Leadership Wisdom From the King of March Madness (Part 2)

You can’t mention March Madness without including Coach Wooden. His UCLA teams won an unprecedented 10 National Championships in 11 years.

Last week I told you that I had the opportunity to spend a few days with Coach Wooden, and in that short time I learned a great deal about both the man and the success he achieved. In the last blog I mentioned that he was,

  • A Humble and Value Centered Man….who had a
  • A Strong Commitment to Excellence…and was
  • A Repository of Wisdom and Success…and conveyed
  • A Caring Beyond Performance.

Now today I’ll cover a few more traits that I believe contributed to Coach Wooden’s success.

An Acknowledgement of all Contributors

Organizations generally tend to acknowledge contributions of the stars and high performers. However, Coach Wooden believed it was essential to acknowledge the contributions of all of the players on his team. He did this regardless of how small that role might be.

Using an analogy he explained his logic:

“I’d say, we’re like a powerful automobile and Jabbar is the engine. You now, are only a wheel; and you over here are only a nut that holds that wheel on. Now which is most important? What good is that engine if we don’t have wheels? What if you don’t have the nuts holding that wheel on? You also need somebody behind that wheel or you’ll go in circles. You all have an important part to play. And I made a special effort to let those who weren’t playing very much know how much I appreciated them.”

A Passion for Planning

In my fundraising consulting with organizations I’ve found very little consistency in strategic planning. Some organizations rarely plan, while others plan annually. However, Coach Wooden planned regularly. In fact, he shared something with me that made a lot of sense. He said simply and with conviction that, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

While it’s a catchy phrase, clearly Coach Wooden lived it. He planned everything practices, recruiting, drills, player development and much more. And to think that the Coach planned just once a year is silly. He actually did annual planning, but he also planned monthly, weekly, daily and minute-by-minute during games.

A Foundation of Trust

The empirical data on the benefits of trust is clear. Leaders who build trust produce both higher productivity and profitability. I reference the following examples frequently in capital campaign consulting.  These are the results of just two of hundreds of studies on trust:

  • A Cornell University study of 6,300 Holiday Inn employees found that hotels where managers followed through on promises and demonstrated integrity were more profitable.
  • A Watson Wyatt study found that organizations where front-line employees trusted senior leaders had a 42% higher return on shareholder investment than organizations where distrust was the norm.

Coach Wooden clearly was a trust builder. In addition to acknowledging team member contributions, he built trust relationally.

He noted, that he,” wanted them to be considerate of each other. To my wife and me, our players were an extension of our own family. I’ve had players refer to my wife as kind of like their mother. And I wanted that. I wanted them close with each other and to know that I was concerned about them as I would be my own children and their future – not just as basketball players. They wouldn’t know this (at) first, but I hoped they would perceive it as time went by.”

The coach’s intent was captured in the words of former UCLA star and NBA great, Bill Walton: “Coach Wooden represents everything that is good, not only in the world of basketball, but in life in general. He is such a positive influence on everyone. He has taught me everything I know. Not so much about basketball, but about life.”

Leadership Lessons From the King of March Madness

While I’m not like I used to be, I’m still somewhat of a basketball junkie, particularly during March Madness. I grew up playing in the schoolyards of Chicago and actually had the opportunity to play for a while in college.

However, I don’t want to create any illusions about my ability. Though we were a good Division I team, I only played (and I’m using that term loosely) for two years, and my skills were mediocre at best. Still, I always enjoyed the NCAA Tournament, and one of my heroes was the unofficial King of March Madness, UCLA Coach John Wooden.

A Man to Admire

After college, I continued in education, first as a teacher and coach and eventually as a Vice President at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. We actually brought Coach Wooden to town to receive a prestigious leadership award and to speak with our students. Coach Denny Crum was instrumental both in helping us invite him and in securing an affirmative answer.

His three-day visit culminated in an awards banquet with some 1,500 guests in attendance. Of course, as his volunteer escort, I learned many valuable lessons from Coach that were not necessarily about basketball. At heart, he considered himself a teacher, and it was as a teacher that he wanted to be remembered. And if you watched him in action, you’d quickly see why.

