December 8, 2017

5 Mistakes that Could Cost You Year-End Donations

As year-end approaches, you are probably working feverishly to raise as much money as possible for your nonprofit organization. Unfortunately, you might be making some mistakes that could cost your charity enormous sums of potential donations.

Here are just five common ways you might unknowingly short-change your organization at this special time of year:

1.  Appeals by the Numbers.

Many of the year-end appeals that I receive focus on numbers. Often, the number is “31,” as in December 31. Other numbers tout the volume of people served or the amount of a challenge grant. As I wrote last week, numbers can tell part of an organization’s story; however, numbers can’t tell the full story.

For the most effective appeals, you will want to engage hearts and minds. While some numbers can be meaningful, telling an individual story makes your nonprofit’s work more relatable and easier to understand. Individual stories are also far more likely to engender an emotional response.

The Wounded Warrior Project is a great example of what I mean. The organization could tell us how many veterans suffer from PTSD and medical issues. The charity could simply tell us how many veterans they serve each year. Instead, the Wounded Warrior Project tells the story of a single veteran. The organization’s television appeals are mini-movies that tell us of a veteran’s war experience, the problem he or she came home with, and how the Wounded Warrior Project is improving the veteran’s life. You can watch one of the organization’s television spots by clicking here.

2.  Not Asking for Gifts of Stock and Other Planned Gifts.

If you want to maximize year-end giving, you must seek planned gifts. Planned giving allows donors to make more gifts and larger gifts than they might otherwise be able to do simply from their checkbook. This is great news for your charity. Even better news is that not all planned gifts are deferred gifts. Here are some types of planned gifts that will result in immediate cash for your organization:

Gifts of Stock. With the stock market in record territory, many Americans own appreciated securities. By contributing stock shares to your organization, a donor can make a generous gift, realize a charitable gift deduction, and avoid capital gains tax.

Gifts of Appreciated Property. As with stock, many individuals own appreciated real December 31st by TransGriot via Flickrestate, art, and collectibles that they can donate. Your organization can either use the item for mission fulfillment (i.e., a museum can accept a work of art for its collection), or the organization can sell the item and put the cash to good use. You’ll just need to be clear with your donor about which option you intend to exercise.

Gifts from Donor Advised Funds. An increasing number of Americans have established a DAF. Be sure to remind your donors that they can advise that a gift be made to your charity from their DAF account.

IRA Charitable Rollover. Since the U.S. Congress has made the IRA Charitable Rollover permanent, individuals who are age 70.5 or older can donate up to $100,000 from their IRA each year without having to recognize it as income.

Year-end is also a good time to ask for deferred planned gifts such as Gifts in a Will, Beneficiary Designations, and Trusts.

You can read more about planned giving options by clicking here. Continue reading

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November 30, 2017

Do the Numbers Tell the Full Story?

I’m back! I haven’t written a new blog post in nearly eight months due to serious health issues. Now, as my recovery progresses, I feel compelled to return to my blog as I have much to share with you. Thank you for your support and patience.

I want to take this opportunity to update you about what the past several months have been like for me while making a useful fundraising point that I believe will be of benefit to you.

Like you, as the end of the year approaches, I’ve been inundated with direct mail, e-mail, and telephone fundraising appeals. Many of these appeals focus on numbers. For example, I’ve read about how one organization won several awards for its theater productions, how another has a $10,000 challenge grant, how another needs to raise an additional $50,000 to meet its goal, and how yet another has helped feed over 500 people during Thanksgiving.

On the other hand, I also received an appeal from the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, which brings justice and healing to the survivors of child sexual abuse. The appeal, which stood out from the pack, told the story of one child, 5-year-old Sarah. Reading about Sarah’s situation, I learned how PCA helped her. In addition to Sarah’s compelling story, the appeal mentioned that PCA also provided services to over 3,500 other children in need over the past year.

Which charity do you think I’m most likely to support? If you guessed PCA, you’re right.

