April 21, 2020

Free Help to Protect Children During a Crisis

Almost every April, I devote one blog post to stopping child sexual abuse. It’s a significant departure from the nonprofit and fundraising topics I typically write about. So, let me tell you why I do it.

First, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and I want to support that initiative.

Second, many years ago, I served on a jury that heard a child sex abuse case involving a little boy and his step-grandfather. I’ll spare you the horrifying, nightmarish details. Suffice it to say, we found the step-grandfather guilty. When my jury service was completed, what I had heard continued to haunt me.

Before the trial, I assumed that child molesters and rapists were either priests or trench-coat wearing guys in vans. I also believed that incidents of such abuse were relatively rare. The news media coverage at the time would lead most people to a similar belief. However, during the trial, I learned differently:

  • 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before turning 18;
  • 1 in 7 girls, and 1 in 25 boys are sexually abused before turning 18;
  • 20 percent of sexually abused children are under age 8;
  • 90 percent of children know their abuser (in other words, the abuser is not a stranger);
  • 50 percent of sexually abused children under the age of 6 were abused by a family member (the younger the child the more likely the abuser is a member of the family).

As I continued to process my jury experience, I researched the organizations that were addressing the issue. As a result, I became closely involved with the work of the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, a regional child advocacy center. PCA does fantastic work bringing justice and healing to sexually abused children.

I also became acquainted with Darkness to Light®, which provides superb training programs and funds scholarly research related to the issue of child sexual abuse. Now, I want to make you aware of one particular FREE, 30-minute online training that D2L is offering: Protecting Children During a Crisis.

As the D2L website says: Continue reading

April 14, 2020

10 Fundraising Strategies for Complex & Major Gifts During COVID-19

The following guest blog post is from philanthropy researcher Russell N. James III, JD, PhD, CFP®. He originally posted it on LinkedIn, and I’m reposting it here with Russell’s kind permission. I’m reposting the piece because of the enormous importance of the subject and the valuable information it contains.

Engaging donors in planned-giving conversations is still possible during the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, Russell and I shared our FREE whitepaper “Legacy Giving: The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?” Now, I want to share Russell’s 10 charitable planning strategies you should keep in mind when seeking complex and major gifts during these challenging times:

 

The market went down. A lot. The economy is temporarily frozen. Unemployment may increase dramatically. In the past, all of these things have been bad for charitable giving. We can’t control that. So, what can we control? What strategies make sense for fundraising, in particular for complex and major gifts?

Here are ten charitable planning concepts to keep in mind.

1.    Crisis is the time to show support

A social/friendship/family relationship encourages sharing. A transactional/market/exchange relationship does not. We see this in fundraising experiments where family language (simple words and stories) consistently outperforms formal language (technical words and contract language). One of the defining moments that identifies a friendship relationship, rather than a transactional relationship, is during a crisis.

In our personal lives, we know this. When you might be in trouble, a good friend is one who reaches out to help. A friend visits you in the hospital. A friend comes to the funeral with you. A friend listens whenever trouble strikes. In time of crisis, reaching out with concern, help, or even a relevant gift reinforces this social/friendship/family type of relationship.

Ideally, the first contact with donors in a time such as this should begin with concern. Are you OK? Do you need anything? Can we help? Later, we can return to the typical donor-charity dynamic. (If you represent a cause related to public health or COVID-related assistance, that return may happen more quickly.) But, first we want to show friendship-like support during a time of crisis.

2.    The first giving conversations should be with DAF-holders

Requests made to donors with funded Donor Advised Funds will be successful earlier than requests made to others. During times of downturn and uncertainty, people are more likely to hold tightly to their wealth. This drives down charitable giving. But distributing funds already in a DAF doesn’t affect personal financial security.

During the last major economic downturn, many private foundations temporarily increased their distributions to help soften the blow for their grantees. The same reasoning can apply to individual donors who have already funded their DAFs. Due to tax planning strategies, many may have placed multiple years’ worth of future expected donations into a DAF. Given the current crisis, it makes sense to consider this as a time to empty those accounts earlier than originally planned.

