Archive for November, 2012

November 30, 2012

Want to Retain Good Employees? Then, Don’t Do This:

Lindsey Stone and her supervisor, Jamie Schuh, were reportedly good employees at LIFE (Living Independently Forever, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization).

Now, they are unemployed.

Schuh took a photograph of Stone standing beside a sign. Stone appears to be shouting and flipping-off the sign which asks for “Silence and Respect.” The photo was posted on Stone’s Facebook page for her friends to see. It was meant as an ironic joke similar to the time she posted a photo of herself smoking in front of a “No Smoking” sign. I’m providing an unedited version of the photo so that you can see for yourself what I’m describing.

Lindsey Stone posing for what became a controversial photo.

But, there were four major problems with the taking and posting of the “Silence and Respect” photo: 

1. The photograph was taken beside the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

2. The photograph was taken during a business trip.

3. The photograph went viral on the Internet.

4. Tens of thousands of people called for the termination of the employment of Stone and Schuh.

The photo was posted in October. When the photo clearly became a controversy, Stone removed it and issued an apology on October 20, according to Gawker:

Whoa whoa whoa… wait. This is just us, being the douchebags that we are, challenging authority in general. Much like the pic posted the night before, of me smoking right next to a no smoking sign. OBVIOUSLY we meant NO disrespect to people that serve or have served our country.”

In another public apology, Stone and Schuh said:

We sincerely apologize for all the pain we have caused by posting the picture we took in Washington DC on Facebook. While posted on a public forum, the picture was intended only for our own amusement. We never meant any disrespect to any of the people nationwide who have served this country and defended our freedom so valiantly. It was meant merely as a visual pun, intending to depict the exact opposite of what the sign said, and had absolutely nothing to do with the location it was taken or the people represented there.”

For many, the apologies were not enough. Jazz Shaw, on the blog Hot Air,  wrote:

She was grossly and crudely insulting the Honored Dead.”

By contrast, Robert Johnson, a military veteran, wrote at Business Insider:

More importantly, if Lindsey Stone wants to rip on the Tomb of the Unknowns, me, my service, or the hundreds of mutilated troops I served with at Walter Reed Medical Center, she should be able to do so without fear of retribution. Freedom like that is what we fought for, and respecting other opinions is part of what the military tried to teach all of us who served.”

When LIFE found out about the image on November 19, it issued its own public statement:

This photograph in no way reflects the opinions or values of the LIFE organization, which holds our nation’s veterans in the highest regard. We are proud to have veterans serving on our staff and board of trustees, and we value their service. The men and women who have selflessly fought and sacrificed their lives to protect the rights and lives of Americans deserve our utmost respect and gratitude. We are acutely aware that this photo has done a disservice to veterans and we are deeply saddened that it was taken and shared in a public medium.”

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November 26, 2012

Effective Stewardship Before, During, & After the Gift

About a month ago, Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Caribbean and the East Coast of the United States. New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania were especially hard hit. Millions lost electricity and were driven from their homes. Today, thousands remain without power and without homes to return to.

Through it all, the American Red Cross has been there to help those in need.

My wife and I live in Philadelphia. While many in the area were affected by flooding, fallen trees, and loss of power, we were fortunate. We made it through unscathed.

Recognizing that others fared far worse than we did, we went online and donated to the Red Cross. At the time we made the gift, we could designate to a category or to “most needed.” We were able to print a gift receipt on the spot. As an immediate follow-up, the Red Cross emailed a thank you message with a receipt, an outline of all the services the support helps provide, and another opportunity to print out the gift receipt.

Up until that point, the Red Cross had handled the process perfectly and without any surprises.

Then, several days after our contribution, as the disaster began to subside, we received another email with another thank you with the subject line: “You are amazing.” We had to open it. When we did, we were greeted with a personalized salutation and a link to a slideshow illustrating the impact of our giving.

Here’s the text of the email we received:

Dear Lisa and Michael,

My sincere thanks for your generosity over the past ten days. The outpouring of support for the families impacted by Superstorm Sandy has been extraordinary. Whether you have given a financial gift, donated life-saving blood, or volunteered your time, I’m so grateful to so many compassionate people like you in the Red Cross community, as we provide emergency relief and help millions of families recover and get back to their lives. On behalf of the families and individuals we’ve served and will continue to serve in the days and weeks ahead, thank you.

[Slideshow image and link]

We are making a difference together. To date, you have helped us provide more than 61,000 overnight shelter stays, serve 3.2 million meals and snacks to cold and hungry families and distribute more than 121,000 relief items such as warm blankets, cold weather gear, clean-up kits and hygiene kits. We have activated our entire fleet of 323 Emergency Response Vehicles to bring meals, water, information and emotional support to impacted communities and we have deployed nearly 5,900 trained Red Cross workers to support relief efforts.

Our work is far from over, but from the bottom of my heart, thank you. We’ll continue to post updates for those affected by the storm and for our caring Red Cross community on our website.

You are at the heart of our mission to relieve suffering, wherever and whenever we’re needed, and I am so grateful for your support.

