Posts tagged ‘civil society’

December 12, 2014

Is the American Red Cross Hurting Your Fundraising Efforts?

The American Red Cross regularly touts how responsible it is with donors’ money. ‘We’re very proud of the fact that 91 cents of every dollar that’s donated goes to our services,’ Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern said in a speech in Baltimore last year. ‘That’s world class, obviously.’

“McGovern has often repeated that figure, which has also appeared on the charity’s website.

“The problem with that number: It isn’t true.”

That stunning revelation was made in a recently released investigative report by ProPublica and NPR.

National Red Cross HQ by NCinDC via Flickr

American Red Cross National Headquarters

The Red Cross is a great organization. My wife and I have been donors. I even did a blog post highlighting the effective stewardship practices at the Red Cross and encouraging readers to support the organization. The American Red Cross does not have to “serially mislead” the public.

Yet, that’s exactly what it has been doing according to the reporters. While the organization has told the public that 91 cents of every donated dollar goes to services, its fundraising cost to raise a dollar has been 17 cents on average. And that does not include organization overhead expenses. Clearly, the Red Cross has not been as efficient as its leader has claimed.

When reporters contacted Red Cross officials for more information, those officials were uncooperative. However, the organization did change the claim on its “website to another formulation it frequently uses: that 91 cents of every dollar the charity ‘spends’ goes to humanitarian services. But that too is misleading to donors,” states the investigative report.

Sadly, this is not the first time that the Red Cross has been accused by the media of misleading the public.

As a Red Cross supporter and a fundraising professional, I’m alarmed and disappointed by the behavior of the Red Cross. Misleading the public, either through lies or the clever manipulation of language, is unnecessary, unethical, and unacceptable.

Such inappropriate behavior erodes public trust, which makes fundraising more difficult. Perhaps this is one reason that the Red Cross has had trouble consistently raising more money. In 2009-10, the Red Cross raised $1.1 billion. In 2012-13, the Red Cross again raised $1.1 billion.

In a study that examined the relationship between trust and philanthropy, researchers Adrian Sargeant and Stephen Lee found, “there would appear to be a relationship between trust and a propensity to donate.” In addition, “there is some indication here that a relationship does exist between trust and amount donated, comparatively little increases in the former having a marked impact on the latter.”

March 14, 2014

5 Lessons Moses Can Teach Us about Fundraising

Moses can teach us a number of important things about fundraising. Yes, that Moses, the prophet revered by Jews, Christians, Muslims, and other religious faiths throughout the world.

Consider just one story from the Bible that usually receives little attention.

Moses by rorris via FlickrOver 3,000 years ago, after fleeing slavery in Egypt, the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. During this time, God instructed Moses to have the people build a Tabernacle, a movable tent-like structure where the Hebrews could worship and experience the presence of God.

Special materials, fabrics, and precious stones and metals were needed for the project. So, Moses told the Hebrews about the project and shared with them what was needed. Then, he made a request to “everyone whose hearts so move them.” Moses asked them to “bring gifts for God” so that the Tabernacle could be built.

The Hebrews responded with great generosity by providing the needed materials and volunteer labor. Moses, overwhelmed by the volume of gifts received, actually had to instruct people to stop bringing gifts. No more were needed for the project.

Here are five things every fundraiser can learn from this story and the wisdom of Moses:

January 17, 2014

Is it Ethical When an Ethicist Browbeats Prospective Donors?

Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University and founder of The Life You Can Save, not only thinks it is acceptable to browbeat prospective donors, it’s exactly what he did in an op-ed article published in The Washington Post.

In my opinion, Singer’s piece, “Heartwarming Causes are Nice, but Let’s Give to Charity with Our Heads,” contains a glaring ethical problem:

Coercive Manipulation. Singer suggests that people who donate to causes that he does not endorse, such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, are guilty of murder.

Let’s look more closely at this issue before exploring other problems with Singer’s reasoning.

