Standing Beside Alaska's Non-Profits

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The 2014 PCG campaign is entering its final month and we have an exciting opportunity to increase the number of Alaskans who give. Please make sure someone from your organization joins leaders from Rasmuson Foundation, The Foraker Group, Alaska Community Foundation, and United Way of Anchorage to discuss how your organization can take advantage of this exciting opportunity and make the most of the final month of the campaign. 

We'll give you all the information on this opportunity on a teleconference this Friday, February 28, 11:30-12:30.

Come with your great ideas and your energy and leave with new inspiration to make the month of March the best Pick.Click.Give. month to date. 

The session is free. Register today.

Applications are now being taken for the 2015 Pick.Click.Give. program. Organizations can complete their applications by clicking here. The deadline for filing is Monday, March 31, 2014.

All participating organizations must apply each year regardless of past participation. If you have not participated in Pick.Click.Give. in the past, a list of Frequently Asked Questions is available that will help you better understand the program and the application process. Click here for the FAQs. We also will conduct a webinar in the next few weeks which will help answer any questions you may have. Watch the Foraker blog for an announcement on that webinar.

This Friday is the formal deadline for participating in our Salary & Benefits Survey. However, we are extending that deadline to next Friday, February 28, to allow more people to take part. You can read all the information about the survey by clicking here.

If you have any questions or would like assistance completing the survey, please e-mail us at or

Thanks for your help. This survey is an important Foraker project and provides useful information to the state's nonprofits.

To add as much value as possible to an organization, board members should invest time in training, especially in the area of fund development. Many people who serve on boards report little comfort in this area. Good training emphasizes that each board member brings his or her own strengths to the process and each has a role to play.

Creating the infrastructure to build relationships takes time, talent and resources from both board and staff. Nonprofits embarking on this path will want to create a maturation process for donors, encouraging them to increasingly invest in a relationship based on their interests and the organization’s focus. Nonprofits can create opportunities for connecting with donors in significant ways, which can become progressively more individualized and involved over time.

Here are some examples:

Annual funds – The donor audience is segmented so there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to cultivation, solicitation, recognition, and stewardship.

Membership – The value of the membership is less than the amount an individual is willing to pay for the intangible mission-related support of the organization.

Special events – Make them fit with your mission and only view them as one step in the development process, not a means to an end.

Major donor programs – This is for organizations with existing donors and infrastructure.

Planned giving, living trusts, and other legacy gifts – Relationships are built with individuals who have supported the nonprofit for ten or more years.

Endowments – A source for long-term financial stability through major and planned gifts.

Let us know if you have other donor strategies that have been successful in fund development.


Dennis McMillian is President of The Foraker Group, a capacity building organization based in Alaska, and the author of Focus on Sustainability: A Nonprofit’s Journey.

We recently received a gracious note from Josselyn O'Connor, development director at the Kenai Watershed Forum, on the way her organization has integrated Focus on Sustainability into their board meetings. 

"After reading your book, I knew it would be a great tool as we move forward. I have purchased a copy of Focus on Sustainability for each board member and key staff. We have dedicated time at the next several board meetings to discuss one chapter at a time and work our way through the book. Each board member will take a turn leading the discussion. As we prepare to tackle the task of developing our next 5-year strategic/action plan later this year, I'm confident the insight gained from working through your book as a group will be tremendously beneficial to our board, staff, and organization as a whole."

Thanks to Josselyn for letting us know about this creative use of the book. She asks other organizations to share the ways they use Focus on Sustainability in their work. We're happy to post them on our blog.

Posted in Philanthropy.    

Tyler Mahoney is a former intern at The Foraker Group and currently blogs on The Huffington Post. He offers these thoughts on youth, philanthropy and what inspires Gen Y to give.


Before we move into young people and philanthropy I want to take a minute to help you understand the mindset of a young change maker. In a time where young people fill their lives with passions and illusions, I assert that the nonprofit organization provides a real grounded tool for the forming and shaping of society at a time when current world events are quickly entering text books faster than ever before.

