JGA Counsel

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Archive for the ‘Counselors’ Perspectives’ Category

Sep 2014 | 3 Key Factors to Create a Culture of Philanthropy

by Dan Schipp


JGA regularly works with clients seeking to build organization-wide ownership of their development programs.  It’s a challenge many not-for-profits face.

How do you get people throughout the organization – board, administration, program staff, and support personnel – to “own” and participate in fundraising?  How do you create a culture of philanthropy?

When working with organizations I encourage them to think about three key factors in expanding ownership of fundraising beyond just the “development people.”

  1. Articulating philanthropy’s role in advancing the organization’s mission and values. Staff need to be able to see how fundraising “fits” with the organization and how fundraising is essential and noble work. The more you help all staff understand that development enables the organization to sustain and strengthen, enhance and expand its service of others, the more cooperation and ownership you’ll encourage.
  2. Creating opportunities to engage in development activities.  There are many powerful ways for staff, board, and volunteers to participate in development activities ranging from identifying potential donors, to cultivating relationships, to soliciting gifts, to thanking and stewarding donors.  One of the clients we are currently working with – a community of women religious – involves a number of its retired sisters in the cultivation of donors through ongoing correspondence, email, and phone calls.  Another has put in the job description of every employee an expectation that each co-worker will devote at least 10% of his/her work hours to development-related activities, appropriate to the positon the individual holds in the organization.
  3. Apprising internal constituents of development’s goals, progress, and impact.   Share the stories of donors, the individuals whose lives have been changed by the donors’ gifts, and the internal constituents who had a role in bringing about the donors’ gifts.  These stories help to impress upon individuals within the organization the difference their actions, words, and witness can make in bringing about gifts to the organization.  Clear and regular communication about the dollars raised, the people engaged with the organization, the benefits to programs, and the individuals assisted is essential to keeping your entire team engaged in development.

Those organizations that don’t apologize for fundraising but fully embrace it and intentionally work at building an internal culture of philanthropy put themselves in the best position to succeed.  In those organizations, all members recognize that they have a vested interest in development, they step up to play their appropriate fundraising roles, whether direct or indirect, and they are well informed of development’s goals, challenges, achievements, and impact.

Aug 2014 | The Ice Bucket Challenge

by Angela White


As I write this, thousands of people across the nation are taking the ice bucket challenge. Perhaps you have been one of the participants called out by your friend, colleague, or even son or daughter! At our house, our boys have found joy in calling out their friends and parents.

Their fascination with this social media phenomenon started, however, by watching the ESPN special on Pete Frates who was one of the first people to promote the ice bucket challenge to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

It has been 75 years since Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with this horrible disease, yet Pete’s prognosis is the same as Lou’s lo these 75 years later. What started as a challenge to some friends and sports stars has raised more than $88 million to date for ALS.

As a recent article in Fortune noted, the amount raised via the ice bucket challenge far surpasses the $2.1 million raised by the ALS Association (ALSA) during the same period last year and more than triples the $24 million raised in its last fiscal year.

The article goes on to point out some key points under consideration by the ALS Association in terms of spending these donated funds – a happy but complicated situation.

At stake here are several factors. First, the ALSA is focused on funding the best possible research to find a cure for this tragic disease as is the implied donor intent of the millions of wet heads across the nation who have donated funds in addition to or in replacement of getting soaked.

However, the ALS Association did not start the ice bucket challenge and now must create a plan for the use of these funds.

Second, some say that ALS Association has to worry about its charitable ranking via watchdog groups like Charity Navigator which require that that the majority of a non-profits’ annual revenue should be spent on programming, ranging from 60% to 75% of annual revenue. This may indicate the need to make decisions and fund research faster than is prudent to maintain ALSA’s four star ranking from these watchdog groups.

As quoted in a news release on August 26, 2014, Barbara Newhouse, President and CEO of the ALS Association said “Every day, given this dramatic increase in funding, the scope of what’s possible when it comes to fighting this disease has changed and continues to change,” Newhouse continued. “Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, we are putting a decision-making process in place to address how this money will be spent. This is isn’t a matter of spending these dollars quickly—it’s a matter of investing these dollars prudently to achieve maximum impact in our quest to help people living with the disease and those yet to be diagnosed.”

This approach gives me faith that the funds will be used in the best possible way, at the intersection of urgency and prudency, to really move the needle and find a cure.

So, what happens when the bucket dries up?

My hope is that the amount of awareness about ALS that has been generated by the ice bucket challenge will remain high and that this current phenomenon will transition into ongoing support for a cure and awareness of all of those who suffer from ALS and their families and caregivers.

