Archive for ‘Current Events’

November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Wishes for You

While I try to regularly show appreciation and express gratitude, I find Thanksgiving (USA) is a particularly good time to do so.

In that spirit, I thank you for the work you do to make the world a better place. I appreciate your commitment to the nonprofit sector and the lives we touch. I also thank you for taking the time to visit my blog to read my posts and share your thoughts.

 

Thank You by woodleywonderworks via Flickr and Wordle.net

 

I wish you a Thanksgiving full of great food.

 

roast-turkey-by-slice-of-chic-via-flickr

 

I wish you a Thanksgiving full of laughter.

 

Thanksgiving Cartoon by Cathy Liu via Flickr

November 18, 2016

How to Avoid a Disastrous Political Debate with Donors

[Publisher’s Note: This is not a political or partisan post. Instead, this post will explore how you can successfully navigate potentially controversial, post-election political debates with your donors. As always, civil and on-topic comments are encouraged, whether or not you agree with the points covered in the post. However, overtly political or partisan comments will not be published nor will the rants of internet trolls.]

 

We have just gone through a long, controversial, historic, passionate election cycle in the USA. People continue to take to the streets to protest. The election continues to be a topic of robust conversation that should make Thanksgiving dinners around the country a bit more interesting this year.

Matt Hugg, of Hugg Dot Net LLC, wrote on LinkedIn:

Okay, I’ll admit it… I’ve now voted in 10 US presidential election cycles. In all of those, I don’t ever remember such post-election discussions (and other means of expression) from both sides, as I do this one.”

megaphones-image-via-shutterstockHugg went on to ask how we should handle conversations with prospects and donors when they bring up the election, especially if they voted for the person you did not support.

Hugg raises an important issue. While I rattled off a quick comment, I’ve since given the issue more thought. Because of the significance of the issue, I’ve put together a list five of points for you to keep in mind when speaking with prospects and donors if you want to avoid problems and raise more money:

●  Remember, no one ever won a debate with a prospect or donor. Even if you technically win the argument, there’s an excellent chance you’ll lose the donation. So, it’s generally a good idea to avoid engaging in controversial conversations.

●  When speaking with donors, it’s important to remember that you do not represent a political cause (unless you actually do). When possible and appropriate you should steer a neutral course that puts the emphasis on organizational mission. There are any number of ways you can avoid engaging in a political conversation started by a donor. For example, you can side-step the discussion by using one of the following phrases or others:

“That’s an interesting point.”

“I’ve heard from a number of other people who have raised the same issue.”

“I suspect I’ll talk with a number of other people who share your view.”

“That’s an important issue. What do you think?”

“That’s an interesting concern. One of the things we’re concerned about is how the new policy agenda will impact those we’re trying to serve.”

The key is to provide a neutral response, and bring the conversation back to the organization’s mission and case for support.

November 15, 2016

Will the Election be Good or Bad for #Fundraising?

[Publisher’s Note: This is not a political or partisan post. Instead, this post will explore the affects the recent presidential election is likely to have on fundraising and philanthropy in the short-term and beyond. As always, civil and on-topic comments are encouraged, whether or not you agree with the points covered in the post. However, overtly political or partisan comments will not be published nor will the rants of internet trolls.]

 

Donald J. Trump appears to have secured enough electoral votes to become the USA’s 45th president. His election will become official when the Electoral College votes on Dec. 19, 2016.

After a bruising, though not unprecedented, election cycle, the nation remains deeply divided and emotionally raw. What does this mean for fundraising and philanthropy?

Impact of Election Donations on Charitable Giving:

At the 2016 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference, research from Blackbaud was presented that looked at the impact of political giving on charitable donations in the 2012 election cycle.

Chuck Longfield, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist at Blackbaud, observes:

Fundraisers have long debated whether or not political fundraising affects charitable giving and, for decades, important fundraising decisions in election years have been based largely on the conventional belief of a fixed giving pie. The study’s overall assertion is that political giving during the 2012 election did not, in fact, suppress charitable giving. Donors to political campaigns continued their support of charitable causes.”

