I'm not much of a newspaper person. 

BUT I have to admit that I'm regretting not having a subscription to the Globe and Mail this weekend as they are providing some in-depth coverage on the state of charities and philanthropy. As with most news these days, I heard about this via Twitter

The Globe and Mail has created, in addition to a number of excellent articles, a great interactive information resource showing giving by the numbers. The coverage does an excellent job of addressing the need for charities to ask better in a tougher Canadian market and for the public to give smarter by evaluating fit and impact when they give.

I loved this Donation Action Plan chart:
Looking at the various graphs, there are a few key seismic shifts in the Canadian landscape:

1. Those who give are predominantly older individuals with a significant drop in donation dollars coming from those aged 35-44.

2. There is a huge pressure on corporations to use their donation dollars in a more strategic fashion and on the overall, there has been a large drop in corporate charitable contributions.

3. Canada still provides strong support for social services with roughly 43% of charity revenue coming from taxpayer's dollars. Donation dollars from individuals have decreased in recent years and the number of those giving has dropped dramatically.

4. The use of donation tax-shelter schemes (the majority of which are under heavy scrutiny by the CRA) has been wide-spread enough to actually skew the overall statistics.

Is the system in trouble?

Perhaps.


Ask Better

Charities need to be serious about marketing to a new breed of Canadian that is looking for accountability, transparency and impact. The new breed of philanthropists want to see themselves as investors and partners, not ATMs. It's also time to put serious effort into engaging younger generations and building relationships with new sets of donors - how else can the system be sustainable as the bulk of those participating in giving ages?


Give Smarter

No one wants to lose the good work done for our society by the thousands of agencies that make life better for Canadians every day. There is clearly interest in giving when it comes with very generous tax concessions (as the popularity of donation tax-shelter schemes has demonstrated). What can we be doing to increase and promote the idea of investing in Canada's charitable sector in a fair and legislated way? Are you, as a donor, seeking out advice about the various (legitimate) ways to give on a tax-reduced basis? Do you regularly evaluate the service and satisfaction that you receive from the charities that you are supporting?

I applaud the Globe and Mail for opening and exploring this topic so intelligently and in such great depth. The third sector remains a bit of a mystery in the public consciousness, but it plays such a vital role in Canadian society.

I'd also like to thank Paul @UinvitedU for his coverage of the feature via Twitter.

*Update*

Today, Malcolm Burrows at All About Estates weighed in on the "Strategic Giving" coverage in the Globe and Mail and I wanted to share his insights as part of this discussion.
 
 

Great fundraising involves exceptional planning 

and an artistic execution
Swiss architect Le Corbusier Venice, 1952


Today, I would like to share two great pieces that came across my desk in the past week. One is about capital campaigns and the other is about consultants to charity - since a lot of charities hire consultants to lead them through the campaign process, these seemed like a good fit.

The 10 Pillars of Great Relations Between Charities and Consultants

Working on a campaign together is not a short-haul project. It's a relationship for everyone involved and like all other relationships, communication and respect have to be at the heart of making it work. The Agents of Good have taken a solid stab at identifying the elements that need to be in place for everyone to feel satisfied.

I probably feel most strongly about the need for conversation and I would suggest that anyone looking to hire a consultant should feel that they are bringing on a person that they can have honest and frank (and sometimes difficult) conversations with.

Running a Successful Capital Campaign

This article was a real keeper because it gives a good overview of the key elements that need to be in place when approaching a capital campaign. I especially agreed with this point:

In the 90s people gave to institutions, in the early 2000s, they gave to projects.

Today, it’s about impact. So when positioning your story, make sure you indicate how your project will make a difference in the community it’s meant to serve.


Much of the rest of what was suggested can be summarized to say that successful capital campaigns involve heaps of strategic planning. Do people want to give, why should they give, who to ask, when to ask, what to ask for, how to say thanks...these are the big questions that come first. It's why communication with your consultant is so important - getting through the process of asking and answering these questions involves a lot of conversations and a realistic set of expectations on both sides. 

We don't need Planned Gifts, it's a capital campaign...

Another question that I think belongs in any capital campaign is about "what happens in ten years from now? How does the financial future of this organization look? What can we be doing now in this campaign to create that reality?"

It's where I think legacy gift planning has a place in current dollar campaigns. 

Those bequest commitments may not do much in terms of meeting current needs, but when the relationship building happens now (and preferably seamlessly with the campaign fundraising), there is a better chance that sustainable support for the charity will be in place down the road.

The debate about how to count and recognize legacy gifts is a big one in Canada, but I think the important thing is to open the door to those opportunities as much as possible even during campaigns - your donors are thinking about their relationship and giving in a comprehensive way, why not present asks in the same way?

What are your thoughts?
 
 

Do you get too much mail from charities each year asking for money? 

Not me - I love every piece because of how much I learn from them all! 

Since a big part of my work revolves around creating marketing and solicitation pieces for fundraising campaigns, I want to share a bit about what gets me excited.

In short, I love the ones that make me feel something. 

What are the emotions? 
Connectedness, urgency, passion, the knowledge that MY GIFT is crucial both to me personally and to those whom it will aid. 

