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6 posts from June 2019

Creating a Donor Stewardship Plan: 3 Best Practices

June 17, 2019

Istockphoto-500174600-612x612A common fundraising mistake made by many nonprofits is to put so much emphasis on acquiring new donors that they forget to pay attention to the donors they already have.

Do not allow donor stewardship — the process by which an organization builds strong, healthy relationships with existing donors long after their initial donations have been received — to become an afterthought. Effective donor stewardship is all about turning first-time donors into loyal, recurring donors and is essential to keeping your donor retention rate where it should be.

Sounds simple. And it is, if you keep these best practices in mind as you sit down to develop a donor stewardship strategy:

  1. Understand and use your donor data effectively.
  2. Make it easy for your donors to leverage the impact of their gifts.
  3. Publicly thank your donors for all they do.

Let's take a closer look:

1. Understand and use your donor data. Donor data can be overwhelming and cause lots of people lots of stress if it isn't collected regularly and with an eye to how it is going to be used. But when done properly, data analytics can help you understand who your donors are, when they are most likely to give, and what kind of appeal they are most likely to respond to.

Your data should do three things:

  • Provide you with basic knowledge about your donors (e.g., name, age, location, marital status, profession, the things that excite them about your organization, other organizations they support, etc.)
  • Capture their giving/communications preferences (e.g., preferred donation amount/range, preferred giving frequency, preferred communications channels/frequency, etc.).
  • Give you an idea of their capacity to give (e.g., net worth)

(To learn more about donor analytics and the importance of using donor data properly, see our prievous post. And to learn more about what motivates giving behavior and how you can use that knowledge to increase your donor retention, check out this study from OneCause.)

Knowing who your donors are is the first step in cultivating strong, lasting donor relationships and allows you to meet them on their terms.

The next step? Contact each of your donors and try to engage them in a conversation about:

  • the impact of their previous gift
  • the importance of your cause
  • what your organization could do with more resources
  • the possibility of furthering their engagement with your organization

Your donor data, when used effectively, can greatly enhance your ability to engage your donors, improve your fundraising results, and boost your donor retention rate.

2. Make it easy for your donors to leverage the impact of their gifts. Your nonprofit is sustained by the generosity of its donors. To ensure that each donation has the greatest possible impact and leads to recurring donations, you should seek out and promote corporate matches (in which a company or corporation agrees to matches the donations of its employees to your organization). Corporate matching campaigns amplify the impact of donors’ gifts with minimal effort on your part and no additional monetary contribution on the part of donors.

To simplify the matching-gift process for donors:

  • make sure any and all "Donate" buttons on your website are prominently displayed and work seamlessly.
  • provide a matching gift database search tool like 360MatchPro so that donors can search for their employer and the details of the company's matching gift program (if they have one), including minimum and maximum match amounts and the match ratio; employee eligibility criteria (full-time, part-time, and/or retired); organization eligibility criteria; and in-kind employee volunteer information (if any).
  • the database should also provide information on how to submit required matching-gift forms to the donor's employer. Because more than 80 percent of matching-gift forms are submitted online, a donor should be able to seamlessly complete this task as s/he is making a donation. His/her employer will then review the form, confirm the employee's donation with your nonprofit — and send you a check!

Encouraging matching gifts enables you to engage your donors in a way that benefits all parties involved. Your donors will love that they were able to leverage the impact of their donation to your organization, which, in turn, will deepen their commitment to and sustained engagement with your work. And companies with matching-gift programs will be grateful that their charitable contribution(s) supported a cause near and dear to a valued employee's heart.

One other thing: Be sure to follow up with donors after they've made a donation and suggest they consider having their donation matched by their employer. It's a good way to extend your relationship with them, and it’s a great way to improve your donor retention rate.

3. Publicly thank your donors for all they do. Do you know the secret to motivating donors to stay engaged? It's pretty simple and starts with "Thank you." Everyone wants to feel appreciated and valued for their efforts, and donors are no different. In fact, your donors will be exponentially more likely to give to your organization on a recurring basis if you take the time to thank them for their donations.

There are many ways to do that, including:

Online: You can display your gratitude online in two ways: in an email and on your website. Make sure your online donation process includes an automated thank-you email to donors when a donation has been completed, but don't stop there. Your organization should have an email newsletter (monthly, quarterly) that you can use to express your gratitude for your donors and tell them, in compelling fashion, what you’ve been able to accomplish with their support. In addition, your website should include a donor spotlight feature where you highlight the contributions of loyal donors.

