Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Follow-up: When Community Foundations Merge

Back in May, I first wrote about the impending merger of the Peninsula Community Foundation and Community Foundation Silicon Valley. At the time I expressed some skepticism regarding the result. I feared that it could result in a 1+1=1.5 situation, with fewer nonprofit organizations sharing in slightly larger grants.

I said this because I truly admire and appreciate both foundations as they've been. Despite the size of each, they've always managed to remain very grounded in the communities, and very responsive to and approachable by the grassroots nonprofits. It was this quality that I did not want to see get lost in a much larger organization.

So, I've been watching the process... and I have to report back that I am pleased with the direction they've been taking, and the care they've shown in bringing the communities along.

Some weeks back they sent an email to their constituents asking them to fill in an online survey regarding the merger and community needs. I, of course, gladly filled it out, and repeated my concerns - and was grateful for the opportunity.

Then was the announcement of the new CEO for the new, merged foundation (to be called the Silicon Valley Community Foundation), Dr. Emmett Carson. Dr. Carson is formerly of the Minneapolis Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation - an impressive resume demonstrating community commitment and activism wherever his assignments have taken him.

This week there have been community meetings to share the results of the survey (over 200 responses) and to introduce Dr. Carson. I attended last evenings event and was quite pleased with the results.

The survey results showed that I was not alone in my concerns. "Loss of personal touch" and "growing bureaucracy" topped the apprehensions list. Beyond simply acknowledging that this was a concern, they expressed agreement that these values were important to them as well.

When I had the opportunity to address Dr. Carson during the question and answer segment, I said:
We look to different types of funders to fill different needs. We look to the Knight Foundation (John Williams from Knight was a few seats to my right) for a few, large dollar grants, specifically targeted to have an impact in their national focus areas. We look to the United Way (Mark Walker of UWSV was in the next row) to fund the human services backbone of the community. What we've always appreciated about each of the community foundations locally is that they filled in all the gaps: they were approachable by all.

What I'd like to see from the new, larger foundation, is not larger grants. Small to medium-sized grants are great. As economies of scale are achieved by combining back-ends, what I'd like to see grow is the number of grantees. I want the community foundation to continue to be approachable by all nonprofits, no matter what issue area they work in, no matter how small they are, and no matter how new they are. I don't want anybody to feel shut out by this new creation.
Dr. Carson listened respectfully (as did Peter Hero, of CFSV, and the others) and agreed. His response was that he did not object to larger grants where warranted (and all agreed), but that his focus was on funding the best ideas. These best ideas could come from any organization, large or small, new or established. "If you have a good idea, I want to hear it."

From the rest of the conversation and answers during the evening, I believe he will be approachable and eager to listen. Dr. Carson will be a great addition to the community. I wish him well and am looking forward to witnessing his leadership of the foundation. He officially starts on November 1. I'm feeling much better now, thank you.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Net Present Value - Are donors costing you money?

Courtesy of the Donor Power Blog, today I share with you the calculation that can chart your future. NPV, or Net Present Value, is a simple calculation that can help you prioritize your fundraising efforts, and possibly leave some out entirely.

Basically, the calculation takes into account the potential for the donor to support your nonprofit over the life of the relationship (not just the first ask) as well as the cost of cultivating and maintaining the relationship.

When it comes to going after certain lapsed donors, according to the Donor Power Blog,
"When you calculate NPV on groups of donors (based on the size of their acquisition gift) you'll discover some amazing things. ... Some donors just aren't worth reactivating, while others are worth going the extra mile to do so."
To calculate NPV for your next campaign, use this formula:
+ Total projected lifetime giving from donor (or group of donors)
- The cost of donor acquisition
- Ongoing costs of maintaining the relationship

Obviously, these figures are going to be approximations to some point. But, the more you study and analyze your costs, and the better you research and understand your donors, the more accurate these predictions will be.

For instance, you should be able to calculate how loyal your donors are at different levels. Do you retain 80% of your donors from campaign to campaign? Or only 30%? That can help you figure out the total lifetime value of the donor to your nonprofit.

You should also know to the cent how much the current acquisition campaign is going to cost per potential donor. And you should have a fair idea of what you spend on maintenance (from newsletters to all donors to lunches with major donors).

