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LinkedIn Matching Gift Group

June 23rd, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising
Tap into the collective knowledge of matching gift experts across the country

Brian Lacy and Associates

Join The #1 Matching Gift Group

Is raising more money from employee matching gift programs one of your goals for this year? If so you should join the Matching Gift Group on LinkedIn which was created so fundraisers like you can get fresh perspectives on how to improve your matching gift fundraising.

In this forum we talk about the challenges organizations face promoting matching gifts, share marketing materials and best practices, answer questions about individual company programs, and discuss any questions you may have about corporate matching gifts.

Join the conversation now>

It’s free to join and contains:

  • Successful marketing strategies: We discuss strategies which nonprofits are using to drive increases in matching gift fundraising.
  • Topics of the month: Each month I’ll post a new topic for discussion. I invite you to share your thoughts and expertise and learning.
  • More perspectives: With insights from other matching gift coordinators and development directors, we can learn even more. Our collective knowledge is powerful. And I know you have some good ideas to contribute as well.

Sound interesting? I hope so. I invite you to get engaged in discussions, ask questions, and share your thoughts right now. Best of all, it doesn’t cost you a penny.

Click here to join.

To your matching gift success!

Brian Lacy
President of Brian Lacy and Associates

Canada’s “skills gap” is actually an “experience gap”

June 22nd, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Canada, Education

New grads face demands for up to five years experience to enter the labour market. How a lack of on-the-job training is hurting young workers.

For students like Isabelle Duchaine, in the final stretch of their post-secondary educations, this is a difficult time of the year. “When you’re down to the last few weeks of school plus exams, you’re not just looking for a job,” says the Queen’s University history and political studies major, “you’re looking for a place to live for the next year, a new city, thinking about all the relationships you’re leaving behind and reflecting on where you’re going next. Every once in a while I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s all over, I’m going to move back into my parents’ basement in Brighton, Ont.’”

For Duchaine, the move home may not last long, as she’s already got a couple of offers for graduate school. But she is also considering going straight into a career—if only she could find an entry-level position. Despite having worked on campus, including a year as an executive for Queen’s Alma Mater Society, where she managed dozens of volunteers and liaised with administrators, Duchaine hasn’t gotten any interviews for the government jobs and internships she’s applied to so far. She isn’t sure she’s even qualified, considering the lists of demands she’s seeing in online job ads. “Most of them say two to three years of relevant work experience,” she says. A lot of the work she’s done seems relevant but she doesn’t have multiple years of full-time job experience. In fact, given the hard and soft skills employers have asked for—knowledge of statistical modelling software, HTML, writing policy briefs and experience working in teams—it might seem Duchaine is yet another victim of the so-called skills gap. “As a student, particularly in the arts, you’re writing papers that are 15 to 20 pages and those aren’t the skill sets that employers are looking for.”

Sophie Borwein, a researcher with the provincially funded Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, is trying to “cut through the noise” around Canada’s skills-gap debate by studying what types of skills employers are actually looking for in new graduates. What she’s found is that the problem facing Canada’s economy isn’t a lack of skills so much as an “experience gap.”

The notion of Canada facing a “skills gap,” in which unemployed workers say they’re desperate for work and employers respond that they’d be happy to hire new graduates if only they had the right skills, is deeply entrenched. Jason Kenney, federal minister of employment, has been particularly vocal on the topic while travelling through Europe this winter studying foreign skills-training programs.

However Borwein’s project, in which she’s tallied up the demands made by employers in job advertisements posted in the “entry-level” sections of three major Canadian career websites, is eye-opening. Preliminary results show that many employers ask for soft skills like oral communication, but “more interesting” to her is that most demand two, three or even five years of work experience. Wal-Mart Canada, for example, was looking for a search marketing analyst who was both “entry-level” and had “five years” of experience, a seemingly impossible demand for young graduates. “It’s not that unusual either,” says Borwein. (Full results of the survey will be released this summer.)

Emad Rizkalla, CEO of St. John’s, N.L.-based Bluedrop Performance Learning, which develops custom training software, says there’s no question an experience gap exists, particularly in soft skills. He uses the example of a graphic artist just leaving school with little work experience, who may have valuable hard skills but doesn’t understand time management or basic customer service. “It’s not necessarily that [employers] are looking for deep knowledge of technical process X or technical skill Y,” he says. “They say two to three years because they’re looking for a proxy for someone who is [prepared] a little bit for a working environment.”

Rizkalla points out that when employers are surveyed, they say by wide margins that they would prefer to hire someone with the right soft skills and train them in the hard skills they’re missing, rather than the other way around. But evidence suggests they’re spending less on training overall, so many new graduates will likely have to get those soft skills elsewhere. The Conference Board of Canada found annual direct learning and development expenditures declined by about 40 per cent, from a peak of $1,207 per employee in 1993 to $705 in 2013. Why the reluctance to train? “Employers have a fear that if I get my employee up to the next level, they’ll just be valuable to the company down the street,” he says. But he also thinks employers are confused about what it really takes to keep employees. He cites an American Society for Training and Development study that found only 12 per cent of employees at companies that invest significantly in training expect to leave within one year, compared to 41 per cent of employees at companies that invest little or nothing in training.

Employers have trouble seeing this, says Rizkalla, because while it’s easy to notice when a well-trained employee walks out the door to work for a competitor, it’s far more difficult to measure how training an employee keeps him or her motivated and leads to long-term productivity gains.

