Archive for February, 2012

February 29, 2012

Special Report: Academy Awards of Nonprofit Books and Other Honors

[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.]

I was honored to be recognized recently by the Nonprofit Community blog site in its post “Our Academy Awards of Nonprofit Books.” My book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, the winner of the 2011 AFP-Skystone Partners Prize for Research in Fundraising and Philanthropy, was recognized along with four other award winning books in the areas of fundraising and nonprofit management.

Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing was also recognized on the Tri-Point Fundraising blog site in Amy Eisenstein’s post “A New Resource for Donor-Centered Planned Giving.” I appreciate Amy’s wonderful review of my book.

In other news, Michael Rosen Says… received a much-appreciated tip-of-the-hat from Fundraising Success magazine. My recent post, “Overcoming the 9 Fundraising NOs” was named one of “Today’s Featured Blog Posts.”

The Business of Giving and Michael Chatman Giving Show recently honored me by placing me and my consulting practice, ML Innovations, Inc., on its list of “Top 30 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants.” I’m touched to be included on a list that includes so many legendary names in fundraising.

I was also honored to be interviewed for an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy. I was quoted in “Komen vs. Planned Parenthood Fallout Will Make Cancer Group Work Harder, Experts Say” after my blog post, “Does Komen Have a Communications or Integrity Problem?”, caught the attention of staffers at The Chronicle.

My Komen post was also recognized by Amy Stephan in her article “Nonprofits and Social Media: Why Silence is Not Always Golden” for the WindMill Networking blog. I appreciate the mention and her terrific contribution to the discussion.

I think I might actually be blushing. I appreciate all the recognition I’ve received in the past few weeks. And, I greatly appreciate the support of all my clients, contributing writers, and readers, without whom, none of this recognition would have been possible.

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

February 24, 2012

Overcoming the 9 Fundraising NOs

I’m a huge, long-time fan of Bernard Ross, author and Director of The Management Centre. I first met him years ago when we were both speaking at the Institute of Fundraising Conference in the United Kingdom. His presentation was thoroughly entertaining and packed with valuable insights from his years as a nonprofit consultant with some of the world’s largest and most prestigious organizations. Later that evening, we shared adult beverages in the hotel bar, swapped stories, and discovered a great deal of common ground.

Since first meeting Bernard, I try to attend whenever he speaks at an Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference or when he presents a webinar. I’m also a big fan of his books, Breakthrough Thinking for Nonprofit Organizations: Creative Strategies for Extraordinary Results and The Influential Fundraiser: Using the Psychology of Persuasion to Achieve Outstanding Results.

I’m honored that Bernard has agreed to share some fresh insights here about how fundraisers can better handle rejection:


People won’t always agree with your fundraising proposition. The implication is that even when you use the most targeted approaches the reality is you are still likely to get a “No” more often than a “Yes.”

The difference between a successful and an unsuccessful fundraiser is that they don’t necessarily accept the first “No” as a definitive answer. The successful fundraiser responds by being curious about what exactly the donor means.

There’s Darwinian logic to this, at least in fundraising. Put simply, if you only asked people who you knew would definitely say “Yes,” or if you only asked for the size of gift that you were sure they would definitely give, you’d:

  • be working off a very, very small sample of potential donors,
  • probably tend to “under-ask” by framing your proposition very low.

And, the negative payoff is you’d possibly:

  • be letting down your cause and the people you’re there to help.

So, to be successful as a fundraiser you need to learn to deal with the possibility of rejection. And, in particular, you need to deal with initial rejection and be able to analyze it more closely. That first “No” may not be as bleak as it appears.

To help you manage and interpret the possible rejections you might experience, we’ve created a “No” typology. In our experience, there are essentially nine fundraising “No”s that prospects use. With the first eight of these, if you follow up with a better question you may well get a better result. Only one of these responses – the last one – genuinely means “No, go away.” And if you hear this “No,” you should leave.

The 9 Fundraising “No”s are:

  1. No, not for this.
  2. No, not you.
  3. No, not me.
  4. No, not unless.
  5. No, not in this way.
  6. No, not now.
  7. No, too much.
  8. No, too little.
  9. No, go away.

Each of these “No”s has an underlying reason or explanation that a skilled influencer will seek to uncover. And, that’s why dealing with “No” properly requires that you ask a different or better question rather than simply giving up.

So, how do you get from a “No” to a “Yes”?

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February 21, 2012

Special Report: Damage Control–How to Counter Bad Press!

