Annual Giving Consultant

Lori Yersh has 25 years of experience in fundraising/development. She is currently responsible for overall strategic planning and oversees the Stewardship, Donor Relations and Annual Giving Programs. As an Annual Giving Consultant, Ms Yersh has provided strategic annual giving counsel to over 90 universities and prominent institutions around the world. Ms Yersh frequently chairs and presents at both international and national fundraising conferences, including two three-day seminars in South Africa on Annual Giving and Campaign planning. She has served as a member of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Program Committee and Chair of CASE’s Advanced Annual Giving Conference. She holds the Bachelor of Arts, Master of Educational Psychology, and Master of Counselling Psychology degrees from McGill University.

Questions for Lori Yersh

You’ve worked in Advancement for 25 years. What are the most significant changes you’ve observed in that time?

I think the most significant change has been the professionalisation of the profession and the move to a more evidenced-based decision-making culture.  When I joined the profession in 1986, decisions were made from a more intuitive frame of reference.  Today we have a twenty year plus history of data collection and sharing from the datasets and reports that became available due to the emergence of large frame databases such as Raisers Edge, and Sungard Advance that became available in the late 1980s and beyond.   

What advice would you give to new Advancement practitioners? What do you wish you had known when you started working in advancement?

Learn all that you can about the field from a comprehensive perspective about advancement.  That means if your area is annual giving understand how major gifts work and also alumni relations and advancement services and legacy; if you are in major gifts take the time to understand all of the other advancement components – don’t let your work exist in a silo.  Taking a holistic approach to advancement is indeed one case where the sum of the parts is actually greater than the whole.

What are the holy grails for you in non-profit work, i.e. which sources of information are you constantly referring to and/or recommending?

I think that a good place to always start is with the professional organisations for Advancement—Inyathelo of course and the role that it plays in facilitating networks and connections – CASE is the other key source, and professional connection across institutions. Remember information is powerful but it’s always more powerful when shared!

What do you do in terms of continuous education?

Learn, share, reflect and learn.  One of my favourite quotes is “leadership is the ability to be a reflective beginner”.  I think a key to continuous education is to be able to take in new learning and apply it against what we know and help the new learning shape and refine our core knowledge of an area or subject matter – it’s important not to get stuck in thinking and to always be open to new ideas and perspectives.

What motivates your work in this sector?

It’s great to work with a professional body of people who are applying their energy to doing something good for the world and who are helping their universities and hospitals solve some of the more complex and pressing problems of our time.