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Brooke Binkowski

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The Nonprofit Sector Has a Diversity Problem.

Posted by Brooke Binkowski on Nov 30, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Diversity is a big word.

A huge one, actually. Not because it's a particularly long one, or even because it's more than three syllables, but because it's a word that's fraught with meaning and connotation, a corporate buzzword that is also a pretty decent goal. Diversity encompasses differences in how you perceive and are perceived, how you act, how you think, and what you think. It's something that should be pursued, but should diversity be a goal for its own sake, or should it occur organically? How do you foster it in the workplace and create an environment that benefits everybody without creating friction? Where do you begin?

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Topics: Nonprofit, nonprofit leadership, nonprofit management

4 Surefire Ways to Prepare Your Nonprofit For Holiday Fundraising

Posted by Brooke Binkowski on Nov 9, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Halloween has come and gone, the fall weather has arrived all over the northern hemisphere, and we're one pumpkin spice latte and winter-themed window display away from the holiday season. In fact, the Christmas advertising has already begun.

This is also one of the most popular and lively times of year to solicit donations. After all, if people are already in the spirit of giving, what better opening can you get for the ask? As a matter of fact, the numbers are pretty amazing, especially with online gift giving: nearly $1 out of every $5 donated to a charity online is given in December – and donors give much larger gifts this time of year, too – around 80% bigger overall.

It's a no-brainer, right? Well, hold up there for a second. Yes, the holidays are the time that people and companies traditionally set money aside in order to give to charities and foundations, and therefore it's a great idea to focus fundraising efforts around the holiday season, but you have to be sure you're going about it the right way. Like so many other aspects of running a nonprofit, managing the holidays takes planning, cultivation, and knowing when to ask and when to give. A little preparation can reap benefits for you and your organization all year long.

Here are four surefire ways to make sure you're ready for the holiday season.

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Topics: Fundraising, Holiday Fundraising, GivingTuesday

5 Must Ask Interview Questions For Hiring a Major Gifts Officers

Posted by Brooke Binkowski on Oct 26, 2015 10:00:00 AM

When you're looking for an employee, it's not a decision you undertake lightly – especially when it's someone who will have as much of an effect on your organization as a Major Gift Officer.

The MGO is a big deal, because it requires a unique skill set: a love for people and – ideally – an authentic dedication to your cause, a knack for storytelling and listening, and, of course, a flair for fundraising. Most of all, you want to make sure that a potential gift officer is compatible with your vision.

So while your personal preferences may vary, the top qualities of a major gift officer are pretty consistent. They really like people, are dedicated and enthusiastic about your cause, great storytellers and listeners, have a real gift for raising money (of course!) and possess long-term compatibility with you and your plans.

But not all of these may be immediately on display when you're interviewing someone – so you have to ask the right questions to find out! Here are the top five questions to ask a prospective major gift officer.

When you're thinking up questions to ask a prospective MGO, directness and simplicity is key, says Ayda Sanver, a Maryland-based fundraiser and consultant to nonprofits, with emphasis on smaller and emerging organizations.

The most important question, she says, is the simplest one: 

1) “Do you like working directly with donors and prospects, and are you comfortable asking for gifts?”

That's way better than talking around the issue, unless you're just curious and trying to get a feel for who they are as a person. If working directly with people isn't someone's cup of tea, then you shouldn't hire them – at least not for this position.

2) “What kind of experience do you have with large-scale fundraising?”

Of course, experience is important, but how they answer this question is just as important as what they answer with. In fundraising, there's more than just practicing “the ask.” There's also enthusiasm – although which to value the most is up to you and the position. Sanver said sometimes you can just go with your gut about a less experienced hire, as long as they're demonstrating enthusiasm.

“This depends on the level of seniority [and] supervision required in the position,” she said. “For a junior major gift officer, the above characteristics mean the person has a foundation to learn and be molded into a great major gifts officer, given that they are willing to attend training, read books/online articles, and be mentored by someone more senior, or develop their own network of other major gift officers to bounce ideas off of.”

