Helping Donors “Do the Right Thing” for a Big 2012

January 3, 2012 at 9:28 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“If I had to put a headline on the economy [of 2011],” says GuideStar President & CEO Bob Ottenhoff, “I’d say, ‘Uncertainty.’”

And the uncertainty pervading the nonprofit economy was particularly unsettling for organizations with budgets of under $3 million.

“Smaller charities were much less likely to report increased fundraising results and much more likely to be pessimistic about how they thought 2012 was going to turn out,” Ottenhoff says, referring to the most recent Nonprofit Fundraising Study released by GuideStar and other leading organizations in December.

“Larger nonprofits are more likely to have a diverse funding mix.  They are more likely to be able to appeal in different ways to different demographics,” he points out.

So is there a moral to the 2011 story that will give the smaller organizations that make up the vast majority of the nonprofit marketplace a path to great fundraising success in the new year?

“One of the things I’m really focusing on is how we can build strong organizations,” Ottenhoff says.  “They need to be able to adapt to changing winds and changing fortunes and changing conditions in the broader economy.”

How can organizations already under economic strain be so adaptable and flexible with limited bandwidth?  By focusing their fundraising attention on the most important thing: their customer, the donor.

“They have to get to learn who are their donors,” says Ottenhoff.

“Donors want to do the right thing…but they don’t always know how to do it.  We as nonprofits need to help them out by telling them a little bit more about our organizations and being not only transparent and accountable…but talking a little bit more about the effectiveness of our organizations.”

Watch this short video interview with Bob Ottenhoff to learn more about philanthropic returns in 2011 and lessons that organizations large and small can apply in 2012.

Where the donors are…

December 11, 2011 at 4:41 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

David and Lori Lawson, founders of, have a bone to pick with many nonprofits.

“We do not understand why fundraisers are reluctant to use [social media] as they should,” says Lori, pointing out that one of the main reasons to employ social networks is that “the donors who have major gift potential are there and talking to each other.”

Finding them and knowing how to interpret and apply the information they are providing openly about their interests just takes a bit of training.

“There are a lot of people out there doing business on social media,” David says.  He cites the “entrepreneurs and the investors who make their dreams come true” as two populations of particular interest, adding that “we are just beginning to see firms emerge that are helping to connect the social media world with [a nonprofit's] database.”

David and Lori provide a few tips for fundraisers and prospect researchers curious about how to make the best use of social media in this short interview in advance of their forthcoming webinar on “Social Media: Where the Cool Donors, and the Smart Fundraisers, Are”

The check was, is and will be in the mail!

November 18, 2011 at 5:41 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Did you know that the typical US nonprofit draws over 75% of its total donated revenue from direct mail?  And that direct mail is responsible for attracting 75% of new donors?

There is no doubt, however, that running a successful direct mail program today is more challenging than it was before the age of email, social media and the donate now button.

I interviewed direct mail expert Brian Lacy, in advance of his “Seven Keys to Boost Direct Mail Fundraising” webinar on November 22,  on the best current tactics for large and small nonprofits seeking to get the most from their mail programs.

Take a look and let me know what you think…


Beyond Friendraising with Social Media

November 14, 2011 at 5:20 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Earlier this year, a nonprofit social media specialist remarked that organizations must instill passion in their social contacts before asking for their financial support.  And that passion might take as much as one to two years to emerge!

Is this courtship in the 19th Century or fundraising in the 21st?

Social media networks are just new pathways to communication.  And people today aren’t a new species.  If we don’t wait two years to pop the question in real life, there’s no reason to wait for some magical passionate moment to invite people to participate in our most cherished work simply because we are using Facebook or Twitter to talk.

Fortunately, nonprofits are moving beyond mere engagement to solicitation and in that process elevating social media usage from a mere marketing platform to a place to actually conduct business.  This is better not only for organizations themselves since they can now prove the value of the social media investment but also for prospective donors who are finally being taken as seriously as those we invite to invest in our work via mail, phone and face-to-face.

But making this leap isn’t easy.  Organizations need role models, success stories and best practice cases.

This week I will be collaborating with Jennifer Darrouzet of Convio on a webinar addressing this very subject.  The webinar, entitled “From Time Waster to Moneymaker: Turn Your Social Fan Base into a Fundraising Community,” benefits from insights of fundraisers around the world who are monetizing our most important communication channels.

In preparation for the webinar, I conducted brief interviews with two extraordinary nonprofit leaders who are an example to other nonprofits looking to use social media to build communities of support.

One is with Victoria Miller, President of the Trisomy 18 Foundation, which supports treatments and preventions of Trisomy 18, a condition affecting 1 of 1,500 pregnancies, and is creating a caring worldwide community for affected families.  The other is with Carie Lewis, Director of Emerging Media at The Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s largest animal protection organization and a major social media force as well.

Here are those brief interviews:

I look forward to hearing your reactions to Victoria’s and Carie’s observations and to the other stories we’ll be sharing this week!


October 12, 2011 at 6:27 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A few weeks ago, the public took little notice of a collection of people gathering in lower Manhattan to draw attention to the role of financial services companies in the ongoing US economic crisis.  The media was largely ignoring the couple of hundred protestors in Zucotti Park in the Wall Street area.

Then came people like Priscilla Grim.

An unemployed media savvy social media maven with a personal commitment to addressing the needs of “the 99%,” she joined a small group of likeminded volunteers in facilitating, coordinating and honing the messages of the many different people gathering around the issue across the social networks.  Their rallying cry: #occupywallstreet.

