Category Archives: Financial Life Planning

Nonprofit Recession Survival Guide to Getting Donations

First the markets, then Madoff, now the Obama administration is proposing reductions in the charitable tax deduction for your biggest donors. What else could possibly go wrong? Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the snow day and nobody came to work. One thing is for certain; raising funds in the current environment is much more difficult that it was last year at this time. Here are some specific suggestions and things to keep in mind as you talk to donors:

Speak the Unspoken Truth
Personally, I like this tactic. Call it like it is. What are the most powerful four words in the English language? “I NEED YOUR HELP”. Talk to your existing donors about what is happening and the state of your organization. Tell them you need help. Let your donors know how the current environment is impacting your organization.

Be Specific With The Ask
This is something that is always a good idea. Even before the mess the last year, donor fatigue was certainly an issue. I believe that in general, nonprofits do a poor job marketing themselves when it comes to being specific about their accomplishments, how donations help, and making specific connections between the ask and the impact. is the opposite of everything I just said. Their supporters choose the cause (lending to a specific entrepreneur who needs a loan), and Kiva reports back on the status of the loan from the individual it was given to. It’s a terrific example of the donor getting involved directly with the cause that they support. Strategic, venture, or tactical philanthropy; call it what you want, people have been demanding more accountability in recent years. This trend towards greater accountability and transparency is only likely going to increase. Help your donors go from a “spray and pray” approach go giving, to being focused and knowing exactly what they are giving to.

Create A Donor Adviser Panel
Invite your top donors into a room for a “Manhattan Project” style round table. The objective of the group is not to gang up on them and tell them how badly you need their money, but to come together and brainstorm new ideas for raising funds. Let them know how much you have appreciated their past support and you are offering them a “no money required” way to help make a huge difference with the organization. Ally you want is their input. Not only will they feel appreciated, do you think there might be a possibility they could cough up a little extra after sitting in on that? If I were a betting man, I’d say your odds are pretty good. That’s not the objective though. Remember that. You are after their ideas and things you are not thinking about right now.

Address Financial Fear
Your donors are shell shocked with what’s going on in the markets now. Everyone is. Do you want to be someone’s hero? Address this head on. This is the one I think that nonprofits have traditionally been the most uncomfortable with. Even large organizations that have planned giving departments have struggled with “the line of control” that exists between donors and their professional advisory team. While planned giving folks want to “get that seat at the table”, and be INVOLVED in the conversation with the financial adviser, attorney, or CPA at the time giving decisions are being made, often they are not. Understand that there is a line, and there should be. Generally speaking, the unspoken truth is that donors know that planned giving officers have one motive, to get money for their organization. This is nothing new though, so what?

The real opportunity to be a hero here is to talk about some of the things that donors are afraid of now and things that they can do to feel more financially secure. The number one concern of the wealthy is that they will lose what they have. While this has always been the biggest concern, the fear is now being realized. Understand that unless your donors feel financially secure, they will likely not give at the levels they had given previously. You cannot help them feel more secure, but you can make recommendations that will. One of the things that’s at the top of the list is recognizing that donors and high net worth clients traditionally have had multiple advisers giving them advice. Their accountant is discussing their returns, their attorney discusses their will (or might not have in a while), and their “financial adviser” is talking only about their investments. Most people have no idea who they should be talking to about the big picture and their ability to achieve what’s important to them.  No wonder you have such a hard time getting a seat at the table, that’s because there usually IS NO table. The advice your donors receive is sporadic and fragmented in professional silos and generally NOBODY is discussing the big picture! Markets aside, the tax changes occurring are faster than the drop in their portfolio value and now is a good time for them to be meeting with their team to reassess where they are and reevaluate their goals.

The key to success lies in your ability to have a trusted relationship with your donor, understand what attracted them to you, what inspires them, what they are afraid of, and how to connect them with the appropriate resources who can help them achieve everything that’s important to them. To the extent you make yourself a master networker and not make it about you and your cause, you’ll be a hero. Ask your donors, “How can I help, YOU?”

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Filed under Current Events, ECONOMY, ESTATE PLANNING, Financial Life Planning, FINANCIAL PLANNING, INVESTING, NON-PROFIT & CHARITY, TAX, venture philanthropy

Believe In This Thing Called “The Universe”? Strange Things Happen In Chicago; Part 1

It seems that since “The Secret” was published by Rhnoda Byrne, there’s been much to do about “The Universe” being behind the things you can’t explain. Frankly, I was one of those skeptical, rational, “I’m from Missouri”, need to be shown folks. The universe, “please”, I thought. Spare me. What happens when you just can’t explain events in your life that seem absolutely remarkable? Let me tell you a little story about the universe.

A while back, I had this “Aha” and I’ve talked about it here before. A few years ago while I was going through some coaching and consulting for my business, I was asked a question that stopped me in my tracks. I was asked to write my own eulogy. Having never done anything like this before I had to consider what I wanted people to say about me when I died. After several minutes of thinking, I came up with the answer. “I suppose I would want people to say I made a difference”, I replied. What I didn’t know at the time, was that I had just identified my highest order life purpose; the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid if you will. Some call this being “self actualized”. It was quite a strange place. From that day on, strange things started happening to me and they always seemed to happen on the way to Chicago. Let me back up.

One Week Before Chicago
One day I was having lunch in NYC with a client. Having had such a positive result with reflective exercises with my coach, I started incorporating the values conversations with clients. I asked her if she was truly happy with her life and posed the question to her, “If you knew you only had 6 months to live, would you want to do anything different?”. “Nope”, she replied. “Are you sure? You know you could walk out the door and get hit by a bus.”, I said. “No, I’m sure”.

As we finished lunch, we began walking back toward Penn Station. Not ten minutes after we had this conversation, we both witnessed a man get hit by a bus right before our eyes. Shaken, we looked at each other and I asked “What does that mean?” How do you explain that?

Going To Chicago
With the thought of the bus incident still fresh in my head, I prepared to board the United flight to Chicago. I was a guest a the Napoleon Hill World Learning Center Open House. While I was very excited to attend, the trip almost didn’t happen because of prior obligations. I almost decided not to go, but because I felt passionate, (you might say “the universe” was pushing me to go) I figured out a way to make it happen. As I waited to enter the gate, I noticed a flag flying above the jetway where our plane was parked. I noticed it was the only one that had a flag so naturally I was curious and asked the United rep what it was for. “This is the gate where United 93 left from on 9/11”, she replied. Having just witnessed the bus thing the week before, I felt as if somebody was trying to tell me something. As I boarded the flight, I could feel myself walking the same steps the passengers walked that day. “Let’s Roll”, I thought. If one thing became clear to me that week, it was that you never know when your time is up and you had better live every day like you were going to get hit by a bus or board a flight that is about to crash. The universe was telling me to follow my passion, and I was listening.


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Filed under Financial Life Planning, RANDOM STUFF