Monday, December 20, 2010

10 Things Your Last Minute Online Donors Want

Count me in as one of those who makes last minute end of year gifts. I actually spend quite a bit of time thinking about it, who I will give to, why I give, etc. I am most interested in giving to organizations that do work I am interested in or work on issues I care about. However, even though I already know where my end of year donations are going, I am hoping my these organizations will make it simple for me.

Gail Perry of Gail Perry Associates lays out simple, easy steps you can use (and you can use them right away!) to make those last minute appeals and drive your fundraising up before the New Year. Read, get inspired and then get in there! Bunnie 

10 Things Your Last Minute Online Donors Want

by Gail Perry, Gail Perry Associates

Holiday giving is expected to be over $48 billion this year, and at least $6 billion will be online, based on a new study by Convio.

43% of donors will give via direct mail and 21% from online appeals.

And 40-60% of those online gifts will be made in  the last two days of the year.

Don’t forget that online donors are  wealthier, higher-dollar and younger donors.

Here’s what they are looking for:

1. They want to feel good about their gift.

Remember that your donor is making a personal, emotional statement with their gift. They are not shopping for hardware or bath towels.
Talk a lot about the good they are doing. Put evocative photos on your donation page.
Make your post-gift finish page warm and fuzzy. Send a lovely thank you note that touches their heart.

2. They want to feel connected to the cause.

In the Convio study, 74% of people said they responded most to emotional solicitations that  provide info on the people, animals or places in need of their  assistance.
Get yourself and your organization out of the way.
Don’t ask for your organization, instead ask donors to help the animals, trees, kids, sick  people, students, artists, whoever you are serving and helping.
As I like to say, “You gotta play that violin” and make the emotions stir!

3.  They want to know where the gift is going.

They want to know exactly what their gift is accomplishing – and the impact it will have. Lay it out clearly and don’t mess around.
Recap your outcomes and accomplishments for the year, and let them know what’s next.
Be specific.

4.  They want   holiday gifts that will support your cause.

Help your donors make gifts,  and offer easy shopping for nontraditional gifts. Try these opportunities:

  • Last minute holiday gifts” – promote gift memberships that your donors can give to others.  The World Wildlife Fund sends a “Last Minute Ways to Say Happy Holidays” e-mail that suggests adopting an animal on someone’s behalf online.
  • Avoid the crowds and shop at home” – buy from our shop on line and ship to those on your gift lists.
  • Holiday e-cards for your family and friends” – a green alternative that can      promote your nonprofit AND carry a donation to your cause. 


5.  They want to be reminded.

It’s ok to remind your loyal donors about the need and how they can help.
They’re busy, busy, busy.  And repeating your appeal is always more  powerful and successful than a single ask that goes out as a stand-alone  effort.
Check out this sample year-end email campaign that had three messages going out the last week of the year:
  • December 23: a “holiday support” email
  • December 29: an email emphasizing tax deductible giving opportunities
  • December 31: a final “last chance to donate” email


6. They want choices.

And all donors have a different vision of how they want to help you  and  how they want to give.
So be sure to offer them a variety of ways  to  support you and different giving opportunities all tied to specific results your organization achieves.

7.  They want an uncomplicated check out.

Remember that a majority of would-be donors never make it through the  process to complete their gifts. Some stats show that 98% of visitors to  an organization’s donate page do not complete their gift.
Make your donate page seamless and easy to whiz through.
Check out this list of the 11 Deadly Sins of Donate Page Design from  Be sure you avoid these common mistakes in nonprofit donate pages:
  • Cluttered pages
  • Unintuitive layouts
  • Unclear directions
  • Too long, complex forms
  • Unnecessary fields
  • No address or phone number
  • Error messages are confusing

8.  They want back up data on your results.

Be sure your web site is up to date and conveys credibility.
Remember that over 65% of ALL DONORS will probably check out your web site before they write a check or make a gift, according to Kivy Leroux Miller of
Here’s my list of the Top 10 Things donors want from your website. And be absolutely sure that your call to action is clear, concise and directive!

9.  They want to donate quickly.

Make it easy for impatient online donors who are in a hurry.  If you make it difficult for them, they’ll be gone – probably to another nonprofit’s site.
Make your home page on your site optimized for donations. Put an  extra large “donate now” button right on that page. (Yes, size does matter!)
And try adding a photo on the inside of the button so that it has a human face.  (Dogs and children are wonderful.)
Check out Network for Good’s three tips for the best donate button: make it big; put it above the fold, and create a simple, easy-to-use contribution form.

10. They want it simple.

Since they are busy, busy, busy, don’t over complicate your site or the ask. People visiting your site at year-end are there for one purpose only – to give.
Put the ask right up front and make it easy for them.
These strategies will help you bring in lots and lots of online gifts. Before you know it you’ll be zooming past your fundraising goals for year-end!
Happy prospecting and may generous donors flood in to your site and your cause!
Please leave a comment and tell me what you think

Contact Gail at Gail Perry Associates

Monday, December 13, 2010

Want to Avoid Fraud? Look to Your Board

While we would like to think that fraud doesn't happen as often in the nonprofit community as in the business community, it simply is not true.  I still remember the story of the national religious organization whose Treasurer walked off (for a period of time) with $2 million dollars.  While speaking to someone who knew the story I asked "How could that have happened?"  The response was that the Treasurer had buried the Board in paperwork, creating confusion and a subterfuge to mask her thievery.

In my own experience, I caught an attempt at fraud by an employee who had given her resignation.  She had lifted at least one check and might have cashed it had I not discovered the check was missing.  Could she have done major damage?  Not really, but it was a lesson for me to do better at checking potential employees' backgrounds.  Seems she had done the same thing on more than one occasion at her previous job.  The following article by Dr. Eugene Fram and Dr. Bruce Oliver provides excellent advice on what you need to do in order to protect your nonprofit against fraud.  Enjoy!  Bunnie

Want to Avoid Fraud? Look to Your Board:
Dr. Eugene Fram

Here’s a guide board members can use to keep fraud away from your door.
By Eugene H. Fram & Bruce L. Oliver

The board of the Association for Underprivileged Children is meeting in the aftermath of a dreadful situation. The police report summarizes what happened:

Over $50,000 designated for camping scholarships for the Association for Underprivileged Children has been stolen. The perpetrators are John Roe, the Association’s chief financial officer and his wife, Nancy, the camp director. The couple pilfered assets over a three year period. Nancy requested camp expenses, such as athletic equipment, for nonexistent campers. John then approved payment to a shell company operated by Nancy. Both are currently thought to be in South America. The organization doesn’t have fraud insurance. Funding for the current camping program is in jeopardy.

Dr. Bruce Oliver
 While the above scenario is fictional, it approximates an alarmingly common occurrence. One estimate, by Harvard University’s Houser Center for Nonprofit Organizations, suggests that fraud losses among U.S. nonprofits are approximately $40 billion a year.

How can nonprofits avoid such traumatic situations? The first step is to make certain that board members have the knowledge necessary to keep fraud at bay. Here are some suggestions for doing just that:

Be sure your board has the following committees:

(1) A finance committee charged with these tasks:

• Review the overall results of a yearly independent audit, conducted by an outside auditor.

• Oversee executive compensation, pension benefits, and other finance activities.

(2) A separate dedicated audit committee containing only independent board members. (Since nonprofit board members aren’t compensated by the organization, all directors are, by definition, independent. However, some directors may have strong social, family, or political links to management personnel. It’s prudent to exclude such people from serving on the audit committee.) The board members on this committee should be reasonably financially competent, with at least one having a strong finance background who is able to overview audit issues in detail. In particular, the committee should do the following:
  • Conduct a yearly review of conflict-of-interest policies.
  • Make certain that all employees and board members sign a conflict-of- interest statement.
  • Assure that new hires are vetted for honesty.
  • Meet every four to six months. (In times of organizational emergency or stress, meetings may be required more frequently.)
  • Be sure that a certified audit is completed at least every two years – once a year if at all possible.
Hire an external auditing firm

In the past, it was common for managers to select the external auditing firm with “rubber stamp” approval by the board. In today’s more vigilant environment, the board must be more involved. Hiring an auditing firm should be a partnership effort between management and board. The task is as serious as hiring a CEO and should be given the same amount of time and care.