[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 number of nonprofit organizations have been in the news lately. Sadly, many of the recent big headlines have been negative. I’ve commented on some of these stories here:

Tragic Lessons of the Penn State Fiasco

Garth Brooks Sues Hospital for Return of $500,000 Gift

Actions of One Alleged & One Admitted Child-Rapist Impact You

Does Komen Have a Communications or Integrity Problem?

Now, I’ll have a chance to continue the conversation as a panelist for the webinar “Damage Control: How to Counter Bad Press!” The program, hosted by For the Charitable Community, will take place Thursday, February 23, 10:00 AM PST. My fellow panelists will include Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.; Richard LeSchander, Account Manager, PR Newswire; and Carrie Robers, CEO of For the Charitable Community.

You can learn more about this webinar and register by visiting the program site: “Damage Control: How to Counter Bad Press!”

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

February 17, 2012

Haiti: A Young Professional’s Compelling Lessons for All Nonprofits

It’s been just over two years since a catastrophic, magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti. Today, the people of that small island nation continue to suffer.

What lessons should the nonprofit community have learned by now in order to better help Haiti? What lessons can all foreign aid organizations learn from Haiti that can be applied anywhere? What lessons can all nonprofit organizations learn from Haiti that will help them be more successful, whether they operate internationally or even domestically?

These were the questions running through my mind as I watched news coverage of the anniversary of the earthquake. Then, I learned that a friend of mine was back in the United States after returning home for Christmas to visit family and friends in Haiti.

Soon after her return to the U.S., I had lunch with Isabelle Clérié (@iclerie). For those of you who don’t know Isabelle, you should. She’s a sharp nonprofit young-professional. She’s done work for a number of non-governmental organizations in Haiti. She now works on the capital campaign team at the Franklin Institute, the largest science museum in Philadelphia. Isabelle holds a Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Management from Florida Atlantic University.

Isabelle and I talked about what she found in Haiti and the enormous challenges that remain there. I invited Isabelle to write a guest post that would begin to address some of my questions. I’m grateful that she agreed to write the following post.

Haiti has much it can teach us. I thank Isabelle, a Haitian with an American-education who is a nonprofit professional, for sharing her unique insights that can benefit us all:


Clean-up in Haiti with Oxfam's cash-for-work program. (2010)

During my last trip home to Haiti, I was repeatedly asked why I wasn’t working there. It was assumed that as a nonprofit professional, living in a country brimming with NGOs would naturally be “heaven” for me; with jobs aplenty, organizations of all shapes and sizes; it’s a veritable nonprofit buffet of opportunity! But, there are also enormous challenges.

The topic of NGOs in Haiti is a popular one, usually discussed under an umbrella of criticism and distrust. My intention here is not to point fingers but to shed some light so NGOs working in Haiti and in other underdeveloped countries, even those working in the U.S., can actually have the impact they advertise if they consider the following:

Be an anthropologist.

NGOs working in underdeveloped countries are too often guilty of ethnocentrism. They come with good intent and programs bursting with the potential to truly change the circumstances they exist to combat, but they do not consider the culture of the country and its people.

It is so important for NGOs to work with the people they are serving. I’m not saying to go out into a community and take a survey. I mean that before NGOs invest everything in a program or project they really need to get to know the community in which they’ll be working. Underdeveloped though it may be, Haiti is not without its ways of doing things. Despite the political climate, there are social conventions that, if observed, can save a lot of time and frustration.

Don’t assume that people are incapable because they are uneducated and do not assume that they don’t understand when they are being taken advantage of. The majority of Haitians may be uneducated, but ignorance is not stupidity.

Work together!

I know. So obvious and, yet, so uncommon. For nonprofits, especially those working in developing areas, working together does not have to mean sharing financial resources. In fact, collaborative efforts will save oodles of time and money.

I was working with a group that had undertaken to refurbish a girls’ orphanage in Haiti. I developed a framework for the project that identified and prioritized all of the components from construction, education, health, and even the self-esteem needs of the girls. I was adamant about working with other organizations and suggested that we work with different organizations in very much the same way that a business would get outside services (i.e.: printing and cleaning).

We wanted to have feminine health professionals not only perform regular exams for the girls, but also to hold sexual education seminars, and teach them about STDs and how they can protect themselves. I identified a group that did exactly that and proposed that the orphanage become one of their service recipients. We would determine a schedule for medical visits as well as the seminars and that’s that. No money is dispensed on our side, and the other group does what it does so well.

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February 10, 2012

Breaking News: Brain Scan Study Gives Fresh Insight into Charitable Giving Behavior

An exciting new study from researchers at Texas Tech University used brain scans to garner fresh insight into charitable giving behavior. Specifically, the study looked at what motivates individuals to make a charitable bequest commitment as well as what de-motivates them. This is the first time that Magnetic Resonance Imaging has been used to examine charitable bequest decision making.

