Archive for ‘Current Events’

February 26, 2016

Can You Read Your Way to #Fundraising Success?

Unlike any other time in history, there is now a vast wealth of useful information available to fundraising professionals. Blogs, books, newspapers, and websites provide valuable insights. It’s an information tsunami every week. One could spend all day, every day, reading this material. If we did this, our knowledge would certainly grow. However, we wouldn’t raise very much money.

At some point, we have to stop reading and resume doing.

That means we have to strike a balance between learning and acting. Unfortunately, it also means we can’t read everything that is worthwhile. With our limited time, we need to focus on the best sources for powerful information. The challenge is: How do we find those great resources?

Blog by Dennis Skley via FlickrThis is where a newly released list from Joe Garecht at The Fundraising Authority can be of help. Joe has compiled a directory of “The Best Nonprofit Fundraising Blogs and Websites of 2016.” The listing contains 25 must-read blogs and websites.

I’m honored that Michael Rosen Says… has been included on Joe’s list along with so many others I’ve long respected.

I encourage you to checkout The Fundraising Authority recommendations by clicking here.

As Joe says, “Your nonprofit does great work. You need to raise money in order to do that work. You deserve the absolute best fundraising information to help you carry out your mission.” The Fundraising Authority blog and website list is a good place to start. Beyond that, you’ll also want to find the most helpful and inspirational fundraising and nonprofit management books. That’s where The Nonprofit Bookstore (powered by Amazon) can help.

February 23, 2016

6 Great #Fundraising Tips from a 6-Year-Old Boy

Calgary’s Haylen Astalos has never attended a fundraising conference. He has never participated in a webinar to learn about the latest fundraising techniques. He does not have a college degree in philanthropy, nonprofit management, or fundraising.

Nevertheless, now at six-years-old, Astalos has figured out what it takes to successfully raise money.Hot Chocolate by Alyson Hurt via Flickr

When he was just five-years-old, Astalos decided to take C$100 of his birthday money into the local Ronald McDonald House, according to a report in The Calgary Sun. He also made a commitment to continue supporting the charity. His mom says Haylen chose to support the Ronald McDonald House because “it helps helps sick kids.”

To raise more money, Astalos opened an ice-cream stand. With winter, he began selling hot chocolate. As he achieved each goal he set for himself, Astalos set a new goal. So far, he’s raised thousands of dollars for his favorite charity.

So, what can you learn from little Haylen Astalos? Here are six great tips:

1. Go with your passion. Astalos did not raise money for just any charity, nor did he let his parents pick a charity for him. Instead, he chose to support a nonprofit organization that was personally meaningful to him. His passion for the cause drives his activity and inspires others.

When looking for a fundraising position, be sure to factor passion into your decision. While you might have some success working simply as a hired mercenary, you’ll likely have greater success and experience greater personal fulfillment if you work for a cause you can be passionate about.

2. Be flexible. Astalos raised funds by selling ice cream in the summer. When the Alberta winter came, he changed products and began selling hot chocolate, something much more appropriate for the season.

In order to seize opportunities and maximize success, you need to be nimble and adaptable. While careful planning is certainly important, so is being flexible.

January 25, 2016

“It’s Like Déjà Vu All Over Again.”

Recent events in my life remind me of a famous quote from baseball Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra:

It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Since 2014, I’ve kept my readers informed about my battle with a very rare form of cancer, Appendiceal Carcinoma with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP). My last post on the subject shared the great news that I was in remission despite how advanced the disease was at the time of diagnosis.

Enter Yogi Berra.Yogi Berra Baseball Collection via Flickr

Well, the cancer has returned.

At some point, I’ll require another surgery to remove as much of the disease as possible. Meantime, my medical team has recommended chemotherapy in the hope that it will beat back the cancer and delay the day when surgery will be necessary, by months or even years.

After four rounds of chemo, my two blood cancer markers are on the decline. The chemo is working! So, I will continue with chemo treatments for as long as they are effective.

I’m sharing my news with you for a number of reasons:

  1. Because I’ve been open about my health situation from the beginning, I’ve had a number of readers contact me for an update. So, I felt it appropriate to share my latest news with all of my readers.
  2. Others who also have PMP have contacted me after reading my posts, and as they begin their own fight against this rare disease. I’ve been willing to serve as a resource for these people, and I’m committed to continuing to be a resource because PMP is so rare and finding good information is challenging.
  3. Sharing my story gives me an opportunity to encourage you to be your own healthcare advocate. If you have a doctor who is only interested in treating symptoms rather than looking for and treating underlying causes, fire him or her. Work with doctors who will look for causes. It could save your life.
  4. I want to explain how my health situation affects my work life. Because I cannot predict what condition I’ll be in on a specific date months ahead, I am not accepting conference speaking invitations for 2016. While I’m disappointed to be off of the speaking circuit, the upside is that this will free me up to present more webinars, write more (including a new book), and serve more clients.

