Archive for ‘Guest Author’

March 15, 2017

Raise More Money with Smart Use of Apps and Online Technology

The right technology, used correctly, engaging the appropriate people, can help you be a more successful nonprofit manager or fundraising professional. Increasingly, younger people are using technology to gather information, connect, and even donate to the causes that move them. But, don’t forget about Baby Boomers; while they may not be the heavy users of technology that Millennials are, they’re still using and benefitting from a variety of tools that didn’t exist just several years ago.

One of the challenges for nonprofit organizations is to discover the apps and online resources that can benefit them in a rapidly evolving world. Another challenge involves being careful to avoid the potential pitfalls that technology can present.

To help you think a bit more carefully about deploying technology, Maeve Lander, CEO and Founder of PayNow, shares her thoughts below. PayNow for Stripe is a minimalist point of sales app, allowing you to accept credit card payments and donations on your phone. The Australian-based company serves clients in Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

The companies mentioned in the post represent terrific examples. However, mention of these companies does not imply endorsement by this site.

You don’t need to be a technology expert to explore how your organization can best leverage technology. There are plenty of experts who can assist you when the time is right. However, you’re in the best position see how technology can benefit your organization and its stakeholders, including donors.

I thank Maeve for sharing some of her thoughts with us:

 

Technology is as integral a part of daily life as buying groceries, socialising with friends over a coffee or making the daily commute to work. In a recent study, the Pew Research Center reported that 74 percent of all online adults used social networking sites, and this number is expected to grow. One need only look at the massive fundraising effort and success for the Haiti relief fund, for which donors raised $43 million USD through mobile technology.

One significant trend is that users are increasingly accessing the internet by using mobile phones. In fact, as many as 63 percent of adult mobile phone owners use their phones to go online. The average busy person receives 121 emails per day, and checks their phone close to 150 times per day. Of particular relevance to charities, non-government organisations and fundraising organisations, 47 percent of Americans learn about charitable campaigns through social media or elsewhere online.

These statistics highlight a clear need for charities and fundraising organisations to ensure they are keeping up to date with online technology in all its forms, such as websites, mobile phone applications (or apps), email, software systems, and general online presence. If these key communication and operational assets are not utilized effectively clients, donors and other stakeholders may be discouraged from engaging with the organisation or making a donation.

This article explores some of the great benefits for charities and other organisations of using online technology tools and apps as well as some of the greatest associated risks and how to avoid them.

Cloud Computing:

Cloud computing is essentially using the internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer. The most common cloud computing solutions are offered by Google and Dropbox. The benefits these systems have for charitable organisations can be dramatic. They are often simple, elegant, and easy to use which means a shorter learning curve for new staff and less time spent on IT-troubleshooting. They offer an organisation considerable efficiencies as staff can often use their personal devices after downloading the cloud-based application and the organisation providing authorisations.

Cloud-computing is also well suited to an organisation’s staff who do field work, as opposed to from a centralised physical office, as most systems simply require users to establish a Wi-Fi or mobile data connection. Invest in setting up these systems to make it painless and efficient for people to give their time and skills.

Centralising and Aggregating Data:

To analyse and make use of data with greater efficiency, a comprehensive technology platform can be useful. This system is usually termed a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool and can help you keep track of donor communication preferences, manage the frequency of correspondence, and aggregate information. There are basic, yet elegant solutions such as ProsperWorks, which is a general CRM, right up to charity specific CRM packages like SalesForce or Bloomerang.

The benefits of CRMs is that they can help organisations learn more about more people and, therefore, engage with donors to better understand how they want to give, which events are most rewarding for them to be a part of, or for clients, how their needs can be met.

Clear and Easy Information Communication:

Informational apps such as the Red Cross app have been downloaded by millions of people. This clearly shows an added demand for critical information that either wasn’t being delivered, wasn’t being delivered as effectively as it could have been, or is in a format that is more in keeping with modern demands. Creating an informational app might be useful to communicate your organisation’s messages, aims, and goals.

On the other hand, such apps can be expensive to develop and might be limited when compared to publishing information on a website or issuing regular newsletters. Make sure you weigh up the costs and benefits of creating an app against other options that might be more economical or simply more effective.