While numbers can tell part of the story, they can’t convey the whole story the way that sharing the experience of one individual can. Sharing someone’s personal story can make a cause relatable, more real, and more compelling. Stories tap into emotions that statistics simply cannot.

Now, let me try to do a bit of both. I want to update you about my personal situation while using some numbers.

Regular readers of my blog know that I have suffered from the exceedingly rare Appendicial Carcinoma with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP). I’ve been open about my situation for three years so that readers would understand when I stepped away temporarily and so that others suffering with PMP would know that I am willing to be a resource for them. If you want to learn more about my journey, just search “Pseudomyxoma Peritonei” on this site.

I was diagnosed with late-stage PMP in 2014. My doctors suspect it had been growing in me undetected for nearly a decade. Two months after diagnosis, I underwent successful major surgery. Unfortunately, the cancer came back in 2015. While chemotherapy kept it in check for several months, surgery was again required in April 2017.

This time around, my primary surgery in April was 14 hours long. My follow-up surgery in June was two hours.

I was in the hospital for a combined total of 40 days from April to June. That includes my initial hospital stay, two readmissions for complications, and one follow-up surgery stay.

During my three-month treatment period from April through June, I read 10 books. Hey, I couldn’t always rely on television for good entertainment. I would have read even more books if it wasn’t for the painkillers.

Lisa, my wife, and I spent nearly one-quarter of the year in Pittsburgh, home to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Shadyside Hospital where I received expert treatment.

I went into the hospital weighing an already diminished 146 pounds. I exited at about 112 pounds. I’m now over 130 pounds and gaining toward my goal of 150 or more. (If anyone wants to help fatten me up, I’m available for lunches. 🙂 ) Continue reading

April 4, 2017

What to Do If You Suspect Child Sex Abuse

At some point in your life, you might encounter someone you suspect of child sex abuse. Sadly, it’s not that much of a long-shot. One-in-four girls and one-in-six boys are sexually abused in the USA. It’s a horrible and relatively common crime.

So, what should you do if you suspect someone of child sex abuse?

Before I answer my own question, let me answer a question you might be asking: Why is a fundraising blog talking about child sex abuse?

Well, April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. To mark the occasion every year, I devote one blog post that will help you protect your loved ones and others from a nightmare crime. Fortunately, we can do something about this national tragedy. First, we need to educate ourselves about the problem. Then, we need to understand what action to take.

Because I’m not a lawyer, a member of law enforcement, a social worker, or a child-welfare worker, I contacted an expert to help me understand what we should do if we ever suspect an individual of child sex abuse.

First, in certain jurisdictions, you may have a legal obligation to report your suspicions if you hold a particular job such as teacher or healthcare professional. Furthermore, your organization might have reporting requirements as part of its employee policies. So, be sure to know the legal and policy obligations that come with your job.

Second, even if you’re not required by law or policy to report suspicions of child sex abuse, you are most definitely morally obligated to do so. Children are largely defenseless. It’s up to adults, any adult, to provide protection when needed.

Unfortunately, protecting children is sometimes easier said than done. For example, you may have a vague gut-feeling that a teacher is up to no good. But, with no evidence or even a concrete suspicion involving a particular child, it’s doubtful the authorities would do anything with a report.

However, if you do suspect that an adult is sexually abusing a particular child, particularly if you have any evidence (e.g., you’ve witnessed the adult taking the child away to a private room), then you need to take immediate action.

When you have a valid suspicion, contact your local police department, local child protective services agency, or your local child advocacy center (an independent social service agency). Or, better yet, contact them all. Continue reading

March 17, 2017

Delivering More of My Own Bad News

If you’re a longtime reader of my blog, you know that I’ve been in an ongoing battle with cancer since 2014. If you’re a relatively new reader here, I want you to know that I have an exceedingly rare form of cancer known as Appendicial Carcinoma with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP).

So, why am I once again writing about my health?

The reason is that I’ll soon be undergoing another extensive surgery. That means that for now, and for at least the next few months, I need to focus 100 percent of my energy on preparing for surgery and focusing on my recovery. So, I’ll be taking an indefinite leave-of-absence from my blog, professional life, and most social media activity. I look forward to re-engaging as soon as I am able.

Meantime, if you want to learn more about my situation, just search “Pseudomyxoma Peritonei” on this site using the search bar at the right.

I also want to thank you for being a loyal blog reader and for being supportive of my various efforts, in various ways. I’m already looking forward to the day when we can re-engage.

Finally, I want you to know that I recognize that we all face challenges. So, I’m going to share with you just some of the quotes that have lifted my spirits during my darkest hours; I hope some of them will inspire you as well: Continue reading

March 15, 2017

Raise More Money with Smart Use of Apps and Online Technology

The right technology, used correctly, engaging the appropriate people, can help you be a more successful nonprofit manager or fundraising professional. Increasingly, younger people are using technology to gather information, connect, and even donate to the causes that move them. But, don’t forget about Baby Boomers; while they may not be the heavy users of technology that Millennials are, they’re still using and benefitting from a variety of tools that didn’t exist just several years ago.

One of the challenges for nonprofit organizations is to discover the apps and online resources that can benefit them in a rapidly evolving world. Another challenge involves being careful to avoid the potential pitfalls that technology can present.

To help you think a bit more carefully about deploying technology, Maeve Lander, CEO and Founder of PayNow, shares her thoughts below. PayNow for Stripe is a minimalist point of sales app, allowing you to accept credit card payments and donations on your phone. The Australian-based company serves clients in Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

The companies mentioned in the post represent terrific examples. However, mention of these companies does not imply endorsement by this site.

You don’t need to be a technology expert to explore how your organization can best leverage technology. There are plenty of experts who can assist you when the time is right. However, you’re in the best position see how technology can benefit your organization and its stakeholders, including donors.

I thank Maeve for sharing some of her thoughts with us:

 

Technology is as integral a part of daily life as buying groceries, socialising with friends over a coffee or making the daily commute to work. In a recent study, the Pew Research Center reported that 74 percent of all online adults used social networking sites, and this number is expected to grow. One need only look at the massive fundraising effort and success for the Haiti relief fund, for which donors raised $43 million USD through mobile technology.

One significant trend is that users are increasingly accessing the internet by using mobile phones. In fact, as many as 63 percent of adult mobile phone owners use their phones to go online. The average busy person receives 121 emails per day, and checks their phone close to 150 times per day. Of particular relevance to charities, non-government organisations and fundraising organisations, 47 percent of Americans learn about charitable campaigns through social media or elsewhere online.

These statistics highlight a clear need for charities and fundraising organisations to ensure they are keeping up to date with online technology in all its forms, such as websites, mobile phone applications (or apps), email, software systems, and general online presence. If these key communication and operational assets are not utilized effectively clients, donors and other stakeholders may be discouraged from engaging with the organisation or making a donation.

This article explores some of the great benefits for charities and other organisations of using online technology tools and apps as well as some of the greatest associated risks and how to avoid them.

Cloud Computing:

Cloud computing is essentially using the internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer. The most common cloud computing solutions are offered by Google and Dropbox. The benefits these systems have for charitable organisations can be dramatic. They are often simple, elegant, and easy to use which means a shorter learning curve for new staff and less time spent on IT-troubleshooting. They offer an organisation considerable efficiencies as staff can often use their personal devices after downloading the cloud-based application and the organisation providing authorisations.

Cloud-computing is also well suited to an organisation’s staff who do field work, as opposed to from a centralised physical office, as most systems simply require users to establish a Wi-Fi or mobile data connection. Invest in setting up these systems to make it painless and efficient for people to give their time and skills.