While cancer has re-entered my life, I’ve got too much to do to give in to it. So, I’m not. My journey is not an easy one. However, it is one that I am managing.

My work-life focus, throughout my ups and downs, will remain on helping charities raise more money through ethical donor-centered fundraising. I will do this through my work with clients, through teaching opportunities, through media interviews, and through my blog.

Here are some things you can consider doing for me, if the spirit moves you:

January 8, 2016

The Nonprofit Sector Wins a Battle with the IRS!

The US Internal Revenue Service delivered some good news to start the new year. The IRS has withdrawn its controversial proposed regulation that would have encouraged charities to acquire, record, and report the Social Security numbers of all donors who give $250 or more in any given calendar year.

High Five by Allie Kenny via FlickrIn a post (“Warning: The IRS Wants You to Do Something Dangerous”) last month, I outlined some of my problems with the IRS proposal, and joined with others to call on individuals and organizations to share their comments with the IRS.

Nearly 38,000 official comments opposing the proposal were submitted to the IRS, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Interestingly, both charities and charity regulators expressed serious concerns about the proposal.

In the notice of withdraw, Karen Schiller, IRS Acting Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement, wrote:

Many of these public comments questioned the need for donee reporting, and many comments expressed significant concerns about donee organizations collecting and maintaining taxpayer identification numbers [including Social Security numbers] …. Accordingly, the notice of proposed rulemaking is being withdrawn.”

The news from the IRS is certainly good. On the surface, it’s great that the agency has withdrawn a potentially dangerous proposed regulation that could have led to identity theft, decreased philanthropy, and other problems. But, there is more good news in this story.

December 21, 2015

Breaking News: Charitable Giving Incentives Made Permanent!

The US Congress has approved and President Barack Obama has signed the so-called Tax Extenders package that not only includes a number of charitable giving incentives, such as the IRA Charitable Rollover, it has made those incentives permanent.

An article in Forbes, prior to passage of the legislation, nicely outlines the measure’s major provisions including the key charitable giving incentives:

  • deduction allowed for charitable contribution of real property for conservation purposes,
  • taxpayers over age 70 1/2 may make donations directly from an IRA and will not be taxed on the amounts (up to $100,000),
  • a shareholder in an S corporation will be required to reduce his basis in the S corporation’s stock under Section 1366 only for his share of the basis of property contributed by the S corporation; not the fair market value.

This is a tremendous moment for the nonprofit sector. Not only have these important giving incentives been renewed, they have been made permanent!

We all owe thanks to the staff and volunteers of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, particularly General Counsel Jason Lee. AFP has taken the lead in fighting to get these giving incentives and making them permanent.

Santorum and MJR

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Michael J. Rosen on Capitol Hill.

For more than a decade, I’ve worked with my AFP colleagues, first as a member of the US Government Relations Committee, then founding Board Member of the AFP Political Action Committee, and then as Board Chairman of the AFP PAC.

Our efforts date back to assisting with the drafting of the CARE Act with then-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA). The bill was co-sponsored by then-Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT). Despite the bipartisan effort, the CARE Act failed to pass. However, certain charitable giving incentives that were part of the CARE Act were adopted, on a year-to-year basis, including the IRA Charitable Rollover. It took a decade but, finally, the incentives are now permanent!

I’m proud to have been able to play a significant role on this issue. I’ve enjoyed working with other passionate volunteers and staff.

We also need to take this opportunity to thank The Charitable Giving Coalition and its member organizations along with every individual who has worked for this legislation.

Let’s take a much deserved victory lap! Let’s do an end-zone dance! Let’s toast this achievement! Then, let’s get back to work. There’s much to be done to promote the giving incentives.

To help you promote the IRA Charitable Rollover, The Council on Foundations has put together an excellent free, downloadable toolkit that includes:

  • Talking points, a fact sheet, and web content;
  • An event presentation;
  • Tools that explain which available options might best serve donors;
  • Donor and professional advisor advertisements.

You can download the Council’s “Charitable IRA Worksheet” for donors by clicking here. You can find the full toolkit by clicking here.

December 16, 2015

Is There Just One Correct Way to Engage in #Philanthropy?

Peter Singer, a philosophy professor at Princeton University, seems to think there is just one correct way to engage in philanthropy. Not surprisingly, it’s his way, which he calls “Effective Altruism.”

While I agree with some of the elements of Effective Altruism, there are a number of points with which I disagree. Recently, both Singer and I had a chance to air some of our views on the national PBS program Religion and Ethics Newsweekly:

At the risk of providing you with a simplistic overview of Effective Altruism, here are some of its key elements and my concerns with them:

Donors should not make emotional decisions about philanthropy. They should devote serious thought and analysis when making giving decisions.

