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Why America is Great

America Great Because She is Good

When Alexis de Tocqueville first came here, he observed a young democracy that he both admired and wrote about in Democracy in America. He allegedly said:

“Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.  America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”

Unfortunately, there’s little evidence attributing this to Tocqueville. Still, Eric Metaxas finds irony here because the quote captures Tocqueville’s argument.  He calls it a “brilliant summation” of his work. “ [Tocqueville] saw clearly that it was the ‘goodness’ of America’s people that made America work. “

Regardless of who said it, the statement is packed with truth, particularly in light of Mr. Trump’s campaign to, “Make America Great Again.” But are we looking in all the wrong places to bolster “American exceptionalism?” In fact, maybe America has been great because of its Christian heritage, a heritage that the courts, schools and municipalities hope to expunge from the public square.

Is America Still Good?

Recent headlines call the “goodness” of America into question. Chicago’s homicide rate continues at a horrendous pace (631 this year). Then in one night a deranged lunatic killed 58 people and wounded 489 in a mass shooting in Las Vegas.

However, in light of recent sexual scandals among Hollywood, media and congressional elites, Chicago and Las Vegas are passing memories. New revelations of misconduct appear daily. NBC’s Matt Lauer’s is only the latest story. Should that surprise us? Not really, particularly in light of the late Hugh Hefner’s influence on sexual liberation and freedom of expression, which became euphemisms for his pornographic view of life.

As a child growing up in Catholic schools, I learned to be honorable and respectful towards women. Not that I was always a pillar of virtue. Yet, when I pushed the limits, I was ashamed. I knew my behavior was inappropriate and the rest of society agreed.

However, today those Christian voices have diminished. In fact, trashing Christian teaching has become politically correct, and as a result there is virtually no shame. The decline is something that’s applauded by the same press that wonders what went wrong.

Still A Lot of Good 

Yet, despite all of the noise, there are still good people doing good things in America. Consider that tens of thousands volunteered and donated to fundraising efforts to help hurricane victims in Texas and Florida. NFL great, JJ Watt raised over $37 million alone for hurricane relief. Beyond that there are fundraising campaigns to fund free schools, food banks, homeless shelters and much more.

Now not everyone agrees with America’s benevolence. In fact, recently I read articles that list America substantially lower than other countries for generosity. This includes Indonesia, Myanmar, Kenya and more. I’m not sure what justifies their assertions, but that just isn’t the case. No disrespect intended, but according to a CAF study, those countries aren’t even ranked in the top ten in monetary giving. Clearly giving in America is exceptional.

Statistics on Giving

Last year Americans gave $390.05 billion, or 1.44 % of their GDP. That’s nearly twice what the next closest country gave. In fact, consider this ranking of giving as a % of GDP:

  1. USA…………………….1.44%
  2. New Zealand……….0.79%
  3. Canada………………..0.77%
  4. UK………………………0.54%

Additionally, the US provides aid to 96% of all countries, which now exceeds $50 billion annually. Simply stated, American generosity is unparalleled anywhere. But why is that?

The answer goes back to the quote, “America is great because she is good.” I believe that goodness comes from America’s Christian heritage. Oh there are some who debate that concept vigorously, but the more we depart from that heritage the less goodness we’ll see.


Year-End Giving With a New Twist

Each year around this time the literature is replete with articles about year-end giving. Clearly, November and December are the best months for philanthropy.

Research Supports Year-end Giving

A study by Nonprofit Insiders Network found that 28% of the organizations polled reported that they raise between 26% and 50% of their total annual income from year-end asks alone. Similarly, a Charity Navigator study revealed that 31% of online annual giving occurred in December. Finally, a study of high net worth individuals found that 42.7% indicate that they tend to give more around the holidays while 44.4% report giving about the same.

The case is clear for year-end giving, and most organizations solicit it through direct mail. In fact, as fundraising consultants, we advise our clients to begin year-end requests in early November and then follow it up with a Season’s Greeting post card in December that includes a subtle reminder. We also recommend using brief handwritten Post-it note messages by board members and other volunteers to enhance the response rate.

A Solid Vehicle for Year–end Giving

There are other ways to enhance the November mailing, but the point of this article is to encourage year-end giving and introduce you to another vehicle for that.

To that end, I thought I’d spend a few minutes talking about a relatively new vehicle in nonprofit fundraising, the IRA Charitable Rollover, approved in December of 2015. It’s actually been around since 2006, but it has been provisional.

For taxpayers over the age of 70 ½, Congress made permanent the provision allowing individuals to contribute up to $100,000 per year, through an (IRA) distribution given directly to a charity. Of course, one key benefit of the direct charitable contribution from your IRA is that the distribution counts towards your Required Minimum Distribution.

Of course, for stocks, properties or any other assets within the IRA that are given this way there are no capital gains taxes that have to be paid. If donors do choose this vehicle, they must tell their fund manager to transfer funds directly to the charity and name them as donor. If the gift is intended for a particular area the manager should also specify that.

Organizations Have Benefitted Already

Some organizations are well aware of this provision and have clearly taken advantage of it. For example, between 2006 and 2013, the University of Michigan actively promoted the IRA Charitable Rollover and yielded $19.8 million from 790 donors. They contributed anywhere from a few hundred dollars to the maximum of $100,000.

What I found interesting is that most nonprofits either don’t understand the charitable IRA distribution, or if they do understand their understanding is limited. Therefore, the IRA Charitable Rollover is thrown into the “planned giving” bucket and pretty much ignored.

My advice is to pull this back out of the bucket and study it, so you have a working understanding of the concept. Why do that? No doubt, this way of giving is one of the best and most powerful vehicles to emerge in philanthropy in quite a long time. Everyone clearly benefits including the donor and the nonprofit.

For Senior Giving It’s the Best Vehicle

Sure, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but for seniors who are planning to make a gift to a charity, this is by far the best way to do it. If you’re the head of a nonprofit or chief development officer, I suggest that you do everything you can to inform your donor base regarding the IRA Charitable Rollover. No doubt it will prove beneficial to you not only by increasing donations at year’s end, but also throughout the year as you seek to advance your mission.


A Thanksgiving Reflection

Along with the 4th of July, Thanksgiving is one of the most celebrated and welcomed feasts of the year. I like this day because it’s also among the least commercialized holidays. Of course, Black Friday follows Thanksgiving, but I digress.

History of Thanksgiving

I was studying Thanksgiving, and I found that the tradition can trace its American roots to Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts. The colonists held a 3-day feast that included local Native Americans in the fall of 1621. They celebrated and gave thanks for their first harvest.

In 1789, during George Washington’s presidency , the federal government sanctioned the first official national Thanksgiving. What I found interesting was how the President described it, so I provided a few excerpts from his proclamation:

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have requested me ‘to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer, acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God’.

“Now therefore I do recommend (this day) to be devoted to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country, for the signal and manifold mercies, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations.”

A lot to be Thankful For

Wow, Washington certainly wasn’t shy about invoking God’s name and encouraging Americans to thank and honor Him. And there’s plenty for which we can give thanks. Consider the following:

  • Most Americans own homes. Ownership rates grew from 43.6% in 1940 to 64% today. Not including a few outliers (NY, DC) the rates are closer to 70%.
  • Current unemployment is 4.1%, lowest in 17 years.
  • GDP is growing rapidly hitting 3.0% in the 3rd quarter of 2017.
  • The Dow continues expanding, 45 highs since last November and it now exceeds 22,000.
  • Some 60% of us are optimistic and hopeful about America’s future.
  • 87% of Americans believe in God and most believe faith is very important.

I could go on, but suffice it to say there is much for which we can be thankful. Sure there’s poverty and other problems in the US. There’s also growing inequality here, and it needs our continuing attention. Yet, a Forbes report gave an interesting perspective on poverty in the US. “The poor in the US are richer than around 70% of all the people extant (In existence). It is true that there is more inequality in the US: but this isn’t because the poor are poorer, the rich are richer.”

Prager on Happiness

When talk show host, Dennis Prager, wrote Happiness is a Serious Problem, he said this about gratitude:

“Because gratitude is the key to happiness, anything that undermines gratitude must undermine happiness. And nothing undermines gratitude as much as expectations. There is an inverse relationship between expectations and gratitude: The more expectations you have, the less gratitude you will have.”

