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



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:

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:

Planet Philanthropy Request For Proposals

Planet PhilanthropyThe Association of Fundraising Professionals Florida Caucus is seeking proposals for Educational presentations for the Planet Philanthropy 2018 Conference to be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL June 17-19, 2018 at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach and hosted by the Florida Caucus in partnership with the AFP Broward Chapter. Planet Philanthropy is the premiere educational opportunity for fundraising professionals in Florida.  We are expecting more than 400 fundraising professionals, non-profit leaders and board members to attend to learn through our thought- provoking plenary sessions, skill-building workshops, networking opportunities and exhibits.

The Education Programs will be organized into workshop sessions on June 18 and 19, divided among tracks based on target audience and the following subjects:

Annual Giving; Major Gifts & Prospect Development; Planned Giving; Communications & Social Media; Special Events & Marketing; Stewardship & Donor Relations; Career Development; Trends in Philanthropy

Presentations will generally be limited to 75 minutes, although we will consider proposals for back-to-back sessions lasting 150 minutes. We will try to accommodate special requests for presentation times, but this may not always be possible.   We are also seeking leaders for our affinity breakfast round tables. Please indicate your interest when completing the attached form.

All presenters will receive a complimentary single day registration for the day of the conference they are presenting. Presenters traveling from outside the State of Florida will receive a complimentary standard room at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach for one night (before or after the presentation based on preference). Presenters who live in Florida and are driving more than 250 miles may request a complimentary room. All requests will be considered and responded to by March 16, 2018.

This is an excellent opportunity to share your passion for fundraising and your expertise as a seasoned professional with members and guests of AFP Florida. Collaborations for presentations are encouraged, especially between consultants and clients.

No products, services or publications can be sold or promoted during presentations. We have exhibit space available, if you are interested!

The decisions of the Selection Committee will be final. Applications from those with the CFRE, ACFRE or other related professional certifications and AFP members are especially encouraged.

Proposals are due FRIDAY, November 17, 2017 by 5:00 p.m.

A completed application form is REQUIRED and proposals will not be considered without them. Click here for the application: RFP Planet Philanthropy 2018

The requirements include:

*    Two references familiar with the presenter’s speaking skills and expertise, with contact information

*    Please specify the demographics of the participants your session best applies to: number of full-time fundraising professionals; years of experience of the fundraisers; and the relevant fundraising strategies that align with your topic

*    Title and description of the workshop (50 words maximum)

*    Learning objectives for the workshop

*    Teaching methods for the workshop (interactive formats are highly recommended)

*    Brief description of handouts (all must be received in digital format in order to be included in the Planet Philanthropy digital compilation of handouts)

*    Electronic photo of presenter(s)in .jpeg format-300 dpi at final size of 3X5

For questions email