May 2, 2016

Where can you get money?

Step #1: Read this issue of The Agitator about giving across generations. Read my response, posted at the Agitator.

Step #2: Study the infographic.

Step #3: Review the original report from Blackbaud.

Step #4: Share the infographic with your boss, the program staff, and the board. Explain the implications. Offer insights. And, of course, make sure your development staff understands, acknowledges, accepts, and performs accordingly!!!

Step #5: Stop the crap. (“Oh my gosh, we need to focus on millennials and get gifts from them.”)

Step #6: Pay attention to research. You know: FACTS. SCIENCE. Destroy ill-informed personal opinion as soon as it rears its silly, ugly head.

Step #7: Please please please. Could we please build a profession? Could we please behave like professionals?

Thank you.


March 21, 2016

Read and share – and fight for these!

Three really great blog reads.

Read. Learn. Share with staff colleagues, bosses, and boards.

Explain why. Help staff, bosses, and boards understand and accept and own and focus on the right stuff.

That’s your job. To use the right stuff from the right people. Explain the why. Help all those others accept and own and focus on the right stuff, not the wrong stuff.

This takes time. And I’m not talking weeks or months!


And if you can’t get this done… Look in the mirror first. Maybe you’re the problem. But maybe you’re not the problem. Maybe they’re the problem.

Find an ally (or two) to help you help them get it.

And if that doesn’t work…. Look for another job. You deserve better.

Filed under: Resources / Research

February 22, 2016

Relationship fundraising: Finally!!! Research so we can do it even better

Guru Ken Burnett wrote the book, Relationship Fundraising. Seminal book. Important that every single fundraiser read it.

And now, the gurus at the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, Plymouth University, U.K. have done the research. Download the relationship fundraising research now. Read it. Apply it! Visit Adrian Sargeant, Jen Shang, and Ian MacQuillin, who are doing work that needs to be done.

Shame on us fundraisers and our fundraising:

  • Fundraisers and fundraising rely too much on war stories and what others have done before. Yes, those others were (and are!) often marvelous. But where’s the research?
  • Fundraising is the biggest industry in the world running on war stories and conventional wisdom,” someone recently said. (But I don’t remember whom!)
  • Research from the Science of Philanthropy Institute at the University of Chicago notes that, overall only 7% of the surveyed nonprofits consult research before making fundraising decisions. That’s awful! And only 45% of the survey participants said they sometimes look at research.

This is no way to run a business!!!!

So read the research about relationship fundraising. Read the commentary at Critical Fundraising here and here.

Let’s make fundraising more effective. Please.


October 28, 2015

Bad government regulation…silent NGOs…cautious fundraisers…

I’m thinking this is a recipe for failure:

  • Several cups of: Government that doesn’t analyze; and, eliminates any input from fundraisers.
  • A couple cups of: Overly sweet NGOs with no tartness or saltiness at all.
  • Add a big dose of fear.
  • Add a pinch of arrogance.
  • Mix well to ensure no discernible flavor.

And there you have it… Nonsensical government regulation…sour and rotten. Accompanied by very few dissident voices because fear overcomes clear thinking and the will to fight.

Damn it. This is a too-commonly baked recipe in the nonprofit sector. 

Are you wondering what I’m taking about? A current British recipe resulting from the suicide of Olive Cooke. Her death is attributed to the crass fundraising strategies of ignoble nonprofits. Yes, that’s the hue and outcry from British media, and some vocal leaders of the nonprofit sector, mostly unchecked by thoughtful leaders.

What a silly, sorry accusation for an apparently lovely woman who gave time and money to charities that she cared about. How unfortunate that the nonprofit sector isn’t more respected and valued. Too sad that condemnation and threats cause so many to stay too silent.

So now there will be new regulations in the U.K. Bad new regulations that will hurt those in most need.

[A momentary aside: Despite the absurdity of “suicide due to fundraising,” it’s certainly valid to ask how NGOs and their fundraisers raise money. How we treat donors…How often we contact donors…What kind of choice we give donors…How we justify our voracious fundraising strategies with so little care for our donors…And on and on and on. Perhaps this is the wake-up call our sector needs?]

