Tag: nonprofit leadership

Impact is not intent, it is the real-world difference your nonprofit makes, the results that flow from the work you do. Increasingly nonprofits, foundations, and government partners are focusing on impact rather than inputs for several reasons: to report to stakeholders, make allocation decisions or to revise current programs and strategies and more.

However, despite widespread awareness, most nonprofits do not engage in consistent impact evaluation. In 2016, only 12% of nonprofits allocated evaluation to their annual budgets; and of them, less than one-third have performed impact evaluation in the previous year. most lack the structure to implement significant organizational change on their own; others, lack the resources to acquire external support to perform the evaluation consistently.

Understanding data is no longer an expectation reserved for tech nerds who work behind the scenes. Today every nonprofit must be able to measure and track outcomes to articulate its effectiveness.

On a day-to-day basis, immersed in service to their constituents, nonprofits often distribute intake forms, update spreadsheets and even keep mental snapshots of their work – but simply having data collection processes is not enough. It is critical to track the indicators of success most vital to your nonprofit’s mission with surgical precision, then to effectively communicate it at regular intervals.

Areas of importance, depth of detail, formatting, and mediums for data reporting may all vary between stakeholders such as Board of Directors, Grantors, Volunteers, and Community Partners.

As an example, in the past, a mentoring organization was expected to report on their input or activities. An example, how often mentors and mentees participated in an activity together, is a metric focused on the program’s execution, but it does not speak to the program’s value. Today, those funders would expect nonprofits to show the number of mentees who went on to graduate from high school, attend college, and secure a job with sustainable income.

Sometimes implementing a data strategy means investing in technology, other times, the greater investment is staff-wide organization change.

Here are three powerful quotes from nonprofit leaders around the country on why they chose to implement a data strategy:

  1. Understanding data and measuring impact is a critical skill
    Dr. Bennie Harris of Morehouse School of Medicine articulated that “being able to understand data and measure impact is now a skill equally as essential to a development officer’s profile as is the traditional soft skills the position has been known to require.”
  2. Good data leads to new insights.
    Good data, accompanied by critical thinking, can also lead to surprising insights that allow nonprofits to serve our clients and our community in innovative ways. Jim Reese, Atlanta Mission President and CEO, shared “(After implementing a data strategy), we learned that more individuals stayed at our (facilities) than the total number of occupants of all other shelters in Atlanta. The data disproved the presumed transience of our residents.” As a result, Reese has challenged his team to think critically about how to better serve individuals who may be long-term occupants of the Mission, and they began to lobby for increased capacity.
  3. Out-of-the-box thinking can generate new streams of revenue.
    Open Hand, an established nonprofit had long focused its programs on home-delivered meals and wanted to further improve local communities by way of nutrition education but we’re not sure how to start. Developing succinct logic models revealed a way to incorporate nutrition education into their existing operations, thus was birthed Good Measure Meals is a calorie and portion-controlled gourmet meal program. Good Measure Meals’ innovative business model has helped differentiate the brand from other meal plan services. John Jarvis of TechBridge Inc. who worked to execute the initiative praised the initiative, stating that Open Hand is “an organization that is thinking beyond the status quo when it comes to nutrition.” Matthew Pieper, Open Hand Executive Director stated Good Measure Meals “(enabled) Open Hand to offer better meal choices to customers.”

In more ways than one, data strategy provides a massive opportunity to nonprofits. Not only can a well-defined and implemented data strategy improve reporting, but it can also enable nonprofits to scale, innovate and solve real problems.

“At the end of the day, it’s about helping (people) in need,” Matthew Pieper, Executive Director of Good Measure Meals.

Submitting a session proposal for a conference can be intimidating, overwhelming, and stressful. For the annual Nonprofit Technology Conference, we want to create a process that supports participation—by those who’ve done it lots of times as well as those who’ve never submitted an idea to any conference.

We also want to engage the community throughout to ensure the best program and best conference possible. All this means we have a session proposal process that works pretty differently than others you may have experienced. And that’s intentional!

Traditionally, conference proposal processes mean you draft your title and description (in a Word doc, or an email to a colleague, or in your notebook), and then copy/paste it into a form and wait to hear back, months later.

The main challenge with this process is that each proposal is shared in isolation. As a submitter, you have no idea if your copy and paste broke the formatting before it ever arrived, what other sessions were also submitted, or who else may be interested in speaking. Lastly, you almost always wish you could make a few tweaks after sending it in.

In general, the experience tends to feel a bit more like a lottery than a thoughtful process.

Our community-driven proposal process

We know the NTEN community has a lot of expertise to share and we want to use a process that helps it shine. We are all better served when community members are set up to propose their best possible ideas to build a more informed and well-rounded conference agenda. That’s why we use a more transparent approach that allows for iteration of ideas.

The NTEN process includes several steps:

  1. Review guidelines
  2. Submit proposal
  3. Review other proposals
  4. Gather feedback from online community
  5. Refine and update
  6. Finalize

Three ways this process helps you

1. View your proposal in context

Seeing your proposal as it compares to the others being shared is a huge advantage. And seeing what others’ takes on a topic can help you define yours more clearly and make changes to highlight what makes your idea different and the particular experience or knowledge you bring.

It can also help you spot what topics may be missing that you could propose sessions on, like important topics that may have less competition, in terms of making it into a balanced agenda.

2. Gather feedback prior to voting

Imagine if you could get feedback from the same people who were going to be voting on your proposal while there was still time to make changes? With our process you can. Folks who want to attend your session can help you refine it now and help your session make it into the final agenda.

3. Edit as much as you like

As the saying goes, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” When you work on a draft behind closed doors to get it perfect and then submit it just before the deadline, you’ll often have an instant feeling of wanting to change just one little thing or correct typos that you missed.

Submitting your proposal “live” early on in the process allows you to use be more iterative. Getting it out there can help you (and others) see it with fresh eyes and make improvements a number of times before moving into the community voting stage.

You have until August 17th to get your ideas in, but we hope you’ll post them soon and benefit from the opportunities to get feedback, find co-presenters, and improve your proposal before then!

The internet is truly a required service for any organization to be successful in 2018. But what if your programs are meant to serve people who are among the 60 million Americans who don’t have internet access at home?

The Digital Adoption survey seeks to understand how organizations are making decisions and addressing the challenges of internet access and use by both staff and the communities they serve. The good news is digital adoption is increasing, but there are still gaps or needs among specific communities that digital inclusion programs have the opportunity to address.

In March 2016, my organization embarked on an agency-wide database migration from one CRM to another. My colleagues remain enthusiastically on board and happy about the move from a clunky system to something shiny and new. But just because you are excited about change, doesn’t make the change any easier.

Senior leadership: Your first allies

We decided to implement a new CRM to strengthen and further the organization’s work, vision and mission. To implement such a decision, we needed the support and understanding of those who hold responsibility for the organization’s work, vision, and mission. Our Executive Director, Chief Operating Officer, Deputy Director, and other senior managers drove the decision to find a new tool, and they were early adopters.

If your leaders are not on board, you need to start there. Ask them questions: Do they need more information? What is their vision for the organization’s future, and can they meet it with the existing way of doing business? Do they have a financial concern about this step?

The support of even one key leader will give you the traction you need to set the process in motion. (Note: Your leaders need not love databases as much as you do. They just need to understand how a central repository of information will benefit the organization.)

Set realistic expectations

Throughout the migration and implementation, I reminded my colleagues of the three stages of a database migration: Oh yes! Oh no! Ok. Here are some variations of my messages to staff:

  • Preparation will include time-consuming grunt work, such as you reviewing and updating spreadsheets.
  • The migration will take longer than we think. And then longer than that.
  • We will enjoy improved systems, but not perfect systems.
  • It will take time, practice, and some false starts, to effectively integrate the new process into your workflow.

Share information repeatedly and in different ways

People process information in different ways so I share information in different ways. The database is an agenda item at our staff meetings, program meetings, and special-project meetings. It might be a three-minute announcement or a 15-minute presentation, but it is there. Sometimes I just sit in on meetings. (I like to think that if I am visible and available, images of happy database work will subconsciously flash through their minds.) I include articles in the in-house newsletter and send all-staff emails scattered throughout the year.

Meet people where they are. (Where else would you find them?!)

My colleagues, like yours, are passionate, talented and very busy people. Most importantly, they are…people. Obvious point, I understand. Yet those of us who oversee change of any kind—and technology change in particular—can lose sight of this. Assume their best intentions and assume their crazy schedules. Take their time seriously, ask relevant questions, and learn what will make it worthwhile for them to use the tool.

This does not require that I meet with everyone individually. I have colleagues who needed only a launch date and a few instruction sheets to become regular and skilled users; others needed individual support. I also have colleagues who are still using old systems. Note that even those using old systems are not (necessarily) resisting change. They have not yet found a way in. Why is this? What are their barriers? What would need to happen to help them use the system? It is my responsibility to help them figure this out and address it.

Training and support

Training and support is a key part of meeting people where they are and to building their competence and independence. I offer a variety of training options to meet different learning styles. There are group trainings (some mandatory, some optional), and I make myself available for 1:1 support. Documentation and cheat sheets support those who learn best in this way.

In addition, I established weekly office hours. I reserve a small conference room so people know where to find me. I have the conference line open in case off-site staff want to drop in virtually (and am prepared to share a screen if needed). People stop by with how-to questions, to confirm they are doing the right thing, or with policy questions or suggestions.

The long view

We moved to a new CRM to create a central repository of institutional information and knowledge. This central repository means every staff member can easily find information they need without having to track it down with calls and emails and other time-consuming efforts. It means we can run cross-organizational reports on our work, and use that information to make strategic decisions. Because we can do this more easily, we can more effectively spend time on serving our mission. My colleagues get this, and so will yours.

But our colleagues are also busy juggling responsibilities, and it takes time to learn something new—for some more than others. That is the way it is. To build a sustainable new system requires us to ensure the tools meet our colleagues’ work needs, and it means building people’s confidence, expertise, and understanding of how the tools can do this. This is going to take time. How long should you expect? It will vary, but best to think years not months. Set realistic expectations for yourself too!

Share your nonprofit techie story with the world! The NTEN Stories app makes it really easy for you to share your experiences and learn from others in this amazing community.

Download the NTEN Stories app from the App StoreGoogle Play, or use the web interface, and it will prompt you to answer questions about your work and record a short video. It even has built-in sensors and a coach, to help you get the sound and lighting right. And you can view your video before you send it to NTEN.

We will use these short videos to share what nonprofit tech life is like, and share the impact of our programs and resources. If you love being part of this nonprofit tech community, we want to hear from you!

Share your story today!

You wear many hats when you work for a nonprofit. I’m sure this is not breaking news for you. As an IT professional, the one hat that I wear every day is my “communications” hat.

The following tips are bite-sized truffles of hard-earned wisdom intended to help the IT professional communicate with staff members more clearly about technology projects.

1. Be an active listener

Have you ever been thinking of what you are going to say while you are looking directly at the person who is talking and giving you information you asked for? We have all done this. Seriously, active listening is a difficult skill that requires full concentration and practice.

The best definition of active listening I have found is, “the act of mindfully hearing and attempting to comprehend the meaning of words spoken by another in a conversation or speech.” This means that you look at the person who is speaking in the eyes (not in a creepy way) and focus your mind on the words they are speaking.

Active listening works best when you, the listener, review and restate what was said: a recap. Something like, “Okay, let me see if I understand correctly. So you need a membership report of all Californian constituents over the age of 45 by next Wednesday? Is that correct?” Active listening saves time, reduces stress, increases your colleagues’ confidence in you, and decreases the margin of error. It also takes a lot of practice, so start today!

2. Use plain English

Yes, plain English (sometimes called plain language) is a thing. The goal of plain English is to communicate in a simple way using common language so your message is easily understood. Simply put: use easy-to-understand language and cut the technical terms if you can.

Remember, the goal is not to display your vast knowledge of technology and look smart. We have all had an experience when a tech person totally spoke over our heads using tech jargon. That is exactly what we want to avoid. It is our job, as the communicator and tech professional, to make sure the recipient understands your message. Much like being an active listener, end your conversation with a recap to make sure that all topics have been covered and understood, and expectations have been set.

3. Set expectations right away

Misunderstandings happen but they can be minimized. It is always uncomfortable when you are working on rolling out a project on Monday that everyone expected last Tuesday. It’s stressful just thinking about that scenario.

One way to minimize misunderstanding is to set clear expectations right away. Expectations are not just what they should expect from you, but also what you expect from them. For tasks and smaller projects, a quick but thorough recap should do the job. I created a web form to keep track of my requests (see tip #4 below) and I have my colleagues fill it out every time they have a request – even if we had a meeting. For large projects, I suggest you draft a project charter and have all stakeholders sign off approving the project. For more on project charters, do an internet search for “project charter template.”

4. Set up a system and stick to it

We all like to be the hero and fix the problem right away. Whether you are a project manager, solo IT person, or an IT Director, your time is limited and you must prioritize in order to make deadlines.

The way I keep track of my requests is by using a web form. All my colleagues must complete this form and they must spell out what they want and how urgent the request is. I established an internal policy that all requests must be approved by a supervisor prior to submitting the web form request. This gives the staff member time to thoroughly review their requests resulting in a more complete form and fewer questions. This process may seem kind of corporate but it works for me.

5. Make no assumptions

Early in my previous career in sales, a mentor said to me, “If you were giving travel directions on the best way to get to your office, what would be your first question? Where are they coming from? You would give different directions to someone who is traveling from Portland than the person who is driving from San Francisco.”

The same goes for providing technology solutions. You must find out where your people are coming from before you start to provide instructions.

You also may want to confirm if they know where they are going! Knowing the end goal is always very important. Many of us miss this step; we assume that the person we are communicating with is tech savvy. Take the time to find out and make no assumptions.

6. Use standard operating procedures

We all use standard operating procedures (SOPs), right? If you do not, you need to get on it! SOPs are comprehensive instructions that are so clear, you could hand the instructions to a first-day employee and they would be able to perform the given task.

SOPs take a while to write but once done, they will save you hours of time. Make sure to include lots of pictures, arrows, comments, and tips and make sure to update them when processes change. I recommend using Snagit Screen Capture by TechSmith to snip and insert notes of anything on your screen. There are many free tools out there, including the free Microsoft Snipping Tool. I encourage readers do a little research to find the best tool for their needs.

7. Use your tech tools

Do you want to look like a technology rock star? Than you have to stay on top of your respective field by staying up to date with blogs, newsletters, old school print magazines and most definitely the NTEN community. Two tools that I use daily are Google Search Operators and Google Advanced Search. This will narrow down and speed up your search times tremendously.


The ability to communicate clearly and effectively will never go out of style. These seven tips have helped me and I hope they help you also.

Digital planning is about more than tactics: it’s the synergy of strategy and goals, and the tactics to meet those goals. If you are a digital or tech professional, you have probably more than once had a colleague request a tactic that didn’t actually meet the goals they wanted to achieve.

In 2010, I was producing training for state parties and the DNC. Party leaders, communications, and digital staff kept asking for blueprints and guidance to make sense of the complex web of digital strategy, but I felt that simply handing over our plan with no context would be a bit like strategic malfeasance. I liken it to someone asking for the blueprints to a house when you don’t know if they’ve ever swung a hammer, have the right resources, or if your blueprint would even fit their lot.

So I knew I had to go deeper, and wrote a book: The Digital Plan: A practical guide to a strategic digital plan. At its core, digital strategy is about goals: asking the right questions to choose the right goals and making a plan to achieve them.

Here are my top two tips to keep your tactics, strategies, and goals aligned.

Acknowledge and pivot to goals.

Let’s say someone comes to you and asks for a specific thing without any goals–for example, a microsite (which often isn’t so micro) or a video. More often than not, they have real needs and goals and just don’t know how to ask.

1) Acknowledge, listen, and empathize with the ask. Confirm you are listening and interested in the project. Validate their role and their specialty knowledge. Don’t take offense if what they want is out of scope or not actually going to meet goals.

2) Ask them about their goals. What is their number one goal? Is it to move messaging, raise money, get people to an event, etc? Make sure you get to the top-level goals and away from the tactic. Validate the goal and repeat back what the goal is.

3) Pivot to strategy to find the right scope and tactic. Now that you have them in conversation around their top-level goals, pivot to strategy. Affirm you want to help them meet their goals and that you are building out the right strategy to get there. From here you should be able to tackle the conversation from a place of shared strategy.

Join the planning conversations early.

Too often people who work on digital or tech-related aspects are brought in after the fact. Make sure you ask those planning campaigns or whoever in leadership can advocate for you to join in planning conversations from the beginning. This gives you the chance to head off the confusion of tactic vs goal when planning.

In the early conversations, encourage people to stay focused on goals before digging too much into tactics. As tactics pop up, acknowledge them as possibilities but be sure to not lose that framing.

For example, let’s say people are jumping straight to the idea of a Twitter campaign. Acknowledge the idea and both the merits and weaknesses of the idea. Give folks the feedback they need and then pivot back to goals: “A Twitter campaign could be a great way to get to our goals.” Then reopen other ways to meet the goals.

Make sure when you close whatever initial meetings might be taking place that you are aligned on what the digital goals, tactics, and overall strategy are. Ambiguity over this might leave some stakeholders believing the discussed tactics are the strategy and that all that was discussed is moving forward. This is one place you should be definitive.

A strategic digital plan at its core should be about goals. It is important to be clear about the difference between strategy, goals, and tactics.

While nonprofit organizations enjoy certain exemptions, they still have liability risks and, as with any business, liability concerns are going to be industry-specific. A nonprofit construction company like Habitat for Humanity, for example, will have liability risks associated with bodily injury for its own workers and volunteers, while a nonprofit legal organization like the ACLU will need to carry insurance that protects the company against erroneous legal advice or even slander and libel.

Common Nonprofit Risks

What risks will impact your nonprofit are highly industry-specific. That said, however, most businesses in general, including nonprofits, will have commonalities among their liability concerns. Nonprofits should be concerned with:

  • Bodily injury claims from customers or clients
  • Physical property loss or damage
  • Management and directorial board decisions
  • Cybersecurity

The types of insurance that fall under these categories may include general liability, business owners policies, commercial property, management liability insurance policies such as directors and officers and employment practices liability, and especially cyber liability insurance. Let’s review how these different policies may provide necessary coverage for your nonprofit.

Core Liability Coverages: General Liability, Commercial Property, and Business Owners Policies

The two categories of risk that most businesses share are third-party claims dealing with bodily injury or property damage, and the loss of the business’s own property as a result of a loss, such as a fire or theft.

Commercial property insurance will help provide needed funds should you lose any property that’s directly tied to the business. All commercial property policies will cover loss related to theft, such as the what might occur after a break-in, while policies sometimes vary in terms of what is covered in the case of other types of loss events, such as natural disasters. Computer equipment and other forms of technology, in general, are going to be a primary target for thieves during break-ins, while such equipment is also very susceptible to breakage during a natural disaster. Nonprofits that have offices or space in areas that are prone to floods or earthquakes may want to consider additional coverage, as these are regularly not considered to be covered events.

Perhaps one mistake many nonprofit organizations make is mistakenly assuming that, if an accident occurs, individuals will not seek recompense from them. Lawsuits of this nature can and do happen against nonprofits, making general liability a consideration.

Slip-and-fall lawsuits are common general liability concerns, while a general liability policy also covers instances where your nonprofit may be responsible for damaging someone else’s property. However, a general liability policy is just one alternative available to nonprofits. This is where a business owners policy (BOP) may be a worthwhile venture. A BOP combines the benefits of a commercial property policy and a general liability policy.