In person: Galas and other in-person fundraising events are the perfect opportunity to really connect with your donors with a personal "thank you." Never underestimate the value of looking a donor in the eye, shaking his or her hand, and telling them their donation really made a difference. Donors will be much more likely to donate again if they hear from the horse's mouth, as it were, that good work is being done and their donations are helping to make that work possible.

In public: Public recognition of your donors on a wall or plaque is a great way to show them you value your relationship with them. When doing so, be sure to display the name of the fundraising campaign, the donor's name, the gift amount or range, and the season and year in which the donation was made (e.g., spring 2019). This type of thank you not only shows your organization's appreciation for its donors, it also will inspire others to give.

Your donors are one of your nonprofit's most valuable resources, and donor stewardship is essential to the success of your organization's fundraising. Demonstrating your gratitude is an excellent way to guarantee your organization maintains a relationship with them over the long haul.

Got any other tips or advice for nonprofits looking to develop an effective donor stewardship strategy and improve their retention rates? We’d love to hear him.

Headshot_adam_weingerAdam Weinger is president of Double the Donation, a provider of tools that help nonprofits raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs.

Youth Apprenticeship: Accelerating a Path to College and Career Success 

June 13, 2019

MachineapprenticeWe seem to have reached a consensus that, in today's economy, it's nearly impossible to secure a quality job and get on the path to economic stability without postsecondary education. But the reality of student loan debt and surveys which show college graduates don’t feel prepared for their career of choice challenges the narrative that a successful future is intrinsically linked to a college degree.

Reality is also hitting employers' bottom lines as businesses of all sizes and in a variety of fields, including information technology, manufacturing, finance, and healthcare, struggle to fill good-paying positions. The pipeline that used to lead young people through high school and, ultimately, to the skills needed to secure those jobs is broken — and it might not have ever worked equitably, anyway.

It's clear our country needs additional, widely accessible postsecondary options that provide young people with the foundational skills, experiences, and credentials they need to thrive in a rapidly changing economy.

K-12 systems, institutions of higher education, and industries alike have been searching for solutions that reflect the current and future state of work, with little success. For decades, philanthropy has been investing to improve educational outcomes and college access, and it, too, recognizes that new approaches are needed, and fast.

That's why we funded the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA), a multi-stakeholder New America-led initiative to promote more equitable and sustainable pathways to economic mobility. PAYA aims to do this by partnering with educators and employers to build more scalable long-term solutions that have been proven to help youth acquire the skills they need to navigate the rapidly changing world of work.

Youth apprenticeship aligns the needs of young people with the talent needs of employers. It builds on what is working in K-12, higher education, and work-based learning. Young people earn a high school diploma, gain paid real-world work experience, and earn college credit and credentials, at no cost to them or their families.

Far from an alternative to college, these programs can be a direct and less costly route through college, expanding rather than limiting students' future options. Apprenticeships can expand career options and economic opportunity for young people of color and others for whom it's mostly out of reach. Apprenticeship also keeps youth engaged in school and the workplace while earning a wage.

There is growing evidence that paid work experience really matters, especially for youth from underresourced communities. A recent analysis by the Brookings Institution and Child Trends underscores the importance of paid work-experience in connecting students to mentors and networks early in their careers, setting them on a path to long-term success.

We know we're onto something. In March 2019 we issued an RFP for PAYA's high-quality youth apprenticeship grants and received more than two hundred applications from forty-nine states and Puerto Rico. We have been floored by the response from states, cities, and regions across the country that have expressed real interest in launching or expanding youth apprenticeship programs.

In May 2019, PAYA awarded nearly $1.2 million in initial grants to expand pathways for high-school age youth to succeed in college and the workforce. The grants will support local employers, educators, community partners, and policy leaders who are working to build high-quality youth apprenticeship programs that promote inclusive economic development and create new opportunities for young people. By connecting these innovators, we hope to capture and disseminate best practices for students, employers, and communities that help them dramatically accelerate the pace of implementation.

We see youth apprenticeship as a rare and promising combination of the past and the future. Reinvented to address student disengagement, the need for greater diversity, and accountability to low-income students and students of color, youth apprenticeship deserves support from private funders, governments, and industry. As funders and believers in finding solutions to our ongoing struggle to provide educational and economic opportunity, we're planting a flag and invite others to join us in the cause.

