Resolution: Permission to Say No

January 25, 2018

By Sara Luke This January, the DBD Team is making resolutions to help us be better. Today Sara gives herself permission to say “no.” A sign-up sheet is my nemesis. I shudder when I see the well-intentioned church member coming toward me, arm outstretched. And I should know better than to open the email begging […]

Posted in: Blog


Top of Mind

May 4, 2017

By Sara Luke During the 18-24 months (or more) of a capital campaign, nonprofit leaders often eat, sleep and breathe the campaign. They know the total raised, status of the design plans, which donor meetings went well and who they need to call to cultivate further. The pressure and excitement of the capital plans are […]

Posted in: Blog, Capital


Don’t Scare Them

October 6, 2016

By Sara Luke This October, the Donor By Design team is tackling spooky situations in development. Join us this month for hair-raising stories and cautionary tales of frightful fundraising! A key to fundraising success is an urgent and compelling case for support. Nonprofits should not only be able to answer the question “why?” but also “why […]

Posted in: Blog, Case for Support


Why Trumps What

June 28, 2016

By Sara Luke In this series, the DBD Team will take a deeper look at some of the axioms we use when working with our clients. In today’s blog, Sara Luke reflects on our axiom: “Why Trumps What.” There’s a great Ted talk that illustrates a concept we talk about a lot with our non-profit […]

Posted in: Blog, Case for Support


Own it

May 17, 2016

By Sara Luke “The dog ate my homework.” “My alarm didn’t go off.” “I hit every red light on the way here.” Excuses. We’ve all made them. But the truth is no one believes them and they don’t help accomplish anything. In fact, they can chip away at one’s credibility. One of the quotes that […]

Posted in: Blog, Leadership


The Value of Time

October 8, 2015

I recently spent some time with a non-profit CEO who spoke about the importance of volunteers to an organization. He said that of all the things someone can give you — time, talent or treasure — time is the one thing that cannot be replenished. One can make more money. Talent doesn’t wear out. But […]

Posted in: Blog, Leadership


Rethinking Competition

July 22, 2015

By Sara Luke Recently, I was speaking with a new client about their case for support. One of their primary concerns was how to distinguish their organization’s work with seniors from “the competition.” They identified their competition as other local retirement and assisted living facilities. As an outsider, it was clear for me to see […]

Posted in: Blog, Case for Support


Building a Shared Vision

November 17, 2014

By Mike Bussey and Sara Luke Currently at more than $5 million on their original $4.3 million capital goal, Betsy and Kristi aren’t done yet. The Executive Directors at the Itasca County Family YMCA and ElderCircle respectively are building the shared vision that started more than four years ago. In 2010, the Itasca County Family […]

Posted in: Blog, Capital, Leadership


It’s Not About the Balloons

July 29, 2014

By Sara Luke From large-scale galas to business breakfasts, special events are likely part of your fundraising and communications arsenal. Without a strategy, the management of endless details and well-intentioned great ideas can create a muddled, messy and not-so-special event. As you gather the team and begin the planning, make this your first step and […]

Posted in: Blog


A Face to the Case

March 25, 2014

By Sara Luke “Nobody really goes hungry in America.” “People should just get a job. Then they could feed their family.” And the misconceptions about hunger go on and on. Milwaukee-based Hunger Task Force has been feeding the hungry – and fighting future hunger – since 1974. They attack the issue of hunger on two […]

Posted in: Blog, Case for Support


Sara Luke

January 21, 2014

Vice President Sara comes to Donor By Design fueled by an enthusiasm for helping organizations craft and present the right message to help further their mission.  Coupled with her passion for non-profits and the life-changing work they do each day, Sara is eager to find creative and effective solutions to marketing/communication challenges. Sara can help […]

Posted in: People


It’s the Little Things

November 14, 2013

By Sara Luke During a recent lesson with my 2 & 3-year-old Sunday School class we talked about saying “thank you” to Jesus. We covered the obvious ones: mommy and daddy; being healthy; yummy food that helps us grow; a house to keep us warm; friends; dogs and cats; candy. Then a couple little girls […]

