September 3, 2015

Recommendations & Resources from the Digital Adoption Report

Earlier this summer, we released the 2015 Digital Adoption Report. Today, we wanted to share some further recommendations and resources that complement the report’s findings.

This addendum includes takeaways on the following topics:

  • Nonprofit adoption
  • The cost of doing business
  • The whole is greater than the parts
  • Adoption rates, and assumptions v. reality
  • Thought leaders, best practices

> Download the Recommendations & Resources of the 2015 Digital Adoption Report!

Why this report: Sixty million Americans do not have Internet access in their homes. That statistic is alarming, and is precisely what drove NTEN and Mobile Citizen to launch this report, which provides benchmarks and qualitative data about online technology and digital inclusion efforts among nonprofits and the communities that they serve.

Read the report and recommendations and want to learn more? Join a webinar on October 8 with Mobile Citizen and NTEN to review the Digital Adoption Report findings, discuss case studies from organizations at varying levels of adoption and digital inclusion efforts, and learn what steps you can take to better connect your constituents with your services.

September 2, 2015

Preparing for the 15LCS

With the 2015 Leading Change Summit just a few weeks away, now is the time that things start to shift. It is no longer just a logistical item on your to-do list focused on things like travel and accommodation. Now it starts to become real, with experiences you hope to have, things you want to learn, and chance to build meaningful connections.

Many of us have made this shift before for other conferences, and it feels all too familiar. But what do you need to keep in mind when the coming event is different by design?

This last week, we held a community call to talk through what makes this event different and to touch on some of the things you can do to ensure you get the most value out of your experience. You can view the slides and recording at the bottom of this post, but here are a few of the key things you can do to come prepared.

Come With a Challenge or Set of Issues

The main focus of the LCS is to provide an experience that allows both time to think through new solutions and to receive support from experts as you work through those new ideas. In order to take full advantage of this opportunity, it will help to come with some challenges and issues you currently face as your context. That does not mean you need to come with your fully-formed solution in mind, just a sense of what you need new solutions for.

Come Prepared to Connect

Another big aspect of participating in your own “personal strategic planning retreat” is having the time and space to connect with others in a thoughtful way. From the longer-than-usual lunch breaks to the physical space, the focus is on helping you make meaningful connections with peers and experts in the field.

Come With Your Awesome

We know that each person in our community brings with them unique experiences, insights, and ideas for making our events better. Whether you are an extrovert looking forward to working with larger groups of folks or an introvert that thrives in those one-on-one conversations, there will be space and opportunity for you to shine.

We look forward to seeing everyone at the event in a few weeks and exploring what new and creative ideas will be shaping the sector moving forward.

You can also view the recording of the community call  here.

Ash Shepherd
Ash has been in love with the nonprofit sector for nearly two decades, where he has worked in the areas of conservation, environmental education, social work, youth program development, and technology consulting. He has been an active member of the NTEN Community, serving as a co-organizer of Portland’s 501 Tech Club, and completing a three-year term on the NTEN: Change Journal's Editorial Committee. Ash earned a B.S. from the University of Montana in Resource Management and a Masters in Environment and Development from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa. He is a well respected public speaker and has developed numerous nonprofit resources including the Nonprofit Social Media Audit and co-authored the Social Media Road Map.
September 2, 2015

September Member RoundUp: Social media content strategy, TechNow conference, and the future of fundraising

Karlie Drutz

Karlie Drutz is the Charity Community Manager for everydayhero, a peer-to-peer fundraising service provided by Blackbaud, and a member of NTEN’s local 501 Tech Club in San Francisco. Katie used NTEN resources to help her develop her own training sessions:

everydayhero’s Impactful Insights Websites Series explores specific topics in peer-to-peer fundraising, aided by great resources such as those by NTEN. I work with nonprofit staff members in my role as Charity Community Manager at everydayhero, and it is remarkable how the resources and conferences NTEN has can help nonprofits make great strides in technology.

More highlights from NTEN Members:

  • Early Bird registration is open for the 2015 TechNow Conference! Hosted by the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University, TechNow is the Pittsburgh region’s annual nonprofit technology conference. Learn more and register for TechNow and Post-Conference Workshop Day on Oct. 29-30.
  • Is your organization in need of a transformation? Member Partner The Association of Advancement Services Professionals’ (AASP) upcoming Summit 2015 is designed to help you not only answer that question, but discover the ways in which to do it. Register for Summit 2015, Oct. 28-30 in Chicago. Be sure to also check out their newly-available best practices webinar library.
  • We were excited to see NTEN Members, Ritu Sharma of Social Media for Nonprofits and Amy DeVita of Third Sector Today, profiled in Wear Your Voice Magazine’s “The Dynamic Women Behind 20 Amazing Nonprofits.”
  • Congratulations are also in order for Cloud for Good, who was recognized on The Channel Company’s 2015 CRN® Next-Gen 250 list, honoring forward-thinking technology solution providers who have transformed their businesses by breaking into emerging technologies.
  • The Rockefeller Foundation recently launched the “Workshift” campaign, with the goal of changing the way we think about, define, and build good jobs for all Americans. Take part in the conversation on the #GoodJobsForAll hashtag.
  • Knowbility’s annual web accessibility competition kicks off on October 1! OpenAIR is a global web accessibility challenge that pairs teams of web developers and designers with nonprofits looking to create a new website. Register by September 20 at
  • What’s the single most important thing that nonprofits can do to prepare for a disaster? TechSoup shares answers from nonprofit leaders, including Peter Campbell, staff from Tech Impact, and our own Amy Sample Ward.
  • Managing your social media effectively is an ever-changing process. Beth Kanter explores how you can continuously improve your social media content strategy.
  • Getting ready for year-end fundraising? Kimbia just released their new eBook, the 21 Proven Practices for a Successful Single-Day Crowdfunding Event, based on their experience helping organizations run successful giving days.
  • Speaking of fundraising, iDonate offers tips to help your board invest in online giving and looks at the future of fundraising.

