Archive for ‘General Nonprofit’

June 5, 2020

Avoid the 7 Deadly Sins of Fundraising [WEBINAR]

I don’t have to tell you that these are troubling times. We’ve had to cope with coronavirus (COVID-19), the economic fallout from the pandemic and, now, the heart-wrenching killing of George “Perry” Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

As nonprofit managers and fundraising professionals, we have a choice: We can allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the horrible events of 2020, or we can continue to do what we always do and help those who depend on us. While the suffering around us pains me, I take some solace in knowing that. like you, I am a member of a noble profession that seeks to make the world a better place. We are needed now more than ever.

That’s why I want to invite you to join me and your nonprofit colleagues for a webinar to help you be more of the fundraising professional you aspire to be. The program is hosted by the Association Fundraising Professionals – Greater Philadelphia Chapter. Here are the details so you can register now:

Avoid the Seven Deadly Fundraising Sins and Raise More Money

Date: Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Time: 1:00 – 2:30 PM (EDT)

Description: Surveys show that the public’s trust in the nonprofit sector has been on a steady decline for years. At the same time, the number of charity donors has been on the decline and, in 2018, total giving fell by 1.7% in inflation-adjusted dollars.

This webinar will use real-world examples cited by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and pulled from news headlines to illustrate seven deadly fundraising sins involving: conflicts of interest, gift restrictions, accountability, tainted money, donor privacy, compensation, and cooking the books. By reviewing these examples, you’ll be better able to avoid making the same mistakes.

Because there are more than seven sins to avoid, you’ll also get a decision-making model to help you sidestep blunders, build trust, and raise more money.

Tickets: $15 (members), $40 (non-members)

Registration: Webinar seating is limited, so register now by clicking here.

As I have written previously:

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April 28, 2020

Warning Signs You Need to Know About

While the nonprofit sector continues to raise massive amounts of money, danger lies ahead for fundraising professionals as the coronavirus health crisis leads us further into an economic calamity.

As the COVID-19 pandemic gained traction, individuals, corporations, and foundations have responded with robust giving. For example, individual giving revenue through direct mail, processed by Merkle RMG, has increased 5.8 percent year-over-year even while the volume of donations dropped by 15.5 percent, according to Merkle RMG’s Impact Report, COVID-19: How the Coronavirus Pandemic is Impacting Direct Mail Fundraising (transactions through April 19, 2020).

The initial philanthropic response to the pandemic is not surprising for those who have experienced major challenges in the past. Giving lags changes in economic conditions. For instance, during the Great Recession (2007-09), we also saw a similar philanthropic pattern with revenue initially increasing while the number of donors declined. The following graph from Target Analytics, a Blackbaud company, illustrates the point:

Now, let me just mention that no one has a crystal ball or time machine. Therefore, no one, including me, can precisely predict what will happen and when it will happen. Nevertheless, we do know that during past crises, we saw that charitable giving fell after an initial surge.

The overall economy has a profound effect on philanthropic giving. We know that overall philanthropy correlates with Gross Domestic Product at the rate of about two percent. Furthermore, historical data shows that individual giving correlates with personal income at the rate of roughly two percent. In other words, when the economy is strong, giving will be strong; when the economy falters, giving will slow.

Because the coronavirus pandemic has caused a major global economic disruption, we can anticipate that this will eventually have a negative effect on philanthropic giving. Consider these warning signs:

As corporations see profits eroded, as foundations see investments decimated, as individuals see personal income slashed, charitable giving will likely decrease. However, there are some mitigating factors in play:

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April 1, 2020

Stress Relief for Fundraisers: A Special Webinar for You

Help is on the way!

In the best of times, we all experience occasional stress. Sometimes, it’s personal stress. Sometimes, it’s professional stress. Sometimes, it’s both. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, we are all dealing with a massive, new level of tension.

Most of us are working from home, many for the first time. We don’t go out much. We have personal financial concerns. We have loved ones we worry about and care for. We have anxiety about our own health.

Fundraising professionals are also concerned about continuing to raise the vital resources to help nonprofit organizations fulfill their missions, now more important than ever. As you know, we shoulder a tremendous burden.

If giving into stress were helpful, that would be fine. Unfortunately, stress itself is corrosive. It drains our energy. It erodes our immune system. Stress causes physiological and psychological damage. It makes us less pleasant to be around. It makes us less able to care for others.

