Posts tagged ‘charitable giving’

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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February 10, 2017

What is the Most Important Thing a Donor Can Give You? … It’s Not What You Think It is.

What is the most important thing a donor can give you?

If I were to ask that question at an Association of Fundraising Professionals conference, I suspect most members of the audience would respond by saying, “A big check!” If I were to pose the same question at a National Association of Charitable Gift Planners convention, participants might shout out, “A Charitable Remainder Trust!”

In other words, we tend to think that the most important or valuable thing a prospect or donor can give a charitable organization is money, and preferably lots of it.

However, do we have the wrong goal in mind?

Maybe.

Amy Cuddy, a psychology professor and researcher at the Harvard Business School, says that successful professionals must first earn an individual’s trust and respect. “Psychologists refer to these dimensions as warmth and competence, respectively, and ideally you want to be perceived as having both,” according to a report in the Business Insider. The article continues:

Interestingly, Cuddy says that most people, especially in a professional context, believe that competence is the more important factor. After all, they want to prove that they are smart and talented enough to handle your business.”

However, Cuddy’s research demonstrates that earning trust is more important than proving competence. She shares her findings in her book, trust-by-dobi-via-flickrPresence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. She also provides plenty of proven tips for engendering trust.

So, we see that the most important, valuable thing a prospect or donor can give you is their trust. Still not a believer? Keep reading. Cuddy’s research findings are in alignment with the studies completed by professors Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang, of Plymouth University, who have stated:

There would appear to be a relationship between trust and a propensity to donate…. There is [also] some indication here that a relationship does exist between trust and amount donated, comparatively little increases in the former having a marked impact on the latter.”

In other words, the research demonstrates that the level of trust one has in a charity and its representatives, affects both willingness to give and the amount of giving.

Cuddy says:

If someone you’re trying to influence doesn’t trust you, you’re not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion because you come across as manipulative. A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.”

If you’re like most fundraising professionals, you instinctively understand the importance of establishing a trusting relationship. However, what are you doing to build and maintain them?

Here are just five helpful tips for earning and building trust with prospects and donors:

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February 7, 2017

Get a FREE Book for Nonprofits by a Noted Researcher

Do you like getting something for free? I do, especially when it can help me be more successful.

Now, thanks to Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP, the Texas Tech University professor and philanthropy researcher, you can download a free, 427 page book that will become an important reference source in your fundraising library.

Whether you call it planned giving, gift planning, legacy planning, philanthropic planning, charitable estate planning, charitable gift planning, or something else, the subject is complex. However, it does not have to be overwhelmingly confusing.

visual-planned-giving-2017-coverTo help you, James has put together the book Visual Planned Giving: Introduction to the Law & Taxation of Charitable Gift Planning, newly revised and updated for 2017. Designed for fundraisers and financial advisors seeking to expand their knowledge about charitable gift planning, this introductory book addresses all of the major topics in planned giving law and taxation.

The gift planning topics you’ll learn about include elements of a gift, documentation requirements, valuation rules, income limitations, bargain sales, charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts, charitable lead trusts, life insurance, retirement assets, private foundations, and donor advised funds. Over 1,000 full-color illustrations and images will guide you through complex concepts in a visual and intuitive way. James makes planned giving accessible and pain-free for the busy professional.

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February 1, 2017

What are the Obstacles to Improving Donor-Retention Rates?

I’m disgusted and frustrated. You should be, too.

Once again, the already horrible existing-donor and new-donor retention rates in the USA have further declined, according to the 2016 Donor Retention Report issued recently as part of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and Urban Institute Fundraising Effective Project.

Among new donors, the report says:

An alarming finding in this research is that the New Donor Retention rate has been steadily declining since 2008, averaging a reduction of -3.4% year over year.”

The new-donor retention rate in 2008 was a terrible 29.35 percent. By 2015, that dropped to an even more pitiful 22.93 percent!

red-alert-by-bash-linx-via-flickr

Red Alert time for the nonprofit sector!