Jason Kenney agrees that employers need to step up to train workers, and thus help close the experience gap. “Employers who are serious about their future and about addressing the skills gap need to put more money in the game,” the minister said last month. The Canada Job Grant he hopes to finally implement after months of wrangling with the provinces will provide businesses with federal funding of up to $10,000 per worker, but only if employers are willing to match around one-third of the total cost.

Until employers start training more, Rizkalla says, students can bridge the experience gap by signing up for co-operative education, where they spend four to eight months at a time working in paid placements. “I’d bet dollars to donuts that kids who did co-op are the ones getting hired,” he says.

But as it stands, co-op programs are hard to get into and not everyone finds a co-op job. Stephen Amoah, a recent Brock University graduate, says he worked hard in his first year of an accounting program to maintain a B average, and spent much of the fall of his second year searching for a co-op position. However, after interviewing for two jobs he received no offers, meaning he was no longer eligible to apply for co-op positions. “It was very disappointing,” he says. “My dreams were to work at a big-four firm.” His only work experience up to that point was arranging produce at a grocery store, work he admits didn’t translate well when answering interview questions from accounting firms. Determined to get back on his feet, he spent the winter semester (when he would have been on co-op) joining student clubs to develop soft skills like teamwork and presentations, and applying to summer jobs. He landed full-time work with Brock’s Career Centre developing a mentorship program and continued to work there part-time during the school year. Thanks to an angel investor, he’s been working full-time since graduation last year on MyCareerCity, a website that aims to match new graduates to jobs at start-up companies.

Perhaps even better than co-ops or summer jobs for gaining skills are initiatives likeQueen’s University’s undergraduate internship program (QUIP), which offers 12- to 16-month placements in between school years that pay $25,000 to $60,000. Mireille Gomes, a biomedical computing graduate, landed a QUIP placement in 2006-07 with an electronic health records software company in Austria, which led to a Ph.D. at Oxford University, an internship at the World Health Organization and eventually full-time work in electronic health records at the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

But there are only 300 to 500 QUIP jobs advertised per year at Queen’s for more than 17,000 undergraduates. That’s why Duchaine, in between research sessions for her final papers, has been working to convince the political studies department to create an internship credit that would allow students to spend part of the semester in training. “You hear references colloquially to the skills gap,” she says, “but the current way we’ve structured universities often doesn’t allow for the kind of experiential learning that employers and students are really looking for.”

Saturday, April 5, 2014
by Josh Dehaas

US colleges allow students to work off their tuition

June 21st, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Education

Many students spend years after college working off tens of thousands of dollars in school debt. But at seven “work colleges” around the country, students are required to work on campus as part of their studies ― doing everything from landscaping, growing and cooking food to public relations and feeding farm animals ― to pay off at least some of their tuition before they graduate.

The arrangement not only makes college more affordable for students who otherwise might not be able to go, it also gives them real-life experience, teaches them responsibility and how to work together, officials said.

“I love it,” said Melissa Eckstrom, of Philadelphia, who is an assistant garden manager at Sterling College in Craftsbury, Vt., where she’s studying sustainable agriculture. “It’s really satisfying to work in the garden and do all this hands-on, you know, dirty work ― and I go to the kitchen and sit down for a meal and I’m like, I grew this. It can’t get more full circle than that.”

With rising college costs and a national student loan debt reaching more than $1 trillion, “earning while learning” is becoming more appealing for some students. The work college program is different than the federal work study program, which is an optional voluntary program that offers funds for part-time jobs for needy students.

But at the seven so-called work colleges ― Sterling College, Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Ky., Berea College in Berea, Ky., Blackburn College in Carlinville, Ill., College of the Ozarks in Lookout, Mo., Ecclesia College in Springdale, Ark., and Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C., ― work is required and relied upon for the daily operation of the institution, no matter what the student’s background. The students are then evaluated on their performance.

“It’s a core component of the educational program,” said Robin Taffler, executive director of the Work Colleges Consortium.

“It does not differentiate between those that can afford to pay for their education, from those that must work to cover their educational costs. And that’s a big deal. No student can buy their way out of this work program. So this essentially levels the playing field because everybody is doing a job,” she said.

Eckstrom works up to 100 hours a semester at $11.10 an hour, so the pay helps with her school costs, she said. She also gets tuition credit for coming a week early for training before the start of the school year.

“It’s all very helpful,” said Eckstrom, 23, who said she probably couldn’t have afforded to attend a school like Sterling otherwise.

The average debt of work colleges graduates in 2010 was $12,121 compared to $27,710 for private nonprofit college graduates, $21,740 for public college graduates, and $33,050 for graduates of private, for-profit colleges, according to the Work Colleges Consortium. Sterling’s average loan debt is $16,800.

Three of those colleges ― Alice Lloyd, Berea College and College of the Ozarks ― fully cover the cost of the tuition, through work, grants and donations.

The schools save on operational costs by having students working on campus and running the daily operation because they don’t have as much staff, Taffler said. But that doesn’t mean the work program is inexpensive for the schools to operate. Some funding is available through the federal work colleges program but the schools must match it dollar for dollar.

“So it is not necessarily an inexpensive program to operate,” Taffler said. The schools that offer full tuition do a lot of fundraising, she said.

The “earning while learning” concept appears to have become more appealing to students as a way to pay for college.

At Sterling College, enrollment was up 26 percent in the fall of 2013, while the rate of applications rose 38 percent from last March to now. The number of applications to Berea College has steadily increased from 1,362 in 2009 to 1,620 in 2013.