For example, a useful approach for publishing extensive studies or documents can be that instead of bundling your impact story into one big annual package, break it into small stories shared on an ongoing basis. This can be achieved through newsletter services such as MailChimp where you can even share photos or videos of the people you are serving.

Making the Act of Donating or Easy:

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December 16, 2016

Make Better Presentations with 10 Powerful Tips

Imagine if you could make great presentations. I’m not talking about merely good speeches. Instead, I’m speaking of truly memorable, meaningful, influential presentations at staff meetings, board meetings, professional conferences, and gatherings of prospects and donors.

Would taking your presentations to the next level help you more effectively guide your staff, inform your board, teach your colleagues, and inspire your prospects and donors? You bet it would. It might even earn you a promotion or better job.

Decades ago when I first began teaching at fundraising conferences, I asked Ted Hart, ACFRE, now the CEO of the Charities Aid Foundation of America, for some helpful tips. He told me, “If you want above average evaluation scores, start on time, end on time, and speak to the topic that the program book says you’ll be addressing.”

At first, I thought Ted was setting the bar a bit low. However, in practice, I discovered he had shared some essential, fundamental advice that I’ve always appreciated. Over the years, my evaluation scores improved as my speaking skills developed. As I became a more proficient presenter, the scores and comments I received from my audiences were usually quite good.

However, I still was not satisfied.

I do not want my audiences to simply enjoy my seminars in the moment. I want them to also remember and use the information I share when they get back to their offices.

Michael Rosen at PPGGNY Conference, starting at the podium before speaking from the audience during his keynote address.

Michael Rosen at PPGGNY Conference, starting at the podium before speaking from the audience during his keynote address.

Then, in 2006, I heard about a special educational program from the Association of Fundraising ProfessionalsThe Faculty Training Academy. AFP offers the program to teach good speakers advanced presentation skills. In short, the program was the most transformational workshop I’ve ever attended.

You now have an opportunity to have a similarly meaningful experience by being one of just 35 participants in the next Faculty Training Academy. The program will be held at AFP International Headquarters in Arlington, VA on March 30-31, 2017. The two-day, intensive workshop will teach attendees about adult education principles, learning styles, classroom management, assessment, and other related topics. AFP encourages fundraising professionals, with extensive experience who are also members of AFP, to learn more about the program by clicking here.

It’s a chance for you to learn how to be a more effective, inspirational public speaker.

Dr. B.J. Bischoff, of Bischoff Performance Improvement Consulting, will again facilitate the program she created for AFP over 15 years ago. Bischoff has also presented at the AFP International Fundraising Conference and Leadership Academies. She has also designed and presented train-the-trainers programs for the Fund Raising School at Indiana University, the US Central Intelligence Agency, the United States Agency for International Development, the Government of Romania, the World Bank, and many other nonprofit and government funded organizations.

Recognizing that not all of my readers will be able to attend the Faculty Training Academy, Bischoff has kindly provided a list of 10 powerful tips that will make you a far better presenter, no matter how good you already are:

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April 6, 2016

Stop Showering All of Your Donors with Love!

[Publisher’s Note: This post is part of a series kindly contributed by guest authors who attended the 2016 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference. These posts share valuable insights from the Conference. This week, I thank Chad Barger, CFRE, Principal of Productive Fundraising, for highlighting the seminar “Relationship Fundraising: Where Do We Go From Here?”]

 

If you want to raise more money, stop showering all of your donors with love. That’s one of the key takeaways from the AFP International Fundraising Conference seminar “Relationship Fundraising: Where Do We Go From Here?”

I’ve been a longtime advocate for donor-centered fundraising. So, it might surprise you that I completely agree with that suggestion.

Chad Barger, CFRE, Principal of Productive Fundraising, attended the session and explores this key takeaway for us. Chad is a fundraising coach, consultant, blogger, and speaker. He is also a passionate arts advocate and raises vital support for the arts in his community as the Director of the Cultural Enrichment Fund (Harrisburg, PA). Here’s what Chad learned:

 

“Relationship Fundraising: Where Do We Go From Here?” was presented by a dream team of fundraising gurus: Adrian Sargeant, PhD; Ian MacQuillin; Jay Love; and Rachel Muir, CFRE — if you ever get a chance to see any of them live, do it.

