Renee Herrell's Blog

The Nonprofit Guru Is In

Go Take a Hike! June 27, 2012

Filed under: Faith-based Fundraising — reneeherrell @ 9:06 pm

On Sunday, I went on a 6-mile hike up Iron Mountain with these fun folks:

The hike was a clever fundraiser for an international organization supported strongly by two of my friends: Cindy and Tim Stallo.

Led by Cindy, we all climbed the 3 miles to the top of the mountain, enjoyed the beautiful vistas of San Diego and then scrambled back down the mountain. While it was a nice day in the sun, an opportunity to be active and surrounded by great people – the purpose of the hike was to raise money.

No, we didn’t pick up loose change on the way up the mountain. The hike was the first of a 7 hikes in 7 days fundraiser to benefit kids living in Malawi, Africa. Cindy asked her friends, family, colleagues and friends of friends via Facebook to hike with her on 7 different hikes throughout San Diego over 7 days. Cindy said that, “Tim and I wanted to raise money for Malawi and I wanted to do a physical challenge.” Thus the 7 Hikes in 7 Days was born.

The Stallos have long since had a heart for Malawi and its children.

They have traveled to Malawi, Africa many times over the past 7 years to support and work with two organizations: Youth Care Ministries and RiseMalawi. The goal of these non-profits is to provide children (many of whom are orphans) with basic needs five days a week: a meal, school supplies, tutoring, counseling and education. The after school and summer camps provide these things as well as support for their families, such as building a roof for a family during the rainy season or purchasing shoes for all the children in the family.

While Tim and Cindy had hoped to return to Malawi this summer and bring donations with them, they were unable to do so. But this didn’t stop them from fundraising for their favorite cause. Their goal for the 7 Hikes in 7 days fundraiser is to raise over $7,000 to underwrite the costs of 20 street kids to attend summer and after-school camps in Malawi for an entire year.


So far, they have recruited 38 hikers in the first 3 and have raised around $2,400 this month!

The hike was also symbolic. We’ve heard the saying: walk a mile in another man’s shoes. In this case, we were walking miles in little kids’ shoes.  Everyday Malawi children walk approximately 5 miles from their village to school. The concept of a fundraiser hike was a great one for this cause!

Cindy got the word out on Facebook with details about each hike and how people could get involved. The beauty of this fundraiser was that the logistics were pretty easy. Through Facebook, Cindy provided prospect hiker/fundraisers all the details like meet up time and place, trailheads, length/difficulty of hike and who was going. And then all she had to do was show up at the trailhead, collect checks and cash and take the group up the mountain. Thanks to our national park service, we have beautiful and well-maintained trails in San Diego. There were no permits to be obtained, streets to be closed, equipment to be rented rentals, centerpieces to be arranged… just a dirt trail to follow.

Not only did the hikers make a personal donation, they were encouraged to raise funds from their friends. This automatically multiplied the amount of money that Cindy and her husband could raise from just their set of friends. And it worked. I brought my mom on the hike who so kindly and generously made a donation stating: “I like giving directly to people and knowing that the nonprofit won’t sell my name.” Mom donated cash; impersonal as it gets and no one sends her unwanted mail.*


Cindy already has plans to expand the hike next year including a Skype session between the hikers and the kids in Malawi right before the hike. Engaging friends outside of San Diego to hike along for 7 days in their own cities.

If you would like to support Cindy and Tim’s efforts to fundraise, please email Cindy at cindystallo at or make a tax-deductible donation at

*I did explain to my mom on the hike that most nonprofits are not in the habit of selling her name and address to other nonprofits. After all, nonprofits don’t want to lose their donors to other organizations. But there is a big scheme when it comes to direct mails and purchasing lists. She was a bit shocked and appalled that I could purchase a one-time use list of individuals who made a certain amount of money and lived in a wealthy zip code.

What a group of fundraisers… er, hikers!


