Bequeathed Items

A supporter leaves you something special in their Will, the gift is from the heart with the supporter wanting to leave something to perhaps remember them by, or something that will be meaningful to your organization.

But, what do you do down the track when you relocate, renovate or simply want a new look?

Do you store the item or relocate it when you upgrade facilities; or do you sell it?

Maybe it depends on the gift, the legal side of the gifting – was it something left for a specific purpose.

Perhaps the donor wanted to leave a lasting legacy, and wanted what they gifted to be a lasting legacy to you and the work of the organization.

If your organization can, would it contact family of the donor to discuss what would be the best thing to do, or would it simply do what it wanted without any thought for the meaning behind the gift?

From people I’ve spoken with it seems most would do what they saw fit, many said “a gift is a gift and we can do what we want”, is this the view your organization has? 

Product Donations

It often happens a charity makes a request to a business for a donation and instead of cash, they are offered product; anything from books, kitchenware to vouchers for services can often be offered.

The dilemma some charities face is what to do with the items – some don’t have the resources to convert these items into cash. What can they do with them?

In general I’d suggest any charity being offered product instead of cash, should where possible accept it. It could be seen as being uncharitable to turn items down, if you say no today, will they offer anything else in the future. Are you willing to take the gamble? I’d suggest accept the items in– you will find a use for them, you’ll likely be able to convert them to cash – all it takes is some thought and planning.

How can goods be converted/traded into cash?

Raffles and sweepstakes

Smaller items can be ‘grouped’ together and a raffle/sweepstake held to convert items into cash.

Depending on where you are these can be held with little red tape depending on the value of the prizes offered.

Get supporters to help sell tickets. Use space on the tickets to help reinforce the message of the work you do in the community.

On Sell, Garage Sale, Online Auctions

As items come in it could be worth looking at the volume and if there is a large enough number of items perhaps you could hold a garage sale.

Supporters and the wider community could help with other items to help make it worthwhile – for visitors.

As well as an opportunity to sell items, a garage sale could be an opportunity to provide some entertainment making for a family event.

This would also give you the opportunity to help educate people about the work you do.

If there are too few items to warrant a garage sale – use an online auction site to sell the goods, relatively easily converting them to cash.

This is relatively simple to do, and would only require regular attention being paid to what bids are coming in, questions about the items being asked, and arranging delivery of sold items.

Charity Auction

A gala event with a charity auction ‘attached’ can reap good rewards.

Hold a gala charity dinner, hold both silent and open auctions – as well as giving supporters the opportunity to mix and mingle, staged right they can be very successful and fun for all concerned.

Both silent and open auctions can often be a bit of fun, with competing companies competing with each other to win the auction.

Entertainment and speeches (brief) help to build the theme for the night and also gives you the opportunity to publicly thank supporters.

You can list items on TradeMe – who generally offer registered charities special offerings, there’s also a relatively new site List Buy Give which may suit your needs.

Next time you’re offered a fridge, vacuum cleaner or other item – think again before saying no. You could convert this to cash!!

What are your experiences, policies on accepting donated goods?

Can charities find a new way?

Too many requests for too many donations – it’s something that’s real and has a negative impact on charities. Not only do the constant calls and requests have a negative impact on amounts raised, but also on people’s attitude to charities.

In reality, from my experience, people have organisations that are close to their heart, organisations they can see are making a real purposeful difference in their own communities.

Charities do need to cast the net wide, they need a wide reach to raise the much needed funds they need to do their work; but in doing this they are catching people who are already feeling the financial pinch from increasing personal costs, housing costs, food etc. This can cause people to feel that they’re not doing their bit when an organisation contacts them for support, this can have a flow on effect with people rethinking their entire charity giving.

Is there a way charities can make better use of targeting for donations? Probably, but in reality there is likely to be added costs in doing this – costs, that many, probably all charities can’t justify.

So what’s the solution?

There probably isn’t a one size fits all solution, but as others have been talking targeted, stand alone websites are probably a way to go.

If people can see exactly where funds are going, that there’s no middle man taking a slice of the pie they’re more likely to want to give, and may well agree to a regular giving programme if it were done in a way that they weren’t burdened with more requests, constant newsletters and then the annual receipts needed to claim tax rebates.

If there was a way you could give differently, or your organisation could solicit differently to reduce costs what would it be – would you develop a standalone giving platform or engage with an non commission (fee charged) service?

One thing I know charities will say is that they need the contact details of donors to stay in touch – sure, this can be a real need, and can help reduced donor acquisition costs.

What other things could be looked at for donor engagement and increased support?

Your thoughts, ideas and comments would be great to hear.

See also

Is it donor fatigue or is it your ‘ask’

Appeal Fatigue

Charity Fatigue

Go Invisible to be Visible

Also, take a look at this from TVNZ Breakfast show – The New Charities  

Charity Boxes to Oust Beggars

After reading “City council acts on rise in ‘opportunist’ begging” I got to thinking that yes, the charity boxes will help some; but it will not help all in need.

