Ruthellen Rubin
& Associates

Consulting for Nonprofits and Philanthropies


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What's New

  • The Impact of an Infographic
    Prospective donors are bombarded with messages. To get through this deluge of information, we have to stand out in the crowd with . . . . .
    Read more...
  • Tossing Your Cookies: Grassroots Fundraising at its Best
    When asked, "What is your earliest recollection of making a charitable donation?" most Americans respond: "Buying Girl Scout Cookies." . . . . .
    Read more...
  • Gen Y or Generation Why They Give
    The members of Generation Y were born between 1977 and 1998. Three of them grew up in my house, so I have a fair sense of what makes . . . . .
    Read more...

Professional Development

  • GetDonors.com
    Complimentary video series with Ruthellen Rubin
    Read more...

We offer the expertise, resources and personalized attention to help your nonprofit organization realize its full potential. Our team also works with philanthropies to help build strong partnerships.

FUNDRAISING STRATEGIES | BOARD DEVELOPMENT | COLLABORATION | TRANSITION

What's New

The Impact of an Infographic

Prospective donors are bombarded with messages. To get through this deluge of information, we have to stand out in the crowd with our appeals.

We not only need to capture our prospects’ attention, we also need to engage their senses and convey our message quickly. The infographic is a fabulous tool for communication in this fast-paced world.  

The case study of our infographic can be viewed at http://www.sofii.org/node/1298.


 

Read more...

Tossing Your Cookies: Grassroots Fundraising at its Best

When asked, "What is your earliest recollection of making a charitable donation?" most Americans respond: "Buying Girl Scout Cookies." Read more...

When asked, "What is your earliest recollection of making a charitable donation?" most Americans respond: "Buying Girl Scout Cookies."

The adorable kid next door with the pigtails left her watchful mom at the end of your driveway then tentatively pulled her cookie-laden up to your front door and rang your bell.  The merit badges for dog care, stamp collecting, basketry, beading and citizenship lined her diagonal green sash.  This was a little girl who was putting her spare time to good use.  The future of America was in good hands with kids like this.  Your heart melted when you saw her toothless smile and earnest appeal to 'help send other children to girl scout camp.'  With two dollars you could make Miss Pigtails happy, send another little girl to camp and get a box of Girl Scout Cookies.  You could not possibly say no to this solicitation.  Read full story at www.sofii.org.   

Read more...

Gen Y or Generation Why They Give

The members of Generation Y were born between 1977 and 1998. Three of them grew up in my house, so I have a fair sense of what makes them tick, what impassions them, and how we might get and hold their attention. Read more...

Op Ed: The Times

Making an Impact One Text at a Time

Making an impact one text at a time

Reprinted from The Times (Trenton, NJ)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

By:  Ruthellen. S. Rubin

When I read that $1 million had been raised in 24 hours by people texting "HAITI" from their cell phones, I thought we were on the cusp of an exciting opportunity in fundraising. When I learned five days later that $10 million had been raised in $5 and $10 texts, I was sure a new era had arrived.

Mgive.com listed 130 partner nonprofits this week, and in the weeks to come, I'm sure there will be many more. TextToPledge.com offers a platform especially for fundraising at large events. MobileGiving.org displays a clean list of the six organizations currently accepting $5 and $10 text donations for Haiti relief efforts.

There are some limitations at the present time: Most wireless carriers will allow you to make only two donations per month; the giving amount is set at $5 or $10, depending on the charity; and the potential for fraudulent solicitations is always a concern. I view these as small glitches in the development of a vehicle that will turn the naturally charitable inclination of Americans into action and dollars in support of our social sector.

Online giving has been a great leap forward; however, statistics still indicate a tremendous number of abandoned forms because we don't have our credit card handy or because we begin to feel we are being asked too many questions as we fill in the online form. At the present time, one-step text giving may only offer the opportunity for a micro-donation, but the facility of it makes it a sure thing.

My mind is racing with the opportunities that lay ahead. Imagine rising to your feet after a thrilling performance at your local community theater and being asked to text "THEATERFORALL" so programs like that can be made available to all schoolchildren in the community.

Animal shelter advertisements often move us to tears, but we will still have the wherewithal to reach into our pocket and text "POOCHIE" to help an abandoned animal. After a day of volunteering at the local soup kitchen, a sign on the way out will remind us to text "FOOD," and after crossing the finish line at a 5K Race to End Homelessness, volunteers will be holding up posters saying: "Text "HOME.'" (And while you're at it, call home to let them know you finished the race.)

As a 6-year-old in the 1957, I remember bringing dimes to school -- $52 million in dimes was raised that year in the war against polio.

