Wisdom Wednesdays: Who’s Talking About Money?

by Nathan Dungan

Nathan Dungan, one of our conference master class speakers was gracious enough to write the post for this week.  If you have already registered for the conference, you can still sign up for his session, Money Sanity Solutions: A Blueprint for Extraordinary Multigenerational Donor Engagement.”  Simply go to the regular conference registration form, just pay for a master class and indicate that you want Nathan’s.  It’s that easy.  If you still aren’t registered for the conference, reserve your spot now!

Talking about money can be challenging – even when times are good.

So when times are tough, it stands to follow that money-related conversations drop to “can-even-hear-a-pin-drop” levels.  And there’s the conundrum.  Just when we should be ramping-up our emotionally neutral money conversations, too often silence is the natural default.

This is not about the latest, greatest fundraising program.  Rather, it’s about helping organizations understand the power they have to convene multigenerational educational programs for donors that focus on this simple truth: the choices we make with our money can change the world.

As you can see, this approach is intended to push the boundaries of traditional fundraising thinking.

A recent poll by the American Psychological Association stated that 75 percent of American adults now list money as the number one source of stress in their lives.

Nathan DunganGiven the unprecedented levels of financial anxiety and hardship, it is critical for organizations to step into this void and provide opportunities for donors and prospects to talk more openly and intentionally about money values and the role they play in their lives.

And don’t forget the youth.  They too need opportunities to discuss and think through their emerging money values and habits.  Now, more than ever, youth and adults need forums (preferably together) where they can articulate their money goals, share their money stories and also learn new ways for developing and maintaining healthy money habits.

In a recent conversation with a thought-leading Episcopal priest in Southern California, he shared the following: “The issue of hyper-consumerism is the greatest threat to the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

If you still find that you need additional motivation to embrace the opportunity for money discussions, I offer the following eye-popping statistic from the consumer research group Yankelovich.  Today in America, youth and adults are subjected to more than 5,000 advertising impressions per day.

With so much energy, time and money focused on getting us to part with our resources, it’s no wonder we have limited financial capacity to share with others. 

Like the general population, talking about money, values and culture does not come easy for most donors and their families.  They are eager, if not anxious, for guidance from qualified professionals.  When you help donor families refocus on what is truly important to them and, in turn, help them adjust their financial habits, the return on investment can be both immediate and lasting.

The goal of my upcoming Master Class at the ALDE 2012 International Educational Conference is to address all of these issues, plus help you learn the following:

  • Discover new ways to help donor families communicate about money and values with their children and grandchildren;
  • Understand how to help donor families set clear financial goals that include sharing/giving;
  • Discuss a case study of a high-net-worth family that is successfully utilizing this approach;
  • Learn simple, implementable ideas and concepts to utilize with families for developing and maintaining healthy money habits.

I hope to see you there on February 6, so we can talk about talking about money!

Nathan Dungan is the Founder and President of Share Save Spend.  Learn more about Nathan at http://www.sharesavespend.com/.

Wisdom Wednesdays: Telling Your Story and Standing Out

by James Provenza, JD, CPA

You compete for every dollar, and now more than ever, you need to stretch every dollar.  These recommendations — all based on my experience with other organizations — can give you the advantage you need.

Some of these suggestions may seem obvious, and some may strike you as crazy (the Form 990 as a marketing tool … really?), but they can help you set yourself apart.   Let me explain …

  • Have a compelling, written case for support.

Many organizations don’t have one.  You need to stand out.  You need to tell the strongest possible story about how you are changing people’s lives.  You also need to have staff and volunteers on the same page when talking to donors.   I recommend you keep it to no more than two pages.  I know much of the literature says it can be longer (sometimes seven or more pages), but your donors are busy people.  Keep it brief and positive.

  • Don’t cut your stewardship budget.  It is easier to keep existing donors than to find new ones. 

That doesn’t mean you stop making friends, but studies have shown that new donors often don’t make up for the loss of previous donors.

  • Review the profitability of fundraising events, taking into account staff and volunteer time.  Restructure those that are losing money or don’t have a good enough return on investment.

I am surprised at how rarely organizations actually look at this.  I have worked with organizations that were losing money on annual fundraising events.  The important figure is what you net, not what you gross.  Dollars are too hard to come by to keep losing money.  I have found that you can usually do well with two events, if that.  However, if you want staff to focus on planned giving or major gifts, which require face time with donors, you may find it difficult to do more than two in a year.  Events are too labor intensive to do more.

  • Do a compliance audit. 

It is much cheaper to avoid problems than it is to cure a problem after the fact.  For example, the IRS has announced that it will select certain nonprofits for audits based on answers to the governance questions in the Form 990.  Do you have all the recommended policies?  An IRS audit would be an expensive proposition.

  • Post your annual report on your website.   More donors are looking online for information about particular charities.
  • Use the Form 990 as a marketing tool.  

Yes, really.  There are spaces in the revised form to describe your program accomplishments at some length.   You should use it.  People can get your 990 on Guidestar and other locations, so take every opportunity to tell your story.

We hope you find these suggestions helpful and look forward to providing additional information from time to time that will help you in your mission.  If you have questions or suggestions, please drop us a line.

ALDE member James Provenza, JD, CPA, has practiced in Glenview, Ill., for over 20 years and helps individuals and nonprofit organizations realize their plans and achieve their goals.  Contact him at http://www.provenzalaw.com or jprovenza@provenzalaw.com.