Archive for ‘Book’

May 21, 2019

101 Biggest Mistakes Nonprofits Make And How You Can Avoid Them

Over the past four decades, I’ve worked with hundreds of nonprofit organizations. Those organizations were diverse in every sense: geographically, type of work, people served, institutional size, and more. Yet, despite the significant differences among those organizations, they had one major thing in common: They all made mistakes of one sort or another.

As my career advanced over the many years, I noticed that nonprofits don’t just make mistakes; they tend to make the same mistakes. Despite the passage of enormous time, I still keep seeing nonprofits making the very same mistakes, over and over again. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become increasingly frustrated by this phenomenon.

So, when I saw a new, bestselling book from Andrew Olsen, CFRE, I was intrigued immediately. Olsen, Partner and Senior Vice President at Newport ONE, has written 101 Biggest Mistakes Nonprofits Make And How You Can Avoid Them following a year of research involving more than 100 nonprofit organizations in North America.

Olsen does more than outline 101 common mistakes. For starters, he actually highlights 108 mistakes. However, the real value of the book comes from the straightforward tips for avoiding or overcoming those mistakes. Helping Olsen with his book’s mission are 26 additional nonprofit management, marketing, and fundraising experts.

Olsen wisely groups his list of common mistakes into the following categories:

  • Organizational Leadership and Management
  • Strategy and Planning
  • Constituent Engagement
  • Special Bonus Content

Read Olsen’s book for chuckles. Read it so you won’t feel so alone. Read it for insights. Read it for helpful tips.

Below, Olsen kindly shares with us what motivated him to write the book, three key discoveries involving what he terms the “mistake loop,” and three powerful ideas to help you break the mistake loop right now. I thank him for generously sharing his insights. I hope you’ll let Andrew and me know what you think about his book, what your “favorite” mistake is, and what thoughts you have about his guest post:

 

In a single year, I traveled to 46 states and across Canada to meet with more than 100 nonprofit organizations.

In that 12-month period, I learned so much about how nonprofit organizations work, how and where power is concentrated in organizations, what many of those nonprofits do very well – and where they are most challenged.

What emerged from this listening tour of sorts was something I never expected or imagined. I learned that nearly every one of these organizations was making one or more of the same mistakes as each of the others. What I mean by that is, if one day I was in Detroit talking with a hunger relief organization, then the next day in Toronto talking with a homeless service organization, and still the next day down in Baton Rouge talking with an animal welfare organization, the strategic and operational mistakes being made in each unique organization were eerily similar.

I found mistakes of leadership, like leaders not holding themselves or their people accountable for performance. Or, I found leaders not taking decisive action to remove toxic employees, making strategy mistakes like not investing in strategic planning, or not creating and managing to concrete development plans. And I found clear fundraising mistakes, like investing heavily in donor acquisition or social media, but not being willing to invest in major gift fundraising.

What’s more, many of the organizations had been making these same mistakes day after day, month after month, year after year. I found that there were usually three reasons for this continual mistake loop:

1.  Most often, organizations simply didn’t realize what they were doing was a mistake. It’s that whole, you don’t know what you don’t know scenario.

2.  Turnover is the next culprit. So many organizations struggle with perpetual staff turnover every 12-18 months, which saps their nonprofit of any level of institutional knowledge and memory – and results in making many of the same mistakes over and over and over again.

3.  Then there’s the last driver of continual mistakes, which is the most concerning and frustrating to me. And those are the organizations and leaders who are so deeply invested in their own “expertise” that they refuse to admit that they’re actually making mistakes, and are content to continue making them simply because their egos are so sensitive that they can’t consider a situation where they might not know best.

As I continued to process what I’d learned in these 100+ meetings, I started having conversations with other fundraisers and nonprofit leaders I trust, to get a sense for how widespread this problem really was. What I found was that many of these other leaders in our space were experiencing the very same things that I had discovered!

That’s when I decided to write 101 Biggest Mistakes Nonprofits Make and How You Can Avoid Them and, more importantly, to bring together 26 other fundraisers, nonprofit leaders, and leadership experts to contribute to this insightful resource.

The goal of this book is not to stop people from making mistakes. That’s part of being human, and part of learning. However, my hope is that we’ve created a tool that individuals and organizations can use to stop making these same mistakes that are so frequently made in our sector. We already know these mistakes are costly, and sometimes even disastrous for organizations.

So, what can you do to ensure that you and your organization are not trapped in a mistake loop?

Here are just three ways you can make certain you’re not allowing your own ego and self-worth to keep you from making meaningful change to avoid the 101 common mistakes:

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February 5, 2019

An Inspiring Philanthropy Tale for Black History Month

February is Black History Month. Frankly, I don’t like the occasion.

Let me explain.

We should not need a special month to recognize and celebrate Black History. We should learn Black History every month. For that matter, we as Americans should spend more time learning history in general. We would benefit by learning more of our history, with its complexity and diversity. The insights, perspectives, and inspiration of studying history are invaluable and provide much needed context for current events.

Now, since it is Black History Month, I want to share the true story of an amazing philanthropist who died 20 years ago. Her tale demonstrates the power of philanthropy, the value of solid donor stewardship, and the important partnerships that financial advisors and development professionals can form to serve donors better. I first presented this story in my award-winning book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

Oseola McCarty was a quiet, 87-year-old African-American woman living in Haittesburg, Mississippi. Even as a young child, she worked and she saved.

Oseola McCarty

“I would go to school and come home and iron. I’d put money away and save it. When I got enough, I went to First Mississippi National Bank and put it in. The teller told me it would be best to put it in a savings account. I didn’t know. I just kept on saving,” McCarty said.

Unfortunately, when McCarty was in the sixth grade, her childless aunt became ill. McCarty left school to care for her and never returned to school. Instead, she spent a lifetime earning a living by washing and ironing other people’s clothes. And, she continued to save what she could by putting money into several local banks. She worked hard, lived frugally, and saved.

Nancy Odom and Ellen Vinzant of Trustmark Bank worked with McCarty for several years, not only helping her manage her money but helping look after her personally. They eventually referred her to Paul Laughlin, Trustmark’s assistant vice president and trust officer. “In one of our earliest meetings, I talked about what we could do for her,” Laughlin said. “We talked about providing for her if she’s not able. Then, we turned naturally to what happens to her estate after she dies.”

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January 24, 2019

Here are Some Things You Need to Know

Now that the 2018 year-end fundraising season has closed and you’ve had a moment to catch your breath, I want to share some things with you that you might have missed.

To begin, here is a list of my top ten most read posts published last year:

  1. How Bad is the New Tax Code for Your Charity?
  2. It’s Time to Stop Whining about Donor-Advised Funds!
  3. 9 Hard Truths Every Fundraiser Needs to Face in the 21st Century
  4. New Charitable Gift Annuity Rates Announced
  5. Jerold Panas (1928-2018), He Will Be Missed
  6. Setting the Record Straight about Jimmy LaRose
  7. Will One Charity’s Surprising Year-End Email Make You Look Bad?
  8. The Dark Side of the Fundraising Profession
  9. How to Get Last Year’s Donors to Give More this Year
  10. Avoid the 7 Deadly Sins When Working with Volunteers

Here’s a list of just five of my older posts that remained popular in 2018:

  1. Can a Nonprofit Return a Donor’s Gift?
  2. Can You Spot a Child Molester? Discover the Warning Signs
  3. Here is One Word You Should Stop Using
  4. 5 Things Never to Do in Your Phone Fundraising Calls
  5. Special Report: Top 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants Identified

I invite you to read any posts that might interest you by clicking on the title above. If you’ve read them all, thank you for being a committed reader.

Over the years, I’ve been honored to have my blog recognized by respected peers. I’m pleased that, among the thousands of nonprofit and fundraising sites, my blog continues to be ranked as a “Top 75 Fundraising Blog” and as a “Top Fundraising Blog – 2019.”

To make sure you don’t miss any of my future posts, please take a moment to subscribe to this site for free in the designated spot in the column to the right. You can subscribe with peace of mind knowing that I will respect your privacy. As a special bonus for you as a new subscriber, I’ll send you a link to a free e-book from philanthropy researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP®.

In 2018, I was pleased to have two of my articles published in Advancing Philanthropy, the official magazine of the Association of Fundraising Professionals:

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December 6, 2018

Can the Dalai Lama Help You Raise More Money?

Last week, I saw a tweet from the Dalai Lama that is relevant for fundraising professionals.

Your first reaction to this post might be, “Gee, I didn’t know the Dalai Lama has a Twitter account.”

Well, he does, and he has 18.8 million Followers. For some context, I’ll point out that the Twitter account of Pope Francis has 17.8 million Followers. In a comparison that may explain some of what is going on in the world, let me just mention that Kim Kardashian has 59 million Twitter Followers. Oh well.

So, the tweet from the Dalai Lama that resonated with me as a fundraising professional is this:

“Even more important than the warmth and affection we receive, is the warmth and affection we give. It is by giving warmth and affection, by having a genuine sense of concern for others, in other words through compassion, that we gain the conditions for genuine happiness,” tweeted the Dalai Lama.

The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.

This is the essence of donor-centered fundraising. Yes, I know you like it when people donate to your organization. But, if you want that support to be something more than a one-time and/or limited transaction, you need to show donors you care about them, their needs and philanthropic aspirations. When practicing donor-centered fundraising, you will be able to develop the conditions for genuine happiness. I’m talking about the happiness of your donors, your happiness, your boss’s happiness, and the happiness of those who benefit from the services of your organization.

By treating people the way they want to be treated, you’ll acquire more donors, renew more donors, upgrade more, and receive more major and planned gifts from donors. In short, you’ll increase the lifetime value of your organization’s supporters.

Penelope Burk, in her book Donor-Centered Fundraising, describes what she means by the term:

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October 5, 2018

9 Hard Truths Every Fundraiser Needs to Face in the 21st Century

In the Oscar-nominated film A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson’s character famously shouts, “You  can’t handle the truth!”

Well, if you want to be a successful fundraising professional, you better know the truth and be prepared to handle it.

If you want to be successful at anything, you need to face the core truths involved no matter how challenging. Ignoring reality is a certain pathway to failure.

One nonprofit development truth is that authentic, donor-centered fundraising results in more donors giving more money than would otherwise be the case. Penelope Burk wrote about this years ago in her landmark book Donor Centered Fundraising, available October 15 in a new second edition. I wrote about the subject in my own book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing.

Recently, Greg Warner, CEO of MarketSmart, released his powerful new book that reveals a straightforward, meaningful way fundraisers can embrace the concept of donor-centered fundraising.

In Engagement Fundraising, Greg passionately reveals the 21st century donor-centric strategy practiced by MarketSmart. Some people might be angered by or afraid of the core message of this book while others will find it to be simple common sense. However, one thing everyone can agree on is that Greg is a disrupter, and that’s a good thing. If it wasn’t for society’s disrupters, we’d still be riding around in horse-drawn carriages, and you’d be reading his book by candlelight. His fresh, technology-driven approach is a powerful way forward for those interested in engaging people to inspire more philanthropic support.

At the end of this post, I reveal how you can download, for free, the introduction and first chapter to Engagement Fundraising. But now, I want to share Greg’s additional insights with you as he outlines nine hard truths every fundraiser needs to face in the 21st century:

 

1.  Competition is fierce and everywhere. Nonprofits don’t only compete with other nonprofits. They also compete with private sector businesses and Uncle Sam (the tax collector) for every donor’s “share of wallet and attention.” Plus they want non-exclusive, polyamorous relationships with organizations. In other words, they will decide when they’ll cozy up to other charities. Of course, you can influence their decisions but you can never control them. You are at a disadvantage. Private sector companies and the government have deeper pockets. In order to win, you better be smart!

2.  Most of the time donors spend involving themselves with your organization happens without a fundraiser present. More than 99 percent of every donor’s time and energy spent involving themselves with your organization’s mission is done without you. You must accept this new reality and enable your supporters’ self-education and self-navigation of the decision-making process.

3.  The consideration continuum is open-ended. Donors are fickle. Their needs, passions, and interests will change. As they do, they might decide to give more, less, or stop giving altogether. They might involve themselves deeper in your cause or end their involvement (perhaps even by removing your organization from their estate plan). As a result, customer service (stewardship) is more essential now than ever.

4.  Your job is to make them feel good, not ask for money. In order to generate major gifts (including legacy gifts) and inspire high-capacity mid-level donors to give more, you must make your donors feel good by engaging them politely and persistently with offers that deliver value over time. If you do that, your donors self-solicit. They’ll step up to make a difference so they can find meaning in their lives. Then they’ll ask you, “What can I do to help?” Yes! Seriously! If you make them feel good, they will give, give more, refer friends, get more involved, become more committed, and make legacy gifts.

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July 13, 2018

How to Take the Guesswork Out of Fundraising

Many nonprofit professionals think that fundraising is an art. They rely upon conventional wisdom, best practices, what feels right, what they themselves like, what their boss likes. They often guess about how they can be more effective.

Yes, fundraising is an art. However, thinking of it only as an art will limit your success. Guessing about what might work, and relying on trial and error to find what will work, can be costly.

While fundraising is an art, it is also very much a science. Because fundraising is also a science, there’s plenty of solid research that can guide our efforts. In other words, you don’t need to rely on your gut to figure out the best fundraising approach.

