Posts tagged ‘marketing’

May 20, 2016

Donors Say: Enough about You. Let’s Talk about Me!

A recent study reveals that donors support charitable causes for “very personal reasons.” In other words, giving is about them (the donors and what motivates them) and is far less about you and your nonprofit organization.

This is not surprising news to those of us who practice donor-centered fundraising. Nevertheless, it’s nice to have additional research data that supports the idea of being donor centered.

LOVE statue by Aaron Vowels via FlickrDonor Loyalty Study: A Deep Dive into Donor Behaviors and Attitudes is the study report from Abila, a leading provider of software and services to nonprofit organizations. The researchers explored questions with a representative sample of 1,136 donors in the United States across all age segments who made at least one donation to a nonprofit organization within the previous 12 months.

The study identifies the three “main reasons for donating”:

  • I am passionate about the cause — 59 percent
  • I know that the organization I care about depends on me — 45 percent
  • I know someone affected by their cause — 33 percent

Other reasons for donating generated far lower responses, ranging from just three to 18 percent.

You’ll notice that each of the top three reasons for giving involve “I” not necessarily you or your charity. Let’s explore this a bit.

The number-one reason for giving involves the donor’s passion. You’ll also notice that the donor is passionate about and supports the “cause” though not necessarily the organization.

In other words, I may be passionate about fighting cancer. However, I might be fickle when it comes to supporting a particular cancer charity. For example, this year, I might support the American Cancer Society. However, if I’m not stewarded or asked effectively, I might shift my support to the City of Hope next year. I’ll still be a passionate supporter of the fight against cancer, but the organization I choose to support will change.

The challenge for nonprofit organizations is to embody the cause for which donors have passion. An organization needs to demonstrate to its donors that it is the worthy channel for their passion. Remember, donors have choices. You need them more than they need you.

If you do what I’ve just said, donors will understand that you need them, that you “depend” on them. And that’s the second most common reason why people give. If your organization embodies a donor’s passion and let’s that donor know how important she is, she will be far more likely to renew and upgrade her support.

The third reason for giving is really just a sub-category of the first. Again, it’s about the “cause” rather than the organization. Yes, in some cases, it might be about your specific organization. However, that won’t always be the case.

By understanding your donors, you can tailor stewardship and appeal messages to them. This will improve your effectiveness.

May 13, 2016

10 Reasons Your #Nonprofit Should be Using Facebook

[Publisher’s Note: From time-to-time, I invite a published book author, with valuable insights, to write a guest post. If you’d like to learn about how to be a guest blogger, click on the “Authors” tab above.]

 

Would you like to understand why your nonprofit organization should embrace Facebook? Would you like a free book that’s full of tips that will help your charity get the most from Facebook? If you would, you’ll really enjoy this post.

This week, I have invited Richard Santos, Founder of Fundlio, to share his insights. Fundlio helps nonprofit organizations collect donations online by providing a mobile-friendly, secure and free platform. Fundlio also maintains a blog where the company shares tips and how-to information on a number of topics including fundraising, thank-you letters, collecting donations online, and creating organization awareness.

Facebook for Nonprofits CoverRichard has also written the book The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Marketing for Nonprofits: How to ATTRACT SUPPORTERS & Receive More CONTRIBUTIONS for Your NONPROFIT Through FACEBOOK. While the Kindle version of the book is available for purchase on Amazon, Richard has kindly made his e-book available to the readers of Michael Rosen Says… for FREE! To download your free e-book copy, simply click here.

Richard’s book is a quick and simple-to-follow guide aimed at helping you create and develop an effective Facebook marketing strategy that will translate into attracting donors, increasing supporter engagement, and receiving more contributions for your cause. It’s based on proven tactics and strategies that will allow you to leverage the Facebook community and accomplish your nonprofit organization’s goals.

In addition to the terrific information and helpful tips Richard provides in his book, he now offers 10 important reasons your nonprofit organization should be using Facebook:

 

There are numerous online tools available for nonprofits and charities, allowing organizations like yours to use the power of the Internet and social media to its full potential. Facebook for Nonprofits is a great way of creating more awareness about your cause and eventually raising more funds to fulfill your mission.

However, I know that a nonprofit leader’s time is limited and that it’s hard to squeeze one more extra activity into your tight schedule. Whenever someone makes a suggestion on a new marketing tactic, the first question that pops into your head is: “Why should I take the time, effort, and budget to implement this?”

