Archive for August, 2011

August 26, 2011

Does CFRE Have a Future?

The Certified Fund-Raising Executive credential was created in 1981 to promote professionalism in fundraising practice. Now, on the 30th anniversary of the creation of CFRE, I thought I would take a few moments to consider whether CFRE has a future.

One might automatically think that CFRE will enjoy a bright future. After all, the credential has a 30-year track record. The market of fundraising professionals is growing worldwide. In the United States alone, the number of nonprofit organizations required to file with the Internal Revenue Service grew from 246,733 in 1999 to 315,662 in 2009, a 28 percent increase. (These numbers do not include the hundreds of thousands of religious congregations not required to file or the hundreds of thousands of nonprofit organizations that raise less than $25,000 a year; the numbers also do not include tens of thousands of foundations.)

The idea that fundraising is actually a profession has also taken root in recent decades with the dramatic increase in educational opportunities including college and university certificate and degree programs in nonprofit management and fundraising. As the nonprofit sector takes fundraising more seriously, as the number of nonprofit organizations grows thereby increasing the number of fundraising practitioners, one could conclude that the rapidly growing potential market for CFRE would mean a rosy future for the credential.

Another sign pointing to a healthy future is the CFRE recertification rate. Among those who hold the CFRE designation, satisfaction seems to be high with “a healthy recertification rate well above the average rate for voluntary certification programmes,” according to CFRE International, the credentialing organization for CFRE

Unfortunately, the future for CFRE is not automatically secure. Today, there are 5,322 holders of the CFRE credential, including myself, of which 4,422 reside in the U.S. Assuming that every reporting 501(c)3 has at least, and no more than, one person doing fundraising, that means that CFRE’s market penetration in the U.S. is about 1.4 percent! After 30 years, that’s a rather lackluster market penetration rate, suggesting the credential is crawling rather sprinting into the future.

The average number of newly certified professionals has averaged just 445 worldwide from 2007-2010, according to the 2010 Annual Report from CFRE International. While this number grew over the previous three-year period, it’s certainly not a number that realizes the potential. Between 2007 and 2010, the worldwide number of CFRE holders grew by just one percent!

The CFRE credential faces a number of serious challenges including:

Competition: Other credentialing programs exist including the Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy and the Advanced Certified Fund-Raising Executive. In addition, master’s degree programs compete with the CFRE credential. During a recent conversation on Twitter hosted by #fundchat (a weekly discussion on Twitter about fundraising issues that is held every Wednesday from 9:00 – 10:00 PM, Eastern time), a number of participants questioned the value of obtaining a CFRE designation if they’re going to get a master’s degree related to the profession; the thinking was that a related master’s degree is at least as strong a credential as a CFRE.

Economics: CFRE is a voluntary certification. Government regulators do not require it. The decision to obtain a CFRE, is purely up to the individual professional. Making the decision to pursue a CFRE comes with a big price tag. First-time certificants must pay $618, if they are a member of a participating organization, or $778, if they are not. Those recertifying must pay a fee of $360, if they are a member of a participating organization, or $453, if they are not. Many employers are unwilling to pay for their employees to become certified, and many development professionals are unwilling or unable to pay the significant fee themselves. I suspect this will be particularly true in these tough economic times.

August 19, 2011

9 Things a Nonprofit Organization Should Never Do with Twitter

“Overall, participants [in peer-to-peer fundraising efforts] that adopted integrated Social Media tools increased their fundraising [results] by as much as 40 percent compared to their peers who weren’t using the available online tools,” according to a study by Blackbaud. Clearly, Social Media sites such as Twitter can have a significant impact on donor cultivation and fundraising results.

There are already a number of good articles about how nonprofit organizations can get started with Social Media. Four particularly useful articles about getting started with Twitter are:

Because there is increasingly more information about Twitter and other Social Media online and at professional seminars, I will not use my blog to suggest how to get started with Twitter or what you can do with it. Instead, I’m going to look at what you should not do with Twitter. While Twitter can certainly help nonprofit organizations with their development efforts, there are some things you should never do.

Do NOT Expect to Raise Money. I’m not saying you can’t use Twitter to raise money. I’m just say not to expect you’ll raise a lot. Nevertheless, a few charities have enjoyed great fundraising success via Twitter. For example, the American Red Cross has raised money through Twitter in response to various disaster relief efforts. While your organization may be able to raise some money as a result of your efforts on Twitter, that should not be your primary expectation. Instead, use Twitter to cultivate and engage people, promote your cause, and build a following. Overtime, you’ll be able to talk with folks about giving.