Not that we shouldn’t have expectations, but every once in a while it’s also important to give thanks. According to a recent Harris Poll, only 33% of Americans say they’re happy. A little time for reflection and thanks might go a long way in improving that number; and what better time for that than the Thanksgiving holiday!

So to all of you who follow our blog, thanks and happy Thanksgiving!


Defeat Does Not Have to Defeat Us

A disturbing headline recently told us of yet another mass shooting; this time in Texas. I write about it because though disturbing, there’s also something different about this. It’s the same “different” we saw in Charleston South Carolina.

The News

Of course, what I mean is faith, the same difference last week’s blog covered. How should people respond when 9 people are killed in Charleston and 26 in Sutherland Springs, Texas? I don’t have the clear answer for that, but let me show you how some have responded.

The Response

The Washington Post carried an account of what Nadine Carter, daughter of 70-year old Ethel Lance, said to the suspect in a South Carolina courtroom. “I forgive you,” her voice breaking with emotion. “You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.” There were no riots or rage, just forgiveness.

In Sutherland Springs, Texas where 26 people were killed, there were also no riots or turmoil. Victims ranged from 18 months to 77 years, yet there was not a hint of violence. Instead, CNN reports that residents hugged each other. They held candles, sang hymns and prayed in a candlelight vigil less than 24 hours after the tragedy.

The Secret

How could people from either community maintain such composure? Simply stated it’s faith, and faith would not let them be defeated. One of the Texas congregants put it this way. “Sutherland Springs is the kind of place where everybody knows everybody. This is a small, Christian community where everybody’s united. Everybody’s so close.”

The Hardships and Failures

Faith never guarantees we’ll be spared from hardship. In fact, there’s a significant history of persecution in the church. Jesus predicted a long time ago that in the world we’d have trouble, but He also encouraged us not to fear because he’d overcome the world. Now the overcoming he’s talking about didn’t come through blessing but through the hardship of rejection, scourging and crucifixion.

Michael Jordan on Defeat

I love what Michael Jordan said. During his career he lost 300 games, missed 9000 shots and 26 times he was trusted to make the last shot and he missed. Said Jordan, “I failed over and over and over again and that’s why I succeed.” He didn’t complain about the failures; he used them as an incentive to build grit, skill and determination to not be defeated.

From 2008-2012, after 12 straight years of growth, our fundraising consulting business declined substantially. Yet, as a person of faith I believed in the purpose God had given me and in the purpose of our business. I just knew things would get better. It was my job to continue to work as hard and as smart as I could. I knew that if I did that and prayed, somehow all of it would work for good. And I knew that even if I lost my business, God would still provide for us because He always had.

The Victory

Do these events sadden us? Absolutely! However, if we’re people of faith we also shouldn’t be discouraged. We have a promise; one-day, things will get better. That’s really the basis of our faith, to trust that God will eventually bring perfect justice to the world.

Until then we’re challenged to believe when there’s so much doubt, failure and tragedy around us. Yet, that’s the sustaining effect of faith. As it says in the book of Hebrews, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the assurance of things not seen.” So whatever you’re facing, faith can get you through it!


Let There Be Light

The Plot

A few days ago I saw a movie that I strongly recommend. Opening in a limited number of US theaters, it still ranked 11th in earnings, with an 84% approval rating.

Let There Be Light,” stars Kevin Sorbo (TV’S Hercules) and his wife Sam. Sorbo plays Sol Harkins, a famous atheist and Sam plays his former wife. He’s a classic Richard Dawkins type character, who mocks Christianity and all the faithful who try to challenge him.

Early in the movie Sol gives a dramatic soliloquy in a “debate.” One instantly knows that he’s an antagonistic atheist. While his “sermon” lacks substance, it hits multiple clichés that strike a chord with his audience and provokes an emotional applause.

Of course, Sol is both a popular professor and world famous author of a best-selling book entitled, “Aborting God.” He has all the trappings of wealth and is surrounded by worshippers, who seem ready to hang on his every word. Yet as the movie progresses, it’s obvious that he’s unhappy.

The Pain

In fact, despite his acclaim, Sol is lonely. He drinks heavily to ease the obvious pain he’s experiencing as a result of his son’s death. One night after a reception, Sol had too much to drink and crashes his car. A near death experience challenges Sol about faith, the world, man’s purpose and his dead son. Through the witness and love of his wife and her pastor Vinny, (a former mafia hit man played by Michael Franzese, who’s actually a former mafia member), Sol finds faith and purpose.

While the story is fictional, the problems are quite real. Pain, substance abuse, death, the quest for success, divorce and the search for truth are all part of life. In fact, the death of a child puts enormous stress on a marriage, and this movie clearly conveys that.

The Antidote

The movie also gives us the antidote, which simply is faith. Therein lies the hope of this story and for most of life’s problems. It tells us that faith can cure alcoholism, ease worldly failure and pain, put marriages back together and give us purpose.

Well, what kind of faith? First, it’s not blind faith. I’m reminded of a great book entitled, “God: The Evidence”, by former atheist and professor, Patrick Glynn. He writes that new discoveries in medicine, cosmology and psychology all add up “to a powerful, indeed, all-but-incontestable, case for…the existence of soul, afterlife and God.” And in this day and age of bickering and cynicism, I find this idea refreshing.

Second, I’m talking about faith in God, which leads to faith in both the mission and the people around you. With real faith, no matter how dire the circumstances, you can always find a way out, which leads me to yet another association.

The Association

As fundraising consultants, we work with many non-profit organizations and churches. I find that those driven by faith tend to do better than those that are not. While all problems don’t immediately disappear, the faith of leaders really makes a difference in the organization’s success. Faith helps us understand our individual purpose, but it also helps us better understand and serve the organizational purpose, which leads to organizational harmony.

Regardless of the kind of organization, I can always tell if it lacks faith. There is typically limited focus on the central purpose and more free agency, infighting and organizational chaos. Without faith, people tend to work for a paycheck and not a purpose.

Now, if you want to restore order, stop the infighting, boost fundraising and move the organization forward with hope and optimism about the future, as John Hyatt said in his song, “Have a Little Faith.”


Overcoming Fundraising Fears…Part 3

Over the past two weeks we’ve been covering fundraising fears. In the first blog we discussed the fact that face-to-face visits are the most effective and productive way to fundraise. Yet, many CEOs and/or Development Officers just don’t do it. And even if they do, they lack the bodies to help them get around to visit with all of the people who can make a major gift.

Why is that? Last week we covered at least three reasons or fears:

  • They’re afraid they’ll make a mistake
  • They’re afraid the prospect will get angry
  • They’re afraid they’ll say “no.”

Now today we’ll continue by covering a few more fears.

“I’m afraid I won’t have enough time.”

Often people express to me their love and passion for nonprofit organizations with great platitudes. However, when I ask them if they’d be willing to help raise funds, many of them tell me that they just don’t have the time. To some extent it’s true for all of us. However, that’s really not the point. We need methods to deal with this and there are several.

First, it starts with the recruitment and orientation of Board members. Preferably they’re passionate about the mission. If possible it also helps if they are people of means and influence. Beyond that, they need to be properly oriented and at least part of that orientation should include giving and fundraising expectations.

It never ceases to amaze me how frequently nonprofit organizations either have no board orientation or they don’t include fundraising as part of the job description. In fact, as fundraising consultants we frequently talk with board members who had no idea that fundraising was part of their job description.

Second, beyond inadequate board recruitment and orientation, there is also little to no training provided in nonprofit fundraising. Yet training alone can often reduce fundraising anxiety, which often is the real reason that board members don’t have time.

Third, while fundraising does take time, it actually takes less time than you might realize. Of course, it certainly takes a little time to set the appointment, but we recommend that the actual meeting be completed in 30 minutes or less. Also, we don’t ask volunteers to make too many calls, somewhere between 4-6 and usually over a period of 4-6 months.

“I’m afraid I will annoy my friends”

This is another version of, “I’m afraid they’ll say no.” First, 70% or more of the time the answer is “yes” and not “no.” Second, if they do get annoyed they’re probably not very good friends. Again, you’re not asking for yourself. You’re asking on behalf of the people your nonprofit is helping.

