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196 posts categorized "Fundraising"

'Thoughtful' vs. 'Thoughtless' Giving

September 19, 2014

Headshot_deriick_feldmannAre you a thoughtful giver? A simple question, right?  But think about it. How much thought do you really put into your charitable giving? And what about other donors? Would you say the majority of donors are "thoughtful" givers? Or are they "thoughtless" when it comes to their giving?

Okay, let's back up a bit. When I say "thoughtless,"  I don't mean that they're boorish, rude, or insensitive. On the contrary, if they're giving to a charitable cause, it's a pretty good indication that they are more than willing to think about and empathize with others. In other words, they are thoughtful people. But how much thought does the typical donor put into his or her giving?

Let me tell you a story. A friend of mine recently received a nice raise. Feeling like she wanted to share some of her good fortune with others, she decided to add a couple of new charities to the list of organizations she regularly supports. But she wanted to be methodical about it. So, she made a list of the five causes she cared most about – not just nonprofit or charitable causes, but any cause – and then researched two or three organizations, local and national, that were active in each. At the end of the process, she had between ten and fifteen organizations that she felt were good candidates for a donation. After narrowing the list down further based on things like the difference each organization claimed to make, their communication efforts, and their transparency and stewardship practices, she selected two nonprofit organizations that she hadn't previously donated to and decided to become a supporter of their work.

Any strategic philanthropy professional or donor advisor who looked at my friend's process would immediately consider her a dream client; she should be the poster child for any conference with strategic philanthropy or highly engaged grantmaking on its agenda.

Which brings me back to my original point. There are two types of donors:

Thoughtful Donor – The "thoughtful" donor makes gifts that match her interests and often has a personal connection to a cause or the recipient organization.

Thoughtful donors identify the causes they're most passionate about (e.g., education, human rights, environmental sustainability, global health, local economic development, cancer research, etc.). They research and learn about local, national, and global organizations that operate in those areas before deciding on the organizations they truly want to support. Typically, these are the donors that use filters based on their own experience when making gifts.

Thoughtless Donor – The "thoughtless" donor often makes a gift on the spur of the moment or in response to peer pressure or influence.

Thoughtless donors give in the checkout line when asked to donate $5 to a specific charity. They buy and donate when the boss's daughter comes by selling trash bags for a school fundraiser. They often give out of emotion. They are the donors organizations try to target through point-of-sale campaigns, cause marketing efforts, and other types of broad messaging designed to generate general awareness of a cause.

I’m sure you've all heard about the Internet phenomenon known as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. In a single month, the campaign rasied nearly $95 million for the ALS Association in what is probably the most viral, inspirational example of "thoughtless" giving I have ever seen. Again, "thoughtless" doesn't mean people who participated in the challenge were apathetic or unconcerned. Indeed, many had a direct personal connection to the disease. However, the vast majority of the millions of people who participated in the challenge had never considered donating to ALS research before. Their donations weren't the result of long-term planning but the direct result of peer influence.

Okay, based on the above definitions and examples, which are you, a thoughtless or thoughtful giver?

If you're like most people, you're probably both.

As professional fundraisers, we have to be careful not to lose touch with who our donors are. They are full of good intentions and care deeply about their communities, their family, and helping individuals in need. In a very real sense, they are us, right? Like our donors, our emotions are triggered when we hear or see a message that conveys hurt, pain or need, and we act when we see opportunities to address those needs and improve someone's life.

Because the desire to help others appears to be hard-wired into humans, we will always be drawn to nonprofits and NGOs that provide an outlet for us to do good. And creative marketing and fundraising strategies can, and routinely do, leverage that human desire to help.

Is that wrong? No. In a perfect world, perhaps, all actions, including our personal giving, would be informed by rational thought. Donors would let logic and lots of research guide their giving, as opposed to emotion and impulse. But in reality, not everyone is going to give thoughtfully all the time. And we shouldn't blame or judge them. We all act on impulse. We all like to do favors for our friends. We act when our emotions push us to act. After all, we're human.

