Fundraising for Nonprofits

Inspiring Gifts that Transform

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Welcome Singapore, Dhahran and Sweetham

If you are a returning visitor, you'll notice I spent Thanksgiving weekend updating the look and feel of this blog. For I only became aware recently that over half the known universe -- anyone running Internet Explorer -- could not read the old layout properly. Ugh.

Apparently, the problem stems from the fact that Explorer isn't a "standards-compliant browser," which means it sometimes has difficulty reading Blogger CSS pages. A random search through other Blogger sites reveals that is a very common problem.

Though in a past life I used to be a desktop publisher -- was even a newspaper publisher for a few years -- I never really learned web design, so much of this is simply foreign to me. But after many attempted work arounds, it seemed like the best option was to simply redesign this blog from scratch.

In the process I added a few widgets, including a simple link for bookmarking posts to and an email subscription option. Also, finally got around to upgraded my tracking service to Google Analytics, which my left-brain is really going to enjoy. Seems that the first visitor it tracked was from Singapore, followed shortly after by users from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and Sweetenham, England. Welcome one and all!

So if you are a visitor from somewhere between San Francisco and Singapore, who cannot still view this humble little blog correctly, could you please let me know? Many thanks!


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Philanthropy world news online edition

Philanthropy may be the trend du jour, but pondents continue to predict its death and rebirth in the bright phoenix of capitalism, while others still find use for Marxism. Giving to charities when you’re deeply in debt may not be legal, while donating to some children’s causes may be deemed a terrorist act. Golfing fundraisers continue to grow in popularity, if you’re White. Republican Congressman complains that telemarketers calling voters on his behalf have such heavy foreign accents they cannot be understood, but does not ask for imprisonment.

In Pittsburgh, prospective donors are cultivated through macing and various forms of punishment, while their solicitor is rewarded with a rich pension. In Massachusetts, prospective donors are flamingoed, and in New York City a single, suspended, spinning David Blaine replaces thousands of volunteer Salvation Army Bell Ringers across the country. Big Brother is fundraising on your computer.

Wal-Mart restricts giving to Gays and Lesbians to enhance holiday shopping. Secular liberals keep tight purses. Toys for Tots announces it will distribute 4,000 donated talking Jesus dolls this Christmas season. Dead spirits are helping raise funds for the SPCA. Nubian Queen Lola has a big heart.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Center on Philanthropy receives $40 million endowment grant

My Alma Mata, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, announced today that is has received a $40 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to establish a permanent endowment. This investment will generate about $2 million in earnings annually to replace the annual operating support that Lilly Endowment currently is giving to the Center.

Actually, I'm a graduate of the Center's Fundraising School, which is the only international educational program of its type housed within a university. Founded here in the Bay Area by Hank Rosso over 3o years ago, it later became a part of the Center and continues to provide superior training in fundraising principles and practices throughout the country.

So whether it is my heavily highlighted, dog-eared copy of Achieving Excellence in Fund Raising, my volunteer service with the Development Executives Roundtable Board, or my training through the Fundraising School, Hank's voice is never too far from my ear, reminding me that at the core fundraising is the "gentle art of teaching the joy of giving."


Monday, November 20, 2006

Please join me for DER's annual holiday party

If you're located in the San Francisco Bay Area, please join me for the Development Executives Roundtable (DER) annual Holiday Party, Tuesday, December 12th, 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. at the Foundation Center. Advance tickets are only $15 and are available online. Tickets sold out last year, so be sure to reserve your space today.

Founded in the 1960's by Henry "Hank" Rosso, DER is dedicated to growing and enhancing the community of development professionals by providing low cost, accessible learning and networking opportunities directed towards fundraisers at every stage of their careers. I'm very grateful to be DER's current Board Secretary.

We're of course located in Northern California, so there'll be good food and wine in abundance, plus the return of the world-famous "Show Me the Money Players." I'll be performing again with those renowned thespians, the "Development Ducks." Not to be missed.

This event is cosponsored by the Foundation Center in cooperation with the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Golden Gate Chapter. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Multicultural Alliance, an AFP-GGC program that works towards diversity in the fundraising profession.

A big thanks to all our many generous sponsors who make this party possible, including presenting sponsor VanLobenSels/RembeRock Foundation.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

On Phil Cubeta and the moral education of fundraisers

Fundraisers are among the most generous, compassionate and giving individuals I know. We are also, by and large, a bunch of sycophants. There's nothing quite like a room with a couple funders surrounded a large pack of hungry Development Directors -- talk about a lesson in moral education.

