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How to Supercharge Your Advocacy Campaign With a Story

March 27, 2017

In 2001, Madison McCarthy died of sudden cardiac arrest in a kindergarten classroom. She was five years old. No one attempted CPR. Her mother, Suzy McCarthy, became the face of an American Heart Association campaign that, fourteen years later, made New York the twenty-sixth state in the country to mandate CPR training as a part of the public school curricula. More than 1.5 million students a year began learning this lifesaving skill.

Megaphone_advocacyThe McCarthys’ tragic story became the foundation of an advocacy campaign that changed policy and saved lives. I would argue that all causes have the potential to use stories to such powerful effect.

AHA didn’t discover Madison by accident. It deliberately paid attention and collected stories of loss as well as stories of CPR saving lives. It then pushed these narratives at lawmakers through emails, phone calls, news articles, and social media posts. In the critical last weeks of the campaign, patch-through calls with Suzy McCarthy’s voice moved advocates to call Gov. Andrew Cuomo in support of the CPR bill. When I heard the recording, I thought to myself: How could someone not act on that story?

Generic statistics on CPR wouldn’t have moved lawmakers to act. Stories, on the other hand, with their heroes, drama, tragedy, and hope, tap into our emotions. A good story well told has the potential to bring out the best in supporters and advocates — and in lawmakers.

Unfortunately, too few advocacy organizations use stories to their full potential. Often, my colleagues and I receive advocacy emails jammed with technical information about pending legislation. They’re almost unreadable. Advocates for your cause are people with jobs, families, and other responsibilities. Even if they care about your issue, they can only invest so much time in getting themselves up to speed on all its nuances.

Now imagine the effect of replacing all those jargon-filled explanations with a real, compelling story. Let’s talk about how you can accomplish that at your organization.

Collect your advocates’ stories. When people sit around the dinner table or a campfire, what do they do? They tell stories. But when you solicit stories in support of your cause via email or social media, which are far less personal channels, you have to be sure to ask the right question. We’ve found that the following approach works well:

  • In a sentence or two, present your issue and actionable goal.
  • Then say: “How does this issue affect you personally? Please share your story for our campaign.”
  • Watch as advocates send emails, post on social media, and respond to other people’s stories.

Identify the most compelling stories. Let’s say you collect two hundred stories. (Congrats!) Around which ones should you build your campaign?

First, zero in on the most relevant stories. Suzy McCarthy lost a child, and the proposed legislation could prevent that from happening in the future. No story could be more relevant. Second, ask for permission to use the story publicly. Understandably, some of your supporters may feel shy about becoming a campaign figurehead the way Suzy did. Third, use the most compelling stories first. Which ones truly capture what is at stake?

The best stories illustrate the consequences of inaction, be it job loss, hunger, environmental degradation, or even the possibility of death. And though you really only need one truly compelling story to get someone to take action, feel free to share quotes or short anecdotes from many.

Center your campaign on one story. The idea here is to use the voice of a single advocate for your cause to inspire others to act. Put that story on your campaign webpage. Include it in your emails to legislators (and make sure it precedes your call to action). Ask the person whose story it is to do the recording for your patch-through calls (as Suzy did for AHA).

Remember: Simplicity usually wins the day. The story you choose should translate something complex into a relatable, emotional experience. And the hashtag you choose for social media purposes should capture the essence of that story in a few words. While we’d like to believe that each and every story or argument strengthens a campaign, it doesn’t work that way. Oversharing can dilute and undermine the power of your message.

Simplifying a complex issue into a compelling story, and turning that story into a catchy hashtag, is not about pandering to short attention spans or “dumbing down” your messaging for a millennial audience. It’s being strategic. By one estimate, more than half of all emails sent since 2015 have been opened on a mobile device. Why lose a potential supporter and advocate for your cause to the fact that your message didn’t “fit above the fold” and a lot of socially engaged people didn’t scroll down far enough to find it on their smartphones?

