Posts tagged ‘development’

November 30, 2017

Do the Numbers Tell the Full Story?

I’m back! I haven’t written a new blog post in nearly eight months due to serious health issues. Now, as my recovery progresses, I feel compelled to return to my blog as I have much to share with you. Thank you for your support and patience.

I want to take this opportunity to update you about what the past several months have been like for me while making a useful fundraising point that I believe will be of benefit to you.

Like you, as the end of the year approaches, I’ve been inundated with direct mail, e-mail, and telephone fundraising appeals. Many of these appeals focus on numbers. For example, I’ve read about how one organization won several awards for its theater productions, how another has a $10,000 challenge grant, how another needs to raise an additional $50,000 to meet its goal, and how yet another has helped feed over 500 people during Thanksgiving.

On the other hand, I also received an appeal from the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, which brings justice and healing to the survivors of child sexual abuse. The appeal, which stood out from the pack, told the story of one child, 5-year-old Sarah. Reading about Sarah’s situation, I learned how PCA helped her. In addition to Sarah’s compelling story, the appeal mentioned that PCA also provided services to over 3,500 other children in need over the past year.

Which charity do you think I’m most likely to support? If you guessed PCA, you’re right.

While numbers can tell part of the story, they can’t convey the whole story the way that sharing the experience of one individual can. Sharing someone’s personal story can make a cause relatable, more real, and more compelling. Stories tap into emotions that statistics simply cannot.

Now, let me try to do a bit of both. I want to update you about my personal situation while using some numbers.

Regular readers of my blog know that I have suffered from the exceedingly rare Appendicial Carcinoma with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP). I’ve been open about my situation for three years so that readers would understand when I stepped away temporarily and so that others suffering with PMP would know that I am willing to be a resource for them. If you want to learn more about my journey, just search “Pseudomyxoma Peritonei” on this site.

I was diagnosed with late-stage PMP in 2014. My doctors suspect it had been growing in me undetected for nearly a decade. Two months after diagnosis, I underwent successful major surgery. Unfortunately, the cancer came back in 2015. While chemotherapy kept it in check for several months, surgery was again required in April 2017.

This time around, my primary surgery in April was 14 hours long. My follow-up surgery in June was two hours.

I was in the hospital for a combined total of 40 days from April to June. That includes my initial hospital stay, two readmissions for complications, and one follow-up surgery stay.

During my three-month treatment period from April through June, I read 10 books. Hey, I couldn’t always rely on television for good entertainment. I would have read even more books if it wasn’t for the painkillers.

Lisa, my wife, and I spent nearly one-quarter of the year in Pittsburgh, home to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Shadyside Hospital where I received expert treatment.

I went into the hospital weighing an already diminished 146 pounds. I exited at about 112 pounds. I’m now over 130 pounds and gaining toward my goal of 150 or more. (If anyone wants to help fatten me up, I’m available for lunches. 🙂 )

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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 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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October 19, 2016

What Can You Learn from Trump’s Faltering Campaign?

This is not a political post.

Instead, it’s about you, your nonprofit organization, and those who benefit from its services.

As I write this post, Donald Trump’s bid to become President of the USA is faltering. With three weeks left in the campaign, he still could pull out a win. However, he’ll need to run a radically different campaign to do that.

As a former newspaper editor, I’m still a political news junkie. So, I’ve carefully observed the political campaign for months, okay, for years. Not long ago, I even had the opportunity to participate in a focus group facilitated by renowned pollster Frank Luntz for CBS News; it provided great insights into the thinking of undecided voters in Pennsylvania. Along the way, I’ve discovered an important lesson that can be of profound value to you.

Donald Trump holds up magazine cover featuring himself.

At a campaign stop, Donald Trump holds up magazine cover featuring himself.

It’s simple, really. Trump rose in the polls when he talked about what he would do for us, the American people. His numbers fell when his campaign became about him. For example, in recent days, Trump has had to respond to the “locker-room talk” video revealing his misogynist thoughts. He’s also been talking about how the media is against him, and how the election is rigged. Even more strangely, Trump has renewed his attacks on fellow Republicans, which has nothing whatsoever to offer the American people other than more drama.

The media analysis is overly complicated. I get it. The media have to fill column inches and hours of airtime. However, the political situation is really rather simple. Voters want to know what the candidates will do for them. At the very least, voters want to know that the candidates are thinking about them and understand them. The more a candidate focuses on the voter, the more likely he or she will be to gain traction.

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September 2, 2016

Let a 12-Year-Old Competitive Chef Show You the Way

The fundraising profession is not for the faint-of-heart. Ours is a field full of rejection. Every time we ask for a donation, we know there is an excellent chance we will hear, “No!” Even when we receive a positive response, it might not be quite as positive as we had hoped.

A fundraiser who has not learned how to deal with rejection, obstacles, and defeat is a person who is destined to burnout, who will become reticent to ask, who will ultimately fail at the job.

One of the greatest skills a development professional must learn is how to cope with inevitable rejection.

The Screaming Man by Walt Jabsco via FlickrI once attended a seminar led by sales-guru Tom Hopkins. He told us not be disheartened when receiving a rejection. Instead, he told us to celebrate the rejection because it brings us one-step closer to achieving a success. In other words, sales, or fundraising, is a bit of a numbers game. We know we will encounter rejection no matter what we do. So, when we do encounter one, we know we’re getting it out of the way and getting closer to finding a “Yes.”

In sales and fundraising, maintaining a champion’s attitude is a key to success.

Recently, I was watching the Food Network show Chopped Junior (“Beginner’s Duck,” Season 3, Episode 3). In this program, children compete to determine who is the best chef of the group. I’m always amazed by the high-level of talent on display. We’re not talking about making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; we’re talking about real cooking.

Ellie Zeiler, a 12-year-old cooking enthusiast, competed against others her age this week. Despite her enormous talent, Zeiler was cut following the second of three rounds.

When watching the show, I was struck by how Zeiler handled the rejection. She did not whine. She did not complain. She did not blame her defeat on unfairness, time, the judges, or her competitors. She did not bury her feelings, nor did she become consumed by them. Instead, she handled her defeat with extreme grace and wisdom:

I’m really sad that I got chopped. This competition has inspired me to really focus on my cooking. And I want people to know that I never quit, and I keep moving forward.”

Here’s what we all can learn about dealing with rejection from Zeiler’s fine example:

Do not bury your feelings. Recognize how you feel and accept it. However, do not let yourself be defeated by how badly you might feel. Move on. Zeiler acknowledged her sadness, but did not let it consume her.

“Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.” — Charles R. Swindoll

Do not focus on the negative. Find and focus on the positive. Zeigler found inspiration in the competition. It inspired her to concentrate on her cooking and to further develop her skills. Whenever we face rejection, we have an opportunity to examine what we did and how we can improve our own skills.

“If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” — Michael Jordan

Never quit! Zeiler made it perfectly clear that she is not a quitter. Rejection is all part of a development professional’s life. If you’re not used to it, get used to it. To find the next “Yes,” you need to move forward with another ask.

“Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” — Vince Lombardi

The next time a prospect tells you “No,” I want you to think about three things:

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July 28, 2016

Do You Know that “Planned Giving” is Bad for #Fundraising?

That’s right. “Planned Giving” is bad for nonprofit fundraising.

For years, I’ve been writing and talking about the problems with the term “Planned Giving.” Now, new research underscores what I’ve been advising: You should stop using the term!

Sometime ago, The Stelter Company conducted a survey that I cite in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. Stelter found only 37 percent of Americans over the age of 30 have a familiarity with the term “Planned Giving.” We have no way of knowing what percentage of those claiming familiarity really, in fact, know what the term truly means.

Other terms have become increasingly popular as substitutes for “Planned Giving.” However, none has yet to gain sufficient traction to overtake the use of “Planned Giving.” Consider the results from simple Google searches I conducted for this post:

  • Planned Giving — 14.8 million results
  • Philanthropic Planning — 11.1 million results
  • Gift Planning — 5.7 million results
  • Legacy Giving — 2.1 million results

What we know is that the general public has little understanding of the term “Planned Giving” although it appears to be the best term we have. Unfortunately, popular does not mean effective.

William Shatner in The Grim Reaper by Tom Simpson via FlickrWhile “Planned Giving” is a reasonable, inside-the-development-office catch-all term to describe, well, planned giving, it’s not a particularly good marketing term. That’s according to the findings of philanthropy researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP.

James conducted a study to answer this vitally important marketing question: “What is the best ‘front door’ phrase to make people want to read more Planned Giving information?”

Think of it this way: Will a “Planned Giving” button at your website encourage visitors to click through to learn more or is there a more effective term?

To be a successful term, James believes two objectives must be met:

  1. Individuals have to be interested in finding out more.
  2. Individuals have to expect to see Planned Giving information (i.e., no “bait and switch”).

To find the strongest marketing term, James asked people to imagine they were viewing the website of a charity representing a cause that is important in their lives. In addition to a “Donate Now” button, the following buttons appear on the website:

  • Gift Planning
  • Planned Giving
  • Giving Now & Later
  • Other Ways to Give
  • Other Ways to Give Smarter
  • Other Ways to Give Cheaper, Easier, and Smarter

James asked participants to rate their level of interest in clicking on the button to read the corresponding information. In a follow-up, James asked study participants what kind of information they would expect to see when clicking the buttons mentioned above.

