Tuesday, October 31

What's the Women Donors Network?

Until Monday, the community of women philanthropists had chosen to remain out of public view. But, the San Jose Mercury News reported that the Menlo Park-based network is making its national debut by running full-page ads in the national edition of the New York Times. The ads instruct voters how to ensure their vote is recorded Nov. 7, and what to do if they suspect it isn't.

To join, a woman or her foundation must have $25,000 or more in annual giving. Membership has grown from about 50 members five years ago to about 175 now; WDN plans to cap membership at 200 to preserve community.

``Philanthropy is kind of the last glass ceiling,'' said Christine Grumm, president of the San Francisco-based Women's Funding Network, another women's philanthropic network that has raised more than $450 million over the past two decades, much of it to support development efforts led by and benefiting women and girls around the world. ``Men have always used philanthropy to promote their values in society, and I think women are starting to discover this is yet another strategy to promote our values.''
Click here to watch a video of how they spent $500,000 in New Orleans.

UNICEF Canada ends orange box fundraising

Where Most Needed points out an interesting story about the Canadian UNICEF Committee's decision to discontinue its long-running collection of trick-or-treat coin boxes.

I looked into it and found that the idea started in 1950 when a Philadelphia Sunday School class came up with the idea to collect coins rather than candy on Halloween. The idea evolved so that kids could collect candy, too, and in 1955, Canadian trick-or-treaters raised $15,000. Over the years, more than $90 million has been raised for Unicef Canada.

Unfortunately, the coin campaign had flatlined in recent years at around $3.5 million, Unicef president Nigel Fisher told the Canadian Press. Apparently, as the cost of processing all those loonies and toonies increased, the effectiveness of the program decreased. With the orange boxes gone, UNICEF Canada plans to replace the campaign with a loftier $5 million annual drive by fundraising in 4,000 schools across the country.

Personally, I think any fundraising program that involves putting cash into a hat or bucket without collecting a donor's name is stupid counterproductive. All fundraisers know that the subsequent solicitations are where the real gravy is.

Monday, October 30

Oprah pays it forward

Oprah Winfrey surprised her audience by giving away more than 300 debit cards worth $1,000 each for them to donate to a charitable cause. During the show that aired Monday, Oprah said they have one week to give the entire sum to one person (relatives aren't eligible) or they can split it among charitable causes. Unlike the infamous "free car" episode where the audience needed to pay the taxes - I wonder if Oprah gets to write off the $300,000... and I wonder where she got the idea?

Sunday, October 29

Porn, donors, and political hypocrisy

This blog posted recently on how political donors can become toxic for a candidate. This week the Republicans attacked Senate candidate Rep. Harold Ford (D-Tenn.) for accepting a $1,000 donation from Hugh Hefner's daughter Christie. Yet, some have criticized the Republicans of hypocrisy since the Playboy executive has also given donations to the Republican National Committee.

Christian evangelical leaders called for an explanation last year when the pornstar Mary Carey and her boss, adult film producer Mark Kulkis, helped raise money for the GOP. According to CBS, the only one they got, at least in public, was from a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, who said: "We'll take that money and use it to elect more Republicans."

In 2004, the Washington Post outlined a connection between GOP corporate donors that cash in on smut:

In this world of irony, corporate leaders at companies as diverse as News Corp., Marriott International and Time Warner can profit by selling red state consumers the very material that red state culture is supposed to despise. Those elites then funnel the proceeds to the GOP, which in turn has used the money to successfully convince red state voters that the other political party is solely responsible for the decline of the civilization.
The same porn connection to the GOP was questioned last year in regard to large donations from Adelphia, the country's fifth-largest cable television provider, and the first to offer hard-core adult films on pay-per-view to its subscribers. Adelphia has given $166,000 to Republican committees, $17,000 to conservative Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., and $12,000 to Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., one of the most conservative members of the Senate.

The newest link was reported by Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo. He shows that the RNC receives regular donations from Nicholas T. Boyias. He is owner and CEO of Marina Pacific Distributors, one of the largest producers and distributors of gay porn in the United States.

Update on political party fundraising

It's election season. Let's check some fundraising numbers from CQ's Political Moneyline:

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reported raising $9,064,996 and spending $22,464,566 from Oct. 1 to 18, leaving cash on hand of $9,660,916 and debts owed totaling $609,192. The committee took in $1,875,750 from PACs and other committees such as candidates and leadership PACs. The committee also received transfers of $400,000 from other party committees. The DSCC transferred $3,761,080 to other party committees, spent $401,370 on coordinated expenditures and made $18,707,854 in independent expenditures.

