Monday, April 07, 2014

NTC14 - Chronicle of Philanthropy Party

I already posted my highlights of the Nonprofit Technology Conference in March but The Chronicle of Philanthropy just posted pictures taken at the photo booth at their party on Facebook.  And I just had to share this one....

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Nonprofit Research Collaborative Study Sparks Hope for Fundraising in 2014

At the AFP Conference this week, the big talk for fundraisers was about the good fundraising news in 2013 and outlook for 2014.  It is based on the definitive annual study by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative taken during February 2014.  More than 500 nonprofits participated in the survey.  here are the factual results with analytical remarks about what it all means.

You can see the whole report here.

The bottom line for many fundraisers was this good news:  2013 was the strongest year since the recession started and 70% of respondents expect additional gains in 2014.  But the devil is always in the details so let’s take a look at what else we should listen to about what was learned in this report.

First of all, over 70% of medium and large organizations reported gains in 2013 but only 52% of small organizations did.  While 70% of environment  and 68% of education organizations reported increases in 2013 only  52% of arts and religion and 60% of human services organizations reported increases reported increases.  Beyond the overall numbers there are always the haves and have nots.

When asked “What most positively affected your organization’s fundraising in 2013 there was a wide range of answers.  The categories above 10% included: 
  • asking/stewardship/cultivation 
  • mission/program/telling our story 
  • media/news/online   
The study supports the key advice that nonprofits have heard over the last few years as this is what the experts have been saying they should concentrate on.
The categories that 10% or less of respondents attributed to having the most positive affect included staffing, overall economy, having a plan, foundation or corporate giving,  campaign success, event/gala/anniversary, strong leadership and bequests/pledge payments/memorials.  

Interesting results.


Direct mail, foundations and corporations continue to be important to most nonprofits for fundraising but the trend cannot be overlooked.  Although still small, the growth rate in online giving is consistently more than 10% than giving by direct mail, foundations or corporations. 

Nonprofits need to think more deliberately about what they are spending their limited resources on or they will find them themselves too late to the party just like what has happened to the newspaper industry.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Nonprofit Technology Conference: NTC14 – The Best and Biggest Ever!

The best continuous learning experience that I treat myself to is the Nonprofit Technology Conference sponsored by NTEN.  This year’s conference was the biggest ever and attended by over 2000 people.  Just picture it  - over 2000 people interested in nonprofits using technology all converged at the same place for four days.  Yeah… is that great.

Each day started with a plenary session centered on “Big Ideas.”  The first day featured a NTC staple – “Ignite” presentations.  They are five minute, 20 slide presentations which capture humor to get their point across.  This year’s Ignites included Steve Heye’s “Bringin Techie Back, Rich Dietz’s “Online Fundraising Lessons learned from 80’s TV Shows and Cheryl Contee’s 7 Sexy Secrets of Highly Successful Campaigns.  On Saturday, Willa Seldon of Bridgespan discussed The Future of Technology.  Willa talked about using technology to increase human interaction.  She said our constituents – not clients  (I really like this word sooooo much better) are an underutilized asset and she talked about not just using technology to scale, but in new ways to change the way things are done. She talked about using technology in such a way that allows our constituents to make their own changes. She used FitBit as an example and recommended the book, Nudge by Richard Thaler and Drive by Daniel Pink.  Both are now on my reading list.

There were numerous breakout sessions offered each morning and afternoon and the biggest problem everyone had was deciding on which one to go to.  A bigger problem was overflowing crowds at too many sessions. I stood through 2 sessions and sat on the floor for another. There are no slackers at NTC only conferees hungry to absorb all that they can.

Two of my favorites included:

Go Fund Yourself - Everything You Need Today to Start with Fundraising: Jason Shim (Pathways to Education Canada), Lesley Mansford (Razoo) and Rob Wu (CauseVox).  This session was chockfull of ideas and practical tips for being successful with crowdfunding.   I will be writing a whole separate article on this topic.  So glad to see that Jason won this year’s NTEN Award – he is a technology changemaker!  Idealware has two new reports on this subject – it’s a good place to start.

