Posts tagged ‘Russell James’

June 20, 2019

I Told You So: Charitable Giving is Up!

Most charity pundits, mainstream media, and press serving the nonprofit sector got it wrong. Sadly, none of them is admitting their mistake, and many are continuing to advance a false narrative. However, I always told you the truth, and I’ll continue to do so.

I’ve often encouraged you not to overuse statistics in your appeals. But, we can all certainly benefit from reading lots of illuminating statistics.

In 2017 and 2018, most pundits and the media were convinced that the Tax Cut and Jobs Act would result in up to a $21 billion decrease in philanthropic giving. In January 2018, I joined a tiny group of professionals who predicted the decrease in giving would be far less than that and giving might actually increase. This was not a guess on our part, but a well-educated expectation based on research, experience, and observation.

Now, with the release of Giving USA 2019, we know who was correct.

Overall, philanthropic giving in constant dollars INCREASED by $2.97 billion (0.7 percent) between 2017 and 2018, and now stands at $427.71 billion, the highest level of all time. Relative to Gross Domestic Product, giving remained at 2.1 percent, which is greater than the 40-year average of 2.0 percent.

Despite the generally good news, the philanthropy scene is not entirely positive. When adjusting for inflation, giving in 2018 did decline by 1.7 percent, though that was much less than the doom and gloom estimates. Furthermore, giving by individuals as a share of overall philanthropy accounted for 68 percent; this is the first time since at least 1954 that it has fallen below 70 percent. In 2018, individual giving fell by 1.1 percent in constant dollars.

While the new tax code likely had an effect on charitable giving, we need to be careful not to overstate its impact. A number of factors have influenced giving:

New Tax Code. All or part of the decline in individual giving in 2018 could be due to donors taking action in advance of the tax law change. We saw this in 1986 when there was a spike in charitable giving in advance of the Reagan tax cuts in 1987.

In 2017, many donors likely front-loaded their philanthropic giving since they would no longer be able to deduct gifts beginning in 2018. In addition, many donors chose to bundle their philanthropy by contributing to Donor-Advised Funds at record levels in 2017. Together, these two factors might explain the 1.1 percent decrease in individual giving in 2018 compared to a 5.7 percent increase in 2017. If not for the new tax rules going into effect in 2018, some of those 2017 donations might have been made in 2018 instead.

The tax code might also affect giving in other ways that we just don’t see clearly at this point. Just as we had to wait until 1988 to see giving normalize following the Reagan tax cuts, we may need to wait another year or two to understand the full effect of the current tax code.

Decline in the Number of Donors. Since 2001, the percentage of US households contributing to charity has fallen steadily from a high of 67.63 percent to 55.51 percent in 2014, according to data from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s Philanthropy Panel Study. In other words, the new tax code is not responsible for a sudden decline in the number of donors. This trend has been going on for years.

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April 29, 2019

Update: Get a Free Webinar, Magazine Article, Poll Results

I want to update you about three posts I recently published. In addition, for National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I wish to draw your attention to one of my older posts that will help you keep the children you love safe.

Free Webinar:

Did you miss it? Recently, I presented a webinar for SEI Investments Management Corporation: “Investing in Your Future: Practical Strategies for Growing Your Planned Giving Program.” If you missed the program or wish you could share it with colleagues, I have some good news for you. The webinar is now available for free download by clicking here.

In just 30 minutes, you’ll learn:

  • 8 reasons you should be a planned giving “opportunist”
  • Why you should invest more in planned giving instead of current giving
  • 5 Tips to boost your planned giving results immediately

In addition to the webinar itself, you’ll also be able to download additional resource materials including a list of 20 factoids about planned giving, a planned giving potential calculator, an executive summary of recent research findings from Dr. Russell James’ report “Cash is Not King in Fundraising,” and a digital copy of Dr. James’ book Visual Planned Giving: An Introduction to the Law & Taxation of Charitable Gift Planning.

Advancing Philanthropy Article:

Have you read my recent article published in Advancing Philanthropy, the Association of Fundraising Professionals magazine? “To Sir/Madam, With Love” shares stories from a number of fundraisers about their favorite teachers. Great teachers:

  • help us develop broad skills such as critical thinking,
  • help us develop specific skills such as how to write an effective appeal letter,
  • inspire us,
  • encourage us,
  • move us to think beyond ourselves and better understand others,
  • open our minds to lifelong learning,
  • motivate us to giveback by sharing our own knowledge.

