Archive for July, 2016

July 28, 2016

Do You Know that “Planned Giving” is Bad for #Fundraising?

That’s right. “Planned Giving” is bad for nonprofit fundraising.

For years, I’ve been writing and talking about the problems with the term “Planned Giving.” Now, new research underscores what I’ve been advising: You should stop using the term!

Sometime ago, The Stelter Company conducted a survey that I cite in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. Stelter found only 37 percent of Americans over the age of 30 have a familiarity with the term “Planned Giving.” We have no way of knowing what percentage of those claiming familiarity really, in fact, know what the term truly means.

Other terms have become increasingly popular as substitutes for “Planned Giving.” However, none has yet to gain sufficient traction to overtake the use of “Planned Giving.” Consider the results from simple Google searches I conducted for this post:

  • Planned Giving — 14.8 million results
  • Philanthropic Planning — 11.1 million results
  • Gift Planning — 5.7 million results
  • Legacy Giving — 2.1 million results

What we know is that the general public has little understanding of the term “Planned Giving” although it appears to be the best term we have. Unfortunately, popular does not mean effective.

William Shatner in The Grim Reaper by Tom Simpson via FlickrWhile “Planned Giving” is a reasonable, inside-the-development-office catch-all term to describe, well, planned giving, it’s not a particularly good marketing term. That’s according to the findings of philanthropy researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP.

James conducted a study to answer this vitally important marketing question: “What is the best ‘front door’ phrase to make people want to read more Planned Giving information?”

Think of it this way: Will a “Planned Giving” button at your website encourage visitors to click through to learn more or is there a more effective term?

To be a successful term, James believes two objectives must be met:

  1. Individuals have to be interested in finding out more.
  2. Individuals have to expect to see Planned Giving information (i.e., no “bait and switch”).

To find the strongest marketing term, James asked people to imagine they were viewing the website of a charity representing a cause that is important in their lives. In addition to a “Donate Now” button, the following buttons appear on the website:

  • Gift Planning
  • Planned Giving
  • Giving Now & Later
  • Other Ways to Give
  • Other Ways to Give Smarter
  • Other Ways to Give Cheaper, Easier, and Smarter

James asked participants to rate their level of interest in clicking on the button to read the corresponding information. In a follow-up, James asked study participants what kind of information they would expect to see when clicking the buttons mentioned above.

The winning term is:

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July 23, 2016

10 Ways To Be Happier Right Now

Do you want to be a better fundraising professional? If so, you need to work on being a happier person.

Sadly, 48 percent of Americans are not very happy.

It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to understand why. If you pick up a newspaper, tune into the television evening news, search the Internet for the latest current event stories, you’ll find plenty of reasons to not be very happy. You might not even need to look that far. Perhaps, you’re facing economic or health challenges at home, or an uninspiring job that doesn’t pay you what you deserve.

While many things are out of our control, there are nevertheless some steps we can take to enhance our level of happiness. By taking care of ourselves and by building our happiness, we’ll develop stronger relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and supporters of our organizations.

Your level of happiness affects all aspects of your life, personal and professional. That’s why I want to share some tips to help you be happier which will, in turn, lead you to better health and greater professional success. By being happier, you’ll be a more effective fundraising professional.

Think about it. Would you rather be around someone who is happy or unhappy? It’s not really a hard choice, is it?

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was naturally scared and miserable. After some serious contemplation, I realized that I could be sick and miserable or I could choose to be just sick. Being sick was bad enough. Why would I also want to be miserable, too?

My choice has made it easier for people to stay close to me and to help me when I need it as my fight continues. I’m also convinced that my positive attitude has profoundly benefitted my health; the science backs me up on this. While I certainly don’t like having cancer, I am continuing to enjoy life.

How to be Happy via Life Coach SpotterRecently, Rana Tarakji, of the Life Coach Spotter, sent me a terrific infographic with 10 practical, science-backed tips for helping us to enhance our happiness and, as a result, improve our well-being, relationships, and professional success:

1. Laugh. That’s right. Laugh more. It’s good for you. Laughter reduces physical pain, reduces heart attack risk, increases blood flow, boosts immunity, and enhances energy level.

2. Thank. Feeling and expressing gratitude boosts happiness. The old adage that encourages us to count our blessings and be grateful for what we have has validity. Researchers have demonstrated that expressing gratitude to others actually increases our own happiness.

For example, Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, the Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, asked study participants to write and deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness. Following the completion of the task, participants’ happiness scores increased significantly.

See. Not only is thanking a donor good for the donor and your organization, it’s good for you, too!

3. Love. When we send love out into the universe, love returns to us. Those who maintain strong, loving relationships are happier and healthier. Perhaps it’s because we all know the value of love that we often take it for granted. We need to be careful. Love takes work. We need to actively plan to spend quality time with those important to us.

