Posts tagged ‘book’

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.

October 22, 2015

Do You Know if Your #Fundraising is Failing?

You might think it’s a blunt, maybe even a harsh, question. It is.

Do you know if your fundraising is failing?

If your nonprofit organization is typical, I have some bad news for you. You’re fundraising effort is most likely sorely underperforming. That’s according to the newly released 2015 Fundraising Effectiveness Project Report, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Urban Institute.  Here are some of the key findings:

•  For every 100 donors gained in 2014, 103 were lost through attrition, a net loss in donors of three percent!

•  For every $100 gained in 2014, $95 was lost through gift attrition. In other words, organizations are running hard to remain essentially in place.

•  The median donor retention rate in 2014 was just 43 percent. There was no improvement over 2013’s rate despite all of the publicity and advice about the issue.

•  The median dollar retention rate increased slightly from 46 percent to 47 percent in 2014. However, the fact that the retention rate is not well above 50 percent is pathetic. Sadly, that’s been the case for nearly the past decade.

The Scream by Mark Tighe via FlickrRoger Craver, one of the Editors at The Agitator blog and author of Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Your Donors for Life summed up the results perfectly with just one word: “depressing.”

Even if your charity is performing on par with the median nonprofit organization, make no mistake about it, it is failing. Unfortunately, many organizations do not even know whether or not they are performing well. They usually don’t look at or understand their numbers. Fortunately, the solution is simple. Here’s a story I told The Agitator:

October 16, 2015

When Should You Refuse a Gift?

From opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, I learned of two stories that both raise an important question:

When should a charity refuse to accept a donation?

The first story concerns Lucy the Elephant,  an historic six-story tourist attraction in the US. Built in 1881, the wood and tin structure is in need of major repairs. The nonprofit organization that operates Lucy the Elephant is raising money for the project.

Lucy the Elephant by Doug Kerr via FlickrHearing about the repair effort, the nonprofit People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals offered to make a significant, though not huge, donation. However, the gift would come with major strings attached.

PETA wanted to use the attraction for anti-circus messaging. “PETA wanted to decorate Lucy ‘in a way that would educate visitors about the grim lives facing elephants in circuses.’ That would have included shackling one of her feet and affixing a teardrop below one eye,” according to the Associated Press.

However, the board of trustees for Lucy the Elephant rejected the PETA offer. Richard Helfant, the CEO of Lucy’s board of trustees, said that accepting PETA’s terms would risk scaring or upsetting children who visit the site. “Lucy is a happy place,” he said. “We must always ensure that children who visit Lucy have a happy experience and leave with smiles on their faces. Anything that could sadden a child is not acceptable here at Lucy.”

In other words, the board of Lucy the Elephant found that the conditions of the PETA gift offer were not in alignment with the organization’s own mission and, therefore, it could not accept the donation.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, a children’s charity in the UK was offered a gift from the Jimmy Savile Trust. Under normal circumstances, this would be considered great news. Jimmy Savile  was a huge celebrity in the UK. He worked as a DJ, radio and television personality, dance hall manager, and a major charity fundraiser. He was sort of the Dick Clark of the UK.

Unfortunately, Savile also had a very dark side. Following his death in 2011, hundreds of people came forward to accuse the media star of sexual abuse. His alleged victims were eight to 47 years old at the time of the abuse. A Scotland Yard investigation and an ITV documentary looked into the allegations and the alleged cover up of the crimes.

In 2014, UK Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt delivered a public apology in the House of Commons:

Savile was a callous, opportunistic, wicked predator who abused and raped individuals, many of them patients and young people, who expected and had a right to expect to be safe. His actions span five decades — from the 1960s to 2010. … As a nation at that time, we held Savile in our affection as a somewhat eccentric national treasure with a strong commitment to charitable causes. Today’s reports show that in reality he was a sickening and prolific sexual abuser who repeatedly exploited the trust of a nation for his own vile purposes.”

So, why would a charity, particularly a children’s charity, even consider accepting a gift from the Jimmy Savile Trust?

Raising the issue in the Institute of Fundraising Discussion Group on LinkedIn, the Fundraising Manager for the charity and participants provided some insights:

September 11, 2015

Where Should You Avoid Meeting with Prospects and Donors?

Whether you want to cultivate or ask for support, a face-to-face meeting with a prospect or donor will usually be the most effective approach. To ensure the success of your meeting, you need to carefully plan for it. That includes knowing where to avoid having that meeting.

Two types of locations make particularly poor choices for meetings:

Katz's Deli by Matt Biddulph via FlickrRestaurants/cafes. Such locations can be problematic for any number of reasons. Your guest might not feel comfortable discussing personal matters in a public setting. The noise level of the restaurant might not be conducive to conversation. Servers will inevitably interrupt your discussion. The choice of a specific restaurant could even be problematic. Consider the following true story that I shared in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

The development officer picked up the donor at her home and drove her to the Four Seasons Hotel for lunch in the very lavish Fountain Room. The donor was appalled. She refused to be seated and told the development officer that lunch in the more casual, and less expensive, Swan Lounge would be more appropriate.

