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November 2022 - In Service: The Column of the ADRP President

Cheryl Smith Lintner

Executive Director, Donor Relations

Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation


November is National Gratitude Month in the U.S. but every month is gratitude month for donor relations professionals, right? It’s what we do best. Let me tell you a story (‘cause that’s what I do). A few years ago I was asked to lead a gratitude exercise at a staff retreat. I really wanted to show not only what it feels like to receive gratitude but to also give it. I handed out blank thank-you cards and instructed everyone to take ten minutes to write a thank-you note expressing gratitude to a colleague in the room. We talked about how it felt to receive a thank-you note (good, right?), but also how it felt to write them. Many of us were surprised that writing them felt good, too! All smiles. 

The next day, I delivered the notes, including one I wrote to a colleague named Jim. I didn’t know Jim well, but I did notice that he always made it a point to publicly acknowledge when someone helped him or did something amazing. So my note thanked Jim for that — for taking the time to recognize greatness and compassion in others. Jim showed up in my office the next day and thanked me for the thank-you note. He shared that it’s really important to him to give kudos to others, and he was so touched that I noticed he did that. And again, we both felt good. We were both all smiles. And that sentiment continued over the next few days in the office — colleagues thanking each other for thanking each other. It was really great to witness how a very small thing could have such a profound impact for both the receiver and the giver.

If you’re looking for more information about why expressing gratitude is good for both you and the recipient, check out A Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralik.

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Pour Yourself a Cup of Gratitude

Gracie Herbert
Miami University
Assistant Director of Donor Engagement

 pouring a cup of coffee

Dolly Parton is known for pouring herself a cup of ambition, but I’m here to remind you to pour yourself a cup of gratitude. Gratitude is a word that we as  donor relations professionals understand better than most. November marks a season of focus on gratitude, but as we know, our profession is a never-ending quest to express appreciation. 

As a donor relations professional who is constantly filling others’ cups, I tend to brush off thanks quickly and immediately turn around and thank them. Sound familiar? As the season of giving thanks is upon us, I challenge myself and you to sit with the appreciation your peers provide you and let your cup be filled.

Thanking is not a competition. When gratitude is expressed towards me, I often immediately find a way to thank the other person in return. Although being appreciative of your peers is not a bad thing, learning how to receive compliments and notes of appreciation without immediately thanking the other person is a vital skill to master. Now you might be thinking, “that’s easier said than done,” but it does not have to be. The next time you receive an expression of gratitude I encourage you to slow down, hear the words, repeat the phrase in your head, and not thank the person for something else. Let them know you appreciate hearing their praise, and that you enjoy being able to provide support. Ensure that you have heard their gratitude without entering a competition of who can thank who better! 

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I Know Where All the Bodies Are Buried...

Betsy Teles

The University of Connecticut Foundation, Inc.
Director of Donor Relations & Stewardship

 women peeking over folder

In a recent conversation with a fellow colleague as we grappled with a particularly sensitive donor scenario and its complex history, they commented, “What would we do without you? You know where all the bodies are buried!” This led me to reflect on the many similar scenarios I’ve helped resolve, the donor preferences I’ve captured and explained, the development professionals I’ve helped onboard, the special touch points I’ve created and delivered, and the creative language I’ve crafted to address the most sensitive situations.

I suspect many of you out there could say the same. Donor relations professionals remain laser-focused on ensuring all donors feel valued, engaged, and appreciated, even amid a global pandemic! Yet, for those of us in the business of recognizing and thanking our donors, we may “forget” our own value to the organizations we dedicate ourselves to and our collaborative efforts remain “hidden” in the more public profile of total dollars raised. Coming out of our annual ADRP Conference, this has always been one of my main takeaways – the validation that our work is critical, appreciated, and even innovative! 

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Member Spotlight: Rebecca Geragosian

Background Info: 
 
Can you tell us about your career trajectory? How did you come into donor relations as a career?

