Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Social Media and Grantwriting - WVDO Third Thursday Presentation

Social media and grantwriting are terms that you don't hear often used together. As demonstrated in this presentation I created for WVDO's Third Thursday series, more grantmakers - especially the larger foundations - are regularly utilizing platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. to share their messages about the causes they support and their grantmaking practices. The presentation is available at http://www.wvdo-or.org and click under program and then past program summaries.

For experienced and novice grant professionals alike, you still have to perform due diligence through traditional means such as examining a funder's Form 990s or visitng a funder website to learn about guidelines and grantmaking.

This presentation provided an overview and examined the social media presence of a number of funders. I've begun work on a Part II presentation that will drill down on more technical elements of mining the data and employing social media to build relationships with funders.

Friday, October 1, 2010

How Arts Groups Are Faring in the Troubled Economy - Commentary

"How Arts Groups are Faring," regardless of the economy, is an age old question. In "the troubled economy," the question becomes more pressing as support for the fabric of life we call arts (and culture) falls to the wayside as audiences (and donors) limit their support either out of necessity or aesthetic. This commentary offers Fundraising Savvy TM along with a free resource to help you make the argument about the economic impact of arts.

This conversation, which took place as a live chat hosted by The Chronicle of Philanthropy on Tuesday, September 28, offered a limited, but useful perspective in "how arts groups are faring in the troubled economy." This moderated discussion featured the following panelists, whose full biographies may be found on the webpage for the discussion:


David G. Mallette is a consultant with Management Consultants for the Arts, in Stamford, Conn.

Dory Vanderhoof is a senior partner for Geneovese, Vanderhoof & Associates, in Toronto.

Of the questions and answers shared during the live discussion, the exchanges covered a variety of topics. In discussing revenue, the panelists suggested that diversifying contributed and earned revenue was important to a group's financial well-being and that expanding educational and summer programs could be very beneficial. The panelists concurred on the necessity of developing products and services that promote the brand.

In discussing primary factors for budget shortfalls and the lack of ability to adjust budgets, Mr. Vandrehoof placed unwarranted emphasis on union contracts as the primary problem with organizations having difficulty managing the economic downturn. In all fairness, contracts are negotiated with both parties/sides having the opportunity to provide input. Contracts that some perceive as overly beneficial to union employees were created through dialog. In response to the online poll question, "Did your arts organization implement any of these cost saving measures in the last 18 months?" taken during the live session, the responses confirmed that indeed labor costs represent the focus for adjusting the budget when revenue is down:

24% - layoffs
14% - salary reductions
43% - cuts to performances or programs
19% - furloughs

These panelists from the east coast at best overlooked and at worst ignored the discussion about the difference in regional funding for arts organizations in the United States. We heard about regional disparity in the form of contrasting Texas and California. Contrasting Oregon and North Carolina or some other combination might have provided better insight into the economic plight of arts groups.

Dory Vanderhoof's assertion that arts serve as a driver for the service economy i.e., jobs is an understatement of the economic impact. Is that really the best or strongest argument for supporting the arts? Thankfully, a resource provided during the conversation tells us a more comprehensive and thorough story of that economic impact. In May, 2007, Americans for the Arts published its study, "Arts and Economic Prosperity III," as a guide to the large scale economic impact happening through nonprofit arts organizations. The guide can be accessed at http://www.americansforthearts.org/information_services/research/services/economic_impact/default.asp

In the course of the exchanges we learn the following from David Mallette, "I'm also a big believer in special event fund raising if you have the skills set to do it well." While there is a truth to the fact of having the right skills set for this type of fundraising facilitates success, Mr. Mallette could have offered the disclaimer that special event fund raising should generally only be pursued as apart of a comprehensive fundraising program. All too often organizations that produce special events focus only on the gross proceeds (revenue) without considering how they will cultivate newly acquired donors and integrate them into a comprehensive fundraising program or how much staff and volunteer time is needed to produce a first class event.

