Virtual Fundraising

In this environment, we have all been forced to become more virtual.  I recently worked with a nonprofit that did an online gala BC (Before Covid 19).  It was very successful. Now more than ever, it may be time to try it something like this at your organization.  Mobile Cause has put together a great info-graphic with a ton of wonderful ideas.

Take away: Stay Home, Stay Safe, & Get Virtual

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20 Tips for 2020!

I love the New Year, new ideas, new goals, new events, so much opportunity.  Here are 20  ideas/thoughts to help you make 2020 your best year ever.

Tech TIPS:

  1. If you are not already using it, sign up for Canva.  It is the best thing to ever happen to nonprofit marketing in my opinion.
  2. Check out they offer nonprofit savings on Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Cloud, Intuit QuickBooks. New and refurbished laptops and desktops, mobile hotspots, printers and more.

    Check out a how to video on You Tube.

  3. Create a Facebook ad for your next event.  The results are great, and they are very affordable.
  4. In this digital age, most people don’t have the time or energy to look out for a nonprofit to make a donation. Adopting mobile giving, allowing donors to give on the go, will make it really smooth and simple for them. You want to make it as easy as possible to give.
  5. Sign Up for the Donor Experience 101 Newsletter.  It’s a great way to keep up with new ideas, trends, and tips. Plus, I will post where I will be teaching so you can join me for new classes.


  1. Use your board to help you write thank you notes. It will make your life easier and your donor’s will love hearing from your board members.
  2. Ask your board members to bring you a connection to each meeting.
  3. Let a board members come into the office to shadow you and your team once a month.  It really helps them see how hard you work and what day to day life is really like.
  4. Make sure your board has the tools they need to be successful.  Do they need training, do they need collateral, etc…?
  5. Hold your board accountable.


  1. Ask for help!
  2. Be prepared.  There is nothing worse than having volunteers ready to serve with nothing to do.
  3. Create an assignment board.  Post things you need help with on it, so that your volunteers can easily pitch in.
  4. Educate your volunteers, make sure they understand their job and your expectations.
  5. Recognize your volunteers with a thank you at every opportunity.


  1. Evaluate 2019.  Did you accomplish your goals, is it time for a change?
  2. Set SMART goals to clarify your ideas, focus your efforts, use your time and resources productively, and achieve what you want in 2020.
  3. Set up time for you and your staff to brainstorm.  What would you do if you could do anything?
  4. Connect.  Make it one of your goals to connect with some new in your industry each month.  The fruit those relationships will bear is endless.
  5. Speaking Engagements – Sign up for one of my classes. They are full of ideas and always FUN!

I hope your 2020 is absolutely amazing!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

HELP! My Board is Not Engaged

Can you give me some ideas to help with my board, they just seem disinterested?  How do I get a more engaged board?  How do I get my board to do something?  When I hear that a board is disengaged or ineffective, I often begin with this question “how are your board members recruited?” You have probably heard fire fast, hire slow.  The board member selection process is the same.  The easier the process the less engaged the board member.  I recommend, a solid process, setting specific expectations, and diligent communication all designed to aid in the creation of a true partnership.
If you are having challenges with board engagement, it might be time to look at your processes.   Here are a few things to think about.
Do you have:
  • a board-skills matrix that can be used to align candidates with the competencies needed to balance your board?
  • guidelines for appropriate committee deliberations regarding confidentiality, rumors, and innuendo?
  • an application form for potential board candidates?
  • a sample matrix used to score multiple board candidates according to the skills, experience, competencies and geographical regions needed for your board?
  • a list of questions and a detailed guide to use when interviewing board candidates.
There are so many resources available to help with developing these processes.  This new book is one great resource, “Recruit the Right Board: Proven Processes for Selecting Critical Competencies.” In addition, I love almost everything Board Source produces.
Take-away: The time is now!  Everything in your organization begins and ends with a strong board.  Check out these resources, and if you still need help contact me.

Year End Fundraising TIME!

One of my favorite topics is year end fundraising.  It’s easy for this to be my favorite because it is when more money is raised for nonprofits than any other time of year.

In fact, 30% of funds raised are raised in December, and 10% of all annual giving occurs in the last 3 days of the year.  Year end fundraising just makes sense.

To that point, I would like to share some helpful tips and resources.

I recently posted this How to Create a Successful Year End Fundraising Campaign presentation on slide share.  These slides are from the class I teach, and are packed full of ideas, samples, and best practices.

In addition, this is a great campaign planning tool that I helped create when I was a part of the team at Sage Nonprofit Solutions.  This template is a bit dated, but the strategies and suggestions are as classic as a good black jacket!

And before I bid you adieu, I will leave you with one of my favorite blogs about year end fundraising…Top 10 Ways to Kill Your Year-End Fundraising Campaign.

I wish you well on your journey to Year End Success.

Take-away:  Don’t wait to get started…the time is now!

The Top Ten Questions You Should Be Discussing with Your Board

My newest presentation will focus on the ever changing landscape that is the Nonprofit of 2020, and the discussions that should be permeating through your board room.  One of my first catalytic questions centers around our politically charged landscape.  Where are our donations coming from and why are they coming to us?  While I was working on the presentation I came across a great article from the New York Times.

Take-away: I would encourage you to read it and discuss this with your board.  There are a lot of implications that come with accepting donations today, and I think this read will help open the eyes of some members and maybe even some of your staff.


Top 3 Nonprofit Social Media Trends for 2019

Social media is an ever changing environment.  It is important to remember these basics:

– Consistency is key.

Post-high-quality content regularly.  I would recommend using a social media management tool that allows you to keep your social media managers in one place.  I really like 

– Show the impact.

Show your users what their money is doing for your organization.  They want to see your clients eating the food they are buying.

– Action.

Always include a clear action when posting.  What do you want people to do?

While it’s impossible to predict how the social media marketing landscape will change over the course of a year, here are a couple of trends to watch out for according to, and I love them all!

Social Media Trend #1: Instagram Stories

The “ephemeral” video content (content that lasts a short period of time before disappearing) is continuing to grow for social platforms.

Although Instagram rolled out the Stories feature years after Snapchat has been using and developing the feature, Instagram Stories has already accrued more than 250 million daily users compared to the 173 million daily active Snapchat users.

  • Instagram Stories can be seen for just 24 hours before they disappear.
  • Photos and videos shared to your ‘Story’ don’t appear on your profile’s ‘grid’ or on your follower’s feed – the content exists only in the ‘Stories’ bar at the top of the app.
  • Stories are a series of videos or photos, all capped at 15 seconds, but you can add as many as you want.
  • Stories are generally less polished and posed than photos on the Instagram feed.

So, why and how should your nonprofit use Instagram Stories?

  • Instagram allows you to build an audience due to features such as hashtags, recommended accounts, location tagging options, and ‘Search’ and ‘Explore’ sections.
  • Since Stories are less polished than Instagram posts, use them to build authentic and personable voice and to interact with your followers.
  • Showcase people. People prefer to connect with people on social media, much more than brands and logos.
  • Sign up for the Instagram Business account. It’s free, and it provides you with several useful tools that you do not get with the personal account, including analytics and a Contact button.
  • Create a strategy around your story and invest time and thought. Use this guide on how to craft an engaging Instagram story to help.

Here’s how CARE used Instagram stories to tell compelling stories of seven women. Their campaign was titled “Stories from the Other Side of the World,” and it follows seven women over seven days, their streams littered with the tropes of Stories narrative—”end of the day #exhausted,” #nevergiveup, “family breakfast,” “back to school.”

Don’t miss out on utilizing Instagram Stories to grow your nonprofit. Instagram Stories are an opportunity for you to post several times throughout a day without spamming your followers’ timelines, and Instagram users are avid users.

Social Media Trend #2: Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has been big for the past couple of years. Many declare it dead’ since the market got oversaturated at one point, reducing the effectiveness of influencer marketing.

This is because the overwhelming amount of sponsored content started having an opposite effect on users. Millennials are less trusting of influencer these days, since the line between what’s genuine and what’s not became more blurry.

This is not to say that influencer marketing is dead. It still produces results and is evolving.

Nonprofit fundraising

So, what are influencers?

Influencer marketing grew out of celebrity endorsement. Businesses and organizations have found for many years that their sales/engagement/donations usually rise when a celebrity promotes or endorses them. There are still many cases of businesses, particularly high-end brands, using celebrities as influencers.

However, during the past couple of years especially, influencer marketing has been about partnering with people with a substantial following online (e.g. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram etc.) who have built a reputation in a particular niche (e.g. fashion, beauty, finance, health etc).

By paying for a sponsored post, your organization can gain access to their following (although some influencers will do it for free for charities).

Where next?

Influencer marketing in 2018 is all about micro influencers. Micro influencers have between 1k–100k followers on social media. People with 500k–1 million followers and 100k–500k followers fall into the macro influencer and middle influencer categories, respectively.

The engagement rate is usually better with micro influencers, probably since others can relate to them more easily than say Beyonce.

Make sure to choose influencers who speak out or are active in areas related to your nonprofit’s mission. For example, let’s say you run an animal shelter. Preventing animal cruelty is part of your brand’s mission statement.

You shouldn’t work with a micro influencer who bought a puppy from a puppy mill or promotes buying leather jackets. That just doesn’t fit with your mission and brand. You can even work with multiple influencers for each campaign. After that, you should take a look at the analytics for each influencer for valuable information such as:

  • mentions
  • engagement
  • reach
  • conversion rates to donation

For those influencers whose posts end up working well for your nonprofit, invest in building meaningful relationships with them.

Social Media Trend #3: Live Streaming

The power of social video is undeniable. Facebook has around 500 million people watching Facebook videos every day. 82% of Twitter users consistently watch video content on the platform. Snapchat generates 10 billion video views every day. Video consumption on Instagram increased by 150% last year. Even LinkedIn is rolling out a native video to all of their users.

One-third of online activity is spent watching video. Over half a billion people are watching video on Facebook every day.

Marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users.

Video is becoming that social media trend you can’t afford to ignore anymore. That’ll only grow more apparent in 2018.

Live video, the younger brother of video, is especially prominent as a trend in 2018.

Live video is more appealing to brand audiences: 80% would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog, and 82% prefer live video from a brand to social posts. (Livestream and New York Magazine Survey)

Furthermore, 95% of brand execs say live video is key to their 2018 strategies. (Brandlive and IBM Cloud Video).

Viewers respond positively to live video streaming because of the immediacy and engagement it creates, especially since so much of the online content is becoming more curated. Live streaming also allows you to respond to your viewers real time.

If you’d love to give live streaming a go, here are a couple of popular live streaming video “types”:

  • explainers
  • how-tos
  • testimonials
  • live events
  • streaming your programs
  • announcements
  • interviews
  • behind-the-scenes
  • Q&A sessions

There are multiple platforms for ‘going live’. Most social media platforms have added on that feature. Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Periscope, Twitter, Snapchat, Twitch, and Instagram Live are all great platforms. Choose one to start with – ideally focusing on one where you have the largest audience on or where your target audience spends most of their time.

Notify your audience in advance that you will be going live (at least one day before, but ideally a week). This ensures more people show up to your live.

If you want to make live streaming an integral part of your marketing strategy, consider setting a schedule and staying consistent.

This will help you maximize your reach and generate new leads for your company. This trend is set to leap in the next few years as 5G becomes standard.

Take-away: Social Media is an important part of every good nonprofit strategy.  Make sure you aren’t left in the dark.

Trends courtesy of

Considering Starting a Nonprofit?

This is a great article.  I always tell people that are considering a new nonprofit to truly consider the options.  Nonprofits are a lot more than a group of people with a passion.  I hope this article finds you all well…enjoy!!!

Jan 30, 2019

I occasionally have the opportunity to talk to generous individuals who are trying to find the best legal and tax structure for their charitable interests. I enjoy hearing their thoughts about the issues they have identified and their desire to make a difference in the lives of people impacted by that issue. The stories I hear are wide-ranging, including programs for veterans, animals, education and underprivileged children. I’ve learned to listen for key characteristics that might be helpful to you as you pursue your charitable interests.

The first characteristic is action. When a generous and caring individual sits down with me and begins to describe the plight of others and the actions he or she is willing to take to help alleviate their suffering, I am always listening for the distinction between what they are wanting to support financially and what they are willing to do physically. If they lean toward a significant amount of physical activity, such as operating a facility, conducting a summer camp or working directly with those needing assistance, then the solution to their charitable problem is likely the creation of a new nonprofit organization.

I always advise such individuals to search exhaustively for any existing nonprofit that is already doing similar work before starting a new nonprofit, but if there is not an organization at the right time and place to help those in need, then there are great organizations that can help you get a new nonprofit started. The request is so common that the East Texas Center for Nonprofits at the United Way of Smith County hosts a monthly session titled “Becoming and Operating a 501(c)(3).” If you have a burning desire to roll up your sleeves and get in the trenches operating a nonprofit to serve those who have no place else to turn for those services, creating a new charitable organization may be your best course of action.

When it is clear that a generous philanthropist is not interested in starting or operating a nonprofit, but rather looking for the most appropriate means to provide long-term support to an existing one, our conversation focuses on determining if a private foundation or donor-advised fund can more effectively accomplish the donor’s objectives. The next characteristic I listen for in the conversation is the desired level of donor control. If a donor wants to involve family members on a governing board, play an active role in investing charitable resources, receive compensation for their efforts or review grant proposals from charities, then a private foundation can effectively accommodate that level of donor engagement and control.

A private foundation is a separate 501(c)(3) organization that requires active governance and oversight by a board of directors, but it typically does not provide active charitable services, such as operating a shelter or providing case management. The legal structure of a private foundation allows interested donors to contribute assets to the private foundation and actively participate in decisions with regard to managing those assets and making grants to charities. Because a private foundation is a separate legal entity, donors must consider succession planning and how to properly train the next generation of foundation directors.

If a donor does not want to operate a charity or private foundation, they may be a candidate for a donor-advised fund (DAF) at a public charity such as East Texas Communities Foundation. The key characteristic of this type of donor is simplicity. A donor looking for the easiest way to provide long-term support for one or more charities without the responsibility of operating a separate organization and keeping up with ever-changing regulations will appreciate the simplicity of a DAF.

DAFs are owned and controlled by a public charity that is responsible for knowing and following current laws and regulations. Donors can provide, as the name suggests, “advice” with regard to the ultimate organizations that receive distributions from the fund, but the sponsoring public charity handles all the steps in the donation process, including accepting contributions of simple or complex assets, managing the investments of the fund, processing grants and filing annual tax returns. In addition, at a sponsoring charity such as East Texas Communities Foundation, the staff of the charity can serve as a resource to provide advice and answers to many donor questions.

If you can’t decide if you need to create a new charity, start a private foundation or open a donor-advised fund, the next best thing you might consider is whether the key characteristics of action, control or simplicity dominate your thoughts. Come have a conversation with us and we’ll try to get you pointed in the best direction to help you give well.


Guest columnist Kyle Penney is president of East Texas Communities Foundation and a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy. Philanthropy builds community and changes lives. ETCF supports philanthropy by providing simple ways for donors to achieve their charitable goals. To learn more about ETCF or to discuss your charitable giving, contact Kyle at 866-533-3823 or email questions or comments to More information is available at Encourage your favorite charities to participate in East Texas Giving Day on April 30. Learn more at

Year End Fundraising Appeal Template

What are you waiting for?  10% of all online giving for the year occurs on December 29, 30 and 31 with nearly 30% of all giving taking place in December. Take advantage of the most profitable time of the year. Send two to three fundraising appeals to ensure your organizations success in 2019. Your appeal should be concise, simple, and include a call to action.

  • Focus on results
  • Tell a compelling story about the work you are doing
  • Create a call to action

Get started!

Subject line: The subject line should be short and compelling. It should emphasize the time-sensitive nature of your message. Examples: “Give before it’s too late” tests very well. Use this tool to evaluate the best subject line for your org.  40% or higher is a good subject line.

Greeting: Try to, use the recipient’s name, and make sure it is spelled correctly.


Web tip– Include an example of how the monies will benefit your organization.

Message: Remind donors that any donation they give by December 31 is tax-deductible.

Donation link: Include the link to send donors directly to your online donation page & make sure that page share’s what the donor is getting for the donation. List the link (for example: “”) this allows donors to click through or copy and paste it.

Call to Action:
Tell donors why they should donate to you. For example: “Your gift of
$20 by December 31 can provide clean drinking water to one person. Please give now.”

Thank the reader and sign a real person’s name.  I really like these letters to include a personal message of how the individual has already helped or given if possible. Then wrap the letter with how they can contact the organization.

Take-away: It’s not too late for a year end fundraising campaign…start today!