When I was a freshman in college, I started a work study position in the Parent and Alumni Relations Office. That was the first time I had heard of this line of work. But I quit in favor of taking a job in the bookstore that came with discounts! I did not even think about it as a career. After graduation, I took an administrative assistant job in donor relations as a way to get my foot in the door of a well-respected school. My plan was to work on a graduate degree and work to support that, but I fell in love with this specific aspect of fundraising and development. That job gave me a strong foundation once I was willing to consider that it might not be a pass-through opportunity, and might be a rewarding, meaningful way to earn a living.


What influenced your interest in and passion for donor relations? 

I had one mentor/boss who really encouraged me to try different aspects of donor relations work and supported healthy risk taking, encouraged me to figure out what I was good at, and supported my growth. When I started learning more about philanthropy, and considered the less transactional side of what we do—focusing on the relationships and impact—I realized that I could earn a living, do something rewarding for me, and have an impact on others.


What lessons, words of advice/inspiration would you like to pass on to other donor relations professionals?



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From the ADRP Research Committee: Donor Retention

When focusing on what our donors want from us, we deepen their connection. We survey our donors — ask what resonates with them and how they want us to communicate. And in an ideal world, we create stewardship that drives future giving.

But in the ideal world, there are no budgets, competing priorities, or staff shortages. In reality, few shops can achieve all of their most ambitious goals. We must focus our limited resources on the greatest impact on giving — donor retention.

We know it costs less to retain a donor than to acquire a new one. But what can we do that will drive our donors to give again and again?

In their 2019 research study titled “Giving Intention Versus Giving Behavior: How Differently Do Satisfaction, Trust, and Commitment Relate to Them?” authors Jen Shang, Adrian Sargeant, and Kathryn Carpenter offer one approach: increase donor satisfaction and commitment. 

Satisfaction is “how donors feel about the way they are treated as a donor.”

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Donor Relations at its Scariest

Here are ten things that can be hair-raising for even the most seasoned donor relations professional. Most times, it’s all about the recovery. Have any of these happened to you? Feel free to share your story in the comments.
  • Getting personal information wrong on correspondence
  • Publishing an anonymous donor’s name
  • Mispronouncing a donor’s name
  • Saying something negative about a problem donor in front of the wrong person
  • Sending something addressed to a deceased donor and their living spouse
  • Missed donation acknowledgement 
  • Bad press!
  • Duplicate donor record in the CRM
  • Failure to respect the donor’s communication preferences
  • Soliciting a donor right after they made a generous gift
  • And the scariest of all… PRODUCING ANNUAL FINANCIAL REPORTS 
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Member Spotlight: Eshon Allen

Eshon Allen
UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music
Assistant Director of Stewardship
Background Information:
1. Can you tell us about your career trajectory? How did you come into donor relations as a career?
My journey into the fundraising world and donor relations came out of a natural progression of customer service jobs I held in my early years. I worked in retail management straight out of college and then moved on to be a grants assistant in higher education. Those jobs taught me how to serve and assist people with grace, patience and attention to detail. It wasn’t until I worked as a temp at a mid-size non-profit that I realized how much those earlier jobs prepared me to serve donors. I saw the commonalities between serving customers and serving the philanthropic community—with that same level of grace, patience and attention to detail. More importantly, the donor relations world seemed a perfect match for what some called my talent for making people feel seen, heard and appreciated. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to use my innate personality traits as well as learned skills in a career that suits me so well.

2. What influenced your interest in and passion for donor relations? 
I didn’t know until later in life what “donor relations” was. It wasn’t a field that was widely marketed to me in college or a career I saw others involved in. But once I got my foot in the door at a non-profit, I quickly developed a passion for it. I was influenced by the joy I saw on a donor’s face when I greeted them by name as they arrived at my events (“I can’t believe you remember my name!”), or by the emotion a donor expressed when I shared a heartfelt thank you letter from a student they supported. Knowing that even the smallest things I contributed made such a big impact on the mission not only gave me a sense of passion, but a sense of purpose. I was hooked!