“I don’t know how to fundraise and I can’t get comfortable with the idea”

The answer to this is also training and practice. Actually, people are more uncomfortable with the idea of fundraising than the act itself. True, the idea may make you nervous, but once you try it the anxiety tends to diminish. It’s really the same in anything. When I was a basketball player and a coach, I was always nervous prior to games; but once the game started my nerves usually abated.

Put it into Practice

That’s why when we conduct major gift training with volunteers, we always have them practice telling the story and making a solicitation before they actually go out and make live asks. In addition, we also cover such things as How to set the appointment, How to tell the story, How to make an ask, How to handle objections and more. The point is that the way to make people more comfortable with fundraising is to teach them how to do it.


A Halloween Special on Fundraising Fears…Part 2

Last week we started a series about fears of non-profit volunteers in making face-to-face requests for support. Though it is by far the most productive and least expensive form of fundraising, it is also one of the most neglected methods. We posed several fears and concerns, and today I would like to begin addressing some of them.

People Are Afraid They’ll Make Mistakes

Actually we began to cover this fear in our last blog when I said our experience has been quite the opposite. As fundraising consultants, we usually try to cover this and other fears in our stewardship training sessions, because we know they exist. I’ve found that the best way to begin to address a fear is simply to begin with some logic.

First, mark this down. There are no perfect people and no perfect performances. In any venture individuals are bound to “make mistakes.” Watch your favorite college football team on any Saturday, and you’re likely to see someone or several someones make a mistake… a turnover…an offside…a wrong route. That doesn’t mean they pack up and quit. Instead they resolve to be successful and try to learn from their mistakes and improve their performance.

Successful fundraising happens the same way. If you’re resolved to be successful, then the route to success is to practice and then get busy asking. However, it’s important to understand that you are not likely to yield results if you don’t show up in the first place.

Practice, Practice, Practice

How does one practice? You practice by telling the story first to a mate, a colleague or a close friend. If you do that a few times, you’ll gain an advantage already. Also, you might consider bringing someone with you when you go to make the call. There is strength in numbers, although I don’t advise having more than two people when you visit with a donor. Any more than that can be a bit overwhelming.

Consider that during his career Michael Jordan missed over 9,000 shots, lost 300 games and 26 times he was called on to make the last shot in a game and he missed. To this apparent record of failure he commented, “I’ve failed over and over and over again and that’s why I succeed.” The point is, the more you try the more you’ll eventually be successful.

People are Afraid the Prospect Will Get Angry

Over my 30-year career that includes many hundreds if not thousands of major gift solicitations I’ve had only one occasion when a person expressed anger. My response to that was simple, “I’m not asking for myself. I’m asking for these kids that your giving helps. I’m sorry if I appeared to be bold, but these kids have no one else to be bold for them.”

That pretty much ended any ill feelings, and this individual actually gave the amount for which I asked him. Later on he also offered an apology and told me that he had been having a bad day. As I said earlier, people rarely if ever get angry.

People are Afraid that the Prospect Will Say “No

While a person may believe this is true, the facts just don’t measure up. As I mentioned in a previous blog, 70% of the time a peer visits a peer in a face-to-face solicitation the answer is “yes” and not “no”. Their gift may not be for the amount you ask, but it’s usually “yes” at some amount. In fact, in our campaign consulting we’ve seen some organizations exceed 80%. People want to help, and when you tell the story of the organization effectively they usually respond.

Next week we’ll cover more fears!


A Halloween Special - Overcoming Fundraising Fears

Halloween can be a scary time, not only for trick or treaters but also for fundraisers. By far, December is the best month for fundraising results. In fact, in a typical organization, 31% of all donations come in the month of December.

Preparing for the End-of-the-Year

However, to have a good December, non-profit organizations need to have active Septembers, Octobers and Novembers. Initially, you have to cultivate and then put a request in front of donors to receive a donation in the first place. Then it’s important to understand that it often takes time for people to make giving decisions, and the larger the decision the more time it can take.

Sure, organizations are pretty good at direct mail and special events. However, I often find that many non-profits miss out on the biggest source of potential income, and that is face-to-face solicitations of donors and friends. Simply stated, one successful major gift can exceed the proceeds from a direct mail piece or a fundraising event or both.

