Archive for June, 2016

June 30, 2016

It’s Time for You to Speak Up!

A jury recently convicted U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) of federal racketeering, bribery, and conspiracy, a total of 22 criminal charges. Days later, Fattah resigned his Congressional seat. The court will sentence him in October. He is likely to appeal.

The saga of yet another corrupt, unethical politician might not normally attract much attention from the nonprofit sector. However, this particular story should. And you should be outraged.

Among other things, prosecutors argued that Fattah used charities he created to funnel funds for his personal benefit:

  • Funds were stolen from a Fattah-founded charity to repay an illegal $1 million campaign loan.
  • Fattah created a fake charity that received federal funds that were then misappropriated.
  • Fattah-founded charities were used to launder stolen funds.
  • Fattah-controlled groups received federal grants, but tried to cover up what happened to that money when officials conducted financial audits.

Furthermore, a Daily News investigative report stated:

…nonprofits founded or supported by the Philadelphia congressman have paid out at least $5.8 million to his associates, including political operatives, ex-staffers and their relatives.”

Despite Fattah’s abuse of the public trust, his Democratic Party colleagues have been tepid in their reactions:

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D-PA) — “It’s a shame to have something like this happen.”

Hear No Evil... by MASK Productions via FlickrPhiladelphia Mayor Jim Kenney — “The jury spoke, and the criminal justice system went forward.”

Ed Rendell (former Philadelphia District Attorney, former Philadelphia Mayor, former Pennsylvania Governor, and former Chair of the DNC) — “We’re not all bad. We’re not all evil.”

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — “Heartbreaking.”

While the responses from the political sector have been weak, the nonprofit sector has been infuriatingly silent. Where is the Association of Fundraising Professionals? Where is the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations? Where is Charity Navigator? Where is The Chronicle of Philanthropy?

I was very frustrated by the deafening silence from the nonprofit community. Instead of a yawn or a shrug, we should be condemning Fattah’s abuse of the public trust and his misuse of nonprofit organizations because his misdeeds negatively impact the credibility of all nonprofit organizations. We should be demanding that the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General investigate Fattah and his charities. If appropriate, Fattah should be charged with violations of the state’s laws governing charities and the charities should be held to account.

Then, I realized something. I have a platform. Therefore:

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June 21, 2016

Stop Making Stupid Email and Direct Mail Mistakes

Last week, my wife received an email appeal that demonstrates that fundraising professionals continue to make stupid email and direct mail mistakes. I’m not talking about fundraisers who have failed to use cutting-edge techniques. Instead, I’m talking about folks who have made S-T-U-P-I-D mistakes when it comes to the fundamentals of making a simple appeal.

To help you avoid some common, yet stupid, mistakes with your email and direct mail appeals, I’m going to share the email solicitation my wife received from the Rosenbach Museum and Library:

Rosenbach Email Appeal copy

Now, let’s look closely at the appeal to see where the author went wrong:

Subject Line: The subject line on the email reads, “Please support the Rosenbach!” Unless the recipient was waiting around anxiously for some way to donate to the Rosenbach, why would she even bother to open the email? The subject line tells the reader what she needs to know about the content: The Rosenbach wants money. And it either wants lots of money or needs money desperately judging from the exclamation point.

Rather than opening the email, my wife mentioned it to me because of the ridiculously bad subject line. When I asked her to open the email and read it aloud, she initially refused, saying, “We know what they want. They want money. Why bother opening it?” (By the way, we actually happen to like the Rosenbach; that’s why we’re on their email list.) I replied, “I bet the email is equally bad and that they even mention the end of their fiscal year.” So, with a sense of amusement, she opened the email.

Tip 1: Write a subject line that will entice the reader to open the email. Avoid turn-off subject lines or those that are misleading. For help writing more effective subject lines and headlines, checkout the Headline Analyzer tool.

