Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hemispheric Congress Virtually a Success!

I have just returned from Monterrey, Mexico, where I attended the sixth Hemispheric Congress–Latin America and the first virtual congress AFP has ever held. I admit that I had been somewhat skeptical of a virtual congress, but the tremendous success of the event proved me wrong!

Our partner in the event was Tecnológico de Monterrey, and sponsors included FUNDAMEX, Massociedad, Microsoft, FEMSA and Banorte. More than 300 people participated in the congress overall. We had more than 150 on-site attendees on the Monterrey campus and there were 20 other participating Tec campuses throughout Mexico, with each site having between one and 50 attendees. In addition, people throughout Latin America were able to participate online.

The day was full of excellent speakers, including:

• Marcelo Iñarra Iraegui, CEO, Marceloiniarra.com
• Rubén D. Sánchez, education lead, Microsoft Colombia
• José María Anton, secretary general, Virtual Educa
• Martha Smith de Rangel, executive president, FUNDEMEX
• Deborah San Román, director, Fundación ABC
• María Elena Noriega, president and founder, Office of Consultants in Strategic Planning, Organization of Financial Campaigns and Obtaining of Self-sufficient Resources, Noriega Malo and Associates, S.C.
• Alma Delia Ábrego, representative from the AFP Tijuana Chapter
• Rocío Álvarez Máynez, representative from the AFP Monterrey Chapter
• Elvira Van Daele, officer of operations, International Financial Corporation
• Alejandro Ferraez O., independent consultant and member of the AFP Mexico City Chapter

What was really fascinating was how the technology was set up so that virtual attendees could really feel like they were there. In some cases, speakers could see each virtual participant, and there was a lot of great conversation among attendees, both physical and virtual. I think the Congress is a great model for future virtual gatherings and something that AFP will be exploring more in the future.

For more information, go to the Hemispheric Congress website. And you can also find pictures here.

This was my last Hemispheric Congress as president and CEO of AFP, and I am so proud of the work the association has done to grow the fundraising profession in Latin America. Many thanks to all of my colleagues and friends in Latin America who have helped us along the way. It’s been so wonderful getting to know you all. Latin America has so much to offer the fundraising profession, and this year’s virtual Congress proves it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Things Are Looking Up...Mostly!

I’ve been working in the charitable sector for a long time, but even I’ve been stunned by the number of surveys that have been released recently about fundraising and giving—giving up, giving down, optimism up, major gifts down, number of total gifts up, average gift amount down. It’s a bit overwhelming, and at some point, too much information leads to overload.

That’s one of the reasons why AFP has partnered with five other leading philanthropic organizations to create the Nonprofit Research Collaborative. As I wrote in one of my November posts, by combining our research, we’ve created the most comprehensive and accurate survey of fundraising ever, with responses coming from every type and size of charity. That’s important, because you know the data is solid and representative of the whole community.

And even more critical, the data actually have some good news. We’re seeing an increase in the number of organizations raising more funds than last year. Of course, we have to be measured in our enthusiasm. These increases aren’t huge, and we’re still nowhere near the level of giving we saw in 2007 before the recession. And demand for services continues to grow far beyond the increases in giving.

But at least we do have some good news. And a lot of guarded optimism. And perhaps a sense that we’ve seen the worst of it.

More good news came with the release of a report by Convio that explored a previously unaddressed aspect of philanthropy so far this year: holiday giving. The report estimates that U.S. giving will total at least $48 billion between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, with online giving growing by 30 percent to more than $6 billion. The report has a lot of great information about giving by different groups of donors and is well worth a read.

I was in New York City at the end of November working with two leaders from Convio, meeting with members of the media to give my perspective on the current charitable environment and commenting on Convio’s research. I also had the great honor of being part of the NASDAQ Closing Bell Ceremony and was able to get this great picture from Times Square. Thank you, Vinay and Gene, for setting that up. What fun, and a unique way to increase the profile of AFP and the fundraising profession.

Let me know how your fundraising is going so far during this holiday season, if it mirrors these reports and what you expect to see by the end of the year. I wish you the best of luck in inspiring donors to great heights!