The board audit committee should review the following information when hiring the auditing firm:

  • the nonprofit audit experience of those who will be performing the audit
  • the history and client list of the auditing firm
  • the proportion of the firm’s clients that are nonprofits
  • the size of the firm and whether it has the ability to serve a new client well
  • the estimated costs for each audit 
  • the firm’s suggestion for a financial consulting firm if your organization needs such counseling. (It’s a conflict of interest for an auditing firm to do both auditing and financial consulting.)
Meet with external auditors

When your board’s audit committee meets with the external auditors, the organization’s CFO and other key financial personnel will be present. At some point in each meeting, however, board members need to meet with the auditors in executive session without the CFO, CEO, and other managers. At these private sessions, board members need to ask the auditors, “Do you have anything to tell the board without management present?” This gives auditors a chance to report any concerns that need board consideration, such as unusual travel, entertainment, or other expenses or any transactions that raise red flags. Audit committee members also have an opportunity to raise questions about the professional competence of the organization's internal financial personnel.

Some larger organizations may employ one or more internal auditors. The audit committee should meet with these people several times a year.

Unless specified in the audit agreement, fraud detection is a secondary purpose of the external audit. The main purpose is to assure that information in financial statements is a fair representation of financial activities. However, auditors can -- and often do -- uncover indications of fraud during a routine audit, and it’s their duty to report it.

Develop a conversation with external auditors

In the typical nonprofit, only one or two audit committee members will be able to formulate detailed technical questions for the external auditors. However, to help uncover fraud, every board member should be familiar with six audit- related topics and be able to pose questions about these six topics:

(1) Are internal controls adequate? The organization’s control system needs to be divided into operating functions. Then, each operating function must be performed by someone different so that each person checks the others’ work. For example, a sales associate completes a retail sale, but a sales audit person deposits the cash to the bank account. In addition, all financial people need to take scheduled vacations so that another employee is responsible for the vacationer’s work for at least two consecutive weeks a year. (In the fraud case that begins this article, the transactions between husband and wife shouldn’t have been allowed. At the very least, the transactions should have been reviewed in detail by a qualified independent third party. Proper internal controls would have brought the fraudulent situation to light.)

(2) Are financial records accurate? External auditors must certify that the following records are in proper form: financial statements, management contracts, sales of major assets, bonus payments, and long term lease agreements.

(3) Are activities and expenditures properly authorized? For example, have any extensive changes in plans been approved by the board? Have major expenses been properly budgeted? Have travel costs over a prescribed level been approved by a senior officer? Depending on the size of the organization, do all expenditures over a certain amount require two signatures from senior officers?

(4) Do all reported assets actually exist? This question is especially important to answer if the organization holds any physical assets at a distance from its main offices.

(5) Is the organization performing any activities that might endanger its tax-exempt status? Smaller nonprofits sometimes let licenses or even tax-exempt certificates lapse. It’s vital to certify that such documents are up to date and that taxable income and charitable donations are reported separately.

(6) Is the organization paying its payroll taxes, sales taxes, and license fees on time? Does the organization file its financial reports, like the IRS 990 report, on time? Many fraudulent cases involve failure to report and pay employee withholding taxes.

Trust but verify

Since fraud is such a pervasive cancer in the nonprofit environment, it needs intense board attention. Cases of nonprofit fraud undermine the good work of the organization and the nonprofit sector.

Every board member should know enough about finance to spot suspicious activity when it occurs. Everyone involved in the organization should be alerted to the fact that board members are giving serious attention to the fraud issue. That knowledge, in itself, may deter someone from trying to steal.

Prime Reading for Your Board

Be sure all board members have read the following Nonprofit World articles (available at

How to Have an Audit without Breaking the Bank (Vol. 20, No. 4)

New Internal Control Guidance (Vol. 28, No. 1)

Nonprofits without Audit Committees Risk Disaster (Vol. 22, No. 2)

Fraud: How to Prevent It in Your Organization (Vol. 26, No. 3)

Make Good Use of the Treasurer and Finance Committee (Vol. 27, No. 2)

Protecting Your Organization against Financial Misuse (Vol. 17, No. 4)

The Audit Committee: Why You Need one, How to Form One (Vol. 6, No. 6)

Setting Up a Control System for Your Organization (Vol. 16, No. 3)

New IRS Employment Tax Initiative: What Does It Mean for Nonprofits? (Vol. 28, No. 2)

Conflict of Interest in the Board Room (Vol. 17, No. 2)

How to Find the Perfect Auditor (Vol. 22, No. 3)

Dr. Eugene Fram ( is professor emeritus, E. Philip Saunders College of Business, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). He is the author of Policy vs. Paper Clips, which describes a nonprofit governance model that has been adopted by thousands of nonprofit organizations. Dr. Bruce Oliver ( is professor of accounting and director of the Saunders Institute for Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility at RIT.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The 1099 Rule and What it Means to Your Nonprofit

by Bunnie Riedel

My nonprofit expertise includes a healthy dose of public policy advocacy. That said, I have never used this blog for a “call to action” on specific legislation. However, today I must.

Deep in the health care legislation was a buried provision that will wreck havoc on nonprofits and businesses alike. It’s being called the “1099 Rule.” The legislation mandates that all businesses and nonprofits issue 1099’s to any individual or corporation from whom the business or nonprofit has purchased $600 or more in services and goods.

This is a major change in our tax law. Currently, nonprofits must issue a 1099 to an individual or unincorporated business if they purchase $600 or more in services. Say you contract with someone to sell advertising for your summer tradeshow or you bring in a strategic planning consultant to work with the board. You would issue a 1099 to that person if the total payments over the course of a year were $600 or more. However, you wouldn’t issue a 1099 for purchasing the conference space for your trade show or for the cost of renting a conference room.

This 1099 rule would apply to all purchases made over the course of a year. So if your nonprofit purchases $2,000 worth of goods from Staples, you will have to issue a 1099 to Staples. Or say you buy a new computer from Best Buy, you would have to issue a 1099 to Best Buy.

To issue the 1099, you will have to know where to send it. Additionally, you will have to have the Employer Identification Number of Staples or Best Buy or whatever company you’ve purchased goods from.

Perhaps large nonprofits or businesses will be able to assign a staff person or two to track down the corporate address and EIN of their vendors, but smaller entities typically don’t have that luxury.

Nonprofit and business groups have been working to get the 1099 Rule repealed. As of November 29th, that effort failed to pass the Senate. This is the second time the repeal has failed to pass.

The American Society of Association Executives has information on this issue ASAE and it has a sign-on letter your nonprofit can use. I recommend you download the letter, sign it and email it in. All mail to the Capitol is irradiated and takes two to three weeks to reach the member’s office, also, often the irradiation process tears up the envelopes and the letters.

Additionally, I recommend you pick up the phone and call your Senators and Representative.

Senate Contact Information

House of Representatives Contact Information

It's not clear who slipped this into the health care bill, but it certainly was not someone who understood the impact on the nonprofit community (nor on the small business community).

Send your sign on letters and make your phone calls today! Be sure to pass this information onto your board and your members, ask them to sign on to the letter and to make phone calls.

Good luck to all of us!  And be sure to use the Comment button to let me know how it goes.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice

There are two things I really, really like!  Finding excellent nonprofit resource materials and then finding out they are free!  While the "Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice: A Guide for Charities and Foundations" was originally published by the Independent Sector in 2007, the "Priniciples" remain the same. 

There are four sections to the guide:

  1. Legal Compliance and Public Disclosure
  2. Effective Governance
  3. Strong Financial Oversight
  4. Responsible Fundraising
You can download the entire document for free at the Independent Sector website.  I urge you to download it and share it with your Board of Directors.  Consider it a check list for best practices.  The following is from the first section, Legal Compliance and Public Disclosure.  Enjoy!  Bunnie

  • A charitable organization must comply with all applicable federal laws and regulations, as well as applicable laws and regulations of the states and the local jurisdictions in which it is based or operates. If the organization conducts programs outside the United States, it must also abide by applicable international laws, regulations and conventions that are legally binding on the United States.

  • A charitable organization should have a formally adopted, written code of ethics with which all of its directors or trustees, staff and volunteers are familiar and to which they adhere.

  • A charitable organization should adopt and implement policies and procedures to ensure that all conflicts of interest, or the appearance thereof, within the organization and the board are appropriately managed through disclosure, recusal, or other means.

  • A charitable organization should establish and implement policies and procedures that enable individuals to come forward with information on illegal practices or violations of organizational policies. This “whistleblower” policy should specify that the organization will not retaliate against, and will protect the confidentiality of, individuals who make good-faith reports.

  • A charitable organization should establish and implement policies and procedures to protect and preserve the organization’s important documents and business records.

  • A charitable organization’s board should ensure that the organization has adequate plans to protect its assets—its property, financial and human resources, programmatic content and material, and its integrity and reputation—against damage or loss. The board should review regularly the organization’s need for general liability and directors’ and officers’ liability insurance, as well as take other actions necessary to mitigate risks.

  • A charitable organization should make information about its operations, including its governance, finances, programs and activities, widely available to the public. Charitable organizations also should consider making information available on the methods they use to evaluate the outcomes of their work and sharing the results of those evaluations.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Videoconferencing for Nonprofits

You've thought about it and whether or not it could work for your conferencing replacing in-person meetings.  How can you properly convey important information when you aren't in the room?  Video conferencing has come a long way in the last few years as broadband has been deployed.  And if you're not videoconferencing at least some meetings, maybe now is the time to take a serious look at its advantages (economic and social) and whether a video conference model is right for you.  Bunnie

Video Conferencing for Nonprofits
by Arron Brown, Editor of

The downturn in the economy is very much upon us, small, medium and large nonprofits continue to struggle during these drawn-out and daunting times. Nonprofits have struggled particularly, and have come up against their toughest challenges yet. The constant need to tighten budgets and employees has become standard practice within many nonprofits. With nationwide cuts and reduced public activity, many nonprofits have had to act swiftly to ensure that their organizations can carry on with their day-to-day duties as normal.

Many organizations within the nonprofit sector are likely to have their offices spread across Europe and in some cases, the globe. Due to funding and budgets being cut, due to the economic downturn, nonprofits have found it increasingly difficult to travel to their other sectors for important meetings and conferences. However, due to the recent introduction of web based onferencing software this allows the nonprofit to effectively connect with members and donors anywhere in the world, using the internet. This allows them to significantly save on large travel fees, whilst being able to speak to key members of their organization. There are numerous advantages to a non-profit organization when using web based video conferencing, some of which are as follows;

- Cater to the unique needs of staff members; allow staff to be more productive, by being able to work remotely or collaborate with other staff members

- Keep volunteers updated; Train and organize volunteers upon upcoming issues and events within the organization.

- Brief the community; Allow society members to be regularly updated with company news and broadcasts.

While video conferencing is still the most expensive of all electronic conferencing options, costs have decreased substantially since the beginning of the 21st century. This has made it possible for non-profit organizations to use this communication resource more frequently, and still remain within their budgets. This includes the cost of video conferencing equipment, site certifications at conference room sites, and the conference fees that apply during a live conference. In the years to come, more innovations in electronic communications will likely reduce the cost even further, making this resource even more cost efficient for organizations of all types and sizes.

By incorporating video conferencing within a nonprofit organization, they can be rest-assured that their costs will be significantly reduced, not only this but, productivity within the organization will be much more effective. Neighboring communities and societies will also feel much less pressure without the need of travelling hundreds of miles for important meetings and discussions.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Department of Justice Issues Rulemaking Notice on Mandatory Website Accessibility for the Disabled

Website accessibility is important for nonprofit or nongovernmental organizations.  In the United States, our Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that all governmental or private entities that open their doors to the public be accessible, and that includes their websites.  However, the notion of accessibility should be an important subject for nonprofits throughout the world.  According to the New York based Disabled in Action, 18% of people have a disability with 12% reporting a severe disability.  Internet accessibility is especially important to those who have visual or auditory disabilities.  And this becomes even more critical as populations age.  So while this article from the law firm Venable is United States centric, I hope it gives our international readers ideas for making their online presence even more friendly to disabled populations.  Bunnie

Department of Justice Issues Rulemaking Notice on Mandatory Website Accessibility for the Disabled
by George W. Johnston, James Edward Fagan, III and
Jeffrey S. Tenenbaum

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) recently reiterated its intent to enforce website accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The DOJ is focusing on ensuring that covered entities provide ready access for the disabled to their websites. In short, the ADA accessibility rules cover any entities (governmental or private) that open their doors to the public, including nonprofit organizations, places of lodging, retailers, restaurants, medical facilities, banks, local governments, and schools, among others. Any nonprofit with a public website is directly affected by theses accessibility rules. The DOJ has consistently maintained the position that websites operated by covered entities are “public accommodations,” and recent court decisions have supported this view. The courts have reasoned that websites serve as extensions of, and invitations to, the physical structures that serve as more traditional public accommodations.
and Jeffrey S. Tenenbaum

 The DOJ has issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for public accommodation websites and has promised increased enforcement and heightened scrutiny of public and private websites. Through the public comment process, the DOJ seeks input on such matters as barriers to website accessibility, coverage limitations of the ADA, cost of compliance on small organizations and the need for increased DOJ enforcement. While the DOJ will solicit comments over the next several months before it issues final regulations, now is the time for entities covered by the upcoming rules to address any accessibility issues on their websites.

Nonprofit organizations should review their website content and design for accessibility by individuals with disabilities, including visual, motor and cognitive impairments. For example, web designers should be employed to provide text descriptions for visual content that is compatible with assistive technology (braille and screen readers) used by the blind. Web design should be consistent and easy to navigate, and all video and audio should be captioned and should minimize the use of color cues. Online recruitment and hiring capabilities should conform to all ADA standards as well.

In addition, website content should include a full description of how your organization provides full access to the disabled at its physical locations. Architectural and engineering compliance should be fully explained and all online purchasing opportunities should be available to persons with disabilities. Any barriers to, or limitations upon, accessibility should be fully disclosed. For example, a travel industry association should consider counseling its members to provide informative descriptions of access limitations for all facilities it recommends to the public. Similarly, retail industry associations should describe best practices to its member stores that regularly host the public.

Failure to comply with the new regulations may leave a covered entity exposed to damages and other compliance measures initiated by the DOJ, as well as lawsuits by individuals under the ADA. Venable attorneys will be monitoring DOJ’s rulemaking, as well as legal developments in the legislative and judicial arenas.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The State of the Nonprofit Industry (SONI) Survey

Two weeks ago, I had the good fortune of attending the "Better Together" Conference sponsored by Blackbaud.  There were over 2,200 people at the conference.  During the conference I attended a press event in which a few results of The State of the Nonprofit Industry Survey were reviewed.  I found it interesting that such a broad survey could be conducted (worldwide) and that there could be found "global" trends in nonprofit management.  Given the cultural and social differences between us, the nonprofit community is unique as a unifier worldwide!  And, we all face similar challenges when it comes to accomplishing our mission.  Bunnie

The State of the Nonprofit Industry Survey
from a Press Release by Melanie Mathos, Public Relations Manager, Blackbaud

Blackbaud, Inc. (Nasdaq: BLKB) today announced the release of the results from The State of the Nonprofit Industry (SONI) Survey, a global report covering general operations, fundraising, technology and Internet usage, and accountability and stewardship. Responses were received from 2,383 individuals in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The survey was conducted in partnership with L’Association Fran├žaise des Fundraisers, the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand (FINZ), the German Fundraising Association, Philanthropy Centro Studi, and the Resource Alliance.

“There is an increasing interest in the nonprofit sector in improving governance, planning, and fundraising, and investing in training and equipment to enhance organizational performance,” said Amy Comer, Blackbaud’s director of market research. “Blackbaud has conducted the State of the Nonprofit Industry Survey for six years to provide an overview of trends that can help nonprofits assess their operations and compare their performance with other organizations.”

Four global trends that emerged from the data include:

1. New fundraising and communication channels, although growing, are not replacing traditional channels.

Most organizations continue to leverage traditional channels, even while they are increasingly using new interactive channels. This use of new channels is placing a tremendous strain on organizations because revenue has not risen significantly in aggregate and yet costs for each communication channel have risen. This situation creates a demand for more integrated communication tools and database platforms.