That's why fundraising blog maven Philip Cubeta's writing is such a constant breath of fresh air. He understands his place in Wealth Bondage, and unlike so many is not afraid to speak. A self-proclaimed Morals Tutor to America's wealthiest families, I wonder if the true target of his efforts is not us, dear readers?

The biggest news in philanthropy this past week has been the Slate 60 Conference and Philanthropy Series, a gathering of the world's 150 wealthiest donors hosted by Slate Magazine and the William J. Clinton Foundation. While the trend maybe to fawn over the ongoing leveraged buyout of the social sector, Phil questions here, here, here and here whether the emperor is wearing any clothes at all.

Though my recent entry into the blogosphere has not been without anxiety and angst, I take great comfort in knowing that through wit and wisdom, satire and praise, Phil's multiple outlets, including Gift Hub and The World We Want, have become among the most heavily visited fundraising blogs. There is hope for us still.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

We interupt this message to give thanks

Just wanted to take a break from the random fundraising posts to give thanks to all of you who read, comment, subscribe or have linked in to this little blog. Here's a big hug of thanks!

Particularly want to give a shout out to the good folks at Charity 2.0 Blog Network, who highlighted this site last week:
"And, when it comes to the topic of philanthropy, the Internet just runs rife with any view, topic or stance. One of our favourites at CBN, is the Fundraising for Nonprofits by Gayle Roberts. Working as a professional Fundraising counselor in California, she helps people 'connect their values to the causes that matter to them…' As you can imagine, she knows what she’s talking about, and she doesn’t mince words. Her approach is direct and in a world that seems to be getting more convoluted by the minute, that’s pretty refreshing."
As someone who is still very new to the blogosphere, I have so much more to learn about this new venue, but it feels very good to have my initial efforts recognized. If anybody else has comments about what they like, or what could be done better here, I would love to hear from you too!


Monday, November 13, 2006

What’s wrong with profit?

If you're a fundraiser who has been keeping your head down, focusing on building your good causes' annual campaign, launching your fall major donor drive and keeping your Board members happy, you may well be missing the biggest shift in philanthropy to happen in your lifetime. As The New York Times reports today:
"This year, as never before, the line between philanthropy and business is blurring. A new generation of philanthropists has stepped forward, for the most part young billionaires who have reaped the benefits of capitalism and believe that it can be applied in the service of charity. They are 'philanthropreneurs,' driven to do good and have their profit, too."
There are many definitions of philanthropy, but one pragmatic description is “philanthropy is the exercise of private will in the public sector.” From this perspective, the blurring of lines between the for-profit and nonprofit sector is long over due.

On a good day, my wish is the push toward value-driven, sustainable businesses practices means our MBA-graduated brethren have learned something from the social sector field.

But then I am reminded of a conversation I had ten years ago with my investment banker cousin, who upon learning I worked with nonprofits, asked me about sector investment opportunities, “because everybody wants to make a buck.”

Today we live on a planet were the world’s 793 billionaires control more assets than the world’s poorest 3 billion individuals. Such unequal wealth accumulation is due in large part to continuing marketplace deregulations, increasing tax cuts and ongoing access to natural resources at public expense.

For all I know many of these philanthropreneurs are of true compassion and good heart, but I fully agree with Mark Rosenman, a professor at the Union Institute and University, who The Times quoted as saying:
"Though I have no problem with philanthropy and socially responsible business being joined, I do have one with a for-profit enterprise being called philanthropy."
Contrary to recent statements, this new trend does not serve the “public interest over political correctness.” Fortunately, there are at least a few business people who understand the difference. Ted Turner, when recently asked about Sir Richard Branson’s $3 billion "donation" made at the Clinton Global Initiative said:
“It’s not a donation.” Rather he said it was an investment. “He’s probably going to make more off that investment than he has in everything else.”
The Association of Fundraising Professionals ethic statement reads in part that it members “shall not put philanthropic mission above personal gain … and that members shall not accept compensation that is based on a percentage of contributions.”

So what’s wrong with the world's wealthiest individuals making a profit off the backs of the poor, vulnerable and oppressed? It’s unethical.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Kay Sprinkel Grace and the transformative power of fundraising

A fixture of San Francisco Bay Area and national fundraising for nearly three decades, Kay Sprinkel Grace gave the keynote address at the recent Craigslist Foundation Nonprofit Bootcamp training conference in San Francisco. Its now online as part of Stanford’s Social Innovations Conversations podcasts. Give yourself a little gift today and listen to this while you squeeze in lunch at your computer workstation.

For if you ask me, most people outside this field have an innate fear of fundraising because of the perception it is a difficult sales job. Most professional fundraisers I know have made peace with the work because they believe it isn't merely about raising money, but about raising donors.

But I don’t think either perspective fully describes the potential power of our work, or why I am attracted to it. Creating connections between people of means and people with needs, the inspired fundraiser is a change agent bringing together individuals and communities across lines of race, class, age, gender, ability, sexuality, geography and other artificial divisions. Fundraising has the ability to transform not only those who receive, but also those who give. To give is to receive, and in that moment there is the transformative potential to understand that what separates us is merely an illusion.

Fortunately, as fundraisers, we are not immune to the transformative power of this work. Like a martial art, if one practices fundraising long enough, it teaches one to move through the world with improved humility and grace. I for one still have much to learn, but it is a good path to be walking down.

Fortunately, there are those who have gone before us to help light the way. One of those is Kay Sprinkel Grace.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

On Buddhas, cats, ducks and mentorship in the nonprofit sector

One of the things I'm most grateful for in my life is my Mother Duck, Lisa Hoffman, who wrote the short essay below. She's my Mother Duck because I'm one of her ducklings, a small group of development professionals she has chosen to informally mentor. I am so blessed to have her wisdom, compassion and friendship in my life. Having Lisa as a mentor, and the rest of the ducks for peer support, is the secret to any success I have, both professionally and personally.

Lisa is one of San Francisco Bay Area's top nonprofit resource development consultants with more than 20 years experience. She has also been a Zen Buddhist practitioner for the past 11 years, and was lay ordained at San Francisco Zen Center in 2000. She is now training to become a Zen priest through the Russian River Zendo. You should also know that she is a cat lover, believing that all cats are reincarnated Zen masters. She can be reached at lisahoffman9 [at]sbcglobal[dot]net.
The executive director's voice on the phone was desperate. "We need to avoid a funding crisis and our planning meeting is in five days. Can you help us?" Her nonprofit protects the frail elderly from abuse.

This call reminded me why I believe that you and all of us who have made a commitment to the nonprofit community are Bodhisattvas, a Buddhist term.

A Bodhisattva vows to help everyone in the world become enlightened before she reaches enlightenment. Does the magnitude of this commitment feel familiar? What is your nonprofit's mission? To eradicate poverty, build social justice, cure cancer? Fulfilling our missions is challenging, if not impossible -- as is the vow to enlighten all beings.

How can we renew ourselves as we work to make the impossible happen on a daily basis?

Where do we find the energy to face intractable social ills while seeking to change a self-destructive culture?

These are questions I have explored for the many years of my nonprofit career. As a young development director and now a consultant, I have often felt depleted by the demands of the commitment I have made to my community. Beginning a meditation practice more than a decade ago has slowly pointed me toward a self-renewal that is grounded in commonsense and inspiration.

For a Bodhisattva, energy lays in the vow itself and its day-to-day fulfillment. Focusing only on the outcome -- enlightening all beings -- is daunting, to say the least. Feeling that I am not done until my nonprofits mission is fulfilled is similarly exhausting. What is an action-minded person to do?

We could try sitting down.

Meditating, usually with my cat purring in my lap, has gradually developed my ability to meet the person or activity in front of me. This is the fulfillment of my commitment to the nonprofit community. And it is this moment-to-moment engagement against the backdrop of mission that revitalizes me.

Sometimes, when I stop and breathe for a moment, it even fills me with wonder. And gratitude. I remember that I am offering healing to this hurting world. I can make a difference.

This doesn't mean there is no stress, or that planning is no longer needed. There will still be overwhelming amounts of work, political defeat, or trying to help a homeless family with a heartbreaking story and few resources. During these times and always, renewal lies in our vow and the next simple act of its fulfillment. I said yes to that executive director.
As fundraising professionals, we help people give back to their communities everyday by connecting their values with nonprofit missions that matter to them. Mentoring a young person coming into this field is one of the best ways that we in turn can give back to our own community. Please consider adopting a duckling into your own life, and help open doors that were once opened for you.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Creating a life worth living

What would your life be like if you aligned your values with your work, consumption, investments and philanthropy? What if love and abundance was your primary inspiration, rather than fear and scarcity? What if you joined your efforts with others in your community?