The National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee reported raising $3,599,424 and spending $6,753,739 from Oct. 1 to 18, leaving cash on hand of $8,906,423. The NRSC took in $915,500 from other committees. The committee gave out $35,000 in contributions directly to candidates, transferred $541,800 to other party committees, spent $1,714,495 on independent expenditures, and spent $2,809,143 on coordinated expenditures.

The Democratic National Committee reported raising $10,191642 and spending $13,588,392 from Oct. 1 to 18, leaving cash on hand of $4,788,221, as well as debts of $4 million resulting from a 10/18 loan from Bank of America. The committee transferred over $9 million to state party committees. The committee also spent $1 million on telemarketing services.

The Republican National Committee reported raising $8,444,609 and spending $12,945,981 from Oct. 1 to 18, leaving $21,836,509 cash on hand. The committee transferred $4,514,222 to state party committees. The committee spent $1,541,486 on mailing and $533,420 on telemarketing. The committee also spent $246,141 on legal consulting.

Saturday, October 28

It's ok, but I've seen bigger...

City News reports that Joseph and Wolf Lebovic cut a cheque for $50 million Friday. These two Toronto brothers' donation to Mt. Sinai Hospital is the largest single donation ever made to a health care facility in Canada.

Call me jaded and cynical - but it seemed kinda low to be considered the largest donation to a health care facility ever. So, I looked into it. It turns out the previous record in Canada was $33.5 - set back in May by Peter Munk. I remembered reading in Gary Comer's obituary about his gift of $42 million in 2006 for the Comer Center for Children and Specialty Care at Chicago University.

In 2001, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation gave a $100 million grant, which was largest ever given for a US pediatric hospital. On May 7, 2002, entertainment executive and philanthropist David Geffen announced a $200 million unrestricted gift to the UCLA School of Medicine.

There's a special prize for anyone who posts a bigger gift to the comment section.

Friday, October 27

How are high net worth donors different?

Bank of America yesterday released the initial results of their survey on the philanthropic behavior of wealthy Americans. The Bank of America High Net-Worth Philanthropy Study was conducted by The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. There are some interesting bits of information in the release... including the finding that 98% of high net-worth households donate to charity - compared to 67% of the general populace.

Fundraising fools

The Motley Fool website provides amusing stock market and investing. I love it because the interactive community of investors often provide a good barometer of popular opinion and market buzz.

A couple of days ago, Mary Dalrymple wrote an article ('Generous Fools') about the Chronicle of Philanthropy's top 400. After summarizing the findings of the Chronicle's report, she describes "the tenth interactive, cooperative charity drive directed by the Fool community."

You should nominate a charity you think is a worthy cause. The Motley Fool's Foolanthropy Committee will keep an eye on the discussion and select five of the most Foolish for this year's charity drive, to be announced around Nov. 20.

The charity with the most nominatins gets $10,000 just for generating the most active support in the Fool community... but the other top winners split an even bigger pie made up of $0.02 contributions for each post on any Fool message board during the month of December. Throw in direct donations and these Fools gave away almost $300,000 last year.

Heifer International (Winner) $107,279
Humane Society of Louisiana $81,174
Mercy Corps $49,922
Doctors Without Borders $31,140
DonorsChoose $20,082
TOTAL $289,597

So, stop reading and start posting.

Thursday, October 26

I could NOT disagree more

Donor InSite posted a link to a story that really made me mad this morning:

According to an annual public opinion poll conducted by United Way, only 46 percent of people trust nonprofits to do what they say they’re going to do with donations, meaning that more than half have lost trust.
The obnoxious part was this conclusion from James Stewart, the author.
Today, nonprofits need to operate like a business. Budgeting funds is a must, along with executing careful and appropriate fund raising with outcome measures in place to asses its use of funds and success.
Rubbish. Total rubbish.

First of all, various studies continue to show that while nonprofits have indeed lost some public confidence since the Red Cross scandals following 9/11/2001, they still rank considerably higher than the "business" sector. For example, Paul Light at NYU's Wagner School made this conclusion in September:

According to the survey, which was conducted on behalf of the Wagner School’s Organizational Performance Initiative by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, 69 percent of Americans expressed a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the nation’s charitable organizations in July 2006, up from 64 percent the year before and 60 percent in September 2002. Although confidence has not returned to pre-September 11th levels, when 90 percent of Americans expressed a lot or some confidence in charitable organizations, the July 2006 survey suggests that confidence is on the rebound.
Nonprofits weren't the ones the forced the government to pass Sarbanes-Oxley reform, yet we now spend the time and money to do our national duty and restore trust after corporate businesses destroyed public trust.

