Put Your Money Where Your Post-Election Fear Lies

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election results, you may still feel as if you’re in a fog – a dream from which you can’t wake up. Pinch yourself, it’s real. In the words of Seth Meyers, “for the first time in history, ‘our president [will] be a steak salesman.'”

With this new administration comes a new threat against our communities, our basic human rights and our warming planet.

Are you awake now? It’s time to get to work.

You may feel powerless in this moment, but the nonprofit sector is your beacon of hope. There are thousands of organizations throughout the United States that are working to protect the things we hold dear.

Take action today by putting your dollars to work:

Do you like living on planet Earth? Are you a fan of breathing air? Consider a donation to the Environmental Defense Fund.

Do you know a woman? Do you think she should have a right to protect and make informed choices about her body? Your donation to Planned Parenthood will go a long way.

Do you believe immigrants and refugees are humans and deserve to be treated as such? National Immigrant Justice Center and the International Rescue Committee will use your donation to advocate for people who want to call the U.S. “home”.

Do you think all people deserve healthcare? Organizations like Arizona-based Phoenix Allies for Community Health are making sure even the uninsured have access to quality medical care.

Though you may feel disappointed, you don’t have to feel powerless.  

 

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A Broader Approach to Nonprofit Donation Pages

TODAY, YOU INSPIRED ME

I made a donation to a national poverty-fighting organization this morning. A viral video landed in my inbox that told a story about their work. It was so moving, I felt compelled to donate. I also felt compelled to share with them how they had touched me.

Their donation page was easy to navigate, looked secure and my donation was processed with ease. However, there was something omitted from the page — a comment box. What a missed opportunity!

I was itching to give them a soundbite, an anecdote, a quote that they could use in future fundraising efforts. I wanted to thank them and tell them why I support them. But the payment was processed and the conversation ended.

This is a common mistake that nonprofits make. It is a narrow view, focusing only on the transaction. A broader approach provides the opportunity for more data gathering, and increased donor engagement.

There are numerous, fantastic lists of ways to maximize your nonprofit donation page (here’s one), but they all seem to leave out one pertinent question: What inspired you to give today?

Giving donors the opportunity to share why they are donating to your nonprofit has numerous benefits:

  • Donors feel more connected to your organization, and are more likely to give again
  • Organizations can further hone target audience for fundraising appeals
  • Provides direct quotes from donors to support future marketing efforts
Research shows that the most effective nonprofit donation pages keep it simple. But adding this one question can make a big impact. Don’t miss the opportunity to ask why… chances are, your donors want to tell you.

Thinking of Starting a Nonprofit? Ask Yourself These Questions First…

Is this a cause that needs a champion?

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are more than 1.5 million registered nonprofit organizations in the United States. Before you consider starting a new one, take a look at related organizations serving your target population. Is there an organization doing the same or similar work? Consider reaching out to nonprofits with related missions to share ideas and discuss possibilities for collaboration.

Are you doing the cause a disservice? 

If there are, indeed, organizations working toward the same cause, you might actually be doing harm by starting a new nonprofit organization. There is already massive competition for limited philanthropic dollars, why would you further dilute the potential fundraising pool? Ultimately, it is more effective for the cause if there is a more targeted effort, rather than a scattered approach. Do your research to make sure the need exists. Search for nonprofits on GuideStar.org

Is 501(c) status the best option?

Often, founders decide they want to start a nonprofit organization before determining if that structure is really the best fit. There are many possible structures for your new entity – make sure you choose wisely. Could your idea be successful as a program of an organization with a similar mission? Wouldfiscal sponsorship be a better option? In a fiscal sponsorship arrangement, programs begin under the umbrella of another nonprofit’s tax-exempt status for the initial launch, providing an opportunity to test an idea without the administrative burden of a new nonprofit organization. Or is a for-profit entity a better structure for this idea? A B Corporation is a relatively new option for a socially-responsible business structure that gives entities idealist street cred, without some of the limitations of a 501(c) nonprofit organization. Learn more about B Corps

“Social enterprises should not be confined to a single type of legal structure. The most important part of choosing the right structure is starting with your mission, and then adopting a structure that allows you to best achieve it.” Harvard Business Review

Can you separate your ego from the equation?

When you cannot separate your personal goals from the mission and vision of the organization, the result can be catastrophic. A nonprofit is owned by the community, or the taxpayers, not by the founder.

