A 3-webinar series presented by Penelope Burk

November 6th | November 13th | November 20th

1:00pm – 2:15pm EDT/EST

In this information-packed three-webinar series, author, researcher and fundraising expert, Penelope Burk presents evidence from tens of thousands of donors on why they stop giving and what it will take to keep donors loyal and inspire them to make more generous contributions.

Webinar #1: The Profitable Advantage of Donor-Centered Gift Acknowledgment

Friday, November 6, 2020 | 1:00-2:15 EST

  • How donors’ giving behavior is changing and what that means for fundraisers in an increasingly competitive environment
  • Why donors are holding their philanthropy back
  • What Donors Want: the three things that improve loyalty and gift value and make your fundraising operation more profitable
  • Acknowledgment IS Recognition: how typical thank you letters can be transformed into brilliant acknowledgments that inspire more generous giving
  • How a one-minute thank you call can turn your Board members into willing volunteers who love fundraising
  • Testing: your critical advantage in becoming Donor-Centered
Webinar #2: Donor-Centered Communication – How to Get Your Message Heard in a World Overflowing with Information

Friday, November 13, 2020 | 1:00-2:15 EST

  • Restricted versus Unrestricted: why insisting on unrestricted gifts holds fundraising back and how to influence decision-makers on this critical issue
  • Communication IS the ask: What donors want from you after you say thank you and why donor-centered communication sets up your next appeal
  • From eight pages – to one – to fifteen words: why less is more in a world of communication overload
  • Who should communicate with donors – it’s not who you think!
  • Content that matters to donors… and what they’d rather you don’t tell them
  • How to craft compelling, donor-centered content
  • Your website: your #1 Donor-Centered advantage
  • Why “mass influencers” are a critical asset in your Social Media strategy
  • Donor-Centered communication is more about choice than change
Webinar #3: Donor-Centered Recognition that Keeps Donors Loyal in a Changing Giving Environment

Friday, November 20, 2020 | 1:00-2:15 EST

  • Does Donor Recognition Matter? — The difference between typical, passive recognition and active recognition that is Donor-Centered
  • Where publishing donors’ names fits within a Donor-Centered recognition strategy – new evidence from donors
  • Creative concepts in Donor Walls that engage donors and promote loyalty
  • Are token gifts and premiums a fundraising asset or do they risk diverting donors’ attention to fundraising cost: latest research findings
  • The top five things that donors say will make your next Donor Recognition Event a winner
  • All donors deserve to be recognized: how to evolve from competition to partnership through Donor-Centered Recognition


  • Donor relations and stewardship professionals and managers
  • Professional fundraisers and managers in direct marketing, major gifts, fundraising events and all aspects of annual fundraising
  • Development Directors and CEOs responsible for budget allocation, staff productivity, and increasing fundraising profit
  • Board members seeking meaningful ways to contribute to fundraising success
  • Marketing/communications personnel and writers wanting new ways to connect with and inspire donors

Related Webinar

Webinar Series for CEOs and Fundraising Leadership Begins October 8th

Becoming Donor-Centered-DCL
  • 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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Montreal Heart Institute Foundation
  • Penelope is the most knowledgeable and interesting speaker I have ever heard in my nearly twenty years in the business.

    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.

    AFP Southwest Florida Chapter
  • After 10 years of attending conferences and seminars, I had no idea that research of this magnitude existed. I’ll be looking to Penelope Burk and Cygnus Applied Research for new ideas in the years to come.

    Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services Foundation
  • Penelope Burk is a dynamic speaker. I enjoyed her seminar very much and learned more about what donors want in one day than in the five years I have worked in development – awesome!

    Metro Atlanta YMCA
  • Penelope is the only presenter with empirical data and her information blows the lid off our preconceived ideas about how we can fundraise successfully.

    University of Colorado Foundation
  • Penelope’s enthusiasm and understanding of today’s donors is a welcome concept in today’s fundraising arena. Through her time with us, Penelope has helped us to better understand our donors and help us re-evaluate our approaches and strategies that will strengthen our relationships with our donors. Penelope’s wealth of knowledge and expertise is a blessing to each of us.

    AFP Chicago Chapter
  • Penelope was fabulous! Our staff have not stopped quoting Penelope’s session. Penelope “pushed” us to think about our current practices and their impact on the people we care about. We are so thrilled to have had the time with her for her to share her insights, experience and knowledge with us.

    United Way of the Lower Mainland
  • Penelope conducted a terrific presentation. I admit I was worried about a 2-hour session with no break but, oh boy, her presentation captivated the audience throughout!

    Women in Philanthropy of Western Massachusetts
  • Penelope’s input has been invaluable to us as we strive to engage our supports in creating business solutions to poverty.

    Mennonite Economic Development Associates
  • Simply put, Penelope is an inspiration to my career! I am still using my notes from every session of hers I’ve attended and refer to her books when building and presenting fundraising strategies to our Board and campaign volunteers. Thank you to Penelope for all she does for this sector and for ambitious young women looking for role models and inspiration!

    The Priory School
  • Penelope’s seminar appealed to everyone on my staff. The concepts apply whether someone manages data, produces accountability reports, revises donor walls, conducts events, updates the websites, plans galas, or works directly with donors.

