Speaking Topics

Training Programs and Keynote Addresses



Today’s fundraising practices and beliefs were developed at a time when donors were less demanding, competition was less severe, and fundraisers could rely on an unlimited supply of people willing to give.  Donor-Centered Fundraising is Penelope’s breakthrough strategy that sustains donor loyalty and raises more generous gifts by bringing fundraising in line with donors’ modern-day requirements. Defined by a decade of research with thousands of donors and fundraisers, Donor-Centered Fundraising is the only statistically-supported fundraising philosophy with the power to bring donors and not-for-profits together to achieve substantial growth. Donor-Centered Fundraising is Penelope’s most requested keynote address.



 In this highly acclaimed address, Penelope Burk expands on her breakthrough Donor-Centered philosophy by tackling the rapid turnover rate among professional fundraisers.  In plain language, and backed by compelling research with over 12,000 Development professionals, CEOs, Board members and donors, Penelope exposes mistaken beliefs and out-of-date practices that make it harder for fundraisers to raise money and much easier for them to move on. She then unfolds a win-win solution that extends loyalty – even among young fundraisers where short job stays are the norm — while improving bottom-line performance.


Donor-Centered Fundraising

 Fully updated, substantially expanded, and backed by all-new research with tens of thousands of donors. Donor-Centered Fundraising is the proven strategy for holding onto your donors and raising much more money in a changing giving environment.

📞 Call Kristen at (800) 263-0267
✉   info@cygresearch.com

Under the Radar

…how to unleash young donors’ philanthropy

A common assumption is that young donors just aren’t as philanthropic as their parents and grandparents. But Penelope Burk says that just isn’t so. In her latest research (published December, 2018), 36% of all donors but a whopping 53% of those under the age of 35 said they could have given more last year. Why are young donors not giving more? “Fundraisers are not noticing us,” they say.

In this practical and thought-provoking address, Penelope unfolds a compelling case for why stewarding young donors now, regardless of how much they currently give, will pay big dividends in the next five years. In Under the Radar, Penelope shares…

  • What’s happening with young people’s careers, income and giving plans as baby boomers retire in ever-increasing numbers
  • Why young donors, more than anyone else, are rallying behind not-for-profits under threat of losing their government funding
  • How fundraisers can capitalize on young donors’ optimism about the future by communicating a different message
  • Why young donors are essential in turning around the problem of declining donor acquisition
  • How young donors connect giving and volunteering and what that means for not-for-profits and their Boards
  • How a Donor-Centered model is vital for retaining young donors and inspiring them to give more generously

If Only I Had the Time

…how fundraisers and their bosses can raise more money and still leave the office at 5:00

What can relationship fundraisers really accomplish in a 40-hour week? According to Penelope Burk, much more than they do now.

In If I Only Had the Time, Penelope presents compelling findings from five years of research with professional fundraisers, CEOs, Board members and donors on what it takes to build a high performance fundraising team. And, she says, “Of all the issues I explored, how fundraisers and their managers think about and use time, was the most interesting.”

Join in the discussion as Penelope presents her research findings on managing fundraisers for optimum performance. You will be intrigued by what she found:

  • why gifts officers spend only 55% of a 40-hour week actually doing their job;
  • why, when and how to hold meetings for optimum results…and what to avoid;
  • where and when fundraisers get important work done and what this says about office culture;
  • why overtime is not the solution to an unmanageable job description;
  • what the #1 rule is for managing staff and why it gets broken all the time;
  • why spending less time managing actually yields better performance.

You will never think the same way again about management and productivity.

Communication Is the Ask

…how to get your donors’ attention in a world of information overload

As it gets harder to acquire more donors, the sustained loyalty of your existing supporters becomes increasingly important. Donors say that their decisions to give again and give more generously are influenced more by what not for profits tell them when they are not asking for money, than by solicitations. So, in a world where your donors are bombarded with everyone else’s information, how can you grab their attention and be confident that they are hearing your message?

COMUNICATION IS THE ASK offers practical advice on how to connect more effectively with donors in an age of information overload. Developed from Penelope Burk’s groundbreaking research on the causes of and remedies for high donor attrition, COMMUNICATION IS THE ASK explains what donors need to know and explores how not-for-profits can become masters of their own messages. This energetic and wholly practical session leads delegates through the essentials of donor communication today, using creative examples of real messages and strategies that work and which help delegates sustain a competitive edge.

Being Donor-Centered in Changing Times

…how to use donor trends and changing technologies to make more profit

In a rapidly evolving world, fundraising cannot shield itself from change. But making the right choices when resources are limited and competition is fierce is the challenge that every Development Office faces. Luckily, today’s donors are much more specific about what it will take to win their support and inspire them to give more generously. The job of Development Professionals, then, is to recognize which things are worth investing in and what skills and resources are needed to increase fundraising profit.

Drawing from latest research, Penelope Burk shares the answer to fundraisers’ ultimate question: What would unleash donors’ giving at a whole new level? Hear what her research reveals about the very different motivations of young, middle age and older donors; learn how to adjust acknowledgment, communication and recognition strategies to meet each generation’s unique needs. Find out why your e-communications are reaching far fewer donors today and how print and mail is developing a whole new caché.

In Being Donor-Centered in Changing Times, Penelope connects her latest research findings to her breakthrough fundraising philosophy — Donor-Centered Fundraising. She unfolds an evidence-based argument for understanding what donors want from their philanthropic relationships today, what that means for your bottom line, and how to apply a Donor-Centered Fundraising approach in an ever-evolving environment.

It Takes Three to Tango

…what Boards, CEOs and Fundraisers need to know about each other if they want to raise more money.

Professional fundraisers insist that they can’t do it alone. “Boards and CEOs must be fully engaged,” they say, “if fundraising is to reach its real potential.” But that doesn’t mean that Boards and CEOs necessarily agree or that all three know how to dance together to maximize results. And, as long as who‐is‐responsible‐for‐what remains unclear, it will always be someone else’s fault whenever fundraising falls short.

Penelope Burk has surveyed hundreds of Leadership Volunteers, CEOs, and Development chiefs about how they define their own ‐‐ and each other’s ‐‐ responsibilities in fundraising. In this powerful and practical address, Penelope looks at the impact of staffing and support on the bottom line and what strategies and approaches are needed to ensure that the best decisions about fundraising are made so that more donors stay loyal while making increasingly generous gifts.

We Have to Have the Money Now!

…how to raise more money by the deadline by forgetting there is one

When decision-makers say, “We have to have the money now,” it shows they have their eye on the bottom line. But it also says that they are opting for short-term fundraising fixes over long-term stability. And, while they think they are acting in their not-for-profit’s best interests, that decision leaves a lot more money on the table. Penelope says that the fundraising benefits of restraint are enormous, and over a decade of research backs her up. Working to your donors’ timeline means higher profit, improved staff retention, fewer burnt-out volunteers, and more satisfied donors.

In We Have to Have the Money Now! Penelope explains what leadership volunteers need to know in order to make solid and profitable decisions about fundraising. She also shows fundraisers how they can prove to decision-makers that a longer term approach to raising money is much more profitable. This provocative session helps transform the top decision-makers – Board, CEO and Development Chief – into a unified and more successful fundraising team.

Donor-Centered Fundraising For Deans

…why Deans have the power to unleash higher education philanthropy at a whole new level

Universities and colleges are famous for their landmark campaign goals and trend-setting individual gifts, but higher education fundraisers might be surprised to learn that alumni often reserve their most generous giving for other not-for-profits. In this thought-provoking address, Penelope pays homage to Advancement Professionals for paving the way for all fundraising while challenging them to set the bar even higher. And she focuses especially on Deans.

According to donors who give to higher education, Deans influence their willingness to give and give generously more than anyone else. Yet few Deans realize they have this persuasive power, and even fewer would call themselves fundraisers. In this practical and inspiring address, Penelope establishes the case for making more money by investing in an institution’s greatest asset – their Deans. She also shows fundraisers how even the most reluctant Dean can make a significant impact on the bottom line and how Development professionals can mobilize their most precious resource.

The Donor-Centered Board

…how any Board can become a fundraising powerhouse

According to donors, Leadership Volunteers can persuade them to give and give more generously than they could have ever imagined. Yet, most Board members don’t realize they have that influence, nor do they know how to leverage it to help their not-for-profits raise more money. While four out of five Leadership Volunteers acknowledges their responsibility for fundraising, the majority also feels they lack the necessary skills and confidence to do a good job.

In The Donor-Centered Board, Penelope offers advice from donors and surprising evidence that any Board or individual leadership volunteer can profoundly impact the bottom line by engaging in activities that are both appealing and rewarding. And, she suggests how the Board, the CEO and professional fundraisers can work more effectively as a team to unleash the untapped philanthropic potential that donors say they are holding back – just waiting to be inspired.