Helping donors and organizations answer these three essential questions is at the core of every professional fundraisers' job.

San Francisco Bay Area social web maven Britt Bravo is someone whom I suspected asked herself these questions many years ago. Today, through personal coaching, community activism and business consulting she helps individuals and organizations create positive change in the world around us.

While finding time to keep up with one blog is difficult enough for most of us, Britt writes for four: her personal blog, Have Fun • Do Good; the NetSquared blog, where she is the Community Builder; BlogHer, where she is a BlogHer Nonprofit and NGO Contributing Editor; and her newest endeavor, Basic Blogging for Women.

If that weren’t enough, she also produces audio podcasts for NetSquared and her own Big Vision website!

I particularly want to point you toward this later link, which features a series of interviews with some of today's most inspiring, young progressive thinkers including Jessica Jackley Flannery of Kiva, Steve Williams of POWER, and Brahm Ahmadi of People’s Grocery.

Fundraising isn't really the focus of these podcasts, but I spent the last few days listening to Britt’s audio archives and am beginning to believe that I too can begin to help heal the world. Maybe you’d like to join me?


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Why do people look like their dogs and why should you care?

A few weeks back Tom Belford at The Agitator riffing on Seth Godin, riffing on why people look like their dogs wrote:

"When you buy a Powerbook, a Harley, a Field & Stream, a RED teeshirt from the Gap, a MINI, organic produce, a Doberman, Bob Dylan's latest album, Jimmy Choo shoes, a Starbucks Iced Caffe Mocha you are saying something to yourself and about yourself, consciously or unconsciously. 'This [brand] is me. It affirms who I am. I connect with it intellectually and emotionally. We belong together.'

What does this mean in terms of marketing nonprofit organizations and their causes? Your marketing should aim to evoke this same reaction from a prospect: 'I belong here, supporting this organization, this cause.' And then, even more importantly, your subsequent marketing needs to evoke reaffirmation -- validation -- of that initial impression: 'Yes, I made the right decision, I do belong here.'"

So why do people look like their dogs? Because it validates them. So why do people give to nonprofits? Because it validates them.

Probably the best fundraising blogger writing on this connection between donors and why the give is Jeff Brooks at Donor Power Blog, who nearly single-handedly is trying to inspire nonprofits to respect their donors, which for some agencies, is going to be a very large cultural change indeed.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Recommended Blog: Where Most Needed

When this blog passes through adolescence, one site it would like to grow up to be more like is Where Most Needed. Filling out the back-story behind today’s philanthropy headlines, every post this last month has been worth bookmarking.

As a budding governance wonk, I've appreciated underalms' recent insights on the changes going on at the Red Cross highlighted here and here. He's also has posted on the gossip-rag worthy meltdown at the Getty Museum, so you don't have to.

As the "War on Dissent" moves further into the nonprofit sector, the chill on Muslim charities is up and UNICEF pulls itself out of the trick or treat business.

A close friend of mine is a Major Gifts Officer at the ACLU and she, along with Ira Glasser, I'm sure are breathily waiting for results from the site's ACLU dueling website survey.

As a result of the New Yorker magazine's recent feature on the Microfinance and the article review on Where Most is Needed, I took Omidyar Network off one of my client's prospects lists, as it had become clear they are just not a good fit.

Do I need to say more? I think not.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Update on the health of California’s grant making community

This in via the Philanthropy News Digest. The Foundation Center, in cooperation with the Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy at USC, has just released a new report on the health of California foundations. Its findings include:
  • U.S. foundations awarded an estimated $4.4 billion to California-based recipients in 2005.
  • Number of California foundations grew by almost half.
  • California foundation assets surpassed $77 billion in 2004, but inflation-adjusted assets remained unchanged.
  • Health remained the top priority among sampled California foundations, followed by education.
  • Colleges and universities and human service agencies received largest, but lesser shares of support.
  • Program support dominated California foundation funding, while operating support displaced capital support as second-ranked priority.
  • Over half of California foundation grants target specific population groups; economically disadvantaged and children and youth benefit from largest shares of grant dollars.
  • International giving by California foundations grew faster than overall giving.
  • Giving by non-California foundations for California recipients grew by more than half since the late 1990s.