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Holiday wish list ... everyone wants something: what members will expect of their associations.

Soon most of the nation will a winter wonderland, blanketed in snow and good wishes for the holiday season. The final weeks of December bring the gift of anticipation for the new year On the following pages, some of the nonprofit sector's thinkers share their thoughts, aspirations and expectations for 2007.

What Members Will Expect Of Their Associations


Associations face a great deal of competition for their members' time and involvement. Our roles as brokers of information and professional knowledge are being challenged by a growing number of outside resources--many of which the Information Age has brought to the members' or prospective members' doorsteps, no matter where they are geographically located.

In this environment, individuals increasingly expect their associations to stake out a unique position in the marketplace, to look beyond good, basic membership practices and deliver value that consistently exceeds expectations.

One of the ways associations can tackle this challenge is to customize the members' experience--to sweeten the traditional incentives for joining or renewing by delivering a personal experience for each member. We need to understand that our members have different reasons for joining and different expectations for what the organization will deliver. It is increasingly up to the association to listen to the members' expectations and put a system in place for delivering a focused, customized return on investment.

This is a pretty big change in culture for associations, where the benefits of skills training, knowledge resources and professional networking have in the past been fairly standardized for all members. It's no longer enough to offer a learning curriculum for CEOs. You have to consider an individual's experience; whether they work for a small-staff or large-staff organization; whether the program could be in-person or needs to be online; and so on. As associations, we have to foster achievement and growth among our diverse members in ways that no other organization or resource can match.

It is worth remembering that people will pay for what they value. We too often focus on reducing the price of a service or program when the problem is not that the price is too high, but that the value is too low. Keep your focus on value.

The truly exceptional associations of the future are also going to be successful at building community and an emotional connection in their membership. As alluded to earlier, the explosion of online resources and virtual communities, in particular, threatens the value proposition associations provide their members. There is still a need for in-person interaction, but there is also evidence that people are increasingly comfortable making connections and fufilling their need for community online. What we can do is take a hard look at our value proposition and make sure we are still providing an "experience" for our members. Do they feel like they are part of something bigger? Let's hope so, because that community connection is a big reason people belong to associations.

Associations also need to make it easier for members to access tools and information and to plan a path of involvement in the organization. As members progress down this path and become more engaged, the association will have more opportunities to define and influence their experiences within the organization. It makes sense for associations to implement a continuous feedback and evaluation process to assess their progress and to stay on target in delivering an exceptional member experience.

Of course, the biggest challenge in all of this lies not in identifying new membership strategies, but in executing the plan. This means making sure your staff and volunteers believe in the plan, and ultimately are living the plan on a daily basis. It also means integrating the plan into everything the association does, including decisions about new programs, resource allocation, and budgeting.

Laying this foundation will probably require increased resources initially, but the future return on investment is increased membership, participation and market share.

John H. Graham IV, CAE, is president and CEO of the American Society of Association Executives in Washington, D.C.


Tell Them You Need More Operating Income


Donors come in all shapes and sizes. While they might not generate the bulk of charitable giving, working people and middle-class families tend to be far more generous than their more affluent counterparts, whether measured against annual income of household wealth. The evidence?

While foundations, corporations, and really wealthy people cut back their giving as the economy sours and the stock market goes south, working people keep on giving and give even more. They know that those people in need could be them. They identify with them and the charitable giving that results is an expression of compassion and solidarity, not noblesse oblige.

Prescriptions for and demands of individual donors, particularly those incredibly generous working people, are hard to issue. An astounding thank you is what most of us ought to convey. Their persistence is one of the few certainties the nonprofit sector can anticipate.

But for other donors, the wealthy donors in the top quintile of income and wealth who give less than 1 percent of both, for corporations that advocate for increased charitable giving incentives while they still hover below 2 percent, usually below 1 percent of pretax income for charity, for foundations sitting on their assets converting the 5 percent minimum spending requirement into a ceiling, there's lots to be said, and it's not simply a message of "give more."

Unquestionably, some major donors have laid down competitive yardsticks for their superwealthy peers and in other cases fell short of their potentials in 2006, both to be addressed looking forward to the 2007 fundraising climate. The combined Buffett and Gates announcements should be a role model for donors and funders to put some big money into the nonprofit sector to tackle deep-seated societal, even international problems. Remember that Warren Buffett's annual capital infusions are by his own mandate to be spent in the calendar year that the donations are made, not to be used as toys for investment managers to calculate returns and earn bonuses.

The announcement of $1 billion and the Branson pledge of $3 billion, the latter in response to former president Bill Clinton's annual Global Initiative convening, constitute wake-up calls to philanthropy not only to better mobilize their capital, but to be creative and risk-taking and visionary. It is hard to read those announcements without sensing that deep down, Clinton and his Global Initiatives partners see mainstream philanthropy as just a little too tired and hidebound compared to our societal challenges. Do note that these new versions of philanthropy don't have much or anything to do with the nonprofit sector, with both sides of the philanthropic dynamic structured as for-profits.

At the same time, the Buffett, Branson, and Google initiatives do almost nothing to strengthen the nonprofit sector and increase the voice of nonprofits to advocate on behalf of disadvantaged and disenfranchised populations. Increasingly, the big donors are voting with their wallets, and it's not in favor of supporting grassroots nonprofits, social change organizations, and their community organizing and policy advocacy activities.

Here we sit having crossed yet again new stock market high points, foundation assets have easily passed the half trillion mark, but many nonprofits, particularly those small local groups on the front lines of promoting social change, civil rights, immigration reform, environmental justice, and others report continuing stresses and strains in their financial pictures. Despite statistics that suggest that some foundations have been savvy enough to reclassify their grants as "general support," most smaller nonprofits find themselves still hamstrung if not hog-tied by program grant restrictions.

No one should expect changes in the grantmaking patterns of large philanthropists and most foundations if nonprofits don't speak up. Just look at the recent summary of town hall meeting comments prepared for the Nonprofit Congress this past October; nary a peep about foundation grantmakers, not a scintilla of comment about the problems of insufficient general operating support grants. Even with the Branson and Google announcements targeting their "philanthropy" to for-profit vehicles, not even a question about opening up the investment possibilities from foundations and other charitable institutions for mission-related investments.

If nonprofits acted like a market barometer and told the big corporate, foundation and individual donors what they want and need in 2007, or even better, if nonprofits strongly advocated for the giving they need, they might announce a campaign for a vastly increased proportion of grants devoted to general operating support, a mobilization of tax-exempt endowments for use by nonprofits sometime sooner than the never-never land of foundation perpetuity, a deployment of endowments in nonprofit-controlled, mission-related investments, and a new level of donor commitment to the historically valuable social change functions of nonprofit organizing and public policy advocacy. If that began to occur in 2007, it would be the start of a transformation that donors need and nonprofits need even more.

Rick Cohen is the former executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. He is now the national correspondent for Nonprofit Quarterly magazine.


Convening Communities Will Focus New Philanthropy


By the time this column is published, the mid-term election will be just behind us and we should all have a much better idea of where the new Congress may focus their energies in the philanthropic sector in 2007. Regardless of those specific political outcomes, I'd like to share with you three recent experiences that I believe begin to articulate the future of philanthropy.

First, our politics have become so polarized that our political process is paralyzed. And as such, we now must look to philanthropy as the new convener for communities seeking to consider difficult issues in ways that might achieve an appropriate civic response. It's no accident the Council on Foundations now has a laser-like focus on leadership and public policy. We host a government relations plenary at each of our annual conferences. The Council not only plans to have a seat at the table, the Council intends to be a voice and vision for philanthropy.

Second, earlier this year, the Council had been requested by the Bush Administration to provide a platform for Chairman Don Powell, who heads their Gulf Coast Rebuilding Authority, to speak to our sector. But even as a former Republican member of Congress, I must admit to a real disappointment in his remarks. For he told the assembled audience that morning that he would "be calling Steve Gunderson within three months and demanding a full accounting of philanthropy's response to the Gulf Coast rebuilding needs" It was inappropriate for him to suggest that he would hold the philanthropic sector accountable for our response to the desperate needs of this region.

Third, at our last annual conference we heard from Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee that has led new efforts to enact charitable reform legislation. After brief comments about the present state of these negotiations in the Congress, Sen. Baucus addressed the issue of "the philanthropic divide." The "divide" he raised high-lighted the deep concerns of rural America about the lack of philanthropic resources within their communities--especially when public resources for domestic needs are in retreat.

In short, these three different stories further confirm:

* We are living at a time of the polarization of political discourse that presents new civic responsibilities to our sector.

* The retreat of government in the face of growing domestic needs presents new, and often inappropriate, pressures on our sector to respond to what is more appropriately public responsibility.

* There is a growing competition for philanthropic dollars. And as philanthropy plays a bigger role in society this competition will only increase.

The reality is that government is in retreat on the domestic front. That is not a political statement; it is reality. And this retreat has no relation to the emerging needs of our society. Our domestic needs are as great as at any time in our history.

Legislatively, it remains our intent to partner with sector leaders to craft a set of recommendations for the philanthropic sector regarding governance that the sector could introduce next session--allowing us to frame the discussions rather than reacting to the proposals of a senator or congressman.

These three short stories might best project the near-term realities of 21st century philanthropy.

