Archive for ‘prospect research’

August 28, 2019

Would You Have Accepted Money from Jeffrey Epstein?

A reporter for The Miami Herald interviewed me recently about whether charities should have rejected charitable contributions from Jeffrey Epstein, an admitted child sex trafficker who faced new accusations prior to his suicide earlier this month.

Now, I’ll ask you, would you have accepted a donation from Epstein?

Your knee-jerk response might be, “No!” Or, you might have a more emphatic and colorful response. It’s even possible that you would have accepted a charitable contribution from Epstein. You certainly wouldn’t be alone. Many nonprofit organizations have accepted substantial gifts from Epstein including Harvard University, the Ohio State University, the Palm Beach Police Scholarship Fund, Verse Video Inc. (a nonprofit that funds the PBS series Poetry in America), Ballet Florida, and other nonprofit organizations. Some nonprofits accepted Epstein’s money before his legal troubles, some after his initial plea deal on prostitution charges, and some around the time of the swirling accusations of child sex trafficking this year.

So, once again, would you have accepted a donation from Epstein?

As I told the reporter from the Herald, it’s not a simple question. It’s complex. It’s nuanced.

One factor is timing. Some might consider donations made before Epstein’s legal troubles to be completely problem-free. On the other hand, some charities might have more of an issue with an Epstein contribution made after his 2008 plea deal. However, after Epstein served his sentence, some charities would have been willing to accept an Epstein contribution once again.

Another timing issue involves whether a nonprofit had already spent Epstein’s donation prior to his legal difficulties. For example, Harvard says it spent Epstein’s donation by that time. In other words, there was nothing left to return.

Another factor to consider is the type of recipient charity. For example, a university might have been more willing to accept an Epstein donation than a child welfare charity would be.

Consideration of Epstein’s philanthropy gets even more complicated when we consider broader cultural issues. For example, in our society, we believe that ex-felons have paid their debt to society and, therefore, should be free to live life as full citizens including having the right to be philanthropic. Furthermore, we believe in a presumption of innocence. Epstein was not convicted of any new charges prior to his death.

More broadly, we must consider whether charities are supposed to investigate and pass judgment on donors before deciding whether to accept a gift. Many major donors, I dare say, have done something that they probably would prefer you didn’t know about, even if not rising to a criminal level. When does due diligence turn into snooping? Do you want your organization to have a reputation of hyper-scrutinizing prospective donors? Would major donors want to submit to that kind of treatment or would they simply take their money elsewhere?

When doing your due diligence, keep in mind that some of this nation’s greatest philanthropists were also troubling figures such as Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller, Henry Ford, and others. Charities are not in business to turn away contributions. They exist to take donations and use the funds to enhance communities and the world.

For example, I know of an order of nuns who accepts donations from known Mafia figures. They believe that they can take the funds and do more good with it than would be done if the money were left in the hands of the mobsters.

Having said that, the issues surrounding Epstein are certainly complex. I’ve only touched on some of the issues. The Miami Herald did a great job exploring some of the complications. You can read the article by clicking here.

To navigate a complex ethical dilemma, charities should consider all possible courses of action from multiple perspectives. In my article in the International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, I wrote:

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July 23, 2019

How to Stop Offending Your Women Donors

Just days ago, T. Clay Buck, CFRE, asked a survey question on Twitter:

An informal poll for any who identify as female and also contribute philanthropically. If you are the primary gift giver and are in a relationship, have you ever been listed secondarily or as ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ even though you made the gift?”

While far from being a scientific study, Buck’s poll found that 82 percent of the 68 respondents answered “Yes,” indicating they were recognized inappropriately. Despite not being statistically reliable, the results are sufficiently striking to indicate that the nonprofit sector has a donor-recognition problem.

I’m not surprised. This is the flip side of a problem I’ve talked about on many occasions. Charities often treat women as second-class donor prospects. Now, we see that some nonprofits also treat women as second-class donors.

These problems might be due to carelessness. Or, it could be that some fundraisers are gender biased. Regardless, the way in which some charities treat female prospects and donors is offensive. It’s also stupid. The reality is that women are more philanthropic, in many respects, than men are. Therefore, charities would be wise to immediately address the way they engage with female prospects and donors.

