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Lee A. Ernst

Experience as a successful major gift officer at a large university has given Lee Ernst a unique understanding of major gift work and donor dynamics. As a consultant at JGA, Lee uses this experience to assist nonprofits in the creation and implementation of development and major gift plans that can help organizations achieve their philanthropic goals. Lee has demonstrated success in a wide range of development situations, and has a proven track record of personal cultivation and solicitation.
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Recent Posts

Crafting a Development Plan to Guide Your Fundraising Activities

May 26, 2022

Do you and your board have a clear sense of your fundraising activities for the next 12 months? Does that plan include clear goals that tie into your organization’s strategic plan? In a perfect world the answer would be yes, of course!

But we all know that when things get busy, the development plan can sometimes be put by the wayside. It’s easy to get distracted when new ideas come along or funding requests change. Sometimes we just dig into the work, without taking the time to thoroughly plan.

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5 Key Steps to Building a Culture of Philanthropy

September 30, 2021

Building a culture of philanthropy: it probably sounds like a dream—but kind of hard to achieve.

We had the opportunity recently to discuss this topic on a webinar with Danielle Shockey, CEO of Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, where she shared insights from her work growing a culture of philanthropy among the staff and volunteers at her organization. I’m excited to share some of the main points from our discussion.

What is a culture of philanthropy? We define it as: “One in which everyone—board, all staff, and the CEO— has a part to play in raising resources for the organization.”

The key driver behind a culture of philanthropy is the relationship—not just money.

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Planning for a Successful Campaign in Today’s Environment

April 29, 2021

Whether you are in a campaign now or considering the next one, it’s essential to reflect on what has changed during the past year and what the best path forward is in the current climate. Here are some tips to help you plan for a campaign in today's environment taken from a recent webinar I conducted with my colleague John Keith.

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Running a Campaign Today: What You Need to Know for Success

August 08, 2019

It might feel like you are always in campaign mode, either planning for your first campaign, your next campaign, or currently in the middle of one. You aren’t alone here!  As you think about your campaign, here are some recent trends we have noticed and best practices  we have seen in our 25 years working with clients across multiple nonprofit sectors.

Trends in Campaigns

For starters, many more campaigns are taking place today. We are seeing larger campaign goals and more megacampaigns fueled by megagifts from the top tier of donors.

With this has come a greater focus on the top of the gift pyramid and heavy reliance on lead donors with less participation from mid-level donors. The challenge for non-profit organizations is to also build in opportunities to engage mid-level and annual fund level donors. Organizations are recognizing that if this opportunity is missed it can be detrimental to their efforts to develop major and lead gift donor pipelines for future campaigns. Relying on the same lead gift donors repeatedly can quickly lead to donor fatigue in the environment of continuous campaigns we find ourselves in today.

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Create a Development Plan to Guide your Fundraising Efforts

May 10, 2018

Do you have an updated development plan and do you use it? Creating a comprehensive development plan can guide your organization’s fundraising efforts and position you for future fundraising success. The plan can help you prioritize your fundraising activities for both short- and long-term growth, identify key constituent groups, and provide metrics and benchmarks by which to measure and evaluate success.

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Attracting and Retaining Good Fundraising Talent

June 19, 2017

The foundation of a strong fundraising program is built on relationships. When your organization has a talented and dedicated staff, you have the key elements to form relationships with your donors. What can we do to ensure we’re attracting and retaining our most valuable asset – people – while growing a strong culture of philanthropy?

What does the data show us about the current landscape of hiring development staff?

Recent research shows that the fundraising profession has a high turnover in staff positions and a dearth of qualified candidates to fill the void. Working with our clients, we hear stories of vacancies, long searches, and short stays.

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Understanding Baby Boomer Donors and their Giving Preferences

March 10, 2017

We now have 5 generations of donors, workers, and volunteers in the philanthropic marketplace:

  1. Gen Z (born after 1995)
  2. Millennials (1981 – 1995)
  3. Gen-X (1965 – 1980)
  4. Boomers (1946 – 1964) 
  5. Silent/Greats (born before 1946) 

Increased life expectancy, better healthcare, and delayed retirement all contribute to this unprecedented generational diversity.

Why should development professionals pay attention to generational diversity in the philanthropic marketplace? Each generation is influenced by their own economic, social, political, and environmental dynamics as well as collective experiences and different worldviews. These factors inform philanthropic behavior and generational giving preferences and have implications on how we as development professionals build relationships with donors.

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Using Nonprofit Storytelling to Communicate Impact

September 29, 2016

In our work with nonprofit clients here at JGA, we frequently interview donors and volunteer leadership. One concern we often hear is that the charity needs to do a better job of telling its story so more donors will support this great organization that they have come to know and love. Storytelling can be a great place for nonprofits to start when it comes to demonstrating their impact in a way that puts a human face on the mission.

I recently spoke with Kim Jones, Vice President at Willow Marketing, about how organizations can employ storytelling in their nonprofit marketing and development efforts.

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Best Feasibility Study Questions to Generate Authentic Donor Feedback

March 02, 2016

A feasibility study, in JGA’s view, is active campaigning and is an integral part of the cultivation and involvement process of major donors and prospects.

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Feasibility Study Best Practice - Appoint an Advisory Committee

September 23, 2015

Undertaking a feasibility study is active capital campaigning and is an integral part of the cultivation and involvement process of major donors and prospects. Ensuring your feasibility study has the proper guidance and support from the top is key to success.

One of the feasibility study best practices that JGA recommends to our clients is to recruit and engage an Advisory Committee to guide the work and progress of the study. They can help build buy-in and support for the study among leadership, staff, and key volunteers.
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