The Benefits of Hybrid Fundraising Events

April 6, 2021 in Uncategorized

Ever heard of a hybrid event? If you haven’t, you likely soon will. Hybrid special events are simply a combination of a traditional special event (think about your golf tournament, gala, 5k, etc.) with a virtual element. Choosing to host a hybrid event will allow your constituents to decide how to participate, based on their comfort level as we move out of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

How do you create a successful hybrid event?

The simple answer is that you will want to create virtual programming to correspond to what is happening at your in-person event. For example, if you are planning an in-person luncheon or gala, plan to incorporate entertainment that can be livestreamed or recorded to view virtually. Planning a virtual programming element will also allow you to leverage speakers or entertainers that are not physically located in the same area as you. Streaming a speaker from a distance is not only possible but can be very effective. You can also consider delivery meals to your virtual participants or offer gift cards so they can pick up their own meals. 

Nonprofit organizations have also had a lot of success with virtual auctions, both live and silent. Mobile bidding apps are popular now with attendees able to bid from their phones and stay on top of the process in real time, alongside those participants who are bidding in person using the same app. 

When considering golf tournaments or 5k’s, your organization needs to get more creative. Some organizations have offered hybrid golf tournaments that allow golfers to either participate on a given day with others in attendance (the traditional model) or they can choose a golf time within a set period of time, such as 7-10 days. A virtual 5k works in a similar manner with runners choosing to participate anytime (and usually anywhere) during a set period of time. If runners want to participate in the opportunity for prizes, tracking apps can be used to verify run times.

Benefits of Hybrid Events:

  • Hybrid events are a great opportunity to expand your constituent base. You may be able to reach potential donors that don’t want to commit to attending your event in person but are open to “sampling” your event by attending virtually. Also, there is no limitation on geography – attendees can live anywhere and still participate. If you are successful at engaging these individuals, many may become future in-person attendees or supporters of your cause. Also, with virtual attendees, there is no concern for capacity at your venue. 
  • Sponsors are supportive of hybrid events because they can also potentially reach more attendees. Additionally, your organization may be able to offer more creative and far-reaching sponsor opportunities, from livestream sponsors to in-person table sponsors. 

Women in Philanthropy

April 6, 2021 in Uncategorized

Women’s History Month celebrates the vital role women play in history and in our society today. It also presents an ideal opportunity to assess how your nonprofit is engaging women in your philanthropy programs. According to a recent article in MarketWatch, some 93% of high-net-worth women give to charity, compared to 87% of high-net-worth men. Women are also more likely to volunteer their time: 56% did so, compared to 41% of men.

An effective tool in cultivating and engaging women donors is to create a Women’s Giving Society for annual giving donors at a certain level.

 Why is this effective for your organization?

  • This is an excellent way to strengthen your pipeline for:
  1. Board members
  2. Major Gifts prospects
  3. Planned Giving prospects
  • Affinity giving groups are effective, in general, by strengthening the relationship that nonprofits have with their donors, making giving less transactional.
  • Giving groups lead to a higher level of engagement and loyalty which often translates to a higher level of giving. 

Why do women find value in these giving groups?

  • Women are more likely to seek out collaboration and like-mindedness when supporting the mission of a nonprofit. Melinda Gates pointed out during her remarks at a recent Women’s Philanthropy Institute Symposium, “This is our strength as women – we cooperate, we collaborate, and we innovate to amplify our voices and accelerate change.”
  • Affinity groups are an excellent way for women to network with like-minded individuals who are committed to similar values or goals.
  • Giving groups offer a social outlet for many women, even virtually, at the moment.

 Examples of Events and Benefits of a Women’s Giving Society:

  • Offer regular networking events (in person or, currently, offered virtually) or annual or semi-annual events. This could a luncheon, breakfast or perhaps a happy hour event. The idea is to provide a mechanism for members to spend time with each other
  • Attract other women leaders to be featured speakers at your event(s). This can provide additional value to being a part of the Society.
  • Regularly communicate with members through newsletters, emails or letters.
  • Create a Woman of the Year recognition, an individual that the Society honors each year.
  • If the Women’s Giving Society raises additional money for a particular cause (not all do this, but if you might structure yours in this way), be sure to share the outcome of that giving with members through photos and impact stories. 

Storytelling through Social Media

February 22, 2021 in Uncategorized

Social media is often an afterthought for nonprofits. But, when used effectively, it is an excellent way to enhance your organization’s mission and increase fundraising dollars.

Everyone understands the extensive reach of social media platforms. Worldwide, there are 3.78 billion social media users, a 5% increase from just one year ago. So, it’s logical to assume that your constituents are using social media. Notably, 29% of online donors say that social media is the communication tool that most inspires them to give. 

Sharing your mission and story through social media has never been easier. Storytelling is an effective way to generate interest and awareness of your nonprofit’s mission. Here are some best practices to consider:

  • Tell a specific story. Don’t paint broad strokes on your social media accounts. Profile a specific person (or animal or whatever applies) who has been positively impacted by your organization. This is because of the “Identifiable Victim Effect,” a psychological concept that indicates that people are more likely to donate to a cause when they are presented with a single “victim” than when presented with a group of “victims.”  
  • Emphasize Authenticity. Expressing your organization’s passion for what you do is an effective way to relate to your audience and can be contagious. But this needs to be done in an honest and transparent way and in a way that establishes trust. Be straightforward about your needs and lean on your case for support for ideas as to how to tell this story. 
  • Use video when possible. As we discovered during our recent podcast conversation with marketing expert Eric Brown, video is king on social media. Video has an engagement rate of 87% compared to static images, which has an engagement rate of just 14%. Don’t let video intimidate you, however. Your videos don’t need to be professional quality. Using your iPhone to shoot a quick video can lend itself to establishing authenticity and relatability. But do be sure that your lighting is good, and audio is clear.
  • Consistent Content. Create a content calendar for your organization and plan ahead. According to marketing experts, publishing about three pieces of content per week is ideal. This can be a short video, a quick graphic related to your cause or a story highlighting one of your donors or someone who has been impacted by your organization. Also, re-posting content from others is a great way to keep your audience engaged and continue to provide meaningful content.

When used effectively, your social media efforts
should do three things:
*Promote Awareness
*Share Impact
*Inspire Action

For more information on using social media, listen to our latest episode of Philantherapy, Tales from your Fundraising Therapist:

Starting the New Year off strong.

February 22, 2021 in Uncategorized

It’s easy for fundraising professionals to get trapped in a winter, post-holiday blues mindset. The tax year has just ended, and the frenzy of year end stewardship, cultivation and solicitations is done. Besides, still dealing with the uncertainty of a global pandemic and its effects on our wellbeing.  

But it’s a new year, and you have the opportunity to hit the ground running. Consider this quick blog post the pep talk that you need today. Although 2020 was, for many, one of the most challenging years in memory, 2021 could be a great new beginning for your organization.

  • POSITIVITY: Start with a positive mindset. Starting strong and seeing early results will help keep your motivation high as you begin a new year. 
  • REFLECT: January is an excellent time to reflect and plan. Look back at last year and consider what challenges and opportunities you faced. Learn from mistakes and seize upon tactics that worked well. 
  • PLAN: Consider a mid-year staff retreat (if you are on a fiscal year) or a beginning of the year retreat (if you are on a calendar year). Review your goals and make adjustments as needed.
  • REACH OUT: While reflecting and planning and having retreats are critical to success, be sure you are continuing to solicit your donors with confidence. Your nonprofit’s mission continues to need funding, and your case for support should remain strong.  
  • BOARD ENERGY: Make sure your board stays energized through the winter months. Consider beginning your next board meeting with a heartfelt reminder of the impact that giving has on your nonprofit. Ask board members to share why they are involved with your organization. Be clear with board members about the goals you hope to achieve this year (including goals for board participation). 
  • STEWARD: Look at your stewardship efforts with donors – can you do something extra this month to show appreciation for your donors (especially those brand-new donors)?
  • CELEBRATE: Be sure to acknowledge and celebrate your end of year accomplishments and early calendar year wins with your staff. 

Although I joke about that this blog post is your “pep talk,” don’t underestimate the winter blues.  You have the chance to motivate yourself, your team, and your board to start strong and make 2021 the most successful fundraising year yet! 

What does “impact” mean to your nonprofit?

February 22, 2021 in Uncategorized

Did you know that the number one reason why high net worth donors give is to “make a difference?” It seems simple, right? Yet, many donors and prospects are not told, in a practical way, exactly how their gift has impacted your organization’s mission. 

If you are like many fundraisers, you have metrics to fulfill and are laser-focused on your annual goals. These are great qualities and necessary for success. Yet when you are so focused on soliciting, you sometimes forget the purpose of why you asked in the first place! If you have a dedicated Donor Relations or Stewardship staff member or team, it can make the sharing of impact much easier. For those of you who are fundraising and stewarding donors, sharing philanthropic impact needs to be a central part of your job!

Why is this important?

Nonprofits’ average donor retention rate is just 45.5%. Interestingly, larger organizations are faring better with the retention of donors, likely because they have the resources to focus on donor relations and stewardship. But, if you are working for a small to midsize nonprofit, even though we know you are wearing many hats, stewarding donors and sharing impact needs to be higher on your list of priorities. As all of us in the philanthropy world know, retaining donors costs far less than acquiring new donors.

So, HOW do you share impact stories with your donors?

  1. I’m going to emphasize one word here: SPECIFIC. Tell real stories. If you work with children, consider highlighting a particular child who has been impacted by gifts. If you work for an animal rights organization, share specific examples of animals who have benefitted from donor funding. Focus on one person or one instance at a time. It’s a better way for donors to feel connected to that person or that situation rather than telling stories with broad strokes.
  1. Be sure to be CONCISE AND FOCUS on what matters most in your storytelling. You want to maintain the attention of your audience, mainly depending upon your format. So, get your point across with as few words as possible.
  1. Use VISUALS AND PHOTOS to tell your story. Images grab attention better than a block of text. Images can also often express emotion better than text and can convey a message more quickly.
  1. Include NUMBERS AND DATA when it helps tell your story. These are measurable results, and this can resonate with donors. Often, sharing impact through data can be very useful and adds validity to your storytelling. This doesn’t mean you are only sharing how much money was raised; it means sharing how many more meals you could serve to the homeless or how many new students received scholarship money because of donor generosity.

You must KNOW your donors to do any of this effectively.
Survey them to find out what are the stories that resonate the most. Profile some of your top donors to get an even more in-depth perspective.

Where are you telling these stories?

  • Take advantage of SOCIAL MEDIA. Work to grow your following and figure out where your donors already are – are you getting more traction on Facebook or LinkedIn? With Social Media, visuals and photos are incredibly effective for telling stories and sharing quick impact moments. 
  • Use VIDEO when possible. Video allows you to show emotion and bring impact to life in a way that no other medium can offer. Personalize these videos when possible. Donors respond to a customized video from someone who has been impacted by their gifts. If it’s impossible to customize, merely showing donors through video how their gift has advanced your nonprofit’s mission is priceless. 
  • Your WEBSITE should provide an opportunity for you to tell stories and highlight impact. Make sure you have a page (or multiple pages) dedicated to this. Include video on this page as well. 
  • LETTERS/EMAILS/NOTES are all excellent ways to tell stories or highlight specific moments of impact. Your organization should consider a yearly or even quarterly newsletter that focuses on impact stories. Even when sending handwritten notes or letters, be sure to describe a small impact moment for that donor that resonates with them.

Go out there and share your stories!

What hat do you have on?

December 3, 2020 in Uncategorized

For people who have either grown up or worked with me over the years, know that one clothing accessory for me is a must, and that is a hat. Baseball cap, scully cap, wool cap – it doesn’t matter. I can still hear my Dad say, “Wear a hat, you will catch cold!”

Many of you that manage small shops find yourselves wearing multiple hats too! Just not for fun or comfort. If this is your situation, you are not alone in feeling the stress. Fundraising goals are not shrinking; metrics remain the same, yet, who is planning your (now) virtual event? Who is stewarding your donors? Who is managing your CRM? Who is managing that grant deadline that’s fast approaching? (If you haven’t figured it out yet  – It is you!) Things inevitably start to pile up. You spend most of your time putting out fires instead of proactively mapping out your organization’s fundraising success.

So, what can you do?

1.      Evaluate your priorities. What is the most significant return on investment on your to-do list? Deciding which tasks will have the most damaging consequences if they are not dealt with is a helpful way to decipher priorities. Use this as a wake-up call on what you consider “priorities” and force yourself to figure out alternate solutions.

2.      Work Smarter, not Harder. Take advantage of technology hacks and other ways to automate some of your work. For example, if you manage social media or regularly send emails to your constituents, set up your content in advance and have it automatically post or send.  Also, are you a multi-tasker? Multi-tasking is natural when you have a lot on your plate. However, research has shown that the brain is not built for multi-tasking and does not function optimally when working in this way. For optimal performance, it is best to focus solely on one task at a time (back to prioritizing!).

3.      Share services and resources. Consider partnering with another organization to share resources that may be breaking your budget or holding you back from hiring even a part-time staff member. Or, if you are part of a system or larger entity, push for the concept of sharing staff members to keep your budget in check. Get creative with what you need.