Management Liability: Directors and Officers and Employment Practices Liability Insurance

Your board of directors serves an important function in your nonprofit, but they are not infallible or exempt from investigation. Directors can make mistakes with managing money or with general decisions in the direction of the nonprofit, while managers can make mistakes related to hiring, firing, and other employment-related issues.

Given this, a directors and officers (D&O) policy is valuable to help mitigate the risks associated with nonprofit boards. As boards meet and make decisions, it’s important to remember that those decisions are often held under greater scrutiny because of your nonprofit status. Tax-exemption affords a nonprofit a lot of leeway toward using resources to give back to the community, but how your nonprofit chooses to funnel donation money can result in litigation and claims of mismanagement of funds. As noted by Nonprofit Quarterly, the benefits of purchasing a D&O policy tend to outweigh the costs.

Meanwhile, all nonprofits are still held responsible for their hiring, firing, and promotion decisions. This can be partially covered under a D&O policy, but your nonprofit should also consider employment practices liability insurance, which covers all aspects of employment practices to a much greater degree, including issues related to wrongful termination, sexual harassment, other forms of workplace harassment, and retaliation claims.

Cyber Liability

Every business, nonprofit or otherwise, needs to be concerned with issues such as data breaches, hacks, malware and/or spyware, ransomware, and general data loss. Your data is valuable, and for tech-based industry nonprofits, your valuable data can make or break your operations. Cyber liability insurance is designed to help mitigate the risks associated with all forms of data loss that involve cyber attacks.

For example, if you operate a nonprofit that digitally collects and maintain donors’ personal and payment information, that data is at significant risk. According to a recent article, 60% of small businesses never recover after a cyber attack. The costs associated can be more than many businesses can absorb, with the cost—and the threat—growing every year.
It’s incredibly important for nonprofits to maintain adequate liability coverage, especially for cyber security threats. With cyber criminals growing more sophisticated in their methods, the risks are too great to ignore.


The digital landscape is changing at a dizzying rate and sometimes it feels like the plans you made yesterday are obsolete by morning. But help is at hand!

For the third year, NTEN is proud to partner with Care2, hjc and Resource Alliance on a report that sets the standard for nonprofit digital planning. But we need your help. The 2017 Digital Outlook Report is powered by responses by nonprofit professionals just like you. The survey will take about 10-15 minutes to complete and you’ll be entered in the drawing for some great prizes.

Take the survey today and be the first to know when the findings are published later this year.


It’s a simple fact: most people are uncomfortable asking for money. That doesn’t change just because you’re the member of a board. In fact, depending on your organization, fundraising may or may not have been a transparent part of your board responsibilities.

But the truth is, as a board member you have a responsibility to the organization, and that includes helping to make sure the doors are kept open and the programs are financially supported. Money is what keeps your organization doing the great work it does.

It’s normal to be apprehensive about fundraising, and even more normal to feel like you just don’t have time with all of your other responsibilities. But with a few simple guiding principles and some helpful tips, you can excel at your fundraising efforts and save yourself a lot of time. Don’t forget that all the rules of fundraising apply, but there are creative ways you can be as effective as possible and save time. Here are a few to get you started.

First, you need to craft your message and identify the right people to reach out to.

  • Seek partners and ambassadors, not just money. Every good fundraiser knows that effective fundraising is about building and cultivating relationships. But that’s certainly a time-consuming aspect of the gig. You can mitigate this by making it a regular topic of conversation and a regular part of your social media presence. Post updates from your organization to Facebook and retweet petitions. Share photos from events that your organization holds on Instagram and Snapchat, and always include links for more information. Any opportunity to share thought-provoking updates or questions is prime for getting your community to understand your organization better and know why they should support you. In time, the people you’ve turned into passionate supporters of your organization will bring in supporters of their own.
  • When you do seek people out, be smart about who you target. Ideally you have time to do some proper research and micro-target your asks. If you’re strapped for time, at least do a gut check before you talk or write to them—do their interests fit the mission of your organization? Are they the philanthropic type? Do they have the means? These simple steps can sometimes prevent you from going in unproductive directions. Once you’ve populated your list, you can keep track of these folks as a friend list on Facebook or a private Twitter list, and start engaging with these people more regularly.
  • Be prepared. This will take a little bit of time at first, but once you have the materials, it will save you endless hours. Essentially, put together a packet—a website, a slide presentation, whatever works best for you—that provides examples of the work your organization has done. Highlight stories of people (or animals) your organization has helped, programs that have been effective, petitions that your organization has spearheaded and what it feels like to have that success. Certainly include a page that outlines the numbers, but the personal stories and emotional appeals will ultimately be more effective. Even better, work with the rest of the board and staff to come up with social media assets that you can easily share—tweets, photos, video, and milestone Facebook posts from the past.
  • Focus on major donors. If you’re short on time, it’s much better if you’re able to meet your goal with a few high donations than with a bunch of small ones.
  • Speak from the heart. Sounds cheesy, I know, but this is a big one. Fundraising is not about focusing on the money. It’s about highlighting what the money can do and how that feels. You are a board member of this organization for a reason. You believe in their mission and their programs. You are passionate about creating change. So when you talk to anyone, that passion should come first. If you can speak genuinely about why the organization is unique and effective, people will feel excited and honored to contribute to that effort.

Now that you’ve solidified your pitch, here are a few tactics for getting started.

  • Your gift should come first. If you’re busy and have the means, make the donation yourself. Many say this is the best way to get things started anyway, and if you’re not willing to do it, how can you expect others to? Some organizations have a rule requiring every board member to donate a certain amount each year. But others don’t, and according to the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, less than 40 percent of organizations nationwide receive a gift from every board member. Of course if you don’t have the means, then move on. But this option shouldn’t be overlooked, as it’s certainly the simplest. If you do start here, make sure you share the news that you donated with your social networks – it’s a prime opportunity to tee up asks from others.
  • Look to friends and family. It’s a lot more time-consuming to go after people you don’t know. And although asking friends and family for money can be intimidating in a different way, you can mitigate some of that by simply letting them all know that if they want to do something special for you, or they’re looking for a birthday or holiday gift for you, that they should make a gift to your organization instead. A public social media post could even do the trick.
  • Pair up. If you’re new to this, or just having trouble, consider joining forces with another board member, maybe someone with more experience or just similar connections.
  • Take advantage of existing social networks. Friends and family are one thing, but social media opens up vast new connections of people who have expressed their interests and preferences publicly. Look through friends of friends, or try to find Facebook groups and pages or hashtag campaigns that relate to your organization’s work. Targeting those people is really the best way to target people you don’t directly know through social media.
  • Integrate fundraising into your social calendar. Haven’t seen certain friends, family or colleagues in a long time? Create a Facebook event for a simple barbecue or even put on an acoustic concert at your house. Use your fundraising as an excuse to get people you enjoy being around together and have info booklets and some envelopes at hand. With Facebook events or e-vites you can track RSVPs, know who to expect at the event, and plan your event accordingly. At the event, say a few words about why you care so much about this organization, and have people look at the materials in their own time. You might be surprised how simple and fun these kinds of efforts can be. After the event, the folks who couldn’t make it might even be inclined to donate based on the online updates after the fact.

Lastly, there are two things you should certainly not do if you’re short on time.

  • Don’t waste your time on cold calls/emails. Most of the time this strategy is reserved for interns anyhow, but it can be tempting if you’re desperate. Just remember that calling or emailing people who you have no personal connection to or investment in is incredibly low yield. Use your time more wisely.
  • Don’t skimp on the thank you messages to donors. It has to be emphasized that giving thanks to donors is not an optional step. It’s incredibly important, and it must be heartfelt. In fact, some fundraisers prefer to start with thank you messages, public thank yous on social media, or calls to previous donors to start getting used to talking about the organization and feeling how good it feels to make others feel good. It’s great to try to understand how people like to be thanked—whether social media is an appropriate place, or whether they prefer anonymity. This personal accommodation will help cultivate a longer-term relationship all around.