Archive for ‘General Nonprofit’

September 27, 2016

Are You Doing Something Wrong Without Even Knowing It?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 22, 2016

Don’t Miss Out on the 8 Benefits of Engaging Donors

The following is an excerpt from my guest post that I’m honored to have published on the Bloomerang blog:

I think happiness is a combination of pleasure, engagement and meaningfulness.” — Dr. Ian K. Smith, celebrity physician

You will be a successful fundraising professional if you make giving fun and enjoyable for donors and engage them in ways they will find meaningful.

bullhorn-cartoon-header-bloomerangGallup, the international polling company, conducted a survey of over 17,000 American donors to better understand giving behaviors. One of Gallup’s key findings was that effective engagement leads to greater donor loyalty. Gallup’s Daniela Yu and Amy Adkins report:

“… [donors] keep going back to the causes that emotionally engage them.”

Sound engagement practices will lead to strong donor retention and increased levels of giving. For example, the simple act of engaging a donor by calling to thank her for her gift can have a profound impact. Penelope Burk in her book Donor Centered Fundraising reports that:

September 13, 2016

Is Social Media Hurting Your #Nonprofit Organization?

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

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

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

Here’s what went horribly wrong:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 7, 2016

Update: Should I Keep Naming Names?

The poll results are in!

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

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

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

Here is how readers responded:

September 2, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 31, 2016

Do You Want Some End-of-Summer Reading?

Think before you speak. Read before you think.” ― Fran Lebowitz

Lebowitz has provided some great advice. However, with so many options, what should you read? As the official end of summer draws near, I thought I’d provide some suggestions for you. In turn, I hope you’ll share your own recommendations.

Here are some suggested quick reads…my five most read blog posts so far this year:

  1. Stop Showering All of Your Donors with Love!
  2. Stop Making Stupid Email and Direct Mail Mistakes
  3. Do You Know that “Planned Giving” is Bad for Fundraising?
  4. Avoid a Big Mistake: Stop Asking for Bequest Gifts!
  5. Donors Say: Enough about You. Let’s Talk about Me!

To discover other blog sites you might want to visit, checkout the following best-of lists that I’ve been honored to be part of:

Click for Donor-Centered Planned Gift MarketingTo help bloggers and readers more easily connect, I created the LinkedIn Discussion Group “Blog Posts for Fundraising Pros & Nonprofit Managers.”  Bloggers can promote their latest posts and readers can easily find those that interest them most and engage in thoughtful conversation, all in one place. Join the Group to get updates about information you’ll find helpful. You can find the Group by clicking here.

To help you find books that will get results and inspire, I created The Nonprofit Bookstore (powered by Amazon). At the site, you’ll get Amazon’s great prices and service. You’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing that, at no cost to you, a portion of each purchase will be donated to charity. At The Nonprofit Bookstore, you can search for books or browse categories including “Readers Recommend.” Among the books you’ll find there is my own: Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. You can find all of the books your peers suggest by clicking here.

Now, it’s your turn.

August 26, 2016

Do You Know How to Take Criticism?

I received an extraordinary message recently.

With the permission of the author, I’m going to share her message with you. It’s a superb example of how to respond to criticism and turn it into an opportunity for positive engagement. It also raises an interesting issue that I want you to share your thoughts about.

Books by Aimee Rivers via FlickrEarlier this summer, my wife received an email appeal from Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum and Library. That email inspired me to write a blog post about fundraising by email (“Stop Making Stupid Email and Direct Mail Mistakes”). The post was admittedly harsh though constructive with eight useful tips for the Rosenbach and you.

While I alerted the Rosenbach to the post, I never heard back from staff, not that I had requested or expected a reply. That is until a few weeks ago when I received the following message from Sara Davis, the new Marketing Manager at the Rosenbach:

Dear Mr. Rosen:

I recently joined the Rosenbach staff as the manager of marketing, and I stumbled across this post while getting caught up on social media mentions from the summer. Criticism can be hard to hear, and I admit that I would prefer to have found it in my inbox rather than see the organization named in a public post, but your advice is constructive and I agree with many of your points. I will certainly pass these suggestions along to my colleagues; our future campaigns will no doubt benefit from your expertise. My thanks.”

Wow! I was impressed with Davis’ message. I thank her for allowing me to share it with you. Davis struck the right tone and managed to pack a lot into a brief communication. Here are some of the reasons her message works:

Respectful. Davis referred to me as Mr. Rosen, knowing and respecting my feelings on the subject of salutations, which I had addressed in my post. Davis and I did not know each other, so an informal form of address would have been presumptuous.

Introduction. Davis introduced herself to me, told me her title, and mentioned that she is new to the Rosenbach, hence the delay in contacting me. This established a personal connection while putting her message into context.

Honesty. Davis shared her honest feelings about seeing my post. But, she did so in a professional way, without whining, complaining, or being defensive. She did not take my criticism personally. She did not take offense or, at least, she did not show that she was offended.

Value. Davis acknowledged that my post offered constructive criticism. She went on to show that she valued the tips I provided in my post. She also mentioned that she would share my advice with her colleagues. By valuing my advice, she showed she values me.

