Posts tagged ‘management’

November 24, 2015

What are Your Favorite LinkedIn Discussion Groups?

John Heywood, the 16th century English writer, once stated:

Many hands make light work.”

While Heywood might not have been the one to coin the phrase, he certainly helped preserve and popularize it. It’s a nice bit of common sense that we all need to be reminded of periodically.

For example, we can’t know everything. We can’t research an answer to every question by ourselves. We can’t read all of the professional publications to determine which items are of greatest importance or value.Spiral of Hands by lostintheredwoods via Flickr

That’s where LinkedIn Discussion Groups can help. By being part of a network of nonprofit managers and fundraising professionals, we can rely on the assistance of colleagues. In turn, we can also be of help.

Through LinkedIn, I’ve developed my professional relationships, broadened my professional network,  made new friends, accessed valuable information I never would have on my own, had some of my questions answered, and much more. I’ve engaged in provocative conversations. I’ve learned a great deal. I’ve been inspired.

While I belong to 45 professional LinkedIn Groups that are excellent, there are only some I engage with regularly. Here are just ten of my favorites:

[Note: You might need to be logged into your LinkedIn account for the above links to work. Even then, if you have any problems with the links, you can simply search on the Group names I’ve listed.]

Now, let me tell you about my absolute favorite Group.

Just days ago, I have created a new LinkedIn Discussion Group:

Blog Posts for Fundraising Pros & Nonprofit Managers

November 11, 2015

Rejecting a $100,000 Gift Helps #Nonprofit Raise MORE Money

The idea of rejecting a major donation usually sends a chill up the spine of nonprofit executives. After all, nonprofit organizations are not in business to return donations. Instead, charities employ hardworking fundraising professionals to bring in contributions. For many nonprofits, donations are the lifeblood of the organization.

However, rejecting a gift can actually help a charity protect its mission. Recently, I reported on two organizations that rejected or returned major gifts:

“When Should You Refuse a Gift?” — tells the story of Lucy the Elephant rejecting a grant offer from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

“Update: Spelman College Returns Gift from Bill Cosby” — relates why a major gift from Cosby was returned

Not long ago, the Girl Scouts of Western Washington demonstrated that a nonprofit can protect its mission and raise more money by mindfully rejecting a donation. In the case of the Girl Scouts, the organization rejected a $100,000 gift and raised over $250,000 in the process!

Girl Scouts W WashingtonWhen the Girl Scouts received the $100,000 gift, the staff was understandably thrilled. The money equaled approximately one-third of the organization’s financial assistance program budget for the year. The Girl Scouts offer financial assistance so that any girl can join despite economic obstacles.

Unfortunately, the Girl Scouts quickly learned that the major gift came with a major stipulation: the organization could not use any of the funds to help transgender children.

Megan Ferland, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Western Washington told Seattle Metropolitan magazine:

Girl Scouts is for every girl. And every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to.”

In other words, accepting the donor’s terms for the gift would have violated the organization’s mission. So, the Girl Scouts made the only decision they could; they returned the gift.

Then, the organization tried to turn a lemon into lemonade. The Girls Scouts launched an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign to try to recoup the funds. In the campaign, the Girl Scouts explained the situation. However, the organization correctly protected the privacy of the donor by not revealing the donor’s name.

November 6, 2015

Is a Zombie Video Good for Charity?

Halloween has passed, but zombies are still with us!

While checking my email Inbox recently, one subject line in particular caught my eye:

Zombie overpopulation video for Halloween by Population Matters.”

Halloween season or not, I like zombie films and television shows. For example, my favorite TV show of the moment is iZombie. If you haven’t seen iZombie, don’t judge me; instead, checkout an episode. Then, thank me.

Anyway, I quickly opened the email from a fundraising professional who I respect greatly. Her message piqued my interest even more:

I can’t believe that any communications or development department ok’d this! Horrible.”

Normally, “horrible” might be a good word to describe a zombie video, but that clearly was not the case in this situation. My fellow fundraiser believes that the video is problematic for the charity even if, on a superficial level, it might be mildly entertaining. So, doubly intrigued, I clicked on the link to the video by the UK charity Population Matters. You can watch it here:

On a superficial level, I kind of like the video. It isn’t great, but it is a bit fun while raising awareness about an important issue. I also acknowledge a few key points:

1.  The video is a British production for primarily (though not exclusively) a British audience. The British sense of humor and use of humor is very different from the American. What works in one country might not be appropriate in the other.

2.  Adults are not the primary target audience. The organization says “young people” are. I can understand how a zombie-themed video could capture the attention of the intended target audience.

3.  The video is bound to attract plenty of eyeballs that will achieve the objective of creating awareness for the issue of over population.

It was not until I thought about the video more deeply, viewed it again, and discussed it with colleagues that I began to see the problems with it.

Racism. At worst, the video is seen by some as racist. At best, it’s considered racially insensitive. The problem is that when mentioning the explosive population growth, only children of color are shown. No white babies or children are shown to illustrate the growth in population. Here’s what one colleague at an international social-service agency had to say about the video:

From our perspective, when people talk about overpopulation, they are often referring to black/brown folks in the global south and Africa. There can be a strong undercurrent of racism there, so connecting ‘too many black and brown people’ with zombies has an extremely negative connotation. In the human rights world, this kind of video is considered to be pretty racist. It got a uniformly negative response from the folks here in our office. So, even if millennials would like it, it’s very much out of step with the way family planning/population issues are framed in the human rights world, and makes it harder for groups like ours to even approach the overpopulation issue without being called racist.”

Overwhelming Use of Statistics. The video provided a number of interesting statistics. The trouble is, the use of statistics was overwhelming and abstract. As a result, even after watching the video three times, I cannot remember a single statistic cited. I suspect casual viewers will experience the same thing.

No Emotional Pull. While the video is somewhat fun, it lacks emotional pull. Greg Warner, of MarketSmart, pointed that out to me along with the next two points.

So What? This is one of my favorite questions when evaluating something. As Greg told me, “There’s nothing to answer the question any individual would ask while viewing it: ‘What’s in it for me?’” Yes, the video attempts to point out how the world and our species would be better off by reducing population growth. However, those “benefits” are abstract, particularly to young people who have some sense of immortality and narcissism.

Weak Call to Action. There are two calls to action in the video. Neither is compelling. First, viewers are encouraged to have smaller families. This is not immediately relevant to the target audience of teenagers. The second call to action is to go to the organization’s website for more information. As Greg mentioned to me, “[The call to action] is not all that exciting.”

Given my own thoughts about the video and the comments I received, I had questions about the production. So, I emailed Population Matters. I received a quick response from Simon Ross, the organization’s Chief Executive:

October 27, 2015

The #Fundraising Life is Tough, so Laugh More!

Are you able to laugh at yourself?

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always easy to laugh at oneself. At times, it’s not even easy to laugh at the challenges we encounter in any given day. However, finding the humor with ourselves, and the situations we encounter, can be enormously beneficial.

Consider what actor Salma Hayek has said on the subject:

Life is tough; and if you have the ability to laugh at it, you have the ability to enjoy it.”

Author Kurt Vonnegut emphasized another benefit of laughter:

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”

We can all benefit by laughing more at the daily frustrations we face while trying to do our fundraising work. That’s where Phillip E. Perdue, MBA, May I Cultivate You?CFRE, CDM can help. A longtime fundraising professional, Perdue has written the book May I Cultivate You? Perdue’s book takes a humorous, insightful look at the various aspects of fundraising.

When reading the book, I recognized any number of frustrating/humorous situations I’ve seen over my long career. If you want to have some chuckles and gain some insights about the world of fundraising, I encourage you to pick up a copy. If you want to spread the cheer, you may want to get some extra copies to share with your favorite fundraisers this coming holiday season.

