AFP eWire August 7, 2012: Print Version
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Giving Slows At the Mid-Year Point: How To Respond
While giving was increasing significantly at mid-year in 2011, that growth has all but receded now as donor confidence has hit record lows.
Chuck Longfield, Chief Scientist for Blackbaud, notes that giving was increasing during the summer of 2011 by double digits, compared to the previous year. “If we had been able to keep that sort of growth going, we’d have seen fundraising restored to roughly 2008 levels.”
However, looking at the data from the Blackbaud Index of Charitable Giving, Longfield notes that the improvements and increases in 2012 have been getting smaller and smaller each month—to the point that overall giving was essentially flat in May, and increased just 1.6 percent in June. “Between those drops and inflation, we’re basically at the same level of giving as we were last year at this time.”
Longfield stressed however that giving levels aren’t getting worse nor does it necessarily look like they will. Mid-year giving tends to be slower, and charities typically see a bump in giving as the year goes on, especially the last three months. The Nonprofit Research Collaborative’s 2011 survey showed that giving overall received a significant bump in the final quarter of the year that led to overall positive growth.
Donor Confidence Key
A critical reason for the slowdown in giving has been donor confidence in the economy and their ability to make gifts.
Two recent surveys show just how low donor confidence is.
Barna, a fundraising consulting firm, has been surveying people about their giving habits since 2008 when the economy began to falter. The firm’s latest survey, conducted in April, found that 41 percent of respondents had reduced their giving to nonprofit organizations over the past three months—the highest figure the survey had ever seen. In addition, 34 percent have been affected by the economy “in a major way,” while 50 percent believe the economy will take at least three years to recover.
In addition, Campbell Rinker, a marketing research firm, publishes a donor confidence index every few months. The February 2012 index revealed the lowest confidence figures since the index was first created in 2008.
“Our Blackbaud Index data is consistent with those findings,” says Longfield. “Donors are just very uncertain in their giving decisions right now and far more likely to postpone their typical contributions.”
How to Respond
AFP Chair Andrea McManus, CFRE, has some thoughts about how organizations should respond to the slowdown and work to find success in this challenging environment.
“We have to remember that just like in previous years, hundreds of billions of dollars will be given to causes around the world in 2012,” said McManus. “Many charities will far exceed their goals, so the question is, how do we ensure that we are one of those organizations?”
McManus addresses this issue in her column in the July/August issue of Advancing Philanthropyand mentions a few specifically in relation to donor confidence.
“We have to be in touch with our donors more than ever and making a point to get to know them,” says McManus. “Donors are unsure about the economy, the future, their giving decisions, so help them to at least be confident about one thing: your organization, its impact and their involvement. Touch base and listen to them about their concerns and fears, and work to maintain your relationship, even if they aren’t in a position to support you right now.”
McManus also stresses that now is a good time to test your case for support and emphasize the need for your organization and its services. “Charities are never needed more than in a crisis, and this is our opportunity to talk about just how important our services and programs are for the community,” she notes. “We need to move forward with an understanding of what our donors are facing, but we should not be defensive about asking for money during these times.”
If anything, McManus says, organizations should consider expanding their fundraising efforts, not retrenching or limiting their exposure. “You have to be smart about it, of course, but this is an interesting time to consider expanding your outreach precisely because the needs are so great. We saw this after 9/11 too—those organizations that didn’t pull back, but kept up their efforts—and in some cases increased them—ended up much better.”
McManus shares other ideas in the July/August issue of Advancing Philanthropy.
Calling All Authors! Exceptional Writers Needed for Three Books
The AFP Publishing Advisory Committee is looking for authors for three books focusing on the following topics: the transition from CDO to CEO, crisis management, and strategic message development and communications. The books will be part of the AFP Fund Development Series published by John Wiley & Sons.
1. Transition from CDO to CEO
As the existing workforce ages and many nonprofit CEOs expect to retire in the near future, there is a great opportunity for senior fundraisers to move into the top organizational staff position. In fact, fundraisers bring a unique ability to enhance the CEO’s role through the incorporation of fund development knowledge and strategies often neglected or avoided by a traditional CEO. This book will outline the challenges that a chief development officer might face transitioning to the role of chief executive officer.
Provide readers with an understanding of the specific differences between the CDO and CEO roles, the skills required to be successful as a CEO and how to prepare for the transition within one’s own organization or with a new employer.
- Offer readers real-life examples from both Canada and the United States
- Highlight applicable information from the for-profit sector
- Articulate the differences involved in reporting to a board versus to a manager
- Define the skill set necessary to make the transition from CDO to CEO, i.e., leadership, financial skills, strategic planning, etc.
- Discuss CDO skills that can enhance the CEO position (how to combine the best of both worlds)
- Provide strategies for readers to enhance areas of their résumé to better position themselves for advancement
- Address the potential for micromanaging the development operations
- Interviews with individuals who have successfully made the transition
- Case studies of unsuccessful transitions
- How CDOs perceive such a transition
- How CEOs view the CDO role as preparation for the top position
- Fundraising professionals aspiring to a CEO role
- New CEOs
- Board members preparing to hire a new CEO
- Current executive directors, directors of development, board members and key volunteers who are involved in fundraising
2. Crisis Management
Crises usually happen when you least expect them, and nonprofit organizations, whether large or small, must be prepared for such an eventuality.
Teach and share examples of organizations that have undergone crises and learn from their experiences.
- Offer readers real-life examples they may have seen or heard about or experienced
- Teach what to do and what not to do
- Provide readers with tools to plan for and prevent crises, including the development of a crisis management plan and the importance of spokesperson training
- Use of consultants in a crisis
- Damage control, both for internal and external audiences, and after-crisis management
Using real life case studies of successful and unsuccessful crisis management, the book will offer an analysis of the situation and outline learning outcomes for each case study. The use and explanation of crisis management models and theories, as well as crisis management planning and procedures, will be an important aspect of the book. The book should offer a mix of organizational issues for both large and small organizations. It also should address dealing with overall impact on an organization post-crisis, including how to utilize lessons learned, needed organizational change and prevention of future crises.
Possible examples of crises:
- Ethical issues
- Board problems
- Public relations or communications blunders
- Skewed management approaches
- Human resources errors
- Management misconduct or deception
- Workplace physical or psychological violence
- Breakdown of staff roles in the midst of crisis
3. Strategic Message Development and Communications
What are the roles of the executive director, staff and board members in strategic messaging? This will be a “how to” book providing information to develop strategic messaging in order to better connect with and engage key supporters while laying a foundation for delivering in-depth information about the organization.
Topics covered should include, but not be limited to:
- Appreciating the value of strategic messaging
- Defining desired outcomes
- Developing and facilitating a messaging strategic plan
- Defining and understanding target audiences, both recipients and benefactors
- Articulating what specific actions are desired from constituents—crafting a call to action
- Identifying the most productive audience-specific channels—cohort/generational appropriate
- Using messaging to build consensus
- Messaging as culture change that challenges the organization’s mindset
- Integrating messaging into all organizational programs and activities
- Training board members, volunteers and staff to stay on message
- Identifying resources needed to implement the plan and possible sources
- How to keep the messaging simple
- Evaluating impact
If you are interested in writing or co-authoring one of the books or would like more information, please contact Steven Miller, CFRE, chair of the Publishing Advisory Committee, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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