Wisdom Wednesdays: Can We Accept That Gift From a Donor?, Part Two

by Dawn M.S. Miller, CFRE

Last Wednesday’s blog post included the basics of fundraising policies and procedures and the importance of the Gift Acceptance Policy. Let’s move onto a more controversial topic — refunding or declining donors’ gifts (cue the scary background music!).

A nonprofit has the option of refunding or declining gifts of cash, securities, real estate or other in-kind items if the organization believes that the contributions conflict with their mission and/or core values or would create a financial or administrative burden.

Miller-DawnRecently, a group of fundraising professionals and I were swapping “donor beware” stories over breakfast. Some stories were funny, while others were no laughing matter. We all have, or will have, times in our career when decisions need to be made about refunding or declining gifts — or dealing with the consequences of an accepted gift. Below are three such tales …

  • One of the most highly publicized donor gifts to be returned in recent memory occurred when UCLA rejected Donald Sterling’s $3 million gift to the university after he was banned from the NBA for life for racist statements. Was it a hard decision for UCLA to make? I’m sure it was, and there are plenty of folks with opinions on all sides of the issue that were ready to share their thoughts on whether UCLA should keep the money or return the funds. The University stated, “Sterling’s divisive and hurtful comments demonstrate that he does not share UCLA’s core values as a public university that fosters diversity, inclusion and respect.” That’s the bottom line.
  • I know an organization that accepted a very large plot of land. What they originally thought was a wonderful opportunity to add real estate to their portfolio turned into a nightmare. What the donor did not disclose, and the nonprofit was unaware of since little due diligence and research was conducted, is that the land included a flooded mine that leached environmentally-damaging minerals onto the adjunct property. The cleanup took years and the costs skyrocketed. The nonprofit was responsible for paying those costs (shudder!).
  • One more quick story: Entertainer Garth Brooks was in the headlines in 2012 when an Oklahoma hospital was ordered to pay him $1 million when it failed to build a women’s health center in honor of his late mother. This was a case of a verbal, not written agreement, between a donor and the hospital. Obviously both parties had a very different idea of the verbal agreement. The hospital was out of significant funds — dollars that could have been used to fulfill the hospital’s mission.

What do these stories illustrate? That we need to be clear with donors upfront about what our nonprofit can, or cannot, accept. Get everything in writing and take your time ensuring the gift is appropriate for your organization with few strings attached. All gifts need to be well understood, manageable and in line with your mission.

But don’t let the bad headlines overshadow the good that donors want to do for your organization. The great majority of benefactors have your mission and future in mind when they offer a gift.

Still think you don’t need policies and procedures for gifts to your organization? Think again! Look for Part Three of “Can We Accept That Gift from a Donor?” next week for more tips. Enjoy your week!

Dawn M.S. Miller, CFRE, is Director of Consulting for Fund Development Services at Zielinski Companies in St. Louis, Missouri. She can be reached at dmiller@zielinskico.com or (800) 489-2150.

Founded in 1957, Zielinski Companies helps nonprofit and religious organizations address their financial, management and planning needs. The firm has a broad range of consulting service areas, including: Fund Development and Mission Advancement Consulting; Audit, Accounting and Tax Services; Property and Facility Planning; Organizational Management and Planning; Long-term Care, Facility and Staffing Consulting and Cash Management and Credit Card Services. For more information, please visit www.zielinskico.com.

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Wisdom Wednesdays: Can We Accept That Gift From a Donor?, Part One

by Dawn M.S. Miller, CFRE

It’s Wisdom Wednesday … so let’s discuss the “wisdom” of fundraising policies and procedures. Did I just hear a collective groan ripple across the internet?

Stick with me! Yes, I know the topic may not seem overly exciting. However, policies and procedures are very much needed when we, as fundraising professionals, are entrusted with our benefactors’ gifts.

Miller-DawnLet’s start with a few basics on the importance of fundraising policies and procedures as we work toward the “common good.”