Having spent time in both Auckland and Wellington talking to people who “beg” I’ve learned that it’s not just a lazy way to get some money – it’s sometimes the only way some of these people can get something to eat, perhaps even a warm pair of socks.
Not everyone who is out on the street asking for a handout are doing it to fuel a drug or alcohol addiction, and nor are they all layabouts with nothing to do with their day, or more to the point not willing to do something. 
The problem is deeper, and unless we look at the real issues, the reasons why people are on the street asking for spare coin we will never really understand it.
Agencies can do their part, they can talk with officialdom to look for solutions, but unless they talk with the people who are asking for coin we’ll never truly understand the “why”.
People I’ve spoken to have said they’re not eligible for welfare payments, perhaps this will worsen with more people being declined or having payments cut when drug / alcohol testing comes starts to hit.
Sure, welfare payments are for food, housing etc, not for recreational purposes; but that’s another issue.
I’m not suggesting that agencies aren’t doing their job, what I’m suggesting, or more to the point wonder is what agencies have been out and spent time talking to people about solutions. Are the charity boxes a real solution?
Will all the money in the boxes get to where it’s needed, or will a clip be taken for administering the ‘funds’?
One homeless man I’ve recently met has told me he receives a benefit, but sits on the street to collect any other money he can. His reason; the benefit he gets isn’t enough to feed, clothe or house him. 
He collects an average of $60 per week – half he uses to help him from week to week, the other he’s setting aside to help him move into affordable accommodation. He’s actually saving money for his future and to help him improve his lifestyle.
Maybe this guy is a rarity, but he has a story, one which I’m wondering have agencies asked him to share.
It will be interesting to see if the move to install Charity Boxes will work, I’m doubtful. I’m wondering if instead it will result in more aggressive begging, something the proponents of the boxes are hoping the boxes will end. 
I guess only time will tell if this move by the Wellington City Council will have the desired effect.


Ethical Donations

Should children’s charities align with alcohol suppliers, merchants, producer – does alcohol and children’s charities mix, or is it like oil and water at a moral level?

There are laws about sales of liquour, only people of a specified age can buy it, and it can only be sold by people of a specified age, tobacco too can only be purchased (in many places) by people of a certain age – advertising for these products is restricted to.

So I ask – is it ethical given the reason for restriction on the promotion and sale of alcohol for ‘public good’ – is it right for a charity or any other organizations established to support children to have as major “obvious” supporters who tout alcohol.

Sure we can argue the need for financial support, but – should ethics, morales, personal beliefs of office holders – the board, come in to play?

Is it as a wrong alignment – it’s not like promoting girl guide biscuits.

Sure, it can be argued that charity promotions, websites, direct mail campaigns and the like aren’t targeted at youth – but, the fact is that youth see them.

And, what about organizations who work with youth, and younger, who have a conditions caused by alcohol, ok, these organization probably don’t accept support from alcohol organizations; but it’s likely that other organizations who work with these same ‘people’ do accept the support.

And who can blame them; you, it’s all about getting support from the most “ethical” source, but it does have to be asked  – how do other supporters see this, how does the wider community your aiming to gain support from see it?

Is it time to take stock, can organizations afford to walk away from the “booze dollar”, or is there a way that this could be acceptable with restrictions on both sides?

Would you decline money or other support based on where it comes from?
Would you turn money away?


Donating and Sex

So you want that feeling you get when you eat or have sex – easy, make a charitable donation.

A study undertaken shows that donors experience similar feelings to eating and sex when they dip their hand in to help others. 

An article in the NY Times Our Basic Human Pleasures: Food, Sex and Giving” states:

“Brain scans by neuroscientists confirm that altruism carries its own rewards. A team including Dr. Jorge Moll of the National Institutes of Health found that when a research subject was encouraged to think of giving money to a charity, parts of the brain lit up that are normally associated with selfish pleasures like eating or sex.”  

Perhaps it wouldn’t be a good idea to use likes like “Want that warm feeling you get when you’ve eaten a great meal – make a donation” or “Sex isn’t the only thing that makes you feel good – donating does too, help us today” – or could you?

It’s always interesting to see why people give, what motivates them – but even more interesting is reading studies that show what effect giving has on donors.


Pitch it and Zip It!

When asking for a donation know what you want, why it’s wanted and the positive impact the donation will be to those receiving it.

A while ago I wrote ‘How much is needed’ in it I said:

‘When asking for money, it’s generally accepted that if you ask for specific amounts, offer suggestions on giving levels organisations can have a better ‘return’ than those who simply ask for ‘support’. 

$20             will give a child school lunches for x
$50             will allow a child to attend school activities for x
$100           will give a child school books for x

When people can see that their donation is “earmarked” for a specific purpose they’re more inclined to give – they can “see” a result, a benefit.

In reality it’s only part of it – knowing when to ‘shut up’ is important too.

Using the ‘pitch it and zip it’ approach will help ‘close’ the donation request.

Asking for a donation is no different to someone in sales asking for the sale – options are given, price is given, then any salesperson with experience will zip their lips and wait for the customer to make comment.

