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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?


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?