This post represents the views of funders of the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship, which include Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Ballmer Group, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and the Siemens Foundation. To learn more about the initiative, see the PAYA website.

The Essential Guide to Modernizing Your Fundraising

June 11, 2019

NonProfit-Online-FundraisingIf you've been feeling stuck with fundraising strategies that don't quite seem to cut it anymore, you're not alone. Just as our technologies require periodic updates, so, too, do our broader fundraising strategies.

Nonprofit organizations of all sizes generally run a tight ship. Insufficient budgets and high-intensity campaigns mean that most nonprofits like to stick with what has worked in the past. But a lot can change, relatively quickly, in the fundraising world.

For example, look at telethons or cold calling; they were once reliable fundraising tactics for organizations of all kinds. But today, millennial and Gen Z donors tend to not even bother answering calls from unknown numbers, and why should they? Non-urgent communication has almost completely shifted to email and text messaging.

The point? Your nonprofit's fundraising strategies have to keep pace with constantly changing technologies and donor preferences — even when the prospect of investing precious time and resources in new tools is enough to ruin your week.

At DNL OmniMedia, we help nonprofits make the most of their digital assets. Regardless of which part of your fundraising strategy could use an upgrade, there are always steps your organization can take to improve its ability to both raise money and engage donors. And sometimes the steps are simple.

Let's take a closer look at some of them.

Conducting a Strategy Check-Up

This is the essential first step in the process and should precede any changes you decide to make to your fundraising strategy. Basically, you need to understand what you need to improve and why.

Take a comprehensive look at your current fundraising strategy, including all the different elements that go into it:

  • Current fundraising strategy. ;What types of campaigns do you conduct year after year? Which ones do your donors respond to — and which ones do they ignore? Is there a type of campaign you think you should be conducting but haven't had the time to explore or research?
  • Goals and necessities. Take a look at your bottom line. What's your budget for tech upgrades? Is there a specific goal you need to achieve, like growing your donor base by a certain percentage or retaining a certain share of donors?
  • Fundraising toolkit. What tools do you already have at your disposal? Have you been making good use of them? Is there anything you're not using but should? Is there anything you can afford to do without?
  • Available resources. What kind of support resources are available? If you're using a Blackbaud platform, for instance, have you already made yourself familiar with Blackbaud support and training resources? Or, if you've worked with a consultant or agency in the past, have you inquired about a fundraising assessment?

The main idea at this stage is to take a careful look at the tactics and tools you've already got in place. Rely on your donor data to identify those that most successfully engage donors and boost revenue.

This will help focus your attention on what needs improvement and enable you to begin to prioritize the various elements of your strategy. It also will make it harder for your team to waste time, energy, and money on things not on the list.

Upgrading Your Tech Toolkit

Chances are pretty good that new technology is going to play a big role in your efforts to modernize your organization's fundraising strategy. Tech updates come in all shapes and sizes, from simple add-ons to complete overhauls and system redesigns. Again, that's why it is so important to take the time to really understand your needs (or work with an expert who can help you understand them) before researching new products.

No matter how elaborate or costly the tech updates you hope to make, there's a fairly standard process you should follow, from initial research to final implementation. Let's walk through the steps:

1. Recruit a team. While it may seem unnecessary for small organizations interested in making minor technology updates to get more than one person involved, getting multiple perspectives, even for the simplest upgrade, is essential. At a minimum, the organization's director or a board member and key staff members whose day-to-day work will be affected should be involved. For larger-scale projects, the team also should include a consultant and additional stakeholders, as needed.

2. Evaluate your existing toolkit. Focus specifically on your toolkit. Make a list of all the software and Web-based tools your organization uses in its fundraising. Next, list the pros and cons of each tool and piece of software and have members of the team (ex board members) rate them on a scale of 1 to 5 with respect to their effectiveness, ease of use, etc. After you've compiled the ratings and feedback from every team member, you should have a good idea of the state of your toolkit.

3. Define your priorities. With a better understanding of the weak links in your existing systems and toolkit, you can use the ratings to set priorities for needed upgrades. Tools or platforms that were rated poorly across all categories or those that are impacting a team member's ability to do his or her job should be moved to the top of the upgrade list.

Your list of priorities should be informed both by the organizational pain points you've identified and your fundraising goals. Say your donation software does a good job of processing donations but your conversion rate is low. Improving your conversion rate should definitely be an upgrade priority — especially if a member of the team can recommend a tool with features that specifically support that goal.

