Archive for ‘Current Events’

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:

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.

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:

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”?

May 18, 2016

New Donor Advised Fund Legislation Introduced in Congress

Late last year, the Federal Government made the IRA Charitable Rollover permanent. Now, just months later, Congress is considering a bill that would expand the IRA Rollover provision. If passed, the measure would allow donors to contribute IRA dollars to a Donor Advised Fund in addition to 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations.

Arc of Washington by Eric B Walker via FlickrIn the US Senate, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) introduced S-2750, Charities Helping Americans Regularly Throughout the Year Act. In the US House of Representatives, Rep. George Holding (R-NC) introduced a companion bill: HR-4907, The Grow Philanthropy Act of 2016.

(Just as an aside, I have to ask: Who came up with these bill names? I’m not sure if they suffered from too much creativity or not enough. In any case…)

The Senate bill has been assigned to the Finance Committee while the House bill has been sent to the Ways and Means Committee. At this point, it’s unclear whether either bill will receive a floor vote. And, if a vote is held, it’s uncertain whether the measure would pass. You can track the progress of the bills at

Even if the bills do not pass this year, it’s doubtful the matter will be dropped. Remember, it took many years before the existing IRA Charitable Rollover became permanent. So, unless the new measure passes this year, I think we can expect the matter to come up again.

Some fundraising professionals believe that DAFs are good for the nonprofit sector because they encourage more giving. Others believe that DAFs are harmful because they divert funds away from operating nonprofit organizations. Still others believe that it doesn’t matter what we think about DAFs because they’re here to stay.

April 29, 2016

How Can Nana Murphy Make You a Better #Fundraising Professional?

[Publisher’s Note: This post is part of a series kindly contributed by guest authors who attended the 2016 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference. These posts share valuable insights from the Conference. This week, I thank Erica Waasdorp, President of A Direct Solution, for highlighting the seminar “From Ireland with Love: A Five-Year Case Study on Donor-Centric Fundraising for Retention, Revenue, and Results.”]


What does Nana Murphy have to do with great fundraising results?


Who is Nana Murphy?

Who is Nana Murphy?

So, who is Nana Murphy? Is she a successful fundraising professional? Is she a leading fundraising consultant? Is she a donor advisor? Is she a fundraising or nonprofit management professor? Is she a philanthropy researcher? Do you give up?

Nana Murphy is your typical donor.

You need to get to know your organization’s Nana Murphys. You need to understand why she supports your organization. You need to give her what she needs from your organization. In short, you need to be donor centered. But how?

The AFP International Fundraising Conference session “From Ireland with Love” not only stressed the need to be donor centric, the presenters shared dozens of practical tips to show you exactly how you can be more donor centered and, therefore, more successful.

The speakers know what they’re talking about; together, they increased the amount of money that one prominent Irish charity raised by 1100 percent in just five years!

Erica Waasdorp, President of A Direct Solution and author of Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant, attended the session and shares some of the tips she thinks you’ll find particularly valuable. At the end of the post, I provide links for you to download two free handouts from the session that are full of dozens of additional tips and real-world examples that you must checkout.

Here are the highlights Erica wants to share with you:


I attended “From Ireland with Love,” presented by Denisa Casement, CFRE, Head of Fundraising, Merchants Quay Ireland, Dublin;  Lisa Sargent, Lisa Sargent Communications, Safford Spring, CT; and Sandra Collette, S. Collette Design, Stafford Spring, CT.

Denisa is American, originally from Arizona, and she moved to Ireland in 2008. Boy, did she make an impact on this Irish homeless charity since then, taking the revenue from 250,000 Euros to 3 Million Euros just five years later.

For me, as a traditional “old school” direct-marketing fundraiser, this was a fabulous session!

It really honed in on those fundamentals we should all know and use in our fundraising every day. Especially now, where we all get so distracted by the next new electronic approach — the next new shiny thing as Tom Ahern calls it — let’s not forget that it’s not about us, it’s all about the donors.

So, the speakers presented a life size Nana Murphy, the typical average donor in your donor base. She still reads direct mail and writes checks. She needs reading glasses and she loves honesty, emotion and authenticity. So, the first thing you need to do when you think of how best to approach donors like her, is forgot about what you think and feel. Instead, consider Nana in everything you do, and you’ll be successful. I promise!

I don’t have space here to provide you with all of the tremendous practical tips and guidelines from the session (see the handout links at the end of this post), but here are 11 that stand out. If you follow these rules, you’ll absolutely be able to raise more money!

Know your metrics. So many fundraisers don’t know their own numbers: response rate, average gift, cost to raise a dollar, lifetime value, and retention rate, to name a few. Managing your fundraising program is considerably more difficult if you don’t know the key metrics.

Use the Casement Quotienttm. I love this. Denisa introduced the Quotient: Annual fundraising income divided by 52 weeks in a year divided by the number of hours in your work week. For example, in 2015, her fundraising team raised $1,627 per hour. So, if someone comes to you to ask you to do something, that’s not going to at least raise that amount of money, you probably shouldn’t be doing it! What a clever way to say no to the next “sit in a booth at a fair for a two day event and you’ll reach 100 people.” Consider finding some volunteers instead and divvy up the time. The Casement Quotienttm is a helpful tool when it comes to setting priorities.

Get rid of silos, both in how you organize your departments and your donors. It all works better if you and your colleagues know what’s going on. There’s no need to “hide” results or think that someone does not need to know about how your fundraising is doing. Remember, the objective is not for one person to do well; instead, the objective is for the organization to do well.

Mail enough! I still see so many organizations leave lots of money on the table. They simply do not ask for gifts often enough. As long as your next mailing generates more money than it costs, you can mail more. MQI mails four appeals a year and four newsletters. Absence does not make donors’ hearts grow fonder!

April 26, 2016

The World Loses a Passionate Advocate for #Philanthropy

The Philadelphia area has lost a passionate advocate for philanthropy.

R. Andrew Swinney, past President of The Philadelphia Foundation, passed away on Sunday, April 24. He had suffered with ALS for a year.

During his 16 years at the helm, the Foundation grew its asset base from $148 million to $370 million. In addition, the number of component charitable funds at the Foundation quadrupled.

R. Andrew Swinney

R. Andrew Swinney

As the head of a community foundation, Swinney was a strong advocate for collaboration. In 2014, he told

We need to have some form of collective approach — the rising of all boats…. We need the sectors to come together, and the community as a whole, to make a collective impact.”

In that spirit, Swinney and The Philadelphia Foundation worked closely with the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Philadelphia Chapter and the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Greater Philadelphia. For example, when I was President of PPPGP, Swinney agreed to sponsor a special program involving mega-philanthropist H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest. We designed the program to promote legacy giving to both the philanthropic and nonprofit communities. It was one of our best-attended events.

I enjoyed the opportunity to work with Swinney. And I was honored when Swinney endorsed my book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

Never has there been a better time to talk about planned giving. It is an effective tool for developing resources for an organization and it is a meaningful way to truly engage with one’s donors. This book provides a thorough roadmap for both the nonprofit that needs to start and the nonprofit that needs to expand their efforts in developing an effective, well-planned, and successful development effort using planned giving.”

While Swinney believed in the power of current giving, he also valued legacy giving because it allows donors to continue to do good long after they pass.

April 22, 2016

What Do These People Have in Common?

Can you guess what the following famous and not-so-famous people have in common?:

All of the above people are guilty of child sex abuse. Regardless of gender, level of fame, religion, title, and geography, they all abused boys and girls.

Cry Baby by wan mohd via FlickrSadly, in the US, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they reach their 18th birthday, according to the Centers for Disease Control! Like the perpetrators of this horrible crime, the victims come from all walks of life.

So, why am I telling you this on a blog dedicated to nonprofit management, marketing, and fundraising?

Let me explain.

I’m a former member of the board of directors of the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, so this month, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, is particularly meaningful to me. To mark the occasion every year, I devote one blog post that will help you protect your loved ones from the nightmare crime of child sex abuse. Fortunately, we can do something about this national tragedy.

First, we need to recognize that child sex abusers are difficult to spot. Warnings of “stranger-danger” are inadequate because over 90 percent of abusers are not strangers; they are someone in the child’s circle of trust. Abusers can be men or women, famous or not famous, leaders or average individuals, city dwellers or rural residents, Americans or non-Americans. To help you better understand and recognize child molesters, read my post: “Can You Spot a Child Molester? Discover the Warning Signs.”

April 15, 2016

Will #CharitableGiving Suffer Because of the Election?

[Publisher’s Note: This post is part of a series highlighting some of the sessions from the 2016 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference. This week, I focus on “Giving in an Election Year – How Political Giving Impacts Nonprofit Support” which was presented by Chuck Longfield, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist at Blackbaud, and Sally Ehrenfried, Blackbaud’s Community Relations Manager.]


Since the end of February 2016, the US Presidential candidates and their allied Super PACs have raised close to $1 billion. Some pundits believe that the candidates could spend up to $5 billion before the November General Election. And that’s just looking at the Presidential candidates. Candidates for other offices will also raise enormous sums of money.

The question for the nonprofit sector is this: Will charitable giving suffer because of the election this year?

Democratic Donkey and Republican Elephant by DonkeyHotey via FlickrBlackbaud researched the question and presented the findings of its report in the session “Giving in an Election Year – How Political Giving Impacts Nonprofit Support” at the 2016 AFP International Fundraising Conference.

The study examined the giving behavior of over 400,000 donors during the 2012 campaign year when Barack Obama and Mitt Romney battled for The White House. Researchers looked at giving data about those who did and did not contribute to political campaigns in 2012 and compared the information with charitable giving information from 2011.

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 report acknowledges that the data paints a picture of 2012 without providing a prediction for 2016. More research is needed. Nevertheless, based on the Blackbaud report and multi-decade data from Giving USA, it’s likely that political giving will not negatively affect the nonprofit sector this year.

In the Foreword to the report, Andrew Watt, President and CEO of AFP, wrote:

What we are looking at is the giving of individuals who prize [civic] engagement — who see community action as a positive and who are interested in the full political and social spectrum of how we go about achieving change.”

