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Philanthropy’s 800-Pound Gorilla June 18, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — fundtimes @ 8:32 pm
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Awkward moments define my life. Oftentimes, I cringe at the thought of being put on the spot or having my dirty laundry aired out for all to see. As protective of a tactic as this navel-gazing may be, avoiding the obvious is not the best way to deal with prevailing issues. Philanthropy is no different.

Join me this Friday, June 21st at 12 p.m. EST/11 a.m. CST on Bare Benevolence for an in-depth conversation of how the elite shape philanthropy and its response to social problems. “See” you then!

**In the bathroom when last week’s episode aired? Ugh, talk about awkward. Oh well, click here to find out how stereotyping ruins donor appeals.



People Fund People June 13, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — fundtimes @ 1:32 pm

Join me for this week’s episode of Bare Benevolence where I explore the complexities of appealing to diverse donors. “See” you Friday, June 14th at 12 p.m. EST/11 a.m CST on The Make It Great Network!

**Missed last week’s episode? Click here for “What’s Bloomberg Got to Do With It?”




Announcing My New Podcast! June 3, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — fundtimes @ 5:58 pm

Good afternoon,

I am thrilled to announce the airing of my new weekly podcast, Bare Benevolence on blogtalkradio this Friday, June 7th at 12:00 p.m. EST! In collaboration with the Make It Great Show, I am normalizing the practice of looking a “gift horse in the mouth” and invite you to consider all of the ways that philanthropy is directly impacting the very work that you do in the nonprofit sector. This show will air each and every Friday for 30 minutes right at lunchtime. Consider this your philanthropic “food for thought” 🙂

Thanks in advance for listening, tell your friends and I look forward to “seeing you” on the show!






What’s In a Name? May 13, 2013

Filed under: accountability,communications,individual donors,transparency — fundtimes @ 4:58 pm

Most people are familar with the quote, “…a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But how many understand what this means or even where it came from? Channeling my inner nerd, I looked it up and found that it is from William Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet. Juliet says to Romeo,

“O, be some other name!

       What’s in a name? that which we call a rose

       By any other name would smell as sweet;

       So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,

       Retain that dear perfection which he owes

       Without that title.”

In full context, Juliet proclaims to Romeo that his family name does not diminish who he is (aww). But can the same be said for nonprofits’ reputations who accept major gifts in return for donor naming rights?

Generally assigned to the private sector, naming rights is a financial transaction where a corporation purchases the right to name a facililty or other physical space (often as a long-term advertising strategy). Like a lot of for-profit tactics, naming rights have been adopted by nonprofits as a perk for major donors.

In an earlier post, I explored the need to properly vet potential donors. These same warnings can also be applied when considering whether or not to place a company’s or individual’s name on anything tied to your nonprofit. In this cash-strapped economy, the last thing a nonprofit needs is bad publicity. Below are a few tips to guide your nonprofit in considering whether or not to provide naming rights for major donors:

  • Is it Worth It? – As with any major decision, your nonprofit’s leadership should determine if it is even worth it to have naming rights as an option for major donors. The average nonprofit does not own a lot of property, if any. Rather, the decision to allow naming rights is prevalent among larger nonprofits like institutions of higher learning. Therefore, a quick inventory of your nonprofit’s size will determine the usefulness of implementing this fundraising strategy.
  • Investigate – In this age of information, it should be relatively easy to investigate a major donor’s reputation (Google, anyone?). If the internet proves unfruitful, you could also consider asking other nonprofits who have received donations about the quality of their interaction with a given donor.
  • Put It In Writing – If you decide to allow naming rights for major donors, then it is useful to create a policy that outlines the terms and expectations of this agreement. If your nonprofit receives money from foundations, this policy would be similar to the grant agreement that you sign upon notification of an award. Click here for an actual example of a naming rights policy.

What are your thoughts on donor naming rights? Would you consider implementing such a policy for your nonprofit? Why or why not?


Tell It Like It Is April 17, 2013

Filed under: communications,transparency — fundtimes @ 4:59 pm

Everyone loves a good story. Whether absorbed through the eyes or ears, we relish the details surrounding another’s circumstance (fictional or otherwise). Bad intentions aside, I believe that such stories work to eliminate the xenophobia we may have towards our neighbors. This is certainly good news for the nonprofit sector.

As you know, the charitable sector relies heavily on the generosity of individual donors, foundations and corporate programs for funding. But this generosity is predicated on the belief that a nonprofit is capable of improving the lives of our nation’s most vulnerable populations. Thus, the narrative surrounding your nonprofit’s impact has to be airtight when it comes to securing support from the philanthropic community.

Simon Sinek, renowned thought leader and author of the best-selling book “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”, recently shared this interesting tidbit:

“Stories are attempts to share our values and beliefs. Story telling is only worthwhile when it tells what we stand for, not what we do.”

So what does your nonprofit stand for? This question is typically answered by directing folks to your mission statement. But mission statements rarely get at the real-life examples of how a nonprofit impacts lives. This is when mastering the art of story telling becomes keenly useful in both cultivating and retaining donors.  Below are a few tips to help improve your communications:

  • Assess Impact – Throughout the years, I’ve noticed that folks only consider the impact of their work when it’s time to write the dreaded grant report. By then, there’s a mad scramble to get testimonials from the people you’ve served and your own memory of how effective that workshop was is more than hazy. To avoid this, get in the habit of interviewing your constituents immediately after an event. Ask a few of your clients to provide testimonials of how your program has helped them.  It is tempting to relay how great your nonprofit is when reporting to the larger community, but nothing seals this viewpoint better than hearing directly from those you serve.
  • Create Your Propaganda – Once you have enough data on how awesome your nonprofit is, consider how you might frame this information for mass consumption. Creating a one-page fact sheet of community issues and how your nonprofit is working to change them is a great way to start. Want to appeal to those who lean towards visuals? Consider creating a infographic detailing the impact of your organization or producing a short video of your staff at work. Whatever you decide, be sure that your audience has multiple ways to learn about what you do. If you’re not sure where to start, just ask me. I’m here to help.
  • Sell Your Story – Now that your story is coming together, how do you make sure the rest of the world knows how great your nonprofit is? Consider adding any material to your website and driving attention to it through your Twitter and Facebook accounts. If you feel awkward that you haven’t reached out to your email list since the last giving appeal, then now is the time to show them what you’ve been up to. And don’t let this be all about you. Invite the larger community to give you feedback on ways your organization could be of greater service.

What are some other ways you share what your nonprofit stands for?


Do It Afraid March 19, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — fundtimes @ 5:57 pm

This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Fenesha Hubbard of The Make It Great Show on BlogTalkRadio.  For those of you who tuned in, thanks for listening. For those that missed it, you can check it out here.


As I shared my personal journey towards the birth of Fund Times, I was reminded of the courage it takes for many of you to fundraise for your cause. Not only do you have to be persuasive, but you have to stare down your own feelings of uncertainty in raising those much needed dollars.  I hope that the information I share in this blog serves to further your efforts towards long-term sustainability.


To those of you who work tirelessly each and every day to cultivate support for your communities, I salute you.  Keep fighting the good fight of “love for all humanity” that ultimately defines what philanthropy is all about.



Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! March 11, 2013

Filed under: social media — fundtimes @ 5:26 pm

Admit it. You thought this post was about a monster truck rally coming to your city. Am I right or am I right? No? Ok, nevermind.

I am, however, excited to tell you that I have been invited to share the motivation behind Fund Times this Sunday, March 17th at 7:30 p.m. CST/8:30 p.m. EST on The Make It Great Show on BlogTalkRadio! Find out why the past two and a half years have been amazing and what pushes me to continue blogging with you.

“See” you on the show!


Who’s Got Next? February 19, 2013

Filed under: individual donors,strategic fundraising,young donors — fundtimes @ 6:26 pm

If the average life expectancy in the United States is 78, then you might consider my life to be half-over.  Unless you don’t want to see me curled up in a fetal position crying.  But, as my children have shown me, I must nonetheless get up, wipe my nose on my sleeve, and keep it moving.  This adage also applies when it comes to considering how best to use my financial resources while in the land of the living.  Fortunately, I’m not alone.

A recent report titled, “#NextGenDonors” examines the giving trends of major donors between the ages of 21 to 40.  Commissioned by the Johnson Center at Grand Valley State University and 21/64, this report describes how this cohort is poised to inherit over $40 trillion in wealth, examines their ideologies on giving, and predicts how 21st century giving will be impacted by emerging donors of the nation’s most affluential families.  While this report is useful for nonprofits with access to high-net worth individuals, the lessons gleaned from this research can also be applied when considering how to identify the giving capacity of young people who are low- and medium-dollar donors.

  • Know Your Donors.  When was the last time you looked at your donor list? Better yet, how often do you monitor the response rate of either your direct-mail or email campaign? If you never thought to segment your donor list, there’s no time like the present.  Dividing your donor list by age, giving history, and giving method may give you some insight into how younger (and older people) contribute to your effort; allowing your fundraising staff the insight needed for more targeted individual appeals.
  • Unearth Your Board. Fundraising is a key duty of any nonprofit board member.  This is especially true when employing strategies to recruit and engage younger donors.  Consider asking your board to identify a few of their younger colleagues to recruit for board membership.  Or, ask your board to invite at least five young people to sit on the host committee in preparation for your next event. Research has consistently shown that younger people desire active roles when it comes to supporting the nonprofit sector so providing opportunities for direct engagement is critical.
  • Cast Wide Your Net. When identifying next generation donors, diversity is often overlooked. As was the case in the #NextGenDonors report, the cohort surveyed and interviewed was overwhelmingly white and female. With the U.S. population expected to become a “majority-minority” by the year 2043, nonprofits must begin to think more broadly about how to engage a variety of communities as donors (rather than recipients).  Diversifying your board and management staff are a few ways to begin this important work.

What strategies has your nonprofit identified in cultivating the next generation of donors? 


