Transcending philanthropy

“Wow.  I can’t believe you of all people fell for something like this.”

I made a personal gift last week.  A small one, and one that went to some individuals – not tax-deductible, no nonprofit involved.  And I let my friends know about it, because that’s how these things work…a plea for help goes out and is distributed globally with a few keystrokes thanks to modern technology.  If many people all give a little, enough money is raised to meet whatever need has been expressed.  That’s the idea of crowdsourcing, and sometimes it’s done through intermediaries, but increasingly, it’s easier to just pool money through a service like Paypal or Kickstarter or YouCaring and see that cash go directly to the human beings who need it. Read more

Article Review: How do you hire good development staff?

The Bridgespan Group helps advise and consult to nonprofits, and publishes some very well researched and practical resources for professionals in the field.  Among their resources is a moderated LinkedIn Group where Executive Directors and CEOs converse about various challenges they are facing at their organizations.

One of the most popular recent topics was started with the question “Why is it so hard to find good development staff?”… I recommend peeking at an article they put on their own website, summarizing some key points made in the discussion.

But, of course, I have my own opinions about their recommendations. Read more

Mailbag: Why I hate my bike-a-thon

Q: I have a charity that’s really important to me.  It’s a medical research group that is trying to find a cure for a disease that affects one of my loved ones.  It feels incredibly important to me, as part of my journey, to participate in their annual bike ride.  I like feeling like I’m doing something, even if it’s just a very little something, and it’s an incredible emotional moment (one that I need!) to be waiting at the start line in a huge crowd of people who all have their own stories that they’ve put aside for the day to come together for something much bigger than all of us.  But when it comes down to it, I feel that it’s my selfish little thing.  *I* want to participate, *I* want to make a difference, to a cause that’s important to *me*… I just can’t bring myself to ask other people to give me money.  I wind up paying the minimum donation for participation out of my own pocket every year.  Is that bad?

A: Is that bad?  No.  That’s a gift of $XXX that the organization wouldn’t have otherwise.  That’s not a bad thing.  But that’s not the question.  You want to know if I will give you my blessing to continue doing that, or give you some way to get beyond your insecurities… Read more

Mailbag: Glorified Panhandling

Q: How do I not feel like I’m just a glorified panhandler when I’m asking for money?

A: Oh, boy have you come to the right place.  However you want to phrase it, it’s a VERY common hangup for people in fundraising (volunteer and professional alike).  Let’s start with some praise: you clearly know how fundraising works.  You have to ask for money.
Does that seem too obvious?   Read more

Quick Tips: Learn How to Give from the Buffetts

Talk about a sincere and thoughtful philanthropist: Warren Buffett.  Oh, wait…we’re not talking about him, even though he’s a bit more famous than his older sister, Doris.

Doris Buffett and her grandson, Alex Rozek have been interested in making more people into philanthropists – people who are not just charitable with their money, but think strategically about how to support the causes and organizations they care about the most. Read more

Mailbag: All alone on the PTO

Q: I stupidly volunteered to be Parent Chair of the PTO at my son’s preschool.  No one else wanted to step up, so I figured I’d take on the Big Job, but everyone else would help out in little ways (I’m usually great at coordinating lots of people pitching in on a project so that everyone’s actually contributing.)  WRONG.  We had one meeting where it was like pulling teeth to get people to even suggest ideas for fundraisers, and now that we picked a couple to run with, I can’t get a single person to help me with ANYTHING.  I’m losing my mind and getting angry and feeling like a failure.  And I don’t know how to turn things around.  I’m not sure what my question is other than …HELP!!!

A: Any time you’re up for a job no one else wants, make sure you fully understand why you’re the only person in the running (especially when they flatter you tremendously by saying that you’re clearly the best person for the job and everyone else wants to remove themselves from the competition because of how spectacularly great you’ll be).   Read more

Mailbag: I think my biggest donor hates me

A very edited version of a question received from a friend/reader:

Q: It’s my first year in a new position, and we’re working on launching a capital campaign.  We really really need a huge new gift from my organization’s biggest donor…but I think she hates me.  It’s messing with my head, paralyzing me with fear, and making it hard to think about anything else.  I don’t think the campaign will succeed without her, and what if it’s my fault she turns us down?

A: OK, so the stakes seem high here, but I don’t know if you’re making an honest assessment, or whether your fear is leading you to obsess about a worst case scenario. Read more

Quick Tips: Getting Online Donations Up and Running, ASAP

A friend/reader just took a summer internship helping a small organization to think about their fundraising strategy.  He’s young (as you might have guessed from the internship bit), so the first thing the board did was assume that he knows a lot about “online stuff.”  Kids today, right?

Their top priority for him was to figure out how to get the organization to a place where they could accept online donations.

There’s more to having an online strategy than simply being able to take a credit card donation online…a LOT more, honestly.  Bottomline, being thoughtful is worth more than being an early-adopter of new technologies.  Always.  But ideally, you want to be thoughtful and take advantage of new tools. Read more