Love letters

What’s Going On? What Can We Do?

Love lettersI had a fundraising post all ready to launch today, but I just couldn’t do it.

The world seems wildly out of whack right now.  I can’t pretend it’s business as usual.

I try to stay away from “politics,” because I know that’s not why you read my blog. However, we live in a political world. And so do our nonprofits, our staff, our volunteers, our donors and our clients. Simply put, politics is about making agreements between people so that they can live together in groups.

Nonprofits cannot seal themselves off in little bubbles, pretending what’s happening in the rest of the world doesn’t exist.

That’s why, during the pandemic, I encouraged you to talk about how events touch those who rely on you. It’s why, all the time, I encourage you to relate your work to what’s in the news and top of mind to donors. Be it hurricanes, fires, famine, drought, social unrest, war, civil liberties, mass shootings, homophobia, racism, sexism, bigotry, or anything else horrifying to body, mind, heart and soul.

If it’s something you’re thinking about, you can bet it’s something your constituents are thinking about.

If you don’t address it, you risk coming across as unimportant, blind, shallow or out of touch. Being relevant, and meaningful, means getting inside your supporters’ heads and knowing what’s important to them. What are they thinking? How are they feeling? In what way do the emotions they’re currently experiencing interact with your mission? How can they help you, and you help them?

I don’t know how you’ve been feeling, but many folks I’ve been talking to have mentioned anger, outrage and fear. Even those who are happy about one or two things are deeply concerned about other developments. And this holds true for both sides. Listen to Fox News, then listen to MSNBC.  You’ll hear equal doses of horror. The pendulum has been swinging wildly, back and forth, and the world seems madly out of whack.

What can the social benefit sector do to bring things back into balance?

I keep coming back to the Golden Rule. What if none of us ever did anything to anyone else we didn’t want them to do unto us? What if we only treated others as we would want to be treated? It seems so simple. So logical. So in everyone’s best interest.

What is it about the human animal that leads the same people who don’t want government to impose mask or vaccine mandates on them wanting to impose no abortion mandates on others? Or, from the other perspective, those who don’t want government telling them they can’t smoke pot wanting to tell others they can’t carry guns? All of this “I can impose, but you can’t” is nonsense from the perspective of “do unto others.” Yet, we persist.

The only way to make sense of these things is through an understanding of balance. We must strive toward philanthropy (translated as “love of humanity”).

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Mythological Frieze

How to Overcome Nonprofit Fundraising Myths

Mythological FriezeIf you’re constantly encountering people on your staff or board who want to curtail your fundraising efforts, you’re not alone.

Generally, people hate fundraising. It’s an “F” word.

And folk can get creative telling you why it’s an “F” word; hence, something to be avoided.

Sigh…

I call these creative explanations, at best, half-truths.

“Beware of a half truth. It may be the wrong half.” – Danish proverb

I use this cautionary proverb a lot.

It fits a lot of circumstances. Half-truths, myths, “common wisdom,” and crowd-sourced beliefs all have the “ring” of truth; this ring, like all bells and whistles, can be distracting. Beware: the core of the matter can get overlooked and/or distorted.

What can you do to avoid basing your fundraising strategy on a lie?

How to Kill Persistent Fundraising Myths

I too often come across six fundraising myths – lies and half-truths — in my work with nonprofits. These myths exist because the word fundraising leads with “fund.” Fund means money.

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Woman breathing, sunset

Want a true philanthropic culture? Make it the air you breathe.

Woman breathing, sunsetYour organization won’t survive and thrive with only great fundraising technicians. Youand the entire social benefit sectorneed organizational-development-grounded philanthropic facilitators. In fact, you need a team – maybe an entire village – filled with them!

This is what it looks like in a culture of philanthropy. And it involves more feelings than tangibles. What does it feel like where you work?

Your organization’s culture can make or break your fundraising – and just about everything else. If you don’t foster a culture in which people want to work, great professionals won’t apply for, or stick with, jobs. You have to be intentional in creating a culture that attracts, retains and grows professionals. The kind who will inevitably build sustaining relationships with supporters.

Here are some things you can do to build a true philanthropic culture.

Say what the culture is, get buy-in; demonstrate it.

To foster an authentic values-based organizational culture, you must first identify and write down the main beliefs that make up the culture. This can be simple – as little as a sentence or single paragraph – but this written manifestation of the culture you want to foster is critical to helping people understand the culture.

Here are some questions to ask yourself or, better yet, to do as a group exercise with a team of staff and/or board.

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Frame in front of ocean view

Reframe Fundraising: Responsibility, Privilege and Opportunity

Frame in front of ocean view Fundraising is too often seen, at best, as a ‘necessary evil.’

When viewed this way, folks – staff and volunteers alike – understandably prefer not to touch it with a 10-foot pole. Who wants to place themselves on the side of ‘evil?’

Yipes stripes!

But that’s not what fundraising is at all.

The tagline for my business, Clairification, is “philanthropy, not fundraising.” I often talk to folks about how the word philanthropy comes from the Greek and translates into “love of humankind.”  Nothing evil about that!

In fact, if you ask folks to throw out the first word that comes to mind when you say ‘fundraising,’ and then ask them to do the same when you say ‘philanthropy,’ you’ll see it breaks down pretty neatly between good and evil.

Why it’s Important to Reframe Fundraising

If you’re coming at fundraising from the perspective of ‘necessary evil’ or ‘no pain, no gain,’ you’re never going to be effective. Especially when it comes to asking individuals, one-to-one, for passionate gifts.

As long as you hate it, donors will be able to tell you hate it. I call this wallowing in the pain. Never a good approach. Distaste for asking begets distaste for giving.  It’s done grudgingly, not passionately.

When donors can sense you’d rather be doing anything else than asking them for a gift, guess what happens?  They follow your lead!  In other words, they feel they’d rather be doing anything else than making a gift.

But there’s more to reframing fundraising so it’s seen as a really, truly good thing.

I like to reframe it thusly:

  • It’s a responsibility.
  • It’s a privilege.
  • It’s an opportunity.

Fundraising is a Responsibility

If you’re fortunate enough to be a successful nonprofit, this means you’re helping solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.

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language of love alphabet

How to Supercharge Nonprofit Major Giving Using the Language of Love

language of love alphabetWhat motivates someone to make a major philanthropic gift?

Generally it takes one or more meaningful conversations with a donor who (you hope!) may contemplate a gift to your organization. At some point you’ll be ready to make them an offer you hope they won’t be able to refuse. But how do you develop their interest and passion to the point where they’re willing and ready to enact them?  Today I’m suggesting it’s actually pretty simple, as long as you truly understand the process of what the nonprofit sector has come to call “development.”

To get folks to “YES” you simply need to learn the language of gift planning!

It’s not just about HOW people give, but WHY.

Planning is the operative word. Alas, when many folks talk about ‘planned givingit’s a term that’s come to mean giving vehicles. Often it’s just about deferred giving vehicles. Most donors don’t think this way. Rather, they consider how they want to help. They concern themselves with the best ways to enact their values. This may mean an outright gift today or a deferred gift tomorrow. Or both. Form follows function. So thinking in terms of gift vehicles is a decidedly non-donor-centric way of framing things.

People making bequests or gifts in trust often visit legal and financial advisors. So we think of this more as “planning” mode. And we ask “planned gift officers” to work with these folks. This isn’t wrong, but it’s not as right as it could be if you approached the donor’s giving decision more expansively.

In othe words, major gift officers are also planned giving officers.

Anyone who contemplates a major, or stretch, outright gift plans ahead.

No one gets up one morning and decides spontaneously to give away $100,000.

Or let’s just stipulate it’s relatively rare.

Rather, would-be philanthropists consider how making a particular gift at a particular point in time may match their values and help them accomplish their objectives, personal and philanthropic.

It’s seldom a spur of the moment action.

For purposes of this gift planning article, let’s consider your audience to be prospective major (outright) and legacy (deferred) gift donors.

Let’s try an experiment.

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Heart graffiti

How to Help Donors Give Astutely Before Year-End

I’ve written about some of the new charitable deduction opportunities included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed on March 27, 2020 before. But a recent post shared by Greg Warner of Market Smart — Dr. Russell James’ tips to help donors give wisely before this year ends — plus a recent conversation with a financial advisor, reminded me it’s a very good time to share with you again.

You see, there are several things that will impact donor deductions – THIS YEAR ONLY. It’s good for you to be aware of these as a fundraiser, because making your supporters mindful of these opportunities may lead to them making more, and larger, gifts to your organization.

Of course, you’re not in the business of offering legal, tax or financial advice.  And it’s easier to tell yourself donors’ own advisors will likely tell them about these new provisions. And that “this isn’t really your responsibility.” Yet…

Not all of your donors have their own accountants or financial advisors.

And not all tax advisors are up to snuff, especially when it comes to charitable deductions. Do you want to risk not receiving generous gifts you could have otherwise received, just because you’re too lazy to share this useful information?

The Genuine Job of the Philanthropy Facilitator

Sorry about using that “L” word, but too many fundraisers (IMHO) don’t 100% understand their job as a philanthropy facilitator. Do you?

Your job is to do everything within your power to make giving easy, joyful and meaningful for your supporters. Everything. Doing everything means

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Sign expressing values

Bottom Line: Philanthropy Culture Improves Fundraising

“Philanthropic culture is a key driver of fundraising performance.”

Adrian Sargent, Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy

Is a culture of philanthropy just something that’s ‘nice’ to have? Does it simply make people feel good? Or might it actually affect your bottom line – making it ‘necessary?’

I know I’ve worked with organizations who looked at the notion of developing a philanthropy culture a bit like doing staff morale building or sensitivity training. It certainly sounds good, and who can argue with reports from pioneering organizations like the Walter and Evelyn Haas Jr. Fund (see Underdeveloped, Beyond Fundraising: What Does it Mean to Build a Culture of Philanthropy, and Fundraising Bright Spots) and Sea Change Strategies (see Inside-Out Fundraising) that embracing a culture of philanthropy (COP) will bring all sorts of benefits, including recruitment and retention of talent, stronger development plans and infrastructure, a better understanding of the board role in fundraising and a shared understanding of the importance of fundraising across functional siloes.

“As a sector, we need to elevate the importance of fund development as a leadership issue, invest in a stronger talent pool, and strengthen the ability of nonprofits to develop the systems that enable fundraising success.”

Jeanne Bell, CEO of CompassPoint, co-author of Underdeveloped

“Generally, a culture of philanthropy is one in which everyone—board, staff and CEO—has a part to play in raising resources for the organization. It’s about relationships, not just money. It’s as much about keeping donors as acquiring new ones and seeing them as having more than just money to bring to the table. And it’s a culture in which fund development is a valued and mission aligned component of everything the organization does.”

Cynthia Gibson, author, Beyond Fundraising

“Without tackling internal issues head-on, we believe the prospects for major fundraising progress are limited. In most organizations, fundraising is limited more by organizational culture and structure than by lack of strategic or tactical know-how.”

Alia McKee and Mark Rovner, Founders, Sea Change Strategies

Despite the impressive research that’s been done showing the value of a philanthropic culture, too many nonprofits have simply assumed they had one by virtue of merely existing within the social benefit sector. Or even if they understood achieving a true COP took work, they just never moved this from the back burner to the front.

“Many charities are so wrapped up in the process of doing – delivering, raising income, adapting to the panoply of changing circumstances that can radically alter day to day activity – that establishing a truly philanthropic culture might not be high on the list of priorities.”

Adrian Sargent, Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy

It’s Time for a Change

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Remember Who We Are: Philanthropy Facilitators Pre 11-2020 USA Election

Your Vote MattersPhilanthropy comes from the Greek and means love (philos) of humankind (anthropos).

  • Nonprofits are here to be kind.
  • To repair the world.
  • To make our communities better, more just, more beautiful and more caring places.

This is not easy work.

  • Love is not always readily accepted or given.
  • Inspiring generosity takes time, talent and patience.
  • You will sometimes try and fail.
  • You will sometimes get beaten down

But you know you must keep trying. Because that’s the job of philanthropy facilitators.

Let me add to the definition of “philanthropy.” Robert Payton (the nation’s first full-time Professor of Philanthropic Studies and one of the founders of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University) defined it as: “Voluntary action for the public good.” I’ve always loved this definition, because every word is impactful. It’s voluntary (no one is being coerced). It’s action (something is actually being done, whether it’s service or an investment of money) and it’s all directed “for the public good.”

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Nonprofit’s ‘Unfair Advantage?’ You Deliver Meaning.

In whatever times we’re in, that’s what folks don’t have enough of. That’s what folks crave.

That’s what explained Nike’s daring move in 2018 to put forward a polarizing marketing campaign featuring the face of American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, most famously known for taking a knee during the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner.

In Why did Nike do what they did? Mark Schaefer of Grow, and author of several digital marketing books, explains why this was a brilliant idea. Despite the fact it generated controversy, including protesters burning shoes in the streets, Schaefer notes Nike’s move aligns with research highlighted in his book, Marketing Rebellion. The book explores how to connect with customers and build a brand in a world without loyalty.

The message of the book applies  to folks in the social benefit sector as well.

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