Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Recap: 100 Year of Giving DC Fly-In Day

We thank the many AFP members who traveled from all over the country to attend the Feb. 16, 2017 Charitable Giving Coalition Fly-In on Capitol Hill. Your efforts are so appreciated, and you contributed to a phenomenally successful event. Chris Griffin, AFP’s coordinator for professional advancement, generously volunteered to attend the Hill event, hosted by the coalition (which AFP chairs), to raise awareness of the importance of philanthropy and the charitable deduction. Here’s his report:

Overall, it was a pretty amazing experience. I would suggest everyone make an opportunity to go to Capitol Hill whenever you’re able. As you’re meeting with members of Congress and their staff, you can’t help but think that you’re witnessing history and making actual impact.

The Wednesday night before the event, we had a dinner and training on the Hill with everyone who had flown in from across the U.S. Art Taylor of the Wise Giving Alliance sponsored dinner and Jason, in his role as Chair of the Charitable Giving Alliance, gave opening remarks and thanked The Philanthropy Roundtable for generously supporting the event. Sandra Swirski of the Alliance for Charitable Reform and her team provided an overview of the event and answered questions. We were then given talking points, summarizing some of the issues we would be addressing the next day.

The big issue comes down to this: the amount given by individuals last year added up to $265 billion, and eighty percent of that comes from taxpayers who are taking itemized deductions. One possibility for tax reform is increasing the standard deduction to the point that there would be no incentive for many people to itemize and donate (critical, since the charitable deduction is an itemized deduction). Such a change could cause the charitable sector to lose billions of dollars! There are other changes that would affect itemized deductions that could lead to a drop in giving in the range $9 – 13 billion or more.

Participants in the Fly-In Day were divided into groups by state so we would meet with the representatives of that state.  Our group had Virginia due to our local ties, and we met with two Members of Congress and several staff members.

In each office, we introduced ourselves and explained our connection to Virginia.  We first met with Congresswoman Comstock who assured us she was in favor of the current charitable deduction and her first priority was “to do no harm.” The Congresswoman represents Jason’s neighborhood, and he thanked her for signing a letter commending the local elementary school’s “tech ambassadors,” a group that included Jason’s oldest daughter.

We then met with a legislative aide for Senator Warner who told us that the Senator appreciated our concerns, but she wasn’t sure when actual decisions would be made about tax reform. This sense was echoed by staffers for Senator Tim Kaine, who also asked us for stories about impact that would help the Senator make the case, and by Congressman Dave Brat’s legislative director. (At one point, we noticed Congressman Brat’s office had a special refrigerator just for hummus that we all eyed hungrily. Jason, we need this at AFP!)

The day concluded with a meeting with Congressman Don Beyer. He gave Jason some inside scoop on the space program (Mars in 2030—you heard it here first!), and then talked about each of our organizations and how he related to each one—no small feat given that we represented the Nature Conservancy, Capital Hospice, Salvation Army, Cancer Research and AFP.  It was a great end to the day.

The Fly-In Day was a big success, but it’s just the beginning of our work this year. While my focus is on professional training and continuing education, being on Capitol Hill made me realize just what’s at stake and how passionate all of you—our members—are about the work you do. Please stay involved, and I know Jason will be asking for your engagement later this year as we see tax reform plans officially introduced.

Read the official press release about the event from the Charitable Giving Coalition here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Togetherness, the Foundation of Philanthropy

Fundraising professionals reflect the diversity of the communities we serve. We work to address the needs of a diverse society. We welcome and support a diversity of individuals and offer pathways for them to succeed.

That text comes from our new strategic plan, developed for 2017 – 2019, where inclusivity is one of six guiding principles (including ethics and trust; professional preparation; advancing philanthropy; partnership and collaboration; and creativity and innovation) that will help guide our association and our profession into the future.

But diversity and inclusion are more than just principles that guide us. They help form the very identity and philosophy of AFP since it was first created in 1960.

Our role as fundraisers is to bring people—everyone—together to help create stronger communities and improve the quality of life for all people.

And we do mean everyone. There are no caveats, no limitations.

The very foundation of the philanthropic sector is to embrace all people, all groups.

In the same fashion, we welcome every individual—without exception—to the fundraising profession and the AFP community. For each member brings a unique array and wealth of talent, experience and perspectives that can only strengthen and enhance philanthropy.

And we look forward to seeing everyone—whether you are traveling from near or far—to the AFP International Fundraising Conference in San Francisco, April 30 – May 2, where we will welcome you with open arms as we come together to advance our profession and help change the world.

Ann Hale, CFRE, Chair, AFP
Jason Lee, President and CEO, AFP

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness

Last week, BoardSource, Guidestar, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and AFP announced a new framework for evaluating fundraising effectiveness — one that provides a balanced approach that emphasizes how important it is to invest in strong and sustainable fundraising programs.

I encourage you to read more about the new project, Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness, and download the free toolkits and resources that go with it, but it’s important to understand what the framework is (and isn’t) meant to be.

Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness isn’t a detailed primer on what does and doesn’t count as a fundraising cost. And it’s not like the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, another AFP collaborative project which seeks to help charities understand where they need to improve their fundraising efforts  (typically through donor retention). 

Rather, it’s a holistic way to look at fundraising costs and introduces a way to start conversations with board, staff, donors and others about your fundraising—and more importantly, explain WHY you raise funds for your organization in the way you do.

Too often, conversations about fundraising costs end up focused on what your fundraising costs are and if they are “good” or “bad.” Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness stresses that your organization’s fundraising approach is going to be unique and different from any other charity’s, based on many factors, including mission, values, history, donor base and others. It’s an important idea that builds upon something AFP has been championing for many years—that any sort of fundraising cost “line in the sand” doesn’t make any sense given the hundreds of factors that can affect fundraising from year to year.

Even more compelling to the framework is a discussion of the different types of fundraising and what they are designed to do. The purpose of a direct mail program is of course far different than the mission of a major gifts program. Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness illuminates these differences in a clear and easy way for non-fundraisers, along with other key points about how some types of fundraising take longer to find success and how different fundraising vehicles rely on each other to be most effective. 

And that’s really the most critical part of this new framework—how we reach out to boards, staffs, donors and others about fundraising costs.  That’s where the education has to begin about fundraising costs, making sure that our leaders, our presidents, our CEOs, our major donors and others understand why fundraising is important, the balance between fundraising costs and efficiency, and how the fundraising choices we make affect our organization.

There are some great tools and resources for helping you start conversations about these very important issues. Please download Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness and let me know what you think.