Shelving Legacy, Sparking Innovation, Building Effective Technology for Philanthropy Panel

Shelving Legacy, Sparking Innovation, Building Effective Technology for Philanthropy: Eric Leland (Five Paths), Catherine Eusebio (AAPIP), Maureen O’Brien (The Philanthropic Initiative, Elizabeth Pope (Idealware) David Krumlauf (Pierce Family Foundation), Jereme Bivins (Rockerfeller Foundation) – This was my favorite session. Each participant described a way their foundation was helping nonprofits with technology and the answers were varied including:

  • Provides direct tech support
  • Organizes conferences and networking opportunities for nonprofit tech people
  • Accepts online applications
  • Assists with designing RFPs for technology
  • Develops digital records making them available to field offices
  • Awards grants for technology consulting

The most important and straightforward message I heard was: It’s not about the technology, it’s about the mission and that’s where the conversation needs to begin.  I’ve written about this multiple times associated with technology funding and that still is the key message nonprofits need to hear when requesting funding for technology.  A couple of areas of particular interest to funders include using the cloud and maximizing use of CRMs.  Idealware has a new guide - A Funders Guide to Supporting Nonprofit Technology: 10 Ways to Build Your Grantees' Technical Savvy.  Download it for free here.

The "Science Fair" is always well attended

NTC calls the exhibit hall the “Science Fair.”  There is a young, informal crowd at NTC for sure, but they are a serious bunch about their work.  Perhaps “Science Fair” is meant to project something more serious than exhibit hall but frankly, it sounds a bit juvenile to me.  Nevertheless, with over 150 exhibitors there is much to see and learn.  I visited companies and organizations that I knew well and others that I never heard of.  But I had the most fun at the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s booth where I had this picture taken.

NTC may be nerd heaven, but nerds know how to have fun too.  And there was no shortage of parties in the evening to top off a great day.  I enjoyed the overcrowded but enthusiastic party now a tradition at NTC conferences - #ntcbeer on Wednesday with an overflow crowd overtaking a microbrew pub in the Adams Morgan section of DC. Blackbaud provided appetizers.  On Thursday I went to the Nonprofit Engagement Party sponsored by Idealist Consulting.  This one was hopping with a DJ, photo booth and free drinks and appetizers.  Lots of networking and fun.  On Friday there are numerous progressive parties sponsored by exhibitors but I went to just one - the best party of all sponsored by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.  It was the closest to the hotel and did not feature a DJ.  It was popular with us few “grey hairs” at the conference and attracted a big crowd of all ages.  It was conducive to networking while enjoying wine and delicious appetizers (French restaurant) and I even took this picture at the photo booth.

And before I left on Saturday I bought a NTEN travel coffee mug.  I needed to have a souvenir of NTC.

The Nerd Bingo t-shirts were the most coveted awards.

To wrap it up, NTC is the best nonprofit conference you could possibly attend.  It attracts an intelligent, committed, engaged friendly crowd and the learning and networking opportunities cannot be beat.  If you have the opportunity you should definitely attend NTC conference. Locations are rotated across the country and next year it is in Austin, Texas. Check the NTEN website for details as they emerge. Can’t wait!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Bill and Melinda Gates Annual Letter - Debunking Myths

Each year the nonprofit community eagerly awaits the annual Bill and Melinda Gates letter.  This isn’t the foundation’s annual report - that is released separately later in the year.  This is a personal letter by the Gates.  I always find it fascinating and write about it.  And what a letter it is this year.
This year this blog will focus on Philanthropy and there is no better place to start than a discussion about the annual Gates’ Letter.

The theme for this year’s letter is  "3 MYTHS THAT BLOCK PROGRESS FOR THE POOR."  Bill writes about the first two and Melinda writes about the third myth.  Bill starts out with a very positive read on the progress that has been made on an overall basis and makes the bottom line assessment that the world is a better place and significant progress has been made.  But holding back continued investment in this success are these myths:  the poor will remain poor, that efforts to help them are wasted, and that saving lives will only make things worse.

Bill and Melinda methodically look at each of these myths and debunk them.

Many of the countries we used to call poor now have thriving economies. And the percentage of very poor people has dropped by more than half since 1990.  Bill points out countries such as China, Brazil and Botswanna as examples.  Bill specifically takes on statistics for Africa reporting that more countries are turning toward strong sustained development, and that 7 of the 10 fastest-growing economies of the past five years are in Africa.  He notes the major strides in health and education but also the disparity amongst the poorest and better off African countries and rural and urban areas.  The bottom line: Poor countries are not doomed to stay poor.  Bill Gates is so confident about this that he made this prediction which is getting a lot of media attention:  By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world.
Bill Gates is no Pollyanna and he admits that there will still be poor people in countries that are becoming self sufficient and countries with serious political problems may not share in this overall better life for all that he envisions. 

Myth #2: FOREIGN AID IS A BIG WASTE by Bill Gates
Bill says that the stories of what happens with foreign aid are distorted.  He reports that what he and Melinda have seen is people living longer, getting healthier, and escaping poverty – partly due to this aid.  Bill describes aid as a “fantastic investment” that lays the groundwork for long term economic progress.  He notes that the Gates Foundation has a reputation for a hard-nosed focus on results, and they partner with government aid programs and does a lot to help these programs be more efficient and measure their progress.

Bill says that foreign aid is much less than people think it is off the top of their head.  At $30 Billion it is about 1% of the US budget. This does not include military aid.  The country with the highest rate of giving, Norway, gives 3%.  After a bunch more statistics – Bill’s letters are always full of facts and figures – he comes to the most profound conclusion – “healthy children do more than merely survive. They go to school and eventually work, and over time they make their countries more self-sufficient.  This is why I say aid is such a bargain.”

Corruption and Aid Dependence
Bill addresses the role of corruption but dismisses it as much less than people envision.  He also notes that some much touted corruption is found through audits and thwarted that way.

Another argument from critics is that aid holds back normal economic development, keeping countries dependent on generosity.  Bill discusses the impact of different kinds of aid and the value of research and implementing new tools that lead to economic development.  He says that the money spent today on a Green Revolution for Africa is helping countries grow more food, making them less dependent as well. That’s why the Gates Foundation spends over a third of its grants on developing new tools.

The bottom line for Bill: Health aid is a phenomenal investment. He says: “Let’s put this achievement in historical perspective. A baby born in 1960 had an 18% chance of dying before her fifth birthday. For a child born today, the odds are less than 5%. In 2035, they will be 1.6%. I can’t think of any other 75-year improvement in human welfare that would even come close.

Above all, I hope we can stop discussing whether aid works, and spend more time talking about how it can work better

Well  - he has me convinced. But does all this saving lives lead to overpopulation?  Onto Myth #3 written by Melinda.

Melinda  writes passionately about this topic saying, “We make the future sustainable when we invest in the poor, not when we insist on their suffering.  The statistics bear this out as the correlation between child death and birth rates is strong.  Melinda writes about the role of education and health for women leading to better lives including having less children as they learn about birth control and feel more secure about the survival of their children. “Saving lives doesn’t lead to overpopulation. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Creating societies where people enjoy basic health, relative prosperity, fundamental equality, and access to contraceptives is the only way to secure a sustainable world. We will build a better future for everyone by giving people the freedom and the power to build a better future for themselves and their families.”

Bill and Melinda have taken the time to share their philosophy, their world view and the facts of all the investment made to make the world a better place.  What do they hope you will do with this information? 
·       Tell political leaders that you care about saving lives and that you support foreign aid.
·       You should know that organizations working in health and development offer a phenomenal return on your money.
·       The next time someone claims that saving children causes overpopulation,  explain the facts. You can help bring about a new global belief that every life has equal value.

This infographic from the report captures a lot of information:

This is just a summary.  You should read the whole letter – Click here and enjoy the letter, graphs, videos and beautiful pictures that Bill and Melinda have shared with us.