What do you think? Are you using NPV, or some other similar calculation already? Do you think this will help you? I'd like to know.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

First Giving makes online grassroots campaigns a snap

You can facilitate online fundraising by your nonprofit organization's supporters with a new site called This is not simply adding an online donations function to your group's existing web site, but enabling each of your volunteers and donors to set up their own, personal fundraising page.

Using the site, individuals choose a cause and quickly create a page where they conduct their campaign. Their campaign can go along with a "real world" campaign they're working on, or an event such as a bike ride or walk-a-thon, or it can be in memory of somebody, in honor of an occasion (wedding, birth, etc.), or just because they believe in the cause.

Once the page is created (takes less than five minutes, including registration), they can send emails to their friends and family giving the URL address of the page. Contributions are taken online by credit card. The organization then gets the money from, less a 7.35% service fee.

This is not a replacement for any of your nonprofit's current fundraising activity, but if you have an active contingent of volunteers or supporters who would like to do something more, this could bring in a few extra dollars.

I've been checking out the different donations pages on the site, and some people have collected between $20,000-$65,000 for their organizations. I'm sure the majority of campaigns bring in much less than that, but are you going to turn down the possibility of this kind of income?

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Monday, August 21, 2006

New Nonprofit Resource Site

Here's a new web site from a colleague of mine, Nancy Neal of Augment Direct ( There are, of course, sections about her consulting and coaching services, but also check out the free resources.

Nancy has a monthly e-newsletter, Building Relationships, a long (and growing) list of links, and an excellent download (pdf), Principled Fundraising 101. The download is the first course in what she promises will be the "College of Fundraising Knowledge."

I've known Nancy for several years, going back to my time as Silicon Valley Director for CompassPoint Nonprofit Services and Nancy was one of our workshop presenters. I still see her often at AFP and other nonprofit / fundraising / consulting events.

Speaking of CompassPoint workshops... I have one coming up in 10 days: Introduction to Fund Development Planning. This is a half-day course that will be taught at the Peninsula Community Foundation in San Mateo. (Click for registration details). If you can't make it to San Mateo, consider my book on the same topic.

I am also working on a new workshop on Effective Board Committees. This will be a panel discussion and will probably be held in November at CompassPoint's new Milpitas facility. (Look for the registration link here when details are confirmed).

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Friday, August 18, 2006

New Rules for Charitable Donations

Does your nonprofit accept donations of used items for either resale or use by your low-income clients? You should be aware of new rules from the IRS regarding deductibility of these items. Items that are not in "good" (or better) condition will no longer be deductible.

Old TVs that won't don't work? Games missing half the pieces? No deductions here anymore. This is bound to upset some people who regularly empty their closets and garages at our doors (in exchange for a tax break), but it could be a benefit to the sector over all.

I know that when I've worked with nonprofit organizations that accept in-kind donations from individuals, we've always stressed "gently used" items, but it's difficult to get the volunteers and staff who accept these items to enforce that rule. Much of what we've accepted (and given receipts for) has ended up in the dumpster.

Staff and volunteers will have to be trained in the new rules, and be more strict - but still polite - about rejecting certain donations. According to Dave Barringer, vice president of member relations at Goodwill Industries International, the new rules will reinforce what we've all been trying to say all along: "This isn't a place to dump trash."

The only trouble with enforcing the new rules is this: who defines what is "good" condition? Your donor may think the item is worthy, but I believe it is up to the organization to be brutally honest regarding whether the item is usable or not.

Other changes in deductibility rules:
* Any individual item valued at more than $500 must be appraised before the taxpayer can take a deduction.
* All cash donations now require a receipt, cancelled check, or bank record to take a deduction. (No more estimating how much cash you've given in small amounts over the year).

Some donors will try to use that last rule to get out of giving you a small cash donation at public events (neighborhood art festival booths, etc.). Whereas you might have gone into such situations before with just a cash box, you should now be willing to write out receipts on the spot for even the smallest donation.

NOTE: I apologize about having not posted for over a week. I am wrapping up a major project with a client right now and haven't had the time to post regularly. I will be back to regular posting - and have a great case study for you - in another couple of weeks.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Donor Care & Privacy

Mary Allie of Marquette, Michigan is a regular donor to the North Shore Animal League - an animal rescue organization that has a no euthanize policy. Recently, she's received a new benefit of being a donor to North Shore: sweepstakes advertisements in the mail.

No, North Shore is not in the sweepstakes business, they've simply sold their mailing list to the sweepstakes company. Buying and selling mailing lists is a perfectly legal activity, but it is not without ethical issues.

Does your nonprofit organization sell your donor lists? Do you have a privacy policy that spells out under what conditions you will release the names and contact information about your donors?

In the case of North Shore Animal League, their policy is, "if donors want to remove their name from the list, they just have to mention it." The problem with that policy is that it is up to the donor to figure out that their names might be sold and be pro-active about removing it.

If she so requests, North Shore will no longer be able to sell Mary Allie's name, but now that the sweepstakes company has it, who else will they sell it to?

It is a much better policy for the nonprofit to be the pro-active one. First, create a list management and privacy policy and decide if and when you might share your list. Then, make that policy public - post it on your web site, publish it in your annual report or a newsletter. Then, on your donation forms, place a check box for donors to opt-in (I.E. "Check here if we may share your information with other organizations and corporate partners").

Personally, I don't think nonprofits should ever be selling their donor lists. There are times, however, when it might be appropriate to trade lists with another kindred organization. But, before you do so, make sure your donors are aware of how you use their information.

Don't wait for the phone call offering to buy your list to decide what to do. Get your management team and board together to discuss this and create a list management and privacy policy today.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Nonprofit Times Honors Hate Monger

Each year the Nonprofit Times, a trade publication for those of us in the public benefit sector, releases its "Power and Influence Top 50" - The 2006 honor roll was released this week, and I am shocked and insulted by one of the additions to this year's list.

The honoree I refer to is Dr. James Dobson, founder and chair of Focus on the Family. About Dr. Dobson, the NP Times says:
"Nobody is better at dancing along the tightrope of 501(c)(3) status and the political process than Dr. Dobson. What he and the organization do is closely watched for guidance by other evangelical organizations and by federal regulators."
For this he receives honors? The "leading business publication for nonprofit management" adds somebody to their list of 50 top leaders for bending the rules regarding lobbying by nonprofits in order to spread hate?

Yes, I do not feel the need to be gentle with this issue. Dr. Dobson certainly doesn't hold his tongue when discussing people he doesn't care for. Take this excerpt from his June 2006 newsletter:
"This effort represented an audacious attempt to reshape the beliefs and attitudes of an entire generation, beginning with the youngest and most vulnerable. In so doing, they hoped to undermine the Judeo-Christian system of values in two or three decades and open the door to radical ways of thinking and behaving. It was a brilliant plan, hatched in Satan's own lair.

"Not since Adolf Hitler prepared a generation of German and Austrian youth for war has so grand a strategy been attempted. Kids were then, and still are today, sitting ducks for those who would subject them to carefully designed propaganda."
What grand evil is Dr. Dobson talking about here? Who are the sinister people that are as bad as Hitler and Satan and who are after our children? Homosexuals, of course. Let Dr. Dobson continue:
"The campaign to isolate children from their parents and to indoctrinate them with humanistic ideas is being waged primarily in the public schools. That is where eventual victory or defeat will occur. At this moment, the traditionalists are being mauled. Gay and lesbian leaders have [even] begun a campaign to have topics of concern to homosexuals included in textbooks used in California schools."
I want to be careful to stay on topic here. This is not where I want to debate the merits of acknowledging the historical contributions of gays and lesbians (and whether or not that constitutes "propaganda"). What I wanted to write about today were the merits (or lack thereof) of honoring a hate monger on a list of nonprofit leaders.

Whatever you may think of gay rights, comparing individuals to Satan and Adolph Hitler is deliberately hateful speech. For Dr. Dobson, it is not enough to simply discuss the merits of certain public policy. He must make his adversary something evil, something to be feared, and something to hate. That is his point in making these statements.

Dr. Dobson does not belong on the NPT Power 50. His appointment to the list has made a mockery of the list, and of the Nonprofit Times.

(Cross-posted on the Nonprofit Consultant Blog and Random Thoughts, Notes, & Incidents

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