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My Tips on Crowdfunding & Peer to Peer Fundraising

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This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. Listen below!

 

After last month’s topic of social media and #GivingTuesday, I wanted to dig in a little further to a subset of that topic: crowdfunding and peer to peer fundraising. It’s a great way to get exposure to your cause and get access to a new donor pool.

First, let’s do some quick explanations of what exactly crowdfunding and peer to peer fundraising are.

Crowdfunding is online fundraising for a specific project that is designed to be funded through many people with smaller donations – namely, by a crowd. If you’ve heard of platforms like GoFundMe, that’s an example of a crowdfunding campaign – GoFundMe actually even has a platform designed for nonprofits called CrowdRise. Crowdfunding campaigns are usually started or come from the nonprofit itself.

Peer to peer fundraising takes crowdfunding one step further – it’s the idea that fans of the nonprofit become fundraisers themselves. They create their own profile page where they can share their story and make an ask, then ask their friends to donate to their campaign. Most all of this work is done online.

Now that we’ve defined the terms… let’s talk about some best practices for them.

Crowdfunding

Don’t create a crowdfunding campaign just because it seems like the thing to do. Be thoughtful, and make sure you have these things in place before you put together a crowdfunding campaign:

  • A specific, tangible ask: General operating asks are usually not very successful when it comes to crowdfunding campaigns. Special projects, one time events, or unique programs are the best thing to ask for. Make sure it’s something that people can feel good about being part of and that they can see how it’s making a difference. Having it be something that’s one time makes it feel more compelling.
  • A short timeline: To create a sense of urgency, try keeping to a timeline of 4-6 weeks for your crowdfunding campaign. It’s enough time for people to share and participate in the way that feels best, but not too long that it feels like it’s not special.
  • Enough person-power to manage it: Like any other type of campaign, you need to have a plan in place and enough time to send emails, post on social media, and maintain the page. But in addition to that, make sure you have enough time to manage technology glitches, questions from donors, and other last minute things that come up. You can’t just slap up a page and leave it – make sure you have enough time to stay with it.
  • Goals around both fundraising and marketing: Crowdfunding is not necessarily going to yield you as much money as many of the other traditional sources of donations. But: it could yield you more donors and a lot of eyeballs on your campaign and your work. So think of your campaign in both senses.

If you think you have a good idea for a crowdfunding campaign… you can amplify it even more with a peer to peer element to it

Peer to Peer

  • Make it easy: Make sure the process of setting up a fundraising page is very easy. Plug in some template information that automatically populates a page, just in case people just want to set it up and go. Put together a toolkit where people can grab content for emails, social media posts, and other outreach. You can even offer phone check ins for people who want some additional coaching.
  • Encourage story telling & acknowledgment: The more genuine and authentic the asks are, the better. So keep reminding your fundraisers to be transparent about their story and connection to the cause and why they are raising money for the nonprofit. The more compelling the story, the more convincing the ask. They can do this in thanking their donors, too.
  • Use incentives: Don’t spend a ton of time and money on gifts, but think about rewards to drive your fundraisers to keep spreading the message. There are lots of ways you can structure this: rewards for the most donations, the most donors, the most shares (you can track it through using hashtags). Or you can always have a drawing for something that anyone who shares a certain amount of times is entered into.

Crowdfunding and peer to peer fundraising can be a great source of exposure and revenue from a new donor pool. Hopefully these tips can help you envision how to put together a successful campaign!

-N.C.

My Tips on Staying Sane as a Nonprofit Fundraiser

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This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

We’re all working our hearts out to help improve the world, through the organizations we work with and for. But we can only give to others as much as we have given to ourselves, so it’s important to talk about how to stay sane and thrive as a nonprofit fundraiser.

Not taking it all on

Fundraisers have a tough job. They have organizations relying on them, and therefore people who receive services relying on them. After all, this work can’t be done without the funds to support it.

As someone who works in fundraising, it can be easy to take on the pressure, especially if budgets are not being balanced and money is not coming in. But this is too much to take on as one individual person. Fundraising is too volatile of a practice to have any one person to blame. You could work for hours on a mail piece that raises a small amount of money or you could get an unsolicited donation that blows everything out of the water. The point is, it is not solely on your shoulders if the money does not come in. You cannot take on the pressure that if your work does not produce the money you were expecting, you failed. There are too many other factors to consider. So let that go, and hopefully, that helps you feel better and stop worrying.

Communicating

A lot of stress comes from not fully understanding expectations, from your boss or your board. When there are misunderstandings, it can be a huge point of stress. Communicate as much as you can with your boss or your board about what you think your priorities are, what you are working on, and what you aren’t working on. That way, they can let you know in advance if they have a different idea. And you’ll feel better that you guys are on the same page.

Staying Organized

Lists…. Ahhhh. OK, I know not everyone is like me and feels better about their projects after making a list. But I know many of us are! Figure out what planning mechanism works best for you and stick to it. Do you like spreadsheets? Post-it notes? Whatever it is, stay organized as much as possible. Having something to refer to every day about your tasks can help you stay sane.

Taking breaks

Did you eat lunch at your desk today? How about yesterday? As much as possible, take breaks. If you’re able to eat your lunch away from your desk, do it! Getting out of your work environment can relax your mind and get you in a better headspace. Sometimes, it can even help you solve a problem. There have been many times where I have not been able to figure something out, I’ve walked away from my desk, and came up with the idea as soon as I sat back down.

Lunch breaks are nice, but there is something else equally as important: vacations. Make sure to schedule and go on vacation. Do as much prep work in advance, over-communicate to others when you will be on vacation, and set an out of office email for when you will be away. Then, don’t check email!!! Even glancing through will just get you back in the mindset of work mode. When you’re on vacation, don’t dwell on what may or may not be happening at the office. It will all get sorted out. And if it makes you anxious, tell one person you trust that they can text you with anything urgent.

No email outside of work

Speaking of email outside of work… try not to check it so much. If you heavily rely on that tactic now, try to wean yourself off. Go in phases… try not checking email from Friday night to Sunday morning, then all weekend, then no weekday evenings… once you get into the habit of not responding to emails on off hours, your coworkers will adapt to you.

In conclusion

At the end of the day, although we’re doing important work, many of our tasks have arbitrary, internal deadlines. If you’re coming up on something stressful, see if you can shift any of the timeline. Breathe, and remember you are doing great work!

-N.C.

Me & My Sister’s Tips on Fundraising for Charity Walks

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This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

It’s time to get personal. And introduce you to someone very important: my sister Tomasine.

I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2010. I didn’t know anything about it or anyone who had it, so it was a confusing time for me. So I turned to a nonprofit organization for help: the National MS Society.

At the same time, my sister was living across California, and she and my mom wanted to help. They googled walks that benefit MS causes and found Walk MS Silicon Valley, a 1K or 5K walk designed for people with all sorts of abilities – and TEAM CHAPIN was born.

Tomasine and I want to share with you some of our experiences in fundraising for a charity walk – because we’ve learned a lot, raising more than $50,000 over eight years (shout out to our other TEAM CHAPIN members!!). And we know it’s a very common way to raise money for some very important causes out there.

Tomasine is our team captain, coordinating our members and handling team logistics. Our team is made up of family, friends, and others we’ve met who are impacted by the cause. While we are grateful for all levels of involvement, we look for a few key things in a member of our fundraising team.

Desired traits in a team member include:

  • Being comfortable asking for money from their networks
  • Being committed to raising at least the minimum amount required to get a t-shirt (for Walk MS Silicon Valley, that is $100) – it helps create community at the walk
  • Having excitement for the cause – you can walk, be a virtual walker, or just come to the event and spend time with us
  • Being willing to help out at and/or attend team fundraisers
  • Being creative in how they fundraise

At the end of the day, the job of a team member is to raise money. Here are some tips of how we have been successful in asking for money.

  • It sounds simple, but our most successful way to raise money is emailing family and friends, and announcing on Facebook. As we’ve talked about before, it’s very important to share a personal story with this.
  • Don’t forget to remind your donors about checking with their employer to see if they match donations.
  • Team fundraisers have been successful as well. One or two people will spearhead, and others will help with logistics & getting people there. We always share personal stories and information about MS at these events. Our successful events have included: Cupcakes & Gear for a Cure, U-Jam for a Cure, the MS Awareness Challenge, and garage sales.

And of course, we’d be nowhere in our fundraising over the years without saying thank you. A couple of tips for saying thank you that we’ve done:

  • Immediate thanks is always appreciated. I like to do a thank you on Facebook, so that our mutual friends also see and are reminded if they want to donate. If they request to be anonymous or aren’t on Facebook, I send an email.
  • Speaking of Facebook, we’ve also had a team member post fun thank you videos on Facebook, which was very effective.
  • Tomasine always coordinates a post-walk thank you card that is sent to all donors, and includes photos of the team on the walk and another personal message.

We hope that these personal anecdotes help you with your fundraising for any charity walks or runs you participate in. And if our story has inspired you, you can check out the TEAM CHAPIN fundraising page for Walk MS Silicon Valley 2018 (which is happening April 14) at bit.ly/teamchapin2018. Thank you!

-N.C.

My Tips of Giving Donor Appreciation by Saying Thank You

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This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneurship with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode about this topic, click here.

Happy New Year! Now that you’ve received a mountain of donations for your cause (hopefully!), it’s time to get down to business and say something important to your donors: thank you.

Before getting down and dirty with your donor recognition, let’s take a moment to remember why it’s important. In the everyday madness of running your organization, it can be easy to take your donors for granted. But saying thank you – and stewarding donors – will pay off in the long run.

Donor retention (getting a donor to give more than one year in a row) is vastly more cost effective than donor acquisition (recruiting a brand new donor from the general community). And the best way to retain a donor is to say thank you and illustrate the impact their donation made.

Now let’s get down to it. Before we talk about how you can say thank you immediately, remember that involving your board and other volunteers is critical. As a donor, receiving a call or note from someone who’s not getting paid by the organization is very powerful. Plus, you can’t do everything yourself!

Here’s a few ways you can say thank you to your donors immediately.

Phone Calls:

  • Consider doing a thank-a-thon. Depending on your group, you can do a lunchtime event with pizza or an early evening event with wine and cheese, and invite board members, volunteers, and program staff to make calls.
  • Prepare a script that your volunteers can go off of. Keep it short and sweet – name, affiliation with the organization, thank you for the donation, and perhaps a short comment about why it made a difference. Personalizing it is even better. Don’t forget to smile, too!
  • In the donor lists for your volunteers to call, and include: name, phone, donation amount or range, and year they’ve been donating since.
  • Save major donors to get calls from the board chair, executive director or other management staff.

Mail:

  • Send acknowledgment letters immediately (or as soon as possible, within a week), for tax purposes & immediate communication from the organization.
  • Prepare some inexpensive notecards – you can ask volunteers to handwrite some and return to you to send out.

Don’t forget to record all of this activity in your donor database!

Here’s a few ways you can create a culture of gratitude throughout the year.

  • Pay attention to your customer service. Make sure everyone in your organization is saying thank you to anyone who is a donor. If you’re sending an email, say thank you in the beginning and at the end of the message.
  • Try to recognize small moments like birthdays or donor anniversaries – donors are often only receiving solicitations from nonprofits, so it’s nice for them to receive other types of communications, even if they are informal.
  • Consider doing a mid-year stewardship mailing. Mid-year is a great time, keeping them updated on what’s going on and priming them for an end of year ask. Make the mailing directly related to your mission, and have fun with it!

These tips may seem obvious, but you might be surprised how many nonprofits don’t take the chance to say thank you beyond the standard acknowledgment letter. A little gratitude goes a long way, so make it a goal to implement even just one of these tips this year. You’ll see your donor retention rates improve!

And thank you!

-N.C.

Make 2017 the Year of Self Care

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We’re one month into the new year – have your resolutions gone to the wayside? Are you back in the rut of crazy, stressful days working away, with no time to think or take a breath?

I thought that might be the case!

And so, I wanted to remind you all of this brilliant piece in the Chronicle of Philanthropy: 10 Ways to Work Smarter in 2017 by Rebecca Koenig. Note the apropos use of the word smarter as opposed to harder. This piece has strategy and self-care all over it: two of my favorite words.

You should take the time to read about all ten ways, but here are some of my favorites and why:

  • Reserve time to work without meetings. I use time blocking in my calendar and it is the only way I stay organized and productive! I put most of the projects I’m working on as “Free” time in Outlook, but if there’s something you need to work on with no interruptions, you can always say you’re busy. A meeting with yourself is just as important (if not more) than a meeting with others.
  • Stop overusing social media at work. Can I shout this one from the rooftops? I’m definitely one to pop on all my social media channels during my lunch break, but if it’s not break time, it’s not Snapchat time. It’s easy to spend hours on Facebook, so don’t tempt yourself and don’t do it!
  • Build strong relationships outside of your office. Spending time with other people who work in the nonprofit world but not at your organization can be incredibly rejuvenating. It can make you feel like you’re not alone in your struggles, or make you realize how wrong something is. Either way, it’s a success. And it is very validating!
  • Accept imperfection. Made a mistake? Don’t beat yourself up about it. The more you stress over it, the more it creeps into the quality of your work. Mistakes are what make the successes even that much sweeter.

Brava, Rebecca Koenig. And here’s to a 2017 full of self-love!

-N.C.

Shame in the Nonprofit Sector

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I just finished reading I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t) by Brene Brown and I couldn’t help but think about the ways we should translate Brene’s ideas into the nonprofit sector. The book’s core is about shame – the ways it effects people, how it manifests in one’s actions, and how we can better address it as a society. Shame is not an easy topic to talk about, but that just proves how important it is.

In the nonprofit sector, emotions run high and resilience can become tough. We are all working our hardest to do the best work we can, and sometimes, we can let our frustration get the best of us and lash out on others. This is a defense mechanism – in our minds, by shaming someone else we are somehow lifting ourselves – but something that we should all pay closer attention to. A little bit of compassion can go a long way in the workplace, and will ultimately allow us all to do our best work in a supportive environment.

Brene’s work is very interesting and I encourage you to take a look and consider how shame plays a role in your life. Because the more self aware we are, the better work we can do.

-N.C.

Do We Need Consumerism to Have Philanthropy?

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A recent piece in The Atlantic, Is For-Profit the Future of Non-Profit?, initially caught my eye because of its provocative title. As I started reading, it kept my attention with its message of individuals criticizing and downplaying the importance of the nonprofit sector.

The piece profiles a few people who believe that philanthropy is most effective when folded into consumerism. People behind companies like PRODUCT (RED) and FEED believe that human nature is to want to shop, not to donate. So if we want to get the most amount of money from people, we must go to the source of what they do the most often – shop.

What this piece illustrates, and I agree with, is that this argument and point of view cheapens the importance of philanthropy. The third sector, just like the for-profit sector or the government sector, has a place in our society and has its own successes and challenges. Just because it doesn’t look like the traditional big business money exchange doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have an important role in the lives of many. I can’t help but wonder if these people have ever made a large gift to a nonprofit or even understand what fundraising means. By making these sort of bold statements, they are undermining the value that philanthropy has – not just for the nonprofit or the people served by the nonprofit, but also for the donors themselves.

“Philanthropy should imply a categorically different relationship with money than the one we have a consumers: something we embark on because we want to participate in a larger goal of improving the world and linking our values, histories, and resources with the needs of other people.” 

The feeling a donor gets when they give a donation is a completely different one than when a consumer buys a good. The donor gets to be part of the greater good and she gets to know she is making a difference in the lives of others who need her. That kind of feeling can’t be replicated by buying a shirt. That kind of feeling is because of the ripple effect that her money will make, ultimately changing the world.

-N.C.

