One of the jewels in Jerry Panas’ Fundraiser’s Creed is: “I spend my life lighting fires.” As I’ve progressed through my career as a development professional, that deeply meaningful phrase has stayed with me. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my own impact on philanthropy. We are in an industry with a 14-month turnover rate. What are we doing to stop such an alarming trend? Are we providing the ongoing education, support, leadership, and inspiration that our gift officers need? Are we teaching them to light fires in donors? Here are some questions and thoughts to consider.


We’ve been talking about having a “culture of philanthropy” in the not-for-profit world for a very long time. We’re still talking about it. But why? Why is it still so prevalent in the philanthropic conversation? Because we haven’t quite figured it out yet.


I’ve Been Inspired By A Lot Of People.

When I transitioned from corporate business development and marketing to not-for-profit development, I was clueless. I was so clueless, I didn’t even know I was clueless—that took about three months. That’s when I really figured out that business development was nothing like philanthropic development—hey, I was young! Hopefully, you’ll find some great information in the following books:

William Sturtevant’s book, The Artful Journey became my ultimate go-to guide and I encourage anyone to read it and keep it by your side. It’s an inspirational look at the practicalities of working with donors and all that entails. It’s an amazing piece of work and really gets to the heart of what we do.

Another must read...


I was talking with a client about legacy giving and it led me to contemplating what we, as fundraisers, leave as our own legacy. Many moons ago, Jerry Panas gave me a copy of his Fundraiser’s Creed.

It spoke to me then and it speaks to me now. I wanted to share it–especially for those of us who help so many others realize their dreams through philanthropy. Jerry’s words are, of course, inspirational. Enjoy!


I’m hearing a lot of talk lately about being donor centric. I have to say, I’m shocked! Why do we have to talk about being donor centric? Why is this even a question? Of course, we should have the donor at the center of all we do. It’s crazy to imagine everybody doesn’t have the donor at the center. Well, I’ve been on the side of crazy myself so full disclosure that I know first hand how the day-today operations can push a donor to the sidelines.

We had a big project to remodel the entire facility, it was going to be beautiful. We went to the chair chair of the system board-the big kahuna!

We sat down with him, arrogantly assuming we’re going to get a fabulous gift and he says, “You know, I’m just not really happy with this project.” My brain exploded. I realized in an...


Strategies Are Useless; Dreams Are Priceless

Really, strategy without dreams is useless. They have to start with dreams. I know metrics are important but unless you base your plans on big ideas that inspire they are useless. You know why? Because there are hundreds of pages long, they’re in really pretty notebooks with these very expensive covers, and you spend a whole day or even two in a retreat, and you go through it and everybody presents, you’re all gung-ho when you go back to your office, and you put it on your shelf, go on to the next thing, and it’s done. But nothing is done.

The point of a strategic plan is to actually plan—based on aligning your donors’ dreams with how you can help achieve them. What are you going to do, where are you...


I was recently working with a board of directors and the topic of physician giving came up…as it usually does! The comments were along the lines of: “Physicians Should Give!” and “Why Don’t Physicians Give?”

After 25 years working in healthcare philanthropy, I’ve heard the above, in one form or another, many times.

It’s tempting to lump an entire group of people into a box. But, would we ever hear or say, “How come the people that live on First Street don’t give?” We certainly wouldn’t put our donors into categories of profession and expect that group to give. It would be like saying, “You all have to give, my goodness, you’re engineers” Unlikely! I guess when we frame the concept in a different context, it becomes easier to separate physicians as a group and engage them as...