Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fundraising Ethics Starts with YOU

Fundraising Ethics: Can YOU answer the question, "When do YOU have the guts to blow the whistle?"
by Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein, author of the bestselling 30 Days to Successful Fundraising (available at and

Ethical is as ethical takes responsibility for preventing or cleaning up an unethical situation. But who's got the guts?

First, some observations about unethical behavior from an Associated Press article of Jan. 29, 2008 by Pete Yost. They create a backdrop to the kinds of situations in which fundraisers may find themselves--along with the kinds of questions they too often need to answer:

1. "Overall, three out of five government workers acknowledge witnessing violations of ethical standards, policy or law over the past year, according to a survey released . . . by the Ethics Resource Center. The Washington-based nonprofit research group has studied organizational ethics trends for several decades.

2. "At the local level, 63 percent of government employees observed at least one type of misconduct, ranging from abusive behavior by superiors to bribery. At the state level, the comparable figure was 57 percent; at the federal level, 52 percent.

3. "The trend lines in government point toward more misconduct in the future, not less, said Patricia Harned, the center's president.

4. "The center says 30 percent of the incidents go unreported and there are too few systems in place for combatting misconduct when it is exposed.

5. "One reason for the low reporting figure is that 17 percent of employees who did report misconduct said they experienced retaliation. One in four government workers believe that leaders tolerate retaliation.

6. "The state of ethics in the public and private sectors is comparable, in some cases worse. For example, the study said that 8 percent of those surveyed reported witnessing alteration of documents; a similar survey among private sector workers showed 5 percent of business employees had witnessed such misconduct.

7. "The center says the proven solution to the problem is what experts in the field refer to as a strong ethical culture. When employee believe that leaders can be trusted and when supervisors set a good example of ethical behavior, misconduct is reduced by 52 percent and retaliation is as much as 89 percent lower, the survey found.

8. "The problem, however, is that less than one in five government workplaces have comprehensive, well-implemented ethics and compliance programs.The center's findings were based on polling 774 government employees, 1,929 business employees and 558 nonprofit employees.

So, the questions for today are: "Do you have the guts to blow the whistle on unethical behavior? And if yes, when would you?" Email your comments and questions to Stephen Goldstein at


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The most successful fundraisers learn from beggars

by Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein

Successful fundraisers never think of themselves as mere beggars. The complete reverse! But as it turns out, the MOST successful beggars sound remarkably like highly effective fundraisers. An Associated Press article on panhandling by Adam Goldman opened the world of begging to me. Here are seven strategies from the streets that can benefit every nonprofit organization—from fundraiser to board member.

1. Tell the truth: Goldman identifies a subgroup of successful, New York City “truth-teller” beggars: “They don’t sell pirated movies or stolen candy. They don’t strum old guitars, blow into tarnished saxophones or screech country songs off key.” Their stories are real. In the words of one panhandler he interviewed, “Telling the truth will set you free.” For organizational fundraisers, telling the truth is sine qua non. And yet, how many times do nonprofits unfortunately obfuscate the compelling reality of their message by looking for some glitzy, Madison-Avenue way of making a pitch?From The Beggar’s Handbook by the pseudonymous M.T. Pockets, here are additional, choice bits of panhandler wisdom, which I’ve turned into strategies for successful fundraising:

2. Have a plan: “The successful beggar picks the time and place as much as he selects the person to approach. At all times, the successful beggar is aware, coherent, and in full control of the situation, even though his intended giver is usually not aware of this.” Would-be fundraisers who think they can send a cold letter or make a cold phone call to some well-known philanthropist and strike it rich should warm up to some good beggarly advice.

3. Use psychology: “When you look at someone as a potential giver, you have to ask yourself some questions. You cannot make assumptions . . . you have to ask yourself questions and get some concrete answers based upon observation and your experience. So choose an intended benefactor and size him or her up.”

4. Persist: “Just be sure to keep rejection in its proper perspective; everyone is rejected from time to time. Try, try again; even the people who once rejected you might give to you later on when your routine is more polished.” Learn to tell the difference between a No (We can’t give to your worthy project at this time) and No (Forget it!). Foundations and corporations often make donations at specified times of the year. Knowing their cycle of giving may be the key to your success.

5. Be creative: “Always experiment with new ideas and routines; discard those that don’t work and keep those that do.” Too often, fundraisers don’t know what they’re doing right. For example, few fundraising events are worth all the time and effort that goes into them—if volunteer and planning hours were figured into the mix of true costs.

6. Make your donor feel good: “The most successful business transactions are those that leave both parties happy after the transaction is complete.” Key word: both!