And so we need to make sure that own fundraising efforts leverage both kinds of donors, the "thoughtless" and the "thoughtful" -- as well as everyone in between.

How does one do that?

First, identify your "thoughtful" givers and then figure out what you need to do to inform them about all your good work. This is where all your efforts to track and quantify your impact come in handy. You should design the collateral materials based on those metrics – your reports and infographics and issue briefs -- with the thoughtful donor in mind. You want to demonstrate to them, as clearly and persuasively as possible, the difference your organization is making. At the end of the day, you want them to think one thing and one thing only: "Absolutely, you are the cause I want to support."

Conversely, to reach "thoughtless" donors, focus on emotion-driven, in-the-moment opportunities to give and be sure to put your networks and all the peer influence you can muster to work. In fact, peer-to-peer fundraising initiatives tend to be the most effective form of thoughtless fundraising. These kinds of initiatives also will help you attract new donors, some of whom will turn out to be "thoughtful" and willing to support your organization over the long term.

So there you have it. Two kinds of donors and two different strategies with which to appeal to them. The next time you sit down to review or revise your fundraising strategy, think about what you are doing to appeal to the "thoughtless" givers who may not be that familiar with your organization but can be persuaded by an appeal to emotion, a compelling point-of-sale pitch, or a cause-marketing campaign with the potential to go viral. And think about that smaller group of "thoughtful" givers that really want your organization to succeed and will support it to the hilt if you show them that it really is making a difference in the world.

Good luck and happy fundraising!

Derrick Feldmann is president of Achieve, a creative research and campaigns agency based in Indianapolis. In his previous post, he explored the paradox of direct mail.

Four Key Indicators of Nonprofit Success

September 03, 2014

Headshot_richard_brewsterHave you ever "ghost dialed" someone? You know, when the phone in your purse or pocket accidentally dials a number? Well, that recently happened to me with a board member of a human services nonprofit. We were surprised to be talking to each other but continued. The organization was well known in its community and had been successful, but our conversation ended up being pretty depressing: the nonprofit was in the process of shutting down.

I did some research and discovered that the organization's budget grew from $5 million to $10 million in just five years. Then a crisis came, they lost a major source of revenue, and there followed a painful five-year decline.

Why did this happen? A little more research and some reflection on others' experience suggests that four key conditions need to be met in order to survive a crisis like the loss of a major funder:

1. Sustainability isn't just about dollars. A nonprofit's programs need to be relevant today, not for situations or problems that are five or ten years in the past. The human services group above offered only housing, even as other agencies in the area began to provide services such as day care to low-income people, enabling them to keep their jobs (and pay the rent).

Continue reading »

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (August 2014)

September 02, 2014

Don't know what it's like where you are, but here in NYC someone forgot to tell Mother Nature that summer is over. Which is okay, because before it ends we want to make sure everyone has a chance to catch up with all the sizzling content we posted on PhilanTopic in August. Enjoy!

What have you read/watched/listened to lately that made you think, surprised you, or caused you to scratch your head? Share your finds in the comments section below....

Weekend Link Roundup (August 16-17, 2014)

August 17, 2014

Conflict_ImageOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector....

Education

Why hasn't the once-booming tech ed sector solved education's problems? Writing in The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer, an associate editor for the publication, shares some thoughts on that question from Paul Franz, a former doctoral candidate at Stanford who now teaches language arts in California. Those thoughts, writes Meyer, "mirror my own sentiment that education is a uniquely difficult challenge, both technically and socially, and that its difficulty confounds attempts to 'disrupt' it...."

