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Planning for Sustainable Success: Building a Development Plan for Museums

Category: Financial Sustainability

A strategic annual development plan is the document every nonprofit organization should have to identify how much money it needs to raise and how it will successfully secure those resources. During this webinar, experts will take you through the process of how to make a strategic annual development plan for your museum.


  • Kate Brueggemann, Senior Vice President of Development, Brookfield Zoo
  • Donna McGinnis, President & CEO, Naples Botanical Garden


Tiffany Gilbert:

Hello, everyone. Welcome, and thank you for attending AAM’s first financial wellness webinar series. Today is our second webinar within this series, Planning for Sustainable Success, Building a Development Plan for Museums. This session was very popular during the in-person AAM annual meeting, and believe it is fitting to be a part of this series. Before we begin, on behalf of AAM staff, we would like to thank this amazing duo of presenters for agreeing to share their expertise in this format, and appreciate the time they’ve taken out of their incredibly busy schedules to be a part of this series. My name is Tiffany Gilbert. I am the Director of Meetings and Learning Programs here at AAM, and I have a few items I’d like to share with you before we begin the session. There are several AAM staff on this call, and two that are working with me as monitors. They’ll be pulling your questions and comments out of the chat, and we will share those at the end, if our time permits, with Kate and Donna.

We’ll also be sending any questions out, all the questions and comments, to Kate and Donna so they can review it after, and also their attendee list minus emails or contact information, so both Kate and Donna will know who all attended, and we’ll be able to see any questions that come through. And if they want to respond to your questions post webinar, they can send that to AAM and we’ll take care of getting that information to you. For the sake of time, obviously, we may not be able to highlight all of the comments or questions, but like I mentioned, we will share them all with Kate and Donna.

The link to the panelist’s slides will be provided also afterwards on the webinar web series website, there’s a lot of webs, but that will be added there along with this recording. I will put the link to where you can find that post webinar, and then we’ll be sending a follow-up email to all of the attendees with that link in there also. This webinar, along with the other webinars within the series, will be recorded and available publicly through April 27th. Following that date, they’ll be available in the AAM resource library, and which all AAM members will be able to access. The resource library has dozens of articles, resources, and tools specific to various topics including financial wellness, development, and membership. And a link will be added to the chat so that you can access that. Also, for those of you interested in connecting with other museum professionals to discuss the topics focused on development, fundraising, and philanthropy, we invite you to join their community and museum junction.

We’ll also add a link in the chat for those of you several times throughout this webinar. Again, we will follow up with an email providing you with links and resources outlined in today’s webinar, along with details and registration information for our next webinar within this series. I will now turn things over to our wonderful presenters, Kate Brueggemann, Senior Vice President of Development at the Brookfield Zoo, and Donna McGinnis, President and CEO at Naples Botanical Garden. Donna.

Donna McGinnis:

Thanks so much, Tiffany. We’re really excited to be here with you today because, as Tiffany mentioned, we have done this presentation at a couple of AAM annual conferences, and very often, we hear from people afterwards who’ve attended, who have a few more follow-up questions and are saying things like, “This is great. I needed to be able to show this to my team,” or, “This was really helpful to show to my development committee of my board so they understand how to put this together.” So we want to thank AAM, in particular, for doing this webinar series because we know that there are a lot of people that can’t necessarily go to onsite programs and conferences, and there are so many museum professionals who just personally aren’t able to do it. And especially, when we talk about mid-size and smaller museums and gardens, especially after the financial beating that a lot of us took during COVID and recovery, it’s really, really important to get as much out there for our colleagues as possible that’s either free or very low cost to help everybody build stronger institutions.

So Kate and I have had the chance to work together. So we worked together for a number of years in the same market. And we had the chance to work together at a history museum and at a botanical garden, and then we went different directions geographically, and to larger and smaller organizations. But I think what both of us would tell you is regardless of whether you are at a museum, a zoo, a botanical garden, or really almost any other destination, the building blocks of development and fundraising are really the same. And I wish I could tell you that this series was going to tell you that there is a magic silver bullet that will generate contributed income without you having to go talk to anybody face-to-face and ask for money. But that is not the case.

But what we are going to talk about today is the basic things that are in a development plan, and we’re going to talk about what those things are. Because every institution no matter its size should have a development plan if it relies on contributed income at all, just like you have a business plan for your institution. So what we’re going to give you too that, hopefully, is going to help you educate others in your organization is it’s going to give you things that anybody, whether you’re a staff member or a board member, you should expect that these things are happening in your development program.

This can be especially helpful if you are part of a leadership team, if you’re an executive director, and you need to help educate your board, or a development committee, or a campaign committee about the strategy of how we do this, and knowing that we have a limited amount of staff, time, and budget, making sure that we’re using things in the right way and making sure everybody knows their job. So that’s what we’re going to do today. But before we get into building a plan itself, we’re going to talk about just what’s been going on in the philanthropic landscape in the world of donors, and things that are important for you to know and for you to educate others in your organization about so that we all can understand the environment in which we’re operating. So Kate, can you take it away?

