At the time of writing of this article, the economy is in a position that seemingly defies classification. Unemployment is low, inflation is up, and the government is taking drastic steps to avoid a recession by raising interest rates and passing the Inflation Reduction Act. While wages have increased, credit card debt is also on the rise. Although hopes that the economy would immediately return to pre-pandemic stability have been hindered, the current economic climate is drastically different from the 2008 crisis, and some indicators are looking more positive.  “Unprecedented” seems to be the only universally accepted description of the current market, but where does that leave nonprofit organizations and their fundraising efforts?

While things may seem unpredictable, it is important to remember that economic uncertainty is inevitable. By diversifying funding sources, building meaningful connections with stakeholders, and motivating staff to take on new challenges, nonprofits have the capacity to navigate through difficult times and emerge stronger than ever. Times like these can provide organizations the perfect opportunity to bolster their development practices and strategies.

Nonprofits can take these nine key steps to ensure success during this time of economic uncertainty.

  • Directly Address Uncertainty: Do not be afraid to reach out to your donors and inform them of the broad challenges that you are facing. You can avoid uncertainty by being honest and clearly illustrating the steps you are taking to navigate them. This applies to staff as well as donors. If your staff is uncertain about how you plan on moving forward, they will not be able to convey confidence to the stakeholders they engage with.  Importantly, if you have a special role to play in relieving thecurrent economic situation, make sure your staff and stakeholders understand it perfectly.
  • Emphasize Impact: Do not make mere “survival” the rationale for gift solicitations. Clearly articulate the impact of gifts both now and in the long term and communicate how necessary they are for your organization to fulfill its mission. Your strongest supporters will continue to be most interested in hearing why their gifts matter and the difference their personal philanthropy can make to your organization’s mission and purpose.
  • Be Flexible with Gift Options: Stakeholders may not be able to donate with an immediate cash gift, but still want to support your organization. Offer the possibility of deferring their gifts or extending the timeline of their planned contributions. Consider structuring pledges in a way that lets the annual gift amount increase over time, rather than remaining static over several years. If a donor is hesitant about their ability to fulfill their commitment, work with them to find a more sustainable giving plan.
  • Pursue Support from Foundations and Donor Advised Funds: Foundations and Donor Advised Funds are made up of dollars that have already been earmarked for philanthropy and are waiting for an inspirational opportunity to be granted to a nonprofit. These sources, particularly those who practice asset averaging, may be in a better position to offer support than individual givers. In 2021, giving by foundations grew by 3.4%, and giving to foundations increased by 9.3%.  Although their funds can also be subject to economic and market volatility, these issues are not the same as individuals who need to pay bills and save for retirement or corporations that need to pay staff and monitor margin pressures. Incorporating these funding sources into your pipeline will provide temporary relief and long-term sustainability.
  • Don’t Cancel Fundraising Plans: Making practical changes to your campaign yields higher ROI than cancelling plans entirely. If necessary, extending the length of your campaign, reconfiguring special initiatives for shifting budgets, and expressing empathy in your messaging are reliable ways to maintain your goals.
  • Evaluate Specific Economic Segments: Avoid basing your actions on broad economic evaluations and focus on understanding the unique relationship between a donor’s charitable assets and current market trends. The performance of the VIX Index – a real-time market calculation that represents expectations for volatility over the next 30 days – is likely to relate to willingness to contribute from donor advised funds. Supply chain issues are likely to correspond to in-kind donation capacity. Inflation tends to have more of an impact on annual donors versus high-net-worth individuals. Focus your solicitation strategy on the most appropriate segments of your donor pipeline.
  • Differentiate Expectations: Donors are likely still eager to help how they can, but their capacity may have shifted. Remain optimistic about high-level prospective donors while recognizing that some mid-level donations may plateau or decline.
  • Avoid Blanket Assumptions: Do as much as you can to gain actionable information from donors rather than arrive at your own conclusions. Not everyone will be impacted in the same way by financial volatility, and one donor’s situation may be vastly different than another’s. Give your supporters the opportunity to tell you, directly and in their own words, about their own unique circumstances and goals.
  • Leverage Historical Trends: While the current economic climate is unique, periods of market instability are not uncommon. Examine how your organization, or similar ones, responded to the 2008 financial crisis or the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Look for examples of success but remember that mistakes can be just as informative.

If the past three years have given us any lasting lessons for philanthropy, it is to expect the unexpected. While the important steps defined here were developed with times of financial instability in mind, they can be used in any circumstances when an organization must respond to unforeseen challenges.

Don’t wait for surprises to dictate your course of action. Donors, staff, and stakeholders will always appreciate proactivity as opposed to reactivity. Don’t let your supporters make philanthropic decisions based on speculation or market trends alone. As early and as frequently as possible, approach them with data, empathy, and clarity.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the balance sheets of healthcare institutions across the board, and many are still feeling the effects today. This evolving philanthropic landscape features donors with a desire for greater accountability, healthcare organizations that need ever-growing levels of support, and an increased competition for donor attention. A hospital foundation’s strategic and effective use of fundraising metrics has never been more critical to maintaining and achieving success.

The famous quote attributed to the educator and author Peter Drucker, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” is both a fundraiser’s best dream and worst nightmare.

It is common knowledge that to effectively manage donor relationships and see the greatest success in your fundraising program, you must build strong ties between your prospects and your organization’s mission. Relationships will always be the foundation of a fruitful fundraising program. But, you can’t build a relationship on metrics.

Healthcare institutions are facing a growing need to increase fundraising in support of more expensive programming and life-saving medical interventions, as well as increases in demand for capacity and other associated services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While relationships have and will continue to be the foundation on which a successful fundraising program is built, the most effective way to increase a fundraising team’s capacity is through the development, implementation, and analysis of fundraising metrics. Relationships will never go away, but metrics must be measured and analyzed to see continued growth.

What are Fundraising Metrics and Why Should We Use them?

Metrics are individual data points about your program that serve as tools to measure fundraising activity. Often a catch-all term, the measurement of metrics requires deep thought, strategy, testing, and right-sizing to effectively support each fundraising program.

Although the initial implementation of tracking and analyzing metrics requires an investment in time and human resources, and although the benefits of doing so may not be seen immediately, the process is implemented by the most successful fundraising shops to enable success.

And why should you measure metrics? Back to Mr. Drucker’s quote. The measurement of fundraising metrics has management benefits for individual fundraisers (leading to benefits for prospects and donors), the development team, and for leadership.

Measuring individual gift officer fundraising metrics will not only help a gift officer focus their work and empower them to reach their own goals through relationships built with prospects, but it also serves to manage prospect strategies through a better understanding of those prospects and donors. When a gift officer tracks the right activity it gives them the data and capacity to develop better donor partnerships, seek the right investment opportunities for those donors, and challenge them to stretch in their support of the organization’s mission.

Team fundraising metrics encourage collaboration between team members as they share responsibility for more clearly defined goals, help build accountability and ownership amongst the team, and empower the group to celebrate in the collective success of the team.

Organizational leadership benefits from the measurement of metrics as the data provides fodder to inform budgeting and asset allocation. It also helps in future planning and action through testing and measurement of past activity. Additionally, and arguably most importantly for leadership, the measurement of metrics can become a basis for individual performance evaluation, as the data can clearly show where gift officers get stuck in their work. Analysis can help management provide guidance, training, and motivation to shift gift officer behavior before it is too late.

Case Study: Arkansas Children’s Foundation

With two hospitals, regional clinics, mobile health facilities and a state-wide network of programming and research, Arkansas Children’s has expanded its reach from Little Rock to all four corners of Arkansas. Due to this expansion and with a transition in leadership for the Arkansas Children’s Foundation, the hospital saw a need to transform operations and focus on continued growth in fundraising success.

With talented leadership and staff, strong donor relationships, a committed board, and a track record of success, the Arkansas Children’s Foundation saw that in order to continue growth, a formalization of its system of tracking and analyzing metrics was essential.

When Arkansas Children’s began the process of developing its metrics, gift officers and leadership tracked many key performance indicators that have since been fine-tuned or reconsidered.[1]  Once a metrics-tracking habit was built among staff and with a set of data to analyze, they looked at the effects of metrics on fundraising, the efficacy of the tracking systems and the efficiency of the process and applications. They also did the work needed to refine definitions. The philosophy of leadership at the time was to first focus on activity, then zero in on the right activity. With this deep work, they narrowed in on five key individual metrics and three key team metrics related to fundraising activity which are tracked today.[2]

When Arkansas Children’s Foundation embarked upon a revamp of its metrics tracking, all involved understood that this work would be a key driver for increased philanthropic revenue. And they were right. Taking six-year averages into account, the Foundation saw a 53% increase in revenue during one period, and another 51% increase during the next period, bringing them to the success they see today.

Metrics are ingrained into the culture of the organization to the point where staff at all levels are versed in departmental goals and participate in metrics conversations. The board expects continued success and stays up to date on the Foundation’s progress through the story told by metrics. Arkansas Children’s is poised to maintain its growth and is committed to metrics tracking as a tool to help them achieve continued success.

Getting Started

So, how do you kick off your own metrics measurement process? Whether you are a leader of the organization or working closely with them, ask yourselves some key questions before moving ahead:

  • Is what we’re measuring designed to produce outcomes? Are you considering measuring the right things? For example, do the activities we choose to track lead to funds raised?
  • Do we have a way to track consistently? Do gift officers have the tools they need, in terms of training and software, to consistently track the chosen metrics? Is your donor database able to track metrics easily?
  • Do we have a way to extract data? You’ve put the data in, but can you get it out in a format that will be useful to the team?
  • What will we do with the information? You’ve extracted the data, but how will it be analyzed and used?
  • How do we stay up to date? How and how often should we review our use and tracking of metrics? How and how often should we update our reports?
  • Are we prepared to live with this system for 3+ years? Ascertaining the true success or opportunity in your metrics program will take time and commitment from the team. Do you have the resources and professional stamina to continue the program for several years in order to visualize the full impact of tracking metrics?
  • Do we have the ability to interpret data? Do you have the talent on your team to effectively use the metrics you’ve diligently tracked and pulled?
  • To whom do we report progress and how? Who will use this data? How will it be presented? Depending on the audience, the data may need to be interpreted differently or more/less deeply explained.

A Step-By-Step Approach

Now, you’re ready to put your metrics to work. What steps should you take? By using a hypothetical example, here is what the process could look like.

  1. Select metric(s) to evaluate. Which metrics will provide insight into your organizational goals? For example, let’s measure a gift officer’s number of cultivation visits.
  2. Identify performance targets. What does success look like? In our example, let’s test whether the measurement of cultivation visits leads to an increase in dollars raised.
  3. Develop a “testing theory.” What do you expect the results will be when tracked? Our theory for this example will be that increased cultivation visits lead to an increase in dollars raised.
  4. Collect performance data. Do the measurement! For our example, we will have gift officers track the number of cultivation visits as well as revenue by entering their actions and gifts secured into the database.
  5. Analyze the information. This is done to determine whether the metrics you’re measuring are effective. In our example, we analyze the data points around the number of cultivation visits and revenue, but we don’t see the correlation we were expecting. While cultivation visits have increased, revenue has not.
  6. Develop and implement solutions, if needed. If the measured metrics don’t lead to the intended outcome, shift the metrics. In our example, since we learned that an increased number of cultivation visits does not necessarily equate to an increase in revenue, let’s shift our metrics. Instead, we decide to measure solicitation meetings alongside revenue.
  7. Continue tracking. Keep tracking metrics that provide the most helpful data to increase fundraising success. As skilled fundraisers, we know that solicitations are more effective in producing increased income than cultivation visits. Keep measuring what works for continued success!

