Monthly Archives: September 2011

Does Football @ Notre Dame Matter…

Yesterday was GAMEDAY friends! And should we be surprised that the Notre Dame vs. Michigan game was THE feature for the ESPN GameDay broadcast? No we should not… Don’t assume this is just another attempt to prop up the Notre Dame Football team, it’s not. In fact, I’ll give you an inside look at why I think Notre Dame will always matter. Regardless of the number in the wins column.

I did say “Does Football @ Notre Dame Matter”, versus “Does Notre Dame Football Matter (to the world)”. And therein lies the fundamental difference. We do care what the world thinks, it just so happens that we are ALWAYS relevant. You love us, or you hate us. Either way you care, and you expend lots of energy showing it.

1. Why even have a homecoming? If you’ve ever stepped foot on our campus during a football weekend, there are two things you will notice right away. First, you will feel the tingling running down your spine when you: see “The Word of Life” (aka Touchdown Jesus), feel the presence of God in the air, and shake the hands of proud Domers visiting from all over the world. Every home game is a “homecoming”, therefore no one weekend dominates or poses as such. In any given football weekend the game itself only occupies 4 hours out of an entire weekend, and therein lies the rub (so says the Bard). Secondly, what you may not know is that the weekend actually starts on Thursday (sometimes Wednesday) with our College Council members visiting with Deans, mentoring our students, and sharing case study experience in our many classroom sessions. Other visiting alum are participating in on-campus interviews, because they have been chosen by their firm to “recruit the best of the best” from campus. The Morris Inn (our on campus hotel) is buzzing with private equity chatter, and the news of the latest deal, that will ultimately impact our development operations at some point through a planned gift. There are so many men in khaki slacks and navy blazers that you’ll begin to think you are seeing robots in formation. It’s Notre Dame, like it or not! Notre Dame Football is the catalyst to all of this, never the focus.

2. Performance (off the field) absolutely matters! As a former Notre Dame varsity athlete (Lacrosse) and I can tell you with my hands firmly planted on the Bible that what you have heard and/or read about athletes in the classroom at Notre Dame is true. We compete on and off the field! There are NO shortcuts at Notre Dame, and because of that the rigor that goes into recruiting student-athletes to our campus is the highest at any major athletic institution. Here’s what you don’t know… many of our athletes have accumulated enough credits by the time they complete their junior year to graduate early. There are no “athlete” friendly majors. The GPA average of the student body versus that of the student-athletes is within one/two tenths of a point. Every single team has assigned to it an academic counselor that has team academic performance linked to their own professional performance. How would you like your professional future to be determined by the classroom performance of late teenagers? While we may not be regularly ranked in the top ten athletically, we will always be in the top 1-2-3 relative to Graduation Rates. It’s truly what matters most. Because of that rigor and attention to detail it’s quite rare NOT to find our former athletes doing well as professionals across multiple corporate disciplines. Tradition never graduates… Our alum REALLY believe (as do I) that we can have both. Great athletes AND high academic standards.

3. It’s never by coincidence. When ever I travel I ALWAYS have on a Notre Dame lapel pin. That pin represents my life’s story, not Notre Dame athletics. It’s simply because of pride, but never hubris. From the time I was admitted to Notre Dame, I knew that my life and expectations of it, had changed (for the good) for ever. Why? After that point I was looked at differently, treated differently, and held to a much different standard. All of which I continue to accept with open arms. What’s hardest to articulate is why I find all of this to be true. In my five years working inside of Notre Dame Development I see clearly just how relevant we are, and will always be. For example… Notre Dame ranks in the top 2 for the highest number of CEO’s running our US companies. West Point is our competition, not the likes of the Ivy’s. Fundraisers understand why that is game-changing, others may not initially. The gravity of that starts to set in when combined with the sheer fanaticism that is the Notre Dame Alumni. Offices are decorated in Notre Dame colors… CEO’s send their top managers back to Notre Dame to study in our Leadership Institute (as a result of promotion), conference rooms are designed to look like our football locker room, and autographed memorabilia adorn their lobbies… Our relevance is not by coincidence, it is ABSOLUTELY by design. We work at it every single day. You don’t have to look to hard (anywhere in the world) to find a Notre Dame influence. We believe in good doing good! We live to serve…

So as log as their is a Notre Dame, Our Lady’s University will always be relevant. There is just something about that place!

Hope you had a GREAT weekend…


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Where do “I” find Donors?

I’ve put a lot of thought into this over the years… sharpening the saw (7 Habits) so to say.

While there is no magic rolodex, it is the rolodex that has been my number one source in my last five years. I had no fundraising experience coming into this role, but can derive all of my success from working and re-working my growing rolodex (donor base).

My actual response to this question is… They find (or come looking) me! My benefactors regularly cc me on emails to their friends and colleagues for philanthropic advice.

Over the last five years I have rolled out three critical GOOD habits that have turned me into a production machine.
1. Birds of a feather, give together – I make it a habit of researching who my benefactors’ contacts are, what boards they serve on, and what hobbies they have that enable me to grow my donor base through them with hot leads. Another amazing finding is that most of my benefactors really enjoy their engagement with me and the University, and because of that experience they very much want for their friends and associates to have the same experience. Because of this habit, new prospects compare their experience with me to current and new developer engagements, and I find that Notre Dame quickly raises to their family’s #1 or #2 area of philanthropy. Even while we have this “already too wealthy” moniker seemingly hanging above our head.

2. Never assume that Business Titans know one another – This habit has created what will inevitably turn into soliciting and closing one of the University’s largest commitments ever, in the coming fiscal year. Three benefactors come to mind as I think of this habit. I believe, against conventional advancement wisdom, that we should actively be looking for opportunities to introduce our benefactors to one another. When politics and business opportunity align, you have a perfect match. They want to know each other and to a very large degree it’s what they pay for. Access! Because of this habit, I now receive “qualified” 6/7 figure commitment leads monthly. Not to mention, over the last three years, 7 figure gifts have made up 40% of my year’s total production. This habit allows me to work smarter, not harder.

3. Educate your Benefactors – As I have grown closer to my benefactors I have found that their needs and circumstances change with time. Given that, I openly listen and look for opportunities to lay out food for thought to help them, and help our institution as well. I’ve spent the last two years learning all that I can about planned giving. When I speak to my “current” new money benefactors I am already seeding for the next planned gift to come once their current commitment is completed. Because of this habit I find that my benefactors are not CPA’s and that their financial advisers are not openly sharing this info because there planned gifts diminish the financial planner’s portfolio balance, hence hitting them in the pockets. In this case what benefactors don’t know about planned giving is hurting them. Because of this habit our planned giving conversations become golf course and water-cooler talk with friends and colleagues. Those friends and colleagues begin reaching out to me, even if they are not alum or friends of Notre Dame. I give them help gratis! In turn I find that many of these parents have high school aged children looking to apply to Notre Dame. If the kids get in, I have a huge head start in the cultivation phase of my process.

Hope this helps you… I think that these habits apply widely!

Thanks to Marc Pitman for this thought provoking question.

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20 Unusual Uses for Honey

Absolute MUST READ |

I found this article to be pretty compelling… so much so that it deserves a spot today! The life of a fundraiser is most about the “meet”. What’s the “meet”? It’s the time we spend mostly in front of our benefactors. I have had the pleasure of engaging my benefactors at some of the most breathtaking backdrops. Those backdrops come with some amazing meals & cocktails! That’s exciting… all well and good, BUT it’s the area where our role can hurt your health. The “meet” is ALL about moving forward the aspirational agenda of the benefactor AND finding more ways to connect to him/her on a graduated personal level. It’s not about gaining weight, and loosing metabolism speed. Nearly everything that we do involves a meal, cocktail, or some sedentary event. If not taken in moderation, or with some significant balance (working out regularly, or having good muscular genes & muscle memory, this is lucky me ;)) this work could be harmful to many.

Why is honey so relevant? Given the writeup, which I believe lacks serious credible scientific backing, I nonetheless tend to espouse to many of the bullet points that are mentioned. They work! The three most relevant to me are: honey based moisturizers (we use Burts Bees, Milk & Honey lotion), honey & tea (my wife and I enjoy a cup of green tea w/ honey & lemon every night when I am actually at home, no sodas), honey with my cocktails & cigars (you must try it to believe it). I’m glad that I had the habit of weaving honey into my everyday life before I read this article. This is me giving myself a BIG ‘ol hug for taking care of me!

Go get yourself some Honey! “Try it, you just might like it” (anonymous quote)…


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Expanding My Reach

Why did I choose fundraising? I get that questions all of the time…  The famous quote applies, “for those who know (me) no explanation is needed, and for those who (do not) none will suffice.”  I’d say the vocation chose me instead.

This work is what I was born to do! Some people search their entire lives looking for the RIGHT fit.  This work found me… When you have the combined pleasure in helping your benefactors fulfill their greatest aspirations, and you couple that with a divine gift to connect with others, no matter their backgrounds, you have a recipe for long-term happiness.  I can honestly say that I am truly happy in this work!

I look forward to sharing with the world my passion for this work, and insights to help others become better at what they aspire to do, and achieve.

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