Archive for the ‘Fundraising’ Category

Service of Sloppy Fundraising

Monday, October 9th, 2023

“Sloppy fundraising.”

Those were the words of a friend, who once worked for a charity, when I told her about the huge package of swag that arrived in my mailbox containing socks, a stack of Christmas cards, pens, address labels and other stickers as well as a calendar. I’d never given $1 to this charity which has a good reputation and has been in business for ages. She added, “if they are going to be so careless with their marketing dollars, they aren’t an appropriate place to support.”

What were they thinking?

Here’s a guess why this largesse happened. Previously I’ve only attracted a very occasional calendar and more often notecards, a little notepad and/or address labels. Earlier this year I’d given much more than I normally do to a charity. It was a one-time thing for a specific reason. If this charity sold my name to other charities as someone with deep pockets, shame on them.

Here are other examples of careless fundraising marketing. My friend mentioned that her dad had asked a prominent charity to stop sending mail and requests for money to her deceased mom. They didn’t heed his request, so he stopped sending checks.

My mom had a similar thing happen. Dad had donated to a nonprofit religiously, and she promised that she would continue to do so in his name but, she asked several times–both on the phone and in writing–would they please exchange her name for his. They never did.

A friend launched a fund in his deceased wife’s name. He hit the ceiling when the phone would ring at dinnertime with the caller treating him as she would any cold call prospect. He was irritated that names of substantial donors such as he had been for years weren’t scrubbed from all the organization’s other fundraising lists.

I just received a request to attend an annual fund reception to honor the organization’s donors. It was also addressed to my husband who has been gone four years. The place should have a record of this. Lazy marketing.

Have you noticed sloppy fundraising outreach? Can you share fundraising efforts you admire?

Service of Passing the Buck at a Charity

Monday, March 27th, 2023


Image by Joseph V M from Pixabay

We submitted a large online donation to a major charity that involved sending an email thank you note to the person who made the contribution possible. There was a clearly marked slot for that. I wrote a note and provided the person’s email address.

He never received it.

When I followed up in an email the charity’s rep responded that the note goes out automatically and immediately—which I knew that it did in theory—and that it’s not the charity that does it–their vendor does. Sorry, she wrote, but they couldn’t retrieve the note.

I replied that all they had to do was to ask the vendor for it, which I expected her to do. I would have asked for that outcome had the donation been $5 or $10.

On the other hand, the responsiveness by a teensy charity about on online glitch–a onetime donation was stuck in the monthly category–was quick and helpful.

I’ve traditionally sent a check with a cover note listing the ways to contact the person to whom I want the charity to send an acknowledgement. I want them to know I’ve honored their beloved departed. But even doing it the old fashioned way I never know if the charity sends anything. Given that most people don’t thank, and if the donation comes at a time of grief and upset, the recipient might mean to but doesn’t.

I am beginning to lose my enthusiasm for this way of remembering or honoring a loved one.

The person in my first example is close enough to me that I asked him if he’d heard from the charity. Most times I would be uncomfortable doing that. And you? Do you trust that a charity will follow your instructions? Do only the $1million + donors get appropriate attention without being pushed?


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Service of Charity Missteps

Thursday, February 23rd, 2023

One day’s worth of requests for money in my mailbox

I wrote two years ago “Service of How to Discourage Me from Opening My Checkbook for Your Charity.”

My advice for charities in 2021: Delete names from your mailing list when you’re told about a death certainly after the second request; improve your Charity Navigator rating by reducing your CEO’s (outrageous) high six figure salary and your marketing expenditure–25 percent of the budget is too much; allow donors on a website form to dedicate a contribution in celebration or in memory of a friend or relative and confirm to the donor that you notified the family or person of the gift if requested.

I have some new ones:

  • If you haven’t received a donation from someone for four years**, don’t start your fundraising letter “Thank you for your unwavering support and friendship.” The recipient of a letter last week was my husband who has been gone that long. What are computers for? **And maybe the time should be two years.
  • If a person you are asking to contribute a princely sum is active in your organization and you have a modest number of members, and one responds to your email outreach, acknowledge the correspondence. And, for goodness sakes, under no circumstances, don’t send him/her two more requests identical to the first.
  • I have enough return address labels to last through Christmas but keep them coming. Just don’t expect me to pay for them.
  • And if I sent you money to honor someone who died and you are the family’s designated charity and you haven’t received a penny from me ever since, stop mailing me letters and/or selling my name to other charities.

