Advice from the Pros: One of America’s Top Party Hosts speaks

What we learned from one of the nation’s top event fundraising pros:

According to Mary Herr Tally, recently named one of America’s 100 Best Party Hosts by Salonnière magazine, if you’re interested in. hosting or chairing an event for a non-profit organization, always do your homework before you commit!  “Your most creative ideas, best efforts, and treasured contacts are of significant value—and of course, you’ll want to share this with worthy organizations that best align with you. And please, always confirm that the organization has the bandwidth and staffing to support your efforts!”

“Another important must-do is to see the event budgets from previous years—this will tell you everything you need to know about the health of an event, specifically expenses vs revenue (underwriting, table sales, auction revenue, etc.).  As the host or chair, each of those budget line items is your responsibility, so are you comfortable achieving those numbers?”  Mary also suggests that you “talk with the staff and the organization’s leadership to get a feel for their work style and communication and problem-solving skills as you’ll be spending the next six to ten months with them.”

Mary adds that special events are the most creative, fun ways to raise revenue for an organizations but they can also be challenging in terms of getting the right people in the room—“the best news you’ll hear after an event is that you or their staff has uncovered a brand new major supporter to the organization or forged an even stronger relationship with an existing supporter.”

Mary has amassed an impressive resumé in her twenty two years working as a professional development director and fundraiser for the arts. She began her career in Membership and Special Events at the South Texas Institute for the Arts in Corpus Christi and the Creative Arts Center (now part of Texas A&M) but soon after evolved to fundraising for exhibitions and programs and in the latter part of her career, major gifts and capital campaigns. After moving to Austin, Mary fundraised at Austin Opera and directed the capital campaigns at The Contemporary Museum and The Long Center for the Performing Arts. Since retiring upon the completion of the Long Center’s $80M capital campaign and building construction, Mary has focused on volunteering at ZACH Theatre, the Center for Child Protection, Emanicpet, Austin Pets Alive, and most recently AIDS Services of Austin.

AIDS Service of Austin Co-Chair Kevin Witcher sums up Mary’s value perfectly. “I can attest to the fact that Mary keeps it fun, keeps it real, and makes it exciting.  Not once did I worry that the food wouldn’t be right or that the ambience wasn’t going to be just so.  Who knew people donated more in good lighting?  The aesthetics aside though, Mary never let the event become larger or more intricate than the mission we were trying to accomplish.  She kept her focus on creating a magical and efficient luncheon while ensuring that we raised serious dollars for those in need.  She’s wicked fun at the microphone because she speaks from the heart with wit and grace, all the while convincing everyone in the room that they can do more.”

Have you heard the big news?

CeeGee's Gift image

Our colleague Joy Selak has written the most beautiful book about the gifts we are given and the gifts we give. It is such a treasure, and we could not be prouder of her!

CeeGee’s Gift began as a one act play and was a winner of the San Juan Islands’ Playwright’s Festival in the Pacific Northwest where Joy Selak lived in the 1990’s. It was produced for the stage and was the winner of the Audience Choice Award.

After moving back to Austin and joining Rodman & Associates, Joy expanded the story to a novel meant to be read and shared across generations and, in addition to taking the reader to a simpler time and a magical setting, the book is meant to start conversations about being gifted, the importance of kindness to others, dealing with the difficult events of life and taking the time to leave a meaningful legacy. It can serve as a powerful, yet simple, entry to begin what can sometimes be difficult, but important conversations, both personal and professional.

If you are interested in purchasing hardback copies, they are available through us for $20 plus shipping and can include a personal dedication if requested.

Books are also sold at Amazon Hardbacks, at $21.95 plus shipping, with paperbacks and ebooks available.

What people are saying

“As a host of an author interview series, I read a LOT of books. CeeGee’s Gift captured my attention and took me to that small, island town and into the lives of its residents. The sense of place and purpose is very strong.”

— Cari, Host of Chez Zee Author Series

“CeeGee’s Gift is a novel that stuck with me, and taught me valuable lessons on giving generously. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”

— Anna, 13-year-old girl

Searching for New Ways to Volunteer in the New Year?

A rising trend among corporations today is to engage in skill-based volunteering. This model has long been used on a smaller scale with graduate students who serve as interns or fellows. The students come to the nonprofit with a designated project and spend a semester or more addressing it. The students are chosen because their skill set matches the nonprofit need.

