harp-weaver is an independent philanthropic advisory firm based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Teresa Araco Rodgers, the principal, works with individuals and families to gift to issues that matter in a meaningful way.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Strategic Philanthropy in the New "Normal"

I sat in on a webinar presentation today hosted by Guidestar. The speakers defined what they refer to as the new "normal." 800 people actually attended the webinar as a side note. This is clearly a deserving topic for discussion.

The recession's impact is far reaching. Institutions reliance on philanthropy will continue to increase as a result. Strategic philanthropy continues to redefine itself and the reality is that bold leaders who embrace the new normal will succeed. Those who don't will slowly fail. Yesterday's news of the closing of Hull House in Chicago is going through my mind as I listen to the speakers.

What were the key elements of a traditional campaign model? Campaign was driven by the organization's strategic plan or feasibility study. Institutions put together a high level campaign committee and there was a sequential ask of donors from the top-down. There was typically a limited gift acceptance policy in place. The campaign was volunteer driven, but staff supported. The typical time frame was 5 years.

So what rocked this model? The global economy went south. Funding sources shrunk. Regional economies remain volatile. Government support contracting. Reliance on philanthropy increases. Business methods applied to grant making. Social media fundraising grows.

What are the key elements of a new normal campaign model? Recession recovery will endure for 3-5 years. Campaigns will begin and end during this period. Pressure on philanthropy is acute and needed more than ever.

There is definitely a new era of fundraising: Fundraising is strategic and mindful of the new world. Fundraising is aimed at a new type of donor. Campaigns are unannounced. No campaign chair(s). No steering committee. Donors become leaders and leaders become ambassadors. Staff driven cultivation and asks. Decentralized volunteer structure. Fundraising is continual.

From a planning perspective, organizations need to integrate strategic and philanthropic plans. Strategic and philanthropic planning NEVER stops.

Organizations must take another look at Case Statements and their purpose. Its about the parts, not the whole. Strategic plans supersede case statements. People connect to programs, not organizations. It is less about bold and more about achievable results. Sustainability is a constant issue

A word about campaigns: They should never end. Organizations need to weave together operational and strategic initiatives into comprehensive campaigns. Strategic plans require strategic philanthropy. Gift structuring (annual, bequest, cash) changes donor relationships and stewardship.

Organizations need to think about cultivation differently:
Fear and uncertainty drive donor caution. Donors less willing to part with their capital. Large gifts take longer to consummate. Gift structuring reduces near term cash outlays. Gift tables bulge at the lower middle. Largest gifts come from unusual sources.

At the core of all this is that a key success factor is having givers become leaders. Old fashioned campaign committees are out! Campaigns commit donors to the parts of the mission they care about the most. Givers become philanthropic leaders in critical subsets of the organization. These subsets motivate donor enthusiasm. Boards don’t always turn to philanthropic leaders as members.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The R-Word

This was originally posted by my friend, Abigail Sandler. Abby's beloved sister, Aimee, was profoundly developmental and physically disabled. For the 53 years that Aimee graced this earth, Abby heard the R-word being used everywhere, and it was a constant reminder of the pain Aimee endured, on all levels. It's time that the masses became sensitive to the needs of others, and start dignifying their language and actions towards those truly unable to help themselves. Aimee might have been disabled in many ways, but like the song said, "Once In Love With Aimee, Always In Love With Aimee!"

Aimee's legacy was enormous, and if you go to: www.aimeesbulletin.com
you'll learn how one person, no matter how disabled, can make a huge difference, and ultimately impact the lives of others throughout the Great State of Pennsylvania.

Being Retarded
Blog entry (December 23, 2011) by Phoebe Holmes; Herding Cats

All around me, people use the word retarded without a second thought. Sometimes, I’ll say “Um, dude, really?” and they’ll say “Oops, my bad! But really! I was being so retarded!”

Sometimes, I let it slide. I realize that it’s a word that’s ingrained in our society’s vocabulary and people use it without a second thought to its meaning.

But what does it mean to be retarded? Well, I know what it doesn’t mean.

It doesn’t mean not being able to choose something for lunch despite 100 choices in front of you.

It doesn’t mean not being able to find your car keys.

It doesn’t mean saying the wrong thing to a person.

It doesn’t mean forgetting your best friend’s birthday.

It’s not something to describe yourself as when you’ve spilled your coffee, or tripped on a crack in the sidewalk.

It’s not something to describe your computer, car or phone.

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary the word “retarded” means -

: slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development or academic progress

For me, it’s not just any old word – it’s my daughter. My beautiful, bright, happy, loving, amazing daughter who is slow or limited in intellectual development and academic progress.

In our household, being retarded means something different.

It means not being able to fully care for yourself.

It means not understanding what the doctor is going to do to you.

It means not being able to explain what hurts when something hurts.

It means not being able to ride a two wheeler. Or read. Or ever be able to live on your own.

But ever the optimist, I also know that retarded means…

…never realizing the negativity behind the word retarded.

…never knowing the insensitivity surrounded the word’s usage.

…never realizing the ignorance of people.

…never knowing how other people view you.

Being retarded also means…

…loving unconditionally.

…finding joy in the smallest of things.

…being self-confident.

…not realizing that there are limitations.


This is Maura. Her diagnosis? Cognitively disabled. Which means retarded. When you call yourself retarded, you’re also calling my child stupid. Because you use the word as just that – another form of stupid.

Let’s get something straight here.

My daughter may have cognitive issues. She may have delays. She may never live on her own. Scratch that. She will never live on her own.

But Maura is not stupid.

In her own way, Maura is very smart. Maybe smarter than us at times. She has more self-confidence than anyone I know who’s called themselves “retarded”. She is the best judge of a person’s character than anyone else I’ve ever known.

Yes, she is slow to learn things. But she is not stupid.

I know that most people don’t use the word “retarded” maliciously. Most people I know use it in a self-depreciating way. And when I point it out, they go “Oh wow! I’m sorry!” and they truly feel like a heel. But the thing is, you’re still using it in the way that people who do use it maliciously use it as – to describe stupidity.

So why not just use the word “stupid” instead? Because I know what “retarded” is. I live with it in the form of my daughter. And in our world “retarded” doesn’t equate to “stupid”.

5 January 2012 – feel free to read this companion post, which helps explain more of the “behind the scenes” view of this post – thanks!