About Jane Kuechle

Jane Kuechle is an independent consultant to nonprofit organizations and to individuals who want to make a difference. She assists nonprofit groups and organizations with their growth and development in the areas of board support, fundraising, communications, and online visibility. Jane also is available to help individuals create positive change through philanthropic investments. She researches opportunities to give financial and volunteer resources, and assists in evaluating the impact of charitable giving. In June of 2011 Jane became the Executive Director of the Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery.

Is The Economic Recovery Lifting Non-Profit Fundraising?

“Economy grew…sales improved…spending picked up…economic activity expanded…manufacturing activity grew.” Growth is happening in all areas of the U.S. economy according to the 12 Federal Reserve district banks. Recent reports say that job growth and unemployment levels are at lowest levels in six years. All encouraging news.

Are we seeing improvement for non-profits? As I troll the internet looking for signs of recovery it would appear that individuals are finding a little more in their pocket books. Research reports I read say that non-profits are finding their fundraising efforts are at least holding steady if not improving. Very few report fundraising down and if they do it usually is slight.

From the experience of colleagues I talk with in the Seattle area it seems that renewing donors have tried hard to at least maintain their giving level during this period. If they have to reduce the amount they contribute they do still value the work of their favorite charities and make a commitment, even if it is not at the level of support they would prefer. But this has not been a time to acquire new donors.

One special event I have followed very closely started out six years ago with exponential growth year over year for the first three years, then experienced a decrease in revenue for two years. Donors who were giving the requested $150 at the breakfast fundraiser, were giving $100 and those at the $1,000 level reduced their contribution to $500. The number of attendees remained flat.

This year, although the number of guests was the same as the previous year, the results approached the amount raised from the 3rd year. Those donors who had reduced their gifts were back up to $150 and the number of $1,000 donors increased.

Foundations and corporations are still saying they have far more requests then they can handle and grants are usually for less than requested. Highly dependent on investments for income, they are finding the amount of money available for granting programs reduced. It also appears that most foundations are sticking with non-profits they know and have supported in the past. Very few dollars are available for new applicants.

Although my observations are antidotal and based on my reading of the landscape, I’d appreciate hearing from readers of this blog about their own experiences. Have donors to your non-profit remained loyal while reducing their average gift or have they gone away entirely? Have you found it difficult to secure new donors? Have gifts from foundations and corporations been down? Are you experiencing a recovery? And please, when you are responding, tell us in what region of the country you raise funds and the mission focus of your non-profit.

A Father’s Story

His son was born at 24 weeks gestation. Very few children survive birth 3 months early. Eyes, lungs, heart; not many functions needed to sustain life are developed at that stage. The doctor didn’t expect the child to survive more than 8 hours. But somehow he did. The father and/or his wife were at the hospital 24/7. They divided their time between home, caring for their two year old daughter, and the hospital, watching over their son – for four months. Finally, after he was able to feed on his own, they were allowed to take him home.

The boy faced multiple disabilities as a result of his premature birth. He was experiencing detached retinas in his eyes, he was unable to hear, he was not using one side of his body because he was unaware of it. For 15 months the family trooped in and out of clinics trying different therapies designed to aid one disability or another. Finally at 19 months, they walked through the doors of Kindering in Bellevue.

This morning, at the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club, my club, I heard a remarkable story. It’s not the first time I’ve heard stories like this one of courage and hope. Nor is it the first time I’ve learned about the world class work being done right in our backyard.

In high school my daughter had a good friend, Liz. Liz had been to our house many times and we enjoyed her warm outgoing personality. At the time I was working in a human service organization, attending meetings in the community with other professionals and acquainted with the CEO of Kindering, Mimi Siegel.

One day, shopping at the mall, Liz spotted me across the way and came over to say hello. Then her mother walked over as well. “You are Ginger’s mother!” she exclaimed. “You’re Liz’s mother!” I said back. We had no idea that our daughters were good friends. Mimi and I have been good friends as well ever since. Over the years (our daughters are now 38) I have enjoyed our friendship, but more than that I have marveled at the genius behind Kindering.

Founded in 1962 by five Bellevue-area mothers of children with disabilities, Kindering is the only early intervention center serving urban East King County. It is the largest intervention center in Washington State, one of the three largest centers in the nation, and notably the most comprehensive. To maximize each child’s potential, early treatment is profoundly important. Long-term studies show that early intervention is responsible for greater achievements later in life. Kindering works to help the whole child, not just one disability or another.

The boy who arrived at Kindering at 19 months, unable to walk or crawl, to form words, to move his left side, to thrive, is now 18 years old and has a very bright future ahead which includes further education and a job, something his family could never have imagined when he was born.

Mimi came to Kindering when it was just a gathering of mothers of children with disabilities. They asked her to be their first CEO, and she’s the only one they’ve ever had. There are wonderful stories of courage like the father’s story I heard this morning. Or the story of a young man I know who was born with multiple disabilities, not expected to live, and who now is a college graduate with a full time job. Stories of families and children who work hard to push the limits of what others think is possible. There’s a reason why their fundraising luncheon is called the “Courage” event.

Mimi is not a therapist, she doesn’t have a medical degree. Yet Kindering has managed to become a world class leader in developing innovative therapies that help children, born with multiple disabilities or who have experienced abuse and/or neglect, thrive. The genius behind Kindering’s success is Mimi’s ability to hire outstanding people and then get out of their way and let them do what they do best.

Kindering has attracted amazing board members, outstanding staff and a multitude of loyal donors because of the nurturing environment Mimi has created. It’s not only a place where children become the best they can be but it’s supportive place for families as well. I am so pleased and proud to call Mimi my friend.

Funny How A $124 Ticket Can Change Behavior: Redo

On my usual route in the mornings I’ve noticed a shrine of flowers growing near a cross walk. I’ve been puzzled. Shirley if someone had been killed at that spot it would have been all over the news. I would have heard about it. But I’ve not slowed down long enough to see what it was all about.

I’ve been much more observant of my driving speed and behavior lately. My earlier post about my $124 fine for speeding has caused me to be aware and cautious. There are two crossing signs on that usual morning route. Both have activation buttons that flash with LCD lights when someone wants to cross. Very effective I think.

On the main street of our town there are cross walks and posts with flags on either side. Pedestrians grab a flag to wave down motorists when they want to cross. It’s a congested area with lots of folks on foot so it’s hard to not see them when they want to cross. But I wasn’t very conscious of my behavior as a driver until about six months ago someone yelled at me for not stopping. Now I find myself glancing to both sides as I approach those marked cross walks to be sure I’m not going to miss someone who wants to get to the other side.

Yesterday in our local paper I found out about the shrine. In the early morning when that road is typically very busy with commuters going to work, a man approached and activated the cross walk lights. He was walking his two service dogs that help him with his anxiety and depression. The driver in one direction stopped to allow him to cross. A driver in the other lane did not. The gentleman just barely jumped out of the way and avoided being hit but his dogs were not so lucky. The driver didn’t stop.

Sometimes we are so focused on our day, on our own issues and problems that we don’t watch out for each other. Maybe the driver had his or her mind on work or on getting to the bus on time, or a myriad of other possibilities. Focusing on the moment can not only keep us in the present but it can save lives.

So, I continue to think about my driving. I try to make notes about what I need to focus on after I reach my destination and leave my mind free to focus on my behavior when I’m on my way. I’m not always successful but I keep trying. Looking out for others has become much more meaningful now.

Funny How A $124 Ticket Can Change Behavior

We live on a hill and the road down the hill is very steep. The city has set the speed limit at 25 MPH but most of us ignore it. It’s hard to keep a heavy car at a slow speed when you’re coming down a steep hill. But, the other day I got caught.

Local police have traditionally ignored our neighborhood, at least for the last few years. In the beginning, when the development was new, they set up speed traps on an irregular but routine basis. We complained. It seemed like they were targeting us to drive up revenue for the city. Ultimately they found other areas to patrol and we rarely had to worry about it. In time the old habit of coasting down the hill at 35 or 40 came back.

A couple of weeks ago, as I rounded a bend in the road at my usual coasting speed of 35 MPH, it was too late to put on the brakes and I got pulled over. That night I sent in my $124 fine. No point in contesting it. I deserved it.

I could understand the time of day. It was in the morning when the school buses were out picking up their charges and I and all the other drivers who got caught should have known better. A few days later, more mindful of my speed (and following a slow moving school bus), I managed to get through the trap without a ticket.

It has been interesting to watch my own behavior in the weeks following my speeding ticket. I’m very mindful of the speed limit. My usual route takes me by an elementary school where the speed limit is 20 MPH during school hours. I don’t resent the speed and I get mad at drivers who don’t obey the blinking yellow light. I find myself driving extra carefully, not exceeding speed limits, stopping so I don’t go over the white line at stop lights and intersections,keeping an eagle eye out for pedestrians.

It’s funny how forking over $124 can change behavior. I’ll be curious to observe how long my new habits last or if my former lead foot will creep back into my driving behavior.

Planned Giving: Keeping it Simple

Every once in a while I attend a planned giving seminar or workshop thinking that I’ve got to get into this. After all, it makes sense that the next step after annual gifts and major gifts is planned giving. I always come away from those presentations thinking it is just so complicated. Charitable Remainder Trusts, Gift Annuities, Pooled Income Funds, etc. I can’t begin to understand the legal ramifications of these instruments. Better left to the lawyers and the trust officers at banks.

In the end I never take the step to put in place a program at the non-profit where I’m working. After all I still have the annual campaign to worry about, maybe an upcoming capital campaign, donor stewardship responsibilities and of course paying attention to major donors. And when you’re in a small shop, how do you do it all. So planned giving ends up way down the list of priorities.

I recently attended a luncheon presented jointly by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Washington State Chapter and the Washington Planned Giving Council. The speakers were Alison O’Carroll, Senior Consultant, PG Calc; Sara Elward, Manager of Gift Planning, KCTS 9; and Greg Whitney, Sr. DOD/Business Relations, Millionair Club Charity.

I liked Alison O’Carroll’s statement right at the beginning of the presentation: “I like to talk about planned giving as enlarging the options for donors.” Donors already are familiar with your annual appeal, your special event, and if you are a membership organization, your yearly renewal program. Suggesting that they put you in their will provides another way for your donors to show their loyalty to your cause, especially those that have given to you over long periods of time.

O’Carroll went on to say, “You need to have a planned giving program in place so you are ready when someone’s ready for you.” Planned giving is probably happening for your organization whether you have a program or not. 75-80% of planned gifts are bequests – someone has left a sum of money to your organization in their will. You may not, or more likely don’t even know the bequest exists until one day you get a call or letter from a lawyer and the check lands on your desk. Now what do you do?

It could be a windfall. It wasn’t expected and not a part of your budget. Do you spend it right away? Do you use it to make up a budget deficit? Do you start an endowment or put it into an already existing endowment? Does your organization have a gift acceptance policy? To be ready to accept bequests or income from any other planned gift instrument, your non-profit should stop right now and develop a gift acceptance policy. It can be changed if the board decides later to do something different but by putting something in place now that reflects the thinking of your current board, you are ready when that unexpected gift drops out of the air.

To learn three simple steps you can take right now to get planned giving in your organization, even if you’re a one person development office, visit www.kuechle.consulting.com/blog and read the rest of the story.

Channeling Dad

Today it didn’t rain and it wasn’t too cold, so I got outside and pruned the roses. Around here we do it on President’s Day weekend. But I wasn’t home that weekend. I was in Portland for the Celebration of Life service for my Dad. As I pruned the roses I thought about all the wonderful lessons I’ve learned in the garden.

My Dad loved his roses. He loved his yard and said that gardening was his exercise. We had a big yard, and except for mowing the lawn, he took care of it all. His rose garden was his pride and joy. But he also specialized in fuchsias, begonias, and lilies. Our yard was the envy of the neighborhood. I remember the laurel hedge that bordered the street and the neighbors behind us. What a chore to trim, but each year he got out there with his hedge trimmers and ladder to make it perfect.

The pansies were my responsibility. Oh how I hated the chore of picking the pansies. I was always told that if you didn’t pick them, even the dead ones, they wouldn’t keep blooming. Not blooming to my child’s mind meant they would die and I didn’t want to be found guilty of having killed the pansies.

I followed him everywhere when I was little as he worked in the yard. Sometimes he’d need a tool from the little tool room off the garage and he’d send me to fetch it for him. After awhile when I didn’t return he’d come looking for me and find me just staring at the shelves. He’d reach over and pick up the needed tool right away. I never seemed to be able to find what he wanted.

When my parents moved from our big home to a place my mother could manage, Dad immediately put in a rose garden. It was beautiful. I always remember that my Mother’s favorite one was “Chrysler Imperial”, and during her last hospital stay I brought her a bouquet of that rose. He railed at the small size of that yard in the beginning, but in later years when he slowed down it turned out to be just the right size, and ultimately too much.

He moved from that house into assisted living a year and a half before he died at 99. He tended his roses right up until the last day he lived there. I wonder if the new owners kept the rose garden. I have room for one more bush in my rose garden. Maybe I’ll plant a “Chrysler Imperial”.

My New Mentor

My Dad taught me fairness, discipline, compassion, independence, to love life, to appreciate the outdoors and history, and to be proud of our accomplishments. At the service celebrating his life of 99 years, I heard how lawyers viewed his life, both professionally and personally and realized they had experienced him differently.

He belonged to many organizations, associations, and ad hoc committees. No matter what he joined he invariably took on a leadership role. He built a very successful legal practice, successful enough financially to support his growing family well. He was devoted to his alma matter, the University of Oregon Law School and was always a strong supporter. He was a mentor to many, and like a father to one. He formed lasting and enduring friendships. His closest friend still living at 97, wrote a very eloquent eulogy. Many commented on his excellence as a lawyer, a skilled practitioner, who cared deeply for his clients. His sense of humor and skill as a speaker were legendary. In his later years when he no longer could see or hear well or remember much, they still came by and took him to lunch. He never lacked for company.

Step 3, Stephen

Last week I attended a conference. Like many day long conferences, it began with a keynote speaker, was filled with small hour long workshops on various topics, and concluded with a celebration.  This conference was put on by the Northwest Development Officers Association, a Greater Seattle area organization that does an outstanding job of providing continuing education for those of us in the fundraising profession.

I sat in on a discussion about social media by Dave Sharp, of the College Success Foundation,  who said that he was not a social media expert but rather a social media learner, just like all the rest of us.  It was refreshing to find someone who acknowledges that we are all learners, especially in a medium that is so new and so fast moving. Nobody is an expert. Non the less, there are a host of confusing aspects of this new way of marketing your business, for profit or nonprofit, that I find myself scrambling to keep up and to understand.

Five days later, on Tuesday of this week, I attended the weekly blogger support group founded and moderated by Deborah Drake. Sometimes our conversations are very philosophical, sometimes they are interventions for reticent bloggers, and sometimes they are very practical. This past Tuesday was one of those practical conversations. I have notes about lots of websites, terms and applications to explore. It will take a long time to digest and apply all that I learned. Today I took the first step.

One note I wrote was, “Step 3, Stephen.” Exploring the posts on Tuesdays WIth Deborah, I finally found the post called “Getting Started With Tuesdays With Deborah” that Stephen Magladry posted. I guess I’d missed it earlier or wasn’t at a point where I could use it. All these terms that had been so mysterious to me now started to come into focus: SEO, tags, meta description, meta robot tags, incoming autolink anchors, autolink exclusion, more link text, etc. So I’ve now taken the time to go back and update all my earlier posts, adding a meta description, incoming autolink WordPress, and appropriate tags.

Of course I want to be found on the web. Of course I hope all this work will bring in more business. But mostly I want people to read what I write. I think I have something worth saying. How many times have we heard, “If I put it out there who will read it”? Hopefully following Stephen’s Step 3 will help people find what I write and engage in conversation about what I have to say.



Help Your Nonprofit Board Members Find Their Passionate Path to Fundraising

I received a nice note in the mail. It was from someone who had experienced a wonderful tour by one of our volunteer tour guides. She and her friends had been out for lunch together at a nearby restaurant and then came to our location to have a tour. Their guide was a very knowledgable and entertaining older gentleman who had been volunteering for many years and was a favorite among his fellow guides as well as the touring public. The writer thanked our organization for being there and providing such a wonderful service to the public and profusely complimented their volunteer guide. The note was accompanied by a $100 check in thanks and appreciation for their positive afternoon tour.

How many volunteers at your organization say, “I’ll volunteer but don’t ask me to fundraise”? But, whether they know it or not, they are fundraisers. Their enthusiasm for your organization, for the work that you do, just sells itself and people can’t help but want to pitch in and help. I frequently am asked to conduct a workshop for boards of directors to help them get more comfortable with fundraising. I start by engaging them in an exercise that asks them to get in touch with their emotions. Why do they commit time and effort to the organization? When was the very first time the cause touched them? What did that mean to them and how did that lead to board service?

Often board members have a hard time articulating the mission, the programs, or the data that shows the impact of your work. But ask them to tell their own story and their emotional connection to your cause comes through. With a little guidance they can develop that story into an elevator speech that helps others understand why they are so passionate about what you do. Often they don’t have to make the “ask”, their obvious commitment does that for them.

Our tour guide did not ask for a contribution. In fact he was happy to provide the service because he is so passionate about our organization and what we do. He didn’t have to. His enthusiasm made the “sale” and the contribution just followed. Try helping board members and volunteers find their emotional, passionate voice and you’ll find them more willingness to participate in fundraising.

I Joined the Chamber

Last week I took the step to join the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce for my business. The organization I work for part time belongs and I attend Chamber events as its representative. But this time I joined for myself and my business. Will it bring me business? I don’t know. It’s an experiment.

This isn’t my first experience with a Chamber. When I first came to Bellevue in 1991 as the Eastside Branch Director for Camp Fire USA, getting involved with the business community was a high priority for me. So I started attending Bellevue Chamber functions on a regular basis. I viewed it as an opportunity to network and identify business people interested in supporting my organization. I soon discovered that there was a larger role to assume. Most business people I encountered viewed nonprofit workers as unprofessional do-gooders who didn’t understand business and who were just there to stick their hand out and ask for money.

Oh, some business people were familiar with nonprofits. Some even served on the boards of nonprofits. But they viewed the staff at those nonprofits as good hearted souls who worked for peanuts because they cared, not as people with any business sense. That was in the day when nonprofits were not expected to be run like a business. I found myself on a mission, to help members of the Chamber understand that those of us in the nonprofit field were professionals, that we ran businesses just like they did and that if they served on a nonprofit board, they had a responsibility to evaluate the actions and finances of that nonprofit the same way they would their own business.

A few years later I went to work for United Way of King County. That larger more powerful organization afforded me a different status as a representative to the Bellevue Chamber. At the same time the Chamber got a new President, a woman who viewed the Chamber as an organization that supported the community as a whole. She recognized the value of having nonprofit representation in the Chamber and I was soon asked to join the Board of Directors.

It was challenging to sit at tables with my fellow board members who tended to smile and dismiss me as that “nonprofit” person. After all, they were the most powerful leaders of the community. But I joined in conversations and tried my best to understand their business perspective and to talk their language. I hope I was able to convey professionalism and business knowledge. After all, I was responsible for a $3.5 million budget just in my department alone. And I dealt with businesses large and small everyday as I helped them with their employee giving campaigns, understanding their market challenges and industry issues.

I served for seven years on the Bellevue Chamber Board. Over that time I got to know a lot of people and I believe I was accepted as a contributor even if I wasn’t making deals on the side and engaging in business ventures. When I left United Way and discontinued most of my activities in Bellevue, I left the Chamber behind.

Fast forward to today. Issaquah’s Chamber is a much smaller arena, more of a hometown personal group. I do represent Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery and since the hatchery is a very valued community place, my role is instantly recognized. But I was persuaded to join the Chamber for my consulting business because, as the membership staff said, “There is nobody doing what you do in the Chamber.” Will it bring me business? I don’t know. I’m feeling my way.