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DAF = DONOR ADVISED FUNDS OR DIFFICULT ASSET FINDING?

Dear development professionals and other citizens interested in raising money, make no mistake, there are Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) sitting on a lot of cash right now. There has been a huge increase in DAFS since 2008, and they are not going away anytime soon. So how do we as fundraising professionals deal with this phenomenon?

Grantmaking from DAFs has slowed since 2008 – by a lot! Payout rates from DAFs have been declining slowly every year, from 2008 (20% of assets) through 2013 (14% of assets).  DAFs are not subject to excise taxes, payout rules or disclosure agreements, like private foundations. Even worse, no federal law requires that those funds ever be distributed to charity! Call your Congressperson to object, since donors get to take that tax exemption once they put their money into the DAF. It could be decades before those dollars ever find their way to a charity. Continue reading “DAF = DONOR ADVISED FUNDS OR DIFFICULT ASSET FINDING?”

Seven Grant Tips for 2017

I recently requested feedback from a funder when I learned that my really good request was turned down. My proposal was strong, the fit with the funder was excellent, but I knew the competition would be intense. I just didn’t realize how intense. Nonetheless, it is still a best practice to ask, so ask I did.

The funder responded that she had received more than 1000 applications nationwide, and they could only fund 140 total. In New England, she had received 150 proposals, and could only fund 4! So right from the get-go, that funder was only going to fund 2% of all the good proposals that were submitted.
Does it make sense to apply to this funder in the future, vis a vis my client’s time and/or budget?  Continue reading “Seven Grant Tips for 2017”

Big Ideas Matter! Is Your Annual Appeal Thinking Big?

Whether it be politics or philanthropy, having big ideas and goals are crucial to raising money. Exhibit One would be the Bernie Sanders campaign, which was enormously successful considering a small-state Senator candidate who was previously unaffiliated with either major party. He raised $210 Million, from more than 2.4 million contributors. He didn’t win the democratic primary, but he changed the political landscape on how to run, how to engage people and what is possible to request of one’s government.

butterfyA lot of small actions (or contributions) can lead to big changes.  The term “Butterfly Effect” was coined in 1972 by Edward Lorenz, a meteorologist.  He had observed that something as small and insignificant as a butterfly’s wings flapping in Brazil could set off a hurricane in Texas! Continue reading “Big Ideas Matter! Is Your Annual Appeal Thinking Big?”

CHARITY FOR THOSE IN NEED

Those of us in philanthropy know the names Rockefeller and Carnegie well. They are large foundations that distribute oodles of money, and have for the past century. But 100 years ago, those names were associated with something else diametrically opposed to saintly philanthropist. They were known as Robber Barons. Talk about successful spin.

They literally brought bags of cash to politicians, to buy their votes. They had the enormous sums of cash, so they felt that they should have all the power. And they did until strict laws were passed in the early 1900s that limited monopoly power.  Large corporations were broken up to ensure competition and fair prices. And to guarantee that the political economy was not swayed in the direction of those with the enormous sums of cash.                                                                         man carrying moneybag Continue reading “CHARITY FOR THOSE IN NEED”

TO PURSUE OR NOT TO PURSUE? The unrequited love of foundation grants

With foundation grants accounting for only 10% – 15% of all charitable gifts in the United States, nonprofits should carefully assess if it makes sense to dedicate time and resources to compete for them.

Make no mistake, grants are extremely competitive. Foundations tend to prefer funding programs (55%) –especially new programs– to general operating (29%) or capital costs (21%). To get a sense of the total number of foundations, amounts given and the sectors to which they give, you can find statistics at the Foundation Center website. You will learn fun facts like only the top 1% of grant recipients captured half of all U.S. grant dollars, and the health sector received the most (28%) grant dollars.

Continue reading “TO PURSUE OR NOT TO PURSUE? The unrequited love of foundation grants”

Guest Blog for Reflection Films: How fundraisers can be more successful

Recently, I was asked by Reflection Films to discuss how fundraisers can be more efficient and improve their odds for success. The results follow.

Q. How should busy fundraising professionals spend their time for maximum return?

A. It will vary a little by industry sector, but a fundraiser can never go wrong by spending more time deepening relationships with existing donors.  A nonprofit organization must continually acquire new donors to offset those that leave the area, die off, etc., but the bulk of fundraising dollars will come from existing donors.  So we need to deepen our relationships with them and our organization’s mission to increase the size of their gifts.

That said, I would recommend doing a good job in a few areas of fundraising concentration, such as major gifts and direct mail appeals, or foundation grants and special events, rather than trying to do everything without enough staff capacity. There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to ask for money.

Continue reading “Guest Blog for Reflection Films: How fundraisers can be more successful”

Dylan was right: The Times They Are A-Changing…. REFLECTIONS ON HOW THE GRANTS FIELD HAS CHANGED

When I started Proposals, Etc. in 2002, the field of proposal writing was starting a subtle change that has snowballed in the past ten years. Technology has changed how we approach and apply to foundations and the government alike.

Funder research is a lot easier.  In the 1990’s, we were still subscribing to and scouring the Federal Register for federal grant notices. We looked up foundation tax forms on microfiche (if you are younger than 30, ask your parents) in libraries. Now most funders have precise instructions and information available on websites everyone can access from their own computer or smart phone.Computers communicating

Continue reading “Dylan was right: The Times They Are A-Changing…. REFLECTIONS ON HOW THE GRANTS FIELD HAS CHANGED”

HOW MANY GENIUSES CAN SOCIETY AFFORD TO LOSE? THOUGHTS ON THE IMITATION GAME

This long, strange winter allowed me to see more movies than usual, one of which was The Imitation Game. The movie’s subject, an English mathematician named  Alan Turing, was clearly an odd duck, to phrase it nicely. Today we would use different words. He clearly was a man with AspergAlan Turiger’s Syndrome (on the autism spectrum) – brilliant, but with no social skills ability.

As a younger man during WWII England, he was not understood, or liked. Nonetheless, the times were dire, and his brainpower was required to crack the Nazi code so that Britain wouldn’t be bombed off the map. The story chronicles how he ended up working the military’s top-secret Enigma program, and despite not being liked by the small group of mathematician code crackers, they learned to trust him and his unique gifts. Continue reading “HOW MANY GENIUSES CAN SOCIETY AFFORD TO LOSE? THOUGHTS ON THE IMITATION GAME”

Reading Ease – Can You Hear me Now?

Flip phone John M. Cataldo, aka my father, used to hate the expression “Do you get it?” or “Do you understand?”

The question was, in his view,”Have I made myself clear?” The burden is on the speaker or writer to make sure that the audience understands his/her point. Donors, foundations, corporations shouldn’t have to work hard to understand what a nonprofit is trying to convey, especially if it involves a monetary ask!

Continue reading “Reading Ease – Can You Hear me Now?”

From Whitney Houston to Children with Autism: Nurturing Everyone’s Talents

When Whitney Houston died in 2012, the nation was shocked – despite her decade-long  drug addiction – and saddened.  The depth of the tragedy, felt not only by me, can be summed up by one word:  cheated. We had been cheated of her enormous talent and gifts.

We all have God-given talents, and roles to perform here on Earth. Some are great healers; others moving writers. Whitney Houston had the most beautiful gift of song – a rare instrument that could move people to tears and joy with just her voice.                               angel with harp
Continue reading “From Whitney Houston to Children with Autism: Nurturing Everyone’s Talents”