10 Ways to Build Donor Trust and Overcome Negative Views about Charities

trustWhat prompted me to write this article was a recent post by Matthew Sherrington on the 101 Fundraising Blog about the dangers to the public benefit sector posed by erosion of trust.  We’ve known for some time that whenever there’s a charity scandal, the bad behavior of one player can become detrimental to all.  But over the past year in the U.K. the problem has become even more challenging. Could it happen here?  Matthew says “yes.”  And I concur.  Trust is a fragile thing.

In the U.K what happened was a perfect storm of perceived over-solicitation and insufficient outcomes, exacerbated by a barrage of media that sounded an alarm about nefarious practices.  Trust plummeted. A wake-up call, for sure.

But what does it mean? Continue Reading

It’s Blog Action Day: Raise Your Voice Against Injustice!

“RAISE YOUR VOICE”: Blog Action Day 2015 celebrates those who raise their voices to make the world a more just place. Let’s raise our voices to defend their right to raise theirs. In safety.

Did you know today is Blog Action Day? I apologize for two posts in one day. I usually send my curated links on Friday (and I did, because I missed last week), but I just had to let you know about this special day when bloggers all over the world unite, raise our voices and shine a light on one single thing that’s not going right in our world. And we talk about how to make it right.

There are, alas, always wrongs that need righting.

And, gosh, there are so many things. They seem to multiply like rabbits. It can seem hopeless.

But it’s not. We’ve proven that we can pull rabbits out of hats and make magic happen. Life has always been unfair, yet civilization has prevailed.

And lives have been made better. In large part, because of the compassionate work done through  civil society — the social benefit sector and citizens working together to right the ship.

Allow me to share a little story learned in my many years working for Jewish social service organizations:

There’s an old Jewish parable that begins with the notion that at one time everything in the world was perfectly balanced. It was “tzedek” – which happens to not only mean “balanced” but is also the root of  the word “tzedekah” ( justice) and the term for the money that is collected weekly by every Jewish community to take care of its poor. The goal of tzedek/tzedekah, throughout our lives, is to do what we can to get back to that equilibrium. That time when there was no injustice. No unfairness. No fighting. No wars.

In fact, the Torah insists, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.

Here’s to those who speak out against injustice!

This year’s Blog Action Day theme is the mother of all issues:

The right, and the moral imperative, to RAISE YOUR VOICE to speak out about any of the many injustices we see all around us. To shine a light on wrongs that must be righted — without fear of retribution. To look evil in the eye, rather than look away. To bring hope in the darkness, so that there will be light.


The case of Malala Yousafzai, the 11-year-old blogger who was shot in the head for chronicling the fears of schoolgirls under the shadow of the Taliban, has become a well-known cause célèbre. She prevailed. But there are thousands like her who are silenced.

This is a fight that must be won battle by battle. And the war is still raging.

Continue Reading

Clairity Click-it: Nonprofit Social Media, Fundraising Ideas + Learning Ops for You

Mouse clicking computer mouse

Click it!

This week’s Click-It is nice and fat, offering a big mix of social media tips I’ve found for you across the web. Some are nonprofit specific; some are ideas you can steal from the for profit world. If your social media plan isn’t working, or you’re working too hard, check these out. Plus, of course, you’ll find some stuff to help you raise more money (we lead off with some really big ideas) — including some great learning opportunities (scroll to the bottom) you won’t want to miss! Continue Reading

Whither the Nonprofit Sector in 2015? 6 Ways to Assure Yours Doesn’t Wither

Think big to grow and bear fruit; Think small and wither.

Think big to grow and bear fruit; Think small and wither.

I chose the word “w(h)ither” in my title very deliberately. It can mean “Where are you going?” It can also mean “Dying on the vine.” Which does it mean for you and your nonprofit?

