JGA Counsel

authentic and strategic philanthropic consulting

Archive for the ‘Counselors’ Perspectives’ Category

Jul 2014 | Growth in Individual Giving Highlights Need for Major Gift Checkup

by Angela White


At JGA, we believe that research informs practice, and thus we work to put recent research into practice with our clients. Recently, we have been a part of the release of the latest Giving USA report.

As pointed out in our recent analysis of this data, we are encouraged by the fact that this is the fourth consecutive year of growth in giving, following what was an unprecedented two-year drop in giving during the height of the recession in 2008 and 2009. It looks as if this total will put charitable giving within five percent of the high water mark for charitable giving that was set in 2007 before the recession. So, if charitable giving holds steady in 2014, we will likely come close to matching or surpassing the highest level of total giving that Giving USA has ever recorded.

With this news also comes the realization that individual giving continues to drive the growth in charitable giving, responsible for 72% of all donations in 2013. And, if you include bequests and gifts from family foundations, this percentage increases to an estimated 87% of all gifts given in 2013.

Individual giving is driven by individual relationships and decision-making, and I challenge you to ask yourself if you are allocating 87% of your time and resources to developing relationships that would drive positive individual giving decisions? If not, maybe it’s time for a Major Gift Check up to reignite your efforts.

A Major Gift Checkup, will help you review key questions about your major gift program that will assist you in strengthening individual relationships. These key questions focus on the effectiveness of your major gift program in these five areas:  

  1. Assessing your approach to major gift work,
  2. Engaging your organizational leadership in relationship building with top prospects,
  3. Understanding the motivations of your top prospects,
  4. Matching the right prospect with the right project and giving vehicle, and
  5. Practicing excellent donor stewardship.

Join me for our Major Gift Checkup webinar on Thursday, August 14th at Noon EDT to explore each of these 5 areas. During the webinar, we’ll look at how to apply research on major donor prospects to strengthen your major gift plan – all with the goal of growing your charitable giving from individuals.

Register now for this complimentary webinar.


Jul 2014 | In Memoriam — Kris Kindelsperger

All of us at JGA are deeply saddened by the sudden, unexpected death of our colleague and friend, Kris Kindelsperger, Senior Executive Consultant.  Kris passed away at his home in Columbus, Indiana, on July 15.

Funeral services for Kris will be at 11 a.m., Saturday, July 19, 2014, at the First United Methodist Church in Columbus.  Calling will be from 4 – 8 p.m. Friday at the Jewell-Rittman Family Funeral Home and from 9 – 11 a.m. until the time of the service Saturday at the church.  Burial will be at Garland Brook Cemetery.  Memorials can be made to Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, First United Methodist Church of Columbus, Columbus Indiana Philharmonic, and Hanover College.

For the past fourteen years, Kris has been an integral, highly valued member of the JGA family, serving as president of the firm from 2003 – 2006.  JGA staff, clients, and peers in the fundraising profession have all benefited from his knowledge and commitment to the field of philanthropy.  He will be greatly missed.

At this difficult time our thoughts and prayers, particularly, are with Kris’ beloved wife Roxie; his daughter Sara, son-in-law Matt, and their son Zac; his son Nick, daughter-in-law Abby, and their daughter Mira; and all in the extended Kindelsperger family.  Kris was a devoted spouse, father, and grandfather.  He was never happier than when he was spending time with his family.  As a proud grandfather, he enjoyed sharing with his JGA colleagues the latest adventures and discoveries of his grandchildren, Zac and Mira.

As a colleague and friend, Kris was always the gentleman – gracious, genuine, and generous.  But he also spoke his mind and didn’t shy from expressing his point-of-view!  Kris kept our meetings and conversations lively with his well-developed sense of humor.  His keen wit particularly revealed itself in the tributes that he would pen and deliver on the occasion of special birthdays or anniversaries of JGA co-workers.  Above all, Kris was a kind and caring friend, always there for you with an encouraging or consoling word.

Over the years, scores of JGA clients found in Kris a trustworthy, experienced, astute, and dedicated advisor.  They valued his integrity and honesty and appreciated his kindly manner, highly intuitive and strategic thinking, and tendency to look for the good in all things.  Kris worked diligently to “get it right” for his clients.  He embodied what all of us JGA consultants strive to be – thoughtful, authentic, and responsive.  As one former client said of Kris, “He was more than a consultant, he was a mentor and friend.”