Kate Brueggemann:

I thought we could start a little bit on Giving USA. So this is the most recent Giving USA report shared in June and July of last year. The reason I’m starting here is because it gives us insight into the national trends that are happening in fundraising, and it’s really helpful as you look at your specific organization to understand what is similar, what is dissimilar, and what are areas that you want to focus on moving forward in your annual plan. So let’s send just a couple of minutes to look at the current philanthropic landscape in the US market. And there’s obviously been quite a bit of fluctuation and uncertainty, and what we know is that these giving trends are very linked to economic conditions. So it was a year that there was a level of decline, but the GDP grew even modestly and it impacted our economic rates as well. And so if you look at this a little bit more closely, it’s really-

Donna McGinnis:

Kate, can I interrupt you just a minute? Our group isn’t seeing the slides advance. Can we take a quick look at getting to the right page?

Kate Brueggemann:

Thank you, Donna. Yes, I may need Tiffany’s support getting these… I’m so sorry. You can hold for one moment. I think, Tiffany, it might be better if you can share your screen with the slides.

Tiffany Gilbert:

Yep, if you can unshare, I’ll go ahead and share mine.

Kate Brueggemann:

Oh, sorry. I apologize.

Tiffany Gilbert:

No problem.

Kate Brueggemann:

So let me keep moving forward while we’re switching gears a little bit. So we wanted to spend a little bit of time talking about our Giving USA in the philanthropic landscape, and we’re seeing some changes, which is really interesting, and that’s important for us to keep an eye on for our individual organization’s planning. And so we’re seeing some declines in individual giving, and some changes in fluctuations in contributions by source as well. And so that individual group is getting to be smaller as the foundation group gets to be larger. And that’s happening for a couple of reasons, and one of them is the rise of donor-advised funds. One note is that for all of us to have an eye towards donor-advised funds, and the increase of individuals of high net worth really moving their philanthropic giving into foundations and into donor-advised funds. So Tiffany, if you can advance to the next slide. And it’s actually slide nine.

Thanks. And so this is one area that we wanted to spend a little bit of time looking at, which is the giving for the sub-sectors, and to really pay attention into where there is growth and or perhaps some shifting. We are seeing a little bit of a decline in organizations that are primarily concerned with environment and animals, but arts, culture, and humanities are up by almost 3%. Next slide, Tiffany. There’s also generational impact that we want to be aware of as we’re looking to our next generation, and to make sure that we have a fundraising program that is attractive to all the different generations that are going to be our philanthropic supporters, including the next generation. And for those of you that have been in rooms where there’s been a lot of concern about the next generation of fundraising and really wanting to understand if the next generation will be philanthropic, what we can say is that, yes, they are philanthropic, they’re just giving slightly differently. And so their giving is much more connected to impact giving. And this is some data that is from BNY Mellon Wealth Management and Campden Wealth.

And so what we want to understand is what is the philanthropic priorities for the next generation? We can see it’s community development, youth/children, and then education is growing. And so organizations that are able to position themselves to really demonstrate their impact to the next generation of donors are going to be more successful. So that’s a high level overview of some of the national trends that are happening right now. And if we go to the next slide, let’s talk about how we put that into practice with our development plan.

Donna McGinnis:

So knowing what you just heard Kate cover, a couple of things that we hope you’ll keep in mind as we keep going. So number one, those shifts in individual giving, shifts in corporate and foundation giving, individual giving, in particular, when Kate mentioned donor-advised funds, that means that someone, instead of giving all of their philanthropic dollars out to charities, they’ve parked it. It could be in a fidelity fund, it could be in a community foundation. And so they’ve taken the tax write-off, and they’ve given the money away to an organization that will hold onto it, and they become kind of a grant maker. And so while they don’t technically own that fund anymore, they get to be the donor making the advice on where that fund should go. So the donor then says to the community foundation or to facility, “Please send $1,000 to the zoo.”

So the reason that that shifts, these numbers that we’re looking at, is because then we don’t know exactly where those dollars are coming from. When that check or that wire comes to your organization, it is not necessarily going to give you a whole lot of detail. And so the ability to follow up with the donor to be able to cultivate that relationship is a little bit different. And those dollars don’t necessarily go to work right away. They sit in a pool of funding, but they don’t necessarily have to give all of that money away in any certain year. So let’s talk about the next thing, now that we know what’s happening in the environment. So this is the list of stuff that any organization should have in its development plan. So this is like the checklist of what you should have packed when you go camping, or whatever it is that you like to do.

Now, you might look at this and say, “Oh, we don’t have that.” So what I’m going to tell you is these are things that you should have to have a healthy development program. You might not have them right now, and that’s okay, but recognize that you need to work toward this, because if there are pieces of this you don’t have, you probably are going to get either slowed down, or you’re just not going to be able to maximize your program. So a number of you probably know what a case statement is, and that essentially is the written documentation of who your organization is, what your mission is, why your work is important, how you achieve your work, what would be missing in the world if you weren’t there. It’s all of those things that define who you are, what you do, why your work is important, and the fact that you need support to get that work to happen.

The other thing that this might be where some of you don’t have this, but your organization probably has a strategic plan, and then ideally, you would have an annual budget at least for the current fiscal year, but ideally, out over a three-year period, even if there’s just some general forecasting. And the reason you need that is because you need to know how much is needed to raise. If you don’t have an annual budget that gives you, as the fundraiser, information about what the organization is going to do that year, it makes it harder for you to be able to raise those dollars. So if there is not an organization work plan that says, for example, in my botanical garden world, “These are the gardens we’re going to renovate this year, and we’re going to spend X dollars in annuals for an orchid festival.” The things that we know we’re going to do, we know what the education programs are so that you can go talk to donors about that.