For the longer-term, it's clear the philanthropic sector will welcome an even more robust century of philanthropy than we have witnessed before. We will grow in size. We will grow in service. We will grow in scrutiny. We will seize this opportunity and welcome all of these.

Steve Gunderson is president and CEO of the Council of Foundations


Giving Donors What They Want: A Relationship With Results


As the end of the year approaches, we are reminded of setting our personal goals and creating our "wish list" for the coming year. For some of us it's a daunting task. For others, it's simply a carry-over from last year's list. Which brings me to my next question....

As we move into a new fundraising year, what's on the wish list of charitable donors? Is it the same list from 2006 just carried over to 2007? My opinion is that it is the same list. Simply put, I think charitable donors are going to be more focused on what they needed and expected from charities during 2006--but with a growing persistence and insistence. And, in true "wish list" fashion, some donors came closer to getting what they asked for in 2006 than others.

I have the advantage of seeing multiple sides since I'm a nonprofit employee, a marketer, a charitable donor, and volunteer. And from my perspective, it's pretty simple ...

The 2007 Donor Wish List ...

1. To connect and align with a great cause

2. To make sure action on the goals is being taken

3. To have relevant options & play a part in the mission

4. To have a dialogue ... to be "known"

We are all aging and life is getting busier. Add to that fact the continued growth in charities in the United States and you have a very complicated situation for charities to find the right people with whom to build the most loyal and long-lasting relationships of involvement and support. Individual time and money are highly-prized commodities, and as supporters of charitable missions, donors are making decisions with more precision than ever before.

Donors still want a connection with a charity--an alignment of views and values around the charity's mission or vision. In the end, it is an exchange between the donor and what they expect and the charity which needs the donor to realize its goals. Very few charities exist in a space that is not challenged by a competitor and donors are keenly aware of that fact.

With limited discretionary dollars and time available, donors have the ability to truly research and fined the best charity to fulfill their needs. That bond between the charity and the donor must be on various levels to ensure both parties are truly fulfilled by the relationship.

But, it's not just about how the donors "feel" about their relationship with a charity. The charity must "seal the relationship deal" by proving its performance through actions. Donors will continue to assess and reassess their decisions relative to their philanthropic relationships. They want results and want to feel as though their participation in the mission is making a difference. If they don't see impact on the mission or progress towards a goal, the alignment of what the donor wanted from the relationship and what the charity was trying to accomplish comes into question.

It doesn't stop there. Just as donors want to hold their chosen charities accountable for commitments and goals, they also have high expectations about how their relationship develops and changes over time. Donors want relevant options that can only happen if there is a dialog between the charity and the donor. This has been extremely difficult for many charities to master outside of the 1-to-l/high-donor relationships. Donors want to be actively involved in relationships with charities; they want to be in the driver's seat relative to how they engage with a charity, how they are communicated with, and what types of opportunities they are offered. They want access to information from the charity and they want to inform the charity of their interests: what they consider important and what needs they have.

The 2007 wish list is not much different than what I believe was on the 2006 wish list. But as years come and go, donors are gaining a clearer vision of how they best fit into the mission and goals of various charities. The relationship between a charity and its donors is a real one. It is business and personal. It is emotional and physical. Donors expect charities to understand that and expect to be seen as a pivotal part of the mission. As charities, we owe it to those we serve and the missions we pursue to help our donors "check off" their wish list.

Angie Moore is managing director, constituent relationship management, for the American Cancer Society and is based in Atlanta.


Leveraging Technology To A Completely New Level


The year ahead presents extraordinary opportunities for nonprofits to leverage Web-based tools and applications to be more innovative, creative, and effective in fundraising, advocacy, and community-building efforts. There have been several trends this year that are expected to intensify during 2007:

Social Networking. Nonprofits are looking for new and creative ways to engage their constituents, grow their list, and interact with supporters. The increasing popularity of YouTube and MySpace has attracted many nonprofits to leverage these sites to extend their outreach. Oxfam's late October Rock for Darfur is a recent example of this use.

With social networking Web sites competing with nonprofits for constituents' attention, organizations must be more vigilant in focusing on killer stories and clever campaigns to intercept their current and future supporters.

Personalizing Web and Messaging Content. Nonprofits are realizing the tremendous power of unifying their Web site content with their email campaigns to deliver a targeted, personalized experience and consistent brand. Having content and constituent information in one system allows organizations to deliver content customized to a supporter's interests, giving history, demographics, and participation in advocacy campaigns and live events.

RSS. If your Web site says "Keep Checking Back for New Updates," it's time to join the growing trend among nonprofits of using RSS (Really Simple Syndication) to deliver the latest Web content and news summaries to constituents and other organizations with common interests and increase your search rankings.

