Are you monitoring who you support?

You work hard, spend frugally and want to know that the hard earned money you give to community groups, charities; is being well used. How do you know it’s being wisely used?

Sure, you might get a regular update from the organisation, perhaps an update with any receipt you use, but is this an accurate picture of how your hard earned money is being used?

I’ve seen organisations that raise significant sums from the public, yet have little to show where this money is used.

Yes, they are meeting the terms of their constitution, they are doing the work, yet if asked to provide more services, resources or the like, they are unable to do so as they don’t have the financial resources to do more than they are doing.

There are still organisations working in the sector who have exorbitant overheads, who raise funds from you and me, but with their overheads can’t provide the services they are established to provide.

Who’s at fault, is there a fault, should there be tighter rules around reporting income and expenditure?

Perhaps yes, but what can we, donors, do to ensure we are giving to organisations that will use our support wisely.

I guess it comes down to trust, we have to trust that what they are telling us is kosher, that they are doing the best they can, that they are using our support wisely.

But, we also owe it to ourselves to check that what they are saying can be substantiated.

How can we do this? I guess we would go through the financial statements they file with Charity Services, with a fine tooth comb. We could (and should) be asking friends, family etc what their impression is of the organisation.

As with all community groups, we need to trust that what they are telling us is 100% kosher, if it’s not then we should voice our concerns and perhaps walk away and support an organisation we know we can trust.

Have you any doubts about organisations you have or do support, what have to done about it?

Supporter Communications

Before you send something to your supporters do you categorize who will receive what, or do you simply send the same communications to everyone on your database.

All too often supporters receive communications which are irrelevant, such as a thank you for previous supports etc.; but often the recipient may not have supported in a number of years.

For example, I received an email from an organisation thanking me for my support last year and asking if I would continue my support this year and take part in a volunteer event as well.

I hadn’t supported the organisation in over five years, as I was disillusioned in the manner in which they operate and the fact they didn’t offer updates on work they had undertaken, all they did was ask for more support.

So, receiving their email made me think even less of them, to me it showed they had little regard for the people who do support them.

Before you start your next email campaign, take time to check your supporter status and remove those who have said they don’t want to support anymore, including them will only alienate them further.

Your supporter database should have the ability to add filters so as to ensure the right people receiving the right communications at the right time.

Send the right information to the right people at the right time and you will have a better chance of favourable responses and ongoing support.

ASKphobia – A Great Term

When I first started out in fundraising, I wasn’t always comfortable making the “ask”. I was afraid of being turned down, and sometimes questioned the amount I was endeavouring to ask for.

Why – I guess in those days you could say I was Ask-phobic. I was afraid of the “no’s” and couldn’t understand how people could have the sums I was intended to ask for.

Somehow, one day I shook the fears I had and asked. Sure I was rejected, but at least I was asking, and the more asks got me more “yes’s”

This article on 101Fundraising is a must read if you’re involved in any level of fundraising.

The tips offered are great, and are the types I offer when coaching people in fundraising.

Read ASKphobia: How to Overcome Ask Aversion and see what you think, can you add any more tips to help people with an ask aversion?

See also:

It’s not you they’re turning down

Tele-fundraising Tips

Fundraisng – Planning is Needed

Why you suck at fundraising

Homeless Backpacks

We see homeless people almost everywhere we go, these people may be homeless for a variety of reasons, including choice (although I think this number would be low).

Social agencies are always looking for ways to gain support for their work with homeless people – and one couple from Tacoma, Washington, have come up with an inexpensive $20 homeless care kit that they hand out to people in need full of essential supplies like food and warm clothing. They make several of these kits a year to help the less fortunate.

Wouldn’t it be great to see this happening in more places, lets hope businesses and individuals will get behind this in their areas.

Hear about what the couple in Washington are doing here:  $20 homeless backpack care kit

Recruiting staff – what do you ask … ?

Almost all employment processes include checking name, date of birth, address, employment history and, of course reference checks. There’s also the usual interview questions about goals and aspirations, what the applicant likes and doesn’t like in a role, what their greatest achievement has been – all the “usual”.

But, what questioning is done around why the applicant really wants the job, what they feel about the sector, what organisations (if any) they support and why?

If you’re looking for someone who “fits” your organization, surely you’d want to know that they are to some degree philanthropic, community minded at least.