So again, at least having one year of an annual budget, and knowing what the organization is going to spend it on, but also what it needs to raise. But ideally, if you can get to that three year period, it’s ideal. And then once you know how much you need to raise in a year, what are the financial goals for each area of fundraising? And it’ll be different in every market, but what do you think you might be able to set as a goal for gifts from businesses, from local clubs and organizations, from foundations that you might have relationships with? And what about from members, from board members? What about from people that aren’t affiliated with your garden yet? So then once we set those goals, then you come up with, “Okay, based on what the organization is going to do in the coming year, and how much we need to raise, and who we think we can raise it from, what are all the that have to take place?”

So we don’t start the conversation by saying, “Well, we should have a gala and a walk-a-thon.” We talk about who is most likely to give and what needs to happen to get them to say yes. That’s how we build our list of activities. We’ll talk about that a little bit more. There’s also a communications piece to this, because before someone or an organization is going to give, they again need to know who you are, and what you do, and why your work is really important, and the fact that you need dollars to support it. So I’m just going to give you a quick example, which is, I was at my local grocery store and saw Girl Scouts selling cookies. And something that if any of you have been involved in scouting or have been a parent of a scout, that sometimes the conversation is, “Well, how could the Girl Scouts possibly need any more money for their programs because they have the market on Girl Scout cookies?”

And so a big piece of their communication challenge is explaining that cookies can’t fund everything. So that’s a really important part of your communication activity. Development can’t work alone, it has to work along with communication strategy. Before you start, you need to know how you’re going to acknowledge gifts when they come in. We’re going to talk about how quickly you need to be able to turn around a thank you letter, and some other things that might be helpful in acknowledging a gift, and how you’re going to steward that gift so that, number one, they’re more likely to renew their gift, but number two, you can begin to see who might be willing to do more. Then in your development plan, you’re going to need a timeline to keep everything on task, and you’re going to need a budget, and you’re going to need to understand what staff needs to go into this.

So we’ll talk a little bit about who needs to be on the team, but if you have a very small budget and you don’t have a lot of staff time that you can dedicate to this, you need to be realistic about the goals that you’re setting. And also, if you do have staff resources to deploy, you want to be sure that people are spending time on the right things. And then we get to volunteers, which we’ll talk about where that’s especially helpful. Because especially with your board of directors, there’s a very key role that they need to play in development, in fundraising overall, whether it is for an annual membership or a capital campaign gift, but other ways that volunteers can really enhance what you’re doing. So on the next slide, let’s talk a bit about the cycle. So we’ve talked about what needs to be in your plan, but let’s talk about the process.

And this is one of the first things that can be really helpful to talk to your volunteers, whether it’s your board of directors, your development committee. Number one, share with them the Giving USA information, and especially, what is given by which source. Because undoubtedly, you’re going to hear somebody in a boardroom say, “Can’t we just write a whole bunch of grants and not have to talk to anybody? Can’t we just go ask all of the companies for sponsorship, and then we don’t have to worry about the rest of it?” So that’s one place to start. But this is a really critical thing for you to help them understand too, is that there’s a cycle to this. We don’t go from zero to, “Please give me a million dollars.”

So the first piece is identification. And so we’re going to talk a bit about that today too. The identification piece is who could possibly give to our organization. Now, in the museum, garden, zoo, aquarium, the world, those of us that are destinations and attractions, we have the benefit of having memberships. So that for us is a great way to start. So if somebody has decided they are going to come enough times a year that they get a membership, that’s a good indicator that we can prioritize them over everybody else in our metro area. If we have somebody who comes to a special event or a gala, that’s further identification that they might be interested. So we need to identify who we want to talk to. We’ll talk in a few minutes about how we prioritize them. Because you might not have the capacity to talk to all 3000 of your members, but identifying who you’re going to go talk to is the first piece.

And then cultivation. So those of you who are in my age category might’ve had a grandmother that said this to you too, which was, “You don’t wear a wedding dress on your first date.” And so the point being, there’s a relationship building piece that needs to happen before you solicit a gift. So again, when we talk about communication, it’s before somebody is going to make a charitable gift, they need to know who you are, and what you do, and why your work is important, and that you need funding to sustain it, and they need to be aligned with their personal interest and what your organization does. So again, members are a really great way to identify who could be in our pipeline. Anytime you do a member event and somebody shows up, anytime you do a special appeal, or an adopt an animal, or anything that gives somebody an activity to participate in and they come, that gives you another flag.

So building the relationship is important to do before you ask. And then we’re going to talk a bit about solicitation, which is, when do you ask and who to do it, and how? The one I hear sometimes is, “Well, can’t we just get the mailing list of that country club down the road and send dear donor letters to all of those rich people?” And those are going to go right into the trash. What we want to look for is, who might give but who needs to ask them, who can they not say no to, or who will catch their attention? And making sure that we ask in the right timeframe and for the right thing they’re interested in.