RSS makes it simple to provide a consolidated list of news headlines, press releases, fundraising and advocacy campaigns, etc., so supporters can track the issues and information they care about without having to go to the organization's Web site. Join Together, the International Rescue Committee, and the Union of Concerned Scientists provide an RSS feed on their Web sites as an additional channel to get the right information to the right person at the right time.

The 360-degree view. More nonprofits are committing the resources to consolidate their constituent data from offline and online participation and transactions to have a comprehensive profile for personalized outreach. Detroit Public Television, The Child Welfare League of America, Alliance for Justice, Leadership Council for Civil Rights, and Physicians for Human Rights streamlined the complex and time-consuming task of manually synchronizing individual profile and donation records by implementing automated solutions.

Peer-to-peer fundraising. People are more likely to trust the advice of friends and family members, which is why there's an explosion of peer-to-peer fundraising events. Nonprofits are using Web-based tools for marketing and registration to increase the attendance and fundraising success of their face-to-face events, such as The Humane Society of the United States' recent Walk for the Animals, a local event that registered more than 900 participants and raised over $65,000.

Application Mash-ups. The big push in 2007 will be application integration, using flexible APIs, to enable organizations to compile data from multiple sources to meet their engagement goals.

Many applications are springing up across the Web that nonprofits can use but strategic organizations recognize that the resulting data from these specialized applications need to be a part of their constituents' existing online history so the information can be used effectively for targeted outreach.

Next year, we'll see the beginning of a trend to consolidate these isolated actions with existing constituent information. This requires tools that allow seamless sharing of both data and applications. This is the future of software.

Sheeraz Haji is CEO and co-founder of GetActive Software, a provider of online relationship management solutions that help nonprofit organizations easily recruit, engage, and retain constituents.


Nonprofit CEOs need A Mind Shift In 2007


Volunteer mobilization clearly has taken on an added dimension of importance since the tragedies of September 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina and other major events on our national landscape. With increasing focus on the importance of volunteering, we as a society are learning that volunteering benefits not only the recipient but also the providers of service and the larger community.

That awareness has reached elected officials and corporate executives at all levels. More than 50 percent of companies responding to a survey in 2004 stress a commitment to community service in their corporate mission statement to help build a cooperative corporate culture.

Adding to this growth in the volunteer industry is the increase in volunteering by particular segments of the population such as the Baby Boomers, teenagers and the previously underserved. All of these factors suggest that nonprofit organizations need to experience a mind shift to recognize that volunteers can help achieve strategic mission objectives.

Simply put, the days of the nonprofit CEO pigeonholing the role of volunteers to some back room stuffing envelopes are in the past. Therefore, the alignment of work to be performed by paid versus unpaid employees is more critical than ever.

Workplace volunteer programs, especially collaborating through a local Corporate Volunteer Council, are one way that the corporate and the nonprofit sector can work to mutual advantage. Successful workplace volunteer programs help meet core business goals and address issues that affect a company's ability to operate. A company's commitment to civic engagement initiatives deepens relationships with employees, customers, shareholders, and community leaders.

Workplace volunteer programs can also attract and effectively utilize employees from other companies that may share the same area of focus, specialized training or even the geographic location of a company and there need to be thought of strategically. A nonprofit in the healthcare arena, for example, might get special benefit from working with employees of a pharmaceutical company that is in the same industry. As the pool of prospective volunteers grows, the corporation can stratify the volunteer workforce according to the mission-critical objectives of the organization.

Experience has shown that having a person who is primarily responsible for the recruitment and management of the workforce volunteer is essential, because volunteers want to see the same kind of structure, sophistication and preparation as in any paying job. They need feedback and evaluation, and they want to see that the organization is serious about the value that volunteers bring to the table.

What role should the CEO play in promoting workplace volunteering? This is largely a matter of resources. Organizations with a large budget should have someone who can focus on the management of volunteers to the exclusion of other responsibilities. As in all things, however, the CEO has to demonstrate a commitment to the concept that volunteering is an essential part of the workforce.

We have succeeded in the past two decades in elevating the importance of volunteering beyond that which is "nice," to something that is truly necessary. The civic engagement movement is now a growth industry. Therefore, there will be more--and more committed--volunteers. The organizations that attract and utilize volunteers more effectively than others are likely to have more to show for it.

Robert K. Goodwin is president & CEO of Points of Light Foundation & Volunteer Center National Network. He plans to retire from that position in 2007 to pursue opportunities in the private sector.
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Title Annotation:SPECIAL REPORT
Author:Goodwin, Robert K.
Publication:The Non-profit Times
Date:Dec 1, 2006
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