From category archives: In Trust Blog


The real gift in fundraising


The hardest thing is admitting what you don’t know. Tell It Like It Is: Truisms of Fundraising, by T. Christian Rollins, is a slim volume that delivers answers for building your institution's fundraising capacity.

Shooting straight from the hip, Rollins offers advice that will set new development staff on the right path for successful fundraising, but also challenge the assumptions of seasoned development professionals.

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From God's abundance: A resource for fundraisers

From crushing student debt to struggling seminaries to half empty church pews, much of the landscape of seminaries and finances seems bleak. As traditional funding sources change, the need to understand and gain mastery of fundraising is becoming increasingly important for theological schools. Offering research, tools, and customized training, the Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising (ECRF) from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is a bright spot during these challenging times.

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Wesley Theological Seminary’s fundraising response to a threatened future


Two months into his role as president, G. Douglass Lewis received the news that Wesley Theological Seminary was in debt. So, with the help of his development consultant and the Wesley staff, Lewis set forth a strategic plan for a program that would address their lack of fundraising ability.

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Selling the seminary -- statistics and all

As seminary leaders engage with donors, many find a reluctance about investing in theological education. North America’s changing religious landscape means that there are fewer people in the pews, at least in many churches. A growing number of seminaries is recruiting potential students, but the absolute number of seminarians has remained essentially flat over the last 20 years. Furthermore, the prohibitive cost of the traditional master of divinity degree can all lead potential donors to question whether their gift might be better given elsewhere.

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Back to school: Get inspired with good reading on fundraising



Gold-tinged leaves and crisp morning air signal the return of fall. But autumn brings more than falling leaves, shorter days, and pumpkin spice; for many, the end of summer means "back to school." If you cannot return to a real-life classroom for a continuing education course, reinvigorate your inner student by diving into some serious reading.

The required reading list for the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving’s Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising (ECRF) course is an insightful dip into the fundamentals of development.


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The right fit: On finding the right VP for advancement

The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) recently published a blog post about how to find the right vice president for advancement for your school.

The post offers some great advice for institutions and search committees to consider as they look to fill this important position.

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Summer 2015 issue of In Trust magazine

Last week the Summer 2015 issue of In Trust magazine landed in the mailboxes of people affiliated with the In Trust Center's member schools. Here are some highlights.

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Book review: "A Guide to Fundraising at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: An All Campus Approach"

A Guide to Fundraising at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: An All Campus Approach by Marybeth Gasman and Nelson Bowman III is a comprehensive overview of how historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) can transform their fundraising. As leading authorities on HBCUs, Gasman and Bowman closely examine the unique roles that the school president, board, faculty, alumni, and student body have in capacity building.

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There really isn’t anything new under the sun or in fundraising

Despite the mountains of fundraising advice that’s churned out daily via blogs and other online venues, remarkably little of what’s being written is new. Whether in 140 characters or in a full-length article, what passes as counsel these days is more derivative than innovative.

That’s the reminder recently tweeted by Steve MacLaughlin, director of Blackbaud’s Idea Lab:

“In 1932, Lyman Pierce spelled out the keys to a successful fundraising campaign. Still true today.”

I agree.


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Have you read the Spring issue of In Trust magazine?

In Trust
's Spring 2015 issue hit mailboxes last week. Here are some highlights from our latest issue: 
  • "Two patterns of good governance." Part 2 of our excerpt from the latest report on seminary governance from researcher Barbara Wheeler.

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Spring issue preview: Fundraising tasks that only board members can do

The Spring issue of In Trust magazine, due to be mailed next month, includes an article about the roles that board members play in fundraising.

In it, Penelope Burk, president of Cygnus Applied Research, Inc., shares some of the insights from a recent survey of 4,500 nonprofit board members. Her conclusions are thought-provoking.

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Reflections from DIAP, a conference on fundraising

With insightful speeches, engaging conversations, and a few tears, the 2015 Development and Institutional Advancement Program (DIAP) was enlightening and educational. Your advancement staff members should consider going next year!

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Have questions about fundraising? Join us

Next week, the In Trust Center presents our new live webinar: “Inviting participation: Understanding your role in fundraising.”

Why fundraising? It's one of our most-requested webinar topics, and everyone has questions about it.

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What happens when schools weaken denominational ties?

A recent article in Christianity Today showcases a new three-part study from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) that examines what happens to schools when they weaken denomination ties. While some students welcome a broader, less sectarian . . .

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Does your development director want to quit?

Fundraising jobs can be hard to fill.
Staff in this area often turn over at a high rate, and chief executives frequently express frustration at a lack of growth in fundraising.

Chaos in development staffing is highlighted by a recent study by CompassPoint, which says that half of development directors expect to leave their current jobs in two years or less and a quarter of CEOs fired their last development director. But the problem may lie with the CEO or the board, not the development officer.

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It’s seldom one or the other -- it's both

Either/or thinking drives me crazy,
which helps explain my frequent dissents into madness (professionally speaking). Almost weekly, an exhausted executive director, overwhelmed development staffer, or out-of-breath board member gives me that “deer in the headlights” look when I suggest that the organization try walking and chewing gum simultaneously (metaphorically speaking).

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Answers to questions about boards and fundraising

Proof that
Whenever two or three nonprofit executives
gather together, fundraising and board members are sure to come up. And based on conversations to which I've been privy, there's not a lot of bragging going on. In fact, most of the nonprofit leaders with whom I work assume that every other board in town (the nation, maybe even the world) is more engaged than theirs -- but without solid facts on which to base the assumption.

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Research reveals information on "millennial" donors, volunteers

New research sheds light on the nonprofit giving habits of young people ages 20 to 35: They seek information on their smartphones (but not exclusively); they're more likely to donate if they volunteer first; they're very interested in leadership (but most haven’t been asked to lead).

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Five 90-second videos on fundraising

Video screenshot

Recently we discovered some free online resources provided by the consulting firm Johnson Grossnickle and Associates

The highlights are five videos, each 90 seconds long, on various fundraising topics:

  1. The trustee's role in fundraising
  2. What to look for in a feasability study
  3. Building trust with donors
  4. Creating a millennial donor strategy
  5. Women and philanthropy

Screenshot of essential questions

Each video is accompanied by a PDF "tip sheet" that could be distributed in a board packet. And it might be appropriate to show one the videos themselves in a board meeting -- for example, to kick off a discussion of an upcoming capital campaign.

The videos are appealingly simple, and they raise the questions that boards and administrators must address if they are planning a major fundraising initiative.

Watch them here.

Six myths about the proposal to limit charitable deductibility

Have you heard about President Barack Obama's proposal to limit the amount the deductibility of charitable gifts for high-income donors? Many observers fear that by reducing the incentive for wealthy people to give, the nonprofit sector will suffer. The Nonprofit Quarterly has published a helpful article that tries to separate fact from hysteria. It identifies the following as "myths" that are circulating about the president's proposal: The president is aiming only at charitable deductions. The cap will affect all charitable donors. Charitable giving will be slammed. Charitable deductions have never been capped before. All of charity will lose. This is the wrong signal at the wrong time. On page 20 of the Spring 2011 issue of In Trust, Washington attorney Marcus Owens told writer Dorothy Ridings that he believes the full charitable deduction is safe for now, since the divided Congress is unlikely to agree on any plan -- especially one that would raise revenue but mi ...

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