And then this stewardship piece is really important. How are we going to acknowledge their gift, but then how are we then going to demonstrate how we put their dollars to work in the way that they wanted them to, and showed them some impact before we ask again? So I’m going to take this question that I see popping up in our chat, about responding to the commonly asked question of, “Why can’t we just write grants? Why can’t we just go to corporate-

Kate Brueggemann:

That’s such a good one. [inaudible 00:24:50].

Donna McGinnis:

So Kate, could you take that? You’ve got so much experience, could you just enlighten us a little bit with how you address that when you get that question?

Kate Brueggemann:

So I think that it’s such a good question. So the question is how do you respond to the very commonly asked questions and suggestions of why not grants and why not corporate? Why wouldn’t we really focus our efforts there? And I think it depends on your your organization, it depends on your team, it sometimes depends on your market, and depends on your board members too. And so how I’ve responded to that when I’ve received feedback that we should focus more on grants and more on corporations is that it’s really important to have a diversified revenue structure for a fundraising program. So there should be grants, there should be corporate giving. All of those things do have a place in a fundraising program.

I think what I try to say is that the lion’s share of the donors in the US market are from individuals. And that is if we look at how our giving segments compare to the national trends, do we have 75% coming from individual supporters? Is it 10% coming from corporations? Is it 25 from foundations? Depending on what the makeup is of your program is going to help you address that question more succinctly. But I think that oftentimes, there is a gravitation towards focusing more on corporate, and sponsorship, and grant making, and it’s important just to make sure that there’s still a focus on individual giving.

Donna McGinnis:

That’s great. Tiffany, could I ask you to flip back to slide seven? What I often do, especially if it’s board and development committees asking, and sometimes it is the mission professionals, the scientists who want to figure out how to just make this easier, especially because asking somebody for their personal dollars face-to-face can feel a lot different than filling out a grant proposal online that goes off. And I don’t actually have a conversation with someone, but this is usually where I start. And so if you look at the pie chart on the right, the conversation I often have with them is if we focus too much in the corporate and foundation arena, we are leaving the biggest pot of money on the table. Because if you look at individual giving, it’s 64%, and then you add in bequests, so then you’re more than 70%, you’re getting into 73%, that giving decisions made by individual donors.

But then if you also looked at that foundation chunk, and if you recall what Kate was saying about donor-advised funds, so some of that growth in foundations is donor-advised funds, which means that individual donors are going to decide where that money goes. So my gut tells me that 80% of the money that’s given every year is decided by an individual, or a couple, or a family. And yes, we need to be keeping the eye out for the corporate and foundation giving opportunities, being smart about that, looking in terms of corporations, what they want for their support, but we would be doing the organization a disservice if we focus too much energy there.

So let’s see. Let’s go back to… let’s see… The first slide, the development cycle slide, sorry. Okay, let’s go to-

Tiffany Gilbert:

What’s the slide number?

Donna McGinnis:

Number 13, please. Perfect. All right. So once we have identified some individuals, or companies, or foundations, we want to prioritize where we spend our time. And so what I’m going to talk you through is some tools that you can use. Again, providing information to your development committee and your board, how do we figure out who we should be talking to and where we should spend our time? So for example, if you are an executive director of a small organization, and you are the chief fundraiser, in addition to many other hats that you wear, your time is going to be limited. And so you want to be spending time on the right prospective donors.

So I’m going to ask you to think of two donors, and just take a moment to write them down. It could be an individual or a couple, it could be a foundation, it could be a local business or a club, could be a corporation. And so just pick two. And what I’m going to ask you to do is rate them in these two categories. And this is going to help us figure out how do you go from a database of 3,000 members, and some sponsors and grants in there, to a manageable number to engage in a year? Because while you can do some membership renewal, and renew gifts, and go after new gifts, you can probably give personal attention to a certain number and then the rest are going to need to be part of a regular renewal mail or online process. Okay. So with the two prospective donors that you wrote down, I want you to rate them in two ways. So the first one is we look at engagement.

So a five means somebody who is like close family, they have served on the board or a committee, they know the organization really well, they come to everything, they know your team, they’ve been part of the organization for a long time, you can track lots of years of history. So that’s somebody… they are already at the table, they have bought in, you are at the top of the list of organizations that they are passionate about. And then we go down from there. So a four would be maybe they haven’t served in a leadership role but they’ve given a number of years and they’re coming to things. So they’re not just renewing a membership, they’re giving you some signals that they want more than that in the relationship. So they come to things, they seem to be following your work, they’re giving you signals that they read your newsletter, you see them renewing their gifts, and you think you’re in their top circle of things that they support.

And then in the middle there is they’ve renewed a membership, and maybe they know some things that go on in your organization, they might just know it for whatever their favorite thing is. They might know it for your children’s garden, because they have young kids and that’s what they do. They might know you because they’re in the hosta society, and so their lens is really through horticulture. They might be a retired educator, and so that is their affinity, is with what you’re doing with kids. So that’s about a three. And then somebody who has visited is a two, and a one means no interaction. This is where we’re saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have Bill Gates as a donor?” Yes. “Does he know we’re even on the radar?” Absolutely not. However, sometimes, in there, you might have somebody on your donor list because they have made a tribute, they’ve made a gift in honor of somebody’s significant birthday, or in memory of someone who’s passed away.

Be careful about those, because you don’t want to spend too much time on somebody who might have capacity, because you’ve seen them give big gifts to other organizations, but their only gift to you is been a tribute. And then we look at financial capacity. There are a number of ways to evaluate this. Everything from wealth screening that you can do on your database with various vendors, or looking at other organizations’ annual reports and seeing what they give elsewhere. And so the capacity score here, you would adjust this for your organization, where your number five gift might be $2,000, it might be $20,000. So Kate, for you, at a major Chicago institution, when you look at a screening like this, what is your top circle of giving? Do you mind throwing out a number?

Kate Brueggemann:

No, not at all. So we look at our dividing line between our major gift, and our mid-level gift is at 15,000.

Donna McGinnis:

15,000. Okay.

Kate Brueggemann:

Yeah, that is higher than most organizations.

Donna McGinnis:

Right. So you would decide the dollar amounts in here, but again, you want to say you want to rate the potential donors by what they could give to you. And here, we’re talking about an annual gift, but you would do the same thing here if you were working on a capital campaign. And then the next slide, Tiffany. So this is then what you do with them, you put them on a chart. And so this then helps you guide what to do next with all of these people, and it helps you focus in on who you need to be sure you get to first. And so up in the top right corner, if you have anybody who scores in there, those are the people who love you the most, who know the most, and have the highest giving capacity. And so that is where you want to spend your one-on-one time.

That’s where you want to be getting in front of them, be getting them to the organization to learn more about you, those are the people you want to solicit one-on-one. As you scoot over to the left, you see that yellow group, those are people, again, they’re very highly engaged, they love you, you’re at the top of their list. They have a little less financial capacity perhaps, but you need to pay a lot of attention to them because they’re very likely to say yes every year when you renew, and they’re likely to respond when you ask for something extra. Now, step down there into kind of the pinkish area. So that group, that signals they need more engagement before they’re really going to give at the level that they can. So these are people who you’re recognizing that they have the financial capacity to give more than they are now, but they need more of your attention.

So that, again, would be a priority area for you to spend your time and focus. All right. Where you don’t want to get stuck, I’m going to take you down to the bottom left corner where it says, “Don’t get stuck here.” If you have on your list, “I wish we could get the attention of blank,” because they have a lot of capacity, but do not know you at all, your board members don’t know them, and there’s no link, don’t spend a lot of time there. Keep them on the list in case you can find a link at some point. It might emerge at some point, but you don’t want to keep having a conversation in your development committee meeting about the person that nobody knows.

Kate Brueggemann:

Yes. Yes. Donna, can I? Think this is so helpful. It’s so helpful for so many different ways. Do you remember you used to have a chart that we would look at during our annual planning times, and the axes were important and urgent?

Donna McGinnis:


Kate Brueggemann:

And so I feel the same way about this chart too, is that you can… and I would qualify, it’s almost proactive and reactive. And so if this is the document… and everybody can create this in whatever version that they like, this is a really nice framework though. And what I think is really helpful is that when organizations start to say, “Well, this organization received a sponsorship gift from this company in this amount,” or, “I heard that this donor made a gift to this organization at this amount, why aren’t they our donors?” And so what can start to happen is your prospect list can start to become people who are not your donors, but they’re donors of other organizations.

And so that’s all helpful information. But usually, how I try to explain it is that unless somebody has a direct connection to that person, and they can go with me to ask for a gift or to ask them to get more engaged, then they’re not going to be at the top of my priority list. And so just helping people to say that it is okay to focus on your donors. How do you manage that within your organization?

Donna McGinnis:

Yeah, that is so true. There are two donors that I can think of in my community right now, and that’s what I hear from some of our board and some of our close friends. One of them is a couple that’s very visible and very philanthropic, but their giving areas, they focus on seniors, and they focus on performing arts, especially theater. And the wife, she comes to our fundraising event and she makes a nice gift. They’re never going to make a transformational multimillion dollar gift to Naples Botanical Garden. We are outside of their interest, and we would waste our time if we just kept going after, and after, and after them. They know me, they know our organization, they like to come walk here a couple of times a year, but this isn’t their thing. And another is someone who’s very wealthy, who bought a home here, and is building this immense property, and obviously has tremendous… just in the news, you would be able to know this is somebody who has a lot of wealth, and I keep hearing, “Oh, well, we really need to get so-and-so.” It’s like, “Absolutely. Do you know them?”

We haven’t yet found somebody who knows them, but that name keeps coming and coming up and you can get stuck. Okay. Let’s go to the next slide, if we could. So then once you’ve had a chance to figure out who your priorities are, this is just an example of a really basic word table that you can use then to keep track of it. So here we just said, “Okay, based on using the chart, here are five key people that we know we need to be talking to.” And then how are we going to keep organized what we need to do? So here, for Amy Smith, we figure out who on the staff is the key person to be managing that relationship so everything’s coordinated. And this might be the person on staff, it doesn’t have to be in the development department, it might be the person that just knows them best.

And then volunteer lead means, is there a board member, or another volunteer, or close friend of the organization who has that relationship? And we need to make sure that they’re part of it too. And so here, we’re saying we need to cultivate her. We’re going to ask for $10,000 in the third quarter of the year. But it’s not time to ask yet. So the next step is to invite her to lunch with one of our senior leaders, maybe it is with Bob and with Sarah, who leads the curation of a special exhibit. And that is the next step. When you have it in a table like this with at least some kind of a date range to follow, and you keep it in front of you, that is what’s going to keep the program rolling. Because if you don’t, it’s so easy to put all of your attention on the burning fires of today, like the power went out, or there’s a newsletter article that’s due, and it can be easy to accidentally forget to schedule that lunch, and then all of a sudden, it’s time to ask again.