Let me provide you with an answer to the question in 10 straightforward points:

1.  A large percentage of your audience is on Facebook.

Facebook has almost 1.6 billion active users all over the world, which means that many of the potential donors you are targeting are using Facebook. One more interesting statistic: 31 percent of all US senior citizens use Facebook – this shows the huge impact that Facebook has on people from multiple categories. If you want to use the one channel where most of your audience is active, Facebook is the solution.

2.  You can raise awareness.

Having a compelling nonprofit story on your website is not sufficient – many potential supporters may not reach your website and you will lose donors and volunteers. On the other hand, your nonprofit is much more visible on Facebook, either through advertising or through page suggestions. Someone who’s interested in your cause just needs to hit “Like” and from that moment on, you will appear in their newsfeed. Better visibility means more awareness for your cause – your fans will develop an interest in your organization without even noticing.

3.  You can attract new supporters.

Facebook allows you to increase your visibility, aside from just communicating to your loyal audiences. Try the following features and your fans’ friends will also have contact with your page: similar page suggestions, adding the physical address so fans can check-in, and creating Facebook events. These features allow you to become visible to people who have not liked your page yet and to encourage them to become your fans.

4.  You can build a community.

Although there are many people passionate about the same idea, they rarely have time to meet in a physical location and develop relationships. On the other hand, interacting on social media is easier and helps them save time. Audiences use Facebook groups to gather around the causes they support – here they can discuss various issues, connect to other people, and organize events.

5.  Facebook allows you to engage supporters.

The secret to a successful fundraising campaign is supporter engagement. It’s recommended to implement multiple creative ideas rather than just featuring a “Donate” button on your page and just waiting for money to pop in. Some methods you can use to attract donors on Facebook are the following: running contests, setting mini-goals, using storytelling, implementing a matching gift campaign, asking supporters to give up a pleasant activity and donate the money, or inflicting silly punishments on your nonprofit organization leaders to encourage donations.

April 29, 2016

How Can Nana Murphy Make You a Better #Fundraising Professional?

[Publisher’s Note: This post is part of a series kindly contributed by guest authors who attended the 2016 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference. These posts share valuable insights from the Conference. This week, I thank Erica Waasdorp, President of A Direct Solution, for highlighting the seminar “From Ireland with Love: A Five-Year Case Study on Donor-Centric Fundraising for Retention, Revenue, and Results.”]

 

What does Nana Murphy have to do with great fundraising results?

The answer: ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING!

Who is Nana Murphy?

Who is Nana Murphy?

So, who is Nana Murphy? Is she a successful fundraising professional? Is she a leading fundraising consultant? Is she a donor advisor? Is she a fundraising or nonprofit management professor? Is she a philanthropy researcher? Do you give up?

Nana Murphy is your typical donor.

You need to get to know your organization’s Nana Murphys. You need to understand why she supports your organization. You need to give her what she needs from your organization. In short, you need to be donor centered. But how?

The AFP International Fundraising Conference session “From Ireland with Love” not only stressed the need to be donor centric, the presenters shared dozens of practical tips to show you exactly how you can be more donor centered and, therefore, more successful.

The speakers know what they’re talking about; together, they increased the amount of money that one prominent Irish charity raised by 1100 percent in just five years!

Erica Waasdorp, President of A Direct Solution and author of Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant, attended the session and shares some of the tips she thinks you’ll find particularly valuable. At the end of the post, I provide links for you to download two free handouts from the session that are full of dozens of additional tips and real-world examples that you must checkout.

Here are the highlights Erica wants to share with you:

 

I attended “From Ireland with Love,” presented by Denisa Casement, CFRE, Head of Fundraising, Merchants Quay Ireland, Dublin;  Lisa Sargent, Lisa Sargent Communications, Safford Spring, CT; and Sandra Collette, S. Collette Design, Stafford Spring, CT.

Denisa is American, originally from Arizona, and she moved to Ireland in 2008. Boy, did she make an impact on this Irish homeless charity since then, taking the revenue from 250,000 Euros to 3 Million Euros just five years later.

For me, as a traditional “old school” direct-marketing fundraiser, this was a fabulous session!

It really honed in on those fundamentals we should all know and use in our fundraising every day. Especially now, where we all get so distracted by the next new electronic approach — the next new shiny thing as Tom Ahern calls it — let’s not forget that it’s not about us, it’s all about the donors.

So, the speakers presented a life size Nana Murphy, the typical average donor in your donor base. She still reads direct mail and writes checks. She needs reading glasses and she loves honesty, emotion and authenticity. So, the first thing you need to do when you think of how best to approach donors like her, is forgot about what you think and feel. Instead, consider Nana in everything you do, and you’ll be successful. I promise!

I don’t have space here to provide you with all of the tremendous practical tips and guidelines from the session (see the handout links at the end of this post), but here are 11 that stand out. If you follow these rules, you’ll absolutely be able to raise more money!

Know your metrics. So many fundraisers don’t know their own numbers: response rate, average gift, cost to raise a dollar, lifetime value, and retention rate, to name a few. Managing your fundraising program is considerably more difficult if you don’t know the key metrics.

Use the Casement Quotienttm. I love this. Denisa introduced the Quotient: Annual fundraising income divided by 52 weeks in a year divided by the number of hours in your work week. For example, in 2015, her fundraising team raised $1,627 per hour. So, if someone comes to you to ask you to do something, that’s not going to at least raise that amount of money, you probably shouldn’t be doing it! What a clever way to say no to the next “sit in a booth at a fair for a two day event and you’ll reach 100 people.” Consider finding some volunteers instead and divvy up the time. The Casement Quotienttm is a helpful tool when it comes to setting priorities.

Get rid of silos, both in how you organize your departments and your donors. It all works better if you and your colleagues know what’s going on. There’s no need to “hide” results or think that someone does not need to know about how your fundraising is doing. Remember, the objective is not for one person to do well; instead, the objective is for the organization to do well.

Mail enough! I still see so many organizations leave lots of money on the table. They simply do not ask for gifts often enough. As long as your next mailing generates more money than it costs, you can mail more. MQI mails four appeals a year and four newsletters. Absence does not make donors’ hearts grow fonder!

April 15, 2016

Will #CharitableGiving Suffer Because of the Election?

[Publisher’s Note: This post is part of a series highlighting some of the sessions from the 2016 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference. This week, I focus on “Giving in an Election Year – How Political Giving Impacts Nonprofit Support” which was presented by Chuck Longfield, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist at Blackbaud, and Sally Ehrenfried, Blackbaud’s Community Relations Manager.]

 

Since the end of February 2016, the US Presidential candidates and their allied Super PACs have raised close to $1 billion. Some pundits believe that the candidates could spend up to $5 billion before the November General Election. And that’s just looking at the Presidential candidates. Candidates for other offices will also raise enormous sums of money.

The question for the nonprofit sector is this: Will charitable giving suffer because of the election this year?

Democratic Donkey and Republican Elephant by DonkeyHotey via FlickrBlackbaud researched the question and presented the findings of its report in the session “Giving in an Election Year – How Political Giving Impacts Nonprofit Support” at the 2016 AFP International Fundraising Conference.

The study examined the giving behavior of over 400,000 donors during the 2012 campaign year when Barack Obama and Mitt Romney battled for The White House. Researchers looked at giving data about those who did and did not contribute to political campaigns in 2012 and compared the information with charitable giving information from 2011.

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

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

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

The report acknowledges that the data paints a picture of 2012 without providing a prediction for 2016. More research is needed. Nevertheless, based on the Blackbaud report and multi-decade data from Giving USA, it’s likely that political giving will not negatively affect the nonprofit sector this year.

In the Foreword to the report, Andrew Watt, President and CEO of AFP, wrote:

What we are looking at is the giving of individuals who prize [civic] engagement — who see community action as a positive and who are interested in the full political and social spectrum of how we go about achieving change.”

The report supports Watts’ point:

We would expect that nonprofits involved in missions and programs touched by prominent campaign issues would benefit from political discourse on those themes. We would also expect that nonprofits focused on public policy advocacy would benefit most. These expectations are fulfilled in the increased giving to Public and Society Benefit, and Environment sub-sectors.”

However, increased giving was not limited to those two sub-sectors. Most other sub-sectors also saw gains, though those gains were not as large. This is a positive sign for the nonprofit sector in general.

For 2016, the report offers five key recommendations for the nonprofit sector:

April 8, 2016

#Fundraising Moneyball: Track 3 Numbers that will Make You a Champ

[Publisher’s Note: This post is part of a series kindly contributed by guest authors who attended the 2016 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference. These posts share valuable insights from the Conference. This week, I thank Carrie Horton, Director of Content and Education at Kindful, for highlighting the seminar “Fundraising Moneyball: The Only Metrics that Matter in Digital Fundraising.”]

 

While freezing temperatures continue to chill many in the USA, the boys of summer have nevertheless returned for the start of the 2016 baseball season. What better way to mark the occasion than drawing a parallel between the baseball book and movie Moneyball and fundraising?

Okay, enjoying a hotdog and beer at a ballpark would be a better way to celebrate the start of the new baseball season. But, the second best way is to explore some of the highlights from Jeff Stanger’s session at the AFP International Fundraising Conference: “Fundraising Moneyball: The Only Metrics that Matter in Digital Fundraising.”

The book and movie Moneyball presented the true story of a revolutionary approach to baseball introduced by Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland A’s. With a lean budget, he relied heavily on statistics, rather than personalities, to build a winning baseball team.

The Moneyball lesson for your nonprofit organization is that by leveraging statistical data, you can build a winning development program.

So, what statistics should you track? What goals should you set?

Carrie Horton, Director of Content and Education at Kindful, has identified three key points from the seminar that you need to know. Kindful is a nonprofit CRM software that offers powerful online fundraising tools, intuitive donor management, and comprehensive reporting analytics in one centralized data hub. Here’s what Carrie found most valuable from Stanger’s presentation:

 

If you’re anything like us at Kindful, when you hear the word “moneyball,” you think of Michael Lewis’s bestselling book and Brad Pitt’s killer acting. But thanks to the AFP International Fundraising Conference and Jeff MoneyballStanger’s impeccable session, we’ve got a new definition. Stanger’s session – “Fundraising Moneyball: The Only Metrics that Matter in Digital Fundraising” – sets forth a simple and straightforward digital strategy for nonprofit fundraising success. According to this renowned speaker and fundraising consultant from Cause Geek, it’s not rocket science, it’s statistics.

Stanger showed us that a successful digital fundraising strategy isn’t about trending on Twitter or gaining the most “likes” on Facebook. Instead, he urges nonprofits to focus on small steps taken with the insight of data and metrics behind them. Sustainable growth, Stanger says, comes through clear and simple goals that are easy to measure, quick to show return, and effectively reveal what works and what doesn’t.

What are the three goals that Stanger suggests you focus on? Again, Stanger’s recommendations are straightforward:

  1. Increase the number of subscribers to email
  2. Increase the number of volunteers
  3. Increase the number of monthly givers

Seems simple enough, right? These aren’t principles that are overly complex or hard to define. They’re straightforward and easy to measure. Even smaller nonprofits with limited funds and limited resources can achieve great success through a series of small victories.

But, where do you start? Well, if Stanger’s argument is that these goals are important because they are measurable metrics, then it only makes sense to start with metrics as well. We might be a bit biased (being the donor management provider that we are), but Kindful thinks that clean data and insightful metrics are at the heart of every successful digital fundraising strategy. However, don’t take our word for it. Here’s a quick breakdown of Stanger’s three goals and how an integrated CRM can help make you a fundraising champ:

Goal #1: Increase the number of subscribers to email

In a world where 95 percent of consumers use email and 91 percent check it at least once a day, the importance of growing your email marketing and distribution list is a no-brainer. In fact, Stanger mentioned that 75 percent of social media users still say that they prefer email communication! Email addresses provide you with a direct link to your audience and, when used wisely, help you cultivate donors who will be invested in your organization for years to come.

Want to build your email distribution list?

Pull a report to find out how many email addresses you have in your donor database. Integrate with your email-marketing provider to pull in stats related to how many people open your emails and click through them. Use data to understand what’s working (and what isn’t) and refine your strategy to send better emails and increase engagement. In other words, make sure your emails deliver value to recipients.

Goal #2: Increase the number of volunteers

Did you know that nearly 80 percent of volunteers donate to charity, compared to only 40 percent of non-volunteers? (Visit VolunteeringInAmerica.gov for more information.) It makes sense – those who are the most engaged with your organization will be the most likely to give financial support as well. And it’s not just that volunteers are most likely to donate…they’re most likely to raise money for your organization as well! Especially with the rising popularity of crowdfunding platforms, volunteers who engage through peer-to-peer fundraising don’t just bring in more money, they expand your audience.

Furthermore, over time, many volunteers will choose to donate in significant ways including through planned giving.

Want to build your volunteer base?

April 1, 2016

3 Insights that will Change the Way You Do #Nonprofit Work

[Publisher’s Note: This is the first of a number of posts kindly contributed by guest authors who attended the 2016 AFP International Fundraising Conference. These posts share valuable insights from the Conference. This week, I thank Nancy Racette, CFRE, Principal and Chief Operating Officer at DRi, for highlighting the “Rebels, Renegades & Pioneers” education track.]

 

What if you could hear from some of the nonprofit world’s leading provocateurs, innovators, and big thinkers about the glories, the failures, and the future of the charity sector?

If you had attended the recent Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference, you could have. If you were unable to attend the program, don’t worry. I’m about to share some highlights with you.

Rebels logoDevelopment Resources Inc. (DRi) sponsored the new education track called “Rebels, Renegades & Pioneers. The track was designed to engage attendees in thought-provoking conversations about the nature and ultimate purpose of the nonprofit sector, in addition to providing tactical guidance. Business leaders, fundraisers, researchers, and activists who have spent their lives fostering these conversations shared their thoughts at the Conference.

Nancy Racette, CFRE, DRi Principal and Chief Operating Officer, attended the program. DRi is an executive search and consulting firm that builds nonprofit capacity through Board and leadership recruitment, strategic planning, and resource development both across the country and around the world. Here are some of the important insights Racette found:

 

What if social justice were a form of donor cultivation?

What if fundraisers used studies testing such propositions when they designed philanthropic programs?

How would the lessons of this research change participation in the nonprofit world?

The experts gathered for the “Rebels, Renegades & Pioneers” education track addressed these and other provocative questions. Here are three of the most significant ideas we heard:

1.  You’re not a fundraiser. You’re a catalyst for change.

The Rebels track opened with an inspiring call for fundraisers of all stripes to see themselves as agents of large-scale social change.

The fundraising vision of Roger CraverJennie Thompson,  and Daryl Upsall created a new model of social movement in the 20th century, one in which membership-based nonprofits made themselves central actors in some of the world’s greatest social transformations, from AIDS to apartheid, from voting rights to human rights.

Today, though, the challenge is to recognize that you don’t have to be a c(4) organization with a national membership to be an agent of social change. Fundraising is an inevitably activist enterprise, one that calls on people to remake the world — and that’s as true of art museums and homeless shelters as it is of Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club.

Art isn’t a luxury for the leisured; it’s a revolutionary prism through which humans re-imagine themselves and bring their new visions to life. That’s why the Urban Institute released a 2008 report on making the case for the arts as a space of collective community action. What’s more activist than that?

And we know that engaging people in social action ultimately creates new donors. People who see themselves as actors in a movement want to invest in that movement.

We got a live demonstration at AFP, when a woman who identified herself as a South American refugee stood up to say that the help she had received from Planned Parenthood had brought her to the Conference to learn how to raise money for the causes she believes in. If we see all the fundraising we do as a movement for social change, how would it help us engage people like that?

March 25, 2016

Do Not Overlook This Gift Opportunity

Many charities have been overlooking an increasingly important potential source of charitable contributions. Many donors have also overlooked this potential philanthropic opportunity.

It’s time to change all of that.

I’m talking about Beneficiary Designations.

While the use of Wills has declined sharply since 1998, individuals are increasingly using Beneficiary Designations to pass on assets to loved ones. Instead of a Will, individuals can use a simple Beneficiary Designation form to distribute assets from IRAs, 401ks, bank accounts, certificates of deposit, brokerage accounts, life insurance policies, and money remaining in Donor Advised Funds. In some jurisdictions, individuals can also use Beneficiary Designations to distribute property such as automobiles and real estate.

If someone does not have a Will, he cannot make a Charitable Bequest commitment. However, he can easily set up a Beneficiary Designation that directs some of his assets to a favorite charity. It’s important to note here that a Beneficiary Designation supersedes any designations made in a Will should a donor have both.

