The Fundraiser’s Game Of Life

NPG Fundraisers Game of Life Header No NPG Logo

I just got back into town on the west coast of Florida from the east coast in St. Augustin after attending Planet Philanthropy, a state-wide conference of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Florida Caucus. I presented “The Fundraiser’s Game of Life.” Based on the popular board game, this presentation provided a unique perception of the annual campaign and tips on how to navigate your career during the changing organizational dynamics. Want to play a game?

Quick fun facts: The Game of Life board game was originally published in 1866 by Milton-Bradley. The board game relaunched in 1960 and endorsed by Art Linkletter, the game once quickly again spread throughout households. The board game has been inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame. The 2-6 players face life’s challenges of careers, getting married, having children, and buying homes and automobiles. There are pitfalls of being sued, bankruptcies, and struggles with neighbors. The main objective is to avoid the poor house. The player who makes the most money wins.

Manager/ Technician Role: The Game of Life board game starts with players choosing between college or career paths. The Fundraiser’s Game of Life begins with a discussion of the Manager/ Technician role of the fundraiser, with a self-evaluation quiz handout. This measurement tool was used as an instrument for my master’s thesis research project, which was the foundation for an article published in the Journal of Communication Management.

MLW with Spin To WInMy thesis’ premise was based upon Dr. Kathleen Kelly’s (Former University of Florida College of Journalism Department Chair, now retired) line of research drawing from public relation’s theory applied to fundraising as donor relations.

In the simplest terms, the managers make decisions, while technicians implement the decisions made by others. Fundraiser’s that are managerial in their organizational role are more likely to engage in such activities as planned giving, major gifts, and capital campaigns. They are also more likely to be male, have advanced degrees, hold certifications, have employment longevity, and make more money than their technician counterparts. Fundraiser’s that are more technical in their organizational role are more likely to engage in activities such as special event management, volunteer management, and social media. While most fundraiser will engage in both roles to some degree, one role will over time be more dominant.

unnamed (1)The presentation then discussed the life stages of an organization (hence the Game of Life). Drawing from two major resources: The 5 Life Stages of Nonprofit Organizations: Where you are, Where you’re going, and what to expect when you get there, Judith Sharken Simon, 2001 Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, and Nonprofit Lifecycles, Susan Kenny Stevens, 2002, Stagewise Enterprises.

The Five Nonprofit Organizational Life Stages:

  1. Infancy – The major question during this stage is how can this dream be realized?

This stage typically –

  • Lasts 1 to 2 years,
  • The Founder is primary leader and serves as board chair,
  • The Founder is the primary fundraiser with strong managerial vision,
  • One major program,
  • One major funding source,
  • And Board Members are close contacts of the Founder.


2. Youth – The major question during this stage is how are we going to pull this off?

This stage typically –

  • Lasts 2 to 3 years,
  • The founder often as Board Chair,
  • The Founder is the primary fundraiser with strong managerial vision, but technical skills are a great asset.
  • Small Board of Directors and recruiting,
  • First staff employed,
  • Volunteer driven,
  • Marketing is word of mouth,
  • Lack of formal procedures,
  • And has limited funds.


3. Teenager – The major question during this stage is how can we build this to be viable? This stage typically –

  • Lasts 2 to 7 years,
  • First full-time paid staff most likely with strong technical skills,
  • Small Board of Directors but expanding away from Founder’s contacts,
  • Establishing protocols,
  • First fiscal location established,
  • And actively redefining program delivery.


4. Maturity – The major question during this stage is how can we sustain the momentum? This stage typically –

  • Last 7 to 30 years,
  • Board member are more diverse,
  • Executive Director as a leader with strong managerial skills,
  • Decentralized chain of command,
  • Founding sources are established,
  • Professional Fundraiser may be hired,
  • New programs are established with diverse revenue streams,
  • Establishing endowments,
  • Focus on operating reserve,
  • Capital Campaigns are enacted,
  • And long-range planning is seen as paramount.

5. Decline – The major question during this stage is what do we need to do to redesign? This stage typically –

  • Last 2-5 years
  • Executive Director given low managerial opportunities often reactionary,
  • Loss of morale,
  • Heavy turnover of leadership (staff and Board Members),
  • Top heavy administration,
  • Long-standing programs become irrelevant,
  • Long-standing funding dries up,
  • But does not mean the organization is going towards terminal, but this can be an opportunity for rebirth and regeneration.

Just like in the board game, The Fundraiser’s Game Of Life has pitfalls and traps. Knowing the common traps may help you in being aware of what to avoid and what to do if you find yourself in these situations. I think I am going to develop a blog post just on this subject later.

  • Founder’s Syndrome
  • Embedded ED
  • Dismal Swamp of Special Events
  • Sacred Cow Program
  • Rogue Board / Committee Members
  • Mission Creep
  • And the Revolving Door of the Fundraising Staff.


This Fundraiser’s Game Of Like presentation got rave reviews and lots of positive feedback. I had a lot of fun putting it together. I plan on repackaging this presentation to be around 60 minutes and appropriate for an AFP chapter luncheon. The presentation is unique in its composition but draws upon other’s research, as well. I believe in giving credit where credit is due.

I hope to be announcing soon my next time to spin to win at the Fundraiser’s Game of Life near you. Maybe this will be a chapter in my book. Stay tuned.

2019 Copyright Nonprofit Gladiator



Orlando Nonprofit Alliance Workshop

The Orlando Nonprofit Alliance and Nova Southeastern University held a great workshop on grant writing and fundraising basics. I was honored to be asked to present Beyond The Bake Sale: Fundraising 101. There was only so much I could cover in only 50 minutes, but I touched on the major points of the fundraising cultivation cycle of identification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship. Rosso’s Concentric Circle Constituency Model is a lot of words, but the concept is simple: build your donor core and add layers as you grow your donor base. Hum? I see a future post on this topic. Stay tuned.

IMG_8243 (1)

I am shown here (far left) during the panel discussion along with (left to right)

Ben Hoyer – Founder and Director of Downtown Credo and President/COO of Rally

Dr. Roxana Ross, Ed.D, MBA, GPC – NSU’s Grant Writing Manager

Charise Liburd – CNP, MPA, PhD Candidate – Senior Program Manager at OCCC

The purpose of Orlando Nonprofit Alliance is to network, collaborate, and share information about and among nonprofit organizations, their members and other key stakeholders. Thank you for letting me share about fundraising and the joy of giving.

Fleet Farming Interns and I

IMG_1682This morning I had the privilege of speaking to a group of interns from Fleeting Farming on grant writing and fundraising. These interns who are in their junior or senior year at the University of Central Florida are so eager to learn how to raise funds to support this organization they are so passionate about. The interns have had some successes but seem to be struggling to find new revenue sources. We discussed how to research and build relationships with funding sources. I critiqued some letters of interest to local and national organizations. My suggested including adding bulleted points, bolded highlights to main points and adding mini stories or quotes of impact. Funders and individuals want to know how their funding will make impact. Adding stories or quotes brings that impact down to a level of one person, or otherwise one quantifiable outcome.


fleet farmingFleet Farming is an urban agriculture program of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit IDEAS For Us that is transforming underutilized land into productive micro-farms to impact local food systems. The produce grown is sharecropped with their “farmlette host” with the excess sold at local SNAP-certified farmers markets. This program is supported by community members who are thinking globally and acting locally by learning and engaging in urban agriculture. Too often urban areas are food deserts with no opportunity to obtain fresh produce. Fleet Farming is changing that … one square foot at a time.


Overall, a great morning with time well spent. I really enjoy mentor young people.

Nova to offer FREE Nonprofit Series!

Nova Southeastern University Orlando Campus is offering free Nonprofit Professional Development Series. Yes! Free!

This is a great opportunity for those seeking to educational opportunities but don’t have a budget, or those seeking to change careers and want to learn more about the nonprofit sector.  To learn more visit their website at

Professional Development Series

AFP Sexual Harassment Statement- Press Release

AFP Color“Having more female senior-level executives in the profession isn’t just important to preventing sexual harassment; it’s critical to furthering the entire mission of the nonprofit sector,” says AFP Chair Ann Hale, CFRE and AFP President and CEO Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA in a statement release today from the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) regarding sexual harassment/gender equity in the fundraising profession.

Three main points in the statement include:

1) AFP has set a clear and decisive policy of zero tolerance for harassment.

2) The issue of harassment is part of a larger conversation about equity in the fundraising profession and the charitable sector. Women make up approximately 70 percent of the profession, yet account for only 30 percent of senior leadership positions.

3) Men need to take the initiative to speak out against harassment. Speaking out affirms that men are standing with their female colleagues and providing their unwavering support.

To read the entire statement visit the AFP website through this link:

Disney Grants 2018

Disney GrantsThe Disney Grants 2018 applications will open on January 5th! To learn more about what is exciting in this year’s process, Walt Disney World Corporate Citizenship invites nonprofit organizations to join them and the Central Florida Foundation team for a webinar on Wednesday, January 10 at 11 am. This will be an opportunity to ask questions and gain insights into the changes for 2018. The Disney Grants program supports nonprofit organizations that build a strong foundation so that children and their families can thrive as healthy, productive, compassionate, and capable citizens with the confidence to reach their highest potential. Nonprofit organizations must have a reviewed portrait at the Central Florida Foundation’s Nonprofit Search to apply. Click the here to join the webinar on January 10th! You will need to install BlueJeans App or use the browser option.

Contact me if your organizations needs help setting up their portrait or with writing the grant. I can help.


EBI New Development Director Roundtable

EBIToday, I had the honor of sharing my passion for teaching others the joy of giving by being the guest speaker at the New Development Director Roundtable at the Edyth Bush Institute of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership, sharing about The Association of Fundraising Professionals and the local AFP Central Florida chapter, I covered what our chapter does locally, including our monthly educational programs, scholarships, the mentorship program and CFRE Review Study Group. I also discussed what AFP does internationally providing research and industry advocacy. One of the most important things AFP provides is the Code of Ethical Standard and the Donor Bill of Rights, which is the bases of ethical fundraising best practices. Membership scholarship application are now being accepted for new, renewing and young professionals. The deadline is November 30.

Contact me if you have any questions about what AFP membership can do for you, or you can visit the website: