The Season of Giving: Breast Cancer Edition

The Season of Giving: Breast Cancer Edition

Dec 09

‘Tis the season…of donating to charities. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation offers a great way to give to a community working hard to treat and ultimately end breast cancer. And there are many other nonprofits also working to educate the public and support research. Unfortunately, we live in an age where giving to a charity isn’t as easy as it ought to be. If you’re looking to support breast cancer research and survivors this holiday season, here’s what you need to know. Where should my donations go? The Breast Cancer Research Foundation is a great place to start. With high-profile donors including Owl Rock’s Marc Lipschultz, Discovery Capital Management’s Rob Citrone, and billionaire media investor Herbert J. Siegel, the BCRF’s work draws the support of big names from all walks of life. Other great foundations waiting for your donations: Living Beyond Breast Cancer, The National Breast Cancer Foundation, and The Breast Cancer Fund. (All of these organizations received a rating of three stars or higher from Charity Navigator.) Should I go pink? Every October, all manner of companies and organizations put out pink products and advertisements in honor of breast cancer survivors and those doing research on the disease. But how much good do these campaigns really do? Getting to the truth can be tricky. Gayle Sulik, author of Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health, notes that a lot of these companies don’t actually donate anything to breast cancer charities. Instead, they “raise awareness”—a pretty vague notion. And some of these companies, Sulik writes, simultaneously produce products that can cause breast cancer even while they paint the walls pink. “It doesn’t make much sense to buy pink ribbon products,” says Samantha King, author of Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy. “By doing so, you’re simply subsidizing corporate marketing campaigns. If you want to give, give directly to the breast cancer organization.” And as an added bonus, when you give directly, you get the tax deduction—not the corporation. What else should I look out for when donating? Use websites like Charity Watch or Charity Navigator to check on the credibility of the organization you want to donate to. These sites can also tell you exactly where your money will go. If you want to dig deeper, take a look at the nonprofit’s financial reports to get a feel for their health and...

Funding Leadership Training in the Nonprofit Sector

Funding Leadership Training in the Nonprofit Sector

Dec 08

Leadership training and education is an important part of keeping nonprofits healthy, especially when it comes to transitioning between CEOs or other major leadership positions. The problem is, different organizations take different views on what kind of training is needed and funders have different ideas of what kind of training is worth funding. But according to Bridgespan, a nonprofit organization that works with other groups to improve leadership and subsequent impact, there is a gulf between what funders fund and what grantees need. Much of this seems to come down to the ability of organizations to communicate their needs to funders, but in order to do that, the organization needs to understand what those needs are in the first place. Some might put the focus on individual training of leaders or even employees who could transition into such roles. Others might put the focus on larger changes to organizational culture, allowing them to instill certain leadership mentalities in employees across the board, hoping to improve the group as a whole. What works for one nonprofit isn’t necessarily going to work for another, and figuring out what works in a given organization may take time and effort, all of which needs to be funded in the first place. As with so many other aspects of the nonprofit sector, the key to doing so is transparency. Donors need to know how money is being spent, and if that includes exploratory studies to figure out the best way to educate an organization’s leaders in order to improve its ability to follow through with it’s mission, then they need to know that. Of course, once an organization knows what kinds of leadership training it needs to engage in to improve impact, that needs to be made clear as well. Funders want to help nonprofits achieve their missions, and if the argument can be made that leadership training will improve the chances of doing that, then those efforts should be able to secure...

Diversifying Nonprofit Income

Diversifying Nonprofit Income

Nov 29

The Business Weekly section of the Reading Eagle (based out of Reading, PA) did one of those things that local papers are so good at: they wrote about local news in a way that’s actually quite useful to people who aren’t local. In this case, they have a piece about two local charities: Bethany Children’s Home and Opportunity House. Both of these organizations have diversified their revenue streams in order to prevent a reduction in federal grants. It’s the “diversifying revenue streams” that classifies this as a business article. Their point, and it’s a good one, is that sometimes nonprofits should think like for-profits, which at a certain size, tend to look for multiple income streams in case one doesn’t do so great. It’s fine for a small business to focus on manufacturing one specific item, but if demand for that item drops, or doesn’t keep pace with growth, or material prices go up, it can tank the company. That’s why you diversify in such a situation. Nonprofits can benefit from the same thinking. Federal and state grants can dry up or be awarded to other organizations. Donations rise and fall with the economy. But thrift stores, which you’ll notice are frequently run by nonprofits, tend to weather economic downturns really well. That’s probably why Goodwill and the Salvation Army have been using them for so long. It’s also what Opportunity House is doing in Reading now, with their new OppShop store that allows them to keep items out of landfills while employing underserved people. Bethany Children’s Home, which helps abused and neglected children, has been operating a dairy farm since 1873. Bethany Children’s Home has also operated its own freshwater spring since 2012. It really boils down to this age-old advice: don’t put all your eggs in one basket, even if you’re a...

The Nonprofit Sector is Failing the People it Means to Serve

The Nonprofit Sector is Failing the People it Means to Serve

Nov 17

The nonprofit sector is failing people of color and other under-served communities. While there are plenty of organizations that work with these groups, rarely are they actually run by people from these communities. Even when they are, these organizations tend to be lacking in the kinds of operational capital that makes other organizations successful. As Candi Cdebaca, the young CEO of Project VOYCE points out, this is because the nonprofit sector is predicated on privilege. It was founded by rich white people to help others and has developed into a system that maintains both privilege and poverty. After all, without people to help, there would be no nonprofit sector. That may sound hard to swallow, but if it is, it may be because you’re a part of the problem. This isn’t to say that you, dear reader, are actively working to oppress people and further the goals of privilege and white supremacy. In fact, if you’re reading this, you probably aren’t consciously doing these things. But the problem is, as 2016 in general has done an excellent job of showing, these systems perpetuate themselves subtly. Cdebaca doesn’t suggest some overarching solution to the problem, that’s beyond the scope of her piece and well beyond the scope of this website as well. But what’s important is that we realize these issues exist, and begin a conversation—locally, nationally, globally, about how to fix this issue. Many of us have argued that having more people of color at the head of nonprofits, especially those geared towards the issues faced by people of color, would make a big difference. Although it definitely would, it’s something that we haven’t even come close to accomplishing yet. But diversity on it’s own isn’t enough. Diversity needs support in order to work, because all the nonprofit CEOs of color in the world can’t help if the color of their skin continues to prevent them from having access to capital and...

Appealing to Psychological Needs Can Garner More Donations

Appealing to Psychological Needs Can Garner More Donations

Nov 16

It may seem obvious, but the way you word fundraising appeals can have a pretty big impact on the success of those appeals. According to new research, minor changes to wording can increase donations by up to 300%. But before you go and rewrite all of your appeals, there are some things you need to know. First of all, there is no secret weapon here. The study was based on 30,000 fundraising letters sent out to people across India. 20,000 of those letters were from a cold list and the rest were from a warm list. Researchers found that seeking out donors with the same religious beliefs increased donations by 55%, or by 33% if the target is of low-income status. By slightly modifying the fundraising appeals, researchers found a variety of ways to appeal to peoples’ sympathy. At the core of all of this seems to be the idea that putting a face on the appeal helps. Making donors aware that they will be helping real, specific people seems to draw in more donations. But donors also want to feel like they’re a part of something greater than themselves. In order to create this sense of belonging, donors have to feel aligned with the organization’s missions and goals. Organizations have to cater to these psychological needs if they want to receive more donations. That may feel manipulative, but the fact of the matter is that pure logic does not appeal to people as much as we might like to think. Marketing, and that’s what this is, most often appeals to human emotions, because let’s face it, we’re emotional creatures first and foremost. It’s all about convincing people to back a certain idea or cause, and making them feel good about doing so. This research has shown that by actually applying psychology to fundraising efforts, these efforts can really pay off, which is especially helpful in a world with an ever increasing number of...

3 Tips for Launching a Successful Social Media Campaign

3 Tips for Launching a Successful Social Media Campaign

Oct 20

In order to contend in the highly competitive nonprofit world, all charities must have a social media presence. That’s because social media provides an enormous opportunity to engage with users on a local, national, and international level. To give you an idea of just how much opportunity exists, consider the following statistic. According to the Pew Research Center, 65% of American adults use social networking websites. That’s nearly two thirds of all American adults! But how do you market to this audience? That’s where the following tips come into play. Limit Your Focus to What You Have Time For Look, managing several social media accounts is a full-time job. It would be absurd to expect someone to be successful at it when they can only afford to dedicate 4 hours a week to it. That’s why you should evaluate exactly how much time you’re willing to spend on it. If you only have 10 hours a week that can be allocated to social media, then stick to the two most popular sites: Facebook and Twitter. If you have more than 10 hours, it’s time to start branching out to Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, and Pintrest. Engage with Other Organizations and Industry Leaders Here’s the thing about social media: it’s all about karma. If you like posts, share statuses, and comment on discussions, that good karma will eventually come back your way. It takes time though, so be patient. The best way to incorporate this strategy is to add and follow other charitable organizations. You should also familiarize yourself with notable figureheads in your field and begin engaging with them as well. Use a Personal Approach There are times that call for a strictly professional approach and there are times that call for a more personal approach. Social media definitely calls for a more personal approach. For example, when talking about your charity, use the pronoun “we.” Language should be natural—as if you were casually talking to a friend you’ve known for 10 years. With that being said, avoid awkward words or phrases. In conclusion, make sure you have fun with social media and don’t be afraid to share content that isn’t directly related to your organization. For example, go ahead and share that super cute cat photo. Go ahead and retweet that story about the millionaire who gave a thousand bucks to a homeless man. Go ahead and take the...