For donors, using a Beneficiary Designation can be easier and less expensive than making a Charitable Bequest commitment through a Will. Beneficiary Designations do not require a lawyer, a complicated estate planning process, or an executor. Donors can use Beneficiary Designations to take care of loved ones and/or their favorite charities. Donors can designate all or a portion of a given asset to specific beneficiaries. Beneficiary Designations also provide flexibility as individuals can easily change beneficiaries at any time.

I Spy by Flood G via FlickrTo acquire more gifts through Beneficiary Designations, nonprofit organizations need to be proactive about promoting this method of giving. As with any other planned gift vehicle, organizations need to educate prospective donors about the opportunity and how it works. Then, fundraising professionals actually need to ask for the gifts.

One way the ASPCA promoted Beneficiary Designation gifts was through an article on its website that you can read by clicking here.

The University of Florida has promoted Charitable Bequests and Beneficiary Designations using a two-page information sheet that explains the options. You can find it by clicking here.

March 22, 2016

There’s Something Important You Need to Do Before You Can Raise More Money

Do you want to acquire more new donors?

Do you want to retain more existing donors?

Do you want to upgrade the support from more of your donors?

Do you want to get more planned gift commitments?

To achieve any of those goals, there’s something essential you must first do. You need to build trust. Trust is the cornerstone of all fundraising success.

Consider what noted philanthropy researchers Dr. Adrian Sargeant and Dr. Jen Shang have written on the subject:

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

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

TrustIf you’re like most fundraising professionals, you instinctively understand the importance of establishing trust. However, what are you actually doing to build and maintain it?

Sadly, many nonprofit professionals think that trust is automatic. If your organization has existed for a reasonable period of time and if it has had some demonstrable success at fulfilling its mission, fundraisers may be lulled into the belief that trust already exists. Therefore, organizations spend little effort building trust and, instead, focus their energies and resources on making funding appeals. Unfortunately, the result is usually underperformance and occasionally disaster.

As I mentioned in a recent post, a cancer charity in Scotland was involved in a major scandal several years ago. Unfortunately, the fallout from that scandal negatively affected many unrelated charities throughout Scotland as public trust in the charity sector suffered greatly. As a result, some charities reported a 30 percent downturn in contributions in the months following the controversy. To restore the public trust, Scotland’s charities and the Institute of Fundraising joined forces to get people meaningful information and provide them with assurance about the trustworthiness of the charity sector. It took several months to rebuild trust. As trust was restored, giving began to return to normal.

By investing in efforts to establish and grow trust, nonprofit organizations will yield far greater fundraising results and protect themselves from an unforeseen public relations challenge.

So, recognizing that building and growing trust is essential for success, and fragile once established, what can charities do to develop trust?

Fortunately, building trust does not have to be complicated or expensive. Sales guru Tom Hopkins identifies three simple steps:

March 15, 2016

Ignore This at Your Own Risk: Perception is Reality

Since it is a Presidential election year in the US, I thought I’d explore three recent news stories through the lens provided by or popularized by the late political super-strategist Lee Atwater:

Perception is reality.”

The three news items I want to address are:

  1. A possible scandal involving MSNBC and a congressional candidate.
  2. A drop in donations at the University of Missouri following campus protests.
  3. The termination of the Wounded Warrior Project leadership.

Together, these stories demonstrate the danger of ignoring and failing to manage public perceptions. Such a failure could cost your organization vital support.

MSNBC:

NBCUniversal, owner of the cable news and commentary network MSNBC, Holiding Up Leaning Tower of Pisa by BJ Carter via Flickrhas previously experienced scandal. NBC news anchor Brian Williams violated journalistic ethics, by falsifying parts of stories he covered, leading to his suspension. Following his suspension, NBCUniversal reassigned Williams to MSNBC in a greatly diminished role.

Now, Chris Matthews, host MSNBC’s Hardball, is at the center of what could become a new scandal.

As first reported on The Intercept blog, guests on Hardball have donated nearly $80,000 to the congressional campaign of Kathleen Matthews, Chris’ wife. This has raised questions about payola and full disclosure. According to the report about Chris and Kathleen Matthews:

Some of the guests made the donations after they were on the show — in some cases, long after. But in at least 11 of these cases, the Hardball guests appeared on the program after Kathleen Matthews announced her candidacy, and without any disclosure of the donations. And in at least three of those cases, the donations came within days of the MSNBC appearance.”

