Conversations with Jerry & Brian

The honor of a lifetime


A year ago, on July 14, 2018, our field lost one of its true legends. Jerry Panas impacted fundraising for almost 70 years as a fundraiser, consultant, author, and thought leader. How many organizations owe their success to the work of Jerry and his eponymous firm? How many of us have his books on our shelves and still return to them for inspiration and guidance? My favorite Jerry-ism is “no one ever listened themselves out of a gift”!

When I finally convinced Jerry to sit down in 2018 for a series of talks, I had no idea these talks would constitute the bulk of Jerry’s final thoughts on the field. While Jerry had been weakened by illness, he was still vibrant and engaged and had much to say on the topic of fundraising.

I spent five days at Jerry’s home between March and June 2018, covering topics from the evolution of boards to the art of listening, from how to make the strongest case to why you didn’t get the gift. One session was focused on Jerry’s top words of wisdom.

Each time we met, Jerry, his wife Felicity, and I would first sit down to a delicious lunch (always with a yummy, smelly cheese!) and talk about the field, our families, and life in general. Then Felicity would take their two dogs out of barking range (though if you listen closely you can hear one or two barks!) and Jerry and I would start our chats.

On the anniversary of his death, Felicity and I are honored to share these conversations with the field. Please enjoy them and share them with your peers.


Staff Meetings – March 5th, 2018

Jerry was already a CEO of a YMCA in his early 20’s, so you can imagine how many staff meetings he sat through in his illustrious career. You’d probably agree with Jerry’s assessment that most staff meetings are not productive, motivating or exciting, so join us to learn what you can do to improve them.

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Board Members: Part I – March 5th, 2018

This was a very meaty topic. In Part I, we talked about board meetings themselves. Like staff meetings, how do you make them more interesting…since so many aren’t! Find out Jerry’s “three B’s” for while board meetings can be trouble.

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Board Members: Part II – March 5th, 2018

What are the board’s most important functions? And what makes for a good board member? Can a board member serve on multiple boards and, of so, how many? Last but not least – the $64,000 question (no pun intended) of how much board members should contribute.

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What Makes a Great Fundraiser – March 5th, 2018

Jerry started out identifying 102 traits of a great fundraiser and eventually whittled that down to twelve for his iconic book “Born to Raise.” How many of the twelve do you possess? And you’ll be surprised to learn how Jerry got into fundraising considering he was on a pre-med track in college.

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Why You Didn’t Get the Gift – March 27th, 2018

Jerry specifically asked to talk about this topic – all the reasons you didn’t get a gift. Of course, you can’t get a gift if you don’t ask, but what other mistakes can you make? Can you ask for too much or too little?

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The Art of Listening – March 27th, 2018

You know listening is critical in fundraising, but how much should you listen? How do you make sure you spend your time listening? As Jerry says, “no one ever listens themselves out of a gift.”

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Preparing for the Ask – March 27th, 2018

When you know a donor well, it’s easier to prepare for a meeting. What if you don’t know everything you want to know? How much can you find out during the meeting? Learn from Jerry how he prepared for meetings.

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Making the Case – March 27th, 2018

Jerry spent much of his career leading and advising on big campaigns, where the case for support is so critical. Here Jerry shares why a strong, written case is so important, and what the key elements of the case are.

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Words of Wisdom – April 8th, 2018

Who sooner to learn words of widsom from than Jerry Panas. How about “donors will forget what you said, and what you did, but never forget how you made them feel”? Or the B.O.Y. Rule. Any ideas what B.O.Y. stands for?!

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Board Evolution – April 8th, 2018

We came back to the subject of boards because they’re so critical to fundraising. Here Jerry talked about how boards evolve and what that means for their composition. How do you evaluate board members to ensure they are performing well? And how does the board evaluate a CEO, especially a long-serving one.

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Asking Styles – April 8th, 2018

Though Jerry and I had worked together for a number of years, I finally got Jerry to take the Asking Style Assessment during one of my visits. You might be surprised by Jerry’s results, as was I, though that was due to my falling back into the same stereotype of a fundraiser our field needs to dispel!

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Rapid Questions – May 24th, 2018

One day we agreed that I’d just throw a bunch of classic fundraising questions and Jerry would give quick answers. From “can you take more than two people to a solicitation meeting?” to “what are the key elements of every ask?” this fun session covered a lot of ground.

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What Does Maybe Mean – June 21st, 2018

What does “maybe” mean? Is that a good answer and how do you investigate further? Maybe often means you’ve asked in that sweet spot – when a gift is doable yet meaningful – but takes thought. Also, we had quite an intimate moment when we compared notes on the most meaningful gift each of us had ever made.

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Quid Pro Quo Fundraising – June 21st, 2018

The dreaded quid pro quo, which in fundraising means board members asking friends and family whose causes they then have to support, was worthy of its own topic. Jerry shares how the field has changed and the work we still have ahead of us. How much of your board members’ fundraising is quid-pro-quo fundraising?

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What is Success in Fundraising – June 21st, 2018

When we recorded this piece we didn’t expect it to be our last recording, but how fitting to close the series by talking about how to define success.

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