And, I hope that this spurs continued giving – and the feeling that giving is fun and is a shared experience with those around us.

Finally, I hope that we learn from the example of Pete Frates and others who have taken what seems to be a small idea and made a huge impact. Just think what could happen if everyone acted upon one good idea or good deed – we could truly change the world and have a lot of fun doing it!

Aug 2014 | Mapping Your Organization’s Future with a Strategic Plan

by Andy Canada

A Strategic Plan is a road map to lead an organization from where it is now to where it would like to be in the future. It must be flexible, practical, written, and simple.

While a strategic plan is good in theory, it is only good in practice if you have buy-in and have involved the right people. Success lies in getting involvement from all parts of the organization, so you should actively recruit support.  A  Strategic Plan should lead to action and build a shared vision of your organization’s values. But it also needs to be based on data and grounded in reality, that includes being sensitive to the external environment in which your organization is currently operating.

A strategic plan should include the following main sections plus appendices for the budget, organizational structure, and metrics.

Vision Statement – The purpose of a vision statement is to describe a shared picture of the future you seek to create.  The vision is the highest aspiration the organization can strive to attain. The vision statement should be both realistic and ambitious.  Engage the planning committee around questions to help identify what future you seek to create and what you ultimately hope to accomplish as a result of your work.

Mission Statement - The mission statement describes what an organization plans to do today to make the world a better place for tomorrow.  It serves two purposes:  to help guide and focus the organization, and to inform others about what the organization does. A mission statement should be short enough to remember yet strong enough to inspire.  To develop your mission statement, your planning committee should focus on why your organization exists, what it does, and whom it serves.

Value Statement - Where missions and visions may change, an organization’s values should serve as an institutional compass assuring that evolution over time does not erode the core character of the institution.  A value statement tends to be longer and is often in more of a list format than the mission or vision statements.  Engage your planning committee around what are our organization’s core values as you develop your values statements.

Strategic Objective - The strategic objective sets the context for the strategic plan. It defines the overarching goal of the plan. It is a broadly defined objective that an organization must achieve to make its strategy succeed. The planning committee should explore the critical issues facing your organization in the next 3 years, and the priorities and accomplishments you hope to achieve in this time frame.

Goals, Objectives, Tactics - Develop the goals, objectives, and tactics over a series of meetings, and focus your planning committee on developing draft goals that capture your intended results for the next 3 years.  You should ensure your draft goals fit together in a unified strategy and prioritize the issues under each goal in order of importance and add or subtract as needed. Then create action statements for the tactics under each goal, being sure to determine the who, how, and when for each.

In our experience helping nonprofit organizations with strategic planning over the years, JGA has developed some best practices we encourage organizations to incorporate into their planning.

  1. Create a strategic planning committee – It is important for the strategic planning process to be led by a strong volunteer and staff group that is representative of the organization’s key stakeholders.
  2. Assess the current state of the organization – Review the outcomes of the most recent plan and build consensus around the most critical issues facing the organization today.
  3. Develop specific elements of the plan – The core of the planning process is the sequential development of the strategic plan elements, beginning with the overarching goals and progressing through the more detailed and measurable objectives and tactics. These are then further developed into action steps with specific metrics, timelines, and assignments.
  4. Test elements of the plan – At some point in the strategic planning process, test some or all of the strategic plan with a broader audience beyond the organization. Test the goals and objectives with key stakeholders during the planning process to get an external perspective on the planning process in real time.
  5. Develop supporting materials – Develop materials that support the implementation of the strategic plan, including budgets, development plans, facilities plans, and other organizational infrastructure planning.
  6. Approving the plan – The board of directors should be informed each step of the way prior to being asked to approve the plan. Board approval should not be taken lightly – the board is approving the road map for the future.


Aug 2014 | The Impact of Suggesting a Donation Amount

by Jeff Small


It is a well-worn and true cliché in the fundraising world that a primary reason many donors give is “because they were asked.” But when it comes to how you ask, the situation gets a bit murkier.

What is the best way to ask a donor that will prompt them to make their best gift for a certain purpose at a certain time? One specific area of confusion and concern we often encounter among even experienced fundraisers is the idea of a suggested gift amount.

Is it rude to pressure them to give that much?  What if they planned to give, but I ask for too much and I offend them? Am I asking them for enough?  Would they give more if I left the amount unsaid?

These types of questions often lead to significant hand-wringing, and sometimes delayed solicitations as professional fundraisers weigh how much to ask for from their donors.  The research on suggesting gift amounts, however, is not as robust as the research showing that the act of asking spurs donations.

