The Leaders’ View is not 360

“360 Degree View” long ago made its way onto the BS Bingo board at conferences. Vendors and consultants promised a complete picture of your relationships regardless of whether your interactions were on-line or off-line. Millions of dollars, and countless hours, have been spent making the 360 view a reality. For fundraisers this meant bringing together all of the elements of a successful campaign. For other departmental silos it delivered the view they needed to get their job done. Leaders began to receive more complete data from their direct reports, and for a while it seemed as if 360 had helped organizations do a 180 in terms of having the data needed to make better decisions. But there was a problem – in fact many problems. First, the 360 view was essentially a new way to look at all the structured data found in a traditional database of record (known as a donor management system for fundraisers). 80% of data today is unstructured and...
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Making the Mission the Goal of Your Fundraising Campaign

When talking about a fundraising campaign the first question usually is, “What’s the goal?” The higher the number the more impressed we are. I have enough grey hairs to remember when a billion was a big deal. Now a billion seems quaint as USC continues its quest for $6 billion. In the hyper-competitive world of higher education fundraising can the $10 billion campaign be far off? In the middle of all of this “my goal is bigger than your goal” activity I came across a campaign with no goal at all: The Great Give at Florida State University. A 36 hour on-line campaign, donors could select from 24 programs. There was no overall goal - only a cost next to each program. Despite the campaign having the misfortune to be launched at exactly the moment the world was focused on the police closing in on the Boston Marathon bombing suspects (April 18-19), it raised nearly $114,000. $57,000 a day is not too...
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For Nonprofits Change Will Do Them Good

The 2013 State of the Sector Survey, conducted by the Nonprofit Finance Fund, has a wealth of data regarding where nonprofits are today – and more importantly – where they are heading. Today I want to focus on the survey question pertaining, “Finance & Operations Actions in the Last or Next 12 Months," and in particular the 39% which answered yes to “Change the main ways in which you raise & spend money” in the last or next 12 months. While 39% is impressive, what I found even more striking was the year-over-year change – 15%. Clearly nonprofit leaders are getting tired of doing the same things and being disappointed when they don’t get different results. What kinds of changes can we expect? A clue is the number one answer – “Attend conferences or network to build relationships.” People are hungry for answers, but they are also looking for fresh ideas and perspectives (or at least 58% of them are). The 46% planning...
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For Philanthropy the Answers Are All Around Us

One of my favorite lessons about faith is the story of a man caught in a flood praying to be saved as the water rises. Two boats, and a helicopter, come and are sent off as he trusts that his prayers will be answered. When he eventually drowns and goes to heaven he asks - why did you not answer my prayers? The simple answer, "I sent two boats, and a helicopter." I am reminded of this story when I hear about what fundraisers, and others involved in philanthropy, say is needed to be successful. There never seems to be enough information, technology, personnel, and good donors. Imagine telling this tale at the pearly gates. I'm not sure a sympathetic audience awaits. Do you really want to make the case for information being in short supply? Is the technology available not amazing enough for you? Good people seem hard to find, but how many good people have left your organization in frustration? And with...
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Unrelated Income and the Unexpected Consequences to Your Mission

The IRS report on unrelated business income at colleges and universities reminded me of the potential perils of creating revenue from activities unrelated to your mission. I am not thinking about the tax consequences; I will leave that to the folks in Washington. I am pondering the consequences to the mission, and by association, fundraising. This issue first came to my attention while I was working with a well-known university. We were discussing the giving patterns of affluent alums when a major gifts officer lamented about people who only made a gift in a year when they went on the alumni trip. These were not ordinary trips. They were 10-14 day adventures combining exotic locations and encounters with famous people. Faculty who were experts in the areas being explored rounded out the experience. Soon after this I was at a museum delivering their screening results and heard the same comment. Edu-cations had become all the rage and it certainly made sense for the...
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Distance Does Not Cause the Giving Heart to Grow Fonder

The recently released study by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and CCS - The Million Dollar Gift Next Door - revealed that 50% of the donors lived in the same state as the organization they supported, and another 10% in the same region. So 60% of all top gifts come from people who are thinking local. Good news for local organizations, and schools with a lot of alums nearby. For everyone else it is a wake-up call to find ways to bridge the distance between their missions and the hearts of their donors. On the face of it there is an easy answer as to why - people want to keep their money close to home. Certainly makes sense, but is there something deeper at work? Are donors saying they don't trust organizations they can't see? Is the connection between their mail box and the mission not enough? Is social media failing to make the digital connection? Has face-to-face...
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Philanthropist Speaks and Fundraisers Would Do Well to Listen

The reaction to the Dan Pallotta TED talk has been cause for hope and frustration: Hope, as people begin to accept philanthropy as we have known it is broken; frustration, with so many defending the past for fear of an unknown future. Reading the back-and-forth about Pallotta’s presentation I’m reminded of the scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen becomes so fed up with a person in line pontificating about Marshall McLuhan’s work he brings McLuhan out of the shadows to confront the man.   For all the people believing Pallotta is off track (and his rocker) I give you the opinion of a well-known philanthropist: “We need to better comprehend this environment and learn how to participate in it. The arts are slow at developing donors online, where much fundraising now happens. We have been slow to attract the new money—the hedge fund and social-media crowds, the new inheritors of wealth. We need these people in the arts, but we are not getting...
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Free Range Donors

Fundraisers love to fight over who “owns” a donor. In the nonprofit world the battle is between direct response and major gifts with some organizations throwing in membership to liven things up. Behind the castle walls of education there is the eternal struggle pitting friendraising (alumni relations) and fundraising (advancement). I have found in working with people who give of their time and/or treasure they don’t like the term donor (makes them think of missing kidneys and blood loss), so I’m thinking the idea of being “owned” would not go over well either. Sears once thought if you wanted appliances, toys or hardware they owned you. GM and Ford at one time were so thoroughly convinced of their ownership of car buyers they treated Japan more as a novelty than a competitor. Home Depot, Toys R Us, and Toyota are among the many companies born in no small part because of the arrogance of the former leaders of their industries. As fundraising bumps...
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Time for a Mission Underwriters Laboratory

For returning readers you know I'm pushing hard to make the mission the center of the social sector universe and pushing back even harder on the idea of cost-of-fundraising. When you push you get push-back, and some of it has been around the challenges of measuring the mission AKA impact. The difficulty of evaluating impact may well be the reason the watchdog groups like Charity Navigator went for the easy math and created the whole cost-of-fundraising farce. Certainly the IRS 990 doesn't help. It tells as much about what an organization does as the 1040 tells about you and me. What if there was a place that looked only at the mission the way the Underwriters Laboratory only looks at products? The UL doesn't give a wit if the company is profitable. It simply wants to know if the product does what it says it does, and whether it is safe. Here is their mission statement:   Dedicated to promoting safe living and working...
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Donor Retention Begins at Home

Reading Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising was a sobering event. I have heard all of these complaints over the years, but seeing how truly pervasive they really are transformed them from anecdotal stories into systemic problems. It was certainly disturbing to learn how many development directors want to leave their jobs:   But this chart was downright terrifying:   Even in high performing organizations a culture of philanthropy is only present in 36% of organizations, and for everyone else 12%. It looks like we have created a culture of unhappiness, and it’s coming through to donors as they stop giving, or don’t start at all. No matter how good you are at compartmentalizing your life, if you are unhappy then your donors (and prospective donors) will pick up on it. This is why we included a special session on the topic at our upcoming Donor Retention Bootcamp: It’s Coming Through!  Politics, silos, dysfunctional teams, and demanding donors are just a few of the reasons...
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