Embedded Philanthropy: A New Age of Giving

May 28, 2009

Philanthropy has become more than gifts to charity and is now a form of self expression. This can be best seen as businesses have started to use philanthropy to sell their products and improve their world.

We are at the beginning of a new age of giving and embedded philanthropy is one of the first signs. Everyday people are starting to see and understand that regardless of the amount of money they make they can make an impact in their world. As people have started to realize this businesses are following suit allowing people to give back through ordinary purchases.

But more can still be done, when I look at the value of some of the major players that participate in the RED campaign or the percentage many businesses give it is relatively small. I get more excited when I see a business that is willing to tackle a problem than one is using philanthropy as a tool to increase sales.

I think more can be done on the individual and consumer side too. A small case can be made that embedded philanthropy encourages giving but we should not stop at buying yogurt for the cure, or purchasing RED clothing. We should make philanthropy a part of our everyday lives. I think everyone should be volunteering with a nonprofit, everyone who can should be giving even if it’s just $10 a month, and everyone can be encouraging their friends to give back too. My biggest fear regarding embedded philanthropy is that we will think we no longer have to give because we are “purchasing responsibly.”

As I’ve said before I think embedded philanthropy is the first sign of a new wave of philanthropy. The second sign starts when we, the little people, realize we can make a difference.

This blog post is part of the Embedded Philanthropy Blog Series, sponsored by Telecom for Charity. The blog series was launched in May 2009 to highlight expert thinking and encourage discussions on the state of embedded philanthropy in today’s economy.

Taking Advice

May 27, 2009

If there is one thing I’ve learned about fundraising managers it is that they love to pass on their knowledge. Almost every person that has been in the nonprofit world for any number of years can tell you stories of an old boss that was too hyper-critical or micro-managed. And occasionally this translates to them wanting to pass on their learned knowledge to you.

Often times these kind of experience can teach you untold lessons and give you great insight into fundraising or how to work with your boss and be successful at your job. But in order to get there you have to learn, as I talked about in my last post, how to shelf your ego. You need to be willing to overlook your own recognition for a moment and listen, even if you already know what you are being taught.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been taught a lesson that I have already heard and at the same time learned an unintended insight. The other advantage to listing to this kind of advice is that it can endear you to other people. People enjoy passing on their wisdom and expertise as they have often worked very hard to get where they are. Patience and active listening can be of invaluable benefit to you and your team.

Shelving Your Ego

May 25, 2009

Those that are the very best at fundraising understand how to make their donors, volunteers, board, and staff feel like the most important thing in the world. Fundraisers constantly are doing what they can to accommodate other people. Many of us do this really well at home by playing the role of a good host or at work when our boss asks our help on how to do a Mail Merge. And at home or when we feel acknowledged we enjoy playing this role.

In order to be successful in development work you have to know how to link topics that are highly personal such as wealth, family life, personal success, with helping your organization. This is often one of my favorite parts of the job because you get to work with someone based on their passions to make a real tangible difference. You have to learn how to shelf or deal with your own personal ego and focus on someone else’s ego.

A great first step is to really understand what your ego is. What is important about you’d like others to acknowledge? How do you prefer to be treated, managed, talked with? Those kind of questions shed some light on your ego, and we all have one. When I get frustrated it is often because there is a piece of recognition I’m not getting or I feel like I should be treated a little bit differently. Knowing this has helped me to enjoy and focus better on others specially when I am frustrated.

Action Reports

May 20, 2009

Earlier this week I made a case for us to spend more time talking to our donors instead of talking about our donors. Today, I’m going to talk about a tool I’ve used to talk about my donors improving those conversations and making them more efficient and effective. Since I stressed the opposite of this earlier in the week I wanted to talk about the value and tactic of the other side.

Many nonprofits have created a list of their top 50 supporters or, if they are a larger shop, they may have a team of people that individual connects with your top financial givers. The report people use to have this conversation is often called “Moves Management” or an “Action Report.” Creating an action report can be a good planning tool that integrates well with your donor database. I use Raiser’s Edge but other databases allow for similar integration. I create an “action” for every “move” we do with our key donors. This includes calling them to attend an event, setting up a fact finding meeting regarding their giving, and the time you actually go and solicit them for their gift.

I go through an action report on a regular bases with key staff and volunteers to help create the right strategy. Integrating this report into your donor database helps to keep information in one place and makes it easier for multiple people to track, evaluate, and strategize a donor relationship.

Moves Management or Relationship Management

May 18, 2009

Countless hours are wasted in nonprofit organizations discussing the next move to do with a donor. Sometimes more time is spent talking about the need to call a donor than actually spent in developing a relationship with the donor. Ten minutes in a personal conversation with a donor is more valuable than ten minutes planning a personal conversation (you should still spend time planning these conversations- the point is to spend more time in these conversations).

Network for Good produced a funny video on this very topic, a parody on Customer vs. Advertiser, their video is called Donor vs. Fundraiser. This video makes a bold statement that we often lose touch with our individual donors and treat them only based on their trends, demographic, or past giving.

You will learn more relevant & current giving information about your donors by picking up the phone and thanking them for their gift than you will using statistical modeling (data driven fundraising still has value- the point is not to forget the value of the individual connection). When you communicate your benefit is twofold on one hand you can learn valuable information about what is happening in their life and what is important to them, and in addition to that, and at the same time, you show them that they are of value to your organization and without trying cultivate them and bring them closer to you.

I think that successful social media is challenging this idea by cultivating the individual person and reminding us of power of every donor. With online communication there can be very little planning about making the next “move” as successful conversation happens organically in the moment. If you spend too much time planning your next response online your opportunity to connect may be gone all together.

Resource Round-up

May 13, 2009

Over the last couple months, I’ve heard about a number of remarkable and interesting websites, blogs, and aggregates and I wanted to pass them along to you. Let me know if you check any of these out and if they are useful to you.

Nonprofit Marketing Aggregate:

The Nonprofit Marketing Zone is a great place to go if you are looking for a portal to nonprofit marketing information. This site was just launched last month and is highlighting A Small Change- Fundraising Blog as one of their featured blogs.


This is a new website where nonprofits can post sponsorship opportunities and business can find local and national nonprofits to sponsor. If you try this one let me know if you are successful. They already have over 2,000 opportunities in a number of communities all over the US.

Association Jam

Is you’re nonprofit an association management nonprofit? Check out this site as it is an aggregate of relevant information and blog postings highlighting work in association management.

Let’s Get Real: Why Use Social Media

May 11, 2009

Social media is so new that people are still trying to figure out what to do with it. Most people I would consider social media experts realize that the technologies and tools are so new and emerging that no one can really be called an “expert.” A consulting firm, Pursant, out of Texas made a great video illustrating this point.

One-on-one style communication. Successful online community is all about honest communication. People that connect via social media want to have real one-on-one conversations regarding relevant and current information. When communicating through social media it is important that you have set aside the time to actually have conversations and respond to people.

Speak with a single voice. If you have one person who is committed to running social media at your organization and you give them time to do their job you will be much more successful.

Talk about real issues. People want honest conversations about real questions. If you are creating content just to create content or solely for self-promotion people will know. Your network and your communities grow because they want to interact with the issues and programs your organization supports.

Greet your community members. Make an attempt to say a quick hello to those that join your networks or thank those that you connect with. Even if it is wishing someone a happy birthday on Facebook it is better than saying nothing at all.