Wednesday, April 30

Where will you donate your $600 tax rebate check?

Okay folks, it's time for an interactive post that requires feedback from loyal readers of Don't Tell the Donor. A good friend forwarded me an article by Stephanie Strom at the New York Times who wrote about the opportunities for charities who plan to ask supporters to donate their $600 rebate check.

I'm asking readers to post a comment with the best fundraising pitch they've seen from nonprofits. If you can include a link, that's great... if it's an email you received, please include the charity's name and copy and paste some of the text.

The Times article spends too much time quoting the fundraising consultant Robert Sharpe and only three weak examples are cited from:

* The VFW National Home for Children
* Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches
* Peace Action

...but I know this audience can compile a good list of which organizations are on the creative cutting edge by offering donors an easy way to donate their rebate.

Hunting lobby forces stores to pull support of pet shelters

There are 181 Meijer stores in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. The stores are called hypermarkets because they carry a combination of groceries and department store goods.

Unfortunately, this week they made a very bad decision to stop supporting a pet shelter because of complaints from a lobby group that claims to represent 35,000 hunters. The store is now getting the butt end of a reputation as not caring for the pets of families being foreclosed on.

Meijer had originally started a program to donate $1, up to $5,000, for every entry in an online pet photo contest. However, the plug was pulled last Friday after the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance charged the group organizing the Foreclosure Pets Fund is anti-hunting.

Shandra Martinez in Tuesday's Grand Rapids Press cites an Alliance press release from that was circulated on the internet with the contact information for Meijer chairman Hank Meijer:

"The money donated to the HSUS through this promotion, while not going directly to its anti-hunting campaign, will free up money from the organization's general fund that can be used to attack the right of sportsmen."
The pressure seemed to have worked because Meijer announced they were stopping their support. You can learn more about the cowardly response by the "heartless inhumane hypermarket" by reading the rest of the story.

If you want to make your opinions heard, you can contact Meijer CEO and Chairman Hank Meijer at 2929 Walker Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 49544-9428; phone – (616) 453-6711; fax – (616) 791-2572.

This story was tipped off to me by someone who emailed me a link to this story on "Fundraising and the Fungibility Problem" over at the Acton Institute Power Blog.

Tuesday, April 29

Paper sees jealousy driving criticism of opera marketer

The Wall Street Journal had a great article recently on Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

"...Mr. Gelb has managed to enchant both the masses and the elites. Using film and theater directors, he has invigorated the Met's offerings without introducing sadomasochism and other freakish "updates" common in Europe. When the current season ends in mid-May, the Met expects to have sold 87.5% of available tickets, up from 76.8% two years ago, and box office revenues will likely reach $93 million, up from $82.7 million."
But it hasn't come without controversy:

"All of the things he has done have also been quite costly. The Met's budget has grown more than 21% in two years, to a projected $268.3 million in the fiscal year ending July 31 from $221.7 million in fiscal 2006. Its deficit -- despite energetic fund raising -- is likely to widen to somewhere between $6 million and $10 million this fiscal year, compared with a deficit of $4.5 million two years ago.

Which is why there are doubts about Mr. Gelb's strategy, even among his supporters. Some fear that his Falstaffian model is unsustainable, that he is creating a bubble of interest that will inevitably deflate, leaving the Met overextended and mired in the red. Others, says Brian Dickie, general director of the Chicago Opera Theater, admire Mr. Gelb but regard him as "a marketing man who loves opera" -- overly reliant on gimmicks and buzz whose power will fade.

Certainly, jealousy is motivating some of the gossip. But whether Mr. Gelb -- who says he's a producer, not a marketer -- succeeds or fails is important because, as he brags, "we're being copied by other companies, and we're the inspiration for other arts organizations as well." He volunteers that he was invited recently to speak about his strategy at Harvard's Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations -- stopping a beat before adding that his cousin, Christopher Stone, runs the Hauser Center. If Mr. Gelb is leading others astray, there will be blood elsewhere in the cultural world.
Gossip? Blood? At the opera? No...

Monday, April 28

Big Brother winner Adam Jasinski pledges to donate $!00,000

From E! Online:

Former public relations manager Adam Jasinski is the latest winner of CBS’ Big Brother, besting college student Ryan Quicksall.

Jasinsky, who began the competition employed with the United Autism Foundation, was fired during his stay in the Big Brother house for comments he made about autistic children.

The now-unemployed, newly crowned winner takes home a half-million dollar-prize, has pledged to donate one-fifth of his winnings to his former employer.
Since Jasinski won $500,000, his pledge works out to $100,000.

Sunday, April 27

Jeff Brooks reacts to my critique of fundraising conferences

Last week, Jeff Brooks over at Donor Power Blog picked up my last column in the NonProfit Times about the current state of fundraising conferences.

Jeff offers his own critique of some nonprofit fundraising conferences:

"There's one main difference between the nightmarish climactic scene of a zombie movie and some of the conferences we fundraisers attend: The conferences use Powerpoint."
Thanks for expanding the discussion Jeff. I actually think there have been some positive developments in the past several weeks that shows progress toward making these important professional learning opportunities into the 21st century.

Thursday, April 24

British Prime Minister looks to US for fundraising tips

When Gordon Brown visited the United States last week he met with all three presidential candidates. Why, you might ask?

It appears he is looking for help "in wiping out the lead that the Tories have established over Labour in the dash for political cash."

The Prime Minister has told The Times his party is examining the fundraising success of the two Democratic presidential candidates, both of whom regularly generate more than $1 million (£500,000) a day through small donations on the internet.

“We are watching closely how they’ve managed to extend their reach to new groups of supporters and donors,” he said during a trip to Washington last week. “The political systems are not the same and there are legal constraints about asking for money in unsolicited e-mails. But we’re certainly interested in what we can learn.” Mr Brown, a keen student of American politics, met both of the Democrat contenders and John McCain, the Republican nominee. According to latest figures, Mr Obama raised more than $40 million last month – the bulk of it online, via a donor base of more than one million individuals.
Oiy. One more bad habit we can export to the rest of the world.

Wednesday, April 23

Fundraising priest disappears after floating away on 1000 helium balloons

A Brazilian priest named Rev. Adelir Antonio di Carli took off Sunday from the coastal city of Paranagua in southern Brazil, buoyed by 1,000 helium-filled balloons. Unfortunately, less than eight hours after taking flight, Fr De Carli lost contact with authorities and was reported missing.

He was seeking to break a 19-hour record for the longest time in-flight with balloons and to raise money for a 'spiritual rest stop' for truckers in Paranagua.

The cluster of yellow, orange, pink and white balloons was seen last night, floating intact in the sea off Santa Catarina state near Fr di Carli's last contact point.
The priest embarked on a similar adventure in January this year when he used only 600 balloons to carry him on a four-hour, 5,300m-high voyage from the town of Ampere to neighbouring Argentina.

According to the CBC in Canada, some people are criticizing the fundraising stunt:
Meanwhile, a flight instructor who expelled di Carli from flight school three years ago has publicly criticized the priest for his stunt, Gancia said.

"He called him undisciplined and an exhibitionist, and he was always bragging about his faith and how his faith was going to carry him and take him safely through his journey. And that's not what happened."
He was reported to have been strapped into an inflatable chair, wearing a thermal outfit and helmet. He also had a parachute, however rescuers admit that hope is fading.

Monday, April 21

Another fundraiser reacts to Oprah's Big Give

Joshua Horwitz, the executive director of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, in Washington, wrote an angry criticism of Oprah's Big Give reality television show... it's a well written piece that I agree with.

While Mr. Paletta did perform admirably given the parameters of the show, Big Give was a loser for the professionals who run nonprofit organizations and foundations.

Television offers a great opportunity to educate and to make people passionate about causes — especially when a philanthropist and television personality as popular as Oprah Winfrey is sponsoring the lessons.

But the show ended up featuring amateur and embarrassing efforts at giving. It passed off as entertainment people wasting thousands of dollars of donated money and did little to help the American public learn what it really takes to change the lives of other people. Oprah’s last words on the show Sunday night were to encourage the television audience to “give big,” which is a worthy goal, but the television program failed to show average Americans how they can become effective and strategic philanthropists.
Go here to read the entire article.

Friday, April 18

Random observation on nonprofit fundraising skill demands

This was from a reader who emailed me earlier today:

"I have always bemoaned the skill demands put on non-profit staff. This is especially true of fundraisers who are called upon to produce programs from creation to evaluation and everything in-between. It's unheard of in any field that I am familiar with where the same person does concept, creative, design, copy, budget, production, fulfillment, analysis and evaluation."

Very true indeed...

Fundraising plan to use erotic calendars backfires

I read a funny story today about these seven middle-aged Spanish moms who posed for a tongue-in-cheek erotic calendar as fundraiser for their children's tiny, rural school. Unfortunately, the plan backfired and now they are saddled with debt and 5,000 unwanted copies.

One of the photos shows the mothers with discreetly placed Christmas tinsel as their only garb. Other goofy poses include a shotgun-toting mom wearing only a fox pelt, and another covering her body with a red umbrella.
Goofy? That's one way to put it.

I've got no problem with middle-aged moms poising for goofy calendars. I actually think it's kinda funny. But I do have a problem with half ass "fundraising" ideas that focus too much on the goofy stuff and not enough on the necessary planning and budgeting stuff. The AP article goes on to say:

The calendars came out in November and at first were a big hit. But the plan fizzled. The women acknowledge being amateurs in publishing and advertising, and they missed the Christmas shopping rush. Now, sales of the $8 calendar have dried up and they owe a printer nearly $16,000.
Unfortunately, these moms are now up against an insurmountable enemy... a ticking clock. A lot of amateur fundraising plans fail to account for "time" in their hastily arraigned plans. And for every day that passes their problem gets bigger.

Thursday, April 17

Do you have a "jilted donor" program?

DonorsChoose continues to receive lots of positive attention for creating a philanthropic marketplace where public school teachers are connected with individuals making direct contributions. The donors can fund a specific school project for varying amounts and they are supposed to receive thank you letters from the students that received the money.

...but that doesn't always happen.

Who knows why, but no matter how much oversight the staff performs, there are bound to be a few deadbeats who never send thank-you letters to their donors. Unfortunately, donors who are left with a yucky taste in their mouth may direct their ill-will toward DonorsChoose for the bad experience.

They seem to know this and have created a "jilted donor" program to deal with those contributors who never hear from the recipient of their donation. I've heard that if you complain about the bad experience, they will give you a "gift certificate" which can be designated to another project.

That's so cool.

This fundraiser thinks it is absolutely critical for nonprofit fundraising staff to be honest with their donors and say: "Hey, sometimes mistakes happen despite our best efforts to prevent them. We're embarrassed by the experience you received as a donor and we want to make it up to you."

If I was to ever give a donation using DonorsChoose, I would designate that my money be used specifically to fund the "jilted donor" program.

Wednesday, April 16

It sure has been quiet around here

My blogging vacation is over. I'm posting a new story later tonight about the "jilted donor" program being run by a national nonprofit I met recently.

Saturday, April 12

U.N. official discusses international philanthropy

Tom Watson posted some video on the News onPhilanthropy website.

Keynote speaker Dr. Robert C. Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Planning and Policy Coordination of the United Nations touched on international action around climate change and global health. at onPhilanthropy's fifth annual Summit onPhilanthropy in New York. More than 300 philanthropists, nonprofit executives, and foundation managers filled the Yale Club on March 11th, joining in a spirited day-long discussion on trends in giving and social ventures. The Summit is a yearly event for philanthropy leaders produced by, the media arm of international philanthropic services company Changing Our World, Inc.

Friday, April 11

September 11 Memorial hits fundraising goal

From the New York Sun:

A fund for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center has reached a $350 million construction fundraising goal after a recent donation by the financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost 658 employees in the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Mayor Bloomberg, who took over as chairman of the September 11 Memorial & Museum in October 2006 and has donated at least $15 million to the project, announced yesterday at the quarterly board of directors meeting that more than $217 million toward the first phase of fund-raising had been raised in the past year and a half, including $10 million from Cantor Fitzgerald. More than 60,000 individuals contributed from 50 states and 31 countries.
I'm not sure what the bigger takeaway is... Mayor Bloomberg knows how to get things done OR the fact that they did it with the classic donor pyramid approach by getting the top 15 donors to give more than half of the $350 million raised for the first phase of fundraising?

Tuesday, April 8

Blackbaud blogs live from their own conference

Steve MacLaughlin, the Director of Internet Solutions at Blackbaud, offers some live blogging from the 2008 Team Approach User Forum on his blog, Connections.

I think live blogging from conferences is great. It offers fundraisers like myself a free opportunity to learn what's going on even when they aren't able to attend. I've previously posted that I was happy to see Team Approach uploading all the session PowerPoints online for anyone to review the information on their own... plus, as an added benefit, you don't need to endure any painful networking events where you need to meet a bunch of sales folks.

Looking at his blog, it seems like Mr. MacLaughlin's travel schedule is pretty hectic. In the past three weeks he has traveled in NTEN in New Orleans, AFP in San Diego, and this conference in Boston. Yikes!

Although, it must be difficult for an employee of Blackbaud's like Steve to write his honest opinions about session where Lee Gartley (President, Target Analytics and Target Software), Marc Chardon (CEO, Blackbaud), and Chuck Longfield (Target Founder and Blackbaud Chief Scientist) present.

His reviews of all the sessions are very positive. Hopefully, this blog will be a good reference in the future.

UPDATE 4/9/08: I guess I should have kept that more of a secret, it looks like access to the Target site is now restricted.

Monday, April 7

How Bear Stearns collapse is good for some nonprofits

JP Morgan Chase announced today that they would be cutting approximately 7,000 of the 14,000 employees who worked for Bear Stearns.

Sucks for them.

I have to admit, I don't usually feel much empathy for financial services folks who lose their jobs because the over-leveraged firm went bust and needed a Federal bail-out. Part of that above average pay they've been enjoying is all part of the risk-reward that comes from working for the crazy gamblers on Wall Street.

However, Will Schneider at Future Leaders in Philanthropy (FLiP) posted a great an interested story today on the "dozens" of internships that had been offered to college and MBA students.

Brian J. Marchiony, a spokesman for JP Morgan, told the Harvard Crimson that students who lost their full-time job offers will not be left empty-handed.

“[They] will be able to retain their sign-on and relocation bonuses and have the opportunity to use our career placement services,” Marchiony said. J.P. Morgan is also providing an alternative summer plan for students who had their internships withdrawn. If they work at one of the many non-profit organizations selected by J.P. Morgan, those students will receive their full internship salary, according to Marchiony.
Does anyone have a copy of the approved nonprofits? Be careful if you hire one of these wiz-kids for your fundraising staff. They are liable to suggest illiquid mortgage backed securities and/or risky real-estate investment trusts in order to offer above average returns on your money.

Sunday, April 6

Did your board choose the wrong executive?

The Nonprofit Quarterly devoted its Spring issue to the theme of leadership transition. In her description of the most recent issue, Ruth McCambridge acknowledges that "it is torturous to watch a good organization wither away or go awry because the wrong executive was hired."

The issue includes a great article by Deborah Linnell (who authored the seminal, "Founders and other Gods") as well as other articles on executive transition. Be sure to check it out.

Friday, April 4

Nonprofit legal humor

I found a cool website recently that shares dozens of humorous anecdotes about nonprofit legal issues. Don Kramer publishes a legal newsletter that has "Nonprofit Law You Need to Know."

I thought this real thank you note sent to a donor was priceless:

The charity sent out its thank you letter to supporters a little more than two weeks after the fundraising event. It read in its entirety as follows:

“On behalf of the [Special] Awards Committee, thank you for your support of the [Special] Awards Breakfast and the important work of the [charity]. Your gift will make a difference in the lives of so many.

“This special fundraising event took place on Friday, [date] with a networking and VIP reception that started at 7:15 a.m. and the Breakfast & Award Ceremony commencing at 8:00 a.m. The breakfast was held at the [name] Hotel, [address], in the Millennium Ballroom.

“It is because of donors like you that we are able to keep our promise [to better the world].”

One can only wonder whether the second paragraph was included because it was such a memorable event that the donors would have forgotten where they had been.

Wow. Talk about a mail merge malfunction!

The Search For Sneezers

A reader emailed me this morning to say that I had forgotten to mention another interesting session for the AFP conference that dealt with social networking. An excerpt of her email is below:

Philip King, from Artez Interactive, gave a great presentation called “The Search For Sneezers,” about how organizations using social fundraising need to identify, motivate and care for their “sneezers” – the folks who are acting as fundraising hubs, bringing in first-time donors in huge numbers. Philip’s presentation pairs some excellent insights about technology with some of the theories about idea epidemics made famous in The Tipping Point. Very interesting stuff.

In case you missed the session, he’ll be reprising this presentation in a live webcast next Wednesday. Registration is free and it will be recorded:
Thanks for the tip.

Thursday, April 3

Team Approach uploads conference PowerPoints

Maybe they listened to me...

Apparently, the nonprofit fundraising database, Team Approach is holding a conference in Massachusetts next week. One of DTTD's loyal readers is going and she sent me an email this afternoon claiming that the organizers have posted most of the presentations to their website in advance of the conference. Go here to check it out, it doesn't appear like you need to be registered for Team Approach User Forum 2008 to download PowerPoints.

For those of you that might not know, earlier this week I called on fundraising conference organizers to start taking advantage of the power of the web for these events:

Finally, I challenge organizers to use the untapped potential of technology in more conference planning and follow-up. I know I’m a little biased, but why aren’t more bloggers given media credentials to cover events in real time? Why aren’t all those PowerPoint slideshows archived electronically for attendees to read prior to (and after) each conference? Why don’t we encourage the Direct Marketing Association, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Council For Advancement and Support of Education and the Nonprofit Technology Network to use upload video and audio from presentations?
I probably can't take full credit... because if I would have known people listened to what I write, I might have asked for something more dramatic...

UPDATE 4/9/08: I guess I should have kept that more of a secret, it looks like access to the Target site is now restricted.

They are coming to eat your lunch

For years I have heard Americans who work as fundraisers for national advocacy groups discuss whether it would work if they decided to raise money internationally. Usually, such conversations hit a snag when people start asking about postage for international mailings or some other such concern.

The usual conclusion is that "we'll think about it later when we have more time." (Ironically, that's also the same conclusion reached when big groups try to consider whether they should reach out in Spanish to potential immigrant populations within the United States.)

I don't think this procrastination is simplybecause people are lazy... often the concerns and cost/benefit questions are valid... however, I mention all of this because I've had more than one person comment to me about the high number of foreigners at this year's AFP Conference.

So, while fundraisers rarely admit publicly that they view themselves as competitors to each other, I thought I would warn you... those foreign nonprofits are coming to eat your lunch (and steal your donors)... so be prepared.

Chapel & York announced recently that they are holding a series of seminars entitled, "Fundraising from America." The seminars will be held in London to coincide with their publication, "Directory of American Grantmakers 2008-09."

Globization can be a bitch if you are caught unprepared.

The Agitator's take on the AFP conference

Thanks for all the great feedback everyone is offering on my most recent column for the NonProfit Times. I really didn't think it was a Jerry Maguire moment when I wrote it. I just get sick and tired of fundraisers who go to conferences unprepared - wasting time and money - without getting anything out of the experience. I think it can (and should) be better... so I said so.

Roger Craver had a great way of describing the AFP on his Agitator blog. Because I know that blog takes a long time to load, I wanted to clip a portion of his well written post below:

The annual migration in our trade is underway. The Association of Fundraising Professionals opened its annual conference yesterday in San Diego. Consultants wooing clients, printers, envelope salespeople, new media application service providers ... all there wooing everyone in sight, along with 1/3 of the attendees looking for new jobs and wearing their best smiles.

Unfortunately, I can't be there observing us all in our natural habitat. But I do want to send this note to loyal Agitator readers who are opening this morning's edition over coffee in their rooms, ploughing through The Conference Program wondering what sessions they should attend today or whether they should just go to Sea World. (By the way, Sea World has a terrific website and is a good place to visit!)

There's a wide offering in the AFP Conference Program. From the conventional to the important to the inane. What strikes me by its absence is there's very, very little about what will matter most in effective fundraising in the years to come: social networking advances thanks to technology.
Excellent. Roger goes on to name some of the names that DID speak - Mark Rovner, Nick Allen, and Nicci Noble - all three excellent speakers for nonprofit fundraisers to learn from.

Wednesday, April 2

AFP live blogging & my new NPT column

I would be amiss if I didn't mention that Reed over at the Association of Fundraising Professionals set up a neat blog for this year's AFP Conference in San Diego.

I should also point out that the Chronicle of Philanthropy also has a new blog, named Prospecting, which has been cranking out some decent coverage of sessions from the AFP events.

But, perhaps most important... my new column has been published over the NonProfit Times web exclusive section. The title this month is, "An Honest Critique Of The Fundraising Conference Circuit." I think many of you who are in San Diego now can relate.

Go here to read the entire article now... especially my money quote:

To put it bluntly, conferences suffer when organizers allow uninspired speakers to present stale content to disengaged attendees.
...oh yeah, and you should also take note of the fact that the NPT placed my article above Eleanor Cliff's new column.