Now, it’s possible you end up ignoring my advice because you and your colleagues have convinced yourselves your organization doesn’t have an ”exciting” story to tell. I doubt that. When patent assertion entities (PAEs) began blackmailing innovators and small businesses for patent infringement, the issue seemed dry and complicated. That didn’t deter the Consumer Technology Association, a group that supports innovators and innovation. CTA simply reframed the issue as a David vs. Goliath story. They realized the term “patent troll” captured the greed and mendaciousness of PAEs. And like trolls, PAEs were preying on the innocent — in this case, entrepreneurs and technologists. CTA’s graphic caricatures of club-wielding trolls hammered the point home.

As a result, CTA raised awareness of the issue and moved entrepreneurs and small businesses, which couldn’t afford to fight patent infringement claims in court, to share their own stories of extortion. In no time, their stories revealed that U.S. patent law was broken and motivated politicians in Washington to take action.

The point is, you can’t imagine the kinds of stories your advocates and supporters might be willing to share until you ask for them. And one good story can drive an entire campaign. Real stories shared by real people never earn the “fake news” moniker that can delegitimize research and technical information.

Ximena_hartsock_for_PhilanTopicSo lead with a story. You’ll be amazed by the results.

Ximena Hartsock is a co-founder and president of Phone2Action, a provider of social advocacy and civic engagement tools that connect constituents with their elected officials.

Weekend Link Roundup (March 25-26, 2017)

March 26, 2017

David_rockefeller_photo_jim_smeal_wireimage_getty_images_115356418_profileOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Manhattan's Upper East Side is one of the great cultural institutions of the world. But is it a great cultural institution in decline? In Vanity Fair, William D. Cohan looks at the New York Times article and ensuing circumstances that led to the resignation of the museum's director, 54-year-old one-time wunderkind Thomas Campbell.

Climate Change

The nation's leading climate change activist is a former hedge fund manager you've probably never heard of. Wired's Nick Stockton talks to Tom Steyer, the California billionaire who is trying to save the planet.

Education

Citing new research which finds that the skills required to succeed professionally are the same as those required to succeed in K-12 education, Laszlo Bock, a member of the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development, suggests that the best place to invest scarce education reform dollars might just be where the overlap between the two is most clear.

Fundraising

Like many people, I'm a student of cognitive biases. So I was pleased to come across this post by John Haydon detailing five cognitive biases that can be leveraged to improve the success of your next fundraising campaign.

Giving

Meals on Wheels America has seen an upsurge in donations since being targeted for elimination by the Trump administration's "skinny" budget plan. Alex Swerdloff reports for Vice.

The Economist suggests that the increasing popularity of donor-advised funds may be as much about...wait for it...taxes as it is about charity.

International Affairs/Development

Foreign aid represents a tiny fraction (less than 1 percent) of the federal budget. But the Trump administration, like Republican administrations in the past, seems determined to zero it out. That would be a mistake, writes Bill Gates on his Gates Notes blog. For starters, foreign aid promotes health, security, and economic opportunity that helps stabilize vulnerable parts of the world, and whether we realize it or not, that tends to keep us all safer.

If you're smiling now, it's probably because you're Norwegian. The fifth annual World Happiness Report is out, and — surprise! — Scadinavian countries lead the pack.

Leadership

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, notes that even as "elite schools overemphasize leadership because...they're preparing students for the corporate world," a discipline in organizational psychology called "followership" is gaining in popularity. And that's a good thing.

Nonprofits

In a joint op-ed for The Hill, Council on Foundations president Vikki Spruill and Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, argue that efforts to weaken or repeal the so-called Johnson Amendment — a legislative provision proposed by then-Senate Minority Leader Lyndon Johnson, adopted without controversy by the Republican-controlled Senate, passed by a Republican-controlled Congress, and signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1954 — would "significantly weaken" nonprofits and the nonprofit sector "by inviting heretofore nonpartisan charitable and philanthropic organizations to endorse or oppose candidates for elected office and divert some amount of their assets away from their missions to instead support partisan campaigns."

The Trump administration's keen interest in dramatically reducing and/or eliminating federal aid for the poor and needy and replacing it with assistance from faith-based organizations reminds us of another Republican administration that was hell-bent on going down that road but abandoned the effort when reality sank in. Which begs the question, Are churches, synagogues, mosques, and other faith-based organizations any better positioned today to serve as a substitute for the government in providing for the needy and vulnerable? Emma Green reports for The Atlantic.

On her Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington chats with the Ford Foundation's Kathy Reich about the foundation's BUILD initiative, a key element of its strategy to support the vitality and effectiveness of civil society organizations and reduce inequality, in the U.S. and the regions where it works internationally.

Philanthropy

If you're a grantmaker who's finding it difficult to remain "thoughtful and steadfast" as the world spins out of control, you're not alone, writes Huffington Post contributor and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations president Kathleen Enright. But this, too, shall pass, and in the meantime there are things you can do to make a positive difference

"Sector agnosticism" —  "the idea...that you can achieve positive societal impact working within a nonprofit or a for-profit — and that it is the impact, not the organizational type, that matters" — not only is not helpful, "it obscures the fact that the sectors play distinct and different roles," writes Center for Effective Philanthropy president Phil Buchanan in a new post on the CEP blog.

It's not what you would call a paradigm shift, but a growing number of foundations are choosing to spend down their endowments over a set period of time. Ben Paynter reports for Fast Company.

And this short statement from Bill and Hillary Clinton articulates what many of us were feeling when we heard the news that David Rockefeller had passed at the age of 101. Here's the transcript of a conversation we had with Mr. Rockefeller more than a decade ago. He was frail even then, but still sharp and exceedingly generous with his time. Godspeed, sir.

(Photo: Jim Smeal, Getty Images)

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or share it in the comments section below....

We Fund What We Value

March 17, 2017

Axe-hatchetThe just-released Trump budget, "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again," proposes a $54 billion increase in defense spending and massive cuts elsewhere that will pose huge challenges for philanthropy.

Leave aside the politics (please) and consider what this means for donors. The budget calls for the complete defunding of four cultural agencies — the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Eliminating the NEA cuts $148 million; the NEH, $148 million; the IMLS, $230 million; and the CPB, $445 million. From the NEA alone, $47 million in state grants leveraged an additional $368 million in state funding. That's roughly $1 billion, plus $368 million from the states.

Science and basic research take a massive hit, with the National Institutes of Health losing almost $6 billion of its $30 billion budget. It's important to remember that 80 percent of NIH funding goes to outside researchers in universities and labs across the country — major recipients of foundation and individual donations.

Cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency have garnered headlines, with nearly a third of its budget in jeopardy; in practice, this includes the outright elimination of a program to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and half the funding for the EPA's Office of Research and Development. Funding for climate research is effectively zeroed out.

Proposed budgets are just that — proposals — and they never survive intact, but what if even half these cuts are enacted? It still translates into billions of dollars in cuts to everything from local public radio stations to rural arts programs to university research programs. The cuts would affect big cities and small towns alike. And they would directly affect programs funded by philanthropy.

Philanthropy often relies on federal and state grants to leverage its investments. A grant from a foundation makes it possible, for instance, for a nonprofit to undertake a library scoping study, which can unlock a state grant to underwrite the building's design, which can lead to a federal grant toward construction of the building. Or a donor might fund an endowed chair for a university professor, who then seeks government funding to support his or her research on a cure for cancer. Under our system, government, foundations, and individual donors work together to magnify the impact of their respective dollars.

But while philanthropy is used to working with federal and state agencies, it cannot fill the gaps that would be created by the Trump budget on its own. If the funding cuts proposed by the White House survive, foundations and donors will face many difficult choices in the months and years to come. Having to decide between funding deeply in one area or funding broadly across many areas will be a constant aggravation, at best. And because the proposed cuts are so deep, even a significant increase foundation and individual donor giving will not be enough to keep the wolf from the door. The resulting harm will be financial and cultural, medical and environmental, with jobs lost and nonprofits forced to shut down.