Thank you. Davis then concluded her message by thanking me! How often do you thank people for having criticized you or your organization? I know that I don’t do it very often. However, by thanking me, Davis reveals an understanding that constructive feedback is an opportunity for us to improve. She also understands that when someone takes the time to passionately and constructively offer criticism, it’s probably because they care.

Engagement. By writing to me, Davis engaged me and opened the door for me to contact her directly. And that’s exactly what I did.

Because of my interaction with Davis, the positive feelings I once had for the Rosenbach were rekindled.

When choosing whether to respond to criticism and, if responding, how to respond, we would be well served by following Davis’ excellent example. Every interaction is an opportunity for cultivation.

Now, here is where you come in.

July 23, 2016

10 Ways To Be Happier Right Now

Do you want to be a better fundraising professional? If so, you need to work on being a happier person.

Sadly, 48 percent of Americans are not very happy.

It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to understand why. If you pick up a newspaper, tune into the television evening news, search the Internet for the latest current event stories, you’ll find plenty of reasons to not be very happy. You might not even need to look that far. Perhaps, you’re facing economic or health challenges at home, or an uninspiring job that doesn’t pay you what you deserve.

While many things are out of our control, there are nevertheless some steps we can take to enhance our level of happiness. By taking care of ourselves and by building our happiness, we’ll develop stronger relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and supporters of our organizations.

Your level of happiness affects all aspects of your life, personal and professional. That’s why I want to share some tips to help you be happier which will, in turn, lead you to better health and greater professional success. By being happier, you’ll be a more effective fundraising professional.

Think about it. Would you rather be around someone who is happy or unhappy? It’s not really a hard choice, is it?

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was naturally scared and miserable. After some serious contemplation, I realized that I could be sick and miserable or I could choose to be just sick. Being sick was bad enough. Why would I also want to be miserable, too?

My choice has made it easier for people to stay close to me and to help me when I need it as my fight continues. I’m also convinced that my positive attitude has profoundly benefitted my health; the science backs me up on this. While I certainly don’t like having cancer, I am continuing to enjoy life.

How to be Happy via Life Coach SpotterRecently, Rana Tarakji, of the Life Coach Spotter, sent me a terrific infographic with 10 practical, science-backed tips for helping us to enhance our happiness and, as a result, improve our well-being, relationships, and professional success:

1. Laugh. That’s right. Laugh more. It’s good for you. Laughter reduces physical pain, reduces heart attack risk, increases blood flow, boosts immunity, and enhances energy level.

2. Thank. Feeling and expressing gratitude boosts happiness. The old adage that encourages us to count our blessings and be grateful for what we have has validity. Researchers have demonstrated that expressing gratitude to others actually increases our own happiness.

For example, Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, the Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, asked study participants to write and deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness. Following the completion of the task, participants’ happiness scores increased significantly.

See. Not only is thanking a donor good for the donor and your organization, it’s good for you, too!

3. Love. When we send love out into the universe, love returns to us. Those who maintain strong, loving relationships are happier and healthier. Perhaps it’s because we all know the value of love that we often take it for granted. We need to be careful. Love takes work. We need to actively plan to spend quality time with those important to us.

4. Smile. The average person smiles only 20 times per day. By contrast, happy people smile 45 times a day. While happy people are more likely to smile, science has proven that smiling more will make you happier. Even fake smiles will release pleasure hormones that will make you happier. As the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh says:

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

5. Meditate. Meditation is not an activity reserved for New Age folks. Anyone can do it and derive benefit from it. There are large varieties of ways to mediate. Personally, I like Guided Imagery.

Meditation offers a number of proven benefits. When I was hospitalized, I found meditation calming. I also found, to my surprise, that it reduced my pain level. To be effective, meditation takes practice. However, over time, you will see the benefits for yourself. You can learn some simple meditation techniques by clicking here.

6. Relax. Years ago, I heard the great sales guru Tom Hopkins speak. He said that to be successful, we need to do the most important thing at any given moment. That does not mean turning yourself into a workaholic. Instead, it means that at times we certainly need to work hard. However, it also means that we need to recognize that, at other times, the most important thing to do is to relax and refresh ourselves. Life balance is essential for happiness.

June 30, 2016

It’s Time for You to Speak Up!

A jury recently convicted U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) of federal racketeering, bribery, and conspiracy, a total of 22 criminal charges. Days later, Fattah resigned his Congressional seat. The court will sentence him in October. He is likely to appeal.

The saga of yet another corrupt, unethical politician might not normally attract much attention from the nonprofit sector. However, this particular story should. And you should be outraged.

Among other things, prosecutors argued that Fattah used charities he created to funnel funds for his personal benefit:

  • Funds were stolen from a Fattah-founded charity to repay an illegal $1 million campaign loan.
  • Fattah created a fake charity that received federal funds that were then misappropriated.
  • Fattah-founded charities were used to launder stolen funds.
  • Fattah-controlled groups received federal grants, but tried to cover up what happened to that money when officials conducted financial audits.