Every one of us knew someone affected by polio, and each of us felt our dimes were making a difference -- and they did.

Ruthellen S. Rubin, CFRE, teaches fundraising and philanthropy at New York University. She is a consultant to nonprofit organizations (ruthellenrubin.com) in New Jersey and New York.

 

Fundraising Success

Success in fundraising starts with the board of directors Read more...

Technology for Fundraising

Download this valuable teleseminar by Ruthellen Rubin.

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Letter to the Editor: Chronicle of Philanthropy

Don't Let Standards Inhibit Risk Taking

The Chronicle of Philanthropy

http://philanthropy.com/premium/articles/v21/i05/05003502.htm

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Don't Let Standards Inhibit Risk Taking

To the Editor:

I applaud Steve Butz for his conscientious efforts to encourage social-service organizations to assess their own performance ("Making a Measurable Difference," November 13).

However, I fear that a standardized tool, if widely recognized by funders, could inhibit our sector from taking risks with the creative ideas that should be the hallmark of the nonprofit world. Further, a standardized tool could discourage charities from working with the neediest, most at-risk individuals in our community.

This reminds me of one of our greatest university medical centers, which has one of the lowest success rates in open-heart surgery because it takes the most difficult cases. On the flip side, there is the small community hospital with high rates of success with open-heart surgery because it takes only the simplest cases.

Charity Navigator and Guide­Star have made everyone more aware of the business side of charities. They should be viewed as one of many tools with which we can assess how best to invest in the social sector.

Mr. Butz's assessment software can be a valuable additional tool that may be relevant to many organizations. I am sure it is fair and has been constructed thoughtfully.

However, if a single tool is accepted as the "industry standard," I fear we will be stifling creativity at a time when we need it the most.

Perhaps the reason efforts to measure results have failed is precisely because our social sector doesn't lend itself to standardization. How do we measure the impact of a strong volunteer program in raising awareness of homelessness?

It is unlikely that a rating tool will measure how closely the mission of an organization matches one's own ideals, which is one of the more significant determinants of charitable giving.

When a donor asks me how to choose a charitable cause, I encourage her to learn, firsthand, as much as she can about the organization.

Ask about the services; visit the programs and determine whether the organization's mission matches your values.

But most important, you must get to know the executive director and professional staff. Then decide: Are these people with whom I am willing to invest my money?

With the American people calling for change, the economy in turmoil, and government funding faltering, I for one want to invest in people who think creatively and will not shy away from reaching out to our neediest citizens.

Ruthellen S. Rubin
Development Consultant
Yardley, Pa.


Copyright © 2008 The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Opinion: Supporting Nonprofits in Tough Economic Times

Wall Street vs. Main Street? One thing is for sure, no more Easy Street.

The headlines are so frightening that we are becoming numb to the repercussions of a stock market free fall and the end of our financial system as we know it. Who knows what the coming months will bring?What scares me most is the impact on those charitable organizations that tackle the challenges no one else can, or will: the starving, the homeless, the disabled, the aged, the infirm, the addicted, the unemployed, the uneducated and anyone unable to help him/herself. Our nonprofit organizations are being hit with the "perfect storm" (and I don’t mean "perfect" in the positive sense.) Some of their most reliable funders such as Wachovia and Merrill Lynch are gone; government funding is shrinking at an alarming rate; foundations' endowments are plummeting leaving less to give; costs of food and fuel have never been higher; and needy clients are lined up at the door in unprecedented numbers.

Connie Mercer, executive director of HomeFront, has never seen this level of demand: "We had a record 104 people lined up at our door for a free bag of groceries in one five-hour period last week. I estimate roughly a 20% increase in demand for food this month. The new faces we are seeing include well dressed, educated individuals and lots of elderly."

At the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, executive director Dennis Micai told me that demand is already up by 7-8% and donations are not keeping apace of that need. "I was really startled last week," says Micai, "when an elderly couple who used to volunteer for us, came in for a meal."

Connie Mercer told a similar story: "A lovely lady was waiting at the door when we opened up last Wednesday. She looked so familiar and told me it was probably because she "adopted" two homeless children last Christmas, buying gifts and clothing for them for the holiday. She never dreamt she would be coming to us for help. She was unable to pay her rent and about to lose the roof over her head."

Holiday Appeal season, with its plethora of solicitations, will be upon us in the coming weeks. There will be pleas and unbelievably compelling stories asking us to support food pantries, hospitals, zoos, libraries, clinics, counseling centers, environmental causes, day care centers, schools, synagogues, and churches. Once again, we will be asked to donate, advocate, celebrate, run, walk, solicit, foster, promote and sponsor on behalf of the causes most dear to us.

