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Monday, September 18, 2017

"Little Things" Can Make a Big Difference.

Living a "single serving life."

"Everywhere I travel, tiny life. Single-serving sugar, single-serving cream, single pat of butter. The microwave Cordon Bleu hobby kit. Shampoo-conditioner combos, sample-packaged mouthwash, tiny bars of soap. The people I meet on each flight? They're single-serving friends." - Fight Club, 1999

I travel about 170 days each year. I live a single serving life on the road. From the tiny packets of salt and pepper served with a "hobby kit" meal on a plane to the little bottles of shampoos and conditioners in each hotel I call home for a night or two. And if I don't use these single service amenities, I take them with me.


It's natural to simply assume I'm cheap. Well, I prefer the term frugal. But when I take most of these things home it's with a clear understanding I will never use the items I've stowed in my luggage.

What's better than collecting all of these free, small personal hygiene products from the hotels I frequent? Giving them away to someone who might need it more than I. Someone who wishes they could spend a night in a room like the one that body wash came from. I carry home my bounty, I put it in a box, and when the box is full I take it to a homeless or domestic violence shelter. I did that today.

On the Flagstaff Shelter Services "Get Involved" webpage, they have a listing for "Shelter Program Needs" and ask for Hygiene supplies:  toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss, razors, deodorant, lotion, lip balm, shampoo, soap, etc.

I delivered this (and more) to them today. It shook me. It has shaken me each of the many times I've made donations or volunteered at this and similar organizations. My day, my night is unlike that faced by my homeless neighbors. The night they face terrifies me.

As I drove towards the shelter today, I saw something I've seen before. It always makes me uneasy.

It was just after 3:00 pm. The shelter opens at 4:00. For many blocks I counted people walking to the shelter. Four couples, three single men, one man helping, but not "pushing" a woman with one leg in a wheelchair. This is a "ritual" each day as the clients who aren't allowed to stay in the facility return for a meal and roof over their heads for the night. It's September 18th. The Weather Channel forecasts temperature in the low 40s tonight. Not a good night to be sleeping outside.

As I approached, there were two police SUVs strategically parked on either side of the shelter about a block apart. I was cautious as I approached the vehicle. I slowed. I stopped. I slowly waved to get an officer's attention. I was probably safe. I'm white and over 50. Geez, it hurt to say that out loud, the over 50 part. The officer was standing in the open door of his vehicle pinching his shoulder radio to talk to the other officer in the distant SUV. As I waved for the third time, the officer looked at me with boredom or acceptance or relief and waved me through. It appeared as though they were done with whatever the issue was. Both vehicles were gone by the time I parked.

Before I parked I passed by the shelter and did a U-turn. There were dozens of people in the shade on both sides of the street. It's Arizona. The sun is merciless and cruel. 

I parked near the front of the anonymous building and made my way up the driveway to an open door adorned with caution tape. It looked like it was recently broken or damaged. I've never entered this way before. I usually go around back and enter through their "processing" entrance. This wasn't really an appropriate entrance for me. I didn't know the door was only open for ventilation. I just walked in an open door before I realized where it led. I stepped into the "bedroom barracks."

I walked through rows of bunkbeds with personal items on them, clothing mostly, but some with a toy, or a totem on something that created ownership, that branded the space. I was embarrassed to have invaded their space. I felt awkward. I had just stumbled into the bedroom of scores of strangers. That's not cool.

I entered an open, common area and saw a few clients who apparently didn't have to clear the facility during the day. I assumed that they provided services or assisted in running the facility or had special needs.

A man told me Chuck was the guy I should speak to. I greeted Chuck and explained that I would like to make a donation of "a somewhat large quantity of hotel toiletries." He replied "That is great. People love those small bottles. They're easy to travel with." (I call them "pocket portable.") When Chuck commented "Our clients love the small items," a elderly woman grinned ear to ear and nodded vigorously as she pushed her walker across the room.

Her enthusiastic smile motivated me to write this blog, and to start my next box of "single serving" donations.

Chuck and I walked to my car. I offered to carry the larger box and asked Chuck to grab the five or six additional bags of toiletries that didn't fit in the box. We came back through the bunkbeds. He wrote me a receipt and walked me to the door.  I shared with him that I collect these items as I travel and I think of who I'm bringing them home for.

I shared I have great compassion for people experiencing homelessness because I was briefly one of them. It was terrifying. I know what it's like to sleep in bed of my pickup truck, parked in the forest, eager to get up and go to a job interview. I pretended I was just camping. I almost fooled me. I know what it's like to shave and wash up in a Burger King bathroom before going to a nearby job interview. Luckily for me, I got that job. But it wasn't easy for the next few years as my ex and I worked our way through college with two young children.

I support Food Banks because I needed their support to feed my family at one point during college. We supplemented our groceries with government cheese and oats and the generous donations of others for a while. My children and I have used medical aid programs. I've collected unemployment checks and used food stamps.

The food stamps were so embarrassing. You know how your ignorant uncle ridicules foreign currency as "Monopoly money" because it's not all the same size and not green? Yeah, I tore my coupons from my monthly book and I used that "funny money" to buy milk and eggs for my kids. I tried to shop late at night so no one knew I needed help to feed my family.

All of my life I have had family and friends who have needed support from government programs. I guess we're socialists. Either that or we believe in helping those in need. Some say these programs are abused by lazy criminals. Fraud? A little, but that fraud is a tiny fraction compared to the millions of people the programs help. Most people do not want to go through the stress and indignity of completing the applications, interviews and reports required to get these benefits. You are "required" to prove you deserve help. That stings. It is humiliating. Most people only use these programs for a limited time. Then they are paying back into the programs for the next person who needs the services.

All I did was collect soap, shampoo and shaving cream then deliver it to a shelter for people who may need to clean up in a fast food restaurant bathroom before an interview, like me. It may help someone in a small way.

I'll keep collecting those "single service" items and passing them along. It's the least I can do.

There are other ways you can help

Please consider supporting those with less by choosing a nonprofit, charity or social change organization of your choice.

Cash is always valued but you can make an impact with a non-cash contribution as well. Alice and I discuss non-cash giving concepts in our "House of Philanthropy."

4 Non-cash ways to give.

Transaction - Buy something from them. It's the same as donating cash.

Volunteer - Just show up. Carry your bucket of water.

Service - If you have a skill, talent, or service provide it.

Goods - Give something that can be sold or would otherwise be purchased by the organization. Expense savings often equal cash donations.

Is there something you could do today that might help?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

"Do I Have To?" No One Really Likes Your Donor Cultivation Events

I heard the most refreshingly honest thing from a significant donor the other day.

"Please don't invite me to another dinner party."

As a charitable sector, we plan a lot of donor cultivation events. We know we need to connect with our donor base. Inevitably, we think of things from OUR perspective: it would be so much easier if we could organize a small event and invite our best prospects. That way we can talk to all of them at once!

Have you ever stopped to consider that your donors may not like these events and come in spite of that?

Think about it. You've been invited to an event where you don't know if you'll know anyone, you don't know if you'll like anyone, and you might get stuck with someone that talks your ear off about something you don't care about, or worse, don't agree with. The food will be lackluster, the drinks will be cheap, and you'll lose an entire evening over it.

So let's think about this from the donor's perspective. What does the donor want?

Customized attention
It doesn't need to be one-on-one, per se, but your cultivation activity does need to reflect the interests of your donor or prospective donor. Ask them what they want to do to deepen their engagement. For some, it actually might be a dinner party. But for most, it will involve some kind of customized VIP experience.

Don't say "no" for them
Maybe you think that your idea of how to deepen the relationship is too much time for them, too arduous a request, too daring, or too tame. Don't automatically toss out the idea--ask the donor what they think. You never know when they might say, "Wow, I've always wanted to do that!"

Respect their time
That said, respect how much time they have to give to you. If they can only commit an hour, create an experience for an hour. It's better to schedule a return experience than leave them bored and frustrated by how much time this took.

Have them truly experience your mission
Whatever you do, make sure it connects somehow with your mission. In fact, that may be why your donor doesn't want to attend your reception or dinner party: it's so removed from what they think your mission is, that it's of no interest.

Above all, listen to their needs. It doesn't matter what YOU want to do, if it's not what the donor wants.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ms. "Ethics Matter" Appointed to NANOE's Board of Governors

By Jim Anderson, CFRE

Ms. Ethics Matter's
NANOE "Press Release"
I was quoted today in an excellent article/expose published by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The article,  "New Nonprofit Puts Money Over Mission and Ethics" was written by Timothy Sandoval regarding what many consider the unethical business practices and self-serving fundraising philosophies of an organization who calls themselves the "National Association of Nonprofit Organizations and Executives" (NANOE). In the article the "founder" of NANOE, Jimmy LaRose calls me a liar. I view that as an invitation to prove that my experience and my story are true.

In the article I explain what I view as deceptive and misleading business practices employed by NANOE. If you are or have ever been on a fundraising organization's mailing list you have likely received NANOE's "spam" communications or text messages proclaiming with grandiosity that you have been "nominated" for "appointment" to their "Board of Governors." Sounds pretty special, doesn't it? It's not. You haven't been "nominated." It appears they acquired your email address "somehow." I think that "acquisition" is very shady. But we'll save that for another blog.

Here's my proof that "you" were probably never "nominated" by anyone.

Tim at the Chronicle contacted me for an interview and I shared that I believe NANOE is in violation of the FTC's CAN-SPAM Act and that those flowery, flattering emails they send to "everyone" are intended to trick trusting fundraisers into believing that they have received a legitimate nomination to a prestigious board when in fact it's an automated process with no one actually nominating the recipient and no one looking at the submitted nominations before automatically sending the "Press Release" announcing their appointment to NANOE's "board of governors."

