Review of FERPA Regulations—Dos and Don’ts for Fundraising

 

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects student education records’ privacy in the United States. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under the U.S. Department of Education’s applicable program. FERPA applies to any public or private elementary, secondary, or post-secondary school and any state or local education agency that receives funding under appropriate U.S. Department of Education programming.

 

FERPA allows “school officials” access to a student’s education records without consent if the official has “legitimate educational interests” in the information.

 

To prevent breaching FERPA, your organization’s disclosure should define “school official” and “legitimate educational interests” in a way that includes fundraising—disclosing types of information that are shared (name, address, date of birth, degree information, athletic team participation, etc.).

 

Fundraising departments are allowed to be in contact with campus partners, including admissions. These information transfers should happen only after a student has accepted their offer of admission. This is because parent prospecting and alumni fundraising are not problematic once the applicant is officially a student. But the data transfer should only include basic personally identifiable information.

 

Education Records

 

Education records include records—whether handwriting, print, computer, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche, or e-mail—of an institution that contains information directly related to the student.

 

Education records do not include:

 

  • medical records;
  • employment records (when employment is not contingent on being a student);
  • law enforcement records;
  • alumni records; and
  • parents’ or eligible students’ rights.

 

Schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student to release any information from a student’s education record. Schools that fail to comply with FERPA risk losing federal funding.

 

How FERPA Helps

 

FERPA gives parents certain rights regarding their student’s education records. These rights transfer to the student when a student reaches the age of 18 or attends secondary education.

 

Current regulations exclude records with information about an individual once they become an alumnus. Schools must be cautious not to mistakenly interpret this provision to mean any document created or received by the institution after a student is no longer enrolled—regardless of the subject matter—because it is not an educated record under FERPA, whether they were created or received by the institution.

 

Parent Rights

 

Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student’s education records maintained by the school. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless parents or eligible students can’t review them.

 

Schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student to release any information from a student’s education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions:

 

  • school officials with legitimate educational interest;
  • other schools to which a student is transferring;
  • specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
  • appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
  • organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
  • accrediting organizations;
  • to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
  • appropriate officials in health and safety emergencies; and
  • state and local authorities within a juvenile justice system.

 

Schools may disclose, without consent, “directory” information such as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors, awards, and attendance dates. But schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow them to refrain from disclosure.

 

Parents and eligible students must be notified annually of their rights under FERPA. Communication can be completed through a letter, school bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article—the method of communication is at the school’s discretion.

 

Unintentionally Violating FERPA

 

Carelessly disposing of old student records indirectly violates FERPA.

 

Under FERPA, schools are responsible for how vendors use data. That means that if a vendor unintentionally misuses a student’s education records, the school will be found at fault. This also includes online fundraisers.

 

Know when to release and withhold records. It is a violation of FERPA if schools deny parents access to student records if they are under the age of 18.

 

Proceed with caution when talking about student-related information that you may have experienced indirectly. For example, teachers can speak about a student incident if they witness it firsthand. But if a senior administrator reads a report about that incident, the senior administrator cannot talk about it publicly. These concepts apply to social media usage.

 

Here are some other dos and don’ts when it comes to FERPA and fundraising.

 

Do understand the difference between a directory and non-directory information, but don’t make this information available to the public.

 

Do know students can grant written consent, but don’t disclose non-directory information without student written consent.

 

Do check for a FERPA restriction before communicating directory information, but don’t disclose the information if that student has a FERPA restriction.

 

Do understand parents can receive non-directory information in cases of emergencies, but don’t share non-directory or non-public directory information with parents if the student is over the age of 18 without written consent.

 

Do use blind carbon copy (bcc) when electronically communicating with multiple students, but don’t use carbon copy (cc) with numerous students, parents, or constituents.

 

To make sure your FERPA disclosures are inclusive, contact your admissions office or legal counsel.

Review of HIPAA Regulations—Dos and Don’ts for Fundraising

 

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) aims to protect the confidentiality and security of information. The Privacy Rule component of the law establishes national standards to protect individuals’ records and other personal health information—setting limits and conditions on how organizations will use the information without a person’s authorization, including usage for fundraising.

 

Updated HIPAA regulations were released in 2013, clarifying the rules fundraisers must follow to comply with the statute. Fundraisers need to revisit these modifications to ensure proper adherence.

 

HIPAA requirements apply to different situations, and without the proper knowledge and approach, it’s easy to make common mistakes. Here is a review of the HIPAA regulations as it relates to the dos and don’ts fundraising.

 

Information Available to Fundraisers

 

Organizations can target their fundraising based on the nature of the services a person received or their physician’s identity. The personal health information that can be used for fundraising purposes includes:

 

  • patient demographic data (name, address, phone/email, date of birth, age, gender, etc.).
  • health insurance status;
  • dates of patient services;
  • general type of department in which a patient is serviced;
  • treating physician information;

 

Information requiring written authorization before fundraising use may include:

 

  • diagnosis;
  • nature of services; and
  • treatment.

 

The Rule for Supporting Foundations

 

If an institutionally related foundation conducts fundraising activity, a business associate agreement with its health care provider for the use of patient information is not required due to its direct supporting relationship.

 

Consultants on a retainer or other external fundraising vendors who will be granted access to patient information must agree with the health care provider on file.

 

Notification Practices

 

Before using information for fundraising purposes, a HIPAA-covered entity’s Notice of Privacy Practices must state organizations may contact the patient for fundraising efforts. The patient can opt-out of receiving any fundraising communications.

 

You must provide this Notice to the patient in advance of receiving care.

 

It is important to remember that patients have the right to opt out. Health care providers and supporting foundations legally must include a provision in all fundraising communications (including telephone and face-to-face solicitations). The provision must state the patient has the right to opt-out of future solicitations and must:

 

  • identify any conspicuous part of the materials sent to the patient;
  • describe how your organization may use information;
  • be written clearly, in plain language; and
  • include a simple, not burdensome means to opt-out from receiving further fundraising communications.

 

Segment your opt-out options so patients can elect to opt-out of campaign-specific or all future fundraising communications. It’s important to note that the opt-out does not lapse.

 

Here are some dos and don’ts of fundraising when it comes to HIPPA compliance.

 

Do: Conduct a Thorough Risk Analysis

 

Some of the most significant HIPAA penalties are because of failure to conduct a thorough risk assessment. Violations related to inadequate risk assessments fall under the most severe Willful Neglect tier of penalties. Every organization that creates, receives, maintains, or transmits private health information must conduct an accurate and thorough HIPAA risk assessment to comply with the HIPAA Security Rule.

 

Don’t: Ignore Social Media Usage.

 

Most people (if not all) are active on social media in some capacity. People use social media differently, especially regarding HIPAA’s primary objectives. Too often, social media encourages the careless sharing of data. HIPAA regulations strive to keep personal health information as confidential as possible.

 

Do: Perform Regular Self-Audits

 

Conduct periodic self-audits as recommended by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)—it’s proven to be one of the most effective HIPAA compliance tools.

 

Self-audits tend to focus on HIPAA Security Rule compliance—covering technical, administrative, and physical safeguards related to personal health information. Audits can include issues within the Privacy Rule.

 

Don’t: Forget Your Employees.

 

Internal issues related to HIPAA compliance are a common mistake when it comes to not-compliance. Often, employees fail to ensure that all third-party vendors, contractors, and business associates handle sensitive information appropriately. Third-party HIPAA compliance was a focus of the 2013 HIPAA Omnibus Rule. Entities should work with vendors to ensure that private health information is secure.

 

Do: Have a Training Plan

 

The HIPAA Privacy Rule and the HIPAA Security Rule have training requirements, including the mandate that both covered entities and business associates provide regular training to their workforce members who handle private health information.

 

HIPAA doesn’t specify the length and topics required, but the Privacy Rule states that training must be as necessary and appropriate for the workforce members to carry out their functions.

 

These functions can vary, especially regarding fundraising. Create a targeted training plan to ensure your organization remains HIPAA compliant.

