Friday, January 20, 2012

"Soft Asking" To Upgrade Donors

Upgrading donors can be quite a dilemma for nonprofit organizations.  On one hand, donors might want to become more engaged with an organization, but donor fatigue can set in if they receive too many mailings.  This is where the idea of "soft asking" comes into play.

In an article that recently appeared in The NonProfit Times, we looked at how the National Baseball Hall of Fame (NBHF) used this process when upgrading donors.  Instead of asking donors to upgrade their membership, the Cooperstown, N.Y.-based organization asks for an additional gift, which upgrades them into their annual donor fund.  NBHF uses the same direct mail they send to non-members as part of the soft asking process.  Ken Meifert, senior director of development for the organization, estimates they have converted 20 percent of their members (or 6,000) to the annual fund.

The amount of times a nonprofit goes through with a soft ask can make a big difference.  Baltimore, Md.-based Catholic Relief Services (CRS) upgrades its donors by recognizing their first gift and encouraging more through mailings.  According to Jean Simmons, director of annual giving at CRS, the organization usually sends requests to join a monthly giving campaign once a year to its members.  Last year, however, the organization tried a different approach.  It sent two mailings: The first was a monthly ask, while the second asked for a one-time only gift or a monthly gift.  The result was the strongest increase CRS had seen in the past six to seven years.  From their house file of between 280,000 and 300,000 people, Simmons said that 1,487 people ended up opting into the program.

The soft ask can be a very effective way for a nonprofit to upgrade their current donors.  Is it the right choice for your organization?  Read the full article in The NonProfit Times to find out.

After Bankruptcy, Kodak's Philanthropy At Risk

Kodak, one of America's oldest film companies, recently filed for bankruptcy.  It's unclear what's to come in the company's future, but one thing was made clear: Some difficult choices are in the cards for the company's philanthropic efforts.

Channel 13 WHAM in the Rochester area reported yesterday that because of the bankruptcy, Kodak was likely to scale down their corporate philanthropy.  The company had written on its website that "in the near term … it is likely that we will have to make difficult choices about our philanthropic investments and activities."

Although Kodak's philanthropy has significantly dwindled since 1990, the company and its employees have still funded many groups.  For example, the United Way of Greater Rochester has seen millions of dollars come into the organization from Kodak.  In addition, Kodak founder George Eastman has financed some of Rochester's greatest institutions, such as the Eastman School of Music, the home of Kodak Hall (which the company recently helped renovate with a $10 million donation).

It's still possible for Kodak to continue donating money during the bankruptcy process, but it will more than likely have to scale back on a major scale while they deal with creditors.  You can read more about this story on WHAM's website.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dealing With Office Politics

Office politics: They are a powerful thing in every office and, whether they like it or not, nonprofit managers have to deal with them.

In their book "Make Talent Your Business," Wendy Axelrod and Jeannie Coyle say managers must first acknowledge the existence of organizational politics.  You can't tackle a problem, after all, if you don't believe it exists.  Further, Axelrod and Coyle encourage leaders to show their employees how to navigate the twisted webs of office politics.  They suggest the following tips:
  • Clarify and adjust assumptions about organization politics. Yes, people often use political skills for unprincipled self-serving. Employees who can read the dynamics, however, can create and sell effective solutions.
  • Help map the bumpy political terrain. Make sure employees get a full view of the landscape, so they know where danger points occur.
  • Coach employees to build a portfolio of politically smart approaches. Set a strategy, influence others and adapt familiar skills to political solutions.
  • Prepare for and sometimes rehearse the handling of complex situations. Employees will do better after having had the opportunity to fine-tune messages, practice handling questions, listen to opposing views, think through their reactions and adapt an appropriate personal presence.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Can't Miss Tax Deductions

Tax season is beginning to heat up as we move closer to April.  Here's the big question: Are you getting all you can from your tax deductions?

In an article for The Huffington Post, Lisa Greene-Lewis, managing editor of the TurboTax Blog, wrote about the advantages of filing your tax returns early.  She wrote that an estimated 80 percent of taxpayers will get a federal tax refund if they file before the end of February.  How much is that refund, you ask?  It's expected to top $3,000 this year.  That's certainly not chump change.

Lewis also wrote about the value of claiming standard tax deductions.  It's important not to leave any money on the table while filing your taxes.  Lewis offered some deductions you can claim that will help your cause:
  • Job Search Expenses: Most Americans were involved in the job search last year, but many probably didn't know they could claim job search expenses as a deduction.  It's true: As long as you were searching for work in your same profession, you can deduct expenses such as resume preparation, career seminars, and even travel.
  • Dependent Friends: Good news: Your support for your deadbeat roommates can finally pay off!  If they have been out of a job for a while, they may count as a "qualifying relative."  This will allow you to treat them as dependents.
  • Income Tax Credit: The down economy of the past few years has caused the loss of income for many Americans.  If you are counted among that group, you may now qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC).  The EIC allows you to keep more of what you earned, and can give you a credit of up to $5,000 depending on the size of your family.
  • State and Local Sales Tax Deduction: If you live in a state with no income tax (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, or Wyoming), you can claim a state and local sales tax deduction.  If you don't live in one of those states, a year of heavy spending may still give you a greater deduction.
Read more in The Huffington Post.

How Would SOPA Affect Nonprofits?

Visitors to Wikipedia or Google today will find things a little different.  Both sites are participating in a web-wide "black out" to protest pending anti-piracy legislation in Congress.

The two bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), have drawn heavy criticism from its detractors, who say that the laws are an assault on the "free and open Internet."  The legislation would essentially allow the Justice Department to shut down websites accused of copyright infringement without a traditional court hearing.

You're probably wondering: How would either of these laws affect nonprofits?  According to The Huffington Post, SOPA and PIPA could have a huge affect on fundraising.  SOPA would give the government the ability to block suspicious sites' Domain Name System (DNS) servers, which convert .com names into IP addresses.  This could have a direct impact on a nonprofit's donation process, as interfering with the DNS servers makes websites more vulnerable to identity theft and cyberattacks.

Some organizations are already speaking out against the legislation.  In the same piece, The Huffington Post mentioned that Global Voices, an international volunteer community of citizen journalists, is joining the protests by "going dark" for 12 hours.  The organization is concerned that the laws would "inflict broad damage" to the work of digital activists around the globe, and would hinder free speech.

Learn more about SOPA and PIPA by reading the full article from The Huffington Post.

Recruiting From Outside The Organization

Cross-Posted From The Nonprofit Job Seeker

It's probably a safe assumption that your nonprofit is looking to find that great employee who will bring their organization to the next level. Too bad everyone else is, too.
Many nonprofits are turning to the Internet for their recruiting. Organizations are finding it much easier to find new employees by using social media sites and online job boards. These are all great recruiting tools, but it's important to remember they aren't your only options.
In “The Big Book of HR,” Barbara Mitchell and Cornelia Gamlem remind organizations of the following recruiting methods to use in addition to the Internet:
  • Former Employees: Not every employee that left went out on bad terms. If you have a good exiting process, it will be easy to identify the reasons they left, and which ones you would like to have back.
  • Retirees: It is becoming increasingly difficult for retirees to live without some income. Consider bringing some of these individuals back to do special projects.
  • Radio/TV Ads: If you have enough room in your budget, take out an ad on the radio or TV to invite job seekers to your career Website.
  • State Employment Offices: All states have offices where you can list open positions. These agencies do a great job of linking job seekers to open positions, so don't discount the amount of help you can get from them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

NJ Governor Signs Bill To Let Nonprofits Run Public Schools

Nonprofits will now be able to run failing public schools thanks to a new bill signed in New Jersey.

Business Weekly reported last week that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed The Urban Hope Act, which creates a 10-year pilot program that allows nonprofits to build and operate "renaissance schools" in Newark, Trenton, and Camden.  Renaissance schools are similar to the charter school programs that have been running in New Jersey for more than a decade.  While charters get reimbursed as much as 90 percent of the district's per-pupil costs, these new schools will get 95 percent.  Organizations will be able to apply to local boards and then the state Education Department for up to four schools in each city.

This is the first education-related victory for Christie, a first-term Republican, after he declared 2011 "The year of education reform."  The Governor and sponsoring Democrats say The Urban Hope Act will create choices for students who are stuck in districts with failing schools.  The original version of the bill would have also allowed for-profit firms to run schools, but that measure didn't make it into the final bill.

The Urban Hope Act is part of a four-bill package that also includes a privately funded school-voucher program, among other reforms.  Christie has vowed to renew debate on those measures later in 2012.  Make sure to read the full article in Business Weekly.

Big News: Blackbaud Purchases Convio

UPDATE: Here is a video from Blackbaud announcing the acquisition.

UPDATE 2: Updated the blog post with new information.