Now corporate philanthropy is taking this idea to a larger level, aiming to create long lasting and potentially transformational partnerships while giving nonprofits the potential to have sophisticated infrastructure otherwise unavailable with their limited staff and budget restraints. This is not just pro bono volunteering, but customized volunteering.

A few successful examples include: (more…)

The Real Story Ends In The Land fill

It is well documented that after Hurricane Maria warehouses near the ports of Puerto Rico remained full of diapers, bottled water, clothes and canned goods, with no easy way for those items to reach individuals in need. After all, in the middle of a disaster, who is going to unpack and sort those assorted goods and ensure they are delivered, in a timely manner, to towns without electricity, phone service or paved roads? The sad fact is that after a disaster receiving countries and aid organizations are left to pay out of pocket to store, or dispose of, unneeded or unused donated items. This is often referred to as the second disaster.

So why do people still donate hard goods when cash is so much more efficient? (more…)

Increasingly, Women are Leading U.S. Philanthropy

Here’s the facts, according to a recent comprehensive study by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University:

— Women are creating and controlling wealth at a higher rate than ever before. Women control more than 51% of private wealth in the U.S.  The IRS reports that 43% of the nations top wealth holders, those with assets of $1.5 million or more, are women.

— The influence of wealth held by women is increasing. According to Forbes, women are set to inherit $28.7 trillion over the next 40 years in intergenerational wealth transfers. At some point in their lives, 90% of all women will be solely responsible for their own or their family’s finances,

— Research supports very real gender differences in giving. Women across all income levels are more likely to donate to charity than men, with single women donating more than single men by a margin of 9%. Female-headed households not only were more likely to give, but also tended to give nearly twice as much.


When is enough, enough?

Many parents of college students grapple with how much their children should work—and contribute—toward their living and tuition expenses.  These parents recognize that not having work experience during college affects their child’s future job prospects and compensation offers.  Most families of wealth struggle mightily with how much to provide their offspring.  As Warren Buffett famously put it: Give your kids enough to do anything they want, but not enough to do nothing.

What is money for?  What is our obligation to the younger generation? And when is enough, enough?

Determining an inheritance amount for heirs is difficult, and understanding how others have moved forward can be enlightening. How would you like your heirs to use an inheritance?

To fund their retirement?

To pay for their and/or their family’s education?

To buy a home, or start a business? (more…)

For Financial Advisors: Expanding The Philanthropic Conversation

Aligning Conversations with Client and Donor Needs

Several studies have been conducted by financial institutions recently to assess their clients’ philanthropic activity and needs. The results tell us that the philanthropic conversation is expanding in America, and that donors, as well as potential donors, want to have meaningful conversations about their giving. Here are some of the findings:

–In a U. S. Trust study of high net worth clients, 67% now discuss philanthropy with their advisors, up from 55% in 2013. Most clients report they would like these conversations to occur sooner in the client-advisor relationship.

–Donors report tax advantages are not their primary reason for giving, and 76% report that they would not change, or will increase, their giving as a result of the 2017 tax law.

–The primary reasons for giving among high net worth donors are a passion for the cause, a desire to impact their community or the world, and a desire to give back.

These statistics offer a clear signal to both advisors and nonprofit leaders that they must engage in conversations deeper than “the ask”. (more…)

Author and Philanthropist Shares Her Best Advice with Austin Woman Magazine

Joy Selak lightheartedly laments that everyone she meets immediately shares his or her entire life story with her. Even though she’s at times taken aback by the quick vulnerability, it’s easy to understand why people feel so comfortable with her. She exudes the calm and peace of someone who has been through great trials and triumphed on the other side.

Selak started her career in education before becoming a financial advisor, a position she never thought of leaving. After chronic illness interrupted her corporate career and idyllic island life along the coast of Washington, Selak found her purpose in philanthropy. (more…)

What Donors Would Like You to Know

If you are reading this post, you care about effective philanthropy. Have you ever wondered what advice major, multi-generational philanthropists would give to those beginning their philanthropic journey? We did, so we asked a few.

We spoke with 4 donors, all the second or third generation in their family to be involved in significant philanthropy. They come from across the country—Washington State, Connecticut, Oklahoma and Texas—and all are leaders in their communities and involved in the causes they support. Their philanthropy often meets immediate community needs, but health care, the arts, education and faith-based initiatives rise to the top in their sector giving. Some give in partnership with their spouse, others lead family foundations. All are experienced, thoughtful, generous and wise and have achieved significant change through their philanthropy. (more…)