4. Define your needs and make a budget. Take your list of priorities and start jotting down what is entailed in each one. The list should include things like:

  • the purchase of new hardware, software, or other digital service
  • custom development or configuration by a tech consultant
  • training resources for staff who'll be using the new tools

Next, outline the time and resources your organization is able to devote to the upgrades.

You may find your needs are more complicated than initially expected based on your list of core priorities. For example, if your top priority is to switch to a more advanced CRM, you may find that some of the other tools you depend on don't integrate with newer products or cloud-based services. In that case, you'll need to work with a tech consultant who can help you identify a CRM that works with your existing tools and can help with the integrations.

5. Begin researching vendors. Your team should split up the work of researching vendors for the new tools you plan to purchase. Use your list of priorities and budget as a guide, and pay close attention to any integrations or unique features you'll need. This is also the stage when you should determine whether and how much support you'll need from a tech consultant.

6. Develop a timeline and think about training. Once your decisions about software purchases, vendors, and consultants have been finalized, it's time to develop an implementation timeline. This step is crucial and should not be overlooked.

Without a carefully developed timeline and clearly defined roles for each member of the team, even the simplest project can quickly go off the rails. We recommend that you start the timeline process by settling on a hard end-date. Then work backward to establish milestones and check-in dates along the way.

Don't forget to include training in your timeline. And remember: your staff will need a reasonable period of time to get up and running on the new system before you can realistically expect to see improvement.

7. Finalize your plans. You're almost there! Before you "flip the switch" on the new system, you'll probably want to compile all the steps, decisions, and insights you generated during the process into a single document that team members can refer to as needed. Your board may also want to read through the document before giving their final approval.

Once all that is done, there are still a few things you may want to consider. Make sure you've established metrics and/or a system to measure your progress and success. If you haven't already done so, this is also a good time to begin applying for grant funding. (A comprehensive final document can be a great springboard for a compelling application!)

Putting It Into Action

Taking care of the technical aspects of your project is just half the challenge. Next, you'll need to put all those tech upgrades and improvements into action by matching them with updated fundraising strategies.

It can be tricky to figure out where to start. Try framing the question this way: Where do technology and fundraising intersect? Answer: In the big-picture strategies that determine how you use tech to support your fundraising efforts, including online fundraising, data management, and digital marketing.

We've put together a comprehensive guide designed to help you develop a new digital strategy for your nonprofit. Here's the boiled-down version:

  1. Establish your goals. These should be your bigger, overarching fundraising and donor engagement goals rather than the more specific tech goals discussed above.
  2. Identify your audience. Review your engagement data and think carefully about your donor base before you begin to outline a strategy you think they'll respond to.
  3. Define your constraints. These include things like budgets, deadlines, and other projects.
  4. Equip your team. This step essentially refers to the whole process we outlined in the "Upgrading Your Tech Toolkit" section above.
  5. Craft a communication plan. Think about your marketing channels, identify key spots through which you can funnel donors, and consider how your tech tools, new and old, can support each other.
  6. Test your infrastructure. Make sure you've got the tech infrastructure that donors will be interacting with in place, and make sure it is reporting engagement data properly.
  7. Measure your success. Conduct frequent check-ins to see how your new and improved strategies are working. And don't be afraid to make adjustments in real time.

For examples of a robust, comprehensive digital fundraising strategy that encompasses both tech and marketing, think about your favorite peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. Such campaigns regularly put nonprofits to the test because they involve so many complex online and offline elements that need to build off of one another.

As you get started on modernizing your fundraising strategies, remember that such a project usually has two aspects: big-picture changes and specific upgrades. For example, you may decide that the key to boosting your donor retention numbers is to focus more on listening to and sharing donor stories. This is an example of big-picture change that can really deepen your engagement with your donors. And the flipside is making sure you've got the tools and communications strategies to support it.

A final tip: When it comes to modernizing your fundraising technology and strategies, you want to be sure to build in enough time for planning, researching new vendors, and finding and vetting consultants. Trying to do it quickly or on the cheap inevitably will lead to disappointment.

Remember, implementing new tech doesn't have to be a terrifying prospect for your organization. As with any other challenge, you'll find that breaking it down into manageable parts and steps goes a very long way. After all, nothing's as important for your nonprofit than its ability to engage with donors and translate those relationships into needed financial support.

Headshot_carl_diesing_for_philantopicCarl Diesing is co-founder and managing director of DNL OmniMediawhere he works with nonprofits to strengthen their fundraising and build their capacity to drive social change.