Although I’ve written in the past about gender differences when it comes to philanthropy, I want to highlight some insights from professionally conducted, valid research that underscore the importance of working more effectively with prospects and donors who are women.

A whitepaper from Optimy, Women in Philanthropy, reveals:

  • Women make 64% of charitable donations.
  • Women donate 3.5% of their wealth, on average, while men contribute 1.5%.
  • Women account for 45% of American millionaires.
  • Women will control 2/3 of the total American wealth by 2030.
  • Women are also playing a greater role in philanthropy because of the growth in Giving Circles. Of the 706 Giving Circles reviewed, women led 640.
  • Women made up 77% of foundation professional staff in 2015.

For more insights from Optimy about the role of women in philanthropy and a look at what motivates female donors, download the FREE report by clicking here.

When it comes to planned giving, women are critically important according to a Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund study I first cited in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

  • High-income women (those with an annual household income of $150,000 or more) demonstrate a high-level of sophistication in their giving by seeking expert advice.
  • High-income women are more likely to use innovative giving vehicles such as donor-advised funds and charitable remainder trusts. 16% of high-income women have or use a donor-advised fund, charitable remainder trust, or private foundation, versus 10% of high-income men.
  • 7% of high-income women made charitable gifts using securities, versus 3% of high-income men.

Yes, both men and women are valuable contributors to charities who we should cherish. Unfortunately, far too many charities fail to fully appreciate the vital role that women play when it comes to philanthropy. Women are often ignored as solid donor prospects deserving of attention. When women do give, they are often denied the respect and recognition they deserve as Buck’s poll suggests.

Here are some questions to consider as you review your own organization’s donor recognition procedures:

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March 27, 2019

Who are Your Best Planned Giving Prospects?

Almost everyone has the capacity to make a planned gift. Consider just these four facts:

  • Among those ages 65 and older, 78 percent own their home (US Census)
  • Most Americans own stock in one form or another (Gallup)
  • Inflation-adjusted median household net worth grew 16 percent from 2013-16 (US Federal Reserve)
  • 69 percent of Americans expect to leave an inheritance (Stelter)

The fact that most Americans have the ability to make a planned gift presents both a great opportunity and a profound challenge for fundraising professionals. With limited staff and budget resources, it is essential to focus legacy giving marketing where it will do the most good. So, who are the best planned giving prospects?

You can visualize the answer to that question as an equation:

Ability + Propensity + Social Capital = GIFT

Your best planned giving prospects will have the means with which to make a planned gift, ideally a sizeable one. However, just because they have the ability does not mean they will take the action you desire. A number of factors influence a prospect’s propensity for giving. Some of those factors might be related to the organization seeking a gift while other factors might have nothing to do with the organization. Finally, we need to consider a prospect’s level of social capital, their degree of engagement with the community and the organization. Someone who scores high in each category is more likely to make a planned gift than someone who scores low.

A simpler way to identify strong planned giving prospects is to recognize that “the most dominant factor in predicting charitable estate planning was not wealth, income, education, or even current giving or volunteering. By far, the dominant predictor of charitable estate planning was the absence of children,” according to philanthropy researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP®. In other words, people who do not have children are far more likely to make a charitable planned gift than those who have children.

However, while the absence of children tells us who is generally more likely to make a planned gift, it does not tell us whether your organization will be the recipient of such a gift. The leading factor that will determine whether someone will make a planned gift to your organization is their level of loyalty, according to legacy researcher Claire Routely, PhD.

As you attempt to determine a prospect’s level of loyalty to your organization, you’ll want to consider a number of factors including:

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July 13, 2018

How to Take the Guesswork Out of Fundraising

Many nonprofit professionals think that fundraising is an art. They rely upon conventional wisdom, best practices, what feels right, what they themselves like, what their boss likes. They often guess about how they can be more effective.

Yes, fundraising is an art. However, thinking of it only as an art will limit your success. Guessing about what might work, and relying on trial and error to find what will work, can be costly.

