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AFP eWire Printable Version: March 23, 2009

AFP Offers Fundraising Tips, Guidance in Difficult Economic Times  

AFP has developed a new guidance document that contains tips and advice for charities trying to raise funds in the current economic environment.

Fundraising in a Difficult Economy, developed by AFP senior leaders and members of its Communications and Marketing Committee, contains 11 key points and perspectives, along with numerous strategies and tactics, which charities can use to connect with donors and raise critically needed funds. The short document is available free of charge on the AFP website.

“We’re committed to ensuring that all members achieve fundraising success, even in this difficult environment,” said Paulette V. Maehara, CFRE, CAE, president and CEO of AFP. “While we can’t provide unique and individualized guidance for each member, we can provide resources that members can use to increase their chances of success.”

Maehara noted that the guidance wasn’t meant to be exhaustive and that some organizations may find the guidance more useful than others. “We see this document as the beginning of a conversation about how to respond in the current climate and best practices that organizations can share.”

AFP is asking for feedback, ideas and success stories that it will share via its website and possibly another guidance document in the future.

The document can be found as an attachment of the web version of this story or in the Fundraising Toolkit on AFP’ homepage,

Additional Resources

The association has also created an online fundraising toolkit—a collection of the best fundraising stories and columns on the Internet—that organizations can access to get additional ideas and inspiration. The toolkit and other resources can be found on the AFP website homepage,  

Another way AFP is trying to help members succeed is by offering its Ready Reference Series free of charge to members. The booklets are practical, how-to guides containing tips and advice on a variety of subjects including board development, major gifts, capital campaigns, special events and reviving a donor file. All nine booklets (including six in Spanish and one in French) can be downloaded and printed for free by logging into the Member Gateway on the AFP website and clicking on “Member Resources.”

“The value of a professional association lies in its ability to help members grow and learn and support them when times are tough,” said Maehara. “This is certainly one of those times, and we are committed to doing everything we can to help members raise the funds their organizations need.”

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eWire Reader Response: One Way Obama's Tech Strategist Missed the Mark  

By David Hughes

Barack Obama's chief technology strategist, Thomas Gensemer, dropped a bomb on nonprofit marketers and fundraisers in February with this:

"Charity email newsletters are a waste of time"

This quote spread like wildfire on philanthropy-oriented online publications (Third Sector Online, cited by AFP eWire, and others) and led to perhaps unprecedented buzz among online communications specialists. So what are the facts? Is all of the research and data showing that email newsletters are successful cultivation vehicles for prospective and existing donors alike wrong? Are they indeed a "waste of time"?

Or was Gensemer overstepping his bounds with this blanket statement about the usefulness of email newsletters? After all, he's the mastermind who led Obama's online effort that raised more than $500 million online, breaking all previous online fundraising records from a political campaign. How can he be wrong about the intelligent use of email?

There are many takeaways from the Obama campaign, and there are many experts who have expanded on the lessons we can learn from their success. Donor and advocate engagement, how/why/when to use social media appropriately, effectively utilizing email marketing, and mobile marketing's potential are just a few.

It's clear, however, that the strategic team behind the Obama campaign didn't invent anything new that led to their success; they simply used existing tools in new and novel ways to leverage each medium beyond what any organization has done in the past.

As marketers and fundraisers, there's a lot to learn about the success that can come from having every marketing medium working together toward a common cause. But there are fundamental differences in donor and organization type that make direct comparisons between what worked for the Obama political campaign and what will work for most nonprofit organizations difficult. Gensemer may be right about the usefulness of email newsletters for political campaigns, but he may be a bit out of touch with the needs of most nonprofit organizations.

The differences boil down to demographics, cultivation and sustainability.

Traditional nonprofit donors tend to be older (even those online) and are less likely to use new media in the same way, or to the extent that an Obama supporter would. The campaign's greater success at energizing a younger demographic than most political campaigns and nonprofits is a clear differentiating factor.

A series of short, frequent emails (as Gensemer advises) might be very effective at converting donors in a political campaign, but constituents for most nonprofit organizations need to be reminded on a regular basis what their donor support will help to fund before making a gift.

Abundant data supports the idea that email newsletters act as great cultivation tools to convert new and existing constituents into supporters. Email newsletters provide the perfect vehicle for accomplishing this: regular, targeted communications with compelling content and a soft donation ask. Prospects are cultivated to make a first-time gift and existing donors are reminded of what their past support has gone on to fund. For some clients, we've seen up to 20 percent of direct response email income originate from email newsletters.

We embrace some key facets of Gensemer's argument: short emails are effective, short emails take much less time to produce than full-length newsletters, and constituent segmentation and engagement tools are critical to success. But while these guidelines can be used to great effect in overall email marketing, they don't replace the need for an email newsletter in most cases.