When relating the story to a friend, the donor expressed her outrage that the hospital would waste her money by taking her out to such a fancy restaurant. She even thought the more informal Swan Lounge was too much.

When asked if she would be making another gift to the hospital, she said, ‘Absolutely not! They waste too much money.’”

If you really want take a prospect or donor to a restaurant, or if she insists on meeting in one, make sure you ask her, “Where would you like to go?”

Office of the other person. From time to time, a prospect or donor will want to meet in his office. He might feel more comfortable in his own office. He might appreciate the convenience of meeting in his own office rather than traveling across town to yours. It’s possible he might even want to show-off a bit to you.

While visiting with someone in her office will give you a chance to learn more about her professional life, be prepared for interruptions and distractions. Another problem with an office meeting is that they tend to be more formal and less relaxed than meetings held elsewhere.

So, where should you visit with prospects or donors?

The individual’s home. There are a number of benefits to meeting in someone’s home. He will likely feel relaxed and comfortable. He will be more willing to discuss personal matters in a private setting. You’ll have a chance to learn more about the individual just by looking around. You’ll get a sense of net worth, hobbies, family, etc. These insights will help you more effectively build rapport. In addition, you’ll learn things that will help you better understand what motivates the individual and how you can match your organization’s needs with the individual’s interests.

Your site. Depending on the objective of your planned meeting, you might want to invite your prospect or donor to visit you at your office. This will give you a chance to introduce the individual to your colleagues. Your prospect or donor will also have the opportunity to see your organization in action (i.e.: preparing meals for the homeless), see physical changes (i.e.: a new building on campus), or see something special behind the scenes (i.e.: a painting not yet on public display).

Here’s a true example, from Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, that illustrates how powerful it can be to have a donor visit your location:

August 12, 2015

23 Sources for Powerful #Fundraising Tips that Will Get Results

Most fundraising professionals want to achieve better results. Unfortunately, finding the insights and tips that will help you enhance your development efforts is challenging. So many information resources exist. However, which sources are the best?

Last week, I reported that Fundlio created a valuable resource list: “20 Fundraising Blogs Every Nonprofit Organization Leader Should Be Reading Now.” I’m honored to have my blogsite included on the list.

Now, I’m honored to report that my blog has been included on yet another list of must-read sites. Chris Baylis of The Sponsorship Collective has written: “23 Fundraising Websites and Blogs Every Fundraiser Should Read.”

Information Hydrant by Will Lion via FlickrTo compile the list, Baylis says, “My preference is for blogs that provide good content, comic relief and tips and tricks that I can implement right away.”

Baylis has done fundraising professionals a great service by putting the list together. While his list is not exhaustive, as he himself admits, it is certainly another great place to start if you’re looking for wisdom in the vast sea of information on the Internet. I encourage you to checkout the list and visit some of the blogs with which you might not yet be familiar.

July 8, 2015

Nonprofit Sector is a Powerful Force for Freedom

This past weekend, my fellow Americans and I celebrated our nation’s Independence Day. On July 4, 1776, representatives from the colonies gathered in Philadelphia to declare independence from Great Britain. The Declaration of Independence, in part, states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Around the world where democracies have flourished, we see a robust nonprofit sector. Under dictatorial regimes, charities are either not permitted to exist, operate under government control, or function underground.

Independence Hall by Michael RosenDemocracy and the right to vote are not the same thing. While voting is certainly an essential element of a democracy, the term means so much more. Among other things, true democracies maintain an independent judiciary, ensure the rights of all citizens, and protect the most vulnerable members of society.

Charities contribute to freedom by diffusing power throughout society, encouraging expression, securing individual rights, meeting unmet needs, and in many other ways.

Brazil provides a good example of what I mean. When Brazil ended military rule and adopted a democratic system, the government maintained central control and limited the formation of charities. That democratic experiment ended relatively quickly with another military coup. When Brazil once again ended military rule, the new democratically elected government allowed the formation of charities and worked cooperatively with the sector.

Today, Brazil has a robust democracy, a reasonably healthy economy, and an effective nonprofit sector. Charities are indeed an essential part of civil society. You can read my article “Brazil: Two Countries Becoming One” by clicking here.

In the USA, charities are also an essential component of civil society. One of my favorite charities is the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance. PCA brings justice and healing to the victims of child sex abuse, protecting the most vulnerable members of our society.

Unfortunately, much more needs to be done to free children from the oppression of sexual abuse. In America, one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused. Sexual abuse knows no racial, ethnic, religious, geographic, or economic boundaries. Sadly, though, many people choose to ignore the problem or rationalize it away rather than engaging to protect our nation’s vulnerable young ones.