Posted in: Blog, Leadership, Stewardship


Worth a Thousand Words

October 24, 2013

By Sara Luke In our work developing communication strategies, we think a lot about words. We’re constantly trying to wring the most emotion, information and energy out of the fewest words possible. We have to present compelling data (that isn’t boring), amazing stories (that are still relatable) and persuasive appeals (that don’t go too far). […]

Posted in: Blog, Case for Support


Love in the Workplace

September 17, 2013

By Sara Luke Many of us have written about the speakers and inspiration from our annual DBD team gathering at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. This being my second year in attendance, I was looking forward to the show (and they know how to produce a show!), the music, the prayerful reflections, and of […]

Posted in: Blog, Leadership


Face Your Fears

May 9, 2013

By Sara Luke “I don’t want to be in the recital. I’m too nervous.” When I heard my four-year-old daughter squeak those words, I knew she HAD to be in the recital. She loves to dance and enjoys her tap/ballet class, but she’s also quite shy and worries way too deeply for her age. I […]

Posted in: Blog


Reinforce. Repurpose. Repeat. And Keep it Simple.

January 31, 2013

By Sara Luke Marketing theory tells us it takes 5, 7, up to 12 or more impressions for your message to be remembered and acted upon. Of course it depends on how strong the impression, how frequent, what medium, etc., but the bottom line: once is not enough. In the latest Social Good podcast from […]

Posted in: Blog


From the heart.

November 15, 2012

By Sara Luke Like many non-profit organizations, our church is in the midst of our year-end stewardship appeal. A couple weeks ago I was asked by our pastor to share with the congregation one reason the church is important to me and my family. “Keep it short and upbeat and end with a request and […]

Posted in: Annual, Blog, Leadership, Stewardship


Social media is still just good old-fashioned communication.

July 5, 2012

by Sara Luke Self-proclaimed social media junky and Donor By Design’s VP-Marketing & Communication, Lora Dow, led a webinar last week about Social Giving.  Throughout the hour, Lora shared how non-profits can effectively use new(ish) online mediums to support their fundraising.  We talked mostly about how organizations can use Facebook (easily the most popular social […]

Posted in: Blog


It’s okay to say “No.”

March 6, 2012

By Sara Luke An avid reader and perpetual learner, Bruce shared this article with the DBD team the other day:  How to say NO…especially to things you want to do.  Author Daniel H. Pink shares his breakthrough, “I realized that personal productivity is the new dieting.” Much like we need to say ‘no’ to the […]

Posted in: Blog, Leadership


Break it.

January 6, 2012

By Sara Luke While de-Christmas-ifying the house, my husband and I decided to rearrange the living room.  With the tree out of the way, we surveyed the room and decided that our limited space only allowed us a few options, but it would be fun to do it anyway. So while the kids napped, we […]

Posted in: Blog


A little chicken goes a long way.

December 6, 2011

By Sara Luke As a volunteer Sunday School teacher I don’t expect a lot of gratitude from the church, but just a few months into our new school year, Denise, the Director of Christian Education, invited all the teachers to the church for an evening “touch-base” meeting with a meal first.  Probably some soup or […]

Posted in: Blog, Stewardship


Want vs. Need

November 22, 2011

By Sara Luke “But mom, I really need that new Xbox 360 so I can play the same games as my friends.” “Honey, I need to go buy a new pair of black shoes. My other five pair just don’t work with this outfit.” “We need to go get that plasma TV this weekend so […]

Posted in: Blog, Case for Support



November 4, 2011

By Sara Luke Just a little over month since rescuing sweet Cleo – our 8-month-old Boxer-mix – from the animal shelter, we knew we were in over our heads. Not only did she have the awful puppy tendencies (chewing, accidents, chewing, barking, chewing), but she was also terrified of visitors. She would first growl then […]

Posted in: Blog


Swing for the fence!

October 18, 2011

By Sara Luke As a born-and-raised Wisconsin girl, some of my best childhood memories involve beer and brats.  Rather, root beer at brats with my cousins at our annual Milwaukee Brewers tailgate and baseball game.  We’d spend a few hours in the parking lot eating grilled meat, tossing around a baseball, and watching the crowd […]

Posted in: Blog, Case for Support