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Suber’s Fundraising Rubric

Ever been asked the question… “What’s your fundraising plan?” I’m sure that if you haven’t by now, you will at some point. Through this post I hope to give you a framework for answering that very question, but with very in depth analysis and executable steps.

While working in Notre Dame’s Development Office I notice how fragmented the “gifting” process was handled internally, and for VERY good reason. EVERY donor has his/her place inside the Suber Fundraising Rubric (SFR). Just be careful that you don’t decide for your donors where they should be slotted.

Think of the SFR as an illustrative way of identifying where your donors fit into your organization based on their annual, or even potential giving. Are they great annual fund supporters that give at year-end, or are they big project donors that prefer only to be called upon when you have a specific need that must be met. Again, EVERY donor has a place, AND they should be treated unequally.

What is the Suber Fundraising Rubric?
Get yourself a blank piece of paper. Turn the paper to landscape layout. Draw four vertical lines, spaced evenly from left to right. At the top of the far left column write “Annual Fund”. In the next column write “Major Giving”. Then “Leadership Giving” and “Principal Giving in the next two columns. Finally, “Planned Giving” in the last column. Now draw a horizontal line beneath all of your headers, leaving lots of space beneath them all.

Now in each column, in bullet point fashion, write down all of the activities, protocols, and agreements that your organization has in place as they relate to Engagement, Cultivation, Solicitation, and Stewardship. If done correctly, at the end of the exercise you should have five neat columns each broken into four distinct sections, consisting of 2-3 bullets points describing your relationship ship with donors in those respective categories. You’ll find that some are more populated than others, and if so you now know where you need help, or more strategic planning in place so as not to miss out on potential gift opportunities.

Be specific! for the “annual fund” “solicitation” section are you taking advantage of new advances in online or mobile text giving. If not, why not. I’m the “planned giving” “stewardship” section, do you have dinners (one-on-one or by group) in place for those donors? If not, why not.

Need more help? Email me ( and I’ll send you a guide… Gratis! My 2014 gift to you.

Fundraise Like a Champion Today!


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Finding the “Less” Asked

During this week I had the fortune of visiting with a very prominent national foundation that raises scholarship funds for college students. I wrapped up the week with a principal gift husband/wife visit, looking to begin their walk down charity lane. Making use of our donor advised fund program administered by CertusCharitable Giving Fund.

In both conversations I could not help but wonder why, and how, the two had never met… As fundraisers we ought not concentrate on the low-hanging (or high for that matter) fruit section simply because it’s the easiest to pick. We should instead be great stewards of these wonderful opportunities and balance our efforts. Picking from on high, and being very selective about what is low.

What’s low… I call this the “United Way” of fundraising. Please do not mistake my naming convention for lack of total respect for the organization. They are very needed and serve a significant purpose for many communities across the country. The convention only fits in this case because a very large portion of their donor base is corporate givers. And therefore, such a convention fits because the approach is heavily based on “corporate” engagement. Year over year campaigns, very little cultivation, and high aggregate yield at the lower end of the spectrum (avgerage annual gift of $500, or less per employee). I am a proud donor to the United Way, and this is my experience. Could they get more from me, absolutely… but they do not cultivate our family past the board room visits.

What’s high… I call this “Leadership” or “Principal” gift development. While I highlight other words, the focus is squarely on “development” with this group. Picking from high in the tree requires years of careful cultivation, listening, engagement, and last but not least the right person making the ask. Picking from high in the tree requires exceptional patience and planning from management. All too often I find that many nonprofits have dug themselves into a whole by needing “transactional” gifts “now” to keep the lights on and neglect really good development practices that would lead to transformational gifts that endow keeping the lights on instead.

Towards the end of my couples meeting the answer became very clear… Not only does the scholarship organization not call on this family, they potentially never will. They are simply not set up to do so. Their donor base reads like a Forbes 500, versus a balanced list of corporate and HNW (high net worth) benefactors. Successful development teams invest the right amount of resources, where needed, and reap multiple returns. Semi-successful development teams deploy resources reactively, and comparatively have lower ROI per fundraiser.