3.    One-time special requests work, but be careful with a crisis

In fundraising experiments, people are more willing to donate in response to a special, one-time need than for ongoing needs. An appeal for one-time needs that arise as a result of the current turbulence may be particularly effective. In experiments, people respond more to appeals during a time of crisis. We are all sharing this experience together. We can work together to help overcome the effects of this hit.

However, it is important in such appeals to identify the crisis as a crisis for beneficiaries or for the cause, but not an organizational crisis. Projecting organizational instability might help get the $50 gift today, but it will come at the cost of the major donation later down the road. Major philanthropic investments don’t go to unstable organizations.

4.    Use planned gifts as your “Plan B”

During times of downturn and uncertainty, people are more likely to hold tightly to their wealth. Planned giving opportunities can help “lean into” this uncertainty.

Estate gifts take place only after the donor no longer needs the money personally. They can also be revocable. They can be a percentage of the estate, and thus can vary in size with financial ups and downs. These percentage gifts are actually much better for charities because they usually end up being much larger. (Fixed dollar gifts tend not to get updated for inflation.)

Irrevocable planned gifts can also help with financial uncertainty. These typically give the donor lifetime income or lifetime use of the donated property. Thus, the gift can be made while still protecting the financial security of the donor.

If a donor needs to back away from a commitment or feels that a future ask is too daunting, consider planned gifts as a “Plan B”. A response to such a refusal might include revocable or irrevocable planned gift options.

I certainly understand your concerns. I know others in your same situation who have decided to move their commitment into an estate gift instead. This provides flexibility with no upfront cost. There are even ways to do it that provide tax benefits. Would you be interested in learning more about these options?”

[This is followed by discussion of: 1) Gift in a will. 2) Beneficiary designation on an IRA/401(k), avoiding income taxes that heirs would otherwise have to pay. 3) Retained life estate, creating an immediate income tax deduction, discussed below.]

I certainly understand your concerns. I know others like you who have decided instead to make a gift that gives them lifetime income. With interest rates being so low and the market being so volatile, many people like the fixed payments coming from a charitable gift annuity. Would you like to learn more about this?”

5.    A charitable gift annuity as a two-stage gift

For those representing stable institutions offering Charitable Gift Annuities (CGAs), this may become a particularly attractive gift. A CGA usually trades a gift for annual lifetime payments to the donor (or donor and spouse). During times of uncertainty, the guarantee of fixed payments from a stable institution can be attractive. Following the last dramatic drop in the market in 2008, some large, stable organizations reported receiving exceptionally large CGAs. These very large gifts would normally have been structured as a Charitable Remainder Trust. But during extreme volatility, donors instead preferred the certainty and stability of payments guaranteed by the organization rather than payments tied to investment returns.

A charitable gift annuity can sometimes be presented as a two-stage alternative when uncertainty prevents a normal gift from being made.

I certainly understand your concerns. Another donor like you was in your same situation and she decided to protect against all this volatility by making the gift in two stages. First, she made a gift that gave her annual payments for life. If things go downhill, she has that income. But, if everything turns around and she ends up not needing the extra money, then she can donate those future payments as a second gift.”

Section II: Wonky Charitable Tax Planning Opportunities Continue reading

April 10, 2020

Legacy Fundraising: The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?

Over the past couple of weeks, social media, the blogosphere, and countless webinars have pondered the question: Is this the best or worst of times for legacy fundraising? Unfortunately, despite the high volume of opinions circulating, a view grounded in science has yet to emerge. So, philanthropy researcher Russell N. James III, JD, PhD, CFP® and I teamed up to prepare a special white paper for you that analyzes the current legacy-giving environment and reveals to you a path forward that we base on fact rather than emotional whim.

This blog post provides you with the full paper, nearly 5,000 words, with all of its insights and tips. In addition, you can download the PDF version for FREE. You may want to share the white paper PDF with your CEO, CFO, and board leadership.