(ok, I secretly like postage-paid envelopes so I can respond right away!)

I won't lie and tell you that I got onto this passionate feeling thing on my own. This is where I first got my inspiration.

Here is my perspective on what makes for great charity marketing:


Picture
 Let's talk about ME

This week, I saw a capital campaign brochure that used the word "we/our" 7 times in the main, 3 sentence long, "case for support" paragraph. 

The brochure showed me a lot of giving charts. It also had a lot of detailed tax-related info.

I felt nothing.

There was no story about me. It didn't address the question: "here's how we're a part of your/others' life now and with/without my gift/partnership, here's what's possible for others and for me."

I look for solicitations that tell me about all the great things that the charity does, how it changes lives and how participating will change my life / affect my feelings (positively!). 

The truth is that most charities, even boring sounding ones, do really make life better - the stories are there, but they need to be told as the lead story before any asking happens.


Picture
There are 12 steps to hand washing?

WHY is more important than HOW

Though I specialize in tax-smart gift planning, I believe in limiting tax planning info in a general brochure. 

The most important thing that has to be communicated is the "why" of giving and not the "how to give."

Let's step into the shoes of our donors and imagine how we'd like them to think about giving:

"Yep, I finally decided to start supporting hungry kids in my community because I realized that my tax credit rate was 44% after the first $200 of giving and I just wanted to keep every dollar out of the hands of that wretched CRA!"

OR

"Well, I realized that a lot of the kids that Feed the Kids was helping could be the friends of my own kids at school and so I decided I could help out and feel good about supporting families like ours in my own community!"

So really think about the space that's being dedicated to explaining tax implications and limit it to a very brief, high-level invite to talk more about what might be possible. 

At the same time, I feel reassured when I see a charitable registration number included and perhaps a short note mentioning that gifts are eligible for a donation receipt as per CRA regulations.


Picture
Don't bite off more than you can chew!

Many fundraising pieces include a full menu listing of 8-10 gift planning options.

When's the last time your typical small, urban charity thought they might have a use for ecologically sensitive property? 


Yep, it may be a gift planning option, but there's no need to list all of them unless the charity has the capacity or alignment of mission to accept such gifts. 

Less is often more. It's important to open the door in marketing material to gift planning options, but I think the menu should be limited to bequests - and maybe insurance, RRSPs, securities - basically, the most common options. 

Ask Better, Give Smarter

I love this scene from the Mad Men series where ad exec, Don Draper, literally reinvents the wheel for Kodak by introducing a campaign for the Carousel slide projector. 

There's even an engrossing story to be told about something as boring as a slide projector! 

The sales pitch is 100% about me and what I am going to feel personally when I use this product. Draper drives it home by telling an emotional story about his own life through the slide show.

Ask better by telling the story of your charity and give smarter by looking for charities that share why your individual participation matters! If we can get passionate together, great things are possible!

"Create a sentimental bond with the product...
It's not the wheel, it's the carousel"

 
 

One of the most challenging problems that comes up for many fundraising campaigns is just how to approach board members about their own financial support of the charity. Looking at it from another perspective, there can also be feelings of frustration for board members who want to contribute, but because of their birds-eye view of the charity, they're not always sure of how or when to help.

As part of my weekly research, I subscribe to a free service calledMovie Mondays and receive a 5-10 minute video on some aspect of fundraising - often there are great tips and ideas on working with boards both from volunteer members and fundraisers. 

Yesterday, I received a video featuring a board member speaking about what motivated her to become a major gift donor and create a legacy gift for the charity that she volunteers with. 

The key points? She was treated like a major gift prospect - a very personal approach was taken by representatives from the charity and it helped her and her spouse to better understand specifically how they could help. Their satisfaction with their experience as philanthropists and partners was a strong driving factor in their consideration of a legacy gift for the charity. Her own commitments helped her develop as an advocate in encouraging others to follow suit.

Interestingly, while this donor is aware of potential tax savings that come into play with giving, her testimonial is a great reminder about how it's passion and connection that are the main drivers, not technical tax planning! 

(I know, I know, this seems obvious, but 90% of the gift planning marketing material I see is still mostly about rattling off a list of tax incentives!)


Listen carefully to what this donor has to say right around minute 2:45 about the transformational power of her gift - it's what we all hope to experience as donors and hear as fundraisers...




Ask Better?
By recognizing that the "ask" cannot happen at the board meetings or by "osmosis" alone and instead, by creating an opportunity to treat this board member like a major gift prospect and make a targeted and personal ask, the charity was able to secure a much larger commitment than they might have expected.

Don't assume that a volunteer necessarily understands where their contributions can have the greatest impact!

Give Smarter?
If you are on a board and feel driven to do more through your giving, invite representatives from the charity to consider making a proposal and presenting it to you privately. Challenge them to look for an opportunity that matches your interests with an integral part of their mission. 

Thank you to Christopher Davenport at Movie Mondays for permission to share this video! For more, head on over to his site and sign up for your free subscription.
 

© 2011-2012 Christina Attard. All Rights Reserved