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When I grow up I want to be just like David Love!

I first met David Love when he was doing his “due diligence” on me for a charity to which he too, was a consultant. That relationship very quickly developed to the point where I can consider myself lucky to count David as a friend. Recently David has been awarded the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Toronto Chapter.

If you ever doubted the power of one person to make a positive difference in the world … just watch this video.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead


Industry Giving Tuesday

I recently came across the campaign of Giving Tuesday. It’s a new Canadian movement for giving and volunteering, taking place each year after Cyber Monday. The “Opening day of the giving season,” it is a day where charities, companies and individuals join together to share commitments, rally for favourite causes and think about others.


As part of The Donor Motivation ProgramTM I was easily drawn to this movement; but it also sparked a question for me, why do individuals give? I think John D. Rockefeller said it best “every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation, every possession, a duty”. I believe that Canadians are looking for a way to forget about the commercialization of holiday season and get back to the basics, helping out our communities and Giving Tuesday provides the perfect opportunity.

As part of the Giving Tuesday movement we have committed to providing Canadians with the chance to learn about how to optimize their estate, ensuring that they are leaving adequate amounts to their loved ones and contributing to those philanthropic initiatives they are passionate about. As a philanthropic consultant in Toronto, I am committed to Giving Tuesday movement.


The Holstee Manifesto

I encourage you to watch this six minute video keeping in mind that the young lady being interviewed by Jon Stewart is 16 years old. There are so many positive messages in Malala Yousafzai’s story that I don’t really know where to begin: The power and love of education, women’s rights, compassion, the indomitability of the human spirit, humour in the face of terrorism, family,  … I could go on and on. Malala, one year ago shot in the head and neck by the Taliban for her beliefs, reminds me of what Aristotle once wrote, “Courage is the first of human qualities, because it is a quality that guarantees all the others”. 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead


My big hairy audacious goal

When I started The Donor Motivation Program in Canada almost five years ago my goal was to be the catalyst for an additional $100 million being directed towards the philanthropic sector. When I mentioned this to Scott Keffer, founder of The Donor Motivation Program in the States, his response was … “Is that all!?” Suffice to say I was somewhat taken aback by his answer. However, what he was attempting to convey  was that perhaps it was time to think bigger. In other words, why not amplify my impact by identifying a number of hand-picked, vetted, philanthropic professionals across the country and asking them to join me in making a difference throughout the nonprofit landscape.


The Donor Motivation Team Canada (from left), Serena Hak (Toronto), Franco Caliguri (Vancouver), yours truly (Toronto), Ryan Fraser (London), Glenn Stewardson (Halifax), Mike Skrypnek (Calgary)

Today, with a little help from my friends (shown above), my “new and improved” goal is to be the catalyst both directly and indirectly of an additional $1 billion being oriented towards the philanthropic sector over the next eight years. As Jim Collins, the famous management consultant, would say I find this BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) incredibly motivating and brings tremendous meaning to my life. 

So here’s the big question… “What’s your BHAG?”


How to start a movement
(hint: it’s not what you thought)

I was speaking recently to a leader of one of Canada’s largest non-profits.  From his past experiences he made what I thought was the rather insightful comment that it is not always whom you would expect to cause a movement to actually happen.

This reminded me of a highly entertaining and thought provoking three minute TED Talk that featured Derek Sivers. Sivers makes a very persuasive case that it is not the leader but actually the “first follower” who is the key to a movement’s success.  After all, it is this individual who has the courage to show others how to follow!

“If you don’t have a cause, get one”

Arianna Huffington


The secret to happiness?

I recently came across this fascinating, and to me, insightful, article on the possible secret to happiness.  It refers to the research of social scientists, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, in which they find that the anticipation of a wonderful experience can be as good as the experience itself… and maybe even better!  They emphasize that experiences more often than not are much better than commodities, given that people tend to adapt rather quickly to commodities. After a relatively short period, a nice car or house may be great at first but is simply a background fact.  In this article Dunn and Norton offer five general principles which they believe reveal the secret of happiness. 


Dunn and Norton also believe that people benefit from spending on others, not on themselves. The best prediction of people’s happiness is not how much they devote to spending on themselves but, instead, on how much they give to others. Even small children have been found to be happiest when they give their treats away. The benefits of giving are highest when givers feel that giving is their own free choice, when they feel personally connected with the recipients, and when they think that the gift will have a real impact.  With regards to this last point… I believe these social scientists have quite simply summed up the difference between successful charities and not so successful ones.

JULY 2013

Never forget why you’re doing what you’re doing

Derek Sivers is a fascinating individual. He was a successful professional musician (and circus clown) when he started helping friends sell their CD’s online. In 1998 his hobby grew into CD Baby – the largest retailer of independent music on the web. He then sold it for a cool $ 22 million promptly giving most of it away to charity. “Anything You Want”  relates his story in the best book I’ve read over the last year.

I encourage you to click through to Derek’s video “I Miss the Mob” In a very entertaining 120 seconds he explains why you should never forget why you’re doing what you’re doing. Equally important, always be asking yourself, “Am I helping people, are they happy, am I happy?” And finally … “Isn’t that enough?”

JULY 2013

The mathematical impossibility of universal delight

Seth Godin is an entrepreneur, author, public speaker, and marketing genius. His blog, which is the only one I read everyday, is perhaps the world’s most popular written by an individual.

The following  is an example of Seth’s wisdom which I find is not only acutely relevant in regard to the many presentations I make to the donors of the charities with whom I work, but at just about anytime I’m dealing with a large group of people.


Seth Godin and I at a workshop I attended in New York City. Is it just me or do you find that Seth bares a remarkable resemblance to a garden gnome?

“If you’re hyper-aware of what others are thinking, if you’re looking for criticism, the unhappy audience member and the guy who didn’t get the joke, you will always find what you’re seeking. For it to be any other way, you’d either have to be invisible or performing for a totally homogeneous audience. Unanimity is impossible… invisible is an option, of course. You can lay low, not speak up and make no difference to anyone. That’s sort of like dividing by zero, though. You’ll get no criticism, but no delight either. As for finding a homogeneous audience, good luck with that. The one thing that’s true of all people is that they are different from one another. What delights one enrages the other. Part of the deal.”

And more specifically…

“Complaints are a good thing. Complaints indicate emotion. They show that your reader cares enough to voice his or her views. Few or no complaints usually mean you haven’t tried hard enough, haven’t pushed your reader’s comfort zones, and likely haven’t got your message across. Lots of complaints mean that your donors really care about your cause, that you have got through to them and pulled on their emotions. You’ll generally notice a direct link between lots of noise and grievance and the volume of income raised. The key of course is managing complaints properly, and responding promptly and fully to answer your donor’s concerns. There will always be a surplus of people eager to criticize, nitpick or recommend caution. Your job, at least right now, is to reinforce the power of the yes. Unanimity is impossible unless you are willing to be invisible.”

JUNE 2013

It’s getting better all the time!

I must admit I have very little tolerance for the extreme pessimists who inhabit our world. When based on the quantitative data, life is so much better for the vast majority of the world’s population. It reminds me of what Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts”. (Please see Bjorn Lomberg’s excellent article for a quick summary of what is going right in the world.)

Having said that, I’m not so polyannish that I do not appreciate that as a human race we still have a long way to go to address the many social and environmental challenges facing us, challenges that, in part, currently being addressed by the over 86,000 charities in Canada alone.  However, if you really want to feel good about the progress we have made as a species, I encourage you to click the above video featuring Hans Rosling’s “200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes”

JUNE 2013

12 principles that all philanthropic professionals would do well to heed

Courtesy of fundraising consultant Pamela Barden, writing in Fundraising Success, here are 12 principles that all philanthropic professionals would do well to heed:

  1. You are NOT the target audience. So figure out who is.

  2. You have to spend money to raise money.

  3. You have to ask to receive.

  4. Use multiple fundraising tools for balance.

  5. Good programs need good fundraising. Good fundraising needs good programs.

  6. Don’t mix your messages. When asking for a gift, leave it at that.

  7. Ask your donors for three things throughout the year: A gift. Referrals. A bequest.

  8. A non profit is not a business. But if you don’t run it like a business, you will go out of business.

  9. If you don’t invest in acquiring new donors, you will run out of donors.

  10. You have to watch your numbers, and course-correct when necessary.

  11. Donors care about overhead. So you’d better care, too.

  12. When you stop learning, you may as well stop.

JUNE 2013

My buddy Chuck… and me!

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of hearing Charles Bronfman speak about giving wisely both in regard to time and money. (With all due respect to Mr. Bronfman, I don’t believe he likes to be referred to as “Chuck” and I’m also not sure he would consider me his buddy!)


Signing my book for Charles Bronfman. Well, perhaps it was actually Mr. Bronfman signing his book for me.

In his first book, “The Art of Giving”  his goal was to help guide those giving money away.  In his second book, also written with Jeffrey Solomon President of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, “The Art of Doing Good”  the authors wanted to address those who wished to give away through creativity and vision. 

There are really two audiences for the second book.  The first are social entrepreneurs that have an idea to create a desirable, positive impact in the world.  This book is really a “how to” manual that will give these individuals the tools, resources, and critical mindset to reach success.The second audience are philanthropic professionals, board members, and committed volunteers that are looking to question or review decisions they’ve made in regard to those organizations that they are passionately involved with.

No matter which audience you fall into, as one of the reviewers wrote, this book is about how each and every one of us can leave our own mark in society through our own positive creations.

JUNE 2013

Follow the frog!

I must admit I am a sucker when it comes to a well crafted commercial … more so when it uses humour to get its message across.  With this in mind I give you the winner of the 2013 Do Gooder Video Awards, “Follow the Frog”. Why is it so effective? Simply because it is entertaining, it is relatable, and has an easy call to action.  Whether you work in the nonprofit or for-profit world, the message could not be more clear.

MAY 2013

“The way we think about charity is dead wrong!”

Dan Pallotta is a controversial and polarizing character in the nonprofit world.  His company, Pallotta TeamWorks raised hundreds of million of dollars … until it was forced out of business. He subsequently wrote the excellent book “Uncharitable” which ignited fierce debate amongst both philanthropic professionals and donors.

I believe the reason for much of the controversy is that Dan Pallotta speaks truths that many do not wish to admit. Earlier last month, a TED talk was posted which Pallotta addresses the five challenges, based on misperceptions, which hold the charitable sector back from fulfilling its true potential. If you are somewhat tired of having to defend your overhead expenses or marketing costs – you owe it to yourself to click here or on the image below to watch the 19 minute video.

MAY 2013

“Cartoons drawn on the back of business cards?”

I’m not really sure when I first heard about Hugh MacLeod’s “Cartoons drawn on the back of business cards.” All I know is that Hugh has created thousands of images, written a few best selling books and found his art hanging in offices all over the world, including mine!

Please click here to access full September 2012 Hugh MacLeod blog post.


I absolutely believe we are here to find meaning in our lives and help others to do the same… everything else is secondary. I find that Hugh’s art has helped me do just that, and as such, especially resonates in the philanthropic world. It’s one of the reasons I used dozens of his images in my most recent book, “What Was Your Great Grandmother’s Name?  50 Thoughts On How Canadian Philanthropy Can Transform You, Your Family, And Your Community.” 

Do yourself a favour and sign up for “Hugh’s Daily Cartoon” which he sends out five mornings a week. Not only will they make you both laugh and think, they are just good for the soul.

MAY 2013

The Top Seven mistakes Canadians make when donating to charity


I have written a Special Report which I hope provides food for thought in regards to charitable giving and what I found to be the Top Seven Mistakes to avoid. The first one is not understanding that your RRSP or RRIF will be your most highly taxed asset…eventually. Please click here to access the report.

“The only difference between the tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.”

Mark Twain

MAY 2013

If you like your copy… it’s no good!

I assist a number of charities with their planned giving programs and therefore appreciate that resources of time and money are always limited. A key component of our program is the mailing of tens of thousands of invitations asking supporters to attend donor-centric presentations that occur throughout the year. Needless to say, our success lives or dies based on the effectiveness of these invitations. I recently invested in Jeff Brooks’ excellent book, The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications. Real-World Field-Tested Strategies for Raising More Money, which had immediate application for our mailing program. If you want to raise more money for your organization or increase attendance at your presentations, make this book required reading for everyone on your team.

To read my summary of Brooks’ most important lessons, please click here for an article (on page 10) I wrote last year, for Gift Planning in Canada.

“The only difference between the tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.”

Mark Twain

MAY 2013

Why 2012 was the best year ever!

For those connected to and working in the philanthropic sector of course we all want to make the world a better place. However, in doing so I feel we sometimes forget just how much progress has been made over the course of human history. (Perhaps not surprising given that the vast majority of journalism is fueled by fear.) The good news is that if you look at the facts, nothing could be further from the truth as this linked article from The Spectator illustrates.

As the magazine states, “It may not feel like it, but 2012 has been the greatest year in the history of the world.  That sounds like an extravagant claim, but it is born out by evidence.  Never has there been less hunger, less disease or more prosperity.  The West remains in the economic doldrums, but most developing countries are charging ahead and people are being lifted out of poverty at the fastest rate ever recorded.  The death toll inflicted by war and natural disasters is also merciful low.  We are living in a golden age.”

I hope you find the article puts you in a positive frame of mind as we start 2013. It’s the least one could expect from a magazine that bills itself as the best written and most entertaining in the English language!

P.S. If you ever doubted how small our world is and how truly connected we all are, check out this video. It is a satellite image in which the moving points of light are all of the large aircraft flights in the world over a 24 hour period condensed down to one minute and eleven seconds. Keep in mind it was only 110 years ago in 1903 that the Wright brothers achieved human flight. It boggles the mind what we as a human race will be able to achieve over the next 100 years.

“Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.”

Franklin P. Adams

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