Friday, August 26, 2011

Google Rejects Religious Nonprofits

The launch of Google for Nonprofits in March seemed like a boon for organizations.  Qualifying nonprofits would be able to use many of their popular services--including its office programs and Gmail--for free or at discounted rates.  The key here, however, is the word "qualifying."  Google placed some restrictions on which nonprofits would be eligible for their new program and, according to a report in Christianity Today, religious nonprofits were one of the groups that got the axe.

Faith-based groups that already had access to Google's free resources will be "grandfathered in" according to the report, but the search engine giant has made it a policy not to give these resources to any new group that considers religion, politics, or sexual orientation in hiring decisions.  This practice has created headaches for organizations like Living Hope Baptist Church.  The Christianity Today article reported that the Kentucky-based organization had hoped to connect 50 paid staffers and 270 volunteers with customized Gmail and office software, among other things.  Those plans now have to be nixed. 

The report says that Google is evaluating future changes.  Religious organizations will now have to wait and see if any of those include them.  To read the full article, head on over to Christianity Today.  You can also read more articles about faith-based organizations on The NonProfit Times.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Jewish Indiana Jones" Reined In

File this one under "bizarre but true."  Menachem Youlus, a self-proclaimed "Jewish Indiana Jones" who co-founded a Jewish charity to rescue Torah scrolls, has been arrested according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.  Youlus will be prosecuted in New York City on charges of defrauding donors of hundreds thousands of dollars.

According to the charges against him, Youlus made up accounts that his charity, Save a Torah, found Torahs in Europe.  These scrolls were said to have been lost or hidden during the Holocaust, and the charity claimed to have found some in concentration camps.  Youlus used these stories to get money for Save a Torah, which raised $1.2 million between 2004 and 2010.  To make matters worse for him, he is accused of embezzling $145,000 of those funds to the personal bank accounts of his Maryland business, the Jewish Book Store. 

But wait, there's more!  Youlus was also said to have claimed that Torahs he bought from dealers were rescued, using those claims to submit inflated and doctored invoices to his charity.  This allowed him to be reimbursed at a far higher price than he actually paid for the scrolls.  If convicted, Youlus will face up to 20 years in prison.  No word as of yet if he claimed to have found the Holy Grail.

You can read the full article of this bizarre story in The Wall Street Journal.

The 10 Commandments Of Nonprofit Communication

It's pretty incredible how much can change in a decade.  Back in 1999, the Internet was still a new phenomenon; people still didn't know what to make of it.  In 2011, the thought of doing anything without the it seems absurd.  The rise of social media and mobile technology has allowed us to be plugged in at all times, for better or for worse.  This has made the world of nonprofit communication much simpler, but it's also made it more convoluted.  That's why Herschell Gordon Lewis, author of Hot Appeals or Burnt Offerings and frequent contributor to The NonProfit Times, wrote a new column which we just published on our site.  He outlines "10 Commandments" that all nonprofits should follow if they want to survive in this new era of technology.  Let's take a look at some of them:

The First Commandment: Thou shalt make response simple.

We’re deep in the Internet Era, in which attention spans have shrunk to minuscule size. Don’t ask for more information than you need until you have the prospect at least comfortably secured in your own web. And, avoid the nasty and too-common word “Submit.” Right now, before facing “Submit” head-on, start thinking about a substitute.

The Second Commandment: Thou shalt stay in character.

A peculiar development is what some veteran fundraisers call “The Facebook Effect.” The projected mood bobs, weaves, and shifts as the appeal thinks it progresses but actually generates confusion for what should be the most probable donors.

The Third Commandment: Thou shalt not steal, except from noncompetitive sources.

Yes, yes, all nonprofit appeals are competitive with all other nonprofit appeals. But if you’re a hospital in Albuquerque and see a usable bright idea in an appeal by a college in Pittsburgh (you should be decoying every nonprofit mailing and email you can find), grab it and run with it.

The Fourth Commandment: Thou shalt not fall for fads.

This is back to Facebook and Twitter. If with dollars spent, against dollars returned, these media work for you, stay with them. But if you’re there because you subscribe to the dangerous dictum “That which represents a change automatically represents a profitable change,” be more than observant. Be critically comparative.

The Fifth Commandment: Thou shalt never again start a fundraising letter with the ancient cliché, “Dear Friend.”

If this Commandment puzzles you, you’re in trouble.

Don't stop here, there's still 10 more commandments to go!  Read the rest of them over at The NonProfit Times.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kellogg Co. To Nonprofit: Lay Off Our Toucan!

What does a nonprofit created to defend indigenous Mayan culture have in common with a sugary cereal?  According to Kellogg Co., a toucan.

In a report in The Battle Creek Inquirer, the cereal company is requesting that Maya Archaelogy Initiative (MAI) stops using an image of a toucan in their logo, claiming it infringes on Toucan Sam, the mascot that promotes their Fruit Loops cereal.  MAI has denied the charge, saying that the image in their logo is made up of "iconic images." 

It does seem slightly strange that this would even be an issue.  Kellogg and MAI have absolutely nothing in common, so there is really no competition there.  What do you think?  Battle Creek Inquirer has both images posted in their article, so check it out and decide for yourself.

Retro Article of The Week: Shock And Awe Makes An Impression

For this week's Retro Article, we go back to September 15th, 2008.  On this day in history, the largest bankruptcy filing in US history occured when Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  This was one of the many financial institutions that fell because of the impact of the Great Recession.  In happier news, The NonProfit Times published their September 15th issue, which contained the following article about controversial ad campaigns:

A poster featuring a busty, D-cup model will turn heads. Couple it with a precocious, pig-tailed face of a little girl and it will stir an Internet frenzy.

That's what happened to The United Way of Greater Milwaukee's (UWGM) statutory rape awareness campaign when the faces of adolescent girls were imposed on full-figured, adult female bodies. But before the campaign could launch, the ad images leaked on the Internet and the campaign was tossed, even though the ads tested well in focus groups.

"It was obvious that the ads were being misconstrued," said Nicole Angresano, the community impact associate director for UWGM. Angresano said that changes were made to the images and text and the leaked versions represented earlier design prototypes.

"If we were to move forward, those were not the versions they would have seen," said Angresano, who explained that the ads were created to discourage adult men from having sex with under-aged girls.

Some 71 percent of babies born to teen girls in Wisconsin are fathered by adult males older than 20. In 20 percent of those cases, the fathers are at least six years older than the mothers, according to the Wisconsin Subcommittee on Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention study. The UWGM assumes that the statistics have stayed relatively the same since 1998, through case studies and anecdotal evidence from law enforcement, said Angresano. A new study is under way but results have not yet been released.

If you wish to read the full article, simply head on over to NPT's back-issue archive.

Some Data On Religious Donors

In case you missed it, we posted two new articles from our August 1st issue yesterday.  One of these was an exclusive study done with Infogroup about religious donors.  There's a lot of information in this study, but the most interesting thing to me is that those who give to religious groups are more likely to give to more charities than those who don't.  Let's take a look at the numbers:
  • Nine out of 10 people who gave to religious organizations said they also gave to at least one other charity.  This is compared to seven out of 10 who did this but did not give to a religious group.
  • Of the 90 percent that gave to other groups, three-quarters of them focus their giving on one to five charities besides their religious groups; 11 percent give to six to 10 charities, and only five percent give to more than 10 charities.
  • Forty-seven percent of respondents said they gave to religious groups.
  • For those 65 and older who gave to religion, only six percent did not give to another group.  This is compared to 21 percent of seniors who did not give to religion.
Other numbers from the survey showed that, once again, religious groups are getting the lions share of giving.  This is consistent from data in recent years, such as the 2010 Giving USA numbers, which showed that religious giving made up 35 percent of the $290 billion in total giving.

It's clear from these numbers that, for whatever reason, religious donors tend to give to more charities than secular donors.  Why this is happening is not so clear.  Perhaps the religion they follow encourages giving?  One theory, which is explored in the article, is that a large percentage of religious donors come from high-income families.  In fact, 97 percent of respondents with households incomes of $100,000 or more said they gave to other groups in addition to their religious charities. 

What are your thoughts on this study?  Do you have any theories as to why religious donors give more than secular ones?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Management Tip: 3 Ideas For Transformative Major Gifts

It's the constant question for all nonprofits: How do I get a donor to give a major gift?  They are the engine for nonprofits, yet it can be intimidating to ask donors to give more and more money.  There has to be an easier way, right? 

At the 2011 Bridge Conference, Nina Fascione, executive director for Bat Conservation International, and Martha H. Schumacher, president of Hazen, Inc, explained what nonprofits can do to improve their success with major gifts.  We covered these suggestions in our most recent management tip:

* Cultivate -- Nonprofits can cultivate major donors through education and outreach activities. By demonstrating the value of a philanthropic investment and by highlighting value-added benefits, donors can be put into mid-level donor track.

* Upgrade Mid-Level Donors -- Once you’ve added mid-level donors to your organization, it is important to try to upgrade them. Show them outcome measurements and demonstrate mission impact, while giving monthly giving options to provide a multitude of giving options.

* Introduce Your New CEO to Your Major Donors -- After you’ve upgraded your mid-level donors, make them feel like they are playing an active role in the organization. With active listening and including transparency, your donors will feel more attached to the organization.

And remember the Three E’s: Enthusiasm, Energy, Economic Accountability.

As you can see, cultivating relationships with donors is a major part of these suggestions.  You have to start at the ground level before you start seeing the results you want.  There may be no quick fix to start seeing those major gifts flow in, but these tips might be the next best thing.

Three Nonprofit Hospitals Are Denied Tax-Exempt Status

On the heels of the recent report that some California nonprofits were being denied tax-exempt status, reported last week that 3 nonprofits hospitals in Illinois lost their claims for tax-exemption.  According to the report, the Illinois Department of Revenue shot down the request because the hospitals didn't provide enough charitable care to their patients.  The three hospitals were Northwestern Memorial Hospital: Prentice Women's Hospital, Edward Hospital, and Decatur Memorial Hospital.

The decision by the state of Illinois is hardly surprising given its recent history on these matters.  The Illinois Supreme Court ruled last year that Provena Covenant Medical Center didn't fit the requirements of a nonprofit because only one-half of a percent of patients received charitable care during 2002.  Provena flatly denied this charge, saying they provided $38 million in free care and benefits. 

Similarly, the three hospitals in this most recent decision have released statistics to fight the charges from the state.  They now have 60 days to have a judge review the state's decision.  We will be sure to provide an update should that happen.  In the mean time, read the full article from