7. Be upbeat and thankful: In Street Sense, here's how George Siletti, who was homeless off and on for 25 years, advises beggars: “And most of all you should smile at the person and if money is given always say thank you or a kind word.” Fundraisers who haven’t mastered the art of giving genuine thanks will become beggars for real themselves!

Send your questions and comments to Stephen L. Goldstein at He is the author of the nationwide bestseller, 30 Days to Successful Fundraising.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fundraisers: Make it real or really flop

Fundraisers: Move into the world of real-time reality
by Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein

It goes without saying that, these days, more and more people in nonprofits have caught the social media bug, regularly on Twitter, YouTube, and FaceBook. Such venues have opened up the world to everyone, creating incredible opportunities to connect with the world.

But there's another, even more powerful, dimension waiting for all of us to enter: real-time reality. It will transform our ability to appreciate what nonprofits really accomplish--and it will dramatically increase fundraising success.

Imagine this scenario: You want to raise money for schools in Africa or for a children's center in Africa. You spend hours looking for the right words, stills, and even videos to capture the distant reality and spark contributions. You create Twitter about it in real-time, you're on YouTube and FaceBook. But nothing quite does it--because they aren't really real.

The answer is in a simple web-cam, creating your own "be here now," "you are there" experience. Imagine the possibilities and email me your thoughts at

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nationwide bestselling fundraising book/program

30 Days to Successful Fundraising
The 10-minute-a-day fundraising training!

Now, you can master the essentials--and more--of fundraising in just 10 minutes a day. Read a quick-and-easy couple of pages, then answer a couple of question to tailor your day's material to your nonprofit's fundraising needs.

Before you know it, you will have mastered everything you need to know about raising money--in bad times and good. Go to for more information--and to order your copy or copies today!


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

No more nonprofits!

We need to do away with nonprofits in America
by Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein, "The Fundraising Guru"

1st published in The South-Florida Sun-Sentinel, August 23, 2004

Hardly anyone knows what a nonprofit really is. Most people will tell you that it's a charity that does good things for society, so they can deduct contributions to it from their taxes. Others will admit to thinking that nonprofit implies something second-rate in America--a cut below for-profit businesses, in which making money, not asking for it, is the name of the game. To them, the big players are in the rough-and-tumble business world. Lesser mortals work in nonprofits--taking handouts, frequently trying to solve social problems that seems never to get fixed.

The longtime head of one prestigious cultural group even told me that a nonprofit is an organization that, "because of what it does, cannot make money." (The surprise is not that he was constantly in debt, even on the verge of bankruptcy, but that he could continue to bamboozle donors into supporting her year after year.)

I guess that only about one in 10 people knows that nonprofits certainly can "make" money, but that what defines and distinguishes them from for-profit businesses is simply what they do with any money they generate above expenses.

Nonprofits call their extra dollars "surplus," not profit, and they reinvest them in their organization. They don't distribute their excess funds to shareholders who are entitled to a dividend, as businesses may. My cultural chief aside, nonprofits not only can make money, they should. The term really means "not having profit for investors to share in."

So, we need to do away with nonprofit organizations. Well, not with them per se, but with the term nonprofit and replace it with a clear, positive one--like Community Reinvestment Organization or CIO.

First, the word "investment" in CIO might help remind people working with them that the donated dollars they allocate to doing good in their community should produce a documentable return. For example, a cultural program might tout the dollars it generates by attracting out-of-town visitors and positive press. A program for teen substance abusers could estimate the cost to society of their continuing to be on drugs, track successful graduates of its program, and total the money it saved the public by rehabilitating them.

Creative CIOs can find compelling ways to prove that they use contributions prudently to produce a financial, not just a "feel good," return. Like public companies, every CIO should publish an annual report that documents the return on its community investment.

Second, renaming nonprofits could help invigorate the fundraising process. CIOs could make a strong case to potential donors to give money to efforts they can show make a positive difference, instead of approaching them for what too often may appear to be hopeless causes. Contributors to CIOs wouldn't receive dollar dividends as they might from their stock portfolio, but they should be shown how their donations paid dividends to society in general and to the organization they support, in particular. Informed donors are likely to contribute more money and more often.

Needless, to say, the IRS is not going to change nonprofit to CIO anytime soon, and nonprofits themselves may be slow to redefine themselves. But savvy nonprofits can have the best of both worlds by explaining why they really are Community Investment Organizations. A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but a nonprofit smart enough to market itself as as CIO might truly blossom.

Email your comments and questions to Dr. Goldstein at
Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein's websites are:

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