Giving USA 2014 Spreecast



In this Spreecast, Laurel and Bob break down their first impressions of the new Giving USA statistics.  Giving levels are nearly back at pre-recession levels but what does it all mean?  Give Bob and Laurel a listen to find out!

Maya Angelou’s Lessons for Life & Nonprofits

Two weeks ago I got the news… I was sitting on my couch watching the morning news and there it was at the bottom of the screen, “Famed poet and author Maya Angelou died this morning in North Carolina. She was 86.”

Maya Angelou

I felt my heart stop and my thoughts rush through memories.  I could see Maya Angelou reciting poetry on our PBS station in the late 1970’s; her voice so powerful and enchanting. She seemed so regal and wise. I could remember coming of age in high school and believing “Phenomenal Woman that’s me!”  I could see the pride in my grandmother’s eyes when Dr. Angelou recited “On The Pulse Of Morning” at President Clinton’s innauguration and how that poem remained on my grandmother’s refrigerator until her death. I recalled how excited I was when I called Dr. Angelou’s home on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association just three years ago and although I didn’t speak to her directly ; I was overwhelmed with excitement by just the mere thought of reaching Maya Angelou.

As I continue to reflect on how Dr. Angelou has impacted my life, I’d like to share a few life lessons from her that can be used in our personal and professional lives as we  serve the nonprofit world.

 “When You Know Better You Do Better”


This is a lesson I continue to learn both personally and professionally.  I think the knowing is much easier than the doing. I know to exercise more but the doing it consistently is another story. I see how this lesson can apply to our work with donors. When we learn to focus on building donor relationships rather than rushing to a solicitation we find that our donors are more engaged and inspired to make generous and joyful gifts.

“I’ve Learned That People Will Forget What You Said, People Will Forget What You Did, But People Will Never Forget How You Made Them Feel.”


As a parent and wife, I practice this every day although there are moments that my ego will allow me to forget.  When we fully embrace this as a way of being, not only does it enhance and deepen our personal relationships but it also takes our professional relationships to another level as well.

 “I Am A Woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal Woman That’s Me!”

phenomenal woman

Like many women, I have found myself on occasions being the only woman in the room. There were times in these situations that I did not own my power and sat in these meetings without saying a word. Thanks to Dr. Angelou not only did I learn to embrace my power as a woman and take my seat at the table , I learned to encourage other women to do the same including my phenomenal 5 year old daughter.  Phenomenal  women also serve  as  leaders, philanthropists ,and volunteers for the causes we serve.

“When People Show You Who They Are- Believe Them”


This lesson calls for an “AMEN!”  How many times have we tried to change people or see only what we want to see? How about with donors? We want them to give this specific amount to this project because it’s the end of the fiscal year and we are praying that we make our goals. Yet, the donor’s actions are screaming” I am not interested in this project but I am interested in having an impact in another way.”  We can avoid this situation by asking the right questions and listening to our donors rather than seeing only what we want to see or hearing only what we want to hear.

 “My Mission In Life Is Not Merely To Survive, But To Thrive; And To Do So With Some Passion, Some Compassion, Some Humor, And Some Style.”


This is truly how I want to live my life. It reflects my core values both personally and professionally. It takes the concept of “work/life” balance and makes it more tangible and practical. I’ll share more in a future blog.

Finally, I leave you with another Maya Angelou lesson- one that I do every single day, “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”  Every day we have the opportunity to be a blessing in someone’s life both at home and in the workplace.  It’s just a matter of taking the opportunity to do so.

Thank you Dr. Angelou for your wisdom and love for humanity! You will be missed but your legacy lives on throughout the world and through those who serve the nonprofit world.

High Net Worth Individuals: Your Joyful, Generous & Inspired Donors

This post is reprinted from Karen’s turn as a guest blogger on Blackbaud’s blog site: on April 14, 2014.

High Net Worth Individuals.

These are very special people.  They are part of the 5% or 10% of the population in terms of wealth, as well as members of giving in America – generous people of every age and financial capacity.  They have the powerful combination of wealth and a giving heart.


Last Summer I participated in a conference held by CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education).  A member of the faculty interviewed five philanthropists representing several age groups.

“How do you decide which organizations or institutions in which to invest?”

The answer from three out of the five began with, “I’m all in.”

They gave the most where they were deeply engaged and used all of their personal capital – human, intellectual, network and financial – for the good of the mission, vision and work.  HNWI give more where they can contribute the most including their ideas, talents and expertise.  In a 2010 study by Indiana University and Bank of America, HNWI donors reported giving on average $35,000 a year when not engaged and $124,000 when engaged.  That amount jumped to $158,000 when the organization tapped into the donors’ professional expertise.  Engaging HNWI in thoughtful, meaningful and productive ways resulting in them being “All In” garners mega gifts.


Engagement, however, is not enough.  In another study, the researchers asked donors who make $150,000 or more about giving motivations.  Everyone, no matter how much they made, reported “wanting to make a difference.”  HNWI, however, emphasized “wanting to solve a societal problem.”  Whereas, those making under $150,000 “wanted to save or touch a life.”  To inspire big gifts from HNWI, we need big ideas that speak to solving a pressing societal problem, fixing or changing something that requires extraordinary investments.  Check out this TED talk by Simon Sinek.  Are you telling your story in a “why” and impact manner?


In the USA and 20 other countries, women are the philanthropic driving force.  In fact, 92% of HNWI men report that their spouses drive the amount given and the charities in which to invest.  Women report deep engagement as a giving motivator along with transparency and proof of impact and societal return on investment.  Forty-eight percent of HNWI women report wanting to share their philanthropic values with their children.  In fact, in the study mentioned earlier, the average gift from HNWI donors jumped to $244,000 when their children were part of philanthropic engagement and decision-maconnecting to impact 742x417 High Net Worth Individuals: Your Joyful, Generous and Inspired Donors king.

“Retention is the New Acquisition and Customer Service is the New Marketing” – Joe Connelly, WSJ

Within the ranks of donors who give small gifts are many HNWI.  They have the capacity to make life-changing gifts but send $25 or $100 contributions.  Twenty-two percent of NGOs don’t send thank you notes.  Thousands send thank you notes well past best practice times of 24 to 72 hours after receipt.  Thousands of NGOs either don’t track donor retention rates or don’t have a plan for turning them around so millions of dollars walk out the door and down the street to the organization that demonstrates care, appreciation and results.


Understanding that they give the most where they are deeply engaged means that it’s important for your organization to truly understand who they are as individuals and as donors.  High Net Worth Individuals are of every age, so their behaviors, preferences, and passions vary based on the generation they represent.

The learn more about generational giving trends, check out the Next Generation of American Giving report and video!