Archive for ‘Fundraising’

February 12, 2016

Do You Really Know Your Donors? — Part 2

In a cautionary tale earlier this week — Part 1 of a two-part series — I looked at the missteps one nonprofit organization took by not taking the time to get to know one of its loyal donors. In Part 2, I now examine a horrible fundraising appeal from an organization that actually knows its potential donor quite well, though it failed to leverage that knowledge.

Stethoscope and Piggy Bank via 401(K) 2012 via FlickrI originally got the idea for this post from one of my readers who contacted me with a link to an interesting New York Times article: “A New Effort Has Doctors Turn Patients Into Donors.” My reader wanted to know what I thought of the emerging trend of having doctors actively contact their patients for fundraising purposes.

I delayed writing about this subject because I have mixed feelings about it. Then, in December, I received a year-end appeal from my surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Cancer Center. The letter helped crystallize my thinking.

First, let me share a bit of background. A recent study by Dr. Reshma Jagsi, a radiation oncologist and ethicist at the University of Michigan, was published recently in The Journal of Clinical Oncology. It was the first major examination of the role of physicians in fundraising.

The New York Times reported:

In an unprecedented survey of more than 400 oncologists at 40 leading cancer centers, nearly half said they had been taught to identify wealthy patients who might be prospective donors. A third had been asked to directly solicit donations — and half of them refused. Three percent had been promised payments if a patient donated.”

Involving doctors in the fundraising process raises a number of ethical concerns. Dr. Arthur L. Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, shared some of his concerns with the Times:

Patients may be emotionally vulnerable; doctors have very close ties to their patients, which can strain asking on both sides; and the fact that incentives to ask sometimes skew toward the doctor’s own program rather than the most needy areas of the hospital.”

Another issue is, how will giving or not giving affect the level of care, or perceived level of care, from the doctor? Will patients feel coerced to give?

While I see the enormous potential for ethical pitfalls, I also see the significant potential benefit of having doctors involved in the fundraising process. The issue is how and when they are involved as well as the quality of development training they will receive.

For example, if I’m half-naked in my doctor’s examination room, I certainly do not want to receive an ask for a contribution. If I’m drowning in hospital bills, I’m not going to be particularly receptive to a fundraising appeal. However, if a development staff member wants to have lunch with me and my doctor to discuss the physician’s latest research, I’m perfectly amenable to that.

There are right ways and wrong ways to involve doctors in the fundraising process.

UPMC DM Appeal

UPMC Cancer Center Direct-Mail Appeal.

That brings me to the letter I received from Dr. David Bartlett in December. Dr. Bartlett is a world-class oncologic surgeon and medical researcher. He is one of the leading experts dealing with Appendiceal Carcinoma with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP), a very rare form of cancer I am currently battling. (You can learn more about my fight by clicking here.)

Dr. Bartlett knows me very well. In addition to knowing me as a patient, he knows that I’m a professional fundraiser who shares his passion for finding a more effective treatment for PMP. The development staff also knows me. Prior to going for surgery two years ago, my wife and I reached out to and met with one of the development professionals for the UPMC Cancer Center.

Yet, despite their knowledge of me, they sent me a piece of garbage intended as an appeal letter. The direct-mail solicitation was definitely not the way to involve my doctor in the fundraising process.

Let me outline the ridiculous mistakes that the UPMC Cancer Center made:

February 10, 2016

Do You Really Know Your Donors? — Part 1

How well do you know your donors?

How well do you need to know your donors?

The first question is for you to answer. I’ll answer the second question:

You need to know your donors well enough to know how to effectively steward them in a way they will appreciate. You need to know them well enough to know to avoid doing something stupid that will alienate them. You need to know them well enough to engage them in meaningful ways.

Let me share a story that illustrates my point.

Smith PG Package 2My wife Lisa is a proud Smith College alumna. She has been a leader with the Smith College Club of Philadelphia. She has referred students to the College. She has donated to the annual fund and capital campaigns. She has volunteered as a Class Agent. Several years ago, she even included Smith in her will, becoming a member of the College’s Grécourt Society.

Over the years, Lisa has received mailings specifically for Grécourt Society members, including invitations to special member events. Recently, in advance of her landmark reunion, she received a fold-over postcard mailing that included an option to request a replacement Grécourt Society pin if she needed one. As it turns out, Lisa did need a replacement, so she happily responded.

So far, so good.

Then, Lisa received the package from the Smith College Office of Gift Planning. The package included the Grécourt Society pin, a surprise magnet, and a preprinted thank-you card that was hand-signed by Lisabeth.

Ouch! While trying to do something nice, Smith stumbled badly.

Here are the mistakes the College made:

February 5, 2016

It’s Not Too Late to Think about Year-End Giving

No, the headline does not contain a typo. It’s not too late to think about your 2015 year-end giving. It’s also not too early to begin planning for your 2016 year-end appeal strategy. Let me tell you why.

Only about one-third of tax filers itemize on their tax returns. Therefore, year-end giving for tax avoidance is simply not that important to the majority of donors. Furthermore, survey after survey indicates that tax avoidance is a very low motivating factor for most donors. So, why put a tremendous amount of energy and resources into doing a year-end fundraising campaign? Here are some of the rationales:

Herd Mentality. The fourth quarter of the calendar year is a busy time for charity appeals. The largest number of direct mail appeals is sent at that time. For phone fundraising, it is also the busiest time of year. So, since everyone else is doing it, fundraisers think they should be out there, too. #GivingTuesday helps perpetuate this mentality.

Heaping Pile of Mail by Charles Williams via FlickrIt’s the Right Time. For some charities, doing a year-end campaign around the holidays is appropriate given the mission and/or history of the organization. Consider The Salvation Army and its red-kettle campaign, or the Toy-for-Tots effort geared to providing holiday presents for children. For other organizations, donors are simply accustomed to seeing and responding to a year-end appeal.

Year-End is a Time of Giving. With Hanukah and Christmas falling at year-end, there is certainly a giving spirit leading into the end of the year. Charities hope to piggyback on that giving spirit.

Charities Simply Must Appeal at Year-End. This relates to the first two reasons above. Fundraisers think they have to do a year-end appeal because it’s the thing to do or because the organization has always done one. Without giving it much thought, fundraisers conclude that a year-end appeal is simply something that is best practice.

Despite the conventional wisdom, doing a year-end appeal might actually short-change your organization. There might be a more effective way for you to raise money.

I’ve worked with charities that have tested a year-end appeal against a beginning-of-the-year campaign. Many of these charities found they could raise far more money in January and February instead of at year-end.

Why did those charities raise more money at the beginning of the year rather than at the end of it?

Interestingly, the reasons can be found when taking a closer look at the reasons I’ve outlined for year-end giving:

January 15, 2016

3 Direct Mail & Email Lessons from the For-Profit World

The nonprofit and for-profit sectors can learn a great deal from each other. For example, there are three powerful insights from the for-profit sector about direct mail and email marketing that fundraising professionals can certainly benefit from.

In a never-ending search for the latest, greatest tactics and ways to cut costs, the nonprofit sector has embraced email fundraising while frequently questioning whether direct mail is dead.

So, what can the for-profit sector teach us?

Lesson 1: Direct Mail is Alive and Well

For both customer acquisition and retention, the for-profit sector knows that direct mail still works. That’s probably because 73 percent of consumers prefer direct mail, according to Epsilon. Furthermore, Interquest Digital Direct Mail Printing reports that direct mail delivers 30 times the response rate of email.

Direct Mail v Email InfographicWhile the numbers will be somewhat different for the nonprofit sector, or for particular organizations, the reality is that consumers (also our donors) like direct mail. That’s why they respond to it. While direct mail is not as effective as it was several decades ago, it remains a powerful fundraising tool.

Now, I’m talking about high-quality, well-crafted direct mail, not something you just throw together. I’m talking about direct mail that is donor centered and touches the prospect’s emotions. I guarantee you that bad direct mail will produce poor results. However, a good direct mail appeal will still achieve meaningful results.

Lesson 2: Direct Mail and Email Work Better Together

It’s not just chocolate and peanut butter that go together. The marketing agency Merkle has shown, in a study for one of its pharmaceutical clients, that email can produce a greater response than direct mail. However, when direct mail and email were used together in a multi-channel marketing campaign, the result was a 118 percent lift over direct mail alone.

For a wealth management client, Merkle found that it could generate a call response that was 1.5 to 3.8 times greater when using email and direct mail together rather than direct mail alone.

Direct Mail and Email 2Sometimes, nonprofit organizations think of their fundraising efforts in silos. “Let’s plan our direct mail appeal. If people don’t respond, we can call them later to renew. But, we’ll need to make sure the timing doesn’t interfere with our email appeal.” Sometimes, I’ll see charities that will exclude people from the direct mail pool who are in the email pool; it’s often seen as a cost-saving tactic.

The reality is that multi-channel, coordinated marketing (and, yes, fundraising) works. Some people are more direct mail responsive (whether or not you have their email address in your system). Other folks are more email responsive. Some individuals need to hear from you a couple of times before you capture their attention. For all of these reasons, multi-channel fundraising could help you get better results. By the way, it’s not just a matter of coordinating direct mail and email. You can also coordinate direct mail and the telephone, email and advertising, etc.

Lesson 3: Test!

January 12, 2016

Here are Some Items You Do Not Want to Miss

If you’re at all like me, 2015 was a busy year for you. 2016 is likely to be more of the same. We work to meet workplace goals. We strive to properly balance our professional and personal lives. And we endeavor to broaden our professional knowledge. Unfortunately, with all of the demands placed on us and with the wealth of material available in the marketplace, it’s easy to overlook useful and interesting information.

So, I thought I’d share some highlights from 2015 with you and give you a chance to pick up some information you might have missed and that you may find interesting and/or helpful.

Here is a list of my top ten most read posts during the past year:

  1. Can a Nonprofit Return a Donor’s Gift?
  2. Can You Spot a Child Molester? Discover the Warning Signs
  3. Special Report: Top 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants IdentifiedTop 10 by Sam Churchill via Flickr
  4. The Greatest Idea for Retaining and Upgrading Donors
  5. 5 Things Never to Do in Your Phone Fundraising Calls
  6. 3 Mistakes You Make When You Meet Prospects
  7. Where Should You Avoid Meeting with Prospects and Donors?
  8. Breaking News: Big Planned Giving Myth Busted!
  9. 5 Fundraising Tips Inspired by Taylor Swift
  10. Discover 5 of the Latest Trends Affecting Your Fundraising

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

In addition to sharing my thoughts right here on my blog, 2015 also gave me the opportunity to talk about philanthropy with the mainstream media. For example, I appeared on the PBS television program “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly” to discuss the Effective Altruism philosophy. You can see the video and read my additional comments in my post:

Is There Just One Correct Way to Engage in Philanthropy?

My comments about Effective Altruism were also picked up by several Gannett newspapers including USA Today:

Expert Sparks Heated Debate Over What’s a “Worthy” Charity

I also had fun as Steven Shattuck’s guest on Bloomerang TV. Steven and I had a lively discussion about simple, effective ways to cultivate donors and raise more money. You can read about this and see the video by going to this post:

Easy Ways to Cultivate Your Donors and Raise More Money

In 2015, I was honored to be included on three lists of must-read fundraising and nonprofit management blog sites. In case you missed the announcements, and to help you find other valuable resources, here are the relevant posts:

There’s something else you might have missed. I shared a list of some of my favorite LinkedIn Discussion Groups:

What are Your Favorite LinkedIn Discussion Groups?

In addition to my listing of favorite LinkedIn Discussion Groups, I also announced that I created a new Group: Blog Posts for Fundraising Pros & Nonprofit Managers.

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.

January 5, 2016

What Helpful Books Have You Read Lately?

Many of us in the nonprofit world read books to discover fresh ways to generate improved results or to find inspiration. But, with so many nonprofit management and fundraising books in the marketplace, how can you find those that will be worth your time to read?

Click for Donor-Centered Planned Gift MarketingI have a solution for you.

You can visit The Nonprofit Bookstore (powered by Amazon). I created this site to help you find books that will get results and inspire. You can search for specific titles or browse the books listed in various categories, including “Readers Recommend” and “AFP-Wiley Development Series.”

When you buy books through The Nonprofit Bookstore, you’ll get Amazon’s great pricing and, without any cost to you, a portion of your purchase will be donated to charity.

