Posts tagged ‘charitable giving’

April 13, 2018

Why are Fundraising Results Missing the Mark?

The nonprofit sector has an unfortunate secret. While not a well-kept secret, it is nevertheless something that receives too little attention. So, let’s take a moment to shine a spotlight on the issue.

Overall, American philanthropy has remained at approximately two percent of Gross Domestic Product for over six decades, with the percentage bouncing between 1.6 and 2.3 percent, according to Giving USA. Every year when the amount of money donated to charities goes up, the nonprofit sector pats itself on the back even though it is merely keeping pace with GDP.

Despite the massive growth in the number of nonprofit organizations, the significant increase in availability of educational materials, the production of helpful research, the professionalization of the fundraising field, and the rise of new technologies, the nonprofit sector has failed to budge philanthropy relative to GDP.

Now, as a committee convened by The Giving Institute begins to consider ways to grow philanthropy beyond the two-percent-of-GDP mark, I’ve written an article for the Association of Fundraising Professionals magazine, Advancing Philanthropy, that explores the challenge: “What Will It Take to Dramatically Increase Philanthropy?”

To answer that question, we need to understand how and why past attempts to do so have come up short, such as the insightful work of the Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs in the 1970s.

We also need to understand the broad societal cultural factors that are affecting philanthropy so that we can develop strategies for inspiring cultural change and/or adapt to factors beyond our control (e.g., decline in religious affiliation, erosion of social capital, drop in volunteerism, etc.). Furthermore, we need to understand the cultural issues within the nonprofit sector that block change and, ultimately, greater success.

We also must set a realistic, consensus goal for moving the philanthropic needle. While that goal should be bold, it should also be based on something other than a dream. A credible target mark will give us all something to shoot for.

As Henry David Thoreau once wrote:

In the long-run, [people] hit only what they aim at.”

While it will likely take at least a couple of years for The Giving Institute’s commission to do its work, you and I do not need to wait. There are things we can do now to begin to move closer to a more vital philanthropic mark, something greater than two percent of GDP:

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April 9, 2018

8 Simple Tips to Boost Planned Giving Results

Planned Giving is a vital source of contributions for the nonprofit sector. Organizations that do not have a gift-planning program envy those that do. Those that do have a planned-giving program want even better results.

It’s no wonder.

Bequest giving amounted to eight percent of all charitable donations in 2016 (Giving USA). That’s just counting people who included a charity in their Will. It does not include people who gave through Beneficiary Designation, Charitable Gift Annuity, Stock, Appreciated Personal Property, or other planned-giving vehicles.

While planned giving can certainly present challenges, there are many simple things you can do to create or enhance your organization’s gift-planning efforts:

1.  Focus Your Efforts

You likely do not have the time or budget to reach-out personally to every one of your organization’s supporters to seek a planned gift. Instead, you need to focus on the highest priority prospects, those most likely to make a planned gift.

So, who are your best planned-giving prospects?

The answer to that question will depend on what type of planned gift you are seeking. For example, if you want more people to include your charity in their Will, arguably the most common form of planned giving, you’ll want to consider two key factors:

First, people who are childless are far more likely to include a charity in their Will, according to philanthropy researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP®. However, just because someone is more likely to make a Charitable Bequest commitment to a charity does not mean they will be willing to commit to your charity.

Second, loyal supporters of your organization are the people most likely to make a planned gift to your specific organization, according to UK-based philanthropy researcher Claire Routley, PhD. Your loyal supporters are people who donate frequently, regardless of gift amount. Loyal supporters are also people who volunteer. People who donate cash and volunteer are nearly twice as likely to make a gift through their Will compared to individuals who do only one or the other, James’ has discovered.

When seeking other types of planned gifts, you’ll want to take into account other factors. For example, if you want people to contribute from their IRA, you’ll want to appeal to people over the age of 70.5, the age of eligibility for such giving. If you want folks to donate appreciated Stock, you’ll broaden your audience because the majority of Americans own Stock.

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April 8, 2018

Do You Really Have What It Takes to be a Successful Fundraising Professional?

If you want to be a successful fundraising professional, you need to constantly expand your knowledge and develop your skills. Great fundraisers are not born. They are created through hard work and dedication.

However, if you want to be a truly successful fundraising professional, you’ll need more than knowledge and skills. You need passion. You need passion for the profession, your organization’s mission, and for improving society.

One way to supercharge (or recharge) your passion is to remember what first attracted to the fundraising profession or what first inspired you to make a charitable donation. In my case, both are wrapped in the same tale. Here’s my story:

Little Michael at age 8.

My passion for fundraising and philanthropy began when I was eight years old. You see, I wanted my parents to buy me some comic books. My mother said that she would get me any ‘‘real’’ book I wanted but, if I wanted comic books, I would have to spend my allowance. Well, in those days, an allowance was not an entitlement; I had to earn it by doing household chores. Sadly, I was already at my maximum earning capacity. And I had no more money for the latest edition of Superman.

Because I simply had to have the latest Superman comic book, I asked my mother if I could sell my old comic books and open up a lemonade stand to generate some quick cash. Fortunately, she granted her permission.

My first entrepreneurial effort was a terrific success. I generated what in today’s dollars would be about $150. As an eight-year-old kid, I was rich! Recognizing that I did not need to buy quite that many comic books, my mother suggested I give half of it away to charity. She further said that, if I agreed with her suggestion, I could pick whatever charity I wanted.

At the time, our local newspaper operated a fund to send “poor inner-city” kids to summer recreational camp. I grew up in the suburbs. However, my cousin grew up in the big city. I knew how miserable summertime in the city could be for a kid. I knew how good I had it, even with our meager working-class lifestyle. I wanted other kids to enjoy the clean air and open spaces that I enjoyed. So, I took my coffee can with half of my earnings and marched into that local newsroom.

The editor was so moved that he had my picture taken and put me on the front page! My little eight-year-old ego swelled. I was inspired for each of the next several summers to run a front-yard fair for that summer camp fund. The only changes were that I gave 100 percent of the revenue to the charity and the event got bigger each year. It even inspired similar efforts in other neighborhoods.

I can trace the roots of both careers I have had in my adult life — journalism and development — back to that little boy’s experience. I learned a great deal about fundraising in those days, especially about what it takes to inspire donors to support a good cause. I also learned how good it feels to be philanthropic.

Philanthropy is a learned behavior. At MarketWatch, Kari Paul’s article “Want Your Children to be Charitable? Do This” opens with this sentence:

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March 27, 2018

4 Easy Fixes that Will Supercharge Your Online Fundraising

Online fundraising brings in a significant and growing amount of support for nonprofit organizations. The Blackbaud Institute’s recently released Charitable Giving Report: How Fundraising Performed in 2017 reveals that 7.6 percent of overall fundraising revenue, excluding grants, was raised online in 2017 representing a new record high.

While the nonprofit sector’s online fundraising performance is noteworthy, the results can be much better. Many things go into a successful online fundraising effort. However, some professionals have found that they can supercharge online charitable giving by making some easy fixes.

Here are just four ways you can enhance your “Donate” button or tab to get vastly superior results:

1.  Express a Value Proposition

Online for Life, now known as the Human Coalition, looked at how a donate tab’s value proposition affects giving. This pro-life organization already had a donate tab that read “Save a Baby,” which became the control in a test to find a better tab label. The organization test a new tab reading “Save a Child” and another stating “Give.”

The results, reported by NextAfter, uncovered a less effective and a more effective approach. The “Give” tab resulted in 30.5 percent less revenue while the “Save a Child” tab resulted in increased revenue of 62.2 percent compared to the control.

NextAfter believes, “This simple change reminded donors of the long-term impact of their gift. We want to save a baby from abortion because of who they will become over time.” In other words, the organization took its value proposition and made the impact more long term. Asking people to “Give” is abstract while asking them to “Save a Child” is concrete.

Building a better button or tab that tells donors the impact their gift will have, rather than simply asking them to give, can raise substantially more money.

2.  Find and Emphasize the Right Call to Action

Jews for Jesus already had a successful online fundraising effort. People could click the “Donate” tab on the navigation bar at the top of each website page. Nevertheless, the organization tested different options to find an even more effective approach.

The control was the existing design with a “Donate” tab. The test involved adding a donation button in the upper right corner of the website header appearing on multiple pages, not just the Home page. One button read “Make my Gift” while the other read “Donate Today!” The buttons were placed in addition to the existing tab.

The “Make my Gift” button resulted in a 306.1 percent increase in total revenue, according to NextAfter.

NextAfter found that the “Donate Today!” button ended up decreasing the amount of traffic being driven to the donation page by 9.6 percent. The group speculates that “by putting the call to action in the context of the donor ‘Make my Gift’ instead of a command ‘Donate Today!,’ the donors were able to align better [to the requested] action and were more likely to click.”

As the Jews for Jesus learned, it’s important to find the right call to action. It’s also important to effectively emphasize that call to action.

3.  Make Finding the Donate Button or Tab Easy

The Dallas Theological Seminary had a “Donate” tab on the navigation bar at the top of its web page. To encourage more contributions, the Seminary tested highlighting the tab in purple, the organization’s signature color. The Seminary also tested a purple highlighted tab reading “Support DTS.”

NextAfter discovered that the purple-highlighted “Donate” tab was the most effective, generating 2,682.3 percent more revenue!

While both of the purple tabs were able to increase revenue significantly, NextAfter believes “the ‘Donate’ tab provided the additional clarity necessary to increase not only traffic to the page but also the subsequent donor conversion. We need to make it easy for donors to find the path we want them to take by being both clear in the messaging and visually emphasizing the path we want them to take.”

Make it easy for website visitors to support your organization by using a prominent, static donate button that can be easily found on every page. The best location for the button is in the upper right-hand corner of the page header. David Hartstein, at Wired Impact, suggests:

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March 21, 2018

15 Things You Might Not Know about Planned Giving

There’s a lot about planned giving that’s worth knowing and that can help you raise more money. Fortunately, it’s not necessarily all complicated.

Yes, vast differences exist from one planned giving program to the next. Some nonprofit organizations invest heavily in planned giving with dedicated staff and marketing. Other charities invest little and have development generalists talk with donors about gift planning from time-to-time. Despite the differences from one organization to another, there are a large number of points in common.

To help you be a more successful fundraising professional, I want to share 15 insights about planned giving:

1.  Almost everyone has the ability to make a planned gift. A common myth about planned giving is that it is just for rich people. However, that’s not the case. For example, anyone who owns a retirement account, a life insurance policy, appreciated stock, or a home can be a planned gift donor. As H. Gerry Lenfest, the mega-philanthropist, wrote in the Foreword to Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing,  “Planned gifts are the major gifts of the middle class.”

2.  The average age of someone who makes their first charitable bequest commitment is 40-50. Another misconception about planned giving is that it is something that old people engage in. While that’s true for certain planned gifts (e.g., gifts from an IRA, or gifts to set up a non-deferred Charitable Gift Annuity), donors of any age can create a charitable provision in their Will or set-up a Beneficiary Designation.

3.  High-income women are more likely than men to use complex gift planning tools. High-income women (those with an annual household income of $150,000 or more) are more likely than high-income men to seek expert financial advice. They are also more likely to establish Donor-Advised Funds or Charitable Remainder Trusts. So, do not ignore female prospects. Instead, be prepared to talk with high-income women about sophisticated giving options.

4.  Using a challenge grant for a planned gift appeal can create urgency leading to action. Research shows that people tend to avoid conversations or decisions involving their own demise. One way to shift the focus of the planned giving conversation from death is to use a challenge grant to encourage prospects to think about making a planned gift commitment so that the organization receives an extra benefit. A challenge grant also creates a sense of urgency that gives donors a reason to act now rather than further delay making a planned gift decision.