A Humble and Value Centered Man

Despite his acclaim, the coach was a most gracious and humble man, which incidentally is one of Jim Collins’ key traits in “Good to Great” leaders. During tight games, I never saw Coach loose his cool. On the contrary, he held the familiar game program rolled up in one hand while the other hand was in his pocket, where he carried a cross. He’d rub that cross during tight spots to remind him of, “who he was and whose he was.” The cross and the values it represented allowed Coach to keep a cool head and the game in perspective.

A Commitment to Excellence

The coach’s practices were timed and well organized in ways that spoke to his commitment to excellence. His planning was detailed and masterful, including inviting a tailor to practice to fit uniforms. He wanted to take any excuses away from players for not performing with excellence. His standards were high and his teams were famous for their outstanding execution. He also considered the games to be a test of his coaching. If his players failed to perform well, he considered that to be his failure and not that of the players.

A Repository of Wisdom and Success

Coach Wooden had a good grasp on life, and his quotes were famous. At times I have used these quotes in my fundraising consulting with clients, “Failure is not fatal but failure to change might be,” and “Learn as if you will live forever; live as if you will die tomorrow.”

Having been in his presence for only a short time, it was obvious that he was both well read and a repository of wisdom. In fact, one of his favorite authors was Robert Louis Stevenson, who said, “That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much.”

By those standards Coach Wooden was clearly a success. However, his record of 620 wins (81%), 4 undefeated seasons and 10 national championships wasn’t bad either.

A Caring Beyond Performance

Beyond basketball, Coach Wooden cared about his players on a personal level. That was obvious from their comments in the mail we received from them. He addressed their personal needs and shared with them from the wisdom he had accumulated. It all contributed to player success both on the court and in life.

There’s much more I learned from Coach Wooden that can be applied to fundraising and capital campaign consulting. As March Madness progresses I will share some more of those jewels.

Using Social Media to Boost Donor Retention

Thanks Steven!

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Association of Fundraising Professionals monthly meeting of the Louisville Chapter.  I was fortunate to hear Steven Shattuck from Bloomerang share his experience with using social media to boost donor retention. As fundraising consultants, many times nonprofits ask us how they can improve donor retention rates. This blog is a brief recap of some of the helpful knowledge he shared. More detailed information can be found in his E-Book at:

Retain to Sustain

It comes as no surprise to any nonprofit professional that donor retention is key to long-term sustainability.  However, studies reveal that most organizations retain only 23% of their first time donors. Giving USA reports that the national average for donor retention is only 46%.  Although a lot of nonprofits use social media to communicate with donors, they may not realize the influential role it can play in keeping donors engaged.

Why Use Social Media?

Social media usage should be used by nonprofits for three reasons.  They are:

  1.  Appreciation
  2.  Advocacy
  3.  Appeals

Abundant Appreciation

Simply put, nonprofits should use social media to thank donors. In fact, posts with a message of gratefulness should account for 70% of the organization’s social media activity.  It has been proven that posts of appreciation get the most engagement.  They are retweeted nearly 99% of the time.

In our capital campaign consulting we stress the importance of a timely and sincere gift acknowledgement.  While posts or tweets should not be used in place of a personalized thank you letter or phone call, they do provide the organization with the opportunity to respond almost immediately to a donor’s gift.  With the donor’s consent, they can either post a gift acknowledgement (leaving out the gift amount) or share a picture of a volunteer workday with a note of gratitude.  This puts philanthropy on display and gives the donor a sense of pride in the important work they are helping the nonprofit achieve.

When donors share or retweet appreciative posts, it creates a FOMO or “fear of missing out” among their peers.  Hearing about the generosity of others can inspire others to get involved and this increases donations.

Engage Advocates

Every nonprofit has a cause for which they advocate. Social media provides an excellent platform to educate or raise awareness about an issue.  Posts can come from external sources such as research, news updates or other content-rich sources.  Internal sources may include insights from staff on a variety of topics. Employees might create videos, podcasts, webinars, or other content that can easily be posted to various social media outlets.

Limit Appeals

Although social media is a great place to make an appeal, these posts should be used sparingly. Appeals should only come after the nonprofit has established a regular pattern of activity heavily focused on appreciation and advocacy.   When the time is right to make an appeal, there are three ways to make it effective.

  1.  Be specific – It is important to remember that specific asks receive better response than general requests.  For example, asking for the donation of a specific baby item (diapers) or volunteer need (writing letters to soldiers) help people know exactly how to respond.
  2. Get help – If you can get high-visibility donors, board members, volunteers and employees to help develop and deploy social media campaigns they will have a larger impact.
  3. Express Urgency – When an appeal is truly urgent, it is important to make people aware. Convey in posts the tight timeline and share why an immediate response is necessary.

Implementing the strategies outlined above can help your nonprofit develop an effective social media plan that will help you boost retention and increase engagement.

Four Principles That Will Help Make Your Campaign A Success

Managing Church Campaigns

As capital campaign consultants, when working with churches we tell them that there are four principles on which we build our work that greatly enhance the church’s success.

However, beyond that, I believe these principles can help most organizations enhance fundraising success. What are they?

Principle 1 – Broad Information Sharing

Major donors want to know that you have created, tested and vetted strategies that best help you achieve your mission. The last thing anyone wants to believe is that a few people in a back room created most of these plans.

We’ve learned that the most effective fundraising comes from a strategic planning process. We typically test the proposed plans through a church survey and interviews. Also, during the campaign process we share information regularly about the campaign projects and processes through 7-8 articles that are posted in the bulletin and on the website.

We also host information meetings at the church, where people hear about the plans again and then are encouraged to ask questions. In fact, to ensure this kind of dialogue occurs, we suggest that clients plant a few questions (if necessary) to make it comfortable for others to ask questions.

Principle 2 – Involvement

Often institutional campaigns wind up having a few people do a lot of work. Among other things, that contributes to higher levels of burnout as campaigns wind down. In churches we try to reverse that model, having a lot of people do a few things.

We have six committees performing various tasks, but none actually does fundraising. Each committee meets no more than twice for an hour or less, and I (or one of my colleagues) create the agenda and then lead each meeting. Also, the actual work of each committee member takes no more than 1-2 hours.

Depending on the church size, we involve anywhere from 40-150 volunteers, typically 20-25% of the membership. Although that seems like quite a few, we rarely fail to recruit the volunteers we need. Also, with that many volunteers, you tend to get increased awareness, enthusiasm, advocacy and giving.

 Principle 3 – Momentum

As a high school coach, I planned and used momentum to win quite a few games. I learned that from my college coaches. During my career in higher education, I figured out ways to apply that concept in fundraising campaigns. In churches we do that in several ways. First, the committees are all focused towards the “capstone” phase, which happens in the last 6 weeks. There are activities for adults and children, information blasts, testimonials and much more.

In addition, through a series of dinners we ask 10-15% of the church membership to consider making their commitment a few weeks in advance of the rest of the congregation. The results of this phase are announced prior to commitment weekend, which serves as a momentum builder for the rest of the congregation.

Principle 4 – Prayer

Campaigns are about capacity and will. Through the feasibility study we get a pretty good idea of the capacity and to some extent we can even influence the will of church members to give. However, we also depend on the Holy Spirit to influence that will by incorporating prayer into our effort.

Specifically, every meeting begins with prayer. In addition, we ask people to thoughtfully and prayerfully consider what they may be led to give. Finally, we encourage churches to organize a 24-hour prayer chain with 15-minute segments, right before commitment weekend.

Proven Results

Applying these principles may not work for every organization. However, using this model over 20 years, we have had nearly a 100% success rate!

Want to transform your organization? Go get a transformational gift!

Clearly, there are organizations that secure multi-million dollar gifts, but they are few and far between. Why is that? Well, when it gets right down to it, few executives are willing to do the work involved in securing such a gift.

Principles of Transformation

For those brave individuals willing to do that work, I have included a few principles to aid you in your quest.

  • Transformational donors need to know what you’ll do with a transformational gift.  If you don’t know that answer, you won’t influence transformational donors. They need to know you’ve done your homework. If most of your time is spent keeping the doors open, eventually they are likely to close. You have to think in a visionary way about the future and communicate that vision.
  • Transformational donors need to be found.  Start first with your own database.  As fundraising consultants, when we help clients in their planning for a capital campaign we encourage them to conduct a wealth screening of their database. It gives them extensive information on net worth, liquidity and giving capacity.

One client was a bit reluctant to allocate resources to do this. However, they relented and in their own files found 18 new multi-millionaires about whom they knew nothing. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee fundraising success, but it certainly tells you where to start fishing. Beyond that, online sources can also help you find high capacity prospects.

  • Transformational donors need to be informed and eventually affiliated with your organization.  Try to connect with them through someone they know who is affiliated with your organization. It might be a staff person, board member or current donor, but you will have to make a personal connection.

A recent study of people who gave $100,000 or more found the most important motivators for giving are organizational affiliation and alignment with its mission (97.2% of donors). But for new donors, having a personal relationship with someone inside the organization is an important part of getting them affiliated.

You might also invite them to volunteer. The majority of high net worth volunteers (84.3 percent) give to at least some of the organizations with which they volunteer.

However, you have to learn their values and areas of interest, and one way to do that is simply ask them. Most high net worth households (76.4%) base giving decisions on personal values.

  • Transformational donors need to know their gift makes a difference in the lives of others and it’s lasting.  The late Dr. Woody Bartlett made a transformational gift of some $40 million to the Auburn University to establish the Bartlett Scholars Program.

He said, “Auburn (helped) me get ready for the type of career I wanted. I know there are a lot of young people coming along in the future. I hope the scholarship fund will give them a chance to focus on their studies and prepare themselves to do their best as veterinarians.”

  • Finally, transformational donors usually need to be asked and you must consider timing.  I remember the first transformational gift request I made, which prompted a funny response. Early in my career I requested a multimillion-dollar gift from a donor. His response was simply, “I don’t feel very rich today. Come and see me when I feel rich.”

Lessons Learned

I learned two things from this encounter. First, I asked too early in our relationship. I needed some time to make the case without asking. Second, I learned to hang in there and be creative in how I approached donors. He eventually gave at the level I asked, but it took a while to get there.

Applying these principles is never a guarantee, but it certainly is a good place to start!

Leading by Keeping Your Promises

Practice Keeping Promises 

Many times as fundraising consultants, leaders talk with us about the importance of keeping promises. Walking the talk of core values as a leader involves making a commitment to keep promises, regardless of the circumstances. When promises are broken, it’s usually because one person puts his or her interests ahead of those of others. But leaders can’t afford to do that. Frank Layden is the former president and coach of the Utah Jazz of the NBA. In a conversation I had with him about leadership, he commented:

“The minute (a promise) is broken is when I say I’m more important than you are and that my goals are more important than yours. Usually, the reason we are doing this is for my benefit or for the benefit of the few. And I don’t think we (as leaders) should be able to do that. What we should rather say is that if we have a contract, then that contract is supposed to be fair to both of us.”

An Excellent Example

A real life example of taking action consistent with the principles and keeping promises regardless of the circumstances is found in the story of J. Robertson McQuilkin. He is President Emeritus of Columbia International University. For 22 years he served as the University’s President, and his tenure was arguably one of the most productive of any president in the South Carolina school’s history. By his admission, this was his “dream job.”

On a vacation to Florida, McQuilkin noticed his wife, Muriel, began to repeat stories that she had just told only minutes before. It was a pattern that eventually would lead to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. As the disease advanced, McQuilkin faced an important decision. His wife was growing less and less conscious of both the people and the circumstances around her. The doctors advised him that regardless of the person providing care for her, her condition would likely deteriorate to the point where she would not recognize who it was. Therefore, he could just as easily continue as University President, achieving his vision while caring for his wife by providing full-time nursing assistance for her.

Despite the doctors’ counsel, McQuilkin’s commitment to his wife was much stronger than his loyalty to the University. He commented, “When the time came, the decision was firm. It took no great calculation. It was a matter of integrity. Had I not promised 42 years before, ‘in sickness and in health, till death do us part?’” He eventually resigned his position to care for his wife. In speaking about keeping his promise, he said simply, “This was no grim duty to which I was stoically resigned; She had cared for me for almost four decades with marvelous devotion; now it was my turn.”

