Posts tagged ‘crisis’

March 29, 2014

Top 10 Posts of All-Time from “Michael Rosen Says…”

I want to do something a bit different in this post. While I’ve ranked my posts in a given year to give you a Top-10 list, I’ve never before ranked all of my posts. So, I thought it would be interesting to do so now.

Here are links to my Top 10 Most-Read Posts of All Time:

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

2.  Survey Sounds Alarm Bell for Nonprofit Sector

3.  5 Things Never to Do in Your Phone Fundraising Calls

4.  How NOT to Run a Capital Campaign

5.  Does CFRE Have a Future?

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 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 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.

October 1, 2013

Special Report: Doomsday?

On Oct. 1, 2013, the US federal government shutdown all non-essential operations. This is the first government shutdown in 17 years. It’s uncertain how long this shutdown will last. The failure by Democrats and Republicans in Washington to agree on a budget bill triggered the current shutdown.

At this point, we cannot really know how the impasse in Washington will affect the nonprofit sector, the nation, or the world. However, one thing is certain: The longer the shutdown continues, the greater the risks.

So that we all can get a better understanding of the situation, please take a moment to answer the following five poll questions:

read more »

September 13, 2013

$250 Million Gift to a Nonprofit is Withdrawn … Sort of

The news headlines were stunning:

Centre College Loses $250-Million Gift — Chronicle of Higher Education 

Centre College Loses $250 Million Gift After “Market Event” — Bloomberg 

Kentucky College Loses $250 Million Gift from Charitable Trust — Reuters 

There’s only one problem with the headlines: There never was a $250 million “gift” to Centre College!

Here are four lessons you can learn from this amazing public relations fiasco:

1. Do NOT mislead the public.

Perhaps the news media can be forgiven for getting the story wrong. After all, Centre College proudly announced on July 30, 2013: “Centre College receives historic gift to establish Brockman Scholars Program.” The official announcement began:

Centre College has received a gift of $250 million in the form of stock in Universal Computer Systems Holding, Inc. (Reynolds and Reynolds) from the A. Eugene Brockman Charitable Trust to establish the Brockman Scholars Program in Leadership and Entrepreneurship.”

Unfortunately, as recent events have demonstrated, the announcement was not just premature it was not true. The fact is that Centre College did not receive a $250 million gift. Peter Lattman, writing for Deal Book/ New York Times, quoted Centre College President John Roush as saying:

In retrospect, we might have put a big asterisk on this thing, but no one had any inkling that this would come about.”

The historic gift was a contingent pledge based on a complex recapitalization deal Centre College - Old Centregoing through. Regrettably, the financial deal blew up and, therefore, the gift never materialized, according to the College.

If the College had simply delayed announcing the gift until it actually materialized, it could have avoided enormous embarrassment. Alternatively, if the College had simply characterized the $250 million as a “pledge” or “potential gift” rather than a “gift,” it still could have avoided significant embarrassment.

2. Recognize the difference between a “pledge” and a “gift.”

Centre College had a contingent pledge for a $250 million gift. They never had the gift. It’s not a gift until you have the cash, stock, property, or irrevocable gift agreement in-hand.

Because the College never had a $250 million gift, it did not lose $250 million. That’s about the best that can be said of this situation. This is really just a case of a nonprofit organization publicly counting its chickens before they hatched. Don’t make the same mistake.

May 15, 2013

Special Report: IRS Scandal Shakes Washington

This week, the US Internal Revenue Service acknowledged and apologized for behavior that had long been rumored. The IRS improperly targeted for extra scrutiny conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

IRS logoThe IRS did not ultimately deny tax-exempt status to a single group receiving extra scrutiny. Some say this proves that the actions of the IRS were baseless.

The scandal has now shaken the nation’s capital:

President Barack Obama directed Jack Lew, Secretary of the Treasury, to request the resignation of Steven Miller, Acting IRS Commissioner.

Miller resigned and Lew accepted the resignation.

The Justice Department has initiated a criminal investigation.

Exercising its oversight responsibility, Congress has begun its own probe of the IRS scandal.

Obama addressed the nation on television saying, “It’s inexcusable and Americans are right to be angry about it and I am angry about it. I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but particularly the IRS given the power that it has and the reach that it has in all of our lives.” He promised reforms.

