Monday, May 18, 2009

Council on Foundations – New Report on Foundations and the Economy and a Quick Annual Conference ReCap

The Council on Foundations has released a 24 page report on how Foundations are coping with the economic downturn. Some of the data we have heard anecdotally before but this report provides the results of a survey with 430 foundations of all sizes participating. Here are some key highlights:

Asset and Grantmaking Statistics
73% had assets decline by more than 25% in 2008
67% had an additional 10% or more loss in assets in Jan-Feb 2009

62% will reduce their total grantmaking in 2009
25% will reduce their 2009 grantmaking by more than 25%
92% are making grants in 2009 to aid low income families
60% are cutting their 2009 operating budget

The Silver Lining Is Funding Operating Expense
83% reported funding operating expense for nonprofits
8% said funding operating expenses was a new area for them
20% plan to increase operating funding in 2009

How Foundations Will Reduce their Grantmaking
The most common responses were smaller grants (63%) and not making multi year grants (46%). It will be much harder this year to be a new grantee at many foundations.

Innovation by Grantmakers
The economic downturn is also inspiring innovation and developing new approaches by grantmakers. 72% of funders say they are collaborating with other funders. Collaboration has long been a favorite idea of funders for nonprofits and now they are stepping up by setting the example themselves. 62% of funders are convening meetings - sometimes with other funders and MSOs – to develop strategies for dealing with the economy. I personally participated in one such conference last month as a speaker on “Social Networking and Fundraising.” 30% of foundations are helping nonprofits to merge operations.

Foundations Approach to Cutting Their Own Expenses
Foundations are also taking steps to reduce their own expenses. Over 60% say they are limiting attendance at conferences and reducing travel budgets. This was evident by the smaller crowd at the Council on Foundations conference this year. 45% have implemented salary freezes and 5% have actually reduced salaries. 27% have a hiring freeze and 15% have eliminated positions. 11 percent have reduced staff hours. Other steps being taken to reduce expenses include reducing professional development and paid professional memberships expense and reducing staff benefits. Only 13% report not taking any of these actions.

60% report making non-staff related expense reduction including institutional memberships, significantly reducing use of consultants (Editorial comment - Ouch!), using email to send Board materials and reducing investment management expense.

Interestingly, larger foundations have been even more aggressive in taking these steps than smaller ones. Foundations seem to be paralleling steps by corporations in reducing expenses across a broad spectrum.
Council on Foundations Report

Council on Foundations Annual Conference Featuring Bill Clinton
The Council of Foundations held their annual conference in Atlanta in early May. You can read excellent articles about the conference at Sean Stannard-Stockton’s blog, Tactical Philanthropy. 12 guest bloggers provided reports on international organizations, foundation storytelling, next generation grantmakers
dealing with the economic crisis, communications and more. Attendance at the conference was way down this year because of budget cuts, but that did not dampen the excitement of the big event - closing keynote by President Bill Clinton.
Tactical Philanthropy Annual Conference Guest Blogger Posts

Council of Foundations website - See Bill Clinton's Address

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

How to Use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for Advocacy and Fundraising

In March and April I discussed the boring stuff you should do before starting with Social Networking and getting started/how to develop a network. Now here is the part that everyone wants to know about – fundraising and advocacy on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

The previous post is an excellent slide show about fundraising on Facebook by Mike Ames. I totally agree with Mike – You can use Facebook to fundraise but don’t waste your time with Causes. You can see the statistics in the slide show and make your own decision. There are a few success stories with Causes but the fact is that those campaigns were run by top social media experts with very deep networks. If you have one of those people working with you then by all means consider using Causes. Otherwise, follow Mike’s step by step advice to build relationships and then go for fundraising using your Facebook page as a base. You can use the same approach to build awareness and advocacy.
See Mike Ames Blog

Twitter (and Facebook)
Once you have followers, then you are ready to begin fundraising on Twitter. The first and easiest way to use Twitter is to promote your events with a link to the information. This is especially useful for Arts events and informal drop-in no advance reservation needed type events. Have just one or two tweets a couple of days before the event but have 3 or 4 the day of the event. In addition to the basic information on the website change up or add a story every day for a few days and then your tweet can have something new to say. “Creating Buzz” is an essential skill for effective social networking.

Younger people give less and like to give to smaller campaigns that provide a sense that their donation matters. Structure your campaigns to them if they are your Twitter followers. Remember the whole campaign is 140 characters. So the Tweet would be something like “For every 100 people who donate $20 this week we can send 10 kids to summer camp In July see pics on website (link to website donation page).” Promise and deliver the feedback.

Use Twitter to encourage what I call “Celebration Giving.” Twitter people sometimes ask for donations to a particular cause to celebrate their birthday or other major milestone among their Twitter followers. Then they post whenever someone contributes. This also works with Facebook pages. The link on Twitter can be to a Facebook page – it does not have to be to your website. Check out some sample Facebook pages that you can recommend as examples and Tweet about them. This is the real power of social networking - not just what you do but what you get others to do for your organization.

A good way to promote advocacy on Twitter is to follow the major national organizations who provide leadership in information and advocacy and retweet their key messages to your followers. This is simple, not time consuming and effective. I follow a number of individuals and organizations with excellent advocacy messages and my knowledge, interest and likelihood to give to those causes has been greatly increased.

There are two important features to remember about LinkedIn. You must join as an individual – not an organization and fundraising is against the terms of service. However, you can build an impressive network on LinkedIn and also reach out to those not in your immediate network. You can send a message to your whole network (Be very careful to not abuse this – LinkedIn does monitor reports of problem members) and you can post in Events. My favorite way to reach people on LinkedIn is to join groups (You can start one too) where you can start and participate in discussions. You can use groups for advocacy, to promote events and to find volunteers and Board Members. LinkedIn can be a valuable networking resource.

This is just a getting started article. Please leave a comment and share how you are using Social Networking for fundraising and advocacy. Follow me on Twitter and invite me to join your network on LinkedIn. This completes this series of articles and next week I’ll be blogging on a different topic.