Want to share your Member success story or latest news? Email us your latest tech win (and how NTEN helped you along the way) or other news you have to share, and we may feature it in an upcoming Member Roundup and in our monthly Member Newsletter!

Megan Keane
Megan is a long-time San Francisco bay area resident with an extensive nonprofit background in community management, social media, and volunteer management. She's a problem solver and network builder passionate about connecting with people both on and offline. As NTEN's Membership Director, Megan supports the NTEN community, helping others connect, learn, and make the most of technology, and has spoken internationally on nonprofit technology. While she's not online, Megan can be found teaching or practicing yoga, hiking, or curling up with a good book. She's also a self-professed penguin nutcase, er, enthusiast. Follow her on Twitter: @penguinasana
August 27, 2015

Why We Ask You to Respond to Surveys: The impact of your feedback

community reportWe recently sent out an email asking our community to respond to our 2015 Community Survey. Many of you probably thought, “Another survey? I thought I just completed one; how is there another?”

It may be true that you recently participated in an NTEN survey—and, yes, here is one more. This annual survey is a bit different, and here’s why:

In last year’s Community Report, research ranked as the second most valuable NTEN resource to our community (ranking not far behind the Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC)). Listening to your feedback, we’ve worked with our newly-formed research committee over the past year to secure several partnerships to produce new research. This year for the first time, we’ve published the Digital Outlook Report and the Digital Adoption Report, and have another new report planned for this fall, in addition to publishing many of our longtime annual research reports (including the Community, Tech Staffing and Investments, and Nonprofit Benchmarks Reports).

We use the input from both our Community Report and our Tech Staffing & Investments Report to inform our strategic outlook to evaluate how we are meeting our broad mission and the impact of our work.

Your survey responses directly influence our programming.

Respondents to the 2014 Community Report emphasized “integration” as a key challenge their organizations are facing: the challenge of putting it all together and integrating data, channels, systems, etc., across departments. During the past year, we’ve held local NTEN Labs to address this challenge, with topics such as project management, data-informed decision making, and campaign planning.

Your feedback directly influences our member benefits and services.

We also use the community feedback we receive to shape the types of resources and Member benefits we offer. In recent years, the Executive Directors/CEOs  category has been a growing constituency within our Membership community. We continue to offer and expand the range of contributors to our quarterly NTEN: Change journal, geared towards nonprofit leaders, as a resource for this increasing part of our audience. Our Leading Change Summit is another program we’re offering this year to provide professional development opportunities for Executive Directors/CEOs, as well as other staff in technology decision-making roles.

Finding and keeping skilled staff was another key challenge area reported by our community. We launched the Nonprofit Job Board last fall, with discounted job postings for Members, as a dedicated site for nonprofit employers and jobseekers to secure opportunities. The May edition of Connect monthly, “Inside the Nonprofit,” included articles addressing common internal organizational issues, including finding and retaining staff members.

Your priorities directly shaped the website redesign.

Our Members reported the relevance of NTEN resources/information reported as key value of Membership. A key consideration we kept in mind throughout our website redesign earlier this year was to make our digital content and resources as relevant and discoverable as possible, with a new content architecture to emphasize key issue areas.

Know that those 10-15 minutes you spend sharing your feedback mean a lot to us—and to the work we do. There’s still time to give us your opinion and receive a big “THANK YOU” in advance from all of us. Your input truly makes an impact for NTEN and our community.

Megan Keane
Megan is a long-time San Francisco bay area resident with an extensive nonprofit background in community management, social media, and volunteer management. She's a problem solver and network builder passionate about connecting with people both on and offline. As NTEN's Membership Director, Megan supports the NTEN community, helping others connect, learn, and make the most of technology, and has spoken internationally on nonprofit technology. While she's not online, Megan can be found teaching or practicing yoga, hiking, or curling up with a good book. She's also a self-professed penguin nutcase, er, enthusiast. Follow her on Twitter: @penguinasana
August 25, 2015

Finding Your Path Just Got Easier

About a year ago, I (virtually) sat down with my staff and told them I wanted to build an interactive program that would help individuals who are trying to develop their grantsmanship skills. I thought, this idea might engender some interesting conversation. I had no idea how quickly the staff would latch on to it!

Why was their reaction to this idea so positive?

Because we had all been experiencing the same thing over and over. GrantStation Members (about 30,000) were hungry to learn more.

Grantsmanship is somewhat of a mystery to many individuals, and most people assigned with the task of grant research, writing, or management—not to mention strategic planning—are often looking for guidance.

So, the good news was we had identified a real need. Our challenge became how to build something that will actually help individuals improve their grant seeking skills?

Introducing the PathFinder

After much contemplation, planning, testing, and programming, we launched a new public website called the PathFinder in late June.

The PathFinder is designed to help you develop your own career path as a grant professional. The PathFinder library profiles top quality resources that can strengthen your ability to secure and manage grant awards.

To get started, you can browse the library, search the resources, or use the Find Your Path tool to develop your own learning plan. You can get a full tour of how this site works by watching this short introduction video.

Whether you consider yourself to be a novice, somewhat experienced, or a professional, I believe you will find the resources—all vetted and profiled by GrantStation authors—to be of high quality and useful.

The resources themselves are arranged so you can view items that are timely, such as an upcoming webinar, or you can look at resources that are a “quick study.” There are also a number of resources that we have tagged with the label “deep dive.” These resources include Certificates and Degree programs.

This site also allows you to come back, after you’ve used a resource, and rate it. Once you’ve read a book or a report, taken a webinar, or attended a training, please come back and rate the resource so others can learn from your experience.

Resources to Make You Smile

There are numerous resources profiled on the PathFinder, including reports, webinars, conferences, certificate and degree programs and much more. However, some of my favorites are the interactive tools.

For example, there is a tool developed by the Independent Sector called Charting Impact. This tool provides organizations of all sizes with a method to communicate their goals, strategies, and outcomes in a consistent format. Responding to five simple questions creates a unique report that shares concise, detailed information about plans and progress with key stakeholders, including the public.

Another tool I just love is the Evaluation Plan Builder, offered via Innovation Network (or InnoNet). This program evaluation tool can be used for both outcomes evaluation and implementation evaluation. You have to register first, but then the tool is free to use. It is part of the Point K learning center.

There are a number of no-cost, interactive tools profiled within the PathFinder. I encourage you to check them out, play with them a bit, and see if they work for you and your organization.

Final Words

Each week you may want to check out the Featured Resource on the home page, as we try to spotlight resources we don’t want you to miss. And, if you know of an excellent resource you would like us to post, please email it to Patricia Summers.

We’d love to get your feedback, so please do let us know if you find this new resource helpful.

Cynthia M. Adams
Cynthia Adams has been a fundraiser for over 40 years, mainly in Alaska, working directly for nonprofits and as a fundraising consultant. Her life’s work has been to help create opportunities for all nonprofit organizations to access the wealth of grant opportunities across the U.S. and throughout the world. GrantStation was conceived from this basic philosophy, and though it is a small company, Ms. Adams says it operates much more like a nonprofit organization, serving its thousands of Members with resources to help make their work easier.
August 25, 2015

Give Local America

Insights Into the Largest Single-Day Charitable Crowdfunding Event in History

Our Inspiration

As nonprofit organizations began embracing crowdfunding as a proven fundraising model for reaching new donors, reactivating past donors, and engaging ongoing supporters, we saw our clients begin to raise millions of dollars during giving events as early as 2010. The success of the model and profound impact it could have on fundraising sparked an idea across our company: Let’s harness Kimbia’s technology and model for crowdfunding to connect communities, nonprofits, and individuals to support a national fundraising day founded on the principle of giving local.

We launched the inaugural Give Local America (GLA) event on the 100th anniversary of community foundations in the United States to celebrate the vital role they play in philanthropy and, specifically, local philanthropy. We then worked with the foundations to rally and organize the local nonprofits that were making the most impact, and offered a donation process that enabled local supporters to contribute not only to their communities, but to the causes closest to their hearts.

To date, we have raised more than $120 million to support a broad range of causes and communities across the country. The momentum going into 2016 is inspiring, and we are looking forward to working with our community partners, nonprofit organizations, corporations, and donors to once again to set a new standard for local giving.

What We Expected

We had a lot of high expectations for our inaugural GLA day in 2014, but what we didn’t expect was the overwhelming response that made it the largest single-day charitable crowdfunding event in history—or to have broken our own record to retain that title in 2015. Although we knew that large organizations could raise millions by activating their networks, it was a different challenge to ignite and coordinate hundreds of communities across the country.

From activating their local media networks and working with corporate sponsors, to building social buzz and encouraging friendly competition, it is the combined efforts of our community partners and nonprofits—with support from media outlets and local corporations—that have made GLA such a monumental success.

What we did expect was the positive effect of our proven model—a platform that would be able to handle our most outlandish aspirations, and a team that was willing to go the extra mile to reach fundraising levels never imagined ten years ago. What we expect now is to continue building on the awareness and success of our first two years and to set a new record for GLA 2016. Early indications are telling us that increased corporate sponsor interest and a more nationalized approach to awareness and visibility will build a foundation for unprecedented results next year.

What We Experienced

GLA truly reignited the spirit of local grassroots giving. Not only did organizations all over the country participate, but they also came together in rallies and public events—further uniting their communities and encouraging a day of giving that supported critical local programs. The message spread and people of all ages and incomes took part, supporting the event with gifts that ranged from $10 to $50,000.

I heard a story last year about a woman who quietly entered her local community foundation holding a $10 bill. She wasn’t looking for accolades and did not want to be recognized. When asked why she was there to donate she said that she could not give a lot, but she really wanted to participate in such a generous day and was there to offer what she could in support. This is the power of GLA, this is a day that every donation matters – bringing together the power of individuals on a day supported by a nationwide movement to give.

The amount of social media activity was also astonishing and played a significant role in the success of GLA. With nearly 50,000 mentions on Twitter alone, the power of the people that were truly engaged and excited about the possibilities of the giving day helped inspire all kinds of ideas, and plenty of delightful, healthy community-driven competition.

Why People Care

Give Local America is the only giving day that, within just 24 hours, supports thousands of local nonprofits across a broad spectrum of causes.

GLA participating community partners and nonprofits have reinforced to us many of the other reasons people are so passionate about this nationwide initiative:

  • It provides funds for organizations doing important work in the community. GLA enables nonprofits and our community partners of all sizes to join forces in building local excitement and engagement. Without the resources or staff to fully promote and execute a successful giving day on their own, they can leverage the power of a nationwide effort to build awareness, generate funds, and build new relationships with both new and existing donors.
  • GLA’s widespread visibility significantly drives community engagement. The large-scale nature of GLA, power of media participation, increase in social media awareness, and support of local corporations helps drive more success in one day than many organizations realize all year. In many cases, it is the one day that volunteers, supporters, foundations, organizations, media, and corporate representatives come together with a common purpose—to better their communities through the power of crowdfunding.
  • It’s fun! Organizations from community to community and cause to cause come together in one day with the common goal of promoting and supporting bettering their communities. GLA encourages organizations to benefit from collaboration and sometimes a little healthy competition, which often can create ongoing dialogue and a sense of community— whether they are 5 or 500 miles apart.

For more information on GLA 2016 visit

Lori Finch
August 21, 2015

Fundraising Trends and Counting Deck Chairs on the Titanic

On April 15th at 12:05am, the captain of the Titanic gave the order to uncover the lifeboats on the deck, which he knew would only carry half of the 2,227 passengers on the ship. Of all of the stories about the Titanic, none have ever talked about people counting the deck chairs in the final 2 hours it took the boat to sink. In the final moments, it was the lifeboats that were being counted, sadly a number that seemed less important than deck chairs in the initial planning.

The saying “rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic” speaks to the heart of this idea of spending time on a futile and pointless activity that has no bearing on the actual situation.

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What we choose to measure, and how frequently, is all too often a symptom of what is current—a reflection of our immediate needs. On Wall Street, companies sweat the quarterly earnings; car dealers stress in the final days to hit their sales goals; and in nonprofits it is frequently our annual donation deadlines.

Just like the number of lifeboat seats on the Titanic, impact metrics can often be forgotten until it’s too late. Lifeboats are undeniably important—a fact no one would dispute—but when it comes to day-to-day activity, deck chairs are what people see. They are easy to count and easy to manipulate.

6 Big Trends in Giving

Giving trends and donation tactics are like nonprofit deckchairs. Donations absolutely matter for the underlying program infrastructure of an organization, so it is important to consider the trends so you can prepare. The danger is when your organisation’s main outcome becomes donations over impact. This myopic focus may be a sign that the organization is headed toward an iceberg that could sink the ship. Consider:

  1. #GivingTuesday increased by 63% in 2014 over 2013 and will most likely gain a little over 50% in 2015. However, 2015 individual giving will still continue to make up 2% of U.S. GDP despite this giving tradition.
  2. The percentage of donations that are given online will increase slightly but still remain under 10% (6.7% in 2014 according to the Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report). This number still does not represent the web’s role in assisted conversions.
  3. Mobile will continue to convert at roughly the rate of 20% that of desktop. Focus ads and outreach to desktop when possible, while making sure your site is mobile responsive.
  4. The #1 reason “why people give” will be because someone asked them. Think about how you bring friends of donors into the fold.
  5. Crowdfunding for social causes increased 18.9% to $3 billion in 2014 (2015 Massolution). This will continue to increase at a rate of 20% in 2015, driving attention toward projects within organizations that inspire individuals to give.
  6. Billionaires will continue to give to educational institutions, and Malcolm Gladwell won’t be happy about it.

Malcolm Gladwell: "If billionaires don't step up, Harvard will be down to its last $30 billion."

The Biggest Trend: Effective altruism

We manage to what we measure, and the gut-check question to nonprofits is, are the metrics being measured and shared on a regular basis, be they deck chairs or lifeboats? Even if you are myopically focused on donations, know that Millennial donors are increasingly turning toward the idea of effective altruism:” a true accounting of how a dollar can have the greatest impact for the cause they care about, transparency that is becoming easier to gain access to with technology.

Echos of this shift will be subtle, but as the Millennial generation comes of significant giving age, nonprofits will be under an impact microscope. One recent example of this comes from GlobalGiving’s offer to better promote nonprofits that collect and use constituent survey data to improve their work. “We want to accelerate innovation but also greater effectiveness, ” says GlobalGiving co-founder Mari Kuraishi in response to why they are adding this new feature for nonprofits. We’re also seeing organizations get out in front of this trend by building transparency into their processes—just take a look at the “Where the Money Goes” section on the homepage of National Stroke Association’s site to see what we mean.

Organizations like are championing the spread of the idea, pushing people to rethink giving and promoting works like “Doing Good Better” by William MacAskill. GiveWell has taken the idea of effective altruism and converted it into a methodology they use to rank top charities for various causes.

Finally, the larger trends can also be see in Google Trends that show interest for the topic based on searches in the US.

