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The 3-Word Formula Guaranteed to Raise Money

December 9th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

I consider these three words the holy trinity of fundraising success.

They are simple.

They are easy to remember.

They really work.

Plus, if you wrap them up with some emotional color, you’ve got an offer that can’t be refused.

Let’s take a look.

Did you know that “you” is one of the five most powerful words in the English language?

Make philanthropy about your donor’s experience. Use “you” rather than “I” or “our” or “we” (unless it’s “we, together”). Cross out all the ego-centric stuff in your copy and rewrite.

As veteran communicator Tom Ahern says, “you is the glue.”

“You” grabs your donor’s attention.

“You” is “sticky.”

“You” helps to “tip” your donor toward seeing your request in a positive light.

“You” makes the story you tell about your donor.

Make fulfilling your organization’s mission about your donor’s actions. Make the values your organization enacts about your donor’s caring, generosity and good character.

Use “you” to make your donor the hero.

Show your donor how to be the very best version of themselves.

  • “You can do this.”
  • “You did this.”
  • “Your commitment will make this happen.”
  • “You are magic … powerful … extraordinary … unselfish … honorable … wise … far-seeing …”

Instead of “We cure cancer,” “Our organization cures cancer” or “They cure cancer,” substitute “we,” “our” and “they” with “you” and “your.”

Speak to your donor personally.

Be flattering.

Assume his or her best qualities.

Allow your donor to rise to the occasion.

I thought my mom was crazy when she said, “do this because I said so,” to me. Who knew there was method to her madness?

Guess what? Neuroscience studies show this magic word can make any statement more persuasive.

One of the most interesting studies, reported by Harvard Magazine, revealed that as a trigger for acquiescence, the word “because” increased the success rate by more than 30 percent.

I found this amazing when I learned it, and I’ve used it ever since.

It turns out that “because” is one of the persuasion principles that help explain the psychology of why people say “yes” without thinking. The human brain is wired to react when it hears “because.”

It is a magical word—an automatic trigger for compliance.

Sure, you can get a “yes” without using this little tip. You can get people to think and consider your appeal and still make a contribution. But if you can boost your chance by 30 percent, wouldn’t that be a very smart thing to do?

Here are some examples:

  • Instead of “Today I’m sharing Amelia’s story with you,” say, “Today I’m sharing Amelia’s story with you because she needs your help.”
  • Instead of “Yes, I want to give,” say, “Yes, I want to give because children need me.”
  • Instead of “Please consider a gift of $500,” say, “Please consider a gift of $500 because children need your help.”
  • Instead of “Provide a meal to a starving child,” say “Provide a meal because Miguel is starving.”

You can do this to almost any sentence.

It almost seems ridiculous, yet the research reveals that the way people respond is often somewhat mindless, based more upon the familiar framework within which a request is made than on the content.

Using the word “because” triggers that familiarity framework. It gives folks an explicitly expressed reason to do something, rather than an implied reason. This sets the stage that kicks in the psychology of unconscious social inference. The difference is subtle, but the impact is pronounced.

There is a magical power behind the word “thanks.” Simply put, it makes folks like you.

It’s considered good manners, and makes you look like a good and giving person.

It also puts people in a receptive mood.

Penelope Burk’s groundbreaking research on donor retention found that the three principle things donors want from charities all have to do with the thank you. They want it prompt, personal and reflective of the impact of their giving. The thank-you process will be the single biggest indicator of your donor’s likelihood to give again.

But you don’t just save the word “thanks” for your acknowledgement letters.

When you thank donors in your appeal letters for their past giving, it also reminds them they already made a decision to give to you. This triggers one of Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion—commitment and consistency. We tend to repeat decisions we’ve already made because doing so is congruent with our self-image.

When you thank prospects in your appeal letters for being caring people, it plays into the vision of the person they would like to see when they look into the mirror. It flatters them and plays to their egos.

“You,” “because” and “thanks.”

The holy trinity of fundraising writing!

This is your framework for success. Now let’s fill it in with …

And by the way, you add color with your words, too. No magic markers required.

Let’s look at an example I’m borrowing from Sean D’Souza of who writes about “How To Correctly Use Emotion To Create Drama.” Sean’s blog is not about fundraising per se, but his tagline is “Why Customers Buy (and Why They Don’t).”

Want your donors to “buy” what you’re selling? Then read on.

Take a look at the following sentences.

  • She saw the bowl of soup.
  • She saw the bowl of soup and her heart sank.
  • She saw the bowl of soup and it flooded her with happy childhood memories.
  • She saw the bowl of soup and was overcome with how hungry she felt.
  • She saw the bowl of soup, but a feeling of hesitancy crept into her being.
  • She saw the bowl of soup and immediately felt overwhelmed.

What’s the difference between the first sentence and those that follow?

If you’re telling a story, the “things”—like the bowl of soup—aren’t what your reader’s brain is searching for. The reader’s brain is searching for the expression on your protagonist’s face—and what that expression means. What’s her mood? What difficulties is she encountering? Is her situation causing her to feel anger? Despair? Nostalgia? Frustration? Exhaustion? Hopelessness? Depression?