That is why I was intrigued by a recent study conducted by two University of Chicago professors in partnership with the development office of the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point.  Their experiment found that suggesting a gift amount had very interesting effects.  The study utilized different scripts to solicit random groups of prospects contacted through a phonathon.  Some potential donors were asked to give a specific amount ($20) while others were asked to give without a specific target gift.

The study generated the following key findings:

  • A suggested gift amount spurred more people to give. While the suggested amount they requested was a relatively low-level investment, it did generate a much higher rate of participation.  Approximately 50 percent more of the people called made gifts when they were asked for a $20 donation (3.1 percent vs 4.5 percent).
  • Donors gave what they were asked to give – for better and worse. While the suggested donation appears to have prompted more people to give, it also likely did leave some money on the table.  The gifts made by the group asked for $20 were more tightly centered in the $20 range, and the average gift among donors in that group was $4 lower than the average gift among the group that wasn’t asked for a specific amount ($19.35 vs $23.92).  In other words, donors who would have given more than $20 were content to give only $20 when asked for it.
  • The overall impact of asking for a specific amount was positive. While asking for a specific amount didn’t maximize each individual gift, overall the increased percentage of participants giving generated a higher rate of return than not specifying a gift amount.

Obviously these results are very focused on a low dollar gift, and don’t necessarily translate to major gift asks, but it does give us a well-tested hypothesis that suggests not only are people more likely to give when asked, they are also more likely to give you what you ask for if you are specific.  This article explores a number of other angles on the topic and is worth a read for those who like experimental philanthropy research.

Aug 2014 | Overcoming Resistance

by Ted Grossnickle


This past year I read a book titled The War of Art – Break through the Blocks and Win your Inner Creative Battles.”  I confess I am not one who reads many books that might be considered “self- help.” This one is different— and worth a read. I was drawn to it by a respect for what the author has written before and so thought he might know what he was talking about. He does.

For those of us in nonprofit work – or any kind of work – we all face resistance to doing what we should be doing. Whether it’s doing that report, making those donor visits, asking someone for a gift, engaging a volunteer, and on and on.

Pressfield takes us along a journey into the world of resistance and how our own minds cause us to think it is ok to delay, procrastinate, and just avoid the most important stuff. He helps us think about what can be if we muster the resolution and courage to do what we need to do.

I’ve re-read the book again recently. The lessons are powerful and very helpful. Something like a “booster shot” for me to do what I can to overcome resistance and focus on the things that matter and which need to be tackled. Our worlds are full of those and we too often listen to that inner voice of resistance. “The War of Art” is a very, very helpful book.


Aug 2014 | Elements of a Successful Parent Fundraising Program

by Lee Ernst


The other day I was reflecting on my past work with the parent constituency within a university setting.  Parents are sometimes grouped into the “friends” or “other” category of donor giving, but their needs, interests, and relationships to the school are often different from alumni and they should be stewarded appropriately.

I’ve outlined several key elements that should be considered when working with parents and a Parents Program.

Engagement and Giving Opportunities

Current parents can be your most engaged prospects and donors. They have a child who is currently attending the school and are interested in helping to make it a great experience for their own student as well as others.  Create fundraising and volunteer opportunities to help them learn more about the school and engage them in meaningful ways.  This can include securing internship experiences for students at their work, endowing scholarships, supporting study abroad, and other experiences that directly affect the student experience.  Set up parent giving councils or advisory groups that have access to school leadership.  This allows the parent constituency to voice their thoughts and advice on the school. 

Parent Web Community

Parents are often some of the biggest advocates for the school.  Create communication web pages for parents, separate from alumni pages that acknowledge their interests in the school and allows them to communicate with other parents. 

Complete Data Records

Unlike alumni who automatically have records and data files created once they are students, new or current parents must have data files created.  Like with any program, without good data including emails and contact information, you have a hard time engaging potential donors.

Good Internal Relationships

A successful Parent’s Program must often partner with other departments so they can share pertinent information with parents.  It’s vital that development staff have a full understanding of what’s going on with other departments in the college, as this is top of mind to current parents.

Policy on appropriate communication

It is important for a college or university to lay out a framework of communication expectations, particularly with FERPA and other privacy issues.  Parent’s Programs should help enforce the importance of these policies when working with both parent and student.  Schools can help develop a student’s academic career while also embracing a parent into the community.

When the time is taken to plan the interactions and a strategy is developed to cultivate and steward this constituency, a Parent’s Program can be a great vehicle to deepen your institution’s relationship with future alumni and their families.

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.