Archive for August, 2012

August 31, 2012

Should Lance Armstrong Resign from LIVESTRONG?

The world of professional sports was rocked by yet another scandal. The scandal could also have a significant impact on one well-known nonprofit organization.

While simmering for years, the story involving Lance Armstrong reached a full boil recently when the seven-time Tour de France winner and cycling legend gave up his fight against the doping charges levied by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. That move cleared the way for USADA to strip Armstrong of his titles and ban him from any sports competition following the World Anti-Doping Code.

While Armstrong has decided not to fight the charges, both the International Cycling Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency have the right to appeal USADA’s ruling and are expected to do so. This means the story is likely far from over.

Lance Armstrong, TDU 2010

In addition to being a (former) champion cyclist, Armstrong is also the Founder of The Lance Armstrong Foundation which is also known as LIVESTRONG (LIVESTRONG.org). Armstrong serves as Chairman of The Lance Armstrong Foundation. The Foundation has a partnership with LIVESTRONG.com which is licensed by the Foundation.

For its part, The Lance Armstrong Foundation issued a strong statement of support for Armstrong. And, at least early on, the public also seems to be expressing its support for Armstrong. USA Today reported that by 3:30 PM of the day of the USADA announcement, the Foundation received about $80,000 from online donors, dramatically greater than its $3,000 daily average.

August 29, 2012

Special Report: Ooops! Giving USA Identifies Its Mistake

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The people who bring us Giving USA have announced that the latest edition of the report contains a clerical error.

In life, when one makes a mistake, it’s generally a good idea to admit it and, when possible, fix it. It’s impossible to be perfect. So, what separates the good guys from the bad guys is not who can achieve perfection. Instead, the good guys are defined by how effectively and honestly they deal with problems when they are identified.

I congratulate Giving USA for promptly correcting its error.

Here is the text of the email from Giving USA that explains the situation:

 

Dear Valued Giving USA Customer,

The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and Giving USA are committed to providing the most up-to-date data on charitable giving possible-and to doing so with transparency, accuracy, and accessibility.

It is for this reason that we are notifying you that the Center on Philanthropy has updated the Giving USA bequest and total giving data for the years 1998-2009 that were originally reported in Giving USA 2012, released in June of this year. The changes are necessary because an error in the bequest giving data for those years has come to our attention.

August 28, 2012

Special Report: Web-Radio Conversation about Planned Giving

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I was recently a guest on the Nonprofit Spark web-radio show hosted by Renee McGivern, President of Spark Plug Consulting. We had a great conversation about one of my favorite subjects: donor-centered planned giving.

Here’s what Renee has to say about the show:

Many, many organizations – even 30, 40 or 50 years old – are not encouraging donors to remember the organization in their wills. It’s a huge lost opportunity and, yet, planned giving can be an easy and natural fit into the fundraising and communications you’re doing now. It does not have to be complicated, and it can be about gifts for today and tomorrow.

My guest this week is Michael J. Rosen, CFRE, President of ML Innovations, Inc., a fundraising and marketing consulting firm based in Philadelphia. He’s the author of the bestselling book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. He also is an Adjunct Professor at Drexel University where he teaches a course on advanced fund development. Finally, he is a recipient of the prestigious Skystone Prize for Research in Fundraising and Philanthropy from the international Association of Fundraising Professionals.

You’ll come away from this show with just enough information to talk internally about how to incorporate planned giving into your current fundraising program and to get started.”

 

You can listen to the show for free by clicking here. 

I enjoy talking about gift planning. A planned gift is a great way for a donor to support his or her favorite nonprofit organization in a major way. And, planned giving is something that almost anyone can engage in.

So, yes, I do like talking about planned giving. Sometime ago, I was honored to be interviewed by Jan Uekermann. Jan and I also talked about donor-centered planned giving. You can watch the interview on YouTube by clicking here.

Only 22 percent of Americans over the age of 30 report that they have been asked for a planned gift, according to a study by The Stelter Company. I hope you’re talking to your organization’s supporters about planned giving.

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

August 27, 2012

Special Report: Leadership Shake-up at Komen

[Publisher’s Note: “Special Reports” are posted from time-to-time as a benefit for subscribers and frequent visitors to this blog. “Special Reports” are not widely promoted. To be notified of all new posts, including “Special Reports,” please take a moment to subscribe in the right-hand column. Your email address will be kept private.]

