Engage USA makes its debut on the inaugural list of Frederick's Top 50 Businesses for 2017!

In a partnership between the Frederick County Office of Economic Development and Frederick Magazine, the Frederick OED just published its first official list of the 2017 Top 50 Businesses in Frederick County, Maryland.

Proudly making our appearance at #18 is Engage USA!

unnamed.jpg

The OED made its ranking based on a weighted scoring system analyzing a variety of factors, including date established, number of Frederick resident employees, sales volume, and square footage occupied in Frederick County.  

All of these factors are meant to determine a business' total potential to improve and contribute to the economy of Frederick County.

Located on North East Street--a hop, skip, and jump from the heart of downtown--Engage has always been a proud member and supporter of Frederick.  Asked "what would surprise people about your business," our CEO Dennis Hoffman had this to say:

"Many of your donations to national and international nonprofit organizations are processed right here in Frederick.  We partner locally with Woodsboro Bank and nationally with Bank of America, M&T Bank, and Wells Fargo to quickly and inexpensively get both money and data where it is needed."

Though Frederick residents may not realize it, the contributions they make to the causes closest to their hearts just may be getting to where they need to go after a short pitstop in little ole Frederick.

We're over the moon to be recognized by the OED and Frederick Magazine--especially for doing our part to contribute to our hometown!  Thank you so much, and of course, thank you to all of our team members at Engage--you guys rock!

top50letter.png

Entitled Boomers, cynical Gen X-ers, and those darn self-obsessed Millennials: who’s right when it comes to generational giving?

Rotary phones to smart phones.  Commodores to MacBooks.  8-tracks to MP3 players.  The world is always changing for each new generation.

But one thing that may never change is the all-out war between them: from the music they listen to, the clothes they wear, their schooling, jobs, hobbies, and even they way they talk, practically EVERYTHING is up for criticism when one generation decides to start talking about another.

old-vs.-young.jpg

The spat between the two largest generations, retiring Baby Boomers and freshly “#adulting” Millennials, plays out in full HD thanks to social media.  Flipping through the comments on any Boomer v. Millennial think piece on Facebook, you might get the impression today’s 30-year-olds haven’t spoken to their parents in years.

At the head of this bickering tends to be the idea one generation thinks the other generation is selfish or lacks concern for others:

Boomers wring their hands about their Millennial children and grandchildren being coddled narcissists preoccupied with selfies.  They say Millennials have gotten handouts for so long, they’ll only ever expect to receive and not to give.

Millennials, on the other hand, call Boomers hypocrites, saying young people are expected to do far more with far less than their parents--and with Boomers constantly criticizing and feeling entitled to more.

But these two generations aren’t the only ones subject to the selfishness stereotype.  Poor Gen X also gets a bad rep, with both Millennials and Boomers pausing from their battle from time to time to call them apathetic, cynical, and therefore too indifferent to get involved in helping people.

And with Gen-Z up and coming, there’s one thing we don’t wonder about: what we're all going to be saying about them.

It goes without saying stereotyping any group for any one thing is uncool, so we’re not touching that long list of alleged generational crimes with a 10-foot pole (or any length of pole, for that matter). 

But at least when it comes to the whole who is and is not selfish thing, there is a truckload of data available to anyone interested in settling the Most Charitable Generation fight.  And the answer, as you can expect, is a lot more complicated than just ranking them #1, #2, and #3.

...But, in the interest of keeping things simple, we’ll just sum it up like this:

YOU ARE ALL WRONG. NO GENERATION IS INHERENTLY SELFISH. 

WE ALL EXPRESS CHARITABLE INSTINCTS IN DIFFERENT WAYS DUE TO THE EVENTS AND CULTURAL VALUES OF OUR UNIQUE TIMES IN HISTORY, AS WELL AS OUR CURRENT ECONOMIC POSITIONS IN THIS UNIQUE TIME IN HISTORY.

EVERYONE PLEASE JUST CALM DOWN.

There.  Now we can continue.

While it may appear a particular generation gives or cares more or less, the reality is each generation is motivated by different things and has different resources to contribute to charity.  When you look at the numbers, you’ll find an amazing amount of giving in every generation--it’s just tailored to the interests and means of each group.

In fact, let’s just settle this between Boomers and Millennials right now:

We hate to break it to you, Millennials, but Boomers are in no way selfish.  Boomers actually make up a whopping 43% of ALL charitable giving in the United States--far more than any other age group. 

They’re good at it, too.   Before making a donation, 49% of Boomers will investigate a nonprofit to be sure their money is going to a great cause. 

Boomers are also the #1 supporters of the first responder organizations that so many of us depend on--so maybe cut your parents some slack.

But not so fast, Boomers.  Millennials might be right when they say you guys are a little harsh.  While they may only compose 11% of total charitable giving, 84% of employed Millennials are established nonprofit donors.  This may mean young people with less work experience and smaller incomes give very frequently, but in smaller amounts they can afford.

And when it comes to volunteering time and valuable skills rather than giving money, Millennials aren’t all that far behind Boomers: 25.7% of Boomers volunteer compared to 21.9% of Millennials.

It’s also worth noting Millennial giving has actually completely changed the way nonprofits engage with donors.  Thanks to young donors today, nonprofits can create viral and unexpectedly huge fundraisers (like the ALS bucket challenge) via social media sharing and find massive crowdfunding support on platforms like GoFundMe or YouCaring.   Not too shabby for such a SELFISH generation, huh?

As for Gen-X, apathetic they are not.  Not only do they represent 20% of all giving, they smoke Boomers and Millennials on the volunteering front: 28.9% of Gen-Xers are volunteers.  It seems Gen-X actually gives more of their physical time and participation to charitable causes than anyone else.

And if nothing else stops the arguing, maybe we can all commiserate over one thing: by all estimation, we’re all about to be shown up by the new kids in town: Gen-Z.

couple-2585754_1920.jpg

Even though the oldest members of Gen-Z only just turned 21, they are already expressing some pretty big ideas when it comes to charitable giving.  A third of them are established donors, a tenth of them dream of starting their own charities, and 26% of those 16-19 are volunteers. 

In fact, this generation’s tendency toward altruism and giving is so strong, they’ve earned the title “Philanthro Teens” and “Philanthro Kids” by those in the nonprofit world.  Expect wonderful things from these guys in the future.

So rather than poke at each other for our perceived shortcomings, maybe we can all find things to cheer each other on about, especially when it comes to supporting worthwhile and important charities and nonprofit organizations.

And leave the selfie-bashing alone, will you?  EVERYONE loves selfies:

1499131621143.jpg

What I learned about direct mail this morning...from Facebook

I haven’t reached the point that I only log into Facebook to see photos of my grandchildren--yet.  But I have to admit that I’m not quite sure what Instagram or Snap Chat are all about.  

So when I spent time this weekend with my friend Mark Murphy who embraces Social Media to promote his books, seminars, and studies at LeadershipIQ, I was surprised by how interesting Social Media can be.

Read More

Scientists discover giving just may be the key to happiness

 It might seem romantic to say true happiness lies in what we are able to give to others--not in what we are able to gain for ourselves. 

But logically, generosity doesn’t make sense: if we want to better things for ourselves as much as possible, why do many of us give so much of what we have to others--especially when we don’t appear to benefit from the transaction?

A team of researchers in Zurich may have found the answer.

Read More

Can I trust you?

Trust gains you new donors and retains your past donors.  Trust is what makes a donor comfortable making a sacrifice to support your cause.  Trust is what makes a donor keep giving to your cause even if he won’t personally see the direct results of what you’ve done with his donation.

In the mind of a donor, your ability to inspire trust is incredibly important.  It may even be the most important part of your relationship.

Read More

Your stories can transform nonprofits -- a TEDx Talk with Andrea Proulx Buinicki

Andrea Proulx Buinicki is the founder of Giving Focus, a philanthropy consulting firm specializing in helping smaller nonprofits ditch the professional fundraisers and take command of their own fundraising.  Buinicki started Giving Focus in 2011 after 15 years of working in nonprofit fundraising and marketing, and was recognized in 2012 by The Northwest Indiana Times as one of Northwest Indiana’s top “20 Under 40” for her exceptional career in philanthropy

Read More

Dan Pallota: The way we think about charity is dead wrong.

"Philanthropy is the market for love."

Dan Pallota, founder and President of the Charity Defense Council and author of Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential, has spent his career going to bat for the nonprofit sector.

In his 2013 TED Talk -- one of the 100 most viewed TED Talks of all time -- Pallota attacks the all-too-common idea that for nonprofits, success and trustworthiness can only be measured by the money an organization doesn't spend.

This belief, lovingly called "the Overhead Myth" by those of us involved with nonprofit fundraising, has long been a ball and chain around the ankle of every small charity.  It's the belief that an organization must go to extraordinary lengths to reduce organizational costs and spending so that the highest percentage possible of every dime donated ends up in the pockets of benefactors.  

The problem?  Charities are already limiting overhead expenses as much as they can -- in some cases, to the detriment of fundraising efforts and operational efficiency -- and many potential donors still say it's not enough.

And that's when these donors take their money elsewhere.

But without employees, without a facility to operate out of, without transportation, and without funding to produce educational materials and promote projects, there is no charity.  And when nonprofits are compelled to cut funding from these areas, the services and outreach provided by these charities suffer.

The old adage goes, "you gotta spend money to make money," and most people would probably agree -- when it comes to business.  But when it comes to nonprofits?  Many people still take a frugality = morality stance.  And it's hurting charities -- and more importantly, the people they serve.

This TED Talk has been viewed more than 8 MILLION times.  And with good reason!  Take a look.

Grammar? We don't need no stinking grammar!

Here’s a direct mail pro-tip: once you’ve finished writing the Greatest Fundraising Letter Ever, read it aloud to yourself.

Does it sound choppy?  Are your sentences short?  Are you starting sentences with conjunctions, repeating yourself, breaking sentences between pages, and leaving all those annoying commas out of the mix?

No?

I hate to break it to you, but if that’s the case, you might want to toss that first draft in the circular file and start again.

Read More