Nonprofit World Article: Four Steps to Effective Networking May 29, 2012

Filed under: AFP Advancing Philanthropy,Nonprofit Careers — reneeherrell @ 9:00 am


To see the full article, click here: Four Steps to Effective Networking published by Nonprofit World


“I don’t like to ask for money” and other “wa-wa” excuses May 22, 2012

Filed under: Board,Capital Campaign — reneeherrell @ 9:00 am

I know that most people don’t like asking for money. It is an uncomfortable thing to do. It also makes my job possible so I’m okay with it. Unless, I hear it from a Steering Committee member. I can’t tell you how often I hear: “I don’t like to ask for money.” Which is pretty ironic considering that these same individuals were recruited with a sole purpose: to raise money for the capital campaign. As a director of development, this puts you in a bind. A committee meant to raise money who hosts members who don’t like to ask for money. It’s a quandary.


What to do? What to do?


The Challenge: Our committee members won’t ask for money.

The (other) Challenge: You have not trained your committee members to ask for money.

The Solution: Set up a one-hour training session with your Steering Committee. Start by discussing the importance of a peer-to-peer ask: If an individual who has already given $1,000,000 to the campaign asks another individual for $1,000,000. It is a “peer-to-peer ask”. It is also much stronger if an “ask” comes from a volunteer leader instead of a staff member. Once the members understand why it is so important for them (yes, each one of them!) to make the solicitations, move onto a step-by-step instruction on how to engage a prospect donor. I often provide a generic script and role play it with a committee member.

Script should include speaking points for:

  • Initial phone call to prospect donor to ask for a meeting and/or invite them to a cultivation reception
  • At the meeting/reception
  • Follow up phone call conversation
  • Solicitation

The Challenge: Our committee members are really and truly not skilled at asking for gifts.

The Solution: Find them another role. There are many steps to making a solicitation from the initial cultivation steps to the actual solicitation. Find a strategic role for each member to play in engaging prospect donors. Perhaps your committee member has many important relationships with key individuals who are prospect donors and socializes with them on a regular basis. Utilize him or her to start talking about the capital campaign improvements and the need for donations. They don’t have to ask, but building the case for campaign verbally is really important. It gets the prospect donor’s mental wheels turning. This same committee member can also be the one to invite the prospect donor to the solicitation meeting and participate, but someone else solicits. I have a client and they use the Executive Director for solicitations because he is a very effective “asker” who is sure to make a solicitation with exact amount before the meeting closes. You may have a committee member who is an eloquent writer and will help you communicate the need of the campaign through handwritten letters to key individuals.

The (other) solution: Or ask them to step off the committee. For detailed instructions on how to respectfully usher a committee or Board member through the exit process, read this.

In full disclosure, the picture is my cutie patootie niece with her “wa-wa” face on.


5 years? I thought this was a 5-month commitment May 1, 2012

Filed under: Board,Capital Campaign — reneeherrell @ 9:00 am

The Steering Committee (or Capital Campaign Committee) is a group of dedicated volunteers who have all made a stretch gift to the capital campaign and have agreed to lead the fundraising efforts of the campaign. Let’s first discuss the responsibilities of the steering committee in a capital campaign.

 Committee Responsibilities:

  • Be passionate about and actively involved with the organization
  • Make a personal donation or pledge to the campaign
  • Ask others for donations
  • Attend Steering Committee Meetings (monthly)
  • Follow through on work produced at the Committee meeting
  • Be an advocate in the community for the organization and the campaign

The job of the steering committee member is not easy. They have made a commitment to multiple years of making solicitations, regular meetings and attending many cultivation events.

Despite the dedication of the committee, often problems arise with the committee that can hinder your campaign. Over the next couple of weeks, we will discuss these different challenges.

The Challenge: Our committee is not engaged.

The (other) Challenge: You are not engaging your committee members.

The Solution: While every development officer would love if their steering committee members were just out there making successful 6-figure solicitations on their own, it if often not the case. So, how can you engage your committee members in the fundraising process?

  1. Review donor prospect lists together to identify individuals who they know. Note: sometimes the committee member knows the individual too well to actually make the solicitation and it is not a good match for solicitation. And sometimes you need to show them the rational.
  2. Once you have identified 5-10 prospects, develop strategy for approaching the donors and the timing for this to unfold. Also, determine a solicitation amount and a specific area of the campaign that will be of interest to the prospect.
  3. Provide any necessary materials to your committee member to help with the cultivation process (i.e. case for support, pledge card, gift chart, etc.)
  4. Offer to go on the cultivation or solicitation call to provide support to the committee member and help make the call successful.
  5. Follow up with your committee member on their progress. Help them build new strategy when the original plan does not work as anticipated.
  6. Celebrate success!

