Posts tagged ‘right thing’

September 14, 2018

Lions, Tigers and Bears, Oh My: Fundraising in Times of Crisis

As I’m writing this, Hurricane Florence is barreling toward North Carolina. Watching the news reports, I’m reminded that the best way to weather a storm is to prepare before one strikes. The tragic situation in the southeastern US can serve as a metaphor for coping with any type of crisis, even for the nonprofit sector.

The best way to deal with a crisis is to prepare for one before one strikes. 

Guest blogger Sophie W. Penney, PhD is a big believer in that axiom. Sophie is President of i5 Fundraising and Senior Program Coordinator/Lecturer for the Penn State University Certificate Program in Fundraising Leadership. As the co-editor and chapter author of the soon-to-be-released book, Student Affairs Fundraising, Raising Funds to Raise the Bar, Sophie will be sharing her insights at the CT Alliance 2018 Conference on October 2, 2018 where she will present a session about leading through challenging times, Lions, Tigers and Bears: Leading Through Crisis.

A crisis can affect any type of organization. The nonprofit sector is not immune. As I point out in “What is the Most Important Thing You Can Learn from Recent Nonprofit Scandals?” there are three broad types of scandals or crises: 1) self-inflicted scandals beyond your control, 2) self-inflicted scandals you could have avoided, and 3) guilt-by-similarity scandal.

I’m grateful to Sophie for her willingness to share with us a few tidbits from her upcoming presentation that will help us all become better prepared to weather any scandal or crisis as we continue to strive to raise more money:

 

Michael Rosen’s recent blog post, “The Dark Side of the Fundraising Profession,” was a clarion call to fundraisers. The piece served as a reminder that a profession designed to bring joy and result in great good can be fraught with challenges.

Fundraisers are pressed to raise ever-larger sums (and the sooner the better); as a result, it can be compelling to focus on fundraising tips, tools, and techniques that will bring in ever-bigger dollars. Yet a crisis, particularly legal or ethical in nature, can derail fundraising not only for a fiscal year, but for far longer.

Fundraising in times of crisis hit home for me in 2011 with the advent of the Jerry Sandusky Scandal. This child sexual abuse scandal toppled the Penn State University President, resulted in the abrupt firing of the University’s revered football coach, led to the sale of a nonprofit founded to serve the very types of children who became victims, and rocked a small community previously known as “Happy Valley.” What’s more, the scandal came to light in the midst of the University’s billion-dollar capital campaign, which was on the verge of going into a public phase. Yet, the Sandusky Scandal is just one of many such crises to rock the nonprofit world:

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August 24, 2018

What is the Most Important Thing You Can Learn from Recent Nonprofit Scandals?

Recent incidents at Michigan State University, The Ohio State University, Oxfam Great Britain, The Presidents Club Charitable Trust, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and elsewhere remind us that the nonprofit sector is not immune to wrongdoing and scandal.

If you’ve never worked for a charity reeling from scandal, there’s a good chance you will one day. Even if you don’t work directly for a scandalized charity, you could still be affected by a loss of public trust if a similar nonprofit finds itself under the spotlight for misdeeds.

For those reasons, it is essential that you learn the most important thing about how to survive a scandal.

Three broad types of scandals can affect a nonprofit organization negatively:

1. Self-inflicted scandals beyond your control. Here’s an example of a situation that was beyond the control of fundraising staff. Oxfam Great Britain was banned from operating in Haiti and the organization’s country director was forced to resign following allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior. Four other employees were fired for “gross misconduct.” While the frontline fundraising staff was not at all involved in the scandal itself, they nevertheless had to deal with the aftermath.

2. Self-inflicted scandals you could have avoided. We saw this when the Ohio Attorney General’s Office accused the charity Cops for Kids of defrauding donors of $4.2 million. Of all the money it raised over a 10-year-period, the charity spent less than two percent on charitable programming. This scandal allegedly involved fundraising staff as well as senior staff engaging in fraudulent behavior. The solution to this type of scandal is simple: Do not misbehave. Obey the law and adhere to the Association of Fundraising Professionals Code of Ethical Standards, the International Statement of Ethical Principles in Fundraising, and/or your nation’s own fundraising code of ethics.

