Wednesday, May 30

Arson can't stop fundraising race

On March 26, an arson fire leveled the Irish Eyes Pub & Restaurant in Lewes, Delaware. Despite the fact that the restaurant has yet to re rebuilt, Irish Eyes part-owner Tom Jones and his wife Charlene will continue to sponsor the Blue-Gold All-Star 5K.

Kevin Tresolini, The News Journal reports:

The fourth annual race is June 16 and benefits the Delaware Foundation Reaching Citizens with Cognitive Disabilities, the charity many First State residents are familiar with because of June's annual Blue-Gold all-star high school football game.

The race has raised about $7,500 for DFRC in its first three years, said Jerry McNesby, a DFRC board member and runner who helped found the 5K.

And the race will go on.
The only difference seems to be that "is that prerace and postrace activities will take place underneath temporary tents rather than inside the restaurant's walls."'s not a lot of money compared to the sums raised by other national non-profits. But, each day when I scan headlines to find material for this blog, I'm usually cynical and looking for embarrassing news stories. When I find stories like this and see the determination of individual donors when they want to help a cause.... I can't help but be proud to call myself a fundraiser.

I wish these folks lots of good luck.

Tuesday, May 29

Fundraising season opens in the Hamptons

This weekend marked the beginning of the summer season in the Hamptons. Those who follow the East Hampton social scene suggest that the community is more awash in Wall Street money than ever before... and anywhere people with money go on vacation - fundraisers usually follow.

Dave Marcus wrote a piece in today's Newsday about the unwritten code of Hamptons fundraisers: "You avoid scheduling an event at the same time as other groups. You keep the noise, parking and traffic to a minimum. And you get just one shot each summer."

That rule is being broken this year as Prince, Billy Joel, Dave Matthews, Tom Petty and James Taylor will perform on five prime Saturday nights to fund scholarships at the non-profit Ross School in East Hampton. The concerts may put a dent in the money raised for other events since the only ticket available is a "social passport" to attend all five concerts for $15,000.

As the 14-week social season kicks off this weekend, hundreds of charities are scurrying to sell tickets to barbecues, beach parties, clam bakes, antiques fairs, triathlons, sandcastle contests and black-tie galas. The beneficiaries range from local Kiwanis clubs to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of New York.
He also cites Linda Miller, the secretary at the East Hampton Town Hall, who maintains a list of the permits issued to events for more than 50 people.When she started the list in 2000, it ran 10 pages. By last year, it filled 21.

So, will the growing number of events crowd out other more established events?

Writer Steven Gaines, author of "Philistines at the Hedgerow," a book about Hamptons society, warns that the Hamptons scene has become over-saturated. He sees an ominous sign in the silent auctions that are cropping up. "They're everywhere," Gaines said. "Another silent auction? You want to stick your finger down your throat and throw up."
Throw up indeed.

Saturday, May 26

20 gallons of blood

Donors sometimes may feel they are giving a pound of flesh to fundraisers who make repeated solicitations... but what if a donor set a personal goal to give 160 donations over the course of 40 years - giving 20 gallons of their blood?

I saw this Associated Press story and couldn't help but think of what we call "multi-donors" - those who give 3 or more donations a year for many years in a row:

Seventy-nine-year-old Lillian Bloodworth made her 160th donation Wednesday in Pensacola. Throughout the years, Bloodworth has given enough blood to help more than 400 people.

Bloodworth says she first started to give blood in 1968 when she was volunteering for the Red Cross. Bloodworth says "If I can give and someone else can't, then why not do it?"

I'm sorry... what was her name again? Bloodworth? Is that the secret to forging lifelong relationships with donors? Maybe its easier if you find donors with last names that closely match your cause or brand.

Friday, May 25

Where's all the food?

On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that food banks across the country have experienced a drop in food donations - by more than 15 or 20% in some cases.

The food-bank shortages are nationwide. The Community Food Banks of South Dakota in Sioux Falls, S.D., received 35 percent fewer donations from grocery stores last year. The Greater Chicago Food Depository, the nation's fourth-largest food bank in terms of the amount of food distributed, has 12 percent fewer donations this year than last.
Why the drop you might ask?