Because of the unusual length of this post, I won’t offer any additional introductory comments other than to say that Russell and I are available for speaking engagements, training sessions, consultation, and interviews to address this and other relevant subjects. For more information, please contact me.

Now, here is the complete white paper:

 

Legacy Fundraising: The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?

Russell N. James III, JD, PhD, CFP® and Michael J. Rosen

The death media currently inundate us with panic-inducing news. Ubiquitous reports about the spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Daily death tolls. Images of people in masks or complete hazmat suits. Talk of overwhelmed hospitals. News of quarantined regions and nations.

What should a legacy fundraiser do in the midst of a societal crisis? Stop communicating altogether? Make a last-minute push to get into a donor’s Will before it’s too late? Something in between? All of the above?

To get some guidance, it helps to start with a bit of social-science theory, a look at recent financial history, and early empirical data.

Social-Science Theory

We start with social-science theory because it’s actually quite useful to first understand what we know about how people react to reminders of death.

An entire field of experimental psychology focuses on this very topic. Scientists call it Terror Management Theory. This field has produced many hundreds of experimental results. Therefore, we know quite a lot about what happens when you remind people that they are going to die.

There are many technical books and papers on the subject. Google Scholar lists 12,500 of them. Here’s a quick summary. Death is a problem. People use two solutions:  1) ignore the problem, or 2) live on after death. Allow us to explain.

The Two Defenses to Death Reminders

People respond to death reminders with two stages of defense. The first stage (proximal) defense is avoidance. Avoidance comes from a desire to suppress the reminder. This suppression can be expressed in many ways. For example, it might involve physically moving away from the reminder (e.g., avoiding strolling past a hospital or cemetery when taking a walk). It might involve denigrating a mortality reminder’s validity or personal applicability (e.g., it can’t happen to me). It might be dismissing the subject with humor (e.g., the film Death at a Funeral).

The second stage (distal) defense is pursuit of symbolic immortality or lasting social impact. When avoidance doesn’t work, then we must somehow deal with our own earthly impermanence. We deal with this by latching on to those things that will remain after we are gone. In other words, I may disappear, but some part of my identity – my family, my values, my in-group, my people, my story, my causes – will remain.

People don’t treat personal death reminders in the same way they treat other pieces of objective information. In legacy fundraising, it has always been important to understand this. These two underlying defensive responses help to explain how people will respond.

Death Just Got Way More Offensive

In experiments, personal death reminders ramp up avoidance responses. The more death reminders, the more avoidance people will exhibit. Right now, COVID-19 news engulfs our audiences in personal death reminders. For many people, this will make any death-related communications aversive.

(Interestingly, people will gladly read the latest news headlines as a means of pursuing avoidance. People hunger for details on how to avoid the death risk. They will support strong action that promises the same. Others may even pursue avoidance by putting unwarranted faith in untested treatments or unproven protocols.)

In addition to people living in an environment that stimulates greater levels of death avoidance, current conditions cause individuals to feel less of an emotional sense of wellbeing.

Dr. Jen Shang, a philanthropic psychologist and co-founder of the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, among other social scientists, believes that wellbeing involves three essential characteristics:

  • autonomy – a sense of control
  • connectedness – the quantity and quality of relationships
  • competence – effectiveness

The more autonomous, connected, and competent people feel, the greater sense of personal wellbeing they will feel. Conversely, when people feel those qualities eroding, they will feel a decline in wellbeing.

In addition to the physical health risks associated with the novel coronavirus pandemic, people are experiencing psychological stress. Many individuals feel that current events are overwhelming them, knocking them out of their routines, and causing them to lose control of their professional and personal lives. With the uncertainty of the near-term, it’s not surprising that people would feel they have lost a great deal of control over their lives.

As the pandemic leads government officials to suggest or order people to stay at home, practice social distancing, and limit even essential activities such as grocery shopping, people are losing their sense of connection to other people including neighbors, extended family members, friends, colleagues, and more.

During the coronavirus pandemic, people are grappling with their feeling of competency when facing new conditions. Many have set-up a home workspace for the first time. Others are learning new technologies to communicate more effectively with others.

People want to have a sense of wellbeing. The more autonomy, connectedness, and competency they feel, the better they will feel. Generally, people will seek to engage in behaviors that enhance their sense of wellbeing. Furthermore, they will appreciate individuals and organizations that help them obtain greater wellbeing.

So, what does all of this mean for legacy fundraising (i.e., a key type of planned giving)? To begin, it means the following:

  1. Legacy fundraising communications that “lead with death” need to be shelved.

Many fundraising professionals are accustomed to being direct. Being blunt. Making the ask. Making it early and often. That may be fine for some types of fundraising. While this type of approach was often less than ideal for legacy fundraising prior to the pandemic, this is even more true right now. This is not the time to lead with death. In normal times, this will create some pushback. In these times, expect it to create massive pushback.

Yes, you should absolutely communicate with your organization’s supporters. Moreover, those communications should be about delivering value to the donor. Through your outreach, you should strive to enhance each individual donor’s sense of wellbeing.

  1. Now is the time to be “top of mind.”

Most people tend to put off estate planning in normal times. For example, in the U.S., most adults over 50 have no Will or Trust documents. From what we know about avoidance, such delay is no surprise. But, from a massive longitudinal study in the U.S., we also know when those plans are made and changed. The typical triggers for planning fall into one of two camps, family structure changes or “death becomes real.” Family structure changes include marriage, divorce, birth of first child, birth of a first grandchild, and widowhood. “Death becomes real” includes diagnosis of cancer, heart disease, stroke, moving to a nursing home, or actually approaching death (measured retrospectively).

Right now, many people are living the “death becomes real” experience. Consequently, there is a major upsurge in Will document completions – particularly online. Some sites are reporting greater than 100 percent week-over-week increases in completed documents.1 The Remember a Charity website, which promotes legacy giving for the U.K. charity sector, has experienced twice as many people visiting its “Making A Will” page as would do so normally.2

As “death becomes real,” people are also increasingly expressing interest in life insurance.3 One online life insurance agency saw the most ever monthly applications and sales in March 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic gained traction. Another online life insurance agency saw an increase in applications of more than 50 percent since February.

We know from experimental research that the charitable component of an estate plan is, for many people, highly fluid. In one experiment with British solicitors (lawyers), simply asking the question, “Would you like to leave any money to charity?” more than doubled the share of people including charitable gifts in their Will documents. Even small alterations in the wording used to describe such gifts results in dramatic changes in both charitable intentions and actual document contents.

For a charity, being “top of mind” at the moment in which people are actually planning is absolutely critical. More people are planning right now than in any normal time. Clearly, this is the ideal time for your charity to be communicating about gifts in Wills and even beneficiary designations. However, the language of how you communicate is most critical.

When viewed through the social scientist’s lens of individual wellbeing, the enhanced interest in estate planning is not surprising. Drafting a Will or purchasing a life insurance policy is a way for someone to feel a sense of autonomy or control over the current situation. Through these actions, they can enhance the feeling of attachment from relationships with those they love as they make plans to take care of these people. When successfully achieving their estate planning objectives, including supporting values and causes that have been important in their lives, individuals will feel an elevated sense of competency. In other words, a major reason we now see a spike in interest in Wills and life insurance is that it gives people an enhanced sense of wellbeing.

If communications from charities also enhance a donor’s sense of wellbeing, organizations may find that their donors will have greater interest in supporting them with a commitment in a Will or through a life insurance beneficiary designation. In other words, helping a donor feel better may ultimately benefit the charity.

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

Is this the best time or the worst time to be communicating about legacy gifts? Actually, it is both.