2. ROI and organizational effectiveness are under scrutiny and more important than ever.

Baby boomers, which have entered their prime giving years in the United States, are not as trusting of government and institutions to solve problems and want to see greater evidence. However, this trend is clearly not just a United States phenomenon. Donors worldwide want to see evidence that their money is being spent well and that nonprofits are being run as efficiently as possible.

3. There is a new focus on the total supporter journey vs. traditional “donor management.”

In light of an increased focus on donor retention coupled with increasing costs for acquisition, constituent relationship management (CRM) is transitioning from transactional fundraising to a relationship-focused supporter journey. To have a constituent-centric focus, nonprofits need to consolidate data on supporters and eliminate silos so everyone in the organization has the same view of the many ways supporters interact with their organization. Technology is essential for helping them track the supporter journey, from service recipient to volunteer to event participant to donor.

4. Fundraising is emerging as a widely-recognized profession around the globe.

The vast majority of nonprofits around the world are expecting to increase their investment in fundraising staff, according to the SONI survey. It is clear that fundraising is no longer someone’s “part-time” responsibility. Techniques and data are becoming more complex, and the rate of change is increasing. What was once mostly art is rapidly becoming science, requiring new tools and techniques, partnerships, and better skilled staff.

To download the complete report, which includes an in-depth look at general operations, fundraising, technology and Internet usage, and accountability and stewardship around the globe, visit State of the Nonprofit Industry Survey
About Blackbaud
Blackbaud is the leading global provider of software and services designed specifically for nonprofit organizations, enabling them to improve operational efficiency, build strong relationships, and raise more money to support their missions. Approximately 24,000 organizations — including University of Arizona Foundation, American Red Cross, Cancer Research UK, The Taft School, Lincoln Center, Tulsa Community Foundation, Ursinus College, Earthjustice, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the WGBH Educational Foundation — use one or more Blackbaud products and services for fundraising, constituent relationship management, financial management, website management, direct marketing, education administration, ticketing, business intelligence, prospect research, consulting, and analytics. Since 1981, Blackbaud’s sole focus and expertise has been partnering with nonprofits and providing them the solutions they need to make a difference in their local communities and worldwide. Headquartered in the United States, Blackbaud also has operations in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Back Story: Great Taglines Promoting Good Causes

I just love the "Taggies."  That's Nancy Schwartz's awards program to recognize fabulous "taglines."  It's fun to read the entered taglines and to vote for your favorites.  And then, Nancy puts them all together in a report!  2010 Nonprofit Tagline Awards

It's well worth signing up to get the report to share it with your board.  And while taglines are not the final word on marketing your organization, they certainly go a long way toward making your organization or event memorable. 

Think for a moment.  What is your tagline?  Does it truly capture your relevance and the good work you are doing?  Is it time to tweak your tagline?  Do you even have a tagline?  Food for thought.  Bunnie

The Back Story: Great Taglines Promoting Good Causes

by Nancy Schwartz, Getting Attention

A nonprofit’s tagline is hands down the briefest, easiest and most effective way to communicate its identity and impact, or to lead its fundraising campaign, program marketing or special event promotion.

But this high-impact, low-cost marketing tactic is often overlooked or under-emphasized by nonprofits.’s 2008 survey of nonprofits showed that 7 in 10 nonprofits rated their tagline as poor or didn’t use one at all. The majority of nonprofits not using a tagline indicated that they had not thought about it or couldn’t come up with a good one.

The Nonprofit Tagline Awards program is designed to address this missed opportunity, and guide nonprofits to craft effective taglines.

This year, for this first time, voters selected program, fundraising and special event tagline award winners, in addition to the strongest organizational taglines. The addition of these three new tagline types gave more organizations a chance to showcase their best efforts to engage their target audiences.

The 17 winners, reviewed in this brief video, were selected by more than 6,100 voters from 70 finalists, identified by our expert panel of judges. The finalists were drawn from 2,700 nonprofit taglines entered in the 2010 program.

2010 Award Winners

Fundraising Tagline: Oregon Zoo Foundation: Capital campaign to fund lions' return after 10-year absence—Bring Back the Roar!

This memorable tagline plants a strong seed in one’s mind–You can hear and see that lion roaring. It’s fun, pithy, emotional and unique with a clear call to action (an absolute must for fundraising messaging).

Program Tagline: Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS): Awareness campaign to educate the public about the important relationship between oral health and overall health—Your Mouth Can Say A Lot About You

MDS’ tagline is strikingly personal. As a result, it provokes immediate interest (with a touch of emotion, my mouth?), generating an unavoidable urge to know more about the program.

Program Tagline: Youth Service America (YSA): Semester of Service—Serve a Semester. Change the World.

YSA engages hearts and minds in its passionate focus on improving the world. Its tagline opens a world of possibility to students, and invites them to act.

Special Event Tagline: Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research: Kids Can Cure Fun Run, LA Cancer Challenge—Little Feet. Big Strides.

This tagline is extremely engaging and visual. It fosters an emotional connection by declaring that small children can make a difference, while highlighting the direct impact that those who run it have on the cause.

Organizational Taglines

Arts & Culture: Coffee House Press—Where good books are brewing

Nonprofit literary publisher Coffee House Press prides itself on its measured acquisition and editorial process, and the active discussions percolated by its publications. Its clever mash-up of a tagline clearly and succinctly conveys both aspects of its unique way of doing business. The surprise of the mixed imagery (books, rather than coffee brewing) makes it easy to remember.

Association: Indiana State Council of the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA)—E.R. You Watch It... We Live It!

The Indiana ENA’s tagline draws a clear connection between its mission and its service delivery and is emotional, fun and highly memorable. The tagline’s reference to E.R.—the longest-running primetime medical drama (15 years)—has broad appeal as long as the show stays in reruns.

Civic Benefit: Drums Not Guns—Instruments of Mass Percussion

This tagline is a clever play on words (instruments of mass destruction), but remains clear and powerful. That's a delicate balance to strike, and this tagline does it well as it paints a crystal-clear picture in your mind of this organization’s focus.

Education: Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Clemson University—Because Curiosity Knows No Age Limit

The Osher Institute’s tagline is both poignant and emphatic. It is a definitive and positive statement on seniors’ characteristics and capabilities, likely to engage the very seniors who are prime prospects for participating in the Institute’s learning opportunities.

Employment & Workforce Development: Volunteer Blind Industries—Our Vision Does Not Require Sight

Volunteer Blind Industries’ tagline surprises with its play on the word “vision.” This tagline makes the organization’s focus clear in a concise and compelling way, with a touch of inspiration.

Environment & Animals: Save the Strays Animal Rescue—Finding good homes for great dogs

Working smoothly in concert with the organization’s name, this tagline conveys the essence of Save the Strays’ impact. Our judge for this tagline category called this tagline “emotional catnip for every dog lover.”

In fact, she was so moved by this tagline that she went to the organization’s website to learn more, and ended up making a donation. That’s tagline success.

Faith-Based & Spiritual Development: Religions for Peace—Different Faiths, Common Action.

This tagline’s impact is based in its clever use of contrast and comparison. It clarifies what Religions for Peace does, and how it works, in just four words. Powerful!

Grantmaking: Greater Menomonie Area Community Foundation—Connecting People Who Care...With Causes That Matter

The Community Foundation’s tagline emphasizes the value it adds to giving, while clearly educating those who don’t know it on its role in the region.

Although we’ve heard from a few other community foundations that use this same tagline, that fact alone doesn’t counteract its impact. One key criterion for a high-impact tagline is that it isn’t used by other organizations hoping to engage the same target audiences. Since community foundations serve specific regions, that criterion is met.

Health & Sciences: United Hospice of Rockland, Inc. (UHR)—When time matters most.

UHR’s powerful tagline is a heart-stirring message that’s hard to forget. This tagline works because it is so simple, yet profound.

Human Services: Canine Companions for Independence (CCI)—Help is a four-legged word

This tagline tells the story in a style that is honest, compassionate and smart. The play on words works here because it catches you a bit off guard and gets you thinking about what CCI actually does.

International, Foreign Affairs & National Security: Episcopal Relief & Development—Healing a hurting world

This brief tagline quickly highlights the way in which Episcopal Relief & Development approaches its work, as it motivates compassion and a desire to learn more. It’s straightforward but emotional, a proven combo for taglines that connect.

Library: Edmonton Public Library—Spread the words.

Edmonton Public Library’s tagline is another example of effective surprise as a familiar saying takes an unexpected turn. Who would have thought that one little “s” could make a tagline sing—and zing?

Other: Charity Navigator—Your Guide To Intelligent Giving

This tagline is unique and clear to its mission, and conveys an air of wisdom and refinement.

You immediately sense via the word “Guide” that the Charity Navigator service is an asset to you. The phrase “Intelligent Giving” feeds egos (who doesn’t want to be intelligent?) while it underscores the difficulty in wading through information to make an informed and wise giving choice.

Monday, October 11, 2010

7 Quick Steps for Writing Grants

I have to make a confession, grant writing is my least favorite thing to do.  So when I come across expert advice, like the tips below from Betsy Baker, I cheer.  The first one about not creating new programs so you can slam your organization into a grant is the best!  Creating a new program in order to get a grant may actually cost you money in the long run in terms of staff time, resources, etc.  Following guidelines is critical.  I hope these and the rest of Betsy's quick steps are useful to you.  Bunnie

7 Quick Steps for Writing Grants
by Betsy Baker, Your Grant Authority

Sometimes I get into some pretty deep stuff about what I’ve learned during my last 16 years in fund raising and the tricks and tips I’ve used to secure boatloads of grant money. But sometimes I delve so deep to give my clients “insider” information that I forget to start with the basics. So, here you go, what is elementary to me is not for the grant writer that at this time is just poised for success and I promise not to leave you behind:

1. The grants you write should directly support your mission – Don’t go chasing those grant dollars that don’t apply to you and don’t crank up a new program just to get the money. Believe me when I tell you that it’s not worth it.

2. Determine programs that you can get funding for – Some of your programs are going to be more attractive to funders than others. Determine the program that the funder likes and match your application to those preferences.

3. Identify potential funding – Research and homework are essential for success in this step. Carefully comb through the grant funder’s requirements and preferences before submitting an application that doesn’t fit their criteria.

4. Acquire guidelines from the grantor – Guidelines are there for a reason! Follow them carefully and submit your application according to their instructions.

5. Write the application in compliance with the guidelines – Duh! But do you know how many applications are rejected simply because the potential grantee didn’t know how to follow simple instructions? Be sure that yours isn’t in the “reject” pile for that reason.

6. Submit the application – Again, follow the directions given. If it states that the application must be in their hot, little hands by 5:00 p.m. on August 3rd, that doesn’t mean 5:05. I’ve heard horror stories from writers that have written their fingers to the nub only to not be able to get the application in on time. Bonus tip for you – start the application in plenty of time!

7. Administer the program well if funded – Once you find out that you’ve gotten the grant, start thinking about next year’s application. Give them no reason during the funding period not to fund you again. Spend the money exactly how you detailed in your budget and regularly report progress of your goals and objectives to the funder.

You can contact Betsy at

Friday, October 8, 2010

Top 10 Ways to Screw Up Your End of Year Fundraising Campaign

It's mid-October, I hope you all have thought about what your end of year fundraising campaign is going to look like.  Remember, here in the United States, tax-payers can take a deduction for charitable giving, and often send larger gifts in December in order to get those deductions.  Gail Perry offers excellent advice on what you need to avoid when sending end of year appeals.  My favorite?  Not including the return envelope!  I can't tell you how many organizations forget to do that!  You must make it as easy as possible to donate to your organization, so please, include the return envelope.  Bunnie

Top 10 Ways to Screw Up Your End of Year Fundraising Campaign
by Gail Perry, President of Gail Perry & Associates

There’s nothing more important this fall than your year-end fundraising effort. The next three months is the time when many charities receive most of their entire annual inflow of contributions.

And there is so much at stake right now. This year, more than ever, you’ve got to engage donors in your opportunity and ask them to join you – in a smart, effective and compelling way.

This article updates a list I created last fall. I’ve added more data and reminders for you here.

Please don’t make these mistakes!

Here’s my top 10 list of ways to sabotage your year-end fundraising effort.

1. Send a letter that’s hard to read, with ponderous sentences, long paragraphs and no white space. This fails the “easy to read” test, which is the first hurdle for your reader, who is skimming your prose for the highlights only. Check out my list of 115 Ways to Raise More Money by Mail for guidelines on writing an effective letter.

2. Send a letter much like last year’s with last year’s messaging, no visuals, no metaphors, no stories. Your reader is unlikely to keep reading if it is not interesting. You are not writing an academic treatise; instead you are writing marketing copy. Forget what you learned in your writing courses and instead copy a magazine’s writing style.

3. Bury The Ask deep inside a paragraph at the end of a sentence. Your reader must be able to easily find out how much you are asking for and for what purpose. Make it plainly clear what you are asking for – and ask cheerfully!

4. Don’t include a reply envelope. You’d be surprised how many organizations leave out this VITAL component – you have to make it easy for people to give. This really can be the kiss of death!

5. Don’t update your web site. Studies show that donors – even those who give by writing a check and sending it in the mail – will most often check out your web site to research you before they give. And your website MUST look professional and up-to-date! And it must convey credibility and legitimacy.

6. Only send out one appeal letter. This is disaster for many campaigns. Studies show that one letter will typically get a 15% response – NOT enough to make your year-end goal. Your donors are too busy and need repeated reminders. And no, it is not tacky to keep reminding them!

7. Don’t do phone followup. Studies show that a followup phone call can possibly double your results.

8. Don’t do an email push to non-donors the last two days of December. Studies show that a majority of on-line donors give in December and most of them are on the last two days of December. NOW is the time to get your online donation process working smoothly.

9. Don’t send a PROMPT, warm, personal thank you immediately to your donors. And “warm, personal” does not mean “on behalf of the board of directors we thank you for blah blah” – this impersonal bunk doesn’t warm your donor’s heart. A warm thank you uses the words “we” and “you” and is conversational in tone – not institutional. Penelope Burk’s all time favorite thank you letter begins like this: “You must have heard the cheers in our halls when we received your generous pledge.”

10. Don’t have your board members call donors to thank them within 24 hours of the gift’s receipt. Penelope Burk’s landmark studies showed that when board members made this type of followup call, then subsequent gifts from the donors rose by 39%!

Avoid at all costs, these mistakes. Create a dynamite year-end campaign that brings in the urgently needed resources you need!

Leave me a comment and tell me what you think!

To see more great tips from Gail Perry and to contact her, go to

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Conference Planning, Hotel Negotiations and Avoiding the Dreaded Penalty

businesses,businessmen,businesswomen,communications,conferences,females,males,meetings,men,people at work,persons,Photographs,women

by Bunnie Riedel, Host, Nonprofit Conversation

This year I’ve heard more stories about bad conference attendance, being hit with hotel or meeting space penalties and outright cancellations of conferences.  For nonprofits who count on conferences to bring in needed revenue, having a disappointing conference can not only be discouraging but can threaten the bottom line.
Nonprofits, businesses and government agencies are cutting back on travel or eliminating it altogether. A friend told me that even if he wanted to spend his own money to travel to a conference (and take vacation leave) he was discouraged from doing so because his government agency thought it would just “look bad.” I know of two regional conferences that were cancelled because of low registration due to travel bans. One of them was heavily penalized by the conference center because their contract guaranteed room rental and meal expenditures. I also know of two national organizations that received large penalties because they didn’t meet their room night obligation. In these instances, nonprofits who could little afford to pay the penalties were forced to do so because of contractual requirements.

Perhaps it is time for your organization to take a hard look at your conference tradition. While conferences and meetings can mean a lot to your organizational culture; bringing members together for networking and fun; is a conference absolutely necessary and what will it mean to your organization to skip next year’s conference? Are you afraid of disappointing members or losing momentum? Without a conference will you become less relevant? Will you lose members if you don’t host a conference? Do you count on a conference as a source of revenue? And right now, can you count on a conference as a source of revenue or will it become a liability?

Could you achieve some of the same goals without a conference? Many organizations are moving to online meetings and workshops. Others are beefing up their online resources or hosting chat boards to give members a sense of connection. I think your members will completely understand if you take a one or two year conference hiatus.