As the winner of the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Skystone Partners Prize for Research in Philanthropy and Fundraising for my bestselling book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, I’m admittedly biased regarding the value of scientific inquiry for the nonprofit sector. Nevertheless, I recognize that it’s not always easy to find valid research reports on a given subject. Furthermore, busy fundraising professionals seldom have enough time to read all of the terrific studies that are now available.

Well, I have some great news for you! The folks at the University of Plymouth Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy have prepared a literature review, commissioned by Legacy Voice. Authored by Dr. Claire Routley, Prof. Adrian Sargeant, and Harriet Day, the report will help you take the guesswork out of planned giving. Everything Research Can Tell Us about Legacy Giving in 2018 “is [an] in-depth report, compiled from more than 150 papers across fundraising, marketing, sociology, psychology and behavioural economics, available to anyone working in the not-for-profit sector free of charge,” writes Ashley Rowthorn, Managing Director of Legacy Voice.

In the Foreword of the report, Prof. Russell James III, JD, PhD, CFP® says:

It is wonderfully encouraging to read this review of research on legacy giving, and to know that it will be available for so many who can benefit from the work. Such a work is timely, significant, and much needed. Fundamentally, two things we know about legacy giving are that it is important, and it is different…. [The] possibility of dramatic expansion [in planned giving] starts with learning how legacy giving and legacy fundraising works. That starts with this excellent summary of what we know.”

Here are just seven tidbits from the report:

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April 9, 2018

8 Simple Tips to Boost Planned Giving Results

Planned Giving is a vital source of contributions for the nonprofit sector. Organizations that do not have a gift-planning program envy those that do. Those that do have a planned-giving program want even better results.

It’s no wonder.

Bequest giving amounted to eight percent of all charitable donations in 2016 (Giving USA). That’s just counting people who included a charity in their Will. It does not include people who gave through Beneficiary Designation, Charitable Gift Annuity, Stock, Appreciated Personal Property, or other planned-giving vehicles.

While planned giving can certainly present challenges, there are many simple things you can do to create or enhance your organization’s gift-planning efforts:

1.  Focus Your Efforts

You likely do not have the time or budget to reach-out personally to every one of your organization’s supporters to seek a planned gift. Instead, you need to focus on the highest priority prospects, those most likely to make a planned gift.

So, who are your best planned-giving prospects?

The answer to that question will depend on what type of planned gift you are seeking. For example, if you want more people to include your charity in their Will, arguably the most common form of planned giving, you’ll want to consider two key factors:

First, people who are childless are far more likely to include a charity in their Will, according to philanthropy researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP®. However, just because someone is more likely to make a Charitable Bequest commitment to a charity does not mean they will be willing to commit to your charity.

Second, loyal supporters of your organization are the people most likely to make a planned gift to your specific organization, according to UK-based philanthropy researcher Claire Routley, PhD. Your loyal supporters are people who donate frequently, regardless of gift amount. Loyal supporters are also people who volunteer. People who donate cash and volunteer are nearly twice as likely to make a gift through their Will compared to individuals who do only one or the other, James’ has discovered.

When seeking other types of planned gifts, you’ll want to take into account other factors. For example, if you want people to contribute from their IRA, you’ll want to appeal to people over the age of 70.5, the age of eligibility for such giving. If you want folks to donate appreciated Stock, you’ll broaden your audience because the majority of Americans own Stock.

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March 21, 2018

15 Things You Might Not Know about Planned Giving

There’s a lot about planned giving that’s worth knowing and that can help you raise more money. Fortunately, it’s not necessarily all complicated.

Yes, vast differences exist from one planned giving program to the next. Some nonprofit organizations invest heavily in planned giving with dedicated staff and marketing. Other charities invest little and have development generalists talk with donors about gift planning from time-to-time. Despite the differences from one organization to another, there are a large number of points in common.

To help you be a more successful fundraising professional, I want to share 15 insights about planned giving:

1.  Almost everyone has the ability to make a planned gift. A common myth about planned giving is that it is just for rich people. However, that’s not the case. For example, anyone who owns a retirement account, a life insurance policy, appreciated stock, or a home can be a planned gift donor. As H. Gerry Lenfest, the mega-philanthropist, wrote in the Foreword to Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing,  “Planned gifts are the major gifts of the middle class.”

