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  • Giving Down 4 Percent From 2016

    Giving has rebounded slightly in the third quarter of 2017 as compared to the half-year mark but still trails 2016 figures, according to a Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) report. The number of year-to-date donors (4.8 million) and revenue ($4.7 billion) remain 5 percent and 4 percent behind 2016 numbers, respectively.

    The revenue mark represents a 2-percent improvement from the 2017 half-year point as compared to 2016 while the number of donors compared to last year has remained flat since the second quarter.

    FEP is a collaboration between the Urban Institute and Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) with data providers including Neon, Bloomerang, and DonorPerfect. A growing trend in 2017 has been the decline in major gifts as compared to mid-size and smaller gifts, according to Jon Biedermann, vice president of DonorPerfect. The $3.64 billion reported from major gift donors (those giving $1,000 or more) through Sept. 30 represents an 8-percent decrease compared to that point in 2016.

    Mid-level gifts, those between $250 and $1,000, have accounted for $491 million thus far, up 20.1 percent from last year’s pace and even better than the 14.2-percent projected increase set at the year’s halfway mark. The $565 million garnered from gifts of less than $250 is up 6.9 percent from last year but down slightly from the 8.9-percent increase it held through two quarters.

    Despite being several points off the 2016 pace with just a little time left in the year, Biedermann predicts that giving this year will actually exceed 2016 totals before declining in 2018. Tax reform and improvements in the S&P 500 have created a “perfect storm.”

    Biedermann said that history is on his side. The standard deduction was increased the last time major tax reform was accomplished in 1986 and giving spiked that year before dying down in 1987. The standard deduction is set to roughly double in both the proposed tax bills in the Senate and House, up to about $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for joint-filers, give or take a few hundred dollars between the two bills.

    At the same time, individuals operating their own businesses are facing a tax decrease on net profits from 39.6 percent down to 25 percent, Biedermann said. In essence, there will be far greater tax incentive for donors to give this year as compared to next. A donor that might make a habit of giving $1,000 each year might instead choose to give $2,000, or close to it, at the end of this year and then give substantially less than usual in 2018 when incentives might not be as strong.

    “At the end of the day, I am convinced – based on history and research – that we are going to see, in the fourth quarter, tax reform and the S&P 500 put us into the green [for 2017], substantially,” said Biedermann.

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  • Trump Foundation Seeks To Dissolve, Again

    The Donald J. Trump Foundation is, again, seeking to cease operations, but continues to face opposition from the New York Attorney General (NYAG) Eric Schneiderman.

    The foundation filed its most recent tax form on Wednesday, the final extension allowed for nonprofits to file their calendar year 2016 forms. In it, the foundation announced “its intent to dissolve and is seeking approval to distribute its remaining funds to highly qualified and important section 501(c)(3) charities.”

    Foundation leadership sought to shutter late last year following Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election. Those efforts were blocked by Schneiderman, who said that the foundation could not dissolve while still under investigation by the office for, among other things, a campaign contribution to a group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

    The foundation continues to cooperate with the New York Attorney General’s Charities Division, and as previously announced by the president, his advisers are working with the Charities Division to wind up the affairs of the foundation,” a foundation spokesperson reportedly told ABC News on Monday. “The foundation looks forward to distributing its remaining assets at the earliest possible time to aid numerous worthy charitable organizations.”

    A call to foundation headquarters in Woodbury, N.Y. sought additional comment but The NonProfit Times was told not to expect a response until next week.

    NYAG Press Secretary Amy Spitalnick, meanwhile, told The NonProfit Times that the foundation is not yet permitted to close its doors.

    “Our investigation into the Donald J. Trump Foundation remains ongoing,” Spitalnick said in an email. “Its fundraising activities remain suspended following the AG’s notice of violation last year. As the foundation is still under investigation by this office, it cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete.”

    The investigation dates back to at least June 2016, according to exchanges between the office and the foundation. On June 9, 2016, the NYAG office sent a letter to the foundation questioning a $25,000 donation made in 2013 to “And Justice For All,” a group that was supporting Bondi’s campaign. Bondi had, at the time, been considering whether or not to pursue an investigation into Trump University, but never followed through.

    The foundation, according to the correspondences, attributed the donation to a “case of mistaken identity involving organizations with the same name.” The foundation provided proof of reimbursement of the gift along with a receipt of a $2,500 excise tax paid.

    In September 2016, a NYAG staffer told The NonProfit Times that the still-ongoing investigation was “not just one transaction, it’s a broader concern.” The foundation was also ordered to cease fundraising operations in New York due to a failure to register with the Charities Bureau and provide annual financial reports.

    Should the foundation be permitted to dissolve, it would have slightly less than $970,000 in assets to disburse, according to the foundation’s 2016 Form 990-PF. That sum is down from $1.12 million to start the year.

    The foundation reported some $2.93 million in revenue, including $2.86 million in contributions. Among the largest contributors to the Trump Foundation last year were:

    • $1 million, Laura Perlmutter, philanthropist and wife of Marvel Chairman and Trump advisor, Isaac Perlmutter;
    • $1 million, Phil Ruffin, a Las Vegas casino magnate;
    • $100,000, daughter Ivanka Trump;
    • $50,000, Daryl & Steven Roth Foundation; and,
    • $50,000, John J. Cafaro, an Ohio shopping center developer.

    The foundation reported about $3 million in contributions, gifts and grants paid. Among the largest contributions by the Trump Foundation last year were:

    • $200,000, Racing for Heroes in Beach Creek, Pa.;
    • $200,000, Achilles International, New York, N.Y.; and,
    • $150,000, Veterans In Command, Jamaica, N.Y.;

    The foundation made $100,000 contributions to a number of veterans organizations and other charities as well.

    As was the case shortly after the election, nonprofit watchdog group Charity Navigator has labeled the Trump Foundation under a “moderate concern advisory.”

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  • Heron Announces Leadership Transition

    The F.B. Heron Foundation will have a new president at the end of the year. Dana Bezerra will become the next president with outgoing president Clara Miller assuming the role of President Emerita.

    Heron made the announcement today, with an effective date of Dec. 31, 2017. Bezerra joined Heron in 2006 and has been responsible for “deal-sourcing, identifying and developing relationships across a spectrum of investors, syndicating capital when possible, and cultivating opportunities to deploy the full range of Heron’s ‘toolbox,’ including grants, program related investments, and market-rate mission related investments.” Prior to joining the New York City-based foundation, she was in the private banking and investment group at Merrill Lynch where she specialized in philanthropy and nonprofit management.

    “I’ve had the joy and privilege of working with Dana both before I came to Heron and during my tenure,” Miller said. “Her exceptional ability to connect people and ideas, her diverse experience, and her inclusive working style make her uniquely well-equipped to lead the next phase of Heron’s evolution,” she said.

    Miller has been president at Heron for the past seven years. Prior to leading Heron, she was president and CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund dating back to when she founded that organization in 1984. Miller has been selected seven times for The NonProfit Times’ Power & Influence Top 50, including the past two years as well as 2006 through 2010.

    Bezerra also has been active in the leadership of several national and local philanthropic organizations over the last two decades, including the board of Capital Impact Partners, the steering committee for Mission Investors’ Exchange, and as a reviewer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of its Grand Challenge Exploration Program.

    A native of California, Bezerra earned a bachelor of science degree in agricultural business and public policy from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

    “Heron’s board is thrilled that Dana will be taking the helm. Her selection is not only a tribute to her, it also reflects the board’s regard for Clara Miller’s leadership over the past several years and Heron’s strategic direction,” Arthur “Buzz” Schmidt, chairman of Heron’s board, said. “Under Dana’s leadership, Heron will lever the lessons it has learned over the past 25 years — both on the ground in communities and within the capital markets,” he said.

    Heron was established in 1992 to help people and communities help themselves out of poverty, working with “a diverse set of investment strategies focused on fostering economic innovations and practices that lead to long-term economic opportunity and properties for all.”

