The Mikuska Group  

Taking choice away from your donors

Are you taking choice away from your donors or potential donors by not asking them to give? Are you assuming they can’t or won’t give and so you don’t ask?

We’ve heard it often.

“Oh, we can’t ask that person. They have kids in university so they will have no money for us.”

“Our patrons are low-income. They don’t have any money to donate.”

“We can’t ask her! She just gave us a big gift.”

All of these excuses are based on what you assume about people. By not asking, you are taking away their opportunity to make a difference in the world through your organization. Remember – it’s not about the money. It’s about the donor feeling good about the effect she can have on people who need her help.

Think about it:

  • The people with kids in university might have a very keen interest in your cause.
  • Your low-income patrons will likely feel good about being asked to give and they may well give what they can.
  • And the one who just gave a big gift? She’s clearly already invested in what you do, so if there’s a project you think she might be interested in, ask!

Ask yourself why you’re not asking.

Julie Mikuska.



Ethical fundraising is not like sales

It’s amazing how often we’re asked if we take a percentage of funds raised, and how astonished prospective clients are when we say no, that happens to be unethical. Up until that moment, they have equated fundraising with sales, where the seller seeks to maximize profit.

Ethical fundraising is multi-faceted. It seeks to engage donors in long-term relationships that benefit both the donor and the organization. It is not focused on the “bottom line”. It is transparent and honest. It does not look at donors as “low-hanging fruit.” It is respectful.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) has a Code of Ethical Principles and Standards that all members must annually sign. It has 25 ethical standards that members must meet. Laura and I are members, and we urge everyone who is in development to join.

But a commitment to ethics goes well beyond the development staff. In a culture of engagement and philanthropy, the CEO/executive director, board members, staff and volunteers must all learn about ethical fundraising and how it will, in fact, make it easier to engage donors.

So what does ethical fundraising look like?

  • You look at potential donors as givers rather than a source of dollars. You focus on the person and their relationship to your mission.
  • You make a personal gift before you ask others for theirs.
  • You have excellent policies on privacy and confidentiality and you communicate them widely to staff and volunteers and to donors. You have regular training for anyone with access to personal information to prevent inadvertent breaches of privacy.
  • You pay fundraisers a salary based on their qualifications and experience. You do not pay a percentage of funds raised as this leads to staff working in their own best interest (i.e. to maximize their profit) rather than that of the donor or your organization.
  • Your development staff (in fact, all your staff and volunteers) maintain a professional relationship with donors, and do not accept more than token gifts from donors (e.g. a meal).
  • You do exactly what you’ve agreed to do with donors’ gifts. If the original purpose of the gift is no longer relevant, you go back to the donor or their designate to change the use of the gift. If they disagree, be prepared to return the gift.
  • Your board members, staff and volunteers disclose conflicts of interest. A conflict is not necessarily bad, but it is important to be open so that decisions are made on all the information.
  • You give accurate information about the tax implications of donations and planned gifts, but you also advise donors to seek their own financial advisor’s advice.
  • You have a clear policy on gift acceptance that is understood by board, staff and volunteers and is available on your website. That way, you don’t accept gifts that would have a negative impact on your organization’s mission and image.
  • You are honest and transparent about why you are soliciting funds and how it relates to your mission. You make sure all communications about fundraising are accurate and clear.

If you live and breathe ethical fundraising, your donors will thank you. And you can turn around and thank them.

Julie Mikuska.


Fundraising vs philanthropy

Fundraising is an activity. Philanthropy is an attitude.

Take, for example, the attitude of a board member who only participates in fundraising by buying tickets to the gala. He may not even attend the gala but in his mind he has done his part.

Contrast that with another board member who organizes a table at the gala, asking friends and colleagues to attend and find out more about why she is so involved and passionate about the organization. She makes sure to introduce everyone at the table to the executive director and other staff and volunteers who, in turn, bring stories about individuals whose lives have changed because of donors. Some of the friends at the table participate in the auction at the gala; they are all asked to give in the fall appeal.

In the first example it’s all about the transaction. It’s impersonal. No new people are invited to change the world through the organization and the opportunity has been lost. But it was considered fundraising.

In the second example the board member is modelling philanthropy. She is engaging her circle of friends and asking them to join her (because of course she has given her gift first as well as buying tickets to the gala). She makes sure her friends know how cherished donors are, and she gives them the opportunity to give. It’s personal and emotional, heartfelt and warm.

Are you a fundraiser or philanthropist?

Julie Mikuska.


Protect yourself

How many of us have snuck across the border for a quick trip to the USA and not bothered to purchase travel insurance? Or decided it was “too expensive”, or you believe your credit card or work insurance covers you adequately?  I bet a lot of you fall into these categories. You’re taking a huge risk.

Many people pass on taking out travel insurance because they don’t think anything will happen to them while they’re away, or that they are “perfectly healthy” and so not at risk. The truth is, anything can happen at any time, and you need to have those risks covered.

Your provincial health insurance doesn’t even come close to covering the cost of a hospital stay in another country. Consider this – you could be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in hospital fees if you fell off your golf cart and broke your leg. Or you were asked to leave your Mediterranean cruise because you were feeling faint and ended up in an Italian hospital having a pacemaker installed. (By the way, these scenarios actually happened to friends and family!)

Beyond the sheer cost of no insurance, you would probably be inundated with decisions about what to do in a foreign land, possibly without anyone around who speaks your language. Trying to navigate systems, making arrangements for travelling companions,  and covering the extra costs of accommodation, meals and travel home would also weigh heavily on you.

The right kind of travel insurance can cover all of these things, and provide 24/7 assistance prior to and during your trip. Fortunately, now that you are aware of the risks, you can purchase insurance anytime before you go. If you can afford that cruise, or quick trip to the US, you can afford to protect yourself.


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