An arts organization founder I spoke with recently shared his personal story of founding a nonprofit and subsequently being booted off the board a year later. He had a personal vision for the organization, but it was not representative of the community which became evident immediately. You have to be comfortable with this organization not being YOURS but OURS, with goals being driven entirely by the mission and the population served. Sometimes, that means you are not a fit within the organization’s leadership.

Ego can compromise that mission-first mentality. Ego can also cloud an entrepreneur’s view of whether there is a real need in the community. There might be five other organizations working on this very cause, but the egotistical founder wants their own. Taking the ego out of founding a new nonprofit is a crucial first step. Before you begin your application for nonprofit status, make sure you’re comfortable with stepping away if it best serves the mission.

If nonprofit is the best option…

If you do decide a nonprofit organization is the best option, check out the National Council of Nonprofits’ resources on How to Start a Nonprofit.

No Self-Made-Man is an Island

“Irked” is the best way to describe my reaction to the latest article, Most People Shouldn’t Be Giving To Charity, by Business Insider contributor and self-proclaimed, self-made millionaire, Steve Siebold.

Siebold implores people “to get rich first, get what you want, and then help others in any way you wish,” claiming that giving back is “wrong unless you can afford to do it.” He condescendingly asks Americans to sit down and let the 1% take care of the philanthropy while we focus our energies on trying to get rich.

Siebold brushes off the notion of supporting others as socialist poppycock, while he spouts a libertarian diatribe rooted in the idea of “every man for himself”.

But Siebold has it wrong, and here’s why:

The terrifying consequences of leaving nonprofits in the hands of the world’s Steve Siebolds

From this latest article, and a collection of others that include pretentious titles like What The Middle Class Doesn’t Understand About Rich People andHow to Break Into the Upper Class, we can gather a few clues into the values of Steve Siebold. I’m not saying the nonprofit world doesn’t need or want to accept money from millionaires like Siebold, but we should reject the notion that philanthropy should be left to the millionaires club.

Would the Steve Siebolds fund programs that support our massive homeless population? Would they support educational programs for minority youth in rural communities? Doubly doubtful. The problem with a person who gets rich selfishly is the selfishness doesn’t go away. He continues to live and give selfishly. With countless worthy causes in need of funding, the sector cannot afford to be at the mercy of the Steve Siebolds. His values don’t reflect mine, and his philanthropy would not either.

Most people can and should give

Siebold suggests it would be wrong to give if you can’t afford it. If, by this, he means that it would be wrong for non-millionaires to donate to, say, a nonprofit supporting the medical needs of low-income youth before buying that Ferrari or rounding off the luxury watch collection, then Seibold’s conception of wrongness is not only obviously false but morally reprehensible.

Perhaps he simply means that it would be wrong to give if doing so would bring about more harm than good. This, I think, is quite right. But the implication is that giving should not be left to the millionaires of the world. Rather, the vast majority of us can afford it. That instead of trying to get rich, we should be donating to worthy causes.

Giving is a privilege

Why should wealth be our collective ultimate goals? What Siebold fails to recognize is that for many, wealth is not the holy grail. Wealth is not what we strive for each day. Many of us strive to live in communities with equal access to health, education and social services, and we are proud to give whatever we can to get us there.

There is intrinsic value that comes with philanthropy. Giving is a way of voting with your dollars, making choices about the programs available to you and your fellow community members. Giving empowers people and helps them to feel connected to others. That is not harmful, and we all have the right to make the choice to be philanthropic.

Every gift matters… Really

Yes, we should expect millionaires and billionaires to step up and donate large sums to charitable endeavors. But it’s not enough. In fact, according to Charity Navigator, the wealthiest 10% of Americans make up just 25% of total charitable giving nationwide.

Whether you’re giving money, time, or in-kind goods, your contributions do make a tremendous difference to nonprofit organizations. “In 2009, despite the recession, Salvation Army bell ringers raised a record $139 million,” (Talk About Giving). Small gifts add up!

Don’t let Steve Siebold tell you how you should or shouldn’t support nonprofit organizations. The sector needs support from 100% of us.

“Giving isn’t a posture reserved for the rich or the powerful. It is the responsibility and privilege of every man, woman, and child to participate in the task of building more just and humane societies.” — Alfre Woodard