3. Guilt-by-similarity scandal. People in Scotland experienced this several years ago. A cancer charity was embroiled in a well-publicized scandal. As expected, that charity saw a sharp decline in contributions. However, there was also an unpleasant, broad side effect. Completely unaffiliated cancer charities in Scotland also experienced a deep drop in donations resulting from broad public mistrust of all cancer charities. It took the innocent charities nearly a year to recover even with a coordinated campaign to restore public confidence.

Other than avoiding problems in the first place, always a good idea, what can you and your organization do to ensure it can survive a crisis or scandal?

The answer is simple, though the execution is not: Build strong relationships with donors. It takes effort, financial resources, and time. However, it’s an investment well worth making.

Recently, a reporter for The Columbus Dispatch contacted me. Rob Oller sought my commentary about the scandal involving Urban Meyer, The Ohio State University football coach. You can read about the situation on your own since there’s no need for me to get into the details here. Suffice to say that the coach has received a three-game suspension, but not before Bob Evans Restaurants withdrew its corporate sponsorship of Ohio State football.

Oller asked me about how scandal affects charitable giving. I told him, “It depends on the institution and quality of the relationships with its donors over time. The stronger the relationships the more likely the institution is able to weather the controversy.”

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July 27, 2018

How to NOT Make a Mistake Worse

There is an adage, first published in The Bankers Magazine (1964) that advises wisely:

If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

The Law of Holes suggests we should strive to not make bad situations worse through further unhelpful, counter-productive behavior.

Sadly, many people, including nonprofit managers and fundraising professionals, fail to heed that fine advice. Instead, when in a bad situation or when confronted by criticism, many folks make matters worse by reacting defensively, acting helplessly, remaining in denial, criticizing the critic, or ignoring the situation altogether.

Fortunately, many people handle criticism gracefully and, in the process, set a fine example for the rest of us.

Recently, I wrote about my wife’s failed attempt to donate to a local charity. While my wife and I have never supported the organization, we do agree with its mission. Therefore, it was with great interest that I noticed that the charity was hosting a fundraising event with a speaker I wanted to hear. My wife went to the organization’s website to buy tickets. However, due to a website glitch, she was unable to complete the transaction. So, she then called the organization during office hours. Not being able to reach a live person, she left a voice-mail message. No one from the organization returned her call. We ended up not attending the event.

After I posted about my wife’s experience and what fundraisers can learn from it, I sent the organization’s Executive Director an email and a link to my article. I sent the email on Tuesday evening at 7:01 PM. I expected one of two things to happen: 1) I thought I might receive a defensive response the following business day, or 2) I might not receive any reply, ever.

Instead, my guess was happily wrong. That very evening at 7:21 PM, I received a message from the Executive Director. We can learn much from the tone and content of his response:

Dear Michael,

Your email was both upsetting and instructive. I appreciated the spirit of the message and have already begun to think about how to use it to create change and improve. Also I read your blog. I’m curious if you are a professional fundraiser? Either way you and your wife have my apologies for this unfortunate experience. It is clearly our loss when customers and potential friends are turned off. It’s contrary to the purpose of running these events and clearly counter productive.

In addition to my apologies you have my gratitude for bringing this to my attention.

Sincerely,

(name withheld here)”

Here is what we can learn from the email response:

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May 18, 2018

Thank You For Your Support!

With this post, I want to thank you and share some practical information about plagiarism.

Last week, I revealed how I was the victim of plagiarism. Someone lifted a portion of one of my recent blog posts, altered the intention of my words, and purposely misattributed them to someone else in an article he wrote attacking the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Now, I would like to thank you and everyone who supported me with blog comments, tweets, emails, and phone calls. Professionally speaking, the support confirms that my confidence in our profession is well placed. Personally speaking, the support warmed my heart and let me know that I am not alone.

At times, such as in last week’s example, plagiarism is an intentional act. At other times, plagiarism is accidental.

