It’s Not Easy Being Concise

I am finally finished writing and editing my book, Date your Donors: How to Attract and Engage a New Generation of Philanthropists. It took more than 2 years to complete it, and not because it is exceptionally long. Truth is, it is pretty concise at around 150 pages. What took me a long time to accomplish was writing it in a way that would be digestible and easy to reference. I did not want a book that would feel academic or encyclopedic in any way. date your donors
Going in to writing this book I knew I wanted to make fundraising accessible to the average person. That requires less emphasis on the technical aspects, and more on the elements where everyone could relate. It required me to think and write in plain-speak and then use the “red pen” technique (you know that “red pen” from your teachers’ grading in elementary school!) in all areas of my writing where I felt I could cut down or reword without losing the point.
This is a great exercise that is fundamental to all advertising, but is much more difficult to do when you are looking at 25,000 words instead of 150 words. However, if being concise and memorable is important in advertising, then the same can be said for a book that is meant to be engaging and a reference point for sharpening one’s skills.
People may be impressed by a thick book with long chapters, but it is more likely to sit on the shelf than a book designed to be read with great ease…and in only a few sittings. I opted for the latter. The book will be out in early 2016.
Reserve your copy at a discount here:

Does Giving Taste as Good as Coffee?

Perceived value is the worth that a product or service has in the mind of the consumer. The consumer’s perceived value of a good or service affects the price that he or she is willing to pay for it.

Perception is reality. This was one of the first lessons I learned as a fundraiser 12 years ago. There is nothing technically superior about the VIP area of a nightclub – it is simply sectioned off as “VIP” and therefore people are willing to pay a premium to experience it.

This plays an important role in all aspects of fundraising, and your efforts to engage and solicit potential donors. The events you host, the volunteer opportunities you offer all need to give people the feeling like it is WORTH their time. Intellectually you understand that $20 to an important charity is worth more than a week’s worth of Starbucks coffee, but people experience the value of a hot cup of coffee in their hands very differently than the likely blasé experience they get with making a donation.

starbucks coffeeThe question we need to ask ourselves, is how can we take giving opportunities and make it as delicious as a hot cup of coffee?

Taking Risks

As a consultant I have the luxury of coming into an organization as an authority, make recommended changes, and get paid to ensure those recommendations get put into action. I love it, because I get to satisfy my need to create and execute isn’t hindered by bureaucratic red tape or a boss or supervisor who doesn’t buy into the same vision as myself.

The reason a consultant is treated different when it comes to ideas and execution is because there is an expectation when I am hired that I should help break the organization out of their funk. I am hired to change the way they do things, if those things are no longer effective or sustainable.

Not everyone has this luxury. There are plenty of bright minds who would love to execute, only to find that they have been relegated to a very narrow job description. When I talk to disgruntled employees, I recommend that they do the job description, but ask the boss or supervisor allow 20% of your work time (one day a week) to be allotted for more creative ideas. The goal is to have these ideas be tested in a smaller way, and upon success rolled out as a more serious strategy for the organization.

This will often put the job satisfaction back into the job, allowing you to take risks and be creative. It’s not my idea. Many tech companies have been doing this very effectively and it is something that all organizations can learn. Especially when it can lead to greater employee retention and growth for the organization, with this new emphasis on research and development.


Is Cultivation in Fundraising “Manipulative”?

I give many lectures on fundraising strategy and how to identify a prospect, cultivate a relationship with them, and then solicit them for a cause. Much of my pitch is built around developing real relationships, and being “other focused” to ensure that your mission lines up with their philanthropic desires.

There is a common question I get when I discuss how to connect with a prospect and cultivate a relationship. Usually I am sharing some good ideas how to pay attention to the needs of a prospect, how to zero in on important personal and professional priorities, and then leverage them to demonstrate that you are both paying attention, and focus on those aspects that a prospect is most proud. It sounds something like this…

“Aren’t you being manipulative? Aren’t you feigning interest, and then exploiting those “hot buttons” to cultivate a relationship to ultimately lead to a solicitation?”