Balance is the key! Major gift officers, by their very nature, should not be making principal gift visits. Principal gift officers should not be visiting board rooms with more than two people in the room. Student calling teams should not be calling donors that belong to either officer group. If any one strategy (individual, corporate, foundation) is greater than 60%, there may be a problem on the horizon. Such a strategy is not sustainable for the long haul. What can happen… Individuals move on to Glory. Corporate contacts change companies. Foundations grow uninterested in your mission and vision.

Balance is the key… Get started today, and exponential benefits await tomorrow.

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Fatherhood Teaches Me

I’d be fooling myself if I did not say, out loud, that fatherhood has been THE single best teacher for me during this journey to be the best fundraiser that I can be…

Fatherhood teaches patience… Many say that you’ve learned a lesson, or topic well, when you can teach it to others. There is no greater responsibility than raising children, whether they are yours or not. We were once children and sometimes we forget how patient our parents HAD to have been to raise us. Perhaps I’m speaking only about myself… :) It is patience that I find helps me the most. I am blessed by the presence of our children, and the many young men and women that God places in my path to help develop. I am a better man because of it.

Fatherhood also teaches ultimate responsibility… During my time at Notre Dame we coined the phrase “ultimate responsibility” to further define who, under any/all circumstances we were to rely on when all else failed for our benefactors. When all else fails, father’s ought to be responsible… without question. Ultimate responsibly demands courage, restraint, resolve, and most all great character.

Last but not least, fatherhood teaches development of one’s legacy in life… We are remembered most by what we leave behind… our family, our stories, our presence. Our children, the way they conduct themselves and live their lives, are our legacy. Our stories, the spirit behind the words, are our legacy. Our presence, the glowing smiles at the mention of your name to those who know you best, are our legacy. Without legacy, who are we really.

Patience, ultimate responsibility, and legacy… the cornerstones to great development work. No one is more important than the other, and no two create a lasting relationship with benefactors. Be patient, take ultimate responsibility, and understand the legacy your benefactors hope to leave. Do all three and you’ve done far more than most…

Happy Father’s Day!

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Back In The Saddle

I’m back! Thank you for your patience…

As many of you know, I spent the greater part of last year (and most of this one) preparing and launching the CertusCharitable Giving Fund, our own independent 501(c)3 charity administering a donor advised fund program.

For a look at our website please visit:

To set up, or inquire about, a donor advised fund please call me directly @ 678.293.1890

Please keep a watchful eye out for the many projects the fund will be engaging in, and the already set up designated funds that we will showcase for gift/grant facilitation on behalf of donors who are not account holders…

Together we can change philanthropy!

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Great Mentors Matter

My Transition…
It’s been nearly five months to the day since my transition from Notre Dame Development into my current role as Sr. Vice President – Philanthropic Executive for CertusWealth (a division of CertusBank, N.A.). I am having an absolute blast creating this new business (focused on products/services for nonprofits) within the bank, and being constantly challenged to do great things for nonprofits across the country.

Yesterday our team was with Dr. Michael Lomax, President & CEO of the UNCF, and his team… He commented, “CertusWealth Philanthropic is the wave of the future…”, and I am so humbled by that. We have truly worked tirelessly over the last five months to deliver what we believe are transformational products and services for the nonprofit world… And we look forward to sharing them with everyone.

Why I chose CertusBank…
I believe to the person, that at CertusBank, we have THE strongest core group of philanthropic executive leaders in business. In their own way, they each understand that serving others not only enriches their lives, but those that they touch with their unquestionable gift of time, talent, and treasure. While in college I had the pleasure of having the Great Fr. Ted Hesburgh as a visiting professor for one of my senior seminar courses called Servant Leadership, and in that course what I learned most is that: organizations take on the image of their leaders, and that leaders who serve others openly, fairly, and consistently, build world class organizations. For that reason, and many others, I am thrilled to be a teammate at CertusBank. Make no mistake, Notre Dame provided a foundation for this work that is second to none!

Check out our new software platform CGiving… We are changing they way donors and nonprofits engage one another! Click here

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The 1% Matter more than you know…

New Study Says Charities Could Lose Up to $3.2-Billion From Obama Tax Change

Pretty disturbing read… Especially given the tough environment that we are now in, regarding real capital gains being made by our wealthiest benefactors. Only those in the know truly have any appreciation for the “real” 1% Compensation Story… It’s not what it seems, however the bandwagon of discontent mounts daily.