 

Do: Have a Contingency Plan

 

Organizations and covered entities must ensure they have a current HIPAA contingency plan to prepare for adverse events that could affect private health information. Events could include a physical burglary, natural disaster, or cybersecurity attack.

 

Your contingency plan will depend on your risk assessment and analysis—addressing the most prominent threats to your private health information. Establish specific guidelines and procedures to follow, including things like systems and data recovery.

 

Don’t: Tackle Compliance Alone

 

You can’t achieve HIPAA compliance single-handily. If necessary, work with an outside expert or consultant to develop a comprehensive risk assessment, create an effective training plan, and identify potential cyber vulnerabilities.

 

At the very least, enlist a compliance partner at the beginning stages of the preparation for HIPAA compliance.

Best Practices for Digital Communication with Donors

 

 

These days, it’s nearly impossible to find an organization that hasn’t conducted some form of online fundraising. Does your team actively engage and support donors with digital communication? It can be difficult with limited in-person interactions.

 

Plus, the digital environment is a loud and busy space. The competition for donor attention is at an all-time high. Without a coherent, unified digital communication strategy, you risk losing focus and visibility—especially true if you’re targeting an older population.

 

A comprehensive digital communication strategy is the single best way to ensure a personal interaction without the in-person interface—helping you to put your overarching fundraising or donor acquisition goals into action.

 

When creating a digital strategy for your organization, focus on these constituent parts to simplify the process.

 

  1. Determine your goals.
  2. Examine your audience.
  3. Define your constraints.
  4. Equip your team with the right tools.
  5. Craft a communication plan.

 

A digital communication strategy is only effective if its well-received by donors. Here are four best practices to ensure donors engage with your digital communications.

 

Personalize Conversations

 

A nonprofit’s success is related to the relationship they have with donors. Whether you’re sending out an appeal or a thank you letter, you must personalize your donor communications—80 percent of people say they engage with personalized messaging[1].

 

In a world with primarily digital communication, it feels less ambiguous. Digital communication requires you to be more purposeful with how (and when) you communicate.

 

Personalize your donor communications by:

 

  • addressing them by name;
  • communicating with them as an individual, not the organization they’re affiliated with; and
  • referencing their previous involvement and its impact.

 

Use Donor-Centric Language

 

Having a donor-centric tone when communicating with your constituents goes a long way. Switch your general messaging to donor-centric messaging—it can be as simple as speaking to “you” vs. “we.”

 

Incorporating a donor-centric tone also requires an awareness of your donor’s goals. By understanding their unique needs, you can connect and engage with them better.

 

Empathize with your donors by asking questions that engage with purpose.

 

  • What is most valuable to you?
  • How do you envision supporting our organization?
  • What are ways we can help you achieve your goals?

 

Leverage Multichannel Communication

 

A multichannel approach is essential for donor communications. It allows you to reach a larger audience and reinforce your messaging. Donors vary with how they prefer to communicate.

 

Email marketing is a common way to communicate, but its important to utilize other channels such as:

 

  • social media;
  • website landing pages;
  • text messaging; and
  • telephone

 

Make Technology Simple

 

There’s no doubt that technology will impact your digital communication strategy in 2021 and beyond. Donations are happening online more frequently, requiring the use of eSignatures or transfer of documents.

 

Often, donors are sending documents with sensitive or confidential data through email that isn’t always encrypted.

 

Some donors may be hesitant or discouraged from supporting your organization due to security concerns or complicated technology processes. If you’re dealing with an older population, how do you communicate effectively and leverage technology? You’ll need to simplify technology and clearly explain the requirements.

 

You may consider implementing programs to support your digital communication strategy. SignNow[2] offer organizations the ability to streamline document workflows, automate and collaborate donation form processing, request eSignatures, and protect sensitive data with advanced encryption to keep contracts and other sensitive information safe.

 

 

[1] https://us.epsilon.com/pressroom/new-epsilon-research-indicates-80-of-consumers-are-more-likely-to-make-a-purchase-when-brands-offer-personalized-experiences

[2] https://www.signnow.com/solutions/nonprofit

5 Questions to Assess Your Campaign Readiness for Advancement

 

At times organizations need to raise substantial funds for a specific purpose apart from annual budgets. Typically, campaigns fund tangible things like an expansion, renovation, or restoration. Capital campaigns are always based on an ambitious vision, or more commonly referred to as Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAG).

 

When it comes to capital campaigns, some organizations focus primarily on the question of campaign feasibility. But it is just as (if not more) important to focus on the question of campaign readiness.

 

If you are preparing for a capital campaign, much focus is on your gift officers and programs to develop your overall campaign strategy and identify campaign priorities. During this process, there are often many questions as planning gets underway.

 

The campaign feasibility assesses the external environment, whereas readiness examines the organization’s ability to manage and maintain a campaign. Here are five questions to ask within your organization to determine if your capital campaign is ready for launch.

 

Can we identify a lead gift?

 

The success of capital campaigns highly depends on the initial lead or principal level gifts. If you aren’t able to identify lead gifts, you likely won’t develop the campaign you are envisioning.

 

The most successful capital campaigns identify where the top two or three gifts will derive. For example, if you’re looking to raise $1 billion, you’ll need to identify lead gifts upwards of $100 million.

 

Can we identify major gift donors?

 

Similar to lead gifts, it’s essential to know where a significant number of major gifts will come from. If you can’t, it might not be time to launch, and your time would be better spent developing your major gift fundraising for your annual fund.

 

How well-positioned are we to solicit, receive, and steward the gifts that donors will give?

 

Donor relations are an organization’s comprehensive actions promoting long-term engagement and quality interactions with donors. Positively manage prospect relationships over time by focusing on the seven steps of solicitation.

 

  1. Identify
  2. Research
  3. Plan
  4. Cultivate
  5. Ask
  6. Close
  7. Thank and Steward

 

Are our advancement services teams prepared for a capital campaign?

 

You can’t reach audacious capital campaign goals without the proper teams to support your initiatives. If the expectation is that your current staff and resources are sufficient for campaign production, you might fail to reach new, ambitious goals. Instead, assess the areas you may need additional support.

 

From prospects to patients, members to alumni (and everyone in between), the people who fuel and fund an organization’s future present an immense amount of data to be captured, managed, and visualized—ultimately leveraged by the experts in advancement services[1].

 

Do we have the prospect development pipeline to meet our capital campaign goals?

 

You must know what’s in your fundraising pipeline. One way to determine if the pipeline works as it should, is to determine whether people from your donor list are spread throughout.

 

Remember, there are three main reasons people donate:

 

  • deep passion for the cause;
  • belief in the organization; or
  • know someone affected by the mission.

 

Accurate Constituent Data

 

In addition to readiness, accurate constituent data, efficient and reliable gift tracking, and reliable campaign reporting are critical components to your capital campaign success.

 

An organization’s most valuable asset is its accurate constituent data. The Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system is usually the central piece of software at an organization. The CRM is more than a database—proving intelligence and functionality organizations need to optimize fundraising and communication with their supporters.

 

Accurate data sets you up for fundraising success—allowing you to set reasonable goals, evaluate your team needs, reach constituents, track gifts efficiently, and analyze reliable campaign reporting.

 

[1] https://www.advserv.org/page/about-advancement-services/

 

Current State of Advancement: Is Your Acknowledgment Process COVID-19 Proof?

 

Are you struggling with how to fundraise in the current environment? 

Many institutions are. The uncertainty created by the pandemic, along with a slowdown in our economy and growing civil unrest, can make it difficult for your voice to be heard. 

So in these times and beyond, transparency and sensitivity are critical in your donor communications. How can you ask for funds tastefully, and genuinely thank the donors who contribute them? 

 

Advancement in a Pandemic: The Current Landscape

As you can imagine, this was a difficult year for individual giving. In fact, individual giving decreased by 6 percent in the first quarter of 2020, compared to last year. That’s nearly $25 billion in lost revenue for nonprofits if this trend continues throughout the year.

 

Although technology and data enable us to live and work in a socially-distanced world, these tools alone will not lead us to success. In the face of a global pandemic, our relationships have increasingly taken center stage. These relationships were always important, but COVID-19 has made us remember their true value. After all, human connections allow us to survive in the short term and thrive in the long term. 

 

Take a look at one of your most fundamental, human-connection-centric business practices—thanking your donors. This practice of planned gratitude, also known as your acknowledgment process, doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s greatly appreciated by the donors themselves.

But is your acknowledgment process COVID-19 proof? 

 

Assess and Document Your Current Acknowledgement Process

Currently, you probably follow a standard acknowledgment process that may look something like this: 

 

4 Tips to Revamp Your Acknowledgment Process

Since nothing about 2020 has been business as usual or typical, it’s not sufficient to use standard acknowledgment practices anymore.

Go a little further with your acknowledgment process and tailor it to the times. Below are four (4) tips to help you do just that.

 

1. Change Your Verbiage

Our first tip is to change your verbiage. The way you word your acknowledgment email and letter should address COVID-19.

Directly address how COVID-19 has had an impact on your institution, and on your community. Recipients will appreciate your honesty and they’ll empathize with your circumstances. Remember, we’re all in the same boat. 

If you don’t acknowledge COVID-19 in these communications, you risk coming across as if you’re going through the motions…and no one wants that. 

So, breathe deep, and craft a message as though you’re communicating from one human being to another—because you are. 

 

2. Thank Donors at Every Level

Gift minimums might’ve made sense before the pandemic, but they definitely don’t make sense now. 

Discard your gift minimums for saying thank you, and acknowledge anyone who gives a gift during these tough times. Throughout unprecedented uncertainty, these special individuals have decided to support your institution—now that’s a big deal! By thanking all your donors, you’re showing that you truly see and appreciate their efforts. 

 

3. Get Personal

Don’t be afraid to get a little personal. People appreciate those extra steps, especially amidst all this uncertainty. 

If your standard practice is to send an email or a letter, try giving people a call to thank them instead. After all, people’s routines have been disrupted, and they’re feeling more isolated than ever before. Hearing your friendly voice, and discussing something that evokes feelings of hope (like your institution), can add extra positivity to someone’s day. 

 

4. Expand Your Acknowledgement Process

Go beyond the donors, and expand your acknowledgment process. Don’t stop at expressing gratitude only to the people who’ve given a gift; include those who are fundraising on your behalf in your communication process. 

Additionally, pay attention to people who are sharing heartwarming stories about your institution on social media, and take the time to thank them. Expressing this gratitude one-on-one is great, but so is sharing their posts on your social media channels (with their permission). Doing this will amplify the appreciation on both sides while encouraging others to follow suit. 

 

Relevant Acknowledgment for Advancement: Final Thoughts

  • To recap, your current acknowledgment process likely needs an update for this pandemic world.
  • The current landscape for individual giving to nonprofits looks dire. Therefore, change is essential to survival.
  • When it comes to your acknowledgment process, don’t follow the status quo.
    • Change your verbiage, so that people can see how the current landscape has affected your institution and your community. 
    • Don’t set gift restrictions—thank donors at every level.
    • When thanking your donors, get personal. A quick phone call can come across as more heartfelt than your standard acknowledgment email. 
    • Expand your acknowledgment process to include those who are fundraising on your behalf and those who are sharing your institution’s stories on social media.

 

With these actions, you’ll be sure to strike a friendly, positive chord with those you’re acknowledging. These tips will help you in strengthening and maintaining your donor relationships for years to come.

 

If you would like an assessment and clear roadmap, contact us to Future Proof Your Acknowledgment Process.

 

We will help you create an acknowledgment process that is not only effective during the pandemic but sets you up for being responsive to your donors in the future.

A Promise of Accurate and Reliable Data – Learn How!

 

The promise of having accurate and reliable data is often made as a part of the implementation of a new CRM (constituent relationship management) software. It is that promise that often keeps every VP of Advancement/Development Services up at night trying to figure out how to miraculously transform over 10 years worth of information plagued by human error and evolving data entry procedures into something that is pristine, free of duplicates, and meaningful for all users. So why do we even take this on? Accurate and reliable data is critical to user adoption. There is no way of achieving all of the benefits that were listed in the project charter for this multi-million dollar system if no one uses it. So let’s take a look at how we can fulfill on this promise…

 

Continue reading “A Promise of Accurate and Reliable Data – Learn How!”

Why is Business Process Improvement so Challenging for Development?

Why doesn’t Business Process Improvement just happen?  This is an important question many institutions are trying to answer.  Let me suggest a better question to ask: What challenges will you encounter when trying to improve the critical processes that you use everyday?  Let’s investigate why this happens …

Continue reading “Why is Business Process Improvement so Challenging for Development?”

Calling all Frontline Fundraisers – What’s in it for You?

Institutions are now required by their Boards to provide more transparency and accountability for Fundraising Campaigns. This has prompted an array of metrics that not only evaluate progress towards fundraising goals but also evaluates daily productivity.

Here are some metrics that might look familiar…

  • Number of Face to Face Visits
  • Number of Phone Calls
  • Number of Proposals Made
  • Average Time Spent in Cultivation
  • % Increase in the Number of Donors in Your Portfolio
  • % Increase in Dollars Raised from Donors in Your Portfolio

While there is no denying that this information is beneficial to Executive Management and the Board in evaluating progress and performance, what benefits do you receive as a frontline fundraiser? Share how you use Fundraising Metrics  – What works? What doesn’t work?

Leave a comment or email me at dauwn@precisionpartners.org

Let’s evaluate your CRM

Author: Dauwn Parker, Principal Consultant at Precision Partners

Maximizing the benefits of Constituent Relationship Management systems has become critical for organizations that are looking to solidify the long-term viability of their fundraising, advocacy, and advancement programs. This has created an urgency for organizations to find answers to the following question…

Why do so many Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementations fall short in the following ways?

    • Meeting the expectations of its users
    • Being the catalyst that transforms how the organization relates to its constituents
    • Ushering users into the age of “Self-Service”
    • Realizing the Return on Investment

THE CHALLENGE..

These common barriers to success are often the culprit that limit the success of a CRM implementation

Hurdle #1: Defining project objectives and measurable factors for success

With the pressure of developing an RFP, selecting a software vendor, packaging a project proposal and justification for board approval, magically garnering resources that are already overloaded – this critical step is often lost in the shuffle.

Hurdle #2: Implementation Preparation

CRM Implementations are often a new endeavor for an organization and the members of the project team. This often leads to the phenomenon of You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know. This lack of knowledge and preparation can limit project success before it even gets started and in most cases the impact isn’t realized until the project is well underway.

Hurdle #3: Support for Project Leadership

Software implementations are demanding and projects that seek to revolutionize the way an organization interacts with its constituents increases the need for peak performance by the Project Manager. All too often the Project Manager is asked to run the implementation marathon without a coach, proper training, preparation, or continued support.

Hurdle #4: Project Team Performance

Project team members must be fully engaged to become a high performing team. Fully engaged does not equate to a dedicated resource. No matter how much or how little a person is allocated to a project, the following factors must be present for a high performing team to emerge:

  • A team identity
  • Clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and expectations
  • Above all else a commitment to the success of the team
  • Continual reinforcement that their contribution is integral to the success of the team
  • Recognition and Appreciation
  • Personal and professional growth or value in their engagement

Hurdle #5: Project Health Assessments

Project status is most often measured by whether the project is on time, within budget, and the software application is delivered according to the documented specifications. While these are important elements to monitor this does not speak to the overall health of the project. Did the methods used to deliver a quality product on time and within budget cause a loss of trust between project team members or stakeholders, disintegration of cross departmental relationships, or loss of credibility for the project sponsor or sponsoring department? Most organizations would say that any of these negative impacts are not acceptable, but it often happens in projects without a structure for prevention or intervention.

Hurdle #6: Stakeholder Engagement and User Adoption

Many projects manage to engage a core set of team members who develop a solution that they wholeheartedly believe will meet the needs of the organization. It is the biggest threat to morale when after such a strenuous effort, the software application does not meet the most basic needs of some key stakeholders and declared unusable.

If you are currently facing these challenges that are threatening the success of your CRM implementation, Precision Partners Project Advisory Services is your solution.  

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