4.      Ask for help when needed. Sometimes, no matter how organized you are or how automated and how many services you share, you still need additional support to fulfill your organization’s mission. Evaluate the return on investment if you do receive that much-needed help. Sometimes presenting data can help you make your case. This leads to…

5.      Outsource. It may be cost-prohibitive for your organization to hire an additional FTE to accomplish your goals. But, outsourcing talent on a project basis may make more sense. It is for a limited time, there are no health or retirement benefits to consider, and if you are unsatisfied with the results, it’s straightforward to make a change.

6.      Finally, embrace all the new skills you’ve acquired! Never thought you’d learn how to design marketing materials or understand the intricacies of data analytics? Now you have a whole new set of skills that will potentially serve you well in the future!

Don’t forget to bundle up! It can be cold out there!

You are adding another arrow to your quiver!

December 3, 2020 in Uncategorized

If you are like most fundraisers, you have used donor and prospect demographic data like age, gender, and occupation to segment your messaging. Yet, while demographics are useful, they do not tell the whole story.

If you have never heard of psychographics, it’s time to become familiar with this concept.

The definition of psychographics, according to, is The use of demographics to determine the attitudes and tastes of a particular segment of a population, as in marketing studies.

By its very definition, you can understand the importance of psychographics on the fundraising world. The better you know your donor or prospective donor, the better you can appeal to them in the way they will best respond to.

Are you trying to figure out which direction to take for your annual appeal letter? Are you developing a social media campaign to highlight your mission to prospective donors? Or maybe just preparing for meetings with a major gift donor. Getting to know and understand your audience gives you a distinct advantage to correctly connecting with what matters most to them. You need to understand your donors’ beliefs, what keeps them awake at night, what creates excitement or motivates them. Fundraisers have always used demographic data like age, gender, and occupation to segment messaging. But, demographics do not tell the whole story.

Psychographics has been used for years by marketing and research companies, and there is a reason for this. Understanding HOW people make buying decisions within a specific industry helps businesses create content that resonates with them. The same concept can be used for nonprofits trying to advance their mission.

Where to begin?

There are three main types of psychographic data points that are typically prioritized:

  • Interests and Affinities
  • Activities
  • Opinions

How do you gather this information?

  • Research your donors – read complaint letters and emails; read both positive and negative comments on your social media posts. Learn about what is bothering your constituents as much as what makes them happy.
  • Consider conducting focus groups with crucial donor groups.
  • Survey large groups of constituents to see what is important to them.

Once you have gathered psychographic information, what should you do with it?

  • Create more emotionally compelling content and impact stories
  • Create a more targeted and specific Case for Support to be shared with donors
  • Reinforce your organization’s values by staying “on brand” with all of your marketing and outreach efforts
  • Create more relevant annual appeals and email solicitations
  • Use the information you have gathered for better segmented messaging based on what your donors are interested in or believe in rather than using things like age or gender.

Stay relevant!

Philanthropy Assessment & Strategic Planning During Unprecedented Times – Put Your Headlights On!

October 17, 2020 in Uncategorized

Crisis fundraising is not easy. There is no playbook that we can easily follow. Seven months ago, everything changed as Covid-19 spread through the U.S.  At first, many decided to take a “wait and see” approach and held back our fundraising activities. This hesitation lasted quite some time for some organizations (maybe you are still taking this approach where you work?), while others quickly pivoted and continued fundraising.

One thing that is true of all organizations (unless you created a strategic plan after the pandemic began), your current strategic plan is outdated and irrelevant. No, this does not mean that you must throw away what you have and start from scratch. Much of what you were doing still holds, but enough has changed to mandate a fresh look at your structure and fundraising plan. Change in crisis is complicated and sometimes leads to incredibly challenging decisions, but it is critical to future success.

Below is a suggested approach to conducting an assessment in four core phases:

Phase 1: Conduct a Design and Strategic assessment session, which will include:

  • A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis
  • Clarification on your funding priorities and funding sources, which may have changed since the pandemic began.
  • Review of leadership, staff, volunteers, infrastructure, and resources.
  • Consideration of your day-to-day operations and overall fundraising environment, assessing capabilities
  • Review of strategy, goals, mission, and vision.
  • Measuring the effectiveness of your philanthropy program in terms of ROI

Phase 2: Philanthropy Capacity Assessment:

  • Assess your CRM database
  • Database capacity and wealth screen
  • Predictive gift modeling
  • High-level initial strategies for cultivation and solicitation

Phase 3: Gather benchmark data and analyze results

Phase 4: Implementation

Based on the design and strategic assessment session results, capacity assessment, and benchmark data, you will be ready to create your updated strategic plan.

