Donor Communications

Category Archives — Donor Communications

Impact Calls: Share nonprofit results on an interactive call

Public companies have earnings calls. Why don’t nonprofits have impact calls? 

From “GuideStar’s Impact Call is a revolutionary idea: to quickly and proactively provide results to constituents and begin a systematic dialogue that encourages data-driven decision making across the sector.” Jacob Harold, President and CEO

I learned about Impact Calls when Guidestar’s Lindsay Nichols presented at Office Depot Foundation’s annual nonprofit conference. (Let it also be said that Guidestar is not just for Form 990’s anymore. Check out their other services.)

Impact Calls: What are they?

It takes almost a year for a Form 990 to become publicly available. Impact Calls present an organization’s results to the world in a timely way. The idea is to be transparent and invite everyone. In the corporate world, the audience is dominated by shareholders, press, and investment firms. In nonprofit land, we expect to see funders, service recipients, volunteers and press.

Guidestar tested the idea, and, to its surprise, had over 400 participants on its first call, which was hosted on Webex (there are many similar services).

What do you talk about?

  • How you did—financially and programmatically
  • What worked: successes
  • What didn’t – and what you learned: failures
  • New developments

Tip: Tell stories, don’t just present data.

Why have Impact Calls?

  1. Engage your stakeholders in a dialogue
  2. Promote transparency
  3. Be inclusive – everyone is invited
  4. Take a leadership position
  5. Share knowledge
  6. Let funders know what impact they had
  7. Let funders know what remains to be done
  8. Learn what’s on your stakeholders minds
  9. Launch something new
  10. Provide press content

Further engage your constituents with Impact Calls!

Keeping donors informed in the midst of charitable deduction uncertainty

The charitable deduction headlines are confusing.  The final outcome is unclear.  What better time to communicate with your donors?

Warning:  Charitable deduction facts in this blog post may time-limited.  The donor communication concepts are not.

Donor communication stances

1.  Non-expert “head’s up”

Your goal is to let your donors know you are thinking about them and to refer them to expert information sources. Your communications do not try to explain the charitable deducation rules.  Instead, they focus on the process, i.e., when might the next decision be made, and recommend expert resources to which your donors might want to refer for additional information.

One information source you may want to consider: The Tax Policy Center, which is a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution —

2.  Non-expert, but communicating expert information 

We understand from <source 1> that xxxxxxxxxxxxxx.  If there are differing points of view, you might add: <Source 2> tells us yyyyyyyyyyy.  You don’t have to solve the problem.  It is acceptable to share the confusion and commiserate.

You may; however, be able to highlight some of the basic incontrovertable facts, e.g., “As of today’s date, donors with household incomes under $300,000 (and individuals under $250,000) are subject to the same charitable deduction rules that were in place in 2012.  But we’ll have to wait see what happens over the next sixty days.”

3. Expert:  Your nonprofit is on top of the issue.

Your organization quickly reviews the “charitable deduction rules” and becomes an interpretation resource.  The Tax Policy Center cited above is one such example.  Understandly, charitable deduction expertise and the requisite tax law and accounting knowledge is outside the mission and scope of most organizations. 

What about major donors?

As of January, 2013, there is a charitable deduction divide.  Some of the headlines proclaiming victory tor the charitable deduction fail to explain that the Pease limit, which had expired in 2010, is back. For higher income donors, Pease creates a limit on total itemized deductions, which includes the charitable deduction.  (Do refer to for details).  To further confuse the issue, the legislation that was passed in early January may be amended over the next sixty days as “fiscal cliff” conversations continue on Capital Hill.

If you are someone who speaks with major gift propsects, you probably want to have an answer ready–especially while the topic is “hot.” Using a paradign similar to the one described ablve, you might refer the donor to a trusted source.  Or, if you are comfortable with the information, relay your understanding directly.  Be certain to cite your source, unless you are, in fact, the expert.