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

Friday, January 26, 2007

Body Bags for Charity

In addition to this nonprofit consulting blog, I also keep a general interest/politics blog (and a guitar playing/collecting blog), and sometimes I have to wonder which blog I'm going to post a certain item to. This is one of those items.

This is one to file under "nonprofit fundraising," but it's also going to my general interest blog, because it's just that odd.

The Los Angeles County Coroner (office of the infamous Thomas Naguchi and inspiration for the classic TV show, Quincy) was facing a fiscal crisis when the County didn't have enough money to fund the Youthful Drunk Driving Visitation Program (YDDVP) - A court ordered alternative sentencing program for youthful offenders, that takes participants through the Coroner facilities and exposes them to the realistic and traumatic consequences associated with their offense.

Their answer? A web site selling body bags, toe-tag key chains, "Undertaker" boxer shorts, and many other less-odd items, each featuring the County Coroner's seal or a chalked body outline design. They'll get a lot of publicity for the store, and - I believe - a lot of sales revenue as well.

I just wish some of the nonprofits I work with could be this creative, original, and off-the-wall with their fundraising efforts.

(Thanks to the Selfish Giving blog for the lead and link.)

Monday, January 22, 2007

More on corporate sponsorship: Good news and a warning

Last week, I reported about how mergers and changing corporate priorities can put nonprofit funding at risk. Today, I've got some good news to help you retain those corporate sponsors.

There's new data that demonstrates that businesses that donate to charities earn back $6 in sales for every $1 they contribute.
The businesses that are more likely to enjoy this return are those that sell directly to consumers, such as retail, financial institutions, and electronics manufacturers. This is likely because these companies can and do advertise their giving to the general public. Wal-Mart Stores, for instance, is planning to broadcast a national TV ad that touts its charitable contributions.
Yes, this is good data to bring to your meetings with potential sponsors. And, yes, companies should not be afraid to brag about the good works that they contribute to (don't fight it, this gives your nonprofit additional free publicity). But, it's not without ethical questions.

Because when you post a companies banner at your event, or place their logo on your website or annual report, you are essentially advertising for them - and when they advertise their good deeds they are strengthening the perceived link between you and them - all nonprofits must consider the company they keep, not just the dollars they raise.

What I mean is, you really have to consider how compatible your mission is with their product. Many organizations have already made strong points of refusing tobacco or alcohol money, but there may be other, less obvious compatibility issues you should consider.

Before you accept sponsorship from that building development company for your job training program, have you checked on their labor practices or history of labor disputes? When the grocery store supports your drug treatment program, do you look into their marketing of alcohol?

I'm sure I've written about this before, but this is a conversation your management and board should have before the question arises. Have a policy on what types of companies you will go after, and what types of companies you will refuse. And then, when you go after the ones that fit, let them know about that 6 to 1 return on their investment.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Yet Another Reason to Diversify Your Funding (like you really needed another)

It's official: PND (the Philanthropy News Digest) reports that when corporations restructure, grants to nonprofits dwindle. Of course, we've all felt this for years, and we all recall such major events as when Chevron and Texaco merged in 2001 Texaco ended its sixty-four-year sponsorship of the Metropolitan Opera's Sunday afternoon radio broadcasts. Similarly, Mobil's long-time support for PBS's Masterpiece Theatre ended shortly after it became ExxonMobil in 1999.

The current worries were spurred by news of major restructuring coming at Altria Group, the parent of Philip Morris, Kraft Foods, and many others. Many have criticized Altria's funding in the past as an attempt at "green wash" (doing good deeds to cover up for bad, in this case being a major source of food and nutrition program funding through its Kraft division to make up for the damage done by the Philip Morris cigarettes division).

With over 700 current grantees sharing in close to $200 million in cash and in-kind gifts annually, a major shift in Altria's giving could have ripple effects throughout the nonprofit sector.
Still, the best way for nonprofits to protect themselves from corporate mergers and restructuring, said Gene Tempel, director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, is to avoid relying on a few big donors. "I give the same advice I would to shareholders. Diversify."
This is the same advice I give my clients, and that I try to get across when I teach workshops. Diversify at all levels. By that, I don't just mean mixing individuals, foundations, corporate, and government money, but also diversifying within each of those areas.

It's not diversifying if you only have one foundation, one company, and one major donor. You need to build your base so that a loss of any one funder, or shift in any one sector, does not throw you off your plan. Stability and sustainability, not complacency, are our watchwords.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants

It is my honor, once again, to host the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants. For those new to blog carnivals, they are a fun way to focus in on a topic and learn about new blogs. This particular carnival was founded by Kivi Leroux Miller of

One of the difficult rules of this carnival is narrowing all the entries down to only the seven best posts of the previous two weeks. That is, the difficult part for the host - for you, the reader, it's a benefit. So, here are the top seven posts that I received (click on the description to go to the blog post):

Nedra Kline Weinreich - On the importance of making your product concrete in social marketing and fundraising

Maryann Devine - On the need for failure, or at least risking failure. Risk taking in fundraising.

Paul Jones - On the top five and bottom five cause-related marketing campaigns of 2006.

Jeff Brooks - On nonprofit "branding" as building a movement.

Nancy Schwartz - On public speaking and making sure your message is heard.

Heather Carpenter - On strategic planning.

Jack Yoest - On nonprofit corporate governance: The Rotary.

Thank you for joining us on this round-up of what's happening on the nonprofit consulting blogs. Happy reading, and best of luck in 2007.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

"Charities are more than financial statements"

PND (Philanthropy News Digest) today has an article on making the case for funding administrative costs that quotes Bennett Weiner, CEO of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, as saying:
Charities are more than just financial statements, and people shouldn't make donation decisions solely on financial statements.

If a charity spends 80 percent of its expenses on programs, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is doing a better job than one that is spending 70 percent.
As refreshing as it is to read that quote, it is not, however, how most donors think about overhead costs. Donors - individuals and foundations - prefer to fund programs for a number of reasons. First of all, it's far "sexier" to say your money is saving children rather than making paperwork more efficient. Additionally, according to a study by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, "It's easier to track funds allocated to program[s]."

So, how do you make the case for administrative costs funding? Eric Schwarz, CEO of Citizen Schools, Boston, says:
The key is you don't call it overhead. Talk about metrics. Show that to get even better results and expand to reach more kids we need to invest in our team.
It's hard to save the world when you're sitting in the dark without any lights or a computer or coworkers. It may not be "sexy" but it is necessary.