 

Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced a major leadership shake-up earlier this month. Nancy G. Brinker, Komen’s Founder, will step down from the CEO post and move to a new management role focusing on revenue creation, strategy, and global growth as Chair of the Komen Board Executive Committee. Brinker will assume her new position once the search for a new CEO has been completed.

Liz Thompson, Komen’s President, has also announced plans to leave the organization. Thompson plans to leave Komen next month.

Komen also announced that two board members would be leaving the board and that a nominating process has begun for their replacement.

In a written statement, Brinker said, “Our mission is clear and consistent, and will never change, regardless of the controversy earlier this year. We are doing everything in our power to ensure that women have access to quality cancer care and the support that they need, as we seek answers through cutting-edge research.”

Those interested in reading my analysis of the Komen controversy from earlier this year, can read my post: Does Komen Have a Communications or Integrity Problem? 

August 27, 2012

Can You Still be Donor-Centered by Putting Yourself First?

This blog post is a major thematic departure from my usual articles.

Usually, I advocate, either directly or indirectly, for fundraising that is donor centered. My book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, clearly emphasizes my belief in the importance of being donor centric.

This post, by contrast, is about you, your needs, and your happiness.

I got the idea for this post when I recently returned from delivering the keynote address at the AFP Memphis Chapter conference. (By the way, the folks there were wonderfully friendly; the food was amazing; and the sites were memorable. Memphis, home of the blues, should definitely be on your tourism bucket list.)

Anyway, I was on my Delta Airlines flight when I did something I have not done for quite some time. For some inexplicable reason, I actually listened to the pre-flight announcement. The flight attendant mentioned that if the air masks drop, each adult should put their mask on first and, then, help their child with his/her mask.

It got me thinking. To take care of others, we need to first take care of ourselves. 

I learned that lesson in 1983. Shortly after co-founding a pioneering direct response agency, I was a stressed-out frazzled mess. Thinking I really needed professional help, I went to a psychologist. At the end of the first session, the doctor asked me, “When was the last time you took a vacation?”

I responded, “My wife and I take a long weekend every so often.”

He said, “No, I mean a real vacation. When was the last time you went away for a week or more?”

I told him, “With the exception of my honeymoon, I have never taken a vacation in my adult life.”

“Well, I really wish I was videotaping this session for my students,” he said.

“Am I really that bad off?,” I asked with great concern.

“No,” he laughed. “You’re a perfect example of someone who doesn’t need therapy. What you need is a vacation. Take a week off. Better yet, take two weeks off. Don’t take any calls. Don’t bring any paperwork. Just go. When you come back, I think you’ll find you feel better. If not, then come back and see me.”

So, based on doctor’s orders, my wife and I went to a remote area of Jamaica for two weeks. For the first three days, I kept hearing the phone ring. But, it was all in my head. The nearest phone was actually 18 kilometers away from the house we rented. At the end of the first week, I was finally learning to relax. By the end of the second week, I was itching to get back despite having had a fun time.

When I returned to my office, I found I was more efficient than ever. Insurmountable problems I had left behind were easily dealt with. I felt like some kind of superhero. I was more creative, more productive. My stress level was at an all-time low. I became a convert to the idea of vacationing.

From that point forward, I’ve always been sure to take vacations and to make sure my employees also take advantage of their vacation time.

I’ve also always insisted that vacations should not include any business:

  • phone calls,
  • text messages,
  • emails,
  • paperwork.

A vacation is a time of escape, a time of decompression, a time to recharge. You simply can’t fully do that if you’re still connected to the office.

August 17, 2012

What NOT to Do in Your Email or Direct Mail Appeals

Writing an effective email or direct mail appeal is not as simple as writing a note to a friend. It’s a real challenge. Sometimes, organizations hit the mark. Sadly, this post is about one of those other times when an organization misses the mark.

A short time ago, I received the following email from a performing arts organization (which will remain nameless) that my wife and I care about and have supported in the past:

Subject: We’ve Missed You!

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Michael J. Rosen,

With just a few weeks to go before the end of the [ABC Organization’s] fiscal year, we are writing to ask for your support of the [Organization] at a time of increasingly good news. As you have undoubtedly read, the [Organization] is no longer in bankruptcy. We officially exited from financial reorganization on July 30, 2012. As we look to the future with confidence, we hope that you share our excitement about the beginning of [John Doe’s] tenure as [artistic director]. With [John’s] first season coinciding with the 100th anniversary of [John Smith’s] arrival in Philadelphia, the stars truly seem aligned!

We are grateful for your generous past support of [the Organization]. Several seasons ago, you helped us make possible all the outstanding performances … and the extensive educational and community partnerships that enable us to engage, inspire, and serve Philadelphia.

Today, we ask you to rejoin the thousands of Philadelphians and audiences worldwide in demonstrating your love for our magnificent [Organization] by making your gift. Now, more than ever, we need to have you with us!

“Donate Now” [button]

Sincerely,

Senior Director of Individual Giving”

While it was smart of the organization to send an email appeal to lapsed donors, there are several serious problems with the appeal that will negatively impact results. My wife and I are among those who have chosen not to renew our support.

By providing a detailed critique of the email appeal, I hope to help you avoid some of the same mistakes. When you do, you’ll get stronger results.

To begin, the email is not donor centered. I created a Worlde using the text of the email:

A Wordle is a graphical representation that makes words that are emphasized larger than the words used less often. In the Wordle I created, you can see that the following words are most emphasized:

  • organization
  • ask
  • now
  • support
  • Philadelphia

Of the five emphasized words, only “Philadelphia” reflects me and my community. The other four words are all organization focused.

Now, let’s look at the subject line: “We’ve Missed You!”

My wife has spent the past several months engaged in a fight with cancer. As a result, we have refocused our philanthropy. In addition, we haven’t been getting out as much as we once did. However, with my wife’s health returning to normal, we’re looking forward to the start of the new performing arts season.

When I saw the “We’ve Missed You!” subject line, I was excited because I saw the email was from an organization my wife and I have an interest in. I assumed the email would tell me about the upcoming season. And, as it’s been awhile since we’ve been able to attend performances, I thought the email just might also contain news of a special performance or ticket discount offer to entice us back.

Then, I opened the email. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the organization really did not miss my wife and me, it only missed our money. The email contained absolutely no information about the upcoming season and did not even include a link to the 2012-13 performance schedule.

I’ll give the organization credit for crafting a powerful subject line. Unfortunately, the subject line merely sets the reader up for a letdown.

The organization missed a great opportunity to leverage reciprocity and inspire gratitude. If the email had invited us to make plans to attend an upcoming performance, if the organization had supplied a link to its 2012-13 performance schedule and, especially if the organization had included some sort of promotional offer, it would have inspired a sense of appreciation.

By giving us something small, even just information, we would have been more likely to reciprocate with a donation.

Instead of beginning the email with something of interest to me (i.e.: upcoming performance information), the organization chose to write about the upcoming close of its fiscal year.

Guess what? Very few prospective donors care about an organization’s fiscal year. We care about our own fiscal year. The line used by the organization is quintessentially organization-focused and not the least bit donor-centered.

Rather than focusing on the end of its own timeline for giving, the organization would have been wiser to focus on the impending start of the new performance season. That would have been more donor-centered as it would have involved future engagement of the reader. As a result, the message would have been more inspirational and giving would have been more likely.

The next sentence in the email is just a bit strange and, perhaps, pointless. The sentence begins, “As you have undoubtedly read…” If I’ve “undoubtedly read” about the organization’s emergence from bankruptcy, why is the author telling me about it? If I had not read about it already, the phrase would make me feel foolish for not having read about it. If I had read about it but forgot, the phrase would make me feel silly for not having paid more attention.

Phrases like “As you have undoubtedly read” or “Of course” or “As you know” serve no possible useful purpose. Instead, they can actually be offensive to readers. When using such a phrase, you’re either about to waste the reader’s time or make them feel ill informed.

The email expresses confidence in the future now that the organization has emerged from bankruptcy. However, the email does not explain why the organization is confident. Many of the organization’s board members who led the way into bankruptcy continue to serve. While it’s certainly good news that the organization has emerged from bankruptcy, it’s unclear what changes have been made to ensure the organization’s strong management and long-term viability.

It’s not enough for the organization to say things are better. It needs to prove it. I’ve given them money before, but they still ended up in bankruptcy. How do I know it won’t happen again?

The email shares more good news by reminding readers that a new staff leader on the artistic side will be taking the helm in the new season. The email tells me this news is exciting and suggests, therefore, that I should be excited. However, I’m not told why I should be excited.

What follows is insider-speak about the new guy coming on board 100 years after a famous other guy came to town. Some supporters might not really know the historical figure or why he’s so important. I have no idea what “the stars truly seem aligned” means. It’s a mildly interesting historical coincidence. But, beyond that, so what? Will the new guy be doing some sort of tribute to the old guy? I don’t know, but I’d certainly like to know if that’s the case. If it’s not the case, why mention it at all?

The organization did do something correct in its email. It thanked my wife and me for our “generous past support.” That’s good. You want to thank past supporters before again asking them to give.

Unfortunately, this email takes things a bit too far. While my wife and I have been supportive, we certainly have not been generous enough to have “helped [the organization] make possible all the outstanding performances … and the extensive educational and community partnerships that enable us to engage, inspire, and serve Philadelphia.” I’ve heard of stretching a dollar, but this is just silly. By telling me I’ve made all things possible when I know I haven’t, the author really isn’t telling me anything at all.

Organizations should tell donors how their money was really spent. Or, organizations should tell donors what their money, when combined with gifts from other supporters, made possible.

August 14, 2012

Special Report: PPP Hires New President/CEO

[Publisher’s Note: “Special Reports” are posted from time-to-time as a benefit for subscribers and frequent visitors to this blog. “Special Reports” are not widely promoted. To be notified of all new posts, including “Special Reports,” please take a moment to subscribe in the right-hand column.]

 

Michael Kenyon

The Partnership for Philanthropic Planning has announced it has hired a new President/Chief Executive Officer. Michael Kenyon will assume the position on October 26, 2012. The position has been held by Tanya Howe Johnson, CAE who announced, in September 2011, her plan to step down after 20 years in the position.

PPP issued the following email message on behalf of Michael Kateman, PPP Board Chair:

 

To: PPP members and friends

From: Michael Kateman, Chair, PPP Board of Directors

On behalf of the Board of Directors, I’m very pleased to announce that Michael Kenyon is the new President and CEO of the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning.

Michael brings a deep passion for the arts and extensive association leadership expertise to his new role with PPP. For the past 11 years, he has been Executive Director of the Percussive Arts Society. At PAS, he led an international music service organization that promotes percussion education, research, performance and appreciation, with 7,500+ members, 50 U.S. chapters and 28 international chapters. Michael’s experience at PAS also includes production of an annual conference that attracts 5,000+ attendees. Among many successful initiatives at PAS, Michael led the organization through development of new facility for the Rhythm! Discovery Center, a museum and educational space that USA Today recently named one of the top places in the United States for hands-on music making.

Michael began his professional life as a musician, working as a drummer with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and a Broadway touring company, and with symphony and jazz ensembles in Arizona, Ohio and New York City. After nearly seven years of performing and touring, he sought a career with a broader scope and transitioned into nonprofit and arts administration. He worked with St. Martin’s Hospitality Center for the homeless and Celebrate Youth, which was recognized by the Kellogg Foundation as an exemplary program in the development of young adults. He also served as executive director of the New Mexico Jazz Workshop, where he oversaw all financial and operational functions of the organization and was also involved in fundraising. Michael holds a Bachelor of Music, Music Performance, and a Master of Music, Performance Pedagogy, both from Arizona State University.

Michael is no stranger to the worlds of fundraising and charitable gift planning. At the New Mexico Jazz Workshop, he was responsible for raising voluntary contributions to cover 30% of the organization’s annual budget. At PAS, he oversaw all fundraising efforts including the annual campaign and the establishment of several endowed scholarships, and specific purpose funds established through charitable remainder trusts.

I encourage you to attend the National Conference on Philanthropic Planning, October 3-5, in New Orleans, where I look forward to introducing you to Michael. He will officially join the PPP staff on October 26.”

 

As a PPP member and Immediate Past President of PPP of Greater Philadelphia, I wish Kenyon well. This is an important transition time for PPP. I look forward to seeing what the Kenyon-era will mean for PPP, the membership, and philanthropy. There are certainly great challenges ahead. But, with those challenges, there are also great opportunities. It will be interesting to see how effectively PPP grapples with the challenges and seizes the opportunities.

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

August 10, 2012

8 Valuable Insights from a Major Donor

I recently had the opportunity to spend some quality time with a major donor. He was kind enough to visit with my graduate students in the “Advanced Fund Development” class I teach at Drexel University. Daniel (not his real name) shared a number of valuable insights about how some philanthropists think.

I thought you might like to learn what Daniel had to say since it might very well help you when working with your own donors and prospects.

Daniel and his wife personally contribute generously to a variety of nonprofit organizations and serve on a number of nonprofit boards. Daniel also administers a family foundation established by his parents.

Daniel told the class that he believes “donors see their giving as an extension of themselves.” He indicated that the more involved he is with an organization, the more personally he’s connected, the more likely he is to donate. In addition, he said that he is motivated by the notion of “giving back.” If he, or a family member, has benefited from the services of an organization in a significant way, he’s more likely to contribute.

