Wednesday, February 28

Mobile fundraising predicted to leapfrog direct mail

Alex Donohue at Brand Republic reported yesterday on a new report from Think Consulting Solutions which predicts that a "mobile phone revolution" is contributing to a sea change in countries which do not have highly developed traditional fundraising infrastructure such as mail-based communications.

Jason Potts, director of digital activities at Think Consulting Solutions, said: "The Asian tsunami put SMS giving on the global map. It went from nothing to 21% of the total money donated globally via new media channels to one large emergency organisation.

"Countries such as Greece, Slovenia, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa and Malaysia all raised comparatively significant funds via SMS."

The report added that lack of or inefficient fundraising infrastructure was often the biggest barrier to growing fundraising revenues, and it could also "stop fundraising in its tracks" unless stringent measures to prevent illegal, unsolicited transfers and the selling of personal data were adopted.
All of that sounds good, as long as they don't make mistakes like this group in Malta.

Monday, February 26

Tommy Chong to help raise money for 'Ganja Guru' defense

Tommy Chong, of the Cheech and Chong comedy duo renowned for stoner movie classics such as "Up in Smoke" and "Nice Dreams," will appear at a $125-per-head event March 4 at the home of the self proclaimed 'Ganja Guru' Ed Rosenthal.

Famed for his marijuana cultivation books and the "Ask Ed" column he wrote for High Times magazine, Rosenthal was convicted of three marijuana-growing felonies in 2003, more than a year after federal agents raided sites including his Oakland home, an Oakland warehouse in which he was growing marijuana, and a San Francisco medical marijuana club he supplied.

Oakland Tribune staff writer Josh Richman reported that Rosenthal is scheduled to appear in federal court March 19, and he estimates his trial and related expenses could cost more than $300,000. Tommy Chong has a personal reason for being involved in the fundraiser.

He was prosecuted, convicted and served nine months in federal prison a few years ago as part of a federal crackdown on purveyors of drug paraphernalia. He had financed and promoted a line of glass water pipes often used for smoking marijuana, and he said he pleaded guilty to prevent charges from being filed against his wife and son. The case made Chong, already beloved for his comedy act, a poster boy among marijuana advocates.

You can read more at Rosenthal's legal defense fund's Web site,

Sunday, February 25

Perry's fundraising prowess

Controversy continues to stir around the timing of Texas Governor Rick Perry's acceptance of donations from Merck before he issued an executive order for mandatory HPV vaccines.

On Monday, Gov. Perry will be lauded for his fundraising prowess after raising more than $9.4 million for the Republican Governors Association meeting with President Bush. (You may still be able to go if you are in Washington, DC and you have $1,000.)

Of the donors to the Republican group, the top giver last year was Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, no relation to the governor. He gave $2.05 million, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks fundraising and spending.

Bob Perry was the largest political donor in Texas in 2006 and gave $380,000 to Perry's campaign, according to Texans for Public Justice, a political watchdog group.

You may remember Bob Perry from earlier posts on this blog.

Go here, if you want to see a little case study from the fundraising consulting group that helped get Rick Perry elected Lt. Governor.

UPDATE: The annual event raised a record $10.4 million for GOP gubernatorial candidates.

Saturday, February 24

Questions over Merck's donation to Governor

Andrew Pollack and Stephanie Saul at the New York Times reported earlier this week that Merck would halt lobbying states to require the use of its new cervical cancer vaccine, which is aimed at the sexually transmitted virus, HPV.

On February 2nd, Texas Governor Rick Perry ordered the vaccine for all girls entering sixth grade beginning in fall 2008. The Executive Order would have made it easier for insurance coverage of the vaccine, but social conservatives immediately worried that a vaccine against an STD would send the wrong message to children. Other critics were wary of Merck’s perceived strong influence in pushing for the mandatory immunization.

The Associated Press introduced a fresh layer of controversy by reporting the governor's chief of staff met with key aides about the vaccine the same day its manufacturer donated money to his campaign.

Chief of Staff Deirdre Delisi’s calendar shows she met with the governor’s budget director and three members of his office for an “HPV Vaccine for ChildrenBriefing” on Oct. 16.

That day, New Jersey-based Merck & Co.’s political action committee donated $5,000 to Perry and $5,000 total to eight state lawmakers.
The timing would indicate that these meetings took place before conservatives helped Perry win his election... and even before the FDA cleared the drug for legal use.

According to Perry's spokesman Robert Black - the timing of the meeting and the donation was just a coincidence.

Wednesday, February 21

Prison for man who stole $5 donation

How about this story by Jim Suhr for the Associated Press... a man in Illinois was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for taking a $5 bill from a charity collection jar at the Community Kindness Resale Shoppe.

Richard Hedger II, was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty to felony theft for stealing from the jar, placed on a thrift-store counter. Money in the jar was meant for Belleville police Sgt. Jon Brough, 48, who was shot in the face and permanently blinded in November by a double-slaying suspect who later killed
A cashier said she saw Hedger with the jar just before she noticed a $5 bill missing. The shop's general manager also said Hedger apologized before he was taken away in handcuffs.
Hedger was charged with a felony because of a prior felony conviction. He received a two-year sentence in 2004 after pleading guilty to aggravated battery, for spitting on another Belleville police officer.

Are you kidding me? 2 1/2 years in prison?

Monday, February 19

Be careful when calling your donors liars

Before declaring their candidacy for federal offices, politicians can use less regulated "exploratory committees" to fundraise and cover expenses. These accounts are not allowed for candidates seeking state office.

Steve Henry's campaign for Governor in Kentucky has been hit with controversy over the subject of these exploratory committees. According to WTVQ, Henry apparently still has a fund raising committee open for his failed senate race back in 1997.

An Associated Press story explains that as late as last summer donors gave Henry money for what they thought was his run for Governor only to be surprised when they learned their donation went to his US Senate exploratory committee.

On June 30, 2006 the Federal Election Commission ordered Henry to either run again for US Senate or stop taking contributions. Henry was ordered to respond by July 31, but never did, according to FEC Spokeswoman Michelle Ryan.
When confronted with questions about why his donors might have thought they were supporting his run for Governor, Henry called his donors "mistaken."

Be careful Steve. When you start calling your donors liars it may impact future fundraising efforts.

Saturday, February 17

Welcoming the Raiser's Razor

Emily at the Nonprofit Blog Exchange pointed me in the direction of Jeremy Gregg's relatively new fundraising blog The Raiser's Razor.

The site was launched on February 4th and seems to aggregate headlines from several fundraising news sources. You might want to check this one out and consider adding it to your RSS feed.

Thursday, February 15

Foxwoods to celebrate 15th anniversary tonight with $150,000 donation to local charities

The Norwich Bulletin reported this story on Thursday:

MASHANTUCKET — Foxwoods Resort Casino is celebrating its 15th anniversary tonight with a $150,000 donation to 15 local charities.

Part of the celebration includes an evening VIP reception featuring governmental officials and dignitaries.

“Anniversaries are so often about pomp and circumstance,” said John O’Brien, Foxwoods president, in a prepared statement. “While that is certainly fun to be part of a festive celebration, we at Foxwoods wanted to be sure to recognize this milestone with something of substance that would also be lasting, meaningful and supportive of the communities that surround us.”

I guess I don't feel as stupid about the money I've lost playing blackjack at those casinos in Connecticut if there is a chance my money is going toward one of these grants. Has anyone heard which group are going to get the money?

Monday, February 12

Religious TV station's fundraising questioned

The Miracle Channel is a cable station which is carried across Canada. Owners of the station have applied for the right to set up transmitters in Calgary and Edmonton that would broadcast the channel over the air for free.

As a result, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will have jurisdiction. The CRTC plans to question the TV station's fundraising methods when it appears.

At the heart of the debate are statements by on-air hosts during past fundraising drives. In one of the most controversial examples, a host told viewers in 2004 to cash in their Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP) for donations.

“There is somebody right now watching, and God is speaking to them about RRSPs. They've got RRSPs, and they've got a sizable amount, and it's a security thing. Well, it's not a security thing; your security is in God. And God's speaking to you to cash those in. And I dare you to do it,” the host said.
The Globe and Mail reported on its website the Miracle Channel Association received a letter last week from the CRTC that said its “approach to solicitation of funds” will be discussed at the Calgary hearings.

In a letter to the CRTC, Gordon Klassen, vice-president of broadcasting for the station, said the channel's on-air hosts have been “instructed to qualify their statements to ensure that viewers understand clearly the theological principles of giving in such a way as to prevent miscommunication or exaggeration of what a gift will or will not accomplish.”

Sunday, February 11

Breast cancer group rejects donation from strippers

Last Thursday, the website Huffington Post posted a story from the CBC that the Breast Cancer Society of Canada had rejected the offer of thousands of dollars from a fundraising group of exotic dancers in Vancouver.

According to the CBC, the Exotic Dancers for Cancer holds an annual charity event in memory of a former dancer who lost her life to the disease. The next day, another blog ran a story with this email text rejecting the donation:

“Unfortunately we will have to decline your kind offer as we have certain major donors that are not in favor of this connection. This decision came as a result of donor disgruntlement and together with the board of directors we have decided not to accept any donations from what donors consider controversial sources.”
If this sounds familiar, it might be because you remember this story in the Nonprofit Times from March of 2006. It seems like a great marketing strategy to me. Stories like these drive big site traffic numbers - the story on Huffington Post had over 8 pages of comments. I wouldn't be surprised if the group tried to get their pledge rejected on purpose in order to generate buzz.

