Saturday, March 31

Romney fundraisers can keep 10%

We all know that the first quarter closes this weekend for all presidential candidates... and now the game of managing expectations has begun.

Mitt Romney's campaign chief counsel Ben Ginsberg sent an internal memo to top fundraisers yesterday with a warning to examine the first quarter fundraising numbers raised by his opponents.

First, Governor Romney's totals will be indicative of our extraordinary success in building an organization and stirring excitement among grassroots activists. The number will be quite a tribute to Governor Romney and all of you since the other leading candidates enjoy universal name identification, existing networks of contributors and clear advantages in the national polls.

Second, be aware that some campaigns' totals will include monies raised for the general election. This money will artificially inflate totals, but it is meaningless in gauging current strength since not one penny of a campaign's general election funds can be used in the primary. Reports that don't separate primary and general election contributions will be misleading. As you know, Romney for President has raised only primary funds, but the McCain, Giuliani, Clinton and Obama campaigns have raised both. (While there may be some advantages in raising both kinds of money now, know there are also disadvantages – for example, 100 percent of general election monies raised must be returned if the candidate is not the nominee. This means that all the costs of general election fundraising, including fundraisers' commissions and event costs must be paid for with primary funds.)

Me thinks the Governor doth protest too much.

Sen. John McCain has already warned that he would not meet the campaign's fundraising goals this quarter. McCain's camp seems to acknowledge that Mitt Romney may wind up raising more.

But a loyal reader (and personal friend) of this blog sent in a tip last week from Forbes which reports Romney is allowing students to keep 10% of the money they raise for his campaign.
Participants in "Students for Mitt" will get 10 percent of the money they raise for the campaign beyond the first $1,000. While candidates often offer professional fundraisers commissions up to 8 percent, campaign experts believe the Massachusetts Republican is the first to do so with the legion of college students who have historically served as campaign volunteers.

"For the kids that want to get involved in a political campaign and they don't want to spend their summer painting houses, they can help the campaign and themselves at the same time," said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden.

For the "kids"?

Are they joking? Not only does it seem condescending, I'm not sure the AFP would be thrilled to learn about this.

Friday, March 30

I guess that's old news...

Imagine my surprise when I posted my last article about Independent Sector’s comment period only to then see that Ian Wilhelm had written the exact same article on Give and Take two days ago.

Maybe there's just too many fundraising blogs now... maybe there is no room for the little guy now that such well staffed publications are getting into the blog business... or maybe we need to return to our core competency.

Today is last day for comment period

I like it when smart bloggers take different sides on an issue, but I flat out love it when the debate pits Trent Stamp from Charity Navigator on one side and "underalms" from Where Most Needed on the other.

The two of them recently squared off after Trent posted an article, indicting that he was "flip-flopping" and decided to support the self-regulations drafted by a group called, the Independent Sector. He writes that in the past he thought the self-regulation was way too lenient. However, when he looked around at who joined him in opposition, he didn't like the company he was keeping.

The list of company was long: The Direct Marketing Association, Association of Fundraising Professionals, Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, American Charities for Reasonable Fundraising Regulation, Direct Mail Fundraisers Association, and the Association of Direct Response Fundraising Counsel.

So, if we’re drawing up sides, and the choice is between a) the Independent Sector, who I believe to be too protectionist and slow to adapt, but are undoubtedly smart people with good intentions representing some excellent charities, and b) the DC insiders who lobby on behalf of protecting the right to send your grandmother 843 pieces of unsolicited junk mail from sound-alike charities in an effort to trick her into supporting their groups, I’m with the former.
This prompted a strong response over at Where Most Needed:

Heaven knows, few really care about the Nonprofit Panel or its principles: the first draft received all of 125 comments from 300 million Americans who support a million charities. The underlying problem is reflected in the Form 990 for Independent Sector—it wants to speak for the nonprofit sector, but its members pay for only about a third of the expenses for the organization. The bulk of the income is from contributions. In effect, a handful of well-heeled foundations pay the bills and call the shots at IS. That's how you can have the odd situation of what is supposedly an industry group proposing a raft of regulation for its own industry.

Say what you will about the DMA, at least its members pay the freight. You can be assured that its positions represent those of its constituency. Independent Sector does not represent the views of US charities or nonprofits. It speaks about the independent sector, but not for the independent sector.

Personally, I haven't studied at IS's 990 - and since "underalms" is an anonymous blogger... readers are advised to due their own due diligence. But the debate is a good one. And every fundraiser should scan these guidelines and know what is being drafted because it might very well become law some day.

From IS's own website:

The Principles for Effective Practice is a continuation of the Panel’s work begun in 2004. The Panel’s Final and Supplemental Reports released in 2005 and 2006 detailed more than 150 recommendations for action by Congress, the Internal Revenue Service, and the charitable community to strengthen the transparency, governance and accountability of charitable organizations. Many of the Panel’s recommendations helped to shape nonprofit reforms included in the Pension Protection Act enacted in August 2006.

You can comment today by clicking here.

Monday, March 26

"A fundraiser" to reveal secret identity on Sunday

My post last week "In Defense of Anonymity" generated quite a bit of chatter through posted comments and emails. I honestly had no idea that some readers were so troubled by the fact that I used an online persona. in six days I will remove the mask, step out from behind the curtain, and reveal the real name of the writer behind the alter ego known as "a fundraiser."

Any guesses so far?

Sunday, March 25

Donors are freezin' for a reason

Ludington, MI sits on the chilly shores of Lake Michigan almost 100 miles north of Grand Rapids. This past Saturday morning, about 200 people woke up early and participated in the 7th annual Lake Jump by running into the frigid water.

The event is a fundraiser. This year's event raised money for the Ludington Skate Park. According to a local radio station more than $60,000 in pledges had been raised. The Ludington Daily News reported that a $25,000 donation from Hardman construction ensured that the Ludington Skate Park will receive a matching grant from Dow.

The Lake Jump started as a hoax in 2000 - a dare between two disc jockeys at WMOM - which generated a crowd of about 50 spectators. In 2001, the Lake Jump became an event in the Harbor Master campaign and proceeds raised were donated to the Region IV Women's Shelter. From that point forward, WMOM has donated annual Lake Jump proceeds to a charitable organization and has had over 150 participants "jump in" the frigid waters of Lake Michigan for a good cause in recent years.

In case you were interested, a Google search using the keywords "jump in a cold lake fundraiser" returned more than 500,000 responses - including the article that gave me the idea for this article's title.

Wednesday, March 21

In defense of Anonymity

I am a big fan of Tom Belford and Roger Craver because of their work at The Agitator. They write about relevant news with expert insight combined with uncany access to some of the country's best fundraising experts and professionals.

So, imagine my horror to read Tom's new post: Anonymity Sucks.

Whether in the context of ...

* Posting a "Big Sister" Hillary video.
* Writing an blog "evaluating" charities.
Making a "Comment" on someone's website or blog.
* Sneaking a contribution to a political candidate.
* Faking "grassroots support" for a legislative goal.
Hiding behind an e-mail nom de plume.

Anonymity used to attack or manipulate springs from cowardice and/or malice.

It is the antithesis of integrity.

It is the enemy of authentic discourse.

Whatever merit the message might hold.


I added the emphasis myself on lines that hit close to home for me.

Sure, I'm an anonymous fundraiser who works at a charity and is reluctant to use my real name and professional affiliation online. However, in my defense, it was always my hope that readers of my blog understand that the online identity of "a fundraiser" has an honest point of view, shared without malice. If anything I often regret that my online reputation as "a fundraiser" may be wider known than my real identity because "a fundraiser's" ethics and integrity (not to mention brilliant sense of humor) is solid... with the hundreds of regular readers.

I would go one step further. I think Tom is wrong.

I believe users of "Web 2.0" need to be granted the ability to create online identities protect their real names while still ensuring an authentic discourse backed by the reputation of that identity.

People who play online virtual world games like The Sims and Second Life understand this important distinction... so do people who use online chatrooms and message boards.

Using my identity as "a fundraiser" translates into a reputation. I've worked hard to build and protect this reputation.

Tom could never convince me that online reputations are the antithesis of integrity... I believe it is one of the essential core tenants of a successful and thriving web community.

Monday, March 19

Post office rejects request for rate hike delay

I just heard that the Governors of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) today approved an increase in the price of a First-Class stamp to 41 cents.

...but more important for fundraisers - they rejected a request for a year-long delay in the Not Flat-Machinable rates... which means direct mail is going to get a lot more expensive starting on May 14th. If you go to their website, it will say:

The Governors have concluded that three issues -- Standard Mail flats, the Nonmachinable Surcharge for First-Class Mail letters, and the Priority Mail Flat Rate Box -- would benefit from further consideration. In order to allow the Postal Service to seek reconsideration of the three matters which merit such treatment, as provided under the former provisions of 39 U.S.C. § 3625(c)(2), we approve the Recommended Decision and return those three matters to the Commission. The technical term for our decision is “allow under protest.” We ask the Commission to move as expeditiously as possible to give mailers a practical opportunity to plan effectively for future mailings.
Allow under protest, eh? I'm going to remember that the next time I need to deliver bad news to someone... and yes, while this is wonky stuff... make no mistake... this is bad news for direct mail fundraisers.

When direct mail fundraising steals your face

Last summer, the people of Scranton, PA passed several aggressive measures against illegal immigrants. The ordinances imposes fines on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and denies business permits to companies that employ them.

But now some citizens are starting to ask if the town has gone too far. Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta had to testify last week to defend the ordinance against claims that it is unconstitutional... and now there are questions about the Mayor's role in fundraising for Mountain States Legal Foundation, a Colorado-based group giving free legal advice to the city to defend its illegal immigration ordinance.

Residents recently received a fundraising letter from the Foundation which has been described in detail by the Time Tribune in this article:

The mayor’s face and “Hazleton, Pa.” appear in the return address portion of the envelope. Under his name is this message: “The ACLU is suing my town for adopting a tough anti-illegal immigration law. Your help is needed.”

Inside the envelope, it becomes more clear that this is not a note sent from Hazleton or the mayor. It’s a fundraising effort from Mountain States Legal Foundation, a Colorado-based group giving free legal advice to the city to defend its illegal immigration ordinance. The money raised from the mailing does not go into Hazleton’s coffers, though.

Some of the messages it sends are not statements Mr. Barletta particularly wants to be associated with, he said Friday after reading the mailer for the first time. Among other assertions, the letter predicts the fall of America because of an influx of illegal immigrants, specifically, Mexicans.

So... when asked for his reaction to the letter, he said, “That’s not a statement I would make." He also was quoted as saying, “I have no control over what they do to solicit donations.”

I've heard of stories like this before when someone has a picture used to misappropriate comments to a person who claims they would not say anything like that.

But I didn't hear Berletta's comments actually denouncing the person and group that made the hateful comments within the fundraising package. Unless he denounces the entire package won't donors be left with the impression that Berletta supports the the overall message?

Wednesday, March 14

Raccoon back on menu for fundraiser

Donors to the Hibernia Community Building in Indiana learned today that raccoon will once again be served at the annual fundraising dinner. Eighty six year old LaVeran Lorenz announced she will resume cooking duties for the March 24 event - provided that her neighbor help with the cleaning.

The Journal and Courier Online from West Lafayette, Indiana reported that Allus Franklin and other hunters in the town on Hibernia Road off Indiana 62 about 20 miles north of Louisville, Ky., have bagged 103 raccoons for the event.

Lorenz, who had handled much of the raccoon cooking duty for every fundraiser since the early 1950s, begged off after the 2002 event.

The 21 members of the Owen Township Homemakers since have prepared chili and ham and beans for fundraisers, but people have pleaded with the cook to bring raccoon back to the table.

Helen Sue Sneed, a daughter of Lorenz's, said she wasn't surprised her mother agreed."It's what keeps her going," Sneed told the AP. "She enjoys being around people. That's a big part of it."

For those who don't have a taste for the "wild meat," a much calmer meat - turkey - will be served along with dressing and gravy, parsley potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans and rolls.

Saturday, March 10

Bears shut down fundraisers

This past week the Chicago Bears sent cease-and-desist letters to the organizer of as many as 16 spring fundraisers for Chicago-area schools.

The fundraising events were to involve Chicago Bears football players in charity basketball games playing against local school teachers and faculty.

The football team told the company that arranged the games--Bears on Court, owned by Tony Gagliardo--that it was using the team's name without permission and using players in violation of their contracts.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Gagliardo said, "I've been doing this for 30 years, and everybody loved us, what we did for the community. They own the team, and I understand where they don't want the players injured."

Jacobs High School in Algonquin hoped to use money from a game next week to buy books for a new media center and library. Tickets totaling $5,000 had been sold. if their loss in the Super Bowl wasn't painful enough for the city... now they go and cut off these fundraisers for the schools?

Friday, March 9

Professor challenges donor's "naming rights"

Here's a juicy little story from Cal State Fullerton where a donor who pledged $4.5 million is being challenged by a professor who does not want the donor's name on a new $87.5 million building.

The Orange County Register reported that Steven G. Mihaylo, a 1969 graduate of Cal State Fullerton, signed a guilty plea admitting his company, Inter-Tel Inc., committed federal mail fraud and antitrust violations.

Mihaylo was not personally accused of wrongdoing, but his company paid $8.7 million in fines. The company's guilty plea came seven months after Mihaylo made his pledge to put his name on the building – and five months before he received an honorary doctorate from the school.

Mihaylo blamed his company's troubles on rogue employees. Earl Nelson, who headed Inter-Tel's branch in Emeryville, faces federal trial in April on charges of conspiracy, bid rigging and mail fraud in contracts with school districts in San Francisco, West Fresno and Highland Park, Mich.

The university has no plans to remove Mihaylo's name. Hamid Tavakolian, the professor whose students uncovered the Inter-Tel settlement, met Tuesday with Cal State Fullerton President Milton Gordon to discuss the controversy.

Tavakolian has threatened legal action against administrators, whom he accuses of using the university's e-mail to impugn his motives.

Tuesday, March 6

Are you a Libby donor?

You've probably heard by now that former adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was convicted Tuesday of lying and obstructing a leak investigation. The four guilty verdicts ended a seven-week CIA leak trial that focused new attention on the Bush administration's much-criticized handling of intelligence reports about weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the Iraq war. (Go here for full AP story)

The same day Libby was convicted, it was announced that former Senator Fred Thompson, a member of the Advisory Committee for the Libby Legal Defense Trust has offered to host another fundraiser for the Libby Legal Defense Trust.

Are there really Scooter Libby donors out there?

If the former senator (and current Law & Order television star) is really concerned about his buddy Scooter, perhaps he should host a fundraiser for the Human Rights Watch's Sentencing Project. As a convicted felon living in Virgina - Libby will be barred from voting in upcoming elections.

In forty-six states and the District of Columbia, criminal disenfranchisement laws deny the vote to all convicted adults in prison. Thirty-two states also disenfranchise felons on parole; twenty-nine disenfranchise those on probation. And, due to laws that may be unique in the world, in fourteen states even ex-offenders who have fully served their sentences remain barred for life from voting.
That doesn't sound like a democracy to me... but this is a blog about donors and fundraising... so let me say this: it seems to me if you are donating to the Libby Defense Fund you are either wasting your money or paying a scape goat for keeping his mouth closed.

Seeing Red... one year later

It's been a year since the first Red T-shirts hit Gap shelves in London and Mya Frazier over at Advertising Age reports the much publicized campaign has only raised $18 million worldwide.

The article also he collective marketing outlay by Gap, Apple and Motorola has been enormous, with some estimates as high as $100 million. Mya also interviewed Trent Stamp.

Trent Stamp, president of Charity Navigator, which rates the spending practices of 5,000 nonprofits, said he's concerned about the campaign's impact on the next generation. "The Red campaign can be a good start or it can be a colossal waste of money, and it all depends on whether this edgy, innovative campaign inspires young people to be better citizens or just gives them an excuse to feel good about themselves while they buy an overpriced item they don't really need."
In their defense:

Julie Cordua, VP-marketing at Red and a former Motorola marketing exec and director-buzz marketing at Helio, said the outlay by the program's partners must be understood within the context of the campaign's goal: sustainability. "It's not a charity program of them writing a one-time check. It has to make good business sense for the company so the money will continue to flow to the Global Fund over time." She added that since many of Red's partners haven't closed their books yet on 2006, more funds likely will be added to the $18 million.
Ok... perhaps this one isn't all about the return on investment (ROI) from the sales of jeans, iPods, and cell phones. Don't get me wrong. Measuring ROI on these programs is essential. But consider this:

The U.S. Congress just approved a $724 million pledge to the Global Fund, on top of $1.9 billion already given and $650 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

I think the real question is whether or not the Red campaign helped a little bit to secure this additional funding... and if so, shouldn't it be seen as a PR campaign instead of a retail program?

Sunday, March 4

Widow rejects club's donation

Last week, Sgt. Howard Plouff was shot and killed outside a nightclub in Winston-Salem while trying to break up a fight. The Red Roster club had offered to donate proceeds from two nights to Plouff's family.

However, the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association has said the family of Sgt. Plouff won't accept any of the money raised by the club.

Meanwhile, the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office Friday arrested a club bouncer who's accused of firing a gun in the air while deputies were trying to break up the fight.

Donations can be made at area Wachovia Bank locations or mailed to the Police Benevolent Foundation (write Plouff Trust on the memo line), 1900 Brannan Road, McConough, Ga., 30253.

Saturday, March 3

Give and Take

Following up on their article last month about the rise in nonprofit blogs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy created "Give and Take" as a site to pull together the best on the web.

In a way, you can consider us your nonprofit-blog butler — offering you a complete menu of blogs about philanthropy while also recommending posts and comments that deserve your attention.

The right column on your Web browser includes a list of notable blogs about the nonprofit world. Some talk about issues facing charities and foundations, others focus on how to become a better fund raiser or manager, while others focus on specific topics such as technology.
Nice work Peter.

Friday, March 2

Donor withholds $12 million over chapel cross dispute

The Associated Press reported yesterday that a longtime donor to the College of William & Mary will withhold a $12 million pledge to the public university because of the removal of a cross from a campus chapel.

In a letter dated Feb 16, former Board of Visitors member James W. McGlothlin wrote another former board member that school President Gene Nichol's decision to remove an 18-inch-high brass cross from the chapel's altar was "unbelievable."

It's unknown whether McGlothlin is the donor. Asked on Wednesday whether McGlothlin was the donor, officials said the school didn't discuss individual donors.

The student newspaper, The Flat Hat, published an editorial today describing the donor's decision to withhold a pledge as setting "a dangerous and troubling precedent of alumni using financial donations as a tool to influence or buy College policy."

In December, The Flat Hat printed a staff editorial questioning Nichol’s methods and the secretive way in which he removed the cross, and called for more open dialogue. Nichol has since acknowledged that he should have sought the opinion of students and alumni before making his decision. Regardless, neither he nor any other member of the school’s administration should compromise what they feel is best for the College for the sake of alumni or dollars.
Leave it to the students to represent the moral voice of reason. It remains to be seen if the school President will listen.

Thursday, March 1

Kerry confronts 'swift boat' donor

On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings to consider Sam Fox as Bush's nominee to be the new U.S. Ambassador to Belgium.

Senator John Kerry is on the Committee and during the hearings he questioned Fox about his $50,000 donation to the partisan group behind the "swift boat" smear ads in the 2004 election.

The GOP mega donor squirmed and gave this as part of his defense:

I heard someone mention here that we gave to 250 charities. I also went back and had my staff count in '05 and '06, we've made more than 1,000 contributions. More than 100 of those were political, 900 and some odd were charitable and to institutions of learning and so forth. A great deal of those had to do with basic human needs. I think it was Senator Danforth who mentioned every time he got a letter that had Harbour Group on it, he shuddered because it was going to cost him money. Marilyn and I both raise a lot of money from a lot of people.

The point I'm making is this: We ask a lot of people for money and people ask us for money. And very fortunately, we've been blessed with being successful financially and when we're asked, we generally give -- particularly if we know who gave it.
I'm not posting this because I think the appointment of a big donor to an ambassador is gross. And I'm not writing because I like seeing someone confront a political funder who fueled the politics of personal destruction... I am writing about this because I think it's important for fundraisers to see inside this donor's mind.

I honestly don't think that Fox is lying by saying he doesn't remember. Even though your donors might not be as rich as Fox and give 1,000 different contributions every two years... they may share a similar thought process. Perhaps the lesson is that donors know the general direction they want their money to go, but they don't keep specific tabs on when they give or even to who.

I was once working for a nonprofit that gathered a group of current monthly donors for a focus group without telling them what they all had in common. When the participants were given a list of charities and asked which ones they have supported in the last two years... sometimes only 6 in 10 actually remembered they had been giving to the nonprofit.

What do you think?