Fundraising

The "ice bucket challenge," a grassroots campaign aimed at raising funds for the ALS Association, a a charity dedicated to finding a cure for amyotropic lateral sclerosis (aka Lou Gehrig's disease), went viral this week. Around the country, celebrities and members of the public were filmed being doused with a bucket of ice water and then posted the footage to their Facebook pages or Twitter feeds. "Multiply this activity 70,000 times," writes William MacAskill, a research fellow in moral philosophy at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, "and the result is that the ALS Association has received $3 million in additional donations....[A] win-win, right?" Not according to MacAskill, whose own nonprofit, Giving What We Can, champions the principles of the effective altruism movement. The problem, writes MacAskill,

is funding cannibalism. That $3 million in donations doesn't appear out of a vacuum. Because people on average are limited in how much they're willing to donate to good causes, if someone donates $100 to the ALS Association, he or she will likely donate less to other charities....

***

This isn't to object to the ALS Association in particular. Almost every charity does the same thing — engaging in a race to the bottom where the benefits to the donor have to be as large as possible, and the costs as small as possible. (Things are even worse in the UK, where the reward of publicizing yourself all over social media comes at a suggested price of just £3 donated to MacMillan Cancer Support.) We should be very worried about this, because competitive fundraising ultimately destroys value for the social sector as a whole. We should not reward people for minor acts of altruism, when they could have done so much more, because doing so creates a culture where the correct response to the existence of preventable death and suffering is to give some pocket change....

Before you get too upset, read the entire piece. (MacAskill is a thoughtful young critic who, like many other people in the sector, has grown impatient with the status quo.) Then come back here and tell us why he's wrong — or right.

For an entirely different take on this question, take a look at this recent post by Philanthropy Daily contributor Scott Walter, executive vice president of the Capital Research Center in Washington, D.C., which is unsparing in its criticism of effective altruism (and Peter Singer, who inspired the movement).

In a short post on the BoardSource site, Convergent Nonprofit Solutions' Tom Ralser looks at the important distinction between a donor and an investor.

Continue reading »

Make an Impact in Your Community: Join the Funding Information Network

August 06, 2014

More than ever, nonprofit organizations need information: metrics and analysis to improve their systems and services, learning opportunities to develop their capacity and advance their missions, and data to inform program design and implementation. In communities across the country, information hubs such as libraries play a crucial role in the exchange of information for nonprofit organizations, which are popping up in record numbers to serve their communities and solve critical problems.

Thumb-finThe place where information meets social sector advancement is where Foundation Center's Funding Information Network can be found. For more than fifty-five years, the center has served nonprofits by providing sophisticated fundraising resources and accessible learning opportunities. Our network of satellite partner organizations that bring these resources to local communities was started in 1959 and is now four hundred and seventy-five strong.

If your organization is already committed to the improvement of your community and is looking for ways to help your audience get the funding information and training it needs to solve problems and enhance the quality of life in your region, then consider becoming a partner with Foundation Center through the Funding Information Network.

Funding Information Network partners:

  • are located in public libraries, universities, nonprofit resource centers, NGOs, and foundations in every state in the U.S. and more than ten countries;
  • play an active, engaged role in their nonprofit communities, providing important funding information and training opportunities developed by the center over more than a half-century of work in the philanthropic sector;
  • connect people to the resources they need through training sessions and database orientation programs, often taking training out into the community to audiences where they live;
  • provide access to Foundation Directory Online Professional, the premier tool for identifying potential funders from a vast repository of more than 100,000 grantmakers.

As public libraries play an increasingly larger role in providing small business resources to their communities, many employ a business librarian and set aside space specifically for business development resources and trainings. Participation in the Funding Information Network, which provides comparable resources for nonprofit organizations, is the perfect complement to these business tools. And public libraries are uniquely positioned to deliver Foundation Center-vetted skill-building classes to their audiences because many already host other kinds of learning opportunities. Public libraries make up the largest segment of Funding Information Network partners.

Another active and growing group within our Funding Information Network is community foundations. We believe there is tremendous untapped opportunity for the country’s more than seven hundred community foundations to expand the outreach they already provide to their constituents by becoming network partners. Many of these foundations receive far more grant applications than they can fund, and housing Foundation Center materials at their site allows them to provide applicants and grantees with a clear pathway to much-needed supplemental or alternative funding opportunities.

But public libraries and foundations are not the only types of partners in the network; we also welcome nonprofit resource centers, universities, NGOs, and other social service agencies. And now, more than ever, we're looking to expand to new locations where our services are needed. We believe every community deserves to have access to the information and tools that will help it pursue social improvement projects, and it's our goal to see that happen. Active, engaged network partners are what drive the Funding Information Network. The ideal network partner is any organization that has and seeks connections with nonprofits, public agencies, individual community advocates, and funders in their local community.

We invite you to consider becoming a partner with Foundation Center through the Funding Information Network. Learn more about the network, how to join, and how to nominate another organization.

Katherine Farnan is manager of network engagement at Foundation Center.

The Paradox of Direct Mail

August 01, 2014

Headshot_derrick_feldmannDirect mail has become a polarizing topic in the nonprofit fundraising world. Many bloggers and development veterans feel that it's one of the most important tools in the fundraising toolbox. Others – many of them focused on targeting a younger demographic – want to change or do away with the practice altogether.

For what it's worth, approximately 90 percent of the direct mail I receive winds up in the recycling bin, unopened and barely glanced at.

And I'm not alone. For many new and younger donors, direct mail is viewed as intrusive, messy, and a waste of resources. So why do so many organizations continue to embrace it? The answer is simple: It works.

According to the 2012 Channel Preference Study from Epsilon, a full-service ad agency headquartered in Irving, Texas, more than seven out of ten (73 percent) consumers said they prefer direct mail for brand communications, in large part because it allows them to consume information at their convenience. Okay, so that only demonstrates direct mail's relevance to brand and product marketing. What about fundraising?

Well, here again, recent studies show that direct mail works. For example, Blackbaud's 2012 Charitable Giving Report found that 93 percent of overall giving comes from traditional fundraising methods, with online giving accounting for the rest (7 percent).

It's a paradox. For most people, direct mail is utterly annoying, and yet it still gets the job done.

Does that mean fundraisers should ignore the preferences of their donors, especially the younger ones, and hold on to the practice for dear life, acting on what donors actually respond to rather than what they say they want?

I'm not so sure. Traditional industries of all types and sizes are being disrupted by new, innovative business models based on digital technologies. Take a look at these examples and see if you can spot the common denominator:

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (July 5-6, 2014)

July 06, 2014

Iced tea_arrangementWe were out of pocket last week, so we've included a few items we missed in this week's roundup of noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector....

Black Male Achievement

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter argues in a post on the HuffPo's Black Voices blog that three myths are hurting young black men and boys:

  1. Myth: America has progressed enough as a nation that black men and boys have an equal opportunity to be successful.
  2. Myth: Black-on-black violence only affects the black community.
  3. Myth: Helping young black men succeed is not government's problem.

Communications/Marketing

On the Philanthropy Front and Center - Cleveland blog, guest blogger Brian Sooy, president of design and communications firm Aespire, considers four dimensions of communications that have the potential for strengthening the culture of any mission-driven organization.

Data

Jeff Edmondson, managing director of the Strive Network, Ben Hecht, president/CEO of Living Cities, and Willa Seldon, a partner with the Bridgespan Group, weigh in with a nice HuffPo piece on the transformative power of data.

Data may have the power to transform, but in a follow-up to a post on the Markets for Good blog he penned about the death of evaluation, Andrew Means, associate director of the Center for Data Science & Public Policy at the University of Chicago, suggests that nonprofits still have a long way to go in learning how to use it to improve their effectiveness and impact.

Can data sometimes do more harm than good? Absolutely, says Robert J. Moore, chief executive of RJMetrics, on the New York Times' You're the Boss blog. In particular, writes Moore, there are three situations in which he has learned to second-guess the data-driven approach: when the costs are too high; when the results won't change your mind; and when following the data means betraying your vision.