When I spoke with a friend, a college faculty member and former fundraising professional, he confirmed that what I had experienced was clearly an act of plagiarism. He also told me about a website that provides the academic community with useful information for good people who want to better understand what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. The website Plagiarism.org says:

Plagiarism is a common (and often misunderstood) problem that is often the result of a lack of knowledge and skills.”

By creating a better understanding, the website seeks to reduce incidents of plagiarism in schools and throughout society. “What is Plagiarism?” an article at the website, tells us:

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May 9, 2018

Setting the Record Straight about Jimmy LaRose

Jimmy LaRose, founder of the Inside Charity website and co-founder of the National Association of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives, continues to be a controversial figure in the nonprofit sector. However, I have refrained from addressing his statements that trouble me.

Until now.

LaRose recently copied portions of one of my recent blog posts, altered their intention, and purposely misattributed them to someone else in an article he wrote attacking the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

When I confronted him with what he had done, he admitted to and defended his actions. Furthermore, he refused to apologize or delete the article at issue. In his last email to me, despite the fact that I never mentioned NANOE in my communications to him, he wrote, “NANOE’s Board of Directors has directed our staff to forward all your communications to counsel.” Do you think he might have sent me that message in an attempt to intimidate and silence me?

Well, you deserve the truth. Therefore, I will not be silent.

I published my blog post “Are Donors the Hidden Enemies of Charities?” on April 16, 2018. On May 6, 2018, the LaRose article “Is There a Secret Reason AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) Is Hating On Donors?” appeared at Inside Charity.

In my post, I reported on the findings of The Harris Poll survey report conducted for AFP and The Chronicle of Philanthropy. While I recognized that most donors are good people, I did point out that some donors do bad things. The Harris survey found that 25 percent of women and 7 percent of men, who are members of AFP and who were surveyed, report having been the victim of sexual harassment. In the cases cited, 65 percent of the perpetrators were donors.

In his article, LaRose attempted to discredit the survey report though he offered no evidence of his own.

Neither AFP nor I are demonizing all donors. We are simply giving voice to the survey respondents who have said that donors sexually harassed them. This is a real problem that some of our fellow fundraising professionals have faced. It’s something that we should not ignore.

Toward that end, I suggested some actions that individual nonprofit organizations should take:

1.  Have the organization’s board adopt a sexual harassment policy. If a policy already exists, it should be reviewed with an eye toward improving it. The policy should define sexual harassment (regardless of the source), map the reporting process, and explain the consequences of harassment. The policy should also make it clear that no donation is worth mental or physical harm to staff or volunteers; people should be clearly valued more than money.

2.  The senior management team or board of the organizations should set policies regarding meetings with prospects and donors. The policy should include answers to several questions including:

  • Where is it appropriate to meet with a prospect or donor?
  • When should more than one person from the organization meet with a prospect or donor at the same time?
  • When dining out with a prospect or donor, who should pick-up the check?
  • What prospect or donor behaviors should not be tolerated?
  • How should misbehavior be treated in the moment and following an incident?

3.  Procedures should be adopted for providing feedback to prospects or donors who misbehave so that they understand that their missteps are inappropriate and unacceptable.

4.  Staff and volunteers (including board members) should be provided with the policies and trained to ensure they understand all of the provisions of the policies

5.  As part of training, make all staff and volunteers aware of the problem. For example, share the Harris Polling report with them along with a printed copy of the organization’s sexual harassment policies.

6.  Re-assure staff and volunteers that they will be fully supported, and that they will not be penalized or lose their jobs for filing a legitimate complaint.

In LaRose’s article, he lifted the questions I asked in item two above. He then mislead his readers when he introduced the questions by writing, “In response to The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s ‘poll’ AFP’s IDEA Committee (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access) has just announced another set of provisions they’re going to burden you with after they determine the proper answers to the following questions.”

To the best of my knowledge, the AFP IDEA Committee has not adopted my questions to guide its discussions. The questions I posed were clearly mine and mine alone. As I stated in my post, the questions are just some that should be addressed as nonprofit organizations discuss their own policies and procedures. I did not ask AFP to impose such a requirement on nonprofit organizations. It would have been foolish to do so because AFP has no mechanism for such an imposition even if it wanted to issue such a mandate.

