Avoid the Pitfalls to Raise More Money

Yesterday, I made my first public speaking appearance since my successful battle with cancer began just over a year ago. I served as the plenary presenter at the Philanthropic Planning Group of Greater New York Planned Giving Day Conference. My topic:

Ripped from the Headlines: Learning from the Planned Giving Mistakes of Others”

It was a particularly moving day for me. You see, I was scheduled to speak at PPGGNY’s conference last year. Unfortunately, because of my health, I had to cancel. It marked the first time I ever canceled a professional appearance.

Meryl Cosentino, the Vice President of PPGGNY and Senior Director of Planned Giving at Stony Brook University, was very understanding and kind. She stayed in contact with me during my recovery and, when she learned of my return to professional life, she invited me to speak at this year’s Planned Giving Day. I thank Meryl and her colleagues for the invitation to present.

So, PPGGNY Planned Giving Day marked my first speaking cancelation and, now, my return to the speaking circuit! I’ve come full circle!

To help me celebrate the happy occasion, The Stelter Company generously sponsored 20 copies of my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, so we could give them away to random winners during my presentation. I thank Stelter for its thoughtful support. I also thank Stelter for contributing valuable material to my book. The company’s commitment to the nonprofit sector is remarkable, though not the least bit surprising.

Michael Rosen at PPGGNY Planned Giving Day Conference.

Michael Rosen at PPGGNY Planned Giving Day.

During my talk, I shared several stories about well-known nonprofit organizations that have stumbled. I also shared plenty of useful tips, and a story that provided the overarching theme to my presentation. The story contains an important lesson for all nonprofit professionals:

Several months before my surgery, I visited southern Utah with a good friend. We went hiking in Escalante National Monument, a spectacular wilderness. On the more treacherous trails, I was particularly cautious. I carefully placed my feet with each step. I looked at where I was going to step next so I could pick the best spot. Because I exercised great caution, I didn’t stumble once.

Coming off one challenging trail, I found myself on a wonderfully flat, gravel path. I gave a sigh of relief. I was pleased to be able to spend more time looking at the lovely scenery rather than the trail and my feet. However, as soon as I had that thought, I stepped into a small gully, a tiny wash. And I went falling straight over. After grabbing my camera to make sure it was undamaged, I checked myself. With the exception of a skinned knee and bruised ego, I was fine.

From that experience, I learned a profound lesson.

When we’re involved in challenging activities, we’re usually fully engaged. We usually exercise caution and consciously leverage our skills. However, when we’re involved in simple tasks or tasks we’ve done many, many times, we tend to go on autopilot. We act without fully thinking.

It’s how we humans were designed. It’s normal. Unfortunately, it can also get us into trouble as I found out in Escalante. It’s also how otherwise respectable charities make costly, foolish mistakes in their fundraising and donor-relations efforts.

It’s not easy to maintain awareness and always act intentionally. Nevertheless, it’s worth it. By always acting in a trustworthy manner and avoiding blunders, you’ll earn the confidence of potential supporters and existing donors. This will help you acquire and retain more donors. It will also help you attract larger gifts.

Researcher Dr. Adrian Sargeant has found that there is a relationship between trust and both the propensity for giving and the amount of giving.

Take care. Exercise caution. Work intentionally. Avoid stumbles. Earn trust. Garner and retain more support.

For some examples of organizations that made unfortunate stumbles, read the following posts:

For some tips on how to effectively manage problems when they arise, checkout the following posts:

To review some of my popular speaking topics, click here. If you’d like to consider me as a presenter for your next event or training session, please contact me by clicking here.

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

17 Comments to “Avoid the Pitfalls to Raise More Money”

  1. Michael: It was good to have you back in looking and sounding great.

  2. I say, “Welcome back!” And “good advice!”

  3. A huge thank you to YOU, Michael. Your presentation was well worth the wait, and I heard people referencing it throughout the day. You truly made in impact! Many thanks for joining us and thanks to The Stelter Company for their generous sponsorship.

    • Meryl, thank you once again for everything! Planned Giving Day was great fun for me on many levels. I’m delighted that I was able to share the day with you and your colleagues. Congratulations on a first-rate, successful conference!

  4. What a great start to a sold out conference! You were right out of the gate with engaging the audience. Many thanks to Jay and Stelter with their generous contribution. Our participants were exited to receive your book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. We are so happy to see you back in action!

    • Vikki, thank you for your kind feedback. I appreciate the opportunity that you and your colleagues provided me to serve as the plenary speaker at Planned Giving Day. I thoroughly enjoyed the conference. Congratulations on hosting a wonderfully successful event.

  5. Great post and great story. Welcome back !

  6. So sorry I missed you and PGDNY this year, but heard great things about your talk and the day.

  7. Great post. I’ve learnt a great lesson from this in my fundraising. Thanks for sharing.

    • Allison, thank you for your comment. I appreciate the positive feedback. I try to keep my posts relevant and helpful. If you ever have any suggestions for a topic I should cover, please let me know. I take requests.

      • Hello again Michael. The one thing I really struggle with is finding the “right” name and contact details at corporates who deals with Corporate Social Investment / Corporate Social Responsibility etc. Most of the companies websites in Gauteng speak of their programmes but very few provide contact information.

        I then call the company to establish this in the hope that I will have an opportunity to introduce my organisation through a brief discussion, but am usually provided with an email address by the receptionist instead. In the “old days” there weren’t so many NGO’s / PBO’s and I got to meet just about every single contact through a site visit or meeting or, at least a telephone conversation . I know it is difficult these days due to the volume of requests received and therefore does not happen much any more but I feel it is so important to make that connection in order to develop a relationship.

      • Allison, thank you for commenting. Yes, we’re definitely in the relationship business, even when doing foundation and/or corporate fundraising. Unfortunately, many grantmakers have built walls and will only deal with charities through a formal proposal process. However, there are still some who remain open to the personal engagement. The key is to find out if that opportunity exists and then make the most of it. If the opportunity is not there, there’s not much you can do beyond looking for points of connection (i.e.: board members in common). Keep doing what you’re doing as long as it works.

      • Thank you once again for your expertise and advice, Michael. It is indeed very much appreciated.

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