Did fundraising cause the recent government shutdown?

shutdown1In the weeks leading up to the government shutdown, I heard some rumblings via the news media that Senator Ted Cruz and those aligned with him were dragging things out in Congress to maximize their online and direct mail fundraising efforts. To be honest, I didn’t give much thought to those accusations. They sounded like sour grapes and something partisan opponents would say in the heat of the moment. And then . . . when the government actually shut down, I started receiving a flood of email from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). This is when my fundraising spidey-sense started to tingle, and I started paying attention because there must be lessons to be learned for non-profit organizations somewhere in this mess.

Here is what the most recent DCCC fundraising email said:

Dear Erik —

Boehner’s Tea Party majority is teetering on the edge:

A new poll shows that Democrats are leading SEVENTEEN Republican Congressmen after the Tea Party-inspired shutdown. Guess how many seats we need to win back a Democratic Majority? 17.

Voters are done putting up with the extreme Tea Party antics that have paralyzed the government. We have to act quickly to press our advantage in these crucial races. Will you help us raise $500,000 immediately to take on vulnerable House Republicans?

Donate $3 IMMEDIATELY to the Democratic Majority Rapid Response Fund.

This shutdown could spell the end of the Tea Party controlled Republican Majority.

But if we want that to happen, we have to act now.

DCCC Rapid Reponse

I purposely omitted the hyperlinks and website addresses because my intention is to evaluate language and strategy and not raise money for the DCCC.

So, let’s strip out the partisanship and set aside our personal political feelings. Let’s avoid the temptation to point fingers. Let’s just look at the circumstances, strategies and verbiage in the letter from a “Just the facts, ma’am” perspective.

What do you see? What do you sense?

shutdown3Here is what I’m seeing:

  • I see a misspelling in the signature block.
  • I see a case for support spelled out in five simple sentences.
  • I see emotionally charged words intended to poke and prod me into action (e.g. teetering, extreme, paralyzed, etc).
  • I see a fundraising goal clearly articulated (e.g. $500,000).
  • I see a specific ask (e.g. Donate $3.00 immediately).
  • I sense the strategy here is to set a very low barrier to entry to entice first time donors. In other words, they poke me, I get upset, and the solution is as simple as just giving $3.00 to make things right again.
  • I see an email with a small handful of carefully worded sentences fitting neatly on my computer screen. I don’t need to scroll down to continue reading.
  • I see short easy to read sentences. The longest sentence was 16 words long.

There is so much that you can learn if you just keep your eyes, ears and mind open. Professional fundraisers cram your mailbox and email inbox full of examples every day. Are you paying attention? Because with a little discipline you can teach yourself a lot in a short period of time.

Let’s circle back to the question I pose in the headline of this blog post:

Did fundraising cause the recent government shutdown?

I think a case can be made for the answer to this question being “YES”.

There is so much noise being made in our political arena on a daily basis that many people tune things out. I know that I am as guilty as others in this regard. So, when you have fundraising goals to hit, then your case for support needs to be very big and noisy in order to get people’s attention.

I believe the lesson to be learned here for non-profit organizations is that your case for support is powerful. It is the engine at the center of your resource development plan. It is the jet fuel for all of your fundraising appeals regardless of whether it is a direct mail appeal, email, social media, telephone solicitation, face-to-face pledge drive or special event.

shutdown2When crafting your case for support, this is what our friends in the political fundraising world seem to be telling their non-profit cousins:

  • Make it emotional
  • Focus on an issue that people care about
  • Choose an issue that donors and the media will talk about and magnify
  • Wrap marketing efforts around your fundraising efforts
  • Where possible, infuse advocacy into the appeal

For those of you who are skeptical and find yourself thinking at the end of this blog post that non-profit organizations can’t “manufacture” a crisis and weave it into a case for support like politicians, then let me suggest that you open your mind a little more.

I cannot tell you how many agencies I’ve seen neglect their buildings by minimally investing in maintenance and upkeep. In the final analysis, aren’t those agencies just slowly creating a powerful capital campaign case for support for down the road? Maybe it is purposeful and maybe it isn’t, but the fact that it is a manufactured crisis cannot be denied.

There are plenty of needs and gaps in our communities around which non-profit organizations can build a powerful case for support. We don’t need to manufacture crisis to raise money like our political counterparts, but it does happen more often than you think.

So, what are you waiting for?

It is the fourth quarter and year-end fundraising is one of the biggest shows on Earth. Start writing your case for support document today so you can transform it into an eloquent and powerful fundraising appeal in the next few weeks.

But whatever you do, please don’t “shutdown” your agency to make a buck or two. I suspect donors can only handle this strategy in small doses.  😉

And I am making a mental note to myself . . . perhaps, I need to stop tuning out politicians on a daily basis so they stop doing drastic things to get my attention.  😉   (Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself.)

Here’s to your health!

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

Is your non-profit agency using Twitter wrong?

twitter1A few months ago, I had a horrible experience with my favorite airline. Long story short . . . delay, delay, delay, delay, loaded on the plane, equipment malfunction, delay, delay and finally up-up-and-away. A whole day was lost. However, in that catastrophe, I was able to learn something about Twitter and the new age of customer service. In the last few weeks, I’ve been reminded of this experience when two bloggers talked about Twitter. So, I thought I’d we’d look Twitter a little more closely today, especially as it relates to non-profit organizations.

Tweet: Customer service

As I sat on that airplane for hours with cranky passengers and screaming babies, I remembered something I had read in The Social Media Bible about a similar experience that the author — Lon Safko — had on a Continental Airlines flight. In his example (found on page 8), his assistant used her smartphone and tweeted about her experience making sure to copy the airline on her tweet. No sooner had she taken her seat and a flight attendant was bringing her a glass of champagne with an apology.

With this story in mind, I whipped out my cell phone and started tweeting my displeasure.

Sure enough, the airline’s customer service representatives were paying attention and asked me about the situation. They checked into other flights. They tried to help, and when they couldn’t do anything, they apologized and compensated me with some rewards points.

The point of this story? Twitter is a TWO-WAY communication channel that for-profit companies are learning to master.

I recently read a blog post from Rachel Sprung at Social Media Examiner titled “4 Examples of Excellent Twitter Customer Service“. If you have some time this morning, I encourage you to click-through and read Rachel’s post. She shared additional good stories about Jet Blue, Nike, Seamless, and Comcast. It is worth the click!

Tweet: Donor communication

twitter2I am on Twitter every day. I’m not there very long. I’m not a Twitter expert. I’m sure that I am doing lots and lots wrong in the eyes of social media experts. However, I do see lots of content and most of those who I’m following are non-profit organizations.

I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a non-profit organization with a Twitter account engage in a discussion with a donor, client, or almost anyone. I’m sure it happens, but I’ve never seen it and I’m following 1,808 people/agencies.

I recently read a blog post from Steven Shattuck, who is the VP of Marketing at Bloomerang. The post was titled “11 Mistakes Nonprofits Make On Twitter And How To Avoid Them“.  And oh yeah . . . does he hit the nail on the head! Here are just a few of the mistakes he points out:

  • Broadcasting instead of engaging
  • Talking too much about yourself
  • Neglecting hashtags
  • Not tracking results

I won’t share all 11 mistakes, and I also won’t tell you how to avoid those mistakes. Why? Because you need to click-through and read Steven’s post. As with the previous post by Rachel which I mentioned in the previous section, Steven’s post is also definitely worth the click!

Tweet: How should your agency use Twitter?

twitter3This is a tough question to answer because I suspect it may vary slightly from agency-to-agency. However, some of the better non-profit organizations are tweeting the following:

  • picture of the day (demonstrating impact of their programming)
  • sharing stories about clients, donors, volunteers and board members
  • thanking followers for sharing content (e.g. “thanks for the RT” or “thanks for the MT”)

Back in the stone age before there was Twitter, I knew non-profit professionals who would dutifully read the newspaper every morning. When they saw an article or something about a volunteer, donor or board member, they would clip the article and send it to the person with a kind note.

What is stopping your agency from clicking through a few of your Twitter followers profiles and re-tweeting or mentioning something about their content/tweet? After all, it is akin to clipping something out of the newspaper, right? And it sends the message — loud and clear — that you care enough about them to read what they are tweeting. Just a thought!

If you want to read more about what other agencies are doing with Twitter, here are a few good online articles that I’ve found:

How is your agency using Twitter? What is working? What isn’t working? How are you using Twitter to engage board volunteers? Donors? Clients? Volunteers? Please use the comment box below and share your experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Those shiny fundraising tools in your resource development toolbox

personal pagesJeff Bezos has been on my mind lately. Of course, he is the 49-year-old owner of Amazon.com, and this internet pioneer recently purchased one of the iconic old media newspapers — The Washington Post — for $250 million. It was no more than a few days after this announcement that I was talking to a non-profit board volunteer about fundraising when I was reminded of this famous Jeff Bazos quotation: “A company shouldn’t get addicted to being shiny, because shiny doesn’t last.

Here is how the fundraising conversation with the board member went:

  • Board member:  “Erik, I am so happy with our agency’s foray into online fundraising. I especially LOVE these ‘personal pages’ where I set-up my online page and email a link to everyone in my email address book.”
  • Erik:  “Why do you like this new fundraising strategy so much?
  • Board member:  “For starters, it is so easy and doesn’t take much time. Who has time to do fundraising the way we used to do it? Chasing down friends — who also don’t have time — and ask them for money when they don’t really want to be asked.”
  • Erik:  “Ummmm … well, hopefully there wasn’t a lot of ‘chasing’ and ‘forcing’ going on. Fundraising should be more about connecting people’s philanthropic wishes with opportunities. We’re not stalking people and stealing their money.
  • Board member: “Well, I just hated sitting down with my friends. It was so uncomfortable. Now, with these new ‘personal pages,’ I don’t have to do that anymore.”
  • Erik:  “Ummmm … that can’t be entirely true, right? I mean you should still be sitting down with large donors because it isn’t very respectful to ask donors of a certain size to simply ‘click and give,’ right?
  • Board member:  “I guess, but I’m not really focused on ‘those donors’. Staff can take care of those individuals.”
  • Erik:  “How do you ask donors to consider making a specific sized contribution that is commensurate with their capacity and willingness to give to your agency?
  • Board member:  “I really don’t worry about that either. I just ask them to give whatever they feel like donating, and the contributions rolled in! I can’t believe it, but my response rate has been approximately 30%. Many people are giving $25 and $50. A few people even donated more than $100. The biggest contribution was $200. I just can’t believe it!
  • Erik:  “I have some concerns about taking the personal touch out of your organization’s resource development program. Hopefully, these personal pages are simply one small strategy focused on the very bottom rung or two of your range of gifts chart. Or is it your agency’s new ‘donor acquisition’ strategy… like direct mail?
  • Board member: “Oh Erik … this is the future of fundraising!

I’m not going to provide too much commentary in today’s post because I suspect you can read between the lines.

unintended consequencesI am a huge proponent of using technology and integrating it into your non-profit organization’s fundraising program, but it shouldn’t be introduced in a way that undercuts the other best practices embedded in your resource development plan.

If your board members are ultra-reluctant fundraisers and you can’t introduce something like “personal pages” into your fundraising tool box without killing your annual campaign, then I suggest taking a pass on those opportunities for now. Timing is everything. Right?

Moreover, the Jeff Bezos quotation reminds us that shiny objects don’t remain shiny forever. So, what happens when those personal pages (or whatever the new online fundraising tool you’re using) become burdensome to volunteers and they resist using it?

My suggestion is that you fix the underlying problems and stop trying to deal with symptoms. If your volunteers are reluctant fundraisers, then help them overcome their fears or recruit additional board members who aren’t reluctant. Don’t just paper over their fears or blind them with shiny objects.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. I am not opposed to online giving. I am not against peer-to-peer web-based personal pages. I am concerned about misuse and unintended consequences.

Has your agency started using personal pages to support board volunteer’s peer-to-peer solicitation with their circle of influence? If so, what has been the result? Have individual board members raised more, less or about the same in year-to-year comparisons? Have you seen any ill effects of introducing a shiny new object into your fundraising tool box?

Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

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

Does your non-profit agency need to re-think its online strategy?

commmgr1As you can probably imagine, I subscribe to a lot of things — everything from eNewsletters to blogs — and I do a lot of reading. It helps me be a better non-profit consultant, and equally important it helps me be a better thought-leader / blogger. This brings me to an article written by Cody Switzer in The Chronicle of Philanthropy titled “75% of Young Donors Turned Off by Out-of-Date Web Sites“.

