Philanthropy Wired Newsletter

Philanthropy Wired – January 2021

As we enter 2021, I wish all a very Happy New Year. There are many reasons to be optimistic about the New Year, yet at the same time, I remain contemplative regarding what 2020 meant for all impacted by the pandemic

As we enter 2021, I wish all a very Happy New Year. There are many reasons to be optimistic about the New Year, yet at the same time, I remain contemplative regarding what 2020 meant for all impacted by the pandemic and the role our global network of subject experts can play to help guide and support both nonprofit organizations and philanthropists through what will undoubtedly be another challenging period.

With this in mind I am pleased to present a thought-provoking article, Leaning Into the New Normal, A practical guide on lessons learned from 2020 to make 2021 your best year ever, penned by one of our star Associates, Debbie Flinn, who we introduce with pride below.

Our network of subject experts with specific technical expertise is well positioned to support organizations challenged by the pandemic and though each of the firm’s sixteen service offerings are relevant, one in particular, Risk Management and Fundraising Governance, profiled below, plays a particularly important role during this period.

We welcome your thoughts and feedback and of course stand ready to assist. Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at [email protected] or to schedule a complimentary consultation go to

With over 20+ years’ experience Debbie Flinn, MBS, CFRE, is a fundraising/capital campaign and strategic planning expert. Deeply familiar with all aspects of institutional advancement, her expertise includes major gifts, planned giving, donor engagement and relationships, project and risk management, capacity building, obtaining and managing federal grants, and establishing corporate relationships with Fortune 500 companies.

Debbie brings expertise in creating new and sustainable funding sources for organizations in the healthcare, education, and community-based membership and advocacy sectors. And, having held significant roles the US, New Zealand and Canada, Debbie she has raised over $100 million.

Fluent in French and English, Debbie holds a BA from Carleton University, an MBA from Averett University, and a Graduate Certificate of Nonprofit Management from Duke University.

Debbie’s fundraising must have: You do good work! We can help you do better by establishing meaningful donor relationships to advance your organizational capacity.

Leaning Into the New Normal: A practical guide on lessons learned from 2020 to make 2021 your best year ever

This past year has been one of unprecedented challenges for all of us. We have had to “pivot” as the world changed from one day to the next. For non-profits, it was especially stressful: Would our donors stay with us? Should we even ask when so many lost their jobs? If they gave in the spring for COVID, would they give again at year-end?

It was a year of questions and not a lot of answers.

So, as we turn the page to 2021, first of all: THANK YOU for the difference each of you are making in the world! If you are left with worry over what this year may hold, I would like to offer a simple 5-step, practical guide to get you started on the right foot. Things you can do today that will make a difference for your organization going forward. Let’s get started.

Risk Management and Fundraising Governance

Of the sixteen services provided by S. Sutton & Associates Inc. Risk Management and Fundraising Governance is of particular import during a period when nonprofit organizations are being challenged to the hilt by the pandemic.

Risk management is essential for any organization, yet we understand that with competing demands boards need simple methods to assess risk, carefully considered solutions and if necessary, strategic remediation. In keeping with our methodology, our experts provide a complete audit and assessment of internal and external factors, articulating potential threats and actionable strategies to avoid current and future state vulnerabilities. Guidance and training for staff and leadership is available to establish a successful framework going forward.

If the board is placed in a position to consider remediation, our experts provide actionable steps for the organization to deploy and guidance for short term crisis communications and long-term confidence building measures.

Reputational risk is also tied to Fundraising Governance. Fundraising operations, and their results, present vulnerability as donors increasingly demand tangible assurance their financial support is well spent, and regulators question the costs of fundraising. We work with our clients to understand risks associated with fundraising approaches and processes, bringing knowledge of best practices and standards to assess them. We train staff and provide tools for boards to assure stakeholders the organization is in good hands, its reputation is strong, and to reinforce trust in the brand.

Client Testimonial

“S. Sutton & Associates made it incredibly easy to understand our marketing needs based on our target objectives. Starting from the Request for Proposal (RFP) response all the way to supporting our team in execution was something that truly made S. Sutton & Associates Inc. stand out.