Economy

Very good post by John Hagel, co-chair of the Deloitte Center for Edge Innovation, in response to Harvard historian Jill Lepore's recent New Yorker article dismissing Clayton Christensen and his theory of disruptive innovation. It's a bit of a long read, but Hagel's main thesis is that two forces – economic liberalization and exponentially improving technology –are "systematically and substantially" reducing barriers to entry and movement on a global scale while causing businesses and institutions to "fundamentally re-think" their models and arrangements. "Bottom line," writes Hagel, "[these two forces] are catalyzing more opportunity for players to adopt new approaches that can be highly disruptive...[and] increasing both the motivation and ability of players to pursue these disruptive
approaches...."

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (June 7-8, 2014)

June 08, 2014

World Cup_logoOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector....

Climate Change

On the Bloomberg View site, Cass Sunstein, the Felix Frankfurter professor of law at Harvard University, provides three rebuttals to the so-called Sophisticated Objection of the fossil fuel lobby and its supporters, an argument which acknowledges that while climate change is a serious problem, unilateral action by any country will impose significant costs without producing significant benefits.

Data

On the Markets for Good blog, Lucy Bernholz suggests it's time we started thinking more seriously about how to "collect, organize, govern, store, share, and destroy digital data for public benefit" – and offers a couple of "deliberately half-baked" ideas to get us started.

"Good data practice is not just about the technical skills," writes Beth Kanter on her blog. "There is a human side [as well].  It is found between the dashboard and the chair. It includes organizational culture and its influence on decision-making – from consensus building on indicators, agility in responding to data with action, and sense-making. It is the human side that helps nonprofits use  their data for learning and continuous improvement." 

Education

On the Inside Philanthropy site, L.S. Hall weighs in with a surprisingly generous consideration of the education philanthropy of Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

Evaluation

Nancy Roob, president and CEO of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, argues in a post on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog that while fears of rigorous evaluation are "justifiable," a broader perspective on the purposes of evaluation can help allay them.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (May 24-26, 2014)

May 26, 2014

Healing_Field2After another Typepad outage last weekend, we're back with our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector....

Advocacy

In the Summer 2014 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Steven Teles, an associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, Heather Hurlburt, a senior fellow for national security at Human Rights First, and Mark Schmitt, director of the program on political reform at the New America Foundation, argue that the mid-20th-century "golden age" of consensual politics in America was an anomaly and that, for nonprofits and foundations engaged in advocacy, there are three alternatives for dealing with increasing political polarization: staying the course; changing the system; and accepting and adapting.

Climate Change

On the F.B. Heron Foundation blog, Heron board chair Buzz Schmidt applauds Stanford University's recent decision "to 'repurpose' funds formerly invested in coal mining companies into investments that made more positive contributions to society's regenerative capital" and suggests that critics of the decision who suggest that divestment campaigns typically fail because they don't have any impact on companies' stock price are missing "the forest for the trees."

Education

In USA Today, Math for America president John Ewing argues that while the Common Core standards are not perfect, "they provide a structure that has a huge amount of potential if we just give [them] some time to work."

Fundraising

These days, it's hard to avoid talk about crowdfunding. But Social Velocity's Nell Edgington thinks it might be time to distinguish what's exciting about the crowdfunding approach from the hype and shares some questions to help us do that.

Continue reading »

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (April 2014)

May 01, 2014

Infographics, a book review, and good advice for nonprofit communications pros and individuals thinking about starting their own nonprofit organization -- like the weather, April here at PhilanTopic was all about variety. It was also a big month for vacations, so here's another chance to catch up on some of the things you may have missed....

What have you read/watched/listened to over the last month that made you think, surprised you, or caused you to scratch your head? Share your finds in the comments section below....

Weekend Link Roundup (April 26-27, 2014)

April 27, 2014

Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector....

