Tag: events

How can your organization find new donors every year? By leveraging the events that you already hold to intentionally expand your community.

1. Host a joint event with another nonprofit

I know what you’re thinking: Wouldn’t sharing an event with another nonprofit, especially one with a similar mission, make it more difficult for you to find and retain donors?

Not at all! Fundraising isn’t a zero-sum game, and the best indicator of philanthropic giving is… you guessed it, philanthropic giving. Sharing an event with another nonprofit has multiple benefits. You can:

  • Split the cost of the event.
  • Attract a larger crowd than you could on your own.
  • Share a supporter pool.

Events, while being both time- and resource-intensive, are a vital part of any nonprofit’s engagement and fundraising strategies. But if you split the cost and the work of planning and hosting with another nonprofit, you’re doubling your capacity.

For example, think of all the effort it took to pull off your last charity auction. With another nonprofit onboard, you split both the costs of the venue and catering, as well as the task of finding high-level prizes that inspire people to make bigger bids.

Then, when the event is over, you’ll both have collected the contact information of many more new friends than you could have alone. The best part is that you already know that these people are engaged with and supportive of your mission, which is half the battle.

Reach out to other nonprofits in your region with similar or adjacent missions, and see what fun event ideas your teams can brainstorm together.

2. Raise funds peer to peer

Peer-to-peer, or social, fundraising is one of our favorite types of fundraising. It allows your nonprofit to reach a far wider audience than you could on your own through leveraging the power of your supporters’ social networks.

All those shares on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have real-world value for your nonprofit. They increase brand and mission awareness for your nonprofit and expose your fundraiser to people who have a personal incentive to care: your supporters’ friends and family.

If you’ve never hosted a peer-to-peer fundraiser and aren’t sure where to start, check out this ultimate guide from OneCause to get you started.

Peer-to-peer fundraising is great for increasing your ranks of donors because most of the people who donate to the campaign probably don’t know about your nonprofit—they just know that their friends care!

When they fill out the donation page, make sure you make the most of having their contact information by following up with a personalized thank-you letter, more information on the cause, and ways to get involved.

We like to combine peer-to-peer fundraising with fun concluding events like:

  • Dance-a-thons and walk-a-thons
  • 5Ks, 10Ks, or marathons
  • Block parties
  • Silent auction dinners

Then, collect contact information from your event attendees and follow up with them about becoming a donor or a volunteer.

3. Consider awareness-raising events

One of the best things that you can do to attract more donors is to make your nonprofit’s mission and presence in the community more relevant to more people.

For this reason, consider hosting an event outside of your comfort zone to attract people you haven’t interacted with before. Some fun ideas for these types of events could include:

  • A talent show featuring local musicians and comedians.
  • A speed dating night featuring your single donors, some local personalities, and anyone who wants to come to make new friends.
  • A performance like Shakespeare in the Park (consider partnering with a local theater!)

These events provide a two-fold advantage for your nonprofit. First, they increase name awareness in your community. Second, they allow your team the opportunity to mingle with people they don’t know and collect contact information for future cultivation.

Another idea that can both help attract new donors and make the efforts of your current donors go further is to host a volunteer day. Plan a series of tasks that volunteers can do that help your community and your mission, and then promote volunteer grants!

Volunteer grants are when an employer donates money to a nonprofit that one of their employees donates their time to. Unfortunately, not many people are aware of these programs. But promoting them to your volunteers can make their time worth more than it already is.

4. Host a donor thank-you event

A surefire way to increase your donor population is to ask your current donor pool for help.
Next time you host a donor appreciation event, ask your donors and board members to bring friends that they think might be interested in becoming a donor.

This benefits your nonprofit because:

  • The people who are brought to your event already have an emotional connection to your nonprofit, because of their friend.
  • The people who don’t know your organization get to see how well you treat your donors and how gracefully you show your appreciation.
  • Your current donors get to help your nonprofit in a way that doesn’t involve digging deeper into their pockets.

It’s a win-win for everyone, no matter if you host a cocktail party, a picnic in a park, or even a potluck dinner at someone’s house.

5. Conduct prospect research before events

The best way to optimize any event is by conducting prospect research ahead of time. Prospect research is when you access publicly available information about someone to learn more about them and their capacity and willingness to give.

The things you can learn about prospects, or potential donors, include:

  • Wealth markers like real estate or vehicle ownership
  • Philanthropic habits like any previous donations
  • Network associations like employer or alma mater

Knowing these things makes it easier to approach someone at an event. If someone has a history of donating to an environmentally-minded nonprofit, your nonprofit’s Save The Trees drive is probably of great interest to them.

You can also use this research to determine who to add to your invitation lists, to maximize your event’s impact.

The takeaway: Finding new donors may seem intimidating, but it’s not impossible. The donors are out there! You just have to meet them where they are, and encourage them to join your community.

We flipped the switch this morning to open registration for the 2019 Nonprofit Technology Conference! This is NTEN’s annual conference, and we are expecting more than 2000 nonprofit technology professionals to gather for three days of educational sessions, connection, and fun!


The 19NTC will be hosted in NTEN’s hometown of Portland, OR! We are planning more than 200 educational sessions in five categories: IT, Fundraising, Leadership, Marketing and Communications, and Program. Sessions are suggested and chosen by the nonprofit technology community, and we support our speakers to create engaging sessions that reflect the excellence and diversity of this sector.

Around the 19NTC

But the fun doesn’t stop at the session room door! We are also creating a bustling exhibit hall, packed with the very best nonprofit tech resources and ideas, a Career Center, games and places to connect with your favorite tech companies, as well as NTEN staff!

Further afield

Our host city of Portland, OR, is a uniquely quirky place and we want to help you explore it! Every conference attendee will receive passes for the duration of our conference to ride our world-class transit system from their hotel to the conference center, and take in the best Portland has to offer.

Early bird registration is open now. Register now to lock in the best rate!

We can’t wait to see you.

As a former nonprofit CFO, I got the well-deserved reputation for being really grumpy about gala events.

ME: We’re spending more than we’re making on this.

THEM: But it’s really a friend-raiser!

ME: Awesome. By the way, I’m paying you in friends this Friday.

I understand the concept. Fundraising is all about getting people thoroughly familiar with your mission and impact so that when you ask them to give, they say, “yes.”

And for fundraising teams and board members, I understand the appeal of the gala event. Most days we’re selling nothing but warm glow—the feeling donors get when they know they’ve done something to really help. But with a gala we’re selling sponsorships, food, wine, dancing, silent auction items, entertainment, raffle tickets, and maybe (please, no) a puppy. Actual things!

Social vs. monetary transactions

This has come up before: People view social transactions and monetary transactions very differently. For example, how would you respond to these two requests?

  • Will you help me put this couch in my truck?
  • Will you help me put this couch in my truck for $1?

Most people would probably agree to the first request, and decline the second request (or turn down the $1).

Heyman and Ariely showed that people are more likely to expend effort with no reward than with a small monetary reward. But somewhat charmingly, charities get this exactly backwards with their gala events. Here’s an actual example of the benefits in an event sponsorship proposal.

A $10,000 sponsorship gets you:

  • 16 tickets to the event, including cocktails, dinner & wine
  • A celebrity sitting at one of your two tables
  • Exposure to 500+ guests for five hours
  • Full page, 4-color program ad
  • Company name on printed and e-invitation
  • Video and display signage at event
  • Live company mentions during the gala
  • A table in the reception area for your representatives to provide company promotional information
  • Transportation to and from the event for all of your guests
  • Mentions in 50 30-second radio spots on both AM & FM stations

Which of these things would the corporation actually buy if there weren’t a charity attached to them? Probably none.Andrew Schuricht quote

The fair market value for that sponsorship is $11,180. What does this say to the corporate sponsor? “You really don’t want to support our cause, so we’ve put together a package of benefits (that you also don’t want) that are worth more than the value of the sponsorship.”

Fundraising events take what should be a social transaction and convert it into a monetary transaction with a low reward. Which is why everyone (not working at a nonprofit) thinks gala events are horrible.

The economics of gala events

This is usually where nonprofit CFOs start going wrong when trying to kill off fundraising events. They talk about all of the time and effort that staff expend on the event. They talk about the additional expense (even the best run events cost 35% of what they make, and many don’t break even.)

But fundraisers, boards, and Executive Directors don’t care.