It is the down side of a drive in recent years by manufacturers and retailers for greater supply-chain efficiency. Toward that end, many food manufacturers began producing food in quantities more closely tailored to individual retail customers' needs. That in turn has reduced the amount of food that gets sold to retailers and ultimately returned to the manufacturers.

At the same time, new technology has helped eliminate production errors such as processing canned food without labels or producing an entire order of cereal boxes using upside-down text.
Foods banks are scrambling to make up for the loss - in some cases turning to perishable food. Safeway says its donations of cash and food to food banks amounted to $110 million last year, up from $109 million the year before.

Tuesday, May 22

Download this awesome podcast

I really recommend the most recent 501c3Cast - Podcast for Nonprofits recorded by Corey Pudhorodsky.

He talks about a cool new website he discovered called which highlights stories from “The 50% League” – people who have given half or more of their income or business profits for at least three years, or given at least 50% of their financial assets or business’ equity at some point in their lives.

He discusses the conditions placed on the $100 million gift T. Boone Pickens gave to Texas medical centers. The money will go to a fund that must grow within 25 years to $500 million — through earnings on the original principal or other donations — before the centers can use it. If the medical centers don't meet the goal, they would keep the original gift and give the interest to Oklahoma State University, Pickens' alma mater.

He also talks about Peter Deitz's fundraising for Net2 Innovation Award winners using widgets.

Finally, he interviews Sharron Powell Quincy of the Red Cross about the Greensburg, KS relief efforts. His website also links to some incredible aerial photos of the damage.

Great work Corey.

Monday, May 21

Bee swarm disrupts fundraising walk

For the past couple weeks, the media has reported on the mysterious disappearance of bees. Nationwide, beekeepers have reported five times their normal winter bee losses because of colony collapse disorder.

But I guess no one told the bees in Ligonier, Indiana.

On Saturday, a swarm of about 3,000 bees emerged from the woods around the West Noble High School football field, where 700 people were participating in a fundraising walk for the American Cancer Society.

Authorities evacuated the area, a local beekeeper was called to use a smoke machine to calm the bees, no one was stung, and the event was only delayed about 45 minutes according to the Associated Press story.

Sunday, May 20

The $10 billion donation

According to the Malaysia Sun:

The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, is giving ten billion dollars to set up an educational foundation. Sheikh Mohammed hopes the money will improve the standard of education, research and job creation in the Middle East.

The announcement was made to widespread applause at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, and is thought to be one of the largest charitable donations in history.
The Foundation will be based in the United Arab Emirates.

Friday, May 18

Sugar-free fundraisers in schools

The fifth article I ever wrote when this blog started last July was about how the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education had issued guidelines on food and fundraising and the local PTAs were concerned they will lose revenue if they couldn't sell pizza and candy to kids at sporting events.

More and more attention is being given to the issue as school fundraisers are adapting to a rash of restrictions passed last year. An article ran in yesterday's Fairbanks Daily News about how schools in Alaska are coping.

The school district’s wellness policy, approved by the Fairbanks North Star Borough Board of Education in April 2006, requires that only healthy food be sold or provided to students during school hours. The new rules have led to some creative fundraising tactics as groups across the school district have had to think outside the brownie pan.
As a result, schools are turning to healthier fundraising practices that don't involve taunting children with sugar. The article points out an importance difference:
A $500 fundraiser to buy books for a classroom is small change compared with the hundreds of thousands of dollars brought in each year through vending machines in the schools.
One district in Alaska used to receive more than $500,000 in annual vending sales.
Vending machine sales in Fairbanks schools have plummeted this year, according to Dan Thompson, the president of VendAlaska, the company that stocks the school’s snack machines.

“The first week (of school) it dropped to 25 percent or less of what we did the previous year,” he said.

There isn't going to be an easy answer for this.

Wednesday, May 16

The biggest threat

What is the biggest threat to your favorite charity meeting its fundraising goals?

Bad publicity? A recession? Terrorism?

No. The biggest risk facing most fundraising departments is staff turnover. I'm not talking about the chaos caused by one disgruntled employee that ripples through the development development, crushing morale and leading to a mass exodus - although I've seen it happen.

I guess this happens in all offices in all industries. But, it seems to happen more for nonprofit fundraising departments. Staff leave for many reasons; they are underpaid, their skills are in demand, they tend to be younger and may be climbing up their career ladder, or they may decide that it is faster to get a new job rather than wait for internal promotions.

The Washington Post recently ran a profile of the career path for modern day "versatile, passionate fundraisers."

Fundraisers say their biggest problem is insufficient staffing, cited by one-fourth of the 1,072 fundraising members in the 2006 salary survey. Other big issues are juggling other assignments besides development and a lack of appreciation for what fundraisers do.
Regardless of the reason, if a fundraiser quits in the middle of the year - it can jeopardize not only that year's fundraising targets, but it can retard the organization's hope for financial growth for several years to come.

Fundraising directors who face this transition can often only hope to maintain the status quo... what is lost is the opportunity for progress as institutional knowledge walks out the door. The real loss is in what could have been... that exponential growth that goes unrealized.

Tuesday, May 15

2007 Ride for Life XX raises over $1 million

Last Sunday, over 2,400 motorcyclists from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, New York and Virginia took part in a fundraiser put on by the Eastern Harley-Davidson Dealers Association.

The bikers raised a record-setting $1,006,185, up from last year’s total of $853,089.

This is the 20th anniversary of the event that benefits the Muscular Dystrophy Association. I'm impressed with the nonprofits marketing efforts to create the website in order to provide a resource for Harley-Davidson enthusiasts to learn of other events.

A press release from the company says the partnership began with MDA in 1980 with a program called Bikers Fight MD. Since 1980, Harley-Davidson’s family of dealers, customers, employees, suppliers and HOG chapters have raised more than $60 million for “Jerry’s kids.”

...and here you probably thought all Harley riders were big mean ugly thugs.

The first month since the VA Tech shooting

It's been almost month since the shootings at Virginia Tech. We thought it would be interesting to revisit the topic of fundraising in the wake of the tragedy and to examine the progress of those fundraising efforts.

Within 8 days of the shootings, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported:

The university' s new Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund — created the day after the shootings to pay for grief counseling, memorials, and other needs of victims' families and survivors — has raised more than $1-million, including an estimated 8,000 online donations totaling about $800,000, said Michael Kiser, the university's director of development communication.
In addition to the general fund, the school also created the Hokie Spirit Scholarship Fund to support students university-wide, in addition to specific funds in the name of each of the victims. (Check this for a list of funds that have been established in victims' names.)

The school has said that the final criteria for these funds will be dependent upon approval by each family. When I peeked at the secure donation form the school was using, I was a little confused by the list. It will be interesting to see how this fundraising tactic plays out.

It has also been interesting to see how student run websites like were established immediately and have flourished in the past thirty days.

In fact, I am also curious how the ongoing unrestricted fundraising efforts by the school will be effected by this outpouring of special giving. The Hokie Athletic Club website says the school was already behind in total fundraising through February 2007, raising $15.7 million as compared to $19.6 million the same time last year.

Monday, May 14

More chapters disaffiliate from American Lung Association

The American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago is leaving its national association rather than be subsumed in a seven-state regional organization.

According to Charles Storch in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago chapter will join five in California and one in New Hampshire that since 2006 have disaffiliated, or plan to, from the ALA, all in opposition to the national body's reorganization of its local affiliates into regional groups.

[A spokeswoman] said the chapter was concerned that it might not be able to continue certain neighborhood programs and that the money raised here for research and educational programs might not be locally reinvested.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that Lung Association officials acknowledged the departure of the seven affiliates will cost the national organization about $1-million in direct annual fees and tens of millions of dollars in total annual gifts.

Overall, donations to the American Lung Association from individuals, foundations, and corporations have declined steadily in recent years, from $153-million in 1999 to about $104-million in 2005, according to figures provided by the charity.
But it's not just about contributions. When the five California chapters left the organization last year, they took their property and assets with them. As a result, the national organization began discussing how to prevent such an action in the future.

