Tag 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. Kiva.org 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

Arthur Brooks “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism”

Talking politics and religion can be a lethal mix so I’ll tread carefully here. When I make conclusions about things (especially when it comes to religion and politics), I try and be particularly careful to point out when i’m injecting opinion versus stating facts on things. Arthur Brooks’s book, “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism” is a book that states the FACTS about who gives and who doesn’t in America. The findings detailed in the book were quite surprising to me, and to Arthur Brooks himself, as he states in the book. This book was the focus of an ABC News 20/20 report entitled “Cheap in America” Who Gives and Who Dosen’t” 

A common perception is that liberals and Democrats are more “socially concerned” than conservative Republicans, and one might make the natural leap that because of this, they are more likely to be charitable. According to the research that Arthur Brooks conduced though, it’s exactly the opposite. How could that be? That’s impossible!

Brooks himself thought there might be an error in the numbers so he rechecked them. There was no denying the facts. Conservative Republicans, (who some argue would fire their grandmother to improve profitability) are statistically more charitable (more than 30% more charitable) compared to their “socially concerned” liberal democratic friends. Don’t shoot the messenger if you don’t like this, read the book and see the statistics for yourself. Just the facts here…

So how could this be you are asking yourself? Well the findings point right to the heart of the perceptions that “secular liberal democrats are more socially concerned than religious conservative republicans”. It turns out that the secular liberals (the Democrats) belive that it’s the job of the government to take care of the poor (no surprise here yet) and are more in favor of “income redistribution”, taxing and redistributing resources from those who have money to those who are poor. Socially leaning political views have actually taken the place of their charitable contributions. Brooks’s research shows that regardless of which political party was actually in office or how effective politicians were in their policies toward the poor, that the religious conservative Republicans consistently gave more than their secular liberal Democrat counterparts.

Brooks is careful to point out that there are many examples of charitable liberal democrats and non-charitable conservative republicans, however the research clearly demonstrated wide and across the board differences in giving patterns along political party lines. That’s not the only thing. Brooks points out that among the both the Republican and Democratic parties, people who are religious tend to give much larger amounts to charity, giving significantly larger amounts to  both religious and non-religious organizations compared to people who were secular non-religious. Among all religious people, Republican conservatives still give a statistically significant greater proportion than Democratic liberals.

Brooks notes that “secular liberals” and “religious conseratives” are increasingly voting along political party lines, with religious conservatives tending to align with the Republican Party and secular liberals favoring the Democratic Party. The smaller groups that cross party lines, the “religious liberals” and “secular conservatives” both represent a shrinking percentage of of their respective political parties’ makeup. If this trend continues, these groups may find that their views are at odds with those of greater majority of their political party.

What’s clear are the numbers. Arthur Brooks says that these findings should be a wake up call to to the Democratic party and to secular liberals. The nunbers show that the charitable giving trends diving political parties are increasing. The message:  All are apparently not equal when it comes to being giving.

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the findings, “Who Really Cares” is an entertaining read that will be sure to hold your attention and may change your perceptions.

Click here for video clip from “Cheap in America”

Next time…How giving makes you happy…

Who Really Cares

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A Work in Progress-Life Stories and Lessons of Success

This is a test that will serve as a witness to what happens when the seed of an idea gets planted and watered. How big will it grow? Who knows. Watch. Check back. Stay tuned. Read on.

I’ve decided to start this diary to keep track of what is happening and to document my thoughts as I go through this process from the point of breakthrough to what happens next.

Background

I’ve learned that education is critical if you want to get ahead. I’m not speaking about traditional schooling, but knowing where to get the knowledge when you need it. The key to knowledge is in asking the right questions in the first place. The right questions will lead you on the path to the answers you seek. In my case, the questions that I have asked have revolved around “what’s my purpose”, “what’s next?”. Go to the self help section of your local library or Barnes and Noble and you will have much to choose from. Over the years, many books have been written on the subject of self help, however few have stood the test of time like Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I read the book a few months ago and something in me just clicked. A light-bulb turned on.

Think and Grow Rich was written in 1937 by Napoleon Hill, a journalist who was invited by Andrew Carnegie to spend 20 or more years documenting “the secret” Carnegie success formula to take to the masses of people interested to learn how success and wealth are created. It was Carnegie’s opinion that if this information was made available to the masses and taught in schools, that the amount of time spent learning could be cut in half. It has been reported that over 100 million copies of Think and Grow Rich have been published in one form or another over the years. That fact alone is worth noting. They must have had something interesting to say to sell 100 million books right?

All achievement, all earned riches, have their beginning in and idea! If you are ready for the secret, you already possess one half of it; therefore you will readily recognize the other have the moment it reaches your mind.”-Napoleon Hill 1937

I was ready. I don’t know why I was ready just then, but I was. It’s funny how certain events line up in just the right order where you see them a certain way. If events had come together in any other order, you would likely see them in a much different way. I suppose that certain events happen in ones life and you just become open to seeing things differently, perhaps understanding how we all color the world through our own shades of perception. In any case, I was ready.

Lesson one-Education of Self

Being ready is about leveling with yourself and being honest about your own strengths and weaknesses and not selling yourself short with excuses. Most of us go through life telling ourselves little lies like “I could do that whenever I want”, or “I don’t have time for that now”, “It’s really not that important”. That is lying to yourself. We do this as a defense mechanism to mentally protect ourselves from being hurt. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that this defense mechanism is keeping us from what we truly desire in life. The key to getting past this hurdle is recognizing and catching yourself in the act of making excuses for yourself.

Being open to recognizing when your inner voice is talking to you is the starting point. It was the point I needed to be in order to be able to implement the lessons being taught. For me, Think and Grow Rich represented a manual for how to guide an awakened mind.

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The New Law of Attraction in Financial Planning

Have you ever had an “Ah Ha” moment when things seemed to become crystal clear to you and everything just made sense? This happened to me recently after an acquaintance recommended a book called “Think and Grow Rich”, written by Napoleon Hill in 1937. As a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner, I have read many books on personal finance and financial planning over the years, however nothing prepared me for what I read in “Think and Grow Rich”.

My Coach
I utilize a coach to help me learn things about my industry, stay ahead of the curve, manage my time more efficiently, and learn about the things that I don’t know that I don’t know. While going through my coaching program, I was given a book list that would help me to gain insight from other experts in my industry. Among the books, was a book on “values-based” financial planning. Now I already knew that values were important in financial planning, however after reading Napoleon Hill’s book, I had my “Ah Ha” moment. The values conversation became crystallized in my mind. Picture the following:

On a routine visit to your doctor, you are told that you have a rare medical condition and you only have 6 months to live.

Would you be doing what you are doing right now in your life and your business? If you aren’t, why not?

What would you be doing differently? If you had only 6 months, would you be tempted to want to make a difference? How about reconcile with your family and relationships? What will people remember you for? “What will be written on your tombstone?”

Over the years, I have encountered many different kinds of people who each have their own ideas about what they want from their money. In many cases, I have found that people don’t know what they want from their money, or their life for that matter. Early on, I realized that it was important to help people to focus on their goals, rather than the return in their portfolio. When I read “Think and Grow Rich”, my mind saw something that had I had not seen before. Goals are not values. A big portfolio, buying a vacation home or a fancy new car does not bring happiness. If you answer why those things are important and how achieving those make you feel, you will have a better understanding of your values. The value could be, “Buying the home makes me feel like I have accomplished something”. Why is that important? “Accomplishment makes me feel fully fulfilled”, you might answer. Take the time to understand the values behind your goals.

Your ”Wake Up” Moment 
We have all heard stories about people who survived horrible diseases, had near death experiences, or had some other life “wake-up” event that stirred them to change their life. Perhaps you remember the scene in the WWII movie “Saving Private Ryan” when just before Tom Hanks dies, he tells Private Ryan to “Earn This”, (his life was saved by men who died saving him). Were continually reminded about the deeds of “The Greatest Generation” and are often amazed at how purposefully that generation lived their life. Perhaps it was because this generation faced the definite reality that every day in battle could be their last. Perhaps that they told themselves that if they lived, they would live a purposeful life. Perhaps if the doctor told you that you only had 6 months to live, your priorities might be different than they are today.

Ultimately, using your money to achieve what’s really important to you is the law of attraction in financial planning. People have strong emotional connections to their money and what it means to them. When you successfully make the mental connection between your true underlying values and your financial goals, it will serve as a personal compass and a discernible foundation for an inspiring plan for your money and your life.

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A New York Minute

richphoto.jpgSomething surreal happened to me yesterday.

Yesterday I met one of my clients for lunch in NYC. Leaving Penn Station, we walked in an expanded pedestrian walkway that had been created on seventh ave. Since the sidewalk was on the actual roadway, I was a bit nervous, thinking of the occasional stories one hears about out of control cars in Manhattan hitting pedestrians. Sometimes I think my inside voice should be named “Nervous Nelly”.

During lunch, I talked about my awakening with Think and Grow Rich and living life purposefully. I told her that you could find out you have 6 months to live, or walk out the door and get hit by a bus. Why not live passionately today? After a lovely lunch, we began to walk back toward Penn Station, looking for a bookstore where she could get a copy of Think and Grow Rich. Shortly after leaving the restaurant, we witnessed a man get hit by a bus. People were visibly upset, as were we, having just discussed the possibility that that could have been us.

Live every day as if it were your last. Tomorrow you could get hit by a bus and never have lived a fulfilled life. Be grateful for what you have. Reflect. Life is short. Live large, because life can end in a New York Minute.

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