Advancing Child Welfare's New Imperative: Ensuring a Stable, Loving Home for Every Child

June 10, 2019

HLT01819During the early 2000s, the number of international adoptions reached unprecedented levels. At the same time, a number of high-profile celebrities adopted children born overseas, raising the visibility of a pathway that has provided loving, permanent homes to thousands of children since the 1950s.

In the years since, international adoption numbers have fallen
82 percent, with just 4,059 children joining families in the United States in 2018, according to a U.S. State Department report.

A host of complex factors have contributed to the decline. These range from the implementation of initiatives to help children remain with their birth families and increased domestic adoption in some countries, to changes in adoptive family eligibility in others. Some countries have closed their international adoption programs due to concerns about unethical practices — or for reasons of politics. In many cases, however, the process has simply become too difficult or costly for families seeking to adopt a child from overseas.

For children waiting for families, this is a devastating trend.

Across the globe, millions of children are growing up in overcrowded, underfunded orphanages. Many have never experienced the love and nurturing care of a devoted parent or caregiver. And many have special medical or developmental needs — needs that too often go unmet.

To truly meet the needs of children growing up without families, adoption agencies must take a broader and more comprehensive approach to child welfare — an approach that upholds international adoption as one proven way for children to experience the love, stability, and sense of belonging every child deserves. But not the only way.

Moving forward, there are three things agencies can do to ensure a stable, loving home for every child:

Champion efforts to strengthen, preserve, and reunite birth families. Far too often in the developing world, children end up in orphanages for one simple reason: poverty. These children are not orphans. In many cases, they have at least one living parent or family member who would care for them if only they had sufficient resources. Before ever considering adoption, every agency working in the field should have an ethical obligation to first explore the possibility of reuniting a child with his or her immediate or extended family. Agencies should also launch efforts to strengthen and keep families together so that children don't have to be placed in orphanages. By growing their philanthropic support, agencies can broaden their child welfare services and empower parents with the support and resources they need — things like job skills training, small business microloans, and low-cost day care — to become self-reliant and equipped to take care of their own children.

Advocate for in-country adoption. Leaders of adoption agencies must create an infrastructure for in-country adoption similar to the infrastructure and efforts they've created for international adoption. In-country adoption is advantageous for children for a number of reasons. In addition to receiving all the benefits of growing up in a nurturing family, children adopted domestically remain grounded in the cultural traditions of their place of birth. In every country where they facilitate international adoption, agencies should also establish initiatives and provide resources aimed at raising awareness about in-country adoption programs, conduct outreach, and coordinate efforts to find, vet, and prepare prospective adoptive parents. In countries that do not have an established system for in-country adoption, agencies should work with local governments to create one.

Remove barriers to international adoption. In communities across the U.S., families have come forward ready to open their hearts and homes to children who need a family. According to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, 81.5 million Americans have considered adopting a child at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, few American families actually adopt. A study by the foundation cited the cost of adoption and restrictions put in place by countries overseas as the main factors preventing Americans from adopting. Where they can, therefore, agencies must work to remove barriers to adoption and advocate for policy changes at home and abroad. They must also work to make adoption more affordable by growing philanthropic support for adoption, encouraging employers to help cover the cost of adoption, and championing legislation that helps reimburse families who adopt.

International adoption must remain a viable option for children who cannot remain with their birth families. But to truly serve the best interests and needs of children, organizations focused solely on international adoption must evolve. Now is the time to embrace a more comprehensive approach to child welfare.

Headshot_phillip_littleton_for_philantopicPhillip Littleton is president and CEO of Holt International and has led the organization's efforts to expand its services as a child welfare organization, nearly doubling, over five years, the number of children and families served. Littleton has also helped expand Holt's post-adoption services and strengthened its efforts to advocate for child welfare standards and adoptee rights in the U.S. and abroad.

5 Questions for...Tanya Coke, Director, Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice, Ford Foundation

June 05, 2019

Tanya Coke has been involved in issues of criminal justice, mass incarceration, and immigration for more than thirty years. First as a researcher at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, then as a trial attorney in the Legal Aid Society‘s Federal Defender Division, and now as director of Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice at the Ford Foundation, Coke has been actively engaged in public interest law and social justice issues and, at Ford, leads a team focused on harnessing the resources and commitment needed to combat inequality based on gender, race, class, disability, and ethnicity.

