News from the Institute for Leaders in Development

  • 03 May 2021 12:25 PM | Anonymous

    How We "Pivoted" - Reflections on COVID-19 from ILD Alumni

    What has been the most significant change to the way you raise funds since the COVID-19 pandemic begun?

    • We found ourselves pausing initially on fundraising while focusing at first (March-May) on government programs like the PPP loan and some performing arts-specific support. Then, we began to shift as our donors got more comfortable with their own lives and what the new reality was starting to look like. At that point we began having conversations that were fully authentic and based on our new reality which was that 1) we had a lot of folks wanting to move, dance and create who could no longer afford classes and 2) we needed more technical equipment to be able to stream and produce content online. In July we launched the first of three matching campaigns, each actually exceeding our initial goals, which taught us that many folks still had money and wanted to support. All those donor meetings were held over zoom, and that will probably be something we offer going forward since now we understand we can build a connection and make an ask over those platforms. - Hillary Harding, Development Director, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance
    • The fundamentals have stayed the same - focus on our mission, lean on and continue to foster relationships with donors, sharing honestly. The way in which we work has changed, though - video calls/chats, no events, no volunteer assistance or involvement. In some ways those things make the work easier, but in some ways it makes it less personal, so I find we have to work that much harder to make sure we're connecting with supporters. - Shannon Boltz, Chief Development Officer, SafeHouse Denver
    • The most significant change to fundraising since the start of the COVID-19 has been the transition to virtual fundraising events. Traditionally, we would host an 800-person breakfast and 800-person gala each year and both of those shifted to virtual programming. We also implemented the use of student and donor self-recorded videos as part of the events and on social media. - Michelle Maldonado, Director of Development, Denver Kids, Inc.

    What has been your biggest development-related learning or “ah-ha” moment during the pandemic?
    • Whenever something major happens, either as a society or just to an individual person, it’s an amazing reminder that we’re all human. I primarily work with corporate donors, grantmaking foundations, and private family foundations - so mostly, I haven’t been in people’s houses. Until now, when it happened virtually and all at once! I met people’s kids (and even more often they met mine), watched them move houses, and navigate the crazy uncertainty that COVID created. If anything, it strengthened the relationships that we already had and made us even more focused about the importance of the mission we’re all here to advance. Anonymous ILD Alum
    • It sounds silly, but it is that people WANT TO GIVE to support the folks we serve. Even when their own lives are chaotic, when they are facing financial uncertainty, or when they aren't able to get something in return (like an event) - people still want to support our mission. It is something I think I've lost sight of during the last few years, and it is nice to be reminded of that. - Shannon Boltz, Chief Development Officer, SafeHouse Denver
    • We have been in the middle of all of this and most important, we have stayed donor focused sending notes, gifts, tons of phone calls and voice mails making sure donors know we care about them and continuing to be a presence in their world. It has created incredible fundraising results. We know money won't solve everything, but it can help with a lot. And for me, after almost eight years at the College Fund, three long-nurtured relationships came to fruition with multiple seven-figure gifts. Another silver lining is I haven't had to get on a plane in over 12 months and the time at home has been a welcome rest from the hustle and bustle of airports. – Kimberly Urish, Sr. Major Gifts Officer, American Indian College Fund
    • Again, just as we saw in response to the financial crisis in 2008-2009, individuals have stepped up in big ways to support our work. We have been able to share in real time through social media, newsletters, phone calls and appeals with our community how our work is responding to pressing community needs. The pandemic has provided us space to just check in with our donors on a human level to ask how they are in all of this uncertainty. We have strengthened our relationships and the foundation of that was through increased communication with our supporters. Jeslin Shahrezaei, Director, Development & Communications, Mile High Youth Corps
    • This biggest "ah-ha" during the pandemic was that in-person meetings really aren't that necessary. While they are sometimes more productive or enjoyable, a virtual meeting will do just fine in many cases. - Michelle Maldonado, Director of Development, Denver Kids, Inc.

    Have you made any COVID-19 shifts in your work that you intend to carry forward even after we return to a more “normal” state? What new habits or practices do you think are here to stay?

    • I think the shift to more flexible work schedules/locations has been positive. There is very little "need" to actually be onsite for my team, so having that option will definitely carry forward. And I hope that video chats become fewer, but still an option, as they can be very helpful. - Shannon Boltz, Chief Development Officer, SafeHouse Denver
    • I do think some of the virtual meetings are here to stay, which isn’t all bad. I also hope this gives us opportunities to check in more frequently with donors who we may only see once a year in person! Anonymous ILD Alum

    Have there been any career-related “silver linings” related to the coronavirus? If so, please describe one.

    • The pandemic reminded me that I can do hard things. As a member of a small directors team and also a small development team I had to move fast and be creative last year. We accomplished a lot of great work, things that we didn't know how to do (running virtual large scale events!) and managed to come out on the other side. COVID-19 reminded me that I am able to meet new challenges in this work and provided me the space and grace to be inspired by the resiliency of our staff and the young people we serve in what was definitely the most challenging year in our history. Jeslin Shahrezaei, Director, Development & Communications, Mile High Youth Corps
    • Not related to the coronavirus, the other big movement of 2020 was around equity. The protests that rang out across the country in response to the murder of George Floyd (and others) created more momentum around these social justice issues than we'd seen in a long time. For us, as a Black dance/social justice organization, we heard from many donors who only supported us on the fringes that that was an "ah-ha" moment for them. A wakeup call that they could be and should be doing more. As a result, we saw the number of new or lapsed donors increase dramatically in 2020. - Hillary Harding, Development Director, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance
    • The American Indian College Fund had a very interesting year and a half. At the start of the pandemic, many said this pandemic would "decimate" Indian Country and send progress in these communities back generations. But soon, I remembered why I got into fundraising, as I had a front row seat to the most amazing generosity. Foundations and individuals reached out in record numbers to give to our emergency relief fund. We were well positioned as a national organization with hundreds of partners across Indian country and we have raised and disbursed $7.6M. As COVID continued, the word got out about how this pandemic disproportionately devastated Native communities, with Native people dying at twice the rate of white Americans.

      At the same time, last summer, people started talking about race like I have never seen before. We were in the middle of all of these pressure points. A donor commented that the Navajo Nation had the need for an international aid organization because the US government wasn't doing enough to help during crisis, and the donor gave us $10k to alleviate his anger. I had donors tell me that their donation was not a gift but a "reparations payment." Donors acknowledged their privilege and the wealth that came from it and gave back. Donors also couldn't spend money as they had in the past and were rapidly remembering how they cannot take it with them. Money that would have been spent on expensive vacations, dinners, concerts/theatre, etc., was given to charity. And many who didn't need stimulus payments donated them. As a result, in FY 2019/2020, we raised $47M on a $32M budget. This FY 2020/2021 looks like it will be the same. Kimberly Urish, Sr. Major Gifts Officer, American Indian College Fund

  • 18 Nov 2020 12:36 PM | Anonymous

    Meet the ILD Class of 2021!

    We'd like to extend a huge welcome to the Class of 2021! Class members include:

    Danielle Artis

    Development Officer

    World Wildlife Fund



    Ashley Barrow

    Development Director

    The Fund for a Healthier Colorado



    Alecia Blattler

    Manager, Major Gifts

    Mile High United Way



    Shawna English

    Director of Development

    Colorado Horse Rescue



    Tracey Flower

    Director of Development

    Access Opportunity



    Nathan Harlan

    Director of Development

    Mile High Early Learning



    Lela Johnston

    Manager of Development & Community Partnerships

    Rocky Mountain Prep (RMP)



