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

vines growing 300x199 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.

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

It’s Blog Action Day: No Blog Needed to Participate; Learn How – and Feel Good!

balance injustice 300x300 It’s Blog Action Day: No Blog Needed to Participate; Learn How   and Feel Good!

This year’s Blog Action Day issue is growing inequality – how can we make our world more just?

Did you know today is Blog Action Day? It’s a day when bloggers all over the world get together to shine a light on one single thing that’s not going right in our world.

We shine this light on Blog Action Day so that, together, we can fix things.

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” (balanced) – which happens to be the root of  the word “tzedekah” ( justice) and the term for the money that is collected by every Jewish community to take care of its poor. Our goal, 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.Continue Reading

Find Yourself Failing at Fundraising? Put on Your Radiator Cap!

Radiator cap 300x198 Find Yourself Failing at Fundraising? Put on Your Radiator Cap!

Put on your radiator cap and spread the joy of your mission far and wide!

Do you find yourself sinking into a fundraising hole?

If so, you’re not the first. And you won’t be the last.

I’m going to tell you how to begin to dig yourself out!

First, stop blaming others. It’s not because so-and-so foundation just pulled their grant (how dare they?).  It’s not because the government just cut back funding in your area (those bastards!). It’s not because your development director is lazy (why can’t she work 70 hours?)… and it’s not because your board doesn’t give enough (they’re so stingy!).

Sure, some of those things may be happening.  ButContinue Reading

Are You a Troglodyte Fundraiser? 3 Ways to Leave the Cave

Cave dweller 300x192 Are You a Troglodyte Fundraiser? 3 Ways to Leave the Cave

Get out of the cave. It’s stunting your growth!

In case you don’t know, troglodytes are hermits who live in caves. There are 3 ways I’ve found that folks in the development profession fit this description.  Are you a cave dweller? If so, here’s how to get out more.

  1. Get out from behind your desk.
  2. Begin to embrace social media.
  3. Think outside the cave.  Continue Reading

Earth Day: What the World Needs Now – 7 Ways to Influence Change

Change the world dream bigger Earth Day: What the World Needs Now – 7 Ways to Influence Change

Don’t just wait for the dream to come true. Facilitate it.

We want help solving our problems, both significant and commonplace. We want help improving our lives. We want help making sense out of world fraught with uncertainty.” — Jay Bear, Convince and Convert

It’s a day for thinking about the planet, and how to repair our world.  There are many different ways.  Sometimes it’s just hard to get started. The problems seem so insurmountable… it’s hard to envision making a difference.

Your job, as a nonprofit fundraiser and marketer, is to help folks see how they can influence the outcome. Then, you must help them to do it. Guide them towards being the change they want to see in the world. Persuade them that your cause is a fantastic way to achieve this change. Your cause may be one cause among many picked by your constituents; that’s fine. Your task is simply to (1) engage them to act, and (2) entice them to choose your organization to facilitate that action.

How do you turn thoughts into action that improves lives?Continue Reading

Why a Good Nonprofit Fundraiser is hard to Keep: Money – Part I

Money Why a Good Nonprofit Fundraiser is hard to Keep:  Money – Part I

Money is only part of the story of why fundraisers leave

What’s love got to do with it? Show me the money.  I recently read Chronicle of Philanthropy contributor Holly Hall’s article about the need to Shake Up Development Offices and Curb Turnover. She cites Penelope Burk’s five years of research which have culminated in a new book, Donor-Centered Leadership as well as a much-talked-about study by CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund that found half of chief development officers plan to leave their jobs in two years or less. And 40% plan to leave fundraising entirely.

What’s going on, and how can you fix it? Is it about money, or something else?Continue Reading

April Fools Day is Coming: Is Your Nonprofit’s Social Media Ready?

joker April Fools Day is Coming: Is Your Nonprofit’s Social Media Ready?

Are you just fooling around?

If any of the following apply to you, your nonprofit is not ready for the 21st century. The cure? Read Monday’s post to get serious and avoid being pranked — or spanked! — for failing to embrace the fact that we’re all social businesses now. Truly, it’s time to get serious (just not today; for now, have a little fun, a super good week-end and… get determined after April 1st). Let’s get in the spirit!

Do you:Continue Reading

Thank You! You Voted Clairification 2013 Top FundraisingSuccess Blog

FundraisingSuccess just named the winners of the 2013 Fundraising Professionals of the Year Awards.  And I was voted “Top Fundraising Blog!”

I can’t tell you how grateful I am, and how deeply honored.

You can click here  to see who else made the 2013 Fundraising Success Awards list.