There are now tens of thousands of demonstrators at dozens of #occupy efforts throughout the United States and hundreds of thousands–perhaps even millions–following it closely online.  The broadcast media has also started covering the demonstrations, bringing the matter to the larger public, adopting the same hashtags so central to the communications of Priscilla and the other coordinators.

In a common Kevin Bacon style nth degree of separation story, I found that I was coincidentally connected on LinkedIn with the very same Priscilla Grim mentioned by Dan Rather on the Chris Matthews show.  I reached out through Twitter and asked if she could spare a few minutes in between projects and catnaps to describe the origins and current activities of #occupywallstreet.  My hope was that their story could both inform and inspire other nonprofit organizations to greater success in communicating their missions and building audiences.  I got that–and so much more.

Here is my interview with Priscilla Grim, better known on Twitter as @GrimWomyn, showing that commitment and talent can and do make a world of difference:

What’s in a Name?

October 9, 2011 at 10:07 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Nonprofit organizations offer a variety of ways for individuals to be involved.  But only one outlives all those involved.  A Named Gift.

The gravity of trading a significant portion of one’s wealth in exchange for long term family name recognition on a lecture hall,walkway, building or even an entire institution is enormous.  What are appropriate expectations for the donor and the institution?  How will promises be kept after the parties involved are gone?

These are also gifts which can transform an institution.  And for that reason, determining the value of naming opportunities is extremely important since the decisions can be as permanent as any we ever make.

Terry Burton, author of “Naming Rights: Legacy Gifts & Corporate Money,” tracks these gifts at the Major Gift Resource Center of his own firm, Dig In Research.  He works with institutions to determine the market value of gifts and gathers information on how to market these special, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

I interviewed Terry to hear his thoughts on the phenomena in advance of a webinar he is conducting on “Making Money on Naming Rights” this Thursday, October 13…

Today’s Bake Sale is on Twitter

September 6, 2011 at 7:32 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

In promotions for her new book Twitter for Good, author and leader of social innovation at the company Claire Diaz Ortiz says that every nonprofit should have an account (with a specific goal in mind) and that one of the first things every account holder should do is start tweeting.

These are two commonsense pieces of advice that are somehow often lost on organizations waiting for the perfect time, strategy and examples before getting started.

Others like CEO4Teens, a group founded by two US teenage students who wanted to make educational opportunity available for young people in Indonesia, just jump right in.  And it works.

What organizations with a specific goal in mind are finding is that today’s Bake Sale is on Twitter…and Facebook, YouTube and other social networks.  These organizations are simply going where the people are.  And since they are interested in making social change real, and not just promoting ideas, they are monetizing that activity, too.  In short, they are asking for money.

In this edition of Today in Fundraising, I interview Brooks Dyroff, Co-Founder of CEO4Teens about their current Twitter & YouTube campaign and how it is funding new educational opportunities for young people all the way from Boston to Indonesia.

Take a look and see how a small, volunteer-run charity can use free pathways like Twitter to invite support and make change happen now.

Warming Up for Cold Calling

August 31, 2011 at 8:49 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The time has come.  You must pick up the phone.  To call a stranger.  A stranger who has been giving to your organization for years.  But has never, ever heard from you.  Do you know what to do?

Armando Zumaya, a veteran fundraiser now serving as Chief Development Officer at the Center for Public Integrity, has years of experience working through endless calls to reach and develop relationships with millionaires and billionaires.  And now he’s sharing that experience in a virtual training program that is rare in the nonprofit world.

“In the for profit world, people spend a great deal of money teaching sales people how to cold call.  How to get to people you don’t know.  People you should know,” Armando explains.  “In these difficult times, there are excellent prospects in your community, people giving to causes similar to yours, and you have no clear way of reaching them.  You don’t know anyone who knows them.  Often you have to call them directly to reach them.”

Armando will provide a special webinar on “Cold Calling and Prospecting for Development Officers” on September 15 through  He will provide a practical, tactical and real-world anecdote filled training to get fundraisers on the phone and out the door.

“These days with the economy being crunched and people losing major donors, you want to bring in new major donors.  You need to replace them to keep your organization’s head above water,” he says.

See how two years of persistence on the phone led to one $5 million gift in this video preview…

Coming soon to a mobile device near you!

August 26, 2011 at 1:43 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Nonprofits have been mad for mobile since the outpouring of support in the wake of the Haiti Earthquake.  Yet text fundraising is the main beneficiary of this interest, despite its significant limitations, such as caps on giving amounts, delays in receipt of funds and the inability to obtain donor information to acknowledge support and build relationships.  Companies have been busy working to address these problems in a way that won’t break the bank for nonprofits already under tremendous financial pressure.  One which recently emerged is Give.Mobi, a relatively inexpensive mobile platform which makes giving easier for organizations and, more importantly, for the rapidly expanding universe of donors who are no longer tied to their desktops.  Give.Mobi is initiating #GiveMonday to promote mobile giving and I asked the company’s CEO, Bob Jones, about this new effort to tap the goodwill of twitter for the financial benefit of nonprofits.

Giving Show Interview on Global Fundraising & Social Media

August 22, 2011 at 4:45 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

If you haven’t heard Michael Chatman‘s Giving Show, here’s your chance!  Michael invited me to serve as his guest on August 18, 2011 and asked me about my views on global fundraising and social media today.  We took questions over Twitter, shared resources and challenged some of the myths cause nonprofits to hold back on the two greatest emerging markets for fundraising today.  Take a listen and let me know what you think!  Just click here:  Michael Chatman 08-18-11

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