Ethical Fundraising

My husband recently asked me if I had ever been personally affected by a “me, too” moment. Honestly, in 30 years of nonprofit fundraising, I couldn’t really point to a specific serious incident. Of course, there had been flirting and a few invitations that could have gone awry, but I was always able to take myself out of the situation and avoid being alone with the culprit(s) afterwards.

I was reminded of my own personal experience as I listened to Dr. Edward L. Queen of Emory University who recently spoke to our Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) chapter on ethical fundraising.

I thought about the time I discovered one of my employees was embezzling funds from our employer. I offered to resign since it happened on my watch, but my resignation was denied. After all, I didn’t do it and apparently it had been going on since long before I arrived. I was so incensed! The employee was released but not prosecuted and I wasn’t even allowed to mark the record as “do not re-hire.” The organization wanted to avoid a potential lawsuit. That same employee showed up again some time later employed elsewhere in the organization and again being in a position to handle money.

While there have been times I have been paid less than a man or been held back due to my age or other excuse, there was one time I believe I was hired because I was married with children. After I was hired I discovered that the person I replaced had been having an affair with one of our chief volunteers. I was however, invited to join a group of volunteers who dined weekly at a fancy restaurant for an expensive meal. A volunteer turned in his expenses every time for a tax deduction although I did not consider this a budget-relieving expenditure related to our mission. Luckily, my boss supported me, and I did not have to go to the dinners anymore. It did not stop the volunteer from continuing to request reimbursement or a tax receipt, but I never signed off on them.

All of us make mistakes and none of us is above reproach. We do have to be aware that 49% of Americans do not trust nonprofits. We need to consider our actions and how they affect our ability to raise funds to support the mission and goals of the organizations we serve.

Optimistic Fundraising and 2018 Tax Law Changes

I have been reading a lot about how charity donations are expected to drop next year due to the tax law changes. For months my clients and colleagues have been worrying about how to combat this decline. I, however, have a different perspective.

Maybe I am just an optimist, but I am convinced that people give to a cause because they believe in it, not because of the tax deduction. Research has shown that people give for a variety of reasons including:

  • Have money
  • Believe in the cause
  • Trust solicitor
  • Make good things happen
  • Make bad things stop happening
  • Tradition of giving
  • Legacy
  • Guilt/fear
  • Tax deduction.

The number one reason people give money is because they were asked – by the right person for the right project for the right amount of money at just the right time.

It doesn’t mean that nonprofits can become complacent. If anything, we need to redouble our efforts to share the good works being done in our organizations.

Nonprofits must share their missions and goals for the future. Clearly describe the needs of the nonprofit in a consistent, compelling case for support on the website, in other materials, on the phone and in person.

Leadership including the CEO and the board need to be involved in personally soliciting gifts for specific amounts. Assuming the organization has hired the most qualified development officer they can find, this fundraiser needs to craft a fundraising plan that is approved and endorsed by the leadership and implemented in its entirety.

Charities should not have to employ fancy new fundraising techniques to meet their goals. Although it will be beneficial to have an easy to use online giving mechanism with an option for monthly giving on the website.

What charities need to do is provide cultivation and appreciation for their donors who are making choices with what to do with their funds despite no longer having an itemized deduction capability.

Best wishes for successful fundraising in 2018!


Owner/founder of Our Fundraising Search in Atlanta, Linda Wise McNay, Ph.D. has been successfully raising money for nonprofits in Atlanta for over 30 years.

8​ ​Trends​ ​in ​Independent​ ​School​ ​Fundraising

In​ ​April​ ​2017,​ ​Linda​ ​Wise​ ​McNay,​ ​Ph.D.,​ ​of​ ​Our​ ​Fundraising​ ​Search,​ ​and​ ​John​ ​Marshall, assistant​ ​head​ ​for​ ​development​ ​of​ ​Wesleyan​ ​School,​ ​conducted​ ​a​ ​survey​ ​of​ ​almost​ ​400​ ​heads​ ​of school​ ​to​ ​measure​ ​trends,​ ​challenges,​ ​and​ ​opportunities​ ​in​ ​independent​ ​school​ ​development​ ​and fundraising.​ ​The​ ​results​ ​were​ ​surprising​ ​and​ ​significant​ ​and​ ​shared​ ​with​ ​attendees​ ​at​ ​the​ ​October SAIS​ ​(Southern​ ​Association​ ​of​ ​Independent​ ​Schools)​ ​conference.