3. What lessons, words of advice/inspiration would you like to pass on to other donor relations professionals?
Don’t underestimate the power of listening. Listening to a donor is obviously integral to the work that we do, but picking up on the small details in what a person says can guide you in meeting a donor’s needs and help you enrich their experiences. It can guide you in knowing what information you feel the donor will benefit from receiving and what might bring them the most joy. Sometimes I think we get stuck in the rut of the template stewardship approach, when really hearing what a donor wants or needs can better guide us to more customized engagement. Listening to yourself is also vital. Knowing when you can truly be of service or when boundaries must be set so you can do your job well is something I think we all have had to rediscover over the past two years. 

4. Can you talk about a specific donor engagement or stewardship activity that makes you feel like you are providing the best experience for donors and/or aid recipients?  
When we went into remote work at the onset of the pandemic, I was eager to use video messages to steward our donors and, luckily, I was able to get my team on board with the quick shift in approach. Because I work for a music school, I have always wanted to do a better job of actually sharing music with our donors who have made so much of it possible. I created personalized videos of our student musicians singing or performing the “Happy Birthday Song” for the monthly donor birthday program. In the past donors only received a template card with a few leadership signatures. Now, they get a warm spoken message and a thoughtful song from a smiling student whose education they helped make possible. The positive feedback from recipients has been overwhelming and validating. We identified what was special about our program, and used that to make our supporters feel connected.
 
Connection to ADRP: 
1. When did you become an ADRP member? 
Two months before the 2022 ADRP International Conference! After viewing numerous ADRP webinars over the past year and enjoying the resources offered online and via emails, I really felt like the organization was so well suited to my ongoing educational needs and an ideal way to feel more connected to my professional community.

2. Why is ADRP membership important to you? 
ADRP membership will allow me to strengthen my skills as a more well-rounded donor relations professional—something that is very important to me. I am always concerned with my work getting stuck in the bubble of what my campus or unit is used to doing and learning from others across the country seems like a great way to ensure I’m broadening my scope of knowledge. It’s also important for the sense of community ADRP offers. No one can appreciate the hazards, pitfalls and unbelievable stories we all have more than our peers and it really helps to vent with others—sometimes you just have to have a good laugh at it all!

3. ADRP is universally recognized as the authority on donor engagement for the philanthropy profession. In your own words, how does ADRP serve you in the form of professional development?
ADRP serves me and my professional development because of the vast resources it offers, the gatherings it provides, and the community it builds. It truly is a wellspring of information and solidarity.
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On Persistence and the Heart of Philanthropy

Margaret Coad
Associate Director, Project Philanthropy
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
 
When I see this picture, I reflect on a time ten years ago when health reasons forced me to end a touring music career. I fell into a deep clinical depression with suicidal ideation for a solid 2-3 years, and was convinced that whatever was next would never be as fulfilling, meaningful, authentic, and vibrant as my time performing and meeting people on the road and in the music community.
 
But here’s the thing about an ending which we all know to be true: no matter how abrupt, how painful, how humiliating, a closed door is always an opening to some new chapter. And sometimes that chapter is an iteration of yourself that unfolds to be a stronger, sharper, more compassionate and wiser self than you believed you could become. Parts of you that you thought were lost are somehow appearing in new and interesting ways, and your past experiences (no matter how colorful) become unique assets in your career.
 
When I first entered the philanthropy field, I was in it for the insurance, to pay the bills, and a necessary distraction from my interior world. But now it is all coming together. This field is not unlike the music industry, in that we gather to be seen, to belong, to contribute, to be recognized with inherent value, to do something higher than one small self, and to experience human life to the fullest. It is about expressing our core values and identity in our everyday life, work, speech, and action. 
 
The lesson is the same for both spaces: be patient, be persistent, keep showing up, and make connections. Step into your light and lean into the mic. People are there listening to you because they themselves want to shine. Give them permission and let yourself do the same.