The report supports Watts’ point:

We would expect that nonprofits involved in missions and programs touched by prominent campaign issues would benefit from political discourse on those themes. We would also expect that nonprofits focused on public policy advocacy would benefit most. These expectations are fulfilled in the increased giving to Public and Society Benefit, and Environment sub-sectors.”

However, increased giving was not limited to those two sub-sectors. Most other sub-sectors also saw gains, though those gains were not as large. This is a positive sign for the nonprofit sector in general.

For 2016, the report offers five key recommendations for the nonprofit sector:

April 8, 2016

#Fundraising Moneyball: Track 3 Numbers that will Make You a Champ

[Publisher’s Note: This post is part of a series kindly contributed by guest authors who attended the 2016 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference. These posts share valuable insights from the Conference. This week, I thank Carrie Horton, Director of Content and Education at Kindful, for highlighting the seminar “Fundraising Moneyball: The Only Metrics that Matter in Digital Fundraising.”]


While freezing temperatures continue to chill many in the USA, the boys of summer have nevertheless returned for the start of the 2016 baseball season. What better way to mark the occasion than drawing a parallel between the baseball book and movie Moneyball and fundraising?

Okay, enjoying a hotdog and beer at a ballpark would be a better way to celebrate the start of the new baseball season. But, the second best way is to explore some of the highlights from Jeff Stanger’s session at the AFP International Fundraising Conference: “Fundraising Moneyball: The Only Metrics that Matter in Digital Fundraising.”

The book and movie Moneyball presented the true story of a revolutionary approach to baseball introduced by Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland A’s. With a lean budget, he relied heavily on statistics, rather than personalities, to build a winning baseball team.

The Moneyball lesson for your nonprofit organization is that by leveraging statistical data, you can build a winning development program.

So, what statistics should you track? What goals should you set?

Carrie Horton, Director of Content and Education at Kindful, has identified three key points from the seminar that you need to know. Kindful is a nonprofit CRM software that offers powerful online fundraising tools, intuitive donor management, and comprehensive reporting analytics in one centralized data hub. Here’s what Carrie found most valuable from Stanger’s presentation:


If you’re anything like us at Kindful, when you hear the word “moneyball,” you think of Michael Lewis’s bestselling book and Brad Pitt’s killer acting. But thanks to the AFP International Fundraising Conference and Jeff MoneyballStanger’s impeccable session, we’ve got a new definition. Stanger’s session – “Fundraising Moneyball: The Only Metrics that Matter in Digital Fundraising” – sets forth a simple and straightforward digital strategy for nonprofit fundraising success. According to this renowned speaker and fundraising consultant from Cause Geek, it’s not rocket science, it’s statistics.

Stanger showed us that a successful digital fundraising strategy isn’t about trending on Twitter or gaining the most “likes” on Facebook. Instead, he urges nonprofits to focus on small steps taken with the insight of data and metrics behind them. Sustainable growth, Stanger says, comes through clear and simple goals that are easy to measure, quick to show return, and effectively reveal what works and what doesn’t.

What are the three goals that Stanger suggests you focus on? Again, Stanger’s recommendations are straightforward:

  1. Increase the number of subscribers to email
  2. Increase the number of volunteers
  3. Increase the number of monthly givers

Seems simple enough, right? These aren’t principles that are overly complex or hard to define. They’re straightforward and easy to measure. Even smaller nonprofits with limited funds and limited resources can achieve great success through a series of small victories.

But, where do you start? Well, if Stanger’s argument is that these goals are important because they are measurable metrics, then it only makes sense to start with metrics as well. We might be a bit biased (being the donor management provider that we are), but Kindful thinks that clean data and insightful metrics are at the heart of every successful digital fundraising strategy. However, don’t take our word for it. Here’s a quick breakdown of Stanger’s three goals and how an integrated CRM can help make you a fundraising champ:

Goal #1: Increase the number of subscribers to email

In a world where 95 percent of consumers use email and 91 percent check it at least once a day, the importance of growing your email marketing and distribution list is a no-brainer. In fact, Stanger mentioned that 75 percent of social media users still say that they prefer email communication! Email addresses provide you with a direct link to your audience and, when used wisely, help you cultivate donors who will be invested in your organization for years to come.

Want to build your email distribution list?

Pull a report to find out how many email addresses you have in your donor database. Integrate with your email-marketing provider to pull in stats related to how many people open your emails and click through them. Use data to understand what’s working (and what isn’t) and refine your strategy to send better emails and increase engagement. In other words, make sure your emails deliver value to recipients.

Goal #2: Increase the number of volunteers

Did you know that nearly 80 percent of volunteers donate to charity, compared to only 40 percent of non-volunteers? (Visit for more information.) It makes sense – those who are the most engaged with your organization will be the most likely to give financial support as well. And it’s not just that volunteers are most likely to donate…they’re most likely to raise money for your organization as well! Especially with the rising popularity of crowdfunding platforms, volunteers who engage through peer-to-peer fundraising don’t just bring in more money, they expand your audience.

Furthermore, over time, many volunteers will choose to donate in significant ways including through planned giving.

Want to build your volunteer base?

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