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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What Would You Say if You Were Me?

Alternate title for this post, "What you got to say for myself?"

What am I talking about? I'm offering you a chance to write the Nonprofit Consultant Blog for a day. I am interested in occasionally having guest bloggers come in and take over. The topics should be of interest and benefit to those working in the nonprofit sector. They can be new tools and tips for fundraising, using social media, advocacy, industry news and happenings, or just plain old boring good management.

Some may want metrics, how many people will see your post... This blog has average visitors of 185/day or 5,200/month on the site, plus another 284 who receive blog posts by email, and an unknown number who read it in RSS form (ie: Google Reader, etc.). And, of course, your post will be fully credited to you, with links to your blog/twitter/etc.

You can contact me at ken at to pitch your blog ideas. I look forward to sharing this space with you!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Social Media Training for Supporters

Here's an interesting item for those of us obsessed with social media. On the Jerry Brown for CA Governor YouTube channel, along with posting various interviews, campaign ads, biographical bits, and so on, the campaign has now posted a "Social Media Webisode" -- a short training video on how Jerry's supporters can help get the word out. The first webisode is on promoting the Brown campaign via Facebook:

This is a great example of using social media, and a brilliant strategy. Faced with a challenger who has so far spent over $119 million of her personal fortune, making hers the most expensive campaign for statewide office ever anywhere, Brown has not only made good use of social media to get his message out, he is harnessing the full power of social media by turning supporters into advocates.

Far too many of the social media campaigns that I see, whether political or for products or nonprofit organizations, treat facebook, twitter, etc., as one-way broadcast mediums. They neither engage the audience in dialogue nor tap into the extended networks of each of their followers. Brown 2010 has now done both. That the video is well-produced and gets to the point in barely over 90 seconds also helps.

Is your organization simply pushing random updates to your followers without thinking about how they will use it, or explaining how they can help your cause by re-tweeting, "liking," and commenting? When a supporter posts something to your facebook wall, or asks you a question with an @tweet, how long does it take for you to respond? Do you respond?

Whether or not you support Jerry Brown for Governor, or even live in California, take a look at the training video and imagine how you might be able to train your followers to be an army of advocates for your cause and for your organization.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Shooting The Fundraising Dog

Way back when I was barely a teenager, National Lampoon magazine was the utmost in risque humor. One famous and classic example of their pushing the limits of the acceptable was their January 1973 cover featuring a dog with a gun pointed at his head and the text, "If you don't buy this magazine, We'll Kill This Dog."

It was distasteful, it was outrageous, it was offensive, it was shocking, and it was, ultimately, just plain funny. It's also a great example of the fundraising strategy used at one time or another by nearly every one of us in the nonprofit sector. Don't believe me? How about this email subject line that just landed in my inbox: "Urgent Request: More than 24,000 children will die today but you can help."

This is what we've all been taught to do: Illustrate a need and create a sense of urgency! Buy the magazine or the dog gets it.

We all know the importance of our organization's mission, and understand our dependence on the good will of others to fund the work, but don't you think it's time to put the guilt trips aside?

Perhaps I just contributed to the death of 24,000 children, but I deleted that email. I didn't even read it first. Now, had the headline told me about 24,000 children saved (fed, clothed, housed, schooled...), I would have been curious.

Lead with your success and your strength, and I will want to be a part of that. More bad news and guilt, I really don't need right now. I'll bet a lot of other donors feel this way as well. Let's put that poor dog out of his misery and put the gun down, once and for all.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Get Seen By Private Foundations

If you've done any sort of prospecting for new foundation grants, either using one of the resources from the Foundation Center or any other publisher, you've certainly come across those listings that describe the perfect prospect - interested in your mission, located nearby, lots of money to give - but then you come across those fatal phrases: "Applications not accepted," or it's partner, "Contributes only to pre-selected organizations."

Many, if not most, of the private, family foundations seem to have this notice in their listings. These foundations are typically small (under $1 million in endowment), have no full-time staff, and no means of effectively screening and evaluating the volume of material they'd receive if they did open themselves up to unsolicited applications. And so, they typically make their grants each year to the same small set of nonprofits that their Board members are already aware of. The only way in is to know a family or Board member personally.

Foundation Source is a company that has, for about a decade, worked with these private foundations, providing management and back-office services, advisory services, and online research and application services. They manage over $4 Billion in assets for more than 900 foundations, granting out about $250 Million each year.

The majority of the clients that Foundation Source serves are those smaller, family foundations that currently do not want your unsolicited application. And they are about to make it a whole lot easier for nonprofits to be seen by these mysterious, but important, funders.

Foundation Source will soon launch it's Access website, which, among other things, will allow nonprofits to set up organizational profile pages, and Project Proposal pages, that will potentially be seen by the 900+ foundations managed by Foundation Source. You will also be able to associate your organization's profile page with different Cause Pages (such as Emergency Relief, or maybe Hunger).

When the private foundations, already using Foundation Source for their research and granting, are searching for an organization working on certain topics, there you are with your profile and project proposal pages, and they will be able to simply "click and fund," or, at least, invite a formal application - which will be a single online application for all 900+ foundations.

Sounds too good to be true? Of course, there is a hitch... Following the formal launch there will be a fee for you to post Project Proposal Pages (although maintaining your organizational info will be free). When I spoke to representatives from Foundation Source they were still working out the pricing details.

The good news, though, is that if you pre-register now, before the launch on October 1, you will have complete free access to all the site features through April 30, 2011.

Whether or not Access will provide a good return on your investment after that will depend on what fees they charge and whether or not their foundation clients really use the system to find projects to fund. But, the free trial is certainly a no-brainer, and sure to provide a positive ROI.

To pre-register and get the six-month free trial, go to and sign up before October 1.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Is Facebook Causes A Good Investment?

A new posting on the Blue Sky Collective blog claims that "Facebook Causes Continue to Show Little Promise as Fundraising Tool." In the post, they examine the Nature Conservancy's Cause page and finds this:
"Today, they have 286,000 members and have raised nearly $388,000!  Sounds great, right? That's about a $1.36 per member.  That's pretty awful. ... If I were a nonprofit manager, I would think twice before investing more time and money into Causes."
Here's my response that I posted to the blog:
I think you're looking at the wrong numbers. Whether they've raised $1.36 or $2.40 per current "member" is insignificant.

I want to know how much did they spend to raise the $388,000? Was that from current donors who gave through Facebook rather than their mail appeal? Or was a significant amount of that from new donors?

The cost of acquisition per donor is an important part of deciding whether or not the Facebook strategy is paying off. Obviously, if it's more than $1.36 then there better be some other value for the organization using Facebook Causes other than the income.

But, I'm willing to guess that the the cost per donor is quite small, and, once the Causes page is up and running, the marginal cost for each additional donor acquired goes down.

I'd love to hear from somebody from the Nature Conservancy with more data, and whether or not they feel they've gotten a good ROI from Facebook Causes. They're no bunch of dummies. I'm guessing they've done the analysis and are satisfied.
What about you? Has your organization set up a Facebook Causes page? How much have you spent, and how much have you raised? Did it come from your communications budget or your fundraising budget? Are you satisfied with the result?

I think the jury is still out, and I worry that we're making decisions about the worthiness of new tools for fundraising based on testing it in the worst economy in 70 years. I say, keep on testing, keep on communicating. The full ROI may not be there yet, but when the economy does return, you don't want to just be starting your social media strategy then.