Archive for March, 2016

March 25, 2016

Do Not Overlook This Gift Opportunity

Many charities have been overlooking an increasingly important potential source of charitable contributions. Many donors have also overlooked this potential philanthropic opportunity.

It’s time to change all of that.

I’m talking about Beneficiary Designations.

While the use of Wills has declined sharply since 1998, individuals are increasingly using Beneficiary Designations to pass on assets to loved ones. Instead of a Will, individuals can use a simple Beneficiary Designation form to distribute assets from IRAs, 401ks, bank accounts, certificates of deposit, brokerage accounts, life insurance policies, and money remaining in Donor Advised Funds. In some jurisdictions, individuals can also use Beneficiary Designations to distribute property such as automobiles and real estate.

If someone does not have a Will, he cannot make a Charitable Bequest commitment. However, he can easily set up a Beneficiary Designation that directs some of his assets to a favorite charity. It’s important to note here that a Beneficiary Designation supersedes any designations made in a Will should a donor have both.

For donors, using a Beneficiary Designation can be easier and less expensive than making a Charitable Bequest commitment through a Will. Beneficiary Designations do not require a lawyer, a complicated estate planning process, or an executor. Donors can use Beneficiary Designations to take care of loved ones and/or their favorite charities. Donors can designate all or a portion of a given asset to specific beneficiaries. Beneficiary Designations also provide flexibility as individuals can easily change beneficiaries at any time.

I Spy by Flood G via FlickrTo acquire more gifts through Beneficiary Designations, nonprofit organizations need to be proactive about promoting this method of giving. As with any other planned gift vehicle, organizations need to educate prospective donors about the opportunity and how it works. Then, fundraising professionals actually need to ask for the gifts.

One way the ASPCA promoted Beneficiary Designation gifts was through an article on its website that you can read by clicking here.

The University of Florida has promoted Charitable Bequests and Beneficiary Designations using a two-page information sheet that explains the options. You can find it by clicking here.

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March 22, 2016

There’s Something Important You Need to Do Before You Can Raise More Money

Do you want to acquire more new donors?

Do you want to retain more existing donors?

Do you want to upgrade the support from more of your donors?

Do you want to get more planned gift commitments?

To achieve any of those goals, there’s something essential you must first do. You need to build trust. Trust is the cornerstone of all fundraising success.

Consider what noted philanthropy researchers Dr. Adrian Sargeant and Dr. Jen Shang have written on the subject:

There would appear to be a relationship between trust and a propensity to donate…. There is [also] some indication here that a relationship does exist between trust and amount donated, comparatively little increases in the former having a marked impact on the latter.”

In other words, the research demonstrates that the level of trust one has in a charity affects both willingness to give and the amount of giving.

TrustIf you’re like most fundraising professionals, you instinctively understand the importance of establishing trust. However, what are you actually doing to build and maintain it?

Sadly, many nonprofit professionals think that trust is automatic. If your organization has existed for a reasonable period of time and if it has had some demonstrable success at fulfilling its mission, fundraisers may be lulled into the belief that trust already exists. Therefore, organizations spend little effort building trust and, instead, focus their energies and resources on making funding appeals. Unfortunately, the result is usually underperformance and occasionally disaster.

As I mentioned in a recent post, a cancer charity in Scotland was involved in a major scandal several years ago. Unfortunately, the fallout from that scandal negatively affected many unrelated charities throughout Scotland as public trust in the charity sector suffered greatly. As a result, some charities reported a 30 percent downturn in contributions in the months following the controversy. To restore the public trust, Scotland’s charities and the Institute of Fundraising joined forces to get people meaningful information and provide them with assurance about the trustworthiness of the charity sector. It took several months to rebuild trust. As trust was restored, giving began to return to normal.

By investing in efforts to establish and grow trust, nonprofit organizations will yield far greater fundraising results and protect themselves from an unforeseen public relations challenge.

So, recognizing that building and growing trust is essential for success, and fragile once established, what can charities do to develop trust?