The Work Colleges Consortium reports that 75 percent of graduates agree their college work helped prepare them for their first job and 84 percent said it helped them to get along with people with different attitudes and opinions. Seventy-five percent of graduates agreed that their work experience helped them to understand the importance of service to others and 86 percent said it helped them to appreciate the value and dignity of work, the consortium said.

Charles Elliott, of Huntsville, Tex., will be graduating this year, debt-free, from the College of the Ozarks, a private Christian school, called “Hard Work U.” He’s worked in the school’s restaurant in the kitchen learning how to cook, as a waiter in the dining room and at landscaping and is now working in the public relations office. It’s taught him how to juggle his time between studies and work and given him experience that has helped in finding a job with a software development company.

“I’ve had opportunities to work in four different places here on campus,” he said. Instead of looking like he can’t stay at a job very long, it actually shows “I’m getting much more experience in different fields,” he said. “It’s a really great thing.”

March 31, 2014
by Lisa Rathke, Associated Press

5 Keys to Deeper Donor Relationships

June 20th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Donor retention continues to be a hot topic. It was a frequent topic of lively discussion at the recent Association of Fundraising ProfessionalsOpens in a new windowInternational Conference on FundraisingOpens in a new window. The fact is, many organizations have donors lapsing as fast as or faster than they are retaining them.

When working on an annual-giving or comprehensive development plan, we always measure donor retention, by giving categories and the type of appeal (personal, direct response, etc.). Of great importance to every organization is having a plan to first shore up retention and then to improve it. There are a lot of statistics floating around for various surveys on donor retention. Be most concerned about your situation.

Keep trends on donor retention for your organization for the last few years; analyze, set goals and be sure that you can measure consistently going forward.

As Adrian SargeantOpens in a new window shares, “Improving donor retention by just 10 percent can double the lifetime value of your donor database.” Plan for increases in retention by using methods like the ones here:

Welcome donors with open arms
That first gift can be made with a lot of trepidation — it is like a first date. Sometimes that first gift comes because of a connection to someone — and not the organization (i.e., a personal fundraising campaign for a favored charity or a gift in honor or in memory of someone). Be sure that you welcome a donor with an appropriate plan tailored to his or her gift size and circumstances with the goal of retaining and upgrading the gift — making the donor a lifelong friend.

Get to know your donors 
Whether direct-response donors or donors that you secure through in-person interaction, have a plan to deepen the relationship. Learn about them. Have a dialogue. As appropriate, begin to build profiles to include their birth dates, other causes that they support, professional and personal affiliations, family, and more. Reach out and learn through surveys, focus groups and personal visits. Consider regular wealth screening of your donor (and lapsed-donor) database.

Say thank you more than please 
Yes, multiple asks work — especially for direct-response donors. But as donors become more connected, and as gifts increase in size, donors get worn out. Donor fatigue happens when your relationship is not deep enough to support the frequency or level of requests you are making.

Remember, timely and personal handwritten notes and calls to say thank you are inexpensive and priceless. Personalized invitations to special events and all forms of appropriate recognition pay great dividends. When major donors gets automated annual-fund appeals and invitations to several special events, they often begin to look at other organizations that better understand them.

Make it personal
Your donors are vital — show them how they are a part of your story. Develop a plan for how you will communicate with your donor over time — with multiple thank-yous — and be sure that with every thank-you and update you further involve the donor in the story.

Know your donors’ preferences for communication. Know those who prefer statistics on your impact, and know those who prefer stories.  And as a practice, share both, leading with the human-interest stories — show the life-changing impact that donors have.

Make it easy

Help donors get in a giving habit. For some, this may be monthly giving. For others, it may be the opportunity to make an annual gift commitment and fulfill it over the year. And don’t forget the options of multiyear commitments. Be sure to track electronic fund transer and credit card payments to alert donors of any lapses.

Your goal is to build long-term, deep relationships with donors. You want donors to look forward to that next call or visit and for donors to eagerly open that email or mail. Donors will celebrate their involvement when you pay them the attention they deserve and make them a part of your story.

By Jeff Jowdy | Posted on April 02, 2014

Take Your Vacation, Fundraiser — You Earned It!

June 19th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

I have been driven my entire career. Having played sports during my younger days, I was taught to play hurt. It didn’t matter how you felt, you had to give 100 percent effort even on your off days. I actually cracked several ribs during a high school football game. The doctor taped me up at halftime, and while I couldn’t breathe, I played the second half then went to the hospital.

I was proud of the fact I never took time off and blessed that I was rarely sick. I was the first to arrive and the last one to leave.

Another time, I was injured during a softball game and needed surgery to repair my face. I ran into a thrown ball. I was in the hospital on a Friday night and back to work on Monday morning. I felt I was needed on the job, and the organization could not do without me. As I grew older and wiser, I realized my view of the work world was foolish.

You should give your best effort knowing that at times you cannot perform at the highest level. You must also look at your health and pace yourself like a marathon runner. I realized I cannot sprint every moment of my workday.

I hate to admit it, but for many years, I took work with me on my vacations. If I didn’t have physical work to read or study, I would think about my ever-expanding to-do list. If I did take a vacation, I would return to work with a feeling that I didn’t truly take time off to enjoy the moment.

Several years ago, my theory of vacations changed. I worked at a small, private university that was undergoing massive change. I took the position for personal, not professional reasons. While the work environment wasn’t positive, my department still won a Council for Advancement and SupportOpens in a new window award in the improvement category.