PND spoke with Coke about the foundation’s efforts to reduce the U.S. prison population, decouple the criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems, and protect a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

Headshot_tanya_cokePhilanthropy News Digest: Your work with the Legal Aid Society, the Open Society Institute, and the U.S. Human Rights Fund has given you the kind of frontline exposure to the criminal justice system that few people ever get. You've said you hope to use your platform at the Ford Foundation to help reduce the U.S. prison population by 20 percent by 2022. What makes you believe that goal is achievable? And what kinds of things can the foundation do over the next few years to make that goal a reality?

Tanya Coke: When I began researching criminal justice issues in the late 1980s, politicians from both parties were falling over themselves to out-tough the other on crime. It is widely believed that Michael Dukakis lost the 1988 election over a flubbed debate answer over whether he would consider the death penalty if his wife were raped. It would have been hard to imagine back then that presidential candidates in 2020 would be competing to see who has the most progressive criminal justice reform platform.

That gives me hope and makes me believe we can make significant progress in taming the beast that is mass incarceration in America. Bipartisan momentum for reform is happening because of a confluence of several factors: low crime rates, tight state budgets, and a much greater understanding of how mass incarceration has decimated families and communities and made us all less safe. It is not a window that will remain open forever, however, so while it is open we have to work harder and more effectively to change not just minds about what we're doing but also hearts. That requires narrative change. It requires smart policy advocacy. And it requires more organizing in communities that are most impacted by mass incarceration.

The other thing that makes me feel optimistic is that we have seen prison populations in states like California, New York, and New Jersey drop by more than 30 percent in recent years, and in the past two years we've seen incarceration rates drop by more than 10 percent in very conservative states like Louisiana and Oklahoma. That gives me confidence we can achieve significant reductions in the incarceration rate in other states as well.

But it's not enough to focus on state prison populations. We also have to look at what’s happening in local jails, where people typically serve sentences of less than a year. While state prison populations are coming down, jail populations in many places are rising. To address the situation, we've been focusing on bail reform. Bail needlessly leads to the incarceration of people who shouldn’t be in jail, particularly poor people who don't have the wherewithal to pay cash bail. We're seeing growing awareness of that fact and momentum building across the country to do something about it. Another example is our work to effect broader change in the usual narratives about crime and criminal justice. That work takes the form of support for journalism projects, partnerships with Hollywood, and efforts to leverage other kinds of storytelling platforms, with a focus on trying to re-humanize people who are in the system and imagining a different approach to public safety.

PND: Many people have come to see the criminal justice system in the U.S. as an institutional manifestation of white supremacy. Is that an accurate characterization? And where are we as a society in terms of identifying and dismantling structural barriers to real racial equity and justice?

TC: That is the real work. There is no question that mass incarceration is driven by structural racism. To some degree it was set off by rising crime rates in the 1980s, but more than anything it has been powered by racial fear and a deep-seated instinct toward racial control of surplus labor. In my opinion, mass incarceration would not have been possible during the era of slavery because black bodies were too valuable as property in the South to let them sit idle in jail. Mass incarceration also was not possible in the 1940s or 1950s, the heyday of American manufacturing, again because black labor was needed to keep the auto factories and steel mills humming. But mass incarceration does become possible in the 1980s, after many of those manufacturing jobs had been shipped overseas and, suddenly, lots of people in black communities were forced into the underground economy of drug selling, which in turn led to a heightened, racialized fear of crime. Mass incarceration was a response not only to the advances of the civil rights movement, but also to the hollowing out of industries that employed blacks, and the racial fears that both spawned. In general, police are not comfortable with idle black men on street corners, and that fact accelerated the instinct to warehouse them in prison.

You have only to look at the difference in per capita incarceration rates in heavily black states like Louisiana, where eight hundred people per hundred thousand are incarcerated, and a homogeneous, largely white state like Vermont, where the rate is three hundred people per hundred thousand. Vermont is a state heavily affected by the opioid abuse epidemic, and yet it has made the choice not to incarcerate drug users or sellers at anything like the rate that prevails in states with large black populations such as Louisiana or Mississippi. Vermont is more inclined to treat opiod abuse as a public health problem.

In general, I think our field has not thought enough about the relationship between criminal justice, the control of labor, and the many ways in which black people in the United States have, in effect, become surplus labor. This has implications for social control as well as the rise of corporate interests that are profiting from mass incarceration. It's an under-studied area, and one where we need more research and advocacy to ensure that vulnerable people are reintegrated in a meaningful way into the economy.

PND: How has the current political environment complicated your efforts to address abuses in the criminal justice system with respect to immigrants?

TC: The Trump administration's attack on all forms of immigration, legal and otherwise, has meant that many of our grantees have had to expend an enormous amount of time and energy in defense of their clients and constituents. From the Muslim ban to separating children from their parents at the border, the administration's aim is to sow chaos and confusion. And our grantees have had to respond both on the ground and at the policy level. That said, there's also a pretty broad consensus among people on both sides of the debate that our current immigration system is broken.

PND: What would a reasonable, realistic immigration policy for the United States look like?

TC: I'll leave the details of that to the experts. But overall, we would like to see a system that recognizes the humanity of migrants and refugees and treats them with compassion. We'd like to see a system that recognizes that people do not lose their rights or dignity because they're fleeing persecution or seeking a better life for their families. And we expect that our country eventually will move toward a system that comports more closely with its values, as well as with the reality that our economy needs the labor and ingenuity of immigrants.

In the meantime, we're focusing on one aspect of the system that is especially harmful and where we see potential for change: the criminalization of immigration. We want to see the criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems decoupled. For nearly a century, immigration in this country has been a civil matter and largely a matter of labor demand. But over the past few years, the federal government and nativist forces have turned immigration into a criminal matter. We're criminally prosecuting people for simply crossing the border or seeking asylum, and we're doing it in ways that are excessively punitive — even though we already have a civil court system that addresses immigration violations. Illegal entry has become the most prosecuted crime in the entire federal system, and we're talking about people with no charges or criminal convictions, other than gaining entry to the U.S. without proper authorization.

We and our grantees strongly believe that local police should not be in the business of enforcing federal immigration law. It damages police-community relations, it leads to racial profiling, and it makes communities less safe by deterring immigrants from seeking police protection and emboldening those who victimize them. So we are working to try to make immigration enforcement systems more accountable and subject to greater oversight. At the moment, more dollars are spent on immigration enforcement than on all other federal enforcement activities combined. We want to make sure those dollars are well spent, and that there is a mechanism to hold agencies accountable when violations occur.

PND: Several states in the South and the Midwest have recently passed so-called "fetal heartbeat" bills that, if they survive a court challenge, will effectively eliminate a woman's right to an abortion in those states. Are those bills — and the broader effort to re-litigate a woman's right to choose — something the foundation is paying attention to? And what would you say to women who are alarmed by those legislative efforts?

TC: Yes, absolutely we're paying attention. In fact, in the last several years we have made reproductive freedom the center of our portfolio in anticipation of the kind of legislation we're seeing now. Women across the country have good reason to be alarmed, even though these laws will be challenged in court. In fact, we anticipate that a case challenging the constitutionality of a woman's right to choose will make it to the Supreme Court within the next twelve months.

What we're seeing is the culmination of many years of work by anti-abortion forces to chip away at women's reproductive rights. In many states today, there is only a single abortion clinic left, so while women might have a constitutional right to abortion in principle, they have little or no access to abortion services in reality. And what we're seeing with this latest slate of bills is making de jure what already is a de facto loss of rights for women.

Of course, poor women, especially poor women of color, will be most affected by a ban on abortion — both in terms of a denial of access to abortion services and the criminalization of women and doctors who seek or provide them. In this moment of crisis, we've been working more closely with other funders to align our giving and strategy in high-need states. It's important at this critical moment to strike the right balance between directing funds to organizations that are focused on women of color, organizations like Women with a Vision in Louisiana and Southerners on New Ground in Georgia, and that are on the frontline of some of these battles and national litigation, and policy shops like the ACLUPlanned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights.

But we also need broader mobilization efforts that embolden ordinary women and men to speak up. We need to hear from the millions of women who've had abortions, whose daughters have sought an abortion, as well as the men who, with their partners, were able to postpone having a family until they were ready. The anti-abortion forces have turned what is a private decision into a cultural issue and stigmatized it. Yet more than 60 percent of Americans support the right to safe and legal abortion. And a significant part of our work over the next few years will be focused on making it safe for people to say so.

 Matt Sinclair

 

Giving Voice to Your Supporters

June 03, 2019

Giving_voiceIn their desire to give voice to the vulnerable and underserved in society, most cause-driven organizations fail to include their supporters in the equation. By failing to do so, they are denying others a golden opportunity to see themselves in the same light.