2.  The average age of someone who makes their first charitable bequest commitment is 40-50. Another misconception about planned giving is that it is something that old people engage in. While that’s true for certain planned gifts (e.g., gifts from an IRA, or gifts to set up a non-deferred Charitable Gift Annuity), donors of any age can create a charitable provision in their Will or set-up a Beneficiary Designation.

3.  High-income women are more likely than men to use complex gift planning tools. High-income women (those with an annual household income of $150,000 or more) are more likely than high-income men to seek expert financial advice. They are also more likely to establish Donor-Advised Funds or Charitable Remainder Trusts. So, do not ignore female prospects. Instead, be prepared to talk with high-income women about sophisticated giving options.

4.  Using a challenge grant for a planned gift appeal can create urgency leading to action. Research shows that people tend to avoid conversations or decisions involving their own demise. One way to shift the focus of the planned giving conversation from death is to use a challenge grant to encourage prospects to think about making a planned gift commitment so that the organization receives an extra benefit. A challenge grant also creates a sense of urgency that gives donors a reason to act now rather than further delay making a planned gift decision.

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January 30, 2018

Russell James: Three for the Price of FREE!

One of the nation’s leading philanthropy researchers provides us with helpful insights about the new tax code and its impact on charitable giving. He also offers valuable information about planned giving.

Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP® articles, books, and videos will benefit any fundraising professional. Here are just three that will be a big benefit to you:

1. A Donor’s Guide to the 2018 Tax Law (video)

In just nine-and-a-half minutes, James explains how key provisions of the new tax code can benefit donors. With his insights, you’ll be in a better position to inspire more donations and larger gifts to your nonprofit organization. Simple illustrations and great examples will help you easily grasp the concepts.

Do you know?: Just one of the things you’ll learn from the video is that donors can contribute appreciated stock to avoid capital gains tax. Even non-itemizers can benefit from this. While this provision of the tax code remains unaltered, what has changed is that the new code makes this provision even more valuable for donors. James explains how in the free video:

2.Visual Planned Giving: An Introduction to the Law & Taxation of Charitable Gift Planning (e-book, updated January 2018)

I’m honored that James has allowed me to offer you a free copy of his 433-page e-book Visual Planned Giving: An Introduction to the Law & Taxation of Charitable Gift Planning. James designed the newly updated book for fundraisers and financial advisors seeking to expand their knowledge about charitable gift planning. This introductory book addresses all of the major topics in planned giving law and taxation in an accessible way.

Do you know?: Wealth is not held in cash. It’s held in assets. James has found that only one percent of financial assets are held in cash! So, if you want larger donations, you need to talk with supporters about making a planned gift from non-cash assets (e.g., stocks, personal property, real estate, retirement accounts, life insurance, etc.).

If you want to learn more about planned giving or help a colleague gain a fundamental understanding, you can download your free copy of Visual Planned Giving by clicking here.

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February 10, 2017

What is the Most Important Thing a Donor Can Give You? … It’s Not What You Think It is.

What is the most important thing a donor can give you?

If I were to ask that question at an Association of Fundraising Professionals conference, I suspect most members of the audience would respond by saying, “A big check!” If I were to pose the same question at a National Association of Charitable Gift Planners convention, participants might shout out, “A Charitable Remainder Trust!”

In other words, we tend to think that the most important or valuable thing a prospect or donor can give a charitable organization is money, and preferably lots of it.

However, do we have the wrong goal in mind?

Maybe.

Amy Cuddy, a psychology professor and researcher at the Harvard Business School, says that successful professionals must first earn an individual’s trust and respect. “Psychologists refer to these dimensions as warmth and competence, respectively, and ideally you want to be perceived as having both,” according to a report in the Business Insider. The article continues:

Interestingly, Cuddy says that most people, especially in a professional context, believe that competence is the more important factor. After all, they want to prove that they are smart and talented enough to handle your business.”

However, Cuddy’s research demonstrates that earning trust is more important than proving competence. She shares her findings in her book, trust-by-dobi-via-flickrPresence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. She also provides plenty of proven tips for engendering trust.

So, we see that the most important, valuable thing a prospect or donor can give you is their trust. Still not a believer? Keep reading. Cuddy’s research findings are in alignment with the studies completed by professors Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang, of Plymouth University, who have stated:

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 and its representatives, affects both willingness to give and the amount of giving.

Cuddy says:

If someone you’re trying to influence doesn’t trust you, you’re not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion because you come across as manipulative. A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.”

If you’re like most fundraising professionals, you instinctively understand the importance of establishing a trusting relationship. However, what are you doing to build and maintain them?

Here are just five helpful tips for earning and building trust with prospects and donors:

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