Archive for ‘General Nonprofit’

March 10, 2015

Want a FREE Book? How about 2 FREE Books?

From time to time, I come across truly special offers that I’m pleased to share with you.

Today, I want to give you the chance to get not one, but two, FREE books about planned giving written by Texas Tech University researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP:

Visual Planned Giving: An Introduction to the Law & Taxation of Charitable Gift Planning

Visual Planned GivingThis textbook is written specifically for fundraisers or financial advisors seeking to expand their knowledge about charitable gift planning. This introductory book addresses all of the major topics in planned giving law and taxation and features over 1,000 full-color illustrations and images that guide you through complex concepts in a visual and intuitive way. Distilled from his years of teaching Charitable Gift Planning at the undergraduate and graduate levels, James makes this topic accessible and enjoyable for the busy professional.

Here are some of the things you’ll learn:

• The secret to understanding planned giving

• A super simple introduction to taxes

• How to document charitable gifts

• Valuing charitable gifts of property

• Special techniques for donating retirement assets, private foundations and donor advised funds

• And much more!

The paperback version of this book retails for $187.98. However, you can get the electronic version for FREE thanks to my friends at MarketSmart, just click here.

American Charitable Bequest Demographics

This book provides an extensive review of the changing nature of American charitable estate planning from 1992-2012 and includes over 50 charts and graphs. James presents information in a simple, visual fashion with each page containing a graph or chart, comments on the importance of the information, and details about the methodology behind the data. Much of the information presented comes from a long-running, nationally-representative, longitudinal survey including information about the final estate distributions from over 10,000 survey respondents who have died during the study.

• Major sections include:

• National demographic trends

• Trends in charitable plans among those aged 55+

• Examination of matured plans of deceased respondents

• Timing of charitable plan changes

• And much more!

The electronic version of this book retails for $9.99. However, thanks to James, you can get it for FREE when you subscribe to this blog site in the right-hand column. You’ll receive an email confirmation of your subscription that will contain a link to the book. (I recognize that your privacy is important, so I assure you that your email address will never be sold.)

Now that I’ve saved you a bundle of money, I’d like to suggest some books you can purchase that will inspire and help you achieve greater results. When you make your purchase, usually at a discount, at The Nonprofit Bookstore (powered by Amazon), a portion of every sale will be donated to charity.

February 10, 2015

5 Fundraising Tips Inspired by Taylor Swift

It’s that time of year once again: It’s Grammy Awards time!

Okay, I really don’t care. However, it got me thinking about the sustained success of mega-star Taylor Swift, one of the 2015 nominees. Leading into this Grammy season, Swift has already earned 7 Grammy Awards, 12 Billboard Music Awards, 11 Country Music Association Awards, and 7 Academy of Country Music Awards, among others. She has sold over 30 million albums and 80 million digital single downloads.

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift

Despite the fact that Swift is a hugely successful music star, I’m not really a fan. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I dislike her music. It’s just that I’m not her target demographic. Nevertheless, I have enormous respect for her talent, work ethic, and philanthropic spirit.

A number of things have led to Swift’s success. We can model some of these behaviors to be even more effective fundraising professionals. Here are just five tips for you that are inspired by Taylor Swift:

1. Treat everyone well. Swift has a reputation for being nice. Unlike some stars, she doesn’t have to employ a public relations firm to try to convince the public she’s a good person. She genuinely is. The 25-year-old is a generous supporter of arts education, children’s literacy, the American Red Cross, and other charitable endeavors.

Swift is also a friendly neighbor. When neighbor and actress Hayden Panettiere needed to borrow a guitar, Swift loaned her one of her special instruments.

Swift is also good to service people, and does not take them for granted as so many other celebrities do. For example, during a tour stop in Philadelphia, she treated her entourage to a late-night, traditional southern Italian dinner at Ralph’s Restaurant. Swift tipped $500 on an $800 check, posed for photos with fans, and gave the chef a pair of tickets to the following night’s show so he could attend with his autistic 11-year-old son.

I’m sure Swift has her bad days. However, she seems to consistently strive to be kind to people, whether fellow celebrities or common folk.

As a development professional, you need to build solid relationships in order to achieve fundraising success. Being nice to everyone you encounter is a good place to start.

2. Develop your skills. Swift did not arrive on the planet a fully formed musician. She may have some natural talent. However, that natural talent would have gone to waste if it were not developed. From age 11, she took vocal and acting lessons. She seized performing opportunities at fairs, coffee houses, karaoke contests, and other less-than-glamorous venues to develop her skills.

As a development professional, you need to continue your education and look for opportunities to practice your skills. You should strive to become a stronger and stronger fundraiser. You’ll be of greater value to your organization, and you’ll enjoy greater career satisfaction. The upcoming AFP International Fundraising Conference is just one great educational opportunity.

January 9, 2015

Are You Ready for the Coming Storm?

A storm is coming. It will affect the entire US economy. It will likely affect the global economy.

The nonprofit sector will not escape the impact. You need to prepare now.

Koyasan Umbrellas 3 by Andrea Williams via FlickrAs 2014 began to wind down, the US National Debt surpassed the $18 trillion mark! That’s over $154,000 of Federal government debt per taxpayer or more than $56,000 per citizen. During the six years of the Obama Administration, the US National Debt increased by nearly $7 trillion, representing 67 percent growth. And it’s still growing.

As if that’s not bad enough, the US Unfunded Liabilities total more than $92.5 trillion dollars, or more than $789,000 per taxpayer! It, too, continues to grow.

President Barack Obama, former-President George W. Bush, and the US Congress are all responsible for the rapid growth in the US National Debt since 2009 as well as the growth in the Unfunded Liabilities. So, I’m not going to engage in specific finger pointing, policy debates, or politics.

Instead, I want to focus on what this means for the charity sector looking forward.

The rapid growth of national debt is not sustainable. We should no longer ignore it. Here are some of the reasons why:

• While our enormous national debt is not significantly affecting the nonprofit sector at the moment, the day is coming when it will. Prudent organizations will prepare for the storm before it hits.

• At some point, failure to address the massive debt issue will lead to a downgrade in America’s credit rating. Think it can’t happen? It already has. In 2011, Standard and Poor’s cut the US credit rating to AA+ because the government “fell short” of taming the nation’s debt. In 2012, Egan-Jones cut America’s credit rating to AA for the same reason. While these downgrades have had a mostly symbolic effect, they foreshadow what is likely to happen unless the government brings the national debt under control.

• Eventually, future credit rating downgrades will make it more expensive for the government to borrow money. Interest rates will rise. That will take more money out of the economy.

• In addition to becoming increasingly costly to borrow, lending sources will be harder to find. Some of those lenders might also use the lender-debtor relationship to force US policy changes. We’ve already seen this with the China relationship. By the way, China, no longer the US, is the world’s largest economy in “real” terms of goods and services produced.

• To deal with the debt, the federal government has four possible courses of action (or some combination of these): 1) pay more to borrow more which will add to the debt and take more money out of the economy, 2) print more money which would be inflationary, 3) cut spending which would likely mean less money for the social safety net and nonprofit organizations, and 4) raise taxes which will reduce individual disposable income. So, even if the government does address the debt situation, it could have a short-term negative impact on the nonprofit sector before it has a positive effect.

• A massive, growing national debt will make it more difficult for the US economy to experience strong growth in Gross Domestic Product. Philanthropy correlates closely with GDP; it’s been about two percent of GDP for decades. If the economy doesn’t grow rapidly, philanthropy is not likely to do so. If the economy truly falters, we might even see a drop in year-to-year philanthropy as we did during the Great Recession.

We’re already beginning to see some of the effects I’ve described above. If nothing is done to tame the national debt, these effects will be magnified and could eventually become catastrophic.

There are some things that nonprofits can do to prepare:

January 2, 2015

Don’t Make New Year Resolutions You Can’t Keep

It happens every year at this time. People make New Year resolutions. Then, a short time later, they break those resolutions.

Breaking New Year resolutions is bad. Doing so can make you feel guilty. It can erode your self-esteem. If you told anyone about your resolutions, your failure to keep them could even be embarrassing.

Here’s a novel idea for 2015: Don’t make New Year resolutions you can’t keep.

Fireworks

Happy New Year from Philadelphia!

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

 

  1. 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 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

(If there’s a nonprofit management or fundraising book that you read recently that you found particularly helpful, please let me know below so I can include the title in the Readers Recommended section.)

For additional reading, you might also consider looking at some of my posts that you might have missed. 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. Delivering (My Own) Bad News
  3. 5 Things Never to Do in Your Phone Fundraising Calls
  4. One Word is Costing Your Fundraising Effort a Fortune
  5. Special Report: Top 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants Identified
  6. How NOT to Run a Capital Campaign
  7. Cheating Death
  8. #GivingTuesday Has NOT Made a “Huge Difference”
  9. 5 Lessons Moses Can Teach Us about Fundraising
  10. 20 Factoids about Planned Giving. Some May Surprise You.

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.

I’m honored to know that I have readers from around the world. (I love the Internet!) While I appreciate all of my readers, I thought it would be interesting to look, beyond the United States, to see my top ten countries for readership:

November 21, 2014

When is Fundraising a Laughing Matter?

In the nonprofit fundraising world, we tend to take ourselves very seriously. I suspect that’s because the missions of our organizations tend to be serious and, therefore, our fund development efforts have significant, sometimes life and death consequences.

Despite the seriousness of our work, there are nevertheless times when fundraising is definitely a laughing matter. For example, I discovered recently that fundraising professionals can learn some powerful lessons from a one-minute comedy sketch.

On their Comedy Central television program, the comedy duo of Key and Peele presented a vignette that should be seen by anyone working for a nonprofit organization. It’s funny. It’s brief. It’s full of important lessons.

Key and Peele - Save the Children - Season 4 - 2, click here to watch video.In the sketch, a man coming out of a building is stopped by another man asking for a donation to “save the children.” The solicitor tells the prospective donor that he can save a child for just one dollar. While handing the solicitor a five-dollar bill, the donor responds, “Who doesn’t want to help a child. I’ll tell you what, let’s save five children.”

[SPOILER ALERT: I’m about to summarize the rest of the sketch and give away the surprise. So, if you plan to watch the video, now would be a good time to do so; click here. Otherwise, continue reading for a detailed description of the scene.]

The solicitor then shouts out to his colleague who races an unmarked van over. The side door opens and five frightened children are permitted to exit. The van, full of additional children, drives away. The solicitor thanks the stunned donor and begins to walk away. As the ramifications of what he has just seen sink-in, the donor realizes he has another dollar and, therefore, he can save another child. The scene ends with him chasing down the solicitor to give him the other dollar.

This one-minute vignette contains many important lessons including the following six:

November 7, 2014

What Do You Want?

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“Back to life, back to reality

Back to the here and now yeah

Show me how, decide what you want from me

Tell me maybe I could be there for you

However do you want me,

However do you need me.”

– “Back to Life” performed by Soul II Soul

-

Last month, I wrote about how I cheated death. Now, I’m happy to report that I am re-engaging in professional life:

  • I’m resuming my consulting practice.
  • I’m accepting speaking opportunities.
  • I’ll be teaching graduate students once again at Drexel University.
  • I’m resuming regular blog postings.

As I officially resurrect my blog, I want to take the opportunity to discover how I can be of better service to you. After all, in a very real sense, this blog is really more yours than mine. If I’m not addressing your wants, your needs, there’s really no point to this site. So, help me help you. Please take a few moments to answer the following seven survey questions:

April 4, 2014

Delivering (My Own) Bad News

I don’t want to mislead you. So, let me be clear from the start. This post is less about how to deliver bad news and more about, well, me sharing some bad news with you. Nevertheless, in keeping with the spirit of this blog site, I will include some relevant tips at the end.

First, I want to share some terrible, personal news with you.

As you may know from some of my previous posts, the past couple of years have been a challenging time given my wife’s fight with Ovarian Cancer. Now that she continues to be in remission, we were looking forward to a happy, relatively normal 2014. Unfortunately, that’s not to be the case.

I have been diagnosed with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP), a slowly progressing abdominal cancer. PMP is rare. Medical professionals diagnose fewer than 1000 cases per year worldwide, according to some researchers.

Frowny Face by khaybe via FlickrAt this point, I have no pain and very little discomfort. My only significant symptoms are a distended abdomen, an annoying cough from the pressure on my diaphragm, and weight loss beyond what I was shooting for. However, left unchecked, my condition would soon change for the worse. Therefore, in the coming weeks, I will undergo surgical treatment. This will require a lengthy hospital stay and recovery period.

Unfortunately, there is no cure or even remission for PMP. Treatment will beat it back. Then, I have to hope it comes back very slowly.

Now, and for at least the next few months, I need to focus 100 percent of my energy on regaining as much of my health as possible. So, I’ll be taking an indefinite leave-of-absence from my blog, professional life, and most social media activity. I look forward to re-engaging as soon as I am able.

Meantime, here are some things that you might consider doing, in no particular order:

March 29, 2014

Top 10 Posts of All-Time from “Michael Rosen Says…”

I want to do something a bit different in this post. While I’ve ranked my posts in a given year to give you a Top-10 list, I’ve never before ranked all of my posts. So, I thought it would be interesting to do so now.

Here are links to my Top 10 Most-Read Posts of All Time:

1.  Can a Nonprofit Return a Donor’s Gift?

2.  Survey Sounds Alarm Bell for Nonprofit Sector

3.  5 Things Never to Do in Your Phone Fundraising Calls

4.  How NOT to Run a Capital Campaign

5.  Does CFRE Have a Future?

February 23, 2014

Honoring Donor Intent: When it Works, When it Doesn’t

Donor-centered fundraising is smart fundraising. Part of being donor centric involves always honoring the donor’s intent.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Code of Ethical Principles states:

[Fundraising professionals] recognize their responsibility to ensure that needed resources are vigorously and ethically sought and that the intent of the donor is honestly fulfilled.”

Honoring donor intent is essential for at least two reasons:

  1. It’s the right thing to do.
  2. It’s a fundamental way to earn and deserve trust. Without trust, fundraising would be virtually impossible.

To honor donor intent, you must first ensure that the contribution is received according to the donor’s specifications. This is particularly important for planned gifts when the donor is no longer around to make sure everything goes according to plan. The charity becomes the voice of the donor.

The next part of honoring donor intent requires that the organization use the gift for the purpose specified by the donor.

Unfortunately, honoring donor intent is not always an easy thing to do. Sometimes, it works the right way while other times it morphs into something ugly.

Let’s look at two examples.

The Pennsbury Scholarship Foundation learned of the passing of an elderly woman in the community. I first shared her story in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. A member of the all-volunteer organization’s board knew the woman and knew the Foundation was in her will.

The woman’s attorney produced a copy of the will which included a nearly $1 million bequest for the Foundation and nearly nothing for her two estranged children. However, the children produced another version of the will where the charitable provision was whited-out, literally.

The attorney for the children approached the Foundation to negotiate a settlement agreement. The Foundation, under the advice of legal counsel, held firm and asked that the matter proceed to court as soon as possible.

The attorney for the children initiated a series of delaying tactics hoping that the Foundation would eventually negotiate rather than have the matter drag out. Under the advice of legal counsel, the Foundation held firm.

About one year later, surprisingly quickly given the circumstances, the court upheld the clean version of the will, and the Foundation received the full bequest.

In the Foundation’s case, the donor’s interest was in alignment with the charity’s. The Foundation was right to defend the donor’s wishes. By defending the donor’s interest, the Foundation ultimately benefited. More importantly, young people in the community will benefit for years to come as the Foundation provides scholarships that would not otherwise be possible to award.

Sadly, there are times when protecting the interests of the donor cross a line. In those cases, the organization goes from being donor centric to being self-centered, even greedy. This might be the case with the University of Texas.

Warhol's Farrah Fawcett portrait on exhibit at the UT Blanton Museum.

Warhol’s Farrah Fawcett portrait on exhibit at the UT Blanton Museum.

The University received a bequest from Farrah Fawcett. The Seventies icon left “all” her artwork to the University where she had studied art prior to the successful launch of her acting career. The collection included at least one portrait of Fawcett by famed artist Andy Warhol.

However, the Fawcett story is complicated. Warhol actually did two, almost identical pieces. According to Ryan O’Neal, the actor and on-again-off-again boyfriend of Fawcett, Warhol gave one portrait to Fawcett and the other to him.

February 14, 2014

Are Dangling Bits a Good Thing?

As fundraising professionals, we spend a significant amount of time creating messages to our prospects and donors. We carefully write copy for letters, emails, reports, newsletters, and web pages.

However, can your intended audience easily read your well-written communication? If they can’t, they’re likely not reading what you write at all.

As I prepared to work on this week’s blog post, I received a Tweet from Robin Peake of Oxford, England:

I hate your Times New Roman font. I hate it so much, I don’t read your content. Please adapt.”

Initially, I thought the message was a bit over the top. While there are things I “hate” (i.e.: war, child rapists, disease, etc.), it’s tough for me to ever get too worked up over typography. So, I was going to reply to Robin with a snarky Tweet of my own:

Your loss.”

Instead, I decided to keep my perspective and use Robin’s message as a teachable moment, for you and for me.

When using the written word to communicate with others, there are six rules we should adhere to so that our messages are easy to read:

1. In print, use a serif font such as Times New Roman. Serif fonts have little dangling bits attached to letters while sans-serif fonts such as Arial do not. Studies have shown that readers have an easier time reading printed text that uses serif fonts.

Sans-Serif v. Serif Font

Sans-Serif v. Serif Font

2. In electronic communications, use a sans-serif font such as Arial. Studies have shown that readers have an easier time reading electronic media messages that use a sans-serif font. The cleaner lines of a sans-serif font make it easier to read a message on a low-resolution screen or a small screen such as a smart-phone.

3. Never use reverse type. Reverse type, whether in print or electronic media, is more difficult to read than dark type on a light background. It’s also easier to cut-and-paste, photocopy, and fax copy that uses dark type on a light background. Some designers like to use reverse type for emphasis or because it looks pretty. Nevertheless, you should resist the temptation to use reverse type for the reasons stated. The darker the type and the lighter the background, the better.

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