We are thrilled you’re here! In the blog posts below you will find resources, updates, news, and information about a variety of topics in philanthropy and the social sector. Enjoy!
By Amy Hines, Senior Vice President, The Alford Group
With the start of an unprecedented intergenerational wealth transfer, not-for-profits have a lot to gain by avoiding any inadvertent pitfalls that deter potential donors from contributing to their efforts. With access to the internet, donors do not have to rely on government scrutiny to avoid unscrupulous charities (Besides, government entities have limited authority as watchdogs). Donors can look for evidence themselves, vetting charities with a tap or a click.
Maintaining integrity is key—but ensuring that an organization’s optics convey that integrity is also essential.
A potential donor’s due diligence before opening her wallet, is likely to take place by heeding to the credo–“follow the money.” While that may in fact be just a line in a movie, it resonates in the philanthropic ether as a sound way to approach investigating an organization’s worthiness.
How do potential donors assess the money trail? There are several logical ways:
- Look at the organization’s website to see if financial information is being reported in a transparent way.
- Go online to GuideStar, the primary resource for accessing an organization’s IRS 990 and comparing similar organizations.
- Go online to Charity Navigator to see how the organization is rated.
- Go online to BBB Wise Giving, to check out whether they have been accredited as a trustworthy national organization.
It’s important for not-for-profits to manage the optics of their organizations in these four locations. Here’s how. Continue reading
Prospect research can be a complex subject, but it’s vital to growing and developing your nonprofit’s donor base.
With over $373 billion donated last year, giving is on the rise, which means that prospect research is more important than ever for capitalizing on your donors’ generosity and building strong relationships with them.
In this guide, we’ll cover all of the basics, from the definition down to the nitty-gritty details of how prospect research can work for you!
Specifically, we’ll answer these questions:
- What is prospect research?
- What data does prospect research target?
- How does prospect research work?
- Why is prospect research important?
- How can I use prospect research?
Let’s get started!
What is prospect research?
What’s happening around diversity and inclusion among foundations?
At the AFP 2016 International Conference, Brenda Asare, President & CEO of The Alford Group spoke briefly about foundations and their interactions with not-for-profits around diversity and inclusion.
Having trouble viewing this video? See it here.
The following post comes to us from Maree Bullock, Vice President of The Alford Group, and wife of the late Jimmie Alford. We couldn’t think of a better way to ring in 2016 than to remember Jimmie’s contribution to our lives and the nonprofit sector, especially its future leaders. Enjoy the rest of 2015 and we’ll see you in the new year. Cheers.
Dear Colleagues —
We create legacies throughout our lives — Some we choose — Others choose us!
Several years ago Jimmie chose to teach, mentor and coach the future generation of leaders in the not-for-profit sector. He was very intentional about that goal. In a formal way he taught at North Park University and Notre Dame University. Informally he mentored and coached hundreds — never turning down a request or an opportunity to explore career opportunities in the sector with those seeking his advice and counsel.
A few weeks ago, I hosted 5 Alford Scholars currently receiving financial assistance from the Jimmie R. Alford Scholarship Fund at North Park University. During our lunch together each scholar shared their life story — their adversities and struggles — their determination to create their own legacies in the sector. Much of what they shared mirrored Jimmie’s own challenges and struggles. Each of the scholars learned about Jimmie’s life, determination and impact.
Today there is $250,000 in the Jimmie R. Alford Scholarship Fund. Fourteen scholars have benefited to date. Each year four new scholars benefit from the Fund.
As I write this I ask myself “What legacy am I intentionally creating? How lasting and impactful will it be?”
What legacy are you intentionally creating?
Merry Christmas and happy New Year to each of you! 2016 provides a new year to create new legacies and enhance already-created legacies.
Maree G. Bullock
Consider one of the most popular childhood tales, Cinderella, the story about a chore girl’s transformation from neglect to fairy tale success. Cinderella lived her life in obscurity, abandoned and often mistreated by her “family,” her best attributes going unnoticed. Despite her circumstances, she still aspired to greatness. It was not until she received significant support and attention, however, that she came to achieve her dream of living a better life.
Similar to the Cinderella story, annual giving programs have become the chore girl of nonprofit fundraising. Like Cinderella’s mean step-sisters, major gift programs and large events are in the limelight, demanding valuable attention and all the best efforts a development office has to offer. Granted, they are important elements of the story and result in very real and meaningful contributions toward an organization’s revenue goals, but the focus on the visible and demanding major gift and event programs often results in neglect of annual gifts.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
With attention, support, and a little strategic planning, you can transform your annual giving program from the chore girl to the belle of the ball that it should be. Continue reading
Last month, the Girl Scouts of Western Washington were in quite the predicament. When confronted with the dilemma to either accept a $100,000 major gift that would be highly beneficial to the advancement of the organization and some of its participants, or return the donation and lose out on the funding but avoid having to discriminate against transgender girls, it was evident that the Girl Scouts of Western Washington prioritized their mission over money. But they didn’t stop with returning the donation. As any smart and adaptable organization would, they leveraged the opportunity and started an online fundraising campaign to recoup the $100,000, attracting nearly three times the goal in less than a week. The Girl Scouts of Western Washington’s actions showcased the organization’s values, their ability and willingness to stand up for those values, and reinforced their brand, effectively telling the organization’s story and connecting with donors who hold the same values. In the words of Megan Ferland, Girl Scouts of Western Washington’s CEO, “every girl should have the opportunity to be a girl scout if she wants to.”
