Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fundraising & Nonprofits = Business

When just "doing good" does "nobody" any "good"

by Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein,

"The Fundraising Guru"

Before I say anything about people who do nonprofits no good, let me underscore how much I respect the many men, women, and even children who give tirelessly of their time, money, and energy to help worthy organizations and their causes. The world is undoubtedly a better place because they are enlightened--empathetic--enough to think and act beyond their own personal interests and work for the greater good. I can't imagine where we would be without such individuals.

That said, I am genuinely troubled by a persistent mantra that I hear from too many people who work, volunteer, and fundraise for nonprofits: It's that they occupy some rarefied air, above the dog-eat-dog world of business, where high-minded ideals prevail. Recently, someone involved with a community organization told me that her friends "are more spiritual oriented and less business oriented" and that she's "not interested in doing business anymore," which is presumably why she's involved with a nonprofit.

I told her a truth she probably didn't want to hear: You cannot excape doing business; it is not a dirty word. Community organizations doing good must operate like businesses, for without a steady flow of money, they will not survive.

Unfortunately, she's not alone in thinking unrealistically. The first question I ask participants in my workshops is: What is a nonprofit? And invariably, people answer with variations on the same theme--that it's an organization that works for the common good. In an incredible number of instances, people say that "it's an organization that, because of what it does, cannot make money."

Eek! That response sends me up a tree. At that point, I pass out copies of the IRS regulations on 501(c)3 charitable organizations. I've underlined the section dealing with surplus funds. It's then for the first time that it registers on some people that their organization(s) may indeed "make" money. But what distinguishes them from for-profit businesses is that excess funds are reinvested in the organization, not distributed to shareholders or owners. In other words, there's absolutely no escape: Nonprofits are businesses.

Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein's websites are:

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

For All Nonprofits:
Free Fundraising Consulting Hotline

Totally free, personalized fundraising consulting is now available for all nonprofits 24/7 at Don't believe it? Test it for yourself

“Large, small, any size in between--all nonprofit fundraisers may ask anything they want—like How can I find donors? or How can I get my board to give more and to ask others to give? It’s absolutely one-on-one attention. They won’t be getting boilerplate answers,” says Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein, creator of the hotline and president of The Nonprofit Fundraising Institute, Educational Marketing Services in Fort Lauderdale.

“Nonprofits always have a hard time raising money. But many are really struggling in today’s bad economy--everywhere. They need immediate professional advice tailored to their specific needs. But most nonprofits cannot afford to hire an expert to give them quick answers to their pressing questions. So, gives them personal access to an experienced professional to be their sounding-board to increase their fundraising success,” Goldstein adds.

That’s what’s so unique about the hotline. It’s quick, efficient, direct—and free, of course. Getting answers from the hotline is simple. Go to, fill out the short user form, ask a question, then send it to Dr. Goldstein. There is absolutely no cost or obligation. Every question is answered personally and within 24 hours.

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 strategies for nonprofit success.

Dr. Goldstein is now the co-producer and host of “The Forum for Nonprofits,” which airs on WNN & WSBR and may be heard 24/7 at He was the producer and host of “Fundraising Success,” a weekly radio program on WXEL, 90.7FM/National Public Radio.

Dr. Goldstein's "Fundraising Guru" columns have appeared in The South Florida Sun-Sentinel and have been a regular feature of the Scripps papers on Florida’s Treasure Coast. He is the author of the bestseller, 30 Days to Successful Fundraising.

Goldstein is also the developer of “Self-Taught/Fundraising,” the basis for the workshops and tailored consulting programs he offers nationwide--and available at

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Here are words that make people want to give!

Power-Words Prompt Prosperous Philanthropy
by Stephen L. Goldstein
"The Fundraising Guru"

Every fundraiser knows the shibboleth “People give to people.” But you can’t successfully reach them with any old “words, words, words,” in Hamlet’s lingo. Use powerful bons mots to propel people’s giving and to thank them with panache. Here’s a selection of particularly potent, pre-packaged phrases for solicitation letters and thank-you notes that you can massage to your advantage in your own text.

Edward R. Murrow, as he said farewell to his British listening audience on the BBC at the end of the Second World War, thanked them for living "a life, not an apology."

Thiruvalluvar, poet (c. 30 BCE): “The only gift is giving to the poor;/All else is exchange.”

Sharon K. Yntema: “You are rich enough to give small amounts of money to worthy causes when you can buy all the groceries you need.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little.”

Sanskrit proverb: “He who allows his day to pass by without practicing generosity and enjoying life’s pleasures is like a blacksmith’s bellows—he breathes but does not live.”

Friedrich Nietzsche: “Nothing ever succeeds which exuberant spirits have not helped to produce.”

Ancient proverb: “One hand cannot applaud alone.”

Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Simone de Beauvoir: “That’s what I consider true generosity. You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.”

Marya Mannes: “Generosity with strings is not generosity; it is a deal.”

Confucius: “To be able under all circumstances to practice five things constitutes perfect virtue; these five things are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness and kindness.”