Face-to-Face is Still Best

For example, a study conducted by Cathlene Williams, revealed that the vast majority of nonprofit fundraising events yield $100,000 or less. After expenses, the yield is closer to $50,000 to $60,000. Yet, with a large enough database, the likelihood is high that there are several $50,000 to $100,000 donors right there and available to be cultivated and asked.

Also, according to Charity Science, the average response rate for donor renewal direct mail is about 8%, with the total giving from that source accounting for about 7.5% of the organization’s income. Likewise the ROI for fundraising events is often a lot less than anticipated.

Now I’m not suggesting that those efforts should be eliminated. They are important parts of the overall fundraising strategy, but they are not the only part. That’s where major gift, face-to-face solicitations enter the picture. While direct mail is the most expensive and least effective form of fundraising, face-to-face solicitations are the least costly and most effective form.

Why Face-to-Face? 

In our research on capital campaigns we’ve found on average that face-to-face solicitations typically yield a positive response 70% of the time. Of course, well-balanced development programs include all of these methods and more. My point here is simple…when nonprofits neglect face-to-face solicitations the program is far from being balanced.

In fact, gifts are much larger in face-to-face visits than in any other form of fundraising. Well then, if 70% of the time (many of our campaigns have achieved rates in excess of 80%) a peer visits a peer in a face-to-face solicitation the answer is “yes”, why wouldn’t an organization want to do more face-to-face solicitations?

So What’s the Problem?

 Well it’s time consuming and labor intensive, but mostly it’s fear. There are many fears non-profits face in asking volunteers to help them make calls. In order to get individuals comfortable in soliciting major gifts, organizations often have to work through those fears. Some of the more prominent fears include the following:

  • They’re afraid they’ll make mistakes and not be successful
  • They’re afraid the prospect will get angry
  • They’re afraid that the prospect will say “no”
  • They’re afraid they don’t have enough time
  • They’re afraid they will annoy friends
  • They’re afraid they don’t know how to fundraise or they can’t get comfortable with the idea

Actually, we’ve found all these fears among volunteers, but none of them is insurmountable. In fact, with appropriate and strategic responses and training each one of them can easily be overcome. In fact, over the next week or two we will address each and provide remedies to overcome them.


Americans Are Incredibly Generous

The annual results of Giving USA are in, and once again Americans gave in unprecedented fashion. Specifically, $390.05 billion was gifted in one of four categories: direct gifts ($281.6 billion or 72% of the total), foundation gifts ($59.28 billion or 15% of the total), bequest gifts ($30.36 billion or 8% of the total) and corporate gifts ($18.55 billion or 5% of the total).

What I’ve found interesting though, is the fact that individuals play such an important role in giving. For example, individuals make bequests, so that brings the total giving by individuals to 80%. Yet, it doesn’t end there. About half of all foundation gifts come from family foundations, which are mostly controlled by individuals. That raises the total given further to almost 88% or $343 billion.

I offer a few points of reflection about these numbers:

First, America is amazingly generous

Our level of giving is unparalleled anywhere in the world. For example, last year charitable giving as a percentage of America’s GDP was 1.44%. The countries closest in giving to the US are New Zealand at 0.79% of GDP, Canada at .77% of GDP and the UK at .54% of GDP. In contrast, the countries that were furthest away from the US were France (0.11% of GDP) and China (0.03 % of GDP). Fully, 83% of American households donated to charity in the last year compared with China (11% of households) and India (14% of households). Those were among the least charitable countries.

Second, too often nonprofit fundraising depends on corporations and foundations almost to the exclusion of individuals

All too frequently, nonprofits rely on a few foundation and corporate gifts and not enough gifts from individuals. No doubt, they receive gifts from individuals, but those usually come through direct mail or special events. Executives often work hard, but they sometimes fail to work smart by locating, cultivating and eventually soliciting major gifts in face-to-face visits.

That’s where doing your homework and building relationships with individuals pays off. Certainly that takes time, but the transformational potential of a large major gift is well worth the effort. And there is a high probability that there are people in your universe who regularly make major gifts. In fact, 93% of high net worth households ($1,000,000 or more) gave to charity, and their average gift was $25,000 or more. The money is there, but nonprofit executives will have to work and be resourceful to get their case in front of these donors.