Centralising and Aggregating Data:

To analyse and make use of data with greater efficiency, a comprehensive technology platform can be useful. This system is usually termed a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool and can help you keep track of donor communication preferences, manage the frequency of correspondence, and aggregate information. There are basic, yet elegant solutions such as ProsperWorks, which is a general CRM, right up to charity specific CRM packages like SalesForce or Bloomerang.

The benefits of CRMs is that they can help organisations learn more about more people and, therefore, engage with donors to better understand how they want to give, which events are most rewarding for them to be a part of, or for clients, how their needs can be met.

Clear and Easy Information Communication:

Informational apps such as the Red Cross app have been downloaded by millions of people. This clearly shows an added demand for critical information that either wasn’t being delivered, wasn’t being delivered as effectively as it could have been, or is in a format that is more in keeping with modern demands. Creating an informational app might be useful to communicate your organisation’s messages, aims, and goals.

On the other hand, such apps can be expensive to develop and might be limited when compared to publishing information on a website or issuing regular newsletters. Make sure you weigh up the costs and benefits of creating an app against other options that might be more economical or simply more effective.

For example, a useful approach for publishing extensive studies or documents can be that instead of bundling your impact story into one big annual package, break it into small stories shared on an ongoing basis. This can be achieved through newsletter services such as MailChimp where you can even share photos or videos of the people you are serving.

Making the Act of Donating or Easy: Continue reading

March 10, 2017

In the News…

Over the past few months, I’ve been able to share my views about philanthropy with media outlets beyond my own blog. This will continue in the coming months. To make sure you don’t miss anything, I thought I’d share some highlights with you.

MarketWatch:

As 2016 drew to a close, MarketWatch interviewed me. In the article, I addressed the issue of philanthropy in the Trump Era and shared my optimistic prediction for philanthropic growth in 2017. You can read my detailed thoughts on these subjects in my following posts:

The Non-Profit Fundraising Digest:

At the start of the year, I was honored to be included on the list of “The Best Fundraising Blogs of 2017” published by The Non-Profit Fundraising Digest. Here’s what the Digest has to say:

There are thousands of blogs and websites out there dealing with non-profit fundraising. Every week, I get e-mails about new fundraising sites run by consultants, non-profits, universities, companies and trade associations.  It can be hard for fundraisers to keep up, and difficult to know which sites are worth reading on a regular basis.

Our goal here at The Non-Profit Fundraising Digest is to make sure that you have all of the information you need to successfully raise funds for your non-profit. As part of that mission, we are proud to present our list of the best fundraising blogs of 2017.  Each of these blogs and websites were handpicked by our editors because they are sites we trust… run by people we trust… and each is chock full of fundraising strategy, tactics and tips that you can use at your organization.”

The front page of the Digest is updated daily to provide links to a variety of must-read articles. It’s a terrific resource to help nonprofit manager and fundraising professionals easily find information that is relevant and useful. You can find the front page by clicking here.

Bloomerang:

The Non-Profit Fundraising Digest was not the only site to take notice of my blog at the start of the year. The good folks at Bloomerang included my blog on its list of “100+ Fundraising Blogs You Should Be Reading in 2017.” Here’s what Bloomerang says:

Keeping up with every quality piece of content published by and for fundraisers on the web every day would be a full time job in and of itself. There’s absolutely no way you could read it all.

While there are many very well-known speakers and writers who boast tens of thousands of daily readers and followers, we wanted to highlight some lesser-known hidden gems – as well as some long-established publishers – that may change the way you think about and perform your job.”

Productive Fundraising with Chad Barger, CFRE: Continue reading

March 3, 2017

5 Tips for Raising More Money in a Difficult News Environment

Nonprofit organizations already face many challenges when it comes to raising money. So, it’s unfortunate that numerous charities must now deal with a fresh, difficult situation.

In a recent article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, reporter Rebecca Koenig explains:

Charities always find it difficult to capture attention, but some nonprofits fear that their donors are distracted by President Trump’s policies. ‘Backlash philanthropy,’ the trend of donating money to express frustration with the new administration, has benefited select organizations like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union but not necessarily nonprofits as a whole.”

If Trump Administration policies directly affect your organization’s mission, fundraising can be relatively easy. Indeed, some charities have benefitted microphone-by-yat-fai-ooi-via-flickerfrom record philanthropy since Election Day. However, what can you do if your organization’s mission has little or nothing to do with the debates capturing media attention?

Koenig’s report provides great tips, insights from nonprofit professionals, and helpful detail. If you’re a Chronicle subscriber, you can find the article by clicking here. I thank Koenig for interviewing me for her article. If you’re not a subscriber, fear not. I’m about to share some highlights with you.

As I told the Chronicle:

The most important advice I could give an organization not directly impacted by the current political environment is to embrace fundamental practice and keep moving forward.”

So, in that spirit, here are five tips to help guide you along with my comments, in quotations, from the article:

Tip 1: Avoid obvious attempts to connect your organization to causes that don’t relate to your mission.

“If it’s a stretch, then the recipient of the appeal is going to see through it and see it as a gimmick, It’s not going to be particularly effective.” Instead, think of what has been motivating your donors all along, and continue to tap into those feelings.

Tip 2: Maintain good relationships with current donors.

Steadily declining donor-retention rates over the past several years suggest that the nonprofit sector has been doing a terrible job of building relationships with donors. Now, perhaps more than ever, it’s essential for charities to do a better job in this area. This is particularly true for organizations over-shadowed by news events. You can search this site for donor relations to find posts with helpful advice. However, here’s one useful idea: Report to donors how their contributions have been and will be used.

“The more specific an organization can be with a donor, the more that donor will feel like they’re making a difference, If a donor feels he or she is bringing about change, this will help drive further philanthropy to that organization.”

You also want to ensure that your prospects and donors understand that the challenges you’re working on are not going away even if the media spotlight may not be on your cause. Continue reading

February 24, 2017

What is the Special Ingredient that Leads to #Fundraising Success?

Do you know the special ingredient for creating fundraising success?

You’ll notice I didn’t say “secret ingredient.” That’s because it’s not a secret. It’s actually common sense. The reason I’m writing about it is that it is not yet common practice to the degree it should be.

The special ingredient is: building relationships.

Gerry Lenfest, 21st century philanthropist and Giving Pledge member, explained the importance of developing relationships when writing the Foreword to my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

Knowing your prospects and understanding what motivates them are two critical steps in the [philanthropic] process. Quite simply, you cannot skip cultivation and relationship building and expect a successful outcome…. Do not make the mistake of forgetting about us once you receive our gift commitment. We may truly appreciate how efficiently and effectively you handle contributed funds so much that we entrust you with another planned gift. We are also in a position to influence others to do the same…”

While Lenfest’s comments were about planned giving, they certainly apply to any type of fundraising. Strong relationships are the key ingredient to a successful philanthropic process. By building meaningful relationships, you will:

  • Acquire more donors
  • Retain more donors
  • Upgrade more donors
  • Acquire more planned gifts
  • Generate more major gifts
  • Inspire donors to become ambassadors for your organization

Unfortunately, the nonprofit sector in general is terrible at building relationships. This is one major reason that donor-retention rates have been steadily falling for years, according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. While there is no shortage of great how-to material out there, charities are still failing to grasp the importance of embracing a robust stewardship program as part of the philanthropic process. You can search this site for donor retention to get some great tips.

For now, however, I want to share a heartwarming story of what can happen when you establish strong relationships with donors and inspire them to be ambassadors.

John’s Roast Pork is a destination sandwich stand in Philadelphia. John Bucci’s family-owned establishment has been around since 1930 serving the best roast pork sandwiches in the city. (Hey, Philly is about more than john-bucci-of-johns-roast-porkcheese steak sandwiches, though they serve those, too.) The James Beard Foundation designated the establishment as an “American Classic” for roast pork.

Unfortunately, earlier this month, John’s was burglarized. The perpetrator(s) got away with a few thousand dollars. The burglary also shut down the business until repairs could be made. The stolen sum included $1,500 that had been collected to benefit Be the Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program. The charity maintains the world’s largest and most diverse bone marrow donor registry.

Be the Match is important to Bucci. Several years ago, he fought a fierce battle with leukemia and was ultimately successfully treated with a bone marrow transplant. Since then, Bucci has been a supporter. At one point when he contacted the organization, he requested to meet his marrow donor so he could thank the person. However, he was told that the organization’s guidelines did not permit this. Here’s what Bucci told Philly.com he did instead: Continue reading

February 10, 2017

What is the Most Important Thing a Donor Can Give You? … It’s Not What You Think It is.

What is the most important thing a donor can give you?

If I were to ask that question at an Association of Fundraising Professionals conference, I suspect most members of the audience would respond by saying, “A big check!” If I were to pose the same question at a National Association of Charitable Gift Planners convention, participants might shout out, “A Charitable Remainder Trust!”

In other words, we tend to think that the most important or valuable thing a prospect or donor can give a charitable organization is money, and preferably lots of it.

However, do we have the wrong goal in mind?

Maybe.

Amy Cuddy, a psychology professor and researcher at the Harvard Business School, says that successful professionals must first earn an individual’s trust and respect. “Psychologists refer to these dimensions as warmth and competence, respectively, and ideally you want to be perceived as having both,” according to a report in the Business Insider. The article continues:

Interestingly, Cuddy says that most people, especially in a professional context, believe that competence is the more important factor. After all, they want to prove that they are smart and talented enough to handle your business.”

However, Cuddy’s research demonstrates that earning trust is more important than proving competence. She shares her findings in her book, trust-by-dobi-via-flickrPresence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. She also provides plenty of proven tips for engendering trust.

So, we see that the most important, valuable thing a prospect or donor can give you is their trust. Still not a believer? Keep reading. Cuddy’s research findings are in alignment with the studies completed by professors Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang, of Plymouth University, who have stated:

There would appear to be a relationship between trust and a propensity to donate…. There is [also] 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.”

In other words, the research demonstrates that the level of trust one has in a charity and its representatives, affects both willingness to give and the amount of giving.

Cuddy says:

If someone you’re trying to influence doesn’t trust you, you’re not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion because you come across as manipulative. A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.”

If you’re like most fundraising professionals, you instinctively understand the importance of establishing a trusting relationship. However, what are you doing to build and maintain them?

Here are just five helpful tips for earning and building trust with prospects and donors: Continue reading

February 7, 2017

Get a FREE Book for Nonprofits by a Noted Researcher

Do you like getting something for free? I do, especially when it can help me be more successful.

Now, thanks to Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP, the Texas Tech University professor and philanthropy researcher, you can download a free, 427 page book that will become an important reference source in your fundraising library.

Whether you call it planned giving, gift planning, legacy planning, philanthropic planning, charitable estate planning, charitable gift planning, or something else, the subject is complex. However, it does not have to be overwhelmingly confusing.

visual-planned-giving-2017-coverTo help you, James has put together the book Visual Planned Giving: Introduction to the Law & Taxation of Charitable Gift Planning, newly revised and updated for 2017. Designed for fundraisers and financial advisors seeking to expand their knowledge about charitable gift planning, this introductory book addresses all of the major topics in planned giving law and taxation.

The gift planning topics you’ll learn about include elements of a gift, documentation requirements, valuation rules, income limitations, bargain sales, charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts, charitable lead trusts, life insurance, retirement assets, private foundations, and donor advised funds. Over 1,000 full-color illustrations and images will guide you through complex concepts in a visual and intuitive way. James makes planned giving accessible and pain-free for the busy professional. Continue reading

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