Archive for ‘Current Events’

January 13, 2017

The Best #Fundraising Blogs You Should be Reading

Every year, new authors enter the blog-o-sphere. It’s a challenge to keep track of all of the blogs for nonprofit managers and fundraising professionals. It’s even more difficult to determine which blogs are worth dr-seuss-reading-quote-by-linda-jordan-via-flickrvisiting regularly.

If you’re like most folks working in the nonprofit sector, you don’t have a lot of spare time to devote to professional development. You must attend endless meetings, generate reports, cultivate prospects and donors, and raise even more money than you did last year. Ugh!

So, let me help you by sharing two new lists with links to some of the best blogs for you:

100+ Fundraising Blogs You Should Be Reading in 2017” by Kristen Hay, Marketing Coordinator at Bloomerang

50 Must-Read Fundraising Blogs You Should Be Reading” by Anuj Agarwal, Founder of Feedspot.com

As I read the lists, two things struck me:

1.  There are a number of worthwhile blogs with which I was previously unfamiliar. I make an ongoing effort to keep up with the wealth of material in the marketplace, but it’s a challenge. I’m grateful that Bloomerang and Feedspot have pointed me in the direction of blogs worth exploring.

2.  I discovered that my blog made it on to both lists. I’m honored to be included alongside many nonprofit professionals I have long respected. I thank you and all of my readers for inspiring me to blog and helping me receive the recognition I have been given over the years.

To find four great lists of blog sites from last year, along with other valuable resources, checkout my post: “You Don’t Want to Miss These Worthwhile Items from 2016.”

Reading great blogs delivers several benefits:

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January 3, 2017

New Year’s Resolutions Worth Making and Keeping

Every year, millions of people around the world make and break New Year’s resolutions. But, it doesn’t need to be that way.

The key to successfully making and keeping resolutions is to set goals worth achieving. This post contains four worthwhile resolutions, most of which I first referenced early in 2015, but they’re worth sharing again. I also provide some important new material including my special recipe for the best hot chocolate ever.

Instead of setting overly challenging goals, I encourage you to adopt the four following, easy-to-keep resolutions. While easy to adhere to, the following resolutions are nevertheless meaningful. You’ll notice that my resolutions include something that will benefit you, something that will benefit others, something that will benefit your organization, and something that will benefit everyone:

1. Resolve to indulge yourself. Yes, you need to take care of yourself by eating right, exercising, and getting an annual medical physical. However, you also need to let yourself be bad occasionally. You need to also take care of your psyche. If that means having a slice of chocolate cake, then go for it! If it means watching old television episodes of Gilligan’s Island, so be it. If it means having your spouse watch the kids so you can enjoy a leisurely bubble bath, make it happen. By being good to yourself, you’ll be better able to be good to other people.

happy-new-year-by-kacey97078-via-flickr2. Resolve to make sure those you love know you love and appreciate them. Don’t assume that those you love know it or know the extent to which you care about them. Tell them. Show them. Don’t just run for the door in the morning to rush off to work; instead, take the time to kiss your spouse good-bye. Don’t just nod when your child comes home with a good test score; instead, take the time to tell him how impressed you are. Make your partner a steaming cup of tea before she asks for it or goes to make it herself. In other words, make the most of the little moments.

3. Resolve to grow professionally. One of the hallmarks of being a professional is ongoing education and sharing knowledge. So, commit to attending seminars and conferences. If time or money are obstacles, participate in a webinar; there are some excellent free webinar programs available throughout the year. Or, read a nonprofit management or fundraising book. There are some terrific books at The Nonprofit Bookstore (powered by Amazon) that will inspire and help you achieve greater results. You’ll find Reader Recommended titles, the complete AFP-Wiley Development Series, and other worthwhile items. If you have found a particular book helpful, consider sharing a copy with a friend, colleague, or your favorite charity. By the way, a portion of the sale of books through The Nonprofit Bookstore will be donated to charity.

4. Resolve to consume more chocolate. I’m not joking. Chocolate can be good for you, provided it’s free of emulsifiers and contains at least 70 percent cacao. Chocolate contains a number of minerals and antioxidants. It also causes the brain to release endorphins, pleasure chemicals. Chocolate is also a mild painkiller. And it tastes good. Just be sure not to overdo it. To help you with this resolution, here’s my special recipe for hot chocolate:

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December 23, 2016

Was 2016 a Good Year for #CharitableGiving? Will 2017 be Better?

We’re rapidly approaching the close of what has been a tumultuous year. In 2016, the USA experienced an unusually bitter presidential campaign culminating in the unexpected election of Donald Trump. In the UK, voters chose to exit the European Union; the surprise Brexit vote sent shockwaves around the globe. The civil war in Syria continued to spin out of control resulting in a massive wave of refugees. Terrorism continued to be an international problem.

Uncertainty, fear, and stress are all words that one might use to describe the atmosphere in 2016 given much of the news. However, at least for fundraising professionals, there has also been much good news:

total-giving-as-a-percentage-of-gross-domestic• The third-quarter 2016 annualized Gross Domestic Product growth rate is 3.5 percent, according to the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. This is important because philanthropy closely correlates to GDP with overall giving being approximately two percent of GDP.