The question is a fair one, because it leverages the fundraiser’s ability to their emotional intelligence to break through to a prospect, with the goal of getting money from them. However, I think there is a clear distinction between manipulation for self gain, and manipulation to give a prospect a positive experience, both emotionally and through their checkbook.

jonah halper philantropy

If you are trying to manipulate for personal gain…for example, trying to “score” with a girl in the nightclub scene, it is obvious that you are using manipulation to uncover your target’s weakness. However, fundraising – when done right – is a partnership. If you are looking to attract and engage people who will love and appreciate your mission, you are using your emotional intelligence to help them see and value your offerings…and get them to a point where courtship isn’t necessary anymore.

When fundraising is done wrong – when it’s perceived as a transaction and not a partnership – then your manipulation is self serving and not designed to further your mission with your prospect as a partner. So, is it manipulation when you pay attention to the interests and desires of a prospect and then use that information to engage them in your cause? No. Not if it’s coming from a healthy place in your heart and mind.

Birth, Death and a Lesson in Empathy

This past week our cat had her babies. We never did anything like this before, so it was uncharted territory for me, and our family. But it turned out bittersweet.

One of the kittens could not thrive and passed away at only a day or two old. We decided to hold a brief memorial service with our kids and bury the kitten in our backyard. I was surprised by my daughters strong reaction when she was worried about putting the kitten directly in the ground without a protective box. Thinking about her concerns, I realized there was a visceral reaction to putting a defenseless creature in the outside elements. Would a cardboard box disintegrate along with the tiny kitten? Of course. But the reality of this is somehow masked when it isn’t laying straight on the ground.

Jonah Halper - kittenThis made me think about how we all want to feel safe from the elements and that as we grow older we mature in this thinking and recognize the difference between perceived and real safety and security.

We often raise money to provide a safety net for a less than fortunate audience. If someone’s safety and security is missing or lacking, we should communicate this to our prospective donors and partners so they can tap into that same fear which is a natural part of our own lives. This is true empathy. Using your own fears and concerns to try and experience the challenges of others.

My daughter was worried about putting the kitten in the ground, I can understand and empathize how jarring this could be for her. I therefore made sure to comfort her and explain how the dirt deep underground is soft and covering it like a blanket, and protecting her from the weather and other animals that may try to hurt her.

The kitten is safe, and so is my daughter.


Jonah Halper walletIf I told you that I only date girls with a thin waist, c-cup or larger breast size and look good in yoga pants, I would be labeled a disgusting pig faster than a slap to the face (and I may earn both). In fundraising, your strategy in finding and keeping partners in your cause can never be to “find rich people.” If you do, you are not going to succeed. This strategy doesn’t work for two reasons:

1. Anybody with self worth won’t identify themselves as “a rich person”. That would be superficial. Healthy people see the many aspects of their personality, knowledge and expertise that contribute to society and other things that are greater than themselves. If the reason why you are reaching out to them is for their wallet size, you will quickly learn that you have no values or vision in common and your overtures will come across inauthentic. Perusing a list of FORTUNE 500 executives to find donors for your cause is the equivalent of opening MAXIM magazine looking for your next date.

2. There are a lot of people in the world, and you need to be able to target specific audiences to share your mission and inspire them to action. If your primary characteristic for your demographic is “wealth”, it will be impossible to determine what compelling messages will hook them into your cause. Having clarity of who the right people are for your cause, will help give you focus and a target market to communicate with and engage with your mission.

The biggest mistake people make when fundraising is assuming that “money” is the most important characteristic when it comes to identifying your soulmates. Well, it is a logical conclusion in the sense that your job is to find donors to support your cause. However, the successful fundraiser will focus on the more substantive traits, like passion for your cause or unique skills they bring to the table. The answer to this question is not “everyone” or “anyone with money”. It is naive to think that everyone will identify with you or your cause, and just because they have money does not mean they will respond favorably to your engagement efforts.

