What is your history as consultants?
Gardner & Associates (G&A) is a new joint venture for Paul Gardner, Fred Hueston and Walt Eilers, but together we are “senior consultants” with nearly a century and $450,000,000 of combined success. Paul has 50 years, Fred 28 years and Walt 16 years. We worked together at different times over the last 24 years. At one time Paul and Walt were partners in Larry Bone and Associates, a fundraising partnership and all three worked together at Horizons Stewardship.
When Walt returned to Arkansas from his corporate period at Century Telephone and WorldCom, he reconnected with Paul. Paul recognized that Walt’s skills in research, grant research and writing and strategic planning expanded his skills in campaign design and management. For four years, we partnered at Horizons Stewardship and the last eight under the G&A banner.
Fred Hueston joined the partnership in 2012 to bring his expertise in planned giving to Gardner & Associates, thus allowing us to expand our service.
We combined our talents and passions into an expanded joint venture, Gardner & Associates. With our complimentary skills our G&A partnership offers efficiency, strength and versatility. We are a three-man operation, but so much more.
Why did you select “Growing philanthropy.” as your tag line?
At first, we thought it catchy. It originally began as a play-on-words building off the “gardener” of Gardner & Associates. Then, we realized that our consultant role fundamentally helps nonprofits to grow and in doing so we help grow philanthropy. It expresses our mission, passion and experience.
What is Gardner & Associates’ specialty?
We have an extensive range of specialties because of the experiences that each of us brings to our partnership. Paul brings national level experience in campaign design and management. He also has broad relationships through his decades of involvement in AFP. Fred brings his planned giving and campaign experience with a broad range of NPOs. Walt brings the commercial experience of market research and strategic planning. He also brings writing, research and grant skills. Finally, his background in telephone and broadband offers technology and marketing strengths.
What is your greatest strength?
G&A’s ability to customize your campaign is our greatest strength. Nearly a century of experience in a variety of fields enables Paul, Fred and Walt to audit/inventory a client’s operations and needs and focus on the primary elements that will best serve their campaign. Through customizing we bring effectiveness and efficiency to each client. Our skills take us from making the pre-campaign study to planned giving…a full-spectrum of fundraising services.
What are you working to improve?
We are concentrating on using technology to increase NPO effectiveness and efficiency in a challenging economy.
Our primary focus today is helping our clients to adapt to the challenges of an economy recovering from a recession. The current economic and political environment requires greater use of collaboration, restructuring and in some cases consolidation. We are in a new and challenging era. G&A offers insights into adapting to the new paradigm and making the most of a recovering economy. Walt’s experiences with the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation give insight to changing federal dynamics.
What impact do you see technology having on philanthropy?
G&A provides creativity and leadership in accessing technology to “grow philanthropy.”
G&A encourages its clients to embrace technology. We see technology as the future of nonprofits growing their outreach, volunteer base and philanthropy. Technology (computers, broadband, software, wireless, social networking and online giving) enables each G&A client to reduce expenses, gain effectiveness (customize its message) and increase the operational efficiency of its staff and volunteers. We encourage clients to make an impact and tell their story through online and emailed videos, social media and network to make a “personal contact and testimony” to prospects.
G&A encourages its clients to invest in database software to enhance their stewardship, create an easy-to-use website, cultivate prospects through appropriate ecommerce vehicles and social networks and streamline your financial records with software linked to your database.
A critical step is to engage prospects and volunteers in “social networking.” Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and Google + each offer new ways to inform people of your mission, needs and successes. Outreach has become and will continue to grow in a digital medium.
What is your best advice to a nonprofit considering fundraising?
First, know yourself. Look in the mirror. Look around. Test your mission against your community’s needs and your competition.
Second, spend time doing internal research. Inventory your board to determine their strengths. Assess your operations and operating budget. Conduct a community needs assessment to determine how well your mission is meeting community needs. Survey the marketplace to determine how many other groups are doing similar things (to determine possible collaboration partners).
Get a clear picture (warts and all) of your current condition. That will give both you and your consultant a realistic vision of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Conduct both a community needs assessment and a pre-campaign study. The needs assessment will help you focus on what is really important in your community–today. It will validate your mission or lead your NPO to make changes in your mission and vision statements. The pre-campaign study will help gauge the level of donor prospect interest and support.