Cygnus Applied Research, Inc.

is transforming how money is raised.

I don’t give for the tax break. I don’t give because I get lots of emails asking me to. I give because I’m passionate about the causes I’m helping. That’s it. Plain and simple.

Led by renowned author, speaker and fundraising futurist, Penelope Burk, Cygnus conducts research that translates the changing needs and sensibilities of donors into practical strategies that raise more money.

Cygnus is especially well known for its central fundraising philosophy, Donor-Centered Fundraising, which clarifies, in specific and measurable terms, what donors want, what would inspire their sustained loyalty, and what would compel them to increase the value of their contributions sooner.

Through our ongoing research with tens of thousands of donors every year, Cygnusserves the not-for-profit sector in these ways:

  • We alert fundraisers and not-for-profit leaders to changing trends in giving, offering solutions fully supported by research evidence from donors;
  • We publish books, research studies and opinion pieces featuring evidence-based strategies that boost profit while streamlining fundraising;
  • We prepare Development Directors, CEOs and Boards for a new giving environment and donors’ heightened expectations through Donor-Centered Leadership;
  • We teach fundraisers, not-for-profit leaders and clients to interact more effectively with their donors so they can raise more money.
  • The session, Donor-Centered for Boards, with Penelope Burk was by far the best learning experience I’ve ever had as a board member for any organization. I also bought and read both her books (which is something I rarely do after attending a session) and I have applied so much of her donor-centered philosophy to my work, not only as a board member but as a donor, too.

    Robert C. Woodhouse Jr. Trustee, Saint Mary’s Foundation
  • Penelope Burk is a phenomenal presenter for two reasons: first, her casual and engaging style draws participants in and makes the subject matter easy to understand with real-life examples and an “I know what it’s like” connection to those in the room; second, her data is extensive and compelling, and it gives fundraisers real-life tools that they can use to begin shifting from a traditional dollar-centered approach to a more dependable and lucrative donor-centered approach.

    Elizabeth Brunner Habitat for Humanity International
  • Penelope’s keynote address and her break-out session yesterday were the highlights of the conference for me. She shared such relevant and immediately-applicable information. What an inspiration she is—in speaking, in writing, and (most important) one-on-one.

    Karen H. Crane Director of Development, University of Jamestown
  • I congratulate Penelope for her presentation at the AFP International Conference. She is a truly dynamic performer and speaker who shares her vision with humor and energy. Listening to her makes me want to commit more to my work; and she increases my dedication to philanthropy.

    Elsa Desjardins Director Events and Fundraising Projects, Montreal Heart Institute Foundation
  • Penelope is the most knowledgeable and interesting speaker I have ever heard in my nearly twenty years in the business.

    Kelly Millington Vice President of Financial Development, YMCA of Greater St Louis and YMCA of Southwest Illinois
  • Penelope is a rock star for fundraisers. Always entertaining; always provocative. She has transformed how we see our donors and how we do our work in fundamental ways.

    Laura Breeze President, AFP Southwest Florida Chapter