Third, If you haven’t experienced increases in funding over the last year, you may need help.

Giving USA tracks nine sectors annually, and all of them experienced increases. These include giving to religion; education; human services; foundations; health; public-society benefit; arts, culture and humanities; international affairs; environment/animals; and individuals. Additionally, giving by individuals (the largest source of gifts) grew by nearly 4%.

The results are impressive, but what if your organization hasn’t experienced such increases? There may be several reasons. As a fundraising consultant, I would counsel clients to start by answering a few questions:

  • How many individuals give?
  • What has the trend been over the last few years?
  • What sources give (individuals, foundations, bequests or corporations)?
  • How do we grow our donor base and how can board members help?
  • What is our donor retention rate?

These are just a few questions to answer if you want to experience the increases other organizations have been experiencing. Professional fundraising audits and fundraising plans are also quite helpful. However, regardless of what you do, it will require deliberate work that includes analysis, strategic planning and action to move your organization forward. Yet, if you’re up for the task, it is well worth the effort!


What Exactly is Leadership…Part 6 (Conclusion)

For the past few weeks we’ve been studying principles/characteristics of covenant relationships that effective leaders use. Today we’ll cover the last principle/characteristic that covenant leaders apply in their relationships.

Transformational More Than Exploitative

The leader-follower relationship, if it’s to be effective long-term, is more about transformation than it is about exploitation. Essentially, it’s the intentional transformation of people and organizations for the better. That clearly is a theme of Dickens’ Christmas Carol. As a result of being led by spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future, Scrooge was transformed. These spirits led him through a series of purposeful and sometimes painful experiences that changed Scrooge and eventually achieved their intended outcomes. They brought him to an understanding of his own selfishness and awakened him to the needs of others around him. Scrooge chooses to use his resources to transform the lives of others because he himself had been transformed.

Transformational Leadership

James MacGregor Burns refers to this as transformational leadership. It’s a relationship where leaders recognize higher needs in followers (love, hope, meaning, esteem) and engage their full person by seeking to meet those needs and convert followers into leaders.

According to Burns,

“Transforming leadership ultimately becomes moral. It raises the level of human conduct and ethical aspiration of both leader and those led. It occurs when one or more persons engage with others in ways that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality. Purposes, which may have started out as separate, become fused.”

In other words, though leader-follower relationships begin with transactions, they shouldn’t end there. As leaders earn credibility and trust through transactions they also gain more power to influence and elevate followers in transformational ways. Using power to elevate followers and as Burns says, move them “…to higher levels of motivation and morality,” is primary evidence that leadership instead of power wielding is operating. It implies regard, respect and commitment to followers, apart from which leadership is relegated at best to supervision.

Jesus, A Transformational Leader

Over some 2,000 years of history and mounds of convincing evidence, no leader has influenced people or changed the world more profoundly than Jesus of Nazareth. In Jesus we have arguably the best example of a transformational leader.

Witness His relationships with disciples. Jesus understood both their intrinsic value and very human needs. Based on those needs, He engaged them in a transaction that He initiated, filling their boat with fish, and thereby gaining credibility. And as Jesus delivered on other promises to disciples, His credibility grew. Jesus related to followers in ways that demonstrated genuine regard. That regard was manifest in the many acts of love, kindness and service He extended to them. No doubt, these relationships were covenants, covenants so powerful that they changed their lives permanently.

Leadership that Deepens Commitment

As a leader, Jesus transformed followers in ways that deepened their commitment both to Jesus and to the common purpose they shared. Specifically, by teaching, healing, challenging and loving these mostly uneducated and sometimes cowardly followers, Jesus transformed them into courageous and committed leaders. His mission and values became their mission and values. In fact, so powerful was their transformation that they boldly carried on the organizational mission in ways that cost most of them their lives. Yet, the power to lead and transform His followers did not come through any worldly position Jesus held. Instead it came through the relationships Jesus established and the love, commitment, respect and sacrifice for followers He demonstrated. It’s a clear illustration that leadership is not a position; it is a relationship with enormous potential to achieve and transform people and organizations for the better.