November 19, 2008

Donors Plan To Give This Holiday Season

Here is some interesting and encouraging data from a recent "online giving" survey. While this study was focused on online donations, it resonates with what researchers are projecting for 2008 holiday donations generally.

Despite the crash on Wall Street and the national economic recession, more than half of Americans polled say that they plan to give to charity this holiday season and only about a third of them will donate less than last year. That’s good news for charity officials holding their breaths about fundraising this holiday season. They might be looking at a $3 billion bonanza from online giving.

A national survey conducted for online fundraising firm Convio by JupiterResearch, a Forrester Research company, shows that of the 175.6 million online adults (age 18+) in the U.S., more than half (51%) plan to donate to charities during the upcoming holiday season.

Nearly over 70% of those surveyed plan to donate the same amount or more in the 2008 holiday season than they donated in the 2007 holiday season. Less than 30% say they will donate less this holiday season.

By analyzing and comparing the self-reported giving plans of survey participants with historic and actual online giving patterns, Convio officials estimate that online consumers will donate nearly $3 billion via the Internet this holiday season. Just two years ago, $3 billion was the estimate of all online giving for a 12-mopnth period.

“More than 50 percent of online consumers say that they plan to donate online during the 2008 holiday season,” said Vinay Bhagat, chief strategy officer and founder of Convio. “This level of online support shows that nonprofits of all sizes need to make sure that their Web sites and other electronic communications meet consumer expectations. It is also important to make sure that traditional appeals such as direct mail, television and events provide people with the option to give online. If it is difficult to give to your organization online consumers will find an alternative.”

During the Holiday Giving Season, human and social services (food banks, homeless shelters, etc.), faith based organizations (churches and ministries) and disease and health non-profits (cancer, heart, etc.) are the most likely recipients among donors at all donation levels. While there are differences in the types of charities donors plan to support based on age, ethnicity and the amount a person plans to donate, human and social services and faith-based organizations stand to be the largest recipients of online consumer generosity.

The overall top five charities of choice:
41% plan to give to human and social service organizations.
34% plan to give to faith-based organizations.
33% plan to give to disease and disorder organizations.
24% plan to give to animal welfare organizations.
22% plan to give to disaster and international relief organizations

[posted by Shannon D. Barnes. Need help reaching a broader donor audience? Contact us,]

'Tis the Season

Here is the article I referenced in our recent webinar: "How to Survive and Thrive in 2009."

Americans Rate Charity Gifts a Priority This Holiday Season
November 18, 2008
by Caroline Preston

Amid widespread concerns about the economy, Americans are planning to cut their holiday spending but not their charitable giving, according to a new study. In fact, some Americans may actually increase their year-end giving, as they make donations on behalf of friends and family members in lieu of purchasing presents.

Seventy-one percent of Americans are trimming back on their holiday spending, according to a study conducted for World Vision by the polling company Harris Interactive.

But nearly half (49 percent) said they are are more likely to give a “charitable gift,” such as a child sponsorship, a tent, or a cow to help someone in need as a holiday present.

Eight-four percent of people in the study said they would prefer to receive a gift that would benefit someone else rather than a traditional present, such as clothing or electronics.

The study showed that Americans enjoy giving and receiving presents, but do not necessarily need or care deeply about the gifts they receive.

Nearly 60 percent of people in the survey, which was conducted in late October, said they wanted a gift for the holidays. But only one-third said they needed something, and more than half could not remember what they had received the previous year.

As you close 2008, even amidst the current economic challenges, trust the heart and intentions of your donors -- they want to give, so make sure you give them the opportunity!

[posted by Jim Shapiro. Need help with your year-end funding strategies? Contact us,]

November 13, 2008

The Power of Hope

One of the most effective and noticeable characteristics of an impact leader is their ability to lead and inspire, even during difficult times. Over these past few months, we have all watched the economy go sour and listened to dour reports about our national and international future. We have also watched a young politician confound analyst expectations to rise not only to the top of his party, but ultimately to the presidency. All this, coupled with a difficult personal period, has significantly focused me on the power of hope.

Here are some thoughts from speaker/author/coach Judi Moreo (

When you hear a lot of negative talk about worldwide economies and the depression that is on the way, remember…many new opportunities await you.

The people who pulled the world out of the last depression were people with goals, ambitions, and dreams. You and I have big goals, big ambitions, and big dreams. So while others are wallowing in self pity and their “ain’t it awful” philosophies, stay focused forward.

Now more than ever, it's imperative that you have positive tunnel vision so you will achieve your biggest goals. This can be your best time ever. In whatever darkness you might perceive yourself to be, turn on your light and let it shine brighter than ever before. The world is waiting for you, and you are more than enough!

Now, there is much more to leadership than positive thinking and energy. But in a culture that is currently so desperate for positive influence and hope, positive thinking and energy may prove to be the most powerful and distinguishing attribute of leaders in this period of history.