If you negotiate hotel contracts a few years in advance (which actually is my recommendation) you may not have a choice in whether you host a conference or not. Typically for medium to large conferences, the opt-out period is eighteen months prior to the conference. Which brings up a point for current negotiations, tighten the terms of the opt-out period to at least one year and attempt to negotiate penalties for a nine month and six month opt-out. It is better you pay a flat penalty if you opt-out at nine months than go forward with a conference that causes you to pay conference planners, trade show costs, advertising costs, audio-visual expenses, meal guarantees and room night penalties.

Additionally, be sure to include in the contract a clause that if the hotel advertises a lower rate to the general public than what you have negotiated, your room rate drops to that lower rate. The last thing you want is to have your room rate undercut by online booking sites such as Priceline or Orbitz. Conference attendees will want that lower rate and will book outside of your block and that could cause you to not meet your room night obligation.

As a final note, everything, absolutely everything is negotiable right now. From how much you pay for coffee to what items you will serve for dinner to how much you will pay for audio-visual set ups (usually the most expensive items for conference). The economy has taken its toll on hotels and conference centers in the same way it has affected everything else. Don’t settle for fixed menus; work with the hotels and caterers to design menus that will be appealing but less expensive. You are bringing them business they would not have otherwise, allow them to accommodate you.

Contact Bunnie Riedel at info at riedelcommunications dot com

Conference or meeting tip:  Don't buy tea, hardly anyone drinks it and you will be charged $65 to $85 just for hot water at every break set-up. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2010 Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Awards and the Story of A Cause Marketing Coup

It's baaaaack!  The 2010 Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Awards!  Nancy Schwartz of Nancy Schwartz and Company ingeniously hosts the Tagline Awards each year.  Nonprofits submit their taglines and Nancy invites the general public to vote for their favorites.  Which taglines are creative, convey the message and demand attention?  You decide.  And after the awards are through, Nancy compiles them into a report that is not to be missed.  You have until October 6th to vote and to spread the word. 

So many nonprofits have a difficult time thinking up a tagline that really sings.  But it's certainly worth spending some creative time with your board and volunteers coming up with ideas because a tagline can immediately engage your audience, help you grow membership and inspire donations.  Enjoy this blog and vote for your favorite tagline.  Bunnie

2010 Nonprofit Tagline Awards

A Cause Marketing Coup
by Nancy Schwartz, President, Nancy Schwartz and Company
If you’re a Target shopper and/or a Ben & Jerry’s (B&J) fan you probably know about Volunteer Match‘s (VM) cause marketing coup.

Back in June, B&J launched its Berry Voluntary and Brownie Chew Gooder flavors at Target (a long-time VM supporter), aiming to encourage local volunteering via VM’s Scoop it Forward program. After registering for a volunteer activity and forwarding the opportunity to five friends, all six people received a coupon for a free pint of one of the new flavors, redeemable at Target.

Reinvigorated to Reach New Audiences

That’s a five-start cause marketing partnership but focus on even the most engaging promotion flags after a while. VolunteerMatch was determined to use this opportunity to engage additional audiences to build awareness of volunteering.

They devised a brilliant, funny strategy to do so — challenging Stephen Colbert (who has his own B&J flavor, Americone) to an ice cream taste off.

And what better (potentially viral) way to launch the challenge than this video: “I challenge Stephen Colbert – man to man and spoon to spoon – to see who has the ice cream flavor that people prefer,” joked Greg Baldwin, president of VolunteerMatch. “Anywhere. Anytime. Any tongue.”

After trying each flavor, Baldwin invites tasters to vote for the flavor they prefer, which is a great way to further engage those who hear about the taste off.

But the creative team at VM didn’t stop there. They generated major attention by storming the line of folks waiting to see the Colbert Report taping last week. VM distributed sample sizes of Berry Voluntary, proffered a written challenge to Colbert and the show’s producers, and launched the video big-time!

With Great Immediate Results

The long-term results will be how increased awareness from the taste-off generates more VolunteerMatch volunteers. But that won’t be clear for awhile.

What’s immediately apparent is that the spectacularly original and marvelously engaging approach has gotten big time attention. The story launched on Monday and was immediately covered by Fast Company and the Huffington Post, among other channels. That means that VM has already reached new audiences.

Next step, getting Baldwin on the Colbert Report! I’ll keep you posted on progress.

Powerful Inspiration — Use It to Spice Up Your Campaigns

There’s lots of inspiration here. My challenge to you is this: How can you take a great existing marketing or fundraising campaign, spice it up and roll it out to engage new audiences (or re-engage those who might have seen it the first time round)?

P.S. Vote now to build your messaging skills by selecting the best in class in the 2010 Taggies – the third annual Nonprofit Tagline Award Competition. It’s a fun project that will help nonprofits in all fields discover what works, and why.

Contact Nancy at Nancy Schwartz

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Media Policy for Nonprofits

My favorite nonprofit marketing professional from Australia, Bob Crawshaw, raises an important many of you have a "media policy"?  Probably not many.  And while I wouldn't want developing a policy turn into a cumbersome process (I hate when that happens) it is worth having a simple policy that outlines what your central messages are; who is authorized to speak to the press or give interviews; social media guidelines; and appropriate adverstising vehicles.  

Additionally, if you have chapters or associated organizations, it is important to conduct media training at least once per year.  Provide them with toolkits, talking points and basics of the interview, to include crisis management (as Bob suggests).  If you think you need help in this area, feel free to call or write me.  Or if you are in contact Bob!  Bunnie

Media Policy for Nonprofits
by Bob Crawshaw, Maine Street Marketing

Recently I worked with a not for profit, with member clubs spread across two states, to develop a policy to help clubs and the Executive manage proactive and reactive media relations.

The policy featured:

•The objectives or why the organisation will engage the media in the coming 12 months.

•An encouragement for clubs to proactively engage their local media outlets as way of telling communities what they and the larger organisation is doing.

•Tools to help clubs such as pre-packaged media backgrounders, fact sheets, templates, speaking points and standard paragraphs for media alerts and media releases.

•Advice on how to access localised media contact lists.

•Guidance on handling media relations in crisis and advocacy situations.

•A media release review process - for all levels - so key players in the organisation know what is to be presented to journalists and what might make news.

•Tips for recycling earned media coverage so that office holders, members and key supporters know what the press is reporting.

•Social media guidelines so what is presented online is consistent with what is presented to traditional media.

And because it is often so expensive, a media policy should spell out the why, when and where advertising will be undertaken and how it will be blended with media relations.
Contact Bob at

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Common Myths Concerning Nonprofits

There are thousands of nonprofits that are started in the United States every year.  Most are started for excellent reasons, someone finds a need and establishes a nonprofit to meet that need.  The nonprofit or civil society sector accounts for between 5% to 7% of the Gross Domestic Product of eight countries studied by John Hopkins University.  This is as much (or in some cases more) than the banking, insurance, financial services, construction and utilities industries individual share of GDP.  However, as well meaning as founders of nonprofits can be, there are persistent mythologies surrounding nonprofit management.  Greg McRay of the Foundation Group takes on a few.  I would love for people to send me their favorite myths!  Bunnie

Common Myths Concerning Nonprofits
by Greg McRay, EA

Just yesterday, I was interviewing a new student intern candidate in my office. During the course of our wide ranging discussion, the conversation turned to some of the interesting misconceptions we encounter with clients. I made the comment that we often feel like the crew of the Discovery Channel show, Mythbusters. There is a never-ending supply of well-entrenched myths and misconceptions in the nonprofit world…and dispelling them is part of our job! In this article, let’s take a look at a few of the more common ones.

MYTH: Build it and the grants will come.

FACT: Uh, good luck with that.

We get to burst this balloon a lot. Many who are starting nonprofits for the first time are convinced the government is waiting with bated breath for them to get going so they can cut them a check. Given the drunken sailor spending spree in Washington, it’s certainly understandable, isn’t it? Jokes aside, this is too often the by-product of a less-than-ethical fringe of the fundraising profession. Whether it is over-hyping the latest grant writing workshop or selling books on late night infomercials, this mindset doesn’t just come by accident. Here’s a newsflash: Startups are rarely grant funding recipients! The typical startup is much better served by focusing its efforts on building a fanbase of committed donors and only later looking to grants to help them expand what they have proven they can do.

MYTH: Nonprofit means you must zero-out at the end of the year.

FACT: Great plan…assuming you’ve got a pot of money waiting for you New Year’s Day!

