“Worthiness League” for Ranking Charities

“Charity Should Begin a Worthiness League Table, says philanthropy Adviser.” (Article here)

by Martin Brookes

Charities should be ranked according to their benefit to society to discourage self-interested and ill-informed giving, a leading adviser to some of Britain’s biggest philanthropists will say today.

Would-be donors should have access to a “taxonomy” of charities which classifies the most and least worthwhile causes, Martin Brookes, chief executive of New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), will say in a lecture in London on the “morality of charity”.

The proposal, from the head of an organisation that advises some of the City’s wealthiest donors, has already proved controversial among charity bosses, many of whom rely on donors who feel they are “repaying” a benefit they have directly had from the charity or who have personal ties to a cause, according to Brookes.

The concept was last night branded dangerous by Stephen Bubb, the leader of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, while John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation which advises companies and individuals on donations, said giving was “about our vulnerabilities” and a matter of personal preference rather than moral absolutes.

“Getting into arguments about a moral index will make donors very uncomfortable,” said Bubb. “Who decides which is the more moral cause? People need to be better informed but charity has to remain a matter of individual choice.”

Brookes will cite widespread disquiet about some public schools having charitable status as an example that “surely reflects a belief held by many that some things are more clearly charitable and deserving than others”. NPC has previously pointed out that the British public has given more to a Devon donkey sanctuary than to the most prominent charities combatting violence and abuse against women.

“We need to ask whether it is possible to design frameworks that catalogue charitable causes, and, ultimately, charities, according to their field of work,” he will say. “One could then say that certain causes and organisations are inherently more worthwhile than others … Attempts to prioritise charitable causes are valuable, forcing us to question the choices we make when giving away money.”

Brookes believes the decline in the number of people giving must be considered as the context to the debate about how “well” donors give. In 1998, 68% of the population gave and by 2008/09 the figure had dropped to 54% – equivalent to one in eight of the population stopping giving altogether. Britons gave £9.9bn in 2008/09, less than 1% of national income.

He will cite US research, by Hope Consulting, which he believes chimes with UK studies, which shows that 23% of donors support charities which have directly benefited them, while 31% are people who are casual givers or have personal ties to the cause. Just 14% of donors support causes where they think they can generate the most social good.

Almost two-thirds of donors do not research the charities they give to and most of those that do spend no more than a couple of hours, and for the most part are looking to validate their original choice, he will say.

“Perhaps a sensible place to start [with an index] would be a minimal system of prioritising needs,” Brookes will tell the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. “Something like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs could be useful. This begins with psychological needs such as food and water’ rising through to safety, belonging, esteem and ending with self-actualisation (such as creativity).”



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The 11 Questions Every Donor Asks

I just finished reading the book by Harvey McKinnon, with that title.  “The 11 Questions Every Donors Asks.”  (Link here)

What are they, you ask?  I’ll tell you right now:

  1. “Why me?’ This is a question of validation.  The donor wants to know why they are special and important.
  2. “Why are you asking me?” This is a question of recognition. They are basically saying who are you, and do you care about me.
  3. “Do I respect you?” This is a question of trust. Like the question before, a donor is only going to make a major gift if they have trust and faith in you.
  4. “How much do you want?” This is a basic question, and one you should know in advance. How much to ask for.
  5. “Why your organization?” This is the big question.  It’s the chance for you to make your presentation.
  6. “Will my gift make a difference?” This is a question of value.  If a person is going to part with their money, they want to get the most value of it.  Even smaller donors want to know their gift  is going to make a difference somewhere.
  7. “Is there an urgent reason to give?” Even if there isn’t, you should always make it feel like the need is urgent.  And the truth is, for most organizations, the need is always urgent.
  8. “Is it easy to give?” This is a question of time. Donors don’t want to have their time wasted.  It should be as easy as possible for them to give.
  9. “How will I be treated?” A question of respect and validation.  Donors want to know that their gift makes a difference, and they want you to show it.  Even though they sometimes request anonymity, or don’t want a lot of attention, for the most part it is good practice to lavish praise upon them.  Everyone likes to feel good, right?
  10. “Will I have a say over how you use my gift?” Again a question of respect, and control.  It is important that donors feel like they have control. In the long term, they will feel a sense of ownership in your group this way.
  11. “How will you measure results?” Not everybody, but a lot of donors want to hear about results.  They want the bottom line.  Always have this information available for them.

I find these 11 questions to be particularly helpful for me as I prepare for donor visits.  I like keeping these questions in the back of my mind.  Even if a donor never outright asks any of these, you should assume it is what they are thinking.

All of them come down to a matter of respect, validation, and appreciation.  Take a the time to listen to people, to understand them, and to respond to their needs.  That is what’s most important.

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Online Giving in 2010

“Online Giving Continues to Grow, but at a Slower Pace, Chronicle Study Finds”

June 18, 2010

In another Chronicle of Philanthropy article. they highlight online giving. While recently they wrote about overall charitable giving being down by 11% for the Top 400 charities (article here), now they talk about online giving, which actually rose by 5% in 2009, according to the Chronicle’s annual survey.

I don’t think this is surprising.  It is very possible for overall donations to be down, while donations over the Internet continue to go up.  This only reflects a trend in society of more online usage. The majority of Americans now shop online. They are increasingly more confident in giving their credit card information online. So it only makes sense they start to do more charitable donations online as well.

Also, a lot of charities have become more savvy in promoting their website, and making online giving more accessible.  And because of the various social networks and charitable giving portals out there, it is a lot easier to research and access a particular nonprofit group.

I will venture to say that Internet giving is going to increase year over year for the  next decade.  And while it won’t become exponentially greater, there will certainly be a steady increase.

It is good for nonprofit organizations to immerse themselves more in social media, more effective websites, and more innovative campaigns to reach people through technology – especially the younger demographics that is more accustomed to doing things online.

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Chronicle of Philanthropy Report on Fundraising

Donations Dropped 11% at Nation’s Biggest Charities (Article Here)

By Noelle Barton and Holly Hall

The Chronicle of Philanthropy started its Philanthropy 400 ranking of organizations that raise the most from private sources.Those 400 institutions raised $68.6-billion in 2009. In 2010 they collectively suffered a drop off of %11. According to the article, the last time there was a large annual decrease was after 2001, during another recession, but that decrease was just 2.8%.

Among the 10 charities that raised the most last year, six reported declines. United Way Worldwide, the largest fundraiser, decreased by 4.5%  and the Salvation Army, the 2nd largest, decreased by 8.4%.

This is troubling information for those of us in the fund raising field. Although it is not unexpected.  We knew there was a major financial collapse in 2o08, sending the economy into a recession.  And because of that earning power suffered, which thus means donations to charitable groups will suffer.

In times like these, the best thing to do is simply ignore the macro trends.  Of course we all know the economy is suffering at the moment.  And we can thus predict that charitable giving will suffer as well.

But that information isn’t going to help your organization improve.  It is better to look at the entire economy as a living, breathing organism.  At the moment, the economy is exhaling, and releasing a lot of toxins.  Within the time, the economy is going to inhale again, and momentum will again be carried upward.

Instead, at this moment, you should focus on how to be more effective, more efficient, and how to maximize current resources. Just because the economy is hurting doesn’t mean that all individuals are hurting.

Get out there and meet with your most loyal donors.  Let them understand that right now is the time when you need them most.  Talk to your Board Members. Make them realize that this is the time to step up.  There is still money out there. The economy hasn’t stopped.

The most important thing you can do is focus on what’s good, and not focus on the bad.  So many times that negative thinking can lead an organization astray.  It’s not productive to worry. It’s the time to get proactive.

The TOP 400 Ranking Charities – http://philanthropy.com/premium/stats/philanthropy400/index.php

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10 Steps to Donating Wisely

Here are GuideStar.com‘s tips for donors 10 Steps to Giving Wisely and Researching Charities

  1. Clarify your values.
    • Do this before you open your checkbook, volunteer your time, or look at that letter from a charity.
  2. Identify your preferences.
    • Ask yourself: “What is important to me?” The environment? Education? Hunger? Animal welfare? Helping sick children?
    • Where should the charity do its work—in your neighborhood, region, the nation, or internationally?
  3. Ask yourself if you want to support a large or small charity, a new or an old one.
  4. Focus on the mission.
    • Look at each charity’s description on its Web site, or in its literature.
    • Find the nonprofits that fit best with your values.
  5. Eliminate organizations that don’t meet your criteria.

Evaluating Charities

  1. Get the cold, hard facts. A reputable organization will:
    • Define its mission and programs clearly.
    • Have measurable goals.
    • Use concrete criteria to describe its achievements.
  2. Verify a charity’s legitimacy.
    • If you find a charity on GuideStar (www.guidestar.org), you know it’s legitimate—all nonprofits listed are registered with the IRS
    • If the charity is not on GuideStar, ask to see its letter of determination.
    • If the organization is faith based, ask to see its official listing in a directory for its denomination.
  3. Compare this Charity to similar organizations, compare apples to apples
    Be sure to compare charities that do the same work, especially for their finances. The type of work a charity does can affect its operating costs dramatically.
  4. Avoid charities that won’t share information or pressure you. Reputable nonprofits
    • Will discuss their programs and finances.
    • Don’t use pressure tactics.
    • Send you literature about their work or direct you to a Web site.
    • Will take “no” for an answer.
  5. Trust your instincts.
    If you still have doubts about a charity, don’t contribute to it. Instead, find another nonprofit that does the same kind of work and with which you feel comfortable, then make your donation.

I normally don’t take directly from another source, but I found these to be helpful.

I believe that all of us like to view ourselves as philanthropists, and I think we all are, if we choose to be.

Although I don’t make a lot of money, I find value in donating to charity, and the decisions of who I choose to give to are never that easy.


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10 Tips for getting donor visits

As an individual gifts fundraiser, I have found one of the most difficult parts of my jobs to be getting donor visits scheduled.

I understand why people wouldn’t want to meet with me.  They have every reason in the world.  They are busy at work all day, and when they are not at work they are at home with the kids.  And even if they don’t have a job or kids to raise, they don’t want a stranger coming into their home, soliciting them for their hard earned money.  I get it.

With that said, it is my job and my duty to meet with donors.  They have chosen to support my organization financially, and therefore I would like to meet with them and discuss the organization further; to learn of their interest in supporting us, and in what ways I can better serve them.

Here are some good methods for getting visits:

  1. Create a matrix. Determine how many visits you need to make in a week, and how many in a month.  Then determine how many phone calls it will take to set up those visits each week.  Create a schedule to make your calls and make your visits.  And stick to the schedule.
  2. Focus on phone calls.  Set one day a week aside to do nothing but schedule a minimum number of visits Be open to early morning and late appointments – whatever works for the donor needs to work for you.
  3. Create a strategy.  With every donor that you speak to, have in mind a year-long cultivation and solicitation plan for them.  That way you know when to mail them info, when to call them, and when to make the ask.
  4. Make a reason to call.  It is not a good idea to just fly by the seat of your pants.  Donors don’t want you to call just to chat.  There should be a good and justified reason why you are calling and why they should meet with you.
  5. Who should they meet with? Sometime you aren’t the best person for the meeting. When dealing with high-profile executive, perhaps it is better that they meet with your CEO.  Or maybe it should be a Board Member in a similar industry.  Or maybe they want to meet with a woman. Or a man. The point is, you should cater to each individual and their needs.
  6. Ask for their opinion.  A good method for getting your foot in the door is to ask for their advice.  If they support your group, they most certainly have opinions on your work, and things you could do to improve.  Develop a questionnaire or survey that you can bring, which works especially well for busy folks who don’t have a lot of time to meet.  This makes your meeting feel more official and formal.
  7. Bring a gift. It is a good idea to not show up to a meeting empty handed.  I like to bring a certificate for the donor, that honors all of their past giving.  This makes them feel good.  If they are not interested in a certificate, then perhaps a pin, or a sticker, or something else.  Anything at all to show you care.
  8. Friendly competition. Use the staff around you to push you to be more aggressive.  Perhaps you can compete for visits each week, month, and year.  Whatever is necessary to provide extra motivation.
  9. Weekly staff updates.  It is a good habit to meet each week with staff to report back, review progress, seek advice, and develop strategies.  This is beneficial to step back and take a breath, too.
  10. Patience and persistence.  You may not have a good phone call with a donor. But this does not mean that you should stop calling.  Don’t give up on anyone.  Just find the right strategy that you won’t be completely shut out.

These are ten tips that I have personally found useful. It is still a frustrating process, or at least it can be if you allow it to be.  I believe a good mantra to have is that you’re not desperate. You’re not begging for a meeting.  Rather, you are adding value to their lives by presenting to them all the good things your organization does, and how it improves the lives of everyone else.

People like to be appreciated.  They like to be happy.  So if nothing else, bring happiness to them.

Goo luck.

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    7 Questions to ask on a visit

    Sometimes it is hard to get a prospective donor to open up.

    You can talk and talk and talk, but you just see their eyes glaze over and you think it’s hopeless.

    There is nothing worse than running out of things to talk about and sitting in an awkward silence.

    The best scenario is to have an engaged donor who is asking a lot of questions and genuinely wants to hear more.

    With that said, here is a list of 7 good questions to ask a prospective donor to help get the conversation going:

    1. Why did you choose to give to the organization?
    2. How did you get involved with the organization?
    3. What is your first memory of the organization?
    4. What other organizations do you support?
    5. What do you believe we should be doing to improve our services?
    6. Have you volunteered with us before? Would you consider volunteering for us?
    7. What are your hobbies, interests, activities?

    Please help me here.  What are some other good questions to ask on a visit?

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