Fortunately, building trust does not have to be complicated or expensive. Sales guru Tom Hopkins identifies three simple steps:

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March 17, 2016

Going to the AFP International Conference? Be a Guest Blogger.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend the AFP International Fundraising Conference in Boston, March 20-22, 2016. Will you be joining thousands of our fellow fundraising professionals at the Conference? If so, I want to give you an opportunity to share what you learn in order to help others.

AFP LogoIf you will be at the AFP Conference, I invite you to submit a guest blog post to me. I want to share some of the insights from the Conference with my readers who, like me, are unable to attend. I’m looking for a guest post of about 750 words that provides some tips of what to do or not do as presented at one of the sessions you find particularly worthwhile. While best-practice tips are certainly good to share, I’m also hoping to hear about fresh, cutting-edge, inspiring ideas, as well.

When you submit a guest post, I’ll do a brief introduction where I’ll talk about you and your organization. I’d like to run the piece as soon after the Conference as possible. If you’d like to discuss this, please contact me directly. And if you’re interested in submitting a guest post, please let me know, when you can, which Conference session you’ll be highlighting so I can coordinate with other guest bloggers.

By working together, we can help AFP provide even more folks with powerful information.

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March 15, 2016

Ignore This at Your Own Risk: Perception is Reality

Since it is a Presidential election year in the US, I thought I’d explore three recent news stories through the lens provided by or popularized by the late political super-strategist Lee Atwater:

Perception is reality.”

The three news items I want to address are:

  1. A possible scandal involving MSNBC and a congressional candidate.
  2. A drop in donations at the University of Missouri following campus protests.
  3. The termination of the Wounded Warrior Project leadership.

Together, these stories demonstrate the danger of ignoring and failing to manage public perceptions. Such a failure could cost your organization vital support.

MSNBC:

NBCUniversal, owner of the cable news and commentary network MSNBC, Holiding Up Leaning Tower of Pisa by BJ Carter via Flickrhas previously experienced scandal. NBC news anchor Brian Williams violated journalistic ethics, by falsifying parts of stories he covered, leading to his suspension. Following his suspension, NBCUniversal reassigned Williams to MSNBC in a greatly diminished role.

Now, Chris Matthews, host MSNBC’s Hardball, is at the center of what could become a new scandal.

As first reported on The Intercept blog, guests on Hardball have donated nearly $80,000 to the congressional campaign of Kathleen Matthews, Chris’ wife. This has raised questions about payola and full disclosure. According to the report about Chris and Kathleen Matthews:

Some of the guests made the donations after they were on the show — in some cases, long after. But in at least 11 of these cases, the Hardball guests appeared on the program after Kathleen Matthews announced her candidacy, and without any disclosure of the donations. And in at least three of those cases, the donations came within days of the MSNBC appearance.”

The investigative report raises the issue of payola. Were potential Hardball guests asked to contribute to Kathleen Matthews’ campaign as a quid pro quo for appearing on the program?

While we do not yet know whether there was any pay-to-play involved, The New York Post has already declared:

Chris Matthews at Center of NBC’s Latest News Scandal”

The Independent Journal Review headlined a story with:

There’s a Scandal Brewing at NBC News, and Chris Matthews Is Right in the Middle of It”

Again, we don’t know whether Chris Matthews has done anything wrong. However, for thousands of people, perhaps more, that might not really matter. They definitely have serious concerns. For its part, MSNBC has done nearly nothing to reassure the public about the network’s journalistic ethics. This has led to a MoveOn.org petition calling for the suspension of Chris Matthews, according to The Daily Caller:

A MoveOn.org petition demanding that MSNBC suspend Hardball host Chris Matthews has garnered just under 10,000 signatures, even as the network has refused to address what Huffington Post called a ‘clear conflict of interest.’”

It remains to be seen how this might affect donations to Kathleen Matthews’ political campaign or how it might affect voter attitudes. It also remains to be seen what impact this report might have on Chris Matthews’ future at MSNBC. However, one thing is certain, MSNBC’s near silence on the subject is raising the ire of thousands of people, if not more.