The session reviewed research and case studies on the use and development of relationship fundraising since the concept was first introduced to the nonprofit sector in Ken Burnett’s 1992 book, Relationship Fundraising. There’s ample evidence that relationship fundraising works, and I think the modern fundraiser certainly knows this. It’s no surprise to us that building relationships with prospects and donors leads to more and increased donations.

RelationshipFundraisingHowever, my biggest takeaway from this session was that relationship fundraising and transactional fundraising can coexist in the same development shop.

Your first response might be, “Why would you want to do that? Every fundraiser worth their salary knows that relationship fundraising is the way to raise big dollars!”

Well, consider this: When we say that we only practice relationship fundraising, we are actually not being donor centric. The problem is that we are assuming that every donor wants to build a relationship with our charity. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Some donors give because they attended our event and they felt obligated to give more while there (e.g., the Fund a Need at the end of the live auction). Or, perhaps they gave because a friend asked and they couldn’t say no because that friend donated to their cause the month before. In both of these situations, the donor is happy to help out and make a donation, but they don’t really have a passion for your mission. The donation is simply a transaction to them. It’s not the first step toward a relationship like we fundraisers instantly assume.

It would be a lot of wasted effort to try to transform this transactional donation into a relationship. The donor simply doesn’t want it. The donor doesn’t hate you or think you’re a bad person; they just have a full life and our cause is never going to be a priority for them.

So, we as fundraisers need to get better at recognizing these transactional donors and stop wasting time and money trying to turn them into relational ones.

What’s the best way to do this? Easy … ask the donor what they want. A simple follow up phone call or email thanking them for their donation with an invitation to begin a relationship is all it takes. If they don’t respond (especially after a second prompt), then move them to the transactional side of the house. Still send them a thank you, prompt gift acknowledgment, and a report on the impact of their donation, but that is sufficient. Save the arsenal of cultivation tactics for donors who want a relationship with you and your organization.

Based on this newfound perspective, I’m now in the process of building out two different communication plans for my relational and transactional donors. While this initially seems like more work, I’m excited about the increased time that I will have to spend with my relational donors once I’m no longer chasing my transactional donors and hounding them for a visit. So please give it some thought and see if you too could benefit from stopping the chase and, instead, treating ALL of your donors the way they would like to be treated (not just your relational ones). After all, treating people the way they want to be treated is the core of donor-centered fundraising.

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April 1, 2016

3 Insights that will Change the Way You Do #Nonprofit Work

[Publisher’s Note: This is the first of a number of posts kindly contributed by guest authors who attended the 2016 AFP International Fundraising Conference. These posts share valuable insights from the Conference. This week, I thank Nancy Racette, CFRE, Principal and Chief Operating Officer at DRi, for highlighting the “Rebels, Renegades & Pioneers” education track.]

 

What if you could hear from some of the nonprofit world’s leading provocateurs, innovators, and big thinkers about the glories, the failures, and the future of the charity sector?

If you had attended the recent Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference, you could have. If you were unable to attend the program, don’t worry. I’m about to share some highlights with you.

Rebels logoDevelopment Resources Inc. (DRi) sponsored the new education track called “Rebels, Renegades & Pioneers. The track was designed to engage attendees in thought-provoking conversations about the nature and ultimate purpose of the nonprofit sector, in addition to providing tactical guidance. Business leaders, fundraisers, researchers, and activists who have spent their lives fostering these conversations shared their thoughts at the Conference.

Nancy Racette, CFRE, DRi Principal and Chief Operating Officer, attended the program. DRi is an executive search and consulting firm that builds nonprofit capacity through Board and leadership recruitment, strategic planning, and resource development both across the country and around the world. Here are some of the important insights Racette found:

 

What if social justice were a form of donor cultivation?

What if fundraisers used studies testing such propositions when they designed philanthropic programs?

How would the lessons of this research change participation in the nonprofit world?

The experts gathered for the “Rebels, Renegades & Pioneers” education track addressed these and other provocative questions. Here are three of the most significant ideas we heard:

1.  You’re not a fundraiser. You’re a catalyst for change.

The Rebels track opened with an inspiring call for fundraisers of all stripes to see themselves as agents of large-scale social change.

The fundraising vision of Roger CraverJennie Thompson,  and Daryl Upsall created a new model of social movement in the 20th century, one in which membership-based nonprofits made themselves central actors in some of the world’s greatest social transformations, from AIDS to apartheid, from voting rights to human rights.