Results Will Follow

Through his actions, McQuilkin demonstrated his commitment to and his belief in keeping his promises, regardless of the circumstances. The same is true both in organizations and in fundraising. Leaders are not only responsible for embracing and articulating values, they must also demonstrate commitment to those beliefs through their actions. Apart from that they only create cynicism. It makes sense that if leaders espouse something but fail to deliver on what they espouse, they lose credibility. Simply stated, if they expect to achieve their goal of building successful teams and increasing donations, then they must also create an atmosphere of trust. That doesn’t happen without keeping promises, regardless of the circumstances they face.

Leading by Following

Rejecting Gifts

In some cultures it’s an insult not to accept a gift from someone who offers it.  That’s because a gift is considered an extension of one’s self.  In rejecting a gift you’re in essence rejecting the person.  As offensive as this seems, people do this all of the time in businesses, non-profit organizations and even churches.

Heads of organizations regularly reject and thereby insult people by not allowing them to contribute their gifts and talents. Sure they wield power and tell them what to do, but that’s not leading. Most people affiliate with organizations because they believe they have something to offer. Therefore, if leaders hope to achieve and sustain success, they must take advantage of what people are offering.

Allowing Others to Contribute

However, allowing people to contribute their gifts and talents is a daunting task for power wielders. It requires them to be flexible by giving up a degree of power or control and in some ways following.  Yet, that’s exactly what leaders do to sustain long-term success.  They maximize the gifts and talents of their volunteers or employees by allowing them to contribute.

Engagement or Control

As fundraising consultants, people ask us all the time how to engage more people in their organizations. The response is simple, “You can have engagement or control, but you can’t have both. The more control you impose the less people will be engaged. To engage people you have to give up some control.” It sounds simple enough, but because it sometimes requires leaders to become followers, it is often neglected.  In an interview I had with Former Goodyear Chairman and CEO Stan Gault, he explained:

“All of us are followers in some ways and at some time.  We’ll not always have all the bright ideas on our own. When someone has an idea, we certainly should honor that.  I’m not the slightest bit embarrassed to say that I’m a follower.  I think when you’re following you also have an opportunity, perhaps even an obligation to ask how do you do that better.”

Actually, Stan was talking about exchanging some power and control for the “bright ideas” of his people. Regardless of the type of organization in which it occurs, facilitating this kind of an exchange strengthens the commitment and engagement of the people involved and is a sure church growth tool.

A Good Example

Bob Russell retired a few years ago as pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. During his career he grew the church from a little over 100 members to more than 20,000. In an interview, Bob explained to me how he empowered volunteers and staff to use their talents and contribute to the church’s success. He said,

“90% of leadership is recruiting the right people.  You get the wrong person and it doesn’t matter how much oversight or direction you give.  But you get the right person and give them responsibility, resources and encouragement and it’s amazing what they’ll do.  You try to smother people and box them in, then they’ll work to please you rather than please the Lord and fulfill their giftedness.  So I really believe in recruiting good people and then giving them the freedom to do what they’re gifted to do.”

Leading by following is really about trusting, trusting in the gifts and talents of the people being led, trusting in their willingness to become engaged and trusting in their integrity when you allow them to lead. This is a proven strategy on how to motivate church members as well as nonprofit staff and volunteers.


2017 Trends That Could Influence Your Philanthropy (Part 3)

So far in our series we’ve looked at 4 trends that could influence your philanthropy in the course of this year. We have reviewed:

  • Political differences becoming more polarizing
  • Technology being used more effectively
  • Unemployment and under-employment greatly influencing philanthropy, but promising to improve, and
  • Less institutional trust, increased millennial involvement and more demand for projects demonstrating tangible results

Today, I’ll discuss at least two more trends:

Corporations give more where their people are involved.

According to a 2013 study, 82% of US consumers consider social responsibility in deciding what products to buy. When it influences the bottom line, corporations tend to pay attention. Not that they lack altruistic tendencies, but if corporate involvement influences sales it’s one more reason to take responsibility seriously.

While corporate giving accounts for only 5% of total philanthropy, it provides a real boost for nonprofit fundraising. So how can you get corporate employees more involved in the life of your organization? There are several ways!

