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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts in 2016

December 30, 2016

So it ends, not with a bang but a whimper. Depending on whom you speak to, 2016 was a train wreck, a dumpster fire, a sure sign of the apocalypse, and just plain weird. If it was a year in which too many beloved cultural icons left us, it was also an annus horribilis for progressives, who will have to work twice as hard in the new year (and beyond) to preserve important policy gains achieved over the last eight years and limit the harm caused by a Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Congress.

But while our attention often was focused elsewhere, many of you were taking care of business and digging deep into the PhilanTopic archives for tools and ideas you could use — today and in the weeks and months to come. So, without further preamble, here are the ten posts you "voted" as your favorites in 2016. Enjoy. Happy New Year. And don't forget to check back next week, as we return to the office tanned, rested, and ready to fight the good fight.

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or gave you a reason to feel hopeful? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Weekend Link Roundup (December 17-18, 2016)

December 18, 2016

Tis-season-eye-chartOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

The government of the Netherlands has presented a long-term energy plan that stipulates that no new cars with combustion engines may be sold from 2035 on and that all houses in the country must be disconnected from the gas grid by 2050. Karel Beckman reports for the Energy Collective.

Fundraising

What's the best way to get donors under the age of 40 to donate to your nonprofit? Future Fundraising Now's Jeff Brooks shares a little secret.

Giving

In FastCoExist, Ben Paynter has a quick primer on what certain proposals in the Trump tax plan could mean for charitable giving.

The real possibility of lower marginal rates and changes to the cap on itemized deductions under a new Trump administration has many wealthy donors rushing to donate shares of appreciated stock before the end of the year. Chana R. Schoenberger reports for the Wall Street Journal.

As another year winds to a close, Elie Hassenfeld, Holden Karnofsky, and other members of the GiveWell team discuss the thinking behind their personal end-of-year giving choices.

Impact Investing

For those interested in keeping up with developments in the fast-growing field of impact investing, the Case Foundation's Rehana Nathoo has curated a list fifty impact investing "influencers" you should follow on Twitter.

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Nonprofits! You Are Not the (Only) Gatekeeper for Your Issue!

December 16, 2016

GatekeeperLast month my mother called to tell me about a neighbor who had just been diagnosed with cancer. She talked about how sad the news made her, and told me the town was really coming together to do something for one of its own. In fact, local town leaders had already decided to organize a fundraiser for our friend.

While we were talking, my mother decided to check out the online fundraising page that had been set up. It didn't take long for me to realize that something was bothering her. "Mom?" I prompted.

"I thought we were being asked to donate to the local cancer society," she replied. "I'd feel a whole lot better if I knew something about the national organization or where my money was going."

Her comment was interesting, in a number of ways. It suggested, first of all, that my mother is more motivated to give when she knows her donation will be used to support a cause close to home and/or understands how her donation will be used. But as we kept chatting, I realized that what she really wanted was to do something for our neighbor directly and in a way that helped our neighbor and her family in their hour of need.

Understanding that way of thinking and, more broadly, what motivates people to engage with a cause — your cause — is critically important if your nonprofit hopes to gain the support of donors and grow that support over time. And while, obviously, my mother is not a millennial, her comment illustrates a mindset related to cause behaviors that, in our research on millennials (see the Millennial Impact Report), we've encountered quite a bit. Indeed, as we conduct that research, we continually ask ourselves, What are the factors that influence (or discourage) millennial donors to support a cause or organization?

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Embracing Partnerships to Widen Impact

December 09, 2016

Piecing_it_togetherAs the executive director of The Blue Card, a national nonprofit that assists Holocaust survivors, I have seen nonprofits having to adapt to the consequences of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, a rapidly accelerating digital revolution, and a renewed emphasis on corporate social responsibility, all of which have forced them — and us — to rethink how we communicate and execute on our missions.

Through this period of change, we've managed to grow our operating budget by 40 percent and expanded our outreach from nineteen to thirty-two states, even as our full-time headcount has remained in the single digits. At the same time, my colleagues and I have seen the needs of survivors we support increase, as they struggle with health issues and ever-rising healthcare costs. For many of them, the difficulty of navigating the public health system and the stresses they face as a result of financial pressures are exacerbated by the psychological and emotional scars they bear. That's why finding a way to provide outreach services to our constituents has been as important as helping them with financial support.

Indeed, if we learned anything from the economic downturn of 2008-09, it's that it is just as important to diversify one's operational strategy as it is one's fundraising strategy. By forging partnerships and taking advantage of synergies with a variety of public- and private-sector agencies, we've been able to increase our programmatic offerings while keeping our operational structure lean and nimble.