Today, though, the challenge is to recognize that you don’t have to be a c(4) organization with a national membership to be an agent of social change. Fundraising is an inevitably activist enterprise, one that calls on people to remake the world — and that’s as true of art museums and homeless shelters as it is of Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club.

Art isn’t a luxury for the leisured; it’s a revolutionary prism through which humans re-imagine themselves and bring their new visions to life. That’s why the Urban Institute released a 2008 report on making the case for the arts as a space of collective community action. What’s more activist than that?

And we know that engaging people in social action ultimately creates new donors. People who see themselves as actors in a movement want to invest in that movement.

We got a live demonstration at AFP, when a woman who identified herself as a South American refugee stood up to say that the help she had received from Planned Parenthood had brought her to the Conference to learn how to raise money for the causes she believes in. If we see all the fundraising we do as a movement for social change, how would it help us engage people like that?

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October 27, 2015

The #Fundraising Life is Tough, so Laugh More!

Are you able to laugh at yourself?

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always easy to laugh at oneself. At times, it’s not even easy to laugh at the challenges we encounter in any given day. However, finding the humor with ourselves, and the situations we encounter, can be enormously beneficial.

Consider what actor Salma Hayek has said on the subject:

Life is tough; and if you have the ability to laugh at it, you have the ability to enjoy it.”

Author Kurt Vonnegut emphasized another benefit of laughter:

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”

We can all benefit by laughing more at the daily frustrations we face while trying to do our fundraising work. That’s where Phillip E. Perdue, MBA, May I Cultivate You?CFRE, CDM can help. A longtime fundraising professional, Perdue has written the book May I Cultivate You? Perdue’s book takes a humorous, insightful look at the various aspects of fundraising.

When reading the book, I recognized any number of frustrating/humorous situations I’ve seen over my long career. If you want to have some chuckles and gain some insights about the world of fundraising, I encourage you to pick up a copy. If you want to spread the cheer, you may want to get some extra copies to share with your favorite fundraisers this coming holiday season.

May I Cultivate You? is available on Kindle and paperback. To give you a taste of the book, Perdue has allowed me to share “Chapter Twelve — Your Fundraising Software is the Worst.” Thanks, Phil! This bonus chapter is not available in the print version of the book. Let me know what you think of this chapter:

 

When you begin a new job, someone will give you a log-in for the fundraising software. Moments later, one of your new co-workers will come over and say how much they hate the fundraising software and moan about how confusing, user-hostile and archaic it is. Everyone within earshot will nod agreement.

___________________________

 Your passwords go on post-it notes next to your computer.

___________________________

The software will seem to have caused more human misery than typhoid, small pox and opera combined. Which is strange because you thought the software at your last job was the worst. And it was. And now this new system will be the worst. Wherever you are, whatever you are using, it is the pits, the bottom of the barrel.

To be fair, the modern software industry has given fundraisers remarkable tools. But as you know, this is generally an awful thing for a lot of reasons.

Imagine using a 200-lb sledgehammer to kill ants. Or having a Swiss Army knife with 7,000 attachments the size of a pickup truck. Modern development software feels like that to the Liberal Arts majors trying to jockey it. It is too unwieldy for people who use words like “unwieldy.” Mostly, we use the software as a rolodex and a gift log.

It does not help that most of the computers running the software are nearly as old as the furniture they sit on.

And it does not help that as the systems have grown exponentially more sophisticated your organization’s training budget has not increased since 1950. Chances are no one in your shop has had any professional training or knows how to take advantage of all the wonderful features buried away in FundJuggernaut ’98 or whatever you are using. If newcomers are lucky, they will be taught to log-in and look up phone numbers.

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January 30, 2015

Donor Retention: Time for a Change

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

This week, I have invited international fundraising superstar Roger M. Craver, a direct-response fundraising pioneer, Editor at The Agitator, and author of Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Your Donors for Life to share his wisdom with us.

However, do we really need a book about something as fundamental as donor retention? I believe we do. And so does Ken Burnett, Managing Trustee at SOFII and author of Relationship Fundraising. Here’s what Burnett says in the Foreword to Craver’s book:

Our nonprofit sector is bleeding to death. We’re hemorrhaging donors, losing support as fast as we find it, seemingly condemned forever to pay a fortune just to stand still.

