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[INFOGRAPHIC] 2013 Fundraising Effectiveness Project Survey Report

On September 16th, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) released the findings from their 2013 survey. For the first time in five years, charity respondents saw positive gains in giving, but still continued to lose donors faster than they gained them.

Public Interest Registry Announces .ORG Website Makeover Contest

Do you want to chance to have experts newly design or redesign your website...for free? Now is your chance!

The Power of Targeting

In a recent blog post, we talked about the power of personalization and discussed tips and tricks to sending meaningful messages. Now we are going to roll up our sleeves and get down to the nitty-gritty of targeting. How do we find the audience that wants to read our emails or blogs? And what makes an email perfect for them?

Use the Power of Three to Reach Your Goals

Follow-up to Capital Campaigns for the 21st Century: What’s New and What’s Not Webinar

Below is a follow-up by Gail Perry and Andrea Kihlstedt to a handful of questions submitted by participants during the October 8, 2013, webinar “Capital Campaigns for the 21st Century: What's New and What's Not.” To view the presentation or listen to the recording of the webinar, please click here. We've posted even more answers to your questions from Gail and Andrea on our Tumblr here.

Board fundraising: A turnaround case study

I know an organization where board members describe themselves as “not a fundraising board.” Without feeling guilty about it. And without even a hint of curiosity about what impact that posture has on the organization. The organization has thrived on a diet of corporate grants and event sponsorship. The board reflects that reality: they are high level executives, and they know how to secure contributions from their corporations.

Don’t Stop Now! How to keep growing your monthly giving program

“We tested it, and it didn’t work.”

If your organization has a monthly giving program in place, you may have heard this statement from your board or CEO. Harvey McKinnon noted that this is the most irritating misconception about nonprofit monthly giving programs -- and I concur. While monthly giving is one of the best steps you can take to improve donor retention and increase donor loyalty, the mere process of establishing your program isn’t enough.

Top 3 Facts About Fundraising on Social Media

Does your non-profit organize fundraising on social media? Chances are that the answer to that question is yes. Here are some facts from top reports on the state of fundraising that you should consider:

A Time to Give Thanks: Nonprofits Can Appreciate Helpful Legal Standards

Nonprofit organizations can be thankful for legal standards that benefit charitable organizations or make compliance with the relevant laws more straightforward, including in the following five areas:

#GivingTuesday: When America Gives as Good as it Gets

This year, on Tuesday, December 3, 2013, we are part of a call to action that will change the calendar and help make history. We are celebrating a day dedicated to giving -- when charities, families, businesses, community centers, students, retailers and more will all come together for #GivingTuesday –- a movement to celebrate giving and encourage more, better and smarter giving during the Holiday Season that we are proud to be part of.

#GivingTuesday will create a day of giving around the annual shopping and spending season --giving’s “opening day.” Leading up to December 3, the #GivingTuesday campaign will provide a platform for you to contribute to your community and the world to help make this season the biggest giving season yet!

We invite you to be part of this celebration. #GivingTuesday will show how the world can do much more with our wallets than just consume. Here’s what you can do to help make this initiative a success:

  1. Have a great idea on how to give back on #GivingTuesday? Follow @GivingTues on Twitter, use the #GivingTuesday Hashtag, and watch out for our own Tweets about it @GuideStarUSA. You can also like them on Facebook and then share your idea!
  2. Go to the website and register to become a Social Media Ambassador at Social Media Ambassadors are essential to helping to grow the movement. You can become a Social Media Ambassador when you join their online social community and commit to helping grow the movement by sharing or submitting content.
  3. Help us promote! Here is some sample language for you:
We'll see you on #GivingTuesday!

The Ins and Outs of Charity Auctions: Interview with Robert Baird

Robert Baird, author of Everything You Need to Know to Raise Money (and Have Fun) with a Charity Auction, recently spoke with his publisher about charity auctions. GuideStar has published an excerpt from the book, and we're pleased to be able to share Mr. Baird's additional thoughts with you.

How can we tell if an auction is right for us?

That's easy. An auction is right if you have two key ingredients: volunteers willing to work hard and a supportive donor base. Combine these two and your profits can soar.

For those who have never conducted an auction, how much lead time is needed?

Typically a year. It can be done in less time if you've done an auction before or have volunteers with experience. But venues must be nailed down and dates need to be saved, and often that takes 12 months from the start of the event.

What's a reasonable number of items to secure for a live auction?

Remember, there are two parts to the event, the live auction and the silent auction. The silent auction can have as many gifts as you can round up and have space to display. The number of live auction items depends on how much time you allot to this part of the event and the speed of your auctioneer. A volunteer is sometimes great, but keep in mind a professional auctioneer can usually move twice as many items (or more).

How much will this even cost us?

That depends. If you're smart, you'll attempt to have everything, even the venue, paid for by local businesses and other donors. For things you can't get donated, like food and the bar, typically your ticket fee should be enough to cover these items. Remember, the ticket price is a source of revenue and shouldn't be considered simply a break-even proposition.

How can we make sure we don't lose money?

Forget the whole thing and find a million dollar donor. But seriously, there are no guarantees. Shifting many of the costs to donors and pricing the admission correctly can help ensure you're profitable. Then the money made in the live and silent auctions is pure profit.

For our first effort, what's a reasonable goal?

As you would expect me to say, that all depends on your audience, your committee, and your donor base. As I discuss in my book, it can range from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. As for something to shoot for, I'd recommend you run the best auction you can, don't overtax committee members, and keep all your contact information (attendees and donors) for the next time. Look at it as not one auction, but the first of many with increasing attendance and revenue each year.

Obviously, the biggest source of revenue is the auctioned items. Are there other revenue streams we should know about?

Yes, there's surplus revenue in the ticket price and it's common to hold raffles throughout the night. For instance, I've seen professional auctioneers hold contests in the middle of the auction where couples pony up $20 for a chance to win half the pot. An auction with 100 couples equals a quick $1,000.

As for timing our auction, is one season better than another?

Typically fall is best, as many are looking for Christmas gifts and the kids are back in school.

Some auctions are pretty elaborate—I recall attending one that traded on a Mardi Gras theme. Is a theme necessary? And what's your experience with the best kind of themes.

The event needs to be fun or people won't come, so most auctions are based on themes. You can go tropical, for example "Hawaiian Luau," an auction featuring leis, hula skirts, Hawaiian music; or perhaps choose a movie theme like Clash of the Titans, featuring ancient Rome, togas, sandals, wine; or highlight a decade, the 50s for instance, with poodle skirts, bobby socks, and greasers.

Can we use a local luminary or should we hire a professional auctioneer?

It's something for your committee to debate. A local celebrity can be a lot of fun and attract a good crowd. At the same time, you can often maximize your revenues with pro. If you use a professional auctioneer, vet them well and ask the right questions: "How many have you done before?" "How many items can you auction off in half an hour?" "What advice would you provide us?" "What good ideas do you have?" "Do you supply the auction software?" and "Can you provide references?"

Nearly every event has glitches. What's the thorniest one with auctions?

The process of closeout is the most fraught with danger. At the end of the night, people want to leave. You need to check them out as quickly as possible. Using professional software, an experienced auctioneer, and letting people check out early if they need to (and reading my book, of course) are the best ways to mitigate what I consider to be the biggest potential glitch.

Tell me some of the most tantalizing items you've ever seen auctioned off?

The most profitable and interesting item was a handmade quilt. But this was a different kind of quilt. It was made from T-shirts—high school student activity T-shirts such as football, cheerleading, drama, and debate. I watched in amazement as two bidders went at it for 15 minutes. The crowd was silent and in awe. The quilt finally went to the high bidder for more than $20,000. Then, he turned around and donated it back to the school to display over a rocking chair in the trophy case.

And some of the clunker items?

Gift certificates. Of course they're free money so you'll want to accept them. But as an auction item you'll seldom get face value for a gift certificate. Your big money will come from gifts with high intrinsic value, things provided by someone the organization respects which are basically fun. Car washes by the principal and her staff, dinner hosted by the clergy, fishing trips on the mayor's boat, and such.

© 2013, Emerson & Church, Publishers

Robert Baird, as an organizer, volunteer, and board member, has been intimately involved with fundraising charity auctions for the past three decades.


Branding Fundraising Events: Essential to Building Lasting, Loyal Relationships

The term “branding” originates from the practice of cattle ranchers burning a distinctive symbol into the skin of their livestock to differentiate them from those of other ranchers. Today, the term has evolved to define an intangible quality.

Trust, But Verify: Why Volunteer Screening is So Important

Multichannel Marketing For Nonprofits

Here are some key facts about how fundraising and email are changing for nonprofits:

  • On its own, email is not enough: the median click-through rate for 2013 was 0.5%;
  • Over 50% of email is on mobile now;
  • People participate because they’re drawn in by stories and visuals;
  • Multichannel marketing is a great way to raise optimism and engagement.