Headshot_Chris_MassiWe fund what we value, and the choices ahead are likely to test our values in profound ways.

Chris Massi is a senior consultant at Graham-Pelton, a global fundraising and nonprofit management consulting firm. A version of this post originally appeared on the Graham-Pelton website.

Weekend Link Roundup (March 11-12, 2017)

March 12, 2017

Keep-calm-and-let-it-snow--680Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Animal Welfare

After a decade of declining meat consumption, Americans again are eating more meat, and Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther wants to know why people "who adore their dogs and cats blithely go on consuming meat products that cause needless suffering to pigs, cows and chickens."

Education

On Medium, Nick Donohue, president/CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, suggests that "education as a whole hasn't changed much since today's retirees were students themselves, sitting in class and scribbling notes in cadence with a teacher's lecture. We've operated schools as if they were industrial factories, with one size fits all approaches to teaching and learning that resemble assembly line practices. In doing so, we are doing what we did 100 years ago  —  culling and sorting the more elite students and leaving the rest behind...."

Health

In her latest annual message, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation president Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, who in April will step down as head of the foundation, shares seven lessons she has learned about improving health in America.

Immigration

There are 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. — people living here without permission from the American government — and, as the New York Times' Vivian Yee, Kenan Davis, and Jugal K. Patel illustrate in this fact-based piece, they are not necessarily who you think they are.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 4-5, 2017)

March 06, 2017

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

Arts and Culture

"The right of artists and journalists to tweak the nose of power, to challenge what we believe, to criticize those in high places, to hold accountable people who otherwise might anoint themselves kings, cannot be abridged because we find it at times uncomfortable," writes Heinz Endowments president Grant Oliphant on the foundation's Point blog. And the "very real possibility that the tiny levels of federal spending for the NEA, NEH and CPB will be eliminated has...obviously nothing to do with balancing budgets or fiscal prudence. It is an attack, pure and simple, on independent and potentially critical voices. It is an expression of disdain for the magical ability of art and journalism to knit our country and its people back together again, and of cowardly antipathy toward those who dare speak unpleasant truths to power...."

Civil Society

Citing efforts to repeal the Johnson Amendment, proposed budget cuts to the IRS, pending anti-protest bills in at least sixteen states, the renewed drive to kill net neutrality, and other developments, Lucy Bernholz argues in a post on her Philanthropy 2173 that "[c]ivil society in the U.S. is being deliberately undermined" and that, just like current attacks on the press, these efforts "are both deliberate and purpose-built."

Education

In this Comcast Newsmaker video (running time, 5:09), Kresge Foundation president Rip Rapson discusses the drivers behind the foundation's early childhood work in Detroit.

Fundraising

Looking to hire a fundraising consultant? Consultant Aly Sterling has put together a nice presentation with a dozen "essential" tips for you to consider and keep in mind.

Giving

The folks at @Pay have the answers to your questions about online giving platforms.

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 25-26, 2017)

February 26, 2017

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

Oscar_statuette

African Americans

As Black History Month winds down, here are six facts about black Americans, courtesy of Pew Research, that everyone should be aware of.

Arts and Culture

The Trump administration has targeted the National Endowment for the Arts for elimination. In a piece for the Huffington Post, Mark McLaren, editor in chief of ZEALnyc, explains why that would be a disaster for communities across the country.

Civil Society

As an antidote to the "filter bubble" problem, the Aspen Institute's Citizenship & American Identity Program has launched an initiative, What Every American Should Know, that asks Americans to answer the question: "What do you think Americans should know to be civically and culturally literate?" Kimber Craine explains.

In a short but sobering post on her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz speculates that nonprofit groups and civic associations may have "already lost any digital space in which we can have private conversations."

Climate Change

"As the Trump administration prepares to launch what is shaping up as unprecedented assault on environmental regulations,...environmental groups are getting little help from their so-called partners in corporate America," writes Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther. "At a perilous moment for the environment, big business is mostly silent." Why won't American business push for action on climate? And why is it a big deal? Gunther explains.

Health

In a piece for the Kaiser Health News network, Julie Rovner reports that support among Americans for the Affordable Care Act is growing as the Republican-controlled Congress moves to repeal it.

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Do Bots Have a Role in Social Change?

February 23, 2017

ChatBotsIt's not every day you find yourself talking about sex with a chatbot named CiCi. But that's exactly the situation I found myself in a couple of weeks ago.

Chris Eigner, CEO of the digital product agency Epsilon Eight and the engineer behind CiCi, had asked me to test out the sex education bot before he released it publicly. While I'm usually an eager user of technologies in beta, I found myself feeling sheepish about talking to a bot about sex. So I decided to outsource the task to a friend, who had me ask CiCi a question about condoms. The bot's response was both mature and relevant: "There is nothing wrong with having sex so long as you are mature enough to handle the responsibilities and consequences."

Feeling like we were off to a good start, I decided to tell CiCi that I was "asking for a friend," just as one might in a conversation with a real person. CiCi's response was sweet: "You can't put a price on true friendship."

What may sound like a simple exchange was actually a remarkable experience. CiCi was capable of being simultaneously educational and personable. Interactions like this — casual, informative, bot-driven — increasingly will be part of our lives, and we should be careful not to underestimate how significant this development is likely to be for the future of social change efforts.

Despite calls for the sector to be more innovative, our field is a late adopter of new technologies. The ascendancy of bots represents a real opportunity for us to do better. Rather than delaying adoption, we can and should begin developing and using these tools at the same time as — not after — the usual early adopters.

But what does it mean to adopt chatbots as a tool for creating social change? And how can social change organizations use them to advance their cause in a time of political turmoil and resource constraints? Let's look at four valuable applications:

Fundraising growth. Interaction and automation are essential to scaling your fundraising efforts, and chatbots can take those efforts to a new level. charity: water has already launched a chatbot that allows supporters to engage with and donate to the organization via Facebook Messenger. Don't be surprised to see, in the not-too-distant future, other organizations scale their fundraising rapidly with one-click giving that enables anyone to donate to an organization like GLAAD simply by sending a rainbow emoji.

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Why We Make Free, Public Information More Accessible — and How You Can Help

February 17, 2017

An appeal from our IssueLab colleagues Gabi Fitz and Lisa Brooks.

File_folder_lockOne of the key roles the nonprofit sector plays in civil society is providing evidence about social problems and their solutions. Given recent changes to policies regarding the sharing of knowledge and evidence by federal agencies, that function is more critical than ever.

Nonprofits deliver more than direct services such as running food banks or providing shelter to people who are homeless. They also collect and share data, evidence, and lessons learned so as to help all of us understand complex and difficult problems.

Those efforts not only serve to illuminate and benchmark our most pressing social problems, they also inform the actions we take, whether at the individual, organizational, community, or policy level. Often, they provide the evidence in "evidence-based" decision making, not to mention the knowledge that social sector organizations and policy makers rely on when shaping their programs and services and individual citizens turn to inform their own engagement.

In January 2017, several U.S. government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture, were ordered by officials of the incoming Trump administration not to share anything that could be construed as controversial through official communication channels such as websites and social media channels. (See "Federal Agencies Told to Halt External Communications.") Against that backdrop, the nonprofit sector's interest in generating and sharing evidence has become more urgent than ever.

IssueLab's mission is to provide free and immediate access to the knowledge nonprofits and foundations produce about the world as it is — as well as the things individuals and organizations are doing to make it better. We know there's no such thing as a post-truth society, and we are committed to supporting nonprofits and foundations in their efforts to gather and disseminate facts and evidence.

Seeking Volunteer "Factivists"

Providing access to evidence and lessons learned is always important, but in light of recent events, we believe it's more necessary than ever. That's why we are asking for your help in providing — and preserving — access to this critical knowledge base.

