Archive for March, 2013

March 29, 2013

What Can Your Nonprofit Learn from a Fortune Cookie?

Have you ever had a Thai fortune cookie?

Until recently, I never even knew they existed. Over the years, I’ve eaten more than my share of Chinese fortune cookies. However, I had never experienced the Thai variety.

Thai Fortune CookieBefore anyone comments below, let me just say that I’m completely aware that Chinese fortune cookies are not really Chinese. They’re Chinese-American with possible Japanese roots. As for Thai fortune cookies, I have no idea where they were invented. But, they’re certainly tasty. They’re crunchy, flaky, light as air, toasted coconut goodness in the form of a little tube wrapped around a parchment-like fortune.

Anyway, my wife brought some Thai fortune cookies home one evening. While I was enjoying one of the cookies, I read the fortune it had contained:

Feeling gratitude without expressing it, is like wrapping a gift without giving it.” 

I immediately recognized that my cookie contained a valuable lesson for all nonprofit organizations. If we want to build strong relationships and secure passionate philanthropic support for our  organizations, we must thank our supporters and show gratitude.

I know you’re grateful when someone gives your organization money. But, beyond a simple thank you letter, do you do anything to show your gratitude?

Henri Frederic Amiel, a 19th century philosopher and poet, commented on the difference between thankfulness and gratitude:

Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”

Some nonprofit organizations do a better job than others when it comes to expressing gratitude. Unfortunately, as a sector, we have a long way to go. We can and should be doing much more.

read more »

Advertisements
March 28, 2013

Special Report: Senate Passes Budget Resolution, Charitable Deduction in Danger

Days ago, the US Senate passed the Senate Budget Resolution by a vote of 50-49 with one senator not voting. During the deliberations leading up to the vote, the Senate refused to consider an amendment offered by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD). That amendment would have protected the charitable deduction.

When the House and the Senate come together to reconcile their budget proposals, one of the items they will likely discuss is whether to preserve, restrict, or eliminate the tax deduction for charitable giving.

read more »

March 25, 2013

Special Report: PPPGP Recognizes Michael J. Rosen

The Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Greater Philadelphia has recognized Michael J. Rosen, CFRE for his board service. Allen F. Thomas, JD, CFRE, CAP, President of PPPGP, presented Rosen with a certificate during PPPGP’s March 22, 2013 luncheon program.

Rosen recognized by PPPGP

Michael Rosen (left) receives recognition certificate from Allen Thomas.

Rosen, the President of ML Innovations, served on the PPPGP board from 2007 through 2012. During that time, he held a variety of positions including Chair of the Programming Committee, Vice President, President, and Immediate Past President.

During his tenure, PPPGP achieved a great deal despite the challenging economic situation. PPPGP’s annual conference saw a 33 percent increase in attendance. The number of members set a new record high. The budget was balanced and the cash reserve was enhanced while PPPGP held the line on costs to its members. Additional programs were initiated including roundtable meetings and a nationally recognized two-day fundamentals of planned giving workshop. 

PPPGP also added networking opportunities and a mentoring program. The organization also enhanced its website to include a jobs board and a regular ethics column. PPPGP also created the Legacy Award for Planned Giving Philanthropist of the Year. In addition, the organization changed its name from the Planned Giving Council of Greater Philadelphia to the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Greater Philadelphia to be more inclusive and more representative of the philanthropic planning process.

read more »

March 22, 2013

Pope Francis Gets It. Do You?

I know that you may be wondering, “Why is a nice, Jewish guy writing about the Pope?”

Pope Francis greets the public. By Catholic Churches (England and Wales) via Flickr

Pope Francis greets the public.

Let me explain.

First, I believe that we all can learn something — sometimes, many things — from anyone.

Second, Pope Francis clearly understands branding, managing one’s image, living one’s mission, communicating effectively, engaging others, and maintaining a good sense of humor.

While the new Pope can certainly teach any number of lessons about religion and morality, I want to focus on what nonprofit managers and development professionals can learn from the new Pontiff.

Here are six things you can learn from Pope Francis that will help you do a more effective job for your nonprofit organization:

Know Your Brand. Pope Francis understands his brand. He is a Jesuit priest. The Order’s founding document, written by Ignatius of Loyola, calls on all Jesuits to take a vow of perpetual chastity, poverty and obedience. Through his lifestyle, public remarks, and image, the Pope has demonstrated his commitment to the principles outlined by the founder of the Society of Jesus (the religious order known as Jesuits).

Effective nonprofit managers and development professionals know they must carefully craft and manage their institutional and personal brands. We must have a mission, understand the mission and be able to convey that understanding to others.