Furthermore, a Daily News investigative report stated:

…nonprofits founded or supported by the Philadelphia congressman have paid out at least $5.8 million to his associates, including political operatives, ex-staffers and their relatives.”

Despite Fattah’s abuse of the public trust, his Democratic Party colleagues have been tepid in their reactions:

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D-PA) — “It’s a shame to have something like this happen.”

Hear No Evil... by MASK Productions via FlickrPhiladelphia Mayor Jim Kenney — “The jury spoke, and the criminal justice system went forward.”

Ed Rendell (former Philadelphia District Attorney, former Philadelphia Mayor, former Pennsylvania Governor, and former Chair of the DNC) — “We’re not all bad. We’re not all evil.”

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — “Heartbreaking.”

While the responses from the political sector have been weak, the nonprofit sector has been infuriatingly silent. Where is the Association of Fundraising Professionals? Where is the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations? Where is Charity Navigator? Where is The Chronicle of Philanthropy?

I was very frustrated by the deafening silence from the nonprofit community. Instead of a yawn or a shrug, we should be condemning Fattah’s abuse of the public trust and his misuse of nonprofit organizations because his misdeeds negatively impact the credibility of all nonprofit organizations. We should be demanding that the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General investigate Fattah and his charities. If appropriate, Fattah should be charged with violations of the state’s laws governing charities and the charities should be held to account.

Then, I realized something. I have a platform. Therefore:

June 17, 2016

The Top 5 Benefits of Blogging for Nonprofits

[Publisher’s Note: From time-to-time, I invite an expert, with valuable insights, to write a guest post. If you’d like to learn about how to be a guest blogger, click on the “Authors” tab above.]

 

Do you want to acquire and retain more donors? Do you want your existing donors to upgrade their support? Do want people to talk about your nonprofit organization?

If you do, then you need to do a more effective job of engaging people and giving them information they will value. And you need to meet them where they are: the Internet.

Last month, I published a post from Richard Santos, Founder of Fundlio, that encouraged nonprofit professionals to leverage Facebook to engage prospects and donors: “10 Reasons Your #Nonprofit Should be Using Facebook.”

Now, Andrew Wise, Founder of Wise Startup Blog, outlines five valuable benefits your organization can reap by maintaining a high-quality blog site. Wise Startup Blog provides actionable guides that teach anyone how to build, market, and monetize their blog.

Discover why it’s important for your organization to create or maintain a powerful blog:

 

The main goal of a nonprofit organization is to inspire people to take a stand and make a change. It is supposed to evoke emotion in people in such a way that they feel so inclined to support the organization and/or to go out and advocate a particular social cause or point of view.

The inherent struggle that nonprofits face is how they can get their information out into the public in order to elicit that strong reaction. It’s not that there is no one there who is willing to listen. It’s just the opposite, really. According to an article by the Harvard Business Review, over 10 million people dedicate themselves to nonprofit-work day in and day out.

Their hard work pays off, too. Americans alone make $373 billion in charitable contributions.

But, despite all of the good that is being done, there is still that inexplicable feeling of hesitation that wafts through the air whenever someone discusses a nonprofit. Although there are hundreds of thousands of completely valid nonprofit organizations in the United States alone, there are unfortunately for-profit companies that take advantage of the not-for-profit status in order to receive a tax exemption.

If you need an example, look no further than the National Football League who, up until 2014, was labeled a nonprofit organization. The organization, which earned around $327 million in 2013, is only one example of many companies that have hidden behind a nonprofit blanket in order to evade tax costs.

Furthermore, countless nonprofit organizations were created with the sole purpose of enriching their founders rather than fulfilling a charitable mission. Occasionally, we’ll hear from the mainstream media about these unscrupulous operators.

Because of all of this, legitimate nonprofit organizations have to work harder to prove that they are not only worthy of people’s time, dedication, and money, but that they are worthy of the nonprofit title.

The place in which most nonprofit organizations struggle is in their delivery of this information. It can be difficult to educate the public in such a way that informs them of your cause, entices them to donate, and keeps them interested enough that they simply need to learn more.

Here is where blogging comes in. (For a great guide for starting a blog, if you need a primer, click here.)

Social media use is on the rise, and the proof is found no further than the number of total users on the most popular social media sites out there right now.

With over 1.65 billion monthly users on Facebook, over 400 million users on Instagram, over 320 million users on Twitter, and over 100 million daily users on Snapchat, there is no denying that people look to social media on a daily — if not hourly — basis for their fill of information.

Blogging is no different. The benefits of starting a blog for your nonprofit organization far outweigh any cons you may be able to think up.

Here are some things to consider…

1. Your nonprofit blog can help you rank higher on search engines.

Blog 1

While looking at the top 10 nonprofit blogs out there right now, I noticed something particularly interesting. They all ranked high on Google. A first page Google search result is a highly coveted spot that every blogger out there wants to obtain, and nonprofit organizations are no different. You see, blogs tend to rate higher on page results than regular nonprofit organization websites for one reason and one reason only:

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