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Your nonprofit's brand identity can help it achieve its mission.

If you were asked to articulate what the term “brand” truly means, how would you answer the question?

Would you choose:

  1. An organization’s logo, fonts, and colors,
  2. The overall graphic design and tone used by an organization,
  3. The essence, soul, or intangible personality of an organization,
  4. The idea held by everyone aware of the organization, or
  5. All of the above

Hopefully, it doesn’t come as a shock to you that the correct answer would be E, all of the above. In our consumer culture, we constantly see brands working to establish their identities and raise awareness of their products and services. But what about brands who aren’t selling anything?

Nonprofit organizations can also reap the benefits of brand building. By cultivating a powerful brand, nonprofits can generate support for their missions, increase fundraising, and foster connections with their communities. 

At Eleven Fifty Seven, we help nonprofits and other organizations bring their brand identities to life, whether through a show-stopping donor wall concept or a broader branded physical environment. Based on our work designing and building branded experiences, we’ve compiled this guide to help you understand the basic principles of building a distinctive nonprofit brand. We’ll cover topics including the following:

  • Benefits of brand development for nonprofits
  • Basic elements of a nonprofit brand
  • Where to implement your brand for maximum impact

Your nonprofit’s brand is a worthy investment of time and resources. When cultivated with intention and used throughout your work, it can be a powerful force to drive your mission forward. Let’s dive in.

Benefits of Brand Development

Before we dive into the logistics of creating and leveraging your brand, it’s important to cover why a strong brand is so critical to the success of a nonprofit.

People interact with brands on a daily basis. In fact, you probably encounter some element of branding during nearly every moment of your day! To stand out in the competition for attention, your nonprofit must establish itself as unique, memorable, and trustworthy.

Some of the most successful nonprofits have very distinctive visual brands and messaging strategies. When considering the top 100 largest nonprofits, you can probably recall the logo or tagline for quite a few groups. 

While it’s easy to call out prominent national brands like Goodwill and Girl Scouts, it’s not only enterprise-level nonprofits who can take advantage of brand power. Branding can also be used by regional and local organizations to build their reputations and connect with the local and  surrounding community.

The advantages of a strong brand can be enjoyed by nonprofits of any size. These advantages include the following: 

  • Create awareness for your cause. An eye-catching brand will help your nonprofit reach a wider audience and generate increased awareness for your mission.
  • Build emotional ties with supporters. When donors can understand the values, ideas, and even the personality associated with your nonprofit, they’ll be able to connect with your cause on a deeper level. 
  • Increase fundraising potential. The above benefits lead to a higher number of highly engaged donors, so building your brand is simply a smart fundraising strategy. A unified brand also helps to create clearer and more cohesive messaging that will resonate with prospective donors.

With a compelling brand, your nonprofit is better-equipped to acquire more donors, fundraise more effectively, and drive your mission forward. With that in mind, let’s explore what elements are important to consider when creating your brand.

Basic Elements of a Nonprofit Brand

While the graphic design components of your nonprofit’s brand are important, these visual elements don’t tell the whole story. Your brand encapsulates the essence of your entire organization. 

As you start conceptualizing your brand, think about what story you want to tell as well as how the story will resonate with your target audience. Then, use the building blocks of your brand to convey that narrative and drive your mission forward.

Consider the following visual and thematic elements that comprise your nonprofit’s overall brand:

  • Logo. Your logo is a cornerstone of your visual brand. It should be memorable and align with the rest of your brand elements. 
  • Colors and typography. This is likely the first place you turn when determining the rest of your graphic elements. Choose colors and typefaces that reflect the spirit of your organization and will look aesthetically appealing in a variety of formats.
  • Tone. What’s the personality behind your nonprofit? Is your voice more serious or more playful? How do you refer to your donors and beneficiaries?
  • Imagery. Besides your logo, you may have other key images like a mascot. Consider the graphic style of any icons you want to fold into your brand as well as the filters applied to photographs.
  • Messaging. How do you talk about your mission? 
  • Text style. Do you follow AP Style or another set of grammar conventions? What’s your stance on the Oxford comma? What’s the proper usage and capitalization of your named programs and campaigns?

While this isn’t a comprehensive list, it should jump-start your thinking on the wide variety of items that go into your organization’s brand. By putting thought into each of these elements from the beginning, you’ll have something to reference when creating future marketing collateral or fundraising appeals. This will ensure all of your work stays consistent and on-brand. New brand considerations may arise as time goes on, but this way you won’t have to continually reinvent the wheel.

As you make all of these decisions, they should be documented in your formal brand guidelines, also known as a brand kit. Make sure these guidelines and graphic assets are accessible to all team members and that there’s a version you can distribute externally when necessary.

Where to Implement Your Brand

Communications

Your communications with external audiences should always be in line with your established brand guidelines. By staying consistent and on-message, you’ll foster a more memorable and trustworthy identity for your supporters.