People are planning like never before because they seek to take care of their families, usually the first priority of those doing estate planning even in the best of times. The challenge for charities is that we need to be at the top of their minds when people are ready to make their plans. It’s definitely the best time for legacy fundraising. Furthermore, by engaging people, fundraisers have an opportunity, like never before, to perform a real service by helping donors enhance their feeling of wellbeing.

On the other hand, talking about legacy planning can be offensive like never before. People are emotionally-poised to lash out strongly against such death reminders. Take one step in that direction and the risk-averse herd animal known as your executive director will be ready to end your career. It can very-well seem like the worst time for legacy fundraising, particularly when done the wrong way.

We’re not talking about opposing camps. Instead, individual donors are experiencing both of these paradoxical orientations to one degree or another.

The Direct Route is Closed. Now What? Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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: Continue reading

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: Continue reading

March 13, 2020

AFP Cancels Its In-Person International Conference

The Association of Fundraising Professionals has announced the cancelation of the in-person experience for its upcoming International Conference. However, AFP ICON VIRTUAL will still go ahead. Mike Geiger, President and CEO of AFP, issued a statement on March 12, 2020 that, in part, says:

The situation regarding COVID-19, the coronavirus, has changed dramatically. With Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s announcement today of the executive order prohibiting gatherings and events over 250 people, we have canceled the in-person experience of AFP ICON 2020. However, despite the announcement, we have plans in place and AFP ICON VIRTUAL will continue on schedule.

In fact, we are looking at ways to expand the VIRTUAL experience to make up for the lack of the in-person event, including how to best integrate more education and networking aspects into AFP ICON VIRTUAL. If you are registered for AFP ICON 2020 and have not yet transferred or canceled your registration, you have four (4) options.

  1. Transfer your registration to AFP ICON VIRTUAL. You can learn more about AFP ICON VIRTUAL at afpicon.com/virtual.
  2. Transfer your registration to AFP ICON 2021, April 18-20 in Minneapolis, Minn.
  3. Cancel your registration for a full refund.

If you are contemplating canceling your registration, we invite you to consider the fourth option of donating part or all of your conference registration fee to the AFP Foundations for Philanthropy. This would be a tax-deductible donation. To donate, simply email foundation [at] afpglobal.org by March 31, 2020, stating your intended donation amount.

I’m sorry we won’t be able to offer the full AFP ICON 2020 at this time, because the education and networking experience in-person is always exciting, unique and inspiring.

The AFP community is a strong one, and I know we all remain dedicated to our causes. Thank you for your patience, and I commit to you that we’ll continue to look for ways to offer education and training this year that will help you advance your cause.”

To read Geiger’s full statement, which includes relevant contact information, click here. Continue reading

March 12, 2020

Worried about Going to AFP ICON? Now You Can Attend Online!

[BREAKING NEWS (March 12, 2020): The AFP ICON in-person experience has been canceled. The AFP ICON VIRTUAL will still take place. Learn more by clicking here.]

The World Health Organization declares that the global spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) is now a pandemic. Nonprofit organizations around the world are beginning to limit non-essential travel, events, and even routine group interactions (e.g., sporting events, performances, classes, visitation, etc.). As the Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference draws near, Mike Geiger, AFP President and CEO, continues to closely monitor the evolving situation.

With the AFP ICON scheduled for March 29-31, the organization issued two recent announcements:

  1. At this point, the conference will open as planned in Baltimore, MD. Both AFP and the Convention Center are taking precautions. You can learn more by clicking here.
  2. If you cannot or do not want to attend the AFP ICON in-person, you now have the option of participating online.

“AFP knows it’s not a normal time—and your organization may have placed a ban or restriction on your travel, or perhaps you’re unsure and concerned about traveling. But you still need to learn and develop your skills and be inspired by extraordinary speakers from around the world. You still need what AFP ICON can offer, which is why we’re offering AFP ICON VIRTUAL, your online fundraising conference,” says AFP.