After downloading the free article by clicking here, check-out my recent post that will give you tips that will help you find excellent teachers who can help you enhance your skills and inspire you: “Are You Really Just a Fundraising Amateur?”

Poll Results — Presidential Candidate Philanthropy:

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March 27, 2019

Who are Your Best Planned Giving Prospects?

Almost everyone has the capacity to make a planned gift. Consider just these four facts:

  • Among those ages 65 and older, 78 percent own their home (US Census)
  • Most Americans own stock in one form or another (Gallup)
  • Inflation-adjusted median household net worth grew 16 percent from 2013-16 (US Federal Reserve)
  • 69 percent of Americans expect to leave an inheritance (Stelter)

The fact that most Americans have the ability to make a planned gift presents both a great opportunity and a profound challenge for fundraising professionals. With limited staff and budget resources, it is essential to focus legacy giving marketing where it will do the most good. So, who are the best planned giving prospects?

You can visualize the answer to that question as an equation:

Ability + Propensity + Social Capital = GIFT

Your best planned giving prospects will have the means with which to make a planned gift, ideally a sizeable one. However, just because they have the ability does not mean they will take the action you desire. A number of factors influence a prospect’s propensity for giving. Some of those factors might be related to the organization seeking a gift while other factors might have nothing to do with the organization. Finally, we need to consider a prospect’s level of social capital, their degree of engagement with the community and the organization. Someone who scores high in each category is more likely to make a planned gift than someone who scores low.

A simpler way to identify strong planned giving prospects is to recognize that “the most dominant factor in predicting charitable estate planning was not wealth, income, education, or even current giving or volunteering. By far, the dominant predictor of charitable estate planning was the absence of children,” according to philanthropy researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP®. In other words, people who do not have children are far more likely to make a charitable planned gift than those who have children.

However, while the absence of children tells us who is generally more likely to make a planned gift, it does not tell us whether your organization will be the recipient of such a gift. The leading factor that will determine whether someone will make a planned gift to your organization is their level of loyalty, according to legacy researcher Claire Routely, PhD.

As you attempt to determine a prospect’s level of loyalty to your organization, you’ll want to consider a number of factors including:

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January 24, 2019

Here are Some Things You Need to Know

Now that the 2018 year-end fundraising season has closed and you’ve had a moment to catch your breath, I want to share some things with you that you might have missed.

To begin, here is a list of my top ten most read posts published last year:

  1. How Bad is the New Tax Code for Your Charity?
  2. It’s Time to Stop Whining about Donor-Advised Funds!
  3. 9 Hard Truths Every Fundraiser Needs to Face in the 21st Century
  4. New Charitable Gift Annuity Rates Announced
  5. Jerold Panas (1928-2018), He Will Be Missed
  6. Setting the Record Straight about Jimmy LaRose
  7. Will One Charity’s Surprising Year-End Email Make You Look Bad?
  8. The Dark Side of the Fundraising Profession
  9. How to Get Last Year’s Donors to Give More this Year
  10. Avoid the 7 Deadly Sins When Working with Volunteers

Here’s a list of just five of my older posts that remained popular in 2018:

  1. Can a Nonprofit Return a Donor’s Gift?
  2. Can You Spot a Child Molester? Discover the Warning Signs
  3. Here is One Word You Should Stop Using
  4. 5 Things Never to Do in Your Phone Fundraising Calls
  5. Special Report: Top 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants Identified

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

Over the years, I’ve been honored to have my blog recognized by respected peers. I’m pleased that, among the thousands of nonprofit and fundraising sites, my blog continues to be ranked as a “Top 75 Fundraising Blog” and as a “Top Fundraising Blog – 2019.”

To make sure you don’t miss any of my future posts, please take a moment to subscribe to this site for free in the designated spot in the column to the right. You can subscribe with peace of mind knowing that I will respect your privacy. As a special bonus for you as a new subscriber, I’ll send you a link to a free e-book from philanthropy researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP®.

In 2018, I was pleased to have two of my articles published in Advancing Philanthropy, the official magazine of the Association of Fundraising Professionals:

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October 19, 2018

How about a Bit of Fun for Fundraising Professionals?

It’s time to dig out your old swag from the National Society of Fundraising Executives and/or Association of Fundraising Professionals. Let me explain.

These are stressful times. In the broader society, we’re witnessing a volatile stock market, international intrigue, upcoming mid-term elections, the aftermath of hearings for Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the US Supreme Court, and so much more.