University of Missouri (Mizzou):

Simmering racial tension on the University of Missouri Columbia campus flared up in November during protests that captured national media attention. At one point, an associate professor yelled, “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.” The targeted reporter was simply doing his job.

In the aftermath of the protests, the University system President and the Columbia campus Chancellor both resigned. Several months later, Mizzou terminated the associate professor mentioned above.

Now, we know from a report from KTVO-TV that the campus unrest has cost Mizzou millions of dollars in donations:

A University of Missouri official says about $2 million in donations have been lost in fallout from the Columbia campus unrest last fall. Vice Chancellor for Advancement Tom Hiles said Thursday that several donors who had pledged money to the university have pulled back their pledges.”

In addition to the fundraising fallout, Mizzou expects a sharp decline in student enrollment. FoxNews.com has reported:

Safe spaces may become empty spaces at the University of Missouri, where officials acknowledged an expected sharp decline in enrollment next fall is due at least in part to protests that rocked the campus last fall. The school is braced for a 25 percent drop in new students this coming fall, forcing the institution to enact painful budget cuts, as well as hiring and salary freezes. ‘We do know that the events of last fall have had an effect on our application numbers; however, it’s difficult to provide a specific number as we do not have any hard data,’ University of Missouri spokesman Christian Basi said in a statement to Foxnews.com.”

While Mizzou officials have attempted to address student, alumni, and public concerns, it’s clear that much more needs to be done to reverse the downward fundraising and admissions results. The situation on campus may or may not be better. However, the perception among many shows that public concern remains.

Wounded Warrior Project:

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March 5, 2016

Gallup Poll: Donors Not Feeling the Love

The most recent “Health and Well-Being Survey” conducted by Gallup provides alarming insight about the effectiveness of nonprofit donor recognition efforts.

Among those surveyed, 81 percent say they have donated money to a charity within the past year. In addition, 52 percent of survey respondents say they have volunteered their time during that same period.

Given the high-level of engagement, Gallup wanted to determine whether survey respondents were “feeling the love and received recognition for their efforts to help improve the city or area where they live.” Unfortunately, the findings are disturbing:

•  Only 15 percent of respondents agreed with the The Applause by Rachael Tomster via Flickrstatement “In the last 12 months, I have received recognition for helping to improve the city or area where I live.” This includes 5 percent who “Strongly Agreed” and 10 percent who “Agreed.”

•  Conversely, a whopping 69 percent of respondents disagreed with that same statement, including 45 percent who “Strongly Disagreed” and another 24 percent who “Disagreed.”

There are a few things that might explain the disconnect between the philanthropic/voluntary involvement of survey respondents and the recognition they received, or didn’t:

1.  Many of the respondents may have donated or volunteered for non-local causes. For example, donors may have given to alma maters in a different geographic region. Alternatively, donors may have given to or volunteered with national or international charities.

2.  Survey respondents might not think of their giving or volunteering as “[helping to] improve the city or area where they live.” For example, if one gives to a local animal shelter, she might think of it as helping the kittens and puppies but not necessarily think of it as improving the community.

3.  Survey respondents might not fully understand the definition of “recognition.” For example, some donors might think of “recognition” as being profiled in the local newspaper because of their philanthropic efforts. Other donors might think of “recognition” as being honored with a plaque at a special event. Others might think “recognition” means receiving a t-shirt. Still others might think of “recognition” as a well-written thank-you letter.

If the disconnect between giving/volunteering and recognition was small, I wouldn’t be too worried; the disconnect could be explained. However, the disconnect revealed by the survey is massive. Even allowing for a large margin of error for the reasons I’ve just outlined, I suspect we’d still see a significant #DonorLove gap.

Considering the anemic donor-retention rates throughout the nonprofit sector, I’m even more convinced that Gallup has uncovered a legitimate concern. As a statement from Gallup says:

It seems most communities and organizations are missing an opportunity to validate donation and volunteer efforts by recognizing those who offer them.”

Here are just some of the things you can do to ensure your donors and volunteers feel appreciate:

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