Zen and the Art of Fundraising - 8 Pillars of Success, is the first book by CGP member Alexandra Pia Brovey, JD, LLM.
In her informative and inspiring guide, the reader is taken on a VIP tour inside the mind of a master fundraiser. What the journey teaches us—about Alex, fundraising, and ultimately ourselves—will change the way we approach our careers and our donors, and should result in a more positive outcome for the charitable organizations that employ us.
As noted in the introduction, a technical background is indeed valuable for gift planners. Familiarity with tax law changes, an understanding of estate planning vehicles and an ability to discuss these vehicles clearly with our donors are all important tools for gift planners. Happily, there is programming available through local councils, national conferences, and online webinars to ensure that the gift planning community is educated and prepared to effectively raise funds for the important missions of the charities that they support.
The lessons taught in Zen and the Art of Fundraising fill a void left by many more technical training opportunities. But make no mistake, these “soft” skills, as Alex refers to them, are indeed valuable for fundraisers at all levels. A seasoned fundraiser myself (a nice way of saying that I am rapidly approaching the age of my average donor), I was immediately drawn in, and found myself “in the moment” as I took on Alex’s challenge, closed my eyes, and recalled my most meaningful gift. Just like the gift planning colleagues that Alex surveyed, the gift that immediately came to mind was not the largest gift I had ever closed. I was pleased to be in such good company, and even more pleased as I thought about the dear donors with whom I still maintain a cherished relationship.
The lesson that resonated the most with me was Alex’s second “pillar,” listening. Succinctly captured by the children’s rhyme, The Wise Old Owl, this lesson is far too often overlooked. If you read nothing else, read this chapter and take it to heart. You will be a more successful gift planner for having done so.
As for me, I particularly loved the sixth pillar, patience. A broad smile spread across my face when I saw the side-bar entitled “Practicing Zen in an un-Zen Environment.” Who among us has not worked in at least one such environment?
I could easily share highlights from each chapter, but that would deprive you of the pleasure of hearing Alex share the stories that truly bring this fundraising guide to life. The words of wisdom packed into this lovely little resource book will challenge you, inspire you and make you a better gift planner. Pour yourself a warm cup of tea and enjoy this enlightening book.
Meryl R. Cosentino, J.D. has more than 30 years of estate and gift planning experience, and is currently the Senior Director of Gift Planning at Stony Brook University. Meryl joined the Stony Brook Advancement team after spending five years as the Director of Planned Giving at St. Francis Hospital. Prior to that, Meryl honed her philanthropic skills at The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. She is a member of the CGP Board of Directors.