So another thing that we might track is, here, with Sarah Hudson, we’ve said, “Marie on staff knows her best, Susan is our volunteer that knows her, it is time to ask, we’re going to do it in the first quarter of the year, we’re going to ask for $50,000, but to get the meeting, Susan is going to have to call and ask.” So this is just a helpful way for you to keep things moving forward. And when you’re able to show this to your volunteers or to your staff members and show them, “You know what, Sarah, you only have two of this whole list, it can feel less overwhelming to everybody.” And then one other chart that we want to share with you, we can come back to this if we have some time if you have questions, but it’s really looking at when you’re talking about a major gift, again, a major gift for your institution, it might be $1,000.

Can we go to the next slide please, Tiffany? Might be $1,000, or for Kate, it’s $15,000. But there’s a process here too. And we may need to walk our board members, our development committee members, and maybe some of the senior staff, through this so that they understand that there are some steps in the process. Discovery, as a stage we’re looking for, is somebody potentially ready and do they have the capacity to make a large gift? Do they need touches? Cultivate means do they need to get to know us better? Do they need to know more, see more results of our work? Brief is the meeting before you ask where you are setting the tone. I sometimes refer to this as the get-in-line meeting, but Kate, I remember you talking in a session about the phone call or meeting that you often have with a prospect before you show up in person to have that meeting.

Kate Brueggemann:

Oh, I love this. Yes.

Donna McGinnis:

Yeah. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Kate Brueggemann:

We’ve worked with CCS Fundraising and this is a method that they have brought to us, it’s called a briefing meeting, which is, it’s not a specific definition, but all it is that you’re making sure that the donor’s ready to be asked. And so sometimes it’s a meeting, sometimes it’s a phone call, but it is our opportunity to share an update on the organization and to talk about the investment that we’re seeking for the project, or the program, and to introduce the concept of, “We would like to come talk to you, can we come talk to you? And if so, is there anybody else that needs to be there? And is there any other information that we need to know in advance?” Is this somebody who really likes to have a proposal? Is this somebody who wants to bring their children?

So it gives us the helpful information so that we don’t have to have two ask meetings. It’s much better to have a briefing meeting and then an ask meeting than two ask meetings, because there could be too much time that passes between, and you want to keep that cadence to at least as close to two weeks as possible. And so this chart, this stages of a major gift, this is so helpful I think when introducing the concept of the development cycle to somebody who may not be particularly aware of these definitions. But what it shows you is that how do you make a prospect come into being a donor? And it takes quite a bit of steps. And so we want to focus with the people who know us the best and who are closest with us first. And then we can expand out to other prospects who we don’t know as well, but that discovering, cultivation timeframe is going to take longer the further away that person is from our organization.

So if they’re not in the family or if they’re not connected to somebody in the family, we can still connect, we can still talk to them, but that discovering, cultivation timeframe can take a little bit longer. And we’re calling this stages of a major gift. But this could be for any annual leadership gift, this could be for a sponsorship gift, it can be similar steps.

Donna McGinnis:

Excellent. Tiffany, could you go to slide 18, please? So this is when it is time to ask. Again, this is a great one to put in front of your board and development committee so that they understand that we need some thoughtfulness in how we ask when we’ve got them ready. So they need to be asked by the right person. So if you are the executive director or CEO, very often, you are in the room by virtue of your title. Usually, if you’re talking to an individual that has ties to your board members or other key people in your history, you might want that person with you too. They might not want to raise the money, they might not want to ask, but that is okay. If they set up the appointment, if they go with you and say, “Here’s why I love the organization and I hope you will join me in supporting it,” I can then take it from there.

But it’s who needs to be in the room, who can they not say no to? Who do they really respect? Asking in the right way. So is it one-on-one, face-to-face, is it virtual? Until COVID, I never thought I would ask for the amounts of money that I have in a virtual conversation. But how do they need to be asked? And at the right time. It might be time of day, it might be time of year, if they spend part of the year in different geographic locations. Sometimes it might be, “I’m really busy with my mom’s health right now,” or, “We have three kids in college. This isn’t the window, but please come back to me.” The right amount. There’s no perfect formula, but we can talk a little bit more about that if you want to, but we want to ask for the right amount, and we need to ask them for the thing that they want to support.

Nobody cares about how we budget and what our buckets are. Asking for, “Please support our annual campaign goal of…” is far less effective than, “With a gift of X, we’re going to be able to…” list a number of things that you’ll be able to accomplish. And I hate to pick on public radio, and so my apologies to anybody in public radio who is on the call today. But the one that I hate to listen to is, “This is our giving campaign. We need to raise this much. And if you give and we hit our goal, we’ll get off the air early.” So that isn’t so much donor motivation, but it’s supporting the thing that they really want. So Kate has fantastic examples of how she’s putting this to work at Brookfield Zoo. So Tiffany, I wonder if you can maybe jump to 20, please. And Kate, can you talk a little bit about the team that’s needed, and then how you’re getting this off the ground at your organization?

