A newsletter from North American YMCA Development Organization        Volume 30      |      Number 2      |      March 2016


Bill Hybels, Sr. Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, defines leadership very simply: the ability to move your organization from here to there. He goes onto explain that in order to move to “there,” you need to make “here” unacceptable. While a vision of something better is nice, it takes real discomfort with how things are now to cause people to take action.

This is an important reminder for YMCAs when building a case for support or sharing your mission with the community. If you want to affect change, be it at the individual or community level, you must make an argument that is so urgent and timely that doing nothing simply isn’t acceptable.

It’s not always an easy thing for a Y to do. You are probably proud of your work in the community and strive to be a voice for positivity and hope. But to move forward, the great work you are doing today will not be enough. The depth and breadth of your impact has to grow. You have to move from here to there.

Another way to think of this is to focus on the why not the what.  If your capital case focuses on the “what” (a new building or expansion), a prospective donor is left to wonder:

What’s the urgent need to move forward with this effort now?

If I do nothing, what will happen?

If your annual case doesn’t connect program with purpose, showing not just what you do, but why you do it, a potential donor may be left asking:  

There are other organizations working on solving these issues too. What’s unique about how the Y does it?
So many people already give. Does the Y really need me?

One of the best ways to generate a sense of urgency in a potential donor is to make it personal. Bring them to your site to see both the positive good that is happening, and the greater need that is not being met. Ask them to think of a time when they needed help from another. Ask them questions about the needs they are seeing in the community.

Moving prospective donors, volunteers and even staff from here to there is a gradual process. It doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate all you’ve accomplished to date. It may take time for a donor to realize just why “here” is no longer acceptable. But when you’re ready to move forward, the best thing you can do is make standing still impossible.

By the Donor By Design Team



The 2016 NAYDO Conference is just three weeks away!

This year’s NAYDO Conference Committee has put together a great program of speakers, workshops and activities from which all attendees can benefit.   There is still time to make a decision to join us in Detroit if you hadn’t planned to attend. You can register at www.NAYDO.org and there are still convenient hotel rooms available.

We are expecting more than 1,400 YMCA staff, volunteers and vendors from a dozen countries at this year’s conference. It can be a bit hectic maneuvering through all the potential activities on Wednesday when most attendees will arrive. Here are a few ideas to help you connect with other attendees and get your conference off to a great start. 

While there are a variety of preconference tours and educational opportunities, the 2016 Conference events kick-off at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday with our “Taste of Canada” reception in the Exhibit Area. Be sure to grab some hors d' oeuvres, a refreshment and spend some time visiting with our exhibitors while you are there.

If you are headed to Detroit for your first NAYDO Conference, there are a couple activities that are specially designed to help you get the most out of your conference experience. Take advantage of the Welcome Center opportunity to sit for a few minutes with small group of other new attendees and a NAYDO veteran. This gives you the chance to ask questions, to get familiar with the Conference tools and meet some new friends. 

Next, the “New Attendee Orientation & Networking Session” begins at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday. This session provides a Conference overview to help you plan your conference activities. It provides some accepted “ground rules” for conference participants and it identifies key individuals involved in the educational tracks that may be a resource for you over the next couple of days at the Conference.

NAYDO Conference first-timers and veterans alike will appreciate the opportunity to join the leaders of the national movements that come together in the Philanthropy Alliance. Kevin Washington, CEO of YMCA of the USA, Laura Palmer-Korn, Interim CEO of YMCA Canada and Ernesto Gaona, CEO of YMCA Mexico will briefly address the Conference attendees and then mingle with the crowd. This is a great opportunity to meet our national leaders and network with other attendees.

These opening day recommendations should help you get started on a great Conference experience. The educational workshops that fill the day on Thursday and Friday will offer something for everyone. It is those sessions that allow you to tailor the Conference to your needs and experience. That is how you guarantee that you will find the “nuggets” that can help you in your work at the YMCA.

See you in Motown!
Andy Pierce


While everyone at your Y may not be able to join us at the conference this year, it is still possible to stay connected to the energy that will be buzzing in Detroit:

  • Follow us virtually!  Follow @YMCA_NAYDO on twitter or search #naydo2016 to get conference highlights.
  • Workshop descriptions and handouts will all be posted on the NAYDO website by April 1 so you can browse through any and all sessions that may be helpful in your work.
  • All presenters and their bios are currently posted on the website with their contact information so you can connect with any of them one on one.
  • Association Members will receive one complimentary set of the conference recordings in May. Identify sessions you like and create your own Lunch n' Learn series with staff and volunteers - it's a great way to amplify collective learning. Just be sure your Y's association contact person is up-to-date in the MAYDO membership database by the end of April.
  • Individual Members can purchase their own copy of the complete set or an individual session, too; a link for online orders will be posted on the NAYDO website as soon as the recordings are produced post-conference. 



Rebecca Bowen joined Y-USA in January 2016. She has deep expertise leading fundraising teams and forging collaboration among philanthropists, board members, executive leaders, and program staff. 

Her fundraising experience includes the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago as Director of Annual Giving, Director of Sustaining Programs, and Senior Director of Financial Development from 1996 to 2001. 