And along the way, we've learned a few things about how collaboration and partnerships can be used to help extend an organization's reach:

Don't be afraid. While charitable giving rose smartly in 2015, so did the number of registered nonprofits. Which means the competition for dollars and support from foundations, associations, corporations, and individual donors is as great as ever.

It's important to remember, however, that nonprofits focused on the same problem or cause invariably share the same goal. And that collaborating with an organization or organizations with a mission and goals that align with yours doesn't mean the support you receive has to suffer. On the contrary, you just may find that funders are willing to increase their support if they know the extra dollars won't be used to underwrite duplicative services or programs.

In 2013, for example, The Blue Card began working with the Association of Jewish Family & Children's Services (AJFCA), a membership network of Jewish family service agencies across the United States and Canada. Through AJFCA, we were able to cultivate relationships with social workers and agencies around the country that often are the first point of contact for the elderly, and today we receive referrals from more than seventy agencies in the AJFCA network.

In addition, we've identified organizations in other countries that do similar work and have formed relationships with many of them, making it possible for those agencies to refer donors to us who wish to help Holocaust survivors living in America.

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It's #GivingTuesday, and We're Celebrating!

November 29, 2016

Logo_GiVingTuesday2016It's that time of year — and not a moment too soon. #GivingTuesday! Did you know that last year, $116.4 million dollars were donated on this single national day of giving? Here's to this year's event being an even bigger success. Are you on board?

This year, Foundation Center and PND decided to approach #GivingTuesday a little bit differently. Because we know just how many amazing nonprofits there are out there, we wanted to highlight them in a special way — and came up with the idea of selecting five through a sweepstakes and turning over our Twitter feeds to those organizations for the day.

The response to the sweepstakes exceeded our expectations, and we're delighted to be able to share the work of the five winners with you throughout the day. To learn more about the great work these organizations are doing and how they're making a difference in their communities, take a look at their profiles below. And please consider making a donation so that they can continue their efforts in 2017 and beyond!

1. Community Health Alliance

CommunityHealthAlliance_logoCommunity Health Alliance in Reno, Nevada, provides quality, affordable, comprehensive health services to any member of the community, regardless of their ability to pay. For #GivingTuesday, the organization is raising funds to help one hundred children receive sealants on their molars to help keep them healthy.

"#GivingTuesday is a wonderful way to kick off the holiday giving season," said CHA executive director Emelie Melton Williams. "Northern Nevada has no shortage of need, but also no shortage of kind people who care about the health of our broader community. We hope you will consider giving from the heart."

2. Mattie C. Stewart Foundation

MattieCStewartFoundation_logoThe Mattie C. Stewart Foundation, a nonprofit located in Birmingham, Alabama, designs tools to let young people and their families experience firsthand the powerful benefits of education and the likely consequence that await high school dropouts.

"Many people may not realize it, but one of the greatest threats to homeland security is a lack of educational progress by our nation's youth. We've got to keep finding ways to engage our young people through education and inspire them to great careers,” said Dr. Shelley Stewart, the organization's founder and president. "The more they disengage or drop out, the more our communities are left with societal ills that can be too big to handle."

To support the organization and its programs, please consider making a donation here.

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 19-20, 2016)

November 20, 2016

Tgiving-2Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

William McDonough, an author/architect and inventor of the concept of "cradle-to-cradle," wants to change the way we talk about carbon. FastCoExist's Adele Peters explains.

Communications/Marketing

Consultant (and former Chronicle of Philanthropy reporter) Peter Panapento shares some tips designed to help you write an op-ed that actually gets published.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Looking for a job that offers more than a check? Amy Elisa Jackson and her colleagues at Glassdoor have compiled a list of eleven companies that give back — and are hiring.

Current Affairs

If the 2016 presidential election told us anything, it's that the divide between rural and urban America is widening. To learn more about what that might mean for the country, The Atlantic's Sommer Mathis spoke with Kathy Cramer, whose new book The Politics of Resentment "traces the rise of conservative Gov. Scott Walker and the political evolution of Wisconsin." (The Badger State went for Trump in this election, the first time a Republican candidate has won there since 1984.)

"The scandal [of this election]," argues Travis LaCouter in a piece for Philanthropy Daily, "lay in the fact that that outcome came as such an utter surprise to half the country, and as such a desperate necessity to the other half." Looking ahead to 2020, 2024, and beyond, this is something foundations can have a direct impact on. "Programs that [bring] together partisan Democrats and Republicans to teach them the basics of dialogue," writes LaCouter, "would help bridge the empathy gap currently wrecking our politics. It sounds childish, perhaps, but also necessary given the tone and quality of this electoral season."