The first person who speaks after the ‘offer’ is given generally loses the ‘sale’.

It’s no different when requesting a donation, ask for the amount you want and ‘zip it’, wait for the person you’re talking to speak, they’ll either say that’s too much, or I can’t afford that, both signals that they could give but the amount asked for is too high for them, they’re not saying they won’t give. You still have the opportunity to ask for a lesser amount.

When asking for a donation it often pays to start high and come down, you can’t ask for $20 then when the person says yes increase the amount asked for. But if you ask for $100.00 and they say it’s too much you can come down – but don’t come down too quickly, they’ll tell you what they can give.

So next time you ask for a donation, paint a picture, tell the person you’re talking to how important their donation is, then ask for an amount – then ZIP IT.

Donate Tax Refunds

People often need the money the may get back from any tax refund, but for those who may not need it, giving it to charity is a great way to support organizations, but how many know who to give it to, or how to do it?

One thing some people don’t know (surprising as it seems) is how to get money back that they maybe owed from IRD – perhaps education on this is needed, the endless ads on TV don’t seem to be getting through.

Charities could be doing themselves, and their supporters a favour by including something in their communications on reminding their supporters that not only that their support is needed, but also that their donations are tax deductable – and how any refund they get could be ‘on donated’.

How they do this needs some diplomacy and factual information being shared – one would hope organizations have the information and ‘tact’ to ask their supporters the right way if they would consider donating their tax refund.

To send a form with the charity details already completed is a little pushy and could backfire. Not only would an organization run the risk of the person not proceeding with the form, but they could also totally withdraw their support.

It would also be prudent for an organization to check with their accountant as to how tax-back donations are treated, the best way to manage approaches to supporters.

Inland Revenue also has information on their site about refunds, transferring any monies due.

When talking to supporters about donating any refund, it’s also a good time to remind them about Payroll Giving which allows someone to donate to approved organisations directly from their pay and receive immediate tax credits that reduce their PAYE payable. For more on this is available on the IRD website.

Organizations need to think about the different ways they can gain the financial support they need, and now is an ideal time to be talking with supporters, and others about the different tools available.

Have you asked your supporters to donate their tax refunds, are you actively promoting payroll giving as a means people can support, if so what feedback, response have you had?


Is it donor fatigue or is it your ‘ask’

All too often we hear about donor fatigue and how organizations are suffering due to lack of cover for those using social media – is it really fatigue or is it the “ASK”.

When you hear about supporters who haven’t given, when you hear about potential donors who haven’t given – instead of labelling this ‘fatigue’ it’s wise to look at the ‘ask’ first – was the ask right, was the timing right – did you go back to regular donors who said ‘no’ and ask why?

Asking why regular donors are giving, or why you’re not getting new donors is important – it will help you remodel the way you ask, the methods available for people to give.

A company that sees a drop in sales doesn’t immediately blame the market, the economy, it will look at the offer, the staff, the ‘pitch’ – charitable organization must do this too.

Blaming external factors before looking at internal factors is a copout … harsh, yes, but unless organizations look at themselves first they have no real idea what the cause could be.

Sure, people have tightened their belts, they may have redirected where they’re giving their money … it happens, it’s a fact of life.

If your donors aren’t giving as they used to you owe it to them, and yourself to ask why.

Have you changed direction, are you doing something different, or is it the tone of your ‘ask’ that is putting people off?

Have you asked your donors lately about why they support you – this can help you gain new supporters, knowing why people give is important, likely more important than knowing why they don’t.

Don’t fall for the trap of always blaming outside influences, sure they may have an impact, but it’s important to know if it’s something you’re doing – or not doing that’s causing people not to support you.

Have you lost supporters, had trouble gaining new supporters and found a magic formulae to turn them around – would be great if you could share some thoughts on this below.

Donated Goods for Charity

Do you run an op shop, a second-hand or other outlet to sell donated goods? If you do how do you handle it when you have to turn away items?

It’s a reality that not all goods offered can be accepted, with there being perhaps numerous reasons; being overstocked, hygiene regulations, state of the items and health & safety regulations. All are valid, but how do you deal with telling people who wish to donate that you can’t accept their items?

People could easily take offence unless the reason given is real, it’s delivered in a good way and that they’re reassured that their offer would normally have been accepted, and might be accepted at another time.

If people are only told “sorry we can’t take that” without an explanation they will feel offended and will be unlikely to offer donated goods in the future.

As many people use the web to source who best to donate goods to, it would make sense for organizations to have ‘donated goods’ information clearly visible on their site. This could include a list of items not generally accepted, goods urgently needed along with general information on what state goods must be in, regulations surrounding certain items (electrical) – this would make it much easier for those wanting to donate. No longer would they load their vehicle, arrive at your ‘store’ only to find out you can’t accept their goods.

How does your organization currently handle donated goods, what do you do when you’re ‘overstocked’ – do you offer suggestion on who might be able to take them?

Make it easy for donors to donate and make it clear, simple and give solid reasons as to why you might not be able to accept their items.