Generational Philanthropy

Posted on  by , Vice President

Father and adult son

When it comes to philanthropy, here is an important question: “Do different generations think differently when it comes to giving?” ”Does the same thing that motivates a boomer, motivate a millennial?” “How do we adjust our approach?”

Recently, I attended an Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) event where the speakers were a father-daughter team who represent a local business and family foundation. Grand father has passed on, so they continue to oversee giving from the foundation today. Their charge was to discuss how they respond to giving requests and what motivates them to give to local causes. The results were interesting, to say the least. Their premise was that it does make a difference. Continue reading

The Influence of the Board

Posted on  by , Vice President

Board Meeting (2)

I am guessing that most of you either answer to a Board of some type, serve on a Board, or at minimum, work for an organization that has a Board. Those who sit “on” the Board may be called directors, members, trustees or governors. The bottom line is this – they are generally charged with providing the governance – legally, financially and ethically, for the organization to be successful. Non-profit organizations or ministries are no exception. Continue reading

Humble Confidence

Posted on  by , Senior Consultant

Lead and Learn

Over the years I’ve had the honor to observe numerous Executive Directors, Presidents, Principals, Senior Pastors, Vice President’s of Advancement, and Major Gift Officers in action. I’ll admit it’s very inspiring to see men and women in these roles make bold, strategic decisions that advance their school, ministry, or local church. But I’ve also seen a good share of poor decisions made, which makes me wonder how quick leaders admit they’ve made a mistake. Whether small or large, seen or unseen, all have failed to hit 100% of making the right decision. They’ve all taken a wrong turn, made a wrong step and have fallen short. But when they do, how transparent are they with their staff and those they serve? Continue reading

Expect the Unexpected

Posted on  by , Vice President

Praying hands on a bible

In fund raising work, like almost anything, this saying can hold true. We like to say that fund raising is “equal parts art and science.” For the science part, we can apply formulas and strategies and be fairly sure about what the results will look like. But the art portion is where the “unexpected” comes in. Continue reading

Command Those Who Are Rich

Posted on  by , Vice President

Budget Word Cloud

Paul instructed Timothy to “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). Timothy was to constantly share the word—when it was convenient and when it wasn’t. Paul challenged him to “correct, rebuke, and encourage” those whom God had placed in his care. Continue reading

How Much Should I Ask For?

Posted on  by , Vice President

man meeting with couple

If you have been around development work for any amount of time, or if you have been working with major donors at all, you have probably asked yourself this question – maybe more than once. We have this saying here at The Timothy Group (sorry, I don’t know who originated it), “A successful donor visit is when the right person asks the right person for the right amount for the right project in the right place at the right time.” We have found this to be true time and time again, both in capital campaigns and annual fund raising. When these six “rights” align, it is fun to watch and experience.

So, how about this “right amount?” How do I know? What if I ask too high? Or, too low? Can I go back for seconds if I ask for the wrong amount the first time?

It all starts with research. Who IS this donor (or prospect)? Have they given before? How much? What do you know about them personally? Who else do they give to? How much do they usually give? You can research this donor both internally (your data base and giving records, staff who know them, board member relationships) as well as externally (online resources like Google and donor research tools or services). There are several data research tools available, each with their own cost structure and strengths. Here at TTG, we use one named “Wealth Engine” and have seen some success with it.

A few “rules of thumb” when considering how much to ask for:

  • Consider their largest ever annual gift and start there. If asking for another annual gift, consider asking the donor to increase that 25% or more for the second year;
  • If your ask is for a capital campaign multiple year pledge, consider a request of five times their largest single gift in the past, depending on their capacity of course. Capital campaign gifts tend to be larger as a rule;
  • If in doubt, ask high. It is usually better to ask a donor to “stretch” their stewardship decision, rather than feel like you asked too low. If it is too high, they will tell you. Rarely will they say, “you didn’t ask enough, so how about $_______? Charles W. Phillips Ph.D. of the McLellan Foundation once wrote, “No large ask should be a surprise; every smaller ask is an insult.”

I heard from a client recently that, at the end of a capital campaign “ask” visit, the donor said “you are leaving money on the table. You asked for $4,500 but we could do $10,000.” The client shared with me that the largest single gift they had given in a year was $1,500, so they tripled it for the three-year campaign ask. But what wasn’t realized in advance is this donor was a partner in a very successful local car dealership whose profits were up this year. Proper research would have led to a higher ask and a higher gift. (NOTE: the good news is, the jury is still out on what their final campaign pledge will be – let’s hope it is at least $10,000!)

Quality Results Means “No Shortcuts”

Posted on  by , Vice President


Do you remember the old Ford Motor Company slogan that stated, “Quality is Job One?” Ford sold a lot of vehicles using that promise. They persuaded car buyers to buy THEIR product, under the belief that the manufacturer had a strong commitment to producing a quality product. But this raises these and other questions: “What does quality mean? Or, “How will I know quality when I see it?” Continue reading

Let It Be

Posted on  by , President and Founder

Let it be

The Beatles tune written in the 1960’s by Paul McCartney is catchy and profound! In the 3rd stanza it goes, “And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me, Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.” Please allow me to shine a bit of light on your Advancement/Stewardship planning with this song as a backdrop. Continue reading


Posted on  by , President and Founder

Signing a check

Of the $335 Billion dollars given last year in America, around ten cents (10) of each dollar given by check or wire transfer was written by a Foundation. The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article on Monday 14 April, 2014. The Article titled “Family Foundations Adopt New Mantra: Let’s Spend It All” by Veronica Dagher. A narrative about Family Foundations in America. 24% of those family foundations intend to give all of their assets away during the lifetime of the existing directors.

Why? Inquiring minds want to know. Cassidy Burns a Minneapolis based Financial Advisor recalls how a very wealthy family whom she worked with struggles to find a successor to lead the family foundation. Their adult children have successful careers, and were raising families in different parts of the country and simply weren’t interested in the same cause their parents were passionate about. That unwillingness to take over the family foundation eventually forced the parents about a year ago to make a difficult decision: Start spending down the family foundation while they are still alive.

More Philanthropists and Stewards are choosing to donate all their foundation’s assets within their lifetimes. About 50 years ago only 5% of the total assets of America’s largest 50 foundations were held by spend-downs. In 2010 that number had risen to 24% according to Bridgespan Group in Boston.


So I’m a knowin’ where it’s goin’! In my nearly 34 years of helping organizations with their Annual, Capital and Endowment funding needs I have heard that statement many times. Based upon this research it’s a term we are going to hear more often. We all know it, donors vote with their checkbooks! These Family Foundations are the same; they are going to fund projects that are near and dear to their hearts or ones that can become that way.

These Foundations may not have a clearly stated goal or in fact a time line, but keep in mind, foundations with limited duration may be more risk averse. This may discourage them from funding more complicated causes that may take longer to bear fruit. Keep it simple in your communication and request with these spend-down foundations. Invite them to consider funding the Three P’s-ask them to help with Programs, Personnel and Property. Show them some immediate or near immediate impacts on your organization. We want you to see results while you are still living! Annual or Capital, I would not recommend Endowment unless there is a very unique opportunity with the foundation. How do we get in line or perhaps even to the front of the line? Once again our experience and recommendations haven’t changed much in the past 34 years!


“See the People; See the People, See the People and See What God will do with this Transformational Relationship!” These family foundations do not give to proposals…nope, they give to people! So don’t send them a proposal, go see them live and in person. Ask questions, share your mission, vision and core values and invite them to share theirs. 24 is not just a favorite TV program, it’s also a call to get out in the field with foundations and share your impact on the community, our nation and the world!


Raising the Bar

Posted on  by , Vice President

Board room notepad

Fundraising at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas is a team effort. President Steve Vanderhill shares, “I see myself setting the school’s vision, articulating its mission, gathering resources, and coordinating personnel.” Redeemer trustees sign a ministry covenant agreeing to “introduce, invite, and encourage” others to support the seminary. They pray, share their wisdom, communicate the vision with friends, and give. Trustees who are not ordained ministers are asked to find $100,000 annually to advance the mission of the seminary. Last year’s $2.4 million budget included over $1.8 million in gift income, much of it due to the prayers, generosity, networking, and hard work of the trustees. Continue reading