Appeal to donors’ highest values

Donors care about causes and want to improve their communities.

Yet instead of appealing to their personal and philanthropic values, nonprofits often treat donors as if they were automated teller machines.

Appeal letters should focus on what matters to donors.

And that requires you do your homework.

What causes does the donor care about? What community needs are in sync with the donor’s concerns? How will supporting your nonprofit improve the community and advance the donor’s philanthropic values?

Then weave the answers to those questions into a clear and concise story that touches the donor’s heart.

And keep it simple. Less is more.

To engage donors, focus on what matters to them.

Want help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or

Fundraising, Part 3: Higher education cultivates major gifts

By Todd Cohen

[This article was written for Blackbaud.]

A rebounding economy and long-term investment in major gift donors paid off for colleges and universities in 2013, says John Lippincott, president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, or CASE.

Schools that have shown fundraising success also are doing a good job in their stewardship of donors, including younger donors, by engaging them in their institutions in ongoing ways, he says.

In a CASE survey a year ago, its members said they expected 5.8 percent growth in giving in 2013, compared to 2012, a projected pace roughly equivalent to the 20-year average growth for CASE members.

“We are now back to normal rates of growth in the aftermath of the recession,” Lippincott says.

Driving that growth has been the recovering economy, and the cultivation of major gift donors, or those making gifts of seven figures or more, he says.

In a fundraising campaign with a goal of $1 billion or more, 87 percent of funds typically are given by 1 percent of donors, and those major gifts generally are a function of “the number of times you ask,” he says.

“What is accounting for the kind of success people are anticipating comes down to the development of the relationships with the major donor community,” Lippincott says. “Those donors are giving as a result of the long-term relationships they have with the institutions.”

Institutions that are doing well “are the ones that spent a lot of time listening to their donors during the worst of the recession,” he says. “And they’re reaping the benefits now.”

Key to cultivating those donors is to find ways to meet the growing expectation of major donors to have “a level of engagement with the institution beyond simply the transaction of the gift,” he says.

That kind of stewardship, which often can lead to future gifts, typically involves inviting major donors to serve, either formally or informally, in an advisory or governance role at the school so they truly become key advisers and “stakeholders” in the institution, Lippincott says.

Colleges and universities also are looking for ways to maintain relationships with major donors.

Scholarships represent a good opportunity to develop those relationships by providing donors with ongoing interaction with scholarship students, with the donors often serving as mentors for the students.

Schools also have been working to better engage younger donors.

Research shows Millennial donors, or those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, are as generous as other generations were at the same age, but that they are “much more focused on wanting to support the things that matter to them,” Lippincott says.

“The appeal that institutions often will make is a very specific appeal to people several years out of the institution,” he says, so those young alumni “can see how this is going to have a meaningful and immediate impact,” he says.

A school might ask recent graduates and even current students to support a bike-sharing program on campus, for example, “something real that they can relate to, rather than a general appeal,” he says.

In comparison, says Lippincott, a 1971 graduate of Wesleyan University, his annual gifts to his alma mater are made “out of a sense of general obligation, rather than what my money is actually going to.”

Schools also are making increasing use of digital media to more effectively reach donors, and not only younger alumni, he says.

“The greatest age group for growth in social media is the 65-plus age group,” he says.

For younger donors, who handle many if not all their transactions online, digital media represents a natural platform for giving.

For those donors, social media also represent a platform that is “more more important for donor acquisition than it is for dollar acquisition,” Lippincott says.

“Even if gifts from recent graduates are $10 or $25 gifts, using social media, it’s as important that you’ve gotten those recent graduates into the habit of giving, and acquired information about what they’re interested in, and can use that to sharpen the appeal,” he says.

Planned giving also has become an key fundraising program at many colleges and universities.

Major donors, who account for most of the recent growth in fundraising revenue, often want to make their gifts through planned giving vehicles, Lippincott says.

And at a time of low interest rates, he says, donors often prefer planned giving strategies such as annuities that make regular payments to donors, with the remainder of the gift going to the college or university.

