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New economic realities, human resource challenges & changing donor motivations: the environment within which Canadian charities and non profit organizations work is evolving rapidly.
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Aug 21, 2013

It Takes a Village: The Synergies of Good Donor Relations

Posted By: Michelle Regel, CFRE

Over the past 12 months there have been some very interesting study results released that indicate distinct synergies between effective fundraising, donor stewardship, staff retention, board involvement and the culture of philanthropy. The Next Generation of American Giving report by Blackbaud was released recently and provides some insightful data about how donors in various age groupings prefer to donate and volunteer and their crucial connection to engagement.  According to survey results, donors pro-actively involve themselves with their favorite causes in a variety of ways:
  • Nearly 60% say they donate clothes, food and other items;
  • More than 1/3 give time as well as money;
  • Approximately 1/5 say they attend or host in-person events;
  • Approximately 1/5 also participate in advocacy activities; and
  • Overall, a whopping 75% of donors engage online with causes.
The fascinating thing about the Blackbaud report is that all the extensive data reinforces findings from the UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising report with respect to the issues surrounding instability of fundraisers’ job tenure and not having enough human resources to communicate with donors in a timely and meaningful manner.  UnderDeveloped was one of the biggest national surveys of its kind which gathered data from more than 2,700 development directors and charity heads. Among its key findings were:
  • Half (yes, half!) of the chief fundraisers plan to leave their jobs within two years or less;
  • Forty percent are thinking about leaving fundraising entirely; and
  • More than half of the executive directors reported that they can’t find well-qualified people to run their fundraising staffs.
Adding extra pressure to those staffing challenges is the observation that charities that succeed at fundraising seem to differ from those that struggle in one key way, according to William Sturtevant, a senior fundraiser at the University of Illinois Foundation: Their leaders are deeply involved in raising money.  “It isn’t just the executives who need to be engaged in fundraising, but the board members too. That’s profoundly important,” says Mr. Sturtevant, who also works as a consultant to other charities.  Seventy-five percent of the executive directors said their trustees were insufficiently involved in raising money for their charities. Thirty-six percent said their boards had no fundraising committees, and 17 percent of CEO’s said their boards had no involvement in fundraising at all.1 So therein is our conundrum – if it takes a village to nurture donor relationships, and if engagement is a critical factor to strong relationships, how then can charities that struggle to build and maintain effective staff teams and fundraising boards expect to keep existing donors and secure new ones if the very people charged with donor relations aren’t working within a culture of philanthropy that will make that possible? The good news, according to the Blackbaud findings, is that most donors give despite the internal challenges experienced by a lot of organizations. Some donors will give more than others, some will give items and some will give money and some will expect highly transparent and impactful reporting but, at the end of the fiscal year, it seems we can still count on our donors to give (for now).  If we want that to continue, we need to take steps to ensure we understand our donors and earn their time, gifts and advocacy.  Here are a few resources to help you get started:

The Getting Attention Blog provides some great tips on how to communicate and build relationships with donors via several channels.

The TDG Stewardship Quiz and New Way to Look at Stewardship chart provide a springboard for how your organization can ramp up your donor stewardship program.

The TDG Tip Sheet for Board Fund Development Engagement Ideas provides tips on how to involve board members, even if they don’t consider themselves “fundraisers”

