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

Do you value your non-profit brand?

halo3Your non-profit brand is powerful. It is coveted by major corporations. It doesn’t matter if you are a major non-profit juggernaut like Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts or if you’re a teeny-tiny rowboat out there in the vast ocean of non-profit organizations. You are still valued. The mere fact that you are a non-profit organization, regardless of your mission, in and of itself is valued by corporate America.
These are all things that started rolling through my mind in the last few weeks primarily because of a Walmart ad I saw on television. I’m sure you’ve seen it, too. It is the ad featuring a number of different Walmart employees who list off all of the great things about working for this retail giant including:

  • education reimbursement benefit
  • health insurance as low as $40/month
  • career path opportunities (e.g. from the stock room to the boardroom)
  • matching gift program for every charitable gift made by an employee

It is this last bullet point that keeps sticking in my brain. In fact, it has bothered me for weeks. I knew in my gut there was a blog post somewhere in that commercial, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it . . .  until this morning.
walmartThe following are all facts (OK, they are facts according to Wikipedia so you may want to take them with a grain of salt):

  • Walmart is the world’s second largest publicly traded corporation
  • Walmart’s 2 million employee workforce makes them the largest private employer in the world
  • Walmart is the largest retailer on planet Earth

It would be fair to say that when Walmart sneezes, everyone catches a cold. This 800-pound gorilla of the retail sector is so big, they set prices for certain products in the many different marketplaces.
So, you’re probably asking what does any of this have to do with you and your non-profit brand.
Think about for two seconds. Here is one of the world’s most valuable and recognizable brands, and they’ve woven this message into their sale pitch:

Walmart is a good place to work because they match their employee’s charitable giving

In effect, Walmart is telling consumers the following things through this simply statement:

  • Walmart is a good corporate citizen
  • Walmart is charitable
  • Walmart’s strategy for keeping their philanthropy local is focused on their employee’s giving

halo1Have you heard of the “Halo Effect“?
In simple terms, the halo effect is when one brand affiliates itself with something the public considers “good,” which by effect means they are also “good“.  For example . . .
Charity is good. Walmart gives to charity through its employees. Therefore, Walmart must be good.
I believe my high school geometry teacher would’ve classified this phenomenon as “transitive properties“.  I think?
The fact that Walmart is shouting from the mountaintops that they match their employee’s charitable giving is a sure sign they believe the your non-profit brand is seen as a force for good in your community.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve talked with a non-profit professional who doesn’t see the value of their generic or specific non-profit brand. To those of you who think you are too small or insignificant, I point you in the direction of Walmart as proof that you have something to offer businesses and corporations in your community.
Of course, there is a catch . . .
If you are abusing your non-profit brand, you will never be able to take advantage of the halo effect and integrate it into your fundraising plan as a cause-related marketing or sponsorship strategy.
halo4You may be wondering what I mean by “abusing your non-profit brand“. Here is just a short list of neglectful things:

  • running programs that don’t generate positive outcomes or impact
  • hiring poor employees and not training your employees
  • recruiting board volunteers who won’t and don’t advocate for you when circulating through the community
  • recruiting board volunteers who are seen as dubious by the general public (e.g. criminal, too political, or just simply a gadfly)
  • not investing in capacity building or organizational development, thereby increasing your liability and exposure
  • not having (or implementing) a written marketing plan and consequently being the “best kept secret in town

The mere fact you are a non-profit organization puts you in a very special public light. I really believe this is what the Walmart commercial tells us. However, what you do from that point is up to you.
Do you want to invest in your non-profit brand and position your agency to take advantage of cause-related marketing and corporate sponsorship opportunities? Then I suggest you pull together a small task force of smart marketing people in your community and ask the following questions:

  • How are we communicating with donors? How do they perceive us?
  • What does the community at-large think of our organization?
  • What are we doing online and through social media? What are our strategies? Are they working? Are we reaching the audience we intended to reach?
  • What is our case for support? Is it written down? How are our board members and volunteers using this resource? How is our staff using this resource? Is this message being heard by our supporters?
  • What stories are we tell? How are we telling them? How old are those stories? Are the people we ask to tell those stories good storytellers?
  • If there was such a thing as a “marketing toolbox,” what tools are in that toolbox? How are we using those tools? What is missing? What needs to be added?