Do NOT Use Your Professional Twitter Account for Personal Tweets. Speaking of the American Red Cross, they had an awkward Twitter moment sometime ago, as reported in The High Low. Red Cross staff member Gloria Huang wrote about finding more Dogfish Head beer, accompanied by the hashtag #gettngslizzerd. The only trouble was that Huang accidentally posted the Tweet using the Red Cross account rather than her own. Rather than posting apology after apology, the Red Cross averted potential disaster by simply taking down the Tweet and responding with a reasonable joke: “We’ve deleted the rogue Tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.” The response was so well-received it inspired a blood drive for the Red Cross, partly promoted by Dogfish Head’s Twitter followers. In a charming twist to a Tweet gone wrong and set right, the hashtag for the drive was Huang’s #gettngslizzerd. While all worked out well for the Red Cross, you should be sure to keep personal and professional Tweets in the right place.

Do NOT be Corporate. Ok, I know I just said to keep personal and business Tweets separate. But, that doesn’t mean your Tweets have to be formal or dull. Remember, Twitter is about personal communication. Keep it friendly. Don’t be afraid to comment on things related to but not specifically about your mission. Don’t be stuffy; you want people to like you.

Do NOT Pat Yourself on the Back. My mother told me when I was a child and was boasting about something, “Don’t pat yourself on the back so hard. You might knock yourself over.” This is good advice for Twitter users as well. People do not want to hear you talk about how great you are. They do want to hear what you’re accomplishing that is making life better. They especially want to hear things that are meaningful to them. Share with people the issues your nonprofit is dealing with. Engage them. Cultivate them. Give them information they will find useful.

Photo by Steve Garfield via Flickr

Do NOT be Exploitative. There’s a line between reacting to a crisis and exploiting one. When disasters strike, the Red Cross is there lending a helping hand and raising needed dollars. By contrast, and pulling an example from the corporate world, the Kenneth Cole company exploited the revolution in Egypt to sell its products. Here’s the Kenneth Cole Tweet: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at[…]” When the inevitable backlash came, the company took the Tweet down and apologized. It’s important to know where the line is and to stay on the correct side of it.

Do NOT Use Foul Language. Sometimes, events get the better of us. For example, witnessing a terrible injustice can bring forth the desire to use course language. However, in the Twitterverse, it’s important to avoid naughty words. Unfortunately for Chrysler, their Tweeter snapped one morning and sent this message out, “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to [expletive deleted] drive.” Chrysler later removed the Tweet and apologized but not before it was Retweeted many times. So, watch your language and expect that some of your Tweets will be Retweeted, even when you don’t necessarily want them to be.

Do NOT Feel You Must Engage Everyone. While you will generally want to engage with people who are Tweeting about your cause or organization, remember you don’t have to engage with everyone. For example, someone might have things to say about your organization that are not particularly nice. Usually, it’s best to leave this alone, particularly if the person is simply being emotional and is off-base. On the other hand, if the person is making a valid point, apologize and respond. If the person is making a factual error, consider correcting it. Above all, be very careful when engaging those who are upset.

Do NOT Expect an Intern to Tweet. Your organization should not become an active user of Social Media, including Twitter, without having a plan in place that includes strategy, tactics, goals, and resources. While an intern can assist with the implementation of a Social Media plan, messages and interactions should be managed by a knowledgeable staff person who knows the organization, understands the plan, and has the maturity to professionally execute. Here’s another example from the corporate world: The Marc Jacobs company had an intern doing its Tweeting. Unfortunately, it seems the intern couldn’t take the pressure and, on his or her last day, decided to blast, using the company’s Twitter account, one of the partners. A more mature, professional individual would likely not have done the same on the way out the door. So, be sure to have the right person representing your organization.

Do NOT Automatically Exclude Twitter from Your Communications Mix. Perhaps the worst mistake you can make is to not realize the reach of Social Media and the impact you can have with it. Facebook claims to have 600 million active users each month. Twitter claims there are 175 million user accounts though at least one source (Business Insider) puts the number of active Twitter users at closer to 85 million, still a large number. Hundreds of millions of people across all demographic and socio-graphic groups are using Social Media. Many of your donors and prospective donors are using it. Your organization should weigh the pros and cons of using Social Media. You may ultimately decide, for whatever reason, that it is not appropriate for you to use Twitter or other Social Media tools. But, it should be a conscious decision one way or the other. Is Twitter right for your organization? Do you have the resources to use it properly? Should it be part of your marketing mix? Don’t ignore Social Media. Evaluate it the way you would any development or marketing strategy.

By the way, you can find me on Twitter @mlinnovations.

Are there any other “Do Nots” that should be added to my list? I invite you to add to the Do-Not list by commenting below.

