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Increasing share of heart.

Increasing share of heart.

I returned home yesterday from the annual Nonprofit Technology Conference in my usual state: Head and heart full, exhausted but invigorated.

Well, something's not right here.

This year's conference sparked a number of thoughts that I'll tackle in the coming weeks, but top of mind is the idea that I shared at my session yesterday: That despite all of our innovation, invention, energy, talent, and passion, the amount of charitable giving as a percentage of overall GDP has remained flat at 2% for the last forty years. I call this percentage our "share of heart."

On the face this data point seems rather mundane but it is quite striking -- and sobering -- when you stop and think about it. What this tells you is that charitable giving is essentially a function of economic growth. In good times, people give more; in bad times, people give less. This total overall giving is irrespective of the level of need, or the number of nonprofits, or the messages we send, or the hard work you do, or anything really. While certain nonprofits may surge ahead or fall behind, the most important factor to overall generosity does not seem to be generosity at all. It is the inscrutably complex black box called the economy.

The public has a heart, for certain, but only a small share of it goes to the nonprofit space. And over forty years we haven't increased our share of heart at all. As the number of nonprofits grows, the only thing that keeps nonprofits from directly stealing or losing share from one another is economic growth -- growth that, as we've seen over the last five years, might hard to predict, or worse yet, small, or worse still,  actually negative.

To truly realize transformative change we need to come to grips with this mathematical reality and have a hard conversation about why our share of heart has stayed constant. Perhaps we need better salaries, relaxed overhead restrictions, and more advocacy, and all of those might help. But my sense is there's something deeper going on here. Either the general public is hard-hearted and there isn't much share of heart to be had; or what we do isn't perceived as the most effective way to effect social change. Since I do not believe the public's sympathies are tapped out, for my part I've concluded that the impact we're making just isn't compelling enough to elicit more donations. 

And that conclusion led me to my other 2013 NTC sound bite: The fundraising silver bullet is impact. The best fundraising strategy is not to persuade people that we could make a difference. We have to actually show people that we are making a difference. A longer road, to be sure.

I have a fair idea I'll be talking about this more in the coming weeks, but for some background reading I'd direct you to a few previous posts from the last couple of years here and here and here.

More to come.

Averages and outliers

Averages and outliers

My head is still bursting from last week's excellent Run-Walk-Ride Fundraising Council Conference. This year the conference was more vibrant than ever.

One reason was that this year's gathering was the largest ever; more people mean more opinions, more interaction, and more overall passion. I think there was something else, though -- as economic conditions slowly improve, I get the sense that nonprofits are ready to get moving again. It has been a slow few years, and there's a healthy impatience in the air. 

Event 360's Suzanne Mooney has written a nice recap of the conference on our blog. And as usual, we've published a fantastic infographic of this year's results; the astute reader will note some interesting trends as compared to last year. 

For my part, I was grateful for my annual opportunity to address the entire conference. This year I pulled back from my usual tactical advice and outlined a larger imperative I see: The imperative to start swinging for the fences again. After five years of playing it safe, it is hard to see the continued benefit of conservatism. Our most powerful advocates, like the most powerful ideas, are on the fringes -- and so playing to the averages isn't going to get it done.

I have a chance at this year's NTEN Conference to expand on this theme in a lot more detail, and I'm looking forward to doing just that at the somewhat-awkward time slot of 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 13. I hope to see you there.

Notes from 2012 NTC - Day Two

The astute observer may note that I’m actually posting notes about day two of NTC on day three of NTC — take it as a sign of how packed day two was. 

Another long but fulfilling day of conversation. I spent an alarmingly large part of the day, and drank an alarmingly large amount of coffee, at the hotel restaurant, which essentially became the office for dozens of NTC attendees all day. There were times the waiters looked a bit annoyed with tables of six people spending $8 on coffee, but I know they made out on the breakfast and lunch tabs so hopefully it evened out for them in the end. 


  • Great meeting with Donna Wilkins of Charity Dynamics. Besides being an expert on social and mobile fundraising, Donna is an astute industry observer. I always enjoy thinking big thoughts with her.
  • Spent some more time with the leadership team at StayClassy, specifically planning for a fantastic new social impact conference later this year. Stay tuned!
  • Our team had a chance to sit down with Nyla and Amy from Mama Hope and hear about their take on development and how to turn it on its head. Exhiliarating and Inspiring.
  • Interesting meeting with Jonah from Altruicity — he’s trying to bring richer outreach and phone experiences to the space. Some potential applications for our clients.

I’m not sure if the above sounds like much, but that takes us to 6:00 last night and a very tired NTC attendee! A highlight of the evening was going with the kick-butt Event 360 team over to House of Nanking for dinner. WOW. Yum. 

Okay, no more procrastinating — I’ve got to put some final touches on my presentation for later this morning. Just keep swimming…

The presentation is being streamed live, so I hope you’ll come along!


Notes from 2012 NTC - Day One

A great day at the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference so far. Wanted to send some quick notes.

The Hilton in San Francisco is absolutely buzzing with activity. (Now that I write that, I realize what a lame analogy it is. But picture a really, really busy hotel lobby with people connecting, re-connecting, networking, re-networking. Not sure if that is “buzzing,” but that’s it.)

My day so far has been full of a bunch of different connections:

  • Started with a meeting with GoodThreads CEO Brandon Hance. Great guy. I love what they are doing. Lots of applications for our clients. 
  • That led to a short (and then later, a slightly longer) conversation with Debra Askanase, also known as @AskDebra. If you are in social impact in the Twittersphere (odd that the previous phrase probably makes sense to a lot of people), you know who she is and what she does. She was very complimentary about Event 360’s content strategy, which meant a lot coming from her. 
  • Interesting meeting with the guys at Avectra, the leading association management software. I’m somewhat familiar with the space from a past life. Interesting to hear about the social integration in their platform. Interestingly, they are one of many groups who found out about me through this post
  • Great, great inspiring meeting as usual with the fantastic Jane Kim of Ink-Dwell. So thrilled to be working with her. 
  • The usual fantastic exchange with the incomparable Pat Walsh and Scot Chisolm of StayClassy. Nothing more to say about that. Need to go find them down on the floor somewhere. 

Countless other interactions. I’m getting lots of comments about my session coming up on Thursday, so no pressure! Gotta practice some crunching on that dataset. My session is taking place Thursday at 10:30 Pacific, and if you’re not here you can register to watch it, and lots of other great sessions, online at 2012 Online NTC. Check it out!

More to come…

Nonprofit Technology Conference 2012

Hello everyone from San Francisco, where I arrived late last night for one of my favorite weeks of the year: the Nonprofit Technology Conference. It’s a week to learn from some of the most innovative people in the industry about how they are using technology to drive social impact.

It’s also a week when I traditionally experiment with the time-space continuum to see how many meetings I can cram into 72 hours, and when I conduct a bit of a workplace Lord of the Flies test with my director of marketing: At what point will she skewer me if I still don’t have my presentation materials ready?

All of these things and more I will try to share in bite-size increments throughout the week. Stay tuned!