While fundraising is an art, it is also very much a science. Because fundraising is also a science, there’s plenty of solid research that can guide our efforts. In other words, you don’t need to rely on your gut to figure out the best fundraising approach.

As the winner of the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Skystone Partners Prize for Research in Philanthropy and Fundraising for my bestselling book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, I’m admittedly biased regarding the value of scientific inquiry for the nonprofit sector. Nevertheless, I recognize that it’s not always easy to find valid research reports on a given subject. Furthermore, busy fundraising professionals seldom have enough time to read all of the terrific studies that are now available.

Well, I have some great news for you! The folks at the University of Plymouth Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy have prepared a literature review, commissioned by Legacy Voice. Authored by Dr. Claire Routley, Prof. Adrian Sargeant, and Harriet Day, the report will help you take the guesswork out of planned giving. Everything Research Can Tell Us about Legacy Giving in 2018 “is [an] in-depth report, compiled from more than 150 papers across fundraising, marketing, sociology, psychology and behavioural economics, available to anyone working in the not-for-profit sector free of charge,” writes Ashley Rowthorn, Managing Director of Legacy Voice.

In the Foreword of the report, Prof. Russell James III, JD, PhD, CFP® says:

It is wonderfully encouraging to read this review of research on legacy giving, and to know that it will be available for so many who can benefit from the work. Such a work is timely, significant, and much needed. Fundamentally, two things we know about legacy giving are that it is important, and it is different…. [The] possibility of dramatic expansion [in planned giving] starts with learning how legacy giving and legacy fundraising works. That starts with this excellent summary of what we know.”

Here are just seven tidbits from the report:

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October 3, 2016

A Powerful Lesson about #Philanthropy from 2 Celebrities

When I was a young boy, I learned a valuable idiom:

You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

My parents wanted me to appreciate that before you can know or judge something, you first need to take a closer look to develop a deeper understanding.

But, is the idiom correct? For fun, I thought I’d see if it is strictly true when it comes to fundraising. Okay, I’m admittedly a nerd. However, I identified a worthwhile lesson when I explored the issue during philanthropy conversations I had recently with Carl Hiaason, the award-winning journalist and novelist, and Alton Brown, the Food Network star and cookbook author.

Michael Rosen and Carl Hiaasen at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Michael Rosen and Carl Hiaasen at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

With best-selling book titles including Strip Tease (made into movie), Hoot (also made into a film), Basket Case, Bad Monkey, Skinny Dip and, his latest, Razor Girl, it’s impossible to know what charitable causes interest Hiaason. However, when reading his novels, you’ll find more than quirky characters and over-the-top funny, satirical plots. You’ll also discover underlying messages that are pro-environment. In some of his books, protecting the environment is the plot.

I wondered if the passionate content of Hiaason’s novels could offer a clue to which charitable causes interest the author. So, I asked him. Hiaason responded:

I really don’t want to say that I endorse anybody… [However,] I’ll tell you that in the past I’ve supported, as a private citizen, the Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund [Earthjustice]. It’s phenomenal; they do great work; it’s basically a law firm that takes on big polluters in Florida and the rest of country.”

Hiaason also supports the Everglades Foundation, which raises funds for groups trying to clean up the Everglades.

After reading just a few of his books, it’s easy to see that environmental protection is important to Hiaason. So, I was not surprised to learn about his favorite charities.

Alton Brown and Michael Rosen at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Alton Brown and Michael Rosen at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

With Brown, it is even easier to guess where his philanthropic passion lies. Brown has hosted top-rated Food Network shows including Good Eats, Iron Chef America, and Cutthroat Kitchen. He’s also written eight books including his latest: Alton Brown: EveryDayCook.

While clues to Hiaason’s philanthropic interest could be found in the pages of his books, I believed Brown’s could be found right on the covers. So, I asked him what his favorite charity is. Brown told me:

I support many charities, but I particularly like Heifer International.”

Heifer International is a charity seeking to end hunger and poverty around the world. Given Brown’s passion for food, it’s not at all surprising that he would support a cause related to food and hunger.

Here are some takeaways for you:

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