    The foundation reported total net assets of almost $273 million in the most recent fiscal year, including expenses and disbursements of almost $12 million.

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  • AHA President OK After Heart Attack

    American Heart Association (AHA) President Dr. John Warner suffered a minor heart attack last week while attending the association’s annual Scientific Sessions event in Anaheim, Calif. Warner was hospitalized, had a coronary stent inserted, and is currently resting with family, according to an AHA release. Early prognoses are positive.

    “Dr. Warner’s recovery continues and he continues to work in his capacities for the American Heart Association and UT Southwestern University Hospitals,” a representative of UT Southwestern Hospitals said via email on Monday. Warner has served as CEO of UT Southwestern University Hospitals in Dallas, Texas since 2012.

    The Scientific Sessions, per Warner’s request, continued on after the incident as planned. In addition to serving as AHA’s volunteer president for 2017-18, Warner has been a member of the association’s national board of directors since 2014.

    “John wanted to reinforce that this incident underscores the important message that he left us with in his presidential address [at Scientific Sessions]– that much progress has been made, but much remains to be done. Cardiac events can still happen anytime and anywhere,” said AHA CEO Nancy Brown.

    During his opening address at the Scientific Sessions, Warner shared his family’s own struggles with cardiac health.

    “Earlier in my talk, I told you there were no old men in my family. I know this is also true in far too many other families, not just in the U.S., but around the world. I believe the people in this room have the power – and even the duty – to change that. Together, we can make sure old men and old women are regulars at family reunions,” he said, per a transcript of his statement.

    In addition serving as AHA’s president and CEO of UT Southwestern Hospitals, Warner serves as senior executive officer, joint operating company for Southwestern Health Resources, according to his AHA bio. He is also chairperson for AHA’s Science Advisory & Coordinating Committee and is a member of its Advocacy Coordinating Committee, Corporate Operations Coordinating Committee, Executive Committee, and International Committee. Prior to ascending to president, Warner was president of AHA’s SouthWest affiliate from 2010 to 2012.

    Warner earned his M.D. from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. and his M.B.A. from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn. He completed his medical residency at UT Southwestern.

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  • House Signs Off On Tax Bill That Hurts Charities

    The House of Representatives passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Thursday by a 227 to 205 vote. The bill, roundly criticized by leaders in the nonprofit sector, marks a significant step in what has been an accelerated process for the most significant tax reform in more than three decades.

    The House Bill includes a doubling of the standard deduction — up to $24,400 for joint filers and $12,200 for individuals, no universal charitable deduction, a repeal of the estate tax, and repeal of the Johnson Amendment — which prohibits 501(c)(3) organizations from engaging in partisan politics. The doubling of the standard deduction, alone, will cost the sector some $13 billion per year, according to the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

    The Senate Finance Committee’s version of the bill, released last week, features some stark contrasts, including no repeal of the Johnson Amendment and an expanded exemption within the estate tax, but no complete repeal.

    Hadar Susskind, senior vice president of government relations for the Council on Foundations (CoF), said that the council has realized that the House bill is essentially set and has turned attentions to the Senate. Maintaining the Johnson Amendment and inserting some sort of universal charitable deduction are among current efforts. CoF leadership has also supported Sen. John Thune’s (R-SD) Charity Act, which would bring a flat 1-percent excise tax on private foundations, as opposed to 1.4 percent in both the House and Senate.

    The comprehensive reform has put nonprofits in a unique position. Advocates are used to fighting off one provision at a time. Now, everything is on the table, according to Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of CoF. In some respects the charitable sector has been left alone in that the charitable deduction remains. The practical effect of provisions such as the doubled standard deduction, however, have great impacts, including the potential loss of millions of itemizers.

    “First off, we are very disappointed with how this is happening,” Spruill said. “Sadly, the impacts of this bill are going to be felt for a really long time.”

    Not unlike foundations, private higher-education institutions face a 1.4 percent annual excise tax on endowment income in both the House and Senate bills. The Senate bill limits the provision to institutions with assets of $250,000 per full-time student or greater as compared to the House’s $100,000 demarcation. Jessica Sebeok, associate vice president and counsel for policy for the Association of American Universities (AAU), noted that the proposed tax has caught some members by surprise.

    The drafting process for both bills has been unique in its secrecy, Sebeok added. AAU and related organizations have been thrust into a position of reacting on the fly to express concerns all while universities communicate with elected representatives who might be on the same plane of confusion as they are.

    “Certainly, a lot of the initial drafting was done in some secrecy,” Sebeok said. “This was done behind many closed doors, it was not inclusive. There was not a lot of input allowed or welcomed even from other members of the majority.”

    Sebeok believes that Congressional Republicans, eager to seize momentum, will try to push forward to get something on President Donald Trump’s desk by the end of the year with the 2018 midterm election cycle looming.

    Laura Kalick, tax consulting director for BDO USA’s National Healthcare and Nonprofit & Education practices, on the other hand, expects some scaling back of provisions before anything is set in stone. The Houses’ repeal of the estate tax, for instance, might end up looking more like the Senate’s expanded exemption. The current estate-tax exemptions of $5.49 million for individuals and $10.98 million for couples, as they are, affect only about two out of every 1,000 estates in the U.S., according to Aaron Dorfman, president and CEO of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP).

    The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated that after 2023, most taxpayers would see a tax increase. Donors of all income levels give a little more when they have a little more money but the proposed tax cuts championed by most Republicans will have “miniscule effects,” Dorfman said, and aren’t “significant enough to make up for bad tax policy.”

    Both bills enable individuals to deduct up to 60 percent of their adjusted gross income for charitable contributions, up from 50 percent. In practice, however, Kalick noted the limited scope of such a provision with few donors willing or able to give 50 percent of their earnings to charity, let alone 60 percent.

    “If anybody thinks that that’s a great bone to charity, that’s absurd,” Kalick said.

    The Senate has also moved to eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, likely to sweeten the legislation for more conservative senators, as it would reportedly save about $318 billion over 10 years. The consequence is that it also conflates tax reform with unsuccessful attempts to reform healthcare, Kalick said, potentially leading to some roadblocks on the way to consensus.

    Kalick believes that extending the process into 2018 with a more nuanced bill is more palatable for many representatives than voting in favor of something that might be unpopular coming into an election year.

    “I don’t think it’s going to happen,” said Kalick of tax reform in 2017. “People are looking at it and saying ‘This doesn’t make sense.’”

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  • Revenue Up But Public Support Declined For United Ways

    Total revenue for the United Way Worldwide and its 1,142 U.S. affiliates nationwide increased by more than 1.5 percent last year despite a decline of 4.5 percent in public support.

    United Way Worldwide reported revenue of $3.927 billion for the 2015-16 campaign year, up from $3.866 billion in 2015. Public support dropped for the third straight year, from $3.708 billion in 2015 to $3.539 billion last year. Total revenue was still up year-to-year because of a 7.3 percent increase in government support, from $257 million to $275 million, and positive investment income of $112 million, as compared with negative $98 million in the previous year.

    The data cover the fiscal year that encompassed the fall 2016 United Way campaign. For an affiliate on a calendar year, that would be January-December 2016 while an affiliate on a June-July fiscal year would mean July 2016 to June 2017.

    United Way of Greater Atlanta reported the highest public support total for the second year in a row. It was the only affiliate to eclipse the $100 million threshold in contributions. Support was up 2.4 percent from $105.5 million to $108 million. The rest of the top 10 affiliates by public support were:

    • Greater Twin Cities United Way, Minneapolis, Minn. — $86,829,297, down 10.1 percent from $96,631,970;

    • United Way of Greater St. Louis — $81,863,191, up 0.1 percent from $81,809,516;

    • United Way of Greater Houston — $78,930,659, up 0.2 percent from $78,792,978;

    • United Way of Greater Cincinnati — $64,584,893, down 6 percent from $68,690,814;

    • United Way of Greater Los Angeles — $64,338,374, down 10 percent from $71,475,287;

    • United Way of Metropolitan Dallas — $61,125,781, up 0.8 percent, from $60,611,358;

    • United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County — $58,660,959, down 1.4 percent, from $59,472,359;

    • United Way of Metropolitan Chicago — $56,897,668, up 6.5 percent, from $53,415,184; and,

    • United Way of Central Indiana — $54,219,879, up 4.7 percent, from $51,780,407

    The top 10 affiliates reported aggregate total support last year of $715 million, accounting for about 20 percent of all affiliate support. That’s about 1.7 percent less than the previous year’s total of $729 million for the top 10.

    The top 20 affiliates accounted for almost one-third of all support, totaling $1.17 billion.

    Two of the largest affiliates had layoffs earlier this year. Greater Twin Cities United Way shed about 5 percent of staff after a spike in donor-designated gifts and 20 percent of staff was laid off after a restructuring at United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. The increase in donor-designated gifts created a $6-million shortfall for Twin Cities despite exceeding its fundraising goal by $2.2 million.

    Of the 404 affiliates that reported totals for each of the past two years, about 250 affiliates reported decreases in public support last year compared with 156 that reported increases.


    Of the 404 affiliates that reported totals for each of the past two years, about 250 affiliates reported decreases in public support last year compared with 156 that reported increases.

    The average public support reported was $7,656,907, which most closely resembled Milltown, N.J.-based United Way of Central Jersey’s $7,618,066, ranked 96th among the 404 affiliates.

    The median percentage change among affiliates was a drop of 2.35 percent (United Way of Cleveland County in Shelby, N.C., and United Way of Douglas County in Lawrence, Kansas.) The median support was $2,763,174 (United Way of Sheboygan County, Sheboygan, Wisc., $2,778,600, and United Way of Lowcountry in Beaufort, S.C., $2,747,747)

    Two affiliates that were among those to report the largest percentage increase in support received a boost in response to flash floods that struck West Virginia in June 2016. The top 10 increases by percentage:

    • United Way Greenbrier Valley, Lewisburg, W.V. — 535 percent, $177,416 to $1,126,813;

    • United Way of Saginaw County, Saginaw, Mich. — 91.2 percent, $972,862 to $1,860,248;

    • Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way, Sunbury, Pa. — 89.1 percent, $601,290 to $1,136,941;

    • United Way of Henderson County, Hendersonville, N.C. — 60.1 percent, $1,664,603 to $2,665,416;

    • United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, Tucson, Ariz. — 56 percent, $5,159,801 to $8,050,606;

    • United Way of Santa Fe County, Santa Fe, N.M. — 54.2 percent, $2,042,483 to $3,148,667; and,

    • United Way of Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara, Calif. — 50.9 percent, $3,566,027 to $5,380,008;

    • United Way of Acadiana, Lafayette, La. — 50.9 percent, $3,566,027 to $5,380,008;

    • United Way of Southern West Virginia, Beckley, W.V. — 40.1 percent, $921,023 to $1,290,595; and,

    • United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Farmingdale, N.J. — 38.3 percent, $2,206,403 to $3,051,311.

    The huge increase in support for United Way Greenbrier Valley and United Way of Southern West Virginia was in response to flash floods that hit the area. Almost $1 million in designated contributions went to the two-person affiliate in Lewisburg, W.Va., which helped more than 460 families to either address immediate needs or support long-term recovery, such as repairing, rebuilding or razing homes. Contributions also helped families purchase things like kitchen appliances and furniture or used vehicles. The United Way Rental Renewal Program provided relief for families who were renting their homes when the floods occurred.

    Joanne Troutman

    We recognized, and our board long recognized, our revenues declining for many years like other United Ways and clung to the model of workplace giving, doing things what we’ve always done them.Joanne Troutman

    Sharp increases among other affiliates last year were the result of more benign actions like mergers and bequests.

    United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties was the result of a merger between two previously independent, separate affiliates that came together as of July 1, 2016. It was among a number of United Way mergers last year, including United Way of the Bay Area and United Way Silicon Valley, also in July; and Franklin-Grand Isle and United Way of Chittenden County forming United Way of Northwest Vermont, effective May 30, 2016. Montgomery County United Way also folded into United Way of Greater Houston in early 2016.

    In some cases, the spike in support wasn’t the result of any disaster or catastrophe but unexpected planned gifts. For United Way of Henderson County, the financial boost was the result of receiving two bequests totaling almost $1 million.

    Another affiliate credited the United Way’s transition to a new model described as community impact strategy, focusing on impact areas of health, education, and financial stability.

    “We recognized, and our board long recognized, our revenues declining for many years like other United Ways and clung to the model of workplace giving, doing things the way we’ve always done them,” said Joanne Troutman, CEO of Sunbury, Pa.-based Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way. The affiliate has done away with campaign chairs and goals because they’ve been struggling with revenue for a number of years.

    The community impact model wasn’t popular at first, Troutman said, crediting her predecessor with the vision to move in that direction.

    “For a lot of United Ways, as they move to community impact and priorities, people don’t universally agree with that,” she said, because some organizations don’t always make the cut for grants.

    Susquehanna Valley began to move in that direction about seven years ago, taking United Way’s priorities and developing them specifically for the local community, according to Troutman. “It’s not enough to say you have 50 people you will feed at the soup kitchen for food bank; what are you doing to create behavioral change and make a substantial difference in people’s lives,” she said. “It took folks awhile to catch up,” Troutman said.

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  • 62% Of Parents Talk Charity With Kids

    Walking to talking to reading to riding bicycles; many of us learn about life’s details from our parents. That parental guidance extends to charitable giving and volunteerism, with 62 percent of American parents discussing charitable donations or volunteerism with their children, according to a study by the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.

    The National Survey on Charitable Giving Findings Report is based on survey data from 1,004 American parents. It found that houses of worship were the leading prompt for discussing charities with children (44 percent), followed by school projects (41 percent), family or friends (41 percent), a news story (40 percent), and social media (33 percent). Men surveyed were more likely to talk about charities with their children than women, 66 percent to 58 percent.

    Human services charities, such as soup kitchens and shelters, are the most common types of organizations parents discuss with their children at 60 percent. Disaster relief (58 percent), animal welfare and protection (49 percent), and health (39 percent) causes follow close behind. When asked what one type of organization they would speak with their children about, parents came to similar results with human services again leading the way at 29 percent followed by animal welfare and protection (17 percent), disaster relief (11 percent), and religion (11 percent).

    At the generation level, Millennials are the most likely to discuss various types of charitable organizations with their children across subsectors despite 18 percent reporting that their children are too young to discuss charitable giving or volunteerism. In the battle for second place, Gen Xers rank ahead of Baby Boomers in speaking to their children about health (36 percent to 34 percent) and environmental (27 percent to 25 percent) organizations. Baby Boomers are more likely than Gen Xers to discuss disaster relief (63 percent to 51 percent), human services (59 percent to 55 percent), animal welfare (50 percent to 45 percent) groups with their children.

    The study, in addition to discussing parental behaviors, also looks into the likelihood that individuals research charities before giving. More than two-fifths (41 percent) of respondents stated that they seek out information every time they give, while 34 percent stated that they sometimes check and 14 percent never research. Millennials (79 percent) are far more likely to research charities at least some of the time as compared to Gen Xers (59 percent) and Baby Boomers (56 percent).

    Men are more likely than women to check in on charities every time before they give (46 percent to 36 percent), while women are more likely to never check (17 percent to 11 percent).

    Other findings from the report included:

    * Over half (55 percent) of respondents reported giving to hurricane relief efforts this year. Men were more likely to give to hurricane relief efforts than women, 59 percent to 51 percent, and were more likely to research before donating, 70 percent to 60 percent;

    * Millennials (60 percent) were more likely to donate to hurricane-relief causes than Gen Xers (54 percent) and Baby Boomers (52 percent); and,

    * Donors in the Northeast (58 percent) were the most likely to give to hurricane relief followed by donors in the South (55 percent), Midwest (55 percent), and West (52 percent).

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  • Museum’s Hoodie Tied To TV Tops $1.1 Million

    The second season of the Netflix hit series “Stranger Things” was an unexpected boon to the Science Museum of Minnesota — to the tune of $1 million and counting.

    The museum made a cameo appearance in the very first episode, by way of a Brontosaurus “Thunder Lizard” hooded sweatshirt worn by one of the most popular characters. The appearance caught staff by surprise, getting inundated with messages after the series released on Oct. 27 and swamped with requests to purchase the hoodie. The only problem? The science fiction series is set in the 1980s and no such garment exists in the museum’s Explore Store.

    The design featured on the hoodie apparently dates back to an exhibit at the museum sometime in the 1980s, according to Steve Fegley, director of retail operations. The show’s costume designer was looking for something retro and found it on eBay, adapting it to a hoodie, he said. Fegley has been with the museum since 1991 and tracked down a former president who determined that the museum sold the Brontosaurus on T-shirts but not hoodies.

    Within days of the season’s release, the museum set to work on creating a separate online store dedicated to the retro apparel. The first day it was available, Nov. 7, the site was overwhelmed and crashed for several hours but still managed to move 12,000 units, grossing some $400,000. The museum has grossed almost $1.1 million in sales from the apparel.

    “We knew we needed to see this online to reach as many people as wanted it. We saw right away the international demand and knew we had to do it quickly,” said Kim Ramsden, public relations director.

    Typically, the museum store grosses about $1 million to $1.2 million annually with 6 to 7 percent of that in garment sales. In about a week’s time, the store has sold half as many garments as it normally does in a year. Demand has waned but only from the huge initial peak; the museum is still moving 1,000 units per day, far more than it typically does.

    The majority of the almost 30,000 items sold have been ordered from people in Minnesota, with others scattered around the country and internationally. “It’s more regional than some people might think,” Fegley said.

    Another shipment of 1,400 items was expected today and another has been ordered, Fegley said. “We’re trying to figure out how much is enough,” he said, debating whether there’s enough demand to warrant selling items beyond hoodies and T-shirts. “It’s still got some legs,” Fegley said, adding that volunteers and staff are still restricted from buying them to meet outside demand.

    “The toughest part was the fact that everybody wanted something right away,” Fegley said. “Everybody has been very supportive and understanding,” he said, not just in the store but other areas like the museum’s call center, too.

    The museum is the largest science center in Minnesota, welcoming 700,000 visitors annually. It has about 600 full-time staff and annual revenue of about $38 million, according to Ramsden.

    The museum has seen its Facebook and Twitter audiences grow as well. The first Facebook post on Oct. 27 reached more than 340,000 viewers and was liked more than 8,400 and shared more than 1,700 times on Facebook. The Oct. 27 tweet regarding the hoodie had more than 2,000 likes and was retweeted more than 630 times. The museum’s Twitter following has grown by a few thousand, approaching 30,000, and followers on Facebook have grown by about 5,000, surpassing 85,500.

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  • Mobile Use Up, But Online Gifts Are Via Desktops

    More than half of the visitors to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) website are via mobile devices, compared with 36 percent from desktop computers, and another 9 percent from visitors on tablets. Despite the increasing proportion of mobile visitors, 80 percent of gifts still come via desktop users compared with 20 percent via mobile.

    “We’ve optimized all our forms for mobile but still getting desktop mostly,” said Joanne Wilson, director of acquisition at HSUS. “People are still going to desktop to give but this is a big step,” said Wilson, who manages the monthly giving program, working with DRTV, face-to-face, and online.

    Wilson shared the statistics during a session titled “Making Mobile Work For Fundraising” during the Bridge To Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference earlier this year at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.

    HSUS struggles with premium versus non-premium donors in its files, according to Wilson. A print ad campaign focused on puppy mills to acquire monthly donors slated for New York City’s subway system was considered too controversial for the MTA but it did run on New Jersey Transit and did just fine.

    Instead, HSUS advertised a disaster relief kit on the subway that donors would receive if they became monthly sustainers. The nonprofit registered an average sustainer gift of $10.74, with an overall pledge rate of 14 percent, including 5.5 percent credit card sustainers. Using the control on NJ Transit, the overall pledge rate was 15 percent, with 5 percent credit card sustainers, and a higher average sustainer gift of $13.

    The Bella born in a cage campaign featured a striking image at the point of her rescue and offered a free tote to sustaining donors. On NJ Transit, the campaign had a 19 percent pledge rate, including 9.4 percent sustainers, with an average gift of $11.67.

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  • Women-Led Giving Circles On Rise

    From peer-to-peer events to crowdfunding, nonprofits are enjoying the fruits of donors’ independent initiative like never before. The next up-and-coming trend might be giving circles, with tens of millions of dollars per year potentially in play.

    Giving circles, at their most basic, are groups of friends, neighbors, and individuals of like concerns that gather to learn about issues that interest them and pool money to fund greater impact, according to Jason Franklin, W.K. Kellogg Community Philanthropy Chair at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University and co-author of The Landscape of Giving Circles/Collective Giving Groups in the U.S.

    The study, conducted with funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation by way of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University, is based on accumulated data of more than 1,000 giving circles, as well as survey responses from representatives of 358 circles.

    The data show that that giving circles are becoming increasingly popular with 46.1 percent launched since 2010 as compared to just 5.8 percent prior to 2000. Member donations tend also to be on the higher side. The right to vote on funding recipients requires anything from a $4 donation in some circles to a $2 million donation in others. The average donation amount is $1,312 with the median donation level being $400, per the report.

    Survey respondents, representing 33 percent of giving circles identified in the study, reported raising $30.1 million in 2016, of which $27.7 million was granted out. The study’s database showed since-inception payouts of $375.25 million based on information from 37 percent of the study’s dataset. Extrapolated, studied giving circles have granted $1.29 billion since their inceptions.

    Giving circles are also notable in that they are women-dominated. Of the 706 circles to describe a common gender identity, 640 were led by women as compared to 42 for men and 24 for members of the LGBTQ community. Overall, 76 percent of participating giving circles indicated that women made up more than half of members. Just 12 percent of groups reported that men made up the majority.

    This gender dynamic seems to impact common causes supported by giving circles. Of circle representatives surveyed, 196 (55 percent) reported support of human services causes, while women and girls (191 overall, 53 percent) and education (187 overall, 52 percent) were other causes to draw more than half of circles’ support.

    Franklin attributed the large number of women in giving circles to the current dynamics in fundraising and the distribution of wealth in the United States. White males tend to have concentrated power and wealth and nonprofits tend to focus attentions on them. In response, women — and other traditional minorities such as Asian and Jewish Americans — have turned to giving circles as a means of aggregating impact. They have also served as a means of developing nonprofit leaders among minority groups, Franklin said.

    Giving circles might be coming down the pike at a similar time as other non-traditional fundraising methods such as crowdfunding, but the notable difference is that giving circles seek coordinated efforts and group education as opposed to individualized giving, Franklin said. Circles are also often focused on local issues as opposed to national initiatives. Nonprofits active in causes supported by giving circles might be well served in simply Googling for local giving circles or reaching out to local community foundations, which house about half of giving circles, though Franklin suggests seeking out more than financial backing.

    “It’s not just the check they’ll write, but the engagement that community circles represent,” Franklin said, adding that giving circles might be a strong place to find future board members.

    Other key findings from the study included:

    * Giving circles also identify by race and religion. Among 117 circles identified by race or ethnic identity, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (52) led the way followed by African Americans (38) and Latinos (16). Members of the Jewish faith were far and away the most common religious affiliation among circles, making up 88 of 118 religiously identified circles. Christians were a distant second with seven total circles;

    * The study estimates that giving circles have engaged at least 150,000 individuals. The average number of people per circle is 116, while the median is 50 individuals, and the most common number is 100 members; and,

    * Giving circles are condensed to the east, with California representing the only state to have more than 50 circles west of the Mississippi River. Other states with at least 50 giving circles are Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Virginia.

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