    Angela King

    Executive Director of Institutional Advancement

    Red Rocks Community College


    Lauren Knudsen

    Community Development Director

    Home Builders Foundation



    Laura Mack

    Development Director

    Friends of Colorado Avalanche Information Center



    Blake Nauman

    Major Gift Officer

    Denver Rescue Mission



    Andrea Pacheco

    Individual Giving Officer

    Project Angel Heart



    Ruth Seiler

    Associate Director of Development

    Leeds School of Business, CU Boulder


    Kristina (Kacie) Thomas

    Corporate Partnerships Manager

    Children's Hospital Colorado Foundation



    Michael Tortoro

    Assistant Director of Development

    University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

  • 02 Apr 2020 3:34 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Covid-19 Resources

    Deadline update from ILD: Applications for the Class of 2021 are due April 3, 2020. If you need an extension, we are happy to work with you. Please email us

    to get started.

    • AFP Colorado Chapter shares resources and webinars here.

    Through the links above, you can access articles, online resources, webinars, and social media groups to help you stay connected and informed during this time. ILD will share any deadline and schedule changes with our community as available. 

  • 03 Feb 2020 10:10 AM | Anonymous

    The ILD Class of 2020 kicked off the new year with a January 31 session on major gifts, led by Matt Wasserman, principal and founder of MPW Strategies, and Patrick Gaines, chief development officer at Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver. The day ended with a bonus session on donor relations and stewardship led by Keri Kallaway, senior director, donor relations and gift services, at Children's Hospital Colorado Foundation.

    From the major gifts session, here are Wasserman's ten steps to stronger donor engagement:

    1. Prospect efficiently. Work with donors who will make major gifts!

    2. Utilize a consistent, effective process. Don't handle each donor opportunity differently. Do what has the highest probability of producing high close rates

    3. Use fundraising strategy that is compatible with how people behave. Your primary function is not to persuade and convince prospects. Don't use manipulative persuasion tactics.

    4. Gain conditional commitment to do business at the beginning of the fundraising process. Don't waste time with prospects that have no commitment to give.

    5. Determine the giving intentions of your prospects, including their capacity, the timing that works for them, and their decision-making process.

    6. Earn your donors' trust and respect. Be your most authentic self.

    7. Determine what your prospect wants and why. Move away from a sales presentation.

    8. Start closing at the beginning of the engagement process. Gain the conditional commitment outright.

    9. Try to eliminate the necessity to overcome objections. Have a thorough process that won't bring about objections.

    10. Strive for constant improvement in process. Look to always make changes to improve the process.

  • 18 Dec 2019 1:47 PM | Anonymous

    ILD alumna Martine Hyland (2013) recently led a session on discovery visits for the ILD Class of 2020. Martine is a philanthropy director at Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation where she is responsible for managing relationships with approximately 150 major donors and prospects.

    "As someone who stumbles through awkward voicemails and drives away from donor meetings saying, “I can’t believe I didn’t ask about…,” I felt uneasy about leading an ILD session on discovery calls.

    That was before I understood that I wasn’t supposed to be an expert. I was just supposed to share one gift officer’s experience on the phone and in the field.  Lucky me! I got to spend 2 hours with a group of amazingly talented development professionals and learn from them about what they say on the phone and during visits to build rapport with their donors, uncover their passions, and set next steps.

    It was a great opportunity to reflect on my personal successes and failures, learn from my colleagues, and a great reminder of how fun it is to get to know a new prospect and help shape their relationship with my organization.  Just the inspiration I needed to pick up the phone and start building a new relationship – thank you, ILD!"

    Martine's favorite thing about discovery visits

    I love hearing other people’s stories and hearing them talk about why they support Children’s Hospital Colorado. 