By twisting the intent of my words and by providing incorrect attribution, LaRose has erected a straw-man.

LaRose writes:

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May 4, 2018

The Dark Side of the Fundraising Profession

People join the fundraising profession because they are good folks who want to do good. They want to make the world a better place. That’s why I entered the profession. It’s probably why you did, also. Unfortunately, not all fundraisers are good people. Unfortunately, even good people occasionally do bad things.

Our professional organizations have created ethical codes and standards of professional practice to guide our behavior and to help earn public trust. We even have mechanisms to hold fundraising professionals accountable to those standards.

Now, a local organization has attracted national attention, but not in a good way. It’s a story that tests the integrity of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, CFRE International, and the entire fundraising profession. It’s a story that will ultimately reveal whether or not we are willing to hold fundraisers accountable. It’s a test of whether our ethics codes and professional standards are merely nice words on paper or whether they truly help define fundraising as a profession.

The story I am referring to involves the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. I won’t repeat the entire story here. The Chronicle of Philanthropy has already done some excellent reporting on the matter, and I’ll provide links at the end. For now, I’ll just take a moment to summarize the reports.

Former employees of the Foundation “accuse Mari Ellen Loijens, the Foundation’s top fundraiser, of engaging in emotionally abusive and sexually inappropriate behavior.” The Chronicle further states:

The Chronicle article, based on several months of interviews with 19 former employees, raised questions about the leadership of Loijens, who oversaw fundraising at the community foundation. While many say she deserves credit for helping raise significant sums at Silicon Valley — which at $13.5 billion in assets is larger than Ford or Rockefeller — former employees said she demeaned and bullied her staff, made lewd comments in the workplace, and on at least one occasion sought to kiss a woman working for her.”

Two days before The Chronicle published its findings, Emmett Carson, Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation, announced that an internal investigation of the allegations is being “conducted by Sarah Hall, a Washington, DC, based senior counsel at Thompson Hine and a former federal prosecutor.” According to The Chronicle, “The Foundation said in a statement that the ‘investigation into alleged incidents of misconduct will continue, and at the conclusion of that investigation SVCF will take whatever action is necessary to preserve the integrity of our organization.’”

On April 19, 2018, a day after The Chronicle published its report, the Foundation confirmed that Loijens had resigned.

On April 26, 2018, The Chronicle reported that the Foundation’s Board placed Carson on indefinite, paid administrative leave. Greg Avis, a founding Board member and former Board Chair, has been appointed interim CEO. The investigation continues and has been expanded.

On May 2, 2018, Silicon Valley Business Journal reported that Daiva Natochy, the Foundation’s Vice President for Talent, Recruitment and Culture, has resigned.

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation has many issues. The allegations of bullying and sexual harassment leveled against Loijens are just part of the problem. However, Loijens alleged behavior is not just a problem for the Foundation; it is a challenge for the fundraising profession as well.

Loijens behavior, if true, could be construed as a violation of the AFP Code of Ethical Standards. Specifically, Loijens alleged behavior appears to be in conflict with the following provisions, at a minimum:

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April 25, 2018

Avoid the 7 Deadly Sins When Working with Volunteers

Given that this is National Volunteer Month, I want to acknowledge the often unsung heroes of the nonprofit sector.

Like monetary donors, volunteers are supporters. We need to recognize that and act accordingly. Volunteers are a valuable resource for nonprofit organizations. They provide essential free labor. They serve as ambassadors in the community for your organization. They donate twice as often as non-volunteers do. They are just as likely as donors to include a charity in their Will. People who volunteer and donate are far more likely to include a nonprofit organization in their Will compared to people who do only one or the other. Volunteers are supporters!

Unfortunately, volunteerism is on the decline in the USA. This will be potentially costly to the nonprofit sector.

As I pondered the problem of declining volunteerism, I had the good fortune to “meet” Kelly Ronan on Twitter. Kelly is an Indiana State University Bayh College of Education Scholars-to-Teachers Program Scholar and a candidate for the Certified Nonprofit Professional credential offered through the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance.