Whoa . . . I could probably go on all day with questions for your marketing task force, but this is a good start.
How are you investing in your non-profit brand to make it more valuable? Please use the comment box to share your thoughts, ideas and experiences.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Cause related marketing saved Tina’s life

nfl1Over the years, I’ve urged non-profit organizations to exercise tremendous caution when contemplating a cause related marketing strategy as part of their resource development plan. There was the December 2012 post titled “Cause related marketing 101: Educate, educate, educate!” Then there was the February 2013 post titled “Bad cause related marketing is offensive” based on my personal experience with buying a new pair of glasses at the mall. Most recently, there was “Non-profits must be careful with cause related marketing,” which was based on another personal experience with an internet vendor.

Some people have called me a skeptic of cause related marketing, which is not true. I just strongly believe that media is powerful and employing this strategy wrong can do lots of damage very quickly to your brand. So, when I saw the NFL’s newest “A Crucial Catch” public service announcement during yesterday’s games, I knew I just had to blog about it today.

The commercial opens up with a woman telling us that her name is Tina; she is a New York Jets fan; and she is a breast cancer survivor. As she tells her story, you get pulled in and emotionally connected which is when they drop the bomb. Towards the end of the commercial, she credits the NFL with saving her life. It was because of the NFL’s awareness efforts and cause related marketing campaign that Tina performed her first self examinations. These initial self exams resulted in a visit to the doctor and early detection.

Haven’t seen the commercial? Click here or on the image below to check it out. Trust me . . . it is worth the click!

breast cancer CRM

First, let me say that I forgive Tina for being a Jets fan.  😉

Second, let me congratulate Tina for beating breast cancer and having the courage to tell her story to millions of people.

Finally, I encourage all non-profit organizations who are looking for a benchmarking project, prior to jumping into a cause related marketing campaign, to look at this campaign. It is rock solid and everyone can learn from this textbook example.

The American Cancer Society has raised millions of dollars primarily through two funding vehicles: 1) the sale of pink NFL merchandise and 2) an auction of sports related items by the NFL.

nfl2If you want to know more about this campaign, Forbes magazine’s Alicia Jessop did a nice job in an October 2012 article titled “The NFL’s A Crucial Catch Campaign Raises Millions for the American Cancer Society” of summarizing the essence of the campaign.

I really love the mutually beneficial relationship between the NFL and the American Cancer Society.

The American Cancer Society gets:

  • Revenue
  • Exposure for its brand
  • Awareness of its issue

The NFL gets:

  • Positive exposure for its brand (e.g. The Halo Effect)
  • Awareness of its product (e.g. football) by a powerful segment of consumers — women

The thing I love most about this cause related marketing campaign is the contrast it creates, which in and of itself makes people pay attention to an important issue. What I mean by this is that football is a uniquely masculine product with lots of testosterone, and breast cancer (in most people’s minds) is a uniquely feminine issue (even though there are a small number of men diagnosed with this cancer ever year and countless men and boys are devastated when the women in their lives are diagnosed).

If you want to learn more about cause related marketing, you may want to check of some of the following resources:

To all of you who follow the DonorDreams blog, let me be one of the first to wish you a happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Please practice and promote prevention.

I also want to take a moment to congratulate my sister-in-law who was diagnosed in her early 30s with breast cancer and has been cancer-free for more than 10 years. You’re a fighter and inspiration, Anne! Now please take your brother to a Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving. I’m tired of hearing him whine about it.

Is your organization looking at a cause related marketing campaign? What are some of the obstacles in your way? What are you doing to overcome those obstacles? What does your planning process look like so that you can avoid the bad campaigns I’ve previously written about and referenced in the beginning of this post?

Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health! (And think pink)  😉

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

Non-profits must be careful with cause-related marketing

cause marketingEarlier in the year, I wrote a post titled “Bad cause-related marketing is offensive“. It was inspired by an incident when I was solicited at a cash register and the employee couldn’t tell me the first thing about the charity. They couldn’t even point me to a kiosk or brochure containing more information. A few weeks ago, I was confronted by a different situation that evoked a similar reaction and reinforced my strong belief that your agency needs to be careful (and diligent) when entering into cause-related marketing arrangements.