Kate Brueggemann:

Yeah, absolutely. And I’ll mention for anybody who joined a little bit after we got started, and we had a little bit of technical difficulty with my advancing the slides, but I wanted to let you know that this whole slide deck will be available for all the attendees. And it’s a great toolkit for you if you’re looking for putting together a document for your development committee, or for your manager, or if you’re working with other staff members of the organization, just to give them some context and to explain what is this work and how can they be connected to it. And honestly, when I talk about the team, that is my step one, is trying to be as transparent as possible with the whole organization about what it takes to raise contributed income year over year. And I would start with your individual organization’s make up.

And so if you’re an organization that 50% of your revenue from development and membership is membership, then that’s going to be very different from an organization whose 10% of their contributed income is related to membership. And so really being able to share with the organization how does the contributed revenue get acquired and made up is incredibly helpful. And so as part of your early roadshow, that can be really helpful, just to give people insight who would not have an occasion to understand the inner workings of the fundraising program. So this is primarily the fundraising team, this is the development team, and it is comprised of board members, our CEO, our development staff, and our other staff. And one of the things that I am really vocal about within my organization, in organizations that I’ve worked with, is that the CEO is incredibly important to the success of any fundraising program.

And I think that we are the support mechanism that drives the strategy for contributed income, but oftentimes, it’s really the CEO where it can bridge from a staff-driven effort to a board connected effort. And so really making sure that you have a CEO partner who understands what you do. And for a lot of the CEOs who are out there, who this is their job, one of many hats that they’re leading is the development department, it is incredibly time intensive, and it requires allocation of resources. So development is not something that CEOs are able to do in the off hours or in the end part of their administrative functions. It’s really a cornerstone to the organization’s success, is having that CEO be the driver for the fundraising program. And so then moving on to development staff. Whether you have one development staff or you have 10 development staff, it’s really important for every person to understand how they ladder up to the organization’s goals and to the department goals. And then being able to bring a whole organization and other staff members along.

And what I’ve discovered is that some people are very connected and easily integrated into the development process as other staff members, and some are not. And so really starting with the coalition of the willing, and starting to integrate staff into the fundraising process can be really transformational. It gives an opportunity for donors to connect with somebody outside of the CEO and outside of the development staff, and really understand the direction of the programs. And so this has been a really important step, as I’ve seen, in expanding our fundraising program here at the zoo. So if we can go to the next slide? I wanted to share a few how… this is the board’s role. And so I talked about the CEO, but the board is also an incredible network to fundraising program. And so as you are looking to engage with your board, giving them an overview of, “Here’s what’s currently working, and here’s where the opportunities lie, and here’s where we could need your help,” and being as specific as possible, I think, is really helpful.

So if you are an organization that just really needs a lot of new introductions, that you have not seen a lot of new supporters to the organization over the last few years, I think be really transparent. Or if you’re an organization that has a really strong boomer donor audience, but you really haven’t expanded into that next generation, be really honest about, “Here are the areas of opportunities.” They are challenges, but they’re also opportunities. And so finding two or three of those, and highlighting those to your board, and really making sure that they understand how they can be supportive can also be highly transformational to a fundraising program. And so of course, this is what is, I imagine, very likely in your board expectations document, or some documentation that you have that outlines the board’s role within the organization, within their governance structure, but also, what are the expectations related to fundraising?

And so we know that our board members, it’s really important that they make a contribution that is meaningful to them. Some organizations have that documented in their board policies, that there is a specific dollar amount that every board member is expected to give annually. And some organizations have a give and get policy, or some organizations separate them out. And so it’s really important that you’re able to be very clear and transparent with what your expectations are with the board members. And then understanding who among our organization who can make introductions. Some people really love to make introductions. Some people would be willing to send an email introduction. Some people might not be interested in making introductions, and that’s okay, because we need a lot of different skill sets from our board members. And so really being able to identify quickly, do you have two to three board members that you can work really closely with to develop a fundraising plan alongside, who will help you and partner with you and your solicitations.

I thought we could spend a couple of minutes, Tiffany, I wanted to… Donna and I are really big on making sure people have a lot of tangible examples that they can take home with them. And so we have two sections that are the next section of this presentation. And one is a case statement for the Brookfield Zoo, and showing the development plan, and how we’ve put the development plan together over the context of our current capital campaign. And then the second set is a sample development plan that goes through in a very detailed way what each goal is, what the activities are to support that goal, and the timeline and person responsible. So I wanted to share with you, let’s see… Tiffany, if you can go to-

Donna McGinnis:

Should be 22.

Kate Brueggemann:

… slide 26. So just to show you things in action, but we say how does a board member, how does a CEO, how does a staff, when we’re looking at the fundraising team… This is the document that we put together for our recent capital campaign. So the Brookfield Zoo is in a capital campaign right now, we are in the second year of our campaign. It is a relatively short campaign. It’s only a two and a half year campaign length. And our goal is to raise $50 million. And the reason that it has a shorter length is because the project is underway and currently being built. And so the building opens next January. So we are very actively in the fundraising period. But at the very beginning planning stages, this was really helpful, and this was such… I don’t know, it really helped all of our board members and our staff members understand what each of their responsibilities were. And it was very specific.