I’ve been impressed with the material about volunteerism that Kelly regularly shares on social media. So, I invited her to share some of her insights and wisdom with us. I’m happy to report that Kelly has generously accepted my request, for which I am grateful.

Her guest post below looks at some best practices in volunteer management that will help you more effectively recruit and retain volunteers:

 

There are three key best practice areas when it comes to volunteer management. By mastering these three areas, you will help your nonprofit organization to more effectively recruit and retain volunteers. You’ll also help ensure that each volunteer’s experience is a good one thereby developing a valuable ambassador and potential donor.

1.  Start Off Right

To get off on the right foot with volunteers, you need to avoid missteps. But, that’s not enough. You also need to understand what motivates each individual so you can meet their needs.

Let’s first look at the many potential mistakes we can make with volunteers. For example, let’s consider Energize’s “7 Deadly Sins of Directing Volunteers” with this listing:

  1. To recruit a volunteer for a cause or program in which you do not believe.
  2. To sign a person up even if he or she is not right for a vacant volunteer position you need to fill, or to ask a volunteer to take on a role that misuses or underutilizes that person’s talents.
  3. To restrict a volunteer’s effectiveness by not providing adequate preparation, training, or tools.
  4. To ask salaried staff to work as a team with volunteers if you yourself do not have volunteers helping with the responsibilities of your job.
  5. To be so concerned about your own job security that you do not stand up and fight for the needs and rights of the volunteers you represent.
  6. To offer volunteers certain opportunities and working conditions, and then not deliver.
  7. To waste a volunteer’s time – ever.

You need to be honest, ethical, and fair with volunteers, just as you would be with staff. You also need to understand what motivates them. Let’s get one thing straight: Volunteers don’t volunteer just to get that happy, fuzzy feeling inside. Everyone volunteers for their own reasons. So firstly, determine the motivation of your volunteers. VolunteerHub offers more in their post here, but these were the common reasons for volunteering that they found:

  • Individuals have a personal tie to a nonprofits mission, goals, and values.
  • Individuals are looking for opportunities to meet and network with new people.
  • Individuals have a moral compass to do good.
  • Individuals are in search of skill-building opportunities.
  • Individuals want to practice leadership capacities.
  • Individuals are looking for ways to build their personal resume.
  • Individuals were asked to participate in a volunteer opportunity.

All of this means, when it comes to motivation, that you’re going to have a diverse group of volunteers. I can see how the thought of communicating effectively with all of them may seem intense. So, let’s take a moment to look into forming a communication strategy.

2.  Setting Up a Communication Strategy

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April 20, 2018

Do Not Make this Big Error with Your Next Challenge Grant

I’ve seen it frequently. Fundraising professionals often make a big error when using a challenge grant. And they compound that error unethically by misleading prospective donors. It’s a common issue that is costing the nonprofit sector a fortune.

What’s the huge mistake? Fabrication of a bogus challenge grant.

True challenge grants are great. When a fundraising professional inspires a donor to provide a challenge grant, the nonprofit has a powerful tool to encourage greater contributions when making an appeal.

Typically, a challenge grant will match new and increased support to a charity. Oftentimes, the match will be dollar-for-dollar, though other multiples can also be arranged. In the case of a dollar-for-dollar challenge, if a new donor gives $100, the challenge-grant donor will give the charity $100. If a $50 donor from last year gives $75 this year, the challenge-grant donor will give $25. Typical challenge grants are not unlimited; the donor will set a maximum total amount.

Using a challenge grant can be an excellent fundraising tool for four reasons:

1.  It encourages donor support by increasing the value of donations. For example, with a one-to-one match, new donors have their contributions effectively doubled, thereby significantly magnifying the impact donors can have.

2. It encourages donor support because donors do not want the organization to lose money. If a donor makes a new or increased gift, the charity will receive additional money from the challenge-grant donor. However, the converse is also potentially true.

