Category: How tos

The Power of Imagination

We are now halfway through 2020. What an exhausting, overwhelming, anxiety-producing, crazy ride it has been. The question before us now is how will we choose to experience the second half. Because my guess is that it will be equally, if not more, unpredictable. We can choose to be tossed around by it, or we can instead choose to find the possibility in the… Read more »

When It is Dark, Seek Out Beauty

These are really dark days. We are in midst of a global pandemic that shows no sign of weakening, while we simultaneously begin to reckon with centuries of racial violence and inequality. Emotions are running high. People are worn out. There is simply a pallor of exhaustion, hopelessness, overwhelm that pervades much of our world right now. I get it. I see it in… Read more »

Is padding your endowment an ethical use of unrestricted funds? My first response: “You’re kidding, right?”

Our gifts were solicited as unrestricted gifts and matched dollar-for-dollar by the foundation. A board member recommends that we split the funds raised ($100,000) between the general operating fund and the endowment, which is managed by the community foundation. Is it ethical/legal to take funds solicited as unrestricted and without a donor’s explicit direction, deposit them (or percentage of) into an endowment?

Lessons From Animals

In the Upper Midwest, a sure sign of spring and fall is when geese fly overhead, often honking loudly.  I recently discovered the reason. Turns out that Professor Margaret Kuhn’s research revealed that in order to fly long distances, geese rotate their leaders, and they only pick the ones that can handle turbulence.  The other birds honk, not from discomfort, but to encourage their… Read more »

Prologue re: indents Your donor-base’s bottom line… Are your charity’s toes touching reality bottom?

Do you know, for instance, that research persistently finds that TYPICAL donors are older than NGO insiders (board, staff) presume. OK, dear fundraiser, if you’re younger than 55, can let’s conduct a quick reality check. Go to the restroom. Look in the mirror. Your donors don’t look like you. Reality check over. 2012 TRUTH (and sure, things have changed since 2012; just prove it… Read more »

In the Time of Coronavirus: Can nonprofits and foundations use their endowments as a resource for recovery?

In the wake of COVID-19, there has been a lot of discussion — especially in the blogosphere — about foundations “digging deep” both by increasing annual spending and potentially spending down endowment assets. To some voices in philanthropy — including the Ford Foundation’s Hillary Pennington (Bell, 2020), Benjamin Soskis (2020) of HistPhil and the Urban Institute, and the Libra Foundation’s (2020) Crystal Hayling — the magnitude of the crisis demands considering all financial resources. Over 300 donors and grantmakers have now signed a joint letter asking Congress to temporarily raise minimum foundation payout levels and set a payout requirement for the first time for Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) to respond to the unprecedented need among nonprofits (Daniels, 2020).

In the Time of Coronavirus: Can nonprofits and foundations use their endowments as a resource for recovery?

In our first two posts, we focused on risks facing nonprofits and their likely cash on hand, especially in Michigan, but with findings representative of nonprofits nationwide. In this third post, we pivot to looking at endowments as a resource for recovery. By the term “endowments” we mean both the investment holdings of traditional foundations, and hybrid vehicles such as Donor Advised Funds (DAFs),… Read more »

How To Write a Donor-Centered 3.0 Caption Using ideas learned from Identity-Based Fundraising Research

Pat Bradley at CrisisAid shared some very good news from Ethiopia. He sent a photo of Asha’s newborn via email. I thought: “Perfect! I wonder what a donor-centered caption on such a photo might read like.” And here’s what emerged: a quick tutorial (fingers crossed!) in caption writing. Above: Just the facts. Which is 1/2 the AP formula for good photo captions. The other… Read more »

In John’s words… A few excerpts from DonorCARE: How to Keep Donors Coming Back AFTER the First Gift…

  …instead of saying, “Thank you so much for giving money to our organization so that we can change the world,” you want to say, “Thank you so much for making a difference in a child’s life.” See how the organization is removed from that narrative? Connection [with your donors] is sharing … like sharing chocolate or a movie. Connection allows you and that… Read more »