When wrongdoing by the government is uncovered, it is rightfully news. But, this latest government scandal cuts deeper.

February 22, 2013

What to Do When You Mess Up?

[Publisher’s Note: Before getting to this week’s post, I want to mention that Michael J. Rosen, CFRE, was a guest on The Nonprofit Coach Radio Show hosted by Ted Hart, ACFRE on Tuesday, February 26, 2013. Michael discussed his book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. You can download a free podcast of the show by clicking here.]

Have you ever messed up at work? Stumbled? Blundered? Bungled? Botched? Made an oversight, gaffe, or mistake, big or small?

If you say you haven’t, I know that one of the following is true about you:

  1. You’re not telling the truth, to others or, perhaps, just to yourself.
  2. You have a selective memory.
  3. You haven’t been paying attention.
  4. You have virtually no work experience.
  5. You need to be more creative and experimental.

Because I believe we have all made and will make mistakes during our careers, I’m going to share five tips with you that will ease the sting when such incidents occur:

Own it. When you make an error, resist the temptation to pass the blame. Instead, take responsibility. When we own our mistakes, we’re more likely to earn and retain the respect of those around us. Moreover, it puts us in the best possible position to do something positive in response to the problem.

Do not hide it. In politics, there’s a saying: “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover up.” The idea is that the cover up is usually more damaging than the trigger offense. It’s harder to fix a problem if you cover it up or simply pretend that there is not a problem at all. Furthermore, if people suspect you’re hiding something, they’ll apply that suspicion beyond the one instance. Honesty really is the best policy.

Apologize. If your misstep damages or offends another person, apologize immediately. Ok, I know that lawyers often frown at the idea of an apology. They fear it is an admission of guilt that can expose you and your organization to liability. I say, if it’s appropriate, suck it up and apologize anyway. At the very least, express your regret, which might lower the risk of legal liability since it is not an admission of guilt. (By the way, since I’m not a lawyer, I’m not giving you legal advice.)

Learn from it. When we learn from our mistakes, we’re far less likely to repeat the stumble. In some cases, learning from our missteps will allow us to improve our skills or our processes. In other words, if we look at mistakes as an opportunity to grow, our organizations and we can actually be better off than before the incident.

Rubio Water BottleTurn a negative into a positive. I like the expression, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We can often turn blunders around into something good. In 1928, Alexander Fleming slipped up. He mistakenly failed to cover a Petri dish containing a Staphylococcus culture. However, it’s a good thing he messed up. When he examined the exposed Petri dish, he observed that mold growth had impeded the spread of the bacteria. Fleming’s mistake, and subsequent observation, led to the use of penicillin as a life-saving antibiotic.

In recent weeks, the news media have shared a couple of stories that nicely illustrate the points I’ve just made.

February 15, 2013

Do Not Let This Happen to Your Organization

It happened recently to a prestigious private school.

New York’s Dalton School inappropriately released private alumni information to its volunteer fundraisers. The New York The Dalton School by DiegoDacal via FlickrTimes reported the blunder that sent a shockwave through the School’s community and may have a chilling effect on fundraising.

Do not let this happen to your organization.

While volunteer and professional fundraisers must have useful information to effectively perform, organizations must protect sensitive items and keep them confidential. I’m going to provide you with eight tips that will help you keep your organization safe and your prospects and donors happy.

But first, let me tell you what went wrong at Dalton. Here’s what The New York Times reported this month:

But recently, one of the top Manhattan private schools, the Dalton School, might have been a little too open with the data it had about some graduates. The school said [February 7] that it had given out to some alumni who had volunteered to raise money for Dalton information about several other alumni whose own children had applied to the school. The information included whether those children had been admitted, information that most parents prefer not to be shared, especially in cases where the answer is no.”

It is common and acceptable practice for nonprofit organizations to share prospect and donor information with both volunteer and professional fundraisers. Such information often includes contact information, spouse or partner data, affiliation, giving history, volunteer involvement, event participation, and interests.

Dalton ran into trouble when it disseminated information about whether the children of prospects applied for admission and were rejected by the School.

