Posts tagged ‘civil society’

March 23, 2015

Discover What Company CSR Executives are Thinking

Over the years, I’ve actually heard nonprofit managers and development professionals say:

“[That company] should give more.”

“I can’t believe [that company] is not giving. They certainly can afford to.”

“Corporations should do more to support their local communities.”

“Corporations should give back!”

The last one is my personal favorite because it’s complete nonsense. A corporation exists to produce a product or service and generate a profit for its shareholders. That’s it.

CSR Boat by Jack Temple via FlickrAs for “giving back,” corporations do so everyday even if they never donate a dime to charity or sponsor a charity program or event. Corporations meet a public need or desire by producing products or services. They employ people. They buy or rent from other businesses. They pay taxes. Their employees pay taxes and buy or rent things, which further stimulates the economy.

In a previous post, I wrote, “There’s No Such Thing as Corporate Philanthropy!” I explained, “Corporate Philanthropy does not, or at least should not exist. While corporations may give to charitable causes, it is not or should not be out of an altruistic sense of Corporate Social Responsibility.”

If corporations make donations, those grants should enhance shareholder value in some way. A contribution might have a direct impact on profitability or the effect might be indirect. Either way, the donation or sponsorship should strengthen the corporation, say many corporate executives.

Marc Gunther, a senior writer for Fortune Magazine, wrote, “I’m not a big fan of corporate philanthropy. Too often, it’s a feel-good exercise, generating little value for a company’s shareholders. At its worst, it allows CEOs to use other people’s money to glorify themselves.”

As corporate philanthropy, as a term if not a practice, began to fall out of favor, it was replaced with Corporate Social Responsibility. But, what is CSR?

Harvard University defines CSR strategically:

January 9, 2015

Are You Ready for the Coming Storm?

A storm is coming. It will affect the entire US economy. It will likely affect the global economy.

The nonprofit sector will not escape the impact. You need to prepare now.

Koyasan Umbrellas 3 by Andrea Williams via FlickrAs 2014 began to wind down, the US National Debt surpassed the $18 trillion mark! That’s over $154,000 of Federal government debt per taxpayer or more than $56,000 per citizen. During the six years of the Obama Administration, the US National Debt increased by nearly $7 trillion, representing 67 percent growth. And it’s still growing.

As if that’s not bad enough, the US Unfunded Liabilities total more than $92.5 trillion dollars, or more than $789,000 per taxpayer! It, too, continues to grow.

President Barack Obama, former-President George W. Bush, and the US Congress are all responsible for the rapid growth in the US National Debt since 2009 as well as the growth in the Unfunded Liabilities. So, I’m not going to engage in specific finger pointing, policy debates, or politics.

Instead, I want to focus on what this means for the charity sector looking forward.

The rapid growth of national debt is not sustainable. We should no longer ignore it. Here are some of the reasons why:

• While our enormous national debt is not significantly affecting the nonprofit sector at the moment, the day is coming when it will. Prudent organizations will prepare for the storm before it hits.

• At some point, failure to address the massive debt issue will lead to a downgrade in America’s credit rating. Think it can’t happen? It already has. In 2011, Standard and Poor’s cut the US credit rating to AA+ because the government “fell short” of taming the nation’s debt. In 2012, Egan-Jones cut America’s credit rating to AA for the same reason. While these downgrades have had a mostly symbolic effect, they foreshadow what is likely to happen unless the government brings the national debt under control.

• Eventually, future credit rating downgrades will make it more expensive for the government to borrow money. Interest rates will rise. That will take more money out of the economy.

• In addition to becoming increasingly costly to borrow, lending sources will be harder to find. Some of those lenders might also use the lender-debtor relationship to force US policy changes. We’ve already seen this with the China relationship. By the way, China, no longer the US, is the world’s largest economy in “real” terms of goods and services produced.

• To deal with the debt, the federal government has four possible courses of action (or some combination of these): 1) pay more to borrow more which will add to the debt and take more money out of the economy, 2) print more money which would be inflationary, 3) cut spending which would likely mean less money for the social safety net and nonprofit organizations, and 4) raise taxes which will reduce individual disposable income. So, even if the government does address the debt situation, it could have a short-term negative impact on the nonprofit sector before it has a positive effect.

• A massive, growing national debt will make it more difficult for the US economy to experience strong growth in Gross Domestic Product. Philanthropy correlates closely with GDP; it’s been about two percent of GDP for decades. If the economy doesn’t grow rapidly, philanthropy is not likely to do so. If the economy truly falters, we might even see a drop in year-to-year philanthropy as we did during the Great Recession.

