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60-second Inspiration -- A Q&A with Fundraiser Cheryl Haggstrom

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!

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

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