Last month, the national board voted unanimously to add to its annual contracts a clause that requires any organizations that cease their affiliation with the American Lung Association to turn over their buildings, land, and other assets and reserves to the national entity. The new contracts will take effect July 1, after the existing agreements expire.
The departures of the New Hampshire and Chicago organizations were precipitated by this contractual clause.

(Thanks to Paul Botts over at dot-org for the original post.)

Friday, May 11

The 30 most generous celebrities

The Giving Back Fund has compiled a list of the celebrities who have made the largest personal public donations to charity in 2006. You can check out the group's methodology on their website.

No big surprise that Oprah Winfrey topped the list with over $58 million. Lance Armstrong, Dolly Parton, and Elizabeth Taylor all tied for 28th place after each giving $500,000.

The Giving Back Fund was established in 1997 and on its website, they describe themselves as hoping, "to serve as the premier philanthropic resource to the sports and entertainment communities. We provide philanthropic advice, management, and mentoring to help encourage responsible, authentic, and effective charity."

Bush's low approval hurts GOP fundraising

Last night, President Bush helped raise $10.5 million for the national Republican Party at its annual gala. That's the smallest gross in years for the event.

According to The Associated Press, that's down from $17 million last year, $15 million in 2005 and $14 million in 2003. When Bush was seeking re-election to the White House in 2004, the dinner brought in a record $38.5 million.

That's almost a 75% drop from three years ago.

The cocktail reception drew about 800 people to the cavernous DC Armory, where they dined standing up on tenderloin sandwiches, crab cakes, vegetables and hummus. The ticket price was $1,500 a person, though many donated more.
Wait a minute. They dined standing up? Jeez... you mean, they couldn't even afford chairs??? Would the last person out please turn off the lights? (Cartoon by Sage Stossel)

Thursday, May 10

When donors complain

Jeff Brooks has an excellent article in the May issue of Fundraising Success Magazine. He talks about how fundraisers should react to complaints from donors.

If you were an evil person (which, of course, you aren’t), and you wanted to do serious harm to a nonprofit organization (which, of course, you don’t), here’s an easy way: Find out about its most successful fundraising effort, and complain about it. To really make it work, recruit a few friends to complain about the same thing. Just a handful will do the trick.

Your complaints could set off a flurry of self-destructive activity: campaigns gutted of their motivational power, media buys slashed, lawyers called in to turn clear communications into other-worldly jargon. Fundraising campaigns that motivated thousands of people to give could be scrapped — because a few people complained. I’ve seen it happen!

But why do complaints have so much power? It stems from the nagging fear that the complainers might be right.
He explains that organizations need a sense of self confidence in order to tell the truth and keep donors (and staff) focused on the big picture - the good work done by the organization.

Wednesday, May 9

Are you an extreme fundraiser?

In the good old days, all a donor had to do was a write a check and use the enclosed pre-paid envelope. But times have changed, as they say, and there is a lot competing for donor's attention today.

According to Verna Gates at the New Zealand Herald, its this competition for donor dollars that is driving some fundraisers to "extreme fundraising." The author cites a couple good examples:

The founder of, Eric Boyko, lost two fingers on Argentina's Aconcagua mountain while raising $100,000 ($135,256) for the Montreal Alzheimer's Society.

Jamie Baker got heat blisters last summer running across six metres of fire to raise £5000 ($13,498) for rescued badgers and hedgehogs at the Secret World Wildlife Refuge in Highbridge, England. "You don't dawdle," he said of the experience.
The media loves stories like these... and these and these. In fact, there are plenty of examples of well-intentioned daredevils and publicity hungry donors that do all sorts of crazy things for charity. we love these quirky donors, we really do.

However, the real extreme fundraisers are those that produce sustainable annual revenue growth for predictable budgets. It might not be as sexy as walking across hot coals, but I've got a lot more respect for a fundraiser who creates, plans, executes, and repeats a successful campaign.

Tuesday, May 8

Greenpeace survives Salvation Army shakedown

There is apparently an end to the embarrassing dispute brought by the Salvation Army over a $264 million estate left to eight charities by H. Guy Di Stefano.

Susan Gilmore at the Seattle Times reported on rumors of a settlement:

The Salvation Army would not say how the case was settled, but Tom Wetterer, attorney for Greenpeace, said his organization expects to get $27 million.
That would be about $6 million less than the original payout of $33 million each of the charities received when the will was read.

Giuliani gave to Planned Parenthood

Check out this article by Jonathan Martin at The Politico:

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani in his campaign appearances this year has stated that he personally abhors abortion, even though he supports keeping a legal right to choose. But records show that in the '90s he contributed money at least six times to Planned Parenthood, one of the country's leading abortion rights groups and its top provider of abortions.

Federal tax returns made public by the former New York mayor show that he and his then-wife, Donna Hanover, made personal donations to national, state and city chapters of Planned Parenthood totaling $900 in 1993, 1994, 1998 and 1999.

The returns have been on the public record for years, but the detail about Giuliani's support for Planned Parenthood -- along with e-mailed copies of the returns -- was provided to The Politico by aides to a rival campaign, who insisted on not being identified.

Provided to The Politico by aides to a rival campaign??!?!?!?! Wow, what an interesting weapon in the battle of political mud-slinging.

UPDATE: Rudy defended his donations as consistent with his position on the Laura Ingraham radio show.

Monday, May 7

Update from the Team Approach User Forum

The 2007 Team Approach User Forum is underway in Cambridge this week.

Target President Lee Gartley, Chief Scientist Chuck Longfield, and Blackbaud CEO Marc Chardon began Monday's breakfast session by acknowledging that more than 100 days have passed since the two companies merged.

Whether they were intending to show their fearlessness or simply didn't consider the potential for an ackward backlash, they opened it up for questions and bravely passed an open mic through the crowd.

It didn't take long for several attendees to voice their concerns and need for public assurances. The simple fact is that Blackbaud has close to 15,000 clients and Team Approach (TA) has 80. Some clients still seem worried about what this will mean for software support.

In a rather blunt answer during his portion of the Q&A, Longfield made an analogy between Team Approach's recent improvements and home repairs. He said during recent years the improvements have been mostly cosmetic, similar to adding new layers of paint to the outside of a home - when what was really needed was new plumbing and wiring.

Now, I have to admit, I'm not that well versed in how the two database companies plan to integrate systems... but it seems like Longfield told the audience it will take two years to incorporate all the features of TA on to the Blackbaud platform.

Does anyone else have information on whether there is a date set for when Blackbaud plans to cease all support for Team Approach?

Friday, May 4

Not your average barnyard gala

Tomorrow is the Kentucky Derby. For the past ten years, the Mint Jubilee Gala has been held on the eve of the Derby. The fundraising event was created by Louisville natives Tom and Chris Thieneman, and in recent years, it has attracted a bigger and bigger list of celebrity attendees.

Last year, over 1,500 people from across the country attended the sold-out event. This year there are some crazy benefits for sponsors. In 2006, just under $200,000 was raised for the organizations through ticket sales and silent auction purchases.

The saddle of last year's winning horse Barbaro will be included in the silent auction and is expected to draw world wide bidders. The saddle was donated and autographed by jockey Edgar Prado to raise funds for the Permanently Disabled Jockey’s Fund, which offers living and medical expense assistance to injured riders.

I have to admit, I like Prado a lot, but I'm surprised the money from the saddle isn't going instead to the Barbaro Memorial Fund. Speaking of which - the sponsors of the Derby announced a controversial challenge.

There will be a $1 million bonus at the Kentucky Derby if the first-place horse wins by more than 6½ lengths -- the margin of Barbaro's victory last year. The bonus would be divided Saturday among the winning trainer, jockey, owner and a charity, with each receiving 25 percent.
Proceeds from the gala will be used to benefit cancer research and services at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center at the University of Louisville and Gilda's Club Louisville.

For a complete list of over 70 other barnyard variety events taking place during the Kentucky Derby Festival, go here.

Thursday, May 3

Edwards dominates fundraising in the South

Its not surprising that the two New Yorkers considered front-runners in the 2008 race — Clinton and Giuliani — fared particularly poorly in the region. But the Edwards team was out in force showing a new analysis that shows while trailing in 3rd in the nation-wide fundraising, the picture is different in the South.

But in money raised in the South, Edwards was the leader. From Louisiana to the Carolinas, Edwards easily beat his Democratic rivals and — perhaps more importantly — raised more money than the top three Republican candidates combined.

Counting only Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, Edwards raised $2,723,000. That's more than six times Clinton's take of $440,471 and nearly four times the $705,650 raised by Obama, according to numbers compiled by, an online repository of campaign finance data.

Among Republicans, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney led the way with $1,127,484, compared with $603,723 for Arizona Sen. John McCain and $384,500 for Giuliani.

When consultants and fundraisers break up

Tom Belford at The Agitator recently responded to Peter Panepento's piece in the Chronicle of Philanthropy titled Bad Consultant Confidential. Belford lists four reasons why fundraisers and consultants split ways:

* The agency/consultant gets intellectually lazy.

* The agency lets service lag. Maybe there's a turnover in agency staff, and the new folks are, well, inferior.

* The client changes leaders, and the new leader wants to rattle the cage, or bring in a trusted accomplice from their past, or just put their own stamp on things.

* The client genuinely outgrows their need for the consultant as in-house capabilities mature, or alternatively, more complex needs of the client outstrip the capabilities of the consultant.
He gives really good explanations of each reason - and I can honestly say that I've actually experienced each of the reasons in action during different "divorces" with consultants during my fundraising lifetime. But there are also a couple lesser known reasons consultant and fundraisers break up:

* If another prospective consultant sends a bigger basket of cookies during the holidays - it could lead to divorce.

* If the consultant destroys the client during a corporate golf outing - a break up could ensue.

* If the consultant is one of those people who complains repeatedly that the fundraising organization doesn't pay invoices within 60 days - they may get kicked to the curb.

* If the consultant has a name that is really hard to pronounce - the fundraiser may end the relationship just to avoid sounding stupid when trying to say their names.

* If the consultant has an ugly corporate logo.

* ...and finally, when cupid strikes between clients and consultants, sober heads often put premature ends to consulting relationships.

It's hard to tell if this list makes any recently fired consultants feel better to know it had nothing to do with their performance... but I bet there are current and former account executives out there that have really good stories to share in the comment section.

Tuesday, May 1

More fundraisers arrested over alledged ties to Tamil Tigers

Last Wednesday federal officials arrested Karunakaran Kandasamy in Queens before handing him over to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn.

According to the complaint, Kandasamy was the leader of the Tamil Tigers' American branch, and in that role he was responsible for finding and channeling financial backing, logistical assistance and other material support.

Among other incidents, the complaint charges that Kandasamy organized fund-raising events at churches and public schools in Queens and New Jersey, with hundreds of people attending. The amount of money he raised has not been disclosed.

The arrest was the latest in a series involving alleged Tamil Tigers operatives in the United States. Eleven defendants have previously been indicted in connection to material support for the group, the district attorney's office said.

Today, we got word that two Melbourne men now face charges of passing fundraising money raised to help victims of the Tsunami to a group with alledged links to a terrorist group. The Age website reports that Aruran Vinayagamoorthy, 32 and Sivarajah Yathavan, 36, appeared in Melbourne Magistrates Court.

Both men are charged with three offences relating to being a member of a terrorist organisation, making funds available to a terrorist organisation and intentionally providing support or resources to a terrorist organisation.

The Australian Federal Police arrested the pair today following a series of raids today across Melbourne and in Sydney, but before the men faced court - the Police held a press conference announcing the arrests.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are not a proscribed terrorist organisation in Australia but it is illegal to provide funds to the group.

At a media conference yesterday, Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon said some of the money was donated "under the banner of raising money for the (2004 Boxing Day) tsunami, for relief by the community".

The two year investigation looked into claims that charity groups were raising funds for Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - or Tamil Tigers.

The Tamil Tigers have been waging a bloody secessionist campaign against the Sri Lankan government since the 1970s. Since 1983, there has been an on-off civil war between the Tamil Tigers and the government, which it's estimated has killed around 64,000 people and displaced 1 million. The violence continues today.