In fact, if I was the Development Director at the Breast Cancer Society of Canada this is what I would do. I would pick up the phone and call these "certain major donors" who object to the donation. I would ask them to increase the amount of their own personal giving to offset the rejected donation. Then I would call the Exotic Dancers for Cancer and tell them that while I could not accept money from them, I had a group of donors who doubted the strippers importance in the fight against cancer.

This would probably motivate the Exotic Dancers for Cancer to go ahead and hold their benefit anyway and explain the situation to their fans and donors... I bet the publicity could help raise an easy $20,000 in pledges. The group could still donate the money to another group, but my "certain major donors" would step up.

Is that unethical to play two groups of donors off each other?

Saturday, February 10

O'Reilly dropped as fundraising speaker

The National Center for Missing Children has uninvited Bill O'Reilly to speak at a fundraising event after the Fox News host blamed a teenage boy for his abduction.

During Bill O'Reilly's show on January 15th, he hinted that Shawn Hornbeck might not have escaped his captor because he enjoyed his new situation.

Desite the uproar from across the country, the National Center for Missing Children initially tried to defend their decision to have O'Reilly give the keynote address at a March 9th fundraising gala at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Florida.

Yesterday, the Collier County Florida Branch issued this statement cancelling O'Reilly's participation.

Friday, February 9

Racing Industry Establishes Barbaro Fund

Despite the fact that Barbaro was undefeated prior to the 2006 Kentucky Derby, the majestic horse stunned many with his commanding victory. Barbaro created an overnight fan base and a buzz was heard, "this horse has a shot to win the Triple Crown."

Two weeks later Barbaro burst through his starting gate at the Preakness. He ran so hard at the start of the race he shattered his right hind leg. The injuries were so severe that some initially thought Barbaro would be euthanized on the race track. But he lived.

Barbaro had six surgeries in 2006. His right leg eventually healed, but he soon developed further laminitis in both front legs. His veterinarians and owners concluded that he could not be saved, and Barbaro was euthanized on January 29th.

The racing industry reacted quickly to the death of Barbaro with the creation of the Barbaro Memorial Fund, an initiative to raise money for research into laminitis and other equine health and safety issues. Forbes reports the funds raised will go into existing equine health charities such as the Laminitis Fund, established by the University of Pennsylvania and the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation.

Thursday, February 8

Will Mitt Romney forfeit $1.9 million?

Prior to officially running for President, candidates can use state committees to accept donations in excess of federal limits. The state money can't be spent directly on presidential campaigning, but it can be used to lay the groundwork by hiring staff, renting offices and building goodwill by contributing to state and local politicians. As soon as they officially declare - the money is off limits.
Kenneth P. Vogel at The Politico examined the impact of this rule on Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney :

Other candidates have used the strategy but none as effectively as Romney, who raised nearly $7.1 million through committees set up in seven states before Jan. 3. That's when he declared his presidential intentions with the Federal Election Commission and established a presidential fundraising committee. Those filings brought him under federal campaign finance laws and essentially put off limits the $1.9 million left over in his state committees.
Romney's state committees continued to bring in big, apparently coordinated checks from out-of-state donors right up to Election Day and processed more than $550,000 after that. But his campaign rejected the notion that leaving money on the table reflected poorly on its stewardship of donations.
Technically, Romney has three options. He can let the money sit idle while he runs for President (like Bill Richardson did), another person can take control of the money and give it to other candidates, or he can donate it to charity.
Any guess which option he will pick?

Wednesday, February 7

Salvation Army tries to cut Greenpeace from donor's $260 million trust

One of the dirtiest secrets nonprofit fundraisers may try to keep from donors is the extent to which planned giving officers and lawyers will fight over a deceased donor's estate.

Doris Margaret Di Stefano passed away in June 2005 at the age of 90. Her husband, H. Guy Di Stefano, died a little over a year later. The quiet couple had an estate of more than $260 million (mostly from UPS stock from Doris' dad) and no heirs.

Last fall, eight charities were notified that would each receive roughly $33 million:

* Direct Relief International
* Salvation Army
* Santa Barbara Hospice Foundation
* Santa Barbara Visiting Nurse Association
* American Humane Society
* Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust
* Greenpeace International Inc.
* World Wildlife Fund
But there was a catch. Technically, the legal entity "Greenpeace International Inc." does not exist anymore and the Western Terrority Salvation Army has gone to court in Seattle to challenge the Di Stefano trust.

According to the New York Times:
Greenpeace has several different nonprofit incarnations. Greenpeace International was created in 1978... and Greenpeace Fund was created in 1980. They shared the same central phone number and offices in Washington, D.C., and many employees. During an I.R.S. audit that affirmed the organization’s tax-exempt status, an auditor suggested that Greenpeace reduce the number of its units.