Co-brand events – Each year one nonprofit organizes a fun run sponsored by a local corporation. Another one engaged a large corporation to underwrite their annual festival of new plays. Then there are sponsored events like the Nutcracker, sports tournaments, recognition ceremonies, arts festivals and much more. In fact, we’re finding that corporations are even more generous through co-branding because the money typically comes from marketing budgets.

Provide opportunities for involvement – There are lots of ways to involve others, but the responsibility for doing so lies with the nonprofit to communicate its needs and it’s not just about money needs. For example, for upcoming events call volunteers and let them know you need their support.  Also, rather than put heavy workloads on staff, think of creative ways you can utilize volunteers. For example, the United Way uses corporate loaned executives as additional staff each year.

Invite corporate employees to join your board – When volunteers demonstrate strong interest or passion for your cause, consider them for board membership. Also, when you already have a good number of corporate employees involved, gather data on the hours they contribute, what that equates to monetarily and what they’ve helped you achieve.  Send thank you notes to the corporation’s upper management and include this information. It enhances your relationship and helps build your case if and when you make a monetary request for support.

Identify the value proposition – What’s in it for the corporation? When you solicit corporate gifts in any form you must be prepared to answer this question. For example, you may show them how your mission parallels theirs.  Discuss ways you can help them reach their target audience through social media and other forms of communication. Corporate challenge grants are even more attractive, since you will communicate their challenge to your entire donor base. Essentially, you want to identify the “quid-pro-quo” prior to your visit and make that part of your discussion.

Ways to involve corporate employees are endless, but organizations that do plan and invite people to help are also ones who will secure more of their support.

Community problem solving will increasingly motivate giving.

Increasingly major donors seek to make a tangible difference. It’s not good enough just to give to annual funds or capital campaigns. Essentially, they want their gifts to be transformational, and they want to see results that clearly demonstrate those transformations.

Facilitating that requires nonprofits to have appropriate foreknowledge about donors and their interests. As fundraising consultants, we recommend a thoughtful process of donor research followed by careful planning around areas of donor interest. Of course, that planning is geared towards solving one or more problems that are in line with your mission. That way you will be able to engage donors strategically in supporting your priorities.

However, the challenge will always be to find ways to accommodate donor interests without changing your mission or key programs simply to chase dollars.

2017 Trends That Could Influence your Philanthropy (Part 2)

In this continuing series, we discuss trend information that could influence the philanthropic revenue your non-profit organization or church receives. In last week’s blog we discussed political differences becoming more polarizing and technology being used more effectively. Today we bring you two more trends.

Unemployment Rates Affecting Giving

Unemployment and under-employment has greatly influenced philanthropy. According to a recent study by the Institute for Policy Studies, charitable giving from donors with incomes of less than $100,000 declined by an alarming 34% last year.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US unemployment rate hovers at around 4.7 %. While that would normally be cause for celebration, according to a CNN report, there are some hidden facts. First, only 62.7% of adult Americans are actually working. The labor participation rate hasn’t been that low in some 40 years. Also, the average wage of the typical worker has remained flat for over 20 years.

According to a Gallup article, widely reported unemployment metrics in the U.S. don’t represent real joblessness. For example, Gallup calls a “ good job” one in which the worker is employed for at least 30 or more hours and receives a regular paycheck. According to these criteria, the unemployment rate is closer to 10%.

It’s not surprising then that the number of donors at lower income levels is declining. However, recently the prospects for job growth have improved, particularly with promised tax cuts. As fundraising consultants, our advice is to work even harder to recruit donors at all levels, and over the next few years your efforts will be rewarded. Clearly, we are likely to see increased participation from lower income donors.

Simultaneously, giving from top income donors ($500,000 or more) increased by 57% and giving from the super rich ($10 million or more) increased by 104%. While this is encouraging, there is an inherent danger here. When nonprofits depend on too few donors to meet their budgets, they must ask what happens if one or two of these donors stop giving. Will the non-profit find itself in peril? That’s why having a broad donor base is essential.