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What We Learned From Our End-of-Year Fundraising Appeals

February 14, 2017

Year-end-fundraisingWe all know how important the final few months of the year are for nonprofits, many of which see up to 40 percent of their total yearly contributions come in between Thanksgiving and December 31. No surprise, then, that year after year I see nonprofits rushing to get their year-end campaigns out the door and into the hands (and in boxes) of donors. And every year, that mad, crazed rush makes me think of something Benjamin Franklin said: "You may delay, but time will not."

Most of us start each new year with the best of intentions and, if we happen to be in the fundraising game, the goal of starting our various campaigns early. But like a lot of things, especially during the busy holiday season, we often leave the necessary preparation to the last minute and, with time running out, end up falling back on what we've done in the past.

But now that the holidays are behind us and the data have been tallied, it's time to take a look at what worked, what didn't, and how we can improve. As an organization leader, you should start by asking some questions. Are our mailing lists out of date? Have we updated our messaging and graphics in the last few years? Have we tested out any new messaging? Are we getting donors to see the important role they play in the work we do? All are important questions — not just with respect to your year-end campaigns, but for your fundraising throughout the year.

Last year, my colleagues and I sent out more than 250,000 direct mail and email solicitations on behalf of clients. And even though the organizations we worked with had strong year-end results, we noticed a few trends that underscore how important year-end appeals are for nonprofits. With that in mind, here are five things, based on what we learned, that your organization can do to ensure year-end success in 2017:

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 11-12, 2017)

February 12, 2017

Abraham_Lincoln_O-77_matte_collodion_printOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Fundraising

If you believe measurement is key to the success of your fundraising program, writes HuffPo contributor Brady Josephson, then you really need to pay attention to these four metrics.

Giving

Did you know actor Kevin Bacon is the brains behind a website that links other celebrities to people and grassroots organizations doing good work. Inc.'s John Botinott has the story.

"Even after we've chosen our cause, a mere 3 percent of us base our gifts on the relative efficacy of nonprofit groups [working to address] that...cause." In a Q&A with Grid's Heather Shayne Blakeslee, ethicist Peter Singer (The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically) explains how we can do better.

Immigration

"Many in our region agree that parts of the immigration system must be improved to make the country more secure. But closing our borders to the terrorized in the name of preventing terror seems a step backward," writes Pittsburgh Foundation president Maxwell King. "And any policy that attempts to punish immigrants that are already part of the fabric of our society seems needlessly harsh. The vast majority of Americans want an immigration policy that effectively controls illegal immigration, but also allows for the appropriate levels of annual legal immigration that serve the needs of communities across the nation." We couldn't agree more.

In an essay in The Atlantic, David Blight, a professor of history at Yale University, suggests that "[o]ne place to begin to understand our long history with the controversies over immigration" is with Frederick Douglass, the most important African-American leader of the nineteenth century and "for nine years a fugitive slave everywhere he trod."

In a strong statement posted on the foundation's blog, San Francisco Foundation CEO Fred Blackwell pledges the foundation's support to immigrants and their families in the Bay Area, to constituencies targeted by Islamophobes, to grantees and nonprofit organizations on the front lines of the immigration battles to come, to faith leaders working to build bridges to and between immigrant communities, and to donors committed to just and fair inclusion for all residents of the Bay Area.

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Reluctant Rolodex Syndrome

February 08, 2017

Rolodex-67236How long has it been since you — or anybody you know, for that matter — used a Rolodex for anything other than to keep loose papers from sliding off the desk? And yet "Rolodex" continues to be one of the most widely used terms among development officers and fundraising consultants — not to mention one of the most anxiety-inducing words in the English language for nonprofit board members and major donors. How could it be that mere mention of a once-critical but today ignored office product — as in, “Can I count on you to open your Rolodex?”— can create both optimism and terror in the hearts of development professionals?