I agree that donors should make informed decisions, examine the efficiency and track record of charities, and understand how their gifts will be used. If more donors spent more time researching the charities they give to, there would likely be fewer fraudulent charities.

However, while donors should engage in more thoughtful, analytical giving — and many do — we should not ignore basic human nature and the findings of neuroscience research. It’s unreasonable to suggest philanthropic giving should be a solely intellectual exercise. The fact is that emotions are involved in almost every decision we humans make. This means, we need to give with both our heads and our hearts.

Individuals should seek to earn as much money as they can so they can donate more money than they otherwise could.

On the surface, this seems like a reasonable, worthwhile suggestion. However, in practice, this could create cultural and economic problems. For example, if everyone followed this advice, it could lead many charities to become understaffed, staffed with incompetent people, or having to take funds away from mission fulfillment in order to pay competitively much higher salaries.

Our society doesn’t just need lawyers and Wall Street traders, we need a diverse labor force, and we need people who will actually do good in addition to funding good.

Getting people to donate more does not just involve getting them to earn more. On average, Americans donate approximately two percent of personal income to charities. Without earning more, donors could certainly give more than the two percent average without having to make a serious sacrifice. The key is to inspire donors to want to do so. That’s where we get back to appealing to both hearts and minds.

Donors should give where it will do the most good.

Everyone who donates or volunteers their time wants to support effective organizations. But, how does Singer define “Effective”? It turns out he doesn’t just mean efficient and impactful. For Singer, effective is essentially synonymous with life-saving. Singer demonstrates this at The Life You Can Save, a website he founded, where all of the recommended charities focus on saving lives.

While saving lives is certainly noble, Singer doesn’t simply advocate for such charities. He ridicules donors who support charities that are not engaged in life-saving activities. Among his favorite targets are donors to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. He implies that people who donate to Make-a-Wish are guilty of murder since they do not, instead, give to a charity that buys mosquito nets to prevent malaria. You can read my analysis of a Singer anti-Make-a-Wish column here.

Actually, Singer himself is not always in favor of saving lives. For example, he has supported infanticide, what he calls “after-birth abortion.” Under certain circumstances, defined by Singer, he believes it is perfectly acceptable to murder babies. In Practical Ethics, he wrote:

December 11, 2015

Warning: The IRS Wants You to Do Something Dangerous

The US Internal Revenue Service wants you to do something foolish.

The IRS has proposed that charities acquire, record, and report the Social Security numbers of all donors who give $250 or more in any given calendar year. The IRS justifies the proposal by stating that “the collection of information is necessary to properly substantiate charitable contribution deductions under the exception to the general requirements for substantiating charitable contribution deductions of $250 or more.”

IRS logoHowever, the proposed regulation is particularly stupid because it is completely unnecessary while being dangerous — to nonprofits and their donors — and costly to implement properly.

You can read the proposed regulation by clicking here. In addition, the website will allow you to share your comments with the IRS by December 16, 2015.

If adopted, compliance with the regulation would be voluntary, for now. Nevertheless, there are several reasons you should be very wary, including:

Voluntary Compliance Could be Made a Requirement.

If the IRS truly believes the measure is necessary, why wouldn’t it seek to change voluntary compliance to a requirement? The collection of Social Security numbers from donors is either essential or not. The IRS can’t have it both ways. Therefore, there is a strong possibility that the IRS is cynically hoping to gain acceptance for the proposal in stages, first seeking voluntary compliance before making it a requirement.

“Any proposed regulations that would create this has the potential for being a slippery slope,” David Heinen, spokesman for the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits, told Fox News.

The IRS Lacks the Capacity to Safeguard Data.

“Number one, the IRS has not demonstrated its capacity to hold this type of information from confidentiality and a security point of view,” US Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, told Fox News.

Mark Fitzgibbons, President of Corporate Affairs at American Target Advertising, echoed Roskam’s concerns when he told Fox News, “The IRS can’t keep its information confidential, they’ve been hacked.” ATA offers direct-response fundraising services.

There are two major security problems with providing the IRS with donor Social Security numbers: 1) The very real risk that the data would not be safe in the hands of the IRS, and 2) the public’s perception that the data would be at risk at the IRS.

Most Charities Lack the Ability to Safeguard Data.

The data security concern also applies to charities themselves. Few nonprofit organizations are capable of truly protecting donor data. Giving hackers and nefarious insiders easy access to donor Social Security numbers and other information puts donors at significant risk of identity theft. To mitigate that risk would cost charities an enormous amount of money.

“Charities are not well equipped to deal with this,” Roskam said. “We’ve had for-profit companies — some of the biggest companies in the world — that have spent millions and millions and millions of dollars trying to protect their confidential data. And it’s been hacked, and it’s been breached.”