Inappropriate Personalization: Right at the start, the author missteps. The email begins, “Dear Lisa.” Some people, particularly younger readers, might not find this problematic. However, Lisa does not know the email’s signatory, Derick Dreher. It was presumptuous of Dreher to address her by first name rather than as Mrs. Rosen or Ms. Rosen. Interestingly, adopting a less friendly and more formal style by the end of the email, Dreher signed his full name rather than just his first name.

Tip 2: When addressing people, especially strangers you want something from them, it’s generally a good idea — and always good manners — to show respect and a bit of deference. At the very least, if you’re going to use a casual salutation, be sure to match that style with a casual sign-off.

End of Fiscal Year: No one cares about the end of your fiscal year. Let me be perfectly clear: NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE END OF YOUR FISCAL YEAR! Okay, your Chief Financial Officer cares. However, your prospects and donors do not. Unfortunately, in the very first sentence of the appeal, it mentions that the Rosenbach is nearing the end of its fiscal year. If this was tied to a challenge grant that was about to expire at the end of the fiscal year, that might have been a worthwhile point to make. However, by itself, who cares?

Tip 3: Be donor centered and recognize that donors care about their own fiscal year, not yours. Unless you have a very good reason to talk about the end of your fiscal year, don’t do it.

Engagement: As if the first sentence wasn’t bad enough, the author made it even worse by referencing that Bloomsday has come to a close. There are two reasons this is a negative. First, my wife and I have no idea what “Bloomsday” is. So, why should we care about it?

Second, if Bloomsday was some sort of fun, worthwhile event, telling us about it after the fact is simply annoying and would make us feel terrible that we didn’t know about it in advance (hint, hint). Perhaps, the Rosenbach should have segmented its email list to send slightly different messages to those who did and did not participate in Bloomsday.

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June 17, 2016

The Top 5 Benefits of Blogging for Nonprofits

[Publisher’s Note: From time-to-time, I invite an expert, with valuable insights, to write a guest post. If you’d like to learn about how to be a guest blogger, click on the “Authors” tab above.]

 

Do you want to acquire and retain more donors? Do you want your existing donors to upgrade their support? Do want people to talk about your nonprofit organization?

If you do, then you need to do a more effective job of engaging people and giving them information they will value. And you need to meet them where they are: the Internet.

Last month, I published a post from Richard Santos, Founder of Fundlio, that encouraged nonprofit professionals to leverage Facebook to engage prospects and donors: “10 Reasons Your #Nonprofit Should be Using Facebook.”

Now, Andrew Wise, Founder of Wise Startup Blog, outlines five valuable benefits your organization can reap by maintaining a high-quality blog site. Wise Startup Blog provides actionable guides that teach anyone how to build, market, and monetize their blog.

Discover why it’s important for your organization to create or maintain a powerful blog:

 

The main goal of a nonprofit organization is to inspire people to take a stand and make a change. It is supposed to evoke emotion in people in such a way that they feel so inclined to support the organization and/or to go out and advocate a particular social cause or point of view.

The inherent struggle that nonprofits face is how they can get their information out into the public in order to elicit that strong reaction. It’s not that there is no one there who is willing to listen. It’s just the opposite, really. According to an article by the Harvard Business Review, over 10 million people dedicate themselves to nonprofit-work day in and day out.

Their hard work pays off, too. Americans alone make $373 billion in charitable contributions.

But, despite all of the good that is being done, there is still that inexplicable feeling of hesitation that wafts through the air whenever someone discusses a nonprofit. Although there are hundreds of thousands of completely valid nonprofit organizations in the United States alone, there are unfortunately for-profit companies that take advantage of the not-for-profit status in order to receive a tax exemption.

If you need an example, look no further than the National Football League who, up until 2014, was labeled a nonprofit organization. The organization, which earned around $327 million in 2013, is only one example of many companies that have hidden behind a nonprofit blanket in order to evade tax costs.

Furthermore, countless nonprofit organizations were created with the sole purpose of enriching their founders rather than fulfilling a charitable mission. Occasionally, we’ll hear from the mainstream media about these unscrupulous operators.

Because of all of this, legitimate nonprofit organizations have to work harder to prove that they are not only worthy of people’s time, dedication, and money, but that they are worthy of the nonprofit title.

The place in which most nonprofit organizations struggle is in their delivery of this information. It can be difficult to educate the public in such a way that informs them of your cause, entices them to donate, and keeps them interested enough that they simply need to learn more.

Here is where blogging comes in. (For a great guide for starting a blog, if you need a primer, click here.)

Social media use is on the rise, and the proof is found no further than the number of total users on the most popular social media sites out there right now.

With over 1.65 billion monthly users on Facebook, over 400 million users on Instagram, over 320 million users on Twitter, and over 100 million daily users on Snapchat, there is no denying that people look to social media on a daily — if not hourly — basis for their fill of information.

Blogging is no different. The benefits of starting a blog for your nonprofit organization far outweigh any cons you may be able to think up.

Here are some things to consider…

1. Your nonprofit blog can help you rank higher on search engines.

Blog 1

While looking at the top 10 nonprofit blogs out there right now, I noticed something particularly interesting. They all ranked high on Google. A first page Google search result is a highly coveted spot that every blogger out there wants to obtain, and nonprofit organizations are no different. You see, blogs tend to rate higher on page results than regular nonprofit organization websites for one reason and one reason only:

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June 14, 2016

Happy Days are Here Again … for Now

Charitable giving in the USA reached a record high for the second year in a row, according to the newly released Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2015, a publication of Giving USA Foundation, researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

While the news is good, storm clouds are gathering on the horizon. You need to hear both the good and the troubling news. I’ve tried to distill the most relevant, overarching information for you and provide you with some tips to help you be more successful moving forward. While I would normally advise against sharing lots of statistics, I nevertheless think you’ll appreciate these numbers.

Source Pie Chart_June 13 2016Researchers estimate that giving totaled $373.25 billion in 2015.

That new peak in contributions represents a record level whether measured in current or inflation-adjusted dollars. In 2015, total giving grew 4.1 percent in current dollars (4.0 percent when adjusted for inflation) over 2014.

The revised inflation-adjusted estimate for total giving in 2014 was $359.04 billion, with current-dollar growth of 7.8 percent, and an inflation-adjusted increase of 6.1 percent.

Charitable contributions from all four sources — individuals, charitable bequests, corporations, foundations — went up in 2015, with those from individuals once again leading the way in terms of total dollar amount, at $264.58 billion. This follows the historical pattern seen over more than six decades.

Giving to eight of the nine nonprofit categories studied grew with only giving to foundations declining (down 3.8 percent in current dollars, down 4.0 percent adjusted for inflation).

Giving to the category of International Affairs — $15.75 billion — grew the most (up 17.5 percent in current dollars, up 17.4 percent adjusted for inflation).

Giving to the category Arts/Culture/Humanities — $17.07 billion — grew the second most (up 7.0 percent in current dollars, up 6.8 percent adjusted for inflation).

While the numbers are terrific, the story is really about more than that. Giving USA Foundation Chair W. Keith Curtis, president of the nonprofit consulting firm The Curtis Group, says:

If you look at total giving by two-year time spans, the combined growth for 2014 and 2015 hit double digits, reaching 10.1 percent when calculated using inflation-adjusted dollars. But, these findings embody more than numbers — they also are a symbol of the American spirit. It’s heartening that people really do want to make a difference, and they’re supporting the causes that matter to them. Americans are embracing philanthropy at a higher level than ever before.”

While the 2015 giving news is certainly positive, there are four points that indicate that the good news might be short lived:

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June 13, 2016

It’s Never Been Easier to Find Good Help

There’s a common saying:

Good help is hard to find.”

If you’ve ever found that to be the case, I have some valuable news for you. Finding the help you need to improve your fundraising results just got a lot easier thanks to the newly released list of “America’s Top 25 Fundraising Experts,” published by Philanthropy Media and Michael Chatman Network.