The winning term is:

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March 5, 2016

Gallup Poll: Donors Not Feeling the Love

The most recent “Health and Well-Being Survey” conducted by Gallup provides alarming insight about the effectiveness of nonprofit donor recognition efforts.

Among those surveyed, 81 percent say they have donated money to a charity within the past year. In addition, 52 percent of survey respondents say they have volunteered their time during that same period.

Given the high-level of engagement, Gallup wanted to determine whether survey respondents were “feeling the love and received recognition for their efforts to help improve the city or area where they live.” Unfortunately, the findings are disturbing:

•  Only 15 percent of respondents agreed with the The Applause by Rachael Tomster via Flickrstatement “In the last 12 months, I have received recognition for helping to improve the city or area where I live.” This includes 5 percent who “Strongly Agreed” and 10 percent who “Agreed.”

•  Conversely, a whopping 69 percent of respondents disagreed with that same statement, including 45 percent who “Strongly Disagreed” and another 24 percent who “Disagreed.”

There are a few things that might explain the disconnect between the philanthropic/voluntary involvement of survey respondents and the recognition they received, or didn’t:

1.  Many of the respondents may have donated or volunteered for non-local causes. For example, donors may have given to alma maters in a different geographic region. Alternatively, donors may have given to or volunteered with national or international charities.

2.  Survey respondents might not think of their giving or volunteering as “[helping to] improve the city or area where they live.” For example, if one gives to a local animal shelter, she might think of it as helping the kittens and puppies but not necessarily think of it as improving the community.

3.  Survey respondents might not fully understand the definition of “recognition.” For example, some donors might think of “recognition” as being profiled in the local newspaper because of their philanthropic efforts. Other donors might think of “recognition” as being honored with a plaque at a special event. Others might think “recognition” means receiving a t-shirt. Still others might think of “recognition” as a well-written thank-you letter.

If the disconnect between giving/volunteering and recognition was small, I wouldn’t be too worried; the disconnect could be explained. However, the disconnect revealed by the survey is massive. Even allowing for a large margin of error for the reasons I’ve just outlined, I suspect we’d still see a significant #DonorLove gap.

Considering the anemic donor-retention rates throughout the nonprofit sector, I’m even more convinced that Gallup has uncovered a legitimate concern. As a statement from Gallup says:

It seems most communities and organizations are missing an opportunity to validate donation and volunteer efforts by recognizing those who offer them.”

Here are just some of the things you can do to ensure your donors and volunteers feel appreciate:

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August 14, 2015

Easy Ways to Cultivate Your Donors and Raise More Money

Steven Shattuck recently interviewed me about one of my favorite topics for Bloomerang TV: Donor Cultivation.

Many nonprofit organizations see caring cultivation and solid stewardship as luxuries rather than essential components of the fundraising process. That’s one reason for low donor retention rates, 23 percent for first-time donors and 43 percent overall.

Well, I’m here to tell you that if you simply ask for donations with little or no attention given to cultivation and stewardship, you’re nothing more than a professional beggar. Development professionals recognize that fundraising does not begin and end with an appeal. Development professionals know the importance of cultivation and stewardship.

During my interview, I share a number of easy to implement, low-cost ideas for cultivating and stewarding your prospects and donors. One of the things I talk about is the value of pleasantly surprising people; I even share a couple of examples. You can read the full interview transcript of “Sneaky Ways to Cultivate Donors” by clicking here. You can watch the full 17 minute video below:

For more tips about cultivating your planned giving prospects and donors, read my article “Effectively Cultivating Prospects at Little or No Cost” which appeared in Advancing Philanthropy, the magazine of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. For additional tips and great examples for educating, cultivating, and stewarding planned giving prospects and donors, checkout my book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing.

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June 4, 2015

Do You Care If I Renew My CFRE? Vote Now.

I’m frustrated.

I’ve been a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) since 1994. That means I’ve held the credential longer than at least 89 percent of all current CFREs! I’ve also taught the CFRE Review Course. Clearly, I’m committed to the idea of professional certification for fundraising practitioners.

Unfortunately, the CFRE designation has failed to realize its potential. In fact, the credential is becoming less, rather than more, relevant.

That’s why I’ve tentatively decided not to renew my certification this month UNLESS you tell me I should renew.

VotingI’ve come up with a creative way for you to vote. My method will allow you to not only register a vote in favor of renewal, you’ll be able to convey how passionately you feel about renewal. To vote in favor of my renewal, simply go to my GoFundMe site (VOTE: Michael’s CFRE Renewal Fund) and make a donation. I estimate that renewing my CFRE and running this mini-campaign will cost approximately $600. If you think I should renew, contribute one dollar. If you feel more strongly that I should renew, contribute more, up to the $600 goal.

