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!

Creating a Successful Year-End Fundraising Campaign Tools of the Trade

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!

Facebook: Audience Insights

If you have not looked at this for your nonprofit…today is the day.

Know your audience like never before.

Facebook Audience Insights gives you aggregate information about three groups of people—people connected to your Page, people in your Custom Audience and people on Facebook—so you can create content that resonates and easily find more people like the ones in your current audience.

Demographics overview

See age and gender breakdowns, education levels, job titles, relationship statuses and more.

Find out what people like

Learn about people’s interests and hobbies. Audience Insights also includes third-party information on what products people may be interested in purchasing.

Learn about lifestyles

Audience Insights combines relationship status, income, family size and location to tell you about the types of people interested in your business.


You can use this information in events to determine areas of interest…for example, I found out that my users are 300% more likely to be On the Go.  This is affluent demographic with pre-school age children.  This tells me that I need to make sure to think about child care and children’s activities as I plan events.   I learned so much…it is an incredible tool.



Take away: Check it out here. 

5 Tips to Keep Your Website Fresh

keep your nonprofit website fresh: graphic of refrigerator with a computer monitor, fresh fruit in it

RePublished on Tech Soup, my favorite non-profit tech tool.

A website is the most important part of your nonprofit’s presence online, followed by email and social media. It is the online hub where people can learn about your work in a deep way, make donations, sign up for your email list, review volunteer opportunities, and much more. Without an interactive, up-to-date website, you don’t exist to millions of potential supporters.

How Can You Keep Your Nonprofit’s Website Fresh?

I’ve been helping nonprofits create and improve websites for over 20 years. I’ve seen a lot of exciting changes in what is possible as well as a lot of cautionary examples of websites withering from neglect. Here are five elements, features, and functions that are essential keep your website alive, kicking, and contributing to your success.

1. Your Website Is a Place for Stories

storytelling on a nonprofit websiteFacts and figures are part of the work of many nonprofits; however, it’s stories that stick with people; engage them; and motivate them to volunteer, donate, or help in other ways. Fresh content is what keeps a website alive. Ensure that your organization can generate stories and has a place to put them on the website.

Think about the people you help — not just direct clients, but others in the community who are affected by your work. Tell stories of your donors, your volunteers, your board members, and your staff.

Bring your organization to life by telling stories of the many kinds of people your work touches so that visitors see other people they can relate to who are supporting your efforts.

Encourage everyone connected to your nonprofit to help by sharing their story. It can be as simple as the answers to two questions — why they love your organization, and why they spend their valuable time or money to support your work. Three or four paragraphs that tell the story succinctly and that include at least one image (preferably more) is great content that helps keep your website alive.

2. Inspire People with Useful Calls to Action

person shouting into megaphoneThe way your website is set up and the stories you tell should be aligned with your desired calls to action. Make it easy for a visitor to take actions on your website. People come to websites to learn and then to act.

Each story should connect to an action. After I read a story about how great it is to volunteer with you or the important impact you make with my donation, encourage me to volunteer or donate. Then make it easy for me to take those steps.

Stay away from calls to action like “email us” or “call us.” Let me make a donation easily and immediately. Send me to a page that lists your current volunteer opportunities, where I can fill out a form to say how I’d like to help and what experience I have in that area.

Ensure that content and calls to action are easy to find. Have your donation, email signup, and search functions in the same place on every page of your website.

3. Set Measurable Objectives

two people holding measuring tapeHaving a website without clear objectives wastes time and effort. Just having something, anything online is not better than nothing. Every nonprofit has a mission and almost all have a strategic plan for how they will move towards meeting that mission.

Based on your strategic goals, have communication goals and objectives that support your organizational goals. This helps you make much better use of the time you spend not only on the website, but on email and social media as well. Create measurable objectives for each part of your online presence.


  • When we post a new story on our website and share a link to it via email and social media, 50 people visit the website page within 48 hours.
  • When we run a fundraising campaign and share a link to the campaign website page via email and social media, 200 people visit the page within a week. Forty percent make a donation during their visit.
  • When we send out an e-newsletter that includes separate links to three new stories on our website, at least one of the links gets 75 clicks within 72 hours.

Sometimes the objectives will be guesses, but even those will help you measure progress.

4. Collect and Create Images

Art in Action nonprofit website screenshotThe Internet is a visual medium, and people process an image that tells a story faster than reading the proverbial 1,000 words.

Collect images everywhere you can — in the field; at gatherings; at special events; with donors, clients, volunteers, or friends of the organization.

Then create an image library that you can pull from when you need images for your website, email, social media, or print communications.

There are many excellent online resources to help your nonprofit with creating graphics, infographics, videos, photo essays, and other types of digital storytelling. Search on the Internet with “nonprofit” in front of any of those terms to find helpful hints.

5. Increase Your Capacity and Keep Your Online Presence Alive

horse trying to pull heavy cartKeeping your online presence alive requires time and effort. There are people in your community who are online regularly and can help with writing stories, taking photographs, and making images. They can even do updates or help in other ways with website, email, and social media tasks.

Ask them. Talk to them about your goals and objectives for the website and other online activities.

See who has talents or expertise in those areas who can commit to doing one or two activities a month. With everything else you have on your plate, trying to add additional tasks means that things get dropped, delayed, or don’t happen at all.

There are too many nonprofit websites in the “digital graveyard” with outdated content, old images, and no-longer-relevant information. By making some simple asks, you can increase your organization’s capacity to maintain your online presence. And this approach ensures that you make the most of what the Internet can bring to you.

Next Steps for Keeping Your Website Fresh

What is one thing you can do to increase your capacity to tell stories? Gather and manage images? Create calls to action, then set and measure objectives? Take a step today and you’ll be on the road to a happy, healthy website that will serve your nonprofit well and help you meet your mission.

About the Author

John KenyonJohn Kenyon is a leading authority on nonprofit technology and communications. He is an educator and consultant who’s worked exclusively with nonprofits for over 25 years providing advice, teaching seminars, and writing articles. John is an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco and Sonoma State University. He has been a featured speaker across the United States, England, Australia, and online.

This blog post was originally published on John Kenyon’s blog.

Image 1: TechSoup

Other images:  flickr: prawnpie, GustavodaCunhaPimenta,Tim Bueneman;;

Giving Tuesday–Yes, You Should!

Giving Tuesday is just around the corner and you are probably wondering if it is worth it to participate at this late date.  The answer is, Yes.

Now in its fifth year, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Observed on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year and a growing catalog of resources.

Visit to learn even more to get tool kits, press releases, and the ever important emails for you to send out.  They have done it all…you just need to go grab it and share it.

Below is a great infographic from Salas lab with just a bit of evidence as to why you should participate.

Take-away: Get busy…it’s really close to giving Tuesday and you don’t want to miss out on this great opportunity.