I do feel a little bit like I’ve won the Miss Congeniality Award at the Miss America Pageant. You see, I’m only 5’1 ¾” (we count every inch of our blessings).

I knew I could never be Miss America (and that’s, of course, the only reason).  Growing up, however, I dreamed of how cool it would be to receive the award that all the contestants voted on. That seemed even more special than the award bestowed by the judges.  Because it meant…

“You like me, you really like me.”

Right back at you!

You’re the reason I get up in the morning.  Truly. You can ask anyone who’s ever worked with me. They’ll tell you the truth, so I will too.  I never met a book I didn’t highlight, an article I didn’t annotate, or a blog post I didn’t forward and comment on. If I don’t get to share it, it feels like a waste.

As much as I love learning, I’m over the moon when it comes to sharing what I’ve learned. Because I really want you to know everything I know.  After all, I’m just one person.  If we’re going to change the world, we need all hands on deck.

So, when Fundraising Success notified me you’d voted for me as the “Top Fundraising Blog” I felt all warm and fuzzy inside. Because together we’re going to fully occupy philanthropy – this year, and beyond!

Like the awardees at the Oscars say, I share this award with you. I wouldn’t be here without you. Thank you for reading and sharing my blog.  Thanks for your comments and questions. And please keep ‘em coming.  It’s what keeps me going.

And one other thing. I must close with a quote from the inimitable Jerold Panas – whose wisdom I’ve followed for years — who received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Well deserved.

“Philanthropy is the rent we pay for the joy and privilege we have for our space on this earth.”

Have you paid your rent this month?

P.S.  I’m honored to share the 2013 Fundraising Professionals of the Year Awards with all the other recipients.  I’d like to add a special shout-out to my fellow bloggers, whose crowd blog is winner of the “editor’s choice” for top fundraising blog – 101 Fundraising.   Congrats!  And another very special shout-out to everyone who nominated me — your are the BEST.

8 Tips Fundraisers Can Learn From Street Beggars

1095355 eat it 8 Tips Fundraisers Can Learn From Street Beggars
Your money can become my sandwich

What I learned from a street beggar* (see “Note” below).

Last week a street beggaraka panhandler asked me for money and I gave it to her.  I don’t usually do this because I wonder how the money may be used and tend to give, instead, to philanthropic organizations that help the homeless and marginally employed population.  This time was different, and I want to share with you the lessons learned.  Here’s her pitch:
Can you please give me $2.00 so I can buy a sandwich? Maybe a little later for lunch?
This amazingly simple request – and everything about her approach and follow-up –works on multiple levels.  And the principles apply not just to street beggars but also to nonprofit fundraising:
  1. Specific ask
  2. Reasonable amount
  3. Clear compelling purpose I can visualize
  4. Humble and honest approach
  5. Different than competition
  6. Offer has value
  7. Good location
  8. Everybody gets thanked
1. SPECIFIC:  Tell me precisely what size gift you’d like me to consider.
 8 Tips Fundraisers Can Learn From Street Beggars
Vague requests > token gifts  Image by Gamma Man

A person is more likely to give if they know how much is expected of them. Ask for a specific dollar amount. Don’t be vague, as in “any amount helps.” Don’t be passive. This beggar didn’t just sit on the sidewalk with a cup in front of her. I didn’t have to decide how much money she might appreciate. She told me specifically.  She wasn’t aggressive.  I didn’t feel “hit up”.  And I didn’t feel apprehensive that the amount I gave would be too little or too much. I knew exactly what was being asked of me.

2. REASONABLE:  Make the amount something within my ability to give.
A person is more likely to give if the amount asked is related to a tangible goal and is an amount they can reasonably consider.  Two bucks might be more than I’d give if there was just a cup sitting on the street, so in this regard it could be considered a “stretch” gift.  It’s still completely within my ability to consider however, so it’s reasonable.  And I’ll end up feeling really good if I do it, because I know it’s enough to get the job accomplished.  So it’s not just “a drop in the bucket.”
3.  CLEAR:  Use words, stories or images that help me visualize the need and/or solution.
935 8 Tips Fundraisers Can Learn From Street Beggars
Picture tells a story

A person is more likely to help someone if they feel their contribution will make a significant difference in that person’s situation.When you ask, help me picture what the money will be used for. Ideally, it should be something I can visualize. Use words that immediately bring a picture to mind – like you, or the people helped by your organization, eating a sandwich. Or tell me a story – like a beggar’s sign informing me you’ve served your country. And don’t despair if you’re not a direct service organization. Show me a picture – like a cross burning on someone’s lawn (advocacy organization)… wide-eyed children being inspired at a museum (arts organization)… that helps me feel what the people you’re trying to help might be feeling.  I’ve got to be able to perceive the unfolding drama – and the happy ending – that will come about as a result of my contribution. See ONE Incredibly Dramatic Way to Create Winning Content.