In the fundraising world, we read articles about how the new tax code could lead to a decline in charitable giving. We also read about scandals involving nonprofit organizations and religious institutions. Furthermore, we know that donor-retention rates remain abysmal despite all the talk about how to resolve the problem.

Against this anxiety-inducing backdrop, fundraising professionals have the added pressure of trying to meet fundraising goals as the end of the calendar year approaches.

If you’re not feeling a bit of stress and/or anxiety, you haven’t been paying attention, or you’re really good at meditation, or you’re drinking too much, or you’re eating too much chocolate.

So, with that in mind and given that Halloween, a fun holiday, is just weeks away, I thought I’d give you a brief break from fundraising talk. With this post, I want to do something a bit different and, I hope, have a bit of fun together.

The ever-stylish Michael Nilsen models his classic AFP shirt.

A few weeks ago, Taryn Gold, Vice President of Chapter Engagement at the Association of Fundraising Professionals, shared a photo on Twitter that I found amusing. The current picture shows Michael Nilsen, AFP’s Vice President of Communications and Public Policy, wearing an official AFP polo shirt from 2001.

One of the reasons the photo caught my eye is that I also still own the same shirt. No, I’m not ashamed to admit that. In fact, I also still have a bunch of older AFP swag, some of it from NSFRE, the name of the organization prior to 2001.

Gold’s tweet inspired me to dig around for my own ancient NSFRE and AFP swag. I was a bit surprised by what I found (see the photo below). Resting on my AFP shirt, you’ll find an NSFRE handbook from 2000, two AFP logo pins from 2001, an early CFRE button from 1994 (NSFRE created the CFRE credential), my first NSFRE Foundation donor pin from 1992, An NSFRE Founder’s Club donor pin from 1998, an NSFRE President’s Club donor pin from 2000, an AFP Political Action Committee donor pin from 2002, an AFP conference badge, my name badge from when I represented AFP before the US Federal Trade Commission, and an NSFRE conference badge.

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July 13, 2018

How to Take the Guesswork Out of Fundraising

Many nonprofit professionals think that fundraising is an art. They rely upon conventional wisdom, best practices, what feels right, what they themselves like, what their boss likes. They often guess about how they can be more effective.

Yes, fundraising is an art. However, thinking of it only as an art will limit your success. Guessing about what might work, and relying on trial and error to find what will work, can be costly.

While fundraising is an art, it is also very much a science. Because fundraising is also a science, there’s plenty of solid research that can guide our efforts. In other words, you don’t need to rely on your gut to figure out the best fundraising approach.

As the winner of the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Skystone Partners Prize for Research in Philanthropy and Fundraising for my bestselling book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, I’m admittedly biased regarding the value of scientific inquiry for the nonprofit sector. Nevertheless, I recognize that it’s not always easy to find valid research reports on a given subject. Furthermore, busy fundraising professionals seldom have enough time to read all of the terrific studies that are now available.

Well, I have some great news for you! The folks at the University of Plymouth Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy have prepared a literature review, commissioned by Legacy Voice. Authored by Dr. Claire Routley, Prof. Adrian Sargeant, and Harriet Day, the report will help you take the guesswork out of planned giving. Everything Research Can Tell Us about Legacy Giving in 2018 “is [an] in-depth report, compiled from more than 150 papers across fundraising, marketing, sociology, psychology and behavioural economics, available to anyone working in the not-for-profit sector free of charge,” writes Ashley Rowthorn, Managing Director of Legacy Voice.

In the Foreword of the report, Prof. Russell James III, JD, PhD, CFP® says:

It is wonderfully encouraging to read this review of research on legacy giving, and to know that it will be available for so many who can benefit from the work. Such a work is timely, significant, and much needed. Fundamentally, two things we know about legacy giving are that it is important, and it is different…. [The] possibility of dramatic expansion [in planned giving] starts with learning how legacy giving and legacy fundraising works. That starts with this excellent summary of what we know.”

Here are just seven tidbits from the report:

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May 24, 2018

New Charitable Gift Annuity Rates Announced

The American Council on Gift Annuities has announced an increase of its suggested maximum payout rates for Charitable Gift Annuities for the first time since 2012. The rates will be rising by 0.30 to 0.50 percentage points for those ages where most annuity contracts are done. The new rates become effective on July 1, 2018.