    Irving Healthcare Foundation
  • Penelope understands the importance of speaking at a professional volunteer level and giving recommendations to help reinforce the more appropriate techniques of fundraising. Her demeanor helped set everyone at ease and created a more open atmosphere to accept the message.  I only wish we could have had more board members present!

    Tracy Hospital Foundation
  • Penelope provides excellent researched info we can all use – from acquisition, mass marketing, major donors, stewardship to planned giving.

    World Vision Canada
  • Penelope shares her extensive knowledge and research in a clean and compelling manner.  She provides perspective on how to connect with donors on a meaningful level and shares strategies and techniques to relative donor-centered fundraising to the mission and business objectives of my organization.

    Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario
  • Penelope Burk is the guru of effective, thoughtful fundraising.  The research and tools she and Cygnus are able to provide set every development professional up for success.

    Sightline Institute
  • Penelope Burk knows fundraising inside and out and shares her knowledge with humor and stories that makes her presentation stand out.  I left feeling excited to implement many of the ideas she shared.

    Le Moyne College
  • What a joy to listen and talk with Penelope.  It has rejuvenated my love of the art of donor relations and inspired new ideas for how to better connect our donors to our work.

    Rouge Valley Health System Foundation
  • Penelope is always a breath of fresh air because she is out in front of the curve.  You leave her presentations with your batteries recharged!

  • As staff and volunteers, it’s so easy to become comfortable with how we raise funds.  Thank you for challenging the sector to hear what donors want and inspiring us to deliver.

    Ross Memorial Foundation
  • Penelope Burk challenged me to think differently about my work and my donors.  And she inspired me to act differently by giving me practical tools and advice.

    The Woodgreen Foundation
  • Penelope's approach to enabling philanthropy should be made into a vaccine. The health benefits to the sector would be immediate and obvious.

    Gift Planning in Canada
  • Penelope’s presentation was JUST what our AFP members had been craving: a complete recharge. Her all-day seminar on Donor-Centered Fundraising, from the woman who “wrote the book” on the topic, was entertaining, informal, and timely. The information was presented in an “easy to digest and easier to implement”  fashion, and everyone left with “to-do” lists several pages long.

    Girl Scouts of Gateway Council
  • To put it simply, Cygnus' research works! This year we set our fundraising goal 10% higher, which was ambitious. But, we applied all that we learned from Penelope and Cygnus on being donor-centered, and pulled it off. In fact, we raised 18% more than last year. As an added bonus, our volunteers are feeling great about their achievement and several have already offered to make asks in next year's campaign.

    Former Client
  • I've always wanted to have real data that comes straight from our own donors. Cygnus' research has been invaluable in helping us allocate resources to more productive strategies.

  • Cygnus' research reminded us that our donors don’t give just because they like our organization – they want to improve children’s lives, and they expect us to tell them how their gift is making a difference

    Children's National Medical Center
  • A Donor’s Opinion on the Power of Thank You Letters

    I do not want fancy chocolates. I do not want hard-bound books about the history of your organization. I do not want clocks or serving plates or paperweights.

    You know what I do want? A thank you note. One that tells me something about the work you’re doing, and arrives within a few weeks–let’s say four–of receiving my gift. I want that thank you note to reflect the importance of my gift to your budget. In fact, I will assume that it does.

    Over the past decade I have made contributions to several dozen nonprofits in amounts ranging from $500-$50,000 annually. Most of these are civil rights advocacy and human services organizations. I prioritize organizations where I believe my size gift will make a difference, based on budget size or revenue model – i.e., the group doesn’t have many donors at my level, or few non-foundation donors. Because I was formerly a non-profit fundraiser, I give general operating support and often make multi-year commitments.

    The Number One reason I stop giving or downgrade my gift is when an organization doesn’t say thank you graciously.

    Many do! In fact, what’s notable is the absence of any pattern. The tiny Afghan women’s empowerment group whose board member sent a handwritten note has stayed on my list a long time. The advocacy group that solicits me personally, but acknowledges my $25,000 (c)(4) with a machine-signed form letter? Not so much. I love their work, but their response tells me my gift doesn’t matter that much.

    This especially goes for multi-year pledges: don’t treat them like receivables. Say thank you, promptly and with genuine appreciation, when the pledge is paid. Organizations perpetuate a rotten cycle when they pursue and flatter me when I haven’t yet committed for the year, but don’t acknowledge receipt of a $50,000 prior year pledge payment. (A true story.)

    Doing a good job is easy and inexpensive. Just say thank you, nicely and promptly, with a level of effort that reflects how important the gift is to the organization. The gold standard is a handwritten thank-you note – you know, an old fashioned thank you note. A personalized note on top of a form letter will suffice, if it’s written with authenticity. As for swag, I don’t mind a bumper sticker or even a t-shirt that lets me be a brand ambassador for an organization I like. But swag is not a substitute for a good thank you note, and for goodness sake don’t FedEx it.

    Last secret? If I’m a major donor to your organization and you really, really want me to keep giving? Call me once or twice a year to tell me, honestly, how the work is going. Thank you.

    Name withheld at donor’s request.