Apple Refreshes its Website, App Store Around Copy

For Apple, Inc., the annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is an opportunity to refresh its message to consumers and industry observers. At this year’s conference, which ran from June 5-9 in San Jose, CA, saw some pretty dramatic changes to Apple’s websites, emphasizing compelling copy as an integral design element.

For example, on the WWDC home page itself, copy literally takes center stage. Surrounded by graphic representations of people viewed from overhead, the center of the page features the following compelling mission statement:

Technology alone is not enough.
Technology must intersect with the liberal arts
and the humanities, to create new ideas and
experiences that push society forward. This
summer we bring together thousands of brilliant
minds representing many diverse perspectives,
passions, and talents to help us change the world.

The company’s main website has been revamped to feature copy. Take for example the page on business applications for iPad. Each section leads with a clean declarative sentence in large type, followed by two to three sentences that go into the particulars. In the past, Apple was content to let the visuals do all the talking. Now, the visuals and the copy support each other, reinforcing the message of the product’s value. From a design standpoint, Apple’s approach harkens back to the classic powerful prose-driven design of Ogilvy & Mather and Tom McElligott.

At WWDC, Apple revealed a redesign of its iOS app store that also places a new emphasis on content. As Six Colors’ Jason Snell writes, “No, this isn’t independent journalism—it’s curation and marketing. But it’s a sign that Apple sees the value in telling the stories of the apps it’s seen fit to highlight.”

As a style bellwether, Apple may be at the forefront of a renaissance of compelling copy-driven storytelling in marketing. Time will tell if nonprofits embrace the power of storytelling for persuading donors to support their mission.

Peer-to-Peer Giving is a “Front Door” to Long-Term Donor Relationships

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It is an old saying, to be sure, but what fundraisers don’t know can indeed hurt them. While they understand that a well-balanced revenue portfolio is a prerequisite for the financial health of their organization, many overlook three proven fundraising methods — monthly giving, peer-to-peer giving and face-to-face giving — because of misunderstandings about what they are best used for and how to manage them successfully. All three are effective ways of asking, but is your organization ready to benefit from them?

Over the next few blog posts, I’ll be looking at each of these three methods in detail. Last time, I looked at monthly giving. This week, I look at peer-to-peer giving.

What peer-to-peer giving is

This fundraising program is the engagement of supporters through participation in activities for which they raise funds from friends and families. Examples include fun-run sponsorships, donations in lieu of a birthday gift, hoop-shooting contests, walk-a-thons, swim-a-thons—any group fundraising activity in which participants are engaged to raise funds through their network for your organization. Both nonprofits and individual donors can organize campaigns. According to the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum, in 2015, the top 30 programs in the United States raised $1.57 billion, nearly 10 percent more than the amount raised 10 years earlier.

However, it is a volatile field. The Peer-to-Peer Forum reports that last year, total revenue of top U.S. programs was down more than 2.5 percent, while in Canada, 20 of the top 30 programs reported revenue declines in 2015, a trend that is prompting many Canadian charities to rethink their approaches and experiment with innovative new programs. Fundraising revenue at these programs totaled $254.1 million in 2015, according to the Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada Top Thirty Benchmarking Survey. That figure is down 8.6 percent from 2014, a substantial drop that was somewhat offset by growing totals at a number of newer and smaller programs.

Nevertheless, rather than pulling back in the face of these declines, a number of Canada’s biggest charities have reported that they are stepping up their investments in peer-to-peer fundraising. “2015 was a wake-up call for many nonprofits,” says David Hessekiel, president of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada. “Many organizations are seriously examining their peer-to-peer initiatives, investing in new concepts and overhauling existing programs.”

What peer-to-peer giving is not

Fundraisers are often surprised to learn that peer-to-peer campaigns are not special events in the traditional sense. Although both involve getting people together to raise funds in support of a common cause, peer-to-peer fundraising doubles as a means of generating leads for loyal sustained-giving and legacy donors, explains Katrina VanHuss, CEO of Turnkey in Richmond, Va. “We use volunteer fundraisers to reach people we don’t know yet, who aren’t on our lists. It is a revenue-positive lead generation device.”

Because of their similarity to special events, VanHuss says, sometimes staff tries to manage them the same way. Special events are most often staff-driven, with volunteers doing tasks. In contrast, the highest-producing peer-to-peer campaigns have true volunteer leadership committees who run the events for the most part. When a staff person tries to take control in peer-to-peer scenarios, which thrive on autonomy and delegation, participation and fundraising suffer. “The ideal cheap viagra men staff person for peer-to-peer is a relationship manager, not an event manager,” VanHuss points out. “Not someone who sets up the tents but someone who empowers others to set up the tents themselves.”

What peer-to-peer giving does best

VanHuss says that the real strength of peer-to-peer is that it opens the door for fundraisers to build relationships with new donors, which can lead to long-term support for the cause. The trick, she says, is to develop the right type of relationship with the fundraiser. A market relationship sets a financial condition for engagement, such as a registration fee or high-minimum fundraising. A social relationship invites participation with no terms, except for an attachment to the mission. “People in market relationships will shop around for a better deal in a year or two,” she explains. “But people in a social relationship will come back year after year. Market relationship peer-to-peer events manifest as retail-worthy offerings, such as high-profile bicycle rides. Social relationship events manifest typically as walks.”

While peer-to-peer fundraising looks like a lot of work to a staff person, its efficiency at getting a “yes” to a donation ask is powerful. “The typical direct-response campaign gets a 1 to 2 percent response rate,” VanHuss explains. “Typically, it takes a peer-to-peer fundraiser four requests to get a donation — a 25 percent response rate.

“In a lot of ways, for acquisition peer-to-peer is better than a bought list,” she adds. “It is the front door.”

How to succeed with your peer-to-peer giving program

“A successful peer-to-peer event has to provide a great experience for the participant,” says J.D. Beiting, a fundraising consultant with Benefactor Group (www. in Columbus, Ohio. “It should offer support, recognition and incentives. The more fertile the environment a nonprofit can provide, the more money will be raised.” This requires good communications, sufficient financial support and the commitment of the organization’s executives, fundraisers and staff.

Although almost any type of nonprofit can run a successful peer-to-peer program, preparation is required. Beiting advises nonprofits to start by assessing both their assets and their constituencies in order to get a sense of the type of program they want to establish:

  • Proprietary, in which an organization creates and manages an event
  • Third-party, in which an organization leverages an existing event and recruits people to participate on its behalf
  • Do-it-yourself, in which supporters create their own activities and encourage people to donate in support of them

Once the type of program has been decided, a nonprofit should set a reasonable goal, keeping in mind that it takes time to build momentum and reach a critical mass of support. With that information in hand, the organization can then develop a budget that suits the level of effort and expectations. There are several companies that offer software to help nonprofits run and manage successful peer-to-peer campaigns without placing undue burdens on staff. “Technology is decentralizing peer-to-peer fundraising,” Beiting says. “It behooves an organization to take advantage of it.”

Next week: Face-to-face giving

This post was adapted from “Power Tools: How Monthly Peer-to-Peer, and Face-to-Face Programs Can Be Powerful Tools in Your Fundraising Tool Kit,” by Paul Lagasse, Advancing Philanthropy, Winter 2017 (reprinted with permission). You can read the whole article here.

Monthly Giving Programs Identify Your Most Loyal Donors

It is an old saying, to be sure, but what fundraisers don’t know can indeed hurt them. While they understand that a well-balanced revenue portfolio is a prerequisite for the financial health of their organization, many overlook three proven fundraising methods — monthly giving, peer-to-peer giving and face-to-face giving — because of misunderstandings about what they are best used for and how to manage them successfully. All three are effective ways of asking, but is your organization ready to benefit from them?

Over the next few blog posts, I’ll be looking at each of these three methods in detail. I’ll start with monthly giving.

What monthly giving is

As the name implies, it is the act of donating a fixed amount of money to a nonprofit, either automatically through direct debit or electronic funds transfer, by credit card or by check. Not only does monthly giving increase retention rates and the average gift size, but it also helps reduce revenue volatility and improve long-term planning. Research has found that the annual value of a monthly donor can be significantly greater than that of single-gift donors, and many monthly donors will give for 20 years or more.

What monthly giving is not

Despite the recurring nature of the gifts, a monthly program is not time-consuming to maintain, says Rosemary Oliver, fundraising director at Amnesty International Canada in Toronto. “It doesn’t take a lot of additional resources,” she explains. “Just a little time up front to strategize.” If your nonprofit is able to process credit card gifts, you already have everything you need to handle monthly gifts. The process is automatic, requiring only occasional attention, such as when a donor’s credit card expires.

To find what works best for your organization, Oliver recommends testing the waters with a few hundred monthly, small-gift donors to build confidence. “Your organization may need to learn to walk before it runs,” she says. “That’s fine. It’s about finding your own level of efficiency.”

Oliver points to her organization’s success with monthly giving as an indicator of what can be done when starting from a humble beginning. Twenty years ago, Amnesty International Canada had a modest monthly giving program with 7,000 donors that generated less than $1 million. Today, more than 35,000 monthly donors give $8.8 million a year in monthly gifts ranging from $1 to $1,000, which accounts for 65 percent of its annual revenue. Furthermore, up to three-quarters of Amnesty International Canada’s legacy gifts come from monthly donors. “As you can see, it is worth taking the time to steward those $10-a-month donors,” Oliver says. “They really add up in the long run.”

What monthly giving does best

As Oliver’s experience suggests, a monthly giving program is an effective tool for identifying your most loyal donors for further stewardship. “People who give monthly really care about your mission deeply,” says Gail Perry, CFRE, founder of Fired-Up Fundraising in Raleigh, N.C. “They’re often prime major-gift prospects.” She recommends strengthening donor loyalty by recognizing them with thank-you calls and letters and singling them out in newsletters and on your website. Establishing a monthly giving club is an effective way to motivate board giving as well, Perry notes. Even so, it takes time to build a cadre of loyal monthly donors. “Organizations often lose heart because of the initial results,” she explains. “But if you keep promoting, it will gradually build. You need to make a long-term commitment.”

How to succeed with your monthly giving program

According to Harvey McKinnon, president of Harvey McKinnon Associates in Vancouver, British Columbia, the single largest obstacle to a successful monthly giving program is buy-in. Because it is a long-term strategy, a monthly giving program does not always compare favorably with fundraising methods that provide more immediate revenue, such as direct mail and online giving. A successful monthly giving program requires leadership and staff to take the long view, nurturing and growing the program slowly but steadily.

“Assess how much you’re willing to risk in terms of money and organizational commitment,” McKinnon advises. “Look at how many donors you have and what the likelihood is of converting them to monthly donors.”

Successful conversion requires a balanced suite of revenue channels that identify prospective monthly donors and feed them into the monthly giving program. (The two exceptions to this are direct recruitment of non-donors to monthly. The primary methods for this are face-to-face and direct response television [DRTV], both of which are very expensive to start.) McKinnon recalls a client that generated more than 50 percent of its revenue through monthly giving but stopped investing in single-gift donors and instead put money into high-attrition streams, such as DRTV. “If they had continued to build the single-gift channel as well, they’d have a higher net income and a larger pool of donors to convert to monthly giving,” McKinnon says. “Any organization can convert a percentage of its donors to monthly, but it does take leadership.”

Next week: Peer-to-peer giving

This post was adapted from “Power Tools: How Monthly Peer-to-Peer, and Face-to-Face Programs Can Be Powerful Tools in Your Fundraising Tool Kit,” by Paul Lagasse, Advancing Philanthropy, Winter 2017 (reprinted with permission). You can read the whole article here.

Gains in Giving to Higher Education Offset by Decline in Individual Gifts in 2016, Survey Finds

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Charitable gifts to America’s colleges and universities remained largely stagnant in 2016, in part due to the effects of a weak stock market on individual giving, according to the latest Voluntary Support of Education survey released earlier this week by the Council on Aid to Education (CAE). Although gifts from individual donors, corporations, foundations, and others reached $41 billion — $10 billion more than in 2012 — a rise in the inflation rate eliminated most of that gain.

Gifts from individual donors and alumni declined in 2016. Gifts from alumni dropped 8.5 percent, while gifts from non-alumni individuals dipped 6 percent. This decline was enough to nearly offset significant increases in giving by corporations ($6.6 billion, up 13.3 percent from 2015) and foundations ($12.5 billion, up 6 percent).

The effect of stock market performance on giving to education is so pronounced because gifts from individual donors and alumni are by far the largest source of charitable donations — representing 42.5 percent (nearly $19 billion) in 2016. These percentages vary from year to year, but the proportions have remained relatively constant since the 2008 recession.

Sue Cunningham, president and CEO of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), which sponsors the annual Voluntary Support of Education survey, hailed the increase in giving by foundations and corporations as “a sign of the growing understanding between these entities and campuses across the country regarding how they can work together to advance similar goals.” Cunningham also counseled that while individual giving declined in 2016, it is still up nearly 7 percent over just two years earlier.

“Similarly, some closely held companies and donor-advised funds are used by individuals to fund their personal philanthropic intentions,” Cunningham explained, noting that had those gifts been tallied in the individual-giving category, individual giving in 2016 would have increased by 10.9 percent.

Over 600 colleges and universities participated in the 2016 Voluntary Support of Education survey , the authoritative source for data and trends on private giving to colleges and universities in the United States. CAE made the official survey results available for purchase on February 7.

As Goes Face-to-Face Giving, So Goes Fundraising?

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In the U.K., face-to-face fundraising, often nicknamed “F2F” or “chugging” (short for “charity mugging”), is at the forefront of a national debate over fundraising ethics that has led to dramatic changes in the country’s charity regulations. However, according to veteran fundraiser Ian MacQuillin, there is more at stake in this debate than the question of whether canvassers should be allowed to approach pedestrians in public spaces. MacQuillin argues that the fate of face-to-face fundraising is a bellwether for the future of fundraising itself.

“Philosophically speaking, if F2F falls, then all fundraising falls,” MacQuillin wrote in his March 2014 opinion piece for the website U.K. Fundraising (“What I really think about ‘chuggers’“). “F2F stands on the literal and metaphorical front line.”

MacQuillin, a lecturer in fundraising and marketing at the University of Plymouth’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy and the director of Rogare, the university’s fundraising think tank, bases his argument on the premise that street fundraising differs from other forms of fundraising only in degree. Like all fundraising, face-to-face costs money to undertake, has a break-even point, suffers attrition, enters prospects’ personal space and challenges them to do something, and can elicit negative feelings in prospects. “If you object to any of these for F2F,” he writes, “you must necessarily hold these views for all fundraising.”

Since writing his article, MacQuillin has seen anti-F2F sentiment growing slowly but steadily not only in the U.K. but also in New Zealand and even in the United States, where nonprofits and fundraising agencies are attempting to develop standards for the self-regulation of F2F to forestall drastic U.K.-style government intervention. Nonprofits have to convince the giving public, the media, elected officials and some fundraisers as well that strict regulation of one form of fundraising represents the first step down a very slippery slope leading to protections against other forms of fundraising as the definition of what people find intrusive or invasive broadens.

At the heart of the issue is not whether donors have a right not to be confronted with appeals to conscience, MacQuillin argues, but whether beneficiaries have the right to the help they need. Rogare recently addressed the tension between what donors want and what fundraisers do in its new white paper, Rights Stuff: Fundraising’s Ethics Gap and a New Theory of Fundraising Ethics, released in September 2016. The white paper proposes a new definition of fundraising ethics that includes the beneficiary in the giving equation: “Fundraising is ethical when it balances the duty of fundraisers to solicit support on behalf of their beneficiaries with the right of donors not to be subjected to undue pressure to donate.”

“Donors are means to an end, not the end itself,” MacQuillin explains. “Fundraising is a resource transfer from the donor to the beneficiary. Feeling good about the transfer is a byproduct, but it’s not necessarily the point.”

This post was adapted from “Power Tools: How Monthly Peer-to-Peer, and Face-to-Face Programs Can Be Powerful Tools in Your Fundraising Tool Kit,” by Paul Lagasse, Advancing Philanthropy, Winter 2017 (reprinted with permission). You can read the whole article here.

Reimagining the Computer Keyboard

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At a special event in October announcing Apple’s latest MacBook Pro lineup, SVP Phil Schiller introduced the new Touch Bar feature by explaining that it was designed to provide a dynamic and adaptive replacement for the row of physical function keys that has accompanied computer keyboards since the early 1970s. Why, he asked, should interface design be constrained by the legacy of a 45-year-old technology?

Yet, just to the south of the new Touch Bar on this sleek, ultra-modern device sits a nearly 145-year-old technology that continues to artificially constrain computer interface design — one that I believe is way overdue for a radical reimagining:

The physical keyboard.

You’d probably think that, as a guy who makes his living herding words, I’d be the one yelling the loudest that you can have my keyboard when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. But before I can explain why I believe the future of writing absolutely demands the disappearance of the physical keyboard, first I need to go off on a highly pedantic tangent for just a moment.
Continue reading “Reimagining the Computer Keyboard”

Use Press Releases to Advertise Your Nonprofit

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© frender – Fotolia
The humble press release has been around longer than the Internet. Because of that, a lot of people think that its time has come and gone, replaced first by blog posts and now by social media. But if they’re done right, press releases fill a niche that other forms of marketing communications can’t quite match, particularly in terms of reaching local media outlets.

But like any form of marketing communication, the effectiveness of a press release depends on understanding what it does best and writing for the correct audience. Here’s what you need to know about press releases to make them work for your nonprofit organization.

Target Specific Recipients

The popular notion of press releases is that they are scattered willy-nilly into the ether through mass mailing and PR sites. Don’t do that! Unlike blog posts and social media, which broadcast to everyone, press releases should target specific outlets. Do the legwork first: contact your local media outlets — newspapers, radio stations, community events websites, hyperlocal news blogs — and ask them who covers the local nonprofit community. And we’re not talking about the people who collect upcoming events to be added to the community calendar here. You’re looking for the people who will see the story potential in your exciting new grant-funded program or the vision of your incoming executive director. Then mail your press releases right to them. Include a cover note, too.

Give Recipients the Story

The purpose of a press release isn’t just to convey information, but to do so in a way that makes an editor’s job easier. That means providing them with print- and broadcast-ready copy that they can easily adapt to fill a hole on a page or a dead spot on the air. Write it like a news story, and include one or two choice quotes. Cover the classic “who, what, when, where, why, and how” with succinct, clear, readable prose. Practice reading it out loud using your “radio announcer voice” to see if it sounds like something that could be read over the air. Because it might be!

Include Essential Information

Your press release should have a header with your organization’s logo and full name, and a slogan or tagline if you have one. It should also include the name and contact information of the primary point of contact in case they want to get in touch quickly for more information. At the end of every press release, include a short paragraph of boilerplate language that describes your organization, its activities, and its goals and objectives. All of this information helps recipients understand (or, ideally, remember) your organization and recognize you as a legitimate, authoritative resource.

Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle

Well-written press release content can be reused in other marketing communication products. And that in turn can help you standardize your terminology and build a library of boilerplate language that you can quickly adapt without having to write from scratch every time. If you’re a small shop and you wear multiple hats, that’s an important consideration.

There’s no shortage of templates on the web for designing a press release; pick one, customize it to suit your needs, and stick with it. If you make the content as professional as the design, you will have the marketing communications equivalent of a Swiss Army knife and make the lives of local journalists a lot easier. And that’s a classic win-win.

Tracking Success in Nonprofits: Start Small

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© alexmisu – Fotolia
How do you define success? Let us count the ways. Not only can success mean something different to different people, but there are also numerous ways to measure it.

Achieving outcomes is one way to measure accomplishments, of course, but at its most fundamental, success for a nonprofit means having sufficient staffing, resources, experience and credibility to make a lasting difference in the lives of people and the community. And to do that, you usually have to start small.

When he joined the XYZ University Foundation as CFO seven years ago, Charles Vincent (not his real name) found an organization in financial disarray. XYZ took great pride in ensuring that the university and its students were well supported. However, as Vincent soon discovered, the foundation was not bringing in sufficient funds to sustain that level of commitment to the university.

“When I arrived here, we were cannibalizing our endowment and expending unrestricted resources that we didn’t even have,” he recalls. “We were also borrowing from our restricted funds to pay for current commitments — robbing Peter to pay Paul, if you will. I had to put the brakes on the whole thing. I was probably the most unpopular person on campus when I broke that news.”

Vincent, who had been a public accountant for a major financial services firm prior to joining the foundation, saw his job as not just establishing financial stability and growing the endowment but also encouraging people to think about how to support the university, now and in the future.

He began by reducing spending from 5 percent of the endowment to a more sustainable 3 percent. He also changed the valuation period from a single, year-end point in time to a rolling, 12-quarter average. Combined with a reduction in unrestricted support to stem the losses, the ultimate impact was a cut of nearly 50 percent in the amount of funding the university was receiving from the foundation, a painful scenario that had everyone shaking their heads and asking how this could happen.

To help people understand and support these changes, Vincent also encouraged the university foundation to become more transparent. “People viewed the foundation as a deep pocket,” he says. “They saw money going in, but no one knew what it was being used for. Once people were able to see the true picture, they started to get it.”

Vincent also began working closely with the foundation’s fundraisers, encouraging them to focus less on the number of donors they had and more on the individual revenue streams. He helped allay donor concerns by accompanying fundraisers on visits to explain why alumni could now feel safe making gifts to their alma mater again and encouraging development officers to partner with deans to explain how the foundation could help their colleges.

These innovations, each of which grew from Vincent’s initial interventions to stabilize the foundation’s teetering finances, have resulted in a steady increase in revenue that will help ensure the institution’s long-term sustainability.

By starting small, Vincent achieved something big.

This post was adapted from “It’s All Relative: How Your Organization and Its Myriad Stakeholders Define and Measure Success,” by Paul Lagasse, Advancing Philanthropy, Fall 2016 (reprinted with permission). You can read the whole article here.

Donor-Advised Funds: Making the Case to Donors

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© heliopix – Fotolia
In previous articles, I’ve discussed the concerns that fundraisers and donors have about the as-yet still largely unknown impact of donor-advised funds (often referred to as DAFs) on the philanthropic economy, particularly their ethical and policy implications, and explored some of the advantages that DAFs offer, particularly to younger donors. In this article, I’ll discuss how fundraisers can approach discussions about DAFs with their donors.

Proponents of donor-advised funds, especially commercial funds, often describe them as “philanthropic savings accounts,” allowing donors to manage their charitable giving in much the same way, and with the same ease, as they manage their household finances. Fundraisers, advocates say, should treat donor-advised funds as simply another means of directing charitable gifts to nonprofits, no different from monthly and annual giving, online donations, bequests, family foundations, or major gifts.

