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Posted on in Fundraising

The gavel comes down – on every auction-organizer’s nightmare.

An exclusive back-stage tour of Hamilton is going for $500 – and the donor is going to be mad.

Expecting it would raise at least $5,000, the donor is sitting in the back of the room wondering why this jewel, which is clearly worth so much more, is going for so low a price.

The answer is a mismatch between the item and the people in the room. 

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Posted on in Fundraising

The most critical question in planning a fundraising event?

NOT – what’s the best location…who should we honor…when’s the best date…or even what’s the right format.

All questions that board members – and staff too – love to focus on when starting to think about a special event.

It’s…who will do the asking for us. 

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Posted on in Fundraising

Special events, even modest ones, require lots of time and attention. And sometimes the return on that investment stalls.

Even a successful house party – for example, 75 attendees at $100 each – can feel like a mountain to produce, year after year, for only $7,500.

“Don’t mess with success,” the warning goes – but is there a way to increase the net with the same amount of effort?

The answer is yes.

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Posted on in Fundraising

Board members who buttonhole. A rare breed, valued to the nth degree.

It’s not that these folks are born salespeople, although they’re often eloquent persuaders.

It’s also not necessarily that they have extensive networks of friends with disposable income, although some connections are certainly useful.

It’s that they care – and understand, with a burning passion, how much their actions can affect what they care about.

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Posted on in Nonprofit
We're at the final stages of preparing for our 30th Anniversary Celebration here at Cause Effective, and we're going through what we've been through with our clients so many times... that feeling of being on a shared enterprise that is rapidly, rapidly, rapidly coming down for a landing.

But it’s the shared enterprise - the team - that I want to take this space to reflect on.

A nonprofit is, by its very nature, one of Tocqueville’s “associations” – a group of individuals coming together for a shared purpose.

In the 1830s, Tocqueville traveled to America from France and wondered at the preponderance of voluntary associations to accomplish social good: “Americans

of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of dispositions are forever forming associations,” he mused.

Almost 200 years later, we still are.

But my point here is not the proliferation of nonprofits in the past several decades – though that’s certainly true – it’s the idea of a joint endeavor. At the heart of board-staff relations, at the core of how we run our organizations, is the concept of collective shoulders to the wheel to get the job done.

And even more than the idea, that concept of collective associations – is the feeling of shared purpose and collaboration.

It’s exciting, it’s affirming, and it’s reinforcing. I’m not in this alone – we’re all pulling the cart along, together.


Nothing brings that home more than sliding into home on a special event.

The whole office is working late. People are taking on responsibilities that “aren’t my job” to help each other out. Board members are responding to emails within seconds, even generating an-idea-a-minute to help the engine along.

I know I’m using a lot of movement metaphors here, but that’s what it feels like – we’re being swept along by a collective force that’s far, far stronger than any one of us doing our jobs in isolation.

And the question post-event?

How to keep that collective energy going, albeit at a lower pitch, to keep the communal strength of purpose and lightning-pitch clarity about goals that we experienced with the event.

Stay tuned…
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