  1The Chronicle of Philanthropy  


Jul 18, 2013

An Inspiring Culture of Philanthropy

Posted By: Michelle Regel, CFRE

As a native Calgarian, I have always had a deep fondness for my city; however, the post-flood wave of philanthropy and random acts of kindness exhibited by Calgarians, and people across southern Alberta, makes me especially proud. It’s a tough world and charities are not exempt despite their purpose to make it better.  Many organizations were impacted by the June flood and must now deal with that adversity in addition to the daily challenges of remaining relevant and financially viable. The impressive philanthropic efforts of our citizens, characterized by generous donations, compassionate gestures and volunteering, are indicators of a resilient city culture.  We already knew we lived in a great city but, apparently, we needed a not-so-gentle reminder.  The next year will be challenging for all charities, not just those that were affected directly by the flood. Calgarians’ ability to respond effectively and rally quickly set an impressive example of how we will re-build our city and, from this example, it is evident that charities that have cultivated philanthropic cultures and passionate donor bases will undoubtedly fare better in the post-flood economy than those that did not. Below is a quick “pulse check” for philanthropic culture. Admittedly, cultivating philanthropic culture is always a work in progress (or it should be), but if you answer “yes” to 7 or more of these questions, then your organization has done a good job of cultivating a vibrant philanthropic culture. If you answer “yes” to fewer than 7 questions, well then, now you know what to do...   TDG’s Top 10 Indicators of Philanthropic Culture © 1. Your Board and leadership can both pronounce and spell the word ‘philanthropy’.  A new concept?  No, actually a very, very old one and a key funding motivator for almost all donors. 2. When someone calls to make a donation the receptionist knows who you are and what to do.  Make sure all staff know how to recognize and handle potential donors.  Think customer service, competition and internal cooperation. 3. Accountability is a word your organization lives by, not pays lip service to. The number one reason donors stop giving is because they don’t think their gift was used as intended or promised.  Be accountable in all aspects to your donors. 4. You recognize that your primary role is not fundraising – it is building the philanthropic culture in your organization so that philanthropic relationships can survive and thrive. Your role is not to ‘get donors’ nor is it to ‘raise money’.  It is to build relationships that result in the formation of philanthropists.  Donors and money are the outcomes – and you are the catalyst for social change in your organization. 5. Your organizational leadership understands and acknowledges the difference between philanthropy, development and fundraising. Philanthropy is the motivating value, development is the management of a systematic and strategic program and fundraising is the action.  They are distinct but connected. 6. You have a Statement of Philanthropic Values. Have this discussion throughout your organization and engage everyone.  How do you want to treat your donors?  How important are they to your organization? 7. Development is a core function that is long term, strategic and responsive to community needs.  Development is critical to fulfilling your organizational mission.  It is a core part of your strategic thinking, planning, direction and action. 8. Fundraising is everyone’s job. It just simply does not work if it is done in isolation.  Everyone has a role – ambassador, enthusiastic communicator, connector, cultivator, solicitor, steward. 9. 100% of your Board makes annual philanthropic gifts to your organization.  And, your Board demonstrates its ownership of fundraising and all board members participate in fundraising – but not all in the same way. It is very hard to ask others to support your mission if the leaders in your organization are not making annual meaningful gifts.  Encourage board members to make it one of their top three philanthropic priorities and be able to lead with both passion and demonstrated commitment. 10. Donors are viewed as stakeholders in your organization. They are not necessary, a burden, rich, your best friends, targets or a nuisance.  They are stakeholders who have invested because they care about what you do.   So there you have it.  Organizations that question the value of a robust philanthropic culture need look no further than the quick and impressive results achieved by everyday people helping everyday people in our city. Recommended reading: TDG’s Top 10 Indicators of Philanthropic Culture©  Hilborn's article about Calgary’s post-flood philanthropy  CCVO's flood impact report  

Jun 10, 2013

Giving, Charity, Philanthropy – Is there a Difference?

Posted By: Andrea McManus, CFRE

Over the past few years I have written and spoken a lot on the difference between fundraising and philanthropy. I've challenged our profession to recognize that fundraising is an outward action that engages a donor in the act of philanthropy and that perhaps we should focus more on philanthropy as the outcome and fundraising as the enabler or catalyst. Philanthropy is a warmer word that calms that “fear of fundraising” that we often have to address. For every action there is an equal (and hopefully greater) philanthropic reaction! But what qualifies as “philanthropic?” It almost seems that we have come full circle on this definition. Consider that AFP’s National Philanthropy Day©, which is celebrated across North America by over 150 chapters, recognizes all kinds of giving as philanthropic. I remember when the AFP Calgary & Area Chapter first decided to celebrate NPD 15 years ago. We felt that we would need to find a different word than “philanthropy” because people would consider it to be all the usual high profile, large donors. Thankfully, we couldn’t find another word and today, for a variety of reasons, philanthropy is more widely understood and referenced in the media and in the general public. As fundraisers, I think we have done a great job at promoting a broad understanding that all giving is philanthropic in nature and through that we are able to promote even more giving. A friend of mine recently sought some advice about her family’s giving, and one of the organizations she approached was the wealth advisor group of one of our major banks. She was advised that in order to participate in their program her family would need to make a commitment of at least $500,000 in order to “practice philanthropy.” Anything less would simply be “charity” and may not deliver the outcomes they desired. Donors need to feel good about their giving Even worse is the trend within our own organizations (hopefully one that will not gain traction) to create titles such as vice president of philanthropy. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am completely in favor of the title itself. What grates me is when the other VP position is vice president of development and yes, you got it—VP Philanthropy is for major gifts and VP Development is for “all the other stuff” (direct response, annual fund etc.). This should make our donors who don’t have the capacity to give at the major gift level really feel good about their giving, don’t you think? What defines philanthropic?  Webster’s defines philanthropic as “dispensing or receiving aid from funds set aside for humanitarian purposes” and philanthropy as “goodwill to fellowmen—an active effort to promote human welfare.” Where in here, or in any other definition for that matter, does it define philanthropy by the dollar amount? Isn’t philanthropy defined by values such as caring, sharing, giving back, change-making and many others? Isn’t my $100 gift to a cause that I appreciate and care about a philanthropic act that advances the mission? We know that people in higher income brackets generally give a lesser percentage of their income to charity than people in lower income brackets. So that $100 gift for me could very well be a greater chunk of change and sign of commitment than $100,000 from someone else. And the desire to make change, help others in need, give back or pay forward is not dependent on the number of zeros on the cheque. It is defined by your personal act of philanthropic giving. So please, the distinction between “charity” and “philanthropy” is insulting and we should stop it. Every gift counts! Every donor counts! This article was originally posted on the AFP International website.