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What is your history as consultants? 

Terrapin Consulting (Terrapin) is a philanthropy firm founded by Walt Eilers. Walt has over 20 years of fundraising experience. The Terrapin team has a combine 48 years of fundraising, grant and communications experience.

When Walt returned to Arkansas from his corporate period at Century Telephone and WorldCom, he used his skills in market research, grant research and writing, and he expanded his work to include strategic planning, as well as campaign design and management.

Terrapin offers efficiency, strength and versatility.

Terrapin has added four associates, Dirk Smith, Joe Schafer and Jeannette Balleza Collins. Paul Gardner, Ph.D., CFRE, is of counsel to Terrapin Consulting.

Why did you select “Growing philanthropy.” as your tag line?

At first, we thought it catchy. We realized that our consultant role fundamentally helps nonprofits to grow and in doing so we help grow philanthropy. It expresses our mission, passion, experience and impact. 

What is Terrapin’’s specialty?

We are generalists and pragmatists. We have an extensive range of specialties because of the experiences that each of us brings to our partnership. We also have lots of practical experience from managing over 50 campaigns of varying sizes.

Walt brings the commercial experience of market research and strategic planning. He also brings writing, research and grant skills. Finally, his background in cellular and broadband offers technology and marketing strengths. 

The associates bring other practical skills of campaign management, digital communications/social media, database design and management, strategic planning and grant research and management.

What is your greatest strength?

Terrapin’s ability to customize your campaign around your needs and situation is our greatest strength. Decades of experience in fundraising enable Walt and the associates to audit/inventory a client’s operations and needs and then focus on the primary elements that will most best serve your 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 employing technology to increase client effectiveness and efficiency in an improving economy, a changing donor culture and to broaden campaign appeal.

We are all in a new and challenging era of philanthropy. As a result, Terrapin’s primary focus today is helping our clients to adapt to the challenges of an economy that is slowly recovering from a recession.

We also help you focus on the changing demographics of the philanthropic community. The current economic and political environment requires greater use of collaboration, restructuring and in some cases consolidation. Terrapin 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?

Terrapin sees that technology is having a transformational impact on philanthropy.  Today, donors do more research and “shopping” through websites and social media. Terrapin provides creativity and leadership in accessing technology to “grow philanthropy.”

Terrapin encourages its clients to embrace technology.

We see technology as the future for nonprofits. Technology enables you to grow your outreach, volunteer base and philanthropy. Technology (smart phones, tablets, computers, broadband, software, wireless, social networking and online giving) enables each Terrapin 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 to tell your story through coordinated and layered print (traditional) online and emailed videos, social media and network to make a “personal contact and testimony” to prospects.

Terrapin encourages its clients to invest in database software to enhance your 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. Social media enables your organization to broaden its reach and engage prospects in your mission through messages, surveys and updates.

What is your best advice to a nonprofit considering fundraising?

First, know yourself. Look into the mirror. Look in your files.  Look at your software.  Conduct a readiness audit.  Look around. Test your mission against your community’s needs and your competition through a needs assessment.

Second, spend time doing internal research. Inventory your board members to determine their strengths, passions, commitment and connections.  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).

Third, get a clear picture (warts and all) of your current condition. Conduct a pre-campaign or feasibility study.  That effort will give both you and your consultant a realistic vision of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  It will give you both statistical and verbatim responses about your mission, perception, reputation and fundraising ability.

Finally, 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 and in the future.  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.

What are Terrapin Consulting’s core values?

Terrapin Consulting subscribes to six core values:

  1. Each client is unique and deserves a campaign strategy specific to their needs, based on research.
  2. Terrapin proudly offer a full suite of consulting services: campaign management, executive search, feasibility research, grant          research/writing/tracking, planned giving and strategic planning.
  3. The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and Partners for Philanthropic Planning (PPP) Standards guides our   professional philosophy.
  4. TCLLC expects an engaged, personalized collaboration with our client(s).
  5. The AFP Donor Bill of Rights directs our relations with our clients and their prospects/donors.
  6. Terrapin contracts and invoices are “not to exceed, understandable and transparent.