Most Popular Blog Posts of 2010

To kick off the new year, we thought we’d look back briefly at last year. From the Haiti disaster in January to the tax extensions in December, 2010 was a significant year. Our topics on the blog ranged from cell phone campaigns to the Chilean miners. Here are the our most popular posts from 2010:

1. An Inconvenient Truth: Charitable Climate Change on Capitol Hill. Much has happened on the political front since this was originally posted back in February, but Washington is still experiencing a significant shift in attitude toward the charitable deduction. The 7 suggestions listed here are as timely as ever.

2. True Greatness: A Tribute to Peter Spokes. In 2010, a man who championed fathering and impacted many of us passed away. Here, Bill High relays how Peter’s life touched him personally.

3. Charities Must Brace for the Impact of Tax Increases. Unprecedented government spending. Historic defecits. Aging social programs. No matter your political leanings, the reality is that the tax bill will be coming due soon. This will have an enormous impact on nonprofits as babyboomers move into retirement and younger generations are saddled with new taxes.

4. Five Online Giving Trends for 2010. Giving on the web is not new anymore, but it still hasn’t matured to fully rival its older fundraising counterparts. This past year saw a surge in donations via mobile devices as well, with numerous small gifts making up for large total dollars.

5. IRA Rollover Provision Extended. When Congress extended the Bush tax cuts, it also re-instated this popular giving tool for those over 70 1/2. An IRA charitable rollover is a great way to give for those who are required to take annual minimum distributions.

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Giving on the Web: 5 Online Giving Trends for 2010

The media has been closely following the unprecedented amounts of text donations for disaster relief efforts in Haiti (over $35 million as of Monday). This outpouring of gifts has been a poignant reminder of the way that technology is changing the face of fundraising and giving.

Network for Good recently posted five trends they’ve recognized related to online giving:

  • More donations, smaller average gift size – Donors may be increasingly using the web for more giving, but the size of the gift is usually smaller. To gain gifts, you’ll continue to see charities make giving easier online or via mobile devices.
  • Timidity towards new causes – During economic struggles donors are focused on their core charities – the ones they identify with the most. It is getter harder and harder for non-profits to reach brand new constituents, so charities will have to refine their vision statements and delivery to stand out from the crowd.
  • More spam – Organizations are trying to get your attention, and email marketing will continue to surge.
  • Recurring giving – As the technology becomes more available, expect to have more options for automatic, regular gifts. It’s convenient for you and helps organizations stabilize their income.
  • Year-end drives – “Fourth quarter giving comprised over half of the total dollar value and number of donations made in 2009,” NFG posts. This isn’t a new trend – it’s the norm, but plan for the year-end push to get louder and louder.

You can read Network for Good’s entire article here.

How to Set Up a Giving Circle

One of the recent trends in giving is the rise of “Giving Circles” —individuals who come together to pool their assets to make a difference with their giving.

Setting up a Giving Circle is easy, and you may be surprised how meaningful it is to give among friends. Here are six basic steps to help you get started:

Step 1 – Set Goals and Structure
Identify a group of your peers, colleagues, or family members who may share a common interest and invite them to get together. Your first meetings will focus on setting up the Circle’s structure such as giving guidelines, meeting schedule, and deciding a name.

It is up to your group to determine the contribution amount that each member should make. There are circles that require $500, $5,000, or more in annual commitments. It is important for the group to have complete consensus on the final amount.

Step 2 – Establish Your Mission

Your group needs to decide which charities you would like to focus on. You may also wish to simply designate a general category, such as evangelism, inner city, youth, or poor and needy.

Step 3 – Open a Giving Fund
Your group can open a Fund at SCCF by making a suggested tax-deductable contribution of $2,500 or more.

Step 4 – Create Work Groups
Once your focus is established, having members volunteer for particular tasks will build personal commitment in your Circle. For example, one work group could organize meetings and Circle events, another could manage the Fund online (recommend grants, review Fund balances, etc.), while another might research new giving opportunities.

Step 5 – Develop Partnerships

Determine how you want to be involved with the organizations that you fund. Will you also volunteer for
an organization that you have funded? Web development, program planning, and mentoring are some examples of ways your members might get involved.

Step 6 – Evaluate Your Impact
Take time to examine your short-term and long-term goals on a regular basis. This will help develop a sense of satisfaction and show how your contributions are making a difference.