Kris not only taught and advised others on philanthropy and volunteerism, he walked the talk.  He served his church, First United Methodist of Columbus, in various roles over the years, including several years leading the youth group and as president of the Foundation board.  He was a member and past president of the Turning Point Domestic Violence Services board at the time of his death and previously served on the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic board.  As a proud alumnus (and former vice president of development) of Hanover College, Kris actively supported his undergraduate alma mater throughout his career, including 18 years as chapter advisor to the Chi Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity.  Kris also was often called on to share his experience and insights as a speaker at conferences for the AFP, ALDE, and other associations.  He gave generously of his time, talent, and treasure to his church, community, and profession.

Kris Kindelsperger has left his mark on many organizations and institutions across this country.  More importantly, he has enriched the lives of those blessed to know him.  We, his colleagues at JGA, are grateful for the privilege we have had to work, dream, plan, and laugh with him and to learn from him.  We commit ourselves ever more fully to carrying on the good work Kris so firmly embraced – assisting nonprofits in advancing their missions, values, and goals.

Jul 2014 | Teaching, Preaching, and Modeling Faith and Giving

by Dan Schipp


Last week a long-time friend of JGA began a new segment of his life’s journey.  On July 1st Rev. William G. (Bill) Enright turned over the reins of his role as the Karen Lake Buttrey Director of the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving to Dr. David King.

For ten years Bill skillfully led the Lake Institute, part of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.  He will continue to be involved with the Lake Institute in a lesser role as senior fellow, allowing him to spend more time with Edie, his wife of 55 years, and their beloved children and grandchildren.

JGA and Bill began twenty years of common work and friendship when Bill served as senior pastor at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis prior to his coming to the Lake Institute.  Second Presbyterian, in fact, was JGA’s first client.  Don Johnson, JGA’s co-founder with Ted Grossnickle, worked closely with Bill during the firm’s early years.  Since then other JGA consultants have had the privilege of working with and learning from Bill.

Over the years Bill has taught, preached and modeled what it means to be a philanthropist.  For Bill, philanthropy is not just “love for humanity.”  It’s also “giving for the flourishing of humanity.”

In his eyes, and in his words,

“Everything we have and are is the gift of a generous and gracious God . . . [our] ingrained desire to give back is rooted in a radical sense of the grace and love of God, be it conscious or unconscious.”[1]

Recognizing everything as gift leads to gratitude, which prompts giving and a sense of responsibility for the well-being of others.

Bill’s greatest impact nationally has come from his work with the Lake Institute.  There he has led an exploration of the relationship between faith and giving across various religious traditions.  As Mike Redmond states in his article, “Money and Faith:  William G. Enright and the Big American Taboo” (Faith and Leadership),

“. . . Enright has helped transform the conversation nationally about congregations, faith and giving.  Bringing together experts in both pastoral ministry and academic research, Enright and the Lake Institute have fundamentally changed the way many local congregations think and talk about money.  Rather than being about internal church matters such as furnace repair and roofing estimates, ‘money talk’ in those congregations is now about treasure – treasure that can strengthen religious commitments and create health, love and care for others in a hurting world.”[2]

Bill Enright has been and continues to be a gift – a blessing – to many people in Peoria (where he grew up), Chicago (where he served in his early years as a Presbyterian pastor), Indianapolis (where he continues to live and work and inspire), and in many places well beyond these localities.

This wise, gracious, and compassionate pastor/mentor/teacher/leader has faithfully talked and walked the path of philanthropy.  All of us at JGA are grateful for the opportunity we have had to accompany him for part of that journey and are happy to wish him, “Ad multos annos!”

[1] William G. Enright, “The Altered Landscape of Religious Giving”, ATS Colloquy, Spring 2008

[2] Mike Redmond, “Money and faith:  William G. Enright and big American taboo”, Faith & Leadership, online magazine of Leadership Education at Duke University, January 24, 2014.

Jun 2014 | Preparing for Strategic Planning


by Andy Canada


Strategic planning should be an energizing experience for your organization. You are setting the path that you will move down over the next 3 to 5 years but many times the process can feel overwhelming and never ending.  If not managed correctly, it can drag down your staff and volunteers and it can have the opposite impact of what you want to accomplish.

To get the most out of the strategic planning process and position themselves to develop a truly mission-guiding plan, it is important that organizations do the right prep work.