Jobs vs. Jobs, which are of MORE value?
The article above makes reference to “paying for the recent jobs plan”… As a reason to change charitable tax policy for those over the $200/$250k adjusted gross income. Economist “for” the Jobs Plan have grossly underestimated the value of a non-profit job. If in fact their legitimacy of this plan rests in any way on the fact that non-profit jobs are acceptable collateral damage, their economic background ought to be brought into question. They are terribly mistaken.

If we examine closely the “kind” of job that would ultimately replace said non-profit jobs, the question remains who will benefit most, and who will suffer most. Sustainability is of most concern. Aspiring benefactors that want to help us change the world have a philanthropic passion of fire that never goes out. On the other hand, governments take in revenue and without 100% accountability spend revenue, but passion is never the root of government spending. Given the special interest argument, legislative directed spending is mostly self serving.

100% of the time non-profit jobs are more sustainable. They are mostly privately underwritten, passionately supported, and filling voids governments (local & federal) should not be spending our tax dollars on. If the net-net is zero jobs why do it anyway.

Our fiduciary as fundraisers…
As fundraisers and non-profit professionals we have a responsibility to speak up, and more importantly speak out. The “squeaky” wheel always gets the oil in these matters. I’m elated that the current Senate sees these matters our way.

I don’t have a single benefactor whose net worth or earning is below $250k… The one consistent question that I get these days is “How will the University plan for a change in the charitable tax code?”. Because there are too many variables it’s almost impossible to address at this point. Doing nothing seems to lack logic, but with such great uncertainty it’s pretty difficult to pick a broad enough strategy to address the long term concern.

However, what I have done is talk to my benefactors about their long term giving plan as it “might” relate to the change in the tax code. Because the current proposal speaks in very specific terms relative to percentages of adjusted gross income, it’s pretty easy to reverse-calculate the charitable deduction breaking points for those benefactors that are adversely affected by the change. My advice. Lengthen the terms of your commitments to lower the year over year pledge payments.

Here are just a fews ways in which elongating the term creates benefit for non-profits: higher probability that the commitment will be completed, increased stewardship opportunities, ample time for re-gift planning, and last but not least another opportunity to talk about estate planning provisions for your cause.

Speak up… And speak out!

Go IRISH, beat Trojans.

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Balancing Act: Family and Fundraising

Family First…
One of the single greatest advantages of fundraising work is our (my) ability to involve my family in our development work.

The Tight End
No pun intended, but I must say that my wife is by far the greatest fundraiser in our family. She doesn’t even have to try! When she is in the room all is well. One of the strategies that I often use with other couples is “divide and conquer”. I find that most of my male benefactors lever me [with their wives] to truly explain why we visit so often, and just how we plan to address “their” philanthropic aspirations.

Wives are usually the last to be engaged and cultivated, but first to be stewarded in my book. It just works. I divide and my wife does the rest. She does what comes naturally; talks about our kids first, and lastly about how much I travel. When men hear that its mutually exclusive. When women hear that… well you figure it out. I often joke with my benefactors and threaten to bring their most respected priest to the ask… Now the secret is out of the bag, my wife is the real force to reckon with.

Remember, the Tight End is commonly referred to as a Quarterback’s security blanket. I do agree!

The Kicker
Special Teams can make or break any football team. For this part of the team no position is more important than the kicker. Tough to find. Impossible to replace. When they miss it rips your heart out. When they hit it brings a big ol’ smile to your face. Haven’t yet figured it out… The kids! Yes, my kids are fundraisers too. It’s truly a team effort.

I recently attended an Upper East NYC Tea Party (for 12 ppl). Yes, it was as exclusive as you presume… Attendees were a who’s who… And the spread so delightful! Here comes Tony with his entire family [of 5] in tow (they were invited too). Three quick minutes into the Penthouse and our 2 month old son decides to “febreeze” the place with his lovely aroma. Number 2!!! Get it? The kicker! What a start to the visit…

Two hours later, and not a single peep out of our son. The kid was an absolute angel. I truly believe that everyone in the room forgot that he was even there. Suffice to say our host could not have been more accommodating. By the time we departed our son had become the life of the Tea… The kicker! All smiles as we stepped into the elevator to hit the street top. All smiles… Impossible to replace.

I hope that I’m not the only fundraiser dumb enough to involve family in our work… LMAO! It just works… And yes, sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.

Live, Laugh, Love… Most of all Forgive!

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