We’re already beginning to see some of the effects I’ve described above. If nothing is done to tame the national debt, these effects will be magnified and could eventually become catastrophic.

There are some things that nonprofits can do to prepare:

January 7, 2015

#JeSuisCharlie — I am Charlie

Those of us who work in or for, volunteer with, and/or donate to the charity, nonprofit, NGO, or community benefit sector do so to make the world a better place. Sadly, today, our world has been diminished by the murderous attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The terrorists, shouting “Allahu akbar,” killed 12 people including the publication’s editor.

Charlie Hebdo is a satirical, weekly publication. It’s cartoons and articles are often juvenile and tasteless. In the past, the publication has poked fun at Christians, Muslims, government officials, and others. Slate has published an article explaining the magazine’s most controversial religious covers.

While I don’t necessarily agree with everything the magazine has published, I nevertheless recognize that a society can never be truly free without freedom of speech and the press. As a citizen journalist and as someone who has devoted his life to making the world a better place, I stand with my brothers and sisters in France.

With anger, with sadness, with defiance, I proclaim:

I am Charlie!

I am Charlie!

Please join me in standing up for freedom. There are many ways you can take action. Here are some of the simplest things you can do:

December 12, 2014

Is the American Red Cross Hurting Your Fundraising Efforts?

The American Red Cross regularly touts how responsible it is with donors’ money. ‘We’re very proud of the fact that 91 cents of every dollar that’s donated goes to our services,’ Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern said in a speech in Baltimore last year. ‘That’s world class, obviously.’

“McGovern has often repeated that figure, which has also appeared on the charity’s website.

“The problem with that number: It isn’t true.”

That stunning revelation was made in a recently released investigative report by ProPublica and NPR.

National Red Cross HQ by NCinDC via Flickr

American Red Cross National Headquarters

The Red Cross is a great organization. My wife and I have been donors. I even did a blog post highlighting the effective stewardship practices at the Red Cross and encouraging readers to support the organization. The American Red Cross does not have to “serially mislead” the public.

Yet, that’s exactly what it has been doing according to the reporters. While the organization has told the public that 91 cents of every donated dollar goes to services, its fundraising cost to raise a dollar has been 17 cents on average. And that does not include organization overhead expenses. Clearly, the Red Cross has not been as efficient as its leader has claimed.

When reporters contacted Red Cross officials for more information, those officials were uncooperative. However, the organization did change the claim on its “website to another formulation it frequently uses: that 91 cents of every dollar the charity ‘spends’ goes to humanitarian services. But that too is misleading to donors,” states the investigative report.

Sadly, this is not the first time that the Red Cross has been accused by the media of misleading the public.

As a Red Cross supporter and a fundraising professional, I’m alarmed and disappointed by the behavior of the Red Cross. Misleading the public, either through lies or the clever manipulation of language, is unnecessary, unethical, and unacceptable.

Such inappropriate behavior erodes public trust, which makes fundraising more difficult. Perhaps this is one reason that the Red Cross has had trouble consistently raising more money. In 2009-10, the Red Cross raised $1.1 billion. In 2012-13, the Red Cross again raised $1.1 billion.

In a study that examined the relationship between trust and philanthropy, researchers Adrian Sargeant and Stephen Lee found, “there would appear to be a relationship between trust and a propensity to donate.” In addition, “there is 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.”

March 14, 2014

5 Lessons Moses Can Teach Us about Fundraising

Moses can teach us a number of important things about fundraising. Yes, that Moses, the prophet revered by Jews, Christians, Muslims, and other religious faiths throughout the world.

Consider just one story from the Bible that usually receives little attention.

Moses by rorris via FlickrOver 3,000 years ago, after fleeing slavery in Egypt, the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. During this time, God instructed Moses to have the people build a Tabernacle, a movable tent-like structure where the Hebrews could worship and experience the presence of God.

Special materials, fabrics, and precious stones and metals were needed for the project. So, Moses told the Hebrews about the project and shared with them what was needed. Then, he made a request to “everyone whose hearts so move them.” Moses asked them to “bring gifts for God” so that the Tabernacle could be built.

The Hebrews responded with great generosity by providing the needed materials and volunteer labor. Moses, overwhelmed by the volume of gifts received, actually had to instruct people to stop bringing gifts. No more were needed for the project.

Here are five things every fundraiser can learn from this story and the wisdom of Moses:

January 17, 2014

Is it Ethical When an Ethicist Browbeats Prospective Donors?

Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University and founder of The Life You Can Save, not only thinks it is acceptable to browbeat prospective donors, it’s exactly what he did in an op-ed article published in The Washington Post.

In my opinion, Singer’s piece, “Heartwarming Causes are Nice, but Let’s Give to Charity with Our Heads,” contains a glaring ethical problem:

Coercive Manipulation. Singer suggests that people who donate to causes that he does not endorse, such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, are guilty of murder.

Let’s look more closely at this issue before exploring other problems with Singer’s reasoning.

After pointing out that the Make-A-Wish Foundation does not save lives, Singer presents a variety of examples of how contributions to his select group of organizations, instead of Make-A-Wish, can actually preserve lives. Singer writes:

Yet we can still ask if these emotions are the best guide to what we ought to do. According to Make-A-Wish, the average cost of realizing the wish of a child with a life-threatening illness is $7,500. That sum, if donated to the Against Malaria Foundation and used to provide bed nets to families in malaria-prone regions, could save the lives of at least two or three children (and that’s a conservative estimate).”

Singer goes on to say:

It’s obvious, isn’t it, that saving a child’s life is better than fulfilling a child’s wish to be Batkid [referencing a child who benefitted from Make-A-Wish last year]?”

Such adolescent logic is harshly manipulative. The taking of a human life is widely considered the greatest possible sin. By accusing people of this sin, Singer is using guilt to coercively manipulate donor behavior.

Mosquito by Ibrahim Koc

Mosquito by Ibrahim Koc

Rather than offering an unbiased exploration of the roles of emotion v. intellect in the philanthropic process, Singer uses the forum to browbeat people to meet his own personal philanthropic standards.

I’m not sure why Singer thinks he is better qualified to judge which charities are worthy to exist or not. Nevertheless, it is certain that Singer feels he has a better moral compass than the rest of us. And, unless we want to be murderers, we should support his anointed causes.

What I find particularly interesting is that, while Singer appears concerned about saving lives, he seems little concerned with the quality of those lives saved.

What happens to the child who has been saved from Malaria? Would Singer oppose donations to build a school to educate those children? After all, the money otherwise could have gone to buy more mosquito nets.

Singer’s op-ed article provides an excellent example of what nonprofit organizations should not do when trying to attract people to a cause. Instead, here are some of the things that charities should do:

January 3, 2014

Do You Have an Attitude Problem?

[Publisher’s Note: Have you read any good books about charities or fundraising? If so, click here to share your favorite title by January 10 and you could win a free, award-winning book.]

  

Has anyone ever accused you of having an attitude problem?

I hope so.

If you don’t have an attitude problem, I encourage you to develop one. For your sake. For the sake of your organization. For the sake of the nonprofit sector. You can even make it your 2014 New Year Resolution.

I’m not suggesting you cultivate a bad attitude. Instead, I’m encouraging you to shake up the status quo regardless of what others might think. I want you to challenge conventional wisdom in an intelligent way.

Remember, if some of our ancestors had not had an attitude problem, we’d still be living in caves.

Let me share two stories that will illustrate what I mean.

I quite fondly remember the very first time someone told me I had an attitude problem. It was Mrs. Imperiali, my first-grade teacher. Mrs. Imperiali, her real name, asked the class, “What’s the Eager Studentsmartest animal in the world?” I immediately raised my hand. When Mrs. Imperiali called on me, I confidently answered, “Dolphins.”

My response puzzled my teacher. She asked, “Why dolphins?” I told her, “Because they don’t kill each other for no reason.”

Mrs. Imperiali snapped, “Mister, you have an attitude problem!”

I need to point out here that, when I was in the first grade, it was during the height of the Vietnam War. I guess Mrs. Imperiali didn’t appreciate what she believed was the anti-war sentiment of my response. However, since I believed in my answer, I did not take my teacher’s criticism as a negative. As a result, I’ve worn the attitude-problem label with pride, not shame, my entire life.

In case you’re wondering, the answer Mrs. Imperiali was going for was “humans.” As it turned out, she had designed her lesson plan to demonstrate that humans are part of the animal kingdom. Oh well.

A couple decades later, I met Carol Buchanan Daws at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Like me, Carol had an attitude problem.

As the Assistant to the Museum Director, Carol was responsible for the back-office processing of museum memberships. Despite being the oldest natural science research institution and museum in the Western Hemisphere, the Academy only had a token membership program and no Director of Membership.

Carol saw an opportunity to grow the membership program. She repeatedly told her boss about the potential of the membership program. Unfortunately, the Museum Director was content with the status quo. So, Carol did the only natural thing she could do: She kept nudging him about it.