I kid, but most everybody reading this knows exactly what I mean. To the development professional, an organization’s most powerful fundraising asset is its pool of "true believers" — committed friends, board members, donors, and funding partners who are already convinced that the nonprofit’s mission, programs, and effectiveness are worthy of generous support. In a game where getting through the door is 90 percent of the challenge, common sense tells us that an introductory call from a friend will almost always be more effective than a cold call. Think of it this way: how many basketball players will launch a half-court shot when the defense has left the lane wide open for a layup? (Not you, Warriors fans.)

At the same time, many of us understand that our true believers aren't always eager to share the good word about an organization with others or are willing to go out of their way to extend an invitation to their friends and business associates to support — with their time, money, or both — a cause close to someone else’s heart.

Why is it that true believers are so often reluctant to share philanthropic good news with their friends and associates? And what can we, as development professionals, do to reduce their level of anxiety and nudge our board members and donors into opening their Rolodexes a little more readily?

With your indulgence, let me introduce you to a theory I call the Three Big Fears of Major Donors and Board Members — a theory that, in my opinion, goes a long way toward explaining what I call Reluctant Rolodex Syndrome.

Fear #1: The Fear of Being Asked to Solicit Money

It never ceases to amaze me how many people who routinely pitch multi-million-dollar investments to acquaintances or friends break out in a cold sweat when they’re asked to solicit those same acquaintances and friends for a $25,000 gift in support of remodeling a local homeless shelter, providing job training to displaced workers, or some other equally worthwhile cause. Shouldn"t it be the other way around? Shouldn't it be easier — much easier — to ask someone for an investment that benefits others in need than to ask them for an investment from which you and your partners personally hope to profit? Go figure.

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Sprinting in 2017

January 23, 2017

Sprint-technique2Come the New Year, the team here at Philanthropy News Digest tries to hit the ground running. This year we're gearing up for a sprint.

Not to get weedy about it, but for us that means we'll be dedicating more time than usual this month and next to making improvements to our website and workflow processes. In addition to posting lots of cool content on the blog, we'll continue to write up abstracts of the day's philanthropic news, post RFPs and jobs, conduct Q&As with sector leaders, and publish original commentary, book reviews, and articles from our many content partners. But during the sprint, we'll also be talking with our tech team about changes we'd like to make to the site.

That's where you come in. We need your input. We know what we like about the site, but we really want to know what you like — and don't — about it. Should we be doing more of something? Less of something? Is there something we're not doing that we should be doing? Features we used to publish that you miss? Has anything on the site outlived its usefulness?

Here are some other things we're curious about:

Do you open the newsletters and e-alerts we send you? If not, why not? When's the last time you visited the PND home page? Did you know the PND website has a searchable archive of more than twenty thousand news items dating back to the year 2000?

It's a big site with a lot of moving parts. We want to make it better. For you.

Leave your suggestions/feedback in the comments section below. Or email me, Matt Sinclair, at mws@foundationcenter.org.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

Weekend Link Roundup (January 21-22, 2017)

January 22, 2017

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

Advocacy

Whether we're talking about animal welfare, climate change, LGBT or women's issues, health care, or tax policy, the impact of advocacy is hard to measure — and that is a problem. Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther looks at what one nonprofit is doing to learn more about what it doesn't know.

Civil Society

The Obama Foundation is open for business.

Community Improvement

Zenobia Jeffries and Araz Hachadourian, contributors to Yes! magazine, continue their state-by-state exploration of community development solutions that prioritize racial justice.

Education

In Dissent, Joanne Barkan explains why Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos is the second coming of economist and free-market evangelist Milton Friedman.

Grantseeking

After introducing the FLAIL Scale, a tool that allows foundations to see whether or not their grantmaking process is needlessly irritating to grantseekers, NWB's Vu Le returns with the Grant Response Amateurism, Vexation, and Exasperation (GRAVE) Gauge, a list of the things "nonprofits do that make funders want to punch us in the jaws — or worse, not fund our programs."