Don't get me started... I'm in a bad mood today. Besides, didn't we hear this same load of crap back in 2000? Some people said it would be a good idea to elect a business man with an MBA to the White House? How well did that work out?

UPDATE: Be sure to read Ken Goldstein's take or the critique by Roger and Tom at the Agitator.

Wednesday, October 25

Museum sells 123 year old donation
Despite agreement that collection would never be sold

Back in 1883, William S. Vaux donated 7,000 minerals and stone pieces - including silver, gold, diamonds and everyday quartz. However, an agreement with the family directs that the Vaux items never be sold or broken up.

Unfortunately, Mr. Vaux donated the items to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. Trustees of the cash-strapped Academy voted Tuesday to sell another group of more than 15,000 minerals and gems that hadn't been cleaned or displayed for decades.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

Orphans Court Judge Joseph D. O'Keefe cleared the move this month with the consent of the state Attorney General's Office. The sale price was not disclosed, but the items form the bulk of a collection with an estimated value of several million dollars. The academy must return to court for permission to sell its remaining 7,000-odd pieces.
Recognizing that this is something you shouldn't tell the donors, acting academy president Ian Davison told the staff not to talk to reporters. The story goes on to say:
In Orphans' Court, O'Keefe approved the academy's determination that there were no restrictions on the non-Vaux items.

And while an 1883 agreement with the family directs that the Vaux items never be sold or broken up, judges sometimes allow bequests to be altered, as evidenced by the Barnes case, said Virginia Sikes, a lawyer in the Philadelphia office of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads.

There is a public interest in encouraging people to make museum donations, but there can also be a public interest in allowing changes in wills when circumstances dictate it, she said:

"Maybe courts are more willing when many, many years have lapsed."
I get that there are hard choices to make in tough finacial situations... and the Academy has a point that these donations were not being viewed and were sitting dusty in a warehouse basement. But a promise is a promimse. And I'm going to think twice before donating the Academy of Natural Sciences my collection of shells from the seashore.

Thanks to AFP blog for the heads up.

Monday, October 23

New kids on the blog block

There are two additions to the world of nonprofit fundraising blogs. Duke Smith at the Russ Reid Company launched Donor InSite about a week ago. The blog's disclaimer: "Everything posted on this blog is his personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of his employer or its clients" reminds me of the risks associated with blogging - and why I must write anonymously. It's awesome to see another smart and creative thinker from a powerhouse company join the blogrolls. Same goes for Sean Stannard-Stockton's new blog, Tactical Philanthropy which promises to chronicle "the Second Great Wave of Philanthropy."

Bloomberg: No donations tied to conditions

Earlier this month, New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg was named chairman and chief fundraiser of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation. The memorial has struggled to raise money and has raised only $145 million of its $300 million goal. So, suffice it to say they could use some big donations.

Back in June of this year, foundation Board member Howard Lutnick (also CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost 658 people on Sept. 11th) promised $25 million - but only under the condition that victims' names be grouped according to where they worked and died, and to list their ages, the company they worked for or the plane they were on.

The current plan -- favored by Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki -- calls for the victims' names to be listed in random sequence, which memorial architect Michael Arad has said would reflect the chaos of the day.

Bloomberg has come out publicly swinging against this potential donor by saying, "Nobody's going to dictate with cash what's the right thing to do." According to the Daily News, he went on to say, ""You just don't take donations tied to conditions," Bloomberg added, "nor does anybody who knows anything about philanthropy ask for that."

Doesn't sound like a "secret donation" to me?

Sarah Arnold at the Sunday Mirror in London ran an exclusive story on Sunday about a "secret donation" from Victoria and David Beckham.

The former England captain and his wife - who has just returned from Japan where she has been promoting her own brand of jeans - have also pledged to buy a special wheelchair for a group of disabled children as well as a bed for another child.
While, the mother of the little girl was quoted as saying, "They didn't want any publicity from this, but I want people to know there's another side to them. And it's not been for publicity or personal gain - it has simply been to help the children." Again... part of me says "sure" - of course it's not part of a well coordinated PR campaign - but other parts of me say, "who cares if it is?"

Sunday, October 22

The horse race of university capital campaigns

On Saturday, October 21, Joe Nocera had a great piece in the New York Times, "The University of Raising Big Money." In his article, Nocera sumarizes the HUGE campital campaigns currently underway at major universities across the country.

Last week, Stanford University unveiled its new capital campaign, called the Stanford Challenge, which aims to raise $4.3 billion by 2011. That stunning amount is a record for a university fund-raising campaign, but not by much. It overtook Columbia, which just a few weeks earlier had announced a $4 billion campaign of its own.

Then there’s Yale University, which has just begun a $3 billion campaign. The University of Virginia is also raising $3 billion. Brown University is trying to raise $1.4 billion; Johns Hopkins, $2 billion; New York University, $2.5 billion; the University of Chicago, $2 billion. Back in 1987, Stanford was the first school to raise $1 billion in a capital campaign.

Today, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, more than 25 universities are conducting campaigns of $1 billion or more. Indeed, just about the only school conspicuously missing from the list is Harvard.
Yes. That is a lot of money. And the Development Directors at every school seem to say the same thing about there being a "great" need for all this money. But what about schools that are using these record breaking fundraising results to make something that was already great into something greater. So, what need is being met? The need to be great or the more complex need to be greater than all the others?

...and what does that say about the state of philanthropy today?

UPDATE: The University of Maryland just announced that they too will launch a $1 billion campaign. Private U.S. colleges have been hitting up alumni for decades, but public schools have only recently gotten into the fundraising game - in fact, the article says just 12 have reached the goal that UM has set for itself.

Friday, October 20

When donors become toxic

Making a donation is a voluntary action. Should the charity's discretion in accepting a financial donation also be voluntary? In fact, it is not rare at all for some nonprofit fundraisers to return checks to the donor.

This happens a lot in politics where a candidate may not want to appear linked to a "certain type" of donors. For example, in 2004 some politicians gave back money from a donor who was linked to Saddam Hussein bribes in the Oil-for-Food program.

In 2003, the Salvation Army made news when they declined a $100,000 donation from a lottery winner because a local official didn't want money linked with gambling.

But I have to admit, I was shocked to hear Gubernatorial hopeful Jim Bryson's campaign will return a $1,000 check from the publicly feuding Sara Evans and husband Craig Schelske, should it arrive, a campaign official said Tuesday to The Tennessean:

Before launching into a public and messy divorce, the couple pledged to support the Republican Bryson and help serve as hosts for a NASCAR-themed fundraiser for him Thursday.

Their names appeared by mistake on an e-mail invitation to the event, Bryson spokesman Lance Frizzell said. The paper invitations were mailed before the divorce filing — Evans claims Schelske slept with their nanny, watched pornography in front of the couple's small children and later drained a joint bank account — became public.

"When the news broke, we made the phone call to the person who put them on the host committee," Frizzell said. "We said, 'We understand you probably won't want to be part of this event as a couple.' "

I think it's a toss-up between who has a better chance of having their donations accepted by Republican candidates: two celebrities going through a messy divorce or disgraced former Congressmem accused of inappropriate IMs ith young teen boys.

Maybe candidate Jim Bryson doesn't want this check for a $1,000 from a couple getting divorced, but the Republic Party doesn't seem to have a problem accepting large sums of money donated from Former Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL) before he resigned.

Does returning a donation check say more about the original donor or the organization that choose to return it?

Thursday, October 19

Is Charity Navigator going bankrupt?

Trent Stamp is the President of the watchdog Charity Navigator. On Monday, in a story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer evaluating salaries at charities, Stamp was quoted as saying:

"You'd have to explain to me as a donor why one person is worth 10 percent of total expenses," said Stamp, CEO of Mahwah, N.J.-based Charity Navigator.
Underalms at the Where Most Needed blog challenge this simple ratio as bizarre. Instead of a ratio, underalms argues that a sliding scale is needed to evaluate CEO salaries for charities based on the size of their revenue. Then, in a follow-up post, underalms all but calls Trent Stamp a hypocrite since Stamp's salary is 14-15% of Charity Navigator's annual expenses. In fact, it appears as if Stamp's salary of $149,000 is "hidden" on the most recent Form 990 from 2005. However, it should be noted that this could be an error on Guidestar's part... and Stamp did volunteer his salary to the reporter in Seattle - so he is not trying to cover anything up.