Don’t think that this can only happen in the U.K. Oh my, no! I’ve seen similar recipes in the U.S. for decades and decades. I listen to worried colleagues around the world.

Surely this entire situation – including response from the media and the sector and donors – is a useful conversation to have in your organization. What to do? Try the following:

  1. Assign your staff to read about Olive Cooke and the U.K. debacle. Then read Adrian Sargeant’s blog and The Agitator blog by guru Roger Craver. Now talk.
  2. Spend some time at an upcoming board meeting talking about the British situation. Then identify similar situations in your country. Talk about your NGO’s role in speaking out for or against public policy. Talk about how you might respond to donors who might be curious or even worried.
  3. Gather together some of your fundraising colleagues around your community – maybe your local fundraising association. Explore topics like: Position of the nonprofit sector, its value and respect for it… Speaking out as a sector, focusing on facts rather than hysteria and frenzy…

More recipes like this produce a weakened NGO sector. And a weakened NGO sector harms our communities, our societies, and – yes – the entire world.

So let’s get our act together. Please.


October 12, 2015

Setting your charitable contributions goal

From my archives… But I’m still flummoxed about how organizations do this…

How does your NGO set its charitable contributions goal? This is what organizations tell me:

First we add up all the expenses to carry out our mission. Then we figure out how much revenue we think is pretty reliable.” (That might be ticket sales if you’re an arts organization. Or maybe government contracts for services delivered. Or a for-sure grant from some foundation.)

“And then,” says the organization, “we figure out the gap and that’s our fundraising goal.”
Yup, the primary criteria for setting charitable contributions goal is how much the organization wants / needs to do its work.
Of course, most organizations also look at how much they’ve raised in the past. Let’s see: “Last year we raised 10% more than the previous year. So how about raising 15% more this year. Or, it’s a bad economy, so let’s just aim for raising 10% more again this year.”
Not good. Not the best way to determine your charitable contributions goal. In fact, I think the least important criteria for setting your charitable contributions goal is “how much you need.”
Instead, set your charitable contributions goal by examining both internal and external criteria. For example, internal criteria include:
  • donor-centered relationship building program
  • balanced mix of solicitation strategies and sources of gifts
  • board member participation to identify the predisposed, nurture relationships, and solicit gifts
  • number of qualified prospects in the pipeline
  • analysis of key donors to determine the likelihood of how much each one might increase his / her gift

And I have even more on my list!

Make sure you consider the external issues, for example, the economy.
And make sure that your board understands this is how an effective organization develops its budget and its charitable contributions goal.
July 6, 2015

One little starfish

On June 9, 2015, I presented at the Planet Philanthropy conference in Jacksonville, Florida. The 19 AFP Chapters in Florida come together annually to put together this conference. Wow. I’m impressed with the number of chapters in the state. And I’m impressed with the collaboration. Smart groups around the country – whether it’s professional associations or providers or or – collaborating makes a big difference.

The next day, I woke up to this email from a conference attendee.

“On behalf of all in that large room – I send appreciation for your spirit, enthusiasm and bold approach that we, as fundraisers need, so very much.
Your words were beyond a class, or a training, or a keynote speaker…They were empowerment – to do great things, every single day.. starting tomorrow.
Thanks for the huge difference you made to me – one little starfish, but one!
Thanks for the difference you made today.”

I am proud and touched by Marilyn’s comments. She summarized what I try so hard to accomplish. I do believe that fundraisers must be bolder. In knowing and applying the body of knowledge and research. I do believe that fundraisers must stand up to their boards and bosses: telling the truth; sharing critical information; fighting against “ill-informed opinions” and “we need money now syndrome,” and so much more.

Then Marilyn shared with me this video… which I had never seen. And Marilyn said: “What we do is as important as the different way we say it.”

Thank you, Marilyn Hathaway, CFRE… Habitat for Humanity – Seminole Apopa. Thank you.

Filed under: Leadership

June 8, 2015

How much do fundraisers really matter?

Fundraisers matter a whole lot. So does the fundraising profession.

I think of fundraisers as change agents. I think of fundraisers as challengers to the status quo. I think of all that power of fundraisers … to ask questions to question questioners. There is enormous power when others think you print money in the basement. So use that power!

