Managing affiliate relationships: From politics to the database

June 28, 2016

For 25 years, Karin Kirchoff has worked to make the world a better place—volunteering as a Girl Scout leader (even before she had kids) and increasing revenue for nonprofit advocacy organizations. She brought her love of data, membership development and advocacy to the National PTA in 2015 as Deputy Executive Director. 

Karin believes that relationships between members/donors and the causes those individuals support is critical to the organization’s survival. While VP for Membership at Defenders of Wildlife, she grew membership and reduced costs. At the Human Rights Campaign, the midlevel giving program grew by 40% through a combination of leadership development and data strategy. She consulted for organizations with programs in decline, using data to orchestrate long-term growth strategies. 

Karin holds degrees from Marymount University and the George Washington University.  She lives near Washington, D.C., with her family and a bevy of furry, feathered and finned critters.


Project management skills and relationship management skills are critical. These are two skillsets every fundraiser has, and they’re invaluable in nearly every role within an organization.

Be curious. Always be asking “what’s next and how do we get there?” It’s important to have a vision and be in a proactive position rather than a reactive one.


Listen. Whether it’s your donors, board members, spouse, friends or colleagues. People may know a lot more than you think and you can benefit from hearing what they have to say.

Do what you say you’re going to do. That’s your integrity, both personally and professionally.

Use data. Collect it. Analyze it. Use it to drive strategy. These are the facts we can all agree on to move forward.

Strive for excellence, not perfection. Aim for the very best, but don’t let that stop you from moving forward.

Don’t stop being curious. It’s so important to never stop asking questions and challenging the status quo.