Tagged: giving

How a gift to someone else, can be the perfect gift for your Dad

Dad’s, at least the Dad’s of my generation, had two jobs- Earn an Income and Make Pancakes on Sunday Night for Mom’s night off.

The first we knew represented his RESPONSIBILITY to his family.

The second we knew represented his LOVE for our mother and for us.

There never seemed anything we could do to repay  him.  There wasn’t a tie nor trip nor lighter nor ballgame ticket which could ever- EVER- be as valuable as what he gave and sacrificed and provided for our welfare, spirit and education.

And so maybe we stop trying. We give up on the gifts and just purchase a card. Or maybe we continue to maniacally hunt down JUST THE RIGHT THING, in a blind, ambitious desire to give him something that comes close to saying Thank You.

What Dad was doing was not only loving and nurturing his wife and his family. He was passing down years of learned respect and responsibility, he was educating us on what Fatherhood really means, he was mentoring and coaching a future generation to prepare them for the same offering of self that he so willingly provided, in love and in gratitude for all he was given.

And believe me, he doesn’t want a present for that. What he wants is to know that all of that good stuff has been passed on, that it continues and grows and moves beyond his years to others.

So this year, give him what he deeply desires, by supporting a nonprofit “Fatherhood Initiative” .

Fatherhood is not DNA encoded. It is not something every boy is born knowing, and sadly many do not  experience  in their short lifetime.

But it CAN be learned. And it CAN be shared. And it will live on through the noble work of these organizations and more.

Here are some to get you started. And when you give, give generously as Dad did, from your need, not your excess. And then say Thank You Dad.

                                 

SHIFT: Meeting Corporate Philanthropy Where It’s Headed- Key Behaviors in Successful Corporate Partnerships

Key behaviors of successful NPO / Corporate partnerships

Continuing our series on Corporate Philanthropy, we take a look at what the key behaviors are that we see in  nonprofits who have developed partnerships that provide a strong, reliable and renewable revenue  stream?

1. They all have a Personal Relationship with the company leaders: As a personal investment, the requirement that we build meaningful dialogue and a unified voice in our efforts to identify opportunities for partnering is essential.  A relationship with our company partners is not a mail campaign.  It’s not a sponsorship pitch.  It is the same level of personalized cultivation applied to our individual major donors.

Getting to a partnership is a process. The flow from first connection (usually a gift of some sort) through partnership generally follows this route:  Transaction —–> Relationship—–> Information——> Partnership.   The relationship traditionally begins with a transaction of some sort: a sponsorship, a membership, a donation, a grant. Capturing the interests of the corporation and appropriately acknowledging and stewarding their generosity, a relationship is developed, where information is shared that further delineates the opportunities and shared values/goals of the two parties, which leads to a partnership.

It’s essential that you get comfortable with building personal relationships for funding or partnerships with your corporate donors. It’s crazy to even have to say that, but many fundraisers we have worked with are intimidated or lack dedication to the relationship building process.  Having a personal relationship with your corporate donors is the most important thing you can do to succeed.

2. Value proposition: Your Value Proposition is a definition of the key benefits you provide to the corporation, as a potential partner. Your client base, your donor market, your organizations core values, where do you operate, what is your brand, who do you influence?  These are value positions used to negotiate what is needed- cash, people, advocacy. Your Value Proposition is not what you do. Let me say that again: VALUE PROPOSITION does NOT equal WHAT YOU DO!

As evidenced in some of the past video and case examples, Nike and others did not partner with the chosen NPO’s because of what they did. What they did was important. And the outcomes were essential to the decision. But the value proposition of those organizations was the quantitative factors they bring to the table: who do they reach? who gives to them? where are they located? what community do they serve? What does their organization represent to the community?

Taking a value inventory will be critical. You can do this internally amongst your staff in a brainstorming session, or you can hire a facilitator to help in the process. Either way, having a very solid knowledge of  your value proposition is essential to successfully identifying and selling your organization to the right corporation for the right partnership.

3. Trust:  This is huge.  We think we know about trust, but in this sense we mean total and complete transparency, clear communication, and fulfillment. Trust is built slowly over time, as a friend recently reminded me. Its not an all or nothing position and it is only bestowed upon you or anyone incrementally with some consideration and time. It is also impermanent, it can change with the tide. Your organization must provide the framework within which that trust can be built with the corporation.  It may mean sharing challenges that you normally would not be compelled or comfortable in sharing about your programs and funding. If it knocks you out of the competition for the companies attention, so be it; better to have it done now, than after you have spent considerable time, resources and energy in building up the relationship. Trust also requires promises to be fulfilled. If you said you would do something with the funding, well you better have at it and show the results.  Things do happen that not goals off course or missed, but the frequent and candid communication you are engaged in, while building trust with your corporate partner, will have taken that into account.

