We have all been there.  You are sitting comfortably on your couch and you are watching your favorite late night movie channel.  It is time for the commercial and staring back at your from your 54” flat panel screen is a sad looking puppy.


You know what is coming next.  They need your help.  They need your money.


You like animals.  You wouldn’t exactly describe yourself as a dog person, but just as you are thinking that, as if they were reading your mind, a cute, sad kitten is on the screen mewing at you.


Now your heartstrings are in full tug mode.  They nearly have you.  The number displays on the screen and you reach for your phone.  But you are distracted by a Facebook notification from a friend and by the time you are done with that conversation, the movie is back on.  The kitten is now a distant memory.


Three more times in that hour, the commercial plays.  You silently wonder if the cable TV company had problems selling their ad inventory.  But you don’t pick up the phone and you don’t donate money.


Why?  Because you weren’t in giving mode to begin with and the repetition of the same exact commercial over and over again actually became noise.  The ad ignited irritation versus the passion that the producer of the commercial intended with the sad-eyed animals.


So what is it that ignites your passion enough to donate money to a worthy cause?


I have a theory.  I have put that theory into a graphic, which I call the Engagement Ladder.    I originally developed the Engagement Ladder when I launched a radio show series on BlogTalkRadio in 2009.  Social media was relatively new and mobile marketing and commerce were still in their infancy.


At the time, while most organizations understood the potential of these new channels, they completely misunderstood how to use them.   It was easy to believe that leveraging the efficiency of these new channels would translate into effectiveness.  I have now tied the theories into both real life (where most donor relationships are formed), as well as online.  Here is the Donor Engagement version of that ladder.


I love the following statement by Terry Axelrod.  She has developed a practical and very powerful model for non-profits to increase engagement known as the Benevon system.

“Passion isn’t enough. 

You need a system.”

Terry Axelrod, Founder and CEO Benevon


The Benevon circular model, which Terry eloquently describes in a video entitled 17 minutes to Sustainable Funding, takes you from the intrigue step on my version of the Engagement ladder, all the way up to building lifelong relationships and sustainable, multi-year funding for both capital projects and operations.  It is deceptively simple!  And I have talked to my friends at the Children’s Home here in Tampa and they tell me that it works.


Whether you use the Benevon model or you have your own approach, the higher that you can move up the Engagement Ladder (higher relationship value and higher engagement), the more likely that you can not only obtain a donation, but you can get a regular pledge for a recurring donation.  The goal is then to move into the highest form of relationship and engagement, which yields that lifelong relationship with your donor and results in what Alexrod refers to as sustainable giving.


I firmly believe that in addition to having a “system” for engagement, timing and relevance are two key elements in ensuring that your communication with potential donors ignites passion.   It is that passion that gets you to an initial response and on to a dialogue quickly.  Then, getting into a true conversation about the passion surrounding  your cause (including educating and sharing results before asking for the donation) should follow.  Many non-profits stop here once they have received the donation, but we believe it is possible, both in real life and through your various online communication efforts to actually get the referral and then the multi-year contribution/pledge.


Next week, I will be publishing a white paper entitled the Donor Engagement Playbook that describes the Engagement Ladder in greater detail.  I look forward to sharing it with you.


Check back here next week for a link to download the white paper.In the meantime, I’d love to hear about how you are igniting the passion of your supporters and how you are engaging them.


Stay tuned.

Chicke Fitzgerald

Integrate kids into your giving program

Published with permission from Philanthropegie.

My favorite story about giving occurred just after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.  We had been threatened with more than one hurricane in Tampa that year and my daughter, who was 7 at the time) was glued to the TV watching the news.  After hearing about all the loss and devastation, she turned and looked at me and said “I’ve got it!  I’ll sell lemonade and cookies and raise money and send it to them!”.

Both thrilled by her giving heart and struck by the reality of the fact that we live in a tiny community that is gated, I knew that on a holiday weekend, she wouldn’t get much traffic to her little stand.  Undeterred, she went ahead and started planning, drafting several people to bake for her.  She expanded the idea from cookies to cakes, cupcakes, brownies and cookies and put together a flyer.  She then took it to every house in the neighborhood and I emailed it to friends.


Her dad and I agreed to “match” her fund raising efforts and on the following Monday her dad took her to the American Red Cross here in Tampa.  You may remember that we were an evacuation area for those impacted, so the person at the desk was tired.  She asked “Honey how can I help you?”  Kiera said that she had raised money for the people from Katrina.  The woman said “Well honey, how much did you raise?”.  Kiera gave them cash and checks totaling $2,400!  The woman took her right back to meet the local director, who took her picture in front of the Red Cross flag.


That experience spurred a desire in my daughter to give back and set me on a mission to find a way for kids to be able to volunteer their time.


I was actually amazed to find out that most charities do not let kids volunteer.  Intellectually, I understood the liability issue, but in my heart, I knew there had to be a way.


Right off the bat I thought about the matching that we had done with Kiera’s little bake sale and the neighbors, teachers and friends that bought a brownie and a lemonade and gave her a $20 bill and told her to keep the change.  I thought about Habitat for Humanity and how kids would be perfectly suited to help plant flowers once a house was completed or at minimum to help spread mulch.  I thought about how the kids could create designs for the bags or boxes used for Meals on Wheels, so that the recipients would be cheered up by more than the meal or the volunteer.


I knew that if we gave the kids a chance, they would come up with an unlimited store of

ideas.  I secured the URL KidsforHumanity.org and talked to my attorney about setting up a 501c3.


The timing wasn’t right for me then to pursue it, but I’m thinking now that there may be other people who visit Philanthropegie who are willing to brainstorm with me and figure out how to tap into this amazing resource.


Their hands may be little, but their hearts are huge.  And while their store of treasures may be small, they have parents, friends and family that would gladly match the funds raised by these giving hearts.


Let’s give it some thought together.


Stay tuned.


Chicke Fitzgerald

Turbulent times call for Integrated Giving

This blog is being republished with permission from Philanthropegie.

Recovering from a Donation Crisis


In my last blog, I talked about the turbulent times that we find ourselves in as a country and more personally, in my own life.  That turbulence on a national level has created a donation crisis for many organizations.


Like many other non-profit organizations and foundations, if you are facing a crisis in your current donation strategy, it is time for what I have coined as an integrated giving strategy.


The new strategy begins with looking at those you draw on for donations as “givers” rather than “donors”.  Giving sounds like more fun than donating, don’t you think?


Integrated giving means first looking at the whole person that has a heart for giving.  It even extends beyond the individual that you may already know as a past, present or prospective donor or volunteer, to their whole family and their extended family/friend network.  Even if they don’t have money to write a check, adopting an integrated giving strategy encourages charities to look at what else these “givers” do that could benefit your organization.   Charities have done this for years with volunteering of time and talents or the donation of goods, in lieu of cash.


Quite simply, an integrated giving strategy describes an organization tapping into the daily lives of those that they touch to find new and innovative ways to support their charities and foundations.


This strategy goes way beyond direct cash donations, to new ways to generate money for your cause through the people you already touch — even when they are wearing their own version of a Scarlet “B”.


Sharing the details of implementing this giver-centric strategy with 501c3 organizations and foundations will be part of my own contribution to the Philanthropegie network.


The Power of Integrated Giving


This column will be dedicated to telling the stories of organizations that have proven methods of tapping into the power of integrated giving – non-traditional, uncommon ways to raise money for various worthy causes and initiatives.


I look forward to sharing my continued journey on this front, with my new company, Rock the World Enterprises and our Traveling to Give product. I look forward to hearing about organizations that have developed other innovative tools and programs and those that have successfully increased your per capita donations through innovation.


Today I launched a radio program on BlogTalkRadio.com to interview those “Uncommon Givers”.   My first interview was with Ric Leutwyler of Philanthropegie.  You can listen by clicking HERE.


Stay tuned for more information on the schedule for the show and how to submit your nomination for your favorite giver, for either a story on this blog or for an interview on my new show.


Until then, keep giving of your time and your talents, as well as your treasures and help me think outside the box about integrated giving.

Uncommon Giving - Turbulent Times Hit Home

This blog is reprinted with permission from Philanthropegie.com.   Philanthropegie is a member of the Rock the World Network.

“Fasten your seatbelts, there is rough air ahead”


You don’t know me well yet, but I am a serial entrepreneur, strategic consultant, author, frequent traveler, giver, wife and mom (not necessarily in that order).    I fly way too much and even as comfortable as I am with flying, I still wince a bit when there is serious turbulence.

On any given day, you can turn on NPR on the radio or one of the popular news shows on cable and hear the pundits argue the finer points of whether we have just come through a true recession, an economic downturn, or simply a time of uncertainty.

Harry S. Truman said it best.

It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job.  It’s a depression when you lose yours.

Truman was speaking about a turbulent time in our nation’s history, but he could have just as easily been talking about the present day and the rough air that each of us encounter in our own lives and in those of our friends and our loved ones, as well as in the organizations that support the causes that we are passionate about.

So many Americans have lost their jobs.  Although many have returned to the work force driving unemployment back to single digits, the fact is the Labor Department doesn’t report on those that are underemployed or business owners that are not eligible for unemployment, but whose businesses are failing due to the downturn.  Add in those statistics and the results would be staggering.


Bankruptcy – A new sign of the times

Business and personal bankruptcies are at an all time high.   And as an unintended consequence, per capita giving is hitting a new low, yielding truly turbulent times for the philanthropic sector.

One wonders what would happen if those who went through the bankruptcy courts in the past 2 years had to wear a “Scarlet B”, reminiscent of Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s the Scarlett Letter.

I suspect you would be amazed and even shocked to discover their identities.  I will tell you now that it is your friend, your neighbor, your co-worker, an individual in your online network and those that you count on to provide services on a daily basis in your community.

They are not just the people that you help with your philanthropic programs.  They are your donors and your volunteers.  And they each have their own stories and their own giving ecosystem that is impacted when money becomes scarce.

I know, because I was one of them.

In my own situation, we earned our “B” through what I call my “spectacular business failure” in late 2007, just before the financial crisis began.  The travel industry was one of the hardest hit by the economic downturn.   I had served this industry through my consulting firm since 1996 and the startup that I launched a decade later provided game changing technology to this same industry.

The details of that venture will provide fodder for a different blog on another day, but suffice it to say that by 2010 we had gone nearly 3 years without regular income, after having invested nearly $1m in cash and pledged assets in the failed business – a recipe for personal financial failure.

When we closed the doors of the company, the impact was not only on our business.  The ripple effect impacted our entire ecosystem and those of the 19 people that we had let go, many of which are still severely under-employed.

In our house, first, we stopped getting bottled water delivered.  This was a small sacrifice, but a harbinger of what was to come.  My husband started doing our lawn and cleaning our own pool and everyone chipped in to clean the house, reducing the amount of revenue to those service people that counted on that monthly income for their livelihood.  We pulled the kids out of private school.  We no longer went out to eat, or took our clothes to the dry cleaner.  We only shopped for essentials and I was no longer able to put together gift bags for the homeless in the surrounding community.  We stopped all corporate giving and all extra personal giving.  The only thing that survived was our church tithe, which was 10% of a fraction of our previous income.

The air around us was way more than just a little bumpy.

The same stories could be told for the corporate giving of the bottled water company, the private school and the chains that owned the various restaurants we frequented, as well as the personal giving of those that were let go from those businesses during the downturn.  I know that our local church was struggling with reduced donations, unable to help those in need.  And I strongly suspect that the personal giving of the pool man and yard man, the cleaning people and the dry cleaner to their favorite cause we also measurably down.

Who could have predicted the unintended consequence of our personal cutbacks?

We were not alone in our struggle.  In 2010, the US had 1.5 million total bankruptcy filings.   Add on those that couldn’t begin to afford bankruptcy proceedings [it is not cheap], and the measure of the financial devastation of families numbers in the tens of millions.  Each one felt their own personal turbulence, some of which just lasted a short time, and others who are still facing it today.

If you have not been touched by the crisis on a personal level, I guarantee that you know someone that was.  Whatever term you use to describe the past 24 months, if you work with a philanthropic organization, to say that the situation has stifled giving is a gross understatement.

No doubt about it.  Individual donations are down; foundation-giving is down and revenue to perform services for the government is down. All of this is hitting at a time when needs are increasing and with the collapse of key European economies imminent, there is no real end in sight to the economic challenges we face.


Life on the other side

In my own situation, the “B” that I wore metaphorically during our bankruptcy now has a new meaning.  It now stands for “Blessed”.  During our darkest times, we were blessed to be the recipients of generous gifts of love from the most unexpected people.  It was also amazing to watch our kids and how they transformed from the “gimme gimme” culture to one of being thankful for the smallest of things.

During that time I taught Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University at our church. Dave’s motto is “Live like no one else [e.g. cutting back in order to get out of debt], so you can live like no one else [and give like no one else]”.  I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait until we came out on the “other side” so that we too could give like no one else.

Now, over 18 months later, we have experienced a total recovery, emerging stronger than before.  But more importantly, we are definitely wiser and absolutely ready to give.  To that end, I’ve recently shifted my focus from full time consulting to a new venture where I am able to tap my travel industry expertise, my strategic bent and my desire to give back.

As we get to know one another better through Philanthropegie, you’ll no doubt hear more about what we are doing at Rock the World Enterprises with our TravelingtoGive.com platform.

In my next blog, we’ll talk about Integrated Giving and how to expand your thoughts on fund raising and learn how to raise money while you sleep.  Sound good?

Stay tuned and please feel free to comment and tell me your personal story about how these turbulent times have hit home for you.

And remember - Transparency is POWER.

Chicke Fitzgerald, CEO Rock the World Enterprises

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From Friday July 20th- New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry, who, along with his wife, Elizabeth, has established an innovative foundation that aides in the preservation of our American heritage, because "History Matters".

Click HERE to hear show audio. Click on image below for Steve's website.
To order Steve's latest writing from our Uncommon Giving bookstore, click on book

He was called by many names—Columb, Colom, Colón—but we know him as Christopher Columbus. Many questions about him exist. Where was he born, raised, and educated. Where he died. How he discovered the New World.

None have ever been properly answered.

And then there is the greatest secret of all....

From Friday July 13th- "SAVING GRACE"
Michel Satterfield of Morgan & Phillips helps to Drive Away Cancer by supporting an inspirational cross-country journey by an abandoned car named "Grace". Click HERE to hear audio. Click on image below to go to M&P website.
From Friday, July 6th-Philanthropewhat?
Ric Leutwyler of Philanthropegie was our guest on our inaugural Uncommon Giving Show. Click on Ric's image to hear the audio. Click on image below for website.