Our parents were transfixed by Atlas Shrugged, Reaganism, and evolution of the American dream – from entering the middle class to seeing if they can get that same McMansion they see on television. In contrast, young people are rejecting the post-modern wanderlust molded by the Baby Boomers and are returning to a pre-modern, pre-industrial understanding of the world. They hold a worldview no longer constructed for the purpose of increased efficiency and work performance within an ever-smaller time frame – instead, it’s a worldview interested in rhythms and seasons of life. We are paying attention to where our food comes from, moving away from the “safety” of suburbia, and working together like the French communes of the 19th century. This often gets translated as “a desire for work-life balance.” In reality, it’s a paradigm shift.

Young people today are communitarians without even knowing it, that's the fancy word for “barn raising,” or what we call a Kickstarter campaign today. This is what happens when you lack resources and opportunity, you actually have to rely on each other and pool your fiscal and human capital in order to achieve success. So when I hear older generations complain about Gen Y as an “everyone gets a trophy” mindset, I come back with “at least we know how to work together to get a trophy.”

This is an issue of worldviews. In the same way the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990 foreshadowed the demise of the communist colossus, the fall of Lehman Brothers ignited the 2008 financial crisis and revealed the flaws in the victorious armor of capitalism. Within two decades, young people have seen the gaping holes in both of the major economic systems of the modern age. These changes are making people question things.

What you’ll start to see is young people don’t agree with the Milton Friedman division of social responsibility and corporate shareholder accountability. Friedman argued that corporations should be focused on the bottom line alone and should leave social responsibility to the nonprofits. Maybe it’s the rise of social entrepreneurship in the world, but young people view for-profits as organizations with a responsibility to society – not just stakeholders and shareholders. Public corporations are going to have to justify their existence on more than profit alone. Instead they must consider what Michael Porter and Mark Kramer have highlighted as shared value.

Young people are just on the horizon of creating shared value in this next wave of entrepreneurism. The local “mom and pop shop” is now started by people who don’t have kids yet. These people are by no means the elite or second career types retiring to start a vineyard. They are young people creating an ecosystem of advocacy, economics, and philanthropy different from the broader corporate structures.

They are creating the economy they want to live in, after encountering a series of closed doors in the modern workplace. I’ve watched local entrepreneurs raise money via Kickstarter or Indiegogo to buy a coffee shop, then turn around and promote – and give money to – other crowd-funding campaigns. It’s modern day “barn raising” if I’ve ever seen it, and it’s based on wanting the best for their town both economically and socially.

And this shouldn’t surprise you. Since the third grade we’ve been working together raising money for all sorts of things. For instance, to save the rainforest – no joke – I’ve been doing donor development for this cause for 20 years, as have most of my peers.

The encounter with the poor

Asking people to give outside their experience can be difficult. People like to give within their values because it’s within their understanding and experience. Sometimes people just lack empathy, and other times they lack empathy because they lack an encounter. For example, our stratified society means that often we don’t have encounters with the poor. These encounters are important to develop empathy whether they take the form of volunteering, seeing a documentary, or putting in the effort to serve. Encouraging young people to have these encounters will shape their worldview for the rest of their lives.

And if donation trends hold, Gen Y, a generation known for its volunteering, will give money to the organizations where they volunteered. A passion for a cause has to be ignited and then maintained. People give to causes they are passionate about and that have formed their character in some way.

Understanding our resources: time vs. money

We have lots of student loans, we can’t buy houses, and we are dealing with it. But we do have some time and unique generational skills! And honestly, we are better at social media than you. Just the other day as I was reading at a coffee shop I overheard a 30-minute discussion about a local nonprofit thinking of hiring a social media manager. Just hire a college student, I thought. They are naturally gifted at this, they love to give back, and they like to have a purpose.

Investing without power

Philanthropy is not a path to power for young people like it is for older generations. We don’t have enough money to gain any power yet or pay off our student loans. Philanthropy for the younger generation is a path to purpose – a call to participation in a culture we want to support. We can’t afford to put our names on buildings or start initiatives. However, we do actually give from our heart, so please respect that. We may not be big donors now, but give it time, as we move up in the economy we will give more along the way. If you are really serious about sustainability, you’ll be talking to young people today and you’ll be raking in donations when they are mid-level managers in seven years. Maybe this is what Jesus was getting at with the “cup of cold water” line in the New Testament. It’s about the intent to give, not the amount given. Take the time to respect that intent.

Invite us in – you need the diversity and we have a different worldview than you

Yes, we lack experience. Yes, we sometimes don’t know what we are talking about, and we haven’t encountered a lot of the harsh realities of life that make charity hard. But we are the generation of the Internet, called “digital natives,” and you are the immigrants. So come learn our language and learn from us. Start to be curious about what young people are up to, and I guarantee it will pay off. You should have one person on your board under 30! It’s an important diversity issue, especially if the under 30 bracket is the constituency you serve or the volunteer base you work with.

Understand how you communicate: We don’t make enough yet to have a tax write-off

I don’t make enough money to take the time to write donations off my taxes. In fact, a lot of people don’t. I really don’t need a receipt! So ask yourself, how do you invite us in without the most popular incentives that many nonprofits use, like a tax deduction? People give money when they see people moving. If you get 100 people out to volunteer, the money will come. Social media is not the answer, don’t believe the hype. Social media is a tool to gather people in a place. You can’t replace an encounter with the poor with social media and expect success. You can’t replace the feeling provided in philanthropic giving with a donation button on a website, it’s merely a window. The transformation of character will not happen over Twitter.

If you are still wondering why the Occupy Movement started, it’s because young people lack power – as was the case with the Arab Spring and movements in other places around the world. If you want young people to play ball, share power. Let them in, and let them help you raise money.

Applications for two of our more popular education offerings -- the Certificate in Nonprofit Management and the Catalyst for Nonprofit Excellence -- will be available soon.

The Certificate program is held in partnership with the University of Alaska. It's a non-degree program offering 10.4 Continuing Education Units (CEU's). The program is designed for Alaska nonprofit professionals in leadership positions who want to enhance their management skills and explore a full range of issues and best practices to use in their organizations. Members of the statewide Certificate cohort will meet for 14 days throughout the fall in Anchorage. You'll find more information here.

The Catalyst program is a unique, dynamic program where you experience your own personal renewal. It is not your typical training or workshop. It’s not your typical anything. Instead Catalyst is a rare opportunity for nonprofit leaders to focus on themselves while getting the support they need from a cohort of peers.  The program is open to senior leaders, funding officers, and board members with a commitment to the nonprofit sector. People who took part in the first three Catalyst cohorts say it made a huge positive change in their perspective on work, their approach to leadership, and literally on their lives. Learn more about the program here.

Watch our blog for announcements on the opening of applications.

Compass Point Events is offering a reduced rate for our Partners for a workshop called Transformational Change: Disney Style. 

According to its sponsors, Transformational Change is a process, not just another seminar program. It provides participants the opportunity to examine, create and build their plan for strategic organizational change based on research findings from the Harvard Business School that was adapted, implemented and proven successful with positive business results by a world-class business leader, The Walt Disney Company.

The seminar takes place May 7-9 in Orange, CA, near the Disneyland Resort.

Click here for details and information on possible support from the Alaska Community Foundation. If you have questions, please contact Compass Point Events directly.

Posted in Management.    

We received this post today from the National Council of Nonprofits with three excellent tips on how to make your annual audit process easier and more productive. Take a look and see if the tips will help you get prepared with less stress. Also note at the end of the Council's article that the State of the Sector survey is closing soon. If you haven't done so, please participate in this important process to help us better understand our sector. Click here to read our earlier post on the survey.

Board members have responsibility to financially support organization

A charitable giving strategy clearly increased the board’s own responsibility. Board members can only ask others to give to their organization when they have made their own gift. It’s important that organizations that ask boards to give first adopt a policy of 100 percent board giving in an amount that is meaningful and significant to each member.

I don’t recommend setting an amount for each board member to give. When boards have a specific dollar expectation, such as “give or get $2,000,” fear exists that individuals without means or influence won’t be able to serve on boards. Some may think such a requirement will eliminate potentially good leaders with fewer financial resources.

It has been my experience that the board members with the least income are the most willing to give at sacrificial levels to support a mission they care about. Another problem with requiring a specific amount from board members is that it may exclude people with limited resources, and provides those people with the capacity to write a larger check to only give the specific amount that is requested. 

Therefore, what should be required is a gift that aligns with each board member’s individual ability to support the organization in a personally significant way.

What is your organization’s policy on board giving?


Dennis McMillian, is President of The Foraker Group, a capacity building organization based in Alaska, and the author of Focus on Sustainability: A Nonprofit’s Journey.  

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