It’s time we stemmed the flow.”

While the latest Fundraising Effectiveness Project report, developed by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Urban Institute, shows that the nonprofit sector’s donor retention rate has improved for the first time in years, the number is still wretched. The nonprofit sector’s donor retention rate now sits at a shameful 43 percent! For every 100 new and renewed donors, 102 donors are lost through attrition.

As a sector, we must stop this donor churn. It’s expensive. It prevents organizations from building long-term relationships that lead to large current donations and significant planned gifts.

Sadly, doing business as usual is not working. It’s time to change the way we do things.

Retention Fundraising by Roger CraverFortunately, the solution to the donor retention problem faced by the sector is not overly complicated or pricey. It simply requires a commitment to change. Once you’re committed to enhancing your organization’s donor retention rate, Craver’s mercifully brief and easy to read text will show you the way. Based on science and decades of practice, Craver’s book will explore what measurements are important to track, what tactics you need to adopt, and what messaging secrets you need to learn.

Noted philanthropy researcher and author Adrian Sargeant finds that “even small improvements in the level of attrition can generate significantly larger improvements in the lifetime value of the fundraising database. A 10 percent improvement in attrition can yield up to a 200 percent increase in projected value.”

By following the advice found in Craver’s book and its companion website, you will be able to improve your organization’s donor retention rate. With increased fundraising effectiveness, your organization will be far better positioned to fulfill its mission today and well into the future.

Here’s an excerpt from Retention Fundraising that further reveals the problem faced by nonprofit sector:

read more »

March 18, 2014

Get More Repeat Gifts: The Rule of 7 Thank Yous

Donor retention is a worsening problem for the American nonprofit sector, according to Jon Biedermann, Vice President of DonorPerfect. In 2011, only half of first-time donors to a charity could be counted on to make a second gift. As bad as that retention rate was, it dropped to 49 percent in 2012.

Something must be done.

It’s challenging and expensive to acquire first-time donors. Charities must do a better a job of hanging on to those donors. Cost-efficient annual fund campaigns as well as major and planned giving efforts depend on loyal donors.

MG Fundraising CoverFortunately, guest blogger Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE  offers a simple idea that can help: “The Rule of Seven Thank Yous.” Her rule will help you retain first-time donors, loyal donors, small donors, and major donors — in other words, all donors.

Amy is an author, speaker, coach and fundraising consultant who’s dedicated to making nonprofit development simple for you and your board. Her books include 50 A$ks in 50 Weeks and Raising More with Less.

In her current Amazon bestseller, Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops, Amy takes the complex subject of major gift fundraising and distills it down to its essential elements. The book provides a clear, methodical approach that any organization can follow. Great tips, real-world stories, check lists, sample forms, and more make this a book that you will keep on your desk and refer to often, that is if you want to raise more money than you might have thought possible.

I’m happy to share Amy’s advice about how to more effectively retain donors. Here’s what Amy Eisenstein says:

There are two main reasons that donors, including those who make major gifts, provide for not making a repeat contribution:

1. They didn’t feel thanked; and/or

2. They were never told how their first gift was used.

Fortunately, the answer to this dilemma is a simple one: donors give because doing so makes them feel good. This includes feeling appreciated for their gift and knowing that their check has fed more children, cleaned the environment, or in whatever way has made a measurable, positive difference to a cause they care about.

Your job, no matter how large or small your budget, is to make sure your donors are satisfied on both counts. Over the course of working with dozens of nonprofit organizations, I’ve developed a simple process to help you do just that whenever you receive a major gift.

You may have heard that you should thank a donor seven times before asking for another gift. Here is my version of “The Rule of Seven Thank Yous” works:

1. Thank the donor at the ask meeting (once they say “yes”).

2. Have a board member call to say thank you after the meeting.

3. Send a tax-receipt thank-you letter within forty-eight hours of receiving the gift.

4. Have the executive director write a thank-you card as a follow-up to the ask meeting. 

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September 6, 2013

Only Business Can End Poverty

Approximately 2.7 billion people around the world live in poverty. Despite the fact that the global economy has grown 17-fold over the past six decades, about three of every eight people in the world exist on $2 per day or less.