It's been a tough couple of weeks for a lot of folks in the nonprofit sector. As Vu Le writes in his latest blog post, "It will take us a while to understand what happened and what we need to do." In the meantime, Le, in his latest post, shares seven "agreements" designed to help folks navigate through the difficult weeks and months ahead.

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 12-13, 2016)

November 13, 2016

Comedy-tragedy-masks Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. (And what a week it was.) For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Aging

First up, an open letter to the incoming Trump administration from Bruce A. Chernof, president and CEO of the Scan Foundation, laying out five action items it can take to make America great for older citizens.

Arts and Culture

On the Americans for the Arts site, Robert Lynch, the organization's president and CEOs, pledges to work with the incoming Trump administration to advance pro-arts policies and strengthen efforts to transform communities through the arts.

Climate Change

What does Trump's election mean for the Paris climate agreement? Humanosphere's Tom Murphy breaks it down.

Communications/Marketing

On the Packard Foundation website, Felicia Madsen, the foundation's communications director, reflects on some of the things the foundation has learned about how it uses communications to support grantees.

"Your branding efforts affect the bottom line, at least in terms of meeting goals for fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and signed petitions." So why is your logo so ugly? On FasctCoExist, Ben Paynter shares some thoughts on how to avoid a nonprofit branding nightmare.

Fundraising

#GivingTuesday is right around the corner. Is your nonprofit prepared for success?

Health

Does Trump's election mean automatic repeal of the Affordable Care Act? It's more complicated than that, writes Forbes contributor Bruce Japsen.

And be sure to check out this breakdown by the Kaiser Family Foundation of the president-elect's positions on six key healthcare issues.

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 5-6, 2016)

November 06, 2016

Your_vote_countsOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

As generational change continues to roil the arts sector, what will the future look like for arts organizations? Emiko Ono, a program officer in the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Performing Arts Program, explores that question in the Fall 2016 issue of the GIA (Grantmakers in the Arts) Reader.

Civic Engagement

In a Q&A on the Carnegie Corporation website, the foundation's Geri Mannion and Jay Beckner of the Mertz Gilmore Foundation chat with Carnegie visiting media fellow Gail Ablow about how foundations can support voting rights litigation.

Have American politics ever been so divisive? Or is this year's election simply a case of  plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Regardless of how one feels about the tone and tenor of the 2016 presidential election, it is important to remember, writes Carnegie Corporation president Vartan Gregorian, that, throughout our history, we have "managed to avoid allowing ourselves to be manacled by all-powerful overlords or permitting the strength of our democracy to be leeched away by the fear of what the future may bring. That does not mean," he continues, "that we must not constantly be mindful of the importance of preserving our democratic principles and defending the individual freedoms that are the legacy of our founders' trust in the nation they established...."

Fundraising

On her Fired Up Fundraising blog, Gail Perry shares six tips for crowdfunding your way to #GivingTuesday success. But don't wait — this year's #GivingTuesday is November 29. On that day, PND and the Foundation Center will be helping a handful of lucky nonprofits get the word out by sharing our social media feeds. For details, check out this post.

Nonprofits

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, nonprofit veteran Ann-Sophie Morrissette examines five myths that help to perpetuate burnout among nonprofit employees.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (October 2016)

November 02, 2016

Seven... Seven more days of this dumpster fire of an election before (with a little luck) we can all get back to our lives and routines. If that seems like an eternity, may we suggest spending some of it on the great reads below you all voted to the top of our most popular posts list for October. And don't forget to cast your vote, along with the hundreds who already have, in our Clinton/Trump-themed poll of the week....

What did you read/watch/listen to in September that made you pause, made you think, made you hopeful? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Weekend Link Roundup (October 29-30, 2016)

October 30, 2016

Tree-with-Falling-LeavesOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Aging

Next Avenue, a public media site dedicated to meeting the needs and unleashing the potential of older Americans, has released its 2016 list of the "advocates, researchers, thought leaders, innovators, writers and experts who continue to push beyond traditional boundaries and change our understanding of what it means to grow older."

Environment

In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, the NAACP is mounting an effort to convince African Americans that environmental issues are "closely intertwined with health and economic opportunity for black Americans." Zack Coleman and Mark Trumbull report for the Christian Science Monitor.

Fundraising

Regular PhilanTopic contributor Derrick Feldmann has some advice about how foundations can overcome the biggest challenge they face: turning dues-paying members into committed donors.