For some sample ages, the following table compares the current single-life payout rates to the new rates:

 

Current Rate through 6/30/18 New Rate, effective 7/1/18
Age 60 4.4% 4.7%
Age 70 5.1% 5.6%
Age 80 6.8% 7.3%
Age 90 9.0% 9.5%

As the above table illustrates, a 70 year-old donor who creates a Charitable Gift Annuity in July will receive a payout rate that is 9.8 percent greater than the rate currently available. Nonprofit organizations may find that the new, higher payout rates will generate greater interest in CGAs.

You can find the complete new rate schedule by clicking here.

When marketing your CGA program, there are a few tips that philanthropy researcher Prof. Russell James, III, JD, PhD, CFP® has found that can help you achieve greater success:

1. Tax Avoidance. Because the new tax code means that most donors will not itemize when filing their taxes, you might think you shouldn’t bother discussing tax avoidance when speaking with donors. However, that’s not necessarily the case. First, many of those who can afford to make a CGA donation will be tax itemizers who will be able to take advantage of the charitable gift deduction. Second, anyone with appreciated securities can avoid capital gains tax by establishing a CGA with a gift of stock rather than cash.

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May 22, 2018

New Research Proves Cash Is Not King in Fundraising

If you want to raise significantly more money for your nonprofit organization, you need to diversify the types of gifts you seek from individuals. That’s what successful charities do to raise significantly more money each passing year. Conversely, relying solely on cash contributions will likely stunt your organization’s growth.

Those are the key conclusions of a newly released study by Prof. Russell James III, JD, PhD, CFP®, philanthropy researcher at Texas Tech University. The study examined more than one million filings with the Internal Revenue Service by nonprofit organizations.

The following chart reveals that, from 2010 to 2015, nonprofits that consistently received gifts of stocks or bonds grew their contributions six times faster than those receiving only cash:

James’ study found the results are not limited to just those years. When looking at three-year rolling averages, organizations consistently receiving non-cash gifts grew much more quickly than those receiving only cash contributions. The study identified the same general growth pattern regardless of the starting size of the charity or the type of charitable organization.

James observes:

Beyond simple opinions or war stories, the previous results conclusively demonstrate that organizations raising non-cash gifts experience dramatically greater growth in total contributions, both contemporaneously and over the long term. Why? This is likely due in part to the effects of mental framing.

First, it is important to understand that wealth is not held in cash. Census bureau estimates suggest that only about 3% of household wealth is held in cash and checking accounts. When fundraisers ask for cash, they are asking from the ‘small bucket.’ This makes a psychological difference because it changes the reference point for the gift. The same gift may seem ridiculously large when compared to other checkbook purchases (elective expenditures from spendable income), but quite small when compared with total wealth (other non-cash assets). Donors who have never made a gift from assets may simply never have considered giving from wealth rather than giving from spare income. This is particularly important considering findings from experimental research demonstrating that people are much more willing to make charitable donations from irregular, unearned rewards (such as might occur with an appreciated asset) than from regular work earnings.

[Second,] gifts of appreciated assets are also cheaper than gifts of cash because the donor avoids capital gains taxes. This special benefit is particularly important under the new tax law, because it applies to all donors, even non-itemizers who can’t use charitable deductions.”

Intuitively, most fundraising professionals have already known what the James study now proves. So, if fundraisers know they should be seeking cash AND non-cash gifts, why do so many ask for only cash or merely make a feeble attempt to get non-cash donations?

James answers:

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April 9, 2018

8 Simple Tips to Boost Planned Giving Results

Planned Giving is a vital source of contributions for the nonprofit sector. Organizations that do not have a gift-planning program envy those that do. Those that do have a planned-giving program want even better results.

It’s no wonder.

Bequest giving amounted to eight percent of all charitable donations in 2016 (Giving USA). That’s just counting people who included a charity in their Will. It does not include people who gave through Beneficiary Designation, Charitable Gift Annuity, Stock, Appreciated Personal Property, or other planned-giving vehicles.

While planned giving can certainly present challenges, there are many simple things you can do to create or enhance your organization’s gift-planning efforts:

1.  Focus Your Efforts

You likely do not have the time or budget to reach-out personally to every one of your organization’s supporters to seek a planned gift. Instead, you need to focus on the highest priority prospects, those most likely to make a planned gift.

So, who are your best planned-giving prospects?

The answer to that question will depend on what type of planned gift you are seeking. For example, if you want more people to include your charity in their Will, arguably the most common form of planned giving, you’ll want to consider two key factors:

First, people who are childless are far more likely to include a charity in their Will, according to philanthropy researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP®. However, just because someone is more likely to make a Charitable Bequest commitment to a charity does not mean they will be willing to commit to your charity.

Second, loyal supporters of your organization are the people most likely to make a planned gift to your specific organization, according to UK-based philanthropy researcher Claire Routley, PhD. Your loyal supporters are people who donate frequently, regardless of gift amount. Loyal supporters are also people who volunteer. People who donate cash and volunteer are nearly twice as likely to make a gift through their Will compared to individuals who do only one or the other, James’ has discovered.

When seeking other types of planned gifts, you’ll want to take into account other factors. For example, if you want people to contribute from their IRA, you’ll want to appeal to people over the age of 70.5, the age of eligibility for such giving. If you want folks to donate appreciated Stock, you’ll broaden your audience because the majority of Americans own Stock.

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March 27, 2018

4 Easy Fixes that Will Supercharge Your Online Fundraising

Online fundraising brings in a significant and growing amount of support for nonprofit organizations. The Blackbaud Institute’s recently released Charitable Giving Report: How Fundraising Performed in 2017 reveals that 7.6 percent of overall fundraising revenue, excluding grants, was raised online in 2017 representing a new record high.

While the nonprofit sector’s online fundraising performance is noteworthy, the results can be much better. Many things go into a successful online fundraising effort. However, some professionals have found that they can supercharge online charitable giving by making some easy fixes.

Here are just four ways you can enhance your “Donate” button or tab to get vastly superior results:

1.  Express a Value Proposition

Online for Life, now known as the Human Coalition, looked at how a donate tab’s value proposition affects giving. This pro-life organization already had a donate tab that read “Save a Baby,” which became the control in a test to find a better tab label. The organization test a new tab reading “Save a Child” and another stating “Give.”

The results, reported by NextAfter, uncovered a less effective and a more effective approach. The “Give” tab resulted in 30.5 percent less revenue while the “Save a Child” tab resulted in increased revenue of 62.2 percent compared to the control.

NextAfter believes, “This simple change reminded donors of the long-term impact of their gift. We want to save a baby from abortion because of who they will become over time.” In other words, the organization took its value proposition and made the impact more long term. Asking people to “Give” is abstract while asking them to “Save a Child” is concrete.

Building a better button or tab that tells donors the impact their gift will have, rather than simply asking them to give, can raise substantially more money.

2.  Find and Emphasize the Right Call to Action

Jews for Jesus already had a successful online fundraising effort. People could click the “Donate” tab on the navigation bar at the top of each website page. Nevertheless, the organization tested different options to find an even more effective approach.

The control was the existing design with a “Donate” tab. The test involved adding a donation button in the upper right corner of the website header appearing on multiple pages, not just the Home page. One button read “Make my Gift” while the other read “Donate Today!” The buttons were placed in addition to the existing tab.

The “Make my Gift” button resulted in a 306.1 percent increase in total revenue, according to NextAfter.

NextAfter found that the “Donate Today!” button ended up decreasing the amount of traffic being driven to the donation page by 9.6 percent. The group speculates that “by putting the call to action in the context of the donor ‘Make my Gift’ instead of a command ‘Donate Today!,’ the donors were able to align better [to the requested] action and were more likely to click.”

As the Jews for Jesus learned, it’s important to find the right call to action. It’s also important to effectively emphasize that call to action.

3.  Make Finding the Donate Button or Tab Easy

The Dallas Theological Seminary had a “Donate” tab on the navigation bar at the top of its web page. To encourage more contributions, the Seminary tested highlighting the tab in purple, the organization’s signature color. The Seminary also tested a purple highlighted tab reading “Support DTS.”

NextAfter discovered that the purple-highlighted “Donate” tab was the most effective, generating 2,682.3 percent more revenue!

While both of the purple tabs were able to increase revenue significantly, NextAfter believes “the ‘Donate’ tab provided the additional clarity necessary to increase not only traffic to the page but also the subsequent donor conversion. We need to make it easy for donors to find the path we want them to take by being both clear in the messaging and visually emphasizing the path we want them to take.”

Make it easy for website visitors to support your organization by using a prominent, static donate button that can be easily found on every page. The best location for the button is in the upper right-hand corner of the page header. David Hartstein, at Wired Impact, suggests:

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