“For a seasoned fundraiser who understands the landscape, donor-advised funds are probably the best news in the nonprofit sector in the last 20 years,” says Ted Hart, CEO of Charities Aid Foundation of America in Alexandria, Virginia, which specializes in grant support for international charities. “For the average fundraiser, on the other hand, they are still a mystery.”

Fundraisers have expressed concern that, like money in a bank account, assets in a DAF are essentially out of circulation until disbursed. Hart counters that it’s the fundraiser’s job, not the law’s, to get that money into circulation. Hart explains that asking donors to make a gift from an advised fund — assuming the foundation makes that information available to recipients and that the donor has not chosen to remain anonymous — is no different from asking them to make a bequest or a monthly gift. “The money is already in a charitable bank account, and the donor can advise that money to you at any time,” he tells fundraisers. “So make the case. What discussion are you having with your donors to make the case that they should advise their fund to you?”

Eugene Steuerle, Ph.D., an Institute Fellow and Richard B. Fisher Chair at The Urban Institute and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Analysis, agrees. Steuerle describes DAFs as “time-delayed philanthropy.” “There’s no economic argument against saving the money as opposed to spending it,” he says. “The main alternative to donor-advised funds is not other charities; it is people consuming money, or else giving money to their children to consume.” Donor-advised funds, he says, is a way for donors to set money order soma from canada aside to spend on others instead of on themselves.

Furthermore, Steuerle says, DAFs let donors try things with their charitable gifts that they might not try otherwise, like allowing fund assets to accumulate to the point where they can make larger, more impactful gifts. “It’s a way to get donors to think about giving from their wealth, not from their income,” he says. While high-net-worth donors give from their wills and estates after their deaths, Steuerle says, DAFs allow others to play that game a little earlier.

Jason Franklin, PhD, the first W.K. Kellogg Community Philanthropy Chair at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, agrees. “With the rise of donor-advised funds, you have to treat your mid-level donors more like your major gift donors,” he says.

Indeed, DAFs symbolize a change in the way fundraisers think about relationships with tomorrow’s philanthropists, according to Danielle Oristian York, a director at 21/64 in New York City. Until now, she says, fundraisers had the benefit of efficiency thanks to tools such as relationship management software that allowed them to manage donors in the aggregate, while donors were left to deal with the complexities of setting up and managing foundations. However, tools like DAFs have flipped that power relationship on its head; now it’s the donors who have the convenience.

Nevertheless, none of this means that the role of fundraisers will diminish. “I think there’s a false fear that somehow fundraisers are losing relevance,” he says. “Donors have always been in control of their giving. The difference is that more donors now have a vehicle for their giving beyond just writing checks.” Good prospect research and stewardship, he says, will meet donors at least halfway.

“We tell people that [setting up a donor-advised fund] isn’t a shelter,” explains Malcolm D. Burrows, the head of Philanthropic Advisory Services at Scotia Wealth Management in Toronto. “It’s about giving more thoughtfully and having more time to engage.” He encourages fundraisers to see DAFs as a way for donors to find more ways to get involved with the causes and charities they support, not to set up intermediaries between them. “Don’t assume that it’s about damming funds,” he says. “It’s about opening up the flow.”

This post was adapted from “Deciphering DAFs: How the Simplicity of Donor Advised Funds May Be Creating Complex Issues for Fundraising Professionals,” by Paul Lagasse, Advancing Philanthropy, Summer 2015 (reprinted with permission). You can read the whole article here.

Tracking Success in Nonprofits: It’s in the Eye of the Beholder

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© fontriel – Fotolia
Success in the nonprofit sector is often hard to quantify. Carolyn Egeberg, vice president of strategy and communication at Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, a regional community foundation in St. Paul, identifies several reasons for this. First, and perhaps most readily apparent, is that outputs are measured differently than they are in business. “It’s easier to measure success in the for-profit sector. You make something and sell it,” she explains. “In the nonprofit sector, the value is highly individualized.”

