GuideStar Blog

Paul Jolly

Recent Posts by Paul Jolly:

Why a Donor Gives Dramatically More

Your organization occupies a box in a wealthy donor’s mind.  Let’s say it’s the five-thousand-dollar box.  How can you leap to the million-dollar box?


How Your Donors Can Help You

Some of the smartest things I do are accidents.

I was planning a trip to visit current and potential donors. I sent out the dates that I was available. Two of the people on the list—a current donor (we’ll call him Carl) and a potential donor (we’ll call him Phillip)—responded at the same time. They both said, “I can meet you at 10:00 on Thursday.”

Rather than re-negotiate the calendar with either of them, I asked each of them if they would be willing to meet together.


Data Is Not Wisdom

Photo by Ilkka Kärkkäinen on Unsplash

In 1854 John Snow correctly identified the cause of a cholera outbreak in London. It was a contaminated water pump. He then struggled, and eventually succeeded, in persuading the city authorities to take the handle off the pump. It was a historic achievement in the history of public health. The same year, England's august Cholera Inquiry Commission published a 629-page report on the causes of cholera. Their conclusion: the culprit was "bad air"—the noxious emissions that were associated with poor neighborhoods. They had 629 pages of data, and it lead them to a wrong conclusion.


Why the Biggest Ask Might Not Be the Best Idea

Once I had a job interview for a fundraising job. The VP of the fundraising department said with a glow in his eyes, “We just did a wealth screening of our donor list, and we have a billion dollars of potential.” I didn’t get the job, so I can’t say how much those donors gave. But I can guarantee it wasn’t a billion dollars. Not even close.


Honor the Past, but Don’t Look Back

I am working with an organization that has a noble mission but hasn’t balanced its budget in a long time. Maybe never. Board members are fatigued and pessimistic, and all have stayed LONG past their terms have expired, because (surprise!) no one else could be recruited to fill their slots.


Walking the Tightrope between Sympathy and Advocacy

  • The clients of a culinary arts training program are all formerly incarcerated. It promotes itself as a “job training” program without mentioning that its clients have criminal records.
  • A legal services provider for women caught in sex trafficking helps prostitutes, without any biases about the choices they have made, but has a hard time explaining its non-judgmental stance to donors.
  • A retirement community has a foundation that raises money from residents to allow fellow residents to stay even if they have exhausted their savings. Their fundraising literature emphasizes that the fund is for people who have run into financial difficulty “through no fault of their own.

Step Into Your Power

Successful fundraising often requires assuming more confidence than you actually feel. I got a new insight into that while leading a workshop last year. The workshop, on how fundraisers can build a major gifts program, was one that I had presented many times before. It focused on six elements of success: a willing board, a charismatic executive director, a compelling mission, individual donors, prospects, and a plan for low-pressure donor cultivation.


Mind Reading Is NOT in a Fundraiser’s Job Description

The master fundraiser Steve Haddad once said to a development novice, “Your job as a fundraiser is to ask for the gift. The donor’s job is to decide how to respond. Don’t try to do the donor’s job.” That simple distinction, if taken to heart, is very liberating.


Fundraisers: Ambassadors or Back Office Support Staff?

A young fundraiser in a new job recently told me that he has been calling donors to introduce himself. “They don’t want to talk to me,” he said sadly. “They want to talk to program staff or the executive director.”

I wanted to encourage him, but there was a sliver of truth in his discouragement. It is more gratifying for a donor to get the attention of a frontline worker or a leader than the development staff. On the other hand, throughout my fundraising career I have solicited many five- and six-figure gifts as the sole representative for the organization.


Six Steps for Hiring—and Keeping—a Top-Notch Fundraiser

Successful fundraisers are in high demand. And stories abound of fundraisers who look good on paper, interview well, and turn out to be flaming fiascos. How can you find, and retain, a fundraiser who will take your organization’s donated income to the next level?