Online Fundraising Dos and Don’ts

There’s a consulting group (Dunham+Company) that put together an interesting research project, analyzing the actual online fundraising practices of 151 US-based charities.  They used it to make an Online Fundraising Scorecard, which you can download for free…but I’m going to give you a rundown of some of the biggest findings and how they might apply to you.

Online fundraising is here.  It may someday be obliterated by a new, unforeseen technology, but for now, you’d better embrace the need for it, because it’s growing for every demographic. Read more

Quick Tips: .ngo coming soon

The Public Interest Registry, otherwise known as “the folks who operate the .org domain,” a website distinction that the general public expects to see in its nonprofits these days, is going to be rolling out a new set of domains this summer for NGOs.

If you think your organization would benefit from such a domain (like with .org, you’ll have to prove you meet their eligibility requirements – that protects the value of the domain, since the general public can be sure that you are, in fact, a legitimate NGO if you have a .ngo web address), you can express an interest now, and get future updates directly from them.

Yes, it might be a hassle if you’re already up and running with a website to switch and/or invest in staking your claim to the right domain name…but before you make any decisions based on current financial or labor annoyances/complications, put some thought into what you are losing or gaining in shorthand communication, public reputation, and donor trust.  (The answer may be “not much” – in which case, ignore this new wrinkle completely.  Just make an informed call, OK?)

Judgment of the Judge

I’ve spoken about and will write again on this blog my feelings on charity ratings: they essentially boil down to three things:

  • They’re a useful tool for serious donors, but they shouldn’t be a one stop shop if you’re making a sizable gift (you decide what that means).
  • They can’t really evaluate whether YOU will be proud of the way YOUR dollars are spent.  (That’s not their fault – it’s infinitely broad, the category of donor motivations and desires)
  • They’re sort of clunky.  (At best, this is because they’re processing enormous amounts of data and can’t deliver nuances effectively as a result.  At worst, well, “clunky” is generous, and that’s what we’re about to discuss.)

Sometimes the folks in charge of the rating organizations show some ugly, dark colors, and it makes you question how their bias gets built into their various methods.

Enter the story of Ken Berger and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

Sister Innocenta of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Paris House, France
Sister Innocenta of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Paris House, France

Read more

Nightmares of third party events

Third party events can be a fundraiser’s dream.  Someone, or some organization or company volunteer to take on every aspect of a fundraising event – all you have to do is give them your style guide so they can publicize you as the recipient, and when it’s over, they send you a check.

When they work, they’re brilliant.  When they don’t…

Here’s some breaking news from California.  I wouldn’t dream of commenting on rights and wrongs of this specific case – clearly the local news thinks there’s enough fishiness going on that they’re comfortable pursuing it publicly in expose style.

What I can say, is that this is a bad situation, regardless of what the ultimate details prove.  Third party events are attractive to anyone worried about stretching a small staff and budget for fundraising purposes…but let this be a reminder to you, your executive leadership, your board, etc.:

  • Don’t get into bed with anyone you don’t trust.
  • Don’t let your name be used for an event you don’t understand (meaning – how will revenue come in? what are the general expenses? You don’t need control or oversight necessarily, but you should be able to at least sketch out the way the event works…bake sales are simple – a community fair can get complex, etc.)
  • Don’t work with anyone who isn’t interested in transparency.

These are three great rules…and the first assumes that you aren’t taking trust lightly.  You have a duty to your organization and stakeholders to explore good ways of bringing new visibility and funding in.  But you’re also charged with risk management, and have equal duty to protecting the good name of the organization…and preserving donor trust.

I have no idea how many folks who enjoy a Zombie Walk will see the KRIS-TV report and be motivated to make their donations direct to CASA in the future.  For any organization, it’s always a challenge to turn event participants into regular, non-event supporters.  But however big the check is if it ever reaches the CASA coffers, that’s the least of the worries all around.

Creative and Bossy – What childhood conspires to kill in us

I wrote a short post last week on tensions between helping women succeed NOW, walking a tightrope of pseudo-masculine but acceptably feminine leadership techniques through the minefield of modern American business culture, and helping encourage women to be disruptors of this unfortunate system that has evolved/metastasized with so many terribly ingrained disparities.