We had some big news break in the nonprofit sector this morning, as Charleston, S.C.-based Blackbaud announced the acquisition of rival software firm Convio of Austin, Texas, for $275 million.

The acquisition would give the combined organizations an annual revenue of $440 million, free cash flow of $66.5 million, and net debt of $240 million.  Blackbaud will acquire all outstanding shares of Convio's common stock for $16 per share.  The purchase is expected to finalized during the first quarter of this year.

Some things to note about the acquisition:
  • According to Jane Eggers, senior vice president of products and marketing at Blackbaud, only a "small handful of people" at the organization knew the acquisition was happening.
  • Executives at both firms had been talking about a deal for years, but the timing wasn't right up until a few months ago.
  • Convio President and CEO Gene Austin will join Blackbaud in a leadership post.  He will report to Blackbaud President and CEO Marc Chardon.
  • There was no mention about the future of Convio co-founder Vinay Bhagat.  Eggers told NPT that it wasn't something she could speak to before the deal closes.
  • The deal will be structured as a cash tender offer followed by a merger. 
  • Blackbaud will finance the transaction through existing cash balance, expansion and extension of the company’s current debt facility, as well as newly issued syndicated debt.
Read more on The NonProfit Times' website.

Featured Nonprofit Job: Director of Facilities

Cross-Posted From Nonprofit Jobs

Interested in a job that combines your passion for education and fundraising? Look no further, The Nonprofit Job Seeker has just the position for you.

Essex County College, located in Newark, NJ, is looking for a Director For Development to lead its fundraising efforts. This individual will be responsible for generating new revenue, reaching new fundraising goals, and developing relationships with internal and external constituencies. The Director will also oversee and direct the college's foundation, and will work with its board to come up with strategies in the development of corporate, employee, private, and other charitable giving.

Here are the requirements to be considered for this job:
  • Master's degree in business, education, nonprofit management, or related field.
  • A proven track record of prospecting, cultivating, and managing endowments, legacies and bequests gifts.
  • Demonstrated record of writing successful proposals and reports to corporate, foundation, and government funders.
  • Telecommuting is not an option. You must be willing to relocate to New Jersey if hired.
  • Experience working effectively with senior leadership and demonstrated ability to interact comfortably with diverse, high-profile internal and external constituents.
Apply for this job in our career center.

Monday, January 16, 2012

How Much Do Nonprofit CEOs Make?

Nonprofits often conjure up images of volunteers and other hard workers who forgo the big payrolls of the corporate world to do work to help society.  The truth of the matter is, however, that most nonprofits don't run much differently than a typical business.

The Advertiser recently wrote an article about executive compensation for nonprofit CEOs.  They focused on Sandra Purgahn, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Acadiana.  She earned $132,825 in 2010, and that number was $15,000 higher in 2009 because of a performance bonus.  Purgahn and her husband, Charles, founded Goodwill of Acadiana in 1990, and have been in charge of the organization ever since.  Charles still works there as vice president of business services, earning $101,304 in 2010.  Two other VPs at Goodwill earned $91,768 and $83,748 in 2010 according to the organization's Form 990.

The board of the organization defended the couple's salaries to The Advertiser, saying they are in line with similarly sized organizations.  Even after their revenue dropped by $200,000 in 2010, Goodwill would still classify as a mid-large sized organization.  If you are interested in finding out the pay of other nonprofit CEOs, you should check out The NonProfit Times' 2011 Salary and Benefits Report.  You can also read the full story on Sandra Purgahn in The Advertiser.

Questions To Ask Lapsed Donors

Donors come and donors go.  But what do you about them when they go?  Do you give up on them or do you try and figure out why they left?

Nonprofits have to deal with lapsed donors everyday, and how they handle them makes all the difference.  It's easy enough to hang your head and move on to the next one, but that will be doing your nonprofit a disservice.  Instead of giving up, put on your detective hat and find out why they went away.  Getting feedback from donors is always a good way to find out what you can improve.

In their book "Wired and Dangerous," Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson list some questions you can ask your donors to get a better understanding of how your organization can improve:
  • What is one aspect about our organization that you view as "very positive?"
  • Complete this sentence: What I like least about what you do is...
  • Complete this sentence: What I like most about what you do is...
  • What are the first words that come to mind when you think about working with us?
  • What area of our organization needs the most improvement?
  • Was there ever a time when we left you disappointed?  If so, briefly describe the incident and list ways that we could have handled the situation better (if at all).
  • What would you like to see us do that no other organization in our industry is doing?
  • What have we not asked that we should have?