One day, the president of the university called me into his dark office and, with a witness, said he was eliminating the entire development division immediately. For the first time in my career, I felt shocked, betrayed, hurt and unappreciated. I learned the hard way that despite excellent performance reviews, unless you work for yourself, you cannot control your employer.

The vacation days I skipped, the times I worked overtime and the sick days I did not use came into clear view. The point of this story is now clear. If you earn sick days and are sick, take the day and rest. When you accrue vacation days, take them and do not think about work. It will be there when you return.

A good employer will encourage this practice to support the health and well-being of its employees. By the way, the president of that university, where I was dismissed, was eventually fired by the board of trustees.

So, my 10 new rules for vacations that you must happily take are as follows:

  1. Rest your body, mind and spirit.
  2. Do not think about anything stressful.
  3. Have fun on your vacation, and get away from town if at all possible.
  4. Keep the work cellphone, laptop and other work electronic items off.
  5. Be with people you care about on vacation.
  6. Create memories.
  7. Look forward to your next vacation.
  8. Realize your employer can function without you.
  9. Trust your staff to do its job in your absence.
  10. Sleep late, work out and plan not to plan during your time off — relax.

You will return to work refreshed and ready to get back to the grind in a positive mode. I am breaking my new rule as I write this blog on vacation. Now that I am done, I will enjoy my last three days off the clock!

By F. Duke Haddad | Posted on March 28, 2014

CharityCAN Partners with Lakehead Researchers on “Big Data” Project

June 19th, 2014 | 2 Comments | Posted in Canada, Database

Local Business Partners with Lakehead Researchers on “Big Data” Project

June 16, 2014 – Orillia, ON

A local web-based business has recently partnered with a Lakehead University software engineering team to develop a software system that will help bring the company to a leading edge position within its market.

Third Sector Publishing, based in Orillia, has an online resource, CharityCAN, which provides information on over 85,000 Canadian charities and foundations, as well as on the individuals and organizations that donate to them. In cooperation with the Globe and Mail, the company recently launched the “Top 1,000 Non-Profits Report,” modelled on the Globe’s Report on Business ranking of corporations.

The project with Lakehead is focused on the rapidly growing new research field of “big data,” the term used to describe the vast and complex amount of data available online.

“For any business that relies on the organization and retrieval of online data, this exponential growth – caused by continually increasing computer power – is a challenge,” said Anderson Charters, president of Third Sector Publishing. “The more complex our data becomes, the more important it is that we have sophisticated methods and tools to automate search tasks.”

Under the direction of Lakehead’s Dr. Rachid Benlamri, professor of Software Engineering at the Thunder Bay campus, a research team including two Master’s students and two research assistants are working with Third Sector Publishing to develop a software system to automate the content search requirements of CharityCAN.

“This groundbreaking research is an exciting project for us, as there has not many papers studying ‘big data’,” said Benlamri. “Our students have the opportunity to apply their knowledge and creativity to cutting edge research and witness, first hand, how it will be used in a real company.”

The project is funded in part by the Ontario Centres of Excellence, which sees this project as just the first step in what could lead to bigger projects in the near future. Two federal funding bodies, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and Connect Canada, also support the project.

“We are extremely fortunate to have the opportunity of working with Dr. Benlamri and his research team,” said Charters. “The software and information technology developed from this project will help CharityCAN become more effective and solidify its leading position in the non-profit prospect research market.”

For more information on the CharityCAN Canadian research service contact Brian Lacy 860-478-9291,


Photo cutline:

Members of a Lakehead University business partnership team working on a state-of-the-art project in the new research field of “big data” (l–r): Lakehead University research assistant Greg Hill; Jamieson Bruce, Third Sector Publishing; Third Sector Publishing President Anderson Charters; Lakehead University student Kyle Galvin; Dr. Rachid Benlamri, Professor, Lakehead University; and Tim Charters, Third Sector Publishing.

Media Release

Office of Communications 705-330-4008

In 2015, Lakehead University will celebrate 50 years of exceptional education. Guided by a new Strategic Plan (2013-2018), our University is known for providing an education focused on independent thinking, unconventional scholarship, and a close sense of community. About 9,700 students and 2,000 faculty and staff learn and work in ten faculties at two campuses, in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Home to Ontario’s first new Faculty of Law in 44 years (Fall 2013) and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine’s West Campus, Lakehead is among Canada’s Top 10 undergraduate universities (2014 Maclean’s University Rankings), as well as 1st in Ontario and 2nd in Canada for its innovative research (Re$earch Infosource). Our Orillia campus is the first in North America to be built entirely to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) standards. Share your Lakehead story as it relates to our Strategic Plan at, and learn more about Lakehead at



The Dark Side of Nonprofit Monthly Giving

June 18th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Annual Giving, Fundraising

The wider adoption of monthly giving (also known as regular or sustained giving) in the U.S. could itself transform philanthropy.”
Dr. Adrian Sargeant

Nonprofit monthly giving is awesome.  It results in increased donor retention and loyalty.  Your monthly donors are strongly predisposed to bequest giving.  And oooh la la, your monthly giving program results in reliable income for you.  You can plan!

I’ve been preaching the benefits of monthly giving programs for small shop fundraisers for years.

But here’s the drawback:  if your organization is still in acquisition mode, instead of all-out gratitude mode, your program can end up being one big flop.  As Joe Garecht notes in his post,Why Monthly Giving Matters for Every Non-Profit, “Stopping a monthly giving relationship takes a proactive step from the donor, one they are unlikely to take unless they really mean to stop their support for a particular non-profit.”