So, how is it going to play out this year?

When all else fails, we turn to our family, friends and neighbors for help. Our local human service, health, educational and cultural organizations need us now more than ever. We are their family, friends and neighbors. Of course it will be more difficult for everyone as we are all struggling to pay the bills. However, this is the year we must be creative and consider where our holiday dollars can have the greatest impact. It is the year to give a donation in the name of our family members or friends rather than giving a fruit basket. I cannot think of a better year than this, to have a party and ask our guests to make a donation to our favorite charity rather than bringing us a bottle of wine or a red pillar candle. It is the year to show our children that there is always an avenue to be charitable, no matter how small the amount.

Undoubtedly, this year money will be scarce and you will have less to give. However I believe this community is capable of rising to the challenge in support of our nonprofit sector. It will be up to us, the citizens in Mercer County, to keep our nonprofit organizations strong and vigilant. They are the last resort for so many of our neighbors, and could someday, be the last resort for us.

Raising Money When There Doesn’t Appear to be Any

How should nonprofits position their fundraising initiatives in this recession?

October, 2008
Unless you have a large endowment cushion or significant cash reserves, you will face some unprecedented challenges due to government cutbacks, lack of available credit, reduced foundation endowments, insecure corporate giving programs, scarcity of appreciated stock, and individual donors with less money and a lack of confidence.  Oh yes, and increased demand for services.

First and foremost:  In the coming year-end giving season, most nonprofits will be challenged to achieve their fundraising goals.   When people (and businesses and corporations) face hard economic times, and have to limit their discretionary spending, charitable giving is one of the first things to go.    This does not mean people are unwilling to give, but it does mean development professionals will have to be more strategic and more creative.

This is the time to re-visit your fundraising strategies.  Consider the current realities and revise your goals.  Do not fall into the trap of spending less on fundraising.  On the contrary, consider ways to improve your initiative such as evaluating your donor database to be sure it is the appropriate tool for you; convening your website team to reexamine your website content to ensure it is donor friendly and reliable; and making  donor communication count by upgrading your email and electronic newsletter processes.

Stay upbeat and do not become pessimistic.  If you communicate a sense of doom and gloom, no one will want to invest in your organization.  Find the right balance of transparency and honesty in conversations with donors.   Fundraising’s fundamental tenets of cultivation and stewardship will be of supreme importance during these hard times.  Spend more time working with your current donors rather than putting a big effort into new prospects.  Consider that although the good citizens of our community will be cutting back on their giving, they are not going to completely stop giving.    If you spend more time engaging your donors, it will be much more likely that you will retain their gifts.

Whatever you do, don’t stop "asking."  Hopefully you will be more compassionate than usual and more understanding of your donors’ personal situations.  But, do not apologize when asking for this year’s gift.  Reinforce the need and the fact that your organization fills a unique niche, the importance of which is more critical now, than ever.  Consider asking more often this year.  If you have pondered an additional appeal, or adding a second mailing to your holiday appeal, this is the year to experiment with that model.

Creativity will be king in the coming years.  A challenge grant from a board member can be an interesting twist in helping to bolster year-end giving.  Monthly giving should not only be offered on your website but should be actively marketed to hesitant donors.  Proactively solicit precious matched gifts and show your appreciation to the donors and to the corporations that match them.

Finally, keep up with your own continuing education – follow trends and spend time brainstorming with your colleagues at other organizations.  Invest in the professional development and team building of your staff and the training and evolution of your board of directors.  With diligence, strategic development planning, and creative thinking, these hard economic times can be a period of growth for you and a period of refinement and maturity for your development office.

Obviously, I am a proponent of consulting services year-round, in good times and bad.  However, it is particularly important in these times to engage some external input and put a few more heads together to consider ways of shifting gears in order to remain strong.

Good luck.

The Impact of an Infographic

Prospective donors are bombarded with messages. To get through this deluge of information, we have to stand out in the crowd with our appeals.  Read more...
  Read more...

Tossing Your Cookies: Grassroots Fundraising at its Best

When asked, "What is your earliest recollection of making a charitable donation?" most Americans respond: "Buying Girl Scout Cookies." Read more...  Read more...
  Read more...

Gen Y or Generation Why They Give

The members of Generation Y were born between 1977 and 1998. Three of them grew up in my house, so I have a fair sense of what makes them tick, what impassions them, and how we might get and hold their attention. Read more...

Op Ed: The Times

Making an Impact One Text at a Time  Read more...
 

Fundraising Success

Success in fundraising starts with the board of directors Read more...


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