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?