The investigative report raises the issue of payola. Were potential Hardball guests asked to contribute to Kathleen Matthews’ campaign as a quid pro quo for appearing on the program?

While we do not yet know whether there was any pay-to-play involved, The New York Post has already declared:

Chris Matthews at Center of NBC’s Latest News Scandal”

The Independent Journal Review headlined a story with:

There’s a Scandal Brewing at NBC News, and Chris Matthews Is Right in the Middle of It”

Again, we don’t know whether Chris Matthews has done anything wrong. However, for thousands of people, perhaps more, that might not really matter. They definitely have serious concerns. For its part, MSNBC has done nearly nothing to reassure the public about the network’s journalistic ethics. This has led to a MoveOn.org petition calling for the suspension of Chris Matthews, according to The Daily Caller:

A MoveOn.org petition demanding that MSNBC suspend Hardball host Chris Matthews has garnered just under 10,000 signatures, even as the network has refused to address what Huffington Post called a ‘clear conflict of interest.’”

It remains to be seen how this might affect donations to Kathleen Matthews’ political campaign or how it might affect voter attitudes. It also remains to be seen what impact this report might have on Chris Matthews’ future at MSNBC. However, one thing is certain, MSNBC’s near silence on the subject is raising the ire of thousands of people, if not more.

University of Missouri (Mizzou):

Simmering racial tension on the University of Missouri Columbia campus flared up in November during protests that captured national media attention. At one point, an associate professor yelled, “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.” The targeted reporter was simply doing his job.

In the aftermath of the protests, the University system President and the Columbia campus Chancellor both resigned. Several months later, Mizzou terminated the associate professor mentioned above.

Now, we know from a report from KTVO-TV that the campus unrest has cost Mizzou millions of dollars in donations:

A University of Missouri official says about $2 million in donations have been lost in fallout from the Columbia campus unrest last fall. Vice Chancellor for Advancement Tom Hiles said Thursday that several donors who had pledged money to the university have pulled back their pledges.”

In addition to the fundraising fallout, Mizzou expects a sharp decline in student enrollment. FoxNews.com has reported:

Safe spaces may become empty spaces at the University of Missouri, where officials acknowledged an expected sharp decline in enrollment next fall is due at least in part to protests that rocked the campus last fall. The school is braced for a 25 percent drop in new students this coming fall, forcing the institution to enact painful budget cuts, as well as hiring and salary freezes. ‘We do know that the events of last fall have had an effect on our application numbers; however, it’s difficult to provide a specific number as we do not have any hard data,’ University of Missouri spokesman Christian Basi said in a statement to Foxnews.com.”

While Mizzou officials have attempted to address student, alumni, and public concerns, it’s clear that much more needs to be done to reverse the downward fundraising and admissions results. The situation on campus may or may not be better. However, the perception among many shows that public concern remains.

Wounded Warrior Project:

February 26, 2016

Can You Read Your Way to #Fundraising Success?

Unlike any other time in history, there is now a vast wealth of useful information available to fundraising professionals. Blogs, books, newspapers, and websites provide valuable insights. It’s an information tsunami every week. One could spend all day, every day, reading this material. If we did this, our knowledge would certainly grow. However, we wouldn’t raise very much money.

At some point, we have to stop reading and resume doing.

That means we have to strike a balance between learning and acting. Unfortunately, it also means we can’t read everything that is worthwhile. With our limited time, we need to focus on the best sources for powerful information. The challenge is: How do we find those great resources?

Blog by Dennis Skley via FlickrThis is where a newly released list from Joe Garecht at The Fundraising Authority can be of help. Joe has compiled a directory of “The Best Nonprofit Fundraising Blogs and Websites of 2016.” The listing contains 25 must-read blogs and websites.

I’m honored that Michael Rosen Says… has been included on Joe’s list along with so many others I’ve long respected.

I encourage you to checkout The Fundraising Authority recommendations by clicking here.

As Joe says, “Your nonprofit does great work. You need to raise money in order to do that work. You deserve the absolute best fundraising information to help you carry out your mission.” The Fundraising Authority blog and website list is a good place to start. Beyond that, you’ll also want to find the most helpful and inspirational fundraising and nonprofit management books. That’s where The Nonprofit Bookstore (powered by Amazon) can help.

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