The conversation then turned to "significant new trends in fundraising strategies," where the panelists shared the following:

Dory Vanderhoof:
"The arts adoption of a focus beyond the annual campaign towards a comprehensive strategy that puts equal emphasis on Endowment, Legacy Gifts and Annual Fund. Same strategy the Universities used in the 70s. This is a major organization strategy. Right now there are billions of dollars of comprehensive campaigning in the planning and silent phase." (sic)

David Mallette:
"Ditto (above) on Dory's comment - a more comprehensive approach to donors vis-a-vis all the organization's contribution streams." (sic)

While Mr. Vanderhoof's comments seemed to reflect larger organizations, the advice here applies to smaller, emerging arts organizations as well. In the haste (or preoccupation) to raise general operating or current program dollars, organizations sometimes overlook key opportunities to build legacy gifts i.e., planned gifts that will benefits the organization in the future. While not every organization may be ready to launch and manage an endowment fund, the organization certainly has the capacity to remind its supporters to make a bequest or otherwise make a gift of assets that becomes a legacy for the donors and the organization.

In continuing to explore emerging trends, both panelists cited the expansion of summer and educational programming. Dory Vanderhoof says, ". . . we've seen arts groups focus much more on earned revenue sources: building audience, expanding school and summer programs, using existing assets such as families. Expanding the number of people who have transactional experience with you expands the number of potential donors. We did a survey late last year of about 60 organizations adopting new strategies and tactics. Very, very few reported new fund raising strategies."

The two important themes to take away from this conversation are 1) to diversify your contributed income to include a variety of vehicles for donors and 2) to fully utilize your assets including considering expanding your current programming to maximize your earned income.

This conversation was most welcome and needs to happen on a local level wherever you are. For my followers in Oregon, you may want to explore these issues and others at the Oregon Arts Summit 2010 happening on Thursday, October 7. Learn more at http://bit.ly/cZuyuq In the meantime, visit this blog frequently for your next dose of Fundraising Savvy TM.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

PND - News - Foundation Giving Declined by Record 8.4 Percent in 2009, Study Finds

PND - News - Foundation Giving Declined by Record 8.4 Percent in 2009, Study Finds

While one never wants to see giving decline, it's a relief that 2009 foundation giving only decreased 8 percent. The 8 percent is a striking contrast with the 17 percent declined noted in 2008. I'll be sharing more insights about this report and other fundraising trends as one of three panelists presenting Grantwriting Know How and Resources for Tough Economic Times on Thurs. May 20 from 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. at the upcoming Willamette Valley Development Officers Regional Conference happening on May 20-21, 2010 at the DoubleTree Lloyd Center. Visit http://www.wvdo2010.0rg/ for more information and to register!

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

PND - News - Value of Volunteer Time Up 60 Cents in 2009

PND - News - Value of Volunteer Time Up 60 Cents in 2009

This news took me somewhat by surprise. Volunteer time is now valued at $20.85 per hour in 2009. That value is a $.60 increase from the previous year. While I value volunteers tremendously, I do have to wonder about compensation levels for paid staff working at nonprofits. What type of message are organizations sending to paid employees by valuing volunteer time at such a high level?

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why you (yes, you) should care about economics!

Too often, we focus exclusively on giving trends – who is giving how much – to the exclusion of greater economic trends. Pacific Continental Bank’s Nonprofit Economic Breakfast Forum provided a premium opportunity for John Mitchell, Dave Westcott, and Gary McGee to help us understand how various facets of the greater economy and continuing recovery could and will impact giving. My thanks to Dan Hempy, Lisa Faust, and the team at Pacific Continental Bank for convening such a great panel and making this event possible!

This morning’s meeting was in the words of Pacific Continental Bank’s CEO Dan Hempy – “the brainchild of Lisa Faust.” Brainchild is a very apt description. The event brought together CEOs, fiscal managers, executive directors, and other professionals like me to hear three of the area’s most recognized leaders in nonprofit finance to share with us their assessments of how the current recession is affecting nonprofits and insights about how the recovery looks for the sector.

Gary McGee (McGee & Co.) mentioned that according to his research 10 – 12% of nonprofits will come close on breaking even in the current fiscal year. He said that in places like Texas government is contracting with for profit entities to provide services such as housing and other services traditionally seen as the exclusive domain of nonprofits. He didn’t provide local examples. He cited the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act - http://ow.ly/1sL7D – as an important milestone in the fiscal management of nonprofits. He shared that corporate giving now seems to include a greater mix of in-kind contributions and that institutional funders (my words) were less likely to fund administrative, operational, or fundraising costs.

Dave Westcott (The Oregon Community Foundation) described how OCF has managed in the face of the changed economy and described his experience with giving in that same context. Dave said that giving has increased to large organizations and suggested that the increase may correlate with smaller organizations cutting development staff and in some cases entire departments. He mentioned that Oregon ranks second highest in giving in the west. (Follow this link to see information on OCF’s 2009 survey http://ow.ly/1sL6M. Dave observed that, “Operations funding will remain an issue with us in the face of growing need.” He shared his belief that “baby boomers” are the largest, wealthiest demographic ever and offer an opportunity to develop deferred giving programs. Dave encouraged nonprofit leadership to build and diversify revenue by focusing on filling the pipeline for gifts; to work with banks, trusts, community foundations, and other entities to develop these opportunities; and to establish a planned giving committee. He reminded the audience that the next Community Grants deadline is August 1. For more information, visit http://www.oregoncf.org/receive/grants/grant-opportunities

John Mitchell (M & H Economic Consultants) provided a presentation packed with all types of statistics and insights. Here are the highlights and to me the most significant; “looming demographic change and new medical system launched – payroll taxes to investment income for high income persons." John offered the following article, “Taxes Cause Wealth Drain On States” http://ow.ly/1sL1k published in the Wall Street Journal as an example of how changes in taxes can impact charitable giving. His points to ponder included, “Where do new jobs come from? (Jobs, Gates, Vollum, Packard, Knight, Ford, etc.)” and “The Shape of the Upturn? – V, W, L, NIKE (Swoosh). I especially liked his illustration of the NIKE recovery being one that follows the shape of the swoosh: middle then down and then a steady upward trajectory. The list for new jobs sounded like a list of foundations to me, but I didn’t have a chance to clarify the intent of the list. If the intent is to list foundations supporting innovation and entrepreneurism, I’d like to see the Ewing and Marion Kauffman Foundation listed there too. John did mention innovation as being an inspiration for new jobs, so perhaps Kauffman is a fit here. He cited as long term considerations “The Great Recession’s Legacies i.e., regulatory demands and a decline in giving, “Response of High Net Worth/New Income Households Respond to Tax Changes – New Jersey as a Model (See previous link. Notice a theme here?), and “Unfunded Entitlements Coming Home to Roost – Generational Conflict? Competition for You!”

The Forum ended with our three speakers convened as a panel and entertaining questions from the audience. Let me put my Fundraising Savvy to work in developing a new grantwriting or sponsorship program or re-energizing and refining an existing program so that your organization can realize its funding potential.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nancy Lublin's letter - "We Really Need to Talk."

In this column, Nancy Lublin sends "an open letter from Nancy Lublin to her powerful "friends" at foundations." The letter reads mostly tongue-in-cheek and makes some valid points including asking funders to "stop hating on overhead." I think Ms. Lublin missed an incredible opportunity to address another important issue: measuring the success of a program. Is it possible to have a uniform measure of success like having a uniform grant application?


PND - News - Many Small and Mid-Sized Foundations Plan to Cut Grantmaking This Year, Survey Finds

PND - News - Many Small and Mid-Sized Foundations Plan to Cut Grantmaking This Year, Survey Finds

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Without knowing the size of the sampling, the geographic location of the respondents, or the methodology of the survey, how do we correlate the results to our work as grantwriters in different geographic regions or areas of grantmaking? I think it would also be helpful to understand the size of the organizations being funded by these grantmakers and the size of the grants being awarded.

I have requested the executive summary of the survey from the Association of Small Foundations and will post an update on my questions once it is available.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

@anywhere - Where Twitter is at . . .

Have you heard about Twitter's latest interface? Visit http://blog.twitter.com/2010/03/anywhere.html to find out more! How can you use Twitter's latest platform to boost your productivity, web traffic, and online contributions?