Practical Advice for Modern Fundraisers

Taking Responsibility For "Giving Well"- a response-

Late last year in December, the New York Times ran an opinion piece about the best way to choose where to make your charitable giving, and I found it quite disturbing. (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/15/opinion/holiday-giving-givewell.html) You see, the piece was supposed to be about how to know if your gift to a charity was used well. But it turned out to be an ad for a company that verifies charities and regrants your donation to the charities in its database. That was disturbing enough, but the charities were all international to worsen it. The assumption seemed to be that local charities are not a good investment.

 

I am not opposed to supporting international causes. For example, I support a village in Kenya. But I make sure that most of what I give goes to local charities.

 

Why. Because they make my immediate world better, local nonprofits support the children, families, and adults where I live. They protect the local parks and the green spaces. They are caring for "my local " world. So shouldn't that be our priority?

 

As for knowing how your money is spent, you can put a little time into learning about them. Every charity is supposed to publish their IRS990, financials and most publish an Annual Report. If they don't well, that tells you something right there. I realize that it is easier to follow the writer's advice and outsource your responsibility, and support charities far from home.

 

I hope donors will consider their responsibility to their neighbors and your local community. Check out your local community foundation if you really just want to make a gift and walk away. But giving local is the thoughtful thing to do.

Following up on - Are You What You Wear? Richard Thompson Ford

 

 

June 2021 

June may seem like an odd month to write about what we wear to work. But as we move into a new phase of the pandemic, more of us return to the office, and things settle into a new routine, the question of what to wear comes up. Now I am a middle-aged African American man working in a major metropolis, so I can only talk about this from my particular perspective. 

The New Yorker Magazine recently posted an interesting podcast on the subject that had a good deal to say about why we wear what we wear to work - https://tinyurl.com/kdav7ya9. I highly recommend you listen to it. 

Personally, I wear ties and sometimes suits. I like the convenience of reaching into the closet, pulling out a white shirt and pair of pants (or a suit), and grabbing a tie. It is just easy. Now I am also a big believer in having a "look." A way people see your outward self that you define.

Now I will freely admit that being from the south being "dressed" is cultural with me as well. When I was growing up, people just dressed up more than they do now. I also grew up feeling that as a person of color, I had to be cleaner, smarter, and more polite to truly achieve.

Then I decided to be a fundraiser. When I started, there were not that many people of color who were in the field. I was lucky enough to work for two experienced fundraisers of color early in my career. I learned a great deal from them about raising money and maneuvering my way through the society of those supporting the non-profits for which I was working.

Now I am an experienced fundraiser with over 25 years of working for all kinds of non-profits. I manage staff, work with the Board, help lead the organization, Do my ties and suits help? Well, I don't know for sure. I know I want people to be comfortable handing me a check or with my help in creating a planned gift. But what I can't be "visually" is a different person for everyone. I have to be the person I am. The one who is comfortable in his skin - as much as anyone ever is - who understands the dynamic between his position as a fundraiser and the people he works with to support the organization's work.

At the end of the day, I wear a tie and a suit sometimes because I like it. I look good wearing it, and I guess I hope people feel comfortable with me as I do my job.

increase productivity

So you can do it all. Really?

Is doing it all when short-staffed a good thing? So many times, we find ourselves short-staffed, Someone leaves, we add a new area, or there is a budget cut. As hard as it is to release a staff person, it can be even harder to get the staff position back when the time comes. If you are an overachiever and your remaining team members have "made: things happen without the position, it is even more complicated. The powers that be can feel like, "why should we add staff when things are happening anyway.

I always try to point out the things that aren't happening. If the head of the department is dealing with the minutia of an event, then who is stewarding the donors as they come in, who is coaxing prospects into the fold. Those are just some of the things concerning the event. What about all of the non-event projects. What about properly managing the staff. Antone with reports knows that properly working with a team takes time and patience. Both of which are in short supply when you are short-staffed.

So what can you do? First, go ahead and write up the job description for the position you need to fill. Then, do some research and figure out what the salary range ought to be. Be realistic. If you have regular meetings with your CEO or ED, bite the bullet and give them the job description. Make it clear you are not looking to fill it immediately, but the time is coming. I would also make it clear to my board committee that you are short-staffed and that the time is coining when you will need an additional staff person.

I would not let the important things drop or suffer, but I would keep track of the projects and outreach that simply isn't happening because of time. The next move would be to plan a budget with this staff person to begin the budgeting process for the next year. Be sure to show an increase in income because of the person and the time freed up for you to use.

This process could take some time, but the position will happen organically. The key is to show how you can be more productive, and the organization will re-coup the investment in the added staff person.

 

Doing An Event In Our New Reality

So you want to do a Fall event! Besides all of the regular things, one has to figure out the price, venue, theme, managing the committee, and sending invites. Now we have to worry about COVID. No one wants their event to be a super spreader or even a minor spreader. So what to do? It seems to me we have three options -

  1. Require proof of vaccination
  2. Suggest that the event is for the vaccinated
  3. bite your lip and hope that only people who are vaccinated attend.

Or course, you can also add a statement that says, "Please wear a mask if you are not fully vaccinated. " But will that work? Will people be honest? What happens if people get sick after attending the event? Should people have to sign a waiver? Will that put a damper on the event? 

Boy, there are so many questions and so few answers since we are all doing this for the first time. The thoughtful way to solve this problem is to note on the invitation that masks must be worn if not fully vaccinated. That way, people are forewarned, and also, you are showing that you are conscious of people's concerns. Then I would have the venue put up a sign that says, "Please Wear A Mask If Not FULLY Vaccinated." 

The general counsel of an organization I know recommended that you can add a statement that says something like, "Attending this or any in-person event has a certain exposure by attending, you agree not to hold the presenting organization liable for any adverse outcomes." I am not so sure about that kind of statement. I am not sure how thoughtful having a statement like that on your invitation is for your guest, but I guess it is an option. 

Thoughtfully speaking, I would state in the invitation: "We will be following the masking mandates of the jurisdiction in which the event is being held. That way, if the mask rules change, you are covered. 

We are all facing new challenges in our fundraising, but I think the event area is the most challenging. I am sure, though, that if we approach each challenge thoughtfully, we will succeed. 

 

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