Wednesday, June 18

Convio uses Akido to redirect attacks

Rather than me posting yet another entry about Convio, I decided to lift this message that Robert L. Weiner from the Strategic Technology Advisors to Nonprofit and Educational Institutions posted to a fundraising listserve yesterday:

Convio just announced that they will be releasing a donor database, code-named Akido, on the platform. This will be a separate product from their online Constituent Relationship Management suite -- you don't have to be a Convio CRM client to use the database. They also say it's not simply a new template for SalesForce, but a product built from the ground up. Info is at:

As of now, the database is only available through what they're calling their Charter Program (which I read as beta testers). The program announcement includes a FAQ (at the bottom of the page) about the database and the program, plus some promotional videos:

And if you want more, Gene Austin, their CEO, is blogging about the new database here:

They plan to release the product in the 2nd half of this year. They haven't announced pricing.
For those of you that are curious, Akido is a form of martial arts that combines sport, philosophy, and religious beliefs. The irony for me is that Akido is known for "blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head-on." It can also be categorized under the general umbrella of "grappling arts."
Too funny.

From the stories I've heard of people who have tried to integrate online and offline data from their eCRM provider... it sounds like they picked the perfect name to redirect one of their biggest criticism into a new business opportunity.

Tuesday, June 17

Have you seen Victoria Tanner?

Police in Ohio are looking for a 12-year-old girl who goes by the name Victoria Tanner. The girl is accused of scamming "hundreds of people out of hundreds of dollars" by claiming to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

NewsNet 5 showed this video to viewers today. Scam victims say they believe the girl is being coached to enter a restaurant, ask permission to solicit funds, and promise season passes to an area amusement park. Some police even think the girl's parents are coaching her.

"She tells you that her dad manages Cedar Point and will give you a free season pass for $40," Heather Lobello of All Paws Pet Grooming in Parma said. "I've been waiting for over a week to hear from her or get the tickets. When I called the number she gave me -- a bogus number -- the person on the other end said 'you've probably been scammed.'"
The charity is not receiving the money and the donors are not receiving the amusement park passes (big shocker!). The scam has covered a 360 square mile area over the past week.

In related news... I bought some magic beans from a guy near my office yesterday. He told me that it was worth paying $40 for the handful of beans because they would grow some huge stalk to take me to magical places... as of yet - no stalk.

Monday, June 16

Red Cross says domestic disaster dollars depleted

It's been less than three months since the Red Cross announced that Jeff Towers would be the new chief development officer for the Red Cross. Technically, he's only been on the job since May 5th.

Even though he might have missed the executive shake-up from this past winter, a major RFP process for new fundraising consultants, a contenious funding relationship between local chapters and the national office, and ongoing attention from pesky bloggers... today he is dealing with a serious fundraising problem.

The Associated Press is reporting that during a conference call today, Towers said that its Disaster Relief Fund is wiped out and it's being forced to borrow money to help flood victims throughout the Midwest.

The shortage in the organization's only domestic disaster relief fund comes as it continues flood relief efforts in soaked Iowa and ramps up its work downstream in Illinois and Missouri as more flooding is expected there. Officials said the Red Cross has 2,500 workers on the ground, 89 percent of them volunteers.

Joe Becker, senior vice president of disaster services, said the fund has been depleted over the past few years in the absence of large-scale disasters that bring attention to the relevance of the Red Cross.

"We have had a large number of mid-size disasters or silent disasters that have cost us a considerable amount of money where we've not been able to raise what it's cost us to provide that service," he said.

So far the flood relief work in the Midwest has cost $15 million. Towers estimated that the cost could rise to $40 million and that funds are desperately needed. If you would like to donate now, you can do so by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 11

If your birthday is June 11th...

A very close friend of Don't Tell the Donor is celebrating their birthday today. Unfortunately, "a fundraiser" was too busy trying to raise money to share any cake and pass along best wishes in person... here's to hoping a special blog post will do the trick!

Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, June 10

Bloggers challenge Gene Austin from Convio to announce his over/under goal for the year

On June 5th of last week, Tom over at The Agitator posted this article:

Courtesy of Don’t Tell the Donor blog, I just saw Convio’s reaction to Blackbaud’s purchase of rival Kintera. In it, Convio CEO Gene Austin comments that in April alone, Convio processed over $41 million in online contributions for its clients.

So here’s my question for you, Gene…

Are you ready to predict a $500,000,000 (that’s a half-billion for you creatives) online fundraising year for Convio clients? That’s getting to be big money!
Even though it was this site that originally posted the number, Austin must have decided not to post to Don't Tell the Donor directly. Instead, Austin posted this challenge to a bet on the comment thread at the Agitator:
Gene Austin on June 5th, 2008 10:53 am
As we all know there is a fair amount of seasonality in fundraising (Spring, October and the end of year), but I actually think $550M is achievable this year. Remember that this is only actual online giving and many of our clients will testify that their offline results are significantly impacted by their online communications and strategy.

If you are a “betting man” Tom we could put a little wager together on $550M. If we don’t hit it, I will fly you to our Summit and pay for your registration….now what do I get if we beat it?

When I read the bet Austin was making, I couldn't wait to offer my own Vegas-style lines on what Convio's expected donation processing total will be for 2008. At first I thought the SEC might be supisicous if I was to publicly comment on how many donations I thought would be a reasonable over/under... but my urge to gamble made me get involved.

I assume the first stated over/under number of $500 million was determined because Tom multiplied $41 million from April by 12 months (that would be $492 million for you math geeks). So, part of me thinks if Gene's bravado is ready to drop a number like $550 million as an even higher over/under... that means he's holding back his real estimate.

But how much higher should the real over/under be?

First, we need to set some realistic benchmarks:

I know a couple organizations that raise 5% of their total online revenue during the month of April. That means their total annual revenue is 20 times the amount raised in the month of April. If we apply those metrics to this bet, the over/under should be $820 million. That would be an impressive accomplishment.

So, I'll tell you what. If Convio can process over $820 million for their clients in 2008, I will reveal my secret blogger identity on the Agitator's blog. Live. What do you think about that challenge Gene?

Monday, June 9

You can protect a lot of liberties for $335 million

Tonight in New York City, the caped crusaders over at the ACLU announced the public phase of the largest fundraising campaign on behalf of civil rights and liberties in American history. According to the group's press release:

"The $335 million "Leading Freedom Forward: The ACLU Campaign for the Future" is an unprecedented effort to build the organization's infrastructure by increasing funding to key state affiliates nationwide, dramatically enhancing advocacy capabilities and securing the ACLU's financial future for generations to come."

The group already has raised more than 2/3 of the money:

"The campaign has already raised more than $258 million - over $102 million in cash and pledges and $156 million in planned gifts - highlighted by 21 contributions of $1 million or more from the ACLU's staunchest supporters and several of the world's most noted philanthropists. These include two gifts of$12 million, one from George Soros, through his Open Society Institute, and one from the Sandler Foundation. Other leadership contributors include the Leon Levy Foundation, which donated $5 million, and Delaney and her husband,Wayne Jordan, who donated $4 million."
Personally, I've always thought capital campaigns got to cheat by waiting until they've almost raised all the money before announcing the actual number of the goal. How many annual fund directors are allowed to get 2/3 of the way through their fundraising drive before acknowledging the actual number goal.

What impresses me (and I'm sure other donors) about this press release is the bold commitment outlined in regards to how the money will be spent to achieve growth goals.
"A major goal of the campaign is to substantially increase the ACLU's presence and effectiveness from coast to coast by significantly increasing the programmatic and institutional capacity of its affiliates, particularly instates where civil liberties violations are most egregious and opportunities for change most promising. These states include Florida, Texas, New Mexico,Montana, Mississippi, Michigan, Missouri, and Tennessee.

Moreover, smaller affiliates located mainly in the South and in the country's heartland will be bolstered by increased resources that will enable them to hire full-time attorneys, launch new advocacy programs, and expand communications and public education initiatives."

While the ACLU was making this fundraising promise to donors in New York City, the organization was also hosting a huge membership conference for donors in Washington, DC.

Pretty impressive.

Thursday, June 5

The most interesting quirk of Clinton's fundraising dilemma

Remember last year when Hillary Clinton was the presumptive nominee and everyone was talking about how she was getting donors to max out for both the primary and the general election at the same time?

What amazes me is that while she has sooooo much debt - she is also awash in cash that is restricted to use only on the general election. According to Greg Gordon at McClatchy Newspapers:

"Clinton's latest report to the Federal Election Commission showed an April 30 cash balance of nearly $29.7 million, but that was deceiving. FEC spokesman George Smaragdis said the figure included $6 million in primary-season cash and $23.7 million in donations designated for the fall general election campaign. None of the general election donations can be used to retire debts accrued during the primary season.

Clinton's biggest problem, of course, is the $21 million in IOUs, which include $11,425,000 she is known to have lent her campaign through the first week of May and possibly millions of dollars more in yet-to-be-disclosed loans during her last-ditch primary campaign efforts."
I guess political nuts will be debating for the next couple weeks what she plans to do with that money. Will she give it to help Obama? Will she keep it and use it for another run in 2012?

For me, the lesson is that donors who give restricted gifts are short sighted and almost never really get what they think they are paying for. I've written before that I think it is selfish for donors who demand their gifts be used for restricted purposes are selfish and their help is counter-productive.

In this case, I guess the donors didn't have a choice if they wanted to give a maximum contribution it needed to be split between primary and general. But it certainly is ironic. I wonder if these donors can ask for a refund?

Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants

The newest Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants for this week is up over at Fundraising Breakthroughs... and even though they rejected my post again this week... I think it is always a great roundup of great posts you might have missed.

Even though "carnivals" are popular for any theme of blog subject category... it always makes me snicker thinking of that word because as most of us fundraisers know... working with nonprofit consultants IS sometimes like BEING at a carnival.

What booth would your consultants work at if they really were on a carnival midway? Would they be selling cotton candy and junk food? Would they be heckling you into the guess your weight game? Or maybe they would be the creepy guy trying to get you to play some game that is rigged against you?

Tuesday, June 3

Bloggers react to the first year of fundraising numbers from Facebook Causes App

I've been reading several blog postings about the fact that May 30th marked the first anniversary for Facebook's toolkit that enables the development of 3rd party Applications (Apps) that integrate directly with Facebook user data.

The Giving in a Digital World blog provides some interesting statistics on the biggest non-profit Facebook App, ‘Causes’ from Project Agape (now also available on MySpace). The allure to nonprofits is strong since they now have a total of 12 million registered users supporting over 80,000 US and Canadian non-profit organisations.

Over the last 12 months, $2.5 million has been raised through Causes for 19,445 organisations - equating to an average of just $126 per organisation. No donations at all have been made to 75% of the 80,000 organisations being ’supported’.
This leaves blogger Bryan Miller wonders if there is a greater potential. Caroline Preston at the Chronicle of Philanthropy's Give and Take blog also wrote about the underwhelming response to the news from people over at TechCrunch.
Adam Hyman points out on TechCrunch that the $2.5-million total works out to being only $0.21 per user. “How can anyone call this a success?” he asks.
The TechCrunch reaction is likely to shape the industry's reaction to the fundraising news because Michael Arrington published this article at the Washington Post. However, Allan Benamer at the Non-Profit Tech Blog took issue with the idea that the fundraising revenue was low. Benamer reminds readers:
"...the amount is actually greater than the first year revenue for Kiva, GlobalGiving and DonorsChoose COMBINED."
My own personal reaction is that the success of the Causes App should not be judged based on the dollar amount raised. Rather a more important metric should be the number of users who agree to share their name and contact information with their favorite nonprofits through this feature. That's why this is a revolutionary development.

For too many years, nonprofits have settled for the "cash bucket" mentality of fundraising where they failed to see the future value of collecting the names (and contact information) from people who threw donations into a bucket.

I'm happy to see social networking sites recognize that it's not enough just to raise money as a one time donation... the question for me will be whether nonprofit fundraisers figure out how to develop appropriate follow-up strategies to continue engaging this new breed of donor.

Monday, June 2

Is Your Staff Running To Their Next Gig?

The NonProfit Times posted my monthly column in their exclusive web editorial section

Recruiting, training, and retaining top notch fundraising staff is perhaps the single biggest challenge facing nonprofits today.

You can’t control postal rate increases or the impact of bad economic times on your donor’s ability to give. As a fundraiser, you might even be hopeless to control the quality of programming content or the effectiveness of your organization at serving its mission.The good news is that you probably have more control over staffing challenges than most other variables and there are some incredible new resources available to nonprofit leaders to help recruit, train, and retain. The bad news is that far too few people seem to be using the available resources.

Most successful leaders know that the hiring process is critically important for preventing “bad apples” from even getting hired in the first place. Unfortunately, you can be the most selective interviewer on the planet, but if you don’t have quality prospective employees to choose from you aren’t going to build a quality team.
Go here to read the rest of my article.

Convio responds to Blackbaud acquisition of Kintera

Gene Austin, the CEO of Convio, sent out his response this morning to last Thursday's announcement that Blackbaud would be acquiring Kintera.

No doubt you have now heard the news about Blackbaud's proposed acquisition of Kintera. This is certainly an interesting, but not entirely unexpected, development in our rapidly evolving market.

The Software as a Service approach we have led in the industry has driven tremendous success for organizations like yours, and we believe this approach causes challenges for legacy software providers. Blackbaud now faces the task of addressing the well-publicized operational challenges at Kintera, while rationalizing a roadmap that includes multiple eCRM and donor management products from four companies (Blackbaud, Target Analytics, eTapestry and Kintera). It will be interesting to watch this integration play out over the coming quarters and years.

My hope is that this acquisition will convince Blackbaud to listen and respond to the growing demand from nonprofits for interoperability and an open approach to integration. We would like to see Blackbaud make their APIs freely available, following Convio and other leading vendors who have worked with clients and the market to drive improved results. Better data integration benefits the nonprofit market.

We are increasingly excited about the success our clients are achieving and the growth in our business. We processed over $41M in online gifts for our clients in April alone — making this our largest month ever. Our business remains strong, with over 30% revenue growth in Q1 2008 compared to the same quarter in 2007 (on a proforma basis including our acquisition of GetActive). You will also see announcements from us in the coming months that highlight our continued investment in providing solutions that help you get more value from every constituent relationship.

We remain committed to your success — keep up the great work!

Gene Austin

A lot of that stuff sounds like spin to me... but you have to admit, it takes a certain of amount of chutzpah from Austin to give Blackbaud pointers on the need for them to "rationalize a roadmap" to integrate multiple eCRM and donor management platforms.

Make no mistakes, this is high stakes poker. Austin's use of this communique response to call on Blackbaud to "make their APIs freely available" seems designed to position Convio as an advocate on behalf of nonprofits against the newly created Blackbaud monster.