Sure there might be some casual conversation around community, nonprofits etc, but wouldn’t it be better if applicants were asked outright about their involvement etc in the community?

Yes, some applicants will be people who have or are currently working in the community, so there’s a given that they do have some “involvement”, but simply working for a community organization doesn’t mean the person is “community minded.”

So, next time you’re conducting interviews – ask “are there organizations you support in the community?” – “what organizations do you support?”

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?


Ethical Donations

Are there sources that your organization won’t accept funding from – no matter what?

Sometimes you just have to say “no” to funding. Yes, saying no is odd especially when organizations struggle to gain funding, but not all funding is good funding.  Organizations have to have morals, they have to have ethics as to where they’ll accept funding from.

If you do have an ‘ethical donation policy’ – good, but do review it from time to time. If you don’t have an ethical donation policy, it could be something you will want to look at.

Organizations should think about reasons why they won’t take money from certain sources, make sure the reasons are linked closely to the work and values of your organization and not for some personal reason.

As an example there will be people who can’t, or won’t accept things like:


Unhealthy Food Products

Gambling Proceeds

The reasons could be varied, but children’s organizations maybe loathe to accept alcohol as contributions; organizations in the health area may not want to accept donations of unhealthy foods as it could be seen that they’re forgetting their core message – healthy lifestyle.

The reasons an organization won’t accept certain donations or support from various sources could be many, but what’s important is that organizations put in the time and effort to think about their funding sources and if disclosing sources of funding could have a negative impact. Any negative impact could jeopardize funding from other sources and perception in the wider community.

Have you thought about an ethical donations policy for your organization, is it something you would put in place? If you have an ethical donations policy, how did you come to the course you’ve taken?

Have you lost funding due to mis-perception of your funding source?

Money isn’t everything

Nonprofits need money there’s no denying that – but there’s more than money some of your supporters might be able to give, don’t discount offers of other assistance.

If your fundraising team is only focussing on the bank account, they’ve got it wrong, or maybe they’ve been given the wrong message. Support can and does come in all shapes and sizes. 

When looking for support it is important to look beyond the money.

When approaching a business for support, whether they’ve supported you before or not, and they can’t offer financial support, think about other ways they maybe able to assist you.

Accountants might be able to offer you services you need, so too Lawyers.

What about that business organization you’ve contacted – can they use their networks to help raise your profile?

Cold approaches are good and important, but you need to think on your feet – if you’ve called a shop and asked for support and they are unable to offer financial support but have shown interest in the work you do, why not ask if they can put something in their shop to ask others to support you, perhaps ask them if they would be willing to donate an item you could auction. Products are important too.

What about that household you’ve approached – they’re not only a household, they have interests and connections beyond the walls of the house. Everyone in that house has connections, can you ask them to talk to their friends, family, colleagues about the work you’re doing to raise awareness and potential support? Hell yes you can, and you should.

If you’re not thinking of other ways people can support you, you’re doing you and your organization a disservice, you are most definitely missing out on opportunities.

It’s time to change your thinking – you have nothing to lose – you have more to lose if you don’t!

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?


Your board and trustees should be working

You have a board, you have trustees – who among them are working, or are they only there as figureheads, people to steer the organization and ensure the smooth operation (and legal compliance) of the organization?

Where possible board members and trustees should be doing their part to raise the profile of the organization, they should also be helping to raise funds.

Too often we hear of this group saying things like ‘we work hard, we give our time’ – sorry but time doesn’t always equate to money – but it could.

Your board and trustees could be connecting with people in their external networks to talk about the work of the organization, what it does, why it does what it does and how people can help it achieve its goals.

We all know it takes relationships to build and strengthen an organization and it’s likely board/trustees have some strong relationships in the community. If they were to tap into this – using their clout to help raise profile and funds, it would make it easier for your organization to do what it does – and it would also show to others in the organization (staff) that they (board/trustees) are more than figureheads.

Your board/trustees could be doing all manner of thing in the community:

  • Visiting business groups and talking about the role of your organization (Rotary, Lions, Chamber of Commerce)
  • Talking to business colleagues about the organization and how business can be involved 
  • Attending (and paying) all organization events, bringing along colleagues and friends
  • Running events – using their business connections to host events that will benefit the organization

Are your board/trustees actively working to help the organization – what are they doing, please share how they help and what happened to get them more involved.