After reading the article, the first thought that ran through my head was “It certainly is a ‘brave new world’ when it comes to non-profit fundraising.” Attached to this conclusion were memories of conversations I’ve had with countless numbers of board members and fundraising volunteers over the years about what support materials should look like for an agency’s annual campaign.

Perhaps, some of these discussions sound familiar to you:

  • Glossy campaign literature vs. something that looks less expensive
  • Video vs. no video
  • Content focused more on client stories vs. focused more on agency information

When I close my eyes after reading Cody’s article, I can almost see him reprising the role of Paul Revere but this time riding a keyboard and yelling:

The Millennials are coming!

The Millennials are coming!

Sure, they are just starting to trickle through the front door of your fundraising program, but you better start getting ready. Why? Because their expectations are very different.

Forget about the traditional questions that I shared above about glossy literature, support video and content. While the Chronicle of Philanthropy story does a good job of telling us that Millennials want to see your webpage, it really goes much further than just having an online presence. Right?

commmgr2Cody’s article about the Millennial Impact Report is just the tip of the iceberg. After all, I bet your agency is already asking itself questions such as:

  • How often do we refresh our website content?
  • Is the content on our website the right balance between showing donor how we’re putting their money to work vs. showing donors that our agency is healthy and a good investment?
  • Are there too many words on our site? Are there too few pictures and videos?
  • Is our website mobile-friendly?
  • What does our online community look like beyond the website? (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blog, etc) And how often do those platforms get fresh content?
  • What target audiences and niche groups are each of your online platforms focused on? And how does this impact your content creation?

Of course, ALL of these questions beg one big question . . .

Who is doing all of this for your agency?

The simple answer to this question is . . . your organization needs to look at hiring what is now commonly being called a “Community Manager“.

commmgr3This person isn’t a “technology person” working in your IT department. In fact, they don’t need to have many of those skill sets because you either already have an a) IT person on your payroll, b) relationship with an IT consulting firm or c) utilize “in-the-box” technology (e.g. Press Publisher, 1and1.com, etc) that comes with a toll-free help desk when things get dicey.

Yes, I know . . . You don’t have any money.

My response? You better figure it out and find some money soon to hire this person.

Why? Because “The Millennials are coming! The Millennials are coming!

The days of tossing lots of text about your agency online are over. Let me bottom line it for you like my partner does for me all the time . . .

Fundraising is evolving . . . adapt your online strategies.

Some of you are probably saying “Wait! Tell me more about that community manager position. What do they look like? What type of skills should they possess? Where do I find them to build an applicant pool?

The following links will take you to great online resources that speak to the issue of what you should look for when hiring your Community Manager:

Does your non-profit organization current hire a community manager to handle your online strategy? If so, what skill sets do you think are more important than others? Do your fundraising program have an online fundraising plan that spells out strategies and tactics including how your fundraising professional(s) interact with your community manager?

Please scroll down to the comment box and share a few of your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Has your non-profit discovered Quora yet?

questionsWhen I used to work at Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), my colleagues were responsible for the existence of something called theFUNDRAI$INGbank, which is a special webpage embedded inside of the intranet accessible to local affiliates. We outsourced maintenance of this page to FundRaisingInfo.com. There were many different resources located on “The Bank” including a free service called “Ask The Expert“.

Whenever I talk to agencies who aren’t Boys & Girls Clubs about “Ask The Expert,” I’m typically told how lucky local Boys & Girls Clubs are to have such a service (and to have access to it for free). Usually, somewhere in those conversations, the person with whom I’m speaking says they wish they had access to such a thing.

For those of you who don’t have a national organization behind them offering such resources and services, I’ve always told them not to fret because we now live in the 21st Century and answers are mostly just a click away. I’ve encouraged non-profit friends to open their minds to the full potential that Google search offers them. I’ve also reminded them about how many non-profit bloggers are out there begging for comments, questions and engagement (this blogger not withstanding).

Now I am adding another suggestion to those non-profit staff and board volunteers who are in search of answers for free . . .


Have you checked out this new online Q&A webpage yet? If not, I suggest you do so because it looks like a great resource for non-profit folks with questions. Here is what Wikipedia says about Quora:

quoraQuora is a question-and-answer website created, edited and organized by its community of users. The company was founded in June 2009, and the website was made available to the public on June 21, 2010.[3]

Quora aggregates questions and answers to topics. Users can collaborate by editing questions and suggesting edits to other users’ answers.[4] Quora’s main competitors are social bookmarking sites like redditsocial networking sites like ChaCha, and numerous question and answer websites.

Unlike BGCA’s “Ask The Expert” service, the answers and advice you get from Quora might not necessarily be from an amazing expert like the folks at FundRaisingInfo.com. However, if you go into it with the right mindset and an understanding that the answers you receive might just be from your peers, then this could be a great resource for you. At the very least, it represents a good starting point for finding answers.

Here are just some of the non-profit and fundraising questions that I see being asked on Quora:

  • What are some good platforms for online fundraising?
  • How do you manage memberships and donation drives in a small or medium size non-profit?
  • What cutting edge fundraising techniques are charities using?
  • What are the characteristics of high-performing non-profits?
  • How much power does a non-profit board have?

Interesting questions!

Of course, there is the obvious question, “What are some of the best ways non-profits can use Quora?Click here if you want to see responses.

When you have a question with which you’d like other people’s opinions, where do you go online? Google? WordPress? Blogger? Facebook? LinkedIn? Quora? Where do you find the most value in your search for answers? Have you used Quora yet? If so, what was your experience? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Is your non-profit preparing for the Times Square countdown?

santa letterI spent a decent amount of time last week in the car. When I do that, I typically listen to National Public Radio (NPR), which in the Chicago market is WBEZ 91.5 FM. So, all week long I heard how they were approaching the end of their fiscal year and how they need to hit their pledge drive goal.

When I woke up this morning, I had a few thoughts racing through my head:

  1. OMG . . . it is July! How did THAT happen?
  2. I wonder if WBEZ made its pledge drive goal?
  3. I wonder how many other non-profits that don’t have June 30th year end financials are preparing for their December 31st year-end push?

I remember when I was on the front line and making decisions about fundraising matters. I typically wanted my year-end fundraising efforts and mailings to hit the post office in the beginning of November.

When I gave donors a few weeks before Thanksgiving to consider what they want to do with their year-end charitable giving, it usually worked out better. I tested all sorts of different launch times over the years, and the beginning of November always produced the best results.

So, if your agency follows the same blueprint . . . guess what? You only have four months left to get all of your ducks in a row.

My best advice is to get to work NOW and avoid the last minute rush. Why? Because in my experience the last minute rush always resulted in unexpected hiccups and delays in getting the mailings to the post office.

I’m not suggesting that you write your letter today (but I wouldn’t discourage it either), but there are things you can start doing now that will help you later. Here is a short laundry list of those things:

  • Determine your theme.
  • Put together your project management plan and establish deadlines.
  • Write your internal case for support, which will be the basis of your letter and package.
  • Pull together a focus group of donors and test your case for support.
  • Use the input that you get back from your donors to tweak your messaging and theme.
  • If you like to incorporate a client story into your year-end appeal, then start identifying the client and their story now.
  • We all know that the mailing list is the biggest factor in your success. So, start building your list today. It takes time to wrestle with your donor database and work with a mail house.
  • Plan on mailing out a cultivation / stewardship letter four to six weeks prior to mailing your year-end appeal. Start developing that messaging and package today.
  • Use social media to cultivate and steward your year-end donors. Develop a three month campaign that leads up to and culminates in the launch of your appeal in early November. This obviously starts NOW.

Your agency is probably preparing to march in a Fourth of July parade in the next few days, and year-end thoughts are probably far away, but don’t blink! Because Santa Claus will be coming down the chimney any day now.

You know I’m right!

Still not convinced? Well, consider the fact that more than one-third (and I’ve recently read it could be as big as one-half) of all charitable giving happens in the fourth quarter during the holiday season.

I’ll leave you with this thought and popular expression: “Prior proper preparation prevents piss poor performance.” I’ve heard it referred to as the Seven P’s.

When does your agency start preparing for its year-end appeal? What goes into your planning? What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced? When do you plan on starting this year?

Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

The changing face of corporate philanthropy

online voting1Yesterday, an email washed into my inbox from someone named Katie. She asked me to please use my megaphone (aka the DonorDreams blog platform) to tell the world about a corporate giving promotion by a Tom’s of Maine, which is a company producing environmentally safe products such as toothpaste, soap and deodorants. The program is called “50 States for Good,” and she described it in her email as “making it easy for nonprofits to secure $10,000 in funding to keep the goodness going“.

I’ve read Katie’s email at least five times in the last 24 hours. For some reason, I cannot get the words “. . . making it easy . . . ” out of my head.

Really? Easy?

I wonder if Katie has ever been responsible for running a non-profit organization before or been the point person for an agency’s fundraising program? My guess is that she has not, but if she has . . . then it is possible that she found it “easy“.

toms of maineI’m not trying to pick on Katie and I didn’t wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. I just don’t find programs like 50 States for Good easy. Let’s take a closer look at what many of these programs require of non-profits who choose to participate:

  • A simple essay stating your case for support and outlining a specific project for which you’re hoping to securing funding,
  • The company hosts a “simple public vote” where the public will decide which 15 agencies receive $10,000, and
  • They host the vote, but agencies who are in the competition are frantically reaching out to donors, telling them about the competition, and begging people to go vote. I’ve seen contests consume some organizations . . . emails, tweets, Facebook post . . . push-push-push . . . promote-promote-promote.

Let me spell out my concerns more clearly:

  • I don’t think philanthropy is a contest, and I fear that programs like this warp the concept in some people’s minds.
  • I believe your board volunteers, supporters and donors are important people. Pushing them to vote-vote-vote isn’t how I suggest you ask them to invest their time on behalf of your mission.
  • These contests are not about advancing your mission. It is about the company’s marketing plan and getting their hands on your donors’ personal information and data.
  • Most agencies don’t win anything in contests like these, and they walk away empty-handed without anything to show for their time or all of that consumer data. This is a simple ROI calculation for me. How many annual campaign pledges could an organization have secured if it had invested the same amount of time in sitting down face-to-face with its supporters and donors.

I blogged about this more than a year ago in a post titled “Non-profits can do without the Pepsi-Starbucks-Chase-Kohls voting thing“.

So, why do so many agencies choose to participate? I think this YouTube video of last year’s big winner captures it best:


These contests appeal to our basic desire to WIN-WIN-WIN. Additionally, I suspect these type of corporate giving campaigns are validating for the winners. Validation of your mission. Validation of your vision. Validation of the project you’re working on. Validation! Perhaps, Sally Fields summed it up best during her Oscars acceptance speech:


The fact of the matter is that the face of corporate philanthropy is (or perhaps has) changed. It used to be that companies focused on being good corporate citizens. You asked and they made decisions about where to give. Of course, their decisions aligned with business interests and creating a “halo effect” putting them in the best possible light with their customers and employees.

While today’s corporate giving efforts are still about these things, it goes much farther than good citizenship and creating positive publicity. It is also all about driving foot traffic, making sales, gathering consumer data, building the company’s social media presence, and alignment of business objectives and charitable objectives.

In a nutshell . . . corporate philanthropy is becoming the for-profit sector’s “engagement strategy“.

The question being begged by this morning’s blog post is:

Has your resource development plan adjusted to this shift?

Your annual written resource development plan should look like an inventory of strategies and tactics. If you’re having a hard time answering this question, I suggest taking your plan off the shelf, turning to the pages pertaining to corporate giving, and looking for evidence that your strategies and tactics address the needs outlined in the previous few paragraphs.

How many of these online corporate voting contests will you undertake in the upcoming year? What are your strategies when entering these contests? If your plan doesn’t address these questions, then your agency obviously hasn’t made the adjustment. Here are a few links and resources pertaining specifically to these online contests:

My best advice?

Engage your resource development committee in this discussion. Write into your annual resource development plan a set of policies and rules that will drive future decisions on when it makes sense for your agency to participate in these contests. Personally, I would make it a policy to never do more than one of these contests per year because you don’t want to run the risk of pissing off your donors with countless requests to vote-vote-vote.