4.  HUMBLE:  Take an honest approach so I don’t feel manipulated.
A person is more likely to help someone if they can identify with the person being helped. I could imagine being in her situation. And she wasn’t asking for money just for the sake of money.  She wanted – and needed – some nourishing food. And that’s all she was asking for.  Just two bucks for a sandwich. And she asked politely. The impression I got from this panhandler was that she was not apologetic, just down on her luck and hungry. It pays to be humble, honest and respectful. An old Japanese proverb holds: It is a beggar’s pride that he is not a thief. We are not asking for ourselves.  We’re not asking so we can buy Mazzeratis.  We’re asking because there are needs to be filled and people to be helped. See The Secret of Donor-Centered Fundraising: No Money Involved .
5.  DIFFERENT: Stand out from the competition. 
 8 Tips Fundraisers Can Learn From Street Beggars
Fresh, direct approach

A person is more likely to pay attention if your approach is fresh and different from everyone else.  This beggar was neither passive nor aggressive.  There was nothing slick, sleazy or manipulative about her (at least from my perspective).  Sometimes it pays to look at what others are doing; then do the opposite. Of course, this isn’t always the case.  There’s a reason the tried-and-true is tried-and-true.  But it bears consideration. Could you stand out more? Could you fix something that isn’t exactly broken, but that could function more effectively? There may be a different way you can ask, or a different place you can use as a platform for your message. SeeWhy If It’s Not Broke Don’t Fix It No Longer Applies.  

6.  OFFER:  Know what I may value. 
A person is more likely to give when they get something of value in return. And it doesn’t need to be tangible. This beggar understood an essential truth underlying most charity:  giving makes people feel good. Underlying motivations may vary – religious obligations; guilt at having so much more than others; desire to give back or pay it forward, etc. – but the bottom line is that there’s a value-for-value exchange that occurs.  The asker has an “offer” and the giver “accepts” that offer by giving.  The more we understand the reasons people give, the more likely we are to be recipients of their philanthropy. See Psychology of Giving: Influence Your Affluence by Using the Science of Persuasion.
7.  LOCATION:  Position yourself for success by choosing a media channel frequented by your prospective supporters. 
A person is more likely to give when you find them where they are. This beggar was at an ATM located in a laid-back, uptown neighborhood shopping area with a fair amount of foot traffic. Everyone going there was getting money. And they were likely already in a bit of a spending mood. They weren’t downtown, stressed, and likely to be in too much of a hurry to even consider the offer. Where do your donors hang out?  See Lost in Translation: When Email Hits Mobile, Then What?  Are you fishing where the fish are apt to be biting? See What Fishing Can Teach Us About Fundraising. If your constituents hang out on social media, you’ve got to be there. See Social Media for Small Organizations: Why a little dab won’t do ya .   If they read your communications on a cell phone, you’ve got to be optimized for mobile. If they give primarily online, you need a user-friendly donation landing page and a big “donate” button. See Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button? One Huge Year-End Tip to Increase Donations
8.  THANK EVERYBODY:  Always thank people for their time and attention, even if they don’t give today.
Most panhandlers know to show appreciation if someone gives them money. Truly successful panhandlers know to show appreciation even when people don’t give them money. They say thank you, and wish folks a good day.  My panhandler thanked everyone and said “God bless”. Why? Doing so may make folks think twice about refusing their request the next time they pass by.  When someone says “no” to your request for a contribution, remember that’s not the end of the story.  You want to build relationships with folks over time.  So… thank non-donors too. See It’s the Relationships, Stupid: Making Friends of our Donors.
*NOTE: I want to apologize up front for use of the term beggar, which may be jarring to some.  Whenever I talk to volunteers about fundraising I exhort folks to retire the tin cup.  We aren’t beggars, I say.  But real beggars can’t be choosers.  And we can learn something from them about how to raise money when your very life depends on it.  Because for most nonprofits, that’s actually the case. If your prospects think you don’t really need their support – perhaps they believe you get plenty from other funders… you have a big endowment… you earn your own through fees or sales… you won’t spend their contribution wisely – then they won’t feel your case is particularly compelling.  Maybe they’ll make a token gift, but… a quarter isn’t enough to buy a sandwich. Which is why, in this regard, having a bit of a beggar mindset is not such a bad thing.

