Archive for November, 2014

November 27, 2014

A Thanksgiving Like No Other

Thanksgiving 2014. It’s easy to focus on all that is wrong in the world: civil war in Syria, domestic demonstrations, Ebola epidemic, sluggish economy, ISIS attacks, Palestinian-Israeli conflict, etc. If you want to be depressed, just pick up a newspaper or tune into the news on radio, television, or Internet.

Thanksgiving Cartoon by Cathy Liu via FlickrNevertheless, we all have much to be thankful for this season. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of how we choose to view events.

For example, I could choose to view 2014 as a brutal year due to my battle with cancer. On the other hand, I can choose to view 2014 as a heart-warming year as I felt the love from so many during my winning battle with cancer. 2014 is the year I came close to death, but it’s also the year I received a new lease on life. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of how we choose to view events. For me, I’ll choose to think of the glass as half full rather than half-empty.

I have much to be thankful for. Among many other things, I’m thankful for:

  • My life. I began the year fearing that death was near. I finish the year knowing I have a normal life expectancy.
  • The many good thoughts, prayers, love, and helpful acts from friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers.
  • The medical teams at the University of Pennsylvania Abramson Cancer Center and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Shadyside. They literally saved my life.
  • My readers and clients for their patience and for standing by me.
  • My wife for her heroic efforts, strength, perseverance, and help. She continues to amaze and inspire me.

Thanksgiving is a time for us to reflect on our blessings. It’s a time for us to be with friends and family. While I’ve always understood this, the meaning of this special day has been amplified for me this year.

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November 21, 2014

When is Fundraising a Laughing Matter?

In the nonprofit fundraising world, we tend to take ourselves very seriously. I suspect that’s because the missions of our organizations tend to be serious and, therefore, our fund development efforts have significant, sometimes life and death consequences.

Despite the seriousness of our work, there are nevertheless times when fundraising is definitely a laughing matter. For example, I discovered recently that fundraising professionals can learn some powerful lessons from a one-minute comedy sketch.

On their Comedy Central television program, the comedy duo of Key and Peele presented a vignette that should be seen by anyone working for a nonprofit organization. It’s funny. It’s brief. It’s full of important lessons.

Key and Peele - Save the Children - Season 4 - 2, click here to watch video.In the sketch, a man coming out of a building is stopped by another man asking for a donation to “save the children.” The solicitor tells the prospective donor that he can save a child for just one dollar. While handing the solicitor a five-dollar bill, the donor responds, “Who doesn’t want to help a child. I’ll tell you what, let’s save five children.”

[SPOILER ALERT: I’m about to summarize the rest of the sketch and give away the surprise. So, if you plan to watch the video, now would be a good time to do so; click here. Otherwise, continue reading for a detailed description of the scene.]

The solicitor then shouts out to his colleague who races an unmarked van over. The side door opens and five frightened children are permitted to exit. The van, full of additional children, drives away. The solicitor thanks the stunned donor and begins to walk away. As the ramifications of what he has just seen sink-in, the donor realizes he has another dollar and, therefore, he can save another child. The scene ends with him chasing down the solicitor to give him the other dollar.

This one-minute vignette contains many important lessons including the following six:

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November 14, 2014

One Word is Costing Your Fundraising Effort a Fortune

If you’re like most nonprofit development professionals, you’re doing it. You’re using one particular word in your fundraising effort that is costing your nonprofit organization a fortune.

I have the research that proves it.

If you talk with prospects about and ask them for a “bequest” commitment, you’re leaving enormous sums of money on the table. That’s the conclusion of recently released data shared by Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP, a leading philanthropy researcher based at Texas Tech University.

wordsthatwork3-01James will be sharing his research-based insights during a free webinar hosted by MarketSmart, on Wednesday, November 19 at 1:00 PM (EST). Words That Work: The Phrases That Encourage Planned Giving will explore the words and phrases that inspire donors to give and give more. Conversely, James also will look at the words and phrases that development professionals traditionally use that are actually counter-productive, such as the word bequest.

Consider this: A 2014 survey of 1,418 individuals found that 23 percent of respondents were “interested now” in “making a gift to charity in my will.” By contrast, only 12 percent were “interested now” in “making a bequest gift to charity.”

In other words, talking about bequest giving cuts your chance of getting a bequest commitment nearly in half! For greater results, it’s better to use simple, approachable language. As James suggests, when communicating with donor prospects, it’s a good idea to imagine you’re talking with your grandmother.

Not only do the individual word choices we make have a massive impact on the money we raise, how we use simple phrases can likewise make a huge difference.

James recently reported that 3,000 actual testators in the UK, not simply survey takers, were randomly placed into one of three groups when speaking with an estate planner:

  1. No reference to charity.
  2. Would you like to leave any money to charity in your will?
  3. Many of our customers like to leave money to charity in their will. Are there any causes you’re passionate about?

When the estate planner did not raise the subject of charitable giving, five percent of testators initiated the inclusion of at least one charity. In the second group, which was asked about including a charity, 10.4 percent agreed to do so. Clearly, asking has a significant, positive impact. However, members of the third group, which heard that others were including charities in their will, were even more likely to make a commitment. Now, here’s one of the key findings: Among those in the third group, 15.4 percent included at least one charity in their estate plan.

The commercial sector refers to the simple phrasing used with the third group as the bandwagon effect or social-norm effect. People are more likely to take action if they know others are already doing so. As the research demonstrates, this principle holds true when encouraging people to include a charity in their estate plan.

Interestingly, the positive impact does not stop at just the percentage of folks willing to make a charitable plan.

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November 7, 2014

What Do You Want?

“Back to life, back to reality

Back to the here and now yeah

Show me how, decide what you want from me

Tell me maybe I could be there for you

However do you want me,

However do you need me.”

— “Back to Life” performed by Soul II Soul

Last month, I wrote about how I cheated death. Now, I’m happy to report that I am re-engaging in professional life:

  • I’m resuming my consulting practice.
  • I’m accepting speaking opportunities.
  • I’ll be teaching graduate students once again at Drexel University.
  • I’m resuming regular blog postings.

As I officially resurrect my blog, I want to take the opportunity to discover how I can be of better service to you. After all, in a very real sense, this blog is really more yours than mine. If I’m not addressing your wants, your needs, there’s really no point to this site. So, help me help you. Please take a few moments to answer the following seven survey questions:

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