“We’re selling actual things! And we’re auctioning a labradoodle!”

So instead, let’s look at it from the corporation’s side.

KEVIN: Wow, nice drive! Right down the middle of the fairway.

STEVE: It’s only the first hole. Hey, by the way, you know I’m on the board of Sunscreen for Whales, right?

KEVIN: [wary] Right…?

STEVE: Our annual gala is coming up next month. Do you guys want to sponsor a table again?

KEVIN: [there’s no way to say no] Sure!

It’s basically a trap. And people who are trapped are probably not in the best frame of mind to appreciate the finer points of your mission and impact. But what about all of those benefits that come along with the sponsorship? Surprise! Nobody cares. It’s the dollar offered to help move a couch into a truck.

Let’s go back to that $10,000 sponsorship with a fair market value of $11,180. Only the charitable component (total amount less FMV) of a gift can be tax deductible, so the tax deduction the corporation gets on that sponsorship is $0.

One potential solution (for corporations)

In a recent sample of event sponsorships¹, the tax-deductible portion ranged from 0% to 75%. That means that on a $10,000 table sponsorship, the corporation could deduct $7,500 at best. Assuming an average effective tax rate of 19.8%, that’s a maximum tax savings of $1,485 (and a minimum of zero).

An outright gift of the same $10,000 to an organization is 100% deductible, and saves the corporation $1,980 in taxes. Nearly every nonprofit would actually prefer the $10k gift over the sponsorship anyway, so we won’t be hurting Steve’s feelings or making the remaining 17 holes of golf awkward. There’s a nifty calculator just for this!

One potential solution (for nonprofits)

I readily admit that this is going to be a hard sell. Taking away the “actual things” crutch will make people unsteady. But corporate sponsors just don’t want to hurt your feelings. They hate gala events, but would never say that because it makes them sound uncharitable, which they’re not.

Some Susan G. Komen chapters advertise Sleep In for the Cure, but I’m pretty sure they still send you a race bib and a t-shirt. The Neighborhood House Association did an all-online gala back in 2008, but they still had sponsorship packages. Maybe it’s possible to take it even a step further.

Introducing the Not-A-Gala! For each $150 ticket, we will give you permission for a night on the town–for charity! Eat wherever you want, take in any entertainment that you like, and invite guests that you’ll enjoy being around. All for charity. And it’s 100% tax-deductible!

Okay, that idea probably needs work.² But I’m sure there’s a good replacement for the horrible old gala out there somewhere.

¹ A wholly unscientific sample, by the way, because it was done by me.
² But I’m copyrighting it just in case…

A version of this article first appeared on Nonprofit Remix and is reprinted here with permission.

There are trees, and there is forest. There are anecdotes, and there is data. There are the pinprick pixels of our individual experiences, and there is the vast picture they paint together of the world we share.

The M+R Benchmarks Study is our annual attempt to bridge that divide. This year, we have collected an extensive array of data points from 154 nonprofit participants. Each of them marks a single digital interaction with a supporter: an email opened, a donation made, a petition signed, a website visited, an ad clicked, a Facebook post liked, or tweet retweeted. All told, these add up to 4,699,299,330 email messages, 527,754,635 web visits, and 11,958,385 donations.

NTEN is proud to partner with M+R once again for the latest Benchmarks report. Explore or download it here.


In April 2017, the Sierra Club joined hundreds of other organizations in the Peoples Climate March (PCM) in Washington DC and across the country. Together, organizations turned out over 300,000 people to protest the Trump Administration’s attacks on clean air, clean water, and our climate.

This was actually the second Peoples Climate March—the first was in New York City in September of 2014. We learned a lot about how to amplify mass mobilizations on social media during the first event, but three years is a long time in internet years. Since then the world has seen the rise of Facebook Live, Snapchat, and a massive public resistance movement, made more visible through events like the Women’s March this past January.

This year, we combined the lessons of 2014 with some new strategies and a bit of trial and error to successfully cover the March on social media. Here are just a few things we learned along the way:

1. Stay on message—meaning the coalition’s message, not your own agenda.

A mass mobilization isn’t a branding opportunity—it’s about mobilizing supporters around the issue. Everyone (the social team, the media team, celebrity supporters, etc.) needs to understand and agree to what the messages for the day are. It’s easy to harm relationships with partners and supporters by posting something that clashes with your message and values. We held a messaging training for our staff who were covering the PCM on social media to ensure everyone was on the same page.

