Friday, August 29

McCain's major donor tips off VP pick early

As the political world waits to hear who McCain will pick for his VP... it appeared that much discussed front-runners like Pawlenty and Romney were out. After initial reports showed that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was still in Alaska, some reporters thought she wouldn't be at the big high noon rally in Dayton, Ohio.

But then... reports surfaced of a second plane from Alaska to Dayton... and who owns that second plane? None other than Clay Lacy.

Major donors always ruin everything...

UPDATE: Political junkies may enjoy this article I found from earlier this year "Sparks Fly Over Palin Fundraising Role,"

Thursday, August 28

What happens to charities deposits when their banks fail?

When a bank fails and the FDIC seizes possession, most people know that individuals are insured by the government up to $100,000. There are exceptions for joint accounts and retirement accounts... but the people who usually get screwed by businesses that have large sums of money on deposit.

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) in the UK is worried that charities would that have their funds in a bank that fails would be ruined.

The Charities Aid Foundation has written to Chancellor Alistair Darling and the Financial Services Authority requesting full compensation for charities if they lose money in bank failures.
CAF has asked for the proposal of full compensation for charities to be included in an FSA consultation on compensation limits, which will take place in the autumn.
Yikes. That's scary. I have to admit, I don't know what the rules are in the United States... nor do I know who would be lobbying the FDIC to look out for charities?

Wednesday, August 27

Cow pie bingo and the poop pool

When I was growing up, a local group used to raise money during my town's annual summer fair with an event called the "Daisy Drop."

It's known by different names in different parts of the country... some people call it "cow pie bingo" and others call it "cow chip fundraisers" or even a "poop pool."

The rules were pretty simple... donors could buy a square of land in a big field... then a poor cow (named Daisy) would be released and everyone would wait to see where she dropped her first pile of crap... and if it landed in your sqaure - you won a 50/50 raffle of cash.

It's gross and it's somewhat cruel to the animal involved to have hundreds of locals yelling at it with begging pleas to dump on their square... but I credit this as one of the turning points in my life that made me want to learn more about fundraising.

For some reason, when I read this morning that "five out of the seven winners of the Dar es Salaam Goat races held in Dar es Salaam on Saturday, donated their cash prizes to a charity fund pool," it brough back childhood memories of Daisy.

Tuesday, August 26

Foundations and endowments hit by market slide

It seems like only yesterday when foundations and non-profit endowment managers were talking with lustful jealousy about their desire to get involved with hedge funds that could return double digit gains.

Well, it's hard to believe we won't be hearing from some of the bigger losers who chased out sized market performance and lost bundles. According to Investment News:

Endowments have posted double-digit returns since 2004, according to a survey of 785 institutions by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, a Washington-based professional organization. It found a one-year average return of 17.2% for fiscal-year 2007, 10.7% for 2006, 9.3% for 2005 and 15.1% for 2004.

But that reign is over.

A recent report from Chicago-based Northern Trust Corp. found that year-to-date returns through June 30 were negative for the third consecutive quarter for its database of 291 funds, which include 90 foundations and endowments with $91 billion in assets.
While I'm sure that there will be some big blow-ups... much are expecting flat to moderately negative returns:
On an anecdotal basis, foundations and endowments are experiencing flat to negative returns, said John Griswold, executive director of the Commonfund Institute of Wilton, Conn., which researches nearly 800 endowments of colleges and private independent schools, and about 300 foundations.
And finally, some people believe that the big dogs like Harvard and Yale will escape without serious injury this year:
Some larger endowments may have positive returns, such as Harvard University of Cambridge, Mass., which is expected to have returns that range from 7% to 9%, according to published reports not confirmed by the university. The university reported this year that 33% of its endowment's holdings were in real assets.

"I think you can expect Yale [University of New Haven, Conn.] to be positive again and many of the large universities, which have a heavy allocation to private-capital investments and commodities," Mr. Griswold said. "But for those who came into commodities only recently, they may have found it disappointing."
You can read more here.

Critic sneers at public television's bland fundraising

Apparently Richard Levey at Direct Magazine wasn't impressed with WNYC's recent fundraising appeal. His new column offered this scathing review:

When a fundraising appeal goes into its 11th consecutive minute, and each minute seems like an hour, this is a problem.

The most interesting part of Lehrer’s appeal came when a WNYC associate flumfurred his way through an explanation of the 2-for-1 donation match deal offered by station trustee Lex Kaplan. Lehrer and his cohort puzzled through the math of the offer: Was it a 200% match or a 300% match, they wondered. Not the most riveting content, at least it was an attempt to liven up the proceedings with something unscripted.

Unscripted is apparently a no-no. When the appeal was rebroadcast during the wee hours of the night, this particular portion was cut out. Which was a shame, as it was easily the most human part of the pitch. Ah, well, everyone’s allowed a mulligan now and then, especially when it’s part of a good cause.
His parting shot contained this back-handed compliment:

When WNYC is at its best, it’s smart and engaging. Why its fundraising drives have the pizzazz and verve of last week’s pot roast is a mystery not even A Prairie Home Companion’s Guy Noir could untangle.
I think it's an important (although ignored) detail whether or not Mr. Levey is (or ever has been) a donor to WNYC...

Friday, August 22

Fundraising goal finally met for Democrats convention

The Denver committee responsible for raising $40.6 million in funding for the upcoming Democratic National Convention received a lot of negative press earlier this summer when it feared they would miss the goal.

Well... it looks like they really turned on the juice this past month. This week it was announced that the group met its goal.

Political consultant Eric Sondermann said Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper should be credited with helping the committee garner the funds deemed necessary to adequately support next week's convention in the Colorado city, The Denver Post said Wednesday.

"I think you have to give credit where credit is due," Sondermann said. "(Denver Mayor John) Hickenlooper has been tenacious about this and never gave up, even when a lot of people figured we would have to make this a success even if it has to be scaled down."

The group's successful efforts come more than a month after it reported it was $11 million short of meeting its June deadline for DNC funding, the Post reported.
The mayor said that the rate of fundraising increased 2 to 3 times in the last four weeks.

Thursday, August 21 offers disappointing outlook

Shareholders reacted negatively today to news from, Inc.'s disappointing outlook. Shares were down more than $10 at $55.15 (about 16%) in early trading on worries about the software-as-a-service company's future sales growth amid macro economic concerns.

A lot of nonprofits use - so, here's the part that should serve as a warning to fundraisers:

Analyst Charles Di Bona of Bernstein Research said the shaky economic environment may be hurting's business as some of its key customers, small and medium-sized companies, reel from the slowdown.

"We are concerned that SMBs, which make up 2/3 of Salesforce's customer base, may suffer more markedly than their larger counterparts amid any ongoing economic weakness, and that this may in turn impact Salesforce's bookings, new and renewal, and ultimately Salesforce's top line," Di Bona wrote. "Indeed, Salesforce appears to have had some softness in its deferred revenues and bookings in the quarter, perhaps giving fuel to this concern."
This is what I would call a leading economic indicator. That's right folks... we've been saying it at Don't Tell the Donor since late 2007. Smaller and medium sized nonprofits are going to feel this pain a lot sooner than the big dogs.

Oh yeah, and by the way... Goldman Sachs said today that half of the world's economies are in or will be in a recession within the next year. So much for our "second half recovery," huh?

Wednesday, August 20

These are the two most dangerous people

From Fundraising Success Magazine:

"[The] 57-year-old direct-marketing manager who works for a health charity [who] has been doing direct-mail fundraising for most of her career … and right now, she’s sitting in her chair asking herself, ‘Do I really have to figure out all of this Internet stuff before I retire?’ [The] 26-year-old account executive at a New York-based online agency [who] created his first Web site at 17 … and he’s sitting there saying, ‘Oh my God, this guy is going to talk about direct mail and I couldn’t care less.’ Together, these are the two most dangerous people in direct marketing today."
OMP President Frank O’Brien in his keynote speech, "The Six Dynamics Shaping the Future of Fundraising," at last week’s 2008 New York Nonprofit Conference.

Tuesday, August 19

Arriving in mailboxes on the same day

I tell you what... if I worked at a large national environmental group and saw that my annual calendar fundraising mailing arrived in mailboxes within days of my two biggest competitors mailing their calendars... I'd be pissed.

These things aren't just bad luck. They are evidence of some poor planning.

Who would you be most angry with? Your list broker who cleared the mail plan (especially if they represented one of the other groups)? Or the creative agencies for not getting better competitive intelligence? Or do you just blame the direct mail gods for your terrible misfortune.

Either way, it makes all three groups look bad. Not to mention... why do I even need my 2009 calendar before September even gets here?

Monday, August 18

Operation Smile wins 2008 Nonprofit Organization of the Year

I got this press release last Friday:

The Direct Marketing Association's Nonprofit Federation (DMANF) today announced that Operation Smile is the winner of its 2008 Nonprofit Organization of the Year Award, which annually recognizes an outstanding achievement by a nonprofit organization using direct-response marketing to advance its mission. The award will be presented on Friday, August 15 at a luncheon that will conclude the DMANF's New York Nonprofit Conference, which will be held August 14-15 at the world-famous Waldorf=Astoria Hotel in Manhattan.

Commenting on this year's award, Brian Cowart, chair of DMANF's Awards Committee and senior director of mail acquisition and donor retention at ALSAC/St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, said, "Operation Smile exemplifies excellence both in its mission and fundraising programs. While its direct marketing innovations and strategies are forging new paths in fundraising, more importantly, they're garnering an increasing level of support and awareness for their wonderful work. As this year's award recipient, we recognize and honor Operation Smile's contributions as an industry leader and for the fundraising success that is helping to positively impact the lives of thousands of children all over the world."

Operation Smile is a worldwide children's medical charity that provides free surgery to children in developing countries who were born with facial deformities. Founded in 1982 by Dr. William P. Magee Jr., a plastic surgeon, and his wife, Kathleen S. Magee, a nurse and clinical social worker, the organization is dedicated to providing free surgery to children suffering from facial deformities, while fostering sustainability and capacity building in each developing country where they work.

"We believe that every child deserves to live their life with dignity, and for those suffering with cleft or other facial deformities, dignity begins with a smile," said CEO and Co-founder Dr. Magee. "Operation Smile has been able to mobilize a world of compassion to change children's lives."

Sunday, August 17

For an unpopular guy, Bush sure is one heckuva fundraiser

From the Los Angeles Times:

"His approval rating is hovering about the 30% mark in most polls, about as low as Harry Truman's back in the day.

President Bush is still a muscular draw on the campaign trail, raking in roughly $70 million so far this year, according to a story on the president's fundraising prowess by the Associated Press. Among the hard-core, said California Democratic consultant Bill Carrick, "He's a bigger fundraising draw than [Republican John] McCain."

Tucked from view, often in private homes at events closed to the media, Bush has raised money for the Republican National Committee as well as House candidates in safely Republican districts. At one event, in Napa's exclusive St. Helena territory, Bush managed to raise $850,000 in 90 minutes -- almost $10,000 a minute (notcounting drive time)."

Some estimate that he has raised almost a billion dollars for the GOP during his two terms in the White House. That's unbelievable.

Monday, August 11

It Ain’t Easy Being Green

For the seventh month in a row, the good folks at The NonProfit Times have published one of my columns on their web-exclusive editorial section. This month I focused on the struggle faced by fundraisers who are trying to raise money in the most environmentally responsible way possible.

Despite the fact that I send out millions of pieces of direct mail every year – I don’t consider myself part of the junk mail industry. However, it doesn’t take “a fundraiser” to understand that sloppy attempts at sweeping reforms to “green-up” direct mail could very well be devastating for nonprofits that rely on it for lifesaving funds.

It’s hard for anyone to defend the staggering environmental damage from direct mail. I recently saw one Web site estimate that the average American receives 41 pounds of solicitation mail every year. That’s a lot of trees…and water… and oil… and toxic environmental by-products.

And for the kids who think direct mail is bad now… 20 years ago mail production was horrid.
You can read the rest of my post on the NPT website.

Friday, August 8

10,000 donors warned not to attempt "swift boat" attacks

There is no question that scurrilous attacks by the infamous 527 group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth helped sink Senator John Kerry’s presidential bid in 2004. However, this year a new group is warning conservative donors that any attempt to use the same "Swift Boat" tactics will be meet with an aggressive response.

Led by Tom Matzzie (pictured here), the group Accountable America is planning to send 10,000 top conservative donors a warning letter next week. According to the New York Times:

“We want to stop the Swift Boating before it gets off the ground,” said Mr. Matzzie, who described his effort as “going for the jugular.”

The warning letter is intended as a first step, alerting donors who might be considering giving to right-wing groups to a variety of potential dangers, including legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives.

The group is also hoping to be able to respond if an outside conservative group broadcasts a television advertisement attacking Senator Barack Obama, or another Democratic candidate, by running commercials exposing the donors behind the advertisements.
Of particular interest are major GOP donors "including Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino mogul, and Mel Sembler, a former ambassador and real estate magnate, both major donors to Freedom’s Watch, a conservative group.

It remains to be seen how successful Accountable America will be since outside political groups organized as 501(c)4 entities do not have to disclose the names of their donors.

In fact, Ed Patru, a spokesman for Freedom’s Watch told the New York Times that if donors feel too scared to fund deceptive or slanderous attack ads - his group is more than willing to continue shielding them from public scrutiny.

Tuesday, August 5

Convio decides not to take company public

I've been told that Gene Austin at Convio sent out an email to clients this morning explaining that they "have chosen not to remain on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission to become a public company. Simply put, good companies don't go public in bad markets."

He also points out that Convio "processed $377 million in online donations on behalf of clients during the first half of 2008."

That's a lot of money.

For those of you that remember, I issued a friendly challenge to Austin earlier this year that if Convio "can process over $820 million for their clients in 2008, I will reveal my secret blogger identity."

Monday, August 4

Group challenges ethics of police telemarketing campaign

A new organization called 2 CENTS is publicly challenging the fundraising practices of the Sarasota-based International Union of Police Associations (’IUPA’) and their for-profit telemarketing contractor.

The group claims that "IUPA raised $4.8 million in public donations last year, but spent $4.3 million of those donations in the fundraising process, including $1.9 million in fees to a for-profit telemarketing company called LAS, LLC."

According a press release on Marketwatch, 2 CENTS recently "voiced support for a resolution that will be introduced at the national convention of the IUPA on August 6-9 in Orlando, Florida. The Resolution on Ethical Fundraising will request that IUPA comply with the standards set forth by the Association of Professional Fundraisers."

Last month, 2 CENTS sent out another press release where they complained about telemarketers at IUPA having criminal records. At the time, the group said they were "highlighting poor telemarketing practices that deceive the public" and that they believed that the telemarketing industry requires greater scrutiny, especially since telemarketers handle sensitive consumer information such as credit card numbers.

They went on to say "2 CENTS believes law enforcement organizations should have higher standards for fundraising. Allowing people who engage in such behavior to solicit donations is irresponsible."

I'm interested to see how IUPA responds next week to the increasingly loud drum of protest 2 CENTS is banging.