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Posted on September 29th, 2019

BookAuthority’s 100 Best Books in Philanthropy

Metrics for an Enlightened Generalist

Posted on May 4th, 2018

How can you measure something at a still point, yet in constant motion?
Here’s a graph I drew that shows an alternative concept for Mastery in Fundraising. That is, alternative to what you usually think of on your performance review. It’s timely, considering the broad revamping of metrics for fundraisers that is in process right now. This reflection comes to mind now at least partly from reading Alex Brovey’s book on Zen and the Art of Fundraising: Eight Pillars for Success. I'm thinking about how the zen idea of "beginner’s mind" might apply to you or me as fundraisers. It connects with a lot of what I wrote in Personalized Philanthropy: Crash the Fundraising Matrix.

What makes the view expressed here (and all Personalized Philanthropy, really) such an outlier is the proposition that Mastery is not earned solely by your arrival at a particularly high point - any place in relation to others, or maybe even a spectacularly successful year of fundraising - but in the realization that you have been on a continually moving pathway. At any point, you might appear to be standing still, but really, you’ve been on a journey that takes you outside of yourself as you work to help others. The conundrum is: How is it possible for you to measure and assess your work when you are both at a still point and in constant motion? Sound like some kind of spooky physics?
For this to make any sense to a fundraiser, I think you have had first to see and then to have crashed what I’ve called the Fundraising Matrix. Then you’d have to conclude that some of our most revered "best practices" in fundraising are, in fact, worst practices. That is, they run counter to what we say and think we are aiming for in philanthropy. If you see that, what then are you to do?
Reviewing the graph, imagine that it can describe a system of metrics that has to do with the lifetime value of a fundraising. Turn over and away from the idea that your success is measured merely by the transactional fair market value you have in that moment. Mightn’t your pathway look something like that represented here?
Make it Real
If you’d like to see a job description for an enlightened generalist, find it here, and let me know what you think.

When Best Practices Go Bad [Worst Practice #1]

Posted on May 4th, 2018

Something's been bothering me about best practices. Enough to drag me out of my long winter's hibernation to talk about it. What do you think?
You know "best practices." They’re supposed to be the guideposts of successful fundraising. But what happens when best practices go wrong? This...

Here's just one impact of bad practice. Fundraisers who want to make even the slightest innovation, must climb over a very high hurdle: "What are the others doing?" Nothing wrong with benchmarking and knowing the landscape, but these so-called best practices might not be best. Certainly not if you are driven to model yourself after the mediocre. If you look closely at more of these, you will see the slavish devotion for what it is. A one-way trip to the Matrix. Instead of following the others, imagine alternatives that can take you to a far better place. Here is what I think might be the worst of the worst.
Worst Practice #1
The notion that the best fundraiser is a specialist. Leads to ...
  • The notion that campaigns for annual/major/planned giving is the only way.
  • The notion that the best leaders rise only from specialists.
  • When you meet a donor who gives every way, why would your boss need to send three specialists -- separate gift officers to solicit unrelated separate annual, major and planned gifts?
[Why not send One enlightened generalist who can meet the donor where they are? Spoiler: we don't make them we don't teach them; someone else "owns" that donor. Where is job description for such a gift officer? I can show you.]
After you’ve crashed the fundraising matrix
Instead of a specialist, imagine that you are an Enlightened Generalist.
  • Notice the toxicity of separated, fragmented, compartmented goals and mediocrity.
  • Instead, resist the notion that the institution is always greater than the donors.
  • Even if that’s true, an enlightened generalist sees the trap of it.
Some curatives
Instead of success as a lone wolf, place a higher value on integration, collaboration and build success upon the notion of a unified campaign.
  • Value all the constraints on you. Push through to new insight on what’s possible.
  • Pay attention. The key to flying: the thing you push against is the thing that lifts you up.
What exactly is the difference before and after?
  • Enlightened generalist sees "mastery" differently.
  • Mastery becomes a journey beyond specialization, narrow domain skills and transaction.
  • Instead of getting what you can in the moment, you see possibilities for transformation in every gift, and in every donor that you meet.
  • You experience the three kinds of transformation: that of the donor; that of the institution; and, the most rare, that of yourself, as gift officer.
What’s been learned?
  • You, as an enlightened generalist can be that fully-present gift officer who can hear the aspirations of all donors - and in each particular donor - to reach their the highest level of impact. And aim for that donor's impact to begin now.
  • Leadership will one day rise above the heap of specialists, shouldn't it? Rather, move past narrow domain knowledge to a broader landscape where each opportunity may be treated as a rich challenge to move beyond yourself, as institution, donor and gift officer.
See that the J O Y of giving is attainable, as a Journey Outside Yourself.
Till next time,