Owl by Jake Kitchener via FlickrI’m honored to be included on the list and to be in the company of so many wise fundraising thought-leaders whom I hold in high-esteem. A number of these experts generously contributed helpful insights for my book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing.

Here is what the publishers say about their list:

As competition for the charitable dollar continues to heat up, nonprofits are asking some very fundamental questions about new ways to raise funds to support their missions. Our 2016 Top 25 Fundraising Experts help nonprofits get past ‘we’ve always done it this way, we’ve tried that before, and fundraising is difficult.’

Folks ask us how we put together the list. Like all of our lists, our readers, listeners, conference attendees and members choose our experts. We survey them through our social and digital media network, and they respond in record numbers.

Thanks to Sandy Taylor, Wayne Weaver, and the Financial & Philanthropy Experts Academy promotions team for excellent research. Because of this incredible team, we have produced a list of fundraising experts that will help you find more money for your mission.”

Members of this list of innovative, highly-effective nonprofit professionals are successful fundraising staff or consultants; authors of articles, books, and blogs; teachers of seminars, webinars, and college courses; and professionals who embrace solid fundamentals while exploring innovative ideas.

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June 7, 2016

Be Smart. Act Like a Beauty Queen!

I recorded the 2016 Miss USA Pageant. I know. I know. But, here’s why: My favorite part of beauty contests is the question-and-answer portion of the show. Sometimes it’s a dud. More often, it’s hilarious. Sometimes, on rare occasions, it provides wisdom. The latter was the case this year.

Chelsea Hardin, Miss Hawaii, was asked an inappropriate question. Her response provides a wonderful example for fundraisers facing uncomfortable questions from donors and prospective supporters.

Pageant judge Laura Brown asked Miss Hawaii:

If the election were held tomorrow, would you vote Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump for president, and why would you choose one over the other?”

It was an awkward moment. Regardless of which candidate she would choose, Hardin would alienate a massive portion of the audience and, possibly, the judges. So, instead, she answered without revealing who she would vote for. Rather than picking one, she outlined the qualities of an ideal candidate. Hardin said:

It doesn’t matter what gender, what we need in the United States is someone who represents those of us who don’t feel like we have a voice, those of us who want our voices heard. We need a president to push for what is right, and push for what America really needs.”

While the audience booed the question, it cheered the response.

When speaking with prospects and donors, they occasionally will ask awkward questions. In this highly-charged political season, uncomfortable questions are even more likely to arise. When this happens, it’s important to keep the following five points in mind:

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June 2, 2016

Avoid a Big Mistake: Stop Asking for Bequest Gifts!

Nonprofit organizations are making a big mistake. Many charities ask individuals to consider making a “Bequest Gift.” Of course, an even bigger mistake is not asking at all. However, there is a better way.

Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP, a leading philanthropy researcher based at Texas Tech University, reports that the latest research shows that asking Words that Work IIpeople to consider “Gifts in your will” generates far more interest. When asking prospects to consider a “Bequest Gift,” 18 percent responded, “I might be/am definitely interested.” By contrast, when prospects were asked to consider “Gifts in your will,” 28 percent expressed interest!

James will offer additional research-based insights in a FREE webinar, Words that Work II: The Phrases that Encourage Planned Giving, hosted by MarketSmart on Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at 2:00 PM EDT. Registration is required and space is limited so click here now.

During the webinar, you’ll get the following information:

  • How to describe bequest gifts and tax benefits in a way that will increase a person’s desire to learn more;
  • What elements of a charitable gift annuity advertisement make people want to get one;
  • What the latest data patterns say about trends in charitable estate planning;
  • The best “front door” phrase to get people to read about planned giving information;
  • Test results that showcase the responses to different charitable gift annuity advertising messages;
  • And much more of great interest and value!

In short, James’ webinar will provide you with powerful, practical insights that will help you enhance your planned giving results.

So, why is asking for a “Bequest Gift” less effective than asking for “Gifts in your will”?

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