June 2008 Archives

June 23, 2008

Fundraising Kudos to: Audubon Ad Encouraging Bequests

Every nonprofit that hopes to attract gifts from donors' estates knows how hard it is to find language with which to refer to that possibility in print. Words like "estate," "bequest," and "planned giving" are vague or jargony. And this is one case where simplifying the language -- for example, saying something like, "leave us money after you're dead" -- really doesn't work.

Bird nestThat's why my eye was caught by a page in an Audubon magazine (January 2008 happened to be the one I was looking at), with the heading: "Your Beneficiaries: There are more of them then you realize!"

Accompanied by a photo of children looking at a bird nest, it aptly, even humorously, reminds people that they care about a wider circle of life than their immediate family; and that by naming Audubon as a beneficiary in their wills or other documents, they can contribute to a better future for all.

Unfortunately, now that they came up with this nice language, it's off-limits, copyright-wise, to anyone else who might want to use it. But it's a good source of inspiration, and proof that you don't have to get into a language rut over this.

June 16, 2008

Nonprofit Media Roundup

Some interesting news tidbits recently:

First off, did you notice the FTC warning consumers about scam charities supposedly fundraising for people affected by the earthquake in China and cyclone in Myanmar? (It was written up by Dan Thanh Dang in the June 15th Baltimore Sun.) Potential donors are being warned to double-check that any phone calls really came from the charity, ask what percentage of the donation will go toward services, and more. Of course, this affects every nonprofit as donors' level of suspicion goes up. No sense fighting it -- just be ready to provide every possible tidbit to reassure donors that you're for real.

Another interesting story came from the June 12th edition of Conde Nast's Portfolio, written by Dalia Fahmy and titled "Charity Prize Fight". The story discusses how nonprofit foundations are using contests -- for example, to create the best, most commercially viable solution to global warming -- as a way to simultaneously address a problem, get publicity, and stimulate more giving. (The global warming contest is, by the way, from Richard Branson's Virgin Unite foundation.)

How is this news important to smaller, non-foundation charities? Aside from staying alert for a contest you can enter (been keeping a solution to global warming up your sleeve?), creating contests among your donors and members might make for an interesting change of pace. The simplest would be an online contest -- say, to raise the most money through grassroots efforts, suggest the best name for an animal under your care, or the like. Instead of cash prizes, offer a personal tour of your facility or a meeting with the E.D.. And be sure to call the media!

Finally, on the lighter side of fundraising, it's interesting to watch overseas trends. As far as I can tell, the British are maniacs for stunt-based fundraising -- like this bungee-jumping priest, or this skydiving grandmother. And then there were the two store managers who (voluntarily, it appears) were locked in their shop window, given a phone, and told to raise 1,000 British pounds for charity before they'd be let out. Is there a lesson to be taken from these? I await your comments.

June 9, 2008

When Fundraising Looks Like Begging

istock_000004693240xsmall.jpgHere's an interesting blog post by Christopher Campbell on Cinematical, talking about the practice of enlisting movie theatre ushers in efforts to collect donations for nonprofits.

At first glance, it sounds like a reasonably creative idea: The ushers will be walking the aisles anyway, among theatre-goers in a presumably good mood. Why not have these ushers carry a can to collect some coins for a cause?

But as Cristopher's blog points out, the results have made some patrons feel they were being hassled -- especially when ushers were given incentives to "do whatever they could to get as much money as they could." He describes some ushers' aggressive tactics, including name-calling behind the non-givers' backs, and other ushers who may have skimmed money from the donation jar, referring to it as the "cigarette fund."

If ever there was a reminder that every volunteer needs proper training, this is it. I'm guessing those ushers didn't feel they had much choice in their charity collection activities. Did they receive an in-depth orientation from actual members of the charity, to inspire them about the cause and make sure they were committed to helping out? The blog doesn't say.

Before your organization says, "Wow, free volunteer help!" in any similar way, make sure to do the training first, to avoid the need for damage control and retraining later. And if it's going to be an ongoing effort like this one, follow up to see how it's going.