In Service: The Column of the ADRP President

Cheryl Lintner | ADRP President
Executive Director
Donor Relations
Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation
When my son was five years old, he wanted to be Napoleon for Halloween. Hooray for Amazon Prime! Why Napoleon? Because apparently one time I read him an article about the French general, or as he fondly remembered, “that short dude like me.” At the time, my son was quite a bit smaller than other kids, and he identified with Napoleon. He saw a powerful, intelligent leader in history who looked like him. 
Cute story (cute kid, too), but what does it have to do with donor relations? It’s about storytelling. More than a few years ago, I attended a session at the ADRP New York City Regional Conference with a former journalist who taught us two key elements of a good impact story: identify and empathize
As the storyteller, you want your audience to either identify or empathize with the subject - because that’s what drives emotion. We want our donors to see themselves, their loved ones, and their community in the people whose stories we tell. Or, if our donors can’t identify with the voice, we want them to empathize, to recognize that the challenges and wins are deeply meaningful to that individual. When you can foster that deeper connection to one’s impact, you elicit an emotional response that drives repeat behavior: “This makes me feel good, impactful, and purposeful, and I want to do it again.”
It’s a lesson in storytelling that I still come back to today—and the reason my then kindergartener chose to emulate a 19th century military figure for Halloween. When our words help our donors to identify and empathize with the impact of their support, they become a part of the narrative themselves - and will continue the story. 
P.S. If you are curious to see a pic of the little Emperor in all his glory, send me a message at [email protected].  

In Service: The Column of the ADRP President

Cheryl Smith Lintner
Executive Director, Donor Relations
Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation

 

Hi there [imagine me giving a little wave and an awkward smile],

Last week I had to wear pants. And nice shoes. For three days in a row!

It was a pretty momentous occasion—both for my wardrobe, and for ADRP—as we gathered together again after a long, pandemic-induced hiatus at the ADRP 19th Annual International Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Can I just say how AWESOME everything turned out? Kudos to conference chair, Ryan Steele, and chair-elect, Margaret Coad, and the entire committee! I came back inspired, excited, exhausted—and 100% ready to take on anything and everything—including serving as ADRP’s next President.

You can read all about me in the profile below. Suffice it to say that with me, what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG for you html geeks). I like to joke. I like to laugh. I talk a lot about my kid (he’s a giant) and my dog (she’s the goodest girl). Sometimes I talk to myself. I am very charming, after all. 


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DEI at ADRP Gets a Boost: Collective Action for Collective Good

Kimberly Karol
Deputy Director of Development
The Nature Conservancy (TNC)


Vanessa Harmon
Director of Donor Stewardship
The Nature Conservancy (TNC)


“Blacks are not philanthropic.”

“Sure, we want to diversify our board, but we cannot compromise our fundraising performance.”

“We need a white gift officer to engage this (white) community.”

“We cannot find people from underrepresented communities with the experience to fill senior roles.”

“While we would like to diversify our volunteers, we need people who know what they are doing.”

“A donor made a pass at me. I don’t feel safe but feel pressured to keep him in my portfolio to meet my goals.”


Do any of these statements sound familiar?

Despite the heightened awareness of biases and discrimination in the workplace and the proliferation of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) value statements and programs, these harmful statements — and the sentiments behind them — continue to erode our development efforts, impeding our ability to inclusively engage our beneficiaries, volunteers, donors, colleagues, and community. 

In addition to diluting the impact of an organization’s mission by limiting the pool of supporters and failing to encourage employment opportunities that yield a diverse workforce, these statements and corresponding behaviors perpetuate an unsafe work environment and contribute to inequalities in the fundraising profession.

To further its commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and its development leadership team, led by our Chief Development Officer Tom Neises, is proud to support ADRP in promoting DEI practices in philanthropy. TNC understands that fulfilling our mission of conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends requires committing to DEI across all facets of our work. We also recognize that the nonprofit fundraising community can create more substantive and lasting change by sharing resources and acting together.