Think about that for a moment:  when you don’t love your first time donor, your actions result in another all-to-common statistic.  Your donor doesn’t come back to make a second gift.

But when you don’t love your monthly donors — when you don’t report back to them regularly on the impact of their gift, when you don’t bother to reach out to them to shower them with gratitude, when you don’t let them know how very special they are…you could end up with something even worse.  Angry donors. 

AngryDonorWhat goes on in an organization’s back end to make  a loyal donor take the extra step of ending a long-standing relationship with an organization?

When my friend Corinne Marasco recently ended her monthly giving to an organization, she wrote to share with me her experiences:

“Here’s why I stopped giving:

1) No one seemed to know me or my donation history. As a monthly sustainer, I kept receiving e-mails with additional asks.
2) The asks I received were from different  people — not a consistent point of contact. I know you (and I) have raved about Al Franken’s; this would be like hearing from Al, his finance director, his communications director, his policy advisor, his chief of staff, etc.
3) I did not get the impression there was a separate plan for monthly donors. We didn’t seem to be treated differently than one-time or occasional donors.
4) I never got a thank you. Ever.”

I can relate.

Last year was my unofficial “year as a donor.”  My business began expanding and the first thing I did was to begin making a number of contributions to various nonprofit organizations –including five monthly gifts.  Like Corinne, I found myself leaving two organizations, both because I never received a thank you – ever – and because, in one instance, I was never contacted again.

Yes, monthly giving can literally be a magic wand. 

But if your organization’s gratitude systems aren’t in place to start with, starting a monthly giving program (or your major gifts program, or a new campaign) you’ll still be hemorrhaging donors.

How can your organization ensure that your gratitude systems are in place and your monthly supporters are feeling the love?  For answers I asked Simon Scriver, Director at Total Fundraising Ireland, where they believe “every donor should be inspired, every employee should be successful, and every non-profit should be empowered” to share what he sees as the big problems in monthly giving:

1.  Lack of investment of time/money in recruiting regular donors

Recruiting monthly donors is, of course, far more expensive than one-off donors or ‘shaking a bucket’. But then of course the rewards can be so much higher as it allows you to plan, the donor can go on to donate so much more, and you get an opportunity to really build a relationship.

But we sometimes make the acquisition of regular donors more difficult than it needs to be as it’s seen as a difficult ask or a big commitment from the donor.  But usually you’re only looking for a small amount each month, it’s convenient for the donor and the charity, and when you explain it properly to a potential donor it generally makes sense to them.

The biggest challenge for organisations is to shift their mindset to monthly giving and to get in to the habit of asking potential donors to become monthly givers. You need a direct debit or standing order form prepared and you need to make it as convenient as possible for your potential donors both off-line and on-line. And you need to ASK! And ask everyone!

2.  Not seeing stewardship as fundraising

Many times in my consultancy and seminars I hear fundraisers say that they don’t have time to make welcome calls or send thank you letters. None of us have time to send personalised notes, pick up the phone or meet with individuals. All of these things and more get neglected because they don’t always immediately turn in to a donation.

But that’s the wrong way of looking at it – stewardship IS fundraising because if you don’t do it properly you’re reducing the chances of your donors giving again. When a donor decides which charity to cancel first (and many of them will be donating to more than one) do you think they’ll cancel the charity that ignored them or the charity that just sent them a lovely, gushing, hand-written letter?

Donor care IS fundraising and we need to put time and money in to it accordingly.

3.   Poor communications

The big question is of course how often do you communicate with monthly donors? There’s no right answer (otherwise we’d all be doing it) – but I donate to some organisations that send me one or two updates a year, while on the other end of the scale is a charity that e-mails me every 2-3 days.

The answer is: As often as you have something to say. And I mean something really good.

We usually approach it the wrong way – organisations think they should send 2 updates a year, or 4 updates a year, or 2 newsletters, etc. because it seems like a reasonable number. But don’t send them for the sake of sending them. Don’t set yourself a number of mailings which you then struggle to fill. Find out how many inspiring, emotional, engaging stories you’ll have and then deliver them.

4.  Lack of planning

Getting someone to commit to you is just the beginning and you need to be prepared for what comes next. How often will you communicate? When will you ask for an increase? Will they receive a Christmas appeal?

You need to plan and you need to have a good idea of how you’re going to keep this donor giving and how you’re going to maximise income.

I always equate ‘donor care’ to spinning plates. When you initially recruit a monthly donor you set the plate spinning. They are then bombarded with negativitiy: people tell them charities are scams, that there’s a recession, that they can’t afford it, that they should spend their money on any one of a million things they see advertised every day.

Your job is to keep the plate spinning.

In particular you should be ready for ‘spikes’ in cancellations – there’s generally a spike in January and a spike coming in to the summer. There’s a spike if your organisation gets negative press and there’s a spike if there is really bad economic news. So how are you going to pre-empt and deal with these cancellations?

And if a donor cancels – what next? Monthly donors are funny – they only see two options: on or off. What you need to communicate with cancelled donors is that there are other options: a lower donation amount, a one-month break, annual donation, etc. You want to work with them to find what works for everyone.

5.   Lack of long-term commitment (especially with staff changes)

If you have a plan in place you need to stick to it. Yes, things change. And if they do then you need to be ready to change with them. But a really common problem in small/medium organisations is that we start off with the best intentions and then everything else gets in the way and all of our great plans fade away. Please don’t let that happen.

The answer is, of course, to plot out every step of the donor journey before you launch your monthly giving program.  And that involves two key Simple Development Systems tenets:

  1. know that everything is figure-out-able (h/t to Marie Forleo), and
  2. make friends with your vendors

Get both these right and watch your donor love (and sustainable income) grow!

What If the USPS Disappears?

June 17th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Direct Mail, Marketing

Once, there was a Constitution-ordained, universal delivery service of hard-copy, print communications called the United States Postal Service. It was affordable, reliable and the most efficient of its kind in the world. Direct mail was its bread and butter, and many brands that sought to find and keep customers in a very targeted manner used the service avidly.

Then a century marked a transition. Change was revolutionary: A new form of communication—soft copy—emerged in a few short years to dominate marketers’ mindsets. It was instantaneous, almost universal and largely perceived to be secure, private and nearly free. Suddenly, the communication engine of hard copy sputtered, financial losses mounted at the Postal Service and an infrastructure for hard-copy delivery was bloated. Commercial and nonprofit organizations that largely paid USPS’s bills were questioning the cost of doing so any longer.

Welcome to the world “after” the Postal Service. Or is it?

Last year, the United Kingdom sold Royal Mail. Many other rich-world posts are already private. Could the USPS—the biggest of them all—really be next for “privatization”?

The ‘P Word’
Mailers, for one, appear mixed on the topic.

“When I look at privatization, I look at Canada Post—which is closer to the U.S. geographically and demographically than any of the European posts,” says Charles Howard , VP of postal affairs at Harte Hanks, an integrated marketing services provider which handles several billion pieces of targeted advertising mail each year. “And that’s when I realize I still have problems with privatization. In March of this year, Canada Post will raise rates as high as 35 percent in some categories.”

“In reality, it would be very difficult for any business to replicate the USPS’s infrastructure for delivery to every doorstep in America,” says Joel Quadracci , president and CEO of Quad/Graphics, a leading provider of print and multichannel media solutions. “Yet, the USPS continues to behave like a monopoly. Case in point: the exigent rate increase, which will negatively impact volumes, resulting in a situation where further price increases will be necessary to cover costs. Ultimately, this will drive even more volume out of the mailstream.”

Even mailer organizations are uncertain about privatization.

“I doubt America will ever decide on full privatization,” saysHamilton Davison , president of American Catalog Mailers Association. “There are too many complications. However, the relentless demand of the marketplace is forever increasing efficiency and value. Unless the Postal Service responds to this challenge, greater outsourcing, or even licensing, of its functions to third parties is a realistic alternative.”

The Direct Marketing Association concurs. “I believe it will be very difficult to privatize USPS at the moment,” said Peggy Hudson , EVP of government affairs for the DMA. “It is a $60-plus billion annual operation, but it is facing declining demand. That declining demand forecast makes it difficult to see USPS privatized, or at least the ‘universal service USPS’ that has been a staple of the U.S. for its entire history.”

The ‘U Word’ Is Important, Too
Universal service is the everyday delivery of mail to all delivery points served by the USPS—nearly 153 million delivery points in 2013, up more than 700,000 last year alone. What constitutes “universal service” most unlikely will be different in five years’ or 10 years’ time, say postal watchers.

“Assuring affordable universal service should be a top priority for the USPS,” says Paul Ercolino , president of U.S. Monitor, “but the Postal Service must be allowed to meet the evolving needs of the American economy and to set its prices in a way that reflects the cost structure of the delivery industry.”

“I cannot imagine remote areas of the U.S. being as connected as the urban U.S. in 2025,” Hudson says. “Thus, there must be some form of universal service. Moreover, with online and mobile purchasing increasing, universal product delivery will continue to be demanded by Americans.”

Parcel delivery is indeed one of the bright spots in USPS business and finances, as the Postal Service continues to gain market share from private couriers, such as FedEx and UPS. As e-commerce has grown, so has the demand for affordable, reliable and efficient fulfillment.

“Six-day service for all mail will not survive by 2025,” Hudson says. “The reduction in demand for hard-copy delivery will necessitate that. Marketers and charities will adjust to a less-than-six-day delivery schedule. There may be one exception—parcels. ”

Is There No Cure for Congress?
Yes, this subhead has two meanings: First, a demand from mailers (USPS customers) that Congress approves postal reforms that “free” the institution from its financial ills—many of which were imposed by Congress in the first place the last time a major postal reform law was passed in 2006. Second, a demand also from mailers that Congress (then) get out of the way and allow the Postal Service to act as a truly independent organization.

“Congress likes to load up the Postal Service with requirements, but does not provide funding to cover these mandates,” Davison explains. “Sometimes, Congress does things that are counterproductive or downright costly and wasteful. Requiring barely used post offices remain open is an example. Blocking the agency from dropping a delivery day is another. To the extent that Congress elects to micromanage the mail service, its future is bleaker.”

Howard says a seemingly easy fix is stuck. “Congress needs to realize that the Civil Service Retirement System pre-funded retirement costs already paid into the fund, based on current Postal Service employment trends, would be sufficient to be considered fully funded now,” Howard said. “Were the Postal Service allowed to have its own healthcare program, it would save $8 billion immediately every year … Even the labor unions are supporting this effort. Congress should pass this now.”

The mailing community is clearly supportive of recent efforts of Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe  and USPS management efforts to reduce costs, right-size infrastructure and improve delivery performance—but failing to listen to customers may cause some unwelcome Postal Service backsliding toward a “bailout” mentality.

