Sunday, June 14, 2009



I will recognize formally the names of all individuals who comment (constructive criticism is welcome) on my blogs, beginning today.

You may comment on any of the postings.
I will mention your name in full (unless you do not wish this recognition) on the first mention.
On all subsequent mentions, I will add an * ...

Thus, if I were commenting on two blogs, the recognition would be Holy Beggar*

Congratulations to the person with the most recognition *s.

Have fun ...

No matter what, Don't Forget to Ask for the Money!

Thanks ... PART 1: Thanks Again!

Thanks ...

PART 1: Thanks Again!

On a recent excursion into the “wilds” of a city park with Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum of Azamra, a practitioner of the chassidus (mystical practices of Judaism), the Rav (an honorific term) gave us a “formula” for constructing a session of hitbodedut, the practice promoted by the great Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. It involves going out regularly and frequently into nature and speaking out loud directly to God. His suggestion was a “please” sandwich on “thanks”, (mayo and pickle, or not): begin with “thanks” and end with “thanks”, with “please” sandwiched in the middle.

“Is there a difference in the quality of the first “thanks” and the second “thanks”? I asked.

The answer is covered in fund raising 101: when there is a previous donor, one thanks initially for the past gift and ... makes a case for the current need (“please”) ... and, finally, thanking the, hopefully, renewing donor.

Nonetheless, my mind was inquiring from a deeper perspective of a spiritual relationship, and from within I will examine the distinction of “thanks” in two blog-parts (blog-ettes?).

Part 1 ... Thanks Again!

In the case of the first “thanks”, I feel we are coming from a “narrow” place. While we are humbly appreciative of everything we have been given to date, we wake up yet another day to find that it has not been “enough”. We feel depleted, lacking, even hungry and are asking again, for new, more, extra.


Perhaps, but fund raising professionals know that, unlike fishing (for fish) it’s more cost-effective (and perhaps lucrative) to spend our resources sustaining current donors than reeling in new ones. Thus, we continue to ask the same folks for support.

The Holy Beggar doesn’t profess to have long-term memory. I’ve never seen a HB sign that says, “Thanks for your past support.” or “I remember you helped me once before. Please help, again.” Rather, the plea is, “Hungry. Will work for food. God bless.”

Despite this fact, I’ve found that once I give even a little to the Hungry Beggar, I feel some type of “relationship” has begun. S/He stands on s/his spot day after day, simply asking for help. When I don’t see s/him, I might wonder (1) Has s/he taken ill or died, (2) My few pennies worked wonders! There’s no need! or (3) My pennies weren’t enough. S/He has moved on.

In the case of the latter, my simple gesture of giving, with its attendant entitlement of relationship, is cause for concern. Was my initial gift a tease. Did I offer hope of more and then let the Holy Beggar down?

Important questions when considering institutional appeals. Research has shown that people are now giving to people, not to institutions and organizations.

What can we learn from the Holy Beggar? Perhaps it’s not as important to project responsible stewardship, donor recognition, etc. Making our appeals personal will do wonders. We need to reach deeply into the souls of our “markets” (course but true term). When our patrons don’t hear from us, do they wonder, "What happened to that organization I helped once? I need to see if they are still doing that great work ..."

In our dreams!?

Well, maybe there's something to that "dream" thing. Perhaps this the future: high-tech virtual fund raising with no past karmic relationship implied.

To be Continued ...

No matter what, Don’t Forget to Ask for the Money!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Handwriting on the Wall: Begging Just in Time, Not Space

The Handwriting on the Wall: Begging Just in Time, Not Space

Chances are that the folks you see studying intently the handwriting on the wall of donor ranks at your local performing arts hall or camp dining room are fund raisers looking for leads. It's almost tempting to tap the letter forms to see how much money was pledged (and, hopefully, paid!) for a three foot high letter (a font of 2592 points!). The really perceptive among us can almost scratch and sniff the serifs to determine how "fresh" this gift was! (A generation ago? Last year?)

Titling a building in recognition of a donation “in perpetuity" is a very tricky mode of donor stewardship. What happens when the organization outgrows and tries to sell its facility? With a new capital campaign pending, we need new blood! A new hero! Should (must?) we transfer the name to the new building if the previous gift doesn't keep on giving? Exactly how long is "perpetuity"?

