John Brown Limited is dedicated to serving non-profit organizations and the donors and volunteers who support them. We provide capital and endowment campaign counsel, assessment and strategies for building a sustainable development and major/planned gifts program, marketing advice, on- and off-site board, staff, and donor education.

The focus of our expertise is in relationship building, well-prepared, well-timed solicitations and donor respect. Philosophically, we believe that respect for donors' needs is the first step in fostering genuine relationships.

Susan Feagin is the President of John Brown Limited - Susan's expertise comes from over 35 years of development leadership at Columbia University, University of Michigan and Harvard University. Susan and her small team of professional and highly experienced consultants have counseled hundreds of organizations and present frequently around the United States.

Letter From The President

Dear JBL Friends,

In June 2014 I had the honor of receiving the E. Burr Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. As a leader at Marts & Lundy, Burr was a giant in the consulting field, and I had an opportunity to see him in action in my early development career when he was consulting for a campaign at Harvard. In particular he was a great listener, a skill that underpins all successful consulting work.

This whole experience about "lifetime achievement" put me in a contemplative frame of mind about my career in development. For one thing I had no idea that when I took my first job in development at Columbia that I was in effect signing up for the Friends and Family Plan. To this day, most of my close friends are colleagues, past and present. My daughter, Jennifer McDonald, continues to manage JBL on a day-to-day basis, and my son-in-law Ryan also decided on a career in development.

Looking at the profession, I have watched us become more staff-driven, more professional; more focused on performance metrics and data analytics. And there is nothing innately wrong with any of those developments. But I do worry that taken to an extreme, we run the risk of losing the most important philosophical foundation of our work - that it's about the life long relationships our donors have with our schools and organizations. It's about a life cycle, about having graduates, members, friends, grateful patients feel truly that they are part of a family - it's about belonging. We build and nurture relationships; we don't just complete transactions. When I talk to groups of alumni I often say to them that presidents, faculty, staff come and go, but the alumni are the continuity of the institution - they are the ones who truly have a lifelong relationship - and that they need to own that responsibility - that at its best, this creates wonderful volunteer leaders who can also be great fundraisers. I believe we can and we must nurture that same feeling of belonging in other non-profit organizations as well.

Of course, if we are going to honor our lifelong relationships with our constituents, we have to have an enthusiastic group of fundraisers who are around long enough to nurture and develop those relationships. Too many organizations fail to invest in staff continuity, having a penny wise but pound-foolish understanding of our profession. So retaining and compensating a great staff team is another essential ingredient of success that we often fail to value and so fail to achieve.

Over time you will hear more about these issues from me and from other members of the JBL team. Best wishes for successful fund raising!


Susan Feagin
President, John Brown Limited, Inc.