2. Use a variety of voices and perspective to tell the story of the day.

You have to remember that you’re not always the best messenger. If you have a large audience, you should be elevating posts from smaller or less visible members of the coalition. Go out of your way to make sure you are highlighting a diversity of voices from other organizations, different communities—especially front-line communities, and people in the crowd.

Assign one or two people to monitor conversations happening online with your supporters and also checking out traditional media sources. During this year’s March, CNN tweeted a stunning timelapse during the event. It was inspiring for us to see and great for us to share with our community; the video received overwhelmingly positive replies and favorites from our followers and a lot of reshares.

3. Be everywhere.

“For the first PCM [in 2014] we had three, maybe four people running all the Sierra Club social media for the event. It worked, but there were a lot of ‘quick saves’ going on, like finding a coffee shop with wifi to transmit because it was impossible to get a signal. And we mostly captured content that we used immediately.

This time, we had 12 people just capturing content, so inconsistent signals weren’t as much of an issue. We still had a queue of quality content to choose from, so we could take a more editorial perspective and support more social channels.” – Bharat Kusuma, Digital Community Manager

4. You don’t need fancy equipment.

You’ll definitely want professional videographers and some high quality photography happening at the event, but mostly for future use. For the PCM, our team on the ground used their own phones for everything.

We had looked into what we could do to make sure they’d always have a signal, but really there wasn’t much. Satellite hot spots would would be running through the same cell towers, so there wasn’t enough benefit to justify it.

5. Have a command center.

“Most members of our core social team weren’t actually at the march; they were holed up in a hotel room with good WiFi a few blocks away, which became our command center.

Our role online was mainly editorial and moderation. We also did our best to troubleshoot as we went along—checking in with some of the staff working the march itself to find out what was going on when using radios. Getting that to work took a little longer to get going than we planned. If we hadn’t had multiple folks in the control room, it would have been a bigger problem because you can’t easily play editor and do technical troubleshooting at the same time.” – Heather Moyer, Senior Content Producer

6. Look beyond the social media team.

We have a relatively small social media team for a large organization, but even with a large team, it’s worthwhile to recruit staff and volunteers to be in the crowd capturing content for social media.

There are plenty of people who aren’t social media professionals who have great social savvy and personal reach. These are the people you want out there getting good stories and pictures and talking with people. They’re motivated, and not intimidated about the responsibility and can roll with it when something unexpected happens.

Things will go wrong, and you need your people on the ground to know that you may not be able to respond to them individually, but they can just keep going — posting, streaming, tweeting, being in the moment.

7. Be crystal clear on roles before the event.

“We’re getting better at this. The important thing is to make sure that everyone is clear regarding who has final decision making authority on what gets posted and what doesn’t, or if something has to come down—but hopefully that’s a last resort. You have to train the team days and weeks in advance on both organization and mobilization event guidelines, and make sure anyone who doesn’t normally have access to post content knows how to properly engage that day.” – Kacey Crawford, Director of Content Strategy

8. Facebook Live can be tricky but really resonates with people.

“Your signal will probably be shaky so use it when you’ve got a good one. Just jump in. People love it. You can narrate the event, move around and show different aspects of it, interview people. The energy is contagious. For this event, 5 minutes seemed to be a sweet spot, but shorter broadcasts were useful too, because we could add more specific descriptions to the individual posts.” – Emma Cape, Online Organizer

9. Work with big social media organizations to amplify the message (they appreciate it).

“We were lucky to be able to partner with Snapchat for their coverage of the march—mostly because we had something to offer them as well: the inside scoop, lots of our folks on the ground. It created an opportunity to build a relationship with Snapchat that we hope will create more editorial opportunities in the future. It also gave us an opportunity to create content optimized for a younger audience, and they were great to work with too.” – Kacey Crawford, Director of Content Strategy


Mass mobilizations have grown so much more powerful through social amplification. The stories are all around—you just need a few people to collect them, the desire to raise marginalized voices (not just your own), a clear game plan, and a hub to manage it all.