The United Nations has not solved the problem of global poverty. Foreign aid from wealthy governments has not solved the problem. Charities have not solved the problem.

Certainly, millions of people have been helped by traditional assistance efforts. However, a new book suggests that traditional methods and institutions, while not completely useless, have achieved only modest results, at best. And, in some cases, those results have not always been positive or sustainable.

Adobe Photoshop PDFMal Warwick, the legendary direct-response fundraising expert and entrepreneur, and Paul Polak, a leading social entrepreneur, have written the new book The Business Solution to Poverty, to be released on September 9, 2013.

The provocative book has been described by Bill Clinton, former US President, as, “One  of the most helpful propositions to come along in a long time … original, ambitious, and practical.”

In their book, the authors define the nature of poverty. They review what has been done, citing what has worked and what has not. When reviewing what has worked, they also point out the huge limitations of the positive results achieved by traditional institutions using traditional methods. Finally, the authors outline their ideas for dramatically reducing global poverty and the suffering of billions of people.

As citizens of the world and as nonprofit professionals, we should all pay particular attention to what Polak and Warwick suggest. If you’re interested in learning more about the book, you can visit the authors’ website. To get a copy of the book and help ensure a successful book launch, you can purchase your copy at The Nonprofit Bookstore, powered by Amazon, on Monday, September 9, the day it is released.

One of the assertions that the authors make in the book is: “Only Business Can End Poverty.” It’s a thought that many, particularly those in the charity sector, will find provocative. After all, the authors are critical of the nonprofit sector.

I’m honored that the authors have allowed me to share some excerpts from their book with you. Let me know what you think of what Polak and Warwick have to say:

 

Poor people themselves tell us that the main reason they are poor is that they don’t have enough money. We agree with them. At first blush, this seems simple and obvious, but conventional approaches seem to focus on everything but helping poor people improve their livelihoods as the most important first step to ending poverty.

TAKEAWAY #3:

The most obvious, direct, and effective way to combat poverty is to enable poor people to earn more money.

However, instead of this obvious approach, efforts to eradicate poverty have tried just about everything else.

 

More than five million citizen-based organizations around the world have joined official and multilateral efforts to combat poverty. The biggest, typically called INGOs (international nongovernmental organizations), work in scores of countries, often have operating budgets upward of $500 million, and sometimes possess widely recognizable brands. Among the most powerful few are World Vision, CARE, Save the Children, and Catholic Relief Services (all based in the United States); Oxfam (UK); Médecins sans Frontiéres (Doctors without Borders, France); and BRAC (Bangladesh). At the other end of the spectrum are organizations at the village or community level typically referred to as community-based organizations, or CBOs. They number in the millions and normally operate without paid staff and with little or no money.

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January 25, 2013

To Sue or Not to Sue Over Unpaid Pledges?

Sometimes, nonprofit organizations sue philanthropists over unpaid pledges. This was recently the case with the Kansas City Art Institute. When a charity pursues this type of legal action, it sends shockwaves throughout the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.

I do believe there are times when a nonprofit can and should sue a donor. However, this should only be done as an absolute last resort. The three instances when a lawsuit might be acceptable are:

1. The donor dies with an outstanding pledge and an heir challenges the will. In that case, the nonprofit might need to sue the estate to establish its claim and collect.

2. The nonprofit incurs real expense based on the donor’s commitment. For example, based on a pledge agreement, the nonprofit breaks-ground on a new building. The nonprofit might need to sue simply to survive.

3. The donor is about to or has entered bankruptcy. Suing the donor would be a way for the nonprofit to establish its claim. (By the way, I suspect that this fear might be what may have triggered the Art Institute case.)

In any case, suing a donor should only be done after careful consideration and only when all other options have been exhausted.

To sue or not sue over unpaid pledges? That is the question. The answer, offered by Brian M. Sagrestano, JD, CFRE and Robert E. Wahlers, MS, CFRE, is: Avoid the problem in the first place!

Philanthropic Planning Companion coverBrian and Robert are friends of mine. They are both seasoned, wise development professionals who have served on the national board of the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning. I’m pleased that they have offered to share some of their wisdom below as they introduce us to the concept of “concierge stewardship.”

Brian and Robert both generously provided insights and material for my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, for which I won the AFP-Skystone Partners Prize for Research in Fundraising and Philanthropy.

Now, Brian and Robert have written their own book, Philanthropic Planning Companion: The Fundraisers’ and Professional Advisors’ Guide to Charitable Gift Planning, and I’m honored to have been included in their comprehensive volume. The book is part of the AFP/Wiley Fund Development Series.

The official description of the book notes, “For fundraisers and professional advisors alike, The Philanthropic Planning Companion is the one-stop resource you’ll keep by your side to help your donors/clients meet their charitable and personal planning objectives.”

So, do you want to avoid a nightmare at your organization? If so, read on:

 

The Kansas City Art Institute recently sued Larry and Kristina Dodge for failure to pay $4 million on a $5 million pledge that was to be used to pay for construction of a new building, according to The Kansas City Star.

When the Dodges attempted to defend themselves (rather than hire an attorney they indicated that they could not afford), they made procedural errors and a default judgment was entered against them for the full $4 million due on the pledge. According to The Star, the Dodges made three payments on their pledge before their financial situation was impacted by the Great Recession, limiting their ability to fulfill the commitment.

In the article, Larry Dodge is quoted, indicating that he and his wife were in negotiation with the Institute to come up with a payment plan when it unexpectedly filed suit to collect on the pledge.

Regardless of the outcome, the reputations of both the Dodges and the Institute are forever harmed. Prospective donors will think twice before making a major commitment to a charity that would sue them to collect on a pledge. Meantime, the Dodges reputation, despite their many years of generous philanthropy, will be forever tarnished.

We cannot judge the merits of the Art Institute’s action or the ability of the Dodges to pay on their pledge, as we are not privy to all of the facts of the case. However, it raises a much larger issue about charities and pledges.

read more »

July 13, 2012

Avoid These Mistakes in Your Next Fundraising Ad

I recently heard from my friend Ligia Peña, CFRE, Senior Development Advisor at Canada World Youth in Montreal, Canada and Fundraising Coach at Diversa Consultants. She Tweeted me a snapshot of a fundraising advertisement that appeared in her alumni magazine. Her message read:

#PlannedGiving marketing #fail from my alma mater @concordia Leaves me cold & I know what PG is!! cc: @MLInnovations

Before I even peeked at the photo, I knew I was in for a treat. First, Ligia used not one, but two, exclamation marks. Second, she made a point of copying me so that I’d be sure to see the message. She wouldn’t do that without a good reason. Third, she struck an unusual, harsh tone in her Tweet. Fourth, I know she’s a sharp development professional with interesting insights.

When I opened the photo (presented at the right), I immediately understood Ligia’s reaction to the ad. It is a wonderful example of how not to write and design an ad.

For starters, the headline shouts “planned giving” with the word “giving” in boldface. There’s a good chance that readers won’t know what the term means. As I reference in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, The Stelter Company commissioned a survey that found that only 37 percent of Americans over the age of 30 are familiar with the term; I doubt that the stat is much different in Canada. Even if readers don’t know what “planned giving” means, they certainly know about “giving.” Why would anyone read an ad that they know is going to ask them to give? Rather than drawing in the reader, the headline rebuffs them.

I was going to write a critique myself until I learned that Ligia intended to so. I couldn’t wait to read her analysis. So, I pestered her for it. While she plans to post her critique to her own blog site, she’s kindly given me permission to share it with you now:

 

Last week, I received my alma mater’s summer magazine filled with interesting articles on recent studies conducted by students and professors, news from other alumni and what the university is planning for Homecoming. Ah, happy memories of Homecoming!

Until I get to page 17, and what do I see? A full page advertisement on planned giving. That’s expected. After all, this is the alumni magazine, and the advancement department should raise awareness among alumni on ways we can contribute to the future of the university.

However, if you’re a fundraising professional, you can see how this advertisement falls short on many fronts. 

According to Frank Minton and Lorna Somers, Canada’s foremost experts on the matter and authors of Planned Giving for Canadians, using a current publication is an ideal way to promote planned giving. To be successful they recommend using a “donor testimonial that includes interesting details about the donor’s background, relationship to the institution and reasons for making the gift, describe the gift vehicle and the benefits to both the donor and the charity” (p. 380).

While this advertisement uses a donor testimonial, it has left me cold for various reasons:

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