Live Your Brand. Long before being elected the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Francis lived his brand. For example, as a Cardinal in Argentina, he lived in a modest apartment rather than the more elegant, suburban Bishop’s residence. He used public transportation to get around. He cooked his own meals. In other words, he did not simply create a superficial public image. He created and lived a lifestyle. He lived authentically.

His authenticity continues. After the conclave elected him Pope, he took the name of Francis of Assisi explaining it this way, according to The New Yorker:

I will tell you the story. During the election, I was seated next to the Archbishop Emeritus of São Paolo and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes—a good friend, a good friend! When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me. And when the votes reached two-thirds, there was the usual applause, because the Pope had been elected. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said, ‘Don’t forget the poor!’ And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi.”

Later, Pope Francis returned to his hotel to checkout of his room. He chose to take the bus rather than the Papal car. He was the new Pope, but he was also still the priest who rides the bus.

Nonprofit managers and development professionals must be authentic. We need to be true to brand identity and mission. It is not enough simply to pretend to be a certain way. Authenticity earns the public trust that generates and maintains support.

For example, there are charities that efficiently use donated funds to achieve their missions. However, there are also nonprofits or non-governmental organizations that squander contributed resources while still others are simply scams. On the surface, all may appear worthy of support. In reality, the authentic charities that operate with integrity are best positioned for long-term success on all fronts.

Manage Your Image. When addressing the public, Pope Francis reportedly ignored prepared remarks written by his would-be handlers. Instead, he spoke for himself, off the cuff. For example, he spoke of his desire for “a church that is poor and for the poor.” Beyond choosing his own words, the new Pope also chose to wear a plain white cassock instead of formal Papal robes. When first introduced to the public, he wore a simple wooden cross rather than a gold one such as those worn by his predecessors.

Nonprofit managers and development professionals need to carefully manage their own image as well as the image of their organization. Leaving our images to chance simply puts our organizations and us at risk. We must exert effort to effectively and appropriately manage our images and those of our organizations. It’s part of a sound communications strategy. Remember the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

read more »

March 15, 2013

Do You Know How to Navigate in the Gray Area?

I recently published a post about how City of Hope plans to host a special fundraising event at odds with the organization’s mission. Most readers who responded to a poll at the end of the post felt the event is inappropriate with many even finding the event unethical.

The unscientific poll reveals that 49 percent of respondents feel that the “Let Them Eat Cake” event is “Inappropriate but Not Unethical,” 27 percent say the event is “Unethical & Inappropriate,” 13 percent say the event is a “Great Idea All Around,” and 10 percent believe the event is “Appropriate, Whether on Mission or Not.”

I’m comforted to know that over three-quarters of the respondents feel the same way as I do about the City of Hope event. However, some of the comments I’ve received on this blog site, on LinkedIn, and via email concern me a bit.

Perhaps the comments are a result of how I worded the post or phrased the poll responses. Some people seem to be under the impression that one’s actions are either purely ethical or purely unethical. In certain cases, those folks would be correct. Some actions are clearly ethical or not. Stealing money from Girl Scouts selling cookies (this really happened) is clearly unethical.

However, not all situations are black and white, ethical or unethical.

While the legality or illegality of an action is certainly a guideline, such as the theft incident I just described, something can be unethical without being illegal. SScales of Justice by mikecogh via Flickrome situations in which we find ourselves put us into a gray area. The most challenging ethical dilemmas often involve situations that are not black and white. If they didn’t, they really wouldn’t be dilemmas, would they?

When considering the possible, multiple responses to a situation, we will often find some alternatives are more ethical while some are less ethical. In the case of City of Hope, the organization could choose to continue to host its “Let Them Eat Cake” event without any changes although many readers found it at odds with the nonprofit’s mission and, therefore, unethical. Alternatively, the organization could choose not do any event.

However, the organization has other options. For example, City of Hope can run its cake event but offer healthy alternatives and educational material as well. Or, the organization could host a different event like the Healthy Chef Competition in Vancouver, Canada that Rory Green, a development professional and blogger, told me about.

Again, some alternative courses of action are more ethical or less ethical than others. The objective should be to always choose the best option, make the best decision.

The most challenging ethical dilemmas of all, however, do not have any good, ethical solution. They’re no-win situations. Think of the novel/movie Sophie’s Choice or the “Kobayashi Maru” test from the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Even in these no-win situations, we must cope as best as we can to be the best we can.

As those who work in the nonprofit sector, we must understand that our greatest asset is the trust of the public. The more trust people have in charities, the more likely they are to donate. And, with greater trust comes larger contributions.

read more »

March 14, 2013

Special Report: Charitable Giving Deduction in the Crosshairs, Again

The US Senate Budget Committee has just released its FY 2014 Budget Resolution. On pages 65 and 66, the Democratic-controlled Committee asserts that the wealthy are unfairly benefiting from “tax expenditures.”