Fear Factor: The Fundraising Edition January 14, 2013

Filed under: strategic fundraising — fundtimes @ 6:19 pm

Everybody is afraid of something.  Whether it’s spiders, heights or sifting through clothes at Filene’s Basement (shudder), we all experience some sort of phobia.  And fundraisers are no different.

Truth is, asking people for money can be a very scary thing.  Sure, we’ve all heard those cute soundbites reminding us to put the “fun” back into fundraising. Or the adage that raising money is not about the dollars itself, but about making friends (preferably loaded ones).  While there is truth to these messages, these ideas inadvertently overshadow the anxieties that many nonprofit leaders face in asking people to fork over their hard earned money to support a cause.

So how do you effectively overcome your fear of asking people for money? Turns out, the answers lie among salespeople in the for-profit world.  In a recent article written by international sales expert (and self-professed introvert) Grant Cardone in Entrepreneur magazine, Cardone offers nine tips on what he does to overcome his timidity in completing sales.  The following excerpt highlights four tips that I think are most useful in helping nonprofit leaders like you to build your confidence in advance of the next fundraising ask:

    • Get passionate. I become so excited about what I’m selling that I have to share it with the world. Becoming passionate about your product or service makes you less interested in how you are perceived and more concerned about showing excitement about what you have to offer.
    • Do one thing a day that you fear. It’s very important for me do the things that make me most uncomfortable. You need to be courageous and make a point of facing your fears, no matter how big or small. The single scariest thing for me was visiting my customers or prospects in person. So that is exactly what I did first thing every day to get over my fear. It instilled courage in me, belief in myself and changed my focus from limitations to possibilities.
    • Observe people for their differences. After a series of failed sales calls, you may start to see all prospects as likely rejections. What you need to do is take a moment and observe how people are different from one another. This will stop you from thinking that everyone is going to respond the same way your last few prospects did.
    • Help other people make sales. Anytime I go a few days without making a sale for myself, I immediately offer my help to other salespeople because it’s a great way to get outside yourself. After several failures to close, a salesperson can become introverted and anxious. But by working with someone else’s prospective customers and having nothing to lose yourself, you will feel more relaxed and regain your confidence. Once you score a sale for someone else, it’s back to your own prospects again.

What fears do you have in executing direct asks? What techniques have you used in overcoming these fears?


#hashtag giving December 11, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — fundtimes @ 2:59 pm

Well folks, it’s that time of the year again. For-profit companies are focused on ending the calendar year with a surplus of greenbacks (aka cheddar, cream, dollar dollar bills y’all).  Hence, corporate marketing strategies like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.   This year, a group of nonprofits also decided to jump on the bandwagon by infusing their own money-making trend called #Giving Tuesday.


While I’m all for year-end appeals, I must admit that #Giving Tuesday was like my last massage; it simply rubbed me the wrong way.  As I read the online topics trending around fundraising, I thought to myself, “Self, why on earth would a nonprofit want to ride the coattails of the biggest commercial shopping season of the year?  Did they think that the frenzy around buying the Wii U would somehow translate into equally fuzzy feelings of giving to the less fortunate?”. Turns out, that’s exactly what folks were thinking. 

According to their website, #GivingTuesday’s mission is to “…create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season.”  Created and endorsed by a group of nonprofits and corporations alike, #GivingTuesday is poised to change the thinking of Americans from a mindset of “getting” to “giving” during the holiday season.  Sounds easy enough, right? Not really. I’m inclined to disagree for a variety of reasons:

  • Oversimplifies Fundraising. Truth be told, fundraising is not easy.  While I like to simplify the fundraising process through this blog, it is still hard work.  Not only does raising money for a nonprofit require a solid strategy, but this strategy must happen all year round.  Relegating fundraising to one day is just irresponsible (no matter the intent) and only helps to misrepresent the hard work that is needed to raise money so that a nonprofit is sustainable for years to come.


  • Commercialism Rules. While I would love to see a world were altruism existed wholesale in the minds of mankind, that is just simply not the case.  I mean, have you seen the frenzy that occurs the night before Black Friday? Each year, there are several news reports of people camping out in the parking lot of their local Best Buy for a chance to grab limited supplies of the “next best thing”.  Let’s face it, shoppers love the holiday season just as much as corporations so creating a campaign that promotes giving at the tail end of the shopping season is unrealistic.


  • “If You Build It, He Will Come.” The underlying assumption of #GivingTuesday is if you promote this day, then folks will automatically latch on and significantly change a nonprofit’s bottom line at the end of the year.  Again, this just isn’t the case.  While many nonprofits indeed conduct a year-end appeal, it is often the conclusion of a hard-fought fundraising strategy that began at the beginning of their fiscal year.  This means that new donors are likely not included in a year-end push.  Point blank, #GivingTuesday will not magically result in a crop of new donors.  And if it does, they likely won’t become long-term donors unless you have a strategy to tap them again in the coming year.

What are your thoughts on #GivingTuesday?  Do you know of nonprofits who have benefitted from this trend?