If a donor does not give, the charity could lose out on some of the challenge grant. Therefore, while a challenge grant can increase the value of a donor’s gift, it can also create the impression of a cost to the organization if the donor does not give. Some donors are motivated by the concern, “If I don’t give my $125, the organization could miss out on another $125 from the challenge-grant donor. I don’t want to cost the organization $125.”

3.  It creates a sense of urgency to give now. Typically, challenge grants must be fulfilled within a narrow time-frame. So, prospective donors are encouraged to act now rather than delay their philanthropic decision. The sooner someone gives in response to an appeal, the more likely they are to give. People who set an appeal aside thinking they’ll get to it later, often do not.

The urgency created by a challenge grant is also useful for planned giving campaigns encouraging donors to include the charity in their Will (Charitable Bequest). People do not like to think about end-of-life planning, so it’s easy for them to keep delaying until it’s too late. A challenge grant creates a sense of urgency that can overcome what social scientists call personal mortality salience.

You can read about a fantastic challenge-grant campaign for planned giving in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, beginning on page 188.

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April 16, 2018

Are Donors the Hidden Enemies of Charities?

Donors are not usually the enemies of nonprofit organizations. Instead, they are the friends who provide much needed resources allowing charities to save lives and enhance the quality of those lives.

However, some donors at some times do become the enemy of the good. They behave in ways that humiliate and, at times, even endanger those with less power. That’s one of the disturbing findings of a new survey report sponsored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and The Chronicle of Philanthropy and produced by Harris Polling.

Among nonprofit professionals surveyed, 25 percent of women and 7 percent of men say they have been sexually harassed. Of the harassment incidents cited, 65 percent of the perpetrators were donors with the balance being colleagues, work supervisors, and organization executives. Harassers are most often men (96 percent). The median number of sexual harassment occurrences personally experienced by survey respondents is three (which is why some of the statistics in the report add up the way they do).

“Harassment is always about power, so the results here might indicate that the real power in these organizations rests with the donors,” Jerry Carbo, a professor at Shippensburg University who served on a federal committee studying harassment in the workplace in 2015 and 2016, told The Chronicle. “I would normally expect to see a much higher response rate for supervisors.”

The most common types of sexual harassment experienced in the fundraising profession include: inappropriate comments of a sexual nature (80 percent), unwelcome sexual advances and requests for sexual favors (62 percent), and unwanted touching or physical contact (55 percent).

Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA, President and CEO of AFP, commented on the alarming findings:

The number of cases involving donors is eye-opening and points to a unique and very troubling situation within the profession. As we look at how to proceed with the data from the survey and begin developing anti-harassment education and training for fundraisers and others in the charitable sector, we will have a special focus on the all-important donor-fundraiser relationship. We know most donors have only the best interest of the cause at heart, but our message will be clear: no donation and no donor is worth taking away an individual’s respect and self-worth and turning a blind eye to harassment.”

Sadly, many nonprofit organizations fail to take appropriate action when they receive reports of sexual harassment, regardless of whether the perpetrators were donors or fellow staff. Consider the following:

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March 8, 2018

Update: Is the Nonprofit Sector Ignoring the #TimesUp Movement?

I’m surprised. You might be, too.

At the end of last month, I published the post “#TimesUp Alert: Nonprofit Organizations are Not Immune.” The post is one of my least read articles so far this year. By comparison, several old posts that I have not promoted for a long time have attracted far more readers during the past week. Given the seriousness of workplace sexual harassment and assault, I am disappointed that my post on the subject has not received more attention.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not whining. I’m simply concerned that an important, timely issue facing the nonprofit sector is apparently of little interest to fundraising professionals and nonprofit managers.

Why do you think my previous #TimesUp post has attracted so few readers?

It could be that folks do not believe it’s really a significant issue for the nonprofit sector; after all, we do good so we must be good. Or, it could be that nonprofit professionals don’t believe they have the power to bring change to their organizations, so they don’t bother thinking about it. Or, it could be something else. What do you think?

Interestingly, the percentage of post readers who responded to my one-question anonymous survey was above average. While the broader universe of potential readers might not have been interested in the article, those who did read the piece were highly engaged.

The poll was admittedly unscientific. Nevertheless, I owe it to those who responded to share the results:

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