But if you look at Charity Navigator's most recent IRS filings for the past 5 years, there is something even more interesting. It appears that the private foundation received start-up money in the form of 125,000 shares of PDI Inc. (worth an estimated $15 million) from John and Marion Dugan.

Unfortunately for Charity Navigator, the stock price for PDI Inc. has fallen from it's high of over $100 a share to almost $10 a share today. This plunge has forced Charity Navigator to sell more and more of its "seed corn" for smaller and smaller revenue in order to fund operations.

In 2001, they sold 20,000 shares for approximately $1.8 million.
In 2003, they sold 30,000 shares for approximately $753,000.
In 2004, they sold 7,000 shares for approximately $193,000.

Last year, the group sold it's last remaining 68,000 shares for approximately $1.39 million.

For an organization that spends just under a million dollars every year on operating expenses (including Stamp's salary) with few other sources of revenue... there are going to be tough times ahead. It seems as if Charity Navigator has only two more years of funding unless it finds a replacement revenue stream. The site is committed to not accept money from charities or any advertising revenue. It has also pledged never to charge users. While it has raised almost $600,000 this year from individuals, cuts may be inevitable.

The watchdog says it is not going under... maybe it just needs to cut its top salary to below 10%.

Wednesday, October 18

Faso says donors fear Spitzer

The race for governor of New York does not appear to be very close. The Republican John Faso is trailing Democrat Eliot Spitzer by almost 50 points in the polls. As of October 6th, Spitzer had raised over $39 million compared to Faso's $3.5 million. Liz Anderson at The Journal News reports that Faso thinks potential donors to his campaign are afraid of Spitzer.

Republican candidate for governor John Faso said yesterday he has had trouble raising money for his campaign because donors perceive him as sure to lose and - even if they plan to vote for him - don't want to risk angering the presumptive winner, Democrat Eliot Spitzer.

Even if this is sour grapes from Faso it sounds like an interesting theory that may catch on in other races: "Give to my opponent and I will be very angry with you!"

Tuesday, October 17

Fundraising in Key House Races

Greg Giroux has compiled a chart of fundraising activity in selected House races across the nation for CQPolitics.com. The chart is based on the campaign reports House candidates were required to file by Sunday to the Federal Election Commission. It details campaign receipts and expenditures through Sept. 30, as well as how much cash-on-hand the candidates had on that date.

A blog from the foundation's perspective

I stumbled upon an interesting new blog - Philanthropy in Culture, Education, Entrepreneurship - written by a foundation officer in London. Only a week old, "Sam" has already posted some pretty unique and insightful musings on the world of philanthrophy. Yesterday's post - "Dazed and Confused," was my favorite with the author's reaction to being invited on an all-expense-paid site visit by one of his grant recipients.

IU staffs first chair in fundraising

From the Indianapolis Star:

Adrian Sargeant, an international expert in fundraising whose expertise includes donor loyalty and nonprofit marketing, has been named to the Robert F. Hartsook Chair in Fundraising at Indiana University.

The position, said to be the country’s first endowed chair in fundraising, is the result of a $1.5 million gift to the Center on Philanthropy at IU from Hartsook, a leader in philanthropic fundraising and founder of Hartsook Companies, Inc.

Congratulations Adrian... could I suggest that Center on Philanthropy at IU get with the program and begin to feature blogs about fundraising?

Fundraising with Snow

SHERYL GAY STOLBERG reported in the NY Times two days ago that Tony Snow raised about $150,000 from 850 adoring Republicans who had paid $175 apiece to hear him speak at an event in outside Chicago.

Mr. Snow, who will make 16 such appearances before Election Day, acknowledged he had entered "terra incognita"; to his knowledge, no other White House press secretary has ever raised money for political candidates while in the job. But with his star power from television and his conservative credentials, Mr. Snow, is in hot demand.

2006 DMA conference update

Direct marketing fundraisers from nonprofit organizations around the world are converging on San Francisco for the annual Direct Marketing Association conference... and trust me... no one parties like the DMA. Although, if only it wasn't so incredibly expensive, I bet there are hundreds (if not thousands) of marketers who wish they could have attended.

If its hard to sell ice to an Eskimo, it must be impossible for marketers to market to a conference of marketers. But two companies are already using the DMA to market new products. Prism Business Media today previewed enhancements to its Direct magazine brand. The premier issue of the redesigned magazine will mail in January 2007.