Giving

For the first time ever, the top spot in the Chronicle of Philanthropy's annual ranking of the nation's biggest-grossing charities has gone to a public charity affiliated with a financial services firm. What does that mean for charity in America? Caroline Preston reports for The American Prospect.

For Vauhini Vara, a contributing editor for The New Yorker, the Chronicle's finding "seems to symbolize how the wealth gap in the U.S. is having an influence on all spheres of public life." But Brain Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide (which slipped a notch in the Chronicle list after many years there), tells Vara that "[r]eal social change happens when millions of people get involved, average donors get involved, and work collectively on big issues."

Health

Over the first ten years of its existence, the New York State Health Foundation awarded $117 million to more than four hundred grantee organizations to improve the health of all New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable. To mark its ten-year anniversary, the foundation has released a report with some of the lessons it has learned.

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How Associations Can Overcome Fundraising Barriers

October 27, 2016

Give_chalkboardOver the last three months, I've had conversations with four associations about their approach to raising money. The conversations usually touch on many of the same points:

"We're an association and are struggling to raise additional funds from our members."

 "We think it's because a lot of our members may not fully understand what we do and why we need to raise money from them."

 "We've seen a decline in our membership and have had to restate our membership levels."

"We are trying to figure out how we can offer our members giving opportunities as an alternative to membership dues."

 "We're not sure we are relevant anymore. People are spending less time with our content even though it's really good. Our members tell us that's what they want, but in the end they don't follow through."

"What should we do? Do we have a fundraising or a membership problem?"

If you work for an association, I suspect you've had similar conversations with your colleagues.

Before I share with you the advice I give to my association clients, I want to first discuss a major challenge that, in today's competitive fundraising environment, most associations face.

Content Is King — and There's a Lot of It

You have the best newsletter out there. You've established rigorous business rules to ensure you get the right professional development content to your members in the right format and at the appropriate time. But no one is consuming it. Not that your members don't find it valuable — it's more that they can't find it. Let's be honest: there's an abundance of content and information out there, good and bad. And, to make matters worse, associations today have lots of new competitors for the attention of their members — consultants and thought leaders who are creating their own content and targeting it to your members. What does it all mean? It means your members are in the driver's seat when it comes to deciding what is good and what is not, what is useful and what is not. It also means that many associations are scrambling to learn as quickly as they can how they can make their content stand out in a very crowded environment.

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 15-16, 2016)

October 16, 2016

Fruits-Fall-HarvestOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans

Contra Donald Trump, the majority of African Americans do not live in poverty or inner cities. Alana Semuels reports for The Atlantic.

In Yes! Magazine, Liza Bayless interviews Marbre Stahly-Butts, deputy director of racial justice at the Center for Popular Democracy, about why divestment from the prison and military industries is critical to a just future.

Climate Change

On August 7, Scotland, one of the windiest countries in Europe, generated enough electricity from wind turbines to power the entire country. And it's goal of running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2020 may be within reach. The Washington Post's Griff Witte reports.

Communications/Marketing

"Most people are uncomfortable talking about race, discrimination, privilege and power," writes the Knight Foundation's Anusha Alikhan, who moderated a panel on diversity and inclusion at the Communications Network annual conference in Detroit in September. "[W]e get tripped up by the need to be nonpartisan, while balancing the interests of a variety of groups and even our own upbringings.... [But how] do we produce real change in these areas if we don’t acknowledge their roots?" Alikhan shares some takeaways from that conversation that communications teams can use to "advance hard conversations and create deeper connections with their communities."

Disaster Relief

Relief efforts for hurricane-battered Haiti gained some traction during week, with the United Nations launching a $120 million appeal to fund its activities there, the World Health Organization gearing up to send a million cholera vaccine doses to prevent a more serious outbreak of the disease, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation announcing a gift of $2 million in cash and product donations, and Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt announcing he will donate $10 million through his foundation for recovery efforts. To learn more about recovery challenges and opportunities for donors, check out this webinar hosted by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, Haitians need all the help they can get. But according to the Washington Post's Peter Holley, they don't trust the American Red Cross to provide it.

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Linking Challenge to Opportunity to Strategy

October 07, 2016

Link-Building-IconMost of us dread the annual strategic planning process. It's a daunting task to have to stop and think about the future when your days are already super busy with the work you do for your organization's clients and beneficiaries.

Then there's the fact that the plan itself can be a document that inspires and creates a visionary context for an organization, or, as I've seen lately, a series of work plans detailing what the organization is going to do over the next few years and how it's going to do it.