“It is still [about] the overall cost structure of the USPS,” says Joe Schick , director of postal affairs at Quad/Graphics. “Its platform needs to continue to be right-sized in order to bring down those costs. The USPS’ greatest challenge is getting ahead of the curve and anticipating industry and volume changes before they are here.”

DMA’s Hudson says the USPS needs to recognize its role as a supplier to the American economy, and—like any supplier—work with its customers, and “not treat them like the enemy—listen, don’t dictate.” She says, “Get excess capacity out of the system by doing it now. Eliminate door delivery. Don’t look to the customers’ pocketbooks to fix all ills. Don’t be afraid to lay off excess workforce.”

Rainmakers Needed
“Two to three years ago, we had a perfect storm,” says Howard. “There was a recession, inconsistent [USPS] delivery performance, young people only using digital media—and even when clients still loved to use the mail, their CFOs told them they couldn’t. Marketers were forced to look elsewhere.

“Now,” he continues, “we have excellent USPS service performance … and young people, deluged with digital messages and becoming turned off there, actually are discovering mail. Marketers have been coming back to mail, and using it wisely in an integrated way. The timing couldn’t be worse for congressional inaction and steep postal hikes.”

Clearly more is needed to enliven the Postal Service, and mailers are getting anxious and looking elsewhere.

March 2014
By Chet Dalzell

3 Fundraising Experts Sound Off on Donor Retention From the Donor’s Perspective

June 16th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

How do your donors feel about you?

Seems like a good question to ask yourself once in a while. Better yet, it seems like a good question to ask your donors once in a while!

Relationships are complicated. You and I both know that. I have to check in with my wife all the time to be sure everything is OK. Sometimes it’s as simple as paying attention to how she says good morning. Sometimes it’s a long conversation. Sometimes it’s a look or gesture. Sometimes it’s the underlying tone of her voice. Many times it’s more than one of these things all coming at me at once icon smile 3 Fundraising Experts Sound off on Donor Retention from the Donors Perspective

The point is that maintaining strong and healthy relationships takes time, energy and regular attention. Without these things relationships fade away – out of sight, out of mind.

Coming back to the reason we’re all here. Average first year donor retention rates of 27% would suggest that donors don’t have the best feelings about the nonprofits they’re supporting. Not that they have negative feelings, but they’re not coming back which is a good sign that something about the relationship is broken – repairs are needed.

With that in mind I give you three long time fundraising experts - Rachel Muir, Shanon Doolittle and Pamela Grow. They’ve shared some very valuable insights below – stuff that get’s right to the heart of the matter – the relationships we have with our donors and how to improve our donor retention rates.

Oh, and #AFPIcon is in full swing this week.  These three fundraising experts will be speaking about donor retention on Sunday the 23rd at 3pm CT in Room: 214 A/B. Be sure to check them out if you’re in town for the conference!

Rachel Muir on how donors want to be treated.

We (nonprofits) think about our donor’s life cycle as a linear process – identify, determine linkage, gauge interest and determine ability.  If we have a possible match we launch off a series of cultivation steps to bring our donor closer to our cause.  This all culminates in “the ask”, which is followed by stewarding the donor’s gift.

Our donors experience is completely different!  Their first step is awareness of the cause.  Then they become interested.   Next they become educated.  After that get involved.  And finally, they make the momentous leap and invest in our cause.  Now they’re an investor and they want to know how they are making an impact.  They need to know their first gift made a difference before they are sold on making a second gift.

Knowing how their gift made a difference is our donor’s ROI.

Something transformative happens the moment someone makes a gift.  They cease being an interested party and they become an investor. Our mistake is that we don’t see this and we continue to treat them as a prospective donor.

The secret to retaining and upgrading donors for life lies in honoring how making a gift to us profoundly changes our donor’s expectations.

Shanon Doolittle on how donors want to be treated.

Supporters are much happier when you see them as people and not donors.

Too often we (fundraisers) focus on the transaction. But guess what, generosity isn’t about giving money, it’s a lifestyle. Most supporters don’t expect anything in return for making a donation, but what they get in return makes a big different in how they perceive your organization. We need to be eager to return their favor of kindness by celebrating the difference they make the world—and telling them as much as possible, you matter.

And while most organizations know they need to take better care of their donors, very few are especially good at it. We send a form letter after a receiving a gift, add their emails to our newsletter list, and then soon forget about them.  How sad is that! Yet, that’s the state of stewardship in our sector.

Stewardship is not an obligation, it’s a privilege. And we need to hold ourselves to a much higher standard of donor happiness.

Pamela Grow on how donors want to be treated.


Last year was my unofficial “year of being a donor.”  I made a number of small gifts, ranging from $10 to $50 to a number of nonprofit organizations.  Many of them were impulse gifts — I received an email and was touched, I watched a video on YouTube that captured my heart — and some were monthly gifts to organizations I wanted more of a commitment with.

I saw a post on Facebook, of all things.  It was the Humans of New York page, which I love, and Brandon had photographed a young ex-con who was trying to put his life back together.  In the comments, someone referred the fellow to an organization that gets these folks a college education.  Well I looked up the organization and made a $10 monthly contribution (not a lot, mind you, but hey $120 a year). Again. Crickets.

A few months passed.

After this period of three months with no communication from this organization, I decided to get in touch.  I had a lovely chat with the CEO.  “Oh yes,” he told me, “we got in quite a few donations from that Facebook post.” They even received a $500 gift from someone in TX (they are NYC focused).  “Wow,” said I, “What did you do?”  “Do?” he replied, confused.  “Yes, did you call?” (I would be bursting with curiosity, wondering what prompted an out-of-the-blue $500 gift).

