Pictured: Devan Luth & Helen Kyle, Ecumen Philanthropy staff

Note from Lori: It’s not often I discuss my pro-bono work because it’s a private agreement between me and those I choose to support. For much of 2017 I’ve had the honor of mentoring two smart, special women. Because they’ve been so willing to take and implement my coaching I’ve invited them to share a story or two about what they learned. This is their story…

As young professionals in the fundraising field, we are always actively looking for mentors to help us grow as individuals and fundraisers. We were fortunate to meet Lori at the LeadingAge conference in January 2017. With her coaching and guidance, we’ve successfully changed how we do our daily work. We are delighted to share some of the fundraising best practices Lori taught us:

Best Practice #1: It is essential to share mission moments with donors, staff, and your board.

A joyful gift is something that speaks to both our minds and our hearts. For some donors, results and logic-driven giving will be more appealing. For others, their emotional tie to your organization allows for the most meaningful gift. When sharing a mission moment you’ll be able to artfully share your organization’s mission, impact, and the current funding gap in a way that appeals to both logic-minded and emotionally-driven donors.

We found that it’s important to practice (and practice some more) sharing mission moments. The more natural mission moments are to you, the more natural they feel to our donors.

Lori showed us the power of mission moments. We are currently in the process of adding mission moments to the agenda of every all-staff meeting. Storytelling has become the best way to share a fundraising update from our team along with the impact of a gift to our organization. –Devan

Best Practice #2: Invest in your own professional and personal development by tracking your work and reframing how you track your success.
Fundraising Best Practices - Never Settle
3 things you can do today to foster personal growth:

1. Track contributions you’ve helped bring in. How many gifts? At what giving level?

2. It can be easy to focus solely on numbers but it’s also important to highlight progress with donors as well as stories that could be a good fit for your communications material. We are in the business of relationship building and that does not happen overnight, so it is important to take time to recognize the progress that you are making even if you haven’t gotten the gift you were hoping for. . . yet!

3. Regularly ask: “What’s working?”

I now start all weekly check-in meetings with a quick answer to the question “What’s working personally or professionally?” Some days it can feel like absolutely nothing is going right, but framing check-in meetings this way, causes much-needed positivity and helps reframe any current challenges. -Helen

Best Practice #3: Enhance your fundraising events with mission-centered materials, prepared volunteers, and follow-up calls.

A few additions to try in your next fundraising event:

  • Showcase your mission in your event materials.
  • Prep your volunteers and board members with talking points or questions to ask guests throughout your event. After the event is over ask your volunteers to bring the comments and ideas back to you and your team.
  • Call guests to thank them for attending AND ask for their honest feedback on how to improve the same event in the future. To be clear, this is NOT an ask, but rather a chance to engage with prospective or current donors on a deeper level.

With Lori’s help, we were able to elevate our annual Golf Tournament experience for attendees. We took her advice and made our mission the focal point of the day-in the clubhouse and out on the course.

  • We made annual reports available
  • Had donor features on all tables
  • Invited a guest speaker to the reception to showcase the importance and impact of donations to our organization

Our guests walked away with smiles and our Philanthropy team was approached by a number of attendees asking if there was still time to increase their gift! Of course, we said ABSOLUTELY.


About Devan Luth: Devan is the Development Supervisor at Ecumen. With a focus on collaboration and generosity, she encourages others to view aging in radically different ways. Through individual giving, event management, and donor stewardship, she welcomes individuals into Ecumen’s mission and work. Devan is a graduate of Concordia College in Moorhead, MN where she received a B.A in Communication Studies and Theatre Art. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

About Helen Kyle: In her role as the Development Specialist, Helen manages ongoing donor recognition opportunities, maintains and reports on solicitation efforts through data management and supports the success of Ecumen events. With a strong commitment to philanthropy and drive to fulfill Ecumen’s mission to create home for older adults, her role also includes individual giving. Helen recently graduated cum laude from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. She has a B.A. in Sociology/Anthropology with a concentration in Family Studies. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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