So what if you want to get hired as a major gifts officer, don't have a lot of experience, but think you'd be really good at fundraising? According to Sanver, one of the best markers of enthusiasm is teaching yourself the ropes: attend trainings, watch webinars, read websites. If you're an employer and have a great feeling about someone with not much experience, ask them what they have done to learn about raising funds for charities.


Major Gift Officer Job Skills


3) “Why would you like to work here?”

This question isn't just asking for affirmation. It's asking whether they did their due diligence about your organization and know what it's all about, rather than just firing off a one-size-fits-all resume to every opportunity out there. This question can also be answered in a really good cover letter, Sanver said.

“For me, a good cover letter shouldn't be very long, but demonstrate enthusiasm to be considered for the position, a good understanding of the nature of the nonprofit's work, and how the applicant would be a good fit for the existing team,” she explained. “In other words, demonstrate you did your homework and actually know what the nonprofit is all about.”

4) “What was the best gift you ever secured for an organization, and how did you get it?”

Why you would ask this question of a potential hire is self-explanatory, because it gives solid insights into their fundraising process, as well as showing you what they're capable of.

The next question, though, should be equally important, if a little more uncomfortable:

5) “What was your worst fundraising experience, and what did it teach you?”

Everybody makes mistakes. How you react to them and how you learn from them is a key part of the experience you gain, not just as an employee, but as a person. How do they answer this question and tell the story about their worst experience? Is it something they can laugh about now, if only ruefully? Do they get frustrated? This question can go a long way for showing you how experienced they are and how they will react when there's friction on the job.

When you get to the point in your nonprofit's life that you're looking into hiring an MGO, it's not something that should be undertaken lightly. Approach your hire like you might approach any other important interpersonal relationship. If you find someone with the right combination of smarts, curiosity, and friendliness, as well as fundraising drive and verve, you, your new major gift officer, your donors, and your causes will be well on your way to a beautiful friendship.

Major Gift Officer Job Skills

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Topics: Major Gifts, Hiring, Major Gift Officer

What To Look For In a Major Gift Officer

Posted by Brooke Binkowski on Oct 12, 2015 10:00:00 AM

The nonprofit sector is all about relationships. We all already know this, right? But nowhere are interpersonal relationships – with you and with people outside your organization – more important than with your 

While every hire that you make is important, this is one that you'll want to pay extra close attention to, because it is a hire that can potentially make or break important relationships with individuals and organizations for years to come. If stewardship is like falling for your donors – and having them fall in love with you back – hiring a major gifts officer is like getting married. You're not just entering a relationship and having a crush any more!major gifts officer.

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Topics: Major Gifts, major gift fundraising,, Major Gift Officer

A Conversation With AFP VP Michael Nilsen

Posted by Brooke Binkowski on Oct 5, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Whether you want more donations (and who doesn't?) or looking for people to get your idea off the ground and make it into a reality, sooner or later you're going to come up against the sticky issue of how much information to make public.

Transparency in philanthropy is a deceptively easy idea that can be incredibly complex and intimidating.. The rise of Big Data can obscure just as much as it reveals, so do you just put it all out there or streamline it? Do you let everything hang out? Keep information in your hip pocket? What's a charity to do?

I talked to Michael Nilsen, Vice President of Public Policy with the Association of Fundraising Professionals ( to get some answers.

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Topics: Fundraising, fundraising ethics

[PODCAST] Naked Nonprofits: Why NGO's Need to Embrace Radical Transparency

Posted by Brooke Binkowski on Sep 24, 2015 8:00:00 AM


Editorial Note: We've got another wonderful podcast from Brooke this week! Too busy to read? Give this blog post a listen on your way to work!

We all know someone who crosses the line. You know, that line. They're all over social media: the oversharers. You think you're having an innocuous conversation about their dog, and suddenly you're hearing about their digestion. Or their marital problems. Or worse. It's as if there's no boundary between them and you. If they experienced it, you're going to know about it.

