Recently in General fundraising Category

May 26, 2011

Volunteers' Guide to Fundraising Newly in Print!

If you could only know the process that goes into creating a book like The Volunteers' Guide to Fundraising -- a bit like sausage-making, but in a good way.

FLIB.gifThis latest addition to the Nolo nonprofit series is meant for PTA parents, team and band booster volunteers, librarians who never realized their job was to include fundraising, church, synagogue, and other religious group members, and so on.

It's a guide to the most likely types of fundraising when your group is short on time, paid staff, and other stuff that an established nonprofit might have, such as a database of donors and a five-year plan.

 These include special events, selling candy (and many alternatives to candy), auctions (online and off), walkathons, home & garden tours, benefit concerts, and more.

Now, back to the writing process: To make sure the book didn't just recite tired instructions that you've heard before, I talked to dozens of people in the same categories just described. They generously shared their stories, favorite tips, nightmare mistakes, and so on. The book includes direct quotes from many of them, along with sample materials, checklists, and other advice. Here's a quick sampling:

  • Regarding scheduling an event, Emily Shem-Tov, a volunteer fundraiser with the Morgan Hill Library Foundation, warns: "One year we held our Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest on the same afternoon as the Super Bowl. That was a mistake. We thought that crossword puzzle people and Super Bowl people would be mutually exclusive, but no, attendance was definitely down."
  • Regarding planning house tours, Michael Crowe, of the Oakland Heritage Alliance, says, "Tourgoers do like to see big, grand houses. No matter how much you talk up the virtues of more modest homes on your tour, they may stay away entirely if you don't present at least some grand ones."
  • Regarding hiring a professional auctioneer, Jackie T., a parent volunteer, says, "Our hired auctioneer suggested clever ways to us to have the kids help out -- like having a little girl carry the quilt onstage that all the kindergarteners had helped make, with cutout patterns of their hands -- it sold for several thousand dollars, our top revenue -producer for the live auction -- or having the Cub Scouts get on stage in their uniforms to model the leaf raking that they'd do for the highest bidder."
That's just the beginning! Read and enjoy.
May 16, 2011

Rubber Duck Race Planners: What's Your Duck Budget?

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As any fundraising special events planner knows, part of the key to making a profit is to create a budget that carefully accounts for all possible expenses, and then to make sure that the likely income from the event will exceed the total expenses by a healthy margin.

But who knew that rubber duck races were getting so popular that you might need to purchase upwards of 40,000 ducks?

That's right, from Texas to Hawaii, duck adopters are flocking (oops, bad pun) to join the race. You can read about it in the article, "Rubber duckies go with the flow of charity," by Kristin R. Jackson.

The good news for the people making the budgets is that, according to my online research, two-inch rubber duckies can be had for about 39 cents apiece. So maybe it's storage space that should be your biggest concern.

April 4, 2011

Your Nonprofit's Website Design: How the Wrong Consultant Can Mess It Up

In case you haven't yet come across this article (which is rightfully making its way around the blogosphere), be sure to check out Kivi Leroux Miller's "How Web Developers Hurt Their Nonprofit Clients."

The article details how either inept or unscrupulous Web design consultants saddle nonprofits (and others, no doubt) with websites that only the consultants know how to -- or literally have authorization to -- update.

mad_fossil1_h.jpgYikes. Having a website that doesn't take much work to keep up might sound like a blessing now, but what happens when you've got a big event coming up and discover that you don't have the power to devote more than two sentences on your homepage to it? Or can't swap out your photos to feature a relevant one? The very website that looked so fresh on day one will soon look like an ancient fossil.  

Do your group a favor and make sure your website at least offers some flexibility, regardless of what you decide to do with it later.

March 24, 2011

Nonprofit Insiders: What's Your Takeaway From "Secret Millionaire?"

I usually run from reality TV, but for obvious reasons, had to take a peek at ABC's "Secret Millionaire."

The premise, if you've avoided television with even more success than I, is that an actual millionaire gets involved with three different charities, knowing that he or she (mostly "he's" so far) will, in the final few minutes of the show, deliver a fat check to one or more of them.

vegas.jpgThe suspense is all about deciding which one will be the major beneficiary. On Sunday night's episode, for example, millionaire James Malinchak (a motivational speaker from Las Vegas) described having trouble sleeping on the night before he announced his choices.

And the three charities on his roster all looked pretty deserving, based in economically depressed Gary, Indiana. They included an after-school learning program, a community cleanup program, and a kids' basketball program.

So, if lots of Americans watch this show, will it be a good thing for charities? On the whole, I'd say yes -- it introduces the viewers to real community needs at a personal level, shows them how individuals can help meet those needs, and leaves everyone wiping away tears, onscreen and off.

On the other hand, the show skirted the supposedly central issue of how to properly evaluate a nonprofit's effectiveness -- which is increasingly important for donors, who suspect that in many cases they're dropping their money into a bottomless pit. Maybe Mr. Malinchak happened to link up with the three most functional charities on the planet, but from all we saw, everyone within them was hardworking, willing to make personal sacrifices, and happily free from common nonprofit syndromes such as burnout, internal disagreements about methods and priorities, wondering why the staff/board/whoever aren't doing more to raise money, and so forth. How on earth was our check-writing millionaire supposed to choose between them?!

One imagines the producers did a good bit of vetting of the three featured charities. Not to mention that the millionaire in question gets to spend only a few days' worth of time at each charity, so any darker aspects of working there probably had yet to emerge. And would we want viewers to find out that the nonprofits in question aren't as perfect as all that? Maybe not.

Yet it left me feeling that viewers won't get to appreciate some of the truly most difficult aspects of working at a nonprofit -- the persevering through all the dysfunctionalities I mentioned above.

And it certainly won't help donors with that ongoing question of how to choose between worthy charities. As far as I could tell, Malinchak made a fairly personal decision, awarding the biggest check to the group that offered basketball (which Malinchak once played competitively) and whose coach had suffered the loss of several siblings (Malinchak had lost his own sister). When you come right down to it, his decision-making process probably isn't that far away from that of many other donors, millionaires or not. 

March 10, 2011

Hawaii Library Shows Link Between Fundraising and Volunteerism

The headline in American Libraries' magazine aptly reads, "The Little Library That Could." The article, by Brian Matthews, describes how the largely volunteer-run Makiki Community Library in Honolulu manages to stay afloat even without collecting library fines for overdue materials!

What I'd like to know is how, beyond the "aloha spirit" mentioned, the library manages to do such a great job keeping volunteers interested. They've got some volunteers willingly cleaning the bathrooms, for God's sake! That sort of commitment doesn't come without effort on the part of the organization, and good leadership -- which it sounds like the Makiki Library has, in the form of a former librarian turned Friends group president, Wendy Maxwell. 

In any case, it's a fine example of how rallying volunteers can supplant some of the need to raise straight cash.

March 4, 2011

Nonprofits Feeling Burden of New Fundraising-Registration Requirements

We'll probably be hearing more stories like the one with which Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine ended its March, 2011 issue: Herb Knoll, who founded a fledgling nonprofit called Michelle's Angels, describes the frustrations of needing to register the nonprofit in every state in which it receives donations and pay both first-time and annual renewal fees, and worries about the impact, in terms of costs and required time, on his group.

Although the article didn't specify, it looks quite logical for Michelle's Angels to want to be able to fundraise nationally. Unlike many nonprofits, it doesn't provide local services -- it primarily uses the Internet to providing emotional support to people in need due to illness or other reasons.

usa50one.gifSo as long as Michelle's Angels is reaching out to clients around the country, it would make perfect sense for it to ask them to contribute, or to request that their interested friends and family do so. Yet the site currently has to warn donors that it can accept contributions only from two U.S. states, New York and Tennessee, while it works on getting registered in others.

