Sunday, December 30, 2007

New column every Monday: "The Fundraising Guru"--December 31, 2007

Think like a donor, or sink as a fundraiser
By Stephen L. Goldstein

A Native American proverb advises the wise, “Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.” Modified for fundraisers, that empathic advice should read: “Never ask for money until you put yourself in the place of potential contributors.” That sounds simple. You probably think you’re already doing it. You’re probably not, though—at least as well as you could/should.
For one thing, thinking like a donor doesn’t mean your putting together a tacky tactical thumbnail on your prey—who’s a golfer, who does watercolors—so you can pepper your approach with bon mots to hook them. It means treading lightly, caring about people, showing real sensitivity to them as individuals.
In addition, strategically, the best fundraisers know that they have to think like informed donors to make their cash register ring. So, put yourself in the mind of potential contributors before you try to empty their pockets.
For example, ask yourself, “How would I expect fundraisers to behave if they approached me for a donation?” Answer that simple question, and you’ll be amazed at how effective your fundraising strategy will become—almost automatically. So, here are some ways you can answer your question that will point you in your most successful direction.
1. I’d expect people soliciting me for a contribution to prove that they and their organization are legitimate, impeccable, respected. Otherwise, I wouldn’t even talk to them. Everyone knows the mantra that “people give to people.” But the full sentence should be “People give to people they know and trust.” Thinking like a donor, you’ll never make a cold phone call or send a letter out-of-the-blue. You’ll find people who know your prospective donor to break the ice.
2. I’d find out how the organization asking for a donation values its contributors. I’d care about how they treat donors—all donors--after they’ve made their gift. An average donation may be such a significant stretch for a small donor that, relatively speaking, it represents a bigger commitment than a million-dollar contribution from a tycoon. Does the nonprofit value people as people, or is it just take-the-money-and-run?
3. I’d expect to see a doable proposal. I wouldn’t give fundraisers a cent unless they presented me with a detailed description of a worthwhile project that makes financial sense, seems like a unique solution to an important social issue or a rare opportunity to make a positive difference. That goes for any donation, large or small. I’d expect fundraisers to realize that I see my donation as an investment, not as a handout.
4. I’d want to see a report, showing the positive results my contribution helped to produce. I’d want proof that my money was used as I specified—and that it accomplished the intended result or, if it didn’t, what went wrong. I’d want an assurance upfront that I’d get a meaningful report. (That doesn’t mean an expensive, full-color piece of nonprofit propaganda, however. That kind of waste would make me never want to contribute again.)
How would you advise people to think like a donor so they don’t sink as a fundraiser? Send your questions and comments to Stephen L. Goldstein at He is the author of the nationwide bestseller, 30 Days to Successful Fundraising and hosts “Fundraising Success” on 90.7, WXEL/National Public Radio, Sundays 7 to 8 p.m., available from anywhere in the world, 24/7 at

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

New column every week

December 25, 2007
Nyew York Times Editorial
Giving Till It Hurts
The public has rightly shown its empathy with wounded and troubled war veterans, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to private charities that claim to have the veterans’ best interests at heart. A new study details rampant abuses of the money flow.
Of 29 military charities vetted by the American Institute of Philanthropy, a nonprofit watchdog group, only nine received passing grades in managing resources. Eight offenders passed on less than a third of the donations to those in need and one spent 99 percent of its take on overhead. Sullying the meaning of charity, executives squander money on costly direct-mail appeals, patriotism-tinged trinkets and bloated salaries.

It is important to stress that the institute gave high ratings to several veterans’ charities ( But, as a category, veterans’ charities were found to perform far worse than the average of more than 500 charities studied in 36 categories.

Because there is so little regulation, for-profit fund-raising companies can work with sympathetically named veterans charities and keep 80 percent or more of donations. Dickens’s Fagan could only envy another dodgy enterprise that saw $18 million in “charitable” phone cards distributed to overseas military personnel last year — cards not to let soldiers call home, but rather to call up a stateside business that sells sports scores.