  1. We must protect the mission, integrity, ethical values and governance of our nonprofits.
  2. We are holding the public’s trust and confidence through our actions. Donors insist on accountability and transparency. They want to know specifically where their hard earned money is going and how they are helping the greater community through your nonprofit.
  3. We can improve our staff’s effectiveness and efficiency with proper use, training and follow-through of policies and procedures.
  4. We have the right to say “no” to a potential gift from a donor, with policies and procedures to back up our decisions (more on this topic next week!).

One of the most important policies for any nonprofit is often referred to as the Gift Acceptance Policy.

The purpose of a Gift Acceptance Policy is to provide gift opportunities to donors who want to support the mission of a nonprofit. The policy is designed to assure that all gifts to, or for the use of, the organization are structured to provide maximum benefits to both parties. The goal is to encourage funding of the organization without encumbering the nonprofit with gifts which may prove to generate more cost than benefit, or which are restricted in a manner that is not in keeping with the organization’s mission.

This written document is established to:

  • Ensure that informed decisions are made on the acceptance of gifts and that such gifts are receipted in accordance with the requirements of the Income Tax Act
  • Ensure that efficient administrative, legal and accounting practices and procedures are followed
  • Enable accurate reporting of gifts bestowed upon the organization, services and programs
  • Ensure consistent, equitable relations with all donors.

Some of the key components of a Gift Acceptance Policy may include:

  • Solicitation of gifts
  • Role of the Board and/or Development Advisory Council, as applicable
  • Donor confidentiality
  • Payment of fees for services
  • Acknowledgement and stewardship of gifts
  • Donor recognition and recognition of discounts/services
  • How conflicts of interest will be handled
  • Refunding and/or declining gifts
  • Accepting cash gifts; pledges and recording of pledges; securities; equipment and personal property and real estate
  • Deferred/planned giving programs (wills and bequests, charitable gift annuities, life insurance, remainder trusts, etc.)
  • Statement specifying who has the authority to enter into agreements on behalf of the nonprofit
  • Timeframe for regularly reviewing the policy (i.e., annually, bi-annually, etc.)
  • Contact information for donor questions

Whoa! Does that seem like a lot of information? It sure is.

Look for Part Two of “Can We Accept that Gift from a Donor?” next Wednesday for more tips — and a few stories, too. Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend!

Dawn M.S. Miller, CFRE, is Director of Consulting for Fund Development Services at Zielinski Companies in St. Louis, Missouri. She can be reached at dmiller@zielinskico.com or (800) 489-2150.

Founded in 1957, Zielinski Companies helps nonprofit and religious organizations address their financial, management and planning needs. The firm has a broad range of consulting service areas, including: Fund Development and Mission Advancement Consulting; Audit, Accounting and Tax Services; Property and Facility Planning; Organizational Management and Planning; Long-term Care, Facility and Staffing Consulting and Cash Management and Credit Card Services. For more information, please visit www.zielinskico.com.

Wisdom Wednesdays: Spring … When a Young Man’s Fancy Turns to … Wills & Bequests!

by Jon Dize

Spring … Rebirth … Renewal … Spring Forward … Looking Forward … Planning Ahead … Planned Giving …

Ok, maybe this is how my mind works, but Spring is an excellent time for you and your organization to consider wills, bequests and other planned giving efforts.  The snow is melting, the future looks bright (more sun in the sky, and we celebrate the death and life of a Son).

Dize-JonPlanned giving should be as much a part of any fundraising calendar as the year-end mailing, the scholarship brochure, the Endowment Report, etc.  Below is a FAQ primer to get your leadership thinking:

What exactly is “a planned giving effort?”
In short, all organizations should be looking to promote ways to identify, plan and execute wealth transfer options, including wills/bequests, charitable trusts, etc., to benefit the mission.  Some experts call them “life gifts”, where you identify and support what was important to in your life. 

Why should we have a planned giving effort?
If you do not ask, you will not get.  It truly is as simple as it sounds. 