“Those annuity payments now are quite appealing,” he says, “because they frequently pay significantly higher interest rates, rather than people parking their money in any fixed income asset.”

Next: Data key for independent schools

The series:

Part 1: Growth tied to capacity, cultivation, communication.

Part 2: Healthcare groups invest in capacity.

Part 3: Higher education cultivates major gifts.

Part 4: Data key for independent schools.

Part 5: International affairs groups refine message.

Part 6: Religion focuses on fundamentals.

Part 7: Arts and culture groups focus on donors.

Part 8: United Way diversifies.

Part 9: Conservation groups connect with donors.

Part 10: Communication, planning key for human services.

Part 11: Peer-to-peer strategy fuels medical research.

Durham congregations house homeless families

By Todd Cohen

DURHAM, N.C. — When the Durham Interfaith Hospitality Network opened on Jan. 8, 1994, the only emergency shelters in the community forced homeless families to split up, with fathers needing to stay in separate shelters from the ones their families stayed in.

“There was really no emergency shelter in Durham for families that would keep families together,” says Catherine Pleil, executive director of DIHN.

Looking for a way to keep homeless families whole, an interfaith group known as Durham Congregations in Action looked at strategies throughout the U.S. and found a national model in a group of congregations in Summit, N.J., that took turns providing emergency shelter.

The result was DIHN, which now consists of over 30 congregations and, over the past 20 years, has provided over 40,000 nights of shelter and over 100,000 meals to roughly 265 families.

Now, the agency is looking for ways to help homeless families get back on their feet by providing transitional housing, expanding support services it provides to better serve clients with mental health challenges, and better involving its more than 800 volunteers in its work.

“We’re looking at what is really the best way to serve our guests,” says Pleil, who worked as a volunteer for DIHN for over 10 years before becoming executive director in 2009 after retiring from a 30-year career at IBM.

Three families at any given time stay for up to three months in emergency housing provided by 12 “host” congregations, with the other congregations providing food and other assistance.

The families rotate among the congregations, staying from Sunday night through Saturday night at one congregation before moving to another for a week. Each host congregation provides a separate room for each family in a classroom, office or other available space.

Within those three months, DIHN tries to help each family find jobs and permanent housing.

Faced with a long waiting list, Pleil says, DIHN in December 2012 began renting a house that has space for two additional families, and provides space for a third family in the house it owns that serves as its headquarters.

Those three additional families also can stay for up to three months, and they get dinner once a week.

DIHN also provides support services such as helping families find day care, arrange for a bus from the Durham Public Schools to pick up their children, and find jobs.

It also partners with other agencies such as Dress for Success and the JobLink Career Center for the City of Durham to help its clients create resumes and prepare for job interviews and the world of work.

And in 2010, with a grant from Durham County, it added a program that provides support services for 24 families for a year after they leave the emergency housing its member congregations provide.

DIHN, which operates with an annual budget of about $250,000 and a staff of three people, generates revenue from congregations, events, individuals, corporations, and government, which now accounts for 30 percent of its revenue, down from 40 percent in 2011.

The agency now is studying the feasibility of providing families with stationary housing, rather than having them rotate among congregations, providing more support for clients with mental illness and more stability for children, and engaging volunteers in ways that make better use of their skills.

The goal, Pleil says, is to find a “different service model that would serve our clients even better and engage our volunteers in a way that would be better for our guests and more fulfilling to volunteers.”

College and university fundraising hits record-high

Giving to U.S. colleges and universities grew 9 percent in fiscal 2013 to $33.8 billion, a record high, a new survey says.

Stanford University raised the most money, $931.57 million, while Duke University raised the most in North Carolina, $423.66 million, trailing only nine other schools throughout the U.S.

Alumni giving grew 16.9 percent, more than any other source of support, although alumni participation fell to 8.7 percent from 9.2 percent in fiscal 2012, says the annual Voluntary Support of Education survey from the Council for Aid to Education.