However, for Daniel, it’s not all about involvement and reciprocity. He needs to also have confidence in an organization’s leadership before he’ll provide a significant gift. Two of the things that help build his confidence in the leadership are:

  1. the quality of the organization’s products or services,
  2. the demonstrated efficiency with which the organization provides those products or services.

One of his sources for information about organizational efficiency is Guidestar.

If an organization has a good relationship with a prospective donor, Daniel doesn’t really believe there’s much of risk in accidentally asking for too much. He says, “People aren’t really offended by being asked for too much if they were properly cultivated first.”

Daniel understands nonprofit organizations. He expects to be asked. If he’s asked for too much, he simply lets the development professional know. He doesn’t get offended because he assumes the development professional has made a good-faith attempt to ask for something appropriate. Sometimes they miss; sometimes they hit the target.

When discussing particularly large or complex gift arrangements, Daniel doesn’t rely on the expertise of his development contact. Instead, he turns to his lawyer for advice. While he wants his development contact to be knowledgeable, he has no expectation of or need for that person to be an expert in the area of complex gifting.

Organizations that approach Daniel should also understand that he and his wife consult each other before making philanthropic commitments. While they don’t necessarily support all the same organizations, they’re both involved in most philanthropic decisions.

When he gives, Daniel really doesn’t expect to receive any tangible benefits. Daniel says such benefits or little recognition gifts are not very important to him, though they’re sometimes nice. What’s more important to him is access. For example, when he contributes to a theatre company, he enjoys the opportunity to meet the actors and directors.

While Daniel likes having the option to meet with a development professional, to visit an organization’s home, or to observe its programs, he doesn’t usually require a lot of hand-holding before making a philanthropic decision because, in part, he doesn’t have the time for it.

“Someday, I may have more time, but I won’t necessarily want to spend it with a development person,” he says with a smile. He’s happiest when organizations respect his time while giving him the option of how much contact he will have.

Much of what Daniel shared with my students was nothing new. Researchers have found many donors feel the same way. But, his insights serve as terrific reminder for all development professionals.

When working with your major donors and prospects, keep these tips in mind:

August 3, 2012

New Economic Data Suggest Continued Fundraising Challenges. What Can You Do?

Based on the latest economic data, nonprofit organizations in the USA should not expect significant growth in philanthropy through at least 2013. Fortunately, there are at least 10 things you can do to help your nonprofit weather the storm.

Historically, philanthropy in the USA has been approximately two percent of Gross Domestic Product. While this is not necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship, the correlation is consistent. Therefore, with slow economic growth, we will likely see slow philanthropic growth.

In 2011, the US experienced an annual GDP growth rate of 1.8 percent. That same year, overall giving rose by 4.0 percent in current dollars or 0.9 percent in inflation adjusted dollars, according to Giving USA 2012.

In the first quarter of 2012, the US economy grew at a rate of 2.0 percent. In the second quarter of 2012, US economic growth slowed to just 1.5 percent. Most economists agree that a growth rate of 2.0 percent or less is insufficient to lower the unemployment rate, now at 8.2 percent. Looking ahead to 2013, the Federal Reserve forecasts a growth rate of 2.5 percent, still modest.

For the nonprofit sector, the GDP numbers mean the sector can expect philanthropy to grow in 2012 at a similar rate to 2011. Growth in 2013 will likely not be much better.

Despite my lack luster predictions for the nonprofit sector, I do believe there are at least 10 things that individual organizations can do to stimulate increased giving. If you implement just some of these ideas, your organization will likely achieve above average fundraising results:

1. Hug your donors. Ok, maybe not literally. But, you do need to let your donors know you love and appreciate them, now more than ever. Do you quickly acknowledge gifts? You should do so within 48 hours. Do you effectively thank donors? You should do so in at least seven different ways. Your thank you letters should be reviewed to ensure they are heartfelt, meaningful, and effective. Have board members call donors to thank them.

2. Tell donors about the impact of their gift. Donors want to know that their giving is making a difference. If their giving isn’t making a difference or they aren’t sure, they’re more likely to give elsewhere. So, report to your donors. Tell them what their giving is achieving and that their support is being used efficiently.

3. Start a new recognition program. One small nonprofit organization I know has started a new, special corporate giving club. CEOs of the corporate members are placed on an advisory board, receive special recognition, and are provided with networking opportunities. This new recognition program has already generated over $50,000 and is expected to generate far more. While enhancing existing recognition efforts is beneficial, starting a new recognition program can yield significant results.

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