These communication platforms likely include:

  • Email appeals and newsletters
  • Social media profiles and posts
  • Printed materials such as direct mail, brochures, or flyers
  • Formal documentation like your annual report

While it’s not recommended to replicate identical messaging across a variety of content channels, sticking to a set of brand guidelines facilitates consistent messaging while enabling some flexibility. 

By adhering to your brand across these communication channels, you ensure that each aspect of your broader nonprofit marketing strategy aligns with your organizational goals.

Your nonprofit’s website

Your nonprofit’s website should feature your brand front and center. Every page on your website likely includes your nonprofit’s logo, color, and typography already, but don’t forget to incorporate the more thematic elements of your brand as well.

According to Kanopi Studios, the best nonprofit websites will tell a story of strength and hope. Part of the way to create this narrative is by incorporating the existing mission-related messaging that you defined as part of your brand kit.

Physical items

Placing your brand on physical products unlocks a few powerful benefits. First, your supporters can integrate your brand into their daily lives, show off their affiliation with your peers, and feel more connected to your work. Additionally, this creates increased brand awareness for your organization. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!

In the Eleven Fifty Seven guide to donor recognition, we list a few examples of physical tokens of appreciation that range from simple keychains and mugs to high-quality silk and leather goods. If you decide to send out donor thank-you gifts, be sure to clearly delineate which items correspond to which giving levels so you can keep the program consistent.

In addition to working effectively for one-time gifts, branded products are also a perfect way to acknowledge the recurring generosity of supporters who participate in your nonprofit membership program if you have one. 

Your events

If you host a big annual fundraiser, a recurring event, or any kind of one-time event, make sure it aligns with your broader nonprofit brand. Incorporate your nonprofit’s visual identity and messaging throughout the marketing materials and on event day itself.

If you’re hosting a virtual or hybrid event, the hosting platform you choose may be able to include elements of your brand throughout the digital infrastructure.

Your facility

Your nonprofit’s physical space is a blank canvas that you can use to bring your brand to life. By leveraging the power of environmental branding, your organization can create memorable experiences for visitors and strengthen your identity.

This space could include a classic display like a donor recognition wall or focus more broadly on your organization’s mission and values. Graphic elements, text, photographs, and architectural components will come together to create an eye-catching space.

To create an powerful branded environment, look for a design and build partner who will collaborate with your team and prioritize your strategic vision. When crafted with intention, a branded environment is more than just a display of your logo and colors—it’s a representation of your story and your mission.


Your nonprofit’s brand is one of your most critical assets in connecting with supporters. Make sure you’ve invested time and thought into each aspect of your brand, then implement that brand wherever possible throughout your work. By doing so, you raise awareness of your organization and help the world remember what you stand for. Good luck!

This post was contributed by Derrick Spitler at Eleven Fifty Seven.

Derrick has been referred to as a connoisseur, marketing guru and even a prodigy. He began his career with Eleven Fifty Seven as an intern during the Summer of 2019. Since then, Derrick has graduated from The Ohio State University and has joined the team full time working in marketing and business development. He has grown to love the not-for-profit world by seeing the impact made possible through philanthropy.

Guest Blogger in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Initially, you may think that simply asking your donors to support your cause will be enough to reach your fundraising goals. However, in order to truly maximize your fundraising efforts and better engage with the individuals who help fund your mission, direct mail marketing is an immensely transformative option. 

Direct mail appeals are the backbone of communication and fundraising for most nonprofits in the US, and it can be a great way to engage with supporters in a more personal way.

Overall, direct mail is a tried and true method of fundraising for nonprofit organizations, but if you’re still on the fence, here are three reasons to include direct mail in your marketing strategy: 

  1. It has a high ROI for your marketing dollars
  2. It provides an opportunity for powerful storytelling
  3. It pairs well with fundraising opportunities

Now, let’s get into those convincing reasons why you should include direct mail in your fundraising strategy. 

1. Direct mail has a high ROI for your marketing dollars

To put things is in perspective, if you implement direct mail into your campaign strategy, you typically yield a 28% higher conversion rate than a single fundraising channel alone. Direct mail has one of the highest ROI as compared to any other fundraising channels. Therefore, you shouldn’t be hesitant in your choice to implement direct mail strategies because the money you spend on marketing will be made back multiple times over in fundraising revenue. 

In addition to a higher ROI, if executed successfully, direct mail accounts for over 90% of direct response revenue to charities. Furthermore, direct mail’s ability for personalization has the potential to draw your donors in like never before. With more engagement from your donors through direct mail, your marketing campaigns have the potential to garner long-term support and a higher ROI in the long run. 

Overall, direct mail is one of the most transformational tools to implement into your marketing campaign. If you feel that your nonprofit doesn’t have the funds to utilize direct mail, be sure to carefully look over your budget plan for your nonprofit and make note of areas you can reallocate to your marketing dollars. All in all, direct mail is actually an immensely cost-effective strategy that will pay for itself if executed successfully. 

2. Direct mail provides an opportunity for powerful storytelling

As mentioned prior, direct mail provides for more opportunities to personalize your tasks. One way to create a personal and engaging ask is by incