The Mikuska Group  

What happens when your fundraiser moves on?

There’s been a trend among social impact organizations for some time that sees development staff stay for about 18 months, then move to another organization or leave the profession altogether. For many organizations, this becomes a set-back which may take months or years to make right.

Know that this may happen in your organization, what can you, as leaders, do before and after it does?


Take steps now to understand what’s going on with major donors, where they are in the donor cycle and what the quality of the relationship is with them.

Make sure all contacts with donors are being recorded in your database. Great notes make for a great institutional memory.

Support your staff through professional development, career advancement and great working conditions. (who knows – they may not leave after all…)

Encourage a culture of philanthropy and engagement throughout the organization, so that donors may have relationships outside the development office.


Do not rush to hire an experienced fundraiser, especially one who doesn’t understand your mission, as you may be in the same position in 18 months.

Do consider recruiting someone who has a passion for what you do and the skills to be come a development professional, and invest in a consultant to coach them into a new career.

Examine the reasons they may have left (as they may not be forthcoming about underlying conflicts that caused them not to want to continue working there). For example, did you pile every conceivable type of fund development activity into one job? It’s hard to expect one person to do events, major gift fundraising, direct mail, third-party fundraising, ticket sales, etc. and do any of it well.

If the departure was sudden and you didn’t have time to debrief on donors, call them and explain what the situation is. Don’t just leave them hanging.

Take steps to stop the revolving door. You and your donors will be much better off.

Julie Mikuska


A true gift

I received a lovely gift in the mail today – a handwritten thank you on a card featuring the artwork of a client, hand-addressed with a real stamp on the envelope. A real stand-out in my mailbox!

The card was from 1JustCity, an umbrella organization in Winnipeg bringing together four community ministries: Oak Table, North End Stella Community Ministry, West Broadway Community Services and St. Matthews Maryland Community Ministry.

They do amazing work and, in their own words, they “love the under-loved.” And we get to work with them as clients.

And in one short card, they told me what a difference I’m making in the life of one person. And because I’m a monthly donor, I’ll think of Joanne and others like her every month as I’m notified of my donation through CanadaHelps.

How are you thanking your donors?

Julie Mikuska


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Donors are not widgets

Donors are not widgets.

They are not interchangeable. You can’t pick up a new lot at the hardware store. And they need maintenance.

Now, I’m sure most people in social impact organizations recognize that donors aren’t widgets, but why then is there a tendency to concentrate on getting new donors and not on keeping the ones you have?

The longer donors stay with you, the longer they stay with you. And that means you don’t have to go out looking for so many new donors, many of whom won’t stay with you. Your loyal donors are the ones who get how important monthly giving is. And they may increase their annual gifts over time. Plus they are great candidates to approach about putting you in their wills.

So concentrate on loving the people who already love you – the donors! Make strategies to get to know them and to let them know how important they are to you. Remember: they’re people, not widgets.

Julie Mikuska


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