She returns to the Y after 15 years in conservation fundraising with Panthera, The Nature Conservancy, and Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. As Panthera’s first CDO, Rebecca created the fundraising team and plan for the nine-year-old organization to realize financial sustainability and closed $80 million from the four founding members of a donor collaborative. 

Rebecca worked for The Nature Conservancy in Boston as Director of Philanthropy for Massachusetts and Director of Principal Gifts, then as Principal Development Officer for the worldwide office in Virginia. She and her team created the first organization-wide pipeline for gifts of $5 million and more, resulting in a 30 percent increase in contributed revenue in 2014 and 2015. She closed more than $75 million in gifts, creating many of the organization’s most forward-thinking programs. 


Insight and Tips: Q&A with Rebecca Bowen


What memorable career advice did you get starting out that you still follow?

I am fortunate to have great mentors. In my first fundraising position at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, my supervisor coached “always have a bias to action.” As fundraising professionals we work hard to manage and merge donor interests with the organization’s needs. So many stakeholders in the gift means that we don’t want to rush decisions. Often, we get caught up in the process. It is important work, but having a bias to action means our point of view is: What is the right decision for the donor and the organization? Then, do it!

Another mentor told me, “You cannot raise money by phone or email.” That holds true today. You need to get out of the office and talk to donors face-to-face. In this day and age, video conference counts!


What is your proudest career accomplishment?

I am fortunate in every position I’ve held to work with volunteers, executive leaders, and donors to close meaningful gifts for all. This is what gets me up in the morning.

The Nature Conservancy has a different mission but the same federated structure as the Y. We had a good board, CEO, and programs. But, the global principal gifts team that I led had a very skinny donor pipeline, because donor cultivation and stewardship were managed by the chapters because they were closest to the donors.

We solved the problem by creating a worldwide network of fundraisers, working collaboratively to raise the largest, most meaningful gifts. We were able to offer wealth screening of the donor database to support major gift targeting in all chapters. We also found that a fundraiser based in New York might have better access through a trustee or friend to a donor based in San Diego than her colleague in San Diego did. It was connecting those dots and working together than changed the culture to ‘we’ from ‘us and them.’ It made a profound difference in the practice of fundraising. We created an organization-wide pipeline of 380 donors and prospective donors capable of gifting $5 million or more. In the following year that pipeline produced an additive $120M for conservation. Even better, we had reason to celebrate every member of the network.


Please touch on fundraising trends or what you see working well.

There are two, critical trends that mirror today’s economy and society.

First, wealth is concentrating to a handful of people. There is an upswing in really big gifts. The people making them talk about social impact but most give to their universities and to their own foundations. SSIR published a great article on this by the great thinkers at Bridgespan – Making Big Bets for Social Change (SSIR Winter 2016). One of the conclusions that struck me is that the social impact sector is just not as good at structuring big deals as the hospitals and universities are. Deal structuring requires a close partnership between the donor, program and organizational leadership and a fundraiser, along with a healthy dose of patience for the negotiation. In truth, I’ve been impressed with what the Y has pulled off in this space.  

For nonprofits with a broad donor base, online and mobile giving are an investment in future donors. Millennials and the following generation have much larger numbers of potential volunteers and donors than earlier generations. Today, however, most donations are made by retirees responding to direct mail. There are some powerful statistics in the Merrill Lynch report, The Longevity Bonus (June 2015). There will be a shift over time, so investing in these platforms now are not as lucrative in the short term but will position us for the longer term.


What organizations are doing a great job of donor-centered fundraising, including stewardship?

Here’s an example from a recent fundraising webinar. Stanford University has a Director of Next Generation Giving. They are preparing for Millennials, creating fun, satisfying experiences that focus on stewardship. They have a mascot for alumni giving. When a gift is made, they send the donor a video of the mascot somewhere on campus. The alum can laugh and feel good about the gift. Stanford is succeeding with its department structure and by investing in future donors.

Donor-centered fundraising is difficult for large organizations. The bigger you are, the bigger the push-pull between donor and program desires. Fundraisers are the liaison between donor needs and program needs, and our job is to find that middle ground. I believe we need to better communicator with staff about our role and provide ongoing education on the fundraising process, so we can align needs, wants, expectations, and donations. 


How do you define success?

I’m both a fundraiser and a fundraising leader, so the answer is a little different depending on which hat I’m wearing. As a fundraiser, I’m successful if the donors that I touch feel gladdened by their impact on program. As a fundraising leader, I’m successful if that can be scaled, which means a team and a community of partners that is so well aligned that it is always externally facing. 

Rebecca Bowen
Chief Development Officer
YMCA of the USA


Sponsored by Donor By Design Group, NAYDO 365 is a series of conversations with Y leaders about fundraising, working with volunteers and leadership. They’ll share their insights from their own experiences and coach you on how to meet the challenges of promoting the YMCA cause in your community.

EPISODE FOUR is an interview with Ron Metz, Capital Campaign Chair from the Kokomo Family Y. Ron will share the challenges facing their campaign and how they overcame them. Take away lessons on leadership, working with municipalities, inspiring with a big vision and more.