When do we start a planned giving effort?
Yesterday.  Everyone can think of a time your organization received a gift from someone’s will at just the right time.  “Wonderful!  God is good!  What a salvation to our project that was!”  Well, someone did some work in the past to make the gift a reality now.  Time to get moving. 

Whom should we approach in our planned giving effort?
Everyone.  While common logic may indicate that you should focus on those who are “nearing the end of their time here on earth,” studies show that families create wills on average when they are in their late 40s.  Get in there now for the long haul. 

How about just focusing on the wealthy?
While this may be a good plan, as local Leave A Legacy efforts around the country tell us, “you do not have to be wealthy; you just have to be willing.”  Would you rather receive one bequest for $50,000, or 10 gifts of $5,000 each?  There are arguments for both.

All of these concepts can be summed very nicely by something a pastor recently told me: “I oversaw nearly a dozen funerals of long-term members last year.  Not one of them included the church in their will.  I guess we cannot just ‘assume’ it will happen anymore.”

Spring into action, everyone!

Jon Dize, CFRM, serves as the Director of Development for The Lutheran Schools Partnership in Fort Wayne, Ind.  He is also president of the Indiana-Michigan Chapter ALDE. LinkedIn Twitter: JonDize17

 

Wisdom Wednesdays: Living Inside the Design

by Mark Schoepp

People are generally surprised when they hear about three of the simplest ways to boost any kind of thinking/creativity based work in the workplace.  They are: exercise, healthy eating and play.  We’ve known for a long time that those three are important for our health from the neck down – heart health, muscle tone, lung capacity, etc.  But perhaps the most important reason to do any of those three is the affect they have on our brain.

Schoepp-MarkThis powerful video shows the dramatic impact exercise — 20 minutes on a treadmill at the start of math class – had on a student’s behavior and academic success.  The same thing happens in people of any age.  That is the design!  The body is designed by God to move.  When we do, good things happen.

Taking care of yourself means you can be better equipped to take care of those you serve because you’ll be ready to work efficiently and effectively.  It also means your mind will be in a better state to develop creative solutions to problems facing God’s people, and that you will be more open to hearing God’s guidance for serving those in need.  Being in the right state of mind will likewise make you more able to listen to donors, understand their wishes and act upon their desires to make God’s word and love known.

Various nonprofits are going beyond themselves when it comes to health, getting involved in their communities specifically around this topic.  They know how important it is for good stewardship of our bodies — for giving God our best.  Sometimes the people in their community know what they need to be doing and they just need a little (or a lot of) encouragement to do it.  Sometimes they really don’t know why they are doing so poorly.  Either way, there are organizations taking specific steps in this direction.  Trinity Lutheran in Klein, Texas, and Salem Lutheran in Tomball, Texas, both have exercise rooms right at the church, open to members and often to the community.  Christ Memorial Lutheran in St. Louis has exercise space and has taken it one step further — with the help of a grant from Wheat Ridge Ministries, they have a R.E.H.A.B. program that helps those who don’t have insurance coverage get the simple exercise they need.  Health is dramatically improved and a community is built around the experience with people praying and caring for each other even outside the context of the exercise room.

Other churches and schools are providing community gardens and more around the concern for healthy eating.  They say that these “bridge ministries” provide a degree of visibility they didn’t have before.  In addition to providing a much needed service, they provide the beginnings of a relationship that provides ample opportunity to share the good news of Jesus.

Truly, these organizations wouldn’t have been able to develop such great community services if their leaders hadn’t been taking care of themselves so that their minds and bodies would be ready to hear and carry out God’s call.  How can you be ready to serve God and serve others?

Mark Schoepp served the church as a Director of Christian Education for more than 30 years in four congregations.  Mark and his wife, Becky, also toured for 20 years as Fitz Family Ministries,  a unique family ministry and entertainment troupe.  Mark joined Wheat Ridge Ministries as full time Director Of Congregation Engagement in July 2010.  Mark works to inspire and encourage Lutherans and Lutheran Congregations to connect to their communities through intentional programs that promote health and wellness.

Since 1994, Mark has been following the developments in the field of brain research and education, with a special interest in brain health and its application to the church, the church school and the home and provides workshops for a variety of audiences.

Wisdom Wednesdays: How to use LinkedIn to Build New Relationships

by Anthony Juliano

Previously, I shared some best practices for enhancing your existing relationships on LinkedIn.  This is LinkedIn’s true wheelhouse: the platform works best when used to make deeper connections or additional impressions with those you already know. However, there are some ways you can use LinkedIn to develop new relationships — and here are four of the most prominent:

1. Use advanced search to learn who knows whom. Advanced search is one of the most powerful features on LinkedIn. Not only can you find out who does what at a given company or in a given industry, you can also see who knows whom within your networkThat means you can see if someone you want to know is connected to someone you already know. When that intermediary exists, you have a great opportunity to…

Juliano-Anthony-web2. Ask for an introduction. LinkedIn provides a formal process for asking for introductions, wherein the intermediary mentioned above can connect you to someone you’d like to meet. Use these introductions judiciously, however: if you have a basic LinkedIn membership you can request no more than five introductions at any given time. In addition, your connections may get weary of helping you connect to others — unless, of course, you’re willing to do the same for them.

3. Join the same groups as the connection you want to meet — and provide real value. A shared interest or affinity is a great way to break the ice. With that in mind, visit prospective connections’ profiles to see what LinkedIn groups they’re part of, then browse those groups to find the groups in which they’re most active. Assuming you share the same interest — or that you can develop that interest for the purposes of building the relationship — you can join the group and participate in conversations with those you want to meet or start conversations that provide value to the group as a whole. It takes time and effort, but it can accelerate the process in a substantive way.

4. Send a personalized connection request. Want to accelerate the process even more? The best route may be the simplest: sending a connection request to a person with whom you’d like to connect. Just be sure to make the connection request by visiting his or her profile from the full site, clicking the “Connect” button and then writing a personalized connection request that explains why you’re reaching out. Sending the request in any other way — from a LinkedIn mobile app, for example — will result in the prospective connection getting the generic (and uninspiring) “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message. You can do much better than that — and the likelihood of your request being accepted will improve as well.

Remember, LinkedIn is best used for connecting with those you already know. If you’re smart in how you go about it, however, it’s possible to launch a few new relationships, too.

Anthony Juliano of the LinkedInstitute, and Vice President of Marketing and Social Media Strategy with Asher Agency, is an experienced LinkedIn trainer and strategy consultant.  He has developed and taught several LinkedIn classes, presented about LinkedIn at national conferences and provided LinkedIn training for a wide variety of individuals and businesses.  Anthony approaches his work with one simple goal: to help others understand today’s changing communication environment.  He presented two sessions this February at the 2014 ALDE International Educational Conference in Jacksonville, Fla., “Building Bridges With LinkedIn: How to Connect With Your Advocates,” and, “Bridging the Gap Between Social Media and Marketing: An Integrated Approach.”  Want to go deeper?  Purchase Anthony’s sessions here!

Wisdom Wednesdays: Three Ways to use LinkedIn to Enhance Your Existing Relationships

by Anthony Juliano

As a fundraising professional, you’re an expert at building relationships.  However, there’s one tool that even some of the most seasoned veterans overlook when it comes to enhancing their existing relationships: LinkedIn.

LinkedIn tends to take a back seat to sites like Facebook and Twitter because it’s seen as … well, a little boring.  Don’t let LinkedIn’s stodgy reputation fool you: study after study has shown that it’s unmatched when it comes to lead generation, and it also has the highest concentration of members with the means to give — by far — of any social media platform.