The Budget Committee calls on the Senate Finance Committee to reduce the deficit by limiting or reforming “unfair” tax breaks for the wealthy. The Committee specifically mentions itemized deductions with various options listed for limiting them (i.e.: a percentage cap, hard dollar cap, etc.). The charitable deduction is not exempted from these various proposals.

The Obama Administration has previously floated a similar proposal. You can read my analysis of that in my post: “Obama Plan Could Cost Nonprofit Sector $5.6 Billion a Year.” In short, limiting or eliminating the tax deduction for charitable giving is expected to have a significant, negative impact on giving.

read more »

March 8, 2013

Do Not Let Them Eat Cake!

April 15 is an important date on the calendar. In the United States, it’s the deadline for people to file their federal tax return. It’s also when one charity will hold its eighth annual “Let Them Eat Cake” fundraising event.

The charity promotes the event as “Philadelphia’s Wedding Cake Design competition for professionals, students and those who love to bake to create.” Originally conceived by the charity to attract brides-to-be, the occasion now attracts over 1,000 foodies who pay a minimum of $40 each to taste the creations.

This sounds like a great idea for a fundraising event, right?

Wrong!

Cake by yenna via FlickrIn this case, the idea of “Let Them Eat Cake” has a major problem: In runs counter to the host organization’s own mission!

The event benefits City of Hope, a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center that conducts independent biomedical research, treatment and education in the fight to conquer cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases.

As is well-known, consuming sugar can be a life-threatening issue for those suffering from diabetes. Over consumption of sugar can help lead to Type II-Diabetes. Compelling research demonstrates that over consumption of sugar contributes to the growth of cancer. This is why organizations like the Center for Advancement in Cancer Education advocate a low-sugar, low-fat diet.

My wife is an Ovarian Cancer survivor. So, it stunned me when I saw an anti-cancer charity promoting the eating of processed sugar and fat. Indeed, City of Hope has placed the consumption of fat and sugar at the very heart of its upcoming fundraising event without any disclaimers or caveats.

I had to understand the thought process behind the event. I had to know if I was missing something. Therefore, I called and spoke with Christopher Fanelli, Event Coordinator at the Philadelphia Development Office of City of Hope and the event’s organizer.

I asked Fanelli to explain how his anti-cancer, anti-diabetes charity reconciled its event theme with its organizational mission. He indicated that there was no issue to reconcile. He stated, “Everything in moderation.” He said that the event successfully raises money and builds awareness for City of Hope “in a fun way.”

When pressed on the idea that the event stands in opposition to the organization’s mission, Fanelli said, “I don’t believe it does it at all. It points people to what our mission is.”

Ok, the event “points people” to the organization’s mission. I probed that point.

“Will the event feature any healthier dessert choices?,” I asked.

“No,” responded Fanelli.

“Will any healthy-eating leaflets or information be available at the event?”

 “No.”

“Will any information be available at the event that explains the dangers associated with eating too much sugar or fat?”

“No.”

Fanelli then went on to explain once again how this fun event raises money and awareness for City of Hope.

I then asked, “So, are you really suggesting that the ends justify the means?”

read more »

March 1, 2013

World Giving Index Reveals Bad News & More Bad News

Between 2010 and 2011, the world witnessed a sharp fall in generosity as global economic growth slowed. The number of people who have donated money, volunteered time and helped a stranger has fallen significantly.

For the United States, there is even more bad news. The US lost the distinction of being the world’s most “generous country,” falling back to fifth place.

This bad news comes from The World Giving Index 2012The Charities Aid Foundation,  an international charity based in the United Kingdom, published the findings recently. The report, compiled from survey data provided by Gallup, ranks charitable behavior in 148 nations. CAF bases the rankings on three measures:

Have you done any of the following in the past month?:

  • Donated money to a charity?
  • Volunteered your time to an organisation?
  • Helped a stranger, or someone you didn’t know who needed help?”

The CAF report reveals, “In 2010, 65 percent of Americans said that they had donated money to charity in the previous month. That figure fell by eight percentage points to 57 percent in 2011.” This helps explain the American drop in the rankings.

The news for Australia is much better as that nation reclaimed the number one spot. “In a typical month, more than two-thirds of Australians donate money to charity and help a stranger. More than a third volunteer,” according to the report.

 

World Giving Index 2012 Map

World Giving Index 2012 — Map with Country Rank

 

In 2011, the top ten most giving countries were:

read more »

%d bloggers like this: