April 2010 Archives

April 30, 2010

Fundraising Bake Sales: Beware the Cream Pie!

Is it my imagination, or was there a lot less regulation of bake sales when I was a kid?

I've been noodling around the Internet, and a surprising number of cities and counties -- from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois to Lewiston, Maine -- require nonprofit groups (and others) to get a permit before holding a bake sale.

Not all areas charge for the permit, and the majority still let you go ahead without one. But even the no-permit areas are paying increasing attention to the health issues surrounding selling food to the public, and expect bake sales to comply. And I wouldn't want to be the group that makes the paper because of a "permit bust" or a Salmonella outbreak.

Who knew that the humble cream pie was such a villain? I'm seeing it over and over again, on everyone's "DO NOT SELL!" list even for groups that have a permit. Apparently all the milk and eggs make a lovely recipe for not only custard, but for bacterial growth when left outside a refrigerator.  

In the absence of any national rules, here's what I'd suggest if you're planning a bake sale:

  1. Call your local health or food service department to find out the permit and any other rules. Follow them.
  2. Take your own steps to avoid being the cause of health problems, such as reminding your bakers to be extra careful about cleanliness in the food prep process, wrapping or covering everything in plastic at the sale, and serving with tongs.
  3. Ask bakers to create labels with full and accurate lists of ingredients, in case buyers have allergies. (Peanuts, wheat, and dairy are common concerns.)
  4. Whatever you do, don't serve cream pies. Or pumpkin, or meringue.
How did we all survive childhood, I wonder?

April 24, 2010

What's Wrong WIth Fundraising Calendars Featuring Captive Animals?

This month's Audubon magazine (March/April 2010) contains a column by Ted Williams that should give pause to any group that buys stock wildlife photos for its calendars, newsletters, annual reports, and so forth. (And it's not just the environmental groups that do so -- on my refrigerator is a calendar for an organization that supports childrens' health, with a photo of a different bird every month).

His column, the regular installment of "Incite," describes a disturbing trend in which wildlife photographers, finding it increasingly tough or expensive to travel to faraway places to snap their shots, all too often pay a game farm for the privilege of photographing captive animals -- and then sell the photos without disclosing this fact, to media, nonprofits, and others.

What's the problem, one might ask, if a nice photo supports a good cause? Williams points out several problems. First, though a few game farms operate with integrity, many are just out to make a buck, and mistreat the animals. Second, such photos give people an artificial belief that animals in nature are all plump, happy, and blow dried (and in some cases, that African terrain looks oddly like Montana). Third, it's just plain dishonest, when there's a simple solution: disclose where the photo was taken.

Sounds to me like it's time to start asking questions before buying those photos.
April 20, 2010

Fundraising Kudos to: American Cancer Society

According to a survey in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the American Cancer Society (ACS) was number one among nonprofits doing online fundraising last year. It raised $114 million online, an impressive 13% share of its total contributions.

What is the ACS doing right? I don't have the behind-the-scenes info, but looking at its website, I can make a few, hopefully educated guesses. Notice, for example:

  • The home page contains interesting, substantive content. Studies have shown that people rate substantive content number one in importance when evaluating a nonprofit's website. The ACS offers a host of topic links, like, "Learn About Cancer," "Support Programs and Services," and "Cancer Facts & Figures."
  • The home page also leads people quickly to donation opportunities. Readers can click to "Join the Fight Against Cancer," "Get Involved," and "Donate Now," not to mention on a special headline inviting people to participate in the Relay For Life.
  • When you click the "Donate" link (under "Join the Fight"), you're given an introductory reminder of the good that your gift does, plus various options for how to donate. And in case you remain unconvinced, there's another link called "Learn How Your Donations Help." This provides even more detail on ACS's research, advocacy, service, and other programs supported by donations.
  • The payment page is simple to fill out, provides logos with assurances about the security of the information you'll be transmitting, and actually has an 800 number that people can call for help! That last bit probably isn't realistic for most smaller nonprofits, but at least put your organization's phone number up, with information on when to call if need be, and who to ask for.
Well done, I say. And have a look at my free article for more information on "Using Your Nonprofit's Website to Help Fundraise. "

April 16, 2010

Fundraising Kudos to: Lawrence Hall of Science

The Lawrence Hall of Science, in the hills above the UC Berkeley campus, is known primarily as a place to take your kids to learn about math and science. So you've got to hand it to whoever there thought up "Geek Out Night," their new-ish monthly event where adults can mingle, meet scientists, play with the exhibits that are usually surrounded by a crowd of kids, and visit a cash bar.

It's not an event that every nonprofit can repeat -- but worth noting is how the organization took its existing assets and found a new (and fun) way to use them, reaching a different audience.

Too bad I missed the one where you bring in your broken old electronics (toasters, DVD players, etc.) and their experts helped you take it apart, put it back together, and see if you could make it work!
April 9, 2010

New Ways to Recognize Donors

Don't miss today's post on The Agitator. It describes some ideas adapted from the commercial marketing world for heightening one's focus on existing customers/donors, and relationships with them, as a recession-combating strategy.

Tom gives two good ideas for how to achieve this. These include specially acknowledging donors who've been with your organization a certain number of years as well as acknowledging ones who've given certain amounts.

What I like about his ideas is that they're original (not that I know what every organization out there is doing, but I personally haven't seen this twist yet), they're easy, if you're already keeping decent records, and they're the very opposite of what feels like the more common if perhaps unconscious approach: that is, the one where donors get endless appeal letters in which the organizations practically hide the ball, not telling you how much you've donated of late, as if afraid that once you notice, you'll turn off the tap and say, "Forget it, I'm not giving a thing to this next appeal!"

Why not celebrate how much a donor has given, and foster their pride around that -- especially if you can send them a tailored letter explaining what has been achieved during their three years of membership or using their total funds? I'll be curious to see the responses to Tom's post . . . .