Alumni giving grew $1.3 billion to $9 billion and was the main source of the $2.8 billion increase in overall support.

Among schools that provided details on alumni giving, gifts from alumni for capital purposes and for current operations both grew in 2013, with the average gift per contributing alumnus growing 18.1 percent.

Foundation giving grew $850 million to $10 billion, giving by other organizations grew $400 million to $3.2 billion, giving by non-alumni individuals grew $375 million to $6.2  billion, and giving by religious organizations grew $25 million to $300 million, while corporate giving fell $150 million to $5.1 billion.

Among 951 schools that responded to the survey both years, 59.5 percent raised more in 2013 than in 2012.

Among all colleges and universities, contributions for current operations grew 6.9 percent, while gifts for capital purposes grew 12.4 percent.

In the aggregate, the value of endowments of 942 schools that supplied endowment data by January 15, 2014, grew 9.8 percent, with 96.6 percent of those schools reporting their endowment values had increased in 2013.

In 2012, only 44.3 percent of responding schools reported an increase in their endowments, and endowment values in the aggregate showed no growth.

In addition to Stanford and Duke, the schools that raised the most money were:

* Harvard University, $792.26 million.

* University of Southern California, $674.51 million.

* Columbia University, $646.66 million.

* Johns Hopkins University, $518.57 million.

* University of Pennsylvania, $506.61 million.

* Cornell University, $474.96 million.

* New York University, $449.34 million.

* Yale University, $444.17 million.

In addition to Duke, North Carolina schools that raised the most money were:

* University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, $272.77 million.

* North Carolina State University, $131.38 million.

* Wake Forest University, $79.63 million.

* Davidson College, $35.47 million.

* Queens University of Charlotte, $15.77 million.

* East Carolina University, $15.35 million.

* University of North Carolina at Greensboro, $13.07 million.

* Appalachian State University, $12.05 million.

* University of North Carolina at Charlotte, $11.17 million.

Todd Cohen

Nonprofit news roundup, 02.14.14

Methodist Home raises $235,000, honors ‘Guardian Angels’

Methodist Home for Children in Raleigh raised $235,000 through its January 25 gala to support its ministry to vulnerable children and families in North Carolina.

At the gala, which in its 17th year drew over 500 guests, the Methodist Home inducted individuals and entities into its Guardian Agency Society in recognition of their commitment to children in need.

Those inducted were Louise Burevitch of Wilmington; Hunter Snow Mission Fund for Children; James and Mildred Wilkinson Charitable Trust; Millbrook United Methodist Church of Raleigh; and Jenny and Erik Ross of Apex.

Blackbaud posts growth in revenue, net income

Blackbaud, a provider of software and services for nonprofits, reported increases in revenue and net income for the fourth quarter and year ended Dec. 31, 2013.

Total revenue grew to $134.9 million for the fourth quarter and $503.8 million for the year, up from $120.1 million and $447.4 million, respectively, for the same periods last year.

Net income grew to $11.8 million, or 26 cents a share, for the fourth quarter, and $30.5 million, or 67 cents a share, for the year, up from $3.3 million, or 7 cents a share, and $6.6 million or 15 cents a share, respectively, in the same periods last year.

Blackbaud’s board of directors approved a first quarter dividend of 12 cents a share payable on March 14 to stockholders of record on February 28.

Blackbaud reported it works with over 29,000  customers in 69 countries that raise over $100 billion a year using its technology.

SAFEchild gets $25,000

SAFEchild, a child abuse prevention agency in Raleigh, received $25,000 from the Nationwide Foundation to support a parents program in collaboration with Motheread, a nonprofit that combines the teaching of literacy skills with child development and family empowerment

NCCJ receives $35,000, schedules awards dinner

The National Conference for Community and Justice of the Piedmont Triad has received four grants, totaling $35,000, that will support programs for youth and adults throughout the Triad.

NCCJ also has scheduled the 48th Annual NCCJ Brotherhood/Sisterhood Citation Award Dinner for November 13, 2014.