Knoll says, "There should be a not-for-profit national registry or a single, uniform state application and low fees -- or no fees for small charities."

Good idea -- let's hope that message gets to the right ears! In the meantime, for nonprofits struggling with interpreting and meeting the registration requirements, help can be found in the Nolo book, Nonprofit Fundraising Registration: The 50-State Guide, by Stephen Fishman. 

February 17, 2011

Know What You Want to Say Before You Write

pen and paper.jpgThat title is actually one of my cardinal rules for writing, whether we're talking about a nonprofit grant proposal, a book, or a letter to Mom. When I'm having trouble putting words on the page, a little looking inward often reveals that the real problem isn't in the writing process, it's in the thought process. In other words, I don't really know what I'm trying to say.

So it was nice to see an articulate reminder of and expansion on that topic, by Rebecca Leet, as guest blogger for Nancy Schwartz's Getting Attention blog, with her article, "Can't write the message? Maybe it's not your fault."

Rebecca addresses the added complexity of trying to get all the key players in an organization united around its core message -- no small challenge, with fundamental issues at stake!
February 10, 2011

The Groupon Super Bowl Oops

Little did I know that the REALLY Big News from the Big Game would not be the lack of Pepsi ads (as I discussed in my last blog), but the misguided Groupon ads. By now, you've probably seen them twelve times over, but if not, here's where to view their oddly combined, wannabe satirical melding of real causes and flippant consumerist appeals to "Save the Money."

It's a sad tale, because humor invariably involves risk. When someone tries to be funnyChicken Feathered.jpg and fails, it makes the rest of the world --particularly the nonprofit fundraising world, which is already prone to an excess of seriousness -- chicken out (with all due respect to the chicken) and stick to the tearjerker appeals, which can be real yawners.

When done right, humor is a great way to make donors smile -- and then give. But how to do it right? Here's a helpful article, "When Humor Can Be Very Effective in Fundraising Marketing Campaigns," by MP Mueller, for the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

January 30, 2011

Business and Corporate Donors Deserve Followup Too!

I spoke recently to the owner of a small business who says that, despite the down economy, he has actually increased his contributions (cash and in-kind) to certain nonprofit groups in his community -- but dropped others off his list. The nonprofits in the latter category were those that never followed up to him to tell him, for example, whether his item sold at their silent auction (much less at what price), or how they'd used his contribution.

This isn't retribution. Like any donor, he explained, he'd like to build a relationship with the groups he supports, not feel like they only run to him as the guy with the checkbook. Worse yet, he sometimes feels like a second-class donor. For example, he described his dismay when attending a nonprofit event and reading through the program, which listed everyone's cash donations -- but made no mention of the in-kind donations from himself and others. Oops.

Is the problem partly that the word "corporate giving" has made its way into common usage, leading people to confuse the local business owner with some faceless multinational conglomerate for which charitable giving is merely a drop in its promotional budget-bucket? I hope not, and I wish every nonprofit fundraising staffer could have heard this man speak. But I'll simply have to assure you that he wasn't faceless, and he probably represents the views of a number of other frustrated business donors. So keep in touch, and build those relationships!  
January 26, 2011

Many Wealthy Donors Might Yet Add a Charity to Their Will

Nearly half of the affluent household surveyed by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University say that they've already included a gift to charity in their will. That's good news in and of itself -- it shows public awareness of legacy giving as a meaningful and a readily accomplished estate planning option.

But perhaps even more significant is the 12% of survey subjects who said they'd consider including a charitable gift provision in their will within the next three years. There's room there for your nonprofit, using the principles described in Nolo's free article on "Nonprofit Fundraising Through Inherited Legacy Gifts." (And as further incentive to making sure your nonprofit is seen as a viable recipient of legacy gifts, consider the wealth levels of the households in this survey: incomes of at least $200,000, and net worth of at least $1 million.)

Here's the full 2010 Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy, which contains numerous other intriguing and enlightening statistics -- more on those later.