Gail McGovern

President and CEO, American Red Cross”

The slideshow contains many moving images of the Red Cross at work. On the same page as the slideshow, there are tabs to access other useful information. For example, visitors can learn how to donate additional funds, how to give blood, how to help beyond donating money, and how to find assistance. The page also contains links to other useful, disaster-related information such as tips for returning home after a disaster and how to download an app to assist with future hurricane preparedness.

The Red Cross giving and thank-you process is effective for a number of reasons:

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November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Message

On Thursday, November 22, the people of the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving. This national holiday is a time for us to spend time with family and friends. It’s a time for us to reflect on our many blessings. And, it’s a time for us to give thanks.

So, in that spirit, I want to thank you.

Whether you’re an American or not, I want to use the occasion of Thanksgiving to let you know I appreciate you for taking the time to read my posts. If it wasn’t for you, I would just be some crazy guy who talks to himself.

If you have enriched this blog site by joining the conversation, I thank you for commenting. If you have not commented on a post, I invite you to do so in the coming months. I really do value reader feedback, whether through comments here or private emails.

I also thank you for everything you do — through your work, volunteerism, and philanthropy — to make the world a better place.

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November 19, 2012

“Isn’t it Better to Give and Receive?”

While reading a local newspaper, I came across an advertisement from a national nonprofit organization. The headline in the ad read:

Isn’t it Better to Give and Receive? — [Name of organization deleted] Life Income Plans”

I liked the mildly clever twist on a common phrase. So, I took a moment to read the text that followed:

My dad and I have that special father/daughter relationship you read about. So while I know he needs some extra cash to make life more comfortable, I don’t want to insult him by giving him checks all the time.

I’ve decided to give this dear, generous, wonderful man a gift annuity from [name of organization deleted]. It accomplishes everything I want in one simple gift. He will receive a partially tax-free stream of income for the rest of his life, and I won’t have to embarrass either of us, because [name of organization deleted] will send the checks directly to him. I will receive an income tax deduction on a portion of the gift in the year in which I make the gift.

I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve done the right thing for my Dad, and for [name of organization deleted].

What could be better? We give and we receive, it’s the perfect partnership.”

The ad included a sample gift annuity illustration for a $50,000 gift for an 80 year old annuitant. The ad also included a photograph of a middle-age woman. In addition, it included a generic development-office email address, development-office mailing address, and 800 telephone number.

While I want to focus on the story told in the ad, I do want to also mention that the ad would have been stronger if the organization had included the name of a specific contact person. Prospective donors are more likely to email, mail, or call a named individual rather than a faceless institution.

Ok, let’s look at the story.

The ad told a terrific, seemingly heartfelt story. However, I was immediately suspicious that the story was a fiction. The photo of the woman, presumably the “daughter” from the story, had that stock-photo look to it. No names, not even simply first names, were used in the story. The story also did not mention anything related to the organization’s mission making it seem like a product pitch.

So, I called the organization’s head of planned giving to learn more about the ad. She was kind enough to take the time to speak with me which I greatly appreciate.

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November 12, 2012

Update: Lance Armstrong Resigns from LIVESTRONG

Lance Armstrong has cut all formal ties to the LIVESTRONG Foundation, the organization he founded. Armstrong resigned from the LIVESTRONG board of directors on November 4 though the news was not released to the mainstream media until November 12, CNN reports.

Armstrong had stepped down as Chairman of LIVESTRONG on October 17. In a written statement, Armstrong said:

Today therefore, to spare the Foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship.”

With the announcement that Armstrong has now stepped down from the board as well came the following statement:

He chose to resign from the Lance Armstrong Foundation — known by the name LIVESTRONG — ‘to spare the organization any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding his cycling career,’ according to a statement by Jeff Garvey, the Foundation’s Chairman,” according to a report in The Washington Post.

Sound familiar?

Initially, Armstrong made no effort to distance himself from the Foundation when the doping-scandal story began to heat-up in August. Instead, he maintained his innocence, which he does to this day.

When the United States Anti-Doping Agency issued its report in October finding that the evidence of Armstrong doping was “overwhelming,” it took Armstrong a week to resign as Foundation Chairman.

On October 23, Armstrong was stripped by the Tour de France of his professional cycling titles after the International Cycling Union chose not to appeal the USADA ruling. After this news, it took Armstrong about 12 days to step down from his Foundation board position and it took another week for the information to be made public. Unlike when Armstrong resigned the Chairmanship, the LIVESTRONG website does not clearly mention his resignation from the board.

So, if Armstrong’s twice-stated objective was to avoid “any negative effects [to the Foundation] as a result of [the doping] controversy,” why did it take a week after the USADA report for him to resign as Chairman? Why did it take nearly two weeks for Armstrong to resign from the board after he was stripped of his titles? If he wanted to spare the Foundation from any possible negative effects, whey didn’t Armstrong resign from the board last summer? He had to know where things were headed. He certainly knew by October. So, why the slow and piece-meal resignations?

If the Foundation wants to be transparent throughout this controversy, why did it take a week before the news of Armstrong’s resignation reached the mainstream media? Why is there no information easily available on the LIVESTRONG website about Armstrong’s resignation?