I’ve been playing chicken with my website provider recently. They’ve been sending me weekly reminders that I need to give them more money because their service will expire in two months. I’ve been really busy lately . . . so I’ve been ignoring and deleting those email reminders. However, they caught me in the right place at the right time a few weeks ago, and I ended up clicking through and renewing my agreement with them.

When I clicked the check-out button, they asked me if I wanted to “round-up my fee to the nearest dollar and donate that pocket change to  one of three charities they’ve partnered with“.

Unfortunately, I was going too fast and what I read versus what I “thought I read” was two very different things.

round up for charityThey wanted me to round my total up to the nearest dollar. What I thought I had read was that they would donate (out of their pocket) the amount of the rounded sum.  (You can see the screenshots of the information they provided me to the right of this paragraph)


The first thing that came to mind was Ben Franklin who famously said, “Haste makes waste.”

The second thing that came to mind was “Hey, wait a minute! That was vague and some people might even think a little deceptive. Moreover, who are these charities and how can I find out more about them?”

Needless to say, I started having a deja vu moment and finally realized that I blogged about this many months ago.

Bad cause-related marketing can have a negative impact on your brand. So, I have three simple requests of those of you reading today’s post:

  1. Please go back and read my previous post. It has some nice links to Joanne Fritz’s post on this subject, and hopefully it raises some thought-provoking discussions around your resource development committee table.
  2. Click here or on the Cause Marketing for Dummies graphic at the beginning of this post. I am a big fan of people who commit themselves to becoming a “lifelong learner“. Consider purchasing and reading the book if your agency is even giving a little consideration to jumping into a cause-related marketing venture.
  3. Read the few questions that I pose at the end of this post. Then scroll down and share a few thoughts with your fellow fundraising professionals. Why? Because we can all learn from each other!

Has your agency played around with any cause related marketing efforts? If so, what did you do? More importantly, what did you learn? What would you do differently?

Here’s to your health!

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

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

Bad cause related marketing is offensive

cause related1Have you ever been the victim of a bad cause related marketing promotion? If so, then perhaps you would agree with me that bad cause related marketing is offensive and even damaging to the non-profit industry. For this reason, the industry really needs to start policing itself and developing a set of commonly accepted best practices.

My story

On Saturday, I decided that I needed a new pair of glasses. So, I took a trip to the mall and walked into LensCrafters because it felt convenient. I saw the doctor. She poked around my eyes and dilated them. I picked out my frames and proceeded to check-out. During the process of ringing up the bill, we got to a point that sounded something like this:

  • Cashier: “Would you like to add $1.00 to your bill today to support a charity called OneSight?”
  • Me: “Ummmmmm, what is that?
  • Cashier: “It is a charity that helps poor people around the world who suffer from bad eyesight.”
  • Me: “Can you tell me anything else about the charity?
  • Cashier: “Ummmmmmm, no.”
  • Me: “Then no, I wouldn’t like to support that charity.”

My issue with this exchange

I understand that it is only one dollar, but as a donor don’t I deserve a better case for support than: “It is a charity that helps poor people around the world who suffer from bad eyesight.”?

Again, you’re probably thinking to yourself: “Come on, Erik. It is one dollar. You’re not going to get the song and dance that charities give you for larger ask amounts.”

Of course, you are right, but am I asking too much for something like:

  • A brochure sitting at the cash register that explains more about the charity.
  • In-store posters or displays explaining who this company’s charity of choice is and why it is their charity of choice?

Buyer beware!

cause related2So, I came home and decided to Google around to find a few answers about the charity I was asked to support at the LensCrafters cash register.

Here is what I found on the LensCrafters website:

Twenty-five years ago, LensCrafters founded the OneSight organization with one purpose in mind: To provide better sight for all—everything from free eyecare to eyewear to important research that will change how people see tomorrow.”

Perhaps, I am being cynical, but isn’t LensCrafters asking its customers to fund its charitable work?

Back in the day, I remember corporate America feeling the need to re-invest part of its annual profits back into the communities from where those profits came or into a charitable mission about which they felt strongly. Again, I might be off-base here, but it feels like today some companies are keeping their profits and asking their customers to fund their charitable work and then turning around and asking for customer loyalty because of all their good works.