June 26, 2015

Are You Wasting Time by Hunting Unicorns?

Go to any fundraising conference, and you’ll find unicorn hunters. You might even be one. You can see the unicorn hunters in seminar sessions about Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts (CRATs), Charitable Lead Trusts (CLTs), and Charitable Remainder Uni-Trusts (CRUTs).

Unicorn hunters believe that Trusts are the cornerstone to a healthy planned giving program. Unicorn hunters scour the wealthiest portion of their donor files to find Trust prospects and then focus an enormous amount of time and energy trying to close big Trust gifts.

Unicorn by Rob Boudon via FlickrSome would-be unicorn hunters are overwhelmed by the hunt. They fear they have no prospects and/or they fear they have insufficient knowledge to pursue such gifts. So, they don’t implement any kind of planned giving effort.

Well, here’s your reality check, courtesy of Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014.

As the chart below reveals, the number of Trusts is tiny compared to the number of Public Charities which stood at 963,234 in 2012 (not including religious congregations and organizations with less than $5,000 in revenue), according to the Urban Institute’s The Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2014.

Even if every single charity that received a Trust gift only received one, that would mean that less than 12 percent of charities would have received a Trust gift in 2012. In other words, the likelihood that a fundraiser will close a Trust gift is very small in any given year. Moreover, the odds have been getting smaller as the number of charities has grown while the number of Trusts has declined.

Of course, that’s not quite how it works in the real world. In the real world, large organizations with large donor files containing plenty of wealthy supporters are far more likely to close Trust gifts than smaller organizations with smaller donor lists. If you don’t work at a large, established organization, the chances that you’ll close a Trust gift this year are miniscule.

 Trust Chart - 2015

While the dollars associated with Trust gifts are certainly significant, the actual number of such gifts is small. By contrast, far more people name a charity in their will, make beneficiary designations, give appreciated securities or personal property, or donate from their IRAs.

Keeping your eyes open for Trust-gift opportunities can be beneficial. However, you’re much more likely to close other types of planned gifts. This means:

June 12, 2015

How to Train Your Un-trainable Board to Raise More Money

I’m a fan of Andrea Kihlstedt. I continue to use her book, Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work, when teaching graduate “Advanced Fund Development” at Drexel University. So, I was naturally quite interested when Emerson & Church Publishers released her latest book, co-authored with Andy Robinson: Train Your Board (And Everyone Else) to Raise Money.

Cover of Train Your BoardKihlstedt and Robinson have put together a book that’s different from any other fundraising book on the market. Really. As they put it, it’s “A cookbook of easy-to-use fundraising exercises” to help your board members, volunteers, and staff more fully engage in the development process.

Each of the 53 “exercises has a brief introduction, a list of ingredients, instructions for facilitating the activity, and a training tip to help improve your skills.” The authors draw the exercises from some of the best trainers in the field.

Here’s a list of just some of the “Suggested Menus”:

  • Give Confidence to the Fundraising Phobic
  • Get Everyone Involved in Fundraising
  • New Board Member Training
  • Agenda for a Full-Day Retreat
  • Train Your Program Staff about Fundraising
  • Prepare for Your Major Gifts Campaign
  • Quick and Easy: 20 Minutes or Less

Each “suggested menu” lists at least five relevant “recipes,” training exercises.

This book represents a powerful resource for any nonprofit organization. Here are just some of the benefits you’ll get from the book:

  • Without studying to be a trainer, you’ll be able to facilitate high impact, effective training sessions.
  • You’ll help your board members develop more confidence and greater fundraising skills.
  • You’ll get your board more engaged in the fundraising process.
  • You’ll gain greater insights that will help you be a more successful fundraising professional.

As Simone Joyaux, ACFRE, the internationally recognized fundraising consultant, says, “This book can help you — a lot!”

This week, I’ve invited Kihlstedt to share some of her wisdom with us. In addition, she shares a free copy of one the exercises from the book:


Are your board members chomping at the bit to go and ask their friends for money?

If your answer is a resounding “Yes,” then you must have found some magic potion or concocted a special courage drink. And the nonprofit world will be beating down your door for the recipe.

Most board members shrink at the very thought of asking their friends for money. My colleagues and I have asked them why they hesitate and here are some of the reasons they state:

  • I don’t know anyone with money.
  • I don’t want to “hit up” my friends.
  • It makes me feel uncomfortable.

But most often, board members say they don’t feel prepared. They don’t know what to say or how to say it or what to ask for.

Imagine for a minute what it would feel like if your board members were excited about asking their friends for money.

Imagine if they started calling you for the names of donors they’d like to contact.

What if — without your prodding — each of them contacted several donors a month, asked them for gifts, and were successful much of the time.