4. Commitment: You know what they say- In breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.  Your commitment to long term strategies requires your organization to have a vision and a strategic direction. Commitment is not chasing the money; it is building on and resourcing the programs and services essential to your success. Nonprofits who have successful corporate partnerships have mission strategies that are imbedded in their DNA, they are clear and concise and tactical. They are committed to the outcomes, no matter what.

Following these four foundational behaviors will position your organization to be prepared for a myriad of corporate funding partnerships that provide long lasting benefits and outcomes.

NEXT POST: Developing a plan for your own corporate partnership program.

SHIFT: Meeting Corporate Philanthropy Where It’s Headed- Corporate Goals in Philanthropy

What do Companies want from their Corporate Giving?

While a market presence and position is always a number one consideration for business, as they play out their social responsibility in the community, it isn’t necessarily the only factor behind their engagement. It’s important we are aware and respectful of all the driving interests, if we are to develop winning corporate partnerships.

Business benefits top the chart of priorities –

McKinsey & Company, a 75 year old management consulting firm which serves over 70% of the Fortune 500 companies listed today, surveyed 721 executives around the world—74 percent of them CEOs or other C-level executives, about corporate social responsibility. You can find the complete report here.

In their survey, McKinsey found that the vast majority of companies surveyed—nearly 90 percent—seek business benefits, such as customer acquisition and product distribution, from their philanthropy programs.

And some 80 percent of respondents say finding new business opportunities should have at least some role in determining which philanthropic programs to fund, compared with only 14 percent who say finding new business opportunities should have no weight.

So, marketing drives philanthropic partnerships… well, not so fast.

While marketing is an important driver, it should not be the sole driver or lead the development of a partnership between you and the corporation you are seeking to join forces with, as doing so may leave your reputation in question and will certainly not do anything to enhance business benefits for the company. Todays consumers are savvy, much more so than ever in history. For the marketing line to work in corporate/nonprofit partnerships, the relationship with the cause has to make Sense, it has to have Value and be Comprehensive and it has to have a Meaningful Outcome. The cures for cancer that exist which have spawned an ever growing trend of “Pink Washing”, is evidence of the many partnerships that just DON’T make sense  and result in outcomes that are anything but positive and customer building:

Remember “Bucketgate” May 2010? This drew much criticism and debate when it launched around Mothers Day.  Poor KFC, while they thought the pink would bring them notoriety, they didn’t expect the kind they received. And while any press may be good press, this just didn’t make sense, in any remote fashion. And the consumer saw right through it.  Sadly, Susan G Komens’ judgement and incentives were questioned as well.

If business benefits are a leading factor in a company’s drive to develop NPO partnerships through their giving, and pink buckets of chicken are the anti-concept, what does a philanthropic/socially responsible partnership look like?  Take a look at what might be a plausible and valuable brand and marketing position, from Nike.  The Nike Foundation created the ‘Girl Effect’ with critical financial and intellectual contributions by the NoVo Foundation and Nike Inc. and in collaboration with key partners such as the United Nations Foundation and the Coalition for Adolescent Girls. Here is their introductory video. What business benefits might they be seeking in support of this cause? What new business opportunities are they building? How does this make sense?

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Not to be a KFC basher (I’ve eaten my share of chicken), but do we see the difference? This program does not appear to have the ‘slap it on a bucket’ approach of KFC. This philanthropic/socially responsible partnership ensures that market is not the key driver, but an integrated aspect of the partnership Nike has developed.

Local Impact is a close second in priorities for driving decisions on philanthropy

Executives overall say their companies are much likelier to address a broad mix of local issues with their corporate philanthropy programs than to address the social and political issues that they expect will affect shareholder value the most. In addition, interviews conducted suggest that companies see addressing local community needs as an indirect way to highlight a company’s good intentions to groups such as board members, shareholders, and regulators.

Chase Community Giving is an excellent example of a corporate giving program that was developed to have local impact. And in an interesting twist, Chase has combined their local perspective with crowd-sourcing: allowing the community to choose the charities which Chase will support.  By having the community vote on their charity of choice. Chase is empowering their community to lead their philanthropy. What is interesting about this, is that it make a case for and support the concept of, nonprofit accountability. If your NPO is not relevant in your community, if your community does not know about, care about or support your work….if you’re not doing good work and reaching meaningful outcomes- then you’re not a contender for Chase philanthropy. Their vetting process for impact is knitted into their philanthropy program.

Employee Base needs is the third critical goal of companies in their philanthropic giving –

Respondents in McKinsey’s survey most often cite employees as the stakeholder group important to the way companies think about their roles in society and as the group companies most often address with corporate philanthropy programs.

Employee satisfaction, retention, recruitment, all are critical business factors to corporations. By aligning their philanthropy with their employee base interests, they develop efficiencies in both lines. Often a company will have employee driven efforts, special programs which only employees can access for philanthropic engagement, pooled funds from employee activities, volunteer efforts devoted to employee outreach to the community and more directed at the interests and activities of employee groups.

A Recap –

The goals most often cited by corporations in their corporate giving strategies— 1. business benefits: enhancing brand, market reach; 2. working locally; and 3. building employee capabilities, improving employee recruitment and retention, all must be factored into the developed program you are building with your prospective corporate partner. If your program offers all three, its the trifecta of a corporate partnerhsip.

Who are the innovators?

Lets take a look at two award winners from the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy’s Corporate Philanthropy Day 2010. As you watch this, try to capture as many of the goals and key outcomes we just discussed, in the programs these two innovators have developed.

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Pretty comprehensive right? And I can guarantee these were not created in a marketing office, but were organically developed between the company body and the nonprofit they had the closest relationship with.

SHIFT: Meeting Corporate Philanthropy Where It’s Headed- Corporate Social Responsibility

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

And more importantly, why is it an important part of our conversation in discussing our relationship with corporate partners in philanthropy?

The reality is that Corporate Social Responsibility is an emerging field. It is a very broad and evolving area of development for corporations and not for profits alike, a new terrain for which maps are much needed, but often are imprecise.

It has a complexity that is only seen in the emergence of new ideas and systems , a nucleus of thoughts, practices and evidenced based studies that are lending to the defining structure that it is becoming, following along the lines of chaos theory.   To a corporation, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)  has a multitude of components, too many to review in this one small post.  Its concept and its practice is complex,  often disjointed and, currently, most often reactive.  Divergent views and information overload is nowhere more apparent than in the field of corporate social responsibility. Each company is different, each with its own challenges, corporate culture, unique set of stakeholders and management systems. Each with its own view and opinion and strategy.

But amid this swirling pool of CSR anti-matter, certain agreed upon norms and standards are being established. The World Business Council on Sustainable Development makes this statement on defining Corporate Social Responsibility:

Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large

And this from an MBA textbook on defining corporate social responsibility:

Corporate Social Responsibility  is the decision-making and implementation process that guides all company activities in the protection and promotion of international human rights, labor and environmental standards and compliance with legal requirements within its operations and in its relations to the societies and communities where it operates. (Lehigh University, College of Business and Economics)

Two very nearly similar definitions. We are getting close to a commonality of expected beliefs and outcomes, among everyone involved in defining CSR.

Despite its complexity most corporations practicing a CSR culture, administer and measure their CSR programs along these three areas:

External Business Practices: How the corporation does business.  Who they compete with, who they partner with, their supply chain, their products, their distribution lines  and the impact their business has on society.

Internal Business Practices: Their corporate governance, their corporate policies, investments, ethical balance structure and the impact their business has on their employees

Impact Partnerships:  How they respond to societal issues that specifically impact their business practices, both internal and external and who they partner with in doing so.

Secondly, most corporations will agree that the measurement of these are based on three bottom lines:  Financial bottom line outcomes, Environmental bottom line outcomes and Social bottom line outcomes. This is called the triple bottom line.

Defining 3BL

For our role, as nonprofits seeking to shift our approach in securing corporate funding, it is essential to know and understand the core concept, terms and definitions on CSR as outlined here. Our ability to engage in an educated dialogue about our partners corporate social responsibility is critical to our successfully defining a partnership that meets both our and their needs.

CSR HISTORY

Let me take you through a quick history on corporate social responsibility. Some may think it’s a new idea, a fad or a recent breakthrough in thinking. But it goes as far back as the late 1800’s. Evidence of corporate socially responsible practices among industrialized corporations can be found in some of our most familiar company names. For instance, take the Sears Roebuck Company, a company that was near bankruptcy when Julius Rosenwald, joined the company in 1895.

During his tenure as vice president, treasurer and then president, Rosenwald grew the company from a failing $750,000 a year corporation to over $50 million.  As part of his growth plan, Rosenwald invested a lot of Sears’ money into society, specifically agriculture. Rosenwald understood that the growth of Sears Roebuck was wholey dependent on the growth and wellbeing of the company’s customer- the American Farmer and its field hands. And so he invested in his company by investing in his customer, through their societal, educational and family needs.

Why Rosenwald did this was not ‘termed’ corporate social responsibility until 1953 with the publication of  the book ‘Social Responsibility of Businessmen’ by economist and college president Howard R. Bowen.

But still the term languished, without much fanfare for about a decade, until the phrase was reinvigorated in the 60’s and 70’s around the time when big international companies faced anti-corporate sentiments because of environmental and human rights issues. In fact, companies faced large scale boycotts of their goods and services to force change among corporate practices affecting society and the environment.

Through the 80’s discussion of the concept of CSR grew. During that time, most socially responsible behavior was positioned as a philanthropic activity based on a company’s fixed budget that was allocated to support nonprofit organizations – mostly doing so to “look good”. These funds were sometimes allocated to many organizations  with the idea that to satisfy as many interest groups and to gain as much visibility as possible was a beneficial goal. The commitment was usually short term and restricted to making donations that were heavily influenced by the wishes of the senior management of the organization, and mostly to bring about a marketing position through brand awareness at nonprofit events.

Then in 1989, Ben and Jerry’s distributed the first ever Social Responsibility Annual Report. People took notice, because it authentically calculated Ben and Jerry’s  business practices and policies that lead to meaningful outcomes for society and the environment and to bottom line financial benefits to the company and the communities it supported.

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Academic exploration, corporate research and charitable interest in CSR began to escalate at a rapid rate. In 1992 the Earth Summit in Rio was a key moment in the evolution of CSR. At this Summit, it was reported that “the level of corporate involvement in the summit was unprecedented, unlike anything ever seen before, with a coalition of 48 companies coming together to establish a new coalition, the Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD)”. This coalition placed the academic and financial exploration of  CSR culture on the map in a way now other group or company had been able to do before. The BCSD would later become the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) which continues to be an authority in CSR and have tremendous influence on the corporate social responsibility stage.

Since that time, corporate social responsibility as an essential and important business practice has moved from discussion in the cubicles of most corporations, to a presence in the board room and a position on the balance sheet of almost all company’s large and small.

SHIFT: Meeting Corporate Philanthropy Where It’s Headed- Influencers

THE INFLUENCE OF GOVERNANCE ON CORPORATE GIVING

In addition to the shifts and perspectives being discussed and implemented in the business academic world, we see advancement in environment surrounding business governance as well.

ISO 26000 was implemented September 14 2010. For those not familiar, The ISO –a network of the national standards institutes of some 160 countries that develops and coordinates standards of operations for business lines. The standards govern management of Quality, Risk Environmental and now Social Responsibility. Simply put, these standards are applied to a company’s business practices, who actively engage in pursuing compliance. When they do so, they are awarded an ISO brand of approval for achieving and maintaining these standards. These are highly coveted and companies who achieve them make them visible.

In the words of the ISO itself “The world demands social responsibility. ISO 26000, the first internationally approved standard to provide guidance on social responsibility, is a global response to this global challenge.”

The ISO 26000 is intended to outline for companies:

  • concepts, terms and definitions related to social responsibility;
  • the background, trends and characteristics of social responsibility;
  • principles and practices relating to social responsibility;
  • the core subjects and issues of social responsibility;
  • integrating, implementing and promoting socially responsible behavior throughout the organization and, through its policies and practices, within its sphere of influence;
  • identifying and engaging with stakeholders; and
  • communicating commitments, performance and other information related to social responsibility.

This is the first time an organized set of standards has been produced and disseminated for companies to follow. Thought leaders believe this will be game changing for companies in strategizing and developing their social responsibility.

ISO 26000 is a response and a governance influence on corporations. IN part it may stem from the multitude of influencer’s outside the corporate circle. When JP Morgan Chase investors assemble to vote on a “Genocide Free” investing policy for the company, the pressure to conform and perform to standards is undeniable.  Loss of trust by the consumer, civil society activism and Institutional investor pressures, all bear significant influence on corporations today.

VIDEO: Highlights on ISO 26000 from inside sources            [wpvideo EWHGPEVM]

SHIFT: Meeting Corporate Philanthropy Where It’s Headed- Influencers

THE INFLUENCE OF CORPORATE THOUGHT LEADERS ON CORPORATE GIVING

Corporate philanthropy has seen some radical shifts in the last twenty years. We may just now be drawing concern about what is happening, where it is headed and how do we stay engaged as these changes evolve?

To understand the shifts as they appear, we need to look at some key factors, one being influences on the corporate sector.

Let’s take a look at thought leaders in business and how their rockstar status and larger than life influences have impacted the patterns we are experiencing with corporations as they support causes and charitable efforts.

No conversation about corporate giving could be complete without a reflection on the impact of Milton Friedman.

Milton was a Nobel Prize winner in economics. He was a distinguished professor at the University of Chicago. He was the author of the classic best-seller Capitalism and Freedom and a long-time Newsweek columnist.

Milton Friedman was one of the greatest and most influential economists in the 20th century. This certainly qualifies him to be considered a business rockstar. He was also an unapologetic curmudgeon, an outspoken and controversial thought leader on all things business.

He was vehemently against corporate social responsibility as an obligation of business. He held that giving by a publicly held corporation in the name of “social responsibility” was a form of theft.

But Friedman was not against all corporate giving. Corporate philanthropy could be justified if it served a business objective—improving employee teamwork and motivation, strengthening the marketing of a company’s brand, enhancing financial outcomes. He also had a less emphatic position on giving by privately held companies. He thought that was a decision best based on the individual or family owning the company, as it was their money to give away.

Milton was a multi-dimensional man. Besides being a powerful voice in the business sector, he was also a great philanthropist and a tremendous advocate of philanthropy.  He was not alone

Alfred P. Sloane, another uber-chief of corporate discipline, he was born in New Haven Connecticut, educated at MIT and graduated from there in just three years, as the youngest member of his class. Alfred was a long time President and CEO of General Motors, resigning to remain as their board chair until the late 1950’s.  He steered the corporation through some tenuous and deadly years of bad business, Nazi allegations, and revenue slumps.

He was not as eloquent a man as Milton, but he too felt philanthropy had no business being tied to business. He simply stated “The business of business is business.” And like Milton he was a prolific philanthropist. Because of his personal generosity, his name today is on buildings and foundations across the nation, from Sloan Kettering in New York City to the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, whose assets currently reach about 1.8 billion dollars.

Why is it important to have knowledge of these two giants of industry? Why should we abandon our cynicism and try to comprehend their position on corporations and giving? Because every MBA student leading or preparing to lead companies today, have at their hearts, minds and training, the words, vision and example of Milton and Alfred. And it is with this training today, that they are approaching the development of corporate giving strategies.

The apparent disunion in the perspectives of these two gentlemen, when it came to business and philanthropy, is at first perhaps perplexing. But it is not unusual. Their beliefs still hold true today.  Whether you agree or disagree with their perspectives, these men continue to have tremendous influence on the culture of business through their legacy.

Raising money online: Fact or Fiction?

I recently read a study that indicated of the 180,000 “Causes” on Facebook, the avg funds raised through this online method for each charity, over the course of a year, was only $1000.

Really?

This seems slightly outrageous given the hype and passion circulating about using Facebook by NPO’s for online fundraising. It seems everywhere you turn we have charities urging us to “like” them, to support their efforts. Daily my news feed blows up with requests from friends to give to the –> insert cause here<– organization to help them cure, fight, win, save, grow or change.

Before I get angry posts here by those who might find these comments slightly adverserial, I am NOT disparaging the NPO’s for trying. Good things do come from visibility and advocacy in this way.

It just doesn’t look like any of those good things include $$$$$$, and I wanted to know why.

To be more clear on this subject I recently undertook a (very unscientific) research project of online fundraising  by US NPO’s. I researched Web 2.0 portals designed to help nonprofits raise funds online. Here is a list of those I identified and used in this study:

  1. Causevox.com (Beta)
  2. Changingthe present.org
  3. Connecttocharities.com
  4. crowdrise.com
  5. Donorschoose.org
  6. firstgiving.com
  7. Fundrzr.com
  8. give2gether.com
  9. giveo.com (Beta)
  10. Globalgiving.com
  11. Independentcharities.org (givedirect.org)
  12. Jolkona.org
  13. Jumo.com (Beta)
  14. justgive.org
  15. mtdn.com (MakeTheDifferenceNetwork)
  16. networkforgood.org
  17. Pledgie.com
  18. Razoo.com
  19. sixdegrees.org
  20. tuttidare.com (Beta)
  21. yourcause.com
In addition to these, I discovered four more sites currently in beta to be launched this year (2011), including one called ‘Supporter Wall’ – I presume to model itself after Facebook’s Causes (which we now know works so well, lol)
This list is in no way exhaustive, nor as I said scientific, so all you data wonks, don’t go all geeky on me 🙂

Some observations.

Most of these vendor developed online fundraising sites have a short life history, from 2000 to the present. One site started and closed within a few years (Make the difference network). Firstgiving.org, which also has a U.K. version called justgiving.org,  and Network For Good have the longest history with the years 2000 and 2001  claimed as launch dates on their sites.

When a gift is made through one of these fundraising portal sites to your charity, the gift is held in a donor advised fund owned by the company. Despite the web address extension of .com on some of them, most of these vendors have a 501C3 status organization as an affiliate, which handles the donations, for tax relief purposes. When a gift is made to your charity, the tax receipt is from the vendors 501C3  organization, not from your charity. Of course you are encouraged to send a thank you, but the receipt is not from you to your donor, it is from Network for Good. This might mean something to some donors who want to be ‘counted’ as having given to your cause, but for most they may not notice. The distribution of your gift from this donor advised fund is not instantaneous- most are scheduled as a once or twice per month distribution. These donor advised funds are presumably managed by investment firms. No information could be found on where the interest from these temporarily held funds goes. I would imagine they might be part of the revenue stream for the portal vendor. In one interesting case, the corporate officers of a certain portal vendor, were found to also be the principals of the  investment firm that manages that particular portals donor advised fund. Hm?

The big gorilla, based on longevity and reach with NPO’s is Network for Good. They have an interesting B2B model that probably helps with their revenue stream for operations. Many of the newer and beta sites listed above, indicate that they use Network For Good to process and manage their donations (as the 501C3 donor advised fund), for which a “grant” of 4.75% is paid to Network For Good, presumably by the charity receiving the donation. It raised the question, “Then how are these particular portal vendors earning money?”.   Probably through Data Analytics, like Facebook, and through ad sales. If you are not paying for a service, you are not the customer, you are the product.

One interesting site is the Independent Charities of America (ICA) site at givedirect.org, which offers individuals the ability to create a personal foundation, to which they can invest an initial low amount of $250, all contributions being tax deductible and distributions can be made at the donors convenience with only 5% of the foundation $$ needing to be distributed annually. It does not have any social networking capacity or connections with charities, although it links to an outside source for charity information. Beside ICA, the other vendors reviewed are set up to offer multi-cause, multi-organizational opportunities, most of whom (but not all) require a charity to be a registered IRS entity, with a position on Guidestar or BBB.  Only two that I reviewed allowed anyone to raise money for anything – personal causes (a new boat??), medical bills, weddings, etc.

I then reviewed the number of nonprofits each fundraising portal vendor had as ‘registered’ on their site or the number of charities which they had distributed funds to last year, as well as the total amt of money raised through their portal. As expected those vendors who were .org or had listed the .org affiliate who managed their funds, were easier find data on, getting it directly from their 990’s off of Guidestar. The few corporate sites had limited data available for review. Of those portals where data on number’s of charities served and amount raised could be found,  the avg raised per year / per charity through their online portal revealed the highest amt was just about $30K per charity on avg. and the lowest was $470. In going back a few years, spikes can be seen that I can only assume correlated with global disaster fundraising, for which online giving seems the go to measure.

Let’s pause for a moment here.

If the Network for Good is eleven years old, has a breadth of experience and professional technicians leading its efforts, has a global reach, and it cannot help the NPO to raise more than $30K per year on avg……whats wrong with this picture? A good annual appeal direct mail campaign would be more successful.

Ruminate on this for a minute and we will review the fees charged to charities for this privilege.

In the list reviewed, fees range from a low of 3% per transaction  to a high of 15%. One site took no fees but required a $9.oo per project fee from the charity. Some sites also required credit card processing fees on top of transaction fees. Some sites asked the donor to consider covering  these costs for the charity. All told, the fees charged are, as with everything, buyer beware for charities when it comes to choosing to engage in online fundraising using these portals.

I don’t know about you, but if I had to pay $199 per month for my charity to be listed and an additional 3% per donation, plus credit card transaction fees, not to mention the back office costs of staffing for management, gift processing, stewardship etc. I would want evidence of a significant return on my investment.  *Side note- nowhere on these portals did I find any pitch to support the financial value proposition of charities using such a site for fundraising.

Back to our review.  Given the advent of Facebook, Myspace, Friendster, LinkedIn and other social networking sites into our culture, I expected to see a lot of these vendors offering a social networking aspect to their services. And they did not fail me, although they are not as advanced as I would expect, nor as would be beneficial. While 1/3 have no social networking aspects, 1/3 have what I would term a simple or basic social networking component to their sites, while 1/3 use existing Facebook linkages and – yes – Causes, exclusively. Some include a game of collecting or placing badges on current social networking sites like Facebook, twitter etc.

All of those vendors reviewed offer or require a pitch page that charities use to highlight their organization or their project or, in two cases, requests for funding for very, very specific needs: pencils, books, etc. This allows the donor to get most of the info right on the vendors portal without having to bounce off to the charities site, although most offer the option of placing a link to your organizations homepage on your pitch page.

Donorcentric?  Many of  the sites offer intent options to the donor during gift processing, but not the majority. This is, in my humble opinion, a great defect in these portals. It undermines what we in the industry know about donor giving- that it is specific to the interest of the donor, NOT the need of the organization. I guess they rationalize this, by considering the potential for massive volume of  possible donors- like throwing **** against a wall and knowing some of it will stick.  Some limit the gift intention choice for the donor by project as defined by the charity. The newest contender Jumo.com (by Chris Hughes the co founder of Facebook) does not currently offer donor intention option, but it is in beta and soon could.

One other *missed* opportunity by these portals in being donorcentric, is in offering to the donor (or requiring of the charity) gift use reports for each donation.  Very few offer this option, although some do require charities to show evidence of their project completion as defined on their pitch page. Donor intent is a very hot topic and something that quite often will keep donors from contributing, out of fear that their gift wont be used as intended. Currently, there is no system to screen for that through the checks and balances surrounding NPO’s in the US. The annual tax audit NPO’s are required to have only ensure that accounting methods are followed accurately and that the gift intention was followed when depositing and allocating the money, not necessarily that the gift was then used to purchase the product or build the building. Would the benefit and value of required gift reports bring more donors to the online system of giving?

Conclusions? These vendors mean well and I applaud them for trying. Most of these portals are built on direction from nonprofit industry experts, but they fall short of being technologically cutting edge. Others are developed by Techstars, who have no inside knowledge of how a donor thinks, feels or acts, or what best practices exist in raising money from individuals for a charitable group.  All portals are directed toward the relationship between the vendor and the charity – and all but ignore the needs  of the donor!

Online fundraising needs to continue to be examined and manipulated. How are we currently using social media and to what end results? How can online fundraising better mimic and support our real world relationship building efforts with our donors? Is there a niche for online fundraising that we haven’t uncovered yet? I personally don’t believe we are there yet with any of this stuff- online giving results we are currently seeing are abysmal. We need to keep shaking it up, reformulating and evolving to determine what ‘IT’ is that might make this a productive and supportive tool in our arsenal.

Consequences of generosity

PFSK, a trend research firm in New York, found an interesting cafe in Japan. I was turned onto this story by a blogging friend.
The Japanese cafe, called Ogori, has a unique service proposition. You can order anything you would like. But you are served what the person in front of you orders. And so the person behind gets what you ordered. And their order goes to the person behind them. And so forth.
If this were the consequence of all of our decisions, how would you order?
Pay it forward or social revenge?

Now imagine your donors. If what you ordered went to them, what would you be leaving them with?

One Love

Does everyone of your donors care about All of your Programs? Of course not. Do you care about every item in Pier One? Do you read every book on the NY Times list? No, but you might say you love Pier One or you are addicted to the NYT list.
Having all of your donors “love” you is not enough. Unless I can get specific in your organization about particular things of interest, specialty items that fill my needs, I won’t love you for long just because you help kids. But if I can pick and choose, give to your organization which helps kids AND choose the program that provides books with lunches at schools. Now I’ll stick around.