The Key to Flying

Posted on February 3rd, 2017

The Key to Flying:
The Thing You Push Against is the Thing That Lifts You Up
By Steven L Meyers, PhD, Personalized Philanthropy

Here is my favorite foundational precept from Larry C. Johnson’s Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising, "Donors are the Drivers." It’s my favorite because it is always my "go to" whenever I need inspiration. But are donors really the drivers?
Find out more about the Key to Flying right here. To learn more about The Eight Principles, and register for a live session February 9th with the founder, Larry C. Johnson, click here.

My Announcement - with an attitude of gratitude

Posted on September 9th, 2016

September 1, 2016
Dear Friends,
I want to share the announcement of my retirement from full time employment and launch of my consulting practice sent recently by Marshall Levin, CEO of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science.
This might sound a little like a valedictory (farewell). But it is really the beginning of a new chapter and a new kind of boundary-spanning gift design practice. I am now free to roam about the country. Maybe even a little off the rails. If not to infinity and beyond, at least beyond Metro North.

For me, much of the JOY of giving comes from the Journey Outside Yourself – the partnership of current and rising generations of gift officers, advisors and donors on our shared journey in philanthropy.
I am thrilled that I will continue to assist Weizmann gift staff and supporters in a new capacity as consultant and coach on our unique brand of personalized philanthropy. (Call me.)
At the same time, I’m answering the call to launch a personalized philanthropy practice with a broader audience. I will keep writing and speaking and crashing the fundraising matrix. Things haven’t really changed. I’m still on a quest to help you create that gift of great moment.
Please contact me, connect with me and watch for news on LinkedIn.

See the PDF for the letter from Marshall …

Building blocks and overcoming them

Posted on July 25th, 2016

Building [and Overcoming] Philanthropic Blocks in Kansas City

Vice President, Center for Personalized Philanthropy

I am so pleased and privileged to be keynoting at the 21st Annual Building Blocks Planned Giving Conference of the Mid-American Planned Giving Council, on August 12, 2016. It's a great line-up, and you can see the details and register right here. Love to see you in Kansas City!

Causing a disturbance on the radio: Personalized Philanthropy

Posted on June 16th, 2016

Tony Martignetti’s Nonprofit Radio. If you couldn’t be live at 1 pm, June 17, 2016

click here for Tony’s podcast or download

National Capital PG Days - See you there!

Posted on May 24th, 2016

We’ll be crashing your Matrix and in good company.
see the pdf or click for a description of the keynote.

Forbes Spots Virtual Endowment in the Wild. Highlights Creative Giving: IRA RMDs For Israel

Posted on May 23rd, 2016

Virtual Endowment spotted in the Wild.
Forbes Highlights Creative Giving: IRA RMDs For Israel
So pleased that Forbes highlighted the new giving opportunities. IRAs are not just for end-of-year or end-of-life, anymore. With the permanent charitable rollover in effect, the IRA becomes an even more versatile philanthropic building block. Check out Ashlea Ebeling's timely story in Forbes on Creative Giving: IRA RMDs for Israel.

Back in 2009, Carol Milett committed $150,000 as a bequest for lung cancer research to the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science to honor her late husband. But then she had a change of heart. Why wait until she died? "I decided he has always been in my heart and soul. I should do something now for Herb while I’m still alive," she says.

Steven Meyers

Personalized Philanthropy. For both fundraisers and philanthropists. When we say we want to get it right, what do we mean? “The right gift, for the right purpose, for the right donor.” It's about innovative donor-focused, individually-tailored giving strategies -- new gift applications that combine current and future gifts, so that donors can create a lasting legacy where recognition and impact begin now. To make miracles happen at charitable organizations close to their hearts. ~Steven L. Meyers, Ph.D., Founder, Personalized Philanthropy