    Her key takeways or tips from current ILD students

    • Some shops are putting definitions around how many times to try reaching someone before moving on. For example: you reach out 3 times over the course of 3 months and if there’s no response you move on to the next prospect. I struggle with moving through my discovery prospects, so I found this interesting.
    • One student uses this acronym to help guide the topics/questions he covers in discovery visits:  PBPF (personal, business, philanthropy, follow-up). 
    • Another student looks for opportunities tied to a giving level as a way of assessing capacity. For example, she might talk about a special initiative or event that appeals to alumni but has an ask tied to it.
      Example: “We have an upcoming lecture for alumni who are part of our President’s Circle featuring this well-known Nobel Prize winner. Would you be interested in learning more about how to be a part of our President’s Circle?”
  • 18 Dec 2019 1:13 PM | Anonymous

    DeAnn Acosta, executive director of AFP Colorado ChapterMeet DeAnn Acosta, CFRE, executive director of the AFP Colorado Chapter and a member of the ILD Steering Committee. DeAnn has more than 20 years of experience in fundraising, including direct response, planned giving, capital campaigns, grant writing, special events, and donor database management. Prior to her role at AFP, she spent 10 years with the Denver Rescue Mission and managed their robust direct mail program.

    What is single best piece of advice you can give to a fundraiser?

    You need to feel passionately about the mission of your workplace. If you are not behind the organization, your donors will sense that from you, and they won’t get engaged either. It is also important to contribute financially to your organization. If you are not passionate, you should look for another organization that is meaningful to you.


    What’s the one book (it can be about fundraising or not!) and the one fundraising blog/periodical that you recommend to fundraisers?  And why?

    I first discovered “Achieving Excellence in Fundraising” when I studied for my Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) Exam. It’s on to a 4th edition today and is filled with excellent content from a variety of fundraising experts. It’s a great resource to read and have on your bookshelf.

    I read “Chronicle of Philanthropy” on a regular basis, I find it to be an in-depth look at our sector.

    What’s your favorite donor story?

    Years ago, I remember working on December 31 when a donor called to make her end-of-the year credit card donation just before 5 pm. She called back five minutes later to say that the other charity she called was already closed, so she made a second gift to my charity. On-line giving has changed this dynamic completely, but it’s still good to be available to donors as much as you can!

    What inspires you most as a fundraiser?

    I am most inspired when I make a genuine philanthropic connection with someone, they are thrilled to support the cause and I feel proud that I made the connection.


    What have you found to be most effective to stay energized in your work and to avoid burn-out?

    In order to stay energized, I always make an effort to prioritize my professional development. I am a lifelong learner so I crave that sense of finding a cutting-edge strategy that might work. I work to become a better and more efficient fundraiser and I love to hear how others are being successful.

  • 09 Sep 2019 3:39 PM | Anonymous

    We are pleased to welcome the Institute for Leaders in Development Class of 2020! This cohort represents the program's 12th class. Class members will meet one day per month between September 2019 and May 2020.

    Anna Bishop
    Development Manager
    Colorado Outward Bound School, Denver

    Anna is responsible for the annual fundraising gala, stewarding major and annual donors, grant writing and reporting, and managing corporate relationships and in-kind gifts at COBS. She is passionate about expanding access to transformational experiences in the outdoors for all students, regardless of ability to pay, to develop their leadership, confidence and compassion. Originally from Michigan, Anna graduated from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing and minor in Nonprofit Administration, and has made Denver her home for the past four years.

    Jazmin Brooks
    Associate Director of Development
    University of Colorado Boulder

    Jazmin has worked at University of Colorado Boulder for four years, beginning as a development assistant, then successfully transitioning to a major gift officer role as an assistant director of development. Currently, she is responsible for securing gifts of $25,000 and above, primarily for the College of Arts and Sciences at CU Boulder. Prior to joining CU, Jazmin worked in Las Vegas, Nevada, for the Clark County School District’s School-Community Partnership Program. She lives in Arvada with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.

    Kendra Burrell
    Executive Director
    National Kidney Foundation serving Colorado and New Mexico

    Kendra has been with the foundation since 2013 and has had the opportunity to serve in many different roles. She took on the role executive director in January 2019. Kendra believes that forming strong relationships is the foundation for success for everything she does both professionally and personally. Outside of work Kendra enjoys spending time with her family (2 daughters, husband and dog), exercising, and listening to a good podcast!

    Katie DePoy
    Development Director
    Voices for Children CASA, Boulder

    Katie leads fundraising efforts, manages donor relations, and plans fundraising events and campaigns for Voices for Children CASA in Boulder. Katie recently graduated from the Boulder County Leadership Fellows, a leadership group focused on educating a diverse and inclusive cohort of local leaders. She also serves on the board of A Child's Song, a small non-profit music school focused on the benefits of early childhood education in childhood development. She holds a MA in public administration and nonprofit management from University of Colorado Denver and a BA in choral & general music education from Arizona State University.

    Mary-Kate Doyle
    Director of Development and Communications
    Karis Community in Denver

    Mary-Kate Doyle comes to ILD with five years of experience in the health and human services areas. Originally from New Jersey, she worked at a homeless shelter for families in Cleveland, Ohio, before moving to Denver in August 2018 and beginning her time at Karis Community, a therapeutic program for adults living with serious and persistent mental illness. She has experience in many areas of development and enjoys juggling different types of tasks, which has proven to be a must at the nonprofits she has worked for.

    Megan Fevurly
    Associate Director, Individual Philanthropy
    Denver Center for the Performing Arts

    Megan has spent the majority of her development career fundraising for the performing arts. Currently, her chief focus is on entry and mid-level gifts raised in support of theatre education, the resident theatre company and general operating, as well as overseeing an endowment fund for women playwrights and directors. Megan is currently on the board of directors for id Theater, a new play development theater company working chiefly in McCall, Idaho, and New York City, and has served on the advisory board for the Denver-based theatre company Athena Project Arts.

    Ben Fiscus
    Donor Relations Manager
    Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver

    Ben has built his career in the social sector focusing his efforts on supporting Boys & Girls Clubs. In 2010, after completing his capstone thesis on positive outcomes of Boys & Girls Clubs, he began working for Boys & Girls Clubs of the Rogue Valley as an assistant site director. He then joined AmeriCorps, moved to Denver, and began his work with Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver as a volunteer coordinator. After his year of service, he continued to work for BGCMD as an athletics director, and for the past three years has been a donor relations manager focusing on individual giving. When Ben is not serving Boys & Girls Clubs, you can find him and his wife, Adria, walking their dog, riding bicycles, or hiking.
    Sarah Grosh
    Development Manager
    Make-A-Wish Colorado in Denver

    At Make-A-Wish, Sarah’s main responsibilities include managing a student-led fundraising program, Kids For Wish Kids. She is extremely proud of this program and encouraged daily by the students she works with. To date, Make-A-Wish Colorado has the most successful kid's program across all other chapters’ nationwide, raising over $1.2 million in FY19 and working with about 175 schools across the state.  Prior to this position, she worked in Lansing, Michigan, as the membership director for the Greater Lansing Association of REALTORS. Born and raised in Ann Arbor, MI, Sarah obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Michigan State University, and moved to Colorado in 2015.

    Beau Kelly
    Associate Director of Development
    University Colorado Colorado Springs

    Beau Kelly is a director of development at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. He started at UCCS in 2015, primarily doing major gifts fundraising for the athletic programs. Over time, he has spearheaded fundraising for community scholarships in addition to athletics support. Beau led the capital campaigns to build the new baseball and indoor track facilities that opened in 2018. He attended Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he played baseball while majoring in business administration and history. He recently received his MBA from UCCS. Prior to UCCS, Beau worked for two years at El Pomar Foundation as a program associate in the Fellowship Program.

