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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?


Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth November 13, 2012

Have you ever considered turning down a donation?  This may seem like a strange question in today’s economy, but knowing the answer may impact your bottom line in more ways than one.


In my first job as a fundraiser, I was introduced to the wonderful world of grantmakers.  Channeling my inner nerd, I would often research the history behind the formation of a philanthropic institution, paying careful attention to the ways in which wealth was accumulated.  I came across foundations who built their endowments through a variety of means; some of which would be viewed as highly unethical these days.   In an era where information is readily accessible (I dare you to google yourself), I wonder how many nonprofits consider the source of  funding prospects?  Turns out The Real News Network (TRNN) does.


TRNN considers themselves to be “…a television news and documentary network focused on providing independent and uncompromising journalism.”  To this end, they do not accept government or corporate funding choosing to solely raise money through the individual donations of their viewers.  This mantra is even boldly placed at the top of their website.  Now this may seem like an unimportant detail to most.  But for a donor looking to ensure that their money is given to an organization that will truly advance independent media, this promise may be the sticking point needed for them to write that check for years to come.


So how do you determine the need to vet donations to your nonprofit? Below are a few points to consider:

  • Ethics Outweigh Need: If your organization is committed to promoting a specific ideology (think: marriage equality), then it makes sense to scrutinize funding prospects (despite their tasty sandwiches, approaching Chick-Fil-A is not a good look). Let’s face it, nobody likes a hypocrite.
  • Need Outweighs Ethics: If your nonprofit works to address the physical needs of people (think: homeless shelter), then the beliefs of a potential donor or institution may be less of an issue (you will approach Chick-Fil-A because darn it, people have to eat).
  • It’s All Filthy Lucre: Perhaps the source of donations is simply a non-issue for your organization.  You may find it impossible to fully separate your nonprofit from money gained through the promotion of unfavorable beliefs or unethical business ventures.  All you know is that there are folks in your community that rely on your organization to help them overcome life’s biggest challenges.  To quote Eleanor Roosevelt, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why we call it ‘The Present’.”


What do you think of vetting donor prospects? Is it worth the investigation?


Fund Times Turns Two! August 7, 2012

Filed under: accountability,capacity,foundations,strategic fundraising — fundtimes @ 1:19 pm

Wow, I can’t believe the end of this month marks the second year of Fund Times!  If this blog was a human being, that would make her a wee toddler (yes, its a girl). Hey oh!

(@ @)

But seriously, thanks for sticking with me as I share all things fundraising.  I hope the first two years have truly been beneficial in helping your organization to strengthen its fundraising strategies towards long-term sustainability.

So grab your virtual slice of cake, two scoops of ice cream and take a trip down memory lane with me of my favorite posts.  Enjoy!


Avoid Mission Drift January 3, 2012

Filed under: accountability,strategic fundraising — fundtimes @ 2:12 pm

Congratulations!  You’ve made it to another fiscal year.  Not only is this good news for your staff (employment is the new black), but it looks like your organization will continue meeting the needs of its constituency.  While most of your fundraising tactics should be guided by your fundraising plan, you will undoubtedly come across an interesting Request for Proposal (RFP).  This RFP may have you running down the hallways screaming, “Hey, our organization could totally do that this year!”.  But before you get too excited, consider if this opportunity jibes with your mission statement.

A mission statement clearly articulates the reason why your organization exists.  It also describes the population you serve as well as the strategies your staff undertake to meet the needs of your constituency.  Your mission statement is incredibly useful in not only guiding your programs and activities, but it should be used to help you and your staff screen which funding opportunities you’ll pursue during the year.

So, how do you do this?  Below are a few strategies to guide you in deciding which funding opportunities merit your application time:

  • Know Your Mission Statement. Do you find your eyes wandering into space when tasked with saying your nonprofit’s mission statement?  If so, you’re not alone. In my experience, I’ve worked for a number of nonprofits where staff was hard-pressed to repeat the mission statement on cue.  Beyond being incredibly embarrassing, not knowing your mission can translate into hours of wasted time pursuing funding opportunities that have nothing to do with your nonprofit’s purpose.  The end result?  Rejection letter after rejection letter from funders piling in your inbox.  The solution?  Memorize your mission statement.  As I used to hear on Saturday morning cartoons when the word of the day was announced: “Use it. Say It. Wear it Out.”
  • Add Value.  Once you’ve become reacquainted with your mission statement, you’re now ready to pop your monocle in and scrutinize every RFP that crosses your desk.  If awarded, will the RFP allow your organization to serve more people?  Will it help your organization streamline internal processes?  If the answer to either of these questions is a resounding ‘yes’, then the RFP is likely a good bet.  If the RFP is aligned with your mission but best suited for an organization twice your size, then you may need to hold off on applying this time around.
  • Join Forces.  You may be reading this and thinking, “But, Tamar.  You really think our nonprofit shouldn’t pursue a funding opportunity simply because we don’t have the staffing to do so?”.  This is most certainly the case if your nonprofit typically works alone.  However, if you occasionally partner with other nonprofits whose work is similar to yours, then it might be worth it to collaborate on a funding opportunity.  This usually means that one nonprofit applies as the fiscal agent and then distributes the funding to other partners, according to mutually agreed-upon terms.  With the strong emphasis on nonprofit collaboration in the foundation world, this option will undoubtedly prove beneficial to all involved.

Now it’s your turn.  Do you have any other ideas of how to stay on mission this year?


Right Reporting November 1, 2011

Filed under: accountability,evaluation,foundations,transparency — fundtimes @ 2:18 pm

Fall is in the air!  As most of us near the end of our fiscal year, we might feel inclined to kick back, grab that medium hazelnut coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts (I’m not picky), and stare into space about all the days we have off in the next few months.  Will we finally take that ski trip or opt for a staycation?  The options are endless.

But, as you know, reality always rears its ugly face.  Because while you were daydreaming about Aspen, up popped an email from the XX Foundation reminding you of that final grant report that’s due in two weeks.  Not only did you forget about this deadline, but you failed to ask your program staff to start gathering the data you need to evaluate this grant’s impact on the population you serve.

————————<feel free to bang head here>—————————-

Once you’re done sobbing in a fetal position, look at this as a lesson learned on the importance of grants management.  Sure it’s great to be uber-savvy about cultivating foundation prospects, writing compelling proposals, and thanking your donors.  Yet, if you fail to report back to your supporters in a timely fashion, you risk cutting future funding off at the kneecaps.

So what are some sure-fire ways to ensure that the grant reporting process is as satisfying as the day you received the grant award letter?  Check out my top three tips below:

  • Track Deadlines.  Ok, so this first tip isn’t that mind-blowing.  But it has to be said because the solution to never missing a grant reporting deadline is, well, to write it down.  Love online reminders? Consider using the ‘tasks’ function in Microsoft Outlook.  Think paper and pen work best?  Place sticky notes across your desk.  The best way to keep track of your grant report deadlines is really up to you.  The main thing is to pick a tool that helps you to remember these important dates so you’re not stuck panicking at the 11th hour.
  • Monitor Milestones. Chronicling your program accomplishments is incredibly important.  That is, this process provides tangible proof that your nonprofit is effectively meeting its mission.  Not only is this good fodder in which to high five your colleagues, but it is often required in proving to your foundation supporters that their money was put to good use.  Membership organizations like the Nonprofit Technology Network offer incredible (and sometimes free) resources on how to create a “data-driven” culture in your office.
  • Make It a Company Affair.  I once attended a workshop on individual donors where the presenter asked who was responsible for raising money in an office.  Responses ranged from the development staff to the board to that of the executive director.  The answer?  Everyone.  From the person who answers the phone to the one who processes payroll, all staff must have a spirit of accountability in ensuring that potential and existing supporters experience the best interaction possible with the nonprofit.  The same is true when it comes to reporting on a grant.  Development must work with program staff to make sure the appropriate data is collected in advance of a reporting deadline.  This includes frequent check-ins between the two departments as the day-to-day workload can often take precedence over data collection.

Now it’s your turn.  How does your nonprofit manage the grant reporting process?


When For-Profit Met Non-Profit October 11, 2011

Once upon a time, there was a fellow named For-Profit (FP). He was creative, handsome and had tons of money (me-ow).  One day, he was strolling down the street (counting his cash, of course) and bumped into a lovely woman named Non-Profit (NP).  Suffice it to say, it was love at first sight.  Some people gossiped that NP only wanted FP for his loot; others said that he was only with her because he pitied her.  Despite the rumor mill, their love grew and FP asked NP to marry him.  A year later, FP and NP welcomed their first child into the world: Corporate Giving (aka, CG).  As FP and NP gazed down at their son, they knew that CG would add to the fulness of their lives for many years to come…


Silly love story? Perhaps.  But before you judge my fiction-writing abilities, consider the real opportunities that arise when nonprofits partner with for-profits through the latter’s corporate giving programs.


According to Giving USA 2011: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2010, corporate giving rose an estimated 10.6% last year (i.e., $15.29 billion).  In taking a closer look at the data, the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy found that 53% of companies gave more in 2010 than in 2007 (before folks began using the phrase “in these tough economic times” to begin every conversation).  Much of this increase is attributed to a variety of factors, including increased corporate mergers and acquisitions, a rise in donations of medical products to uninsured individuals, and a heightened sense of human need in the wake of natural disasters (e.g., the earthquake in Haiti).  While corporate contributions are still small compared to the support received from individuals and foundations, it remains a viable revenue stream for nonprofits to tap into.


So, what are some of the things that your nonprofit should consider in pursuing corporate support?  Check out my top three tips below:

  • Match Mission.  When researching corporate support, the process is similar to that of foundations.  You want to make sure that your nonprofit’s mission aligns with the goals and strategies of your corporate prospects.  For example, if your organization provides back-to-school supplies to urban youth, you might consider approaching the Staples Foundation in soliciting either cash or in-kind donations (e.g., folders, pens, etc.) for your program.
  • Emphasize Partnering.  In my experience, I have found that soliciting support from corporations is a much easier sell than that of foundations.  While any giving program is designed to address a social need, with foundations the funding pitch begins and ends with a nonprofit promising to partner with grantmakers to advance their shared charitable goals.  However, with corporations, nonprofits can emphasize how the corporate gift will not only advance charitable goals, but increase the company’s bottom line.  A perfect example is Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  Synonymous with the fight against breast cancer, the partnership between Komen and their corporate sponsors have undoubtedly raised the financial and marketing profiles of all involved.
  • Consider Dual Impact.  Now that I’ve gotten you all excited about soliciting corporate support, a word of caution is in order.  Before you make the leap in approaching a corporation, be sure to consider their track record in the community.  Has the corporation been involved in any fair-wage disputes (think: Wal-Mart)?  Is there a questionable increase in philanthropic dollars due to a proposed company merge (think: Capital One-ING Direct)?  If your nonprofit is at all concerned about the potential backlash of accepting certain forms of corporate support, then it is worth it to do your homework in the front end.


Now, it’s your turn.  What other tips would you suggest in seeking corporate support?


Midway is More Than an Airport July 13, 2011

Filed under: accountability,capacity,strategic fundraising — fundtimes @ 10:51 pm

Congratulations on making it to the middle of the year!  I hope you’re making progress on meeting both your program and revenue goals.  Now I know this is the time of the year where hardcore assessment is the furthest thing from your mind.  After all, its 90 degrees outside and that luscious red sangria is calling your name.  But, the summer months are also great for reviewing your organization’s fundraising plan and adjusting your program activities (if necessary) to make sure your organization doesn’t end up in the hole at the end of the year.

So where do you start? Below are three tips to help you stay on track to meet your year-end goals:

  • Review your financials.  All nonprofits should produce monthly financial statements.  Not only does this keep your board of directors up-to-date on the health of the business, but it allows you to have current financial information handy when it’s time to submit foundation and government grant reports.  When assessing your nonprofit’s progress in the middle of the year, these statements also provide a snapshot for your staff to consider how your remaining expenses will be covered given your expected revenue.  If the latter is less than the former, then you may have to scale back some of your program activities for the year.
  • Prioritize.  If the worst-case scenario happens and you have to scale back  your program activities for the year, don’t panic.  In fact, take a deep breath (or a deep sip of that red sangria; when no one is looking of course) and prioritize those activities that are most in line with your mission and the needs of your constituency.
  • Get creative.  If you find that you can’t cut out any of your program activities, then it might help to find creative ways to still meet your mission.  Could you partner with another nonprofit to deliver your services? Do you have an existing funder that would consider providing a discretionary grant to your organization to supplement the revenue gap?  Fundraising is all about creativity and being able to tweak programs/revenue-generating strategies midway is a great strategy to practice in strengthening your organization’s long-term sustainability.      

How does your organization use the summer months? Are there are any other practices that your organization uses to assess its progress midway?