According to the study, donors who gave to federal political campaigns in 2012 gave 0.9 percent more to charitable organizations in 2012 compared to 2011. By contrast, donors who did not give to political campaigns reduced their giving to charities in 2012 by 2.1 percent. These data findings held true across all sub-sectors as well as the demographic segments of age range, household income, and head of household gender.

The research only provides us with a snapshot. It is not predictive. More research will need to be done to identify whether or not the results will be consistent over multiple election cycles. However, based on the analysis of the 2012 campaign cycle, we certainly have room to be cautiously optimistic about 2016.

Year-End Giving:

If history is an indicator, the 2016 election will have little or no impact on overall year-end philanthropy, according to Patrick Rooney, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

voting-by-becky-mccray-via-flickrAt times, elections have had an effect on the giving of some individuals. For example, in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected, some major donors feared that he would secure a 28 percent cap on tax deductions.

Out of fear that the cost of giving would, in effect, be going up in 2009, some of these individuals front-loaded their 2009 philanthropic support to 2008 year-end. Nevertheless, the impact on overall giving was modest.

While Trump has promised major tax reform, it’s doubtful that donors will expect significant changes to the tax code to be enacted and go into effect in 2017. Therefore, it’s equally doubtful that major donors will shift 2017 giving into 2016.

Given that the 2016 election was unusual in many ways, it is certainly possible that year-end giving will deviate from the historical norm. For example, the stock market reached a record level following the election. If stock values continue to grow, we could see an increase in year-end gifts of appreciated securities. However, regarding overall philanthropy, I think the smart bet is on history.

Giving to Individual Charities:

It is very likely that certain individual charities will see an uptick in donations as a result of the election outcome.

Many years ago, Richard Viguerie, a pioneer of conservative direct response fundraising and Chairman of ConservativeHQ.com, said that people would rather fight against something than for something. We’ve seen it before; we’re seeing it now.

For example, when Obama was elected, the National Rifle Association received significantly more contributions as some feared that the new president would impose more stringent gun control measures.

Now, Kari Paul, of MarketWatch, reports:

October 28, 2016

Get a Free Halloween Treat for Fundraisers

If you’re like most fundraising professionals, you’re not optimally asking donors to include your nonprofit organization in their will.

You’re probably not driving as much traffic to your planned giving webpage as you could.

You’re also probably less successful at closing Charitable Gift Annuities than you could be.

lone-ranger-and-silver-via-melocuentas-flickr

The Lone Ranger and Silver.

I know. You decided to read this post to discover how you can get a free Halloween treat. Instead, you’re probably starting to feel tricked. But, fear not! Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP, the Texas Tech University professor and philanthropy researcher, along with the good folks at MarketSmart, are riding in to save the day.

Last summer, James conducted a webinar hosted by MarketSmart. During his presentation, James unveiled his latest, powerful research findings along with research insights from others. You can learn more about the webinar and get some great tips by clicking here.

Now, for your treat, MarketSmart has distilled James’ webinar into a free, 22-page e-book that will help you raise millions of dollars more. For example, here’s just one simple, yet valuable tip:

When you want to engage people in a conversation about Charitable Gift Annuities, what is the best way to describe this giving vehicle to make folks want to learn more?

James tested five phrases. Among the 2,550 respondents, he discovered the percentage interested in learning more:

October 19, 2016

What Can You Learn from Trump’s Faltering Campaign?

This is not a political post.

Instead, it’s about you, your nonprofit organization, and those who benefit from its services.

As I write this post, Donald Trump’s bid to become President of the USA is faltering. With three weeks left in the campaign, he still could pull out a win. However, he’ll need to run a radically different campaign to do that.

As a former newspaper editor, I’m still a political news junkie. So, I’ve carefully observed the political campaign for months, okay, for years. Not long ago, I even had the opportunity to participate in a focus group facilitated by renowned pollster Frank Luntz for CBS News; it provided great insights into the thinking of undecided voters in Pennsylvania. Along the way, I’ve discovered an important lesson that can be of profound value to you.