Among existing donors, the retention rate has dropped by an average of 1.68 percent since 2008. In 2008, the existing-donor retention rate was 67.88 percent compared to just 60.23 percent in 2015.

I’m puzzled. Since 2008, there have been books written about how to effectively retain more donors. There have also been seminars, workshops, webinars, articles, and blog posts offering superb advice on the subject. Yet, despite the wealth of available information, the numbers are steadily declining.

In the past, when I’ve been confronted by poor retention data, I’ve offered helpful tips. You can search my site for “donor retention.” However, for now, I’m too fed up to offer more tips here. I don’t even believe you need more information to retain more donors. Something else is going on, and I want to understand it. I hope you’ll help me.

It’s your turn now. Please tell me, as a comment below or via email:

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January 20, 2017

Now is the Time to Grow Up and Show Up!

Recently, pollster Frank Luntz, Founder of Luntz Global, said, “Grow up and show up.”

While the phrase has been used in a political context, it certainly applies to the philanthropic world as well.

Luntz was speaking about the nearly 70 (at the time) members of Congress who have decided to boycott the Presidential Inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20, 2017. He suggested that by failing to show up, these members of Congress are breaking with tradition, exacerbating an already divisive atmosphere, and failing to represent the portion of their constituencies who voted for Trump.

Luntz is not the first to use the line “Grow up and show up.” While I don’t know the origin of the phrase, I do know that liberals have used it as well. For example, a number of liberals used the phrase to encourage people to go to the polls and vote for Hillary Clinton.

I find it interesting that both sides of the political spectrum have embraced “Grow up and show up.” Ah, common ground! So, what does this mean for fundraising professionals?:

1.  Sometimes, we need to work with people (e.g., staff, board members, prospects, donors, etc.) we don’t particularly like or agree with. To me, grow up means we need to have the maturity and professionalism to separate our personal selves from our professional selves. We need to do what is best for our organizations and the entire nonprofit sector.

2.  We need to take action. To me, show up means it’s not enough to feel one way or the other; it’s not enough to pay lip-service to an issue or cause; it’s not enough to sign a petition; it’s not enough to participate in a protest. We need to back up our words with substantive action.

Let me share a personal example with you:

Years ago, the CARE Act was under consideration by Congress. The Act bundled a variety of charitable giving incentives including the IRA Charitable Rollover. At the time, I served as a Board Member, and eventually Chair of the Board, of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Political Action Committee.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) with Michael J. Rosen at CARE Act rally.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) with Michael J. Rosen at CARE Act rally.

The lead sponsor of the CARE Act was Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), He didn’t just lend his name to the Act or pay lip-service to it. He passionately believed in helping the nonprofit sector and, therefore, he actively worked for passage of the bill and partnered with Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) as lead sponsors.

At the time, Santorum was not popular among a large group of AFP members. As a conservative, he was anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage. I was contacted by a number of angry AFP members who did not want the AFP PAC to contribute Santorum’s re-election campaign and who did not want me working with him for passage of the CARE Act.

Despite the objections of some AFP members, the AFP PAC contributed to the Santorum campaign. The AFP PAC also contributed to Lieberman’s campaign although some AFP members objected to that as well. The AFP PAC exists to promote philanthropy, period. In the Senate, Santorum was the most supportive of the nonprofit sector. The contribution was appropriate.

I also continued to work closely with Santorum on advocacy efforts to secure passage of the CARE Act. It was the right thing to do for the nonprofit sector.

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January 17, 2017

Philanthropy Will Increase in 2017 and 2018

When it comes to philanthropy, I have some excellent news to share.

In 2017 and 2018, charitable giving will grow faster than the annualized average for the past ten years, according to a new report researched by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and presented by Marts & Lundy. Based on careful economic modeling, the new study supports the hopeful assessment I made at the close of last year.

The report predicts that overall giving will increase by 3.6 percent in 2017 and 3.8 percent in 2018, when looking at inflation-adjusted dollars.