So what can your nonprofit take from this story? To start, it is important to identify under what circumstance you should return a major gift or donation. Continue reading
There were three remarkable winners of the Diversity Art Showcase at this year’s AFP International Conference. Laura, Oscar and Tali’s work depicts how they view philanthropy. The winners, all from Art with a Heart and Lakeland Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore, explored the ideas of diversity and philanthropy through mixed media creations. Local artists judged the student’s artwork to award a first, second, and third place. The winning pieces were displayed in the Diversity Youth Art Showcase during AFP’s March 2015 International Fundraising Conference at the Baltimore Convention Center. The students were recognized throughout the conference, including at the opening plenary with 3,500 conference attendees in the audience.
Watch the video below to hear Brenda Asare, President & CEO of The Alford Group talk about our firm’s calling to engage the sector around diversity, and what the Diversity Session and Diversity Art Showcase bring to the artists, conference attendees and the broader AFP community.
See the photo gallery of the 2015 Showcase winners below.
The Alford Group has been a proud sponsor of Diversity at the AFP Conference for 16 years. We hold a strong commitment to diversity as one of our core values, and continue to encourage conversation about diversity in the not-for-profit sector through many different lenses.
The Diversity Session at the AFP International Conference this year focused on Women in Philanthropy. This was the first time the session had revolved around that aspect of diversity, and the session was very well attended.
The session was introduced by Brenda A. Asare, The Alford Group’s President & CEO. A panel offering insight into their own experience as female philanthropists and researchers in the field included:
- Una Osili, Director of Research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
- Sylvia Brown, Principal of Brown Capital Management, Inc.
- Ann Allston Boyce, President of the board of The T. Rowe Price Associates Foundation
The trend our firm has seen, and that many researchers and practitioners have seen, over the past decade, is that women are becoming more influential in charitable giving and leveraging their power to influence philanthropic decision making. This trend guided the conversation for the panel, which focused its energy on helping attendees understand how women are changing the philanthropic landscape, how to shape strategy to effectively engage women philanthropists, and how to cultivate and steward women donors for maximum impact in their organizations.
In the past, most organizations focused their fundraising efforts on male donors, given the traditional assumption that women were not making philanthropic decisions for their households. As women have begun to increase their rates of college enrollment, women enter the workforce and into higher paying jobs, and as women increasingly outlive men, the philanthropic sector has begun to see an increase in the visibility of female participation as major donors. Whether by accumulated wealth through their own work, or inherited wealth from family or spouses, female donors are having a significant impact on philanthropic initiatives. And more frequently, couples are making philanthropic decisions together.
Women give in many ways. Researchers are finding that across income levels, there is a real interest in philanthropy among women. But it’s not just through treasure that women are looking to contribute – women are increasingly becoming involved through their time and talent. Women are present in leadership for philanthropic organizations, helping to lead fundraising campaigns, plan events, and offering their expertise on governing and auxiliary boards and as staff.
Dr. Una Osili, a member of the panel, oversees research into how and why gender matters is the Director or Research and Chair of the research council of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.
“There are some really powerful examples of the dynamic role women are playing in philanthropy. A few examples include Women Moving Millions, the American Red Cross’ Tiffany Circle and Indiana University has a Women’s Philanthropy Council. In order to cultivate women donors, organizations have to think about how female donors might differ – how do they want to give, what do they want to give to, does being part of a network impact their giving?
“Establishing philanthropy through gender lines and understanding motivations is relatively under researched. As women play a more visible role, especially in leadership around the world, there is more interest in asking what are some things about my organization that can reduce barriers for women being involved? What is working elsewhere and how can I apply that to my own organization?”
The challenge of identifying how women want to engage in to the philanthropic landscape corresponds to the challenge of addressing diversity in philanthropy more broadly.
Dr. Osili says that “one size doesn’t fit all. When engaging with diverse communities, ethnically, religiously, multi-racial and multi-cultural donors, similar to female donors, you have to determine what are the barriers – how to ask, how to cultivate, what language and style is important to them. You have to use new approaches to bring new donors in – what worked in the past might not work for donors with different backgrounds, beliefs or cultures.”
She continues, “The broader message about women and diversity in philanthropy is that as the world become more connected and we interact much more with people of different backgrounds and characteristics, there are more opportunities to engage different types of donors – but you have to adapt to make your organization more inclusive of different types of donors.”
The Alford Group has been a sponsor of the Diversity Session and the Diversity Art Showcase at the AFP International Conference for 16 years. We hold a strong commitment to diversity as one of our core values, and continue to encourage conversation about diversity in the not-for-profit sector through many different lenses.
Happy New Year from The Alford Group!
Recently in a conversation with my colleague, Tafara Pulse, Director of Marketing for The Alford Group, we were discussing themes for the coming year that would be both inspiring and useful for us as a firm and for our clients as well. It was a fun and energizing conversation.
As we were developing ideas, she suggested that we consider 2014 The Year of Action. She reasoned that nothing truly happens in life unless we take action – and when we do take action, results happen. I liked what she said and I concurred with her reasoning. Continue reading