May I Cultivate You? is available on Kindle and paperback. To give you a taste of the book, Perdue has allowed me to share “Chapter Twelve — Your Fundraising Software is the Worst.” Thanks, Phil! This bonus chapter is not available in the print version of the book. Let me know what you think of this chapter:


When you begin a new job, someone will give you a log-in for the fundraising software. Moments later, one of your new co-workers will come over and say how much they hate the fundraising software and moan about how confusing, user-hostile and archaic it is. Everyone within earshot will nod agreement.


 Your passwords go on post-it notes next to your computer.


The software will seem to have caused more human misery than typhoid, small pox and opera combined. Which is strange because you thought the software at your last job was the worst. And it was. And now this new system will be the worst. Wherever you are, whatever you are using, it is the pits, the bottom of the barrel.

To be fair, the modern software industry has given fundraisers remarkable tools. But as you know, this is generally an awful thing for a lot of reasons.

Imagine using a 200-lb sledgehammer to kill ants. Or having a Swiss Army knife with 7,000 attachments the size of a pickup truck. Modern development software feels like that to the Liberal Arts majors trying to jockey it. It is too unwieldy for people who use words like “unwieldy.” Mostly, we use the software as a rolodex and a gift log.

It does not help that most of the computers running the software are nearly as old as the furniture they sit on.

And it does not help that as the systems have grown exponentially more sophisticated your organization’s training budget has not increased since 1950. Chances are no one in your shop has had any professional training or knows how to take advantage of all the wonderful features buried away in FundJuggernaut ’98 or whatever you are using. If newcomers are lucky, they will be taught to log-in and look up phone numbers.

October 22, 2015

Do You Know if Your #Fundraising is Failing?

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

Do you know if your fundraising is failing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 16, 2015

When Should You Refuse a Gift?

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

When should a charity refuse to accept a donation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 29, 2015

Update: Spelman College Returns Gift from Bill Cosby

Seven months ago, I first reported that Spelman College announced the suspension of an endowed professorship in humanities that was funded by Bill and Camille Cosby. At that time, I called on the College to either renegotiate the gift or return it to the Cosby family.

Post No Bills by Jon Mannion via FlickrOn July 26, 2015, the College revealed its decision to terminate The William and Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Endowed Professorship and to return the donation to the Clara Elizabeth Jackson Carter Foundation, established by Camille Cosby.

Last December, Spelman issued this one-paragraph statement:

December 14, 2014 — The William and Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Endowed Professorship was established to bring positive attention and accomplished visiting scholars to Spelman College in order to enhance our intellectual, cultural and creative life; however, the current context prevents us from continuing to meet these objectives fully. Consequently, we will suspend the program until such time that the original goals can again be met.”

Amid mounting accusations of sexual assault involving Bill Cosby, the College decided to terminate the endowed professorship. As of this publication date, Cosby has not been charged with any related crime.

As I stated in my December post, nonprofit organizations are ethically required to use a donor’s contribution in the way in which the donor intended. The applicable portions of the Donor Bill of Rights “declares that all donors have these rights”:

IV. To be assured their gifts will be used for the purposes for which they were given….

V. To receive appropriate acknowledgement and recognition….

VI. To be assured that information about their donations is handled with respect and with confidentiality to the extent provided by law.”

The relevant passages from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Code of Ethical Principles state:

14. Members shall take care to ensure that contributions are used in accordance with donors’ intentions….

16. Members shall obtain explicit consent by donors before altering the conditions of financial transactions.”

By returning the gift after deciding not to use it for the intended purpose, the College acted ethically. However, a number of other ethical questions remain unanswered:

May 12, 2015

Special Report: 21 Ways to Unlock Creative Genius (Infographic)

[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.]


I’m a big believer in the power of unlocking creative energy. Without change, without innovation, the nonprofit sector will continue to lack sufficient resources.

For decades, overall philanthropy has remained at about two percent of Gross Domestic Product. Doing business as usual may allow the nonprofit sector to continue at that two percent level. However, without taking creative risk, we will never see philanthropy get to three percent or four percent of GDP.

In my previous post, “If You Want $1 Million, Be Creative,” I looked at how creativity helped the City of Philadelphia win a $1 million grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies. I hope the post inspires nonprofit professionals to seek creative solutions to fundraising challenges.

Now, I want to share an infographic that offers you “21 Ways to Unlock Creative Genius”:


May 5, 2015

Will You Help Me Celebrate My (Re)birthday?

On May 2, I began my month-long (re)birthday celebration. One year ago, I underwent a 14-hour surgery to remove the rare cancer that had spread throughout my abdomen. The surgery was a success, and I am now in remission!

First Birthday Balloons by akadruid via FlickrPrior to surgery, I was told my life expectancy would be about two to five years. Following surgery, my doctor told me I can expect a full life. That’s why I consider May 2 my (re)birthday.

Having gone through what I have during the past year, I’m returning to professional life with a reinvigorated commitment to help the nonprofit community be more efficient and effective so we can make the world a better place.

I’m doing a number of private and public things this month to celebrate. While I normally ensure that my blog site remains largely non-commercial, I’m making an exception with this post because I want to enlist your help as I mark this important time in my life.

There are a number of ways you can join my (re)birthday celebration:

New Clients. I’m looking for at least three new clients. If you’ve found my blog posts helpful, imagine what we can achieve by working closely together, as some readers have already discovered. If you work for a nonprofit organization, I can help you with annual fund enhancements, donor retention efforts, ethics education and policy development, phone fundraising improvements, planned gift marketing, and training for staff and/or boards. If you work for a for-profit company serving the nonprofit sector, I can help you with service/product enhancements, new service/product development, and marketing.

Please contact me if you would like to discuss how I can help you achieve your goals.

Paid Speaking Engagements. As part of my return to professional life, I’m looking forward to getting back out on the speaking circuit. I’m an experienced, well-reviewed presenter and AFP Master Trainer. I’m also an adjunct faculty member at Drexel University where I teach Advanced Fund Development to graduate students. For your organization, I can facilitate a variety of training programs for your board, staff, or volunteers. For your professional associations, I can offer a variety of seminars or keynote presentations to meet the group’s needs and particular interests.

May 1, 2015

Do Old Dogs Really Have What It Takes?

I recently heard from an old friend, Bob Crandall the Founder/Consultant at Crandall, Croft & Associates. In addition to being a terrific fundraising professional, Bob is the kind of guy who instinctively knows how to weave humor and wisdom together. The latest story he shared with me is a great example of this:


The Old Dog

An old German Shepherd starts chasing rabbits and before long, discovers that he’s lost. Wandering about, he notices a panther heading rapidly in his direction with the intention of having lunch.

The old German Shepherd thinks, “Oh, oh! I’m in deep s… now!”

German Shepherd by perlaroques via FlcikrNoticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat. Just as the panther is about to leap, the old German Shepherd exclaims loudly, “Boy, that was one delicious panther! I wonder if there are any more around here?”

Hearing this, the young panther halts his attack in mid-strike, a look of terror comes over him and he slinks away into the trees.

“Whew!” says the panther, “That was close! That old German Shepherd nearly had me!”

Meanwhile, a squirrel who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the panther. So, off he goes.

The squirrel soon catches up with the panther, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the panther.

The young panther is furious at being made a fool of and says, “Here, squirrel, hop on my back and see what’s going to happen to that conniving canine!”

Now, the old German Shepherd sees the panther coming with the squirrel on his back and thinks, “What am I going to do now?” But, instead of running, the dog sits down with his back to his attackers, pretending he hasn’t seen them yet, and just when they get close enough to hear, the old German Shepherd says…


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