Client Testimonial: Hephzibah Children’s Association

We recently had the pleasure of working with Molly Philosophos and Liz Condon at Hephzibah Children’s Association. Hepzhibah Children’s Association provides group homes and foster care for children from abusive or neglectful homes. Hepzhibah also offers family services and award-winning daycare.

Clyde Watkins and Heidi Waltner-Pepper worked with Hephzibah to develop a major gift strategy for endowment growth. Here’s what Molly Philosophos had to say about working with us:

“Working with Ter Molen Watkins & Brandt on our Planned and Major Giving Program was a wonderful experience. Clyde Watkins and Heidi Waltner-Pepper brought an incredible wealth of knowledge to our project. They helped us strengthen Hephzibah’s existing Planned and Major Giving program, and developed a detailed road map for building an endowment fund. For a reasonable price, the team crystallized a strategy to help Hephzibah be successful. Ter Molen Watkins & Brandt made us feel like a top priority, which I suspect they do for all of their clients.  I would highly recommend them to anyone needing assistance regarding development.”

TW&B Service Spotlight: The Annual Giving Assessment

Blog Spotlight

Is your organization on track to reach its annual fund goal this year?

If your organization is not meeting its annual fund goals, TW&B can help determine how to get your program on track by broadening your base of support and maximizing the total yield from current constituents.

The TW&B Annual Fund Assessment is a chance for your organization to take a step back from the day-to-day scramble to determine what limits your program from reaching it’s true potential. Chances are, the key to unlocking your program’s potential is hidden in your data and we’ll start by evaluating the qualitative data on your existing effort.

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Philanthropedia Recognizes Access Living as One of the Top Nonprofits in the Country for People with Disabilities

Access Living

At the end of 2013, Chicago-based Access Living was named #12 in a national list of 16 top nonprofits for people with disabilities. Philanthropedia, a division of GuideStar, surveys foundation professionals, researchers, and nonprofit senior staff to compile the list. While the 15 other honorees work on a national scale, Access Living was the only local nonprofit to make the cut.

Access Living was recognized for its outstanding work as an advocate for civil rights and a resource for training and support. The organization emphasizes public policy and social reform, and the majority of the staff is made up of people with disabilities. Due to their great work, they have helped many Chicagoans with disabilities live independent and fulfilling lives.

At TW&B, we’re proud of all the work we’ve done with Access Living, and we congratulate them on this honor!

Stolen Renoir Returned to the Baltimore Museum of Art

Over 60 years since it was stolen, a small Renoir landscape is finally returning to our friends at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Martha Fuqua, who claimed to have purchased the painting for $7 at a flea market, had attempted to auction it in September 2012. It was discovered that the painting had been reported stolen from a November 1951 exhibition.

After this information was revealed, the FBI took it into possession to await ruling from a federal judge. On Friday, January 10, it was awarded to the BMA, who plans to exhibit it in March.

At Ter Molen Watkins & Brandt, we’ve been proud to provide our counsel to the BMA for its “In A New Light” campaign, which has already exceeded its original $65 million goal. TW&B offers our congratulations to the BMA on the return of their Renoir!

TWB Sponsors Development and Membership Luncheon at AAM Meeting

AAM Lunch

Ter Molen Watkins & Brandt was pleased to serve as one of the sponsors for this year’s American Alliance of Museums Development and Membership (DAM) luncheon at the annual AAM meeting, held in Baltimore.  “Museums play such an important role in our society, and we are delighted to serve some of the very best ones in the country as their counsel” said Gene Brandt, TWB President.  “Our firm has such a solid background in museum fundraising, starting with our retired colleague, Larry Ter Molen and his amazing career at the Art Institute of Chicago.  For years, Larry and I were cross-town colleagues, with him at the Art Institute and me at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.  The Museum world faces amazing challenges, and we are working with our clients to help them face those challenges successfully.”

TW&B’s current clients include the Baltimore Museum of Art, which has already exceeded its $65 million campaign goal for endowment, capital, operating support and immediate impact funds.  “We work with large and small museums, and we truly love each and every one of them,” said Brandt.  “With the AAM meeting in Baltimore this year, we were especially happy to support the BMA to make the meeting a great success.”  TW&B also recently sponsored the Opening Reception for the annual AMDA (Art Museum Development Association) conference in Chicago.

Alumni Relations in the Age of Online Education (Part Two)

watkins_lg-120x150Think about it.  Pretend you are a college student, registered at any given institution, taking most of your courses online with the blessing of the school.  Soon, you begin to hear that there are some really interesting classes offered by other institutions that will give credit toward your degree.  Then you learn that there are a lot of these courses that you can take for much less money than the tuition your home campus is charging.  Then you realize that you can take all of your courses online, from a variety of schools, for a lot less than signing up to attend a traditional campus based institution, even if it offers online courses and accepts others.  Granted, the ultimate degree won’t be as recognizable, or as prestigious as the traditional system we have known in this country, but then again, perhaps that’s not what counts anymore.

Do you need friends?  In addition to the ability to send photographs of your most recent mani-pedi to every single person you know via Facebook, you have an entire new population of school chums available through your online courses, and it is an international population.  Already, enrollees through Udacity, Coursersa and edX are trading insights and commiseration with fellow students on multiple continents – and after all, isn’t online relationship maintenance the preferred medium today anyway?

If we don’t act quickly, the historical definition of alumni relations as we have known it is complete toast.  It may be already.  What does attendance at your reunion look like these days?  What does it take to get an appointment, press the flesh, make live eye contact (let’s not forget Skype and FaceTime!) – all presumed fundamentals to engagement and effective fundraising.

Alumni relations must become increasingly social media based.  It must convince academic leaders that institutional alumni marketing must be linked to online course offerings.  We must find ways to offer attractive online alumni programs to facilitate communication between and among alumni – no matter how flimsy the definition of may appear to them initially.  Remember, recent graduates never have appreciated their special status for what it is worth, so the basic challenge is the same.

We must derive entirely new forms of recognition for alumni achievement and service.  We must reduce the existing limitations to reach – or at least hear from – institutional leaders, including key faculty leaders and icons.  We must revise our offerings of institutional identity to reflect the latest versions of what people – and especially young people – hold dear.  We must invest in design, to make our offerings attractive.  And we must simplify.  As there is more and more available on the internet, those who make it fast, easy and attractive will win.

I’ll bet many of you reading this have already been thinking about this conundrum.  I welcome your feedback!

Alumni Relations in the Age of Online Education


As all of us are aware, we live in an age of rapidly changing communications systems, and this is causing an unending series of changes to our society – not merely our practices, but how we relate to one another.  Written letters have given way to e-mails, and e-mails are yielding to texting.  Shared land lines are disappearing in favor of cell phones, and smart phones now mean that many people no longer even answer a mobile call unless its necessity has first been justified in a text message. The social consequences of this include such things as a reduction in the depth and thoughtfulness of interpersonal communications in exchange for vastly increased frequency and breadth of contact.  The trend is most obvious among the Millennials, but it is not uncommon to see people of any age busily thumbing away throughout dinner in very nice restaurants, oblivious to their table partners.

In higher education, these trends manifest themselves in the same ways.  In the campus cafeteria one might expect to see groups of undergraduates gathering for study sessions or relaxation between classes.  Increasingly, however, students grab their lunch and head off to a private corner to jump online, this being the preferred way to communicate with friends and colleagues, regardless of their physical proximity.

Now we are formally sanctioning this tendency by looking for ways to offer classes online.  Almost all institutions of higher education are pursuing this kind of enrollment as a distinct form of marketing.  Given the immense and growing attraction of the for-profit and not-for-profit MOOCs (massive open online courses) and the degree-granting institutions like PhoenixUniversity, many schools have to do this as an investment in survival.  The costs of on-site education are growing too rapidly for most buyers to keep up with, and providing enough financial aid for those who need it is increasingly difficult for private and state institutions alike.

The purpose of this piece is not to take a position on the pedagogical advisability of distance learning, or even its likelihood of catching on.  That is inevitable.  Rather, the question before those of us in the world of institutional advancement is this: How will we establish and maintain an alumni relationship with our graduates as they spend less and less time on campus and develop fewer and fewer relationships with their classmates from good old Alma Mater?

Some preliminary thoughts in my next blog…

TW&B President Gene Brandt quoted in Crain’s Chicago

brandt_lg-120x150Excerpt from “The price of board membership: the give/get” Crains Chicago March 25, 2013

Fundraising experts praise give-or-gets as a sound nonprofit tool. The give-or-gets guarantee a revenue stream each year and help ensure that board members are invested in the organization and its mission, not just serving to pad a nonprofit resume.

Still, only 23 percent of U.S. nonprofits specify a minimum donation for board members, according to a Grant Thornton LLP survey from March 2012 (the most recent available).

The policy has a drawback: “You’re setting a ceiling as well as a floor,” says Gene Brandt, president of fundraising consultancy Ter Molen Watkins & Brandt LLC in Chicago. “For a lot of people, $10,000 is not the largest number they could consider giving. . . . You don’t do as well with certain donors. 

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Soliciting Campaign Gifts: The Vanishing Volunteer

watkins_lg-120x150In the forty years I have been working in development, the past two decades as a consultant, I have witnessed a significant shift in the degree of reliance on – and even the use of – volunteers in fundraising.  It may be difficult to imagine this, but when I began my service in this profession, it was generally considered unbecomingly aggressive for a staff representative to make an independent solicitation of a prospect.  At the very least you took a volunteer along with you.

The passage of time, with all of its irresistible forces that have reduced the amount of hours available to both men and women to work on civic and charitable enterprises, has made the kind of volunteer involvement we used to see in this country a rarity. Today it is not uncommon to see a development program that makes little or no use at all of volunteers.

The shift makes a lot of sense from the management perspective.  Fundraising is, in fact, a business operation, and generally the one holding the highest ROI in the institution.  That makes it a good investment of budget dollars.  Further, using staff to approach donors directly enables the manager to monitor activity more closely, and to adjust activity in much shorter order and with fewer diplomatic hurdles than extricating assignments from nonperforming volunteers.  This has led directly to the evolution from small staffs and large volunteer corps to larger staff components (albeit constantly changing ones) and much smaller volunteer organizations.

Setting aside the more abstract social questions this shift raises about Toqueville’s classic assessment of the unique role played by civic volunteer leadership in the United States, what does this mean for you?  Certainly it narrows the funnel supplying potential proven leaders for membership in the governance structure.  It also makes it more difficult for willing and interested volunteers to learn how to successfully solicit their peers, thus decimating the pool of candidates to chair our constant capital campaigns.

Yet campaign chairs are still deemed an absolute necessity.

There still must be visible volunteer leadership at the helm, holding us accountable to the standards of the constituencies we represent.  Moreover, their presence gives our campaigns legitimacy and prestige in the larger civic environment, as well as with our pools of prospects.  And, lest we staff get entirely too full of ourselves, a handful of influential, generous and committed volunteers still has the ability to help provide a margin of victory in the majority of campaigns. No matter how many gifted, driven, productive professional staff your institution has, you still need a campaign chair – or better yet co-chairs – and a tight group of dependable leaders on the campaign executive committee to succeed.

The Power of the Fundraising Team

Gene Brandt

We don’t always agree! I’m not talking about my wife and I, or my 16 year old (we almost never agree!). I’m talking about my colleagues at Ter Molen Watkins & Brandt. I’m talking about when we consult together.

We usually work in teams during our consulting engagements. This enables the client to always have a “go-to” consultant at the ready, even if one of us is traveling or booked. Many times, however,we work together with our client, participating in client meetings together, helping develop strategies together. During these activities, we find that we sometimes agree, but sometimes not. I think the client really benefits when we don’t necessarily agree.

Each of our consultants has significant advancement experience–we average over twenty-years each. So, in many cases, we have actually dealt with a particular issue in real-life. We are not just offering our opinion or coming up with a textbook answer. Since we have all arrived at our firm from different places, these experiences help to guide our consulting advice, and obviously, the experiences and the outcomes are sometimes different.

As a result, one of us may have had an experience where a particular problem was attacked from one direction, while another of us has experienced the same problem with a different approach or outcome. These different experiences help to strengthen the advice we give to our clients, because when we run up against different opinions, we are challenged to make our case for a particular approach or action. For me, these instances provide us with excellent opportunities to evaluate our own experiences in light of a particular issue facing one of our clients. It turns into a healthy, spirited exchange of ideas, and I think it usually results in the right answer for the right situation.

Some firms have a specific way of doing things–almost a book of specific approaches and activities that dictates the methods that the firm will use to approach particular advancement situations. We don’t have such a book. We rely on the experience and the expertise of each of our consultants to provide our clients with the very best advice possible. There is no specific TWB way of doing things. Clients who are looking for cookie-cutter answers to their particular fundraising issues may feel like they have come to the wrong place if they select TWB. But while we don’t always agree on the answers, we do agree that getting the answers right for each of our clients is our ultimate objective. Sometimes, it just takes a bit of extra conversation to get to that goal.