Photo Caption: From left: Vinay Baghat, founder of Convio; Paulette Maehara, president and CEO of AFP; and Gene Austen, President and CEO of Convio at the NASDAQ Closing Bell Ceremony.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Celebrating National Philanthropy Day®

Our lives and our world are defined by community.

We are, in many ways, the sum of the communities to which we belong. On the most basic level, this means that geography: countries, provinces, cities, towns, as well as our jobs, schools, profession—to name just a few—help to define who we are.

But our community includes much more, such as our friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances. And with the rise of the Internet, geography no longer limits our communities, as we can form online relationships with others who share our interests.

Why are communities so important? Because we need each other, not only to survive, but to thrive. No woman or man is an island—we all depend on one another. Only by working together can we prosper and improve the quality of life for everyone.

Philanthropy is that idea in action—a community in action—working together to better the whole. Through giving, volunteering and participating, communities are accomplishing amazing things every day – feeding the hungry, healing the sick, educating children, providing training for workers, among countless other tasks and responsibilities.

And that’s what we celebrate on National Philanthropy Day®. Each of us. And our community. Working together. Though charities and other efforts. Through that work, we are changing the world in a very real and positive way by directly affecting the lives of everyone around us.

This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of National Philanthropy Day. For 25 years, we’ve been celebrating the extraordinary impact that philanthropy makes around the world. For 25 years, we’ve recognized and honored those individuals and organizations that make a difference every day.

To learn more about National Philanthropy Day® and obtain information about giving and volunteering, go to the official website or mobile website.

Whether you’re a fundraiser, donor, volunteer, nonprofit manager or in any way involved in philanthropy, thank you for your dedication and selflessness. Together, in communities large and small, we are—slowly but surely—changing the world and improving the quality of life for all people.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Importance of Benchmarking

When I’m out visiting chapters, one of the most popular questions I get is, “how is my organization’s fundraising doing compared to the rest of [insert region, state, province, country, world?]”

It’s a natural and logical inquiry. We all want to see how we’re doing compared to others and determine if we need to be doing better, and if so, in what areas. But to be able to tell you how your organization is faring, fundraisers and nonprofits need as accurate and as precise data as possible—as soon as possible.

That’s where the new 2010 Nonprofit Fundraising Survey comes in. It’s a joint project by AFP, the National Center for Charitable Statistics, Guidestar, the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy, The Foundation Center and Blackbaud. Now those are some pretty heavy hitters in the nonprofit world, and almost all of us have done separate surveys in the past about the state of the sector, state of fundraising and how giving and volunteering are faring each year.
But in the interest of compiling the most complete, detailed and accurate date ever, we’ve decided to partner together and essentially create a united, comprehensive report. And even better, instead of one big survey at the end of the year, the project involves three surveys conducted throughout the year, which means that you’ll be receiving data more frequently. Each survey will be asking different questions and focusing on different aspects of fundraising, philanthropy and nonprofit operations.

But even as good as the new survey is—and I think it it’s a big step forward for the whole sector—it’s not going to be helpful without YOUR participation. The best, easiest and most thoughtful questions are not much good if no one answers them.

So, please, I hope you’ll take part in the first survey and others surveys that will be conducted in 2011. The current survey should take about five minutes to complete and covers changes in giving you’ve seen over the past year or two. While you will be asked to identify your organization, your specific figures will be kept anonymous, and all data will be reported in the aggregate.

Accurate benchmarking is the starting point for nearly any plan—strategic, fundraising or otherwise—especially as it’s unclear just how much the economy and fundraising are improving in 2010. You’ve got to have good data to figure out where you are in the scheme of things and what you need to improve. The new Nonprofit Fundraising Survey will help, and I urge you to participate!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Keeping Perspective on Fundraising Costs

The issue of fundraising costs is always a tough one for the profession. It’s a very emotional issue, as we’re talking about dollars that donors have given away freely of their own will with the expectation that they’re supporting a charitable cause.