Case in point! When the late oil tycoon Armand Hammer was planning to make perhaps the gift of his life time of his art collection to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, he put the kybosh on it when he found out that the collection would be placed in a building named within his own lifetime for someone else. He eventually set up his own private museum (now a part of UCLA).

Rather thank dig a hole in the otherwise uncluttered facade of a beautiful new building, only to have to patch it in or tear it down, altogether, I'm advocating a plan to recognize donors over stated periods of time, rather than space. Let the recipient organization manage the stewardship in a way that reflects the nature of the gift.

Organizations should take a lesson from public broadcasting, which equates $ = Y mins. of airtime on X location. A simple equation that can be negotiated in real time, and when time's up ... we can re-up the opportunity at mutual will.

The web is even better, because time and space are negotiable. It’s like renting rather than owning, and it feels terrific.

To this end, I’m thinking about how new, virtual technology can inform the decisions about recognition of bricks-and-mortar gifts. Low tech ones might looks more like a "silent" radio at the car wash or better still, super-titles at the opera. Higher tech could be a laser light that flashes the donor's name for a period of time.

Case in point, when first opened, the Museum of Contemporary Art at the “Temporary” (now the “Geffen Contemporary” and now not open at all, which is another problem!) had a laser light projecting into oblivion (and traffic!) from one of the corners of its building for a few years that read, in red, M_O_C_A_ on a timed schedule. It was very, very cool! It could have as easily read, in any color, Y_O_U_R_(D_O_N_O_R)_N_A_M_E_H_E_R_E

Likewise, there's only so much room on this Holy Beggar's signboard requesting a donation, and she doesn't carry a laser beam to project your name into the heavens.

So, please, let me whistle your favorite tune or corporate jingle for 20 minutes daily. No extra charge for premiere placement (i.e. red lights, of which there are 480 during an average weekday traffic pattern at my corner.) I don’t have a perpetuity rate, because I hope not to have to beg for a job too much longer. How about if, once I get my new job, that I whistle your jingle on my way to work when I stop at every red light for the balance of the scheduled time contracted for your kind donation? It's all negotiable and I've got time for everyone!

No Matter What, Don’t Forget to Ask for the Money!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Don't Believe Your Mission! Live Up to It!

Don't Believe Your Mission! Live Up to It!

Belief is a tricky thing. I thought I had to at least believe something before I could witness it. And then I saw, many times, shamans in Korea stand barefoot on razor sharp rice straw cleavers. I couldn't believe it, but there it was, before my eyes! They were doing this on behalf of a person who was deathly ill with a spiritual disease. No trickery. These blades were so sharp they attracted skin! And the people were eventually helped.

As a propagandist (and journalist, I know the difference!), one who is a promoter of missions, a fund- and attention-raiser for nonprofit causes, I can assure you that I can write a gut-wrenching, cause celébre mission statement, the heart beat of any appeal for funds. These words are palpable. One can almost smell, touch, taste, hear and see the need.

Too many folks in the nonprofit field think that perception is all that is needed to turn hearts and hands into a donation. What they are missing is the source of life itself.

It's important to live up to one's mission. We're not in the celebrity business, where the most hollow reason for getting someone's attention is good enough for the moment. We've got substance and a mission to support.

Here's a test: Write three headlines that you'd like to see on the front page of your local newspaper (or web log / blog ... in the case that your local print paper has fallen to the realities of communications and economic chaos of these times). What a dream!
  • (Insert your organization's name) conquers (insert your raison d'etre)
  • Community goes all out to (insert your raison d'être) with (Insert your organization's name)
  • (Insert your raison d'être) is a thing of the past / has been achieved by (Insert your organization's name)
It's a great exercise for a board meeting, especially with a "seasoned" board. Yes, we want to believe that we're actually vital to and have engaged our community / constituency, that we're successful and that we're capable of being recognized. But neither we, nor our nonprofit organization can survive on the junk food notoriety of entertainment celebrities.

Nice. Now get down to work. It's time not to believe the mission, but to Live Up to It! Continuously refresh not just the commitment but the practice. Activate it, even in a small way. Keeping it vital is keeping the heartbeat healthy.

No matter what, Don't Forget to Ask for the Money!