The Times article quoted an upset alumna:

’It’s horrible,’ said one alumna who has been financially supportive of the school, and like nearly everyone interviewed about what happened, declined to be identified for fear of upsetting school leaders. ‘Why should anyone know how much I have given and whether my kid got in or didn’t get in or even applied?’” 

Prospects and donors care about their privacy. They do not want to feel that they are being spied on. They do not want private information about themselves or, especially, their children disseminated to friends and acquaintances. Dalton overstepped by releasing admissions information about alumni children, something acknowledged by the School:

’We apologize for and deeply regret the release of this information,’ said the letter, written by Ellen Stein, the head of school. ‘We are reviewing our protocols to ensure that information about the admissions status of all Dalton families and applicants is protected and remains confidential. We have reached out to apologize personally to those 11 alumni whose names were listed.’” 

While I applaud Dalton for reviewing its data protocols after the inappropriate release of private information, it would have been far better if it had had this review before a problem occurred. You now have that opportunity.

Before a crisis happens at your organization, take the time to review your organization’s own prospect research and information sharing protocols.

Here are some tips to guide you during your review:

January 25, 2013

To Sue or Not to Sue Over Unpaid Pledges?

Sometimes, nonprofit organizations sue philanthropists over unpaid pledges. This was recently the case with the Kansas City Art Institute. When a charity pursues this type of legal action, it sends shockwaves throughout the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.

I do believe there are times when a nonprofit can and should sue a donor. However, this should only be done as an absolute last resort. The three instances when a lawsuit might be acceptable are:

1. The donor dies with an outstanding pledge and an heir challenges the will. In that case, the nonprofit might need to sue the estate to establish its claim and collect.

2. The nonprofit incurs real expense based on the donor’s commitment. For example, based on a pledge agreement, the nonprofit breaks-ground on a new building. The nonprofit might need to sue simply to survive.

3. The donor is about to or has entered bankruptcy. Suing the donor would be a way for the nonprofit to establish its claim. (By the way, I suspect that this fear might be what may have triggered the Art Institute case.)

In any case, suing a donor should only be done after careful consideration and only when all other options have been exhausted.

To sue or not sue over unpaid pledges? That is the question. The answer, offered by Brian M. Sagrestano, JD, CFRE and Robert E. Wahlers, MS, CFRE, is: Avoid the problem in the first place!

Philanthropic Planning Companion coverBrian and Robert are friends of mine. They are both seasoned, wise development professionals who have served on the national board of the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning. I’m pleased that they have offered to share some of their wisdom below as they introduce us to the concept of “concierge stewardship.”

Brian and Robert both generously provided insights and material for my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, for which I won the AFP-Skystone Partners Prize for Research in Fundraising and Philanthropy.

Now, Brian and Robert have written their own book, Philanthropic Planning Companion: The Fundraisers’ and Professional Advisors’ Guide to Charitable Gift Planning, and I’m honored to have been included in their comprehensive volume. The book is part of the AFP/Wiley Fund Development Series.

The official description of the book notes, “For fundraisers and professional advisors alike, The Philanthropic Planning Companion is the one-stop resource you’ll keep by your side to help your donors/clients meet their charitable and personal planning objectives.”

So, do you want to avoid a nightmare at your organization? If so, read on:

 

The Kansas City Art Institute recently sued Larry and Kristina Dodge for failure to pay $4 million on a $5 million pledge that was to be used to pay for construction of a new building, according to The Kansas City Star.

When the Dodges attempted to defend themselves (rather than hire an attorney they indicated that they could not afford), they made procedural errors and a default judgment was entered against them for the full $4 million due on the pledge. According to The Star, the Dodges made three payments on their pledge before their financial situation was impacted by the Great Recession, limiting their ability to fulfill the commitment.

In the article, Larry Dodge is quoted, indicating that he and his wife were in negotiation with the Institute to come up with a payment plan when it unexpectedly filed suit to collect on the pledge.

Regardless of the outcome, the reputations of both the Dodges and the Institute are forever harmed. Prospective donors will think twice before making a major commitment to a charity that would sue them to collect on a pledge. Meantime, the Dodges reputation, despite their many years of generous philanthropy, will be forever tarnished.

We cannot judge the merits of the Art Institute’s action or the ability of the Dodges to pay on their pledge, as we are not privy to all of the facts of the case. However, it raises a much larger issue about charities and pledges.

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