Finally, when the Museum Director was sufficiently annoyed or, perhaps, convinced, he appointed Carol Director of Membership.

December 27, 2013

Top Ten Posts of 2013, and Other Reflections

As 2013 draws to a close, I thought it would be interesting to look back briefly before we march into the New Year.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

For starters, let’s look at which of my posts have been the top ten most read in the past year:

1. Can a Nonprofit Return a Donor’s Gift?

2. 6 Ways to Raise More Money without New Donors!

3. 5 Words or Phrases that Can Cause Donors to Cringe

4. 5 Things Never to Do in Your Phone Fundraising Calls

5. 5 Tips for Giving Donors What They Really Want

6. How NOT to Run a Capital Campaign

7. Prospect Research v. Invasion of Privacy

8. 7 Magical Words to Earn Respect, Trust, and Appreciation

9. Do You Make Any of These Mistakes When Speaking with Donors?

10. Do Not Let This Happen to Your Organization

I invite you to read any posts you might have missed by clicking on the title above. If you’ve read them all, thank you for being a committed reader.

I’m honored to know that I have readers from around the world. (I love the Internet!) While I appreciate all of my readers, I thought it would be interesting to look, beyond the United States, to see my top ten countries for readership:

1. Canada

2. United Kingdom

3. Australia

4. India

5. Netherlands

6. Philippines

7. France

8. Germany

9. New Zealand

10. Italy

Overall, Michael Rosen Says…, has seen a 20 percent increase in readership in 2013 compared with 2012. I thank everyone who made that possible by dropping by to read my posts. I especially want to thank those who have subscribed.

When you subscribe for free in the column at the right, you’ll receive email notices of new posts, including “Special Reports” which are not otherwise widely publicized. Beginning in 2014, subscribers will also receive exclusive bonus content and a limited number of subscriber-only special offers directly from me. So, if you’re not already a subscriber, sign-up now.

Just as I value all of my readers, I also greatly appreciate those who take the time to “Like” my posts, share my posts, Tweet my posts, re-blog my posts, and comment on my posts. In particular, I want to recognize the following people who have commented most often in 2013:

December 13, 2013

No Evidence of #GivingTuesday Success

I admit it. The news headlines about the second annual #GivingTuesday have been exuberant:

“Giving Tuesday Shows Robust Results”The Chronicle of Philanthropy 

“Growth in Online Giving Tuesday Numbers ‘Inspiring’”USA Today 

“Giving Tuesday Smashes Records, Spurs 90% Donation Spike”The Huffington Post 

#GivingTuesday 2013 Infographic by #GivingTuesdayThe good folks at #GivingTuesday even put together an infographic illustrating the day’s success. I’m sharing it in this post. 

There’s only one problem with all of the enthusiasm: There is not a single shred of hard evidence that #GivingTuesday is good for the entire nonprofit sector.

Fortunately, Forbes contributor Tom Watson is one member of the media not afraid to ask the big question: “Inside The #GivingTuesday Numbers: Will American Philanthropy Grow?” 

I share Watson’s healthy skepticism. Like him, I am not yet convinced that #GivingTuesday is a positive force for philanthropy although I certainly hope it is. While #GivingTuesday might have been effective for some individual charities, I wonder if it has been good for the entire nonprofit sector.

The fact that many more charities got involved with #GivingTuesday, compared with last year, does not necessarily mean anything. The fact that millions of people used social media to talk about #GivingTuesday does not necessarily mean anything. The fact that millions of dollars were raised on #GivingTuesday is equally meaningless, by itself.

Here are some questions about #GivingTuesday that the nonprofit sector should answer before rushing to congratulate itself:

December 5, 2013

Special Report: No Tax Reform Bill in 2013

[Publisher’s Note: “Special Reports” are posted from time-to-time as a benefit for subscribers and frequent visitors to this blog. “Special Reports” are not widely promoted. To be notified of all new posts, including “Special Reports,” please take a moment to subscribe in the right-hand column.]

 

A tax reform bill will not be introduced in the US Congress before the close of 2013, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) indicated to The Hill.

US Capitol by Kevin Burkett via FlickrGiven that this is the first week of December and that House Republicans plan to leave Washington at the end of next week for the holiday break, the news is not surprising, even while important.

As soon as one month from now, the House could resume wrangling over a possible tax reform bill, according to Jason Lee, General Counsel for the Association of Fundraising Professionals. However, while the issue will be on the table in 2014, it will be a major challenge for Congress to move something as significant as a tax reform bill with the mid-term elections looming in November.

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