This is especially in the for-impact arena – for those organizations meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of our communities. We have to lead our staff, board members, donors/volunteers/congregations, and community stakeholders to think beyond their self-concern and continue to reach out and help others. In Maslow’s terms, we need to keep people focused on the lofty perch of self-actualization (morality, creativity, problem solving) and not on their personal safety and needs (food, shelter, employment).

We cannot ignore reality – but we must do our best to create optimism, innovation, and a culture of problem solving amidst the challenges.

[posted by Shannon D. Barnes. Are you in a leadership rut? Need an advisor/coach to walk with you and help you discern direction for your organization? Contact us,]

November 12, 2008

Messaging Madness

Why Fundraising Messages Fail, and What to Do About It

The ability to communicate mission driven outcomes is directly connected to the ability to raise long-term and sustainable funding. Many nonprofit organizations fall short of their fundraising goals because they haven’t created or implemented a sound, visible fundraising message.

So what’s the secret to creating a visible fundraising message?

(1) Communicate outcomes not business process.

(2) Tell your nonprofit’s story.

(3) Talk about the people you serve and the mission-focused outcomes achieved in recent days.

(4) Talk less about your operation (salaries, buildings, problems) and more about your people and the impact they are having on the community.

By keeping your message focused on your organization’s outcomes you can stop the messaging madness. The money will follow!

[posted by Jim Shapiro. Let us help you craft your nonprofit message and increase the impact of your fundraising efforts. Contact us,]

Ask EDGE - Mission and Strategy

I recently had a discussion with a very tired and discouraged nonprofit leader, who asked in frustration, “Why do we have to always be trying to do more?” As a nonprofit leader, at one point or another those words have probably gone through your head too. And when we’re feeling overloaded, doing more hardley sounds appetizing, and mission-growth is not usually one of things we're axious to pursue.

Mission and strategy are not only important, they are crucial for any organization that intends to lead and serve. There are many answers to the question of why we do more (or expand the depth or effectiveness of what we are currently doing). Let’s look at a couple of the most prominent.

Mission-drive – our INTERNAL MOTIVATION.
If you grew up in or near a church, you’ve probably heard the parable of the talents. In this New Testament story, a master gave three of his servants different sums of money, implored them to invest it wisely, and then left for a long journey. Upon his return, he asked each servant to give an account of funds he had given them. The first servant, who was given the most money, produced the principle plus a return equal to the original investment – a 100% return! The second servant, given a lesser sum, also produced the principle plus a return equal to the original investment – a lesser amount of money, but the same amazing return. The last servant, who had been given the least, was so fearful of losing the principle, that he buried the money until his master returned. The master was furious that the servant had foolishly squandered the opportunity for investment with what he had.

This parable has many applications, but it certainly implores us to do as much as possible with what we have been given. That mission-drive will motivate us to take the resources we have and invest them for as much mission-ROI (return-on-investment) as possible.

“Gold-Medal Syndrome” -- our EXTERNAL REALITY CHECK
In the 2008 Summer Olympics, Michael Phelps won 8 gold medals – a new record in a single Olympic Games. He was a winner, and we remember his face and his accomplishments. But, can you name any of the people who placed 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 10th place in those swimming events? Think about it – to be the 10th best person in the world in anything would be an amazing accomplishment. But in our culture, if you don’t win you are largely ignored.

Now think about how that reality applies to your organization. To be noticed and supported, you need to win. To win, you need to strategize and execute – to do more. The competition demands it! Look at the statistics for nonprofit organizations:

In 1940:
12,000 nonprofits in USA
132,000,000 people in USA
There were 11,000 potential unique people per nonprofit organization.

In 2008:
1,400,000 nonprofits in USA
305,000,000 people in USA
There are now only 218 potential unique people per organization, and 119 more nonprofits starting every day!

Based on that reality, think about the impact on donations, leadership and staff, board members, volunteers, and pro bono support. Think about how important it is to "win" and attract the resources your mission needs.

One final thought
Allowing mission and strategy to lead your organization to grow does not mean you have to work harder. It simply means you have to work smarter, with more focus, and with a greater clarity about what you should and should not put your efforts into. Mission-driven organization’s always out-perform organizations who simply have a “mission statement.” Which one will you be?

[posted by Shannon D. Barnes. Let us help you clarify your organization’s purpose and strategic course. Contact us –]

November 11, 2008

Seminar - "Lead:Plan:Fund - Impact!"

Building Healthy Organizations in Challenging Times

Join The EDGE Group for three free 2-hour training sessions in Southern California.

On an average day, the challenges of a nonprofit organization can seem overwhelming - meeting with staff, managing your volunteers, calling board members, managing programs, paying bills, communicating with donors, working on a grant proposal, and so much more! With addition of the current challenging economic season, nonprofit leaders need to constantly sharpen their tools to survive and thrive.