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March 14, 2018

Is Online #Fundraising Really Worth Your Time?

For years, nonprofit organizations have invested significant amounts of time and money to build online fundraising efforts that have steadily evolved to embrace more and more sophisticated technologies and methods. But, are those efforts really worthwhile?

The Blackbaud Institute’s recently released Charitable Giving Report: How Fundraising Performed in 2017 can help us answer that question.

The news about overall philanthropy in 2017 is good. Blackbaud reports:

A convergence of economic, political, technological, and philanthropic trends helped boost giving in 2017. The 4.1% increase in giving during 2017 was a substantial jump compared to relatively flat growth in 2016. A strong stock market, spikes in giving in response to political issues or disasters, and the continued shift to digital giving all influenced giving in 2017. This growth was also fueled by a 5.1% increase in giving during the final three months of 2017. The potential implications of new U.S. tax laws may have contributed to this late surge in charitable giving.”

The news about online giving is also good. Blackbaud has found:

  • 7.6% of overall fundraising revenue, excluding grants, was raised online representing a new record high.
  • Online giving grew 12.1% in 2017 compared to 2016.
  • 21% of online transactions were made using a mobile device in 2017.
  • The average online donation is $132.
  • 20.1% of online giving happened in December.

Online is an important source of donations for nonprofit organizations of every size as the following chart illustrates:

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February 14, 2018

How to Get Last Year’s Donors to Give More this Year

Showing donor love and asking for more money should not be mutually exclusive activities. Inspiring upgraded support requires both to work hand-in-hand.

Unfortunately, for many nonprofit organizations, stewardship is the poor stepchild of the fundraising process. It is often ignored or poorly implemented. It is usually an underfunded activity. As a result, donor-retention rates for the nonprofit sector are pathetic.

Development professionals who think about stewardship usually believe that it is something sandwiched between when a gift is received and the next appeal. In other words, stewardship and fundraising are separate functions. However, Joe Garecht, President of Garecht Fundraising Associates and Editor of The Nonprofit Fundraising Digest, believes that the next appeal is actually an integral part of a robust stewardship process. An upgrade appeal will not achieve maximum success without sound stewardship. Done well, an ask is an extension of the stewardship process.

Joe’s thinking makes sense. If we love our donors, why would we want to deny them the satisfaction of continuing to support a cause they care about? Why would we want to deny them the opportunity to make a larger commitment? Helping donors to continue feeling good about continuing to do good is part of good stewardship.

We want our donors to feel important, feel needed. One way to do that, is to ask and to ask for more than they gave last year. However, we shouldn’t make an upgrade appeal in a vacuum.

It’s not just about asking. As Joe explains in his guest post below, it’s about incorporating the ask into a sound stewardship system so that the upgrade appeal is a natural evolution of our relationship with the donor. Stewardship and asking are not separate activities; they part of a cohesive system.

I thank Joe for sharing his stewardship insights and his four-step strategy for asking for donation upgrades:

 

One of the most important fundraising systems you can build at your nonprofit is an effective donor stewardship strategy. Donor stewardship starts with thanking your donors for their gifts… but is much more than that.

There are three main goals for your donor stewardship system:

  1. Donor Retention: You want to make sure that your donors keep giving year after year.
  2. Referrals: You want your donors to introduce you to their friends and colleagues who also might want to get involved with your organization.
  3. Donor Upgrades: You want your donors to give more this year than last year, and to move to major gifts and planned giving, if they have the capacity to do so.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at that third goal. We’re going to answer the question, “How can you get your current donors to give more this year than they did last year?” To understand how to best upgrade your donors, we’re going to first explore why donors make the decision to upgrade, and then review a simple, four-step strategy for getting your donors to upgrade this year.

Understanding Why Donors Upgrade

If you want to successfully solicit your donors to give more this year than they have in the past, it is important to understand why donors decide to upgrade their gifts:

Donors upgrade because they have been stewarded effectively.