I realize there’s a lot of text in this, and we used it in a couple of different ways, but it showed this is how the chair of the campaign will function, what does the CEO’s role include? How does our additional staff members ladder up to this process? And then what about our women’s board and our governing members? So what I really liked about it is that it shows everybody what all of the next steps are. Tiffany, could we also go to slide 28?

This is another sample that we wanted to share. The deck is actually quite long, because we wanted to include some samples within the deck so everybody had a few examples of a development plan that they can take back to their organizations. But this is a Gantt chart of a development plan. As the development plans can be as simple as a Word document, or as complicated as a Gantt chart, some people use different organization systems, like Trello, from a project management standpoint, but I think that however it is that it works best for your team is the right solution for your organization. And so this was a format that goes through line by line. And so you can see there’s an overarching annual giving goal, and then within that is the membership goal. What are the strategies to achieve the membership goal and what are the activities within those strategies?

And really pulling that out so people could understand the differences was really helpful, and what the timeline is for each of those. Tiffany, if you could go to slide 30. And so here’s another version. This is another version that I’ve used in the past, it’s just a template that just outlines what are the strategies, activities, the staff lead, and the deadline. So we went from what are the documents that you would share with your board member to what is the internal working document? And so you might have a couple of different versions of your development plan, the version that you share with senior leadership and with your board, and the version that is the working document that you use within your development team. And so we wanted to give you a few extra samples there.

Donna McGinnis:

Great. And if we could go one more slide. So Kate and I put this presentation into a workbook that Routledge has out now, which you can get. But I would also say that Kate and I are very happy to email you things, to talk you through some questions. There’s some great questions in the chat, like what if your board doesn’t want to do anything? It’s like, “Holy cow, after how long I’ve been in this.” I could talk you through a few examples, but even better if we do it over a glass of wine. But Kate and I are really happy to maybe connect with you to answer some questions about your experience in particular. Tiffany, you can let us know if we’re able to, maybe afterwards, respond in the chat to anybody where we might have quick answers. But we really encourage you to take advantage of everything in AAM’s resource library and all of the programming coming up that will really give you great tools. So Tiffany, we’ll turn it back to you for the rest of the business of the day.

Tiffany Gilbert:

Fantastic presentation as usual. Do you want to answer a couple of questions that came through the chat?

Donna McGinnis:

Yeah, we have time to. Absolutely.

Kate Brueggemann:


Tiffany Gilbert:

Okay. Let’s see… You got some good ones here. With the case statement, “Do you suggest having one case statement for any specific programs like exhibitions, education programs, or public programs?”

Kate Brueggemann:

It depends on your specific need. I think it is helpful when you’re doing something that is new and different to have its own documents. So what I would say is that, usually, what I do is I have one overarching organization case statement, and then there may be a focus area within that. So if there’s a new exhibition, we might call that out within the case statement, or a new education program to call that out. But it’s helpful to have it all contained within one document, because then that becomes the baseline for all of your communication efforts.

Donna McGinnis:

I would agree. Having the umbrella case statement, and then especially for the things that you’re going to be asking people to support, having many cases that pull out of it that you can use for specific conversations can be really helpful.

Tiffany Gilbert:

Okay. Another one. “How do you budget foundations when they’re restricted?”

Kate Brueggemann:

Oh, the wonders of nonprofit accounting. So it’s really important to have a good relationship with the finance department because… that can be such a tricky question, because how we count gifts, it’s not necessarily how the finance for the organization that letters up to the board, how it would look on a regular basis, and so depending on the type of foundation. But a restricted gift would be budgeted a little bit differently than an unrestricted gift. And so it’s super important to have that relationship, and to be tracking those differently with the finance department.

Donna McGinnis:

Yeah, I would agree. My organization is fairly young, smaller than Kate’s, but we are just now at the point where we’re getting some public grants and it’s been a pain point. And so what we’ve had to say is we have an operating budget that we know is the budget that runs the garden year after year, with the sustainable, renewable, earned and contributed income. And then we almost pull off to the side anything that’s restricted funding as an add-on, and we’ll produce documents for both. When you get to be a larger institution, you have more complex financial statements, but we’ve had to do it in that interim step to help both board. But also staff understand that, yeah, overall, we have X amount of cash in the bank, but some of it can only be used for this special project that might have an end after a few years. We can’t pull that cash over to the operating side. I hope that answered the question.

Tiffany Gilbert:

And what we’ll do, since we’re a little over, and I know some folks probably have some things in this new hour that started, we’ll go ahead and end here, but for the attendees that are still on, thank you so much for joining. We will forward all the questions and comments that came through the chat to Kate and Donna, and if there are any that they’re able to respond to, I’m happy to forward the response to you directly. And so Kate, Donna, and I will stay in touch afterwards. But thank you again for attending the second webinar. And thank you so much, Kate and Donna, once again, you are superstars as usual. This was our second webinar of the AAM Financial Wellness web series. We hope you all have enjoyed this. You’ll receive a follow-up email with links and resources.

All the links that we popped in the chat will be on that follow-up email, along with a link to access this recording and the slides. We invite you to register for the last webinar of this series, How Do You Know You’re Ready for a Campaign? Where Do You Start? On March 27th. Registration information will be sent to you in your follow-up email as well. Thanks again, and we look forward to seeing you all in Baltimore, or at Museums Advocacy day next week. Everyone, take care.

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