Recently, TNC made a financial commitment to kickstart ADRP’s DEI educational programming and provide scholarships to help diversify our membership base. TNC’s contribution enabled the ADRP DEI Committee to bring in an expert to facilitate its session on unconscious bias at the 2022 international conference in Albuquerque.

And this transformative partnership is only the beginning.

We encourage ADRP members and your organizations to join TNC in financially supporting ADRP’s efforts to cultivate a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable fundraising environment, leading to more significant philanthropic outcomes for all.


Consider the benefits and privileges that may exist within your institution. If your organization has committed to increasing equity, reckoning with systems of injustice, and working towards a more inclusive workplace that values and cultivates diversity, then consider an ADRP DEI sponsorship. It is a collective opportunity to care for one another, share opportunities with less-resourced organizations doing important work, elevate the field of donor relations, and deepen the impact of our work to make the world a better place.

We embrace a more equitable and just approach to professional development, job opportunities, and skills evaluations. We are ready and energized to work together to build our resources and increase knowledge as development professionals and bring more voices to the table. If you’re interested in joining us in support of ADRP’s DEI sponsorship or would like more information please reach out to either one of us via the member portal or contact ADRP’s Executive Director Louise Miller at [email protected].

Member Spotlight: Meet Our New President, Cheryl Smith Lintner

Cheryl Smith Lintner
Executive Director, Donor Relations
Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation

Background Info: 

1. Can you tell us about your career trajectory? How did you come into donor relations as a career?

Once upon a time, I was an archaeologist. I had a blast digging in the dirt, and studying all things forgotten. But after a while, I decided to hang up my trowel and do something a bit more “practical” with my life. I worked as a legal assistant, and then as a clerk for a federal judge. I almost went to law school. Almost. I had what I now like to think of as a quarter-life crisis—and abruptly quit that path. I took some time to read all the great books on finding your purpose, like “What Color is Your Parachute?” and “Who Moved My Cheese?” I had a lot of friends in nonprofit organizations, and they seemed happy. So, enter career #3. It was kind of dumb luck that I landed a job as a development assistant at a tiny five-person nonprofit in Los Angeles. I was processing gifts, writing thank you letters, and reporting on finances, and I LOVED it. 

Then, life got in the way: I found myself moving from West to East—adding a then tiny, now giant, addition to my family—and when I rejoined the workforce, I knew donor relations was where I wanted to be. I joined the donor relations team at Rutgers University Foundation, focusing on gift agreements and reporting. I learned all the ins and outs of a comprehensive donor relations program, which set me up very well for success in building a new program at RWJ University Hospital Foundation. I’m still in healthcare donor relations, now with Hackensack Meridian Health. I am privileged to lead an amazing team that makes me laugh every day (and tolerates way too many dog stories and kid photos).

2. What influenced your interest in and passion for donor relations? 


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Message from the Chair

Message from the Chair

H. Ryan Steele

Our entire conference committee is eager to welcome those of you joining us in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the Association of Donor Relations Professionals 19th International Conference. After two successful years of virtual conferences, we joyfully and safely convene again in-person to meet new people, learn from fellow professionals and Soar to New Heights. 

As we began developing this year’s conference, we knew we had an opportunity to elevate. One area where we added a new conference element was with content delivery. We were inspired by the success and learnings of ADRP’s education committee with their newly created virtual workshops. Attendees shared rave reviews about their experiences across various topics. We recognized the opportunity to recreate this in-person, so this year, we are introducing workshop to the conference lineup.

You may be wondering, what’s the difference between a session and a workshop? Most notably is the duration of each, but beyond that is the type of interaction with which we hope you’ll experience. As we curated this experience, we wanted attendees to go beyond only hearing content and give them an opportunity to dive in and take an active approach to the learning.

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