Just a couple of weeks ago, a good friend approached me at church. She was recently elected to serve on the board of a small charity and at her first meeting, several of the existing board members were discussing their dilemma: The organization was quickly approaching the end of the fiscal year, but still had money left over. The conversation revolved around how they could spend down this money before the clock ran out. Well, her instincts told her this didn’t sound right. Good for her! And even better that she asked me about it.

I suspect the origins of this myth might be in the corporate world where departmental budgets are often use-it-or-lose-it. Anyone who has worked for a large corporation may be familiar with the race to spend down the budget in years of surplus. Combine that mindset with the notion of nonprofit, and you’ve got a myth in the making. I certainly hope your nonprofit is not sitting on $0 when the ball drops in Times Square!

MYTH: If our nonprofit’s purpose is not panning out, we’ll just shift gears and go in another direction.

FACT: Not so fast. You might want to make sure Uncle Sam is OK with that.

This sort of thing happens all the time. For example, ABC Charity was formed to raise money for cancer research. After a couple of years of disappointing results, the board sees the devastation from the latest disaster and decides to retool their organization as a disaster-relief charity. They make plans to travel to Haiti/New Orleans/Wherever and provide shelter and hot meals to those impacted.

Don’t get me wrong…there is nothing wrong with that in principle. In practice, it is not so simple. When the IRS granted tax-exempt status to this nonprofit, it was on the basis of its proposed program: fundraising for cancer research, not disaster relief. A serious change in purpose and program requires that the IRS be notified in detail on the next Form 990 that is due. Even then, it is highly probable that your case will be transferred to Cincinnati for further review and questions before approval is granted.

This list could go on and on and on. Sometime soon, we’ll share some more common myths and their corresponding realities. Here’s to facts!

You can contact Greg at the Foundation Group,

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Who Pays Your Bills? What Foreign-Supported Nonprofits Need to Know about the Foreign Agents Registration Act

The Lobbying Disclosure Act put quite a few regulations on nonprofits and associations regarding reporting of lobbying activity.  Frankly, I disagree with how the Act was written in that it doesn't take into account small nonprofits who may not have the staff or resources to fully comply with the stringent reporting requirements.  However, one key aspect of the Act is aimed at foreign nonprofits and associations and requires registration as well as disclosure of finances and activities in the pursuit of lobbying our elected officials or administratively appointed positions.  The following article needs to be read by all foreign nonprofit entities with a presence on Capitol Hill.  The penalties are stiff and not reporting correctly could cause foreign nonprofits to lose their ability to lobby.  Bunnie

Who Pays Your Bills? What Foreign-Supported Nonprofits Need to Know about the Foreign Agents Registration Act

by D. E. Wilson, Jr., Esq. and Andrew E. Bigart, Esq.,Venable LLP, Washington, DC

Lost in the media frenzy surrounding the arrest of 12 Russian spies by the FBI in June 2010 was the fact that the spies were arrested – not for stealing state secrets or trading technology – but for failing to register with the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA,” 22 U.S.C. § 611 et seq.). This statute requires U.S. persons to register when they engage in certain political or quasi-political activities on behalf of “foreign principals.” The media’s obsession with Anna “Sexy” Chapman aside, the real lesson from the recent arrests is that U.S. persons – including trade associations, charities and other nonprofits – that engage in political or quasi-political activities on behalf of foreign principals must comply with FARA or risk similar public embarrassment and possibly criminal penalties.

What Is the Foreign Agents Registration Act?

FARA ensures that the U.S. Government and the people of the United States are informed of the identity of foreign persons attempting to influence U.S. public opinion, policy and laws. The statute requires persons representing foreign principals to register with DOJ for engaging in any of the following: (1) political activities; (2) public relations; (3) political consulting; (4) publicity activities; and (5) information-services. The statute defines the term “foreign principal” broadly to include foreign governments, political parties, individuals, and corporations.

Many nonprofits are surprised to learn that there is no FARA exemption for nonprofit, tax-exempt entities. Rather, FARA provides limited exemptions for raising funds for medical assistance and charity, and activities promoting bona fide religious, scholastic, academic, or scientific pursuits or of the fine arts. In addition, FARA provides an exemption for persons registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (this exemption does not apply to the representation of foreign governments or political parties).

Persons required to register must provide DOJ with information on the nature of the relationship with the foreign principal, the work to be performed for the foreign principal, and, on a semi-annual basis, submit a report of the activities performed on behalf of the foreign principal and funds received from, or disbursed on behalf of, that foreign principal. Penalties for failing to comply with FARA can include a fine of $10,000 or imprisonment up to five years.

Why Should Nonprofits Worry about FARA?

The recent arrest of the 12 Russian spies under FARA underscores that DOJ will take action against persons who fail to comply with the statute’s requirements. For example, just days after the arrest of the Russian spies, DOJ obtained a guilty plea from a former U.S. congressman who failed to register under FARA for lobbying on behalf of an Islamic charity.

The issue of nonprofits and registration under FARA has become a hot topic in the blogosphere. DOJ has apparently opened an inquiry into whether two U.S. nonprofit organizations, B’Tselem and Americans for Peace Now, have violated FARA by failing to register as foreign agents. The investigation was launched in response to information provided to FARA by a group opposed to the political positions of the two nonprofits. Similarly, there are numerous websites devoted to whether the Council on American-Islamic Relations is a foreign agent that must register under FARA. The list of websites purporting to expose foreign agents goes on and on. In each case, the FARA hook is that the nonprofits receive a substantial proportion of their operational funding from foreign sources or act at the direction of a foreign parent or government entity.

The FARA registration requirements extend to trade associations that focus primarily on economic – as opposed to political – issues. For example, any trade association or export council that represents the interests of a foreign person or country may be subject to FARA. In this regard, several large international trade councils – such as the Korea-United States Exchange Council – are registered under FARA. There are, however, many other trade associations and export councils that appear to represent foreign interests that have not registered.

How to Ensure that Your Nonprofit Complies with FARA

Determining the types of activities that trigger the need to register under FARA (or the Lobbying Disclosure Act exemption) is a challenge, made even more difficult by the dearth of DOJ guidance on the subject. To avoid the possibility of criminal sanctions or public embarrassment, U.S.-based trade associations, charities and other nonprofits that receive funding from foreign sources or that are affiliated with a foreign parent should review their operations and funding to determine whether they qualify as a foreign agent of a foreign principal under FARA. This is especially true for any nonprofit that engages in U.S. lobbying or political activities.

If registration is required, legal counsel should be consulted for guidance on preparing and filing the required registration forms.

Mr. Wilson is a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Venable LLP and a former Treasury official. Mr. Bigart is an associate in the Washington, D.C. office of Venable LLP. For more information, contact the authors at or, or at 202-344-4000.

This article is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion and should not be relied on as such. Legal advice can only be provided in response to a specific fact situation.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Nonprofit Startup Jumpstart Program

Every so often someone comes up with something that leaves you scratching your head and saying "Hmmm...why didn't I think of that?"  Sandy Rees has done just that.  She has put together the Nonprofit Startup Jumpstart Program and every part of it is fabulous!  I think the name is misleading because even if your nonprofit has been around a while, there's a lot you can take away from this program.  I looked over her curriculum and I just had to post it, there's so much good information there.  BTW, Sandy did not pay me anything to provide these compliments, I just know good material and expertise when I see it.  Bunnie

Dear Nonprofit Founder,

You’ve taken a brave step! You’ve identified a need and decided to do something about it. My hat’s off to you!  I know it’s likely been something very personal for you.

You’ve poured your heart and soul into starting a new nonprofit. You’re so excited about helping people in need, and now you realize there’s a business side of the organization to run and money to raise. Ugh. This is not what you had in mind when you launched your new organization! You’ve probably got more questions than answers. And not sure who to turn to for information and guidance.

Are any of these questions rolling around in your mind?

■Where do I start? There’s so much to do!

■How do I find good Board members. I just need people. Now!

■Do I need to find an attorney to be on our Board? And maybe an accountant?

■How do I spread the word about my good cause?

■How can I get something on TV or in the newspaper about my new nonprofit?

■How do I raise money without begging or annoying people?

■How can I possibly compete with the big nonprofits in town?

Let me help you with my Nonprofit Startup Jumpstart program

I will take you by the hand and personally walk you through the process of getting everything started and running so you can raise awareness of your organization and begin fundraising.

I’ll save you time. No reinventing the wheel. No wondering what will work. I’ll give you tips and shortcuts for proven techniques. No more losing sleep over which fundraiser will work best for you. No more stressful decisions about which Board members will be a good fit.

I’ll share resources with you. I’ll tell you which books to read, which websites to spend time on, and which newsletters you should be reading.

I’ll answer every question you can come up with. If there’s something I don’t know the answer to, I’ll ask one of my colleagues in my vast nonprofit network.

I know this is not just a job. This is your passion! This is your calling! And I want to help you get it off and running as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

Why me?

I’ve been helping small nonprofits get up and running in their fundraising, marketing, and Board Development for years. I’ve worked with so many small nonprofits that I know what works and what doesn’t. I can help you avoid the common pitfalls that slow down the growth of many worthwhile organizations. I get so excited helping groups like yours and I genuinely want to see you succeed. I know you have big work to do and if I can help you get off the ground faster, then you can be about changing peoples’ lives.

Here’s what you get in the Nonprofit Startup Jumpstart:

There are 4 main pieces to this unique program: education, coaching, accountability, support.


Each month for 5 months, you’ll have access to a recorded webinar that you can watch at your leisure. I’ve included my outline for the educational content here so you can see what you’ll learn.

1.Boards (September)

A.Roles & Responsibilities

B.Recruiting (Skills matrix)



2.Marketing & Communications/Getting the Word Out/Telling your story (October)

A.Key messages

B.Target audiences



E.Speaking engagements

F.Working with the Media

3.Get ready to fundraise (November)


B.Case for Support

C.Mission statement

D.Vision statement

E.Understanding Fundraising

i.Donor Pyramid

ii.Diversified revenue streams


i.Donor tracking software



H.Permits for fundraising, 501c3


4.Grantwriting (December)


B.What to ask for

C.How much to ask for

D.Writing tips

E.Follow up

5.Individual donor development (January)

A.Where to find donors (target audience)

B.Build your list

C.How to ask

i.House parties

ii.Champion letters

iii.Ask/Friendraising events

iv.Online fundraising

As you can see, there’s a LOT of content!! I’m going to give you exactly what you need to move forward in each area.

I’ll also be providing you with handouts, including checklists, worksheets, templates, and sample documents.

The Nonprofit Startup Jumpstart program will start in September and continue on through January 2011.

Coaching. Each month, you’ll get to join me live on a Q&A call with your fellow program participants. We’ll talk about where you are and what you’re doing. You can ask any question you like and you’ll get to hear what others are doing. I find that there’s tremendous benefit in this group dynamic! You’ll likely learn more from each other than you will from me! If for some reason you can’t make the Q&A call, don’t worry. I’ll record them and share the recording with you so you can listen in.

Accountability. Each month, you can participate in an Accountability Day. This is a fantastic activity if you’re feeling a bit stuck on any topic. The Accountability Day works like this: I’ll tell you the date of the Accountability Days in advance. Early that day, you’ll check in with me via email or Facebook chat and tell me what you want to get accomplished that day. You’ll go do the work, then come back later and tell me what you got done. It sounds so simple, but it’s very powerful! If you’re having trouble getting something done, I can talk with you about what’s getting in the way and help you get moving again.

Support. You’ll have 24/7 access to me through email and a private Facebook group. I’ll be available to answer questions or give you a word of encouragement during the program. I’ll be your biggest cheerleader and supporter, urging you forward. If you get frustrated or need a listening ear, I’ll be here to listen to you and help you.

Obviously, I’m offering a LOT of time to you in this program! To make sure I can give you the attention you want and need, I’m limiting the number of nonprofit participants in this group to 20. If you are a co-founder, you may both participant and still count as only one nonprofit participant.

Learn more about Sandy and this seminar at

Monday, August 23, 2010

Attack of the Tax-Exemption Killers

Say it again, the economy is bad for state and local government, and legislators, council members and municipal managers are scrambling to figure out how to make up shortfalls and prevent layoffs.  This is going to be another two-part article because of the original length.  Rick Cohen, nonprofit advocate in DC brings a prespective to nonprofit issues that nobody else can quite match.  Nonprofits cannot afford to be nickeled and dimed to death.  Every penny that goes out the door in taxation and fees results in lost services.  Pass this one around.  Bunnie

Attack of the Tax-Exemption Killers
by Rick Cohen

This article is reprinted with permission from Blue Avocado, a practical fast-read magazine for community nonprofits. Subscribe free by sending an email to or at

If Congress tried to take away the tax exemption from nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations, our sector would be united and up in arms. But instead we are besieged with hundreds of local attacks on the tax exemption from cities, counties, and states. In this article we'll briefly look at some of the attacks being mounted by financially starved local and state governments trying to get extra nickels and dimes from financially starved 501(c)(3) charities. And we'll conclude with some thoughts on how we inadvertently give ammunition to these attackers.

How many ways can you balance a governmental budget on the backs -- or finances -- of nonprofits? Nearly every week, all across the country, different levels of government devise strategies -- sometimes ingenious, occasionally pernicious -- to get tax revenue from already-strapped nonprofits. These include taking away property tax exemptions, adding employee headcount taxes, charging nonprofits "streetlight fees," and more.

Creating or hiking fees: Because governments have much greater flexibility in applying "fees" as opposed to "taxes," localities are finding ways to charge nonprofits for streetlights and anything else they can think of. In Yakima, Washington, the Yakima Health District ended the exemption of nonprofit-sponsored food booths at community fairs and church bazaars; this will yield the Health District all of $10,000 per year. And in two Minnesota cities -- Minneapolis and Rochester -- government is increasing the fees it charges nonprofits for streetlight use. In Minneapolis, this will raise an additional $104,000 for the city . . . hardly enough to balance the budget.

Taking off from charging nonprofits for streetlights, other localities are starting to charge nonprofits for police and fire services and even fire hydrants. Localities in Indiana have enacted nonprofit fees for consumption of public services such as police and fire. In Pennsylvania, State Senator Wayne Fontana has introduced legislation that would allow municipalities to charge nonprofits an "essential services" fee. In the village of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, the local government turned the local hydrant tax into a fee which then allowed them to levy the fee against otherwise tax exempt nonprofits and churches.

And think of the effort of the speaker of the New Jersey state Assembly to hit nonprofits in Camden -- only nonprofits and only in Camden -- with a $100 tax on each employee. In a devastated urban center where the nonprofit sector provides most essential services, this reads like no more than a slap at nonprofits and their hard working employees.

Attacks on the property tax exemption

Nonprofit property owners are in theory exempt from paying property taxes, at least on the properties they own and use for tax-exempt purposes. But many local governments are trying to charge nonprofits "payments in lieu of taxes" or PILOTs. Sometimes localities have a formula in mind; in other cases, they negotiate PILOTs on a case-by-case basis.

In a recent example of such attacks, a consortium of 102 nonprofit property owners in Pittsburg is negotiating with the city, to which it has already paid a $14 million lump sum payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for 2005 through 2007. The consortium's offer of $5.5 million for the period 2008 - 2010 has been rejected by the mayor as insufficient.

Typically, the target of PILOTS are large institutional nonprofit property owners such as hospitals and nonprofit universities. But not every nonprofit property owner is a Harvard University or Mass General Hospital. For example, a Billings, Montana nonprofit purchased a hotel to be used as a pre-release residential and treatment facility for female ex-offenders. Partly to mollify neighbors who objected to the placement of the facility and likely as a way to raise money, the mayor promised that the nonprofit would pay a $40,000 PILOT on the property.

Even more troubling for nonprofits than across-the-board PILOTS is the make-it-up-as-you-go calculation of PILOTs from community to community. Is Harvard's $2.2 million PILOT payment plus $5.2 million payment for water and sewer to Cambridge fair and proportional compared to Yale's $7.5 million to New Haven or Vanderbilt's $2.5-$3 million payment to Nashville? Shouldn't the PILOT paid by nonprofit hospitals in Pittsburgh, say, be commensurate with the PILOT charged in Lancaster, both localities in the same state, governed by the same nonprofit legislation?

Rick Cohen writes this Washington Nonprofit Insight column for every other issue of Blue Avocado.