Deliverables in your 2020-21 Strategic Plan need to include:

  1. Funding priorities and opportunities determined in part by the SWOT analysis.
  • Reimagined operations, staffing, and volunteer structure, based on new philanthropy goals.
  • Specific “High Impact Actions” moves.
  • Detailed stewardship activities to ensure long-term engagement.
  • Determine state, regional, and local philanthropy capacity, taking a fresh look at your donors’ ability. There is the possibility of a shift after the pandemic began for better or worse.
  • Create a plan that creates sustainability for your organization. Make sure that you are crafting something that will help your organization flourish long into the future.
  • Shared or consulting services. This is an opportune time to consider sharing services with a sister organization or part of your system to save money. If you must right-size, using a consultant to bridge the gap can also be a way to save money.
  • Reimagine what your shop looks like in the new normal. Sometimes a crisis is an opportunity to move in a direction that you did not expect.

Anticipate multi-year goals. These should include major, planned, and annual giving. Your team should be encouraged to make bold moves here (within reason).

The Fall of 2020 is not the time for you to sit on the sidelines.  Competing organizations are raising money. Do not get left behind.

Author, researcher, Professor Martha Rogers put it plainly:

“When your headlights aren’t on, the best rearview mirror available isn’t likely to improve your driving.” Martha Rogers

Talk Less and Smile More

October 17, 2020 in Uncategorized

If you are like me, you probably have some severe Zoom fatigue right now. I long for a traditional in-person visit to a donor or even an old fashioned in-person staff meeting. I even miss airports and TSA security! But, we live in a new normal where virtual meetings and donor visits have almost entirely replaced the in-person meetings of the past. While in-person meetings can still occur (ex. outdoors, with masks, etc.) or will come back in the future, the public is getting more used to virtual conversations.   Stakeholders may prefer to hold a virtual meeting at some point in the future donor engagement cycle.  Like it or not, it’s time to embrace this new normal and lean into technology as the future of fundraising.

There are some steps you can take to ensure success when engaging with donors virtually. Below are what I’ve found to be the most helpful ideas:

  1. Virtual meetings may require more practice to ensure that you are comfortable with both the technology and the format. Set up a practice run with a colleague.
  2. Send a pre-visit “context for conversation” message as opposed to a PowerPoint
  3. Start with donors who are engaged with your organization and know you best.
  4. Once in the meeting, your strategy will be the same as usual: Open up with the warm conversation, connect with the donor, make a support case, negotiate the ask, deal with objections, and close the gift.

What kinds of things matter on a virtual call (in other words, what do you have to worry about with virtual asks that you never had to worry about before?)

  1. Setting up your camera in a way that frames your face and doesn’t have many background distractions
  2. You are paying attention to lighting and audio quality. Make sure there is light facing you (that you are not backlit). Consider investing in an affordable ring light. If your audio is not top quality, consider a microphone attached to your computer (also inexpensive and readily available).
  3. Make eye contact with your camera. Yes, this sounds weird. But, not making eye contact is even more bizarre. It takes some practice as you are used to looking down at your screen. Yet, as much as possible, try to look directly into the camera.
  4. And as Vice President Aaron Burr would advise, “talk less and smile more.”


October 17, 2020 in Uncategorized

“Fortune Favors the Bold”

During any crisis, the temptation is often to hesitate, to take a safe approach – a “wait and see” attitude. Frontline fundraisers, by and large, did take this approach when the Covid-19 pandemic began, and this was an understandable reaction. There was a great deal of uncertainty and many of us believed that the abrupt changes to our lives were temporary and we needed to wait it out before taking action.

Fast forward six months and we now understand that this is not a temporary situation, this is our new normal. One that will likely remain for quite some time and one that will potentially inspire permanent change in the way we do business.

So, as fundraisers, what should we do? How do we handle the current crisis that we are in the middle of? Fortunately, I have worked through several crises in the past – the aftermath of 9/11, the economic meltdown of 2008 being two examples. My experience has taught me that organizations that continue engaging donors and asking for gifts despite the crisis not only make it through but also become well-poised for success long after. Data is showing that donors are continuing to give and want to be engaged right now. Yes, your methods of engagement and solicitation will look different. But, that should not slow you down. This is a perfect time to step back and examine your strategic plan and assess your current structure. Unless it was created post-Covid-19, your strategic plan is already irrelevant. It’s time to re-assess your strategy and create a pathway that will allow you to continue fundraising in a new environment with new boldness and clarity of mission.

Be bold. Ask for gifts. Lean into your work and your mission – your organization likely needs support more than ever.