The most important reason why donors upgrade is because they have been properly stewarded. This means that your nonprofit has appropriately thanked and recognized them for their past gifts, and has continued to build a relationship with them. Your donors want to feel like they are an integral part of your team. They want to feel appreciated, valued, and heard.

If you are treating your donors well, keeping them updated on your work, seeking their advice and input, and reporting on outcomes in between asks, your donors will be far more likely to upgrade their gifts. If your donors are investing their emotional energy, knowledge, and time in your work, then upgrading their financial investment will be the next logical step.

Donors upgrade because you are casting a big vision.

One of my favorite maxims in fundraising is this: Donors don’t make big gifts to small visions. Your donors want to change the world. They want to make a difference. If you are not casting a big enough vision, your donors will make their big gifts elsewhere, investing in organizations and companies that are.

Every nonprofit can cast a big vision…even small, local organizations working in one small corner of the world. Start by asking yourself, “How are we changing the world? How are we changing lives? How are we saving lives?” Your answers to these questions will help you think through the real impact of your work. If you want your donors to give more this year than they ever have before, you need to cast a bigger vision this year than you ever have before.

Donors upgrade because they are asked to upgrade.

Donors only upgrade when you ask them to do so. Very few donors will upgrade their gifts without being asked.  Thus, if you want your donors to give more this year than they did last year, you need to go out and ask them to do so. While the majority of your stewardship system should be focused on cultivation, asking for donations from current donors (including renewals and upgrades) is an essential part of the fundraising cycle.

In order to be successful, the upgrade process should be systematic. This means that you shouldn’t ask for upgrades here and there, whenever the whim strikes you. Instead, you should have a defined plan in place to review your donors’ capacity and ask them for upgrades as often as appropriate.

How to Ask Your Donors to Upgrade

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January 30, 2018

Russell James: Three for the Price of FREE!

One of the nation’s leading philanthropy researchers provides us with helpful insights about the new tax code and its impact on charitable giving. He also offers valuable information about planned giving.

Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP® articles, books, and videos will benefit any fundraising professional. Here are just three that will be a big benefit to you:

1. A Donor’s Guide to the 2018 Tax Law (video)

In just nine-and-a-half minutes, James explains how key provisions of the new tax code can benefit donors. With his insights, you’ll be in a better position to inspire more donations and larger gifts to your nonprofit organization. Simple illustrations and great examples will help you easily grasp the concepts.

Do you know?: Just one of the things you’ll learn from the video is that donors can contribute appreciated stock to avoid capital gains tax. Even non-itemizers can benefit from this. While this provision of the tax code remains unaltered, what has changed is that the new code makes this provision even more valuable for donors. James explains how in the free video:

2.Visual Planned Giving: An Introduction to the Law & Taxation of Charitable Gift Planning (e-book, updated January 2018)

I’m honored that James has allowed me to offer you a free copy of his 433-page e-book Visual Planned Giving: An Introduction to the Law & Taxation of Charitable Gift Planning. James designed the newly updated book 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 in an accessible way.

Do you know?: Wealth is not held in cash. It’s held in assets. James has found that only one percent of financial assets are held in cash! So, if you want larger donations, you need to talk with supporters about making a planned gift from non-cash assets (e.g., stocks, personal property, real estate, retirement accounts, life insurance, etc.).

If you want to learn more about planned giving or help a colleague gain a fundamental understanding, you can download your free copy of Visual Planned Giving by clicking here.

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January 26, 2018

Are You Making the Same Mistake as Whole Foods Market?

Whole Foods, a supermarket-industry leader recently acquired by on-line retailer Amazon, has received some bad publicity this month. Consider the following headline appearing in The Boston Globe:

Empty Shelves at Whole Foods Have Customers Going Elsewhere”

The Globe reports that many customers are beginning to shop elsewhere because of empty shelves and declining quality:

Whole Foods customers in Bellingham have been struggling to find English cucumbers and sweet onions. In Newton, shoppers have been disgusted to realize that the organic celery they purchased was mostly rotten. Shoppers in Hingham have complained about half-rotten bags of clementines, while those in Newtonville say they were unable to purchase tofu all last week.”