If the former, where are you going? You’ll find some “To Do’s” in this article to help you on your way towards a sustainable future. If the latter, how can your prevent this from happening? You’ll find some “don’ts” to help you breathe life into your organization.Continue Reading

Your Donor Won’t Eat Your Meal Without Your Secret Sauce

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

What's your secret sauce?

What’s your secret sauce?

There are many other nonprofits out there doing what you do.

Or some reasonable facsimile of what you do. Many of them have similar missions.  But… there’s something that’s different. Don’t try to serve up what you do without your secret sauce.Continue Reading

6 Things Matchmakers Can Teach Fundraisers in an Era of Digital Darwinism

Philanthropy; Not Fundraising

Matchmaker make me a match

Matchmaker make me a match

In many ways, what’s new is old and what’s old is new.  I read a lot of Brian Solis who speaks persuasively about The End of Business as Usual in an era where technology is advancing more rapidly than our ability to adapt. Yet we must adapt, or die. How do we do this, and what does this mean for fundraisers? I found food for thought in Solis’ recent article, The 9 Laws of Affinity in an Era of Digital Darwinism.

Rapid change can be dizzying. Ground yourself by remembering that though technology has changed, people have not. We have the same drives… needs… yearnings as prehistoric tribes.  It’s not just about survival. Darwin wrote about survival of the most empathic. We long for connection and meaning. In other words, it’s not just about the “fittest” but about the “fitting.”  Philanthropy provides that “fit opportunity” in spades (or, more aptly, in hearts).Continue Reading

Purely Practical SMIT: 4 Keys to Never Lose the Why

Never lose the why, by Gaping Void

By Hugh MacLeod

Philanthropy; Not Fundraising

This month’s SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you) is to never lose sight of the “Why.”  And total props to Hugh MacLeod (whose brilliant cartoon is shared here) for the reminder. It’s a simple concept; not so simple to comply.Continue Reading

Why the Human Dimension is Key to Social Business Success

Human sculpture, Transport, at Canterbury CathedralWe’re really hung up on technology these days. And jargon. We use terms like “social media” to describe a range of practices – from digital communications to any form of customer-centered marketing that embraces the ways in which people interact, inform themselves, form communities and co-create within the current zeitgeist.  Then we mix it up with terms like “social business,” tending to again describe a range of meanings – from…. social enterprise to digital business to social ecosystem to social sales.

We’re confusing the heck out of ourselves, and it’s contributing to fuzzy thinking. It doesn’t so much matter what we call it, as long as we avoid common mistakes and get buy-in from our stakeholders that’s based on tangible, perceived benefits. You say potato; I say potahto.  What we should be able to agree on is that it’s not simply a matter of technology.

Make no mistake — we’re in the midst of a digital revolution that has fundamentally altered the ways people communicate and do business. There’s been an explosion of internet connectivity in the past decade. Social media is an important tool in today’s world.  If we ignore this, we risk becoming irrelevant.  However, using social media does not ipso facto make you a “social business”.

When we apply social media with ignorance it’s not much better than ignoring it entirely. For profit businesses do this as much as nonprofits.  In fact, they could learn a lot from nonprofits about the human dimensions of success – values, relationships and people.  The very definition of philanthropy – the social benefit sector’s financial engine – is “love of humankind.”

Because of the digital revolution we’re all social businesses now, whether we accept it or not.  We must accept. We must adapt. There’s no choice. We must move beyond outbound “telling” marketing to “inbound” sharing marketing. We must source the wisdom of the crowd, and shift our focus from outcomes to value.

What Fortune 500 Community Managers Can Learn from Nonprofits about Social Business, my monthly guest post on the Windmill Networking Blog, is all about the evolution we all face. It’s about how to be more social. How to build better relationships. How to get clear on the values that connect us and our constituents.

Please check out the article, with the actionable tips and checklist, and let me know what you think.

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Chris Beckett

Purely Practical SMIT for January: Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – How to Begin the Transformation

Autumn leaves changing color
Change happens

Here comes this month’s *SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you):

I’m still using the word fundraising.  In fact, my most recent post was To Sell is Human; To Give, Divine – Why We’re All in Fundraising Now.  I received a lot of feedback (mostly embracing) on the first post in my 2013 Series: Philanthropy; Not Fundraising.  But there’s evidently some confusion.  So, let’s clairify.

If you want to move from a culture of transactions to one of transformation don’t get bogged down worrying about semantics! You say potato; I say potahto… a rose by any other name… It’s the concept I’m hoping you’ll grasp. The point is to come from a place of love; not need. A place that centers on our donor; not us. A place that is deeply relational; not one-sided.

Let me share a few comments I received and contribute my thoughts: Continue Reading

The Shocking Thing Board Members Do and Why It’s Your Fault – Part 2 of “The 3 Ways We Go Wrong Asking Nonprofit Boards to Help Raise Funds”

Is this a board member you know?

Board members often take unrestrained delight in not cottoning to fundraising.  They smile and wink and pat one another on the back about it.  “Oh, fundraising, that’s not for me!”  “No, it’s yucky; I’ll do anything but fund raise.” “Yeah, fundraising is for folks who like to sell.” “I’m not good at it, so it’s better if someone else does it.” Board members luxuriate in self pity, and we allow it.  How?  We agree with them!  We say, “sure no one likes to ask for money; it’s a necessary evil.” “You can do something else, like help open doors.” “We can train you so it’s not quite so painful.”
My last post was about the first way we go wrong when asking boards to help raise funds.  Today’s post digs into the second reason.
The 3 Ways We Go Wrong Asking Board Members to Help Raise Funds
1.         We let them think it’s about money.
2.         We let them wallow in how painful the process is.
3.         We’re unclear with them about their very special role.
The problem with letting folks wallow in how painful fundraising is.
Maya Angelou wrote: People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  When we let our board members feel negatively about fundraising, they never forget.  It burns into their brains.  They wallow in it.  And, in the end, this leaves them stuck in the mud like a bunch of pigs in a sty.
We may think it’s nice of us to go with people’s flow, but we do our board members a disservice. Yes, people know what it feels like to detest fundraising. And they’re comfortable with their pain. They don’t know what it might feel like to embrace fundraising.  So that’s scary. But wouldn’t it be better to help them overcome their fears rather than leaving them scared and wallowing in the pigsty?
Fundraising is joyful when fundraisers are partners in creating positive outcomes.
We help board members overcome their fear of fundraising by reminding them it’s a value-for-value exchange. It’s not about money.  There’s nothing distasteful involved. Everyone wins.  Everyone gets value. The people they will approach for philanthropic gifts yearn to make a difference, but are simply clueless about where to begin.  The board member gives them the clue they need to become the change they want to see in the world. The donor then gives something of value (money; time; expertise) and the charity gives something valuable back (a feeling of satisfaction at having done something genuinely helpful).
We must give our board members the courage to stop the wallowing. Consider asking them the following questions:
1. What are you telling yourself that keeps you focused on the negativity?
2. What will you have to give up to leave the painful associations behind?
3. What will you gain from leaving the pain behind?
4. Who benefits from you staying in pain and self-pity?
Usually what folks are telling themselves is that fundraising is begging.  Overcome that argument this way.  What they think they’ll have to give up is freedom from an onerous chore.  Overcome that argument this way. What they need help understanding is that they’ll gain a boatload of satisfaction by helping others to enact their values. You can help them become inspired this way. In the end, it should become abundantly clear to everyone that when board members don’t engage enthusiastically in fundraising, no one benefits.  It’s a lose/lose.  But it’s so easy to turn it into a win/win once board members understand the very special role they play (that’s the subject of Part 3, coming up next!).
Do you have examples of boards wallowing in negativity? 
How did you turn this around?
Other posts to help your board members embrace fundraising: