Sunday, June 4, 2017

Understanding how to play the charity fundraising "Game"

Most people have no clue how large the charity “Marketplace” truly is.  I routinely ask new clients I meet with how many charities do they think exist in the United States.  2,700?  10,000?  100,000?  No – there are an unbelievable 104 Million charities.  If you then remember there are at 10 people involved with every charity, the number goes astronomical.


There are 104 Million registered U.S. Non Profits.  Most popular charities realize that growth comes from opening “sub charities” in other areas of the country, these “sub charities” are called “chapters.”  Chapters not only spread the mission of the charity but they also are a highly successful fundraising method – basically the children of the charity feeding the mother. 

With that in mind – the 104 Million registered U.S. Non Profits grow to 150 million counting the “Sub Charities” in the equation. 

There are two types of fundraisers:

a.    Charity fundraiser – A registered 501(c)3 Non Profit – Basically a charity business.

b.    Benefit fundraiser – When a community comes together to hold a fundraiser     for someone or something in order to help them.  The IRS allows for an unregistered group to host one (1) fundraiser a year for a cause which is deemed non-taxed.  These types of fundraisers are routinely for an ill child, a storm damaged community or a family hit with an unseen tragedy.  These are called “Benefits.”  These “Benefit” fundraisers are not tracked nor are they counted in the 104 million.

With the above in mind, going from 104 million registered U.S. Non Profits, adding the sub-charities/chapters, the number rises to 150 million fundraisers.  There are an untold number of Benefit fundraising events going on but we know they are going on constantly.  Adding 50 million benefit fundraisers a year, the number rises to 200 million fundraising entities holding fundraising events each year.  So how do you still out above the crowd?

200 Million Fundraising entities in the United States, each needing to fundraise each year to keep their mission going with only 50 states in the nation. 

Fundraising competition is ridiculous!!!

The “Fundraising Myth”:

Most charities or fundraisers simply have no idea about the above number.  Each understandably believes that they are an “Island amongst themselves.”  They believe that their charities mission or why they are hosting a benefit fundraiser is more important than any charity in existence.  They believe that everyone will want to be a part of it and everyone will want to donate to their upcoming fundraiser.  They believe that everyone will want to come to their fundraiser.  With that belief, they advertise their fundraiser with the name of the charity because that is what is going to attract people to their personal mission.  They sit back and wait….and wait….and wait.

The “Donations Myth”:

Many charities believe that because their charity or benefit is so important and valuable, that businesses and individuals will line up to donate.  They also believe that if they ask, businesses will donate high end items such as Harley Davidson motor cycles, cars etc.  If they do donate, they donate items which will bring the retail price or higher because people will want to give and pay above the retail price.  They believe that every business they approach will say “Well, what do you want or what can we give you.”  Same holds true with sponsorship – companies will flip open their checkbook and say “Okay, how about $10,000.00?” 

The “Reality of Fundraising”:

Forget the myth above – it’s entirely 100% false.  Do you remember the amount of charities I reported above?  There are so many charities out there with everyone screaming, paying for marketing etc. that everyone chooses a “Pet Charity” or a charity they believe in and give to that one if any at all.  The citizens of the United States are also bombarded with charities asking for money.  Everywhere they go, they are asked to give.  They become “numb” to being asked for money which makes them numb to the mission of the charity so they tune it all out.  No matter where you turn, someone has their hand out – right?  Right.  People are not paying attention.  Here is the hardest part to understand and comprehend – people don’t care because of this.  They just can’t – its reality.

The reality is that people involved with charities “Hit Up” businesses constantly. Everyone is asking for donations and businesses can only give so much – they have to worry about keeping their own businesses afloat and their lights on.  If they give, they give something they can afford to give away – most likely something that is not selling in their stores.  But we as charities believe that those items will bring full retail or above – this never ever happens. 

Donated items are only bringing 1/8 to 1/4 of retail across the county in any Silent or Live Auction – People are looking for a deal and will not get anywhere near the full retail value – here is why:

Local People – Attending a Local Event – with items donated by local businesses = If your guests wanted those items, they would go buy them, themselves.

No one attends a charity event looking for a “Teeth Cleaning”, “Will preparation”, “Home Inspection” or “Botox Treatments.”  Items like this sell for an embarrassing low amount of money. 

Businesses donate because they want a return on their money.  They want “drivers” into their businesses.

The Solution:

Understanding all of the above, charities need to understand that it is vital to not act like the “Norm.”  They must plan their fundraising events as events and not as fundraisers.  They must stand outside the crowd.  They also must have a plan to give businesses what they want as well as their guests.  They must have a plan to utilize their collected donated items in a platform which will bring much more than 1/8 to 1/4 of retail. 

How does a charity plan an event which will sell out?  How does a charity raise well above the norm, more than they have ever raised?  How do they stand out in a crowd of millions? 

If donated items do not bring a lot of money in a Silent or Live Auction – then what should they do? 

Solution to the Solution:  

A charity must spend money to make money.  Fundraising events must evolve, change year to year.  They must be exciting and fresh and be more about the event and less about the charity.  This will bring people to your event and to your charities mission.

Are you ready to grow and be more successful, if so, contact us today.

BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising is a North American charity fundraising leader in a convenient “One Stop Shop.”  BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising is known across North America for planning fundraising events which have ridiculous successful results – not only financial but charity growth year after year.  Contact us at

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Founder – the story of “McDonalds” and how it relates to charities

For some time, I’ve been wanting to see the movie the “Founder” which is the story about Ray Krok and McDonalds.  So the other night, my wife and I rented it and sat back. 

Going in, I thought it was going to be the story about how an idea grew into such a massive scale.  How one man single handedly built an empire – a great business movie to watch and learn from. 

But what was about is simply this – if you don’t take your incredible idea and grow it or move it to the next level, someone else will.  What happened in the story (which holds true in regard to charities), two (2) brothers came up with the idea of McDonalds and how to serve their customers in a “Speedy” constant way.  They did not have a lot of their menu, their goal was deliver quality quickly over quantity in a time when “Drive Up’s with girls on Roller Skates” were the hit.

Well, the two McDonald brothers did want to franchise their store.  Along came Ray Krok who could picture the ability to expand.  The brothers fought it for all they were worth, but Ray saw otherwise.  He took their idea, eventually figured out a way to improve it then overtook the ownership making it what it is today – the most popular restaurant in the world, feeding at least 1% of the worlds population on a daily basis, well worth in the billions.

What Ray, with help, figured out was they were in the “Real Estate” business, not food service.  They bought the land that the restaurants sit on and lease it to the franchisee.  If the Franchisee doesn’t follow his direction, he revokes the land lease.  That easy.  The land then builds value and his profits go through the roof. 

What should a charity learn by this?  Well, what I’ve been preaching all along.  It’s not about how great your hamburgers are or your charity is, it’s about expansion, constantly evolving, staying fresh and consistent.  Its about expansion in that your charity must do whatever it needs to do to constantly grow, reach new people, new donor’s and spur growth. 

If you stay the same, but have a great idea, believe me…someone will “swoop” right in and steal your idea and grow it.  You will be just a memory like the McDonald brothers are and were.  Seriously, do you even know their names?

Now – how does a charity expand?  By following these simple rules:

#1 – Your web presence must be stellar – Your website is the face of your charity.  If is not “Top Notch”, donors and sponsors will go look, not be impressed and you will never know they were there snooping around.  It’s not like the old days when people came to your office – they first go to your website.

#2 – Be the Dancing Monkey – If people felt so strongly about your mission, you would have no need to host fundraisers.  There would be stacks of checks in the mail every day.  Give them what they want – a fantastic event that attracts people to it first, then to your charity.

#3 – There are no emotions in business – People will steal your ideas.  Let me give you a very real life example.  A long time ago, people use to attend my events and literally video tape what we were doing and write down everything we had displayed.  But what they did not know was the method or reason behind it.  They wanted to steal my ideas and do them on their own – they failed.  Why did they fail?  Let me tell you why, because they did not know what the reasons were behind certain things.  What I mean by there are no emotions in business is this – people don’t care.  Everyone, every charity is out for themselves and themselves only. 

#4 – How to expand – This takes work.  If you have the ability to expand your charity into other states, do it.  Allow people from other areas in the country to get involved.  Remember, you own the land (your charity), they are just opening a store on it.  You control what goes on.

These are just ideas, notions to consider.  But like Ray Krok and the McDonald brothers, if you don’t move forward with your idea, someone else will.

BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising is a North American Charity Fundraising Leader in a "One Stop Shop" convenient setting.  If you would like our help, contact us at or call us directly at 443 206 6121.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Charity Fundraising “Flat Line” – The “Sophomoric Syndrome”

There is an old saying that says “If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”  This is incredibly true for charities that experience success early.  However, as their charity ages, they tend to get set in their ways and lose track of reality.