Amir Pasic, PhD, the Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the School of Philanthropy, says:

philanthropy-outlook-2017-2018Continued growth in the overall economy will lead to a rise in philanthropic giving this year and next. Our research indicates that all types of donors — individuals, foundations, corporations and estates — are likely to increase their giving in each of the next two years. Nonprofit organizations and the people they serve can find encouragement in the anticipated expansion of giving.”

While the report predicts 2017 and 2018 giving will exceed the most recent ten-year annualized average increase in giving of 0.5 percent, the average rate of growth will be below the most recent 25-year (4.4 percent) and 40-year (4.9 percent) annualized averages. So, while the forecast is definitely good, it’s not necessarily great.

Three of the leading economic factors that will influence the rate of growth in charitable giving are:

  1. Stock value growth.
  2. Gross Domestic Product growth.
  3. Household Income growth.

All three of those areas are likely to increase over the next two years. In turn, this will result in an increase of giving across all donor types:

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January 13, 2017

The Best #Fundraising Blogs You Should be Reading

Every year, new authors enter the blog-o-sphere. It’s a challenge to keep track of all of the blogs for nonprofit managers and fundraising professionals. It’s even more difficult to determine which blogs are worth dr-seuss-reading-quote-by-linda-jordan-via-flickrvisiting regularly.

If you’re like most folks working in the nonprofit sector, you don’t have a lot of spare time to devote to professional development. You must attend endless meetings, generate reports, cultivate prospects and donors, and raise even more money than you did last year. Ugh!

So, let me help you by sharing two new lists with links to some of the best blogs for you:

100+ Fundraising Blogs You Should Be Reading in 2017” by Kristen Hay, Marketing Coordinator at Bloomerang

50 Must-Read Fundraising Blogs You Should Be Reading” by Anuj Agarwal, Founder of Feedspot.com

As I read the lists, two things struck me:

1.  There are a number of worthwhile blogs with which I was previously unfamiliar. I make an ongoing effort to keep up with the wealth of material in the marketplace, but it’s a challenge. I’m grateful that Bloomerang and Feedspot have pointed me in the direction of blogs worth exploring.

2.  I discovered that my blog made it on to both lists. I’m honored to be included alongside many nonprofit professionals I have long respected. I thank you and all of my readers for inspiring me to blog and helping me receive the recognition I have been given over the years.

To find four great lists of blog sites from last year, along with other valuable resources, checkout my post: “You Don’t Want to Miss These Worthwhile Items from 2016.”

Reading great blogs delivers several benefits:

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December 23, 2016

Was 2016 a Good Year for #CharitableGiving? Will 2017 be Better?

We’re rapidly approaching the close of what has been a tumultuous year. In 2016, the USA experienced an unusually bitter presidential campaign culminating in the unexpected election of Donald Trump. In the UK, voters chose to exit the European Union; the surprise Brexit vote sent shockwaves around the globe. The civil war in Syria continued to spin out of control resulting in a massive wave of refugees. Terrorism continued to be an international problem.

Uncertainty, fear, and stress are all words that one might use to describe the atmosphere in 2016 given much of the news. However, at least for fundraising professionals, there has also been much good news:

total-giving-as-a-percentage-of-gross-domestic• The third-quarter 2016 annualized Gross Domestic Product growth rate is 3.5 percent, according to the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. This is important because philanthropy closely correlates to GDP with overall giving being approximately two percent of GDP.

• Personal income has modestly increased in 2016, according to the BEA. Individual giving correlates to personal income at the rate of about two percent.

• The stock market has been achieving new record highs since the election with the Dow approaching 20,000. Increased stock values mean foundations will have more money to grant and individuals will have more appreciated securities they can donate.

• The price of crude oil is the lowest it’s been in more than a decade, according to Macrotrends. This means lower gasoline and heating oil prices for consumers thereby providing them with more disposable income.

• Third-quarter 2016 corporate profits were up, rising to the highest level since the first-quarter of 2015, according to Trading Economics and the US Bureau of Economics Analysis.

