Monday, June 3, 2019

When Things Look Bleak, It’s Time to Bring Out the Jokes

I was thinking about writing a blog post on the potential IRS investigation into the NRA’s nonprofit status, or the campaign to close Planned Parenthood clinics, or the big nonprofits that are operating immigrant detention centers. But instead, it seemed like time to bring out the jokes again.

So here you go:

A doctor, a lawyer, and a fundraiser arrive at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter tells them they each get one wish before entering Heaven. The doctor asks for a million dollars, St. Peter grants the wish, and the doctor enters Heaven. This generosity did not go unnoticed by the lawyer, who proceeds to ask for a billion dollars. St. Peter grants his wish, and the lawyer enters Heaven. Then St. Peter asks the fundraiser what she would like. She quickly replies, "If it's not too much trouble, could I please get the business cards of the two people who entered heaven just ahead of me?"

Staff at a nonprofit come to work to find that their office has been broken into and many things stolen.“ Oh, no,” says the ED, “we got a check for a major donation at the event last night. I hope the thieves didn’t get it.” ”No worries,” says the Finance Director, “I stashed it where no one would ever look in a million years,” and comes back with the check. “Where did you put it?” the ED asked. “In a copy of our strategic plan.”

A nonprofit’s Board Chair, Treasurer, and Executive Director are captured by terrorists and condemned to death by firing squad. Each is granted one wish before dying. The Board Chair says he wants to embark on a lengthy, intense process to develop a new strategic plan. The Treasurer says it’s time for the organization to have a complete financial audit. And the ED says, "Shoot me first."

A Development Director found a magic lamp, and rubbed it. Presto! A genie appeared and offered the Development Director one wish. Not wanting to be greedy, she said, "I wish for one million dollars to support my organization." "Done," said the genie. "Come to your office tomorrow, and it will be there.” The next day she arrived at the office, and when she opened the door, three million binder clips fell out. "What the hell?" she said to the genie. "I asked for one million dollars! "Yes," said the genie, "but you didn't say it couldn't be in-kind…"

The ED of a nonprofit community center was faced with the prospect of asking folks at the annual fundraiser to come up with more money than expected. He asked the musician for the evening to be sure to play some inspirational music after his speech. So after the ED announced, "Friends, we are in great financial difficulty – any of you who can pledge $500 or more, please stand up," the pianist played The Star Spangled Banner

An angel appears at a nonprofit board meeting and tells the ED that in return for her unselfish and exemplary behavior, the will be rewarded with her choice of infinite wealth, wisdom, or beauty. Without hesitating, the ED selects infinite wisdom. “Done,” says the angel, and disappears in a cloud of smoke. Now, all heads turns toward the ED, who sits surrounded by a faint halo. A board member whispers, “Say something.” The ED replies, “I should have taken the money.”

We may be in the midst of a constitutional crisis, but a few jokes and some big laughs can help us all in these times. I hope it does so for all of you.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Nonprofits Behaving Badly: U.S. Soccer Federation

This past week, the U.S. women’s soccer team (USWNT) filed a gender discrimination class action lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF), a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to “helping develop world-class players, coaches, and National Teams that inspire a nation.”

The USSF is the governing body for American soccer. Its home page motto is “one nation, one team.” But there are actually two national teams, and they are not created equally. They play the same game, on the same size field, under the same rules. The men’s team (USMT) didn’t even qualify for the most recent World Cup and has never won a championship. Yet the men got performance bonuses of $5,350,000 for losing in the 2014 Cup Round of 16. The USWNT got paid $1,725,000 for winning the 2015 Women’s World Cup. 

The lawsuit outlines violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, both of which prohibit employers from discrimination based on gender. Grievances include pay, bonus money distribution, field conditions, travel conditions, and overall treatment in comparison to the men. According to player Megan Raphinhoe, “we feel a responsibility not only to stand up for what we know we deserve as athletes, but also what we know is right – on behalf of our teammates, future teammates, fellow women athletes and women all around the world.”

One week after the suit was filed, the Federation issued a statement saying it was “surprised” at the legal action, claiming they have done everything they can to invest in women’s soccer. And yet the USSF has admitted to paying its female players less than the male players, claiming they do not deserve to be paid equally. The women receive far less than men for games played, wins, wins against internationally ranked teams, and making the country’s World Cup Roster. They play more games annually. They are frequently forced to play on substandard fields. This despite the fact that the USWNT has been ranked #1 in the world for the last eleven years, winning three World Cup tournaments and four Olympic gold medals. The men are ranked #25, and have never won an international tournament.

Full disclosure: I am an obsessed soccer fan. And I have been playing in a regular Sunday morning pick-up game for over 25 years (we call it the Church of Soccer). I stumbled onto the game when my kids were playing youth soccer. I had wanted to play when I was in high school, but it wasn’t allowed – girls were forced to play field hockey, which I hated. So as an adult, over many Sundays, I learned the game, making lots of mistakes, but loving every minute of it. My kids played (actually out-played) with me, until they left home.

The game is a virtual melting pot, with players from Germany, Mexico, Palestine, France, El Salvador, England, and Peru. But I am usually the only female on the field. Often, young families walk by, and I can see the moms pointing me out to their daughters. It makes me proud to know that in some small way, I am a role model to these girls, just as the incredible women on the USWNT are. They deserve better. And the USSF, as a nonprofit organization, should be forced to fulfill its mission in an equitable and fair manner.

By the way, the 2019 Women’s World Cup starts on May 12. I hope you’ll join me in rooting for the team, both in winning the lawsuit and the World Cup.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Five Fundraising Tips for 2019

There’s no rest for nonprofits; raising money is a full-time, year-round, all-staff job these days. So here are my top five tips as you launch into 2019:
  • Ask more: I am constantly surprised at how many nonprofits continue to do just one fundraising campaign per year – and insist that their supporters will be pissed if they get asked more often. Yet research consistently shows that asking more does not turn off supporters. At the very least you should aim to both double and diversify your asking. Along with a full-on campaign (including snail mail, phone calls, one-on-one meetings), do more email asks. Consider pitching monthly donations, scholarship funds, capital improvements. And be sure to hit the peak giving days - Giving Tuesday, and December 31.
  • Ask strategically: This means collecting data constantly, and using it wisely. Your database should not only include the obvious – name, mailing address, email, phone numbers, and giving history – but much more: proper salutations, volunteer activity, whether folks want to be anonymous, how they like to be contacted, who has contacted them in the past, whether they have attended your sponsored events (and which ones), particular interests in your programs. This information will allow you to focus your asks and to maintain continuity if/when there are staff changes.
  • Make it easy: Have you ever actually checked to see whether it’s quick and easy for folks to donate to your organization online (the preferred method these days)? When you search via Google, is it easy to find your website? Is the donate button prominent? When you go to the donation page, is it easy to navigate? Are folks given choices of how to donate? Do they have to create an account to do so (one extra step can turn donors off)? Have your Board and staff test all of this out on their various mobile phones, iPads, and computers by making quick small donations. And fix anything that’s not working.
  • Stay in touch: Don’t make your fundraising campaign letter, email, and/or call the only time you contact your donors. Send them emails about a particularly successful program. Invite them to special events. Ask them to get involved through an ad hoc committee, an online survey, or a fun volunteer opportunity. All of this builds and strengthens your relationships with donors.
  • Thank promptly: I can’t say it enough – the number one reason folks stop donating is because they were not thanked. When you are asking them for a donation, always thank them first for their previous generous support. Host an annual donor appreciation event. And get those personalized thank you letters (or emails) out within ten days.
Back to basics: remember that the main reason people give is because they are asked – and that folks feel good when they donate to nonprofits that do good work