The case for developing your agency's Gift Acceptance Policies

With whom is your non-profit in bed?

By Dani Robbins
Re-published with permission from nonprofit evolution blog
bedfellows1Politics — and non-profit fundraising — make strange bed fellows. Most non-profits look for donosr and sponsors. At some point, there will be a conflict between the mission of the non-profit and the reputation (earned or unfair) of the potential sponsor. Some donors and sponsors will be better for your mission than others. A Gift Acceptance Policy can help you determine what’s best for your organization.
When I used to run local Boys & Girls Clubs, the national organization — Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) — held a workshop encouraging board members and executive staff to talk through potential gift acceptance liabilities. The scenario they offered was this:

“A local restaurant, known for well endowed waitresses in skimpy uniforms, who’s owner is the friend of a Board member, wants to donate $10,000 and conduct a public media blitz connecting the two organizations.”

bedfellows4Of course, my brain immediately went to the possibility of a billboard with two scantily clad waitresses in low cut very tight Boy & Girls Clubs tee-shirts. (Note: Boys & Girls Clubs, among many other amazing and life changing programs, have self esteem programs for young women as well as a similar program for boys teaching them what it means to be a man.)
BGCA offered the question “Do you accept the gift?
The two Board members with whom I attended immediately said, “Yes!” My reply was “Over my dead body!
bedfellows2BGCA encourages its local Club leadership to talk about such things, and Clubs across the country are better for it. Since I opened my consulting firm, I have found that this to be the exception, not the rule.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation, in addition to the incredibly negative press it received in 2012 for its decision to defund and then re-fund Planned Parenthood, was also cited on for its “2010 ‘Buckets for the Cure’ campaign with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Some studies have linked fatty foods to a higher risk of cancer.”
According to the documentary, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) got in trouble with some of its supporters for accepting a large gift from Coca Cola. At the time, Coke was accused of sucking up (literally) the limited drinking water supply from the very poor in India to support a local bottling plant. Some WWF supporters claimed that Coke was only supporting the WWF to buy its way back into love.
Is there a similar PR problem in your non-profit’s future? Does your organization have a gift acceptance policy?
Polices, like plans, allow you to frame and respond to the question at hand. Do you know — and like — with whom your non-profit is in bed? Could you defend it publically? As Komen, the World Wildlife Fund and others have learned, the day might come when you have to.
dani sig

There is something about this picture that I just don’t like!

Just the other day I visited my parents to drop off our dog before leaving on a business trip. I stopped at a gas station near their home to gas up before weaving my way to the interstate and ultimately the first stop on my trip. As I pulled into the gas station, I saw something that made me recoil and react negatively to a non-profit organization. This is what I saw:

Charity air service

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a gas station air pump being used to solicit money for a charity. In fact, there is one at the 7-Eleven near my house, and I believe that I even took a picture of that pump and incorporated into a blog post a few years ago.

The fact of the matter is . . . every time I see something like this it bothers me for some unknown reason. So, I decided to make a list of all the possible things that might be offending my fundraising soul:

  • I remember when gas station air used to be FREE. Now, when I need a little air in my tires, I am forced to make a donation.
  • I don’t know anything about this non-profit organization, and I don’t make a habit out of donating money to agencies about which I know nothing. What am I supposed to do? Whip out my smart phone, surf to this organization’s website (which is prominently displayed on the air machine) and do some research?
  • There is no case for support. It is almost as if they are saying, “Feel good about paying a dollar for air because it supports a charity.
  • I don’t really know “how much” of my contribution goes to this non-profit organization. Are they getting 75%, 50%, 25% . . . 1%??? Perhaps, they’re getting 100% of the proceeds, but I doubt it because the phrase “. . . a portion of . . .appears on the machine.
  • This is a faith-based organization, but they don’t say anything about being a christian organization. There are people who don’t like to support non-secular causes. There are also people who are secular, but who only like to support causes affiliated with their religious institutions. Could it be that no mention is made on the air machine about religion because they are trying to maximize their appeal? If so, perhaps the issue of transparency is bothering me.

Let me be clear. I don’t have anything bad to say about this non-profit organization. In fact, I’ve done a little Googling around and it looks like they do good work.

However, the points I’m trying to make today are:

  1. Non-profit organizations need to be careful with where they put their name.
  2. All cause-related marketing opportunities are not equal (e.g. ask me to donate a dollar at the check-out versus make me donate a dollar when I need air).