Grants include:

* $15,000 from the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation Grant for Human Service at United Way of Greater Greensboro to support programming for ANYDAY, a one-day program that introduces the concepts of social justice, inclusion and diversity.

* $10,000 from the John J. Pohanka Family Foundation for general operational support.

* $5,000 from Ecolab Foundation to support programming for ANYTOWN, a residential summer program that provides Guilford County students with an opportunity to live and interact with a diverse group of students.

* $5,000 from the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro for the Community Conversations program partnership with the City of Greensboro.

Chairing this year’s awards dinner, to be held at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center, are Don and Jayne Cameron.

Don Cameron is retired president emeritus of Guilford Technical Community College and president and CEO of Don Cameron & Associates, an educational leadership consulting firm.

Jayne Cameron is a retired Guilford County Schools media specialist.

The conference is expected to attract over 1,000 business and community leaders to recognize a citizen or citizens of the Piedmont Triad region for making significant contributions toward creating a community free of bias, bigotry and racism.

Winston-Salem Foundation gives $558,000

The Winston-Salem Foundation in January made 26 community grants totaling $558,143 to organizations the areas of animal welfare, arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services, and public interest.

Goodwill gets $21,000

Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina in Winston-Salem received a $21,000  grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation to provide a comprehensive suite of youth career planning, development, education, training and job placement services to at-risk youth.

Goodwill plans to put the program into effect in Forsyth and Stokes counties, working to help youth develop career plans; complete high school or obtain a GED; be better prepared to make career and life choices; select education and training opportunities; and obtain employment.

Goetz Foundation gets $1,500

Noah Z.M. Goetz Foundation received a $1,500 grant from the Archway Foundation. The grant recognizes NZMG Foundation’s work to help couples facing infertility through domestic adoption.

Junior Achievement teams with maker of Texas Pete

Junior Achievement of Central North Carolina announced a partnership with TW Garner Food Company, the maker of Texas Pete hot sauces, to provide programming that introduces every first grade student at North Hills Elementary School in Winston-Salem to concepts of entrepreneurship, employment, goods and services, and the difference between wants and needs.

Teens honored for volunteerism

Molly Paul, 15, and Leanne Joyce, 14, have been named North Carolina’s top two youth volunteers of 2014 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Molly, a sophomore at Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh, operates Raleigh Aquatic Turtle Adoption, an adoption agency for unwanted pet turtles, and also makes and sells soap products to support native turtles, their habitat and conservation education.

Leanne, an eighth-grader at Grey Culbreth Middle School in Chapel Hill, started “Positive Impact for Kids,” a nonprofit that raises money for gifts for sick children and teens in 18 pediatric hospitals across 15 states.

Bowman joins Mint Museum board

Charles Bowman, North Carolina and Charlotte market president for Bank of America, has joined board of trustees at The Mint Museum in Charlotte.

Storr Office Environments to donate office makeovers

To celebrate its 100th anniversary, Storr Office Environments in Raleigh will give away $100,000 in office makeovers to two local nonprofits.

Indiana nonprofit sector grew through recession

Despite two recessions that hit Indiana’s for-profit sector hard, the state’s nonprofit sector grew every year from 1995 through 2011, although that growth was uneven and driven mainly by the nonprofit health care and education industries, says a new report from Indiana University.

Give prospective donors something to remember you by

After you talk to donors, give them a short write-up that summarizes what your organization does, the difference it makes for the people you serve, and how people can support you.

The write-up, or “leave-behind,” can be a simple brochure or flyer, or even just a sheet of paper.

But whatever format you use — and your budget may determine that — keep it simple and easy to understand.

Boil your story down to short sentences, and use short headlines and blocs of type to make it easy for readers to quickly find the information you want them to see.

Your also might use bullet points or simple info boxes to illustrate who you serve and the impact you have.

You should use the leave-behind to help prospective donors quickly remember what you told them, and to show them the value of supporting your organization.

Leave a lasting impression.

Want help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or