Even if you have a great photo of a woman with a bowl of soup, your prospective donor needs to know what this signifies. Why is it important?

You add the emotional meaning through your words. They may be words in the photo caption. Or words that precede or follow your main statement.

Emotion sets the scene. Emotion leads the reader through the rest of the letter or article. Emotion helps the reader empathize with the situation. Because many people can eat soup.

But each reader will feel totally differently about the soup, depending upon how you color the situation.

Just like the holy trinity of “you,” “because” and “thanks,” emotional words add the color and spice that cause what is read and said to “stick.”

Use your key words and colors generously—and reap the generous rewards.

NonProfit Pro magazine

Houston Nonprofit Executives Among Highest-Paid in U.S.

November 24th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

In Houston, the median compensation for nonprofit CEOs and/or executive directors is $95,625, the highest of any city in Texas, and the eleventh-highest of large metro areas in the U.S. When put in terms of cost of living in the highest-paid city — Washington D.C., where nonprofit execs can earn $154,500 — Houston’s median compensation for executives of nonprofits jumps to second with an adjusted salary of $145,628, Guidestar’s Nonprofit Compensation Report shows.

But pay among Houston’s nonprofit sectors can vary wildly.

Factors that influence average and median executive pay include the focus of the nonprofit and the overall budget of the organization.


Each year, Guidestar, a nonprofit organization that collects, analyzes and organizes nonprofit data from the IRS, releases its Nonprofit Compensation Report, which examines executive-level compensation among nonprofit organizations around the country.

Guidestar’s study, which used data from each nonprofit’s 990 tax form filed for fiscal year 2013, included 810 CEOs and executive directors from nonprofits in the Houston area. More than 58 percent of those executives lead nonprofits in one of five categories: human services, education institutions and related activities, community improvement, arts and culture, and health services (excluding disease, disorders, medical disciplines and mental health organizations).

On average, executives in nonprofits within those industries and with budgets greater than $5 million are paid 630 percent more than their counterparts at nonprofits with budgets less than $500,000.



This difference is most dramatic among the health-related nonprofits, where average executive pay at large organizations is 1,648 percent more than average executive pay at small nonprofits in the same industry.

But it doesn’t always pay to be in health care. In nonprofits with budgets less than $500,000, health organization CEOs had the lowest average pay of the five major industries in Houston, and the second lowest of all nonprofit industry categories included in the study. In fact, health nonprofit CEOs and executive directors only had the highest average pay in large organizations with budgets of $5 million or greater.

By Madison Henry
Sep 22, 2015
Houston Business Journal 

Baptist Healthcare Bans SSNs to Reduce Risk, Please Patients

July 31st, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

As soon as Americans get Social Security cards, they’re told to guard them with their lives, as lost or stolen Social Security numbers (SSNs) raise the stakes for financial fraud and identity theft.

So why, patients started asking Baptist Healthcare, was the South Florida system regularly asking for their SSNs? Why indeed, wondered Baptist officials.

In the hands of criminals, SSNs really are the Holy Grail of protected health information (PHI) and weren’t always necessary for Baptist to have, reasoned administrators at the six-hospital system. Or, perhaps they could severely restrict their use and develop work-arounds to where they might be needed.

And so began a three-year odyssey to scrub SSNs from the hospital system’s electronic records, forms and other documents. The effort has been such a success that it is now at the point where there should be so few numbers in use that Baptist launched a “scavenger hunt,” complete with prizes, to ensure SSNs don’t begin to creep back into use.

Mercy del Rey, Baptist’s chief privacy officer, briefly described getting rid of SSNs during a session with other privacy officers at the recent 23rd National HIPAA Summit in Washington, D.C. (RRC 4/15, p. 1). She also provided additional details to RPP after the meeting.

Removing SSNs Is ‘Data Cleansing’

How Baptist went about the process may spur others to undertake similar actions. These may be especially worthwhile in light of increasing data breaches and serve as a relatively inexpensive fix to increase safeguards around PHI. HIPAA consultant John Gomez tells RPP that banning or reducing the use of SSNs is a form of “data cleansing,” a strategy that he recommends.

Del Rey tells RPP the reasons Baptist removed SSNs centered on “patient safety and security.”

“With the increase of identity theft and medical identity theft, patients were questioning why this information [SSNs] appeared in their record,” she says. “Although this was sometimes a technically challenging process for us, we knew [removing them] was the right thing for our patients.”

In July 2013, Baptist announced a breach at one of its medical centers, South Miami Hospital, the result of a theft of more than 800 medical records by a respiratory therapist. During 2011 and 2012, the therapist sold PHI, including SSNs, to two men who filed false tax returns. “We began removing the SSNs from our system before the 2013 breach,” del Rey tells RPP.

When pressed a little further about whether there was a connection between the SSN removal and the medical records theft, a spokeswoman for the system told RPP by email that “Baptist Health generally doesn’t provide public comment on specific timeframes or other specific details surrounding implementation of compliance projects.”