Some legitimate charities hoard their donations. Even as homeless veterans became a major national problem, the charities run under the auspices of the military services spent only $59 million on assorted educational and financial programs in 2005 while sitting on more than $600 million in combined balances. Their eligibility requirements don’t easily accommodate the homeless and clearly need to be revised.

There are no laws adequately tracking scurrilous performers, enforcing accountability or limiting the amounts charities can waste on overhead as they enjoy tax exemptions. Congress had better act quickly to come up with an effective remedy before the trust of a generous public becomes buried in cynicism.

The 12 veterans’ charities rated as the worst failures collected more than $260 million last year while keeping at least double the recommended 35 percent for overhead — that as the flood of needy veterans continues to grow. This is a disgrace that threatens to make the notion of charity a casualty of war.#

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

New column every MONDAY: "The Fundraising Guru"--Dec. 17, 2007

"Fundraising Success": Internet radio/PODCAST!

"Fundraising Success," a weekly, one-hour radio show, airs on WXEL-90.7FM Sundays at 7p.m. throughout South Florida--when it is also streamed live. BUT it's also always available from anywhere in the world at any time by anyone with Internet access or its equivalent.

There are a gazillion shows and columns regurgitating advice on how businesses can succeed, but nothing--zip, zero--for nonprofits. On "Fundraising Success," national and local experts in communications, grant-writing, capital campaigns, PR, and other areas of interest will share their best advice. It provides nonprofits the consultants none of them can afford, but all of them need.

To listen to the podcasts, go to Then, click on any of the many "Fundraising Success" headings.

Your "Fundrasing Success" Radio Host

Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein--Host & Producer of "Fundraising Success" Columnist, author, consultant, TV and radio personality, and workshop leader--Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein is a nationally recognized marketing, communications, and fundraising executive, as well as a trends analyst and forecaster.

For more than 30 years, he has developed award-winning strategies for nonprofit success. Dr. Goldstein's "Fundraising Guru" columns, based upon his nationwide bestseller, 30 Days to Success Fundraising, appear in The South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Scripps newspapers on Florida's Treasure Coast. He is also the developer of The 7 POWERS Fundraising Success System, which is the basis for the fundraising workshop he offers around the country. Stephen Goldstein has also contributed fundraising advice segments for nonprofits on Wealth and Wisdom on WXEL-TV, Public Television. Dr. Goldstein works with individual nonprofits all across America to increase their fundraising success.
E-mail Dr. Goldstein at

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

New column every Monday: "Fundraising Guru"--December 10, 2007

Go where the money is being given away
by Stephen L. Goldstein, consultant and author of the bestseller 30 Days to Successful Fundraising

Except for the occasional multi-zillionaire whom no one thought to ask for a contribution--except you, the broad base of your philanthropic support will come from known givers. Here are tips to increase your success in reaching them.

1. Don’t disqualify anyone. Don’t think that just because people have made donations, even in large amounts, they are tapped out.

2. Look for people in the shadow of major givers. Pay attention to married couples in which one spouse is recognized for philanthropy, but the other stays in the background. Try to find a niche for that person. Look for the children of well-known philanthropists. They may have their own money (or access to their family’s) and may want to carry on the family tradition.

3. Go where real money is really being given away. A wise fundraiser once advised me, “You don’t have to find the people who have the most money, but the people who are willing to give the most.” When looking for sizable amounts of money, you may be elated to hear someone say, “I have always given money away”--until you discover that those gifts have never exceeded $25. Learn to listen between someone’s words. Tactfully qualify people’s level of giving.

4. Identify other people’s donors. Most charitable organizations print lists of their donors that are ripe for your picking. Begin to collect and make files of everyone else’s contributors, paying special attention to those who appear more than once. Make sure you note the level of giving, not just the name.

5. Get on your donors’ turf as soon as you can. Visit them in their office or at home. Don’t be impressed by lavishness or put off by meagerness. The people with real money to give often downplay their wealth, while those with little or nothing often overplay it. You can learn valuable information about people’s personality, history, and willingness to give from what they hang on their walls, the photographs they display, and the books they read. Keep your eyes and ears open.

