By: Allison Porter, Jackie Biancolli, and Danielle Hart
This concept is the key to the successful philosophy of Steve Nardizzi, Executive Director of the Wounded Warrior Project. We had the great pleasure of speaking with Steve about his upcoming keynote address at the 9th Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference on July 10.
Steve’s philosophy on fundraising and non-profit management is an exciting addition to the larger conversation about fundraising ethics and charity ratings. This topic has dominated the industry for the last several years and has forced many organizations to act defensively to protect their reputations with donors – often hindering the impact organizations have on the causes they work so hard to serve.
Fundraising is an important component to an organization’s fulfillment of its mission. As Steve said “We fundraise and take action that makes an impact. That’s what charity is about. It is about having an impact, not just good intentions.”
As a result of years of negative press about fundraising, many have begun to view it as a necessary evil and not a vital component of the overall success of an organization’s mission. In fact, numerous debates about the ethics of fundraising have sprung up at an increasingly rapid pace. Steve wisely sees that the press helps to feed these debates as the controversy stirs up attention-grabbing headlines. However, many of the questions organizations are confronted with are about their business practices rather than their ethics. These conversations are becoming confused and are seen as interchangeable to many in the general public.
Steve challenges these questions head on. “I tell people not to mistake business decisions for a lack of ethics. If a member of the public or a donor suggests that they do not like the amount I spend on staff salary, travel to affect the mission, fundraising costs, etc., then you disagree with my business plan. That is not an ethical debate. An ethical debate is if I put out a misleading statement or I tell you dollars will be directed to a particular purpose and it isn’t.”
Charity rating systems help to further confuse the issue as many assume that an organization with a lower rating is unethical. This is an ongoing struggle for many nonprofits and a hot topic as more and more donors are researching various charity ratings before giving a gift.
The success of the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization which has gone against the grain by making business decisions regardless of how they will affect their charity ratings, is a testament to Steve’s philosophy as an executive director. He confronts naysayers and challenges others in the industry to take back the conversation. Steve’s perspective is that fundraising is integral to allowing the organization to grow and to serve more people. His focus is on helping more people; not trying to fit Wounded Warrior Project into a model that will allow it to get a high rating on a charity evaluator website.
Steve challenges organizations to face these tough conversations. Answer questions about ethics and ratios head on by explaining your strategy to donors and clarify why these ratings do not show the whole picture. An organization may have a low rating because they are investing in a growth strategy that will allow them to further their purpose. That is what the focus needs to be on – the work not the rating. And Steve firmly believes that you will be surprised by how many donors will understand and appreciate your perspective. During his keynote speech, Steve will counsel others on how to have these tough conversations and why they are so important. His address at the Bridge conference is something not to be missed!
The opening keynote speech from Steve Nardizzi will further the conversation about the role of fundraising and the place of ratings systems in the non-profit world. He truly hopes that everyone attending will keep the conversation going. This speech will be informative, dynamic, and thought provoking. We cannot wait to hear it, and hope to see you there.
Allison Porter is the Co-Founder and President of Avalon Consulting, a full-service agency dedicated to helping progressive nonprofit and political organizations maximize their fundraising results. She is a frequent speaker at industry events – recognized across both the nonprofit and fundraising industries for her strategic leadership and integrated, multi-channel approach to client programs. Allison has taught a number of courses on direct response fundraising, and she is a founding member of the Integrated Marketing Advisory Board.
Jackie Biancolli rejoined Avalon recently after serving as Manager of Annual Giving at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where she focused on acquiring, reinstating, renewing, and upgrading Members and patrons. Jackie’s strategic and creative analysis has proven thought provoking and innovative—resulting in reinvigorated and strengthened fundraising programs. For the past several years, Jackie’s creative strategy has resulted in several MAXI-winning campaigns. Her clients include: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and the Center for Biological Diversity.
Danielle Hart doubles as an Online Fundraising Account Manager at The Engage Group and a Postal Logistics Account Manager at MailSmart Logistics. She also serves as the DMAW-EF’s Student Ambassador Advisor. Feel free to contact Danielle at Danielle@engageyourcause.com.
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