To help you cope more effectively with the stress in your life, I’m hosting a special webinar for fundraising and nonprofit professionals:

Stress Relief for Fundraisers

Date: Monday, April 6, 2020, 4:00-5:00 pm (EDT)

Expert Instructor: Michelle Stortz, C-IAYT, ERYT500, MFA

Requested Donation: This is a donation-based webinar. Any contribution amount from $1 to $100 will grant you access. The suggested amount is $20. Your donation will help Michelle to continue to provide services for people living with cancer and chronic diseases at little to no cost.

Platform: This class will happen via Zoom. The link for joining will be sent 15 minutes before the session. Registration will end 15 minutes before the session.

You’ll Learn: Discover practices for managing stress in difficult times:

        • Learn simple breathing techniques to ward off anxiety
        • Get grounded in your body through simple movements
        • Quiet your mind with concentration practices
        • Cultivate a framework for seeing what’s really here

Register Now: Click here to register for this webinar at Eventbrite.

Despite the challenges we face, there are plenty of opportunities to learn and grow. Let’s start by integrating some helpful practices for managing stress. Join me in this one-hour class on stress reduction. When you take some time to take better care of yourself, you’ll be in a much better position to take care of others.

While the webinar will provide a number of techniques for coping with stress, I want to give you one simple technique right now.

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April 1, 2020

New Charitable Giving Incentives in CARES Act

At the end of last week, President Donald Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The $2.2 trillion rescue package comes in response to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. The measure contains a number of provisions to encourage greater charitable giving including:

Universal Charitable Deduction Provision. Taxpayers who are non-itemizers may take an above-the-line deduction for charitable giving up to $300 in cash contributions during 2020. Contributions to Donor Advised Funds are not eligible. While the provision was intended to be temporary, the law itself states it “begins in 2020” and does not contain a sunset date, according to Jason Lee, former Chief Advocacy and Strategy Officer and General Counsel at the Association of Fundraising Professionals. That means that the provision might extend beyond 2020, something advocacy groups will seek to ensure along with trying to raise the $300 cap.

Increase of Itemizer Charitable Giving Cap. For 2020, the CARES Act eliminates the current cap on annual deductible-contributions for those who itemize. The law raises the cap from 60 percent of adjusted gross income to 100 percent.

Corporate Giving Incentives. The law raises the annual giving limit from 10 percent to 25 percent of taxable income. Furthermore, corporations will be permitted to increase deductions for food donations with the cap increasing from 15 percent to 25 percent of taxable income.

Non-philanthropic Provisions for Nonprofits. The law contains several other provisions that can directly benefit nonprofit organizations while not involving philanthropy. The National Council of Nonprofits has prepared a summary of these key provisions, which you can find by clicking here.

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March 20, 2020

Free Webinar: Get Fundraising Tips in the Time of COVID-19

[GOOD NEWS UPDATE (March 21, 2020): If you attempted to register for my free webinar with the AFP Greater Philadelphia Chapter, you may not have been able to do so as the program was immediately over-subscribed. However, AFP-GPC has increased capacity to accommodate more participants. Please try to register now by clicking here. I apologize for the inconvenience, and thank you for your patience.]

[UPDATE (March 20, 2020): Based on how quickly my free webinar became over-subscribed, I realize that there is a massive need for information about how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the nonprofit sector and what we can do about it. If your charity or professional association wants to deliver an online training program on this, or any other subject, please contact me. Together, we’ll get through this.]

Join me for a free webinar hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals – Greater Philadelphia Chapter and sponsored by Merkle Response Management Group. During the program, I’ll outline 12 ways coronavirus (COVID-19) will affect your nonprofit organization. I’ll also share powerful, practical tips for coping with the current fundraising environment. In addition, you’ll get 10 useful survival tips to keep you, your colleagues, and your loved ones safe during this challenging time.

The webinar is free of charge and open to fundraising professionals and nonprofit managers and senior volunteer leadership everywhere. Here’s what you need to know:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Ways It Will Affect You and Your Fundraising Efforts

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM (EDT)

You’ll Get:

      • Insights about key ways fundraising efforts will be affected by COVID-19.
      • Tips for keeping yourself, colleagues, and loved ones safe.
      • Bonus materials.

Click here to register now.

Each day, you and I are confronted by new information concerning the spread of the coronavirus and the related implications. It’s a lot to keep up with. Yet, we must for ourselves, our loved ones, and our organizations upon which so many depend. We try to stay on top of the story, but it’s an incredibly fluid situation. Then, there are the nagging questions we ask ourselves or the CEO asks or a board member asks, including:

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March 18, 2020

Are You Feeling Overwhelmed? Take a Moment for YOU.

With life comes stress. With coronavirus comes much more stress.

When times get more challenging, we need to be especially careful to take care of ourselves. If we don’t take proper care of ourselves, we’ll be in no condition to help others. We need to practice self-care to ensure both our physical and mental wellbeing.

Knowing that, my wife and I went for a long walk to get out of the house and away from the depressing, on-going news about coronavirus (COVID-19). We wanted to clear our heads, relax, gain some perspective, escape a bit.

While on our walk, we came across some daffodils. The sight reminded me of a poem I enjoy reading every springtime. We appreciated our break, and felt recharged. Based on the initial responses I received when I mentioned this on LinkedIn, I decided to share the poem, and a photo I took, to give you a bit of break from all the news, too. I hope you enjoy them.

I also hope you take the time to take care of yourself. Eat right. Exercise. Meditate. Phone friends. Go for a walk. Do whatever works for you. The coronavirus situation will not end in a week or two. The crisis will likely last for months with the economic ramifications felt even longer. We’re in a marathon, not a sprint. Take care of yourself. Pace yourself.

Okay, enough preaching. I hope you enjoy the poem and the above photo:

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February 28, 2020

Coronavirus: 20 Survival Tips for You and Your Charity

When you and your staff and colleagues are healthy, you’ll all be better able to raise more money for your charity and help those your nonprofit organization serves. Unfortunately, the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) threatens both our physical and mental health. So, to reduce your stress level and help keep you physically healthy, I want to share 20 useful survival tips with you.

However, before I share those important tips, I want to acknowledge that it has been several weeks since I’ve posted. In a future post, I’ll explain the reasons for my break. For now, I just want to thank you for your patience and for continuing to be a loyal reader.

Okay, here are 20 things you can do to protect yourself, and folks you care about, from coronavirus (and other viruses):

Tip 1: Do NOT be stupid. A survey by 5WPR found that 38 percent of American beer drinkers will not buy Corona beer, supposedly in part, because of fear it is linked to the virus. However, many of those surveyed never consumed Corona beer in the first place. So, let’s look at what Corona drinkers said. Among those who drink Corona, the survey found that four percent would no longer drink the product at all while 14 percent said they would not do so in public. To be clear, Corona beer and the coronavirus have nothing to do with one another. My friend Linda Lysakowski jokingly suggested that people might also have been afraid of Lyme Disease since Corona beer is often consumed with a lime wedge; again, one doesn’t have anything to do with the other. It’s important that we think clearly under normal circumstances; it’s especially critical now.

Tip 2: Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Wash them often. Not only will this help protect you from coronavirus, washing will also protect you from other viruses including the common cold, norovirus, and flu.

Coronavirus image from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Tip 3: Hand sanitizers are good at killing bacteria. But, they do NOT kill all viruses. Don’t rely on them. Wash your hands often with soap and water.

Tip 4: Stop shaking hands when you greet people. Instead, fist bump, elbow bump, nod, or bow. This will help protect you and the other person from any number of infections including coronavirus. Refusing to shake hands is not rude. Instead, it’s being caring and considerate. Remember, people can be contagious without exhibiting any symptoms themselves.

Tip 5: If you cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue and then through away the tissue. Then, wash your hands. Alternatively, cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm.

Tip 6: Clean the surfaces of commonly used or touched objects and surfaces. For example, clean your cell phone with an alcohol wipe periodically. Wipe down your computer keyboard with a sanitizing wipe. Do the same with office and home doorknobs. You get the idea.

Tip 7: If you are sick, stay home. Whether you have coronavirus, a cold, or the flu, stay home so you won’t infect co-workers or the general public. As a manager, do not reward sick people for coming to work while punishing sick people for staying home. Years ago at my company, we had a new manager who came to us from billionaire Ross Perot’s company, Electronic Data Systems (EDS). She encouraged us to change our sick-day policy which granted staff a limited number of use-it-or-lose-it sick time. Instead, she proposed we adopt the EDS policy of unlimited sick time. While I was skeptical, we tried it. The result was that our employee absenteeism rate plummeted. The primary reason the policy worked was that it encouraged ill people to remain home rather than come into the office where they would infect colleagues.

Tip 8: Whenever possible, use the self-checkout at stores. Cashiers can help spread disease through their interactions with multiple people.

Tip 9: Avoid touching your face. Viruses on your hands can be transferred to your nose, mouth, or eyes and infect you. This is more difficult than you’d expect. We touch our faces surprisingly often during the course of a day. Minimizing face touching takes practice.

Tip 10: Minimize use of air travel, cruise travel, and public transportation. A number of large companies have banned non-essential travel. As I sat down to write this piece, the latest company to announce this step was J.P. Morgan. Airlines are already seeing a drop in ticketing and, therefore, are canceling flights.

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December 27, 2019

Here are Some Things You Might Have Missed

As 2019 comes to a close, we have a chance to catch our breath and reflect on the previous 12 months. So, I thought I would take a bit of time to share with you some items you might have missed during your busy year. In addition, because some readers have asked about my ongoing battle with cancer, I also want to take this opportunity to update you on my personal situation.

Top 100: Charity Industry Influencers:

One news item in 2019 that might not have caught your attention was the publication of Onalytica’s list of “Top 100: Charity Industry Influencers.” The Onalytica algorithm ranked me number 16 in the world! I found that exciting and, frankly, just a bit scary. I’ll have to be even more careful about what I say. 🙂

Top Blog Posts:

Because I recognize that you can’t read everything that crosses your desk, I’ve put together a list of my top ten most-popular posts published in 2019 in case you’ve missed any of them:

I Told You So: Charitable Giving is Up!

How to Stop Offending Your Women Donors

High Fundraiser Turnover Rate Remains a Problem

Are Donors Abandoning You, Or Are You Abandoning Them?

Do You Want to Know the Latest, Greatest Fundraising Idea?

Do Not Fall for Newsweek’s Fake News!

3 Reasons Why Your Year-End Fundraising Will Fail

Who are Your Best Planned Giving Prospects?

Know When to Stop Asking for Money

Inspired by Lady Gaga: 10 Ways to be a Fundraising Genius

Here’s a list of five of my older posts that remained popular in 2019:

Here is One Word You Should Stop Using

Can You Spot a Child Molester? Discover the Warning Signs

Can a Nonprofit Return a Donor’s Gift?

5 Things Never to Do in Your Phone Fundraising Calls

Impact of Nonprofit Sector: More Than Most People Think

I invite you to read any posts that might interest you by clicking on the title above. You can also search this blog by topic using the site’s search function (either in the right column or below).

Blog Site Recognition:

Over the years, I’ve been honored to have my blog recognized by respected peers. I’m pleased that, among the thousands of nonprofit and fundraising sites, my blog continues to be ranked as a “Top 75 Fundraising Blog” – Feedspot, “Top Fundraising Blog” – Garecht Fundraising Associates, and “10 Fundraising Blogs You’ll Love” – Stelter.

To make sure you don’t miss any of my future posts, please take a moment to subscribe to this site for free in the designated spot in the column to the right (or, on mobile platforms, below). You can subscribe with peace of mind knowing that I will respect your privacy. As a special bonus for you as a new subscriber, I’ll send you a link to a free e-book from philanthropy researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP®.

Articles in AFP’s Magazine, Advancing Philanthropy:

In 2019, I was pleased to have three of my articles published in Advancing Philanthropy, the official magazine of the Association of Fundraising Professionals:

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December 17, 2019

George Orwell’s 6 Rules for More Effective Writing

Successful fundraising professionals must be effective communicators. In part, that means we are required to be skilled writers whether we’re creating a case for support, a direct mail appeal, annual report, heart-felt thank you, or other document. Fortunately, we can still learn some powerful writing tips from a legendary author.

George Orwell published his now-classic novel Nineteen Eighty-four 70 years ago. In addition to his many works of fiction, he also wrote a number of non-fiction essays including Politics and the English Language. This composition explores the general demise of writing quality and looks at how language has been twisted for political advantage. It remains relevant today.

As Orwell states:

A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble.”

You or I may never rise to the level of an Orwell, but we can take a number of steps to improve our written communications. By doing so, we will ensure that readers understand what we say. Furthermore, our words will have the greater emotional effect we desire. While many grammar and technical rules exist, and are certainly worth studying, Orwell outlines six simple rules for better writing:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Failing to follow this rule leads to two problems. First, relying on clichés minimizes the effect of the message. If people have heard something many times before, they will likely find the message dull. Second, using clichés can render a message nearly meaningless or even misleading.

By keeping your writing fresh and original, your message will stand a better chance of cutting through the clutter of messages. This will help your written words resonate with readers and inspire them.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

Some people might think that using big words will demonstrate how smart they are. However, using the shortest words possible will ensure that more people understand what you are trying to say. Using shorter, simpler words will indicate, to those who know better, that you are a skilled writer.

To ensure that readers understand your messages, keep your word choices simple. Even when writing to an educated reader, keep it simple.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Choosing simple words is not enough. You also need to string those words together in short sentences. Your goal should be to write at a sixth-grade reading level.

Even those at a college reading level will find it easier to read and understand text that uses short words and short sentences. As you edit your text, think of how you can eliminate unnecessary words.

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December 10, 2019

To Raise More Money, Look for More Engagement Opportunities

Smart nonprofit professionals know that fundraising success involves much more than simply asking for money. You need to identify prospective supporters, educate them, cultivate them, then ask for support, and finally steward your donors. An essential, often neglected, aspect of cultivation is engagement.

Sadly, many nonprofit organizations think of donors as piggy banks or ATMs dispensing money. Those charities tend to assume that charitable giving is, by its very nature, transactional. They further assume that low donor retention rates are just the way things are. Those organizations are correct … regarding themselves.

By contrast, nonprofits that treat prospects and donors as partners are more likely to attract support. Furthermore, they are more likely to retain and upgrade donors over time. One way to establish a partnership with people is to engage them in meaningful ways.

So, what does meaningful engagement look like?

PTC’s See & Be Scene Event.

For decades, I’ve been a fan and supporter of the Philadelphia Theatre Company. Recently, my wife and I were invited to attend “See & Be Scene: A Sneak Peek at the 2020/21 Season.” The event involved readings from eight plays under consideration for the upcoming four-play season. Subscribers and donors were invited to attend for free while the general public could purchase tickets at $15 each.

Through the event, PTC accomplished three important things:

  1. PTC expressed gratitude to its ticket subscribers and donors.
  2. Staff gained useful audience feedback that will help them select the plays of greatest potential interest to PTC’s audience.
  3. By giving them a real voice, PTC made its supporters feel like partners.

At intermission, I had the chance to quietly ask Paige Price, Producing Artistic Director, what she and the staff were hoping to get out of the program. She told me that they were interested in audience feedback. They wanted to know what people thought of each option, what they liked and didn’t like. They also wanted to be able to address any questions the audience might have about the upcoming season or the theatre company itself.

I also had the opportunity to speak privately with one of PTC’s board members. I asked him the same question I asked Ms. Price. He gave me a similar answer. Then, I mentioned that the event was a great way to cultivate ticket subscribers and donors. While he acknowledged it was, he told me that the primary purpose of the gathering was the opportunity to engage the audience and learn their thoughts about plans for the upcoming season.

I believe what I was told. PTC used the program to build a genuine partnership with people. Judging from the audience response, PTC succeeded with those in attendance. During the discussion session following the readings, one audience member said, “I think next season we should perform…” Someone else began her comment by saying, “As a member…” Clearly, at least some people in the audience did indeed see themselves as partners with PTC.

Another way that PTC seeks to engage theatregoers can be found in the lobby. A large sign invites people to make suggestions:

Have an idea? We want to hear from you.”

PTC’s Call for Suggestions.

People can take a card or use their ticket to write down their suggestion. They can submit it anonymously or include their phone number or email address so that PTC can respond.

With the “See & be Scene” program and with the request for feedback and suggestions, PTC engages people. Even those who do not take advantage of either opportunity will appreciate having had the opportunity to be heard.

Part of what makes the PTC engagement initiatives effective is that they are sincere efforts to build partnerships rather than cynical, manipulative gestures. By building meaningful partnerships, PTC will likely continue to develop a loyal base of ticket buyers and donors.

Engagement efforts that are sincere and true to an organization’s mission are most likely to be seen as meaningful. And they are most likely to build partnerships that lead to loyal support. While performing arts organizations have a number of obvious ways they can engage people, other types of nonprofit organizations may find it more challenging to do so.

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