I’ll bet your job would be quite different. Not only would you be raising more money, but your board meetings would be buzzing with a sense of commitment and energy.

So, it’s worth doing everything you can to get your board members to be comfortable with and excited about helping to raise money.

There are a number of reasons why your board members don’t learn, but you can teach them.

It’s entirely possible to teach your board members to be great fundraisers, but here’s the catch:

Adults seldom learn by being told what to do and how to do it. And your board members are no exception.

The realities of training your board members (or any other adult) are these:

May 29, 2015

Avoid the Pitfalls to Raise More Money

Yesterday, I made my first public speaking appearance since my successful battle with cancer began just over a year ago. I served as the plenary presenter at the Philanthropic Planning Group of Greater New York Planned Giving Day Conference. My topic:

Ripped from the Headlines: Learning from the Planned Giving Mistakes of Others”

It was a particularly moving day for me. You see, I was scheduled to speak at PPGGNY’s conference last year. Unfortunately, because of my health, I had to cancel. It marked the first time I ever canceled a professional appearance.

Meryl Cosentino, the Vice President of PPGGNY and Senior Director of Planned Giving at Stony Brook University, was very understanding and kind. She stayed in contact with me during my recovery and, when she learned of my return to professional life, she invited me to speak at this year’s Planned Giving Day. I thank Meryl and her colleagues for the invitation to present.

So, PPGGNY Planned Giving Day marked my first speaking cancelation and, now, my return to the speaking circuit! I’ve come full circle!

To help me celebrate the happy occasion, The Stelter Company generously sponsored 20 copies of my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, so we could give them away to random winners during my presentation. I thank Stelter for its thoughtful support. I also thank Stelter for contributing valuable material to my book. The company’s commitment to the nonprofit sector is remarkable, though not the least bit surprising.

Michael Rosen at PPGGNY Planned Giving Day Conference.

Michael Rosen at PPGGNY Planned Giving Day.

During my talk, I shared several stories about well-known nonprofit organizations that have stumbled. I also shared plenty of useful tips, and a story that provided the overarching theme to my presentation. The story contains an important lesson for all nonprofit professionals:

Several months before my surgery, I visited southern Utah with a good friend. We went hiking in Escalante National Monument, a spectacular wilderness. On the more treacherous trails, I was particularly cautious. I carefully placed my feet with each step. I looked at where I was going to step next so I could pick the best spot. Because I exercised great caution, I didn’t stumble once.

Coming off one challenging trail, I found myself on a wonderfully flat, gravel path. I gave a sigh of relief. I was pleased to be able to spend more time looking at the lovely scenery rather than the trail and my feet. However, as soon as I had that thought, I stepped into a small gully, a tiny wash. And I went falling straight over. After grabbing my camera to make sure it was undamaged, I checked myself. With the exception of a skinned knee and bruised ego, I was fine.

From that experience, I learned a profound lesson.

May 9, 2015

If You Want $1 Million, Be Creative

A wise person once said, “It’s not just what you say, but how you say it.”

Another wise person once stated, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Creatively taking these two aphorisms together can lead to great fundraising success. Consider what happened when the City of Philadelphia competed for a $1 million grant in the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge:

Mayors Challenge InfographicGood Company Ventures, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Philadelphia Department of Commerce collaborated on a grant application for their Philadelphia Social Enterprise Partnership.

With over 300 cities from 45 states competing, the Philadelphia collaborative knew it needed to do something to standout. The Philadelphia team prepared the required written proposal, which came in at 30 pages of dense content.

Then, they contracted with David Gloss and his team at Here’s My Chance, a Philadelphia-based creative agency that works with nonprofit organizations. HMC was tasked with helping Philadelphia’s proposal submission standout from the crowd.

Gloss went to work and produced an infographic that would accomplish two things: 1) Distinguish the Philadelphia proposal from the others. 2) Provide an easy to understand summary of the 30-page proposal.

With an energetic, clean infographic branded in Philadelphia’s colors and a detailed written proposal, the Philadelphia team earned a spot as one of the Top 20 finalists. In the next round of the competition, finalists were asked to submit a short video describing their proposed program and the impact it would have.

Once again, HMC went to work. Here is how HMC describes what happened next:

Being a Top 20 finalist is pretty sweet…but winning is even sweeter. For the next round, all finalists created videos, and we knew ours had to be the Beyoncé of all entrants: bold, professional, and flawless. To allow for more freedom and flexibility for that, we decided to produce an animated video. Then, we booked the talent. Not only did Mayor Michael Nutter provide a voice over for the video, but he appeared in it as well.”

At the end of the long competition, Bloomberg Philanthropies named Philadelphia as one of the five winners, awarding the city $1 million! By the way, Philadelphia was the only winner to have submitted an animated, rather than live-action, video.

So, what can we learn from this?


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