• Personal income has modestly increased in 2016, according to the BEA. Individual giving correlates to personal income at the rate of about two percent.

• The stock market has been achieving new record highs since the election with the Dow approaching 20,000. Increased stock values mean foundations will have more money to grant and individuals will have more appreciated securities they can donate.

• The price of crude oil is the lowest it’s been in more than a decade, according to Macrotrends. This means lower gasoline and heating oil prices for consumers thereby providing them with more disposable income.

• Third-quarter 2016 corporate profits were up, rising to the highest level since the first-quarter of 2015, according to Trading Economics and the US Bureau of Economics Analysis.

• The nonprofit sector saw #GivingTuesday philanthropic support worldwide grow at the rate of 44 percent, reports NonProfitPRO. While this might not reflect an increase in philanthropy, it does reveal the public’s philanthropic spirit at a time of year historically defined by commercialism.

• Blackbaud, which analyzes more than $18 billion in charitable giving, sees a 3.5 percent increase in donations in 2016 compared with 2015, reports MarketWatch. You can read my comments in the article as well as additional information from Blackbaud.

• Some progressive charities have seen dramatic increases in philanthropic support since the election, reports MarketWatch. It remains to be seen whether this represents an increase in philanthropy or merely a shift in giving priorities. In any case, it reveals that contributions are often driven by philanthropic passions.

• In a Harris Poll survey for CARE USA, 15 percent of respondents say they have or will increase their charitable giving in 2016. While I have a number of problems with the survey methodology, the results are nevertheless somewhat hopeful.

Taking all of the positive news together, we can expect to see that philanthropic giving has increased in 2016. To learn how much growth we have experienced, we’ll need to wait until all of the data has been compiled and analyzed. While I don’t expect a massive growth rate, I do expect good growth. Furthermore, I expect the good news to continue into 2017:

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December 9, 2016

#GivingTuesday Hits and Misses

I’m not a fan of #GivingTuesday. Don’t get me wrong, though. I do like the idea of it. Promoting philanthropy at a time of year that has become associated with extreme consumerism is a nice concept.

While I have no quarrel with the idea of #GivingTuesday, I do have several problems with the reality of it, including:

It does not inspire much philanthropy. During #GivingTuesday 2016, early reports show that charities raised $168 million … WORLDWIDE. Last year, nonprofit organizations raised $117 million. Assuming all of that money was given in the USA, which was not the case, it would have accounted for just 0.03 percent of overall philanthropy!

We do not know whether #GivingTuesday inspires new and increased giving. While people contributed on #GivingTuesday, we simply do not know whether they would have given those gifts anyway. We also do not know if #GivingTuesday simply shifts when people give.

Well-resourced charities may be siphoning support away from smaller nonprofits. With larger marketing budgets, staff sizes, and brand awareness, it’s entirely possible that big organizations benefit from #GivingTuesday at the expense of smaller ones.

#GivingTuesday growth appears to be slowing. NonprofitPro reports that this year’s growth rate is the lowest in the five-year history of the campaign.

While I recognize that some charities have benefitted from their #GivingTuesday campaigns, I still fail to see how it is a benefit to the nonprofit sector as a whole. (You can read my more detailed critiques of #GivingTuesday by entering that term in my blog’s search box to the right.)

Furthermore, I find that many individual charities do themselves more harm than good by rushing to embrace #GivingTuesday while failing to invest time and money to enhance the fundamental fundraising skills of staff.

Consider the #GivingTuesday appeal initiated by Inis Nua Theatre Company. This small theatre company in Philadelphia produces excellent contemporary, provocative plays from Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales.

Jessica Simkins, General Manager of Inis Nua, told me that the company normally does a year-end fundraising campaign. This year, staff chose to use #GivingTuesday to frame this year’s appeal. Rather than implementing an entirely new appeal for #GivingTuesday as many nonprofits have done, Inis Nua chose to leverage the hype around #GivingTuesday, such as it is, to see if it could boost its year-end fundraising campaign.

Despite my general feelings about #GivingTuesday, I actually like this application of the concept. I consider it a Hit. I also like that they included a challenge grant.

Unfortunately, the appeal letter itself is a big Miss. Here’s the direct mail appeal my wife received:

gt-inis-nua-mail-appeal

The major issue I have with the mailing is that it is very organizational-focused. The author uses the words I, my, our, ourselves, us, we a total of 30 times in a one-page letter. On the other hand, the writer uses the words audiences, donors, patrons, supporters, you and your only eight times.

The letter is a self-congratulatory missive from the Founder and Artistic Director. Donors are never given any credit for helping to make possible Inis Nua’s impressive accomplishments. There are other problems with the appeal, but the organization-centric approach is a giant problem. Piggy-backing on #GivingTuesday won’t offset Inis Nua’s neglect of fundraising fundamentals.

By contrast, my wife received a donor-centered email from Lantern Theater Company that also referenced #GivingTuesday. Lantern Theater is also a small nonprofit in Philadelphia that produces classic and modern plays. Unlike Inis Nua, Lantern’s mission statement actually mentions audiences, audience members, and community. You’ll see the audience/community focus represented in Lantern’s email appeal:

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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

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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?

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