Donald Trump holds up magazine cover featuring himself.

At a campaign stop, Donald Trump holds up magazine cover featuring himself.

It’s simple, really. Trump rose in the polls when he talked about what he would do for us, the American people. His numbers fell when his campaign became about him. For example, in recent days, Trump has had to respond to the “locker-room talk” video revealing his misogynist thoughts. He’s also been talking about how the media is against him, and how the election is rigged. Even more strangely, Trump has renewed his attacks on fellow Republicans, which has nothing whatsoever to offer the American people other than more drama.

The media analysis is overly complicated. I get it. The media have to fill column inches and hours of airtime. However, the political situation is really rather simple. Voters want to know what the candidates will do for them. At the very least, voters want to know that the candidates are thinking about them and understand them. The more a candidate focuses on the voter, the more likely he or she will be to gain traction.

October 10, 2016

Stop Pretending that You Work for Stanford!

It’s big news.

Stanford University has shut down its annual fund telephone fundraising program. You can visit the university’s official web page announcing the decision by clicking here.

It’s all over the blog-a-sphere. It’s made headlines in publications for the nonprofit sector. For example, here’s a headline from The Chronicle of Philanthropy:

Stanford Hangs Up on Telemarketing — Will Others Follow?

I’ll leave it to others to speculate about whether other charities will follow Stanford’s lead. I’ll also leave it to others to consider whether or not Stanford made a wise or foolish move. Instead, I’ll focus on whether or not you should also discontinue your organization’s telephone fundraising effort.

Simply put, you should probably keep your own telephone fundraising program. Here are just five of my random thoughts that lead me to that conclusion:

1.  You do NOT work for Stanford, so don’t act like you do!

Unless I’m mistaken, you don’t work for Stanford, or Harvard, or Yale, or Cornell, etc. Such prestigious universities have built-in, loyal constituencies and, therefore, have a massive advantage over your charity. Not only could Stanford eliminate its phone program, it could fire nearly its entire development staff and still raise much more money than the average American nonprofit organization.

Your challenges are vastly different than those faced by Stanford. So, your challenges require different solutions. If you don’t work at Stanford, don’t make the mistake of acting as if you do.

2.  Telephone fundraising is less effective than it was, but it still works.

Since the early 1980s, I’ve heard so-called experts predicting the extinction of telephone fundraising. Interestingly, many of those same folks also predicted the demise of direct mail.

phone-and-moneyThey were wrong then, and they are wrong now. Neither mail nor phone are as effective as they once were. However, smart organizations have evolved their use of both. The outcome is that these organizations are still able to produce worthwhile results by both mail and phone. It’s not about extinction; it’s about innovation and evolution.

Colin Bickley, writing for NonProfitPRO, provides superb analysis of some of the telephone fundraising challenges faced by the nonprofit sector. However, Bickley concludes:

The telefundraising business is never going away, but it is changing. And right now, it’s clear that its changing more than ever.”

3.  Don’t judge all telephone fundraising by looking just at bad programs.

I’m amazed at how many TERRIBLE telephone fundraising calls I receive. I suspect that the charities responsible are either disappointed with their program results, don’t know enough to be disappointed, or think they’re doing the best they can.

Let’s face it. If your calls are bad, your results will be bad. Remember the old adage, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Not all calling programs are of equal quality. If you’re not getting the results you want, look for opportunities to improve before abandoning the entire medium. You wouldn’t stop your direct mail efforts because one mailing didn’t do well, would you?

September 27, 2016

Are You Doing Something Wrong Without Even Knowing It?

Most fundraising professionals are good people trying to do good things. Most fundraising professionals believe they are ethical and, therefore, will routinely choose right over wrong.

However, what do you do when confronted with a situation where there is no clear right or wrong option? What do you do when you encounter a dilemma beyond your experience? What do you say when a donor or board member questions your actions?