Regardless of which approach your organization takes, here are a few things to think about as you and your colleagues sit down to develop your next strategic plan:

  • Your supporters really don't care how the ship runs; they care about what your organization is doing to help people and advance its cause.
  • Your supporters don't want to know about how you're going to boost the reach and impact of your communications. From their perspective, you should be doing that anyway. They do care about what lies ahead for the organization, and what they can do to help make change happen.
  • Your supporters want to believe your plan will get more people like them to support your cause or issue. They want to be assured you have a handle on your overall strategy and the tactics needed to implement it. And they want to be reminded why they are important to your organization's success.

The points above underscore the important role individual supporters play in the change process. I hope they also convey a sense of the linkage that is often missing from strategic plans: challenge begets opportunity begets strategy.

Creating a "Challenge" Narrative for Supporters

It is crucial that supporters feel compelled to act by your challenge narrative. And the hardest part of that is making sure it conveys enough urgency to cause potential supporters to say, "Wow, I need to step up and do something." Your narrative should do two things:

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Four Questions Every Nonprofit Marketer Should Ask

September 24, 2016

Hands_upMost nonprofit executives will tell you that the competition for funding has never been tougher. Donors have an overwhelming variety of causes to choose from, an abundance of guidance and advice to listen to, and not nearly enough time to sort it all out and make an informed decision. The question for nonprofits is: What can we do to break through the noise and build lasting and meaningful relationships with donors? 

Having worked with nonprofit marketing teams and executives for more than twenty years, I'm well acquainted with the lack of planning that pervades the sector. Nonprofits tend to jump right into the program execution phase without asking the most basic marketing and branding questions. And this lack of upfront planning often results in more than confusion; it can cost a nonprofit money.

With nonprofit marketers about to dig in for the all-important final quarter of the calendar year, here's a handful of questions you should be thinking about:

What's the opportunity cost of our organization not having a strong brand?

A strong brand is more than just a logo, color palette, or mnemonic device. Your brand should create an emotional connection in the hearts and minds of donors that grows stronger over time. Once donors understand the fundamentals of your organization's work and how it differs from other groups doing similar work, the investment in creating that connection will pay off in a variety of ways. Because of that connection, donors are more likely to support your organization by doing more than just giving money. They'll attend events and volunteer. And, more importantly, they're more likely to actively promote your organization's work and recruit other supporters to its cause.

Ask yourself the following: 

  • Is our organization well known in our segment?
  • Do donors understand our mission and the work we do?
  • Are donors easily able to explain our mission to others?
  • Are donors willing to promote our organization to others?

If the answer to any of these questions is anything other than "yes," you need to understand there may be real financial consequences for your organization. Before things reach that pass, suggest to your colleagues that it's time to revisit your messaging strategy and think about how your brand is connecting — or isn't — with supporters and potential supporters.

What's preventing our organization from building a stronger brand?

Marketing initiatives aren't always easily communicated within organizations. Often, there's confusion between the role of the marketing team and the role of the development team. And in cases where a marketing initiative needs to span chapters or affiliates, securing organization-wide buy-in can be next to impossible.

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Weekend Link Roundup (September 3-5, 2016)

September 05, 2016

Ball_and_racket_headOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Corporate Social Responsibility

The landscape of corporate philanthropy is changing — for the better. Andrea Hoffman, founder and CEO of Culture Shift Labs, looks at one Wall Street firm determined to change the existing stock-buyback paradigm.

Disaster Relief

In aftermath of the recent flooding in Louisiana, The (Baton Rouge) Advocate's Rebekah Allen and Elizabeth Crisp look at how crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe are disrupting the traditional disaster relief funding model.

Education

In the New York Times, Christopher Edmin, an associate professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and the author of For White Folk Who Teach in the Hood ... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education, challenges the idea that the answer to closing the achievement gap for boys and young men of color is to hire and retain more black male teachers.

Fundraising

Wondering how to get the public solidly behind your cause? Of course you are. Regular PhilanTopic contributor Derrick Feldmann shares some good tips here.

Higher Education

As the call for institutions of higher education to diversify their curricula grows louder, maybe it's time, writes the University of Texas' Steven Mintz on the Teagle Foundation site, for colleges and university "to embrace the Great Books spirit and delve into the most problematic aspects of our contemporary reality through works that speak to our time and perhaps all time."

Impact/Effectiveness

The Organizational Effectiveness program at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation has launched an Organizational Effectiveness Knowledge Center designed to be a space where nonprofits, funders, and others can "exchange learning, resources, and reflections about improving nonprofit organizational and network effectiveness."

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