I explained that I have personally accepted multiple NANOE nominations that were NEVER OFFERED using fictitious names and new email addresses. I did so to test my assumptions that this was just a reprehensible, deceptive marketing tactic that was part of a broader money making scam attempting to mislead the unsuspecting. Like everyone, I hate spam. And, I really hate deceptive business practices and purposefully misleading marketing tactics.

Tim shared my story with Jimmy and asked if it was true that "anyone" could sign up with an email that had only existed for minutes and instantly be accepted as a member of NANOE's Board of Governors. Tim called me back two days ago on Tuesday, March 28th and told me Jimmy claimed that my story was impossible, nominations are specific to the individual and the button to accept "NANOE Nominations" had been removed "some time ago."

I knew that was untrue. I had already been "appointed" to their board of governors using a fictitious name and brand new email address. And I still had their web page open in my browser. I hadn't refreshed their page in a few days. The accept "NANOE Nominations" button was still on my screen. I told Tim what I saw on the website and sent him my earlier "Press Release" email proving that my "previously created" non-existent person had been appointed to NANOE's board of governors. (Yes, I am currently multiple NANOE "board of governor" appointees.)

Still... it bugged me that my personal experience was called "impossible." It bugged me that Jimmy was claiming his "pez dispenser" for board of governors appointments didn't exist. It annoyed me off that Jimmy was calling me a liar.

So, I did it again.

Photo #1 - When you click the "NANOE Nominations" button in the top left of the homepage, this is your first pop-up window. 

Minutes after ending my conversation with Tim, I returned to NANOE's homepage and repeated the process using the name "Ms. Ethics Matter." I had seen how they automatically spit out their "press releases" and I really wanted them to "appoint" "Ms. Ethics Matter" to their board of governors. For an organization that proclaims "Ethics + Accountability = Failed Practices," this is ironic isn't it? Jimmy claims his nominations are real and you cannot accept a nomination unless you had received an invitation. But, Jimmy is a liar. And Jimmy knows he is a liar. But liars don't care. They just lie about lying. Problem solved.

On multiple occasions I used a fictitious name, a fictitious company, an email I created only moments earlier and a phone number that amused me to accept a nomination that had never been offered. In the case of Ms. Ethics Matter, her phone number is the US Congressional Switchboard.*

Photo #2 - This is your second pop-up window. You can enter any name, phone number, or email. Don't worry "everybody" gets appointed to the NANOE "Board of Governors."
Photo #3 - This is your third pop-up window. Hurray! You have been "instantly" appointed to the NANOE Board of Governors. Ms. Ethics Matter received her email confirmation (Photos #4 and #5 below) 19 seconds after I clicked "submit."
*Photo #1a - This is the original screen shot in this series of three photos. I took the second screen shot (above) minutes later after repositioning the homepage for a cleaner background. 

After being appointed to the NANOE board of governors AGAIN, only 19 seconds after clicking "submit," I sent the time stamped confirmation email "Press Release" and time stamped screen captures to Tim, AGAIN. This was two days ago as you can see in the photos. Tim called me back yesterday, Wednesday morning and told me Jimmy claimed I fabricated the story. He claimed I edited an earlier "legitimate" press release and that I photo shopped the screen captures.

Really? Really...who are you going to believe "me" or your lying eyes?

Here is Ms. Ethics Matter's congratulatory "press release" trumpeting her successful appointment to the prestigious NANOE Board of Directors.

Photo #4 - Ms. Ethics Matter received this congratulatory "press release" 19 seconds after I clicked submit.

Photo #5 - Jimmy claimed I used an old, "legitimate" confirmation email and edited it so I opened the address detail to prove it's authenticity.

Because of Jimmy's claims I had "fabricated" this whole story, Tim asked me to prove to him I was telling the truth AGAIN while he was on the phone with me. So yesterday, Wednesday morning, I took a screen capture of their homepage with the "NANOE Nominations" button and the pop-up window which appears when you click the button. I sent this to Tim immediately while still on the phone. My computer clock is visible on screen, and the photo is time-stamped proving the date. Tim said "That looks like proof to me."

Photo #6 - Screen capture of the NANOE homepage yesterday with the "NANOE Nominations" button in the upper left corner.

When I tried to move to the next screen to accept another non-existent nomination, we learned the link had finally been disabled sometime in the last 24 hours after Tim had shared with Jimmy that Ms. "Ethics Matter" had just been appointed to NANOE's board of governors.

It remains to be seen if we'll all keep getting "nominated" to NANOE's board. But the "pez dispenser" button for board of governors appointments is gone. With the button having magically disappeared, I'm not sure how you would accept your nomination that no one ever made. But on the bright side, I guess that means Jimmy's claim that "it's impossible" to do what I did, over and over again, is true. Finally.


If you would like to consider membership in a reputable, ethical fundraising association here are a few places to learn more. (I am not compensated in any way by any of the following organizations.)

Arlington, Virginia, US

Association for Healthcare Philanthropy
Falls Church, Virginia, US
Chatswood, NSW

London, UK

*If you do call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask to speak to your representative about an issue important to you. Maybe stricter enforcement of the anti-spam CAN-SPAM Act and other FTC violations.


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