6. Go where the people with money are. Strategically place yourself or your representative in organizations, on boards, or at social and professional events that let you schmooze with potential donors one-on-one.

7. Don’t trust publications that list donations by individuals, corporations and foundations. They are often out-of-date and inaccurate, simply starting points for your prospect research--to which every other nonprofit has access.

8. Befriend accountants and lawyers. Ask people who know where the money is to work with you. They can point you in profitable directions without violating the confidentiality of their clients. Plus, when their clients ask them for advice about where to make a contribution, you’ll be at the top of their list.

9. Don’t let donors play hard to get. Potential contributors know that they can get attention from you if they intimate they have money to give. Don’t let yourself get strung along.

10. Know where the money will never be given away. Learn to give up hope, face reality, and cut your losses. Heed the signs that someone is not willing or able to give to you, then extricate yourself politely. Otherwise, you’ll waste your limited time, energy, and money.
Go where the money is being given away. It’s half the battle.
E-mail your comments and questions to Stephen Goldstein at

Sunday, December 02, 2007

New column every Monday: "The Fundraising Guru"--Dec. 3, 2007

Fundraisers: Eschew Technology, Robots, and Voicemail
By Stephen Goldstein
author of the bestseller 30 Days to Successful Fundraising

We live in an instant-tech world. With one click of a mouse, would-be entrepreneurs think they can conduct a thriving global business. We fall for pitches to buy ever-faster machines to replace more and more people. Today, moving at the speed of sound is considered ho-hum. We want the world at our fingertips as fast and impersonally as possible.

Successful fundraising is no tech or low tech, however. Of course, technology is crucial for maintaining fundraising records, accessing information, and mass-producing materials, but it has no place in soliciting large gifts. Don't let the Howard Dean money-raising juggernaut fool you. Some Internet fundraising for small gifts from large numbers of people for political candidates and causes with broad public appeal have been wildy successful. But no one will give you the $1 million donation you covet, just because you sent an e-mail or posted a web site which they happened to find. Major donors regard their contributions as investments in worthy causes and efforts. Circumspect, they only build trust eye-to-eye, over time, and expect to be dealt with personally.

In today's breathless, throwaway, give-it-to-me-quick world, seasoned fundraisers don't expect overnight success or think that they can somehow produce major results without investing energy in the people whom they solicit for funds. Fundraising is personal, labor-intensive, time-consuming, long-term, unpredictable, quirky--even frustrating. It is not cookie-cutter. No two donors are the same. Fundraising depends upon people, can't possibly do without them, doesn't replace one-on-one meetings with e-mail.

So, true professionals want donors to get to them as quickly as possible. They make sure their phones are answered the old-fashioned way--on no later than the second ring, by people with excellent phone etiquette, who know the ins and outs of their organization. They would never program their phones to tell potential donors to listen carefully as our menu of options has changed, or make them listen a robot to find out what number to press. They don't hide behind voicemail, would never insult callers with a boilerplate message like "I'm either on the phone or away from my desk.

The best fundraisers care about people, want to talk with them, and are willing to spend time to get to know them. They consider contributors part of their extended family, take the time to know their likes and dislikes and how they think. They treat all people warmly--big contributor, small contributor--especially after they've made a donation.

The best fundraisers don't know about the five-day work week or the eight-hour day. They are always working--but not in front of a computer. They meet face-to-face or are on the phone with donors and potential donors. They know that they've got to talk to people, listen for the telling nuances in their voices and choice of words. They may send e-mail for a quick follow-up, but they also send handwritten notes. They almost never eat a meal without a contributor.
Fundraising is a person-to-person adventure, not a computer simulation. It is wonderful to feel strongly about a cause and to be willing to go through the hassle of convincing others to support it. It is also the best way to learn about people and to bring out the best in others. But those fundraisers will be most successful who understand that their success depends upon their willingness to extend their palm in a handshake, one donor at a time, rather than upon reaching for their Palm Pilot.
E-mail your comments and questions to Stephen Goldstein at