Please take a good, hard look at the picture in this post. Does it bother you? If so, why? If I’m being overly sensitive, let me know why you think so. Have you ever seen something similar that evoked a similar reaction? Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share your thoughts.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Marketing does not equal resource development, usually

A very good friend of mine from Ohio emailed me last week and said that her soap box topic for the month of March for any non-profit who would listen was: “marketing is not resource development“. Oddly enough, I too spent the month of March telling many people the exact same thing. So, this morning I decided to climb to the top of my online soap box and yell as loudly as possible that “Marketing does not equal resource development, usually“.

First, let me address the issue of why I used the word “usually”. Simply stated in two words . . . “Cause-related Marketing”.

For those of you who are still wrestling with what cause-related marketing is all about, I point you in Joanne Fritz’s direction. She has written a number blog posts on the subject including “Five Best Cause Marketing Programs For Local Nonprofits“. In this instance, cause-related marketing is a solicitation tool and can become a part of a non-profit organization’s comprehensive resource development plan.

So, what exactly is “resource development”?

Without looking up definitions in a Fundraising 101 textbook, I’ve always thought of resource development as a big machine with a number of cogs that work together. Those cogs have the following names:

  • Prospect identification
  • Prospect introduction
  • Prospect cultivation
  • Prospect solicitation
  • Donor stewardship

In recent months, I have come across a number of non-profit organizations (esp. board volunteers), who believe that their agency simply needs to invest in more marketing to solve their revenue problems. The implication is that there is a direct relationship between dollars coming in and the agency’s visibility.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not “hating” on marketing people today. In fact, I love the marketing profession and spent three years working as a newspaper journalist. I love my marketing friends; however, I really want them to stop telling my non-profit friends that they have the cure for their revenue ills.

Yes . . . yes . . . yes . . . It is true that better marketing will improve an agency’s visibility in the community, which can impact resource development activities like identification, cultivation, and stewardship. It is also true that in some instances like “cause-related marketing” that marketing becomes a solicitation tool. However, in the end, the reality is still:

Marketing ≠ Resource Development

 Let me share a few examples of how marketing professionals and fundraising professions look at the same resource development issues and think differently:

Example #1: How to improve your existing annual campaign?

Marketing professional — give the donor something they really value (like a really nice premium gift). This will change the ROI calculation and result in more donors and increased dollars raised.

Fundraising professional — revise the agency’s case for support, provide better training and support to volunteer solicitors, recruit more solicitors to make more asks . . . these things collectively will allow for a higher quality solicitation as well as more solicitations all of which will result in increased dollars raised.

Do you see the difference in approach?

Example #2: How to engage more prospects?

Marketing professional — purchase advertising (or secure it for free using a public service announcement strategy) in local newspapers, radio and cable television. Tell people about your agency and those who are interested will opt-in using a telephone number, email or website address provided in the ad.

Fundraising professional — engage board members, volunteers, and existing donors in helping you identify their friends who share a common passion for your organization’s mission. Once those prospects are identified, ask those same volunteers and donors to invite their friends to participate in mission-focused activities like an open house, reception, event or cup of coffee with the executive director.

Do you see the different in approaches?

In the for-profit world, those corporations sell “things” (e.g. widgets), and those products are valued by consumers. So, when someone sees a marketing pitch around something they want, then it triggers this impulse to purchase. In my humble opinion, this is not the same dynamic at play when it comes to donors who make charitable contributions to non-profit organizations.

This is not to say that an impactful marketing program isn’t important because it surely is. However, I really want board volunteers to stop pinning their hopes of increased revenue solely on marketing efforts because:

  1. “hope” is NOT a strategy, and
  2. there is no substitute for board members and fundraising volunteers participating in a comprehensive resource development program.

I understand that sitting down and asking people for money can be scary, but it is the only thing in the universe that has ever worked. So, let’s stop “hoping” and looking for ways around it, and let’s start building a resource development machine that is supported by an effective marketing program.

So, do you disagree with me? I know there are tons of people out there who do. If so, please scroll down and share your thoughts using the comment box. Do you agree with me? If so, please scroll down and use the comment box to provide additional examples of how marketing professionals and fundraising professionals approach similar resource development questions from different angles.

We can all learn from each other. I am open-minded and willing to consider other viewpoints.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847