BWF Historical Perspective

We‘re Proud of Our History

We‘re Proud of Our History


BWF has a strong history of innovation and impact. Through results-based methodology with a focus on organizational growth, BWF has helped thousands of organizations raise more money to further their missions.

The impact we make today is thanks to years of growth, team building, strategic planning, service advancement, and pushing the envelope. We are grateful that our three founders Bruce Flessner, Frank Benz, and John Whaley took action on their vision in 1983 to make the world a better place and serve nonprofits.

There are more milestones than we can count that make us who we are today. Here are just a few to help you understand our roots:


Since 1983

Statue of Liberty

In the very first year of its founding, BWF received a phone call from a friend who was consulting for Chrysler Corporation. The message was, “A gentleman is doing this campaign in New York … would you go out and see whether or not it’s going to succeed?” The gentleman was Lee Iacocca, and the campaign was for the now-legendary Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island restoration project. BWF stepped in and helped raise over $315 million, far surpassing the original $200 million goal. Ellis Island was restored to its rightful place in America’s landscape. With the founding pillars of innovation and industry thought leadership, this became the first of hundreds of projects that established BWF as a global leader in fundraising counsel, with ground-breaking and creative strategies to help institutions transform philanthropy.


Pioneer in Prospect Research


The American Prospect Research Association, APRA, was founded in Minnesota, and BWF’s own Bobbie Strand was a founding member. Bobbie was also responsible for writing the first-ever book on prospect research, “Prospect Research: A How to Guide.” Bobbie, a partner with BWF from 1984-2008, is a nationally recognized leader in major gift and prospect development, capital campaign planning and implementation, major gift management, cultivation, and solicitation strategy development.


Prospect Select

BWF develops Prospect Select, an electronic prospect selection tool that was one of the first wealth screening tools in fundraising.


BWF’s 1st billion-dollar campaign

The University of Michigan launches its first billion dollar campaign with the support of BWF.


Analytics Consulting

Josh Birkholz

Josh Birkholz joined BWF and launched the first analytics consulting practice in fundraising, establishing data science at more than 100 institutions.


BWF’s 10th billion-dollar campaign

UC Berkeley’s, with $3.13 billion raised.



BWF established its expertise in supporting fundraising operations by launching the DonorCast division, which focused specifically on advancing prospect research, analytics, and digital strategy for nonprofits.


Fundraising AnalyticsJosh Birkholz authored “Fundraising Analytics: Using Data to Guide Strategy,” the seminal book on fundraising analytics.


The “Great Give”

BWF partnered with Florida State University on the first university giving day, the “Great Give,” a year before Giving Tuesday was launched. That same year, BWF provides counsel for UCLA Health Science’s $2 billion campaign, the largest at a public academic health center.

January 2012

BWF served as counsel to the largest public university campaign at the time when the University of Michigan publicly launched its $4 billion campaign, ultimately raising over $5 billion.

Katrina Klaproth and Mark Marshall

Katrina Klaproth and Mark Marshall join the BWF principal team.


With BWF serving as campaign counsel, Colby College went public with its $750 million campaign, the largest liberal arts campaign at the time.


BWF partnered with the University of Sydney Australia, which announced it had reached its $1 billion philanthropic goal following its INSPIRED campaign. This achievement marked the first billion-dollar campaign launched in Australia, and at the time, the most successful campaign of any university in the nation.

January 2019

A new CEO

Josh Birkholz steps into new role as the firm’s CEO. Bruce Flessner, company founder and principal, stepped down from his role as principal after 36 years of service.

March 2019

Boston Children’s Hospital completes its $1.5 billion Dream Dare Deliver campaign, the first campaign of a billion dollars at a children’s hospital.

September 2019

Groundwork Digital

BWF acquired Groundwork Digital, the pioneering innovator of high‐touch digital communications for transformational giving. This acquisition laid the foundation for {{firstname}}, the first of its kind partnership in the nonprofit sector between BWF and Hubbub.


Officially BWF

The firm officially announced its rebranded identity as BWF. This shortened brand name reflects an appreciation and respect for the firm’s founding while also representing the ambitious vision for the future. BWF moves forward as an organization of expanding services, growing diversity, and depth of expertise, together united under one identity to empower each client and mission.

January 2020

{{firstname}} launched, focusing on advancing enterprise-wide nonprofit giving days, connecting donors and gift officers through personalized video marketing via its Digital Development Officer programs, and increasing participation through modern, video-driven Student Engagement Teams.

February 2021
Salesforce Partner

BWF joins partner program as an official partner.

March 2021

{{firstname}} Launches Mercury Platform

August 2022

Let’s Connect

We’re ready to share more about BWF and how we can work together.