Archive for February, 2016

February 26, 2016

Can You Read Your Way to #Fundraising Success?

Unlike any other time in history, there is now a vast wealth of useful information available to fundraising professionals. Blogs, books, newspapers, and websites provide valuable insights. It’s an information tsunami every week. One could spend all day, every day, reading this material. If we did this, our knowledge would certainly grow. However, we wouldn’t raise very much money.

At some point, we have to stop reading and resume doing.

That means we have to strike a balance between learning and acting. Unfortunately, it also means we can’t read everything that is worthwhile. With our limited time, we need to focus on the best sources for powerful information. The challenge is: How do we find those great resources?

Blog by Dennis Skley via FlickrThis is where a newly released list from Joe Garecht at The Fundraising Authority can be of help. Joe has compiled a directory of “The Best Nonprofit Fundraising Blogs and Websites of 2016.” The listing contains 25 must-read blogs and websites.

I’m honored that Michael Rosen Says… has been included on Joe’s list along with so many others I’ve long respected.

I encourage you to checkout The Fundraising Authority recommendations by clicking here.

As Joe says, “Your nonprofit does great work. You need to raise money in order to do that work. You deserve the absolute best fundraising information to help you carry out your mission.” The Fundraising Authority blog and website list is a good place to start. Beyond that, you’ll also want to find the most helpful and inspirational fundraising and nonprofit management books. That’s where The Nonprofit Bookstore (powered by Amazon) can help.

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February 23, 2016

6 Great #Fundraising Tips from a 6-Year-Old Boy

Calgary’s Haylen Astalos has never attended a fundraising conference. He has never participated in a webinar to learn about the latest fundraising techniques. He does not have a college degree in philanthropy, nonprofit management, or fundraising.

Nevertheless, now at six-years-old, Astalos has figured out what it takes to successfully raise money.Hot Chocolate by Alyson Hurt via Flickr

When he was just five-years-old, Astalos decided to take C$100 of his birthday money into the local Ronald McDonald House, according to a report in The Calgary Sun. He also made a commitment to continue supporting the charity. His mom says Haylen chose to support the Ronald McDonald House because “it helps helps sick kids.”

To raise more money, Astalos opened an ice-cream stand. With winter, he began selling hot chocolate. As he achieved each goal he set for himself, Astalos set a new goal. So far, he’s raised thousands of dollars for his favorite charity.

So, what can you learn from little Haylen Astalos? Here are six great tips:

1. Go with your passion. Astalos did not raise money for just any charity, nor did he let his parents pick a charity for him. Instead, he chose to support a nonprofit organization that was personally meaningful to him. His passion for the cause drives his activity and inspires others.

When looking for a fundraising position, be sure to factor passion into your decision. While you might have some success working simply as a hired mercenary, you’ll likely have greater success and experience greater personal fulfillment if you work for a cause you can be passionate about.

2. Be flexible. Astalos raised funds by selling ice cream in the summer. When the Alberta winter came, he changed products and began selling hot chocolate, something much more appropriate for the season.

In order to seize opportunities and maximize success, you need to be nimble and adaptable. While careful planning is certainly important, so is being flexible.

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February 12, 2016

Do You Really Know Your Donors? — Part 2

In a cautionary tale earlier this week — Part 1 of a two-part series — I looked at the missteps one nonprofit organization took by not taking the time to get to know one of its loyal donors. In Part 2, I now examine a horrible fundraising appeal from an organization that actually knows its potential donor quite well, though it failed to leverage that knowledge.

Stethoscope and Piggy Bank via 401(K) 2012 via FlickrI originally got the idea for this post from one of my readers who contacted me with a link to an interesting New York Times article: “A New Effort Has Doctors Turn Patients Into Donors.” My reader wanted to know what I thought of the emerging trend of having doctors actively contact their patients for fundraising purposes.

I delayed writing about this subject because I have mixed feelings about it. Then, in December, I received a year-end appeal from my surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Cancer Center. The letter helped crystallize my thinking.

First, let me share a bit of background. A recent study by Dr. Reshma Jagsi, a radiation oncologist and ethicist at the University of Michigan, was published recently in The Journal of Clinical Oncology. It was the first major examination of the role of physicians in fundraising.

The New York Times reported:

In an unprecedented survey of more than 400 oncologists at 40 leading cancer centers, nearly half said they had been taught to identify wealthy patients who might be prospective donors. A third had been asked to directly solicit donations — and half of them refused. Three percent had been promised payments if a patient donated.”

Involving doctors in the fundraising process raises a number of ethical concerns. Dr. Arthur L. Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, shared some of his concerns with the Times:

Patients may be emotionally vulnerable; doctors have very close ties to their patients, which can strain asking on both sides; and the fact that incentives to ask sometimes skew toward the doctor’s own program rather than the most needy areas of the hospital.”

Another issue is, how will giving or not giving affect the level of care, or perceived level of care, from the doctor? Will patients feel coerced to give?