That’s what Michael Rosen Says… What do you say?

August 12, 2011

3 Ways for Nonprofits to Crash & Burn in Current Economy

This week, I was all set to write my blog post. But then, an article at The Chronicle of Philanthropy website caught my attention: “How a Double-Dip Recession Could Affect Giving” by Lisa Chiu. It was a fine article, but it was nevertheless the last straw. I’ve seen way too many articles, blog posts, and Tweets exploring the “What’s going to happen?” question. I have to respond. And, I have to share some meaningful suggestions.

There’s really no mystery. It’s quite simple. I’ll tell you what will happen if there’s a double-dip recession or, for that matter, if the economy improves. Overall philanthropy will follow the growth trend of the Gross Domestic Product. Philanthropy has long correlated to GDP. It averages about two percent of GDP. So, if GDP goes down, giving will go down. If GDP grows modestly, philanthropy will grow modestly. If a miracle happens sometime soon and GDP growth leaps upward, so will giving. We don’t need more studies. We don’t need to guess. We already know what will happen.

Photo by inajeep via Flickr

While philanthropic performance is easily predicted, what is more difficult to determine is how individual nonprofit organizations will do in a bad economy. Since we are nearly powerless to alter the course of the economy, we need to focus our efforts on controlling the thing we can, well, control rather than behaving like a deer caught in the headlights. While I cannot provide a plan that will guarantee success, allow me to share three things that can guarantee that your nonprofit organization will crash and burn during a poor economy:

Stop Asking. It may seem obvious that you should never stop asking, but some nonprofit organizations really do think that the current economic conditions are not good for going out and soliciting money. So, they have scaled back their fundraising efforts. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (in Washington state), left their Director of Development position open for a year. They ended up on the verge of bankruptcy. If you ask for contributions, you may not get them. But, if you don’t ask, you certainly won’t get them. Ok, maybe you’ll get a few, but you won’t raise nearly as much money as if you get out and ask.

Do Not Have a Compelling Case for Support. If you’re going to ask people for money, particularly folks who might be struggling themselves, you better have a superb case for support. Just showing up and saying, “Hi, I’m here. Give me money,” might work in good times, though it’s still not a particularly effective idea. But, in these tough economic times, you’ll need to do better. So, get back to basics. Examine your case for support and make it stronger. If you don’t have one, create one. Tell prospective donors how you have wisely used previous contributions and what you intend to do with new dollars. Identify a problem and show prospective donors how they are part of the solution.

Ignore Current Supporters. To save money, some organizations are cutting their stewardship budgets. This is a great way to alienate and lose supporters at a time when you can least afford to do so. During the recession of the 1980s, I had a museum client with a senior executive who wanted to eliminate the member magazine to cut costs. Before doing that, the wise membership director and I put together a member survey to determine whether the membership valued the magazine or not and what, if anything, they valued in particular. We found that the magazine was an important member benefit, even among those who couldn’t remember any of the articles from the most recent issue. The most valued feature of the magazine was the listing of upcoming events. As a result of the survey, the membership department redesigned the magazine with a special pull-out calendar rather than a simple event listing. A follow-up survey found that members valued the publication even more. The membership retention rate even went up! And, yes, the great powers allowed the magazine to continue. In a bad economy, it is time to take especially good care of supporters. It is not the time to alienate them.

August 9, 2011

Special Report: Reader Survey Results

I recently conducted an unscientific Reader Survey about my blog. Of those who read the blog post about the survey, 23 percent actually took the survey. The number of survey responses is about 7 percent of my average weekly readership. Because a number of folks requested that I share the survey results, I’ve put together this Special Report. Here is how folks responded:

Q1: How did you first hear about Michael Rosen Says…?

  • 19 percent, List Serve
  • 19 percent, LinkedIn
  • 19 percent, Twitter
  • 17 percent, Email (might largely be List Serve)

Q2: Are you a subscriber?

  • 54 percent of respondents are subscribers

Q3: How do you learn about new blog posts at Michael Rosen Says…?

  • 33 percent, Subscriber Notification
  • 28 percent, Email (including list serve)
  • 14 percent, Twitter
  • 11 percent, LinkedIn

Q4: What areas of fundraising would you like to read more about? (leading topics)

  • 11 percent, How to be more Donor Centered
  • 11 percent, Planned Giving
  • 11 percent, Stories about What NOT to Do
  • 7 percent, Capital Campaigns
  • 7 percent, Stewardship
  • 7 percent, Marketing

Q5: How long should posts be?

  • 64 percent, About the Same as They Have Been
  • 36 percent, Mix It Up with Some Shorter and Some Longer

Q6: Would you be interested in reading posts from guest bloggers?

