb and destroy with seemingly no remorse. In fact, the NIH noted that more than 16 million Americans have a condition called intermittent explosive disorder…(people getting angry out of proportion with the circumstance). So I asked, where does all of this come from? I heard a scholar say once that anger is fear in disguise. There’s a lot of truth to that, but with the increase of anger we’ve seen lately, people must be awfully fearful. So how do we tone this down?

  1. First, for over two millennia churches and synagogues have been primary teachers of values. That’s where we learned to respect, serve and care for each other. It’s not surprising that the decline in church and synagogue attendance parallels the increase of anger and vitriol we see today. If houses of worship stepped up and had a more prevalent voice, the anger might start to abate.
  2. Second, to keep the attendance steady, some pastors tend to give people what they want rather than the truth that they need. Therefore, people aren’t learning to deal with life in a civil way, so they explode when they don’t get their way. The Gospel is life-changing and transformational, and scripture tells us to preach it in season and out of season. In other words, we need to preach it whenever we can, and remember the words of Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words.”
  3. Third, understand that people are different. Our challenge is to respect them and listen politely when they speak, regardless of how much we might disagree. As the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians, “Be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” A little more grace would be helpful.
  4. Finally, we don’t have to comment on everything. Sometimes the better side of discretion is shutting off the media and being quiet even on Facebook.

Too Many Campaigns Occurring…Not Enough Money

Have you ever heard such comments from board members or reluctant volunteers? As fundraising consultants, we’ve heard that many times over.  In fact, a friend of mine recently heard that objection, so I decided to do some research.

Data on Giving

In recent years I was a member of the Giving Institute, and I served on the editorial committee of their annual survey, Giving USA. It’s the authoritative report on giving in the US. It shows the collective giving from individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations.  Last year alone giving in the US totaled a record $410.02 billion.

I realize there are variances in state populations and therefore state giving. Still, doing quick math gives us an average of $8 billion per state. Now again California, New York, Pennsylvania and a host of other states have a greater population than Kentucky. However, I figured there had to be a way to calculate or at least approximate our giving in Louisville, so I went to work.

I first had to find what % of households give to charity each year. While the Philanthropy Roundtable indicates that 70-90% of households give, Giving USA indicates that only 56% give. However, giving also increased substantially over the last two years from $390 billion to $410 billion. Traditionally about two-thirds of households have given to charity.  However, I’ll stay with the more conservative 56%.

Conservative Estimates Still Produce Big Numbers

Yet, even if I use the conservative number the amount of giving in your area will be substantial, so let me show you how I calculated it for Louisville. The metropolitan area here has a population of 1.34 million people. On average there are 2.58 people per household. Dividing 1.34 million by 2.58 gives us 519,379 households, and Americans gave about $2,650 per household.

Now I want to stop right there for a minute, because in a story about the most generous cities, the Chronicle of Philanthropy indicated that people in Louisville gave an average of $4836 per household. However, for the sake of this blog I want to stay with the more conservative number of $2650 per household. Likewise, instead of going with the typical 67% of households who give, again I used the more conservative number of 56%.

I next calculated the number of Louisville households that gave by multiplying .56 X 519,379 total households. That gave me 290,852 households who gave last year, and then I multiplied that by the average gift of $2650, which added up to $770,758,436 (70% of the total) given by individuals. Then when I calculated giving from corporations, bequests, foundations and donor advised funds (30% of the total) it added up to another $230 million.

With very conservative calculations total giving for our area last year was a little more than $1 billion. If I use the traditional two-thirds number (67%) of households that give, it adds up to $1.285 billion. Either way it’s a substantial number.

True, some of that giving went to organizations outside of Louisville, but many donors from outside gave to Louisville organizations, so I considered that to be a wash. Well then, if people give that much what’s the difference? Why are some organizations able to raise millions while others struggle to get by?

Leadership is Key

First, it has to do with the kind of leadership coming from the board chair, CEO and full board. The good ones don’t make excuses; they get busy making the case, cultivating and asking others for help. Second, they have a well-thought out vision behind their case that serves and/or helps people. And finally, they believe in what they’re doing and they plan to win at fundraising and not lose.