You are not hunting for rich people. You are looking for people to advance your cause. That is an important distinction. You need to look for the type of people that will take ownership and provide support themselves, and inspire others to join as well. If you are just seeking wealthy individuals, you will strike out more often than not because these people are not being asked for anything other than their checkbook. When you seek out those people receptive to your mission and can help you share your vision, then you will find the money will follow. If not from them specifically, then from their connections and relationships. When you identify the right people, you will quickly see how easy it is to find your soulmates and donors to your cause.


By Jonah Halper, ALTRUICITY

When you are seeking a long-term relationship with someone in your personal life, it is important to know what your long-range goals look like. Kids? City or country living? Want to be a stay at home mom or dad? If your priorities and goals don’t align, then you probably aren’t looking at a sustainable relationship.

This kind of compatibility exists in philanthropy too. While mission is about what you DO, Vision is about what you want to accomplish; the growth and direction of your mission. You may be in the business of bringing clean drinking water to indigenous people, but what vision do you have for this cause? Are you trying to bring clean water to everyone? A region? How do you define success in 5 or 10 years down the road? This is your vision. This is your guiding light.

In philanthropy, you are also seeking a long-term relationship; someone you can call a partner and help you realize your vision; built on common values and vision for the cause. If you share this compatibility of mission and vision, it can translate into years of financial support.


This is the fun part. Determining the “how” of making your mission happen. This is your opportunity to get the prospect excited about where you are headed with the cause. Dr. James R. Lucas, a recognized authority on leadership and CEO of Luman International, states [SOURCE] that the vision statement needs enough detail that you can be held accountable. In other words, are we living up to its standards?

Here are a few great examples:
The Nature Conservancy: Our vision is to leave a sustainable world for future generations.
Teach for America: One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.
charity: water believes that we can end the water crisis in our lifetime by ensuring that every person on the planet has access to life’s most basic need — clean drinking water.

Nobody’s Fool: Chipping Away on Donor Trust

There is nothing more harming to a relationship than double-crossing one’s trust, and in marriage, trust is the bedrock of a dependable relationship.

While double-crossing is frequently depicted as treachery, in all actuality it isn’t normally a solitary stun to the framework that fixes a relationship. It has a tendency to be little disloyalties. Little lies, misleading statements and different activities where an accomplice feels like they aren’t playing on the same group as their better half.

Connections in non benefit gathering pledges are additionally assailed by these little treacheries. Here are 4 normal practices, where the associations may imagine that they are helping their reason, however truth be told are wearing down their giver support:


We have all gotten those letters that appear to originate from an authority government org (better open it, would prefer not to cause harm!) or an envelope that makes us think there is a check inside (Woohoo! Cash!). Yes, you got me to open it and enhanced your post office based mail open rate, however when I see what it truly is, I feel like a simpleton and not in any giving temperament.

False Sense of Urgency

Like #1, however the duplicity is more than shallow. Whether it is a telephone call, email or site article, there is frequently the opening line that persuades the association has something that will advantage me, and that needs to be followed up on RIGHT NOW. When I let them have my consideration , I rapidly understand that they are self serving and they are the particular case that’s vibe a feeling of criticalness… not me. The latest violater of this misguided feeling of direness, are blog entries that snare me into navigating to the article by teasing a feeling that I NEED to peruse it! NOTE: If you discovered this article on facebook, I simply did it to you!

Auto-Renew Subscriptions

How frequently have you ended up naturally charged for a magazine, when you didn’t replenish? This is a showcasing strategy called quit promoting and deals, when the client (I utilize that term approximately) is charged without their insight, just on the grounds that their introductory buy period finished. Trust it or not, a few associations will accept that in the event that you have been a supporter for various years, they will expect that you will need to proceed with your backing in the event that they are not able to achieve you in individual, and put a repeating promise on the books. In the event that you didn’t select in for the gift, chances are that it will leave a terrible taste in your mouth. No giving ought to do that.

The Bait & Tackle

Numerous associations do outstanding work drawing in individuals through administration and volunteerism just to rapidly turn on them for budgetary backing. Snare them with volunteerism and after that handle them with gift demands. One of the greatest aggressors of this is the American Red Cross. When you give blood you can expect a torrent of telephone calls from the American Red Cross approaching you for gifts. It is upsetting, problematic, and a disloyalty of your time and vitalit