The Joy of Fundraising

 

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I love this opinion piece from Sunday’s New York Times: Why Fund-Raising Is Fun. When I tell people I do nonprofit fundraising for a living, I usually get a reaction that is a mix of awe and respect. I’m told “that must be hard” and “I hate asking for money.”

Fundraising is not just “asking for money.” It’s not a one way street, not solely a “gimme” or “begging” job. There are a long list of benefits for donors, including everything from the benefits of acting altruistically, to tax benefits, to making new contacts. The most important benefit, the one that makes the biggest difference, the one that moves people to act, is that:

Through donating to a nonprofit, you are changing the world. Fundraisers make that happen.

Donating is your way to be part of something bigger than yourself. It’s your chance to make a difference in the world for people who need help. It’s how you can make an impact on nonprofit organizations that are doing important work.

So, fundraisers actually have a very fun job: we get to make things like this happen. We get to connect people to causes they believe in, and we get to ensure that people make a mark on the world. I love being a fundraiser, and I have no problem “asking for money.” In fact, instead of asking for a favor, I am demonstrating an opportunity for people to make a difference. I am grateful every day that I get to do so.

-N.C.

 

 

The Giving Pledge: Don’t Hate

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The Giving Pledge, a movement with the goal of encouraging the wealthiest individuals to give away a majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes, has been signed by more than 120 families in its nearly four years of existence. It has created some buzz about philanthropy amongst not only its target audience (the very wealthy) but also amongst general society. Whether praise or critique, people have talked about it.

A recent piece in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Giving Pledge Donors Gave Big in 2013 but Not Much for Today’s Needs, is an interesting critique of the pledge and its participants. It lists several issues with the Giving Pledge, including the allowance of giving to private family foundations (where money isn’t necessarily given to nonprofits for several years or even lifetimes) and the lack of opportunity to discuss where or why the money is given. There are some interesting points, but I disagree with the heart of the piece.

The simple fact is that the Giving Pledge means people are talking about giving. The buck stops there and that should be enough for us in the sector to celebrate it. As much as we fundraisers would like to believe the word philanthropy is widespread and well known, it simply isn’t true. And while it would be wonderful if the very wealthy were having discussions about giving strategically and collaborating with their peers, I’m just happy they are talking about giving at all. I understand the points in this piece, and I appreciate many of the critiques, but I believe that at the end of the day, the Giving Pledge is a positive thing for the sector.

Let’s continue talking about giving. Once it’s a standard in everyone’s language, let’s then discuss the ways we can improve. For now, there’s more work to be done at the heart of this conversation.

-N.C.

Singing Praises for the 2014 Gates Annual Letter

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Bill and Melinda Gates published their 2014 Gates Annual Letter last month and it’s a great read. They dive deep into three myths they believe block progress for the poor – poor countries are doomed to stay poor, foreign aid is a big waste, and saving lives leads to overpopulation. I’ll let you read the letter on your own – it has some thought-provoking, insightful content – but the letter’s content isn’t what I want to focus on.

I applaud the Gates’ for not only the important work they are doing with their foundation, but for the way they present it. They are passionate about certain issues and they bring them to the forefront of their communication. And, the world is listening to them. Our society has deemed them as worthy for us to listen to, because of their background, money, or otherwise. The Gates’ have a platform to use to advance whatever they would like to (or not at all), and they have chosen the work they do with their foundation as the work to shout about.

Not only do I like the fact the Gates’ do great work and talk about their great work, I appreciate the way they talk about the issues they are working to solve and the cross-sector work they represent. They don’t put types of people (or types of sectors) in a box or category, siloed and helpless. They talk about the issues and tell everyone there is work to be done. Whether you’re a nonprofit, for profit, or government, there is poverty in the world and it must be eradicated.

I encourage you to take a look at the 2014 Gates Annual Letter. Don’t worry about reading the entire thing for content (unless of course you’re curious about it), but pay attention to the tone of the letter and the way they are communicating. We need many more public figures to talk about issues that we can, and should, all be working on. Whether or not they wanted it, they have immense responsibility to address important issues.

-N.C.