Juliano-Anthony-webSo, how can you use LinkedIn to make your existing relationships a little stronger?  Here are three specific examples:

  • Participate in connections’ status updates.  When someone shares a status update, he or she is saying, in effect, “Here’s something I believe is worth your time.”  The audience — including you — can show its agreement by clicking like, adding a comment or sharing the status update, thereby demonstrating that you value what they have to say — and, by extension, that you value the individual who posted it.
  • Provide recommendations, endorsements and introductions.  LinkedIn gives you the ability to speak well of others’ work by providing them with a recommendation or endorsement.  Don’t do this disingenuously, but by all means, take the time to acknowledge connections who do outstanding work.  One of the best ways to reach your goals, after all, is by helping others reach their goals.
    LinkedIn also provides several means by which you can introduce a member of your network to someone else.  If you connect two people who can be resources to one another, you’ll get twice the benefit.
  • Sharing a common interest by way of LinkedIn groups.  When an important advocate has a specific interest, you probably pay a little bit more attention to that topic than you would otherwise.  LinkedIn can help here, too, when you join the same groups as those with whom you want to build a relationship.  Being in the same group as an advocate or donor allows you to glean insights about what motivates or inspires them.  Better yet, you can be part of the same conversations as these connections, giving you the opportunity to make an impression on them and add value.

It’s important to note that LinkedIn is no substitute for one-to-one, substantive communication.  However, when it’s used to bridge the gaps between real world interactions, it can make good relationships even better.

Anthony Juliano of the LinkedInstitute, and Vice President of Marketing and Social Media Strategy with Asher Agency, is an experienced LinkedIn trainer and strategy consultant.  He has developed and taught several LinkedIn classes, presented about LinkedIn at national conferences and provided LinkedIn training for a wide variety of individuals and businesses.  Anthony approaches his work with one simple goal: to help others understand today’s changing communication environment.  He will be presenting two sessions this February at the 2014 ALDE International Educational Conference in Jacksonville, Fla., “Building Bridges With LinkedIn: How to Connect With Your Advocates,” and, “Bridging the Gap Between Social Media and Marketing: An Integrated Approach.”

Wisdom Wednesdays: Three Ways to Thank Your LinkedIn Connections

by Anthony Juliano

Juliano-Anthony-webThis time of year, nearly everyone — even unsentimental old cusses like me — gives some thought to that for which they’re grateful.  If you’ve had any success at work in the past eleven months, there are probably a few professional connections on your “to thank” list.

Depending on the relationship, some of them will undoubtedly deserve a substantial gift or gesture.  But what about the people you’d like to acknowledge without breaking the bank or overloading your schedule?  There are three ways LinkedIn can help:

1. Endorsements.  I’m not the biggest fan of LinkedIn endorsements, but they do have some value — especially when given to connections who don’t yet have many of them.  Being among the first to give a connection a deserved endorsement will likely stand out more than one given to someone whose expertise has already been well acknowledged by other LinkedIn users.  Those just starting a career may be good candidates for this.

2. Recommendations.  How do you properly thank those who already have dozens of endorsements?  Give them a LinkedIn recommendation instead.  Because it takes more effort to make recommendations, they tend to be better appreciated.  Look for connections who have zero or only a couple recommendations and take the time to acknowledge what they do well.

3.Introductions.  What can you give the LinkedIn connection who seems to have it all? Introduce them to someone in your network who may be in the market for their services or who may be a resource to them.  Choose “share profile” on a connection’s profile to make the introduction, or download his or her profile as a PDF and email it to someone else.  Either way, you’ll be helping two people in the same amount of time it would take you to help one.

The best thing about taking the time to thank your connections is that it doesn’t take much time at all — especially when you consider the potential upside in improved relationships.  It’s yet another example of how, as the saying goes, it’s better to give than to receive.

Anthony Juliano of the LinkedInstitute, and Vice President of Marketing and Social Media Strategy with Asher Agency, is an experienced LinkedIn trainer and strategy consultant.  He has developed and taught several LinkedIn classes, presented about LinkedIn at national conferences and provided LinkedIn training for a wide variety of individuals and businesses.  Anthony approaches his work with one simple goal: to help others understand today’s changing communication environment.  He will be presenting two sessions this February at the 2014 ALDE International Educational Conference in Jacksonville, Fla., “Building Bridges With LinkedIn: How to Connect With Your Advocates,” and, “Bridging the Gap Between Social Media and Marketing: An Integrated Approach.”