Do you have pet peeves regarding fundraising practices?


Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay 

Service of I Don’t Want to Hear That

Thursday, October 27th, 2022


Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

It’s not fair, I know, but when my favorite classical music station conducts a fundraiser, I either turn to YouTube to hear Mendelssohn or Mahler or to a competing station. I normally listen all day through my laptop, but I can’t think, read, or write with constant talk and only brief music breaks.

As previously admitted here, there are some commercials that cause me to immediately flip TV or radio stations and often I end up intrigued by the other program to the detriment of the original that loses a viewer or listener. These topics probably wouldn’t faze a medical audience, but I don’t want to hear repeatedly about gizmos that wash the guck from noses or mask the odor of a person’s privates.

When there’s a traffic jam, I’m irritated by the sound of useless impatient honking. And drivers: please keep your mufflers on and don’t go so fast you have to screech to a stop–or before slamming into an innocent neighboring vehicle—another painful noise. Pedestrians visibly jump when a large empty truck clatters down an avenue at top speed creating a BOOM when it confronts a significant pothole.

I move away from angry, raised voices on the street or in a store.

I am not a fan of political commercials that promote lies and, in this pre-midterm season we hear the same ones incessantly.

My beloved now deceased drama queen kitty would wail if I went near her paw to clip her nails when normally she was a tough girl. I couldn’t do it. Her cry was a deterrent. She didn’t utter a peep in the vet’s hands.

What sounds set you on edge?

Service of How to Ask for Money or Support When You Shouldn’t

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

This is the time of year in which we’re bombarded by requests for money which inspired the topic of this post.

Say you’ve neglected a once close friend for whatever reason–do you ask them to support your cause or for the names of business contacts for a project at work?.

Your silence is worse if they’ve been sick, lost a job or a loved one. It happens.

Do you nevertheless call or write as though you just saw the person last week? Do you make small talk and then ask for what you want or forget it and think of others to contact this time?

If you’re sending an e-blast to all your contacts asking them to attend a fundraiser, do you include the recently forgotten person or delete their name from the list so as not to potentially irritate them?

Have you been on either side of this situation? If you were the one neglected would you play ball–attend the fundraiser, contribute to it or provide the business information you’re asked for?

Service of Who Vets the Details for a Prince?

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

The characters in this post are Charles, Prince of Wales, a British businessman, James Stunt, and a convicted painting forger Tony Tetro.

Javier Pes covered the incident on artnet.com in “Prince Charles’s Charity Displayed Paintings by Picasso, Dalí, and Monet—Until a Convicted Forger Claimed Them as His Own.” He wrote that Stunt lent “works supposedly by Monet, Picasso, and Salvador Dalí to Dumfries House, the historic property in Scotland that is a cause close to the heart of the heir to the British throne.”

Stunt got them back after Tetro announced he’d painted them. He also said that Stunt knew they were fake because he’d ordered them for his home. The faux artist added that “there is no way that these paintings could pass even the lightest scrutiny. The canvases are new, paint is modern, stretcher bars are not correct or period.”

The coverage implied that the Prince should have known better and we don’t know if he’d ever seen the canvases. Pes wrote: “The British royal, who is a former trustee of London’s National Gallery and grew up surrounded by Old Masters, must have been delighted when the flamboyant British businessman James Stunt agreed to lend 17 works.”

Stunt was also on the griddle. Quoting the Daily Mail‘s account and what Stunt said, Pes reported: “ ‘What is the crime of lending them to a stately home, [to] the Prince of Wales and putting them on display for the public to enjoy?’ He stopped short of accepting that he knew they weren’t originals,” added Pes.

Pes wrote: “Tetro, who was found guilty of art forgery involving works by Dalí, Miro, Chagall, and Norman Rockwell in the past, now makes what he calls ’emulations’ of Modern masterworks. Stunt ‘knew with 100 percent certainty that these works were by me,’ Tetro said, a claim that Stunt denies. ‘We discussed the subject of the paintings and many of the particulars. These were decorative paintings that were purposely made by me as decorations for his home.'”