4. Smile. The average person smiles only 20 times per day. By contrast, happy people smile 45 times a day. While happy people are more likely to smile, science has proven that smiling more will make you happier. Even fake smiles will release pleasure hormones that will make you happier. As the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh says:

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

5. Meditate. Meditation is not an activity reserved for New Age folks. Anyone can do it and derive benefit from it. There are large varieties of ways to mediate. Personally, I like Guided Imagery.

Meditation offers a number of proven benefits. When I was hospitalized, I found meditation calming. I also found, to my surprise, that it reduced my pain level. To be effective, meditation takes practice. However, over time, you will see the benefits for yourself. You can learn some simple meditation techniques by clicking here.

6. Relax. Years ago, I heard the great sales guru Tom Hopkins speak. He said that to be successful, we need to do the most important thing at any given moment. That does not mean turning yourself into a workaholic. Instead, it means that at times we certainly need to work hard. However, it also means that we need to recognize that, at other times, the most important thing to do is to relax and refresh ourselves. Life balance is essential for happiness.

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July 15, 2016

If You Want More Donors, Stop Being So Serious

Make giving fun!”

That’s the great advice offered by Michael Kaiser, Chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland and President Emeritus of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Kaiser has observed:

[Donors] don’t join our family to be whined at…. They join because we’re inspiring and fun.”

As a successful consultant and turn-around expert, Kaiser has proven, time after time, that when you make giving fun, you attract and retain more supporters and greater levels of support.

Despite the soundness of Kaiser’s advice, I’ve talked with a number of fundraising professionals who think their cause is too serious to lend itself to fun. Or, they think they have no opportunity to be fun. Seeing nothing but obstacles to bringing joy to giving, these organizations continue with a stale, serious, institutional approach to fundraising that has left them struggling.

HAMEC logoBy contrast, the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center gets it. A small, Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization, HAMEC operates a tiny museum and offers school-based education programs featuring survivors. In just the past three years alone, HAMEC has presented approximately 1,200 sessions for over 100,000 students.

Like me, you probably never have thought of the words “Holocaust” and “fun” going together. After all, as a result of the Holocaust, six million Jews and five million others were murdered by the Nazis from 1941-45. It was a supremely horrible event perpetrated by a truly evil regime.

Yet, despite the horrors of the Holocaust, HAMEC has successfully, and tastefully, paired “fun” with the pursuit of philanthropic support for Holocaust education.

Chuck Feldman, President of HAMEC, says:

‘Fun’ and ‘Holocaust’ are not put together in the same sentence. But I will tell you, our organization is a very upbeat organization. We are the happiest organization dealing with the most miserable subject of all time, and we’re happy because when our survivors go out to the schools we can see the impact that it has on the students. We can see it right away.”

As HAMEC continues to expand its outreach, it has also sought to acquire the new and increased support that will make that expansion possible. One of the challenges associated with raising money for a Holocaust-related cause is that the subject is dark and not something about which most people would want to think. So, how can a small nonprofit dedicated to Holocaust education engage supporters and potential donors in a meaningful way?

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July 7, 2016

Should You Worry about Election-Year Tax Plans?

As Americans, we should be generally concerned with who our next President will be. The outcome has both personal and professional implications for you, even if you’re one of my international readers.

Presidential Seal by Jason Seliskar via FlickrWho will be best for the future of the nation and the world? Who will voters elect?:

Whether you’re a nonprofit manager, fundraising professional, and/or donor, you should also be concerned about which of the candidates will be best for the charity sector. Government policies, particularly tax policies, can have a significant impact on charitable giving.

If new government policies lead to greater economic growth, nonprofit organizations will likely benefit. Giving USA has shown that charitable giving consistently correlates to roughly two percent of Gross Domestic Product. So, if the nation experiences more robust economic growth, we can expect more robust philanthropic growth. The converse is also true.

If new government policies lead to greater personal income, nonprofit organizations will likely benefit as Giving USA has revealed that giving also consistently correlates to approximately two percent of personal income.

So, which Presidential candidate is best? Well, that’s a simple question with a complex answer. Evaluating the potential impact of each plan will never generate a consensus among economists. Furthermore, it’s doubtful that any of the plans will be adopted as presented. Congress will still have its say. And Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has introduced his own tax proposal.

While I will not tell you which candidate will be best for the country and the nonprofit sector — I don’t happen to own a crystal ball — I will provide you with a few key, relevant highlights of each plan. I hope you’ll then take the time to learn a bit more about each candidate and his/her proposals so that you can make an informed choice this November and be prepared when change arrives.

I also encourage you to visit the seemingly non-partisan website I Side With to take a quiz that will match your answers with the positions the candidates have taken on a variety of issues. At the conclusion of the quiz, you’ll be told how your positions align with those of each of the candidates. The results might surprise you. If you’re one of my international readers, I still encourage you to take the quiz to see how our presidential candidates align with your values so you’ll know who to root for.

Now, let’s take a brief look at some of the highlights from the various tax proposals:

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