Exactly…what is American First Policies?!

I am a concerned US citizen regarding our current leadership. I’ve worked in nonprofit management/fundraising for 20+ years and understand research. Tonight I saw an Ad for America First Policies and was curious as to its intent and purpose. Through some basic research I found the following:




(again, note: the purpose stated above)


These are public records (unsure if our president understands that we lay-people can access these). The media has been accused of “fake news” (trust me, I am NOT on that side)…this is evidence of more of our President’s “untruths”.

My questions are:

  1. Why is a “nonprofit” needed to support and promote the President’s agenda? Particularly, when our current President “has benefited from GREAT success as a businessman”
  2. Why is the only action recorded as an expense to pay for advertising to oppose John Ossoff in the recently completed special election for GA 6th Congressional Seat?
  3. How does a 501(c)3 get formed this quickly (note: I’ve done my fair share of 1023 applications and it doesn’t happen that fast!)?
  4. Is the entity approved as a 501(c)3? I don’t see it registered with the IRS.
  5. Who is the contact person for this entity and how do you contact them (no email, no phone, nothing listed)
  6. Non-profits have several IRS designations. E.g. 501(c)3 allows donors to write off donations, (c)4, (c)5…NO. I, as a US citizen, have the right to request financials (which should include donors), board members, articles of incorporation, etc. OR…is this not required of PACs?  

20/20 Vision Courtesy of Objectivity

It’s the old cliché “you can’t see the forest through the trees”.   Objectivity is the ability to see a situation for what it really is.  And, for many nonprofits, that takes an objective expert.

Consider this,

An objective expert can help your organization to:

  • Save time
  • Save money
  • Make greater impact

Does your organization want to achieve the proceeding bullet points?  Consider partnering with an objective expert. Stay tuned for details on exactly how!  If you have a burning desire to know before the next post, contact me at (401) 263~4902 or email.

Mentoring Made Easy with PASS

As the incoming President of the RI Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and a teacher of a Philanthropy class at Rhode Island College (RIC), I get lots of questions and comments about mentoring.

How can I get a mentor?”

“…we had a mentoring program, it didn’t work.”

“…the mentor I want is way too busy for me.”

The reality is if you really want a mentor the opportunity is there for the taking.  Here are some suggestions made easy to remember with the acronym PASS:

  1. Keep it Positive – Who are the professionals or people that you admire?  Who are the people that you aspire to be like?  Chose those people to be your mentors.
  2. Keep it Anonymous –Most of my mentors don’t even know they are my mentors!  I follow them on twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.  I read their suggested articles.  I engage with them at educational seminars and on an individual basis via email, phone and social media.  But, for the most part, they don’t know that they are my mentors.  Think of it like choosing positive professional role models.
  3. Keep it Simple – The mentoring relationship does not need to be something uber-formal with regular meetings and homework (note: that is coaching, not mentoring).  Email or call a specific question to someone you have chosen to be a mentor.
  4. Keep it Small – A mentor is someone who can help you with one or many two specific challenges.  For example, “learning how to be more assertive with your Executive Director of Board Chair”.  They are not a resource for all of your professional education.  Keeping it small will ensure a positive mentoring relationship and will keep you coming back for more!

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

“Who Should Run The Development Committee?”

This question was posted recently on one of my LinkedIn Groups.  It caught my eye because most of the responses were very black and white (i.e. a voting board member) (click to view the discussion). 

I felt compelled to provide a different answer.  “It depends”

Like human beings, no two NPOs are identical. Throw in Board Members, Volunteers and Key Staff and you’ver really got a unique animal.  In order to determine what is best for your organization, I recommend you review the following:

  • New Organization (or a new philanthropy program) – This organization is going to need some education about the difference between management and governance. With that said, the ED/CEO needs to be very hands-on along with the DoD/CDO. They need to provide a lot of guidance and best practice resources. It will do the operation well to bring in outside counsel – if for the only purpose – to validate the internal resources in the CEO and CDO as “experts”. The focus will be on understanding (1) what a culture of philanthropy is and (2) getting all board members to participate in some function (which is not necessarily and ask). At this stage, the staff will be doing most of the “work” (i.e. asking).  This is fine for this stage, but volunteers need to reminded that this stage has a ceiling as a capacity. The main objective is the build a level of trust between the volunteers and the staff. Allow the volunteers to believe that there is a body of knowledge that supports the philanthropy field and that philanthropy is a bona fide revenue stream that can be leveraged.


  • Growing Philanthropy Program – This organization is either ready to or needs to go to the next level. Volunteers will be intrumental in stewarding current donors and introducing potential donors. The staff (CEO, CDO) turn more into “logistics managers” for this phase. The Development Committee Chair is a Board Member…optimally, the Vice Chairperson. He/she leads by example and ensures that all board members have specific goals relating the the philanthropy program (give and get). At this stage, staff are splitting their time between making direct asks and supporting the volunteers. 


  • Mature Philanthropy Program – This organization has a strong culture of philanthropy. All committees (i.e. nominating, finance) factor in how philanthropy impacts their committee charters. Volunteers are recruited based on their comfort with philanthropy and willingness to participate. The staff spend most of their time supporting the volunteers (as they have the biggest impact) and less time actually “making the ask”. 

If you are building your Development Committee or evaluating it for better performance, ask yourself, where does your organization fall and plan accordingly. 


Short Sighted Solutions

I get it.  We are a culture of immediate gratification and demand “results now”.  However, that is not a long-term solution for most issues.  It doesn’t work with diets.  It doesn’t work with making money.  So, it shouldn’t work for the Federal Budget either.