    Nathan Mackenzie
    Director of Development
    The GrowHaus in Denver

    Nathan leads The GrowHaus' development and communications efforts. He is a proud, born-and-raised Denverite, went to East High School, and graduated from Wesleyan University with honors in government. After graduation, he moved to Nairobi, Kenya, where he spent a year-and-half working with Shining Hope for Communities, a nonprofit that addresses gender inequality and extreme poverty in urban slums. There he learned the power of local communities to develop dynamic, locally-based solutions to community challenges. After coming back home to Colorado, in 2014 he was selected to join El Pomar Foundation's two- year leadership and professional development fellowship program in Colorado Springs. He started at The GrowHaus in the fall of 2016. When he's not at The GrowHaus you can find him enjoying the mountains, cooking, or reading.

    Jaime Marston Cook
    Development Director
    NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado

    Jaime moved to Denver from Minneapolis in 2004, and started fundraising for progressive causes around Colorado and throughout the United States during a critical election year. One of those organizations was Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM), where she raised $20,000 to send a busload of advocates from Denver to Washington, D.C., for the March for Women’s Lives. Shortly after, Jaime started working for PPRM, first in the health centers, then managing the affiliate’s internship and volunteer program, and ultimately joining the development team. Following a few years of working in personal finance in the private sector, she came back to the nonprofit community, joining Colorado Health Network as the development manager, and then joining NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado as development director. Jaime also serves as vice president of the board of directors for PFLAG Denver in support of the LGBTQ+ community.  She is an avid reader, a gardener, and an intuitive cook.

    Rachel Newnam
    Corporate Partnerships Manager
    Project Angel Heart in Denver

    Rachel Newnam has been the corporate partnerships manager at Project Angel Heart since June 2017. She has over seven years' of professional fundraising experience with past positions including Community Engagement Manager, Annual Fund Manager, and Senior Development Associate at ForKids, Inc. in Norfolk, Virginia. Rachel is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Colorado Chapter and former board member and education chair of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Hampton Roads Virginia Chapter. She holds her bachelor of arts in global affairs with a concentration in social inequalities and responses and a business minor from George Mason University. Outside of the office, you can find Rachel hiking, snowshoeing, or sifting for new vinyls.

    Jennifer Reed
    Regional Philanthropy Director
    Mercy Housing

    Jennifer Reed serves as the philanthropy director for the Mountain Plains region of Mercy Housing, which includes Arizona, Colorado, and Nebraska. Jennifer has been in this role since 2015 and previously worked as manager of corporate and foundation relations for the national fundraising team at Mercy Housing. Jennifer has over 13 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. She holds a BS in international studies and sociology from the University of Wyoming and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Colorado Denver. She lives in Denver with her husband, Jay, school-age sons Dylan and Alex, and dog Charlie.

    Susan “Sue” Samaniego
    Foundation Director
    Colorado Northwestern Community College Foundation, Rangely

    Sue began her career as a speech-language pathologist. After 22 years, her search for new challenges led her to communications and public relations work for Otero Junior College. When the foundation director left, she absorbed these duties and found her new career. The drive to focus on development led Sue to complete a certificate in nonprofit management through the University of Illinois-Chicago in February 2018 and to accept the foundation director position at CNCC in November 2017. Sue serves on the board for Rangely Resource Pantry (secretary), the Tank Center for Sonic Arts, and the Rangely Area Chamber of Commerce. Outside of work, she enjoys outdoor activities including hiking, cycling, and snowshoeing as well as painting, writing and gardening.

    Anne “Annie” Slothower
    Director of Development
    Havern School, Littleton

    Since receiving her undergraduate degree from Regis University in communication and business administration, Annie has honed her professional skills in the areas of marketing and communications, development and fundraising, and event planning. When she became a mother in 2006,she chose to step away from the professional sector to be at home with her growing family. Once her youngest son started kindergarten, she pursued a path within the nonprofit arena in hopes of using her skills to positively impact others. Annie has been working in the nonprofit fund development field for four years,  and has been the director of development for Havern School for the past eight months. Havern School is a small, independent school that serves students with learning disabilities from along the Front Range.