This blog post marks the first time that the breakthrough findings of the Texas Tech study have been released to the nonprofit development community. I am honored that Russell N. James, III, JD, PhD, CFP furnished me with a preview copy of his draft report, “Charitable Estate Planning as Visualized Autobiography: An fMRI Study of Its Neural Correlates.”  I thank James for providing me with the draft report and for allowing me to share it with you. I also want to recognize Michael W. O’Boyle, Ph.D. who co-authored the report.

While James has written a scientific paper with a suitably technical title, don’t be intimidated. My article will look at the data from a fundraiser’s perspective. If you want more detail or want to explore the science behind the findings, you can download the full report.

The three key findings of the report are:


  • Bequest giving and current giving stimulate different parts of the brain. This suggests that different motivators and de-motivators are at work. While the report compares and contrasts the differences in brain activity where current versus bequest giving are concerned, I’ll limit myself here to a review of the findings related to bequest giving.


  • Making a charitable bequest decision involves the internal visualization system, specifically those parts of the brain engaged for recalling autobiographical events, including the recent death of a loved one.


  • Charitable bequest decision making engages parts of the brain associated with, what researchers call, “management of death salience.” In other words, and not surprisingly, charitable bequest decision making involves reminders of one’s mortality.


So, what do these findings mean for development professionals?

Fundraisers need to understand that charitable bequest decision making is about autobiographical connections, not numbers, such as taxes, or even the needs of the charity. James suggests, “Start conversations by working to trigger autobiographical memories associated with the charity, or the cause the charity represents. The goal is to lay-out for the donor how a bequest gift to the organization fits neatly into their autobiography.”

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February 3, 2012

Does Komen Have a Communications or Integrity Problem?

Oh no! It’s another week and two more major nonprofit organizations are in the news, for less than an ideal reason. The big news is the result of a controversial decision by one of the organizations.

On January 31, 2012, the Associated Press broke the news that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation is halting future funding for virtually all Planned Parenthood affiliates. The report states, “Komen spokeswoman Leslie Aun said the cutoff results from the charity’s newly adopted criteria barring grants to organizations that are under investigation by local, state or federal authorities. According to Komen, this applies to Planned Parenthood because it’s the focus of an inquiry launched by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., seeking to determine whether public money was improperly spent on abortions.”

Komen did not issue a formal statement explaining the decision before the news media got hold of the story. Komen senior staff initially rejected interview requests after the story broke; it took until February 2 for Nancy Brinker, Komen’s Founder, to sit down for a major television interview. Also, it took until February 2 for Komen to post a formal statement (in the form of a video) on its website

Komen did not get out ahead of this story. It did not immediately respond to the story. Instead, Komen sat quietly while people expressed their anger and speculated about the decision on Facebook, Twitter, blog sites, and in the mainstream media.

Once Komen senior staff finally responded to the firestorm, they made matters worse by contradicting, without explanation, their spokesperson’s comment to the Associated Press. A Washington Post article found, “It’s now less clear why Planned Parenthood lost the Komen funding. Komen had initially told the Associated Press that Planned Parenthood could not receive funding because it was under government investigation. But today, in no uncertain terms, Thompson [Komen’s President] indicated that the decision actually had very little to do with an ongoing congressional probe.”

Komen clearly has a major communications problem. Regardless of where you stand on the abortion issue, the facts speak for themselves:


  • Komen did not proactively handle the situation by releasing the news itself. Had it done so, it could have more easily controlled the message.


  • Komen did not react quickly once the story became public. This allowed the controversy to fester and public frustration to build. Had Komen responded swiftly, it might have been able to ease the minds of a huge number of people around the country who are concerned that the move by Komen could negatively impact the health of thousands of women.


  • Komen did not get its story straight. It’s spokesperson gave one reason for the decision while the senior staff gave a completely different reason. The inconsistency encourages mistrust on the part of the public. It suggests that, at best, Komen staff are confused and/or sloppy. Or, at worst, it suggests that someone at Komen is not telling the truth. If Komen spoke with one, consistent, honest message, it could have engendered public trust rather than doing just the opposite.


For a comprehensive analysis of the Komen communications debacle, I encourage you to read the blog post from Kivi Leroux Miller at Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog. The post includes videotaped news interviews with Komen and Planned Parenthood senior officials, sample Tweets, and a screen shot of the Planned Parenthood email appeal in response to the Komen decision. By the way, Planned Parenthood has done a brilliant job capitalizing on the controversy; I just hope the email appeal is truthful.

While Komen most definitely has some communications issues, it may suffer from an even greater problem: integrity:

read more »

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