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Few board members wake up in the morning excited to court donors and ask them to give — and give generously, even — to a school. It’s not that people lack passion for their institutions; it’s just that asking for money can be difficult. And when they do make the effort, there’s a feeling that they didn’t do a good job. Hardly a recipe for generating excitement and motivation.

So what can board members, who have a big role to play in development, do to make fundraising more productive and, dare we hope, less onerous?

Back in 2013, In Trust talked with “donor whisperer” Penelope Burk, who literally wrote the book on the leadership’s role in the area of development. It’s called Donor Centered-Leadership: What it Takes to Build a High Performance Fundraising Team. Years of asking people what motivates them to give, and what makes them shy away from giving, makes the interview one worth revisiting. (Click here for the article: “Board members and the art of saying thanks.”)

There’s a lot to know about fundraising. Across institutions, how many donors give year to year? How many donors increase their donations from year to year? What makes a fundraising campaign effective?

While the data is important for understanding how your school is performing, it can be a bit overwhelming. The good news is that Burk has found some easy actions you can take that will have great impact on your development efforts. It all comes down to the personal touch. You’ll be surprised, for example, by the effect that a follow-up thank-you call from a board member has on donor giving and retention!

Check it out, and if you have any tips of your own, be sure to leave a comment.


Card design by Clandestine Press,

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Called to the Chair: Board Leadership for Unsettled Times


Dr. Rebekah Basinger addresses the opportunities and challenges that come with chairing the board of a theological school, which include how to design effective board meetings, enhance board member engagement, and develop the board for long-term effectiveness, while giving attention to the board chair and president partnership and the critical importance of call in both roles.

Stakeholder Management Planning


Every organization should be prepared with a plan that establishes specific communication goals for key stakeholders in order to ensure the success of its programs, initiatives, or ongoing communication strategy. In this webinar, Josh Peskin, Ph.D., an expert in organizational communications, will walk through the elements of developing a stakeholder management plan to help you engage with your audiences in a more effective way. Click to view.

Conflict + Crisis: Navigating the Shoals Part 1


Presenter Donna Alexander, President & CEO of Advoxum Global Strategies, offers best practices for navigating conflict and crisis. She examines the crucial elements of defining conflict and crisis, identifying, and prioritizing affected stakeholders, utilizing effective communication strategies, and ultimately, executing a plan of action.

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