While the benefits provided by nonprofits are no less tangible than those provided by for-profit businesses, they tend to be shared among a more diffusely defined group and can require more time to manifest.

Another difference is that while for-profit businesses typically share a single measure of success—profit—nonprofit measures vary. For example, one nonprofit that Egeberg worked for provided a Web-based communications platform to medical patients. Success measures there were highly data-driven and tracked in real time using online dashboards. Egeberg’s next nonprofit was a science museum. Although its mission was STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, the leadership focused on numbers, such as visitors per day, ticket sales and event attendance, because they were much easier to measure.

A third key difference between nonprofit and for-profit measures of success concerns the expectations of people who invest in them. “Donors talk about impact, but I’m not convinced that they want us to spend the money it takes to do that,” Egeberg says. Why? Many donors simply do not realize that an organization’s ability to achieve outcomes and goals (its effectiveness) depends on having the resources it needs to accomplish them (i.e., its capacity).

Convincing donors that effectiveness cannot exceed capacity can be difficult. “Success is in the eyes of the stakeholder,” explains Wesley E. Lindahl, Ph.D., the Nils Axelson Professor of Nonprofit Management and dean of the School of Business and Nonprofit Management at North Park University in Chicago. “Organizations with a complex set of stakeholders will have a difficult time knowing what success is and whether they have reached it. An organization with only a few simple stakeholder groups will still face issues, but perhaps there may be more overlap/ agreement on success.”

At a college or university, for example, Lindahl offers what the following stakeholders may feel success means to them:

  • Alumni: They are nostalgic, and so success is remaining in the “same place” as when they attended the school. They also like a high buy propecia new york public reputation to use when job hunting.
  • Faculty: Success is getting a high ranking for publication use from research publications and attracting many students to their major, and they seek to hire well-known researchers in their field.
  • Board: Success is growing the endowment and working well with the president.
  • Major donors: Success is having their money used and recognized properly.
  • Governor/legislative body: Success is having a high graduation rate, with all students’ finding employment after graduating.
  • Students: Success is a great teaching faculty, several opportunities for scholarships and getting a job after graduation.
  • Development office: Success is raising greater amounts of money, year after year.
  • Administration: Success is admitting a full/diverse class of students and having a steady stream of tuition income.

“Stakeholders define the terms of success, so it’s important to define and establish your stakeholders and what they consider priorities,” Lindahl says. In some cases, their definitions of success can conflict or even contradict each other.

He suggests trying to achieve consensus around three or four broad goals as a way to find common ground. “If you just use outcomes, some organizations’ mission will be very difficult to fulfill,” he says. “You can’t simply say that success is just to focus on achieving the mission, because sometimes the mission is so lofty that you can’t achieve it.”

In their article, “Measuring the Efficiency and Effectiveness of a Nonprofit’s Performance” (Strategic Finance, Vol. 93 No.4, 2011, pp. 27–34) Marc J. Epstein and F. Warren McFarlan offer a methodology for identifying those goals and finding a broad consensus among stakeholders. They argue that nonprofits can overcome donor reluctance to invest in impact by providing donors with five types of data.

  1. Inputs: the resources that enable the nonprofit to perform programs and tasks
  2. Activities: the programs and tasks themselves
  3. Outputs: the tangible and intangible results of the
    programs and tasks
  4. Outcomes: the specific changes in the individual recipients of programs and services
  5. Impacts: the benefits to communities and society resulting from the outcomes

Performance measures then can be developed for each type of data. “Breaking the organization into these pieces and analyzing it in parts,” write Epstein and McFarlan, “give insight into how the organization is performing against mission.”

The result is information that allows each donor to trace the particular route from the gift to its impact.

This post was adapted from “It’s All Relative: How Your Organization and Its Myriad Stakeholders Define and Measure Success,” by Paul Lagasse, Advancing Philanthropy, Fall 2016 (reprinted with permission). You can read the whole article here.