Based on information collected from 1,000s of donors, client organizations, and today’s leading nonprofit thinkers, The EDGE Group is pleased to offer this free comprehensive training. Join executive directors, board members, pastors, and other organizational leaders as we discuss ways to launch into 2009 with the energy and focus necessary to lead and fund your mission and increase your impact.

Two dates and Three locations:

Monday, November 17
Goehner Accounting, 251 S. Lake Avenue, Suite 190 Pasadena, CA 91101 9:00AM to 11:30AM. Limit of 10 registrants. Serving Pasadena, San Gabriel Valley, and Los Angeles County.

Corona Public Library, East Room 650 S. Main Street Corona, California 92882 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Limit of 25 registrants. Serving Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and East Orange counties.

Tuesday, November 18
Biola University, Orange County Education Center 24422 Avenida de la Carlota, Ste. 390 Laguna Hills, CA 92653 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Limit of 25 registrants. Serving Orange and San Diego counties.

Register at

Need more options? Interested in training, but can’t make either of the dates listed here? Email us for other upcoming training options,

Need more information? Contact us:
Shannon Barnes, The EDGE Group (Southern California)
1.888.650.EDGE (3433) ext. 2

November 10, 2008

Leverage Your Social Styles

Many boards could benefit from attention to the four “people styles” described in The Social Styles Handbook, published by Wilson Learning. Your Social Style – Driver, Analytical, Amiable, or Expressive – is the behavior you feel most comfortable with. When you know your own style and adapt it to others' Social Styles, communication gets easier, conflict lessens, and your influence increases.

Here’s an overview of the four styles: “Drivers” believe that any decision is better than no decision. “Analyticals” maintain that no decision is better than the wrong decision. These two styles have the same priority: tasks verses people. “Amiables” will ask how a board decisions will affect their personal relationships. “Expressives” will want to know if the decision will add fun and enthusiasm to their future.

As it relates to the board, “Driver’s” and “Expressives” operate at the same pace (fast) and always “tell” versus “ask.” “Analyticals” and “Amiables” will ask verses tell – and both styles tend to be slower-paced. “Analyticals” will not only read the board materials in advance, they’ll circle the typos. “Drivers” want the director’s recommendation (the bottom line) before hearing the sales pitch.

You get the point. Board chairs must learn versatility (a key social styles concept) so all four styles are honored. A board chock full of “Expressives” might be fun, but the imbalance will be unhealthy. Great board members study the four social styles and understand the nuances they create within their board team.

[posted by Shannon D. Barnes, based on a recent artical from Let us help you make your board more efficient and mission-effective. Contact us,]

Fundraising Messages that Work!

In recent years, the non-profit sector has given donors every reason to doubt the financial accountability and stewards of charitable organizations. Fraud at the CEO level to front line workers stealing money from the donation call centers after hurricane Katrina – donors are weary and cautious about giving money to charity.

A recent Harris Interactive DonorPulse Survey found that 32% of American adults have less than positive feelings towards charities. Only 1-in-10 strongly agrees that charitable organizations are honest and ethical in their use of donated funds. (Now combine this data with a struggling economy, weak housing market, and high cost of living!)

To retain existing donors (and acquire new ones), charitable organizations need to change the way they communicate. Here are four tips to help your organization speak in “visible” terms as you seek to connect with donors during this challenging time economic time.

1. Inventory the ways (email, text, documents, fax, phone, etc.) your staff, volunteers, clients, board members, and donors communicate.

2. Develop a standard for communicating your charity’s mission when communicating to internal and external stakeholders.

3. Be prepared to tell those who will listen, who you are, what you do, how you do it, and where it’s being done.

4. Use the “you test.” Use a red pen to circle the number of times you use some form of the word “you” in your communications. If your message is full of “you” words, you are connecting with the reader on a personal level. If not, change your language from internal focus to external donor and mission focus.

Conclusion; It’s important for those representing your charity to speak in clear, visible, concise terms that are framed with mission and outcome (your charitable story) concepts. Clear “messages” will help you keep the donors you have, while attracting new ones.

[posted by Jim Shapiro. We help organization's craft fundraising messages that work. Let us help you too -]

The Power of a Pledge

Charities are always looking for ways to increase donor income, especially from major donors. There are several ways to increase income from donors, including but not limited to, increasing individual donor gift size and/or frequency.

A simple way to encourage donors to give more to your organization throughout the year is to leverage the power of pledge commitments. Consider this example. Donor John Sample has given your charity $1000 every year for the last 3 years. If you ask him for a 3-year pledge of $1,500 each year and he agrees – you not only have an “agreement” for three years of donations, but you also will have increased his annual giving by $500 and his long-term donor value to your charity by $1,500!

Pledge programs are a simple, yet powerful way to increase current giving, create long-term pledge receivables (great for budgeting purposes!) and increase the life value of the donor to your charity. All you need to do ask your donors to make a greater individual commitment over a longer period of time.

[posted by Jim Shapiro. Let us help you maximize your fundraising efforts. Contact us,]

Plan for the Plan

A Strategy Guide for Executive Leaders

Don’t kid yourself – strategic planning and execution is hard work. Over 90% of well-conceived strategies are never implemented.

In most organizations, strategic execution is the responsibility of the executive leader. But how can you work on the organization while manage all the day-to-day details at the same time? Here are a couple ideas to keep you sane, and your plan moving forward.

Use Short, Managible Time Periods
Set up performance metrics that are tied to relatively short time periods. Don’t make annual targets – it’s too easy to drift over the course of the year. Design your objectives so that your progress is quickly evident and advises you on how to adjust longer term strategies.

Schedule Planning "Appointments"
Every month at a fixed day and time, make an appointment with yourself to evaluate progress and adjust your plan. Make this appointment in your calendar, well in advance, and keep it! This is your time to work on managing your organization and it deserves priority.

Set up this appointment just as you would a client meeting, with an agenda, collection of relevant data, invited guests (maybe your board chair or advisor?) and a list of expected outcomes. Leave the appointment with a list of action items for your next check-in meeting with yourself.

Strategic planning is a core part of effective leadership. So don't let the daily demands erode your precious planning time. Make your strategy a regular priority. You won’t regret it!

[posted by Shannon D. Barnes. Can we help you find a better way to do more good? Contact us,]

Strategic Solutions for Nonprofits

Here is some great material, adapted and applied for nonprofit organizations, from the academic co-director of Wharton's Strategic Thinking and Management for Competitive Advantage program, Professor Harbir Singh.

Use “Real Options” Thinking
Lack of funds is no excuse for throttling back on innovation. Sometimes innovation can be inexpensive, or even save money. In fact, organizations should devote more attention to innovations that can cut costs or provide more value to its clients/congregants. “Real options” thinking encourages small investments of money, time, and leadership in areas that may lead to larger future initiatives. (Think of it as a mission exploration!) This minimizes risk and sustains current critical programs while keeping the organization moving forward and looking for “what’s next.”

Look for Alliances
Alliances also offer a way to reduce the risk and cost of pursuing new strategic options, says Singh. Alliances offer risk sharing and resource sharing without the permanence of mergers or formal partnerships. This flexibility allows organizations to ramp up or scale down programs quickly, and to benefit from one another’s strengths, staffs, etc.

Become a Talent Magnet
Find the silver lining – there may be opportunities for you to hire talented employees who have been laid off or sidelined by cuts in other organizations. "Make sure you are open to getting talent at this time," Singh says.

No Fear
Above all, leadership and confidence are at a premium in a turbulent environment, Singh says. In a downturn, morale slips, board and staff members become fearful, and this reduces productivity and creativity. "It is important that the organization not become consumed by fear," he says. "It is human nature to be fearful in this type of environment. But if you create an environment where people are in fear, it will limit your possibilities."

Leadership becomes more important in a crisis. "In times of adversity, leaders can energize people and give them a sense of mission and purpose to defeat the adversity they are facing. They create an esprit de corps that keeps people going, to get through tough times."

[posted by Shannon D. Barnes, based on material from Harbir Singh, Professor of Management; Co-Director, Mack Center for Technological Innovation; Academic Director, Strategic Thinking and Management for Competitive Advantage. Need solutions for your organization? Contact us,]

November 7, 2008

It's Time for Year-End Giving

The election season is over, and so is the first week of November! Its time to get your year-end giving efforts in high-gear. Here is some important things to remember for your organization's year end fundraising plans.

Why is year-end giving so important?
Businesses have been managing cash flow all year, especially in these challenging and unpredictable economic times. The end of the year presents them with a good opportunity to make gifts they may have been planning on all year, but were unable to do earlier in the year.

Why do most major donors give at years-end?
A major misconception is that most people give at year-end for tax purposes. While the deadline does impact the timing, most research shows that taxes are not the top reason people give. The major reason people give is still the same - to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Most have a relationship with their nonprofit or ministry and see the year-end as the correct timing to make the gift they have been planning on. Or they have set aside extra to be able to make urgent need gifts to some charities.

What kind of strategy should we use at year-end?
Remember, year-end is also close to year-start! People give to the future, not the past. Many year-end donors are giving to you to allow you to do your vital work in the year ahead. Vision motivates people to give. So, point donors to the vision for the future and what might be accomplished through their faithful support. Give them a "picture" of what you see in your ministry in 2009.

[posted by Shannon D. Barnes, based off material written by John Frank of The Frank Group, // Need to get your year-end fundraising efforts together? Let us help. Contact us -]