Step 1:  Setting the Context for Planning

First, think of the parameters under which your organization will be undertaking the strategic plan and begin to identify what success will look like, specific issues you will need to address during planning, and any non-negotiables that need to be identified up front.  Some other questions to consider include:

  • Is this the appropriate time for the organization to initiate a planning process?
  • Will we be able to engage the right constituents over the right amount of time?
  • If no, where do we go from here?
  • What lessons can we learn from our previous experience with strategic planning?

Step 2:  Design the Process

You should also take the time to research and design a strategic planning process that fits your organizational needs.  Consider some of the choices to be made when designing a strategic planning process:

  • Who makes what decisions and what degree of input is sought from the board and the staff?
  • Should we involve external stakeholders?
  • Should we use an existing committee or a strategic planning committee and who should be on that committee?
  • How should we sequence discussions – with data collection first and then have a retreat? Or, kick off the planning process with a board/staff retreat?
  • Should we use a consultant and if so will we use a consultant and what are our expectations?

Step 3:  Develop a Resource Gathering Plan

Next, identify how to gather information from both internal and external stakeholders to utilize in the planning process.

  • What external and internal information is needed to inform the planning process?
  • What resources already exist and which will we need to develop?
  • Are there gaps in data that must be researched?
  • Should we bring in a panel of topic experts to address our planning team?

Take time before the official process starts and start answering these key questions. This extra preparation time can keep the overall process moving forward on schedule and at a high energy level.

Stay tuned, as next month I plan to expand on the strategic planning topic and discuss key elements of a plan and share JGA’s best practices for strategic planning.


Jun 2014 | Encouraging News in the Latest Giving USA Report


by Angela White and Jeff Small


As a Giving Institute member firm, this is always an exciting time of year for us as we get to help refine, interpret, and unveil the results of Giving USA’s annual estimates of giving.  The release of this rich data analysis each year reminds us all that what you are doing doesn’t occur in a vacuum, but is influenced by a broader set of economic and cultural circumstances.

This year’s findings continue to give encouraging news to the nonprofit sector as a whole, but also help us better understand the dynamics of the charitable giving recovery that has occurred in conjunction with the slow recovery of the global economy over the past several years.


In total, Giving USA estimates that $335 billion was given to charity in the United States last year by individuals, corporations, and foundations.  This is the fourth consecutive year of growth in giving, following what was an unprecedented two-year drop in giving during 2008 and 2009.  Most encouragingly, this total puts the sector within five percent of the high water mark for charitable giving set in 2007 before the recession ($349 billion in inflation adjusted dollars). That means that in 2014 – if growth holds steady – we will likely come close to matching or eclipsing the highest recorded total giving Giving USA has ever recorded.   Given the economic uncertainty that followed the recession, some thought that it might take a decade to return to these levels, but donors and fundraisers have made it happen in half that time.

Donor Giving Shifts

Another year of data also gives us a clearer picture of how donors responded to the recession and the recovery, and what opportunities and challenges those responses have created.  As the recession hit, all types of programs felt the collective strain of reduced giving. It is fairly clear now, however, that donors didn’t just reduce, but also reallocated their giving, so the impact on things like giving to human service organizations was buffered by people and organizations redirecting gifts that would have gone to other types of organizations in less trying times.

Donors now appear to be adjusting out of this crisis mode and rebalancing their giving portfolios to invest in areas like arts and culture, education, and the environment and animals. As a result, giving in these areas is growing at a faster rate than giving to the sector as a whole during the recovery, while giving to human services, international affairs and religion have grown at a slower rate than the sector – or even declined.

Giving to Religion’s Decline

Troublingly, we continue to see that recent declines in giving to religious organizations appear to be the new normal.  Research suggests that a decline in overall religiosity in America has left more church pews empty each week, leaving offering trays less full.  This trend puts added pressure not just on houses of worship, but on the extended infrastructure of religious organizations and programs like congregations of women religious, religiously affiliated schools, seminaries, and even religiously aligned social service organizations that – though they may not be included in the “giving to religion” subsector – have long relied on the giving power of local houses of worship to power their programs.

Ongoing Challenges

Charitable giving also represents only one portion of a nonprofit’s financial well-being.  Government resources, a source of nonprofit revenue equally important to many nonprofits, have been significantly reduced, and demand for service in nearly every subsector has remained high since the recession.

In short, these are promising results, but there is still much left to be done, as all of you on the front lines know so well. The value in this report is that in identifying these trends, we can better position ourselves to take advantage of the opportunities they present and address the challenges they create.

Join us next week for a complimentary webinar on June 24 from Noon to 1 p.m. EDT as we discuss in depth the Giving USA 2014 Report and look behind the data to understand its impact on your advancement efforts.

Jun 2014 | Why Are Good Gift Officers Hard to Find?

We don’t know what qualifications we really need


by Kris Kindelsperger

Nearly everyone in the nonprofit world sees the chronic shortage of qualified gift officers as a critical issue. We hear it every day.  But when we seek to analyze why organizations can’t find enough talent to fill open positions regardless of the type of organization, location, or salary, one has to ask the question why?

Perhaps we are confusing “qualifications” with the ability to be successful in the position.  A search of ads for major gift officers often reveals language like “must have a proven track record of success in major gift fundraising” or “must be able to meet or exceed metric driven goals.”  Some organizations come across as viewing major gift officers as sales persons who simply need to be given sales goals and then held accountable.

We wouldn’t argue that development staff need to have clear goals and accountability measures, but if I look around at some of the gift officers who are very successful, I come to a striking conclusion. Many of them had no previous history in major gift fundraising.  Many didn’t come from development backgrounds at all.  Some of the best major gift officers are individuals who have come out of other parts of their organizations or even have come from beyond the nonprofit world.

What they do seem to have in common is a great passion for their organizations. They believe in what their organization is doing and donors pick up on this passion and believe in them as gift officers. Major gift officers must have strong interpersonal communication skills and they must understand and be able to interpret the mission of their organization. They must have a work ethic that takes them beyond the 40 hour week, they must be adaptable and they must be able to accept rejection. But none of this necessarily relates to “a proven track record of success in fundraising.”

In looking for the next great major gift officer, perhaps the person who has the greatest passion for what you do and can effectively convey that message to prospects might be worth a look.


Jun 2014 | Asking: The Heart of Fundraising is Being Fearless


by Ted Grossnickle


My most recent blog talked about the type of conversations – featuring many questions- that occur during feasibility study interviews.

Those questions sometimes lead us into unexpected places. And I think most of the time those are good places or produce good decisions and outcomes for the interviewee and the client.

Asking someone for a gift works in much the same way. Over too many years to admit in this field now, I’ve come to the conclusion that the heart of our profession is all about asking. Asking people to participate, to advise, to offer their opinion, to serve and to give money…

And I’m not persuaded at all that the best practitioners are the smoothest talkers, with the best voices and techniques. I think the best ones are those who are quietly fearless about asking people to engage or give.

There are so many reasons not to do so. So many easy reasons to listen to the quiet resistance internally that tells us we have to wait for something else or that something on our desk is more important than going and talking directly with another person.

We’ve also seen people who are wonderful at organizing and scheduling and everything else but simply sitting down and talking with a volunteer and donor.

The best professionals in our fields are people who manage to deal with the occasional feelings of vulnerability and just go ask someone to help.  Asking someone to do something when you know there is a reasonable chance they will decline takes some level of guts.  That is fearlessness.

I wonder how much more money would be given away in America or how many nonprofits would be able perform their missions better if there was more asking going on???

May 2014 | Top Philanthropic Trends

by Angela White 


On May 20th, JGA had the privilege to join the AFP-Indiana Chapter to host Stacy Palmer, Editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, to celebrate JGA’s 20th anniversary . Stacy presented a national perspective on philanthropic trends to the crowd of philanthropy professionals and foundation leaders. Stacy outlined the following trends that present opportunities and challenges for all of us working in philanthropy:

  1. Role of Government: We cannot take for granted the charitable deduction and must keep a watchful eye on this important deduction and not take it for granted. The charitable deduction is a part of the bigger conversation about the role of government in the United States.
  2. Measurement and Performance:  It is important to move from measuring overhead to measuring outcomes and performance.  This continues to be a controversial topic as nonprofits debate what results should and can be measured , including how we measure the cost of changing lives.
  3. Beyond Donations: Several states are now offering social impact bonds and The Nature Conservancy is offering conservation notes -   both of these vehicles offer investment returns to donors as an investment vehicle beyond making a pure donation to a nonprofit.
  4. Professional Leadership and Talent:  The turnover of fundraising professionals and tensions between the CEO and the CDO make it difficult to retain good talent and to grow the next generation of fundraising professionals.  In addition, the fundraising profession struggles to mirror the changing face of America and those we serve.
  5. Anger over Nonprofit Salaries:  Federal and state regulators are going after $1M+ nonprofit salaries and considering actions to cap salaries. At the same time, both charities and donors are demanding that salaries be tied to results.
  6. Use of Charitable Gifts :  Many issues have arisen in the public’s mind around published lists that highlight the “best and worst” charities.  Several watchdog groups capture the public’s attention despite the manner in which these groups calculate return and impact. In addition, “effective altruism” is an emerging trend, led by young entrepreneurial donors that base contributions on the biggest “bang for the buck.”

These six trends paint the landscape for our work and give us much to consider as we move into the second half of 2014. At JGA, we believe understanding the broader philanthropic arena is key to both effective giving and receiving.


May 2014 | 5 Tips for Conducting Feasibility Interviews

by Lee Ernst


A feasibility study interview is an excellent opportunity to listen to top donors and involve them in a meaningful way in the future direction of your organization.  Be sure you are ready to capitalize on this opportunity to speak one-to-one with some of your most important supporters.  Here are some key lessons I’ve learned in conducting feasibility study interviews with several JGA clients over the last few months.

  1. Listen.  Let the interviewee take the conversation where they want it to go.  And don’t worry, you can circle back and talk about needed topics on your agenda before the end of the conversation.
  2. Gain trust.  In the first few minutes its important that trust is established with the interviewee.  As interviewers, we must show neutrality on the topic, and most importantly, ensure confidentiality of the interviewees identity to allow them to speak freely. And if trust seems like too much to achieve, then you can at least demonstrate that you are a “safe” person with whom to share their opinions.
  3.  Go offline.  Deviate from the question protocol to allow for a deeper understanding of the interviewees remarks.
  4.  Prepare.  Study the case, understand all the campaign components and know your organization so you can have a full and meaningful conversation and represent the organization well and with respect.
  5.  Enjoy.  Feasibility study interviews allow you to see the organization from the donor or prospective donor’s view.  You have the chance to hear thoughts from highly intelligent and talented community leaders that have much to share.


May 2014 | Is Your Nonprofit Investment-Worthy?

by Dan Schipp

Some years ago I had the privilege of knowing a philanthropist and community leader who, on his business card, plainly and simply identified himself as a “Builder.”  Indeed, he was that.  He successfully developed many commercial and industrial properties, but he also helped to build institutions and organizations.  Over the years he led several capital campaigns and made seven-figure gifts to a number of institutions.

One conversation with this generous builder, in particular, stands out in my memory.  I recall him telling me that there were four things he considered before making a decision to make a significant investment in an organization.

The first thing he mentioned was vision.  He said he wanted to be assured that the organization had a plan for its future.  Had it taken the time to honestly assess its situation and environment – challenges and opportunities – and plotted a course for the road ahead?  Did it have a clear sense of where it wanted to go, why it needed to go there (the impact this would have on community and society), and what it would take to get there?

The second consideration he noted was leadership.  The donor said he needed to see that the organization had a solid leadership team – CEO, CFO, CDO and board – and that they worked well together.  Were they united in their vision for the organization?  Did they have some longevity with the institution or had there been a revolving door in the leadership offices?  Were they willing to make tough decisions?

The third important factor for this philanthropist was financial stability.  Although he did not expect the institutions he invested in to be rock solid financially, he was not inclined to support organizations that were continually struggling to make ends meet.  He wanted to have confidence that the institution was solvent and that he would not be contributing to a “sinking Titanic.” Was the organization pursuing a plan for financial stability or was it just reacting to one fiscal challenge after another?

The fourth and final consideration mentioned by the builder/philanthropist was what he called, pride of ownership.  He told me that he closely observed how the organization took care of its buildings and grounds.  He did not expect to see, nor did he want to see, over-the-top facilities, but he wanted to know that the organization took pride in what it had – even to the detail of keeping the grounds free of paper litter.  Was the organization doing its best to maintain what it had?  Was it a good steward of its resources?

As you look at your nonprofit organization, how would it be viewed by this philanthropist?  Would it pass his litmus test?  Would he find such vision, leadership, financial stability and pride of ownership that he would be inclined to invest in your organization?