You can help make this resource more meaningful by recommending any books you’ve read recently that you have found particularly helpful. You can make your recommendations in the comment section below by providing the book title and author name for any volume you think will be of value to nonprofit managers and fundraising professionals. The book(s) you recommend can be either a classic or a new title.

The objective here is to build a list of worthwhile books we should all consider adding to our 2016 reading lists.

By recommending a book here, you’ll get two benefits:

  1. You’ll have the pleasure of helping your nonprofit brothers and sisters find worthwhile reading material that can help them and their organizations.
  2. You’ll have the satisfaction of having your selected book(s) listed in the “Readers Recommend” section at The Nonprofit Bookstore where it can help even more people.

So, what useful, informative, inspirational book(s) do you think folks should add to their 2016 reading lists?

I’ll close by offering you a free e-book from philanthropy researcher Dr. Russell James that normally retails for $9.99:

December 29, 2015

Avoid Burnout in 2016 with 3 Powerful, Simple Tips

The employee turnover rate at nonprofit organizations is shamefully high. A number of factors contribute to this, including burnout. While you cannot control all of the contributing factors, you can certainly manage some of them.

With that in mind, here are three powerful, yet simple, tips to help you avoid burnout in 2016:

Tip 1: Step back. Look at your organization in action.

As fundraising professionals, we spend a great deal of time focusing on tactics and numbers. There are good reasons for that. Effective tactics are essential for achieving fundraising success. Keeping careful track of the numbers helps us to know which tactics work best and indicates whether we’re on track to achieve our goals.

Binoculars by gerlos via FlickrUnfortunately, if we overly focus on tactics and numbers, we can lose sight of what really matters. Remember, it’s not just about the money you are able to raise; it’s about what that money can accomplish.

To help avoid burnout, make sure to take the time to plug back into your organization’s mission. Remind yourself of the good you are helping your organization to achieve by helping it secure essential resources.

If you work for a university, take a walk through campus and stop to have some conversations with students. If you work for a hospital, visit the maternity ward. If you work for a homeless shelter, spend some time in the kitchen preparing meals and then have a meal with some of the recipients. If you work for a theater, attend a performance, meet some of the performers, and talk to some members of the audience.

It’s important to keep in mind that you’re not just raising money. You’re helping your organization achieve its worthy mission.

Tip 2: Talk to your donors.

A great way to re-energize yourself is to talk with your organization’s donors. I don’t mean just talk to donors about their next gift. Instead, contact donors to thank them personally and learn why they support your organization. Their passion will likely inspire you.

Not only will you benefit from talking with donors, your organization will benefit as well. First, your organization will be less likely to have a staff member (you) burnout. Second, donors will be happy to hear from you and, as a result of the call, will be more likely to continue giving to your organization and more likely to give more.

For more about this, read my post: “The Greatest Idea for Retaining and Upgrading Donors.”

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 18, 2015

Are Bonuses a Good Idea for #Fundraising Professionals?

Twenty-two percent of American workers surveyed say they expect a holiday bonus, according to a recent report from Bizrate.com. While the report did not breakout the results, I believe that holiday and performance bonuses are I Love Work by elycefeliz via Flickrfar more common in the for-profit sector than in the nonprofit arena. However, should that be the case?

More specifically, should fundraising professionals receive bonuses?

Bonuses for fundraising professionals are not illegal. They’re not even unethical, if the charity adheres to certain guidelines. While the Association of Fundraising Professionals Code of Ethical Standards prohibits fundraisers from accepting compensation based on a percentage of funds raised (Standard 21), fundraising professionals are “permitted to accept performance-based compensation, such as bonuses” (Standard 22). However, bonuses must be “in accord with prevailing practices within the members’ own organizations and [cannot be] based on a percentage of contributions.”

Here are some potential advantages of offering bonuses:

  • Attract fundraisers that are more talented.
  • Retain the most talented fundraising staff members.
  • Reduce the risk when hiring new fundraisers.
  • Inspire fundraisers to give their all toward achieving goals.

Some of the potential problems with offering bonuses include:

  • Donors might be concerned about how their gifts are being spent.
  • Organizations would be less able to predict labor costs.
  • Fundraisers might focus too much on the specific goals related to the bonus while letting other responsibilities slip.

Now, I need to hear from you.

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