Elaine Fogel


Using Philanthropy as a Cover for Sterling’s Bad Behavior

donald-sterlingI don’t know about you, but when I heard that LA Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, had made many charitable donations, I grew suspect. What were his motives? Was he trying to boost his image?

Well, now we know. According to Paul Blumenthal and Jason Cherkis of the Huffington Post:

“Since 2007, Sterling’s foundations have spread small sums of money around to multiple nonprofits supporting the African-American and Latino communities as well as a number of education, health care, homeless, and Jewish and Israeli groups. These contributions have been criticized in the past as an attempt to direct attention away from Sterling’s long history of being accused of racial discrimination.”

Apparently, allegations of racism have circulated for years. “He has paid multimillion-dollar settlements over lawsuits accusing him of discriminatory housing policies in his real estate holdings. Documents and interviews related to those cases claimed that Sterling refused to rent to blacks (‘they smell’), Latinos (‘all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day’) and families with children (‘brats’).”

It makes me cringe. But, there’s a bigger issue at play here. Should charities accept gifts from donors whose motives or backgrounds are suspect? Aren’t their brand reputations at stake? Continue reading

How Well is Your Nonprofit Engaging Millennials?

Group of Millennials OutsideMillennials may not represent your organization’s biggest donors, but they definitely make excellent volunteers, more frequent small-gift givers, and brand champions. Yet, many nonprofits are missing the boat on engaging this generation in ways that can work successfully.

According to The Case Foundation’s 2013 Millennial Impact Report, Millennials aren’t interested in structures, institutions, and organizations, but rather in the people they help and the issues they support.

Other important information about Millennials:

  • Millennials prefer to connect via technology. They use websites and search engines primarily for information-gathering, finding volunteer opportunities, and donating online. They rely on social media and email for communicating and connecting with their networks, while mobile technology gives them instant access to all these channels.
  • Millennials share in micro ways. Their interactions with nonprofit organizations are likely to be immediate and impulsive. When inspired, they will act quickly in a number of ways, from small donations to short volunteer stints, provided that the opportunities are present and the barriers to entry are low.
  • Millennials facilitate (and rely on) peer influence. Peer influence plays an important role in motivating Millennials to volunteer, attend events, participate in programs, and give. Even if Millennials can’t give as much as other demographic groups, they nonetheless are willing to help raise funds for causes they care about, usually by calling on friends and family.
  • Millennials volunteer along a continuum of support. Millennials are most likely to get hands-on with causes they care about when organizations offer a range of volunteer opportunities, from one-time commitments to long-term, pro-bono skills-based opportunities. Ultimately, they want to lend their knowledge, expertise, and time to help nonprofits. And when this generation forms long-term volunteer relationships, they tend to give larger gifts, as well as encourage their friends and family to contribute, too.
  • Millennials give to have an impact. Millennials are consistent in their desire to see how dollars translate into people helped. They want their contributions, no matter the type or amount, to help achieve tangible results for a cause. Yes, members of this generation are more likely to give smaller amounts to multiple organizations than to focus their giving on any one recipient. But the stronger their relationship with an organization, the more likely they are to give larger gifts over time.

The study’s top takeaway: Millennials first support causes they are passionate about (rather than institutions), so it’s up to organizations to inspire them and show them that their support can make a tangible difference on the wider issue.

The question for nonprofits then becomes: How can we fully invest in this generation, immerse them in the cause, and maximize the impact of their interest, time, and giving?

Answers: Connecting with them via technology, offering micro ways to get involved and give, facilitating peer influence, offering a continuum of volunteer options, and sharing the results of their donations.

How? Build Your Organization:

Be unified as an organization in working with this generation. Help all leaders, both volunteer and paid, understand and agree on the need to engage Millennials.

Understand their environment and its complexities. Appreciate its current state, what this generation experienced growing up, and how rapid advancements of technology and culture have shaped their involvement with your organization.

Identify key changemakers, those Millennials seeking to make a difference with your organization. These could be staff, board members, volunteers, and donors. Don’t be distracted by stories of Millennials who don’t care.  These are “outliers,” and every generation has them. You must find those who want to work with you and make change happen.

Lead by engagement rather than just by participation. Engagement means you understand how Millennials want to communicate, participate, lead, and challenge the organization to do better. Focus on conversational and relationship involvement with your organization.

Determine success. What does Millennial success look like for your organization? Create foundational standards or benchmarks. Create realistic and incremental goals that will not hinder ongoing deployment of Millennial programming.

The report is chock full of data and recommendations, so be sure to download it. When valuable information like this is available to nonprofits for free, it’s worth taking advantage of it and making any necessary adjustments to your marketing strategy.

Is your organization targeting Millennials? How? Has it been successful? If not, why not?

N.B. I’m in the middle of revising my company’s Web site, and one of the new workshops I’ll be offering is entitled, “Nonprofit Customer Engagement in a Multichannel World.”

3 Things Nonprofits and Fundraisers Can Do to Shift Paradigms

After listening to a speech by the president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) this week, I am feeling encouraged. Andrew Watt “gets it.”

The Scottish-born public policy and fundraising expert has lived in the U.S. since 2006 - enough time to bring his European perspective and humor to the fundraising profession. His take on the American election and politicians’ overall lack of understanding of the role charitable organizations play in our communities, was astute yet disappointing.

Watt has worked hard to build coalitions among organizations focused on philanthropy - to advocate for the sector in DC, to emphasize the importance of tax deductions for donors, and to raise awareness of the vast contributions and impact that nonprofits make to the world every day.

Unfortunately, he and his cohorts have a lot more work to do in getting Washington’s attention.  Lobbying and access cost money - not so easy for nonprofit entities to do.

Watt made several strong points about the shift the charitable sector needs to take in order to sustain its impact. I will merge his points with mine to give you 3 things nonprofits and fundraisers can do to shift paradigms.

1. Nonprofits will benefit from a focus on creativity, innovation, and calculated risk taking. (Watt)

I, too, believe embracing innovation can solve more problems than sticking with the “usual” way of doing things. The world has changed drastically.

Technology allows us to communicate with constituents and prospects in ways we never could previously. It’s now a two-way conversation from which nonprofits can listen and learn before brainstorming new ways of tackling problems.

Taking calculated risks can give nonprofits an entrepreneurial approach that can win big, when successful. But, they shouldn’t shy away from making mistakes out of fear.

2. Nonprofits will benefit from embracing a customer-centric mindset. 

Watt believes that in order to solve the problems of tomorrow, “we will need to connect with people the way that they want, at their level of philanthropic interest, in settings and issues that matter most to them.”

I believe that this requires a customer-centered paradigm built into the organizational culture. Just like it is in business, nonprofits cannot retain their customers (donors, volunteers, funders, etc.) if they don’t place them at the center of every decision and action.

3. Engage employees for better retention, commitment, and sustainability.

There’s something wrong with a sector that has a two-year fundraiser turnover rate. What can anyone accomplish in two years when relationship building is at the heart of fundraising?

And, to make matters worse, how many nonprofits hire fundraisers with high revenue-generating expectations and then don’t give them an ample budget to enable success? That’s counter productive.

When nonprofits begin to treat their employees as their first market, great things can happen. Empowering them, honoring them, and rewarding them will turn them into devoted brand ambassadors who will stick around longer.

What do YOU think? Do nonprofits and fundraisers need to shift paradigms?

Dreaming of a Better Nonprofit Sector

Dreaming of a better nonprofit sectorNancy Schwartz, nonprofit marketer, keeper of the Getting Attention blog, and host of the first Nonprofit Blog Carnival of 2012, invited me to submit a blog post about my dream for the nonprofit sector.

"Pick any dream you have - for your cause, organization or the nonprofit sector - and write about it, and how you plan to make it real."

I thought about it, and boy, could I create a long list! How to narrow it down. Hmmm.

Since I don't work on the "inside" anymore, I'll pass on writing my dream for a cause or specific organization and stick with my dream for the sector. Even that elicits lots of dreams and wishes.

So, drum roll…

My dream for the nonprofit sector is that more people will recognize and respect the incredible contributions that charities make to our society. Every time a negative charity article appears in the news, I wish they would realize that it is the story of ONE charity out of 1.6 million organizations in the US, 80,000 in Canada, and over 171,000 in the UK. A drop in the bucket. Yet, the public tends to paint all charities with the same brush.

My dream includes nonprofit leaders - both professional and lay leaders. I wish they could all participate in a training program that helps them understand how important their roles are in positioning their organizations and the sector in general. A solid grasp of marketing and branding principles would be valuable in giving them the tools to promote their causes and respond to any negative perceptions people have.

Collectively, we need to address the misperceptions and build support in our communities for the charitable world. Organizations NEED to spend money to make money. That's how it works.

May my dream become a reality. Amen.

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