On the one hand, there’s a certain satisfaction in seeing some women excel at a super-aggressive style of leadership.  Unapologetic.  Direct and brutal.  Ruthlessly effective.  Demanding of your attention and compliance.  We suffer through this form of leadership so often, and watch men elevated and celebrated for being such leaders.  It’s a guilty pleasure to see women beat them at their own game.

But while I occasionally teach folks to mimic pieces of this leadership style (because it comes in handy to be able to present yourself convincingly as pathologically self-assured now and then), I never ever work to shape people into such tyrants.  Not only is it profoundly unlikely to succeed for the women and minorities who make up my coaching clientele, it’s not a good leadership identity.  A sparely used tool, sure.  But an unfortunate way to actually attempt to lead your life, much less lead other people.

So, that’s why I feel so conflicted about the Ban Bossy campaign that is the latest brain child of Sheryl Sandberg and the Lean In folks. Read more

What it means to soften your edges with questions

There’s a great little essay making the rounds on HowlRound, which you probably haven’t read unless you’re a theater academic or practitioner.  But it’s a good one, and while it’s a meditation on some of the awkward and undercutting choices that female theater directors are prone to making, you’re likely to recognize yourself in there, regardless of specific profession.

Language Worth Repeating, by Jess K. Smith Read more

Quick Tips: Online Survey Tools

I often use online surveys in my consulting work, and the existence of free and good survey tools is not a secret anyone should be keeping.  (Want meaningful results?  You’ll still hire someone who knows what questions to ask, who to ask, how to get them to fill out your forms, and how to interpret the answers.  But I’m honestly shocked at the number of people who just don’t know they can build a survey cheaply or for free.)

Here are some of my favorites. Read more

What smart women look like

I have mixed feelings about Lean In (the book and the organization).  In fact, it’s better described as an internal hurricane, roiling my kishkes…but some of their initiatives are easier to talk about, at least before we see how well they’re executed.  In concept, I’m a tremendous fan of their partnership with Getty Images (incidentally, where I get most of the pictures embedded in this blog), which attempts to broaden the scope of women as they are depicted in stock photos.

We can’t help it.  We internalize what we take in.  Our mind’s eye is very impressionable, and the world at present is not putting a very broad set of images in front of us. Read more

Mailbag: The Question of Cupcakes

Q: I just joined a board for a local nonprofit.  I’m a great baker and want to make a good impression on my fellow board members.  Can I bring cupcakes to a meeting?  We’re not talking sloppy homemade stuff – it’ll be homemade, but Martha Stewart quality, which is why I think it’ll add to my superwoman credibility, but my roommate disagrees.

A:  What are you trying to say with these cupcakes?  Sadly, a nice gesture of bringing food to a board meeting (or work in general) is far from harmless or innocent…though your pastry snobbery doesn’t make me feel like you’ve got pure and innocent intentions in the first place.

Cupcakes.  When a woman bakes for a group of professionals, it’s overshadowed by decades of passive and subservient women being forced to fetch coffee or tend to a home instead of being respected as professionals.  It doesn’t matter who you are, that history comes into the room with you like an uninvited guest.  When you make the decision to bake – or not – for your colleagues, at work or on a board, you have to stare that guest in the face and decide how you will co-exist with him. Read more

Mailbag: My Board has social media ADHD

Q:  In general, my board is full of great, smart, very accomplished people.  But they are fixated on whatever new social media platform or app they read about last week.  They don’t use them, they don’t understand the difference between Facebook and Pinterest and Tumblr and Vine (and sometimes get the names wrong…I’m not kidding, one woman told me I was behind the times for not using “Pee – Interest” in my development strategy.)  How do I get them to realize that I’m already overworked and when I’m having a hard time getting our basic materials together, I can’t run a dozen separate social media accounts too?

A:  Kudos to you for standing your ground, which it sounds like you’ve done.  Too many folks find it easier to simply yield to their board member’s desires and create institutional profiles and accounts.  I’m waiting for someone to be brilliant enough to create an actual dating profile for their organization in hopes of turning OK Cupid into their next great fundraiser…because that’s probably more useful than throwing together yet another cut and paste social media identity without understanding how that particular platform is going to fit into your brand and overall visibility strategy.  And oh, yeah – you’re probably not going to be able to raise a lot of money through Facebook.

You know all that already.  Here are some tips for convincing your board that there’s no magic bullet to be found on instagram or twitter.  Read more