Jason McNeal, Ph.D., Gonser Gerber partner, has provided advancement leadership to non-profit organizations for more than 20 years. Having served as the chief advancement officer at East Georgia College and Maryville College (TN), he also has consulted with institutions throughout the U.S. and Canada. Dr. McNeal has written extensively on key issues in non-profit fundraising and leadership including his blog that you can find at http://www.jasonmcneal.com.

Working Historically

Fifty years from now, someone may write a history of your institution and it likely will include observations about today’s advancement program successes. For instance, the history might note that, during this period, your year-over-year total giving increased significantly. It might report on the fact that your comprehensive campaign went over goal by some significant…

“We Don’t Make Enough To Give”

Recently, I provided a keynote address to a gathering of high school presidents.  During our time together, we discussed faculty and staff giving at their high schools and multiple presidents said, “We had tremendous pushback during our faculty and staff annual giving campaign, so we don’t do that anymore.” “What was the primary objection from…

They Might Be Right

During his life, Howard Baker, Jr., the longtime politician and diplomat from Tennessee, credited his father with the following quote: “You should always go through life working on the assumption that the other guy might be right.” Not only does this quote strike me as a thoughtful way to travel through life personally, but it…

Just Something Special

Go to any college or university and interview alumni who are proud of their school. “There is just something special about this place,” you will hear over and over in various forms. The reality, though, is that there isn’t that much truly special (or different) about the place. It’s an institution of higher education (like, literally, thousands…

Big Change

Every year, every decade, every generation brings with it societal-level questions that are complicated and unsettling legally, socially, politically, morally, and ethically.  The U.S. has had to confront some of its thorniest and deeply disquieting societal issues and questions since its founding. For instance. . . From 1787 until 1865 and the passage of the…

“I Don’t Know. . .”

“I don’t know how we will reach the goal. . .” “I don’t know where the next major gift is coming from. . .” “I don’t know who is willing to lead this campaign. . .” After we establish a goal, create a fundraising plan, or design a campaign, our advancement work is filled with…

The Formula

The big ask captivates us. “If she would only give us the $1.5 million. . . ” “If that company would only be our event’s title sponsor. . . ” The big ask is so captivating, in fact, that it’s tempting to start there. “Let’s go ask and see what they say!” is the trill…

A Not-To-Do List

“What are you going to say, ‘no’ to?” I asked this question of a client when their alumni relations team was looking at their annual planning calendar and it was clear they had more great ideas than they could implement. I posed the question not only to get them to think about prioritizing their list…

When We Start

When we attempt a new task, most of us usually aren’t that good at it. It can feel awkward the first time we attempt to ice skate. Presenting for the first time in front of a group can create anxiety. Baking a cake for the first time can be a messy (and, perhaps, a less…

Leadership and Negative Thoughts

Positive thinking, or maintaining a positive attitude even in difficult circumstances, has been shown to have various tangible personal benefits.  From workplace productivity to stress reduction to higher brain functioning, working on seeing the good in people and situations is smart. Negative thought patterns, on the other hand, are correlated with a number of less-than-helpful personal outcomes. …