It’s also a very nuanced issue. As the old saying goes, it takes money to make money, and that adage is proven time and time again in charitable fundraising. Given all of the various factors that affect fundraising, it’s impossible to devise one universal, set-in-stone fundraising cost limit that would apply to all organizations.

Fortunately, governments are starting to realize this. For example, the Canada Revenue Agency, in its fundraising cost guidelines that were developed last year, specifically acknowledges that fundraising costs can vary dramatically annually and that organizations with higher costs aren’t necessarily unworthy organizations.

Unfortunately, some media outlets still don’t do the research or simply don’t have the interest to understand the nuances of fundraising costs. A good example is a recent article by the CBC on fundraising contracts by for-profit solicitors, or as the article terms them, third-party fundraisers.

There’s SO much to not like about this article—inaccurate comparisons between costs and funds raised, complete misunderstanding of the difference between fundraisers and solicitors, lack of discussion about telemarketing fundraising costs, and key information about the scope of telemarketing by solicitors buried in the middle of the article. AFP responded to the CBC with this letter, and has also developed some talking points that fundraisers can use for their own responses or when speaking with donors and members of the public.

High fundraising costs are definitely an issue, and I have no problem with the CBC investigating them. In fact, I think it would be interesting to find out how many of these high-cost contracts involved percentage-based compensation, which AFP finds unethical. But it would also be nice to have some discussion of the role of telemarketing and the costs associated with it.

AFP is committed to educating the media, governments and the public about all aspects of fundraising, and especially fundraising costs. Our pro-active work has helped result in positive regulations like the CRA fundraising cost guidelines that acknowledge variations in costs. But we must also continue to respond aggressively to articles like the CBC’s that paint an inaccurate and misleading picture of the fundraising environment.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thank You

By now, you’ve probably heard that I’ll be retiring as president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) in March 2011 after our International Conference on Fundraising in Chicago.

From a professional standpoint, there’s never really a good time to retire. There are always new challenges and opportunities just on the horizon, and if you love your job, you relish those.
And I can assure you, I have loved every moment of this job. (Okay, well, almost every moment!) In fact, it’s hard to describe how much joy I’ve received from being able to serve the profession that I love so much.

As you all know, it’s incredibly inspiring to be able to serve a particular cause and inspire donors. I’ve experienced that feeling at places where I’ve worked, and especially the American Red Cross where I spent the first 14 years of my career for a cause that I still hold dear in my heart. But there is something equally satisfying about being able to give back to the profession, knowing that through the work of AFP, we’re helping each of you be able to reach those moments with your own donors.

I’m so proud of everything that AFP has accomplished over the past 12-plus years. We’ve changed our name, our offices and our governance structures. We’ve grown tremendously, both in North America and around the world. We’ve achieved extraordinary successes in education, government relations, public affairs, diversity and many other areas.

I feel like I’ve achieved the goals I’ve set for myself and this community, and it’s time to pass the torch to the next leader. In truth, I had originally planned to make this announcement last year, but felt that with the economic situation then, such a move wouldn’t be fair to the association. Now that the environment has improved, I think the timing is perfect.

I’m confident that AFP will continue to grow strongly and enjoy a bright future. Part of that is due to a very talented staff that has the knowledge and experience to work well during a transition. Another key ingredient is our board. AFP is led by some of the most remarkable and dedicated volunteer leaders I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.

But most importantly, AFP has you—our members—the heart and soul of our community. My favorite moments with AFP inevitably involve the trips I’ve made to visit our chapters and the one-on-one conversations I have with fundraising professionals. The stories that I hear—the incredible work that has been done, from the largest multi-national institutions to the smallest grassroots organizations, often against incredible challenges—are truly inspiring. You are what makes this job so wonderful. You are what makes this profession so important and so great. And what makes me very confident about the future of fundraising and AFP.

Thank you for the wonderful memories and for the opportunity to serve you. And we’re not done yet! I promise that over the next eight months, I and the rest of the staff will continue to work hard for the profession. We have lots of new ideas and programs to unveil, so stay tuned.

Monday, July 19, 2010

International Fundraising Summit

We spend so much time focusing on our little world of fundraising—our organizations, our donors and the community we serve—that it’s hard sometimes to see the bigger picture and the amazing things that are happening around the world.

That’s one of the reasons I’m always excited to attend the International Fundraising Summit, which was held for the sixth time in London in early July. AFP, along with the Institute of Fundraising (UK) and the Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA), served as the convening associations for the event, which brought together 12 different fundraising organizations from around the world.

One of the big discussions we had was on the International Statement of Ethical Principles, which is essentially the first universally-recognized set of standards for the fundraising profession. The Statement has brought the fundraising profession together in a way never before possible. It is the beginning of having a recognized, global profession where practitioners and donors all have the same expectations, regardless of country or culture. And as technology increases, and the reach of our solicitations can increase, this synchronization of standards and expectations becomes very important.

It was great to hear the Statement, which has been approved by organizations in 24 different countries, is being used by new and developing fundraising associations in countries such as Poland and the Ukraine. In addition, FIA recently used the statement as the guiding document during its comprehensive review of its own codes of practice. Seeing this kind of progress in other countries is exciting.

Even more exciting were conversations about the feasibility of a global credential and accreditation process. A lot of organizations, including AFP, IoF, CFRE International and the European Fundraising Association, are doing work in this area. We agreed at the summit to create a task force that will cross-map the fundraising competencies of each existing training program to identify similarities and differences.

The ideal outcome would be the creation of a global set of fundraising competencies that could be used as a guide for associations in their accreditation efforts, much like the International Statement of Ethical Principles has been used since its inception. It’s another important way to bring the profession together that could have far-reaching implications as the world gets smaller and our reach grows.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Gates-Buffett Billionaire Challenge

So Bill and Melinda Gates, along with Warren Buffett, are going to challenge America’s billionaires to contribute half of their net worth to charity, either in their lifetimes or in a bequest.

Two things come to mind. First, congratulations to the Gates’ and Mr. Buffett for such an ambitious plan, which they call The Giving Pledge. If they pull this off, or are even a quarter successful, the face of philanthropy will change dramatically. After all, as the article above notes, we’re talking, at a minimum, $600 billion if everyone on the Forbes 400 Richest List participates. Given that estimates of annual U.S. giving are currently at the $300 billion range, we’re talking about a seismic shift in giving. And if it’s successful, we might as well give Bill the unofficial title of Best Philanthropist Ever, because he’ll have reached charitable heights NO ONE has ever dreamed of, and not just in total giving either.

Two, this challenge underscores (and validates, though I’m not sure the profession really needs anymore validation) the principles we use every day in fundraising. Challenging donors to give more than they had ever imagined before. Using giving clubs to encourage donations—and this challenge may represent the most exclusive giving club ever—because we know that sometime peer pressure works, and that donors may give more or at an equal level if they know what a friend or colleague has given. And finally, using donors and volunteers to raise funds so “the ask” comes from a trusted colleague as opposed to just another solicitation from the organization.

Part of me wants to say “it’s about time,” but really, we haven’t had the right factors to make such a challenge possible until now: immense amounts of wealth that can truly make an impact, huge needs amplified by the global recession, charismatic leaders (the Gates) and a respected convert, so to speak (Mr. Buffett), not to mention the growth of philanthropy to be able to adequately handle these huge amounts of money and technology to make the campaign work. It seems more like the next step in the logical evolution of philanthropy than a radical step.
Of course, the big question is, will it be successful? Ultimately, I think it will be, though perhaps not as quickly as we might hope. I wonder if having the challenge in public (where we know what the level of giving is and who is being asked) changes the dynamics of “the ask.” Will there be resentment by some potential donors knowing that people might be able to check on whether they’ve given or not?

But I’m buoyed by the reports I’m hearing about the one-on-one conversations that are taking place. Because as we know, it’s often in these kinds of personal discussions where the light bulb suddenly turns on, and the donor identifies what he or she truly wants to do and realizes that the gift is possible. If the Gates’, Mr. Buffett and others can continue to have close, personal conversations with these donors, an extraordinary amount of giving is possible over the next few years and well into the future.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Philanthropic Decisions at the Bakery

You may have seen the news that Panera, a U.S.-based bakery and restaurant chain, has launched a new nonprofit store in St. Louis that will operate in exactly the same way as its other stores will. EXCEPT, it doesn’t offer any prices. Customers are told to donate whatever they want for their meal. It could be one cent, or ten dollars or 100 dollars. The company hopes to open additional nonprofit, pay-what-you-like restaurants if this one succeeds.

Now, there are community kitchens that have been run like this before, and certainly this idea has been gathering a little steam in the nonprofit sector. But this is the first time that a well-known chain has attempted to develop this kind of business model.

I’m very curious to see how this succeeds because it raises a number of issues related to philanthropy and fundraising. For starters, donors often need to be challenged in their giving. Ask a donor what they can give, and often times they won’t know. They won’t have a sense of what needs to be done and what of money it will take, or how much they can truly afford. Which is why we as fundraisers set out guidelines for them, such as giving options and giving clubs, or we inspire and challenge them to make a major gift that will have a significant impact on the cause. While donating money for your lunch is set more in the for-profit realm, I wonder how the restaurant will do without any sort of guidelines or “challenges” with regards to pricing.

On the other hand, the interplay between customers as they’re paying will be interesting to see as well. Knowledge of what others have given can affect a donor’s gift and will often result in an equivalent or larger gift. Similarly, if one customer sees another customer paying more, will he or she be inspired to pay more as well, or less?

There’s another issue too: how customers feel about what they’re doing. While this model is nonprofit, initial revenues will go to keeping the restaurant going. Any profits will be ultimately given to charity—at least that seems to be implied by what I’ve read. So will customers think it’s for-profit or nonprofit? If they pay more for the meal than what it might usually cost, will they think of that cost as charitable or philanthropic? Will they feel like they’ve been philanthropic? Or will they feel a bit confused and perhaps cautious about how Panera will use their money?

It’s an interesting business model that has many questions. I wish Panera the best with it. Perhaps it’s a model for future for-profit/nonprofit collaborations. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More Good News

Back in February, I talked about optimism for 2010 and how our Holiday Giving Survey showed an uptick in giving over the last quarter of 2000 with increased optimism for the New Year.

The resurgence seems to continue. Our 2009 State of Fundraising Survey showed the strongest sense of optimism for fundraisers in three years. During the first quarter of this year, our job banks featured double the number of postings compared to the first quarter of 2009. And now there’s a new survey from The Chronicle of Philanthropy which shows that charitable giving grew by a median of 11 percent in the first three months of 2010, compared with 2009.

This is all great news, of course, but as I also said in February, we have to balance this optimism in reality. We’re not out of the economic woods by any means, so we’re going to have plan accordingly, focus on what we do best and continue to make strong connections with our donors. But success is DEFINITELY possible, and that’s a far departure from the mood of the last two years.

This was probably nowhere more evident than at our International Conference on Fundraising in Baltimore in April. I’ve been to many good conferences, but I’ve never felt the same kind of positive feeling and vibe as I got in Baltimore. I’m sure part of it is simply getting past the last two years, which have been extremely difficult, but I was overwhelmed at how upbeat and energized attendees were—and not just about their own prospects for the year either. A number of people came up to me and thanked AFP for our work over the past couple of years and the sacrifice we’ve made as well to keep programs and services going.

I was surprised (and pleased) to hear that, so thank you. We have made it our goal to maintain the same level of services to members despite the economy. But I have to say, it’s really AFP who should be thanking all of you. Because you are the ones who’ve truly made sacrifices—to maintain your programs that serve people who need them the most.

I’m in awe of the work that fundraisers have done over the past couple of years. Keeping organizations going. Inspiring donors in tough times. And in a lot of cases, still managing to increase fundraising and implement new programs. And it’s going to get better! There’s lot of good news yet to come, so let’s keep working together to find success for our organizations.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Preventing Exploitation and Putting Donors First

One of the issues I’ve seen arise from time to time, and on several occasions over the past few weeks, is controversies of contributions and donor intent when gifts are made by elderly and/or sick donors.

The situation is understandable. After all, many people wait to put their estates and wills in order until they feel it necessary because of old age or ill-health. Unfortunately, this situation can also lead to instances of donor exploitation and manipulation. Especially if a donor is in a weakened or limited condition, even the slightest nudge or suggestion can push the fundraiser across the ethical line.

Exploitation is a critical and sensitive issue for development officers when working with the elderly or infirmed. For fundraisers in this position, I highly recommend that you review the AFP Guidelines to the Code of Ethical Principles and Standards, which can be found here on the AFP website. The Guidelines are very helpful in that they highlight the underlying principles for each standard and provide examples of ethical and unethical behavior.

The guidelines to Standard 4 provide clear guidance to the development officer when working with elderly or infirmed donors. In particular, fundraisers should encourage a donor or prospect to seek independent professional advice when considering a gift. In addition, they should urge a donor or prospect to inform his or her family of their intent to make a gift.

It’s easy to see sometimes how controversies occur. Fundraising competition is fierce, and a fundraiser may realize that the donor doesn’t have much time left. Stress builds, and with funding tight, a few individuals might do something that they normally wouldn’t. We can’t let that happen, and we have to ensure that we always abide by the highest ethical standards.

Such situations underscore one of the most important principles in ethical fundraising: development professionals have a responsibility to put the interests of the donor ahead of their organizations and themselves.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Fundraising Down Under and Automatic Gift Upgrades

I had the opportunity recently to attend the Fundraising Institute of Australia’s (FIA) Terra Rossa (Red Earth) Fundraising Conference. FIA is a great and important partner with AFP, and we’ve worked with them on many projects. Chris McMillan, president and CEO of FIA, and her staff team were terrific. This was Chris' first FIA Conference, and we welcome her to the global fundraising community.

The educational program featured over 350 fundraising professionals from Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. Guy Mallabone and Ted Hart both presented Master class programs, and Ted gave a great opening plenary based on his book, A Nonprofit’s Guide to Going Green.

Dr. Wendy Scaife, with the Center of Philanthropy & Nonprofit Studies at Queensland University of Technology, presented her latest research, which she conducted with major donors in Australia. There were many similarities between Dr. Scaife's findings and what I hear from fundraising professionals across the globe—key messages such as the importance of transparency and continuing to ask. Sound familiar? I find it comforting (and even a bit inspiring) that we find so many similarities among donors around the world. We are truly a universal profession, and donors everywhere are motivated by and concerned about the same types of issues.

I participated on an ethics panel with Margaret Scott, a past FIA chair, who facilitated a dialogue about three different ethical situations. The one that garnered the most interest from both participants and panel members was on automatic upgrades for monthly giving programs.

Each of the panel members was asked to respond to the case. I responded that AFP's Code of Ethical Principles and Standards is clear and referenced Standard 16 on this matter: Donors must be given notice and the opportunity to opt-out of such programs. Another FIA panel member offered a different perspective, noting the cost of doing this type of notice and opt-out and asking attendees if the cost-efficiency factor would outweigh the donor's rights.

Other perspectives were that the organization's reputation and donor relationships were more important than the expense of the notice. Most came down on the side of providing donors with notice and the ability to opt-out of automatic upgrades. Someone in the audience made an excellent point that we should not think that just because a donor doesn’t complain means that we are “home free.” Our organizations could lose much more from an unhappy donor who posts his/her complaints in a video on YouTube. Food for thought for those of you considering automatic upgrades for monthly donors, or for any aspect of your fundraising program for that matter.

I hope your fundraising is going well!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

2010: Balancing Optimism with Reality

The promise of a new year is always reason for optimism, especially given the tough times fundraisers and charities have experienced over the past couple of years. This year, though, there may be some good reason for optimism.

In AFP’s latest Holiday Giving Survey, conducted mid-December 2009, we asked participants to compare their giving totals for the last three months of the year in 2009 to the same time period in 2008. Just 34 percent of fundraisers said they were raising more money—a very low figure compared with past surveys. However, compare that number to holiday giving in 2008, when just 23 percent of organizations were raising more money that year than compared to 2007.

Most signs indicate that 2009 was, in general, a better year for fundraising than 2008—even if by just a little bit. It certainly wasn’t a great year by any stretch. But the survey confirmed what we have been hearing from members throughout 2009. Slowly—very slowly—but surely, giving is coming back.

These little increases have led to strong increases in fundraising optimism. When asked about estimated 2010 fundraising results, 59 percent expected their organizations to raise more funds in 2010 than in 2009. That’s the highest level of optimism among fundraisers in two years.

I’ve traveled to a few chapters so far this year, and I’m sensing this optimism from just about everywhere. Members are seeing donors who six months ago said they couldn’t give but are now returning with contributions. I’ve talked with members who lost their jobs because of the economy, and to a person, most are very confident about finding a job in the near future. The optimism Is infectious, and that’s a good thing—for the most part.

We’re all excited about the prospect of better times, but we have to balance that optimism with reality. The recovery is going to happen, but it is going to occur very slowly. The rebuilding economy isn’t going to affect everyone the same way, and we may well see more decreases before giving starts to really grow again in the latter half of the year.

We’re going to have to plan appropriately, and be bullish on the future, while acknowledging the transitory nature of this time. We have to continue to work with donors to develop giving plans that work for their unique situations while still trying to challenge them. As I’ve said before, generosity still exists in abundance; it simply has to be channeled in the right manner.

I’m going to post more in the near future about strategies for 2010, but want to hear what you think. Are you optimistic about 2010? When did you foresee giving really coming back in force—later this year? Not until 2011?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fundraising and Haiti

I was all prepared to post my Happy New Year/Fundraising in 2010 thoughts when the massive earthquake in Haiti hit on Tuesday. That post can wait; time to focus on more important matters. My thoughts and prayers, as well as those of our entire staff, are with the people of Haiti. The death toll is expected to be staggering and hard to forget, yet it remains the stories of survivors and the possibility of hope that stick with me the most. I’ve been riveted to the screen, reading and watching all sorts of amazing, as well as heartbreaking, news develop.

Like many of you, I’ve been so pleased to see the extraordinary responses to the earthquake from people around the world. AFP will be making a contribution to relief efforts, and we’re encouraging members to do the same. We’ve put together a small list of organizations to which people can give, and if your organization isn’t there, please email us (webmaster@afpnet.org) and we’ll post it.

We’ve also been asked by a few members for fundraising advice and guidance with regards to disasters and other events. While many organizations involved in relief efforts are well-versed and prepared for such an event, there is always a need for new ideas from experienced colleagues. If you have any advice, thoughts and experiences you’d like to share with our members, please send them to paffairs@afpnet.org. We’re putting together a toolkit, news blog and other information about the Haitian relief efforts, so be sure to check this special section of our website. We’ve also distributed a press release encouraging people to give and providing advice on wise giving and avoiding fraudulent organizations.

AFP has been asked a lot over the past couple of days about the overall impact of these types of relief efforts on overall giving. Are we going to see a lot of new donors getting involved with philanthropy? Will there be an overall increase in giving because of the Haitian relief efforts?

My answer is probably not. Even after 9/11, we didn’t see any bump in overall giving for 2001. The overall economy is so large of a factor in the level of giving that most disasters, even major ones, are just a small blip on that map.

But these types of events can act as catalysts for changing how people give and introducing them to new methods of giving. After 9/11, website giving grew phenomenally as many people made contributions online for the first time and got used to it. This time, with Haitian relief efforts, it may well be text giving via cell phones that comes of age. We are already seeing a sharp increase in these kinds of texting contributions. When even the U.S. federal government offers a way to support relief efforts via texting, you know something has become popular. It will be interesting to see final giving numbers from these efforts.

Fundraising always has to shine during the most difficult of times. To all fundraisers who are working on disaster relief efforts, my deepest thanks and appreciation for the work you do. I know it’s challenging now, but your efforts are making a difference, and all of us at AFP applaud you.