The Irony of Overhead

Editor's note: the following is a cross-post of Jacob Harold's article in the Huffington Post's TEDWeekends issue published September 21. You can read the original post here and the entire TEDWeekends series here. We've also posted this to the Overhead Myth Blog here.

Allow me to begin with a back-of-the envelope estimate: every year nonprofits have one billion interactions with donors in which they prominently focus on their "overhead ratio" -- the proportion of their expenses that goes to administrative and fundraising expenses.

Thus, nonprofits find themselves telling the story of work to house abused children or fight climate change... through an accounting ratio. They are responding to the tragedy of the "Overhead Myth": the common belief that such a ratio is a proxy for nonprofit performance (instead of a filter for rare cases of fraud.)

Jacob Harold

But, worse, nonprofits find that they are reinforcing that myth every time they communicate with a potential donor. Unlike Alanis Morissette's famous song, this actually fits the classic definition of "ironic": in order to raise money to do good, nonprofits highlight a ratio that constrains their ability to do good.

Indeed, the focus on overhead is more than ironic: it has very practical consequences for nonprofits. As described in a seminal article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the overhead myth creates a "starvation cycle" that undermines nonprofits' capacity to solve our world's most fundamental problems. Nonprofits find themselves choked by explicit or implicit funding restrictions, and sometimes even starved to death by under-investments in infrastructure.

And yet, there are glimpses of light. We've seen multiple examples of work to shift donor behavior. This summer, I joined with the CEOs of Charity Navigator and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance to write an open letter to the donors of America denouncing the "overhead ratio" as a valid indicator for nonprofit performance.

We will continue our work to educate donors and change this conversation. But we need nonprofits' help. We understand if they -- temporarily! -- feel compelled to continue sharing the overhead ratio in their fundraising materials. But if we're going to move beyond the Overhead Myth, we need to begin to offer donors an alternative. Help donors pay attention to the factors most relevant to nonprofit performance: transparency, governance, leadership, strategy, measurement, and results.

In particular, nonprofits can join the 95,000 organizations that have shared information through the GuideStar Exchange -- with 43,000 achieving one of our three levels of participation (Gold, Silver, or Bronze). Gold-level participants answer the five Charting Impact questions to populate the impact tab on their GuideStar nonprofit report. And through their own materials, nonprofits can begin to cite meaningful data about results instead of the overhead ratio. (Donors have other great resources available, too --they can find top nonprofits identified by Philanthropedia, GreatNonprofits, or GiveWell.)

The shift to a results-based approach to philanthropy will take time, but the path ahead is clear. Instead of promulgating the myth that low administrative costs are associated with high performance, let's focus on helping donors give with both their hearts and their heads.

It's time to retire the overhead ratio in favor of a multidimensional, impact-oriented framework to achieve what really matters: getting more money to the best performing organizations.

Ideas are not set in stone. When exposed to thoughtful people, they morph and adapt into their most potent form. TEDWeekends will highlight some of today's most intriguing ideas and allow them to develop in real time through your voice! Tweet #TEDWeekends to share your perspective or email to learn about future weekend's ideas to contribute as a writer.

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

Top 18 Childhood Health & Nutrition Nonprofits Identified by the Experts

Is Your Nonprofit Prepared for a Crisis?

The bright, sunny day outside the U.S. Navy Memorial, just a few blocks away from the Navy Yard, belies the tragedy that occurred the day before.

Government Shutdown Hurting Nonprofits

The House of Representatives voted unanimously in favor of paying all furloughed government workers back pay when the shutdown ends. Congressman Michael Turner, R-Ohio, told the Christian Science Monitor that federal workers shouldn't suffer consequences due to the government stalemate. While the weekend legislation was great news for 800,000 federal workers, it didn't extend to the 1.4 million tax-exempt charities and nonprofits that also rely on government funding.

New! 16 High-Impact Workforce Development Nonprofits Identified by Experts

"Over the next 20 years, the U.S. must address an aging labor force, a need for highly trained workers who can compete globally, and increasing numbers of low-income working families struggling to climb the economic ladder." -- Annie E. Casey Foundation in the 2005 paper, Building Family Economic Success: Workforce Development.

IRS scrutiny of nonprofits - five risk areas you didn’t know you had

Aaron Fox

The Experts Weigh-In: 20 Top Nonprofits Providing Educational Support for At-Risk Youth in Minnesota Identified

Across the nation, poor education and career outcomes for low income youth and youth of color paint a clear picture of the often mentioned achievement gap and opportunity gap. In Minnesota, the trend is no different. Since 2006, the achievement gap has increased by 10 percentage points in high school math between white and Hispanic students and between white and black students on the annual state test. (Minnesota 2020)

How Gender, Program Area, and Location Affect CEO Compensation

If a picture's worth a thousand words, then an infographic must be worth a thousand data points. Or, in the case of the 2013 GuideStar Nonprofit Compensation Report, 135,055 data points from 94,785 nonprofits.

Our latest infographics draws from our compensation report to show how gender, program area, and location affected nonprofit CEO compensation in fiscal year 2011. Click on either image to view a larger version.

Check out our other infographics for information about the nonprofit sector, giving wisely, and more.

Suzanne E. Coffman, October 2013
© 2013, GuideStar USA, Inc.

Suzanne Coffman is GuideStar's editorial director and editor of the GuideStar Newsletter.

Making Asking Easier for Your Board

Excerpted from the second edition of Fundraising Realities Every Board Member Must Face: A 1-Hour Crash Course on Raising Major Gifts for Nonprofit Organizations

Surprise! The Affordable Care Act May Mean Cash in Your Nonprofit's Future

If your nonprofit has fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees, then it might be eligible for a perk that has been largely overlooked but could yield a cash refund from the IRS.

How to Write a Story for Your Appeal Letter

Join us for a FREE webinar on November 5 as our guest author, Mazarine Treyz, speaks about crucial year-end giving strategies for your nonprofit appeal:

New Rankings Announced: Top 25 National Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice Nonprofits

"Reproductive freedom should not be seen as a privilege or as a benefit, but a fundamental human right." -- Faye Wattleton, the first African-American and youngest president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America

For years, various reproductive health, rights, and justice nonprofit have been working to ensure that women have the right to be in control of their physical, mental, and social well-being (as defined by the United Nations). Many supporters of this cause believe that women have a right to safe methods of family planning such as abortion services, emergency contraception, and fertility clinics. They believe that reproductive health is an element of one's general health, which is a fundamental human right for all. However, it is important to note that reproductive health has always been a controversial topic in the US.

Recently, Philanthropedia surveyed 134 experts working in the field of reproductive health, rights, and justice, with an average of 19 years of work experience in the field, to identify those nonprofit that were making the biggest positive impact in the field.

Philanthropedia’s experts, including funders, researchers, nonprofit senior staff, and consultants, identified 25 top nonprofits (out of 139 total reviewed nonprofits) making an impact at the national and multi-state level. Below is a graphical representation of who participated in our research. You can also see who our experts were by clicking here.

Which nonprofits were among the top?

National reproductive health, rights, and justice experts were asked to recommend nonprofits that are women’s health service and clinical care providers focused on prevention, cancer screenings, contraception, abortion, gynecology, fertility, etc., as well as advocacy and policy organizations. The nonprofits could focus on sexual health with a particular look at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) health concerns. Around reproductive rights, the nonprofits might include research, advocacy, litigation, and policy groups. And around reproductive justice, the nonprofits might include empowering the formerly powerless or individuals without a majority voice in this sector, such as younger women, women of color, and so on.

The following is the list of the expert-identified nonprofits best achieving their mission in the sector. Click the link to visit each organizations profile and read expert reviews. Experts have commented on each nonprofit’s impact, other organizational strengths, and how each organization could further improve.

  1. Guttmacher Institute
  2. Center for Reproductive Rights
  3. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA)
  4. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  5. National Abortion Federation
  6. RH Reality Check
  7. National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
  8. National Network of Abortion Funds
  9. Reproductive Health Technologies Project
  10. Medical Students for Choice (MSFC)
  11. National Women's Law Center (NWLC)
  12. Ibis Reproductive Health
  13. Ipas
  14. Advocates for Youth
  15. Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ)
  16. National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW)
  17. University of California San Francisco
  18. Sister Song
  19. National Women's Health Network Inc. (NWHN)
  20. NARAL Pro-Choice America
  21. Forward Together
  22. Choice USA
  23. Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP)
  24. National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (NCPTP)
  25. Provide, Inc.

Please check out the profiles of each of these top nonprofits on our website and read the expert reviews here.

I'd love to hear from you! What do you think about the expert opinions? Have you had an experience with one of these nonprofits that you care to share? You can leave your comments below or email me, Jasmine Marrow, at

Jasmine Marrow is the Manager of Philanthropedia Research at GuideStar. She is charged with leading Philanthropedia’s research efforts. She develops the strategy for continued growth into new causes, refreshing old research , and international expansion. She is also responsible for recruiting and managing interns helping with this effort.