Registrants for AFP ICON VIRTUAL will receive:

  • Three days of AFP ICON sessions — that’s 9 different education sessions — featuring some of the best content and speakers that AFP ICON has to offer—and each one video-recorded so you can also watch them at your leisure;
  • Q&A participation to help you get involved as if you were with us in Baltimore;
  • Access to bonus materials including new live content, webinars and micro-learning videos in between education and plenary sessions;
  • Keynote sessions with activist Zainab Salbi and Chef José Andrés; and
  • Audio recordings of EVERY breakout education session offered at AFP ICON, so you still get all of the training you need to be an effective fundraiser!

The registration fee for AFP ICON VIRTUAL is $1,249 for AFP members or  $1,499 for non-members. If you have already registered to attend the conference in Baltimore, AFP permits you to convert your registration to AFP ICON VIRTUAL if you choose.

There are a number of benefits to attending AFP ICON VIRTUAL: Continue reading

March 6, 2020

How will Coronavirus Affect Your Fundraising Efforts?

Coronavirus is spreading with profound implications for the nonprofit sector. As I write this post, there have been 98,088 global documented cases of COVID-19 resulting in 3,356 deaths.

This is my third post about coronavirus. Previously, I looked at how you can keep yourself and your colleagues healthy, and I have written about what the Association of Fundraising Professionals is doing to ensure a safe, successful International Conference later this month.

Now, I want to look at some of the ways the advance of COVID-19 might affect your fundraising efforts. Most of the points were shared with me by Ken Wyman, a Canadian-based consultant and Professor Emeritus from the Fundraising Management graduate program at Humber College. I thank Ken for generously sharing his insights.

While there is no reason for you to panic, you and your nonprofit organization should prepare for what is happening and what could happen. To help you with your planning, here is a list of just 17 ways your fundraising efforts could be affected:

1. Special events may need to be canceled. Already, the American Physical Society canceled its annual conference; the Global Health Conference has been canceled; the American Bar Association canceled its National Institute on White Collar Crime; Chicago State University has canceled some basketball games; and other nonprofit and for-profit events have been canceled. You might need to cancel certain events out of real health concerns or because attendance would be low because of fear.

2. Staff and volunteers may need to work from home, and/or take sick days. Sick people should stay out of the office rather than come in and risk infecting colleagues. Not only will this protect people from coronavirus, but it will also protect them from many other illnesses as well. To allow for this, your organization might need to revise its policies and procedures.

3. Donors may value your health-related projects more. If your nonprofit is a healthcare organization or a charity that offers health-related programs, you may find greater donor interest in your services. Be sure to let people know how your organization is responding to the current health situation.

4. Corporate donations may go down as profits and stock markets decline. The US stock market has seen several days of sharp decline and extreme volatility. Leading economists anticipate a global reduction in Gross Domestic Product because of COVID-19. A decline in corporate profits will likely result in a decrease in corporate giving. When appealing to corporations, be sure to demonstrate how giving to your organization will deliver value to the corporation.

5. Don’t lick envelopes for thank-you cards. Eww! The same goes for any correspondence you mail. Instead, for high-volume mailings, automate the process; for low-volume mailings, use a damp sponge or paper towel to moisten envelopes. The bonus is that you won’t risk getting a paper cut on your tongue.

6. This is a good time to remind donors about gifts in their Wills. A gift in a Will is a great way for someone to support their favorite charities when they might not be able or willing to do so with a current cash gift.

7. Isolated lonely donors may welcome phone calls. As people start spending more time at home rather than risking a trip out in public, some will begin to feel isolated. These supporters will appreciate a phone call from you even more than ever. Call donors to thank them, update them about a program, survey them, etc.

8. Virtual board meetings are less infectious and better for the environment. Instead of gathering your board members around a conference table, you can host a virtual board meeting. You have a number of technology options to accomplish this ranging from a simple conference call to a video meeting. The bonus is that using technology will reduce greenhouse gases as board members will not have to drive or fly to the meeting. Continue reading

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