Effective altruism chart

In anticipation of this trend, we took some time to create an impact starter guide to help nonprofits refine how they think about what is being measured online and how it relates to impact. It took a matter of hours to sink the Titanic, but our video resource is less than 10 minutes and just might help you avoid an iceberg.

George Weiner
George is the Founder and Chief Whaler of Whole Whale, a digital agency that leverages web data and tech to multiply the impact of nonprofits through services, products, and content. Founded in 2010, Whole Whale has worked directly with over 50 nonprofits, spent over $5 million in Google AdWords Grant money, and supported over 15,000 nonprofits through free online content and training.
August 20, 2015

Step-by-Step Guide to Cultivating a Community For Fundraising

If you were a fly on the wall in any large brand’s boardroom, you’d hear the word “community” at least a dozen times. Fostering a community is high on the list of priorities of many top-level executives today because it builds a loyal customer base.

As a nonprofit, it should rank high on your list too, because the stronger your community is, the more trust they’ll have in your nonprofit. And the more trust they have, the more they’ll want to donate to see your cause flourish, or even better, become fundraisers through peer-to-peer fundraising.

Therefore, fostering and growing a loyal community for your nonprofit is key to your fundraising success. So, what exactly is a community, and how do you get the most out of it?

What Is a Community?

A few years ago, that word probably brought to mind a small social group who all share government and a common geographical location. However, with the rise of that great thing called the Internet, “community” has taken on a whole new meaning.

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Today, most discussions of community refer to an online community—a group of people that shares common interests and that uses the Internet to communicate. Of course, these people probably communicate about causes they’re passionate about in person, as well, but the online statistics are much easier for nonprofits to gather and measure.

Shower Strike, a crowdfunding campaign for clean water, includes the hashtag #showerstrike in their social media posts. Shower Strike supporters and followers also use the hashtag in their posts, which helps drive easier discovery on social media and more brand awareness.

Shower Strike has cultivated a great relationship with their supporters, to the point where supporters post about their cause and urge others to join in by raising funds and going on their own shower strike.

You, too, can foster an engaged and flourishing fundraising community around your own cause.

Not sure where to start? Let’s jump right in!

Understanding Your Community

Before you can successfully figure out how to connect with or grow your existing community, you first need to understand what makes them tick. What resonates with them? What doesn’t? What methods are they using to communicate? What are some of their problems or challenges?

Gaining insight into the inner workings of your community can seem complex and overwhelming, but there are a few different tactics you can use to get some insider knowledge.

  1. Research

Step one should include rolling up your sleeves and doing some good old-fashioned digging to find out more about your audience. Check out your Google Analytics and social media insights to discover their online behaviors. Look back through their old conversations related to your community to find out what they’re saying. Throw out a few different “test balloons” to see what performs well with them.

Put on your detective hat and see what information you can hunt down!

  1. Listen and Observe

In order to cultivate a booming community, you need to be constantly monitoring all related conversations and posts. Use social media tracking tools that will notify you when someone has posted about one of your selected keywords or handles. Set up Google Alerts so that you can easily collect important blog posts, videos, and news articles.

Just being alerted when someone uses your hashtag could help you keep tabs on how awareness is spreading and who’s included in your community. When Project Aware’s hashtag was used, they were able to see the traction they were gaining in the diving community.

Perhaps most importantly, always take feedback (and even those hard-to-hear criticisms) from your supporters for consideration. Respond in a timely manner to let them know they’ve been heard.

  1. Inquire

Of course, if you have specific questions for your community, feel free to ask them. Whether you inquire about how you could be telling your story better or how frequently they’d like to hear from you, that insight from your target audience is incredibly valuable information.

There are tons of different tools and platforms you can use to talk with your community, including social media, email newsletters, and surveys. Get out there and ask them all of your burning questions! Your engaged community members will be happy to answer.

Tools to Connect with Your Community

Once you’ve gained some insight into the nitty gritty of your community, it’s time to put your new knowledge to good use in order to start effectively connecting with them and moving them up the engagement ladder.

What exactly does it mean to “connect” with your community? As consumers, we don’t want advertising anymore. We want conversation. We don’t want megaphones and billboards. We want relationships.

You’re probably familiar with many of the platforms you can utilize in order to form lasting relationships with your community members. But perhaps you aren’t using them as best you could. We’ve broken down some ways to use each of the common methods below.


  • Create a 3-part welcome series for new supporters: each email should provide new information or content, ending with a low-lift action
  • Segment your email list into fundraisers, donors, non-donors, recurring donors, those who have taken other actions, etc., and target content specifically to them
  • Incentivize donors to become fundraisers by offering to send them exclusive updates and opportunities
  • Craft a survey asking how people would like to engage with you via email and online
  • Put all subscribers who respond to your emails or send you emails into their own group for follow-up and continued engagement

Social Media

  • Make use of lists, filters, and streams in Twitter management tools to monitor and engage with more active supporters (those who RT you, mention you, and answer your questions)
  • Provide opportunities for engaged social media supporters to be “ambassadors” for your cause, to share content, recruit others, and take action
  • Look for quick and easy ways to collect information and feedback from your social community—one-question surveys, polls, votes, etc.
  • Recognize donors and fundraisers by tweeting them thank yous, and retweeting them!