While I see the enormous potential for ethical pitfalls, I also see the significant potential benefit of having doctors involved in the fundraising process. The issue is how and when they are involved as well as the quality of development training they will receive.

For example, if I’m half-naked in my doctor’s examination room, I certainly do not want to receive an ask for a contribution. If I’m drowning in hospital bills, I’m not going to be particularly receptive to a fundraising appeal. However, if a development staff member wants to have lunch with me and my doctor to discuss the physician’s latest research, I’m perfectly amenable to that.

There are right ways and wrong ways to involve doctors in the fundraising process.

UPMC DM Appeal

UPMC Cancer Center Direct-Mail Appeal.

That brings me to the letter I received from Dr. David Bartlett in December. Dr. Bartlett is a world-class oncologic surgeon and medical researcher. He is one of the leading experts dealing with Appendiceal Carcinoma with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP), a very rare form of cancer I am currently battling. (You can learn more about my fight by clicking here.)

Dr. Bartlett knows me very well. In addition to knowing me as a patient, he knows that I’m a professional fundraiser who shares his passion for finding a more effective treatment for PMP. The development staff also knows me. Prior to going for surgery two years ago, my wife and I reached out to and met with one of the development professionals for the UPMC Cancer Center.

Yet, despite their knowledge of me, they sent me a piece of garbage intended as an appeal letter. The direct-mail solicitation was definitely not the way to involve my doctor in the fundraising process.

Let me outline the ridiculous mistakes that the UPMC Cancer Center made:

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February 10, 2016

Do You Really Know Your Donors? — Part 1

How well do you know your donors?

How well do you need to know your donors?

The first question is for you to answer. I’ll answer the second question:

You need to know your donors well enough to know how to effectively steward them in a way they will appreciate. You need to know them well enough to know to avoid doing something stupid that will alienate them. You need to know them well enough to engage them in meaningful ways.

Let me share a story that illustrates my point.

Smith PG Package 2My wife Lisa is a proud Smith College alumna. She has been a leader with the Smith College Club of Philadelphia. She has referred students to the College. She has donated to the annual fund and capital campaigns. She has volunteered as a Class Agent. Several years ago, she even included Smith in her will, becoming a member of the College’s Grécourt Society.

Over the years, Lisa has received mailings specifically for Grécourt Society members, including invitations to special member events. Recently, in advance of her landmark reunion, she received a fold-over postcard mailing that included an option to request a replacement Grécourt Society pin if she needed one. As it turns out, Lisa did need a replacement, so she happily responded.

So far, so good.

Then, Lisa received the package from the Smith College Office of Gift Planning. The package included the Grécourt Society pin, a surprise magnet, and a preprinted thank-you card that was hand-signed by Lisabeth.

Ouch! While trying to do something nice, Smith stumbled badly.

Here are the mistakes the College made:

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February 5, 2016

It’s Not Too Late to Think about Year-End Giving

No, the headline does not contain a typo. It’s not too late to think about your 2015 year-end giving. It’s also not too early to begin planning for your 2016 year-end appeal strategy. Let me tell you why.

Only about one-third of tax filers itemize on their tax returns. Therefore, year-end giving for tax avoidance is simply not that important to the majority of donors. Furthermore, survey after survey indicates that tax avoidance is a very low motivating factor for most donors. So, why put a tremendous amount of energy and resources into doing a year-end fundraising campaign? Here are some of the rationales:

Herd Mentality. The fourth quarter of the calendar year is a busy time for charity appeals. The largest number of direct mail appeals is sent at that time. For phone fundraising, it is also the busiest time of year. So, since everyone else is doing it, fundraisers think they should be out there, too. #GivingTuesday helps perpetuate this mentality.

Heaping Pile of Mail by Charles Williams via FlickrIt’s the Right Time. For some charities, doing a year-end campaign around the holidays is appropriate given the mission and/or history of the organization. Consider The Salvation Army and its red-kettle campaign, or the Toy-for-Tots effort geared to providing holiday presents for children. For other organizations, donors are simply accustomed to seeing and responding to a year-end appeal.

Year-End is a Time of Giving. With Hanukah and Christmas falling at year-end, there is certainly a giving spirit leading into the end of the year. Charities hope to piggyback on that giving spirit.

Charities Simply Must Appeal at Year-End. This relates to the first two reasons above. Fundraisers think they have to do a year-end appeal because it’s the thing to do or because the organization has always done one. Without giving it much thought, fundraisers conclude that a year-end appeal is simply something that is best practice.

Despite the conventional wisdom, doing a year-end appeal might actually short-change your organization. There might be a more effective way for you to raise money.

I’ve worked with charities that have tested a year-end appeal against a beginning-of-the-year campaign. Many of these charities found they could raise far more money in January and February instead of at year-end.

Why did those charities raise more money at the beginning of the year rather than at the end of it?

Interestingly, the reasons can be found when taking a closer look at the reasons I’ve outlined for year-end giving:

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