Are there other tips you would add?

Purely Practical SMIT for November/December: 6 Fundamental truths about fundraising and nonprofit marketing

Here comes this month’s *SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you):  The foundation of all fundraising and nonprofit marketing is relationships. Thanks to Katya Andreson for great inspiration in

. I told her I was going to post these fundamentals above my computer – and so should you!

163255555211661225 Rqs4xb26 b Purely Practical SMIT for November/December: 6 Fundamental truths about fundraising and nonprofit marketing
Basic: donors deserve a warm hug
I LOVE this post!  I agree with every one of these six fundamentals, and they are great reminders for us all. Distilled to their essence, they are:
1.  Happiness.
2.  Audience.
3.  Heartfelt.
4.  Stories, stories, stories.
5.  Messengers.
6.  Generosity.
Let’s take a closer look.

 HAPPINESS:  We’re in the happiness business. Giving makes people feel joy – the act of contributing to charity activates the pleasure centers of people’s brains. Remember: we’re not in the business of taking away money, we’re in the business of giving joy.  What a great job we have.
Katya is correct!  There’s been a lot of research into the psychology of giving and it all boils down to this:  we’re wired to be empathic. Our donors want to love others; similarly, they want to feel good about their gift of love. Psychologist John Marshall Roberts, speaking at Tedx New Zealand, goes so far as to say: Empathy is perhaps the foremost survival skill of the current age.We can nurture donors’ empathic instincts and give them this gift of love – which is at the heart of philanthropy.
AUDIENCE:  It’s not about us, it’s about our audience. This insight may be marketing 101, but it’s also gold.
Gold it is! Truly, the gold standard is the old “WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me?). Take a look at your last fundraising appeal… your e-newsletter… your annual report.  How many times do you use the words “I” and “we” and “our” instead of “you” and “your”?  Would it be clear to the reader what’s in it for them?  Or does it just seem like they’ll be helping you to reach a fundraising goal or balance your budget? Donor-centered fundraising is not about money or product features. You aren’t selling soap or anything else that’s tangible.  So you’ve got to offer an inspiringemotional/psychological kick-back.
HEARTFELT:  Feeling first, facts later.  There are no exceptions to the rule that we must awaken the heart to arouse the mind.
People give from the heart! When we’re in the emotional/psychological kick-back space it’s all about tugging at heartstrings.  And this isn’t manipulative; it’s about giving people what they want. It’s when we try to persuade people about something they don’twant that we enter manipulation territory (you know, trying to scare someone into buying tickets to the fireman’s ball because they fear their house may otherwise burn down).
STORIES, STORIES, STORIES:  Nothing beats a good story about one person.
No exceptions! We’re all story people. In 1980, Richard Nisbett and two fellow psychologists conducted a study  to see if a single, vivid story (i.e., a very small sample) would more powerfully affect test subjects than authoritative data on the same topic. As Paul Slovic and his colleagues would find two decades later, in a famous experiment about “the identifiable victim effect,” narrative beat the numbers every time. In that study, those who received a fact-based appeal from Save the Children donated $1.14. Those who read a story about an individual child in need donated an average of $2.38, more than twice as much.
MESSENGERS: We can have a stellar message, but if you have the wrong messenger, it won’t matter.  We’re in an era where faith in traditional spokespeople and marketers is at a historic low, and so people are turning to trusted friends, family, independent authorities and peers for their recommendations.  That means we’re best off with messengers other than ourselves. 
Use your influencers!  Too often we wait until the last minute to decide who’ll sign our fundraising appeal or from whom our e-appeal will come.  These things should not be afterthoughts.  New research shows just how much the messenger matters.  Peer-to-peer fundraising works because the askers are not paid to ask. Letters from clients are more influential than letters from you. I know you know these things. Act on your knowledge.
GENEROSITY: Generosity inspires generosity…  It’s not what I need, it’s what I provide. I’m in the business of giving, not extracting… I’ll care about relationships, not transactions.
Give at the office! All of us, and that means your donor, yearn for that one moment when we’re bigger and better than ourselves. Where we soar.  Where we step outside our daily, mundane lives and exceed our wildest expectations.   Our job as fundraisers and nonprofit professionals is to help our donors see the way to greatness. We have to be partners with our donors. It may sound nutty to some, but our responsibility as development professionals is to care about our donors and be generous with them. We’ve got to put them first. That’s the only way to build genuine relationships.  We can’t be detached. If it’s just a job to you, maybe you’re in the wrong place.
What is the most fundamental of all these truths? Were you to add one additional fundamental about fundraising and nonprofit marketing, what would it be?