After pointing out that the Make-A-Wish Foundation does not save lives, Singer presents a variety of examples of how contributions to his select group of organizations, instead of Make-A-Wish, can actually preserve lives. Singer writes:

Yet we can still ask if these emotions are the best guide to what we ought to do. According to Make-A-Wish, the average cost of realizing the wish of a child with a life-threatening illness is $7,500. That sum, if donated to the Against Malaria Foundation and used to provide bed nets to families in malaria-prone regions, could save the lives of at least two or three children (and that’s a conservative estimate).”

Singer goes on to say:

It’s obvious, isn’t it, that saving a child’s life is better than fulfilling a child’s wish to be Batkid [referencing a child who benefitted from Make-A-Wish last year]?”

Such adolescent logic is harshly manipulative. The taking of a human life is widely considered the greatest possible sin. By accusing people of this sin, Singer is using guilt to coercively manipulate donor behavior.

Mosquito by Ibrahim Koc

Mosquito by Ibrahim Koc

Rather than offering an unbiased exploration of the roles of emotion v. intellect in the philanthropic process, Singer uses the forum to browbeat people to meet his own personal philanthropic standards.

I’m not sure why Singer thinks he is better qualified to judge which charities are worthy to exist or not. Nevertheless, it is certain that Singer feels he has a better moral compass than the rest of us. And, unless we want to be murderers, we should support his anointed causes.

What I find particularly interesting is that, while Singer appears concerned about saving lives, he seems little concerned with the quality of those lives saved.

What happens to the child who has been saved from Malaria? Would Singer oppose donations to build a school to educate those children? After all, the money otherwise could have gone to buy more mosquito nets.

Singer’s op-ed article provides an excellent example of what nonprofit organizations should not do when trying to attract people to a cause. Instead, here are some of the things that charities should do:

January 3, 2014

Do You Have an Attitude Problem?

[Publisher’s Note: Have you read any good books about charities or fundraising? If so, click here to share your favorite title by January 10 and you could win a free, award-winning book.]

  

Has anyone ever accused you of having an attitude problem?

I hope so.

If you don’t have an attitude problem, I encourage you to develop one. For your sake. For the sake of your organization. For the sake of the nonprofit sector. You can even make it your 2014 New Year Resolution.

I’m not suggesting you cultivate a bad attitude. Instead, I’m encouraging you to shake up the status quo regardless of what others might think. I want you to challenge conventional wisdom in an intelligent way.

Remember, if some of our ancestors had not had an attitude problem, we’d still be living in caves.

Let me share two stories that will illustrate what I mean.

I quite fondly remember the very first time someone told me I had an attitude problem. It was Mrs. Imperiali, my first-grade teacher. Mrs. Imperiali, her real name, asked the class, “What’s the Eager Studentsmartest animal in the world?” I immediately raised my hand. When Mrs. Imperiali called on me, I confidently answered, “Dolphins.”

My response puzzled my teacher. She asked, “Why dolphins?” I told her, “Because they don’t kill each other for no reason.”

Mrs. Imperiali snapped, “Mister, you have an attitude problem!”

I need to point out here that, when I was in the first grade, it was during the height of the Vietnam War. I guess Mrs. Imperiali didn’t appreciate what she believed was the anti-war sentiment of my response. However, since I believed in my answer, I did not take my teacher’s criticism as a negative. As a result, I’ve worn the attitude-problem label with pride, not shame, my entire life.

In case you’re wondering, the answer Mrs. Imperiali was going for was “humans.” As it turned out, she had designed her lesson plan to demonstrate that humans are part of the animal kingdom. Oh well.

A couple decades later, I met Carol Buchanan Daws at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Like me, Carol had an attitude problem.

As the Assistant to the Museum Director, Carol was responsible for the back-office processing of museum memberships. Despite being the oldest natural science research institution and museum in the Western Hemisphere, the Academy only had a token membership program and no Director of Membership.

Carol saw an opportunity to grow the membership program. She repeatedly told her boss about the potential of the membership program. Unfortunately, the Museum Director was content with the status quo. So, Carol did the only natural thing she could do: She kept nudging him about it.