If we reach the goal of $600 by June 14, 2015, I will submit my renewal application to CFRE International. If we do not reach the goal, I will evaluate the feedback I receive and make a final decision about renewal by June 14. In any case, I will donate any unused funds to either CFRE International or the Association of Fundraising Professionals Foundation. Donations to this mini-campaign are not tax-deductible.

If you believe that I should not bother renewing my CFRE designation, you do not have to do anything to register your vote. I’ll see how many people visit this blog post and be able to compare that number with the number of people who vote with their dollars. So, I’ll see how many readers are voting by not actively voting.

With this method of voting, I will be able to gauge not just how much casual support there is for CFRE, but how much passionate support there is.

For now, I’m not passionate enough about CFRE to continue to spend my own money on renewal. Let me explain my position:

Lack of Commitment. By tentatively deciding not to renew my certification, I’m in good company. Of the eight past Board Chairs of CFRE International, the organization that controls the credential, three did not hold the CFRE designation as of 2013, according to the group’s annual report. In other words, 37.5 percent of past CFRE International Board Chairs do not hold the CFRE designation!

While CFRE International claims to have a high overall retention rate among CFREs, there is really no way to evaluate this. All the numbers reported by CFRE International prior to 2013 are suspect, according to Eva Aldrich, CFRE, President/CEO of CFRE International.

Anemic Numbers. Supposedly, a new technology system now allows for accurate reporting. Nevertheless, Aldrich has refused multiple requests to provide counts of the number of CFREs by country. So, we have no way of knowing, for example, whether the number of CFREs in the USA is growing, shrinking, or remaining the same. However, since 85 to 90 percent of all CFREs reside in the USA, I’ll assume, for the sake of this post, that the American CFRE growth rate is comparable to the overall growth rate.

In January 2015, CFRE International issued a statement, complete with a photo of fireworks, boasting that its 5,451 CFREs in 2014 represented a three percent growth rate over 2013. (Incidentally, the number of CFREs reported for 2012 was 5,630, which Aldrich now conveniently claims, was an inaccurate number; she further claims that she cannot ascertain the real number nor can she even estimate the degree of variance.)

The 2013-2014 growth rate of three percent seemed modest to me, certainly not worthy of fireworks. So, I did some research. Using data reported by The Urban Institute, I discovered that the growth rate among nonprofit organizations with revenue of $500,000 or more — in other words, among those organizations most likely to have someone on staff doing at least some professional fundraising — the growth rate was 3.6 percent. What this means is that the universe of nonprofit organizations doing fundraising has grown faster than the number of CFREs.

I’ll express this another way: Despite its modest growth, CFRE is growing more slowly than the market and, therefore, is actually losing market share.

CFRE is becoming less relevant!

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March 10, 2015

Want a FREE Book? How about 2 FREE Books?

From time to time, I come across truly special offers that I’m pleased to share with you.

Today, I want to give you the chance to get not one, but two, FREE books about planned giving written by Texas Tech University researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP:

Visual Planned Giving: An Introduction to the Law & Taxation of Charitable Gift Planning

Visual Planned GivingThis textbook is written specifically for fundraisers or 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 and features over 1,000 full-color illustrations and images that guide you through complex concepts in a visual and intuitive way. Distilled from his years of teaching Charitable Gift Planning at the undergraduate and graduate levels, James makes this topic accessible and enjoyable for the busy professional.

Here are some of the things you’ll learn:

• The secret to understanding planned giving

• A super simple introduction to taxes

• How to document charitable gifts

• Valuing charitable gifts of property

• Special techniques for donating retirement assets, private foundations and donor advised funds

• And much more!

The paperback version of this book retails for $187.98. However, you can get the electronic version for FREE thanks to my friends at MarketSmart, just click here.

American Charitable Bequest Demographics

This book provides an extensive review of the changing nature of American charitable estate planning from 1992-2012 and includes over 50 charts and graphs. James presents information in a simple, visual fashion with each page containing a graph or chart, comments on the importance of the information, and details about the methodology behind the data. Much of the information presented comes from a long-running, nationally-representative, longitudinal survey including information about the final estate distributions from over 10,000 survey respondents who have died during the study.

• Major sections include:

• National demographic trends

• Trends in charitable plans among those aged 55+

• Examination of matured plans of deceased respondents

• Timing of charitable plan changes

• And much more!

The electronic version of this book retails for $9.99. However, thanks to James, you can get it for FREE when you 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. (I recognize that your privacy is important, so I assure you that your email address will never be sold.)

Now that I’ve saved you a bundle of money, I’d like to suggest some books you can purchase that will inspire and help you achieve greater results. When you make your purchase, usually at a discount, at The Nonprofit Bookstore (powered by Amazon), a portion of every sale will be donated to charity.

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