...and even if you only had one or two problems... "Experian Announces Six New Solutions for Marketers." The global information solutions provider introduced a new products built on Experian's innovative, open technology platform, MarketOne, including a new, advanced, multichannel analysis tool in Prospectvue, Experian's retail/catalog customer and prospecting solution.

At his opening speach, John A. Greco Jr., (DMA President-CEO) said Monday that the direct marketing industry will tally $1.939 trillion in sales this year, a 7.4% increase compared with last year. BtoB Online quotes Greco as saying, “Direct marketing-driven sales now make up 10.3% of the GDP.”

Also news out of San Francisco: Markus F. Wilhelm, CEO of book publisher Bookspan, has been elected chairman of the Direct Marketing Association’s board of directors for 2007. He succeeds Stephen M. Lacy, president and chief operating officer of Meredith Corp., who was elected DMA chairman for 2006.

...and finally... Allen W. Dyon has been elected chairman of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation’s board of trustees, succeeding John F. Temple, president/CEO of Guideposts.

Monday, October 16

Shouldn't events tie to mission?

Yesterday I walked in one of the local American Cancer Society walks for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While my team raised about $5,000 for the walk, but I'm not writing about it to brag. More importantly, I think it is critical for fundraising events to be tied (either as a symbolic theme or actual linkage) to the organization's mission.

For example, the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer theme of the ACS walk has several connections to the important work ACS does to help those diagnosed with cancer. Survivors lead the walk, walkers are encouraged to wear a sign showing the name of a person who has battled the disease, and along the route signs point out important prevention tips.

This is in contrast to some of the cocktail parties I've been to recently that raise money for a specific charity without any tie-in or connection to the nonprofit's mission. I've always given special event fundraisers the benefit of the doubt. I'm a direct marketing guy who likes to see donors support the cause because they understand the problem, solution, strategy we articulate in our mail and phone appeals... not because they want to party and the proceeds go to a good cause.

For example: it seems to me that there is a good way and a bad way to use duct tape as a fundraising tie-in.

Thursday, October 12

Fundraising website consolidation

According to the Canadian newspaper Star Phoenix:

EFundraising.com, a subsidiary of Reader's Digest Association Inc., has acquired U.S. rival fundraising.com, in a $5-million deal that will create about 40 new jobs at the company's Montreal offices.
I bet the URL web address was worth more that half of that.

Museum CFO faces criminal charges

The Where Needed Most blog found an amazing story about the CFO at the Milwaukee Public Museum who was charged with four felony charges.

Prosecutors have charged the former CFO, Terry Gaouette, with theft and fraud in this criminal complaint. He didn't use any of the money himself, but the complaint says that under Wisconsin law transfer from the museum's endowment fund to the museum, a separate corporation, constitutes theft. The claim is that Mr. Gaouette never told the directors of the board or the endowment about the transfers.

There are also three counts of fraud stemming from financial reports that failed to disclose transfers from the endowment fund to the museum operating fund, that included nonexistent balances in cash accounts, that misstated the amounts in other accounts, and that reported large payments to reduce bond funds that had not been made.

I wonder how many other nonprofit CFOs are going to have an uneasy weekend after reading this story.

We don't want your restricted diaster gifts

Bianca over at Charity Blog Network pointed out an incredible quote given by a senior Medicines Sans Frontieres (MSF - also known as Doctors Without Borders) official during a debate at the London School of Economics.

Gorik Ooms, head of MSF-Belgium said that massive public appeals by aid agencies in the wake of disasters are wrong and should stop. He went on to say such appeals did more harm than good and were based on a "convenient illusion" of benefit shared by nongovernmental organisations and the donating public.

If we take this money we end up doing things we shouldn't do," he said. "Many NGOs don't have real disaster relief capacity but they go for an appeal because it is a source of funding. NGOs that have real capacity are crowded out by those that don't."

Seven days after the tsunami hit in December 2004, MSF announcing that it had received too many donations and would divert them to other emergencies.

Tuesday, October 10

Gap introduces fundraising clothes

DM News is reporting that specialty retailer Gap Inc. on Oct. 13 will introduce online and in select stores a limited collection of clothing and accessories designed to help eliminate AIDS in Africa.