Candid feedback from the organizations you have funded and partnered with will always be an important ingredient of this process.
Original article by Pam Pugh, Copyright © 2008, The National Christian Foundation

Giving in the News: Wealthy People Increasingly Give Online, Study Finds

From Chronicle of Philanthropy

By Elizabeth Schwinn

Affluent people are increasingly likely to use the Internet to make their charitable donations, according to results released today of a study of nearly 3,500 donors.

But charities are turning off some of their biggest donors — people who give $1,000 or more, the survey found. Some charities send too many messages to donors who say they don’t want them, while others don’t take take advantage of the interest many donors express in expanding their online interaction with nonprofit organizations, the survey found.

“Most charities are not paying attention,” says Mark Rovner, president of Sea Change Strategies, a fund-raising consulting company in Takoma Park, Md. “The people responsible for larger gifts need to start taking the Internet much more seriously than they have.”

Sea Change conducted the survey along with Convio, an Austin, Tex., company that provides Web-based software for nonprofit groups, and Edge Research in Arlington, Va., which does research and polling for nonprofit organizations.

The survey was based on data from 3,443 donors who had made gifts of at least $1,000 to a single cause in the past 18 months and donated an average of more than $10,896 per year to charities.

Sixty-four percent of the donors were age 45 to 64, and 57 percent had incomes of at least $100,000. The donors’ names were provided by 23 organizations that represent an array of causes, including advocacy groups, health organizations, international relief groups, public television stations, and Christian ministries.

Among the key findings:

  • Four out of five donors said they had made a charitable gift online, and a little more than half, 51 percent, said they prefer to use the Internet for their donations. Some 46 percent said that they expect to make a greater percentage of their charitable gifts online within the next five years.
  • Fifty-six percent said that charities send too many e-mail messages, and 47 percent said they do not read as many messages from charities as they did in the past.
  • Seventy-four percent said it’s inappropriate for a charity to obtain their e-mail address from a commercial database, while 82 percent said they don’t think it’s right for charities to send them messages about another organization.
  • Ninety-two percent of donors like getting year-end tax receipts by e-mail, while 83 percent want to get electronic updates on a charity’s finances and spending. Seventy-four percent said e-mail messages are appropriate when notifying donors that it’s time to renew an annual gift or to explain how a donation has been spent.
  • Eighty-one percent of donors dislike messages that take an urgent tone in seeking a repeat donation.
  • Forty-six percent of donors said the charity’s messages do a good job of making them feel connected to the organization, whil 43 percent said the messages are well-written and inspiring.

Most of the donors want more say on the quantity of e-mail they receive from charities.

In a follow-up call from researchers, one donor told them he is disappointed that charities often give him just two choices for receiving e-mail messages: “always” or “never.”

“Instead of just having me check a box that says ‘Never,’ they could actually grade it and say ‘only contact me once or twice a year, exceptional events,’” he said.

The poll results suggest that charities need to stop treating online communications with wealthy donors as little more than an electronic version of direct mail, says Mr. Rovner.

“It really behooves these organizations, particularly with these higher-dollar donors, to look into how to sort these people out,” Mr. Rovner says. “It may be OK from a financial standpoint to throw mediocre stuff at the small-dollar donors but it’s not OK to e-mail that stuff to the high-dollar donors.”

The survey was conducted last fall and had a margin of error of 1.5 percentage points. It was based on e-mail addresses of big donors provided by 23 large nonprofit organizations.

The people contacted for the survey represented only 1 percent of all the e-mail addresses the charities have collected from donors and other supporters but accounted for 32 percent of all the annual gifts made to the charities. A report on the survey, The Wired Wealthy: Using the Internet to Connect with Your Middle and Major Donors, is available free.

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Websites that Produce Giving

What kind of website do you have?  Does it produce giving?  Do you know the elements that produce giving?

A recent study by the Poynter Institute tells us what attracts attention:

1.  75-80% of the time people will look at photos and artwork.

2.  56% of the time people will look at headlines.

3.  31% of the time people will look at briefs and sidebars.

4.  29% of the time people will look at captions.

5.  20-25% of the time people will read articles.

So what does this tell us we should do?  Have good pictures.  Write good headlines–ones that catch attention, call to action, demand readership.  Make sure you have some sidebars, action boxes, break up your text.  Use captions to call attention to your work.  And write articles that show you are an expert or know how to get the information.

Simple points of action, simple points of entry are keys to making your site work.  If you have online giving, then make sure its obvious and just a couple of clicks away.  Don’t bury it.

Go for it.  Start today.

William High is the President/General Counsel of Servant Christian Community Foundation.  He may be reached at