Have you ever participated in one of these contests? If so, what was your experience? Have you shifted your approach to corporate philanthropy in recent years? If so, what are you doing now that you weren’t doing previously to align with the for-profit sector and market professionals’ desires to use philanthropy to drive sales and traffic, cultivate new customers, and secure ROI? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

Oh yeah . . . a quick disclaimer. I am not picking on Tom’s of Maine. They are an awesome company, and they are not doing anything wrong by organizing an online charitable giving contest. I like Tom’s products, and you should check them out online by clicking here. If your agency up for the challenge and convinced this contest is a good fit for your fundraising program, then by all means please check it out and participate. Tom’s is one of those socially responsible companies who has worked hard to earn their “halo,” and I salute them!

Here’s to your health!

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

Is “fear of failure” defining your fundraising program?

Last week I was on the road working with clients. One evening when I was out to dinner, a revelation about your fundraising program struck me like a bolt of lightning while in the restroom of a restaurant.  Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. I was thunderstruck in the bathroom. Inspiration came in the form of a little sign sitting by the sink.

This is kind of what that sign looked like:


I’ve been chewing on this question for a week now, which tells me that there is a good blog post somewhere in there.  😉

Failure and your fundraising plan

The first flurry of thoughts that ran through my head pertained to many fundraising programs I’ve seen throughout the years. Here are just a few questions I find myself asking about many agencies’ annual resource development plans:

  • Why are they running so many special events?
  • Why aren’t they measuring return on investment (ROI) on each of their events and campaigns?
  • Why aren’t they evaluating and critiquing each event and campaign?
  • Why aren’t they innovating and trying new things (e.g. email, social media, etc)?

I’m now wondering if the answer to these questions is that we’re afraid of failure, and it is just easier to keep doing the same thing over and over again. After all, if we evaluate and ask questions, then shouldn’t we “do something” about those things that don’t look so good?

As for innovation and trying new things, there has to be all kinds of “fears” associated with venturing off into the great unknown. Right?

I know that talking about those things we’re afraid of is difficult for many of us. It is this simple truism that keeps countless counselors, therapists and psychologists employed every year. However, I encourage you to take 30 seconds our of your busy day right now and consider these questions and the possibility that your fundraising program is in the grip of fear-based decision-making by staff, fundraising volunteers, and board members.

What would you do . . . if you knew?

What an interesting question to ponder. Dontcha think?

What would I do, if I knew, I could not fail?

Let me step off that cliff first. The following is a list of things (as it pertains to non-profit management and fundraising) I thought of in 30 seconds:

  • I would call the top 10 most influential people in town and ask them to join my board or get involved in some aspect of my fundraising program.
  • I would kill every special event fundraiser that was older than 5 years old and replace it with something new and fun.
  • I would calculate ROI on every event and campaign and stop doing everything that didn’t bring me at least a 75% return (and I’m talking about using both direct AND indirect costs in that calculation)
  • I would find the time to add an ePhilanthropy aspect to my annual fundraising plan that includes blogging, social media, email and website (and I’d add a robust evaluation component to this program).

Now it is your turn. Please take a few second to contemplate the question at hand. What would you do? Once you have one thing in your head, please scroll down and share it in the comment box below. Let’s inspire each other today.

Here’s another thought. Why not start off your next board meeting and all of your upcoming committee meetings with this question. You might just be surprised by what your volunteers tell you. If you do, I hope you’ll circle back around to this post and share what they said.

Here’s to your health!

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

Have you fallen in love with Michael Stelzner yet?

social media iconsNon-profit professionals all seem to be saying the same thing to me about technology and social media . . . “We’re tired. It is confusing. It evolves too quickly. We still haven’t figured out what works. We don’t have the time or money to invest in conferences, trainings, staff and resource manuals to figure all of this out.”

Yep! This is the plight of the modern, small, under-resourced non-profit organization. For some executive directors, fundraising professionals and program/ops staff, this becomes frustrating and even hopeless.

My best advice to everyone is to fight this feeling and fight it with every fiber of your being. The future is upon us, and the way non-profit agencies communicate with the outside world is changing rapidly. The consequences associated with falling too far behind the social media and technology curve can mean the difference between staying in business and becoming obsolete.

