The end of the year is around the corner—the single biggest fundraising opportunity of the year! Just how much year-end philanthropic giving will be impacted this year by current events is impossible to know.
In the fundraising forums that I am part of, I often run across the phrase, “We’ve been here before.” I beg to differ! We have not been here before.
Growing up in Kentucky during segregation, Jimmie Alford – The Alford Group’s founder – attended an all-white school, and didn’t experience racial diversity until the age of nine when his parents moved to Chicago. The move, due to the closing of coal mines, placed Jimmie’s family in a small apartment in the Englewood community. Jimmie was one of three white students in his third grade class of 40 students.
Along with his classmates, he understood economic diversity and its impact on themselves, their families and their community while living in extreme poverty within a predominantly affluent nation. He also directly and personally saw and felt the impact of discrimination. He decided at a young age that the injustice of discrimination was something he would never allow to penetrate his life and that he would work his entire life to eradicate it in all forms. Like many who grow up marginalized in one way or another, Jimmie vowed to lift himself out of his circumstances, make a better life and never forget the important life lessons learned along the way. His commitment to this goal was unwavering and steadfast.
While Jimmie passed away suddenly in 2012, his spirit and leadership remain with us as the nation and world grapple with the opportunity afforded by the Black Lives Matter movement and a renewed call for equity and social justice. We share his unwavering optimism that better days lie ahead when we all work together.
Diversity is one of seven core values of The Alford Group, and one of Jimmie’s enduring “fingerprints” on the consulting firm he founded in 1979. One manifestation of this commitment is our 20+-year sponsorship of the Diversity Workshop and Diversity Art Showcase at the annual AFP International Conference. While our dedication to diversity and inclusiveness has remained resolute over the decades, the demographics of America – and thus the universe of donors and prospective donors – have changed dramatically. Lessons learned from diverse communities, and the shared values of diversity, equity and inclusiveness (DEI), are more relevant and more essential today than ever before. Continue reading “Diversity in Fundraising: Making a Long-Term Commitment”
It was Machiavelli who first advised “never waste a good crisis.” By that he meant one could look at the opportunities afforded by a crisis to change, to innovate and to improve.
To paraphrase Machiavelli, we advise “never waste a good pause.” Whether it’s a lull in activity or a forced rethinking of business-as-usual, most nonprofits are experiencing a “pandemic pause.” At minimum, everyone should take a moment to consider how to effectively navigate in the new normal. For those who are experiencing a pause, the silver lining is that we can utilize this time to strategically prepare for the future.
We can explore ways to embrace the pandemic pause to PAUSE:
On Wednesday, June 17, The Alford Group hosted a panel of national experts and funders to discuss Giving USA’s Annual Report on Philanthropy in 2019 in light of current realities, new opportunities and our future as non-profit staff, funders and philanthropists. The full discussion, along with The Alford Group’s Giving USA report, may be found here.
As Brenda Asare, The Alford Group’s President and CEO, noted as she opened the panel discussion, we all had high hopes for 2020 – momentum within the sector was strong and anticipated to continue at the close of 2019 and through 2020. Of course, no one knew what was coming nor how incredibly important that cushion would be to the survival of many nonprofits. As leaders representing funders and philanthropists across the country, Laura, Marguerite, Steve and Beth offered critical insights into philanthropy today and provided some hope as Brenda said “we must look up and ahead, as that is where we are all going.”
On Wednesday, June 17, The Alford Group’s Karen Rotko-Wynn, Executive Vice President, shared highlights, trends and key takeaways from Giving USA 2020: The Annual Report on Philanthropy in 2019. Karen’s full presentation, along with a panel discussion with national experts and funders discussing the next normal and the future of philanthropy may be found here.
To be at this moment – mid-June 2020, reflecting on last year’s philanthropy during these challenging and volatile times – well, it feels a bit disconnected. It is hard not to ask why these data points matter; it is difficult to receive this report without wondering what this year’s annual report on philanthropy will say.
However, as the longest running, most comprehensive and most authoritative report on charitable giving in the United States – representing 128 million households, 600,000 nonprofits and 80,000 foundations and businesses – the information reported through Giving USA is deeply relevant. As leaders and staff of nonprofits, it is important to understand data trends and to know where to focus efforts; it is important to know where your organization fits within this data; and it is important to understand this data in relation to navigating our current, very difficult year.
Every organization is approaching and responding to COVID-19 differently, but regardless of the approach – certainly, all have been considering what fundraising will look like in the coming months and year. We know a rough road lies ahead and no one can predict what this recovery will look like; however, there is some good news.
The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy tracks giving during disasters, and what they’ve seen so far with COVID-19 is record levels of seven-figure gifts being made to organizations. America is being more generous than ever.
The initial shock and fear– or denial – of the Coronavirus outbreak has shifted into, “How long can this possibly go on?”
Just like every person, institution, business and organization, the nonprofit community has never been through anything like this. As a board member of a nonprofit organization, are you wondering how you can help during this time of crisis? Or perhaps you’ve already jumped into the deep end of daily tasks and are trying to help the staff do their jobs?
With the cancellation of traditional fundraising events and the elimination of in-person meetings due to COVID-19, nonprofits across the sector are elevating their donor engagement strategies and reaching their base of support in unparalleled ways during this critical time. In my conversations with clients, some are now challenged to think about how to build a more integrated approach to their current donor engagement strategies while using the systems they already have in place as they pivot to plan for the next fiscal year.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve held our breath as Congress worked to pass a $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act or “stimulus package”) on Friday, March 20, 2020. While the enduring impact of COVID-19 and the reach of this package is not yet known, nonprofits across the sector are looking to this bill to find answers in its many provisions, from forgivable emergency loan programs to direct cash infusions.
During this time of year, gratitude is front and center as the holiday spirit begins to take shape in our communities. However, we know that for nonprofit leaders like you, gratitude is not just felt during this time of year but infused in our work all year long.
In fundraising, we know that sending thank you letters within a few days of receiving contributions is an essential pillar of a basic development program. Additionally, there are countless articles on the internet with excellent suggestions for going further in expressing gratitude to your donors and I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you as you come up with new ways to further engage your most valued supporters:
Send a welcome packet to new donors with information about the impact of their giving
Set up board members to make thank you calls to a few donors each month
Engage donors as volunteers, especially with direct contact with your organization’s participants and programs
The idea is to bring people closer to your organization. These small gestures can have a positive and lasting impact on your donor retention – keeping your donors year over year and increasing the level of their contributions.
Over 3,000 development professionals from across the country attended AFP ICON in San Antonio, Texas last month. The Alford Group took advantage of this assembled fundraising brain-trust to conduct a highly scientific (wink!) survey around a few hotly debated fundraising topics.
Participants weighed in on three important “questions of the day” at The Alford Group booth by placing colored ping pong balls into giant glass vases to cast their votes. Fundraisers from across the country representing diverse sectors and roles brought their expertise to challenge some misconceptions and tried-and-true best practices. So, we asked the following three questions:
Do you primarily tell stories or provide statistics in your fundraising appeals?
Do you favor direct mail or email fundraising?
Do you focus primarily on garnering restricted or unrestricted gifts?
During my tenure as the head of development with the YMCA of Greater Seattle, I was lucky enough to be there for the organization’s 125th anniversary.
As the 120th year of the YMCA of Greater Seattle loomed ahead, I asked our public relations volunteers if we should start getting ready to celebrate. Their reply? A resounding, “No! Save it for the big one at 125 – but start planning now.”
“Five years out?” I thought to myself. “That seems crazy!” But as we started to explore the significance of the 125th and realize that no update had been done on our history timeline since the 100th – not to mention electronically capturing our history and thousands of photos dating back to the late 1800s – we had lots to do. Continue reading “Getting the Most From Your Upcoming Anniversary”