The​ ​average​ ​school​ ​respondent​ ​was​ ​a​ ​54-year-old​ ​day​ ​school​ ​with​ ​an​ ​average​ ​of​ ​2,353​ ​alumni. About​ ​half​ ​the​ ​schools have​ ​less​ ​than​ ​500​ ​students,​ ​58%​ ​are​ ​K-12,​ ​and​ ​62%​ ​have​ ​a​ ​budget​ ​less than​ ​$10,000,000.

Eight​ ​trends​ ​emerged​ ​based​ ​on​ ​information​ ​provided​ ​by​ ​the​ ​161​ ​SAIS​ ​schools​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Southeast who​ ​responded​ ​to​ ​the​ ​survey.

1.  Head​ ​of​ ​school​ ​fundraising​ ​experience​ ​exceeds​ ​tenure.
     The​ ​average​ ​head​ ​of​ ​school​ ​respondent​ ​has:
  • 7​ ​years​ ​of​ ​experience​ ​as​ ​head​ ​of​ ​his/her​ ​current​ ​school.
  • 10​ ​years​ ​total​ ​experience​ ​in​ ​his/her​ ​current​ ​school.
  • 11​ ​years​ ​of​ ​experience​ ​in​ ​all​ ​his/her​ ​headships.
  • 14​ ​years​ ​total​ ​experience​ ​in​ ​fundraising.
2.  Most​ ​heads​ ​have​ ​major​ ​gift​ ​experience.
  • 7%​ ​of​ ​heads​ ​of​ ​school​ ​responding​ ​have​ ​never​ ​solicited​ ​a​ ​large​ ​gift.
  • 56%​ ​of​ ​heads​ ​of​ ​school​ ​responding​ ​have​ ​solicited​ ​gifts​ ​up​ ​to​ ​$500,000.
  • 28%​ ​of​ ​heads​ ​of​ ​school​ ​responding​ ​have​ ​solicited​ ​a​ ​gift​ ​of​ ​$1​ ​million​ ​or​ ​more.
3.  Development​ ​Committees​ ​are​ ​under-utilized.
  • 21%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​reporting​ ​do​ ​NOT​ ​have​ ​a​ ​Development​ ​Committee.
  • 6%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​reporting​ ​have​ ​a​ ​Development​ ​Committee​ ​which​ ​NEVER​ ​meets.
  • 22%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​reporting​ ​have​ ​a​ ​Development​ ​Committee​ ​which​ ​meets​ ​to​ ​receive reports.
  • 48%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​reporting​ ​have​ ​some​ ​Development​ ​Committee​ ​activities.
  • Only​ ​3%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​reporting​ ​have​ ​giving​ ​and​ ​getting​ ​required​ ​for​ ​Development Committee​ ​service.
4.  The​ ​annual​ ​fund​ ​is​ ​critical​ ​to​ ​balancing​ ​the​ ​budget.
  • Respondents​ ​raised​ ​an​ ​average​ ​of​ ​$920,757.
  • The​ ​median​ ​was​ ​$350,000.
5.  Email​ ​is​ ​the​ ​most​ ​popular​ ​fundraising​ ​tool.
  • Email​ ​is​ ​utilized​ ​by​ ​86%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​responding,​ ​followed​ ​closely​ ​by​ ​direct​ ​mail​ ​and personal​ ​solicitation.​ ​Online​ ​fundraising,​ ​events,​ ​phoning,​ ​and​ ​texting​ ​are​ ​also​ ​tools employed.
  • 50%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​offer​ ​monthly​ ​giving​ ​as​ ​an​ ​option​ ​and​ ​6%​ ​have​ ​tried​ ​crowdfunding with​ ​mixed​ ​results.

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