Hunting for the ‘Source’

To get started, Baptist systematically “analyzed our clinical systems to determine where and why [an] SSN was present,” she explains. “A methodical approach was then followed to review all clinical systems to identify the location of the source where SSNs resided in order to ultimately remove it from that system.” If the source of the number isn’t found, it “could potentially reappear in a report or be sent to another system during an interface,” del Rey says.

It took three years to “remove all of the SSNs from all of our clinical systems,” a task del Rey described as “tough.”

“As mentioned during the conference, many of our clinical systems are legacy systems that have been in place for a very long time, so we had to carefully begin our analysis,” she says.

Baptist also recognized that officials couldn’t stop there. “As we have removed SSNs from particular systems or other records, we have provided our staff with additional appropriate training,” del Rey says.

Del Rey also tells RPP that, on top of the “basic HIPAA training that all workforce members receive, we have focused education on areas that have highly sensitive patient information as well as strict role-based security where we constantly re-evaluate the need for that access.”

Baptist officials, she adds, “also run criminal background checks on all employees, which includes those members of our workforce who will have access to PHI.”

Perhaps ironically because Social Security numbers can be used to commit identity theft, del Rey says “[one of the biggest] challenges we faced involved the use of the SSNs to assist with the accurate identification of a patient.”

Del Rey points out that “many patients in our service areas have the same name with similar demographics so in the past we relied on the SSNs as one of the identifiers. Once we made these changes, our processes focused on other demographics and the use of only the last four digits in those cases where patients shared similar demographic data.”

Not all uses can be eliminated. For example, when they appear “in billing systems where the Medicare identification number is the individual’s SSN, [Baptist officials] restrict access and have provided staff that do need access with additional training on safeguards and sensitivities regarding the use of SSNs,” del Rey says.

The government has made little progress in developing a unique patient identifier; calls for this have been renewed. Congress recently told HHS to remove SSNs from Medicare cards (see box, p. 4).

During the summit discussion, del Rey stressed the value of positive reinforcement as a form of workforce training. When it comes to the SSN issue, Baptist developed a special contest, or a scavenger hunt, under which employees call del Rey’s office if they find an SSN, for which they receive a special gift — a tiny cup used for Cuban coffee.

Scavenger Hunt Is a Win-Win

“We have had employees find them through our scavenger hunt,” del Rey reports. “This is a win-win scenario for our patients, our employees and our organization. Our patients’ information is further secured, our employees are actively engaged in our compliance activities and are recognized for their efforts and finally our commitment to protecting our patients’ information is reinforced throughout the organization.”

John Gomez, former chief technology officer at Allscripts Healthcare Solutions and WebMD, tells RPP that removing SSNs and other sensitive data — especially if it’s not needed — is a good compliance strategy. Gomez, founder and CEO of the cybersecurity firm Sensato, Inc., says this is a type of “data cleansing.”

Gomez adds that even though it took Baptist three years to do this, “it’s probably a cheap thing to do” and is among the more basic strategies that CEs can undertake without costly IT investments.

He also likes the idea of getting all staff involved in searching for SSNs. Such programs, he says, make it clear for the workforce that “this is our data. We own all that” and spreads the sense that each worker has a responsibility to safeguard the PHI.

As Baptist’s experience shows, removing the SSNs and keeping them from creeping back in takes a redesign of paper forms, a blocking of data fields that ask for them and other IT fixes. It also takes a concerted effort to stop staffers from creating new forms as well as adding new software or programs that ask for them.

As del Rey says, “It’s important to note that this review, though, really never ends. When any new system is being implemented, the use of the SSNs is assessed and evaluated as part of our routine reviews.”

Reprinted from REPORT ON PATIENT PRIVACY, the industry’s #1 source of timely news and business strategies for safeguarding patient privacy and data security.

Featured Health Business Daily Story, May 13, 2015


An Ode to the Non-profit Professional

January 22nd, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

You are a nonprofit professional. I’m sure you don’t pat yourself on the back everyday for the good you do, but you’re pretty special. You have dedicated your life to giving back; to helping the world’s disadvantaged, filling the gaps in social services, nurturing arts and culture, and saving the environment. You resisted pressure form your parents to become a lawyer or a corporate accountant in order to serve more altruistic ends, often with little pay, long hours, and little recognition. This is an ode to you – the nonprofit professional.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday, and loose sight of the bigger picture: the good that you have done and the impact that it has on the world, but you should step back every once in a while to see how great it is. A research study conducted by Michigan State University and published in the European Journal of Social Sciences in 2010 examined a simple act of altruism – the act of opening a door for someone – and the effect it had. The research found that when a door was held open for someone, that person was more likely to hold the door open for the next person. So, altruism begets altruism.

If the simple act of holding a door open can inspire others in such a way, you can imagine the wave of good that your service has had on the world. So, whenever you get frustrated because you haven’t quite met your goal, or your heart feels heavy thinking about those still is need, remember what you have done, and rest assured knowing that the good you do stretches far beyond what you can possibly see.

Published by Sumac