You’re reaction is probably something like . . . WHAT?!?!

social media word cloudI get that, but I really don’t think I am being a drama queen here. In the future (and I do mean the not-so-distant future), social media and technology will be how your non-profit does a lot of communicating with:

  • clients
  • board members
  • volunteers
  • staff
  • donors
  • prospective donors and the community-at-large

Don’t believe me?

Well, just the other day I was walking down the street while in Vancouver on vacation when I saw a homeless man sitting outside of a restaurant on the sidewalk. While it is impossible to know if he was homeless, he was at least someone who was obviously “down on his luck“. He was young and couldn’t have been older than 25-years-old. He was frantically pecking away on a smartphone and obviously stealing a WiFi signal from the restaurant. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was searching webpages or social media sites to see which soup kitchens, food pantries or shelters were open that day.

The future is upon us, friends! To give in now to those hopeless feelings you have about social media and technology would be a mistake. The solution is to push forward and embrace change.

I know, I know. There are no resources. It always comes down to this for non-profit organizations. Doesn’t it?

Well, this is where Michael Stelzner enters the picture!

What? You haven’t discovered Mike yet? In a nutshell, he is the CEO of Social Media Examiner. Here is an excerpt from his website describing his company:

The world’s largest online social media magazine, Social Media Examiner helps businesses discover how to best use social media, blogs and podcasts to connect with customers, drive traffic, generate more brand awareness and increase sales. Our mission is to help you navigate the constantly changing social media jungle.

Click here or on the YouTube video below for a fun little introduction:


He regularly publishes blogs and podcasts about a variety of social media topics. Here are just a few of his recent works:

Here is the bottom line. Dedicating yourself to the idea of becoming a “lifelong learner” will be the saving grace for your non-profit organization. People like Michael Stelzner are your salvation. He puts out good stuff, and it is FREE. All you need to do now is:

  • click-through and subscribe to his online magazine and podcasts,
  • prepare for the regular stream of emails containing his material, and
  • find time to read and listen to his stuff.

Oh right . . . time is a resource and something many of my non-profit friends tell me that don’t have enough of. OK, I suggest that you download Michael’s podcasts to your smartphone and listen to him on the treadmill in the morning or while driving between your daily meetings.

Nothing in life is as simple as clicking on a button. You will need to work at this and find the time to become a lifelong learner, but the viability of your non-profit organization is depending on you.

Please go check-out Michael Stelzner and his amazing online magazine. Click around his site. Listen to a few podcast. Circle back around to this blog post and 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

Are non-profits getting serious about crowdfunding?

8661000014A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . we used to do a special themed blog post to start every week and it was called “Mondays with Marissa“. We haven’t run that series in a while because Marissa moved on to bigger and better things (and I should add that by bigger and better I mean “things that pay”). She got snatched up by one of the local Girl Scout councils to manage their online communities. However, in the spirit of “Mondays with Marissa,” I thought we would look back today at a previous post by Marissa, provide a little update, and spur additional conversation.

Crowdfunding is defined by Wikipedia as “… the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations.”

Crowdfunding is a spinoff of crowdsourcing, and this YouTube video by crowdsourcing.org does a really good job of explaining it:


In the last year or so, both Marissa and I wrote about crowdfunding in the following posts:

In spite of my confession that I was a doubting Thomas and suddenly “saw the light” when it came to crowdfunding, I have another admission to make today. I was still a little skeptical after writing that post a year ago.

However, just last week and almost a year after proclaiming Marissa “right,” I read in the Fundraising Digest Weekly published by FundraisingInfo.com that the Smithsonian plans on running its first crowdfunding campaign. Click here to read more about the Smithsonian’s efforts at Businesswire.com.

After reading this, I must admit that it is impossible to be a doubting Thomas about this ePhilanthropy tool.

The Smithsonian is no slouch when it comes to resource development and fundraising. Their decision to turn to crowdfunding validates this online fundraising strategy as something that is here to stay.

  • Are you still a doubting Thomas? If so, why?
  • Has you non-profit organization experimented with crowdsourcing or crowdfunding? What did you do? What did you learn?
  • Have you seen other heavy hitting non-profit groups use a crowdfunding campaign successfully? Who? What?
  • Have you looked into other crowdsourcing applications other than crowdfunding such as crowdengineering, cloud labor, or crowdcreativity? Please explain.

Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. Why? Because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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