    Lauren Wise
    Assistant Director of Development
    University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

    With a personal passion for making a difference in the world, Lauren enjoys seeing the way philanthropy transforms our world, especially in higher education and health care. Originally from Ohio, Lauren attended The Ohio State University and graduated with a degree in strategic communications in 2012. After graduation, she worked in various roles in the university's communications and advancement offices, where she discovered development work as a career path. In 2016, Lauren moved into a role at Cleveland Clinic in the philanthropy department overseeing annual giving initiatives. During her time there, she proposed a transformational change to Cleveland Clinic's annual fund to focus on pipeline development and stewardship. Lauren started her current role at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in June 2018. In her spare time, Lauren enjoys reading, running, CrossFit, being in the mountains, cooking new recipes, and spending time with her husband and rescue dog.

    Abby Yeagle
    High Plains Library District Foundation, Greeley

    Abby is passionate about empowering communities to create change. Her primary interests lie in the arts, however she believes in increasing philanthropy sector-wide and connecting individuals with the causes they care about. Abby’s support of nonprofits began while volunteering in high school. She continued this path in college, majoring in Nonprofit Management. After receiving her degree, I dedicated a year of service to AmeriCorps VISTA at the High Plains Library District. While working with the District’s Foundation over the next four years, she moved from a VISTA to a Development Associate to a Director and drastically grew her skills as a fundraiser. Abby is excited for the opportunity to have the support and guidance of a mentor in tackling these exciting new career challenges.

  • 09 Sep 2019 9:52 AM | Anonymous

    Meet Cheryl Haggstrom, chair of the Institute for Leaders in Development's steering committee. Cheryl serves as executive vice president for Community First Foundation, where she has been since 2007. Her prior experience is in the area of quality improvement and risk management at Lutheran Medical Center, where she was employed for 15 years.

    Cheryl Haggstrom, Institute for Leaders in DevelopmentWhat is single best piece of advice you can give to a fundraiser?

    Follow up!  I’m not talking about general stewardship or your annual check-in. I’m talking about promises to get back to someone about a question, a vow that you will call or any other mechanical commitment one makes during a casual conversation. If you meet with a prospect or donor and you promise to do something, do it! If you don’t, you will lose a person’s trust and confidence in you. If you do it, they will feel valued and connected. Once this happens, your donor will open up to you and they will follow up with you. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to learn this lesson. Use whatever works for you to remember to follow up! 

    What’s the one book (it can be about fundraising or not!) and the one fundraising blog/periodical that you recommend to fundraisers?  And why?

    The one book that always comes to mind is The Cathedral Within by Bill Shore. This book feeds the soul, inspires and requires you to be introspective. I think you need to understand yourself and your own values before you can truly connect with others about theirs. Books like this one are not technical. You won’t learn how to execute on a CRUT or a CRAT, but you will learn what stirs your emotions. Maybe, after reading this book, you will learn to connect with your donor on an emotional level.  Maya Angelou said: “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

    The blog I check the most is The Non Profit Times. Check it out. 

    What’s your favorite donor story?

    My favorite donor story is the one where you answer the phone and the caller says they would like to make a gift. You frantically put down your coffee to find a pencil and clear your throat while you introduce yourself. Then the donor tells you what they want to give and how. You wait for the money to arrive and when it does, you tell your colleagues about the major donor gift you just closed. How’s that for a story?


    What inspires you most as a fundraiser?

    Connecting donors with causes they care about is what inspires me. Don’t shy away from tooting your horn. Tell stories about your amazing work and when donors connect you will have them for life. If you don’t know your donor; listen and learn. Ask them about their life, their journey, their joys and their sorrows. You will discover what turns them on. Making that connection is what inspires me.

    What have you found to be most effective to stay energized in your work and to avoid burn-out?

    Accomplishments! Setting goals big and small. I like annual goals. I like daily goals. Making a to-do list and checking things off! Have you ever had that dream where you are forever trying to get somewhere and you just never get there? Well, I have, and I wake up feeling terrible! I like to make a reasonable list of things to do every day and stick to it. Check them off. It feels great! Sometimes I take the worst job on my list and find a day or an hour and commit to getting it done. It may be the only thing I absolutely commit to that day. When I get that one thing done I feel so accomplished, and then everything else I do that day is like icing on the cake. And then I say, it was a good day. Today my goal was to send you the answers to these questions!

  • 14 Sep 2018 5:27 PM | Anonymous

    What is the single best piece of advice you can give to a fundraiser?

    I think one of the hardest things for fundraisers is prioritizing their time. The most important thing is to stay focused on your donors and doing what is necessary and sometimes not necessary, to cultivate the donor and the gift. It is so common to get pulled into numerous projects and meetings and asked to prepare reports few of which have a positive impact on moving your donors forward in the cultivation process. Stay focused!

    What’s the one book you would recommend to a fundraiser and why?

    For anyone interested in learning about gift planning or in just having a reference book on the subject, I strongly recommend “The Complete Guide to Planned Giving” by Debra Ashton

    What’s the one fundraising blog or periodical you recommend fundraisers subscribing to?

    I find it really important to stay up with tax law and legislative changes. I follow several sources and frankly don’t feel that any are great. “Planned Giving Today” sure tries however.

    What’s your favorite donor story?

    I have been fortunate over my career to have many wonderful donors and could tell several stories. The one I would like to share now is of a woman from very modest means who suffered most of her life with asthma. She gave small gifts to National Jewish but they were consistently given year after year. We learned that she had included National Jewish in her estate plan through a mailing and I tried to contact her to thank her and set a visit. She was happy to speak with me by phone but not comfortable having me visit. I said I would keep in touch and did.

    Over the course of several calls I learned she was leaving her home to National Jewish. When she moved into a nursing home we received her home, which was worth about $110,000. I came to learn that her estate was only about $150,000. She was giving us almost all of her modest estate even though she had family. After she moved into the nursing home she was willing to have me visit. I learned that the reason she didn’t want me to come to her home was that she was uncomfortable being alone in her home with a man. It was a perspective that I hadn’t heard and was glad to become sensitive to.

    We became very close over the following 2-3 years before she died and I visited her whenever I could. We prepared a testimonial article highlighting her gift and she was so proud. While the gift wasn’t huge in many of our eyes, it was huge to her and I was especially pleased to honor her for her wonderful gift.

  • 17 May 2017 4:08 PM | Anonymous

    What is single best advice you can give to a fundraiser?

    Listen to your donors. Get really good at recognizing donor needs and motivation. So often we feel we need to “sell” our organizations and projects and talk too much. We should be listening intently to what our donors are telling us. Better listening leads to philanthropy which rewards the donor as much as the organization.

    What’s the one book you would recommend to a fundraiser and why? (It can be about fundraising or not!)

    Some of my favorite authors are Kay Sprinkel Grace and Penelope Burk. They write a lot about donor-centered fundraising. I found learning about marketing was very relevant to development work. Marketing focuses on studying target markets, packaging products, and the use of a variety of communication vehicles. Similarly, as fundraisers ascend to leadership in organizations, learning about finance and strategic planning become important.

    What’s the one fundraising blog or periodical you recommend fundraisers subscribing to?

    I was a faithful reader of Chronicle of Philanthropy for a quarter of a century. I clipped it, wrote all over it, circulated it to staff with notes, and prodded when back issues piled up on someone’s desk.

    What’s your favorite donor story?

    “The Unexpected Second Gift” -- The Marsico family was an early and generous investor in the “Space Odyssey” exhibit at the Museum of Nature & Science. Wanting to be good donor stewards, we arranged for Cindy Schulz, program officer for the Marsico Foundation, to come for a site visit. We wanted her to see the theater area we created with the family’s grant. After our tour and profuse thanks for their gift, Cindy announced that the Marsicos wanted to make a second gift of $500,000. We were speechless!

Institute for Leaders in Development at University of Denver | University Hall 301 2197 S. University Blvd. Denver Colorado 80208 | 

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