It’s hard to tell who was pulling the wool over whose eyes in this $136 million art scam. Was Stunt trying to gain provenance for fakes he knew were such? Did he really know what he bought from Tetro? Was the Prince of Wales, who was trying to generate funds for a historic Scottish property, taken to the cleaners by Stunt, whom, Pes notes at the end of the article, went bankrupt this summer? Should the Prince’s front people/handlers–or the folks in charge of fundraising for Dumfries House–have done a better job at vetting the background of the theoretically munificent businessman before accepting his offer? Or should the Prince have known better?

Service of Discoveries

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Sharing a few things I’ve learned or noticed within the last week.

Shoe Shine

The Hudson Yards subway station on the number 7 extension over by the Javits Center is buried deep underground so to reach the street you take two very steep escalators. On either side of the moving stairs are one-inch brushes. If I had on leather shoes–even better with shoe polish handy–I could shine them simply by sidling to the left and then right of the step. I wouldn’t try it on the way down–it’s too steep. No doubt the brushes are on all the subway escalators…but they are not new and clean nor is the ride as long as at Hudson Yards.

If You Have to Ask You Can’t Afford It

I received a request to become a member of an internationally recognized NYC museum on an expensive, color 20″ x 6″ card folded in half. Nowhere were membership rates listed. “Is this the latest trend in fundraising?” I thought as I tossed the card, “or a mistake?” Or perhaps they don’t want members who care about cost.

Oh?

I graduated from the College of Liberal Arts [CLA] of an east coast University and discovered, when filling out a personal information update, that CLA no longer exists.  It’s called the College of Arts & Sciences these days. I mentioned this to a savvy friend and fellow graduate who keeps up on all things and she wasn’t aware of the change. Suggested to the alumni office that they make clear, when asking “which college did you attend?” that they add “formerly CLA” opposite the arts and sciences reference.

Have you made any surprising discoveries lately?

Service of Opening Wallets for Charity

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

In Anna Prior’s Wall Street Journal article “How Charities Can Get More Out of Donors,” I learned that the emotional ask—sharing heartwrenching descriptions of people in dire need–isn’t as effective as it once was. What is? “Trumpeting the fact that the charity got a gift from a big-name donor.” Experiments cited in the article proved the point. Bill and Melinda Gates open checkbooks. Why? “Because it’s so hard for individuals to evaluate charities these days,” Prior wrote.

The issue of the effectiveness of public recognition–even for smallish donations–show that the probability of giving was 13 percent + for alumni who were told their donations over a certain amount would be published in a newsletter vs. 11 percent for those who weren’t. Further, contributions were $8 more on average with the former group.

For those who resent paying for overhead–large executive salaries, meetings at resorts or fancy office furniture for example–a study showed that those told that every penny they donated was going to the cause, as overhead had already been covered by previous gifts, tended to give more.

“As part of the research,” wrote Prior about a study conducted by Uri Gneezy, Elizabeth Keenan and Ayelet Gneezy at UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management, “they sent 40,000 solicitation letters to people, divided into four groups. One group received a standard letter asking for money, the second got a similar letter saying a private donor had already given seed money to the cause, and the third group’s letter noted there was a matching grant available. But the fourth group got a letter telling them that the charity had already secured donations to cover its overhead costs, so every subsequent dollar donated was going directly to programs.

“According to the study, 8.55% of people in the fourth group donated, compared with 4.75% in the second group and 4.41% in the third. And total donations for the fourth group were $23,120—almost triple the first group’s $8,040, and nearly double $13,220 in the second group and $12,210 in the third. ‘The average donor doesn’t seem to care about the size of the overhead, as long as they aren’t the one paying for it,’ says Mr. Gneezy.”

Prior also covered what’s most effective for in-person solicitation. No surprise that those outside a store got more when they asked for it than those who silently stood by a bucket. The question charities need grapple with is: when does aggression become an annoying turnoff?

There’s also pressure for people to announce their gifts via Facebook, such as offering incentives via matching grants of from $1 to $5 in the donor’s name if givers promote their donations on their Facebook walls. People preferred doing this via Facebook than sending email messages to friends.

Have you been convinced to donate money to a charity based on correspondence; seeing on social media that a friend or colleague donated; via requests from friends or colleagues or promises that your name would be publicized as a donor? Do you have your list of charities from which you never waiver? Do you like others to know you are a donor? What inspires you to open your checkbook and what turns you off?