Business Lessons From Pandemic

Harvard Business School surveyed 600 CEOs recently and asked them what keeps them awake at night during this global pandemic.  The results found that almost every aspect of doing business must be completely rethought for both short-term survival and long-term success. The issues cited fall into three main categories: 1. Continuous learning and integrating new information. 2. Making complex decisions and plans quickly and… Read more »

Funding Alert – Grants and Opportunities

Funding News and Grant Tips Episcopal Health Foundation has announced a $10 million plan to help address the long-term impact of COVID-19, including a grant program, an emergency loan fund, and a research project. The grant program will help current grantees and partners continue their operations during the public health emergency with a focus on those directly involved in COVID-19 response and serving disproportionately affected… Read more »

Communications Questions to Consider During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Initially, the goal of all nonprofit communications around COVID-19 was to keep stakeholders engaged in the mission. The primary message — sent through social media, emails, and personal phone calls — was checking in:

“Are you O.K.? We’re O.K.” and “We’ll still be here when all of this is over!”

However, in the middle stage of the outbreak, when no one knows exactly how long the stay-at-home order will last — or what the ultimate impact on our nonprofit will be — how do we keep communication channels open in a way that honestly reflects what we are experiencing, but still shows empathy, inspires hope, and motivates donors to give?

Here a few helpful prompts and practical strategies to more effectively connect with clients, donors and volunteers (i.e. potential donors).

The Best Way To Put Clients First Is To Let Them Lead!

Those of us who work at nonprofits are drawn to a particular mission and a desire to do good and give back. Most of us have navigated our careers thoughtfully and intentionally and have worked hard (perhaps even tirelessly). Yet often, despite our good intentions and hard work, we find ourselves replicating the practices that created the inequity we committed to disrupt in the… Read more »

Breaking the Nonprofit Financial Glass Ceiling

The fact is that a financial glass ceiling exists for nonprofits — a limit, which many nonprofits hit, where the money just won’t grow. They may have a great solution to a social problem, but they are unable to attract the money necessary to deliver on that solution. I see this all the time in my consulting practice. A nonprofit has existed at a certain budget level — let’s say $1.5 million — for years and years, and though they have big ideas for how much more they could be doing, they just can’t seem to get past that $1.5 million mark.

How to Tell Stories About Complex Issues

Storytelling is one of the greatest tools we have for engaging communities on complex social and environmental issues, in ways that can drive belief and behavior change. People are far more likely to remember information if it reaches them in the form of a story. Good stories also have an incredible ability to reduce counterarguing on divisive issues. And when people are transported by a great story, they remember the events in the story and feel like the experiences were their own. As a result, the story has the power to influence future beliefs on related issues.

Breaking the Ignorance Ceiling

Why this book screamed to be made In the US, as of 2017, there were something like 1.3 million government-sanctioned charitable organizations. It’s a growing sector: at current rates, about 47,000 new US charities are born each year.[1] Is that a lot or a little, for a nation of some 330 million? I say it’s a lot. After all, the same population gets by with… Read more »

“In a billion-dollar campaign case,” she wondered, “where do you stick the ‘letter from the Dean’?”

Ummmmmmm…. Good question, Echo. ¶ In our little world [The Case Writers], where we pretty much get to write and design whatever we think is best, working with a group of clients who want exactly that, every “normal” element is questionable. You start each day with this question, “What if everything I think I know is wrong?” ¶ In other words, if something normally… Read more »

Some Say Fundraising Is Just Sales: They’re Wrong!

Early in my 30-plus year career in the philanthropic arena, I was looking for a major gifts officer for a reproductive health clinic in Los Angeles. Of the many résumés I received, one was from a candidate with ten years of solid experience—but for eight of those ten years, he worked for religious charities that opposed the values held by my organization. Within the… Read more »