  • After taking an action like donating or signing a petition, a thank you or follow-up page should provide more information and a next step
  • Strategically place share buttons, donation widgets, email sign-ups, etc. in and around content where it makes sense for a user to take action
  • Consider if blog comments and discussion boards are right for your site, depending on the engagement you want
  • Provide exclusive opportunities and content on your website for those who “unlock” certain sections by sharing, viewing, or commenting


  • Find out if any of your community members live close to your geographical area, and set up an event to meet and get to know one another
  • Inform your community of any in-person volunteering opportunities they can help out with, strengthening their connection to your cause

Growing Your Community

Of course, your existing fundraising community is fantastic. But, as a nonprofit, you’re always looking for ways to grow, evolve, and expand your reach. Obviously you don’t want the size of your community to stagnate.

One of your goals should be to continuously grow and nurture your fundraising community. Establishing your existing audience was challenging enough, and finding ways to add to that pool of people can seem impossible. Have no fear! Here are a few tips and tools you can employ to constantly expand your community.

  1. Strong Foundation

It’s hard to convince people that they should care about your mission if you have no idea how to even explain it to them. Before attempting to grow your community, you need to have a solid foundation to build on. Take some time to get your ducks in a row.

Make sure you have a functioning website in place. Confirm that you have someone on staff that can address concerns and questions. And definitely ensure that you can eloquently—and briefly—explain your mission and background. Think of it as crafting the perfect “elevator pitch” for your nonprofit!

  1. Events and Outreach

Events are not only great for connecting with your current community, but also for attracting new supporters and potential community members.

The Gauntlet, a crowdfunding campaign by Mox Boarding House, created a Facebook page to engage a core group of advocates within their community.

Mox Boarding House decided to do a fundraising event where different teams would compete in various board games, with one winner ultimately taking “the gauntlet” home. They decided that, after teams raised a certain amount of funds, they would get various advantages in the games.

This was a great way of incentivizing a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign while also creating an event that catered to the interests of their community.

Through the community that Mox Boarding House built, they were able to surpass their fundraising goal of $30,000—by more than 3 times. This powerhouse community was able to raise $92,088 to feed families in need.

Pinpointing the event that would most interest your community will help get old and new supporters invested in your campaign, and utilizing peer-to-peer fundraising is a great way to expand your reach. Engaging your supporters to fundraise on your behalf will help them feel they are making a difference beyond just donating.

Ask your existing members to do some outreach of their own and bring new people to your events and meet-ups. Join a local association and attend their get-togethers in order to network with new people. You can wait for people to find you—or, you can be proactive and find them yourself.

  1. Powerful Content

Remember the phenomenon of KONY 2012, Invisible Children’s effort to raise awareness of war criminal Joseph Kony? The cause absolutely exploded on social media.

What made this so organically shareable? Quite simply, it was an incredibly powerful story. Nothing’s stopping you from creating powerful content of your own. So share some wonderful narratives from your own nonprofit. Ask supporters how your cause has touched them. Start gathering sound bites and quotes to put together some amazing, shareable content of your own.

  1. Provide a Toolkit

One of the best ways to get your supporters to be advocates for your cause, and thereby gather new supporters, is to provide a toolkit loaded with branded content for your supporters to both inform themselves and share.

In this toolkit, you’ll want to provide a variety of items such as:

  • Campaign One-Sheet
  • Images and Logos
  • Social Media Tips
  • Sample Emails, Press Releases, and Letters
  • Printable Promotional Materials
  • Recognition Tools
  • Fundraising Tips

By equipping your supporters, you create leaders that can recruit more people to support your cause. Additionally, since you are providing the materials, you know that your mission is being conveyed the way you want it to be expressed.

5.  Have A Clear Call To Action

Imagine you’re someone new to your organization: your friend sent you a link to a campaign or website and you click on it. Can you tell, very clearly, what your organization wants them to do? Should they volunteer? Sign up to be a fundraiser? Spread awareness on social media? Come to an event? Donate? Clarifying what the next step for your supporters drives action.

Once you know what you want the bulk of your community to do, don’t be afraid to ask. Take this example from Neverthirst’s Facebook, after they set up their WOD for Water campaign’s mission in previous posts:

Even if you weren’t familiar with Neverthirst’s mission to provide clean water to those without access to it, their call to action is unmistakably clear and compelling: give now and have double the impact.

Here’s a few tips on how to create a compelling call to action:

  • Summarize: Provide a brief, one sentence summary of the online fundraising campaign itself
  • Use Powerful Action Language: Instead of suggesting they donate, be sure to convey the impact of their donation and use action words such as “Donate” “Help” “Share” “Volunteer”
  • Create A Sense Of Urgency: Using “Donate Now” language and referencing the time-sensitiveness of your efforts will move people to take immediate action (e.g., “Donate now to provide school supplies to kids in need so they’ll be ready to learn by Sept 1st!”)

Cultivating your community can undoubtedly be a challenge. After all, it’s about nurturing human relationships—not just upping the numbers on your email subscriber list. The task can seem daunting and intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be insurmountable. Put these tips to work and start growing a community that’s ready to make a difference!

Rob Wu
Rob Wu is the CEO of CauseVox, a crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising platform for nonprofits and social good projects. Rob has raised over $200,000 for his own social good crowdfunding projects, and his work has been recognized by the Mayor of Austin and featured in the NYTimes, CNN, Forbes, and WSJ.
August 20, 2015

The 5 Pillars of High-Growth Organizations and Other Insights from #NYNP2015

DMA NY Nonprofit Conference logo

I recently returned from speaking at the DMANF Nonprofit Conference held in the heart of NYC. My conference experience started off with an unexpected gem. The scheduled keynote speaker was sick and unable to present, but the silver lining is that we got the pleasure of hearing from guest keynote speaker, Adam Braun, founder of Pencils of Promise, an organization that builds schools and increases educational opportunities in the developing world.

In his engaging keynote, Adam outlined the 5 pillars of high-growth organizations.

1. Narrow the narrative. When speaking about your organization, it’s very tempting to want to talk about everything you do. Adam advises to keep your mission simple to explain and understand. Think one person, one symbol, and one outcome. Adam illustrated this with his story of how he got the idea to start Pencils of Promise from his experience volunteering and working in developing countries. When a poor child told him that a pencil was what he most wanted, Adam was struck by the value that this simple tool had and the larger doors educational opportunities could then open for people. In explaining his work, he tells this simple story of one person (the boy), one symbol (the pencil), and one outcome (increasing educational opportunities), that translates into an easily understandable organizational mission.


2. Rationale leads to confusion, emotion leads to action. The part of your brain that deals with compelling emotions is different than the part that deals with logic. You don’t want to appeal to the rational brain when you want someone to pledge a large sum of money—it’s not a rational act. Rather, when you’re trying to get supporters to donate or take action to support your cause, appeal to their emotional brain, and separate this from the more factual information about your work.

3. With social media, focus on channels, then features. What social media channels should you focus on? Braun answered this question with a quote from Wayne Gretsky: Don’t skate to where the puck is; skate to where the puck is going to be.” Have an eye out for the social media channels that are growing with the audience you are trying to reach. Focus on channels that optimize mobile and share short-form content. Another key to success is finding simple social media hacks to save time and extend your reach. Braun suggested IF as a terrific tool for working smarter and spending less time on social media.

4. Do small things that help others feel big. Look for small actions that pay big dividends and have emotional appeal to your donors. Braun gave the example of a targeted campaign they did to youth who were mostly non-donors but highly active on social media. Instead of a “Click to donate” button, they used a “Click to tweet” call to action to share the news about their #GivingTuesday campaign. The result was a huge success with user engagement, which put their name out there. The exposure resulted in an unexpected big grant they received because of their large reach.

5. Get to know each item in your tool belt. Use different tactics at your disposal to tailor your campaign to fit the needs of your supporters without compromising your purpose. Braun asserted that organizations should stop referring to themselves as “nonprofits,” since this suggests a minimization of resources instead of a maximization of impact. Instead, he suggests, “You do not work for a nonprofit; you work for a for-purpose organization.”

I also got to check out the session, “Pay to Play: Using Digital Media to Stack the Odds in Your Favor” with NTEN Members Julie Leary and Ann Nguyen of Whole Whale, who presented with Mihika Sapru of Breakthrough. They gave many data-driven examples of how organizations, like Breakthrough and the National Black Programming Consortium, have successfully used paid digital platforms to acquire new leads, and convert and retain online and multichannel donors. You can check out their big list of resources from their presentation for more on making the most of your digital media investment.

NTEN Board Member, Farra Trompeter of Big Duck, and I presented our session, “Go Fund Yourself: How Crowdfunding & Peer-to-Peer is Dangerously Changing Fundraising.” We explored the how and why of crowdfunding, broke down the basics of different types of crowdfunding campaigns, and shared tips and strategies for success. It was exciting to get to see many NTEN Members there in person and get lots of interesting questions from the audience. Here are the slides from our presentation. For more on crowdfunding, register for NTEN’s upcoming Ask the Expert event on planning successful fundraising campaigns.

For the last conference session, I joined Jonathan Benton and Michael Ward of M+R in speaking about the 2015 Nonprofit Benchmarks Report. This year marks the eighth year of this annual report from NTEN and M+R, and by far, the largest number of nonprofit participants in the study. More participants means that we have better data and can report on more things, including several new categories this year. You can download the full benchmarks report or go benchmark yourself: enter in your organization’s data and see how your organization compares. (P.S. Be sure you also scroll down and click the cat button).

Did you attend NY Nonprofit Conference? What were your key takeaways from the event?

Megan Keane
Megan is a long-time San Francisco bay area resident with an extensive nonprofit background in community management, social media, and volunteer management. She's a problem solver and network builder passionate about connecting with people both on and offline. As NTEN's Membership Director, Megan supports the NTEN community, helping others connect, learn, and make the most of technology, and has spoken internationally on nonprofit technology. While she's not online, Megan can be found teaching or practicing yoga, hiking, or curling up with a good book. She's also a self-professed penguin nutcase, er, enthusiast. Follow her on Twitter: @penguinasana
August 18, 2015

Fundraising Online 2015: Five key takeaways

Each May, the Resource Alliance brings together fundraisers from around the globe via our free virtual conference, Fundraising Online. This year, we were joined by over 3,000 fundraisers from more than 100 countries, including 16 speakers who shared their experiences of successfully adapting to and benefiting from technological change to enhance their fundraising. Below are my top five takeaways from Fundraising Online 2015.

1. You can’t afford to ignore mobile

Nick Allen suggested that you need to think “mobile / social first” to build your base of supporters, raise money and create a compelling donor journey. By this he means that consumer expectations—and therefore also donor expectations—have shifted with the widespread adoption of mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets.

Organizations are seeing mobile traffic increase rapidly: between January 2011 and 2015, the Humane Society saw mobile traffic to their website increase from just 7% to 57%. Google now favours mobile-friendly sites in their search rankings, so making your site mobile-friendly is not an optional extra–it is a must-do if you haven’t done so already.

As well as SMS / text messaging, fundraisers also need to consider mobile friendly email, websites, and webforms. Nick shared examples of a whole host of ways to raise money on mobile including:

  • SMS offer via DRTV adverts on trains, billboards, Facebook, F2F, web, and email
  • text message with PSMS gift (charged to telephone bill)
  • text message free offer, with telemarketing follow-up call
  • mobile-friendly email with mobile-friendly webform (credit card, PayPal, direct debit, alternative payment method)
  • text messages with a link to a webform

SMS can also be used very effectively for activism and therefore lead generation for fundraising. There are different opportunities in different markets, depending on local regulation and agreements with mobile operators, but nevertheless, the opportunities are endless and an essential part to any fundraising strategy.

2. Gaming offers fundraisers a wealth of new opportunities

Online gaming is an area that many organisations have not yet considered in their fundraising portfolio. Yet the multibillion-pound video game industry could be a goldmine for fundraisers according to Reuben Turner. He believes that great storytelling and finding a videogame partner that matches your brand and values is essential for fundraising effectively within gaming communities. These communities are expanding rapidly as gamer numbers are still on the rise. Ruben shared some amazing and sometimes surprising success stories demonstrating how different features available in online gaming can be used to raise funds.

RuneScape’s Well of Goodwill is an in-game feature where players can donate money to real life causes chosen by the game studio. This feature unlocks virtual currency held in the virtual bank accounts of video gamers, which is estimated to be worth around two billion dollars.

The Red Cross partnership with Sim City, which allows players to purchase Red Cross support for in-game disasters, is an example of downloadable content (DLC) partnerships between nonprofits and game studios. Players are encouraged to purchase something in-game which supports a cause.

Organizations such as Games Done Quick have raised more than a million dollars per marathon by running community initiatives such as gaming marathons where teams of gamers undertake sponsored challenges in support of charitable causes. With live streaming of these initiatives, the potential donor base is truly global.

3. Online fundraising isn’t just about technology; it’s also about people and culture

In his nonprofit take on his book, “Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do,” Euan Semple underlined the importance of internal changes in using social media to its fullest potential. He asked: How can you be 2.0 on the outside when you aren’t even 1.0 on the inside? Your staff are your biggest advocates, but you need to empower them and let them have an authentic voice on social media to connect with current and potential donors and your wider community of supporters.

Jon Bernstein illustrated the difference this can make, through WaterAid’s Big Dig campaign. The campaign aimed to improve access to safe water in two villages in Malawi and as part of the campaign, WaterAid equipped two of their field officers with smartphones. They were then able to connect supporters directly to the villages through their regular blogs and Instagram photo updates to chart the transformation of the villages as new boreholes were dug and toilets installed. The campaign raised £2.25m, double the original target.

4. Pay attention to what the data is telling you and test, test, test

There are vast amounts of data and analytics available to fundraisers thanks to all the new technologies we are now using, but it can be daunting to know where to start with interpreting it all. Steve Lerch of Google highlighted some of the key data trends to which he believes all fundraisers need to pay attention. Data about donor behavior is indispensable. For example, 57% of donors watched online video in their journey before donating, and online video is the number two source donors use to understand a nonprofit’s impact. Therefore, developing a video content strategy is an important part of any fundraising and communications strategy.

Lerch also spoke about experimenting with Google Adwords to increase your organization’s visibility on search. When bidding for AdWords, it is important to set a budget and goals, then regularly track your results and adjust what you are bidding on according to the results you are seeing. You also need to consider the landing page to which the AdWords are directing potential donors.

5. Innovation can come from unexpected places

In Colin Habberton’s session on innovation, looking at how nonprofits adapt and thrive as the environment they are working in changes, he shared the story of a South African organization which is truly innovative at many different levels. Qhubeka, meaning to move forwards, truly lives up to its name thanks to its very simple and compelling value proposition. They provide sustainable transport, in the form of bicycles, to children who previously were walking miles to get to school which negatively affected their attendance. But they aren’t any ordinary bikes – they are specially made for the local environment. They engage with a diverse community to fund their work, including corporate partners, individual donors, and a pro cycling team that also acts as peer-to-peer fundraisers. The pro cycling team even races under their name in a truly innovative partnership. They are a relatively small organization making a massive impact in a way that people can connect with while delivering 53,000 bikes to date, 70% of which have gone to girls.

Laura Boulton
Laura Boulton is conference and strategy director at the Resource Alliance (@TheResAlliance), responsible for the leadership, development, and delivery of the International Fundraising Congress (IFC) and Fundraising Online conferences. She is also playing a key role in the development of the Resource Alliance’s new organizational strategy, ensuring that we deliver on our promise to inspire collaboration, innovation and change in the social impact sector and help organizations build a better world.