  • 78 percent, Yes (though with caveats)

Q7: Which statement do you AGREE with most?

  • 94 percent, The blog content is about right.
  • 6 percent, The blog content is too basic.

Q8: What type of organization do you work for?

  • 78 percent, Nonprofit Organzation (Non-Governmental Organization)
  • 14 percent, Consulting Firm (including independent consultants)
  • 8 percent,Volunteer and/or Philanthropist

Q9: What sectors interest you the most? (top five responses)

  • 16 percent, Higher Education
  • 13 percent, Foundations
  • 13 percent, Health-related Charities
  • 12 percent, Social Service
  • 9 percent, Performing Arts

Q10: How many years have you been working in the nonprofit sector?

  • 24 percent, 21 years or more
  • 21 percent, 1-5 years
  • 21 percent, 6-10 years
  • 21 percent, 11-15 years
  • 13 percent, 16-20 years

If you took the time to complete my Reader Survey, I thank you. If you did not take the survey, feel free to share your thoughts by commenting below. The feedback I have received and will continue to receive will help me ensure that my blog posts are as meaningful as possible.

That’s what Michael Rosen Says… What do you say?

August 5, 2011

You’ll Only Hit What You Aim At. So, Aim High!

My post this week is very personal. It is about my friend Gene Cavanaugh, a cabaret singer and philanthropist, who passed away on July 25, 2011. Because Gene’s story contains three valuable lessons for us all, I thought I would share it with you.

Gene Cavanaugh

For over 40 years Gene was a sales manager and audio consultant for the Record Shop, an electronics store in New Jersey. He retired three weeks before his passing at age 63. However, about 15 years ago, Gene made a long-held dream come true by launching his second career as a cabaret singer. He called it his “Midlife Musical Crisis.” Gene’s show featured classic, popular standards focusing on the themes of romance and maturity. His initial success led to regular engagements throughout the greater Philadelphia region. And, five years ago, Gene made his successful debut at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Because Gene had a bighearted spirit, he regularly donated his talents to charity, including singing at annual fundraisers for the Mazzoni Center and Dignity Philadelphia.

So, what can we learn from this modest, though generous and talented, man who was taken too soon?

“In the long-run, men hit only what they aim at.” — Henry David Thoreau

Gene was an insecure man. But, he had a dream. As he approached his 50th birthday, he decided to take the plunge. He set goals for himself. He targeted where he wanted to perform and how frequently. He set a goal to attract sell-out crowds. And, he set an almost unimaginable goal for himself, a guy from Philly who managed an electronics store: He would play Carnegie Hall in New York City. Gene realized his goals by first articulating them and then doing the work necessary to achieve them.

Whether in our own careers or for our organizations, we must set goals to be successful. We need to set goals for where we want to be in the near, mid, and long-term. Then, we need to map-out what we must do to achieve the goals. We may not always succeed, but the surest way to fail is to not set any goals or to not take the necessary steps to accomplish them.

“Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” — Mark Twain

I always enjoyed Gene’s performances. He had a powerful, clear voice. He had a passion for the music. He also had vast knowledge of the songs of Broadway. One of Gene’s favorite things to do was to sing well-known songs from, and share tidbits about, little-known Broadway musicals. Yet, despite his enormous talent and terrific repertoire, Gene was always a nervous wreck before his performances. And, not just immediately before performances. He would worry for weeks leading up to his gigs. Would people come? He always sold out. Would he have a cold? He sometimes did, but it didn’t matter. Would the audience like his song selection? They always did. Would he be in good voice? Even at his worst, he was always enormously entertaining.

Despite his pre-show anxiety, Gene never missed a performance. The opportunity for him to realize his dream every time he stepped to the microphone was enough for him to muster courage, overcome his insecurities, and seize the moment.

In our lives, we have to stop listening to the voices around us and in our own heads that say, “It can’t be done.” Or, “You’re not good enough.” Instead, we need to confront our fears and move forward toward achieving our goals. We need to have courage.

“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill

Gene was a very giving man. While never wealthy, he was nevertheless a philanthropist, a man who truly loved humanity. He gave money, his time, his talent. He gave to charities, his multitude of friends, his family. In return, Gene was loved by many who will carry his memory with them.

When we give, we get so much more in return. Because of what we, who work in the nonprofit world, do for a living, it’s easy for us to get lost in the numbers. But, we need to remember that when we work to make the world a better place, when we give of ourselves, we enrich our own lives as well.

I will miss my friend even though a part of him will always be with me.

If there is a heavenly choir, then I know that Gene will be singing with the angels.

That’s what Michael Rosen Says… What do you say?

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