Avoiding Common Obstacles

Consistently analyzing your data and testing the efficacy of the measurement process is essential. If you measure the wrong metrics or place too much focus on measurement, you run the risk of encountering the following threats:

  • Inadvertently encouraging inefficiencies and non-strategic actions: If you measure the wrong metrics, you may be asking your gift officers to do the wrong work. For example, if you measure the number of prospect visits a gift officer makes but not solicitations or dollars raised, you run the risk of that gift officer never asking for a gift. Test and measure the right mix of metrics for your team to get the right work done.
  • Creating a disconnect between activity and strategic goals: If metrics tracking becomes the primary focus and the outcome of those metrics is lost, a gift officer runs the risk of doing the work to get the metrics booked, but not achieving the most strategic outcome. For example, if your organization’s focus is fully on tracking metrics and not the development of strategy, a gift officer could potentially ask for a preemptive gift. A well-planned strategy may have resulted in a greater investment from the prospect, and greater support of the organization’s mission. Ensure that the metrics are measured alongside the development of the best strategy for each prospect.
  • Focusing on the data and letting the relationships slip: Along the same line, with too strong a focus on metrics, a gift officer risks letting relationships with donors slip. For example, a gift officer may choose not to respond to a donor request because that type of interaction isn’t measured. Ensure that donor relationships are valued as much as the tracking and measurement of metrics.
  • Measuring too much: If the organization tries to measure too many metrics, they run the risk of overwhelming gift officers in the tracking process, taking time away from the cultivation and solicitation of prospects, and reducing the efficiency of the fundraising program. Too many metrics can bog a gift officer and a team down, while the right metrics can make a tremendous impact.

If you can measure it, you can manage it. And if the right metrics are measured, the threats are minimized or eliminated, and success is likely to follow. With the ever-increasing need for preventative care and healthcare interventions, the process of measuring and analyzing metrics will help create a culture of process and accountability that is essential for a hospital foundation’s continued success.

Thanks to the following Arkansas Children’s staff who were interviewed for this article:

  • Enid Olvey, Vice President, Philanthropy, Arkansas Children’s Foundation
  • Jill McIlroy, Executive Director, Philanthropy, Arkansas Children’s Foundation
  • Sam Coker, Director, Strategy & Campaigns, Arkansas Children’s Foundation
  • Sarah Holt, Lead Research Analyst, Arkansas Children’s Foundation

[1] Arkansas Children’s gift officer metrics have not changed since the implementation of the program; they take pride in the mantra of tracking consistent data consistently at the gift officer level.

[2] Individual metrics measured include prospects added to the pipeline, contacts, face-to-face visits, solicitations submitted, and revenue. Team metrics measured include $1 million+ solicitations submitted, total revenue from $1 million+ gifts, and cost per dollar raised as a Foundation.

CCS Fundraising is a strategic fundraising consulting firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. Members of the CCS team are highly experienced and knowledgeable across sectors, disciplines, and regions. With offices throughout the United States and the world, our unique, customized approach provides each client with an embedded team member for the duration of the engagement. To access our full suite of perspectives, publications, and reports, visit our insights page. To learn more about CCS Fundraising’s suite of services, click here.

In addition to prayer and festive meals, the Jewish high holidays are a peak season of tzedakah – charity – where appeals are made, honors are auctioned off, and volunteer time is committed. At CCS, we believe in the power of the high holidays to position nonprofits for future success. Over the past month, members of the Jewish community worldwide dedicated themselves to introspection, assessing priorities, and connecting with one another. At this point, they are likely motivated, focused on community, and accessible for conversation.

Here are three steps to help you leverage the post-holiday feelings and set the table for a successful year ahead.

One: Go on a listening tour.

On Rosh Hashana, we make a blessing before blowing the symbolic shofar. It’s interesting to note that the blessing is not made on blowing the shofar but rather listening to the shofar. The shofar reminds us that listening is a critical element in personal growth and relationship building.

Schedule time to speak to your prospects – new and old – without an agenda to pitch an idea, sell something, or present information. Make an effort to actively listen and learn: What are their interests? What are their hopes for the new year? What motivates them to action?

A listening exercise will provide you with both micro- and macro-intelligence. On the micro-level, you will understand your prospects and how to activate their passions. On the macro-scale, you will be able to piece together trends from your conversations. What messages and types of programs resonate with donors? What opportunities lie before you and the organization in this new year?

Two: Provide value.

A new year often conjures up aspirational feelings and a desire to be better. As a nonprofit leader, you have the ability to support community members in this effort and provide them with meaningful opportunities. Once you have listened and determined individuals’ passions, it’s time to start connecting the dots. Ask yourself: how can I partner with donors to help them feel connected to the organization and actualize their aspirations? Identify or develop opportunities for involvement within the organization that are tailored to donors’ specific interests.

It’s key to note that the standard opportunities you have for engaging with your donors may not align with what you heard on your listening tour. Don’t be afraid to develop new ideas to provide the value that your prospects have indicated they are looking for.

Additionally, embrace virtual opportunities. With many people still shying away from traditional avenues of involvement due to the pandemic, leverage virtual technology to widen your audience and reach people during moments that were previously not feasible (for example, during work hours).

Three: Be persistent.

The repetitive nature of the high holiday prayers, in particular Selichot – The Prayers of Repentance – teaches us the need to try, try, and try again. It often takes more than one attempt to improve and excel, particularly when it comes to forming relationships.

Are there community members in your orbit that you have gently cultivated in the past, but nothing came of it? Or are there passive current volunteers or donors with the potential for greater engagement? Perhaps when you last connected the timing was not right. Now is the time to engage, especially as donors are thinking about their new year resolutions.

Successful fundraising certainly requires more than one touchpoint, so remain persistent. You can use the cadence of the Jewish holidays (Hanukkah is right around the corner!) as an opportunity to consistently follow up.

By following this playbook, next year, the high holiday season will ring in a culmination of a year-long concerted effort to better understand, connect, and provide value to your community!

A graphic of the cover image of the 2022 Philanthropic Landscape.

CCS Fundraising is thrilled to share the eleventh edition Snapshot of Today’s Philanthropic Landscape. This report compiles and contextualizes research from across the field of philanthropy to help US-based nonprofits wade through the available data and create informed fundraising strategies.

“In this year’s report, we assess key areas that nonprofit leaders and fundraisers will want to monitor as part of planning and strategy,” said Aashika Patel, CCS Senior Vice President and Report Co-Chair. “Particularly, we offer greater insight on gift planning, high net worth giving, and emerging digital fundraising trends that are becoming more prominent in the philanthropic ecosystem.”

Even without accounting for the spike in giving in 2020, Americans are increasingly generous when we assess multi-year trends. Overall, charitable giving increased by 7.1% from 2019 to 2021. In June 2022, Giving USA released their estimates that US charitable giving remained relatively flat from 2020 to 2021, settling at $484.85 billion.

Tom Kissane, CCS Vice Chairman and Report Co-Chair, remarked on important considerations for fundraising professionals. “As fundraising practitioners, we remain inspired and grateful for the unprecedented generosity of Americans, our foundation partners, and corporate supporters. Despite an extremely challenging period, nonprofits sustained their extraordinary missions and, in many ways, advanced compelling aspirations. We applaud our clients, partners, development colleagues, and nonprofit leaders for the tremendous resilience and determination to strengthen their organizations to fulfill the promise of their respective missions.”

The report discusses essential findings from across the field of philanthropic research, including:

Great record keeping in your customer relationship management (CRM) software streamlines the donor journey, enables metrics, bolsters accountability, and drives momentum in moves management. However, teams who aren’t used to intensive data entry can feel intimidated and quickly get behind.

Any new habit takes some getting used to, which is why we are offering eight suggestions for frontline fundraisers on how to keep from getting behind and stay on top of action entries.

Note: we recommend that fundraisers enter all “meaningful contacts” into the CRM. This includes communications or interactions that would be important or helpful for others to know in order to best cultivate the donor towards a gift request and steward them throughout the donor journey.

1. Review your calendar at the beginning of each week and enter upcoming actions, such as meetings or calls, into your database.

Having a list of open/incomplete actions in the CRM creates your to-do-list for you. It also makes things easier in the future; for example, you will simply have to confirm the details, add any notes, and hit complete.

2. Open the constituent or opportunity record prior to any call and leave it open until you’ve added the action.

That way, if you need to immediately jump on another call, you will have a reminder on your screen to enter the action details before you close the tab. It also promotes treating the CRM as a system of record where you can take notes directly into the associated records as often as possible.

3. Leverage technology to take advantage of shortcuts such as:

  • Integrate your CRM into your email so that outcoming emails to constituents are automatically added to the CRM and incoming emails can be added with the click of a button.
  • Some CRMs, such as the RENXT App, allow you to dictate your notes. If using this feature, just make sure to review them later to ensure everything transcribed correctly.
  • Other CRM’s, such as Salesforce, allow you to send chat messages to your colleagues from a constituent, opportunity, or action. Tag applicable colleagues on an action record after adding meeting notes as an FYI or on an opportunity to indicate a status change such as “pledged” or “received.” This both saves time (as you will not have to send an extra email) and keeps you aligned with CRM best practices as any follow-up discussion will automatically be in the CRM.
  • If available, utilize your systems or development operations teams to create templates for bulk uploads of actions.

4. Group similar tasks together to reduce friction.

If you have a few opportunities or constituents on similar tracks, enter or plan actions for them all at once. Reducing the need to open your CRM and enter one-off interactions will save you time.

5. When you enter a completed action, plan one or two steps ahead.

It will be much easier to think of your next touchpoint and create a reminder for yourself to take action later while your mind is already on the cultivation and servicing of the relationship.

6. Find your own regular use for accurate actions.

If you are only entering actions to meet expectations or serve someone else’s job function, you will not be as likely to keep up with it. Some suggestions are to use future actions and deadlines to remind yourself to get things done, or to check in with all open actions at the start of each day. Looking at actions over the last two weeks can help you spot who is missing out on your attention.

7. Launch a summary report or dashboard that is available to you and shared with your manager.

If actions feel as though they disappear into the ether, it is not compelling to keep up with them. With updated action entry and a dashboard, you can experience the motivation that comes from seeing your actions add up in real time.

8. If you are still running behind on entering actions, block off one or two hours at the end of the week to do so.

Having this recurring time in your calendar will help you make sure all actions and notes from the week are in the database. If you have a few minutes left over in your time block, use them to get ahead on future activity entry, and make the next week a little easier.


We see over and over again that investing time into good record-keeping is worth the growing pains. Dynamic data insights, and seamless transfer from one fundraiser to the next, are just a few of the benefits. Take the time to try these tips and you will find action entry becomes part of your regular routine and your best way to deliver great relationship management.

CCS Fundraising is a strategic fundraising consulting firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. We plan and implement fundraising initiatives to help nonprofit organizations make a bigger impact, including Systems projects to help organizations use their CRMs to drive strategic fundraising activity. To learn more about our Systems work, contact Allison Willner, Vice President of Data Strategy, at systems@ccsfundraising.com.

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“If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Manage It” – Using Metrics to Strengthen Your Fundraising Program

Growing your fundraising program is not just about feeding your prospect pipeline or hiring more fundraisers. In today’s uncertain economy, a hospital foundation’s use of metrics is the key to increasing success.

September 19, 2022
Article

CCS Examines Philanthropic Trends Amid Steady Giving in Eleventh-Edition Report

CCS Fundraising is thrilled to share the eleventh edition Snapshot of Today’s Philanthropic Landscape. This report compiles and contextualizes research from across the field of philanthropy to help US-based nonprofits wade through the available data and create informed fundraising strategies.

September 1, 2022
SEE ALL IN: Systems

Leadership transitions, especially at the independent school Head level, have been unprecedented in recent years. In March 2022, NAIS conducted a Snapshot Survey on Head Turnover where they found that over two-thirds of schools have had one or two new heads in the last ten years. With new leadership comes the opportunity to chart a new strategic course, and when done right, the process gives new leaders unparalleled opportunity to convene and engage the school community to develop a shared vision.

As the end of summer approaches (far too fast), independent school teams are putting the finishing touches on their fundraising plans for the coming year. Whether they have a new Head of School or are working with a long-term leader, in addition to designing the FY23 strategy for annual giving, major and planned gifts, and alumni and parent engagement over the summer, many will also begin developing a long-range plan and preparing for a significant campaign. Establishing clear strategic priorities with broad community support is imperative to translating a nascent vision into campaign success.

Recently, CCS partnered with The Cambridge School of Weston (CSW), an independent coeducational day and boarding high school in Weston, MA, to conduct a school-wide strategic priority development process that united the community around a compelling vision for the school’s future. CSW’s Head of School, Lise Charlier, stepped into her role in 2019 and skillfully led the school through the Covid-19 pandemic. As students returned to campus and restrictions loosened, Charlier and CSW’s Board of Trustees began thinking about the school’s next steps. In a multi-pronged approach, CCS worked with CSW to create comprehensive buy-in for the school’s strategic priorities and build the framework for a compelling campaign case for support.

Vision & Case Development Task Force

To help Charlier and school leadership further develop a cohesive vision and case for support for CSW, CCS convened a Vision & Case Development Task Force of 12 trustees, current parents, past parents, and alumni three times over the course of two months. First, this group participated in generative breakout group discussions about CSW’s future:

  • “What is important for CSW to achieve in five years?”
  • “Why is this important?”
  • “How will this strengthen the student experience?”

From these discussions, four key long-term priorities and themes rose to the top: access, sustainability, community, and innovation. The group then zoomed in on each priority and answered the following questions:

  • “Why is this theme critical?”
  • “What philanthropic initiatives would be required to achieve this vision?”
  • “What collateral does CSW need to tell the story of this priority?”

The Task Force was instrumental in building an initial framework for long-term planning and outlining the steps needed to achieve success.

Board of Trustees Visioning Session

Following the completion of the Task Force’s work, we presented the key takeaways and themes from the group’s discussions to the Board of Trustees to frame a discussion around developing CSW’s strategic priorities for the next five years. In small groups, trustees discussed CSW’s strengths and opportunities for growth and improvement. They also each shared their vision for CSW five years from now, what is needed to achieve this vision, and the impact this vision would have on the student experience. The full group reconvened to share takeaways and noted that many themes aligned with the Task Force’s findings.

Faculty and Staff Visioning Session

We convened CSW’s full faculty and staff to share about the work to date, provide an overview of campaign planning and execution, and outline the steps needed for campaign success. We explained the importance of input from CSW’s faculty and staff when developing strategic priorities and a strong campaign plan. In breakout groups, teachers and administrators discussed the same questions the trustees addressed in their visioning session. When each group shared about their vision for CSW’s future, there was broad consensus with the Trustees and Task Force.

The strategic conversations between CCS and CSW are exactly what schools need to achieve their long-term goals. While it’s difficult to set aside time to garner community buy-in and support, it’s essential to the success of both a strategic vision and a campaign. Schools must engage in the difficult, but essential work of building support ahead of major initiatives to maximize engagement amongst key stakeholders.

Ann Snyder, Senior Director of Communities Engagement, Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE)

Following these sessions, we assembled and reviewed all discussion notes and confirmed the clear alignment on CSW’s vision and priorities among the Task Force, trustees, and faculty and staff. This led to the creation of three strategic priorities and funding opportunities for a significant comprehensive campaign:

  • Support and grow CSW’s community through increased financial aid, faculty development, and innovative partnerships
  • Enhance CSW’s campus to fuel student and faculty work through increased environmental sustainability, greater physical accessibility, and enhanced buildings and community spaces
  • Secure CSW’s future and impact through growing the endowment to ensure financial sustainability and flexibility

CCS and CSW are now partnering on a Campaign Planning Study to gather feedback from 50+ community members about these priorities and the proposed campaign plans. So far, there has been widespread support for these priorities. We will continue these conversations over the coming weeks and present our recommendations for next steps to the Board of Trustees in September.

Lessons Learned

  • Community buy-in is essential. Asking for input from different constituencies was essential to build trust and comprehensive understanding of the vision for CSW’s future. Each group’s feedback also helped build out the nuanced details for each strategic priority.
  • Strategic priority development takes time. This multi-stepped approach required careful planning and dedicated time to be successful. Planning ahead and building in extra time for priority development is essential for a strong campaign design.
  • Early faculty and staff involvement builds strong partnerships. In our Campaign Planning Study conversations with faculty and staff, they have all expressed strong support for the proposed tenets of the campaign and have enthusiastically volunteered to help in donor cultivation and solicitation. Involving faculty and staff early in the campaign planning process creates buy-in and a willingness to help achieve campaign success.

We look forward to continuing our partnership with CSW to design a strong, phased, comprehensive campaign to help achieve the school’s vision and long-term goals.

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Maintaining Fundraising Success During Times of Economic Uncertainty

Nonprofit organizations can take key steps in times of financial volatility to avoid compromising their campaign or delivering on their mission.

September 21, 2022
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CCS Examines Philanthropic Trends Amid Steady Giving in Eleventh-Edition Report

CCS Fundraising is thrilled to share the eleventh edition Snapshot of Today’s Philanthropic Landscape. This report compiles and contextualizes research from across the field of philanthropy to help US-based nonprofits wade through the available data and create informed fundraising strategies.

September 1, 2022

Case Studies

Georgetown Day School

Mid-Atlantic and Southeast U.S.

Georgetown Day School (GDS) has embarked on a comprehensive campaign to unify its campus, bolster its financial aid program, and enhance programs through the Annual Fund. GDS has partnered with CCS to conduct a development assessment, planning study, and campaign. The campaign is on target to exceed the $50 million goal.

Horace Mann School

Northeast U.S.

Horace Mann School’s $100 million effort for facility improvements was designed to inspire scientific study, encourage community, promote wellness, and strengthen athletics for current and future students. CCS was brought on to manage the school’s campaign, HM in Motion. As of March 2018, over $91 million has been raised, including 29 seven-figure gifts.

Thomas Jefferson School

Central U.S.

CCS partnered with Thomas Jefferson School to launch the school’s first major fundraising campaign. As the COVID-19 pandemic struck, CCS advised Thomas Jefferson on how to address immediate needs, evolve its campaign strategy, and maintain fundraising.

Cultural institutions have long relied on membership programs as the cornerstone of their fundraising efforts. A recent CCS study of nearly 20 cultural membership programs throughout the Midwest found that, on average, membership programs were generating $1.8M per year. This year’s Giving USA Annual Report revealed an increase of 27.5% in giving to Arts and Cultural organizations in 2021. Now, more than ever, is the right time to ensure that your program is optimized to retain these members, maintain increased giving levels, and maximize your institution’s mission.

Prioritizing, or even establishing, a membership program is dependent on the long-term strategy of your development department—and sometimes the organization at large. A membership program may be great for acquisition purposes and rebounding after disruption to your fundraising goals, but a donor circle or giving society may be more effective in cultivating donors towards renewed and larger commitments to your organization. Through a recent partnership with a leading cultural organization in Chicago, CCS helped to evaluate and develop a potential new membership structure. This process identified three questions for cultural organizations to consider when evaluating membership programs, and donor engagement overall.

Question 1: Do you have the right program for your needs?

The impact of recent national and worldwide events has positioned organizations to explore and assess the effectiveness and sustainability of their donor engagement strategies. CCS’s recent membership study included a cultural institution with over 20,000 members contributing $4 million annually, but with a base that was predominantly focused on their visitation benefits. COVID-19 closures caused a roughly 50% drop in this revenue line in 2020. Organizations can learn from these disruptions to enhance their existing strategies. As you think about the program you have in place, consider running an analysis of your program looking at:

• How has your program grown in total donors?
• How has your program grown in total revenue?
• How has your average gift for this population changed?
• Through what channel are these donors giving?
• Which donors are renewing?
• Which donors are not renewing?

Once you have identified key metrics for improvement, we recommend studying best practices of your peer organizations. CCS often conducts peer benchmarking exercises to help shape our clients’ programs and strategies.

Question 2: Do you have an entry point for these donors?

Both giving societies and membership programs typically offer a compelling reason for investing in the mission through donor benefits. Benefits are a way to engage new members and donors as well as increase giving for current ones—and keep constituents moving through the pipeline. Typical member benefits include free admission and free or discounted parking, while giving societies might offer anything from the tangible (a show poster or tickets to opening night) to more access-oriented benefits (a VIP ticketing concierge or the ability to host a private event). Regardless of what you offer, make sure you are focused on two key points:

  1. These benefits are engaging donors in your mission
  2. These benefits are what donors want

We all know that the best donor to solicit is a past donor. While your membership program or giving society may have a few goals (like upgrading annual fund donors into mid-level giving constituents or creating a planned giving prospect pool), retention is key. And to retain, you must engage donors in your mission.

As stated in our national survey, one leading zoo in the Midwest reported that after acquiring members through more transactional benefits, they emphasized learning opportunities for engagement. By hooking the donor with the mission, this organization was able to increase giving and achieve a 70% renewal rate (the average for survey participants).

You can also think outside the box with your mission-oriented benefits…and be more cost-effective! Consider the observation from our recent Perspectives on Philanthropy webinar: it may be time to think of a fourth “T”—Time, Treasure, Talent, and now Testimony. Asking donors to speak up or act on your behalf can be an engaging (and affordable!) benefit. Consider creating a giving circle around signing petitions to advance your cause or empowering donors with the tools to take elements of your mission (like an eco-friendly picnic for a zoo or aquarium giving society) to their friends.

Finally, make sure the benefits that you offer are what your donors want. It may seem obvious, but it’s easy to get stuck in your ways and not realize that what you’ve always offered isn’t cutting it anymore. Consider surveying your donor base, including current, lapsed, and prospective constituents, to get a full picture with the following questions:

  • Please rank your benefits in order of importance.
    • Followed by list of offerings
  • Have you used the following benefits in the past year?
    • Consider a conditional “No” follow-up of “Why have you not used this benefit?
  • Of the following potential new benefits to membership, rank the suggestions in order of importance.
    • Followed by list of benefits that you may offer in the future

Question 3: How are you managing your donors for your goals?

After your organization has created a membership program that best suits the organization’s needs and an appropriate entry point, the next step is to consider how you are managing your donors for institutional goals. In a conversation with a cultural institution in Chicago, we came across a surprising statistic: long-time members were less likely to upgrade their membership than newer members. The reason for this was clear – members become comfortable and accustomed to their yearly contribution, and without the active engagement and management of your membership, your organization will struggle to “move the needle” when it comes time to increase your request. Considering we saw an average membership of 30,000 across our study, ineffective membership management could result in a potential loss of philanthropic revenue for your organization.

A key element for the successful organizations we surveyed was utilizing their tools and systems effectively. There was an overwhelming consensus that there are more opportunities to leverage data and tools in more effective ways. The most frequently mentioned data analytics strategies included identifying prospects that have the potential to elevate future gifts or move up in membership levels, and conducting more analysis on philanthropic trends, instead of focusing purely on data entry.

While upgrades and renewals are key tenants of any great membership program, testing additional philanthropic messaging to your members can create new pathways to revenue. In particular, including gift planning messaging can lead to unexpected gifts to your organization. This year’s Giving USA data reports that over $46.1 billion was given to top organizations through deferred giving vehicles in 2021. Beyond your major gift program, long-time members are your best gift planning prospects. These donors who may not think they have high net worth can realize especially impactful giving to an organization they have a great affinity for through this vehicle. Even more important when considering that, according to the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy in their 2009 study, between $45 to $150 trillion is set to be bequeathed over the next five decades, resulting in at least $21 trillion in new charitable gifts.

Conclusion:

According to Giving USA, when accounting for bequests and family foundations, individuals represented 88% of all philanthropic revenue in the US in 2021. An internal audit, guided by the questions above, can support your institution in securing new members, retaining and upgrading current members, and creating new pathways of revenue to elevate the mission of your organization.

Interested in evaluating your membership program?

Our firm would be thrilled to partner with your organization.

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How do you make the best decisions on how to prioritize your team’s valuable (and limited) time and resources to maximize your effectiveness in cultivating and closing major gifts?

Sharpen your focus on those who have the greatest capacity to give and make sure you are working with your top and most obvious donors first when prioritizing your valuable time. While a seven-figure prospect who has not responded to repeated outreach may still be a long-term relationship to pursue for many reasons, a consistent five-figure donor who is not yet giving at their seven-figure capacity may be a higher current priority for your organization.

Fortunately, data can inform how to segment donors into short, medium, and long-term focus. Examining the intersection between Recency, Frequency, Monetary Value (“RFM”) and wealth screening is the simplest way to start narrowing your prospect pool to focus on those who are both closest to you and have capacity. When those very basic results are combined with relationship mapping and engagement analysis, they form the foundation of a strong plan to increase major gifts.

RFM: What is it and why would we do it?

A Recency, Frequency, Monetary Value (“RFM”) analysis is the scoring of current donors to rank and prioritize your database through three attributes: recency, frequency, and volume of giving. It can help you answer many questions, including: Who has given recently and is with you right now? Who has given over time and demonstrated loyalty to your cause? Who are your top lifetime givers?

Questions to Answer

Before getting started on your analysis, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Would I like to measure total lifetime giving or total giving within the past certain number of years (e.g. the last 10 years)? This will inform how you set up your RFM key, described in the guide.
  • Do I have enough information about each donor to complete the analysis? You will need name, database ID, the date of their last gift, the number of times that they have given (lifetime or within the time frame you decided), and the amount of their giving (lifetime or within the time frame you decided). 
  • Who will I use to screen my data? There are many vendors; which one you use is less important than knowing that you are aiming to focus on those closest to you with identified capacity and knowing that using publicly available data is one helpful tool to inform that decision.

How to Perform an RFM Analysis

You have followed along and may be wondering, how exactly does one perform an RFM analysis? Jessica Roberts, Assistant Vice President of Data Analytics at CCS, can help! Jessica has used advanced analytics to advance nonprofit fundraising for over 15 years and has put together a step-by-step guide here: How to Perform an RFM Analysis. For questions about the process or donor analytics more broadly, contact Jessica and CCS’s Data Analytics Team at analytics@ccsfundraising.com.

Wealth Screening: Another Tool in the Quiver

There are many vendors who can screen your data for pennies per name, and many organizations already have access to built-in screening through database subscriptions. While wealth screening is not perfect (every screening turns up a million-dollar donor with low identified giving capacity), it can be very directionally important. The consistent $1,000 donor who gave last year with a capacity to give $1M+ that you never thought about is one ideal outcome of this exercise for short-term focus. Those who screen as high capacity but have limited giving history or are currently unassigned to a portfolio can be reviewed for relationship mapping or discovery meetings to advance long-term goals.

Other Recommendations

  • Whether you have 50 front-line fundraisers or are a one-person show, there is some number of people that you can realistically connect with each quarter. Determine your unique number, and create filters in an excel spreadsheet that contains your RFM and wealth screening results to exclude lower capacity and lower RFM scores until you get there.
  • We have found that the most robust results of an RFM analysis occur when they are used to inform community engagement and donor request strategies.
  • Having clean data is important. Performing an RFM analysis could be an excellent opportunity to organize and update your data to maximize the accuracy of your results.
  • Harness the power of your data by asking yourself, “What do I want to know about donor behavior?” Your questions can likely be answered by increasing data gathering and exploring advanced tools for data-driven fundraising solutions.

How can we help you?

CCS offers an array of Data Analytics services to help nonprofit organizations reach their full fundraising potential.

Today, many nonprofit organizations round out their annual and major gift efforts with programs focused on planned giving. Implementing a planned giving program can be an effective way to diversify revenue streams and move donors along a continuum of commitment to your organization similar to the one shown below.

Recently, CCS partnered with Holocaust Museum LA (HMLA) to design a planned giving program that will be rolled out to a select cross-section of donors in the near future. HMLA felt it both important and relevant to increase emphasis on planned giving, particularly because the concept of honoring legacy is a central theme in their mission to “commemorate those who perished, honor those who survived, educate about the Holocaust, and inspire a more dignified and humane world.” Holocaust Museum LA CEO, Beth Kean, said, “With an aging community of survivors, we had long wanted to create a proactive planned giving program to offer families opportunities to make an enduring, meaningful gift that will impact future generations. We just didn’t know where to get started. After CCS helped us launch a successful capital campaign, we knew their team of strategic fundraising experts would be the perfect partner to guide us on a legacy program.”

Many of the volunteers at the heart of the Museum’s programming are Holocaust survivors now in their 90’s. Others have parents, grandparents, or other family members who escaped or perished during the Holocaust. Couple this history with statistics on the alarming increase of hate crimes and extremism in our society today, and the need for HMLA’s work to endure is evident. A successful planned giving program provides a unique opportunity to quickly scale an organization’s endowment as well as meet more immediate cash needs. At HMLA, such a program will help ensure that the Museum’s vital work continues in perpetuity.

In order to develop a planned giving program tailored to the Museum, CCS conducted a gift planning assessment and first sought to understand the attitudes about and proficiency with planned giving that exist within HMLA’s universe of donors. HMLA’s unique legacy-focused culture combined with the Jewish concepts of tzedakah and tikkun olam – moral obligation to give charitably and to repair the world – suggested that such a program would flourish at the Museum; however, it was important to see this intuition confirmed by data. Thus, we worked with HMLA to isolate a strong set of planned giving prospects and invited them to participate in a survey that gathered qualitative and quantitative data related to donor satisfaction, engagement, and interest in planned giving. What we learned about this community was encouraging and provided us with the basis for developing the materials, events, and messaging that now compose HMLA’s planned giving program.

The program was designed to start small and eventually grow into a more robust operation as HMLA expands its staff and expertise with various gift planning vehicles. Initial focus was placed on developing the following materials:

  • Prospect matrix – This database grew out of the planned giving survey, wealth screening analysis, and other data analytics work. A significant list of potential planned giving donors was created and then prioritized for cultivation. Strategic outreach activities were designed to correspond with various prospect groups. For example, a follow-up email was designed to announce the planned giving society, and multiple versions were created with text befitting survey participants, current planned giving donors, or those in the survivor community.
  • Preliminary brochure – A brochure featuring donor testimonials was designed for digital and print use to introduce the planned giving program. The brochure includes a QR code and website URL that enable donors to sign up to learn more about the program. A separate list of planned giving vehicles and their benefits was developed to accompany the physical brochure and serve as a donor takeaway at meetings and events.
  • Recognition and benefits – CCS worked with the Museum team to conceptualize Enduring Truth, a legacy society for planned giving donors. Benefits of membership include special listings and the chance to participate in legacy society luncheons, planned giving seminars, and planned giving salon events. CCS also reviewed and updated HMLA’s gift acceptance policies to adhere to current standards and support a greater organizational focus on planned giving.
  • Planning calendar – An annual calendar of planned giving communications and events was created to ensure that donors at various stages in the pipeline are being cultivated and stewarded at an optimal cadence.
  • Branding and messaging development – A concept note for a digital planned giving newsletter was developed to welcome new legacy donors, celebrate milestones, provide advice from featured financial experts, and spotlight events and exhibits at the Museum.
  • List of experts – A list of financial planners, CPAs, estate attorneys, and other experts was compiled. During the course of the project, many of the individuals listed were engaged to review materials and plans and provide feedback to the Museum. In the future, these individuals may be featured in the newsletter or invited to speak at seminars and other planned giving-focused events.

Creating the simple tools above as well as the talking points and communications plan to introduce them to potential donors were foundational steps in crafting what will undoubtedly be a strong planned giving program at Holocaust Museum LA. CCS looks forward to our continued partnership with HMLA as they embark on implementing and growing their planned giving program for the benefit of their donors and mission.

If you have questions about exploring gift planning work at your organization, please contact info@ccsfundraising.com.

In 2016, Michael Waldman, the visionary CEO of St. Paul JCC, sought CCS Fundraising out as a partner when the fundraising slowed on their Capital Campaign. The multi-million-dollar campaign was initiated to reimagine spaces, including a state-of-the-art performing arts center, aquatic center, fitness facilities, and a cultural arts wing. Together, the JCC and CCS created a plan to move the needle upwards from $7 million. By the end of 2017, more gifts were secured than imaginable, reaching $15 million. By the end of 2018, the total surpassed $16 million and membership had grown by 600 families. Today, the JCC is stronger than ever, having merged with another local JCC to form the Minnesota JCC with Michael at the helm. Brooke Laskin, Vice President at CCS, caught up with Michael Waldman to reflect on their partnership, Michael’s leadership, and the role of Jewish values in philanthropy.

Brooke: Can you believe it’s been more than five years since we worked shoulder-to-shoulder?

Michael: It’s flown by and the last pledges are being paid this year. We were fortunate that more than 99% of the funds pledged came to fruition!

Brooke: What an impressive rate of return. What do you credit it to?

Michael: Our donors, our friends, our community, our Jewish values. We are fortunate.

A child enjoys swimming at the JCC.

Brooke: Let’s talk a little about Jewish values. Like many, I learned how to swim at a JCC as a preschooler, but I also learned about the Jewish values of tzedakah (giving back) and tikkun olam (repairing the world) as a JCC preschooler.

Michael: These values are all about philanthropy – making the world a better place and doing acts of charity. We teach this early on at our early childhood centers, two camps (Butwin and Olami), and through our youth programming. What’s unique about the JCC is that we are guided by Jewish values and our campers and preschoolers are both Jewish and non-Jewish. We program through a Jewish lens, and create accessible ways for our youth to experience the act of giving on a local level to help them see what is right in front of them and then help them connect what they learn to a more global perspective. For example, why is it important to give to food banks? We didn’t just do a canned food drive to reach a goal and have pizza party– we did it because someone is going to eat those canned goods who otherwise may go hungry tonight. It’s important for kids in our community, who may never know what it is like to be hungry, to understand early on how to be better citizens of our community and world. While these are Jewish values, they are ultimately human values that relate to us all.

Brooke: Tell me a little about how you carry out these values in your own home and how they have been passed down from one generation to the next.

Michael: I looked at what my grandparents and parents instilled in family about giving back. While they didn’t have a lot of money, they still gave financially and through gifts of time. Today, my parents talk to my own two sons and their other grandchildren about giving annually. They tell each grandkid to research a nonprofit and they donate to the places the kids recommend. The giving has shifted from the zoo, to homeless shelters, to Alzheimer’s research, to cleaning up the ocean – whatever is on their minds as they grow up. It’s more than a teaching moment – it’s never been a question of why philanthropy is important because it is so ingrained.

A group of adults take part in a Zumba class at the St. Paul JCC.

Brooke: A passion for fundraising runs in your family!

Michael: My father was a social worker and, as he took on the role of an agency executive in the 1980s, that came with the role of fundraising.  He started a comedy event at Jewish Family and Children’s Services to raise money, which was novel at the time. Today he is 81 and has retired three times. He keeps restarting at places to fundraise and is now helping a local Jewish overnight camp. He loves it and I am inspired by him.

Brooke: The JCC has persevered through a lot as a result of COVID. How have you adapted and grown as an organization?

Michael: We saw a growth in annual giving as a result of COVID. There was recognition of what the JCC means to people who are marginalized, such as those with disabilities or the elderly. Without the JCC, many were isolated from the community with no connections other than our staff that did outreach. For example, we adapted our programming so that, rather than having people come to the JCC for their meals, we delivered it right to them and created a kosher drive-through. On the fundraising side, we would never have asked people for money by Zoom before COVID, but now we find we can connect with more people more often using technology, and that is a good thing. That said, it’s still not the same as sitting at the table with someone or catching up in the parking lot after a board meeting. But we have found meaningful ways to continue to move relationships forward.

Fast forward to now, we had a $1.5 million deficit this year because we’ve dropped a main source of revenue as a result of the pandemic – membership. People weren’t coming in person. Less members means less classes, less campers, less personal training, and more. We dropped from 3,700 membership units to 1,400 during the pandemic and are now back up to 2,700. We set up the Gesher Initiative to bridge the difference. Gesher means “bridge” in Hebrew. Generous people who understand that the JCC must get through this are stepping up.

Brooke: How did combining with another JCC during COVID play into this all?

Michael: We had been exploring a combination effort ahead of the pandemic and we had a strong theory that combining would have both a positive programmatic and financial impact. Obviously, no one knew COVID was coming, but our hypothesis proved to be accurate—when resources got tight, we found important opportunities to be more efficient together. Significant planning and work by dedicated leaders had occurred ahead of the pandemic, and we were fortunate that the timing lined up.

Brooke: Any advice to other organizations considering merging?

Michael: Start with an open mind. Start by saying, “We think there might be value in combining. Let’s see if this is true.” It is critical to weigh all information and not solely focus on the financial aspect. The first step was asking, “Should we merge?” Then the next step was, “How?” We explored many different options and structures. In the end, we wound up forming two new entities—an operating JCC and a separate foundation that holds our endowments and real estate assets.

Kids in a JCC program smile for a group picture in their life jackets.

Brooke: It’s been awhile since I worked on your case for support. What’s your latest pitch?

Michael: Just as it’s always been—we change lives in ways large and small. We’re more than a place to exercise—we are a community. The purpose of the case is to help people understand that it’s all about what we do with revenue—through summer camping; early childhood education; supportive services; Jewish art, culture and enrichment; and of course, health and wellness, we ignite the human spirit and transform lives every day in ways big and small. We invest your money back into the community through scholarships, meal programs, programs for people with disabilities, and more. Everything we do is interfaith and welcoming to all that share our value of inclusion, and everything we do is done through the lens of Jewish values and culture. What other organization fights antisemitism by bringing people of all faiths together to have fun?

Brooke: I’m a JCC champion and I hope my annual fund gift, combined with other friends, will help the J persist for generations to come. Thanks for catching up, Michael.  

This interview was adapted and edited for online article format.

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