The Philanthropy Therapist’s Top 10 to do before December 26th

Everywhere in America, fundraisers are planning year-end activities, trying to raise as much as they can before December 31st.  So do that data dig, get your lists in place and take a look at my list of the top 10 things you need to do to get ready …


  1. Is your year-end appeal ready to be mailed and your Giving Tuesday strategy in place? (If not, hurry up!)


  1. Do you have your reminder letter ready to go? (Don’t leave any donor stone unturned?)


  1. Are you all set to make your phone calls to remind your best donors to give (if they haven’t    already)?  (PS – you need your list to be in good shape and ready to go)




  1. Did you update your voicemail letting those special donors know how to reach you if you’re not in the office and they want to make a special gift? (Hey, you never know!)


  1. Is your tax and estate attorney on speed-dial, just in case someone wants to make that complicated planned gift? (It happens ….)


  1. Did you take a minute to call and thank your best donors? (It is so rewarding) (Do you  know who they are?)


3. In all the craziness – did you remember to breathe today?  Pace yourself – you still have a few   weeks to go.


  1. Are you tallying up how much you’ve raised this year …. Giving USA wants to know!


  1. Have you decided how to relax and replenish? Be good to yourself.  You deserve it.  And get ready …. I think 2017 is going to be a very good year.

Announcing Nonprofit Workshops Customized Learning From Danosky & Associates

(New Milford, Conn. — Danosky & Associates, LLC is pleased to announce the new Danosky Learning Center (DLC) dedicated to training aspiring leaders and professional staff already working in small to medium-sized nonprofit organizations. DLC’s team of experts have the knowledge, skills, and experience to train nonprofit professionals to build their organization’s capacity and infrastructure.

The DLC offers two distinct educational opportunities through two different programs to ensure you and your organization continue to grow and succeed. LEAP (Leadership Enrichment for Advancing Professionals), is a flexible, multi-session program designed to develop executive directors and help existing executive directors hone their leadership skills.

DLC also offers On-Demand Workshops.  These allow you to learn what you need, when you need it through five professional development tracks which may be scheduled at your convenience.  With a minimum of six to a maximum of 12 participants from your organization or others in your area, you will be able to tailor programs to meet your needs.

“I have always seen the need to expand educational opportunities for the leaders and potential leaders of small and midsized nonprofit organizations.  Our programs are tailor-made for our constituents and designed to deliver superior results,” said Sharon Danosky, founder of Danosky & Associates.

For more information pertaining to registration, pricing, and scheduling please contact Carol D’Agostino at or call (860) 799-6330.


Relationships Don’t Happen in a Revolving Door


NONPROFIT Advantage – Fall 2014

Sixteen months. That is the length of time someone in a development position stays with a non-profit organization. Sixteen months! In a profession dependent on building long-term relationships, this should be a wake-up call for many non-profits.

This statistic was introduced and discussed at the recent AFP Conference and was published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.  The turnover rate has long been a cause for concern, but this latest statistic shows a further decline from the previous rate of 18 months. The study also revealed that the cost of bringing in and training a new development professional can be as high as $125,000. Many non-profits today are struggling to accelerate their fundraising efforts.  Furthermore, raising funds today is more difficult than it has been in the past two decades.

The question we must ask is:  Why is this so, and what can be done?

I have my own theory on why this is the case, based on years of practical experience and having worked with many, many organizations. It is also based on anecdotal data I have gleaned from many colleagues over the decades, and I would like to share it with you now.

The first observation and concern is that development officers are hired with mixed, unclear, and sometimes conflicting expectations.  An organization is experiencing a financial shortfall and decides it needs to increase its focus on development.  Therefore they hire a development officer to raise the funds and expect that by hiring someone, their work in “solving the problem” as a Board or management team is done.  Development officers do not work in a vacuum.  Effective development work requires active support from the chief executive, management and, especially, the Board.  If they are not willing to be engaged partners in the process, the results will be less than stellar, and the assumption is that the development director has not done his or her job.

The second major problem is that development work does not happen immediately.  It takes a minimum of one year to understand the ebb and flow of a fundraising cycle, donor behaviors, activities, and events that will generate revenue and the type of fundraising activities that will work best with the organizational culture.  If the fundraising efforts are to be truly effective, the development director should conduct an assessment of the program and develop a 3-5 year fundraising plan.  While results will be seen after year one, significant results are not usually achieved until year two or three when a philanthropic culture begins to take hold in the organization.  This happens only when the relationship with funders has been developed and donors become familiar and comfortable with an organization.   An impatient organization and Board doesn’t consider the time required to build and grow the program.  Therefore, because there are no immediate results, the development director and organization parts company and the pattern repeats itself.

Organizations are not hiring the right people.  I have observed that organizations focus a lot of time and effort on “chemistry,” whether or not there is the right organizational and cultural “fit.”  While I don’t disagree that it plays a role, the reality is that a good development director is not going to be similar to the other employees you hire. They have a more external focus, they are more “sales” oriented (allowing that the best sales people are those who know how to develop long-term relationships) and the work they do is far different than most of the individuals hired by the organization.  I worked an average of 5-10 years with most of the organizations that employed me.  I will unequivocally share that the first few months were very difficult, and I was not the most popular person at the agency.  Fortunately, I was bringing in much-needed funding – but I was different than the other employees they hired.  A development office is a small business, and development folks are entrepreneurial – which is different than those who are caregivers, social workers, teachers, curators, etc.

If the organization is focused on chemistry – then it is not usually seeking the actual skill sets that are required to build a development program.  In the past two decades, non-profits have proliferated at an extraordinarily high rate.  That has caused an equally high demand for development professionals.  Many organizations are not able to find or (or can’t afford to hire) the skill set and talent required to establish a development program.  They will hire someone who has done a great job at putting on events, running a terrific social media campaign, or successfully writing grants.   These are all commendable skills, but they are not the same as building a sustainable development program.

The fault lies on both sides of the hiring desk.  Development directors have the responsibility for developing skills and continually advancing their practice, and those hiring development directors must either commit the resources required, or be willing to invest in the person they have hired to help him or her achieve those skills. There is a craft and a science to raising funds.  Today there are even Masters Programs in development.  Associations such as AFP, AHP, CASE, and others have a long-standing commitment to providing their members with ongoing education and training.  Whether through national conferences, college courses, or regional workshops that help development directors achieve certification, the resources are available, along with scholarship programs.  However, both the development director and the organization must recognize that there is more to raising funds than executing a few successful tactics and that true development work requires a sustained commitment.

I am truly saddened and dismayed that the turnover rate in development continues to decline.  I do believe that it is possible to stem the tide, but it requires commitment on both the part of non-profit organizations and development professionals.  The commitment must be a two-way street, and for it to succeed, attention should be paid to the following basic principles:

1)      Set clear and reasonable expectations when deciding to hire a development professional and communicate them in advance.

2)      Ensure there is active support from the Board and the management team; development is not a stand-alone function.

3)      Be willing to invest for the long-term.  Sustainable success will not come overnight, but will build consistently over time.

4)      Hire the person who has the skill set to do the job and the commitment to continually improve.

5)      Invest in the development function through ongoing training and education.

Development is not a “quick-hit” solution; rather it is an investment in building philanthropic support from your community.  It’s not easy – but then, nothing worthwhile ever is.

Sharon Danosky,is the founder and president of Danosky & Associates, a consulting firm that helps nonprofit organizations build the capacity to move their strategic vision forward with a solid
foundation and an army of support behind R them.

Create a Thriving Philanthropic Culture



October 2014 • Volume XXII, No. 10

To attract more support, create a thriving philanthropic culture that includes everyone in your organization in your fundraising efforts. That way, “You’re a team instead of the lone development officer marching up a hill, and no one’s charging behind you,” says Sharon J. Danosky, president, Danosky & Associates (Sherman, CT). Enlist the support of board members, employees, volunteers and donors, she says.

Rather than memorizing elevator pitches or talking about a myriad of your nonprofit’s programs and services, board members “should talk about the people you’re helping and how you’re improving the lives around you.” Leverage volunteers by inviting them along to meetings with donors, who will relish the volunteers’ stories and will be impressed they’re willing to volunteer their time to your cause. Don’t forget to ask donors for help on these visits too.

Most of all, don’t overlook fellow employees, Danosky says.

“The development office has to be integrated in the organizational culture,” she says. Using program staff to tell donors the nonprofit’s story can be highly effective, because employees have an intimate understanding of the good your organization’s doing. Bring them to donor meetings or have them draft appeal letters.

To get cooperation from colleagues, show interest in what they’re doing, Danosky says. And don’t forget to reward their help, for example with lunches, recognition certificates or a mention to management.

“When you do this with staff, they get excited and get involved and become very passionate about the opportunity to do more for the organization,” Danosky says. “You’ve got to be sure to respect them and recognize them so they’re not feeling you’re using them to do your job.”

One particularly effective way to generate enthusiasm among employees, according to Danosky: employee giving campaigns whereby employees set up and control programs, much as board members do for the broader organization. Employees raise money from colleagues for special projects their organization can’t undertake.

These campaigns help employees become “incredible allies of the development office,” Danosky says. “They create a philanthropic culture and also are a good measurement tool when you start seeing how much the employees are raising for their fund every single year, because it will start to go up exponentially. That’s one of the strongest ways of creating a philanthropic culture, because the employees are actually raising the money, and they’re also allocating and giving the money away, so they understand the entire process and how it  works.”

Source: Sharon J. Danosky, President, Danosky & Associates, Sherman, CT. Phone (860) 799-6330. E-mail: sharon@danosky. com. Website:

After Sandy Hook Tragedy, Nonprofits Regroup

Nanci G. Hutson

Published 11:54 pm, Saturday, May 18, 2013

Millions of dollars and gifts poured into Newtown without anyone asking after a gunman killed children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14.

The toll of the tragedy was so horrific that charitable dollars flowed from unexpected places and people. A large number of new charities were started, and money and services were funneled into them.

Philanthropy at its best, some suggested.

So it might seem less than charitable to question such good will. In truth, though, donor dollars can prove a competitive commodity.

In the fall and winter, the time when most nonprofits are reaching out to for annual support, their faithful donors were distracted from their traditional giving habits to answer urgent cries for help, she said.

Ever since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, New Milford-based nonprofit consultant Sharon Danosky said, charities have been forced to retool how they do business.

Many organizations do not have strong, diversified philanthropy programs, so when tragedy strikes or they are confronted with some other financial hurdle they are unprepared, and sometimes reluctant, to be assertive in their fundraising efforts, Danosky said. Her advice to all nonprofits is to ensure a stable fundraising program and solid finance management plan able to weather downturns.

“And the time to do that is not when you are facing cuts and concerns,” Danosky said. “We are huge advocates of scenario planning.”

“Sandy Hook changed our mission,” said Nick Hoffman, development director for Family & Children’s Aid of Danbury.

Unlike some who worry about finding new funding, Hoffman said he has come to see that tragedy can be a lens into the need for philanthropy. “It was such a horrific tragedy, and it has affected everyone in the community. To be the regional mental health experts for  children, we know what the long term holds and we have talent in our staff to mitigate the worst-case scenarios,” Hoffman said.