Here’s what Rob Hilbert says about fundraisers and our profession: “I think it is incredibly important that we view ourselves as the catalysts, the sparks to amazing discoveries, cures, education, entertainment, experiences, etc. Without the fundraiser, we would be with a lot…a void I hope never exists.”

You know how fundraisers and fundraising are so often trashed by others… Described as used car sales people…beggars…whatever… Like we should be ashamed of our jobs?

When Rob talks with fundraisers about our profession, he often uses a cartoon to show how so many others see us fundraisers. It’s a cartoon by Mark Parisi, Off the Mark. For future reference, it’s cartoon #1987-01-02…about jobs and toilet paper and kleenex… And it’s just great!

Thanks Robert N. Hilbert, CFRE, MinstF (Adv Dip)…Vice President, Iowa Public Television Foundation.

P.S. Rob also introduced me to Scott Siepker, known as the “Iowa Nice Guy.” Apparently Scott has a number of videos under the “nice” category. Rob the fundraiser shared one of Scott the nice guy videos with me. There is some “salty language,” to use Rob’s phrase. But the video is pretty darn funny.

May 27, 2015

Fundraising strategies that work

This might be a bit of a scary blog. (Especially if you’ve already watched the U.K. video…)

Two fundraising strategies that work… Face-to-face fundraising (street fundraising) and Monthly giving

In the U.S. neither of these strategies is used much. (So just imagine if your organization stepped up to the plate and did either or both!)

Australia raises $9 billion per year with street fundraising. I wonder how much France raises from street fundraising? I always encounter street fundraising in Montpellier, on the Mediterranean Sea. (And in Great Barrington, Massachusetts!) And how much money do NPR and PBS stations make through monthly giving here in the U.S.? Lots, I suspect.

Now for a good laugh from a U.K. video about street fundraising…affectionately called chugging in the U.K. (which means charity mugging!) Thanks to The Agitator. After you watch this video, then learn the right stuff for this fundraising strategy.

And how about monthly giving? Pay attention to on-air fundraising for both public radio and public television, talking about sustainers. Read monthly giving books by Harvey MacKinnon and Erica Waasdorp.

Only 5 months into the new year. Maybe 2015 is the year to launch either (or both) of these fundraising strategies? Maybe 2015 is the year to do some research and think about possibly launching either (or both) of these strategies in some manner at some point, maybe.



May 6, 2015

Check out those Canadians

I like Fraser Green. He’s interesting and cool.

I respect Fraser’s work and that of his teammates at GOOD WORKS. (And this company uses cute photos. Remember, there is a biological concept called the “cuteness factor.” It stops parents from killing their young. Like dinosaurs and lions. And…)

So here’s some good GOOD WORKS stuff:

  • Check out their white papers. Research about things like: State of the Canadian web. (I’ll be non-Canadians could learn stuff, too!) Legacy marketing overview. And more.
  • Most definitely read Iceberg Philanthropy: Unlocking Extraordinary Gifts From Ordinary Donors (about bequests) by some Good Works people, Fraser Green, Jose van Herpt and colleague Beth McDonald. So very useful! I love this book.
  • Read Fraser’s book 3D Philanthropy (Make your donors love you by connecting with their minds, hearts and souls.)
March 9, 2015

Are you keeping your donors? Are you democratizing philanthropy?

Have you read my book (co-authored with Tom Ahern) about nurturing relationships and communicating with donors … all in a donor-centered manner … in order to keep your donors? After all, loyalty is the Holy Grail of Fundraising. (Thanks, Roger and Tom, you agitators!)

Have you read the final chapter, Philanthropy’s Moral Dilemma? Available in the book. And available in my Free Download Library.

Here’s what a Connecticut colleague said about the book:

“While your donor-centric world view greatly influenced me, it plays a poor second to your barely-below-the-surface passion for social justice. I admire what you wrote in your book Keep Your Donors on the topic. That you had the guts to write about it at all. Especially in a book that philanthropists of all political stripes would read, on a topic about the mechanics of growing philanthropy.

“God forbid you should write anything that isn’t carefully neutral, studiously focused on charity and on praising change generically and innocuously…. I was inspired by your willingness to let a part of your passionate self get captured in black and white – a part that most believe could alienate a decent portion of your customer base.”

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