Thursday, May 26, 2011

Economic Governance—Data Driven Impact

“Why would he be talking about economic governance in the AFP Blog?”

It’s a fair question. I went to the Asia Foundation’s launch of a new book discussing the measurement of economic governance at the local level in Asia yesterday.

It’s looking at the impact of the Asia Foundation’s Economic Governance Index. It’s relevant to us because key constituents in this debate are the financially active nonprofits and social enterprises—our shops, in short. The value to them of hard data, detailing the economic environment in which they sit, is a critical tool allowing them to pack a punch in their debate with government. Without hard, demonstrable facts to share they would not have achieved changes to regulation, changes to the operating environment or changes to public opinion.

Look in our own back yard. How often do we still find ourselves in that boat? Threats to the charitable tax deduction, scrutiny on investment in “overhead”—without the data to back up our arguments we’ll continue to look and sound self-interested.

Initiatives like the Fundraising Effectiveness Project or the National Research Collaborative are critical tools for us to use in dialogue with our own Boards and in public debates. We need to engage with them now, or, in their absence in Canada, develop them soonest. If we don’t, we’ll be in the same boat, lacking the same paddle, in five years’ time.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Angela Earns Her ACFRE ... Are You Next?

Many congratulations to Angela Seaworth, our newest member to earn the Advanced Certified Fund Raising Credential (ACFRE). Angela is the director of the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at Rice University in Houston, and is the 91st person to earn this impressive achievement.

Everyone should consider working towards the CFRE and ACFRE. As Angela said, “The ACFRE credential shows commitment to fundraising as a true profession.” She couldn’t be more right, and that applies to the CFRE as well. Certification is how we show the public that we are serious about ethical fundraising—that we are credible, and we are working in a field driven by established principles, ethics and best practices – all valued by employers, our donors and the public.

You might want to consider this: those fundraisers with credentials earn significantly more than those without, something we’ve seen for many years in our annual Compensation and Benefit Reports. And we’re seeing more and more job ads with “CFRE preferred” as part of the description.

Earning the CFRE and ACFRE are significant accomplishments, but they’re certainly not impossible. There is nothing stopping you from beginning this process as soon as you are eligible.

I hope you will!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Congress and the Charitable Deduction

I received another call from a reporter yesterday about whether or not Congress is going to change the charitable deduction.

We’ve heard this before but this time the threat is very real. In previous go-rounds the proposal was attached to polarizing legislation that wasn’t likely to pass—first a healthcare reform package and then an ambiguous deficit reduction plan. This year, the cap has been applied to legislation regarding the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Fixing the AMT is a very popular idea in Congress, so it’s a potential runner.

The President continues to mention his support for this proposal – very publicly. Plus, there are two independent bodies that recently have suggested changes to the deduction as well: The Debt Reduction Task Force of the Bipartisan Policy Center and the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

It’s clear the deduction is in play. We’re working to educate Congress about the true impact of what they’re proposing—painting a picture of what it would mean to communities around the country and what tax dollars would have to be applied to pick up the deficit when charities cannot deliver. I’d like to hear what you have to share about the impact on projects close to you.

Take ten minutes out of your day, contact your Members of Congress and tell them to support the charitable deduction. Congress needs to hear from you because this is not a hypothetical argument. This is a battle we cannot afford to lose.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Industry Partners Reflect the Profession

Met with our Industry Partners Council a couple of weeks ago. The council is made up of representatives from for-profit firms that serve the profession. It was fascinating to talk with them because their experiences often underscore what members are seeing in their communities.

Take Rich Tolsma, for example, who leads Rich Tolsma Productions, a video and multi-media firm. He’s reporting a strong sense of urgency about projects that were delayed because of the economy, but now need to be worked on very quickly. He’s seeing more programs now designed specifically for the Internet, when in the past putting materials and resources online was often an afterthought. There have also been more projects focused specifically on donor stewardship: “We’ve never seen more charities developing videos and materials with the express purpose of thanking current donors and showing impact.”

Debbi Barber, CFRE, the president of Grizzard Communications Group, a nonprofit marketing and fundraising agency, talked about how different the current trends and priorities are compared to past years. Clients are now focused on social media and networking, requiring a new set of skills and operations that are far different from the traditional fundraising work.

And if you need a great example of how much the sector has changed, there’s Adam Roth and Streamlink Software. Adam, president of the Streamlink, noted that his firm, which provides charities with web-based grant and board management software that increases operational resources, capacity and efficiency, couldn’t have been in existence a few years ago.

Any of these sound familiar? Changes in our profession affect our business partners too, and they can provide invaluable perspective and insight. Definitely looking forward to our next meeting.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Pheasants and Fundraising in the Heartlands

As you can see from the picture, I had a great time at the Mid-America Conference in Kansas City. I was expecting a Jayhawk, or even a Cardinal, being in Missouri. But that’s actually a pheasant. Ringer, from South Dakota, alternatively known as Rob Timm.

There were some great sessions. A fascinating presentation on how NOT to stifle creativity and another emphasizing the global operating environment and the speed and flexibility of response that it requires from us.

I met with Chapter leaders from across the region to hear how their environment was changing – and how AFP can support them in that. The challenges of speed of response, access to resources and delivery of service seem to be common to all. It was the first of many such conversations over the next few months. I’ll be reaching out to you—but I need you to reach out to me and tell me about your challenges. Working together, we can meet them.

It was a great conference – and a great meeting. Thank you all for asking me to visit you in the Heartlands.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Off to the Heartland

I’m off on my first official chapter travel today as president and CEO, starting with the Mid-America Conference in Kansas City. It’s a great four-day event that brings together fundraisers from across the region. The chapter has been kind enough to invite me to speak for just a few minutes at the conference, and I’m really looking forward to the whole experience. I’m also excited to be able to meet with chapter presidents from across the area and discuss how their chapters are doing and what AFP International can do better.

If you’re going to be at the conference, please feel free to come up and say hi. I’d love to talk with you and hear about how your fundraising is going and how AFP can best help you.

If you’re not going to be at the conference, why not take a few minutes this week and think about who would make for an outstanding board leader for AFP? Nominations for the AFP board are due July 29, and it’s critical that AFP have the best, most effective volunteer leaders. I hope you’ll consider nominating someone. We need both established, experienced leaders and new faces to keep our community fresh, dynamic and ready for tomorrow’s challenges.

Have a good week, and I’ll report back later this week from Kansas City.