My wife and I shop at a Whole Foods Market just a few blocks from our home in Philadelphia. We’ve experienced similar problems with out-of-stock or poor quality items. Now, we shop far less often at Whole Foods, despite its convenient location. Instead, we increasingly shop elsewhere. For example, MOM’s Organic always has a great selection of high-quality items. In addition, we’ve found that our local Acme Market, a traditional supermarket, has a better selection of high-quality organic items than our Whole Foods.

Whole Foods is making a number of serious mistakes:

  1. assuming it can rely on brand loyalty and its now outdated reputation.
  2. being unresponsive to customer needs.
  3. ignoring the fact that customers have options of where to shop.

Sadly, those are three mistakes that many nonprofit organizations also make. As a result, donor-retention rates are pathetically low. The average overall donor retention rate is approximately 45 percent, according to the 2017 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report. The Fundraising Effectiveness Project is a partnership between the Association of Fundraising Professionals and The Urban Institute. The FEP website provides a variety of reports and helpful tools for enhancing donor retention.

Many charities think they can rely on their reputations to achieve strong donor retention rates. Unfortunately, while that might have been the case with brand-loyal Baby Boomers, it’s no longer the norm. Donors want to know that their gifts are making a difference. Moreover, they’re not willing to assume you’re using their money wisely. They want evidence of your effectiveness.

Nonprofit organizations need to be responsive to donor needs. Every member of your organization’s staff, not just fundraising professionals, should be trained to meet the needs of donors. You can read more about this in my post: “The Most Important Part of Any Grateful Whatever Campaign is…

If you don’t provide a meaningful experience for donors by providing them the information they demand and by meeting their varied needs, they will stop giving to your organization. However, that does not mean they will stop giving. They will simply give elsewhere.

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January 19, 2018

Charitable Giving Threatened by Drop In Volunteerism

On Monday, the USA celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a national day of service. From April 15 to 21, the nation will mark National Volunteer Week. Clearly, Americans value volunteerism.

Unfortunately, the volunteerism rate has been steadily declining for years. This trend has disturbing implications for philanthropy.

In 2003, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 28.8 percent of Americans volunteered. By 2015, that rate had steadily fallen to 24.9 percent. This is a huge problem for the nonprofit sector for a number of reasons:

Volunteers Provide a Valuable Resource. Volunteers do a great deal of work that might not be done otherwise. 62.6 million Americans volunteered 7.8 billion hours. Independent Sector reports that a volunteer hour is worth $24.14, over $180 billion of total estimated value. Sadly, with volunteerism on the decline, charities are forced to provide fewer services or incur greater labor costs.

Volunteers Serve as Ambassadors. In addition to being a valuable labor resource, volunteers are also fantastic ambassadors for an organization. The typical volunteer serves only one or two organizations, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. When volunteers share their experiences, they also talk with friends, family, and professional colleagues about your organization and its mission. This could lead to additional volunteer and philanthropic support. With a drop in volunteerism, there are now fewer ambassadors for charities, which will inevitably lead to less future support.

Volunteers are More Likely to Donate. Volunteers are twice as likely as non-volunteers to make a charitable contribution, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. Even planned giving is affected by volunteerism. As I’ve reported previously, researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP states in his book, American Charitable Bequest Demographics (1992-2012):

Among those with [estate] planning documents, those who both volunteer and give ($500+) are dramatically more likely to plan a charitable estate gift than those who only volunteer or only give ($500+). Those who only volunteer, plan charitable estate gifts at approximately the same rate as those who only give.”

Those who only volunteer or only donate ($500+) are more than twice as likely to make a legacy gift than those who do neither. [For a free electronic copy of James’ book, subscribe to this blog site in the right-hand column. You’ll receive an email confirmation of your subscription that will contain a link to the book.]

With a decline in volunteerism, we can expect fewer people to make current and planned gifts. This is already happening according to an analysis by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

There are many likely reasons for the decline in volunteerism including:

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