Sir Francis Bacon: “In charity there is no excess.”

Scottish proverb: “Charity begins at home, but shouldn’t end there.”

Thomas H. Huxley: “I have no faith, very little hope, and as much charity as I can afford.”

Jewish proverb: “If charity cost nothing, the world would be full of philanthropists.”

Stephen L. Goldstein: “Angels rush in where fools fear to tread.”

W.J. Slim: “When you cannot make up your mind which of two evenly balanced courses of action you should take, choose the bolder.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: “The lamentable difficulty I have always experienced [is] in saying ‘no.’”

Herman Melville: “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and along those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”

Albert Pine: “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us. What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”

Sydney Smith: To do anything in this world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in, and scramble through as well as we can.”

Phoebe Low: “Someone said of nations—but it might well have been said of individuals, too—that they require ‘something sufficiently akin to be understood, something sufficiently different to provoke attention, and something sufficiently great to command admiration.’”

Kevin Kelly: “The only factor becoming scarce in a world of abundance is human attention.”

W.M. Paxton: “Ideas go booming through the world louder than cannon. Thoughts are mightier than armies. Principles have achieved more victories than horsemen or chariots.”

E-mail your questions and comments to Stephen Goldstein through . He’s the author of 30 Days to Successful Fundraising and the host of the radio program, “The Forum for Nonprofits,” which you may hear 24/7/365 at

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Does your nonprofit board fail fundraising?

Nonprofit Board x 10 = “Your Fundraising Threshold”
by Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein
"The Fundraising Guru"

Ask (too) many people associated with (too) many nonprofits how much money they think they can raise in a fundraising cycle and usually they’ll smile and answer, “As much as we can.” How silly!

Typically, nonprofits operate on a wing-and-a-prayer and live out of hope—that “the money will somehow come.” After all, they think, “we’re doing good so somehow good things should happen to us.” Right!

In addition, my guess is that even if they know better, most nonprofit boards resist anything to do with establishing realistic goals for fear of under-motivating paid staff. Even worse, too often, when boards put a number on how much they need or want to raise, they set an unrealistic, “stretch” goal. Then, having set pie-in-the-sky parameters for their success, they give marching orders to paid staff to meet it. And staff are afraid to challenge their board’s unrealistic expectations.

In other words, fundraising is typically based upon unrealistic assumptions and expectations. No one thinks that there may actually be a formula to apply to answer the question, “How much money can we raise?”

So here is a standard against which every nonprofit can set a realistic yearly fundraising goal. An organization’s “Fundraising Threshold” (FT) is equal to the amount of money its board personally donates annually times 10. In other words, if the board of nonprofit X collectively contributes $100,000, it is reasonable to expect that it can raise $1 million yearly.

Of course, in some years, an organization may have a windfall—a major gift from an estate, for example. That’s always good, just not predictable. By contrast, an organization’s FT establishes the parameters of its ongoing activities, putting it on a reliable, solid footing.

The FT formula is based upon two important assumptions. First, the board of every nonprofit must understand that it is the key the organization’s successful fundraising. The bucks begin and end with them. As fiduciaries, board members are responsible for their nonprofit’s financial health and well-being. They are its prime fundraisers. Paid staff guide and assist them in their fundraising role; they cannot and should not replace board members as prime fundraisers.

Second, board members “worth” anything should be able to get at least 10 others to donate as much as they do. Of course, they may have to approach many more than 10 people to reach their goal, so they have to be willing to pull out the stops. They agreed to be on the board presumably because they were committed to the mission and goals of the organization. So what’s the big deal?

Before even considering making a major gift, potential donors should ask the board member asking them how much he or she gives, how much the board donates as a whole, and at what levels board members give, without naming names. The reason is simple: Why should a potential donor bankroll an organization, when the people who are supposed to be committed enough to it to be on the board don’t ante up?

So, to increase your fundraising goal, determine your current FT, motivate your board to give more—then score a perfect 10!

E-mail your questions and comments to Stephen Goldstein at He’s the author of 30 Days to Successful Fundraising. He is also the host of the radio program, "The Forum for Nonprofits," devoted to nonprofit success, which is available 24/7 at

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fundraising only gels if you sell well

By Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein
"The Fundraising Guru"

To increase your fundraising salesmanship, contact Stephen Goldstein through his Fundraisers Hotline using the address at the end of this article.

I know that people who work on behalf of nonprofits like to think of themselves as doing something for the common good. I know that because, whenever I hold workshops, the first question I ask participants is, “What is a nonprofit?” And invariably, their answers accentuate an altruistic angle. “It’s an organization that serves society,” they say, or one “that helps the needy,” or it’s “a group of individuals who hold events to raise money for worthy purposes.”

The last thing in the world that supporters of nonprofits like to think they are is salespeople; they consider themselves a cut above schnooks selling shoes or used cars. I know that because when I ask my second question—“What is fundraising?”—no one ever answers “sales.” Instead predictably, the answers have a mushy quality equal to the definition of a nonprofit. Fundraising is the “ability to raise capital for an entity,” “stewardship, relationship-building in order to raise funds for an agency,” “an effort to generate funds for a good cause.”

So, it’s time for a major reality check for everyone who works on behalf of nonprofits. From doctors and plumbers to entrepreneurs and artists, successful people know how to sell--well. Fundraising is “nonprofit sales,” pure and simple. If you don’t know how to sell, you’ll never be an effective fundraiser. And if your first reaction to the idea of “nonprofit fundraising as selling” is to hold your nose, you’re probably holding back whatever cause(s) you support. So, here are some basic tips to help you increase your effectiveness in fundraising sales:

1. Selling is the quintessential skill. It’s not about getting others to do something they don’t want to or to buy something they don’t need. At its best, selling is the highest form of communication: It’s about making the perfect match between what you have to offer and what someone else wants. It’s an art.

2. Rejection isn’t rejection. So what if someone says no to you. It’s not the end of your life nor should you punish them on your voodoo doll. Think of how many times you may have said no to someone without meaning any ill towards them—and move on to someone else.

3. Fundraising is not about “the ask,” but about “the listen.” Remember the lyric, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Consider your customers before you chew their ears off about your cause. Too many do-gooder fundraisers have a “prima facie, ipso facto attitude.” They think that all they have to do is blurt out the basics of their case and their prey will open their wallet. Ain’t so! Do your homework: Find out about people you approach. Take an interest in them. You’ll be amazed at how interested they’ll become in you.

4. Commit to selling 24/7. The best/most successful fundraisers even dream about raising money. Fundraising is a frame of mind, an all-consuming passion, not a 9-to-5 job. From a check-out line in Publix to a tuxedo-filled ballroom, fundraiser-salespeople know that there are six degrees of separation—or less--between them and the next contribution they receive.

5. Multiply your donors’ gifts. Donors who are treated well beget other donors. The most successful fundraiser-salespeople know that fundraising only gels if you sell well.

Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein is the author of 30 Days to Successful Fundraising. He is also the host of the broadcast radio program, “The Forum for Nonprofits,” which is also available 24/7 from anywhere in the world. To increase the "gelling" of your fundraising, contact him at He'll answer you personally!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Down with fundraisers! They are NOT fundraising.

by Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein

In most cases, it's a no-brainer: "Fundraisers" aren't worth the effort. After you read this entry, contact Dr. Goldstein through his "Fundraisers Hotline," and he'll personally help you increase the success of your "fundraisers."

On any given day, all across America, well-meaning people attend what are popularly called "fundraisers"--golf tournaments, car washes, runs, black-tie affairs, for example--put on for the benefit of nonprofits. They cost organizers tremendous amounts of time, energy, and money. They cost sponsors and participants varying amounts of dollars.

Year after year, event-oriented nonprofits get caught in a vicious cycle: They compete with themselves and with other organizations to put on the next-best event or lose potential supporters--and revenue. If they don't find something to surpass the novelty of last year's "Casino Night in Casablanca," they're afraid that they'll fall into charitable oblivion.

Caught in a trap of their own making, few, if any, nonprofits are honest enough with themselves to break out of the pattern, however. Grateful whatever for money they make and afraid of alienating volunteers who typically orchestrate "fundraisers," they rarely do real cost-benefit analyses of the profitability of events, including the cost/value of volunteer hours spent on managing them that could have been spent more productively. If they did, they'd come to the inescapable conclusion that "fundraisers" are really shills for businesses: The worthy purpose for which events are held gets what's left over AFTER greens fees, meals, flowers, printing, and other logistical necessities have been paid. Too often, that's relatively little; sometimes, it's little or nothing.

Worst of all, most "fundraisers" typically fail because they violate the first principle of REAL fundraising: relationship-building. Truly successful nonprofits know that the ONLY way to raise substantial amounts of money is to establish a meaningful connection between donors and themselves. But event-oriented "fundraisers" too often attract people who come for the night out, not for the worthy purpose. Perhaps someone they knew enticed them to come to "join my table" and they felt obligated--for that one time. In other words, they experienced good (or bad) food, a good (or boring) group of dinner or golf partners, but little else. They might just as well have gone to a restaurant.

I'm not suggesting that nonprofits simply pull the plug on their "fundraisers." You NEVER want to throw the baby out with the proverbial bath water. Held with care and serious, strategic forethought, they have a LIMITED, PROPER place in organizations' overall development plan.

So contact Dr. Goldstein through and he'll personally give you some tips on how too make any "fundraiser" into a REALLY successful event.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Free Fundraising Consulting Hotline

If you've read this, you're entitled to go to Ask "the fundraising guru," Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein, any question about how to increase your nonprofit's fundraising success--and he'll answer you personally!

Are your board members bored or boring? Stephen Goldstein will tell you how to get your board booming.

Are you out of ideas for raising money? Stephen Goldstein will show you how to energize your efforts.

Do you have lots of people helping you fundraise--or are you "out there" alone? Stephen Goldstein will share the formula for creating your own fundraising "army".

So, go to now and get your answers.

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