Impact Investing

"With uncertainties about the next four years swirling, there is one safe prediction: Sustainability and climate change will not be high on the Trump administration’s priority list," writes Peter D. Henig, founder and managing partner of Greenhouse Capital Partners, on the Impact Alpha site. "If sustainability is to keep moving forward," he adds, "it's up to the private sector" to embrace the "opportunities [that] await mission-driven, impact-focused companies and investors."

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Designing Brand Experiences for Social Impact

January 19, 2017

Brand-experienceFocus and clarity are critical if brands hope to stand out in our message-saturated world. And for social change organizations, the challenge is even greater. When the message is about a better future, somewhere down the road, mission-driven brands must figure out ways to create a sense of urgency among their supporters to act now. Often, this means explaining concepts and ideas that can be difficult for people to understand. And even when the lift is big, organizations have to figure out ways to demonstrate tangible results and progress if they hope to sustain our engagement.

Fortunately, changes over the last few decades have provided brand designers with both an environment and the insights necessary to meet these challenges. The rise of networked technologies and digital communications, the maturation of the design field, and a recent awakening within many nonprofits about the value of their brand have combined to provide new opportunities to increase the effectiveness of the social change sector.

The challenge, then, is to understand the environment in which social change brands exist and apply this understanding to design solutions that offer the best chance to maximize your organization's impact.

The Rise of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector

It's no secret that the concept of brand has had a rough go of it in the nonprofit sector. Fortunately, more nonprofits are getting past their skepticism (if not outright resistance) to the idea and have been re-examining their relationship to "the B-word." By making smart adaptations to traditional business-centric principles, organizations like the Harvard Kennedy School, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Communications Network are helping to change the way people in the nonprofit sector think about the role of brand.

This new way of thinking, spelled out in Nathalie Laider-Kylander's and Julia Shephard Stenzel’s book The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy, and Affinity, is summarized in the book's introduction by Open Society Foundations president Christopher Stone: "A brand is a powerful expression of an organization's mission and value that can help engineer collaborations and partnerships that better enable it to fulfill its mission and deepen impact, and [is] a strategic asset essential to the success of the organization itself."

CCD_Fig1

Understood this way, a social change organization's brand is far more than just compelling messages and visuals. It's the ideas, expertise, relationships, resources, and experiences embedded in the organization's DNA, and as such it shapes organizational culture by bringing people together around a shared vision to create shared value.

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Time for Nonprofits to Step Up and Make America Good Again

January 17, 2017

NonprofitsassociationsAlthough many Americans are skeptical of Donald Trump's ability to handle his presidential duties, a majority believe he is competent to be president. Nevertheless, the charitable sector should be concerned about what his presidency could mean for nonprofit organizations — and perhaps democracy itself.

The incoming administration has claimed an electoral mandate based on false assertions of massive voter fraud. In reality, Trump lost the popular vote by more than 2 percent — over 2.9 million votes. And he owes his Electoral College victory to 75,000 votes spread across just three states: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

It's important to remember these facts as the country prepares itself for an onslaught of executive orders and regressive policy initiatives likely to come out of the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress. Needless to say, many of those initiatives will belie the core values and progressive goals of the philanthropic community.

We know that a majority of Americans support some of President-elect Trump's proposals, including lower and simpler taxes for the middle class; more spending on infrastructure, the military, and veterans' services; and term limits and new ethics rules for members of Congress (although Congress itself opposes the last two).

We also know that most Americans are opposed to Trump's proposals to lower taxes on high-income Americans, build a wall on the border with Mexico (even before Congress said it would cost taxpayers billions of dollars), and deport illegal immigrants without offering them a pathway to citizenship, as well as his preference for fossil fuels over renewable energy sources.

Furthermore, unlike the president-elect and Congress, most Americans want to see Obamacare improved, not repealed and replaced. They want to see government regulations improved, not weakened or eliminated. And while they believe small businesses pay too much tax, they believe corporations pay too little.

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    — Margaret Mead (1901-1978)

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