When was all said and done all this nonprofit did was send a thank you email.  No further communications.  Look at the opportunities missed!

Let me ask you a question:  how do you like to be treated?  When I make an online gift (and 100% of my gifts these days are online), I expect to be thanked.  Immediately.  Is there any excuse why I shouldn’t be?  I’d love to get a follow up thank you letter in the mail.  And then, gee, I would like to know how my gift is making a difference.  Send me your newsletter, drop me an email.

Don’t forget about me.

By  on Mar 23, 2014


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Canada Delivers Whopper of an Email SNAFU

June 15th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Canada, Email

A poorly worded line in Canada’s anti-spam law—set to go into effect in July—may wreak havoc on marketers’ transactional email programs.

The sentence’s sloppy construction has reportedly resulted in all transactional emails being defined as commercial by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

As a result, all transactional emails are subject to all the provisions of Canada’s anti-spam law, or CASL as it’s widely referred to, and must include an unsubscribe link.

Under the American CAN-SPAM Act, transactional email messages aren’t required to include an unsubscribe mechanism. American transactional email messages can also lawfully include commercial content and still be considered transactional as long as the primary purpose of the message is obviously transactional.

Transactional email messages, such as account updates, shipping notices, invoices and receipts, are highly relevant and much more likely to be opened than broadcast emails. Transactional email messages are golden opportunities for added revenue through up- and cross-selling.

As a result, some U.S.-based commercial emailers cross- and/or up-sell in transactional messages. And many don’t include unsubscribe mechanisms in their transactional messages whether the messages contain promotional content or not.

Further, most transactional messages are automatically generated. As a result, most transactional email programs are managed by company IT departments rather than marketing.

Whether or not transactional emails should include an unsubscribe link has been debated for years.

Those who are for it argue the recipient is king and should always have control over what gets sent to their email addresses. Those who are against it point to—among other things—service disruptions that could ensue if a customer opts out of transactional messages.

Transactional messages may be required to service an account or to facilitate the initial transaction.

Enter Canada.

Under Canada’s anti-spam law, if a transactional message has any commercial content it is considered commercial and must include an unsubscribe link.

What is considered commercial content in email under the Canadian anti-spam act? Well, everything, apparently.

The line supposedly exempting transactional messages from certain provisions of the Canadian anti-spam act reads as follows: “Paragraph (1)(a) does not apply to a commercial electronic message that solely”.

The law then lists a bunch of run-of-the-mill transactional messages such as those that facilitate, complete or confirm a transaction.

So far so good, right?


Because the line leading into the exemptions contains the words “commercial electronic message” and “solely” the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission—the agency that will enforce the law—has reportedly interpreted it to mean that everything it refers to is a commercial email and, therefore, subject to the CASL’s requirements.

“The CRTC has interpreted it to mean that all of those messages are commercial electronic messages irrespective of whether they fall under the definition of commercial electronic message,” said Shaun Brown, an attorney with nNovation LLP in Ottawa, CA, a firm that specializes in Internet-related issues. “Industry Canada and the CRTC appear to disagree on this issue [but] in the CRTC’s view, which is the enforcement agency, if you’re merely sending an e-receipt it’s a commercial electronic message for purposes of the law.”

What does this mean in terms compliance? Who knows for sure?

“It’s not clear whether you still need to allow recipients to unsubscribe from those messages,” said Brown.

The confusion is apparently a major case of “be careful what you wish for.”

Industry Canada drafted the subsection very quickly [at the urging of business groups],” said Brown. “The purpose was to try and provide an exclusion for these types of messages even though an exclusion wasn’t necessary. What it ended up doing was creating confusion and now the CRTC is saying that because this subsection is there, all of these [transactional] types of communications are CEMs [commercial electronic messages.]”

And this is all because of the inclusion of the words “commercial electronic message” and “solely,” according to Brown.

“If they had just said ‘a message’ maybe we wouldn’t be in this situation,” he said. “Or if they had taken out the word ‘solely,’ we wouldn’t be in this situation. But when you combine ‘commercial electronic message’ with ‘solely,’ according to the CRTC, they say they have no choice but to interpret it that way.”

As a result, according to the CRTC’s interpretation of subsection 6 of Canada’s anti-spam law, all transactional email messages should include unsubscribe links.

“A lot of systems aren’t set up to process unsubscribes in transactional messages,” said Brown.

“The next question is what does your unsubscribe mechanism do? Does it only allow you to unsubscribe from messages that are actually commercial? Or does it allow you to unsubscribe from all communications?” Brown said. “It’s not clear or obvious to me, even based on the CRTC’s interpretation, that you still have to allow them to unsubscribe from these types of transactional messages.”

He added: “Some of these transactional messages are fundamental to the service that you’re providing. If you’re an e-commerce retailer and you only deliver receipts by email then you’re almost reduced to a point where you have to say ‘I can’t serve you anymore if you want to unsubscribe from e-receipts.’”

Brown predicted that marketers will respond by including unsubscribe links in transactional messages but possibly restricting recipients from unsubscribing from certain types of transactional emails.

Brown said he doesn’t see the CRTC making a point to enforce the inclusion of unsubscribe mechanisms in transactional email, nor does he envision the CRTC going after a brand for not allowing people to opt out of certain types of transactional messages.

“But I’m not the CRTC and I don’t speak for them,” he said. “The bigger issue is that some enterprising class-action lawyer may be able to leverage this into a lawsuit.”

By Ken Magill