In response, it dissolved Greenpeace International in December 2005. That organization’s board named the Greenpeace Fund as its successor-in-interest.
The same Times article mentions "internal friction" at the Salvation Army stemming from the fact that the Western Territory filed its objection without telling national headquarters in Virginia. If the Salvation Army succeeds in cutting Greenpeace out of the will, each of the remaining seven charities would split the $33 million.

What do you think - will this come down to a legal question of trying to decide "donor intent" in the court room or will this one be fought in the court of public opinion? Vote now.
How will this lawsuit be settled?
Greenpeace will win its share of trust
Salvation Army will withdraw lawsuit
Greenpeace will lose legal fight free polls

Monday, February 5

WTC Memorial rejects donation from coin maker

The World Trade Center Memorial Foundation rejected a donation of more than $30,000 from a company that marketed 9/11 commemorative coins.

The company described the coins as minted from silver recovered at Ground Zero. It also claimed that "$5 of every commemorative order is donated to official 9/11 family charities and memorials."

However, according to David Seifman at the New York Post, it might not be so easy:

Joseph Daniels, the foundation's president and CEO, said the National Collector's Mint (NCM) in Port Chester sent in the contributions as part of a campaign to peddle a "Freedom Tower Silver Dollar" in late 2004.

"We weren't comfortable because of the history," said Daniels. "They were investigated by the Attorney General's Office and ended up settling."

While still Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer obtained this order in October 2005:
Supreme Court Justice Thomas McNamara has ordered Port Chester-based National Collectors Mint (NCM) to pay civil penalties totaling $369,510 in connection with its marketing and sale of its "Freedom Tower Silver Dollar."
In a subsequent legal decision, Justice Cannizzaro ordered the NCM to send corrective letters offering refunds to all their consumers who had purchased or ordered the coin. Consumers received $2.2 million as a result of refunds and cancellations pursuant to that order.
We all know how hard it has been to fundraise at the WTC Memorial. Seeing them reject this donation is admirable. If their stance against accepting donations from the vultures at the National Collector's Mint has motivated you to make your own donation - you can donate here.

GOP Rep.'s wife earns $224,000 as his fundraiser

During his reelection campaign, GOP Rep. John Doolittle's wife worked as a fundraiser for the campaign. Rather than earning a flat fee, she got a 15 percent commission on every donation raised - creating the impression that campaign donations given to John Doolittle directly benefited his household.

The Associated Press reports:

Julie Doolittle's fundraising for Doolittle's campaign became so controversial during his campaign that he announced last month she would no longer be doing it, though she might continue to work for his political action committee, a separate committee that Doolittle uses to raise money for other candidates.
Julie's company helped raise close to $2.5 million for the campaign and she was owed $224,000 in fundraising commissions during the 2005-06 campaign cycle. Unfortunately, the Representative's campaign in hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and only hs $44,000 on hand.
The Mercury News reports that spokesman Richard Robinson said Doolittle has a fundraiser planned for this month and has been mailing letters to supporters asking for contributions.

Friday, February 2

Did Hillary Tell Donors "No Money To Anybody Else"?

According to the Huffington Post:

Hillary Clinton is personally putting out the word that she has no intention of sharing the wealth: "She's calling all the big-hitter fundraisers and saying, 'I want you to understand: NO money to anybody else. You cannot play both sides of the street,'" in the '08 presidential race, says a longtime Democratic operative who has worked for the Clintons in the past but turned down a role in the current campaign, and is so far sitting this one out.

And what's the reaction been? "People don't like it, but they're afraid of her." Yet the far more palpable fear for Democrats, discussed constantly, is that she'll have so much money she'll sail to the nomination.
Sounds like a smear job from an anonymous source... but then again, I'm anonymous - so I really can't talk, right?

Jerry Rice Roast Cancelled

Superbowls have a tendency to high light existing economic inequality in the host city. Last year the NFL tried to avoid images of million dollar celebrity events juxtaposed next to the urban neglect of inner-city Detroit. This year's host Miami is the third-poorest city in America. As the New York Times writes today:

For a couple of years, the N.F.L attempted a blue-collar outreach program of sorts as it whisked through Jacksonville or Detroit, only to discover its corporate partners and celebrity posse preferred balmy breezes to wind chills.
Amidst this disparity, the Jerry Rice Roast was supposed to raise money to benefit the Otis Wilson Foundation, a local homeless shelter, and Rice's own foundation. Yet, late yesterday the event website posted this announcement:
Due to circumstances beyond our control, we regret to inform you this event has been canceled.
I wonder if organizers were having a hard time selling the 1,500 tickets at $800 apiece at the Westin Diplomat. Here's a lesson for nonprofit event planners... when you see that your promoter advertising your event on Craig's List... you know he/she is having trouble selling tickets.