Finally, when the Museum Director was sufficiently annoyed or, perhaps, convinced, he appointed Carol Director of Membership.

December 27, 2013

Top Ten Posts of 2013, and Other Reflections

As 2013 draws to a close, I thought it would be interesting to look back briefly before we march into the New Year.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

For starters, let’s look at which of my posts have been the top ten most read in the past year:

1. Can a Nonprofit Return a Donor’s Gift?

2. 6 Ways to Raise More Money without New Donors!

3. 5 Words or Phrases that Can Cause Donors to Cringe

4. 5 Things Never to Do in Your Phone Fundraising Calls

5. 5 Tips for Giving Donors What They Really Want

6. How NOT to Run a Capital Campaign

7. Prospect Research v. Invasion of Privacy

8. 7 Magical Words to Earn Respect, Trust, and Appreciation

9. Do You Make Any of These Mistakes When Speaking with Donors?

10. Do Not Let This Happen to Your Organization

I invite you to read any posts you might have missed by clicking on the title above. If you’ve read them all, thank you for being a committed reader.

I’m honored to know that I have readers from around the world. (I love the Internet!) While I appreciate all of my readers, I thought it would be interesting to look, beyond the United States, to see my top ten countries for readership:

1. Canada

2. United Kingdom

3. Australia

4. India

5. Netherlands

6. Philippines

7. France

8. Germany

9. New Zealand

10. Italy

Overall, Michael Rosen Says…, has seen a 20 percent increase in readership in 2013 compared with 2012. I thank everyone who made that possible by dropping by to read my posts. I especially want to thank those who have subscribed.

When you subscribe for free in the column at the right, you’ll receive email notices of new posts, including “Special Reports” which are not otherwise widely publicized. Beginning in 2014, subscribers will also receive exclusive bonus content and a limited number of subscriber-only special offers directly from me. So, if you’re not already a subscriber, sign-up now.

Just as I value all of my readers, I also greatly appreciate those who take the time to “Like” my posts, share my posts, Tweet my posts, re-blog my posts, and comment on my posts. In particular, I want to recognize the following people who have commented most often in 2013:

December 13, 2013

No Evidence of #GivingTuesday Success

I admit it. The news headlines about the second annual #GivingTuesday have been exuberant:

“Giving Tuesday Shows Robust Results”The Chronicle of Philanthropy 

“Growth in Online Giving Tuesday Numbers ‘Inspiring’”USA Today 

“Giving Tuesday Smashes Records, Spurs 90% Donation Spike”The Huffington Post 

#GivingTuesday 2013 Infographic by #GivingTuesdayThe good folks at #GivingTuesday even put together an infographic illustrating the day’s success. I’m sharing it in this post. 

There’s only one problem with all of the enthusiasm: There is not a single shred of hard evidence that #GivingTuesday is good for the entire nonprofit sector.

Fortunately, Forbes contributor Tom Watson is one member of the media not afraid to ask the big question: “Inside The #GivingTuesday Numbers: Will American Philanthropy Grow?” 

I share Watson’s healthy skepticism. Like him, I am not yet convinced that #GivingTuesday is a positive force for philanthropy although I certainly hope it is. While #GivingTuesday might have been effective for some individual charities, I wonder if it has been good for the entire nonprofit sector.

The fact that many more charities got involved with #GivingTuesday, compared with last year, does not necessarily mean anything. The fact that millions of people used social media to talk about #GivingTuesday does not necessarily mean anything. The fact that millions of dollars were raised on #GivingTuesday is equally meaningless, by itself.

Here are some questions about #GivingTuesday that the nonprofit sector should answer before rushing to congratulate itself:

December 5, 2013

Special Report: No Tax Reform Bill in 2013

[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.]

 

A tax reform bill will not be introduced in the US Congress before the close of 2013, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) indicated to The Hill.

US Capitol by Kevin Burkett via FlickrGiven that this is the first week of December and that House Republicans plan to leave Washington at the end of next week for the holiday break, the news is not surprising, even while important.

As soon as one month from now, the House could resume wrangling over a possible tax reform bill, according to Jason Lee, General Counsel for the Association of Fundraising Professionals. However, while the issue will be on the table in 2014, it will be a major challenge for Congress to move something as significant as a tax reform bill with the mid-term elections looming in November.

December 1, 2013

Two Surprising Philanthropists Inspire

In the USA, we recently celebrated the national holiday of Thanksgiving. In the spirit of the occasion, I want to express my gratitude to some of those who inspire me.

To begin, I thank you for visiting my blog site and reading my posts. If not for you, and thousands just like you around the world, I would be just a crazy guy talking to himself. Thank you for inspiring me to write, and for honoring me by reading my articles. If you’ve ever commented on a post, I also thank you for that; if you haven’t, I encourage you to feel free to do so in the future.

I also want to thank you for everything you do to help make the world a better place. Working in, with or for the nonprofit sector is noble work. You should take pride in that.

I also want to share my appreciation for the diverse philanthropic community around the globe that supplies the passion, ideas, volunteer resources, and funding that make the work of the nonprofit sector possible. Philanthropists come in all shapes and sizes. Their interests and abilities vary. The one thing they mostly have in common is heart.

Consider these two very different examples of recent philanthropy:

Shoichi Kondoh presents donation for Typhoon Yolanda relief at the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo.

Shoichi Kondoh presents donation for Typhoon Yolanda relief at the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo.

Typhoon Yolanda recently struck Asia. The storm ravaged the Philippines first and hardest. The death toll is still unclear, and hundreds of thousands have been made homeless. In Japan, six-year-old Shoichi Kondoh saw the news coverage of Typhoon Yolanda on television. The images moved him. So, this little philanthropist emptied his piggybank of his childhood savings, and asked his mother to take him to the Embassy of the Philippines. In an Embassy conference room, with his proud mother by his side, Kondoh formally handed Consul Bryan Dexter Lao an envelope containing JPY 5,000 (approximately $50 USD).

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, people who knew Jack MacDonald knew him as a frugal man. He had holes in his clothes, took buses instead of taxis, and lived modestly.

October 30, 2013

Special Report: Two New Books Acknowledge Rosen

[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.]

 

We’re honored to report that two new scholarly books have acknowledged the assistance and helpful insights of Michael J. Rosen, CFRE.

American Charitable Bequest Demographics (1992-2012), by Russell James, JD, PhD of Texas Tech University, provideRussell James Books an extensive review of the changing nature of American charitable estate planning. The book presents over 50 charts and graphs in simple, visual fashion with each page containing one graph or chart, comments on the importance of the information, and details about the methodology behind the data.

With James’ book, you’ll learn about the estate planning trends that affect planned giving; you’ll discover how different demographic factors (i.e.: age, race, gender, family status, etc.) affect charitable estate planning; you’ll see the impact of giving and volunteering on charitable estate planning. You’ll also gain many other useful insights.

You can purchase a paperback version of James’ book at The Nonprofit Bookstore (powered by Amazon), Alternatively, thanks to the kindness of Russell James, readers of Michael Rosen Says…may download a FREE copy of the e-book version here, for a limited time.

October 8, 2013

Survey Respondents Overwhelmingly Express Concern over Government Shutdown

The vast majority of nonprofit professionals (63 percent) responding to an unscientific Michael Rosen Says… survey say that they expect the US government partial shutdown will negatively affect their nonprofit organization or they are concerned it might.

Worry by spoo0ky via FlickrThe shutdown affects nonprofits in a variety of ways. Organizations that rely on government grants have seen those grant payments delayed or withheld. Organizations that do government contract work are seeing payments delayed. Organizations that assist individuals in need are seeing an increased demand for their services.

In addition to those negative effects, 28 percent of survey respondents expect the government’s partial shutdown will result in less philanthropic support this year.

Interestingly, 67 percent of survey respondents expect that the shutdown will hurt the nation’s economy. Because overall philanthropy closely correlates to the country’s Gross Domestic Product, at a rate of approximately two percent, we can expect overall philanthropy to be negatively affected if the shutdown slows the already weak economy.

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