December 8, 2015

Special Report: You Read about It Here First

[Publisher’s Note: “Special Reports” are posted from time-to-time as a benefit for subscribers and frequent visitors to this blog. “Special Reports” are not widely promoted. To be notified of all new posts, including “Special Reports,” please take a moment to subscribe in the right-hand column. New subscribers will also receive a free e-book from researcher Dr. Russell James.]

 

At Michael Rosen Says…, I strive to introduce you to exceptional people with something valuable to offer fundraising professionals and nonprofit managers. I also endeavor to share useful tips and provocative opinions with you. From time-to-time, other media outlets take notice. Here are two recent examples:

Isabelle Clérié, Country Director, EGI in Haiti

I introduced you to Isabelle Clérié, a young fundraising professional. At the time, Isabelle was working in the U.S. She has since returned to her native Haiti where she is now Country Director for EGI, an NGO working to combat poverty by assisting and training emerging entrepreneurs.

Isabelle Clérié, Country Director, EGI in Haiti

Isabelle Clérié, Country Director, EGI in Haiti

Isabelle wrote a guest blog post which I published nearly four years ago: “Haiti: A Young Professional’s Compelling Lessons for All Nonprofits.”

The post focused on relief efforts following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. In addition to providing some interesting insights into the relief efforts, Isabelle shares some valuable tips that can make any charity more effective.

Now, Forbes has discovered Isabelle and has highlighted her work in Haiti in a recent report: “Three Social Entrepreneurs Driving Growth And Change In Haiti.”

I congratulate Isabelle on the much-deserved public recognition she has received, and I applaud EGI for making a difference in Haiti.

I encourage you to read Isabelle’s post and the article in Forbes.

#GivingTuesday

My regular readers know that while I like the idea of #GivingTuesday, I have not been impressed with the results. In fact, I actually have some serious concerns about the occasion.

Recently, The Chronicle of Philanthropy interviewed me for the article “Giving Tuesday? More Like Gimmick Tuesday, Some Small Nonprofits Say.” This gave me the opportunity to once again share my thoughts on the subject. You can download the article and read what I had to say.

December 4, 2015

What Can a Steakhouse Teach You about #Fundraising?

Not long ago, I visited The Capital Grille where the chef served more than perfectly prepared steaks. At the end of the meal, he also served up a valuable fundraising lesson, albeit unwittingly.

Capital Grille TY NoteLast week, in America, we celebrated Thanksgiving. This week, we marked #GivingTuesday. Inspired by both of those occasions, I’m going to share my Capital Grille experience with you.

At the end of a wonderful meal, some uneaten steak remained on my plate. There was no way I was going to let the succulent meat go to waste when I could use it to make a perfectly delicious sandwich the next day.

So, I asked our waiter to please wrap it to go.

I didn’t give the matter any further thought as I waited for the package to arrive from the kitchen. Up until this point, everything was pretty much routine.

However, when my to-go package of leftover steak arrived in a nice paper bag, I couldn’t help but notice a note tied to the bag’s handle. The note, hand signed by the chef, read:

We are glad you enjoyed your meal enough to take some home with you. Thank you for dining with us, we appreciate your business.”

I’m more than a half-century old. I dine out quite a bit. In my life, I’ve taken leftovers home on many occasions. However, this was the first time that my leftover package came with a hand-signed thank-you note!

Here are five takeaways for you:

November 24, 2015

What are Your Favorite LinkedIn Discussion Groups?

John Heywood, the 16th century English writer, once stated:

Many hands make light work.”

While Heywood might not have been the one to coin the phrase, he certainly helped preserve and popularize it. It’s a nice bit of common sense that we all need to be reminded of periodically.

For example, we can’t know everything. We can’t research an answer to every question by ourselves. We can’t read all of the professional publications to determine which items are of greatest importance or value.Spiral of Hands by lostintheredwoods via Flickr

That’s where LinkedIn Discussion Groups can help. By being part of a network of nonprofit managers and fundraising professionals, we can rely on the assistance of colleagues. In turn, we can also be of help.

Through LinkedIn, I’ve developed my professional relationships, broadened my professional network,  made new friends, accessed valuable information I never would have on my own, had some of my questions answered, and much more. I’ve engaged in provocative conversations. I’ve learned a great deal. I’ve been inspired.

While I belong to 45 professional LinkedIn Groups that are excellent, there are only some I engage with regularly. Here are just ten of my favorites:

[Note: You might need to be logged into your LinkedIn account for the above links to work. Even then, if you have any problems with the links, you can simply search on the Group names I’ve listed.]

Now, let me tell you about my absolute favorite Group.

Just days ago, I have created a new LinkedIn Discussion Group:

Blog Posts for Fundraising Pros & Nonprofit Managers

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