The major issue that Gensemer's declaration does not address is the question of sustainability. What can the typical organization expect to sustain based on its resources and available content?  The Obama campaign didn't send out any traditional email newsletters – they didn't have to. With the 4-7 emails per week sent to constituents throughout the campaign, newsletters were simply not necessary and would have been redundant. But the volume of content generated by a political campaign cannot compare with what most nonprofits have at their disposal.

When you're talking about the resources and content necessary to send 4-7 short emails a week, compared to what is needed to send a monthly, bimonthly or quarterly newsletter, what is sustainable becomes crystal clear.

Most organizations—even large ones that have a variety of initiatives going on throughout the year—cannot sustain the type of frequency and relevant content that made the comprehensive email communication strategy for the Obama campaign work so effectively.

If every organization had unlimited resources, staff time, technology and the inherent public interest and momentum of an historic presidential campaign, then yes, email newsletters would indeed be a "waste of time."  But until then, their benefits as a cultivation tool for most nonprofit organizations are clear and should not be abandoned.

David Hughes is account director at SankyNet in New York. SankyNet, a subsidiary of Sanky Communications Inc., provides an array of Internet services in fundraising, marketing and communications to nonprofit organizations across the United States.

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Attend a Special AFP Seminar on Wealth and Giving in the Current Economic Crisis

AFP and The Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College are pleased to offer a conference at Boston College on June 9 and 10, 2009. Find out how to successfully deal with the economic climate of 2009 and beyond!

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Innovative Planned Gift to AFP Foundation Yields Big Returns  

Lifelong friends and business partners, Marc S. Saffren, CFRE, and Michael J. Baker, CFRE, have joined the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy’s Omega Circle—and they have done so in a most unique way! They teamed up to make a large gift of Joint Life Protection Insurance to the Foundation with a death benefit of up to $275,000.

This instrument, often referred to as a “second to die” policy, provides coverage for two parties with proceeds to be paid upon the death of the second party.

Motivated by their strong commitment to philanthropy and their desire to give back to the profession they love, Saffren and Baker sought a smart and creative way to make a major gift to the AFP Foundation. “Michael and I wanted to express our gratitude in a tangible way for all that our profession and AFP have given us over the years,” Saffren explained.

“Our desire was to create a model that may inspire other young donors to secure planned gifts that will have significant impact and benefit in the future,” Baker said.  Joint Life Protection Insurance provides an ideal and affordable option for individuals who aspire to make a sizable planned gift to the AFP Foundation that will advance ethical and effective fundraising in the future.

“Who knew when we met the first day of kindergarten in 1975, that 28 years later we would be founding partners of a development firm,” said  Saffren.  “After college, we both entered the nonprofit sector as fundraisers and managers of community and national health organizations. We stayed in touch with each other and worked closely with AFP and the AFP Foundation. We are now proud to support such a worthy cause.”

Saffren and Baker, co-founders of m3 Development, attribute much of their success to the skills and knowledge, mentoring and leadership opportunities they received through their relationship with AFP at the local and national levels. “The AFP Foundation for Philanthropy warmly welcomes Marc Saffren and Michael Baker as new members of the Omega Circle,” said Curtis Deane, president of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy. “We are grateful for their generosity and applaud their vision in making a significant planned gift.”

For more information about the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy's planned giving program, please contact Martha Kirkland at (800) 666-3868, Ext. 480, or

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Your Online Community at the AFP International Conference

AFP has established an online community to help you network with fellow delegates at the AFP International Conference. Visit the community at to communicate with colleagues, make new friends, give feedback on the program, and hear updates on sessions and events. Join us and start your own conversation!

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Member Motion Reminder

Changed jobs recently? Accepted a new challenge? Received an accolade for your work and accomplishments? Let your colleagues and AFP know! Simply send your current AND new job information (including city and state/province), or information about your recognition, to Please include the phrase “member motion” in the subject line.

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Three AFP Webconferences You Won’t Want to Miss!

*Go online to to register. Go to Education and Career Development and click on AFP Web/Audioconferences.

Your guide to using Web 2.0 technologies to recruit, organize and engage youth!

In the upcoming webconference Mobilizing Generation 2.0, author and technology pro, Ben Rigby, will discuss the most popular tech tools (and how organizations are using them in creative ways), strategies that lead to successful engagement and the common pitfalls.

Fun, Entertaining and the IRS!

Fun and IRS updates don’t usually go hand in hand but Paula Goedert does an amazing job of demystifying IRS regulations while keeping you entertained. Register now for Avoiding the Legal Pitfalls: What Fundraisers Need to Know on April 7 at 1 p.m. EDT.

Major Gift Bloopers!

Save your organization from the most common mistakes in major gifts by learning how to avoid them in a fast paced session with author and veteran fundraiser Julia Walker. Twelve “Deadly” Mistakes of Major Gift Campaigns and How to Avoid Them! April 23 at 1 p.m. EDT.

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