As part of a global partnership with RED, the initiative founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver to engage the private sector in raising awareness of AIDS in Africa, Gap will donate half of the profits from the sales of the Gap (PRODUCT) RED Collection to The Global Fund.
I don't know if it's enough to rescue Gap's same store sale numbers, but it may be enough to make me pay $20 for a t-shirt.

Opera fundraising: 'Sponsor a character'

A couple weeks ago, we posted about a fundraising campaign at the University of Pittsburgh where donors could endow a position on the football team. When, the Scottish Opera needed a fundraising idea, they did the same thing:

In an attempt to raise extra funds towards the cost of the production, and give audiences a chance to get more involved, the company offered patrons a chance to sponsor individual characters for any sum between £25 and £5,000.
My high school drama teacher used to say there are no small roles in the theater. She may have been right, but there certainly are cheap characters. One of the most popular choices was an Italian tenor, who sings just one aria in act one, he was sponsored by 20 donors.

They ended up raising £44,000. For the entire article, go here.

Monday, October 9

Recorded voice calls and the do-not-call list

Another political story - this time from North Dakota, where the National Republican Committee (RNC) agreed to stop using recorded voice calls to thank donors.

The Washington Post reports:

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem's Democratic challenger complained about calls made over the weekend in which the recorded voice of RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman thanks contributors. The state's do-not-call law bans recorded calls to homes, unless the recorded voice is introduced by a live operator.
At issue is whether a prior campaign contribution constitues a "business relationship" and therefore exempts such calls from the do-not-call list. The RNC says it believes the calls are legal, but they agreed to stop anyway... the Democrats want an investigation and fines. For now, the Attorney General claims it will do nothing as long as the calls stop.

Sunday, October 8

A fair critique of canvassing?

My first job in fundraising was ten years ago as a door-to-door canvasser for a group called Clean Water Action. Not only did it introduce me to the intoxicating thrill of monitoring direct response marketing through statistical tracking... it also taught me important life lessons about how to make a efficient sales pitch and how to make confident eye contact. For the past 6 or 7 years I've seen several nonprofit organizations use outside partner groups to run door or street canvassing programs as an efficient and effective new donor acquisition technique.

Because of my personal experiences with canvassing programs, I was excited to read the new book by Dana R. Fisher called Activism Inc.: How the Outsourcing of Grassroots Campaigns is Strangling Progressive Politics in America (Stanford University Press, 2006).

The book caused a stir in parts of the nonprofit direct response fundraising community in August. While criticisms like this of the Fund for Public Interest Research Group ("the Fund") and Grassroots Campaigns Inc. are not new. Early reviews have seen the book as an indictment of the company, the technique, and concept of "ousourcing" fundraising. This book drew forceful response from the Fund in the form of a special website to refute the book called CanvassingWorks.org.

I was disappointed and unimpressed with much of the book.

Perhaps, Greg Bloom is right that Fisher does successfully point out that "the Fund's model of human-resource-intensive subcontracting actually exacerbates the churn, even feeds off of it -- that those levels of attrition are perhaps even maximized, and that there are untenable hidden costs (both opportunity costs, in terms of interactions that could have taken place, and negative externalities, in terms of interactions that leave a bad impression on the participants)."

But in the end, I was more impressed with Jim B's lengthy critique on CounterPunch:

"Exposing" these facts through the recitation of anecdotes from canvassers, as Fisher attempts to do, is a meaningless intellectual activity: the assertions being made are not in question. They don't add up to anything, don't make any point about what works and what doesn't, or why.

No one is questioning the limitations of canvassing. However, Fisher is wrong to blame the fact that some democratic groups used paid canvassers as the reason John Kerry lost.
...we have to establish that the comparison between door-to-door canvassing as a tactic and the cultivation and development of a base of organized people as a strategy is meaningless: these two exist on different levels of political activity, and therefore different levels of analysis. Without an organizing strategy, the very best tactic executed to perfection is likely to be ineffective in altering the political balance of power. Canvassing divorced from any actual strategy for organizing people is not likely to produce anything significant. Yet these assertions do not add up to the conclusion "canvassing is useless" or "canvassing is counterproductive." Far from it. They simply acknowledge that organizing is what matters, having a political strategy you're trying to execute is what matters; and that door-to-door canvassing's role within that strategy must be determined based on an assessment of its utility in a particular context in the execution of your strategy. The real question, in other words, is not whether canvassing is remotely comparable, in terms of its results and its objectives, to developing an organized base: it is not, for the first is simply a tactic among other tactics, while the second is a bedrock principle of any winning political strategy. The real question about door-to-door canvassing, put broadly, is whether it is itself good or bad, useful or not.
The truth is that direct mail and telemarketing fundraising programs are also often outsourced by nonprofit groups. Activism Inc. comes across more as a hit job on a specific company and it fails to present a well-reasoned dabte on whether canvassing is a useful, responsible, and effective fundraising technique.

Friday, October 6

Was Gov. Bob Ehrlich paying his donors?

John Wagner at the Washington Post is reporting in this Saturday's newspaper:

Maryland election officials have referred to a state prosecutor a complaint about a fundraising solicitation from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. that included real dollar bills, saying the matter warrants further investigation into whether he violated election laws.

The fundraising strategy helps gain the attention to get the letter opened and while you may expect a certain percentage of those dollar bills will be returned with additional donations. The Ehrlich campaign used a direct mail technique which involves mailing a real $1 enclosed in the fundraising letters and asking for a return gift of $25. Other groups like PETA (For an excellent review of PETA's nickle control pack and the whistle that beat it, go here.) have tried these techniques as successful fundraising acquition packages.

The Washington Post goes on to report:
Elections officials said the tactic raises two potential problems. In Maryland, it is illegal to give people money to garner their vote. And the law requires campaign expenditures to be made by check. Under the law, the dollar bills could be construed as cash expenditures.
"We're not going to comment on the fact that Bob Ehrlich's floundering campaign is now under criminal investigation," said Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, Ehrlich's Democratic challenger.
Whould it have been any better if he had used PETA's nickle letters instead of a dollar? Would it have been okay if it was a check? Do you think the fundraiser who suggested the idea actually knew whether it could have been illegal?

Thursday, October 5

Some question Foley fundraising

In light of the scandal surrounding Mark Foley and the Republican leadership, some attention has begun to be focused on the disgraced Representative's role as a party fundraiser.

The Tampa Tribune reports that "Foley leaves office with about $2.8 million in cash in his campaign account, the fourth-largest in Congress." However, more importantly, he was a very generous donor to the GOP.

Since 1998, Foley has given $550,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the branch of the national Republican Party charged with getting Republicans elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Besides that, Foley has given $194,250 to other Republican candidates and party organizations, according to figures from the Committee for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group that focuses on money in politics.

And perhaps even more troubling is a $100,000 donation given to RNCC in July, several months after the Republican's top House political operative, Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY) learned of the e-mails to young pages.

Another unanswered question is whether any of Foley's donors will request their donations back.

Tuesday, October 3

Pink ribbon cans DOUBLE sales of Campbell's soup

Advertising Age reports that Campbell Soup Co. has doubled sales of its top varieties to its biggest retail customer (Krogers) by turning its iconic red-and-white soup cans pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast cancer in particular has been an increasingly popular cause for marketers to align with. Don't Tell the Donor reported on the deal between M&M's and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. In this case, Campbell will donate $250,000, or roughly 3.5 cents per pink can through Kroger in exchange for its doubled order.

Remember this if your charity is about to sign a deal with a company... they are benefiting more than you are. Advertising Age cites a 2004 survey on cause marketing done by Boston brand-strategy firm Cone, 91% of 1,033 consumers say they have a more positive image of a company or product when it supports a cause and 90% will consider switching to another company if it's aligned with a cause.

Monday, October 2

Best Fundraising Site of the Week

This past week I've been extremely impressed with the quality of posts from "underalms" at a website called, Where Most Needed and I can't recommend it enough for fundraisers to add to their RSS feed.

It started with a September 26th post on the story of Kuwait lifting a ban on cash contributions to charities for Ramadan. "For the last two years, Kuwait has prohibited direct contributions to charity. Donors had to get forms stamped by the ministry of social affairs & labor and then their bank would transfer money from their account to the charity." But that would never happen here, right?

It was followed two days later by a link to the LA Times article about churches that have installed "Giving Kiosks," an ATM-like terminal that takes donations by credit or debit card.

The next day, "underalms" was back at it again - bringing us a story about a UK proposal for mandatory background checks for charity workers and volunteers.

To top off the week, this post blames the entire charity sector for submitting a paltry 9 comments during a 8 month long comment period on a US Treasury guideline that sets an audit threshold at $250,000 - much lower than it needs to be - and unnessecarily forcing thousands of charities to perform costly audits.

Well done underalms. You've earned a spot on "My Current Favorites" list.