• The nonprofit sector saw #GivingTuesday philanthropic support worldwide grow at the rate of 44 percent, reports NonProfitPRO. While this might not reflect an increase in philanthropy, it does reveal the public’s philanthropic spirit at a time of year historically defined by commercialism.

• Blackbaud, which analyzes more than $18 billion in charitable giving, sees a 3.5 percent increase in donations in 2016 compared with 2015, reports MarketWatch. You can read my comments in the article as well as additional information from Blackbaud.

• Some progressive charities have seen dramatic increases in philanthropic support since the election, reports MarketWatch. It remains to be seen whether this represents an increase in philanthropy or merely a shift in giving priorities. In any case, it reveals that contributions are often driven by philanthropic passions.

• In a Harris Poll survey for CARE USA, 15 percent of respondents say they have or will increase their charitable giving in 2016. While I have a number of problems with the survey methodology, the results are nevertheless somewhat hopeful.

Taking all of the positive news together, we can expect to see that philanthropic giving has increased in 2016. To learn how much growth we have experienced, we’ll need to wait until all of the data has been compiled and analyzed. While I don’t expect a massive growth rate, I do expect good growth. Furthermore, I expect the good news to continue into 2017:

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December 9, 2016

#GivingTuesday Hits and Misses

I’m not a fan of #GivingTuesday. Don’t get me wrong, though. I do like the idea of it. Promoting philanthropy at a time of year that has become associated with extreme consumerism is a nice concept.

While I have no quarrel with the idea of #GivingTuesday, I do have several problems with the reality of it, including:

It does not inspire much philanthropy. During #GivingTuesday 2016, early reports show that charities raised $168 million … WORLDWIDE. Last year, nonprofit organizations raised $117 million. Assuming all of that money was given in the USA, which was not the case, it would have accounted for just 0.03 percent of overall philanthropy!

We do not know whether #GivingTuesday inspires new and increased giving. While people contributed on #GivingTuesday, we simply do not know whether they would have given those gifts anyway. We also do not know if #GivingTuesday simply shifts when people give.

Well-resourced charities may be siphoning support away from smaller nonprofits. With larger marketing budgets, staff sizes, and brand awareness, it’s entirely possible that big organizations benefit from #GivingTuesday at the expense of smaller ones.

#GivingTuesday growth appears to be slowing. NonprofitPro reports that this year’s growth rate is the lowest in the five-year history of the campaign.

While I recognize that some charities have benefitted from their #GivingTuesday campaigns, I still fail to see how it is a benefit to the nonprofit sector as a whole. (You can read my more detailed critiques of #GivingTuesday by entering that term in my blog’s search box to the right.)

Furthermore, I find that many individual charities do themselves more harm than good by rushing to embrace #GivingTuesday while failing to invest time and money to enhance the fundamental fundraising skills of staff.

Consider the #GivingTuesday appeal initiated by Inis Nua Theatre Company. This small theatre company in Philadelphia produces excellent contemporary, provocative plays from Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales.

Jessica Simkins, General Manager of Inis Nua, told me that the company normally does a year-end fundraising campaign. This year, staff chose to use #GivingTuesday to frame this year’s appeal. Rather than implementing an entirely new appeal for #GivingTuesday as many nonprofits have done, Inis Nua chose to leverage the hype around #GivingTuesday, such as it is, to see if it could boost its year-end fundraising campaign.

Despite my general feelings about #GivingTuesday, I actually like this application of the concept. I consider it a Hit. I also like that they included a challenge grant.

Unfortunately, the appeal letter itself is a big Miss. Here’s the direct mail appeal my wife received:

gt-inis-nua-mail-appeal

The major issue I have with the mailing is that it is very organizational-focused. The author uses the words I, my, our, ourselves, us, we a total of 30 times in a one-page letter. On the other hand, the writer uses the words audiences, donors, patrons, supporters, you and your only eight times.