Nobody wants to be that person, right?

Well, most of the time, keeping some things to yourself is a good idea. But if you're a nonprofit, oversharing is where you want to be. Actually, if you're oversharing, it's probably not enough – the key is to get your organization to radical transparency, well beyond what the law requires. That's one of the most powerful ways to build professional trust and confidence in you. So go ahead and be like your weird auntie Matilda who Facebooks all her conversations with her dogs. It's good for your donors, and it's good for your nonprofit!

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Topics: online fundraising, nonprofit transparency

Oh Captain, My Captain: Navigating the Seas of Donor Stewardship

Posted by Brooke Binkowski on Sep 17, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Editorial note: We're trying something different today! Blog contributor Brooke Binkowski put her podcasting skills to work and made a wonderful audio version of today's blog post. No time to read? Listen to this 5 minute podcast version instead!

If you're running a nonprofit organization, one of the major parts of your work, no matter what, will be money-related: raising it, administering it, and redistributing it. And of course, finding and cultivating donors will be an important part of that work.

If you're the head of your nonprofit, you sometimes start to feel like the captain of a vessel – most of your day-to-day probably involves running around, issuing orders and guidelines, putting out fires, and getting everybody to do their share of the rowing. When you're doing all that, who has time for fundraising?

Of course, when you're sailing the high seas of the nonprofit sector, raising money becomes a matter of sink or swim.

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Topics: Fundraising, donor stewardship, nonprofit leadership

Do Your Donors Have a Major Crush on You?

Posted by Brooke Binkowski on Sep 10, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Ah, love. That wonderful feeling that makes our heart beat out of our chests’ with every text message, smile, and touch.

Courting a new love is a delicate thing. Be interesting, don’t say the wrong thing, don’t be boring, sit up straight, don’t pick your teeth, is your breath okay?

Screw it up and it’s hard to undo the damage.

Do your donors love you? Or are you saying all the wrong things on your “first date?” Are you boring them to the point that they’re silently thinking of ways to go home ASAP?

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Finding New Donors? Keep It Simple!

Posted by Brooke Binkowski on Sep 3, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Nonprofits, by their very definition, aren't moneymakers, but money is still a major part of every decision you make at every nonprofit, whether it's a huge enterprise or a tiny no-overhead operation.

Without money, there can be no services. Without services, there is no nonprofit.

So, appropriately, in the nonprofit world, the million dollar (or more or less, depending on operating costs) question is: How do you bring in enough money to achieve all of your organization's goals and pay employees a living wage?

Grants are helpful – and they're always welcome. Foundations and government money can make or break a nonprofit organization, sure. But the real power of organizations are in the people: donors are the heart, soul, and lifeblood of any successful nonprofit, especially individual givers. The tricky part is finding donors. The trickier part is keeping them.

First things first. How do you go about finding new donors?

It helps to keep it simple and return to fundraising basics, with some minor tweaks for the modern world.

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Topics: Fundraising, Online giving

OMG, STFU! How to Engage & Not Annoy Your Supporters Online

Posted by Brooke Binkowski on Aug 27, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Editorial Note: Today's the last day to register for our Be Heard! webinar, going down today at 1:00!

We are a generation of multitaskers, living in a world of non-stop distractions.

The kindest way to describe our attention spans in this era is “evolving.” Another way to put it is that there are always screens, ads, phone calls, text messages, emails, flashing and buzzing and competing for everyone's time and energy.

This means that there are a lot of unexpected challenges for nonprofits, especially when sometimes it feels as though the entire world is jumping up and down and clamoring for everyone's attention at any given time.

How do you keep supporters engaged in the digital nonprofit world? It may seem like a crapshoot, because you're just a lone drop in a veritable sea of information, but the truth is that you really can set yourself and your message apart, and you don't necessarily need a lot of bells and whistles to do it.

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Topics: Online giving, online fundraising, online activism

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