That’s where fundraising ethics comes in. Ethical standards help us be the kind of people we want to be. Ethical standards guide us as we navigate fundraising challenges so that we can achieve the best results for our donors, beneficiaries, and organizations.

rights-stuff-cover-from-rogare(Toward the end of this post, I’ll tell you how you can get two FREE white papers that explore the ethics issue in greater detail.)

Unfortunately, many find that the existing fundraising ethics codes in use around the world are inadequate. That’s why Rogare, the fundraising think tank at the Plymouth University Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy,  has undertaken a major, new ethics project.

Rogare seeks to develop a new normative ethics theory that balances the interests of donors and charity beneficiaries. This will empower us to more consistently make good decisions and take the right actions. That’s good for donors, charity beneficiaries, and nonprofit organizations.

Ian MacQuillin, Director of Rogare, explained it this way on The Agitator blog:

Ethical theories are intended to help us think through how to make better decisions in doing the right thing, and this is what our work at Rogare, with the help of people such as Heather McGinness, is trying to do, particularly to ensure that we do the right thing by our beneficiaries as well as our donors. We need ethical theories to help us make better decisions every day in our lives, precisely because knowing ‘right’ from ‘wrong’ is often such a morally grey area. Fundraising is really no different.”

For example, we can probably agree that we should not tell lies. However, imagine the following scenario: You’re scheduled to meet a wealthy donor for a noon lunch. You arrive at the restaurant early to make sure everything is perfect. At 12:05 PM, the donor has yet to arrive. At 12:10 PM, the donor has not shown up, and you have not received any messages. At 12:15 PM, you begin to wonder if you have the wrong day and begin to get annoyed. Finally, arriving 20 minutes late, the donor comes through the door. After greeting you, the donor says, “I’m sorry I was running late. I hope it’s okay.”

In response to the donor in the scenario I’ve described, you could say, “Well, as a matter of fact, I was becoming annoyed. You know, you could have sent me a text message to let me know you were running late.” Or, to put the donor at ease, you might choose to lie and say with a warm smile, “Oh, don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal. I’m fine.” Hmmm, maybe lies are not always bad.

My example is admittedly a bit silly, even simplistic. My point is that things we think are black-and-white don’t always remain such. That’s why ethical frameworks and decision-making models are so important.

Okay, now it’s time for the FREE stuff.

September 13, 2016

Is Social Media Hurting Your #Nonprofit Organization?

We’ve all heard the stories of social media success. President Barack Obama was perhaps the first US presidential candidate to raise a significant amount of money via social media. The Ice-Bucket Challenge generated awareness and raised over $100 million for the ALS Association in addition to millions more for other ALS charities. Countless charities have raised vast amounts of money through crowd funding campaigns and other social media campaigns.

Despite the success stories, there is a dark side to social media that can actually hurt your nonprofit organization.

Let me share a cautionary story involving Ursinus College. It reveals how, when used improperly, social media can embarrass your charity, cause supporters to abandon the organization, and reduce contributions.

Here’s what went horribly wrong:

Got to love a janitor with a ‘Ban Fracking Now’ sticker on his bucket. Barack is clearly reaching his target demographic.”

“Yoga pants? Per my DTW visual survey, only 10 percent of users should be wearing them. The rest need to be in sweats – or actually get dressed.”

“Just saw an Aborigenese in ‘full gear’ talking on an iPhone. What’s next Ben Franklin driving a Tesla?”

“Bruce Jenner [Caitlyn Jenner] got 25 K for speaking engagements. Caitlyn gets $100K. What wage gap?”

Those are just four of the, ahem, colorful tweets posted on Twitter by Michael C. Marcon, an insurance executive and 1986 Ursinus graduate. These tweets, and others from Marcon, might have gone unnoticed except for one thing: When they were posted, Marcon was a member of the Ursinus College board of trustees and, as of July 1, he served as Chairman of that board.

some-failed-tweets-by-irish-typepad-via-flickrRecently, several of Marcon’s tweets were publicized on Facebook by Jordan Ostrum, an Ursinus senior, and later on Odyssey by Haley Brush, an Ursinus English major. She told Philly.com, “The tweets that were sexist made me really uncomfortable…. Comments like that are really inappropriate for someone in his position.”

David Bloom, another member of the Ursinus board, made an even stronger statement about Marcon’s tweets when he resigned in protest. He said, “I read strong evidence of an elitist, racist, sexist, body-shaming, anti-LGBTQ, exclusive-minded and generally intolerant individual.” He also called for Marcon to resign.

Ostrum was the first to publicly raise the issue of contributions when he said, “I pledge to not donate money to the Ursinus College Annual Fund while Michael Marcon remains on the Board of Trustees… If he remains on the board, they are saying yes [to] his behavior. I will say no — with my money.”

Days after the news story broke and Marcon met with administrators, faculty members, and students, he resigned from the board. In a written statement, Marcon said:

September 7, 2016

Update: Should I Keep Naming Names?

The poll results are in!

In a recent blog post (“Do You Know How to Take Criticism?”), I explored the ways in which we can all deal with criticism more effectively. I also asked the poll question:

When critiquing a nonprofit organization or its fundraising appeal, should I name the charity or provide it anonymity?”

For a number of reasons, which I outlined in my post, I have generally named the charities that I have critiqued. As you might guess, I’ve been criticized for this from time to time. So, I conducted the admittedly unscientific poll, and I promised to be guided by the results moving forward.

Here is how readers responded:

September 2, 2016

Let a 12-Year-Old Competitive Chef Show You the Way

The fundraising profession is not for the faint-of-heart. Ours is a field full of rejection. Every time we ask for a donation, we know there is an excellent chance we will hear, “No!” Even when we receive a positive response, it might not be quite as positive as we had hoped.

A fundraiser who has not learned how to deal with rejection, obstacles, and defeat is a person who is destined to burnout, who will become reticent to ask, who will ultimately fail at the job.

One of the greatest skills a development professional must learn is how to cope with inevitable rejection.

The Screaming Man by Walt Jabsco via FlickrI once attended a seminar led by sales-guru Tom Hopkins. He told us not be disheartened when receiving a rejection. Instead, he told us to celebrate the rejection because it brings us one-step closer to achieving a success. In other words, sales, or fundraising, is a bit of a numbers game. We know we will encounter rejection no matter what we do. So, when we do encounter one, we know we’re getting it out of the way and getting closer to finding a “Yes.”

In sales and fundraising, maintaining a champion’s attitude is a key to success.

Recently, I was watching the Food Network show Chopped Junior (“Beginner’s Duck,” Season 3, Episode 3). In this program, children compete to determine who is the best chef of the group. I’m always amazed by the high-level of talent on display. We’re not talking about making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; we’re talking about real cooking.

Ellie Zeiler, a 12-year-old cooking enthusiast, competed against others her age this week. Despite her enormous talent, Zeiler was cut following the second of three rounds.

When watching the show, I was struck by how Zeiler handled the rejection. She did not whine. She did not complain. She did not blame her defeat on unfairness, time, the judges, or her competitors. She did not bury her feelings, nor did she become consumed by them. Instead, she handled her defeat with extreme grace and wisdom:

I’m really sad that I got chopped. This competition has inspired me to really focus on my cooking. And I want people to know that I never quit, and I keep moving forward.”

Here’s what we all can learn about dealing with rejection from Zeiler’s fine example:

Do not bury your feelings. Recognize how you feel and accept it. However, do not let yourself be defeated by how badly you might feel. Move on. Zeiler acknowledged her sadness, but did not let it consume her.

“Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.” — Charles R. Swindoll

Do not focus on the negative. Find and focus on the positive. Zeigler found inspiration in the competition. It inspired her to concentrate on her cooking and to further develop her skills. Whenever we face rejection, we have an opportunity to examine what we did and how we can improve our own skills.

“If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” — Michael Jordan

Never quit! Zeiler made it perfectly clear that she is not a quitter. Rejection is all part of a development professional’s life. If you’re not used to it, get used to it. To find the next “Yes,” you need to move forward with another ask.

“Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” — Vince Lombardi

The next time a prospect tells you “No,” I want you to think about three things:

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