The letter is a self-congratulatory missive from the Founder and Artistic Director. Donors are never given any credit for helping to make possible Inis Nua’s impressive accomplishments. There are other problems with the appeal, but the organization-centric approach is a giant problem. Piggy-backing on #GivingTuesday won’t offset Inis Nua’s neglect of fundraising fundamentals.

By contrast, my wife received a donor-centered email from Lantern Theater Company that also referenced #GivingTuesday. Lantern Theater is also a small nonprofit in Philadelphia that produces classic and modern plays. Unlike Inis Nua, Lantern’s mission statement actually mentions audiences, audience members, and community. You’ll see the audience/community focus represented in Lantern’s email appeal:

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November 15, 2016

Will the Election be Good or Bad for #Fundraising?

[Publisher’s Note: This is not a political or partisan post. Instead, this post will explore the affects the recent presidential election is likely to have on fundraising and philanthropy in the short-term and beyond. As always, civil and on-topic comments are encouraged, whether or not you agree with the points covered in the post. However, overtly political or partisan comments will not be published nor will the rants of internet trolls.]

 

Donald J. Trump appears to have secured enough electoral votes to become the USA’s 45th president. His election will become official when the Electoral College votes on Dec. 19, 2016.

After a bruising, though not unprecedented, election cycle, the nation remains deeply divided and emotionally raw. What does this mean for fundraising and philanthropy?

Impact of Election Donations on Charitable Giving:

At the 2016 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference, research from Blackbaud was presented that looked at the impact of political giving on charitable donations in the 2012 election cycle.

Chuck Longfield, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist at Blackbaud, observes:

Fundraisers have long debated whether or not political fundraising affects charitable giving and, for decades, important fundraising decisions in election years have been based largely on the conventional belief of a fixed giving pie. The study’s overall assertion is that political giving during the 2012 election did not, in fact, suppress charitable giving. Donors to political campaigns continued their support of charitable causes.”

According to the study, donors who gave to federal political campaigns in 2012 gave 0.9 percent more to charitable organizations in 2012 compared to 2011. By contrast, donors who did not give to political campaigns reduced their giving to charities in 2012 by 2.1 percent. These data findings held true across all sub-sectors as well as the demographic segments of age range, household income, and head of household gender.

The research only provides us with a snapshot. It is not predictive. More research will need to be done to identify whether or not the results will be consistent over multiple election cycles. However, based on the analysis of the 2012 campaign cycle, we certainly have room to be cautiously optimistic about 2016.

Year-End Giving:

If history is an indicator, the 2016 election will have little or no impact on overall year-end philanthropy, according to Patrick Rooney, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

voting-by-becky-mccray-via-flickrAt times, elections have had an effect on the giving of some individuals. For example, in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected, some major donors feared that he would secure a 28 percent cap on tax deductions.

Out of fear that the cost of giving would, in effect, be going up in 2009, some of these individuals front-loaded their 2009 philanthropic support to 2008 year-end. Nevertheless, the impact on overall giving was modest.

While Trump has promised major tax reform, it’s doubtful that donors will expect significant changes to the tax code to be enacted and go into effect in 2017. Therefore, it’s equally doubtful that major donors will shift 2017 giving into 2016.

Given that the 2016 election was unusual in many ways, it is certainly possible that year-end giving will deviate from the historical norm. For example, the stock market reached a record level following the election. If stock values continue to grow, we could see an increase in year-end gifts of appreciated securities. However, regarding overall philanthropy, I think the smart bet is on history.

Giving to Individual Charities:

It is very likely that certain individual charities will see an uptick in donations as a result of the election outcome.

Many years ago, Richard Viguerie, a pioneer of conservative direct response fundraising and Chairman of ConservativeHQ.com, said that people would rather fight against something than for something. We’ve seen it before; we’re seeing it now.

For example, when Obama was elected, the National Rifle Association received significantly more contributions as some feared that the new president would impose more stringent gun control measures.

Now, Kari Paul, of MarketWatch, reports:

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