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November 9, 2012

Obama Plan Could Cost Nonprofit Sector $5.6 Billion a Year

The outcome of the most recent Election Day contests for President and Congress means many things to many people. For the nonprofit sector, it means it’s time to get back to work on Capitol Hill as Congress considers a proposal by President Barack Obama that could cost the nonprofit sector billions of dollars in philanthropy.

Michael J. Rosen, CFRE meets with Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

On December 4 and 5, 2012, hundreds of nonprofit professionals from around the country will gather in Washington, DC for “Protect Giving-DC Days.” Participants will gather for a working dinner and, the next day, will meet with members of Congress and their staffs to encourage them to preserve the charitable giving tax deduction by helping them understand the potential impact that a decline in private giving would have on local programs and the people they serve.

Protect Giving-DC Days is being organized by The Charitable Giving Coalition, an alliance of over 40 charitable organizations, nonprofits, and associations pushing for common-sense tax policies that recognize the critical role philanthropy and the nonprofit sector play in restoring America’s economic and civic health. Coalition members include the Association of Fundraising Professionals, United Way Worldwide, the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities USA, the American Council on Education, the American Institute for Cancer Research, Independent Sector, The Philanthropy Roundtable, and others.

The advocacy effort is critically important as Congress attempts to identify ways of increasing revenues by limiting or eliminating tax deductions, including those for charitable giving. For example, Obama has proposed limiting the federal-tax charitable-deduction to 28 percent for individuals earning more than $200,000 and couples earning more than $250,000. Currently, taxpayers may claim up to a 35 percent charitable deduction.

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November 7, 2012

Special Report: Rosen Successfully Renews CFRE

I have recently received the official news that I have successfully completed the Certified Fund-Raising Executive renewal process!

I’m proud of this accomplishment. While I have criticized CFRE International in the past, I remain committed to the credential that I first earned in 1994. Certifying development practitioners has many potential benefits, both to the individual and the nonprofit sector. Certification is one of the hallmarks of a true profession.

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November 5, 2012

Special Report: Former Penn State President Charged in Child Sex Abuse Scandal

The former President of Pennsylvania State University has now been charged in relation to the child sex abuse scandal that has rocked the university.

Graham Spanier faces “eight charges: perjury, two of endangering the welfare of children, obstruction of justice, failure to report suspected child abuse to authorities and conspiracy charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and endangering the welfare of children. Three of the charges Spanier faces are felonies,” according to a Washington Post report.

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November 2, 2012

Despite Survey Report, Recognition Clubs Make Sense!

Despite a report from The Stelter Company that seems to suggest otherwise, donor recognition clubs can still be a valuable part of a sound development program.

Last month, I reported on insights and flaws contained in What Makes Them Give: 2012 Stelter Donor Insight Report. Now, I want to more thoroughly explore the controversy the report has spawned regarding the subject of whether or not donors want to be part of a donor recognition club.

The survey asked planned gift donors and “best prospects”:

Are you currently a member of a donor recognition club for any charity — this would be an organization for major donors and/or people who have made a planned gift to that charity?”

The survey found, “Just 14 percent of planned givers and best prospects are currently members of a recognition club.” That breaks out as 17 percent of planned givers and 13 percent of best prospects saying they are members of a recognition club, according to Bev Hutney, Director of Research and Innovation at Stelter. Of those who are not members of a recognition club, only three percent of both groups say they would like to be “invited” to join one, when asked:

Would you like to be invited to be a member of this kind of organization for a charity you support, or would you prefer not?”

On the surface, the responses seem to suggest that donor recognition clubs are of little or no interest to donors and, therefore, of little or no value. However, Hutney acknowledges that interest might be low because the term “recognition club” might not be understood by those not part of such a group. Or, they might have been put-off by the idea of being “invited” to be part of such a group. Also, the use of the term “organization” might have been confusing for some.

The other issue with the survey result is that Selzer & Company, the research company that conducted the study, failed to take into account Social Desirability Bias. Russell N. James, III, JD, PhD, CFP, an economist and Director of Graduate Studies in Charitable Planning at Texas Tech University explains the issue with SDB this way:

One study found between 10 percent and 75 percent of the variance in participants’ responses can be explained by SDB (Nederhof, A. 1985. ‘Methods of coping with social desirability bias: a review.’ European Journal of Social Psychology, 15(3):263-280.)  Also, we know specifically that SDB is most likely to occur in responses to socially sensitive questions (King, M. and Bruner, G. 2000. ‘Social desirability bias: a neglected aspect of validity testing.’ Psychology and Marketing, 17(2):79–103.) like the issues we are dealing with here. For example, if you ask someone, ‘Are tax benefits motivational to you in making a charitable gift?,’ the answer is going to be ‘No,’ because ‘Yes’ is a socially inappropriate answer.

“Nevertheless, econometrically, we can see that deduction rates do strongly influence actual giving. Similarly, if you ask someone, ‘Would you like more public recognition of your donations?,’ the socially acceptable answer is ‘No.’”

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