How do your tweets and status updates impact your job? March 14, 2012

Filed under: In the development office,Social Media — reneeherrell @ 6:14 pm


With today’s day and age, everyone is online. All the time. We use social media for our personal and professional lives. LinkedIn is all about our professional connections and listing our work experience. And Facebook is for posting photos funny quips, rants, raves and photos of just about anything. Or is it?

If you are looking for a job, know that potential employers will “google” you. Even if your Facebook page is “private”, they can see your profile pic. Consider what your social media says about you in the professional arena.

I personally had a social media “whoa” moment at the APPL conference last week where I was speaking about how to engage the next gen (X & Y) in philanthropy. As I was encouraging the attendees to use social media – Facebook, Twitter, Blog, LinkedIn, etc. – I realized that I needed to take my own advice. I had not tweeted in 51 dayswhoops!

Part of this was due to a crisis of identity. I didn’t know how to distinguish my Facebook status posts from a tweet. Weren’t they basically the same? And to be honest, Twitter seems far more public than Facebook because folks can just start following me. I was quick to “unfollow” and block folks that I didn’t know on Twitter because I didn’t think they needed to know about my personal life or funny photos or observations about my life… when it hit me: my personal life.

Ah… well, that’s the conundrum of social media. Your personal life is public. In fact, we choose to make it public. Very much so.


So, I decided to make Twitter my professional public image where I can tweet about this blog and other work related observations. I will allow everyone to “follow” me (except for that naked lady – nonprofits are a fully-clothed work place!) and I will work to “follow” more people.

I will still keep my silly Facebook page posts and pictures because I find them highly amusing. Yet, at the same time, as a consultant, I am always interviewing and people are looking at me through the public personal/professional lens online. So, I will need to be conscience on how I appear in the online public eye.

How do you handle your social media on a professional level? Does your boss “follow” you on twitter? Are your co-workers your friends on Facebook?


AFP Advancing Philanthropy Article: Online Strategies for Successful Fundraising March 6, 2012


Meet Valerie Townsend Livesay February 21, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — reneeherrell @ 9:00 am


I want to introduce you to an associate of RCH Consulting, Valerie Townsend Livesay. Ms. Livesay and I met when we were both pursuing our master’s degrees at the University of San Diego (USD) and after logging many late nights and long weekends studying together, we developed a friendship, which has turned into a great business relationship. Valerie has worked with me on developing a fundraising plan (February 2009) and strategic plan (May 2011) for the Chula Vista Nature Center ( Recently, she worked with me to develop a fundraising plan for the City Heights Community Development Corporation ( She is incredible at working with key stakeholders one-on-one and a brilliant writer and editor. She is also expanding her skills as a facilitator and trainer for Boards and Committees. A lifelong learner, Valerie is in her final semester of coursework in USD’s Ph.D. in Leadership Studies program. Her research interest is in how human development contributes to leader development. I consider myself lucky to have her expertise on board with RCH Consulting.


Here’s her bio:

Valerie Townsend Livesay began her career in the nonprofit arena as director of marketing for the American Heart Association (AHA) in San Diego, and later the director of corporate relations for the Western States Affiliate of the AHA. She transitioned to higher education fundraising, heading up the Chancellor’s Associates leadership annual giving program at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), focusing on unrestricted leadership annual gifts and the cultivation and stewardship of major donors. Having received her master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management at the University of San Diego (USD), she jumped at the chance to raise money for her alma mater as the Director of USD’s Office of Annual Giving consisting of the university’s direct mail program, telefunding center and, the President’s Club, the university’s $1,500+ donor recognition society.


Ms. Livesay is a seasoned fundraising professional with twelve years of nonprofit experience focused in the areas of corporate relations, annual giving, and donor cultivation and recognition program development. She is skilled in creating learning environments that engage all participants as both teachers and learners in both formal classroom and real-world settings. Ms. Livesay is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Leadership Studies at USD and serves as the doctoral graduate assistant in the Office of Admissions and Outreach for the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) focusing on the use of social media to engage prospective SOLES graduate students. Her research interest is in the ways in which human development impacts leader development.


Doctor of Philosophy in Leadership Studies (In Progress), University of San Diego

M.A., Nonprofit Leadership and Management, University of San Diego
B.A., Telecommunications, Indiana University





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