Jim Lord

A special invitation to experienced major, principal, and planned gift officers who want to step up to a new level.

Dear Colleague:

Twenty-some years ago, two young people — fresh out of college — began their lives working in what most people call “fundraising.” 

They had a lot in common.

Both had big dreams and a strong sense of purpose. Both were smart, dedicated, passionate. Both were determined to make a difference with their lives and make the world a better place. 

And they saw the development profession as their way to make a contribution to the world.

Today, 20 years later, they still have a lot in common.

They’re both married, with children in college. They’re both still engaged in the social sector, continuing to invest their talent and energy in causes they believe in. 

But there’s an important difference.

One has drifted from job to job, always finding himself blocked by the same kinds of organizational dysfunction, never staying long enough to get traction and enjoy the satisfaction of real accomplishment. He’s worn down, burned out, and counting the days until retirement.

The other has spent the last several years facilitating transformative philanthropic gifts that have fueled significant action, both local and global in scale — and with great significance for the donors. Filled with even more hope, creativity, and vitality than when she started out all those years ago, she’s now moving into being a philanthropist and civic leader herself — spreading her positive influence far beyond the walls of her institution.

What happened?

How could two people, so alike in so many ways, end up in such different places? Why are they looking back on such different life experiences?

It’s not just a matter of hard work, lucky breaks, or innate talent. It’s not that one wanted to do big things and the other didn’t. 

These are both smart, wonderful people who have worked hard for decades — indeed have invested their whole lives — out of a deep desire to make the world a better place. I am grateful to both of them for who they are, and I honor the good works each has done.

Still, I have to wonder: Was there potential that got lost along the way?

Missed opportunities?

More that might have been?

How will you look back at your career?

I want you to look back with deep joy, knowing you truly made your greatest possible contribution to the world through your work.

Everything I’ve seen — in the course of decades in this field, working with hundreds of people like you — tells me there's one essential step you can take to make sure that happens for you:

Make it a priority to develop your leadership presence, the key to your ability to …

  • Influence others — by facilitating their highest contributions (including transformative philanthropic investments).

  • Take advantage of opportunities that others don't even see (instead of being stopped by barriers and scarcity).

  • Shape organizational culture and expand what is possible (regardless of your formal leadership role).

Those are not inborn talents. They’re not some mysterious “thing” that only a few special people can have.

They are capabilities that can be developed through intentional learning and practice, and shared with the people around you.

For you, that’s where The Philanthropic Quest could lead. If that sounds intriguing, read on to learn more.

~ Jim Lord

Jim Lord’s visionary thinking begins with the very first visit, making it possible for me to raise millions of dollars. This is a thoughtful, transformational experience. I'll always be grateful to the board chair who first recommended this program to me.

Judi Cantor

Director of Planned Giving, Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health

An experience unlike any other

After every program, participants tell me “this is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.” (Sometimes they even say “I’m not sure how to put this into words.”)

And indeed, The Philanthropic Quest is a unique offering in the “nonprofit” world.

For most folks who’ve been around for a while, a conference is a conference. A workshop is a workshop. A webinar is a webinar. And it gets to be kind of cookie-cutter. You start to say “I’ve heard this before, I’ve been through these before.”

This is different. 

We’re not going to lecture you with a bunch of PowerPoint slides.

We’re not going to parrot the conventional wisdom — you’ve had enough of that.

Instead of being a passive recipient of instruction, you'll be an active player, fully engaged and co-creating the outcome that you want from what you’re getting in the workshop room.

What does that look like?

We set the stage by creating a strength-based atmosphere of curiosity, inquiry, and reflection — a brand-new way of looking at things for everyone. (And you'll find out how to create that kind of space around you when you return home.)

In structured conversations, using questions you’ve never heard before, you'll learn by reflecting on your own experiences. This is something people rarely take time to do in any depth, but it yields learning that lasts because it's grounded in your real life.

Along the way, we'll introduce some carefully curated insights — from social psychology, organization development, and other disciplines — you can use to build on your experiences, right there in the workshop room. (Reflection plus intellectual rigor is a powerful combination.)

So what will you have when you leave?

I wish I could give you a simple 1-2-3 answer. But the honest answer is: “It depends.”

It depends on what you’re doing and where you’re at, what you have going for you (more than you might think, as you’ll discover when we’re together) and what you want to accomplish in the future (more is possible than you might imagine right now).