For too long, the Charitable Deduction Allowance has been target for removal or adjustment in order to reduce the deficit.  Jay Carney said earlier this week, “The President’s proposal, as you know, includes the provision that would cap deductions for wealthier Americans at 28 percent—a very common-sense proposition,”  I am typing this to inform people that this is not a common sense proposal!  Click here for a link to the article.

Those wealthier Americans are those individuals who can and do make transformational philanthropic gifts to nonprofits.  These individuals substantially fund the sector, which in turn, creates economic development opportunities throughout the Country.  Furthermore, the nonprofit sector as a whole conducts services that the private sector won’t (because there isn’t money to be made at it) and the public sector can’t (or at least shouldn’t).

Limiting the deduction takes away any leverage these philanthropist have.  With out them, the sector and the services provided, will die.



Developing a Common Language

The Development Professional and the Finance Professional of an organization need each other in order to be successful.  However, they can’t communicate because each are speaking a different language.

I started off my week with a wonderful meeting with on of my area’s leading CPAs.   She was conducting research on the nonprofit sector, particularly fundraising.  She really wanted to understand how her expertise can add value to my profession (nonprofit fundraising).  It was refreshing to have a conversation with someone who truly wanted to advance the nonprofit sector through partnership and collaboration!

Our conversation had some common themes, which I have outlined below:

  • Developing a Common Language – Why is it that each professional needs to stick so sternly by their professional jargon?  Let’s wave the white flag and meet in the middle…please.
  • Reconciliation – The Development Office should conduct regular (e.g. quarterly) reconciliation with the Finance Office to ensure that all donations were received, acknowledged and recorded by the Development Office and vice versa.  This is also a great opportunity to verify that all designated gifts are properly designated and used (see The Donor Bill of Rights).
  • Designated Gifts – According to the Donor Bill of Rights – a gift accepted by an organization for a specific purpose must be used for that purpose.  Jointly the Development Office AND the Finance Office are the entities that will ensure that activity happens properly.  Both departments need to have a very good understanding of the Donor Bill of Rights and any Gift Acceptance Policies accepted by your organization.
  • Identification of “Fundable” Projects – I have never had the luxury of working for an organization that did not need philanthropy revenue to fund operations.  The CFO or appropriate Finance Officer can guide the Development Officer through the budget to understand what might be translated to program specific expense, which in turn can be turned into a grant application, a major gift request, or a direct mail appeal target.  For more information, see my presentation on Raising Money for Operations.

I look forward to building more meaningful relationships with finance professionals.  In the end, it is a partnership that will help my organization attain success.

Nonprofits CAN Raise Money for Operations

“We can’t raise money for operations.  Donors don’t want to pay for salaries.” 

I have heard it all too often.  The well-connected, respected, influential (and often affluent) board member makes the statement that virtually kills the fundraising for an organization.  I know you’ve heard it too.

I have a request of my fellow nonprofit fundraisers and executives.  The next time you here this, please speak up.  Please inform your board members that your organization’s entire operating budget is your organization’s mission.  “Salaries” is the largest line item in an organization’s budget.  That’s because it takes people to do the mission of the organization.  And yes, they need to get paid.  If you need an example, use mine.

I work for a psychiatric hospital.  We don’t have operating rooms or fancy equipment.  We do however, have expert doctors, compassionate nurses and mental healthworkers who have choosen to work in field that requires a special kind of person.  With out these people, my hospital couldn’t function.

Donors will pay for salaries.  They will pay for programs. And they will pay for organizational missions that make an impact.  I have included part of a presentation on “Raising Money for Operations” on my blog.  Please watch it, share it and use it to become empowered to raise money for operations.




Windows not Mirrors

Ask a small nonprofit why they do what they do and most likely you’ll get a response like, “to help those that walk through our doors”.  Ask a larger nonprofit why they are building a new building or creating a new program you could hear, “to better serve those who need our services”.  These responses are examples of looking in mirrors. They are internally focused views that do not impact people or entities outside the walls of that organization.

Take the same two examples and look through windows.  Answer the question, “how will my organization benefit the community?”  The small nonprofit might respond this time be answering, “we provide culinary training to low-income individuals to help them get a job, which in turns benefits the local economy”.  Or, “our new building will increase access to health care services – statewide”.

Avoid looking in mirrors when developing your organization's case for support

When developing your organizational case for support or program case statements do so while looking through windows.

Impact vs. Super PAC

Enough is enough!  As a nonprofit professional dedicated to building successful, sustainable organizations via philanthropy, I hear the comments all too often.  I hear that donors want their donations to create positive impact.  I hear that benefactors don’t want their money to dump into black holes.  I hear that accountability, care and intention must be adhered to.  And, I hear that outcomes and changes in society must be acheived with philanthropic dollars.

But why doesn’t this standard also apply to the uber-rich? Or for the private sector?  Super PAC money might be powerful enough to elect the next president, but really, what outcome will be achieved?  Who will be accountable? And, what positive impact will be realized?

The nonprofit sector bridges the gap between the private and the public sector.  Better said, nonprofits do what the private sector won’t (because they won’t make a margin) and the governament can’t (because they don’t have the funding).

As the economy continues to struggle, and government funding continues to shrink, the nonprofit sector is increasing.  Super PAC donors – please look to this sector.  Your donations will make an impact.  You will create jobs, keep people healthy, teach children to reach and care for our elderly.

Super PAC donors – make an impact today and support a nonprofit organization.