Service of a Famous Name: 21st Century Fundraising & Avery Fisher

Monday, November 17th, 2014

I’m terrible at remembering names of people and places although those I’ve heard for eons–like Avery Fisher Hall [photo right, below]–fall off my tongue. When I read about how Lincoln Center was planning to attract the mega funds it feels it needs to update the hall my keyboard beckoned.

The Broadway World news desk wrote: “In a milestone philanthropic agreement that will help ensure the future of one of the world’s iconic performing arts spaces, the children of the late Avery Fisher – Nancy Fisher, Charles Avery Fisher and Barbara Fisher Snow – today joined with the leadership of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts to announce that they have entered into an agreement to enable the renaming of Avery Fisher Hall.”

Danika Fears wrote in the New York Post: “After threatening to sue, Avery Fisher’s heirs agreed to let the performing-arts organization drop his name in exchange for $4.5 million more than the original $10.5 million the Fisher Electronics founder donated back in 1973.”

Some colorful example of inflation, no?

Fears continued: “Now Lincoln Center can tempt another well-to-do donor willing to sink serious money into a planned $500 million overhaul in exchange for their name being emblazoned on the building.”

I wish someone with that kind of money would give it, ask the Fisher children to return the $15 million to Lincoln Center and leave the name as-is.

I have issues with the concept that to attract big bucks an institution must offer the naming option, though this is beside the point and a distraction to the current situation.

I wasn’t tickled with Avery’s children for accepting money in this regard. Plus I’m surprised that the Fisher lawyers didn’t make it clear, when the original donation was made, how long the hall would sport Avery’s name and/or under what circumstances it could be erased. This move doesn’t seem like such a great precedent for attracting the next big donor: “Give us multi-millions and we’ll chip off your name when we need another injection of cash.” And what about the loss of branding and cost of new stationery, new domain name and so on?

I like the idea of donating money in the name of someone else–a deceased relative, a good friend. I’ve done this myself.

How do you feel about Lincoln Center’s fundraising techniques? If you had the money, would you name an institution after yourself or, in the example of a performance space, the name of a worthy industry celebrity or maybe someone who isn’t famous like your wonderful Uncle Joe?

Service of Art III

Monday, April 7th, 2014

The subhead in a New York Times op-ed, “Costs, Benefits and Masterpieces,” by Robert H. Frank was: “For Detroit and its endangered art collection, a classic question of economic trade-offs.”

In a nutshell the Cornell economics professor’s point was that a museum, such as the Detroit Institute of Arts, could do just as well collecting the less expensive work of emerging artists leaving the mega rich to pay humongous prices for famous paintings and lend them to museums, as necessary, for exhibits. Therefore museums, such as the one in revenue-starved Detroit, could sell its Picassos, Rembrandts, Gauguins and more to better benefit its citizens.

Using “The Wedding Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder as an example, he wrote that Christie’s estimates that the work could bring $200 million, noting that “Once interest rates return to normal levels — say, 6 percent — the forgone interest on that amount would be approximately $12 million a year.”

He concluded: “If billionaires choose to bid up the prices of trophy art, that’s their privilege. And because most of them will die with large fortunes unspent, they can buy what they want without having to buy less of other things they value. But because money for worthy public purposes is chronically in short supply, city officials and true philanthropists must grapple with agonizing trade-offs.

“Yes, communities benefit from famous paintings, but they also benefit from safer roads and better schools.”

I like the idea of identifying talented emerging artists and filling museums with their work yet I see it as a short-term solution. Once the $billions are gone–and they soon will be–how then will the gluttonous city coffers replenish themselves? If a city like Detroit has such great collections, shouldn’t they be a tourist draw?

Perhaps Detroit can generate income by renting the master paintings to billionaires letting them display them in their homes and offices. With the rental money Detroit might make itself conducive to tourism. That’s key. When I used to visit Brooklyn Museum on a weekend some 20 years ago most of the exhibits were echo chambers. Last December, when my client produced the American Fine Craft Show Brooklyn at the museum on a famously snowy weekend, I was amazed by the hoards coming in the doors in spite of the storm.

Your ideas?

 

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