Here's what other people like you have told us about what happened for them  … 

  • Even though I was working in leadership giving, with good results, I had struggled for years with the power differential I felt with my donors. I felt it negatively impacted the relationships I could build with them. This experience completely changed the dynamic in donor relationships, so we could meet on a different level — as human beings trying to make a difference in the world — and have different kinds of conversations.
  • I was in a new position, trying to learn the ropes and meet others’ expectations, but there was too much noise around me. The retreat gave me a chance to stop and think in a quieter space, a completely safe environment. A chance to think for myself, instead of having stuff piled on me. I left with real clarity about not just what I was going to do and how, but also why it matters. (More clarity and energy than I ever could have found in the noise back at the office.)
  • When I came into this field, I saw it as great, purposeful work. (Which it certainly can be.) But I’d reached a point in my career where I was just focused on meeting my metrics. People in this profession can get too caught up in that. The retreat let me reconnect with what had motivated me earlier in my career … the pleasure and meaning we can give donors through philanthropy by engaging them in genuine conversations, listening in a new way, and aligning their interests with our expertise. 
  • I was at a professional crossroads, unsure what to do next. I’d always been scared to aim too high, so I’d take jobs where I was bored out of my mind. It was time for a change. I left the retreat with new confidence in my abilities and an expanded vision of what I was capable of doing. I was ready and able to say “yes!” to a real growth opportunity — stepping into a much larger leadership role — and a firm “no” to wrong turns and dead ends.

Could more be possible for you?

If you have a sense the answer might be “yes” … if you are committed to your own growth … if you want to make more possible for others … then we encourage you to send in your application today. 

You may find the application itself gives you new clarity and energy, right away. (People often tell us they’re surprised by what they discover, simply in the process of answering the application questions.)

Maybe devote a few moments to yourself right now and take a look?

For years, I’d been in a state of complete and utter burnout, not sure if anything I was doing made a difference. I left the retreat saying, “I can do it. I’m having an impact, this is important and now I can keep doing it. I took a couple days for myself and now I’m ready to go again.” I soon moved on to a new job — a big step up that I never would have dared to take on without this experience.

Tracy Malloy-Curtis

Legacy Giving Director, Mal Warwick Donordigital


  • Exclusively by application: To ensure the program will serve your interests, a brief application is required. People drawn to this program tend to have some humility about them, so please don't let any self-doubts keep you from applying. See more about the application process. 
  • Dates and locations: Specifics are announced privately to those who have completed the application. (After you've applied, you may even be able to influence dates to fit your calendar— we pull out all the stops for you.) Locations are typically near major U.S. airports.
  • Program schedule: The program spans three days, beginning in the morning on the first day and concluding around noon on the third day. We ask you to clear your calendar for that time span — to give yourself a true retreat. That way you get the most from the experience, hit the ground running when you return home, and see lasting results. 
  • Small group: Enrollment is strictly limited and we hand-select each group to make sure there’s an ideal mix of people in the room, for maximum benefit to everyone. 
  • Personal attention: You will also have access to four private one-on-one phone sessions — one before the program and then at one month, three months, and nine months after the program — to ensure that you stay on track to your highest aspirations, including any plan you may have begun during the program.
  • Tuition: $2750 per person. If you are strongly drawn to this program, but that level of investment is beyond what your organization provides for “professional development,” we encourage you to apply anyway. (We’ll then share with you specific strategies others have used to break through those limits and create this possibility for themselves.)

There are those who believe that our professional skills allow us to raise money. But the essence of our success is the donor. Our role is to bring forward the hero in people, so they can show their love of humanity through gifts of time, talent and treasure. It’s the potential to reveal the hero in the donor that inspires me — and that’s the lasting value of The Philanthropic Quest.

Gordon Johnson

Civic leader and trustee, The Centre on Philanthropy, Bermuda

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this only for people directly involved in “raising money”?

Is this for beginners or those with more experience?

What are the program dates and locations?

Why is an application required?

Can you tell me more about who's selected?

How do I apply?

Who leads the program?

What if I register and cannot attend?

I’ve attended one of your programs before, why would I do it again?

I’ve been lucky enough to work with Jim Lord’s approach and have seen amazing results — some that I consider magic. And that’s what this work should be about. Creating magic for our donors and our organizations. And for ourselves.

Penny Cowden

Executive Director, CMH Foundation

Talk with us

Email: programs@leadershipphilanthropy.com

Phone: usa  +1 (206) 347-9546

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