Fundraising

A NY Time Business Section article recently described donor-advised funds as “a trendy philanthropic loophole.”

While the article focused on the tax benefits and timing of setting up a donor-advised fund after a tech company goes public, the larger issue – of appearing to be public-spirited without losing control of your money – was only barely mentioned.

Setting up a donor-advised fund is, often but not always, a way to feel that one is doing good – without committing to a single social issue or cause. 

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Six people, soon to become five by attrition, sit around a board table. “There’s so few of us to do the work” one of the members sighs.

The obvious answer? Recruit a couple more people who are inspired by the organization’s work with autistic children and would be honored to be among those responsible for the agency’s well-being.

Yet the board hesitates.

We have to clarify our committee structure...

Our financials look too dicey…

We need to get through a tricky personnel matter…

The people we most need won’t want to join this club.

The rationalizations for inaction go on and on. 

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Fewer Americans are giving to charity – but the ones who do, are giving more.

That’s the tale told in a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article exploring the “vanishing” donor base.

How are fundraising-savvy nonprofits dealing with it? The ones looking hard at current returns are concentrating more and more of their efforts on major gifts – those donations that can have substantial impact on the bottom line.

But nonprofits that are also focused on the future, are spending equal energy courting mid-level donors – those $250, $500 donors whose loyalty will grow over time.

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Galas.

So beloved yet so reviled…

So expensive yet so rewarding…

So much focus on quid pro quo asking (who will buy a table?) – yet so great an opportunity to make your case…

How can we get the most out of the extraordinary energy required to put on a gala? 

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Ever been to a potluck where everyone brought dessert? Or a gathering that ended up with 12 different kinds of chips?

A potluck works best with a signup sheet – and curation. People feel responsible for doing their best on their own unique dish; and they’re assured there won’t be three sets of brownies, or five kinds of pasta.

There are lessons here for the organization of a board of directors into committees. 

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