I did go to Guidestar and snoop around OneSight’s 990 forms, which as you know can be like deciphering hieroglyphs at times.   From what I can tell, this organization raises very little money from more traditional resource development methods and gets most of its money from LensCrafters’ cause related marketing cash register program.

As a consumer, I believe I deserve a little transparency at the cash register if I am just being asked to essentially support a company’s charitable activities.

Is a brochure or display really asking too much?

Cause related marketing is here to stay

Cause related marketing is here to stay because it generates substantial revenue. It is an easy ask. After all, it is just one dollar, right? Come on. Isn’t it a small price for a concerned citizen and donor to pay so that they can feel good about doing something to feed a hungry person or give the gift of sight?

Call me old fashion, but this feels like lazy philanthropy, especially when companies can’t even be bothered to train their cashiers to answer a few questions or produce a brochure for distribution at the cash register.

If only there were best practices and some minimum standards that we could all agree upon.

Ummmm, wait! Perhaps, we have something . . .

My online friend, JoanneFritz, at posted a great article titled “3 Cause-Related Marketing Trends That Matter to Nonprofits and Their Business Partners“. It is definitely worth taking a minute to click-through and read it.

Joanne ends her post with a call to action and includes a few good links for non-profit organizations that are searching for best practices.

Has your agency played around with any cause related marketing efforts? If so, what did you do? More importantly, what did you learn? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Cause related marketing 101: Educate, educate, educate!

CRM1It is that time of the year when retailers are pulling out every stop in their little bag of tricks to get your attention and hopefully your holiday dollars. One of those shiny objects that some retailers use is called cause related marketing (CRM). Wikipedia does a nice job of explaining this phenomenon: “Cause marketing or cause-related marketing refers to a type of marketing involving the cooperative efforts of a ‘for-profit’ business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit.”

Joanne Fritz at recently wrote a blog post titled “Hasbro and Macy’s Invite Letters to Santa in Holiday Cause Marketing Campaigns“. She ended her post with this simple question: “Do you have a favorite holiday cause-marketing campaign? Let me know.”

As I sat here contemplating what my favorite CRM initiative has been throughout the years, I remembered that just last week my partner — John — returned from a business trip with a present for me from the Nashville airport. It was a new part of “Mens Lounge Pants” (or as I affectionately refer to them as: “Erik’s Comfortable Fat Pants”)

John purchased those pants for me because the tag said “Your purchase helps kids in need” and he knows that I love charities and for-profit business that help “those kids who need us most”. So, in his mind, this was a win-win because I needed a new pair of lounge pants and his retail purchase would also “help kids in need”.

When John went to check-out, he made an honest mistake and asked the cashier: “So, how does my purchase help kids in need? Which charities does your company support?”  Unfortunately, the cashier’s response was less than inspiring. She shrugged and pointed to a point of purchase coin box sitting on the counter top.

Needless to say, John’s enthusiasm for the brand evaporated and when he gave me the present my “blogger curiosity” went through the roof.

As I sat here contemplating Joanne Fritz’s question, I decided to do a little more research on my lounge pants.

After a good hour of clicking around, I’ve come to the following conclusions:

  1. This cause related marketing campaign is a little unusual because it benefits the company’s own corporate foundation and not an independently owned and operated charity. I liken this to McDonald’s supporting Ronald McDonald House. 
  2.  I’m still not very sure what the foundation actually does . . . training? programming? advocacy? conferences?
  3. This campaign is very glossy and slick. It is one heck of a “shiny object” that appeals to consumers.

However, Joanne Fritz hits the nail on the head in her blog post when she says that great cause related marketing campaigns focus more on the “cause” than they do the “marketing” (which does not mean that the marketing isn’t top-notch).

The big take away lesson for me from “Life is Good” is that effective CRM campaigns  must focus on education:

  • Employees must be able to talk intelligently about the cause, and
  • Consumers must be able to understand what their retail dollars are supporting.

I’ll end today’s blog post the same way Joanne ended her’s by asking you: “Do you have a favorite holiday cause-marketing campaign? Let me know.” Please click over to Joanne’s site and share your thoughts or scroll down and do so in the comment box below. If you want to learn more about CRM, I suggest clicking over to

Here’s to your health!

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