Dear Friends - Never buy bottled water again (as an example - feel free to substitute) This is a cause I really care about! To learn more or donate go to....
Hey Robert- Great seeing you at week at Tim's! Can't believe we're already into summer and looking forward forward to seeing you at the 10k next week - how's the training been going? Did I tell you that I'm training for the Ride/Run etc. - would love to tell you more...
Both of the messages above could be easily done on Facebook. The first can be driven off Facebook's social platform causes in probably a half hour or less (depending on your tech savviness). It's relatively easy to use and is adaptable to doing anything from sending out a petition to raising donations. While I didn't do a ton of back research here, I believe it was one of the first of its kind and a bit of a precursor to today's wide range of crowdfunding sites. There have been weeks where I've received multiple notices of these - interestingly enough from the same person. Even more interesting is that they end with "this is a cause I REALLY CARE ABOUT. Really?
The other semi-fictional (but reality based) message is one I could have received from an acquaintance, friend or colleague which could have ended with 1) an invitation to meet and talk more 2) a request that I consider supporting a campaign and/or 3) a request that I share a link with my friends and contacts. These outcomes are all good and not mutually exclusive.
Which would you rather receive?
Which are you more likely to respond to?
My quick and hopefully clear message is that personalization still works in this age of online fundraising, crowdsourcing and peer-to-peer fundraising. And by the way, I will be first to say that I love and use all of them. Teens Run Westchester, an organization I'm part of has 4 days and (I believe) is 62% towards our goal.
By the way, I shouldn't say personalization STILL works. It never went away. I do feel; however, that we're in this moment where the means have got us as excited, if not a bit more excited, than the ends; raising much need funds for critical issues. All of the great tools we have today-including my ability to connect with you through LinkedIn, my blog or some other source reay don't add up to much unless I can make that personal connection. So make it....it's worth the effort.
Think about it the next time you're about to hit "send" to 1 friend....or 1,000
I was pleased to see the response to my post "The End of Nonprofits". Note that when I say pleased, I mean that I was glad to see many responses; some were in agreement and a few were not. And that's actually a good thing. My point was to start the conversation to get people that are already there acting/doing and get folks that may not be there thinking. For those that are ready to act, I would recommend signing on to the Charity Defense Council, a nonprofit that Dan Pallotta has created; you can learn more about it here http://www.charitydefensecouncil.org
For those that were a bit on the other side, I wanted to offer a clarification. Several folks noted that they believe that there are, in fact, no negative connections with the term nonprofit. I agree with them that the public has a generally positive opinion of nonprofits. On the balance, I think the vast majority are viewed with gratitude, appreciation and support.
At the same time, by their nature of being driven by donations/contributions as opposed to a pure revenue model, the public has come to assume that our business model should be the complete opposite of commercial enterprise i.e. non competitive salaries, little or no investment in infrastructure or build out for future adherence to the mission. The point of Pallotta's work - and something I readily agree with - is that the sector has been all too willing to accept the definition of our work as (more or less) doing the most with the least.
This viewpoint often ends up translating into the public viewing GOOD charities as those that use the highest possible (preferably 100%) of donations for programming and as little as possible for salaries, fundraising, marketing, administration - often unpopularity known as "keeping the lights on" or even worse, the dreaded "overhead". In other words, what does not go TO THE CAUSE in a clear, distinct way is all too often viewed as that which should be as minimal as possible.
For example, consider the fundraiser who is spending a month planning the annual giving campaign. That person isn't doing a thing to advance the cause of the agency. Or is he/she? Chances are they're planning the fundraising mix which will actually allow the organization to deliver on its mission. Yet, because of both perceptive constraints, someone will need to work overtime to figure out how to make sure the charity is still at (at the lowest) a 75/25 program/ops ratio.
To summarize, we've moved the public to the place of accepting that the end goal of nonprofits is to keep expenses low. Those that do that are held in high esteem and celebrated.
Reality check: the goal of the nonprofit sector is to solve a myriad of social, health and humanitarian issues by using their funding effectively - and effectively means both helping today, planning for tomorrow and building for the future. Much the way we expect for profit companies that trade on the stock market to do a.k.a. increase earning per share - only in our case, its solving for poverty, hunger, and homelessness and finding a cure for cancer, heart disease, diabetes. Just to name a few...
Again, I appreciate the thoughts and responses.
Hopefully that title got you looking - if you're reading this it did.
Actually, I'm not suggesting for a moment that we stop the work, mission and potential of nonprofits to contribute to amazing and important social issues. Not for a second. I believe organizations tagged with this title are critical to healing the world, changing it and making it a better more livable place. If I didn't, I wouldn't have dedicated the last 13 years to working with a range of organizations that did everything from creating a better next home for seniors to changing the direction of the lives of amazing young people.
What I am suggesting is that we move away from the term "nonprofits". To give due credit, this idea is espoused by Dan Pallotta in his book Charity Case. Whether you agree with one, some, all or none of the ideas in this interesting book that raise some interesting questions, it's hard to argue with the stigma attached to the term "nonprofit".
He begins Charity Case noting that he'll be using the term charitable or humanitarian organization instead of "nonprofit". He does this because by nature, use of the word non or no, has negative connotations. He states - and I agree that the term is looked at by the public - volunteers, donors, and other participants in our work - as synonymous with organizations content to accept the scraps or leftovers of funding from institutions, corporations, and individuals. Further, these organizations should be content to use those funds at bare bones levels to fund our work paying the most meager salaries with little or no investment in infrastructure (often referred to as overhead - this is worthy of a much longer blog).
In reality, nonprofits - or charitable organizations, humanitarian organizations or charities - are committed to working to solve some of the most vital social issues; poverty, homelessness, better education for our kids- the list goes on. We're also tasked with curing life threatening diseases, major health issues and so much, much more.If that's the case, aren't we worth more? Aren't the folks that come to work for us deserving of at least the same if not better salaries? Aren't leaders of organizations that are changing the world entitled to the same salaries as leaders that are making sure that we've got enough soda, candy and laptops in our homes?
Again, I want to say these are issues are raised by Pallota in his writing - not my originals. But I thoroughly agree and hope that you'll give it some thought the next time you're writing that grant and being sure that there's no "overhead". Think of it the next time you need to recognize an employee or volunteer and are choosing between a pat on the back or a raise.
We need to start re-educating the public on this reality and hopefully, this will start a conversation.
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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