Furthermore, no one likes to hear the reality of things.  Most charities believe that their mission is the best and deserves the most but what most don’t realize is this – people give because they want something in return.  Whether it is acknowledgement of some kind, satisfaction or whatever, they want something.

The competition for charities trying to fundraise is stiff.  With over 104 Million charities in the United States, Non Profits need to be on their game per se.  They must grasp the plain and simple fact that in order to attract people or supporters to their charity, they need to be a “Dancing Monkey” of sorts.  Laying out the bait to gain the attention of people shopping the charity superstore is extremely important.  The best way of accomplishing this – is to host an incredible event for people to attend.  Making it more about the event and less about the charity and the fundraising aspect.  Does this make sense?  No it doesn’t but then why are BW Unlimited events so large and always so successful? 

Test Case #1:   Recently, we were asked to help a charity which had not been successful raising money for 6 years.  However, when we came on board, we were given “Carte Blanche” to do what we wanted and how we wanted.  This charity had a very hard time getting people to attend their small functions and within the 6 year period, they had only raised a grand total of $6,000.00. 

They did not question our methods, in fact, we provided guidance and they followed it a “T.”  Everyone prior to during the beginning discussion stages, was very critical saying that it would never work, people won’t come etc.

End result – 1,000 attendees and close to $80,000.00 in profit in the bank “PRIOR TO” the event.  People are excited about the charity and the next event – which will be much larger and much more profitable.

However – this leads to the next problem – a very real issue referred to as the “Sophomoric Syndrome.”

What is the “Sophomoric Syndrome”?  It’s when a group is extremely successful and the following year, they lay back and think that last year’s success will come rolling in without much work.  They don’t go after as many donations, they believe people will just buy tickets because of last year, they don’t go after financial sponsors as hard…they lay back and think people are going to come to them. 

Oddly enough, you need to work twice as hard.  Remember the “Dancing Monkey”?  People get distracted and want to be entertained.  The event needs to change and evolve to keep people interested and involved.  The charity must GROW to stay relevant.  They need to lay out the “Bait” thick and keep attracting more and more to their event.  Their event has to grow bigger, become more impressive etc.  Growing the committee is more important but the committee too must understand the “Reality of Charity Fundraising.”  Why people and businesses donate – because they want something. 

They must understand that they are not the only Charity in existence, because there will be 100 charities behind them asking them for donations and giving them what they want – the donor can sit back and make demands to see who wants their money.  This is reality folks.

Have you ever seen one of those business graphs with profits and losses going up and down?  Well the same holds true with a charity.  Charities must think like a business and use strategy to run it.  They need to ask themselves these questions: 

#1 – “How do we grow and become more profitable?” 

#2 – “How do we stay more relevant?”

#3 – “What can we do to attract more people to us?”

#4 – “How can we compete in such a competitive market place?”

And perhaps the most important question….

#5 – “Are we doing this for fun or do we want to do more, grow and become much more successful?”

Be realistic – ask yourselves the above questions.  How do you combat the problem detailed above?  Each year, you need to start over, keep everyone engaged and excited about what lies ahead.  Get rid of any negativity and grow your infrastructure.  If not, this is when the “Charity Flat Line” starts to happen.  You can tell this is happening when donations slow down. 

Let’s be real for a minute – do any of your charities walk out to the mailbox in the morning and find stacks of checks waiting for you?  No.  That is why you must go nuts when it comes to fundraising!!!  You absolutely must work even if you hire us – we will teach you how to stay relevant, how to stay competitive but in the end, it’s up to you to ensure your pulse keeps beating.

Everything ladies and gentlemen has a shelf life.  Case in Point – there was a very well-known Veterans charity with a very recognizable logo that just a year or so ago everyone loved.  Millions upon millions of dollars poured into this charity but then they lost their way.  It became more about the charity and marketing then it did about this mission.  People became very critical and before too long, investigations began, news stories exposed them and now where are they?  Gone.

Everything counts – EVERYTHING.  You must stay ahead of the pace.  Everything matters, your web presence, your mission and your fundraising efforts.  If not, your pulse will stop and your charity will flat line.  There are plenty of examples of this. 

BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising is a charity fundraising leader in a “One Stop Shop” convenient setting.  We can help you and your charity understand the competitive nature of charity fundraising and guide you toward a bright future while helping you by planning, managing and hosting highly successful charity fundraising events which will not only help you raise the money you need but grow your charity in ways you could not have predicted.  Check out our website at or call us directly at 443 206 6121.  We would love to help you.