A few years ago, an agency for pregnant women/healthy newborns came to us for help with a fundraising campaign. The agency's volunteers visit pregnant women in their homes to teach them about prenatal care and how to take care of a newborn. The agency's typical supporter is someone who wants to give babies a healthy, safe start in life.

At the same time, the agency was committed to a program focused on fathers-to-be. Nowhere in the program materials was there recognition or an acknowledgment of how invested the agency's volunteers were in giving babies a healthy, safe start in life or, indeed, any mention of the volunteers who were lending their time and experience to reassure and help pregnant women who often have no one they can turn to for help.

Not surprisingly, the overall campaign was not as successful as it could have been. Potential supporters who might have seen themselves as "people who think every baby deserves a chance at a healthy beginning" instead heard "we are an organization that wants to help men be good fathers." Both sentiments are laudable, but only one truly resonated with the agency’s most important constituency.

If you've been reading my articles here on PhilanTopic, you know how important I think it is for supporters and potential supporters of a cause to know that others believe in the same cause and are actively doing something to advance it. The reinforcement of belief is a powerful factor in deepening an individual's involvement in a cause or issue and in creating a powerful sense of identity among a group of like-minded people.

One organization that is especially good at acknowledging the shared identity of its supporters is the Surfrider Foundation. Surfrider refers to its supporters as "Champions of Surf and Sand" and praises them as "a community of everyday people who passionately protect our playground the ocean, waves and beaches that provide us with so much enjoyment."

Consider this recent message from the organization:

Over 30 Surfrider Chapters participated in #HandsAcrossTheSand events — joining thousands of activists around the world in saying ‘NO’ to offshore drilling and ‘YES’ to clean energy.

The identity of the Surfrider community is unambiguous and empowering:

We're people who love and want to actively protect the oceans and beaches. When we band together and fight, we win. We are stronger together.

The appeal of such language is irresistible to someone who is passionate about the issue of ocean conservation. And it's effective because it comes directly out of the experience of the organization’s supporters, rather than from the organization's CEO or development director.

I've said many times that sharing authentic, compelling stories about the people who benefit from the actions we take is at the heart of every successful movement. I stand by that statement. However, most organizations focus their energies on telling stories as a lead-up to an ask or financial transaction and neglect to include messaging around supporter identity.

Your messaging should play a dual role: articulate purpose and give voice. Purpose in narrative makes it clear what supporters can do and why they should do it. Voice captures who and what they believe in, in stories that resonate because they see themselves in those stories.

In taking such an approach, we put supporters at the heart of our cause or issue. We show them that they are not alone in their passion and enthusiasm. We enable them to talk to each other about what they have done as a collective (as in the Surfrider example). Such an approach reinforces the beliefs of like-minded people, encourages them to openly share those beliefs, and gives them opportunities and the tools to connect with others.

Calls to action are necessary, of course. But in between appeals, your need to help your supporters maintain their enthusiasm for your cause or issue by speaking to and highlighting those who support it. They're the people who build movements.

Here some examples:

  • "Volunteers registered more than 5,000 new voters in April. This is what we do: We give people a voice to fight for change."
  • "The oceans and beaches are where we live and play, but plastic has pushed us into crisis. We give 10,000 hours each year to cleaning them up."
  • "Each one of us has signed the pledge to change the way we eat and shop for food."

This is how supporters, not your cause or organization, become identified with a cause. Here are a few other tips:

1. Listen to your supporters and then share with them what they told you. You'll never be as effective as you can be if you don't know what motivates your supporters. Listen to what they have to say and then create personas that capture the different motivations of the people who believe in and support your cause (and not just financially). Using those personas, you can then engage them to serve as storytellers on your behalf.

2. Capture and share images of your supporters in all your messaging. Marketing, calls to action, social media activity, and any other type of communications activity should include photos and (when possible) video of a diverse cross-section of your supporters.

3. When you don't have anything new to share, share stories of people engaged in the cause. As you're creating your organization's narrative and voice, be sure to tap into and share the stories of those most deeply committed to and engaged in the cause. You can even combine them with a call to action, but do so sparingly.

By sharing the stories of supporters of the broader cause, you'll be helping to build and sustain the movement even as you're recruiting new people to it. First-person messages from committed individuals that communicate their support for your cause mixed in with stories of the people who have benefited from your work create a powerful connection between what supporters of the cause do, why they do it, and how much change they're making in society. And at the end of the day, that's the bottom line.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, and lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

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