Mistrust of Nonprofits is on the Rise

Less institutional trust and increased millennial involvement will bring demand for more projects demonstrating tangible results. A recent article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review started with the following statement: “Unethical behavior remains a persistent problem in nonprofits.” The authors used EduCap Inc. as an example. Evidently the organization abused its tax-exempt status by charging excessive interest on loans and providing millions in compensation and perks for the CEO and her husband. This included using the $31 million corporate jet for travel for family and friends.

There are many more examples of abuses that cause mistrust about fundraising, but suffice it to say that mistrust for nonprofits is on the rise. In fact, the article cites a Brookings Institute study that found 33% of participants reported “not having much” or “no” confidence in nonprofits, and 70% of participants believe nonprofits waste money. Also, according to a recent Forbes study, 78% of millennials said they would likely stop donating if they didn’t know how their donation is making a difference.

Organizational Transparency Increases Trust

Taking into consideration the erosion of trust and millennials’ preferences, nonprofit organizations can no longer assume that they will automatically be trusted. Instead they’ll need to earn that trust by incorporating high levels of transparency in their operations and communicating that transparency in multiple ways. In addition, they will need to demonstrate with increasing frequency, how donations to fundraising campaigns make a difference in the lives of the people they were intended to help.

2017 Trends That Could Influence your Philanthropy

Lately I hear increasing discussions and concerns from nonprofits and churches alike. They are planning and anticipating what the new-year will bring. Right now there are a lot of questions and even some predictions, but not many answers.

Still there are a few themes we can count on, and they promise to have a significant effect on organizations of all kinds. In the next few blogs I’ll discuss some of those themes.

Avoid Public Expression of Political Viewpoints

Political differences are increasingly more polarizing. We’re now to the point where we attribute evil to those who disagree with us politically. We even have labels: right-wingers, liberal elites, hyper conservatives, left leaners and many more.

Then there are the pundits and the presidential candidates. I thought about sharing some of their comments as examples of the vitriol that exists, but I feared that repeating their words might make some of our readers angry.

However, my point here is that these comments by pundits, candidates and supporters have inflamed the environment. Accordingly, if you’re either a non-profit executive, the head of a school or the pastor of a church, my recommendation is to stay as far away as possible from political rhetoric, unless it directly affects your mission.

First, in most cases you’re not hired for your political opinions. You’re hired to advance the mission of your organization. Second, when you take positions publicly you run the risk of polarizing your organization. That will surely hurt your revenue stream and fundraising. I’ve seen too many worthy non-profit organizations lose supporters and members, because they got involved in political debates that aren’t anywhere near the mission of the organization they represent.

Wise Advice to Follow

When I was a VP in higher education, my mentor told me, “Len, I have a lot of political opinions, but as President my first responsibility is to advance the mission of this university. I keep my opinions to myself (that includes refraining from sharing them on Facebook or Twitter) because if I spout off, I’m jeopardizing the mission of this university.”

It was great advice from a wise sage! That’s why I suggest to the extent possible, that you start doing the same. The alternative is simply not worth it!

Utilize Technology in New Ways

Technology will be used more effectively. While an increasing number of organizations are using e-mail, online giving and social media, there are other vehicles that only a few nonprofits employ. For example, we often hear from board and staff members that to be successful they need to focus on increasing donations from new donors.

While many organizations know who their top donors are, there are other prospective donors in their database who have a high capacity to give, but they know very little about them.

A Wealth of Information Available

This is bound to happen, particularly with a database that numbers in the thousands. That’s why we recommend conducting a wealth screening before embarking on a major gifts or capital campaign.

Our strategic partner provides an overview of the top 800-1000 donors for a reasonable price. This includes information on asset value, real estate holdings, liquidity, gift capacity and more. One client was a bit nervous about spending extra to do this. However, the screening uncovered 18 new multi-millionaires about whom they knew nothing.

Make Your Direct Mail Efforts More Targeted

As fundraising consultants, we have also been able to use technology to help our clients increase direct mail productivity. Another strategic partner provides service through which they can map IP addresses to home addresses. Having accurate addresses combined with online messaging and direct mail, greatly improves the connectivity, visibility and results. These are just a few examples of how non-profits are using technology to enhance results and increase productivity.

In future blogs we will look at additional trends that are sure to influence your philanthropic efforts.