An example of our success is the increase in traffic to our LinkedIn page that provides important updates to our Members. From the beginning of executing our marketing campaign that our S. Sutton Innovation Team developed in January 2020, our average LinkedIn visitors virtually tripled month over month throughout the year thanks to the hard work of the team at S. Sutton & Associates Inc.

Great work and would definitely work with the team again!”

– Martin Gierczak, Director at Large, Board of Directors, Disaster Recovery Institute Canada (DRIC)


– The Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard Blavatnik has donated £10m towards the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, which will help fund the refurbishment of its prestigious gallery located at Somerset House. The Courtauld Gallery is due to open late this year following a three-year refurbishment, housing a suite of six galleries—to be named the Blavatnik Fine Rooms—that will display highlights from the Courtauld collection.

North America

– Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, made the single-largest charitable contribution in 2020, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual list of top donations, a $10 billion gift that is intended to help fight climate change. Bezos, whose “real-time” worth Forbes magazine estimates at roughly $188 billion, used the contribution to launch his Bezos Earth Fund. The fund, which supports non-profits involved in the climate crisis, has paid out $790 million to 16 groups so far, according to the Chronicle.

– The Rockefeller Foundation, established more than a century ago by oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, plans to divest from fossil fuels as it commits more capital to green investments. Under the plan, already underway, Rockefeller is expected to more than halve the portfolio’s total exposure to fossil fuels to less than 1% in the near future. No timetable was given for the full divestiture.

– Chad Richison first heard of the Giving Pledge a decade ago at a poker game organized by Warren Buffett. Richison, the CEO and founder of Oklahoma City-based payroll processing firm Paycom, was building his company then — but the idea stuck with him. Richison, now worth $3.4 billion, told Forbes that he has just signed on to the Giving Pledge, and discussed his philanthropy in his home state of Oklahoma and the focus on mental health by his foundation, Green Shoe.

– MacKenzie Scott is giving away her fortune at an unprecedented pace, donating more than $4 billion in four months after announcing $1.7 billion in gifts in July. The world’s 18th-most wealthy person outlined the latest contributions in a blog post, saying she asked her team to figure out how to give away her fortune faster. Scott’s wealth climbed $23.6 billion to $60.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, as Inc., the primary source of her fortune, has surged.

– The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted some advocates to call for providing Americans with guaranteed monthly income to help them get back on their feet. Now, one initiative is getting a $15 million donation from Twitter CEO and billionaire Jack Dorsey to help put such experiments to work. The recipient, Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a group of about 30 mayors across the country, have signed on to test guaranteed income pilot programs in their cities.

– “The Last Dance” was filled with hot dishes about Michael Jordan’s time with the six-time champion Chicago Bulls. Now, a portion of the proceeds from the Emmy-winning documentary will go toward hot dishes for the nation’s hungry. Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief outfit, thanked “His Airness” for a $2 million gift to the organization, which comes as the pandemic is pushing an inordinate number of Americans into food insecurity.

– Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s parent company pledged to donate $120 million to causes aimed at improving racial equity and the global fight against hunger over the next five years. The car rental company’s philanthropic arm, Enterprise Holdings Foundation, says the donation is part of its new ROAD Forward (Respect, Opportunity, Achievement and Diversity) initiative addressing social and racial gaps in early childhood development, youth health and wellness, and career and college preparation.

– Florida Atlantic University has received a beneficiary of $6.3 million from their estate. Their bequest will support fellowships for graduate students in the Sellinger School of Business and Management and provide fellowship assistance for graduate students in the speech-language-hearing sciences department in Loyola College of Arts and Sciences. The gift will be the largest in University history.

– The University of Houston’s Here, We Go campaign closed Aug. 31, drawing in over $1.2 billion from 187,464 donors, the university announced in October. The campaign launched quietly in 2012 and publicly January 2017. It met its $1 billion goal in 2019 but continued to accept donations.

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