Earth_day_treeCommunications/Marketing

On the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers blog, Rick Moyers, vice president for programs and communications at the D.C.-based Meyer Foundation, admits to having become "convinced that almost all nonprofits could engage more supporters and have a greater impact if only they were better at telling their stories" -- and shares some resources the foundation has put together to help nonprofits do just that.

Education

On his Straight Up blog, education policy maven Rick Hess shares a "robust" exchange between teacher/blogger John Thompson and Steve Cantrell, senior program officer for research and data at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, regarding Thompson's concerns about the foundation's Measures of Effective Teaching project.

The Lumina Foundation, in partnership with other leading education organizations, has announced the launch of a social network called MoveED for Goal 2025, with the aim of building a national movement to make attainment beyond high school a reality for all Americans, including low-income students, students of color, first-generation students, and adult learners.

Fundraising

Interesting (and, some would say, familiar) story in Tech Crunch about a recent $23 million investment in CrowdRise, a crowdfunding platform conceived by the actor Edward Norton, Robert Wolfe, Shauna Robertson, and Jeffery Wolfe that aims to be "the crowdfunding platform for charitable activity."

Impact/Effectiveness

The Case Foundation has released "A Short Guide to Impact Investing," a basic primer on the subject based on conversations with hundreds of individuals in the impact investing community. The foundation calls this a "working version" and is encouraging feedback from readers on each chapter as the next step in creating a final version of the guide.

And some good news on that front. New numbers from one of the very first SIB-supported programs in the UK suggest that "short-sentenced offenders receiving through-the-gate support on release from HMP Peterborough as part of an innovative payment-by-results (PbR) Social Impact Bond pilot are less likely to reoffend than those outside the scheme."

On the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, Jeff Bradach, co-founder and managing partner of the Bridgespan Group, announces the launch of Achieving Transformative Scale, an eight-week-long blog series that will explore some of the solutions that social sector leaders around the world are pursuing to take their work to scale.

Continue reading »

Has the Word 'Impact' Lost Its Impact?

April 23, 2014

(Derrick Feldmann is president of Achieve, a creative research and campaigns agency based in
Indianapolis. In his previous post, he shared a design strategy for resource-constrained development pros.)

Feldmann-headshotTwo years ago, I wrote an article about the use of the word innovative in our field. The gist of the article was that those who trumpet the fact they are innovative probably aren't, and that, conversely, truly innovative organizations aren't in the habit of publicly defining themselves as "innovative."

In this article I want to look at another word that is getting a workout. It's not sustainability, community, or empower -- although our sector could walk away from all three of those and not be any worse for it.

No, the word I want to consider is impact.

March and April are conference season in the nonprofit sector, which means I have plenty of opportunities to hear what other fundraisers and nonprofit marketers are doing to inspire donors to give. Recently, I got together with some fellow fundraisers at one of these conferences to talk about our different approaches to asking for money. During our conversation, I heard the word impact (in its various forms) used at least five times. In fact, when I think about it, the word was everywhere at that particular conference, from exhibit booths, to program materials, to live Twitter feeds from sessions with titles such as:

  • Impact Investing
  • How to Get Donors to Understand Your Impact
  • Impact Fundraising – Truly Getting Donors to Give to Your Cause
  • Marketing Impact to Your Volunteers
  • Training Your Board on Your Mission and Impact

I mean, if the word had a publicist, she'd be getting rich from a job well done!

As you might imagine, after a couple of days of this I began to examine my own use of the word. Surrounded by others who spoke the language fluently, I realized I had adopted their patterns of speech and even used the word five times in the presentation I gave at the conference.

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[Infographic] 'Nonprofits Online: The 2014 M+R Benchmarks Study'

April 10, 2014

M+R, a D.C.-based consulting firm, in partnership with NTEN, have released the 2014 M+R Benchmarks Study. Now in its eighth year, the study of fifty-three of the country's leading nonprofits found that even though response rates for nonprofit email solicitations continued to slide in 2013, online giving was up and social media audiences and Web site traffic continued to climb.

The Benchmarks Study always offers an interesting snapshot of the sector, and judging from the infographic below, this year's edition is no exception:

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (March 29-30, 2014)

March 30, 2014

Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector....

April_showersCommunications/Marketing

In a guest post on the Communications Network blog, the Barr Foundation's Stefan Lanfer shares some lessons he and his colleagues have learned about communicating in times of change. The first two are simple but powerful: know what you want to communicate, by word and by deed; and know what you don't want to communicate. Check out Lanfer's the post for three more things the foundation got right.

Education Reform

Public school advocate Diane Ravitch has posted a draft version of of remarks made at an education conference earlier this month by Dissent contributor Joanne Barkan on the topic of how to criticize the role of "big philanthropy" in education reform

Fundraising

In today's New York Times, Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, lets readers in on a well-kept secret: Fundraising is fun. The "magic" of raising money for a cause or organization, writes Brooks,

goes even deeper than temporary happiness or extra income. It creates meaning. Donors possess two disconnected commodities: material wealth and sincere conviction. Alone, these commodities are difficult to combine. But fund-raisers facilitate an alchemy of virtue: They empower those with the financial resources to convert the dross of their money into the gold of a better society....

On the Relationship Science blog, Kathy Landau, executive director of the National Dance Institute in New York City, makes an impassioned case for seeing data and relationship building "as mutually beneficial rather than mutually exclusive."

Grantmaking

In a post on the GrantCraft blog, Grant Coates, president and CEO of the Miles Foundation in Fort Worth, explains how a reevaluation of the foundation's grantee selection process helped him and his colleagues realize that leadership often is what separates a "good" grantee from a "great" grantee. "The presence of powerful leadership," Coates writes, "is almost tangible – it's a spirit that employees exude, a confidence that the organization embodies, and an impact that's measurable – true leadership is, in short, a game-changer in the grantee selection process."

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Keep the Old, Try the New – A Bucket-Balancing Act for Fundraising Pros

March 11, 2014

(Derrick Feldmann is president of Achieve, a creative research and campaigns agency based in Indianapolis. In his previous post, he asked whether professional design matters when it comes to your fundraising materials.)

Feldmann_headshotThis is an especially challenging time for nonprofit fundraising professionals.

On one hand, you have board members, bloggers, marketing "experts," and creative types all calling on you to be more "innovative" with your fundraising tactics. You've probably heard statements like:

"You have to embrace social media if you want to stand out!"

"I know an organization that had great success with an online giving platform; why don't we do things like that?"

"Why are we still wasting our time on direct mail letters? They're boring, and no one reads them."

As new fundraising tools and practices emerge, there's some validity to these arguments. For example, email solicitations have a pretty good track record. And digital fundraising campaigns, online donation pages, and crowdsourcing, despite their risks, all have been known to raise significant revenue for certain types of organizations.

On the other hand, you probably feel pressure from older stakeholders who expect you to stick with tried-and-true fundraising methods. Meanwhile, it's almost impossible to convince even open-minded executives and board members that raising money almost always requires spending money. And the tension between traditional tactics and more experimental methods only makes your job more difficult and stressful.

So, what do you do when your head reminds you that the majority of your loyal donors still respond to traditional forms of fundraising while your gut tells you it's time to take a few risks?

Simple. Pay less attention to what others are telling you to do and more attention to what your competitors are actually doing. Don't be afraid to experiment a little, and always remember that the ultimate goal is to do what is best for your organization.

I know, we all answer to somebody. Indeed, most development professionals have scores of individuals and groups they have to answer to. Which is why many of my clients and colleagues in professional development have asked me for advice as to how to justify risks and explain new fundraising tools and tactics to stakeholders who think the old ways are always the best ways. Here's what I tell them. Start by looking at your fundraising strategies – both what you've been doing and what you want to do – and put them into three "buckets":

Continue reading »

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