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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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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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 – All You Need Is Love

At some point during the 9 WOW Institutes I was a part of my great friend and colleague Jay Goulart would say, “It’s all about the love.” A lot happened during those 4 day-experiences in beautiful Henniker, New Hampshire, but when all was said and done it really did come down to love; loving your donors; loving your mission; loving what you do; and equally important is for you and your team to love being at your organization. If you nailed the love, then you had the opportunity to create a culture of philanthropy that turns donors into lovers of your mission. But how do you measure love? Is it money? Time? Those certainly can be indicators of commitment, but people can, and do, give of their time and treasure without so much as a smile on their faces. Rather than love, fundraisers can use guilt, peer-pressure, or a sense of obligation. Do any of those warm your heart? There are a number...
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Creating a Culture of Philanthropy by Being Mission-Centered

A lot of ink – real and digital – has been expended on the topic of being donor-centered. After all the conferences, white-papers, books, and blog posts it boiled down to a simple message – listen to your donors and respect their individuality. This certainly seemed like sound advice which dovetailed beautifully with increasing the level (and quality) of stewardship in the fundraising process. Unfortunately as the idea of being donor-centered gained popularity, the level of donor retention fell. What happened? I got a clue a few years ago while presenting at the WOW Institute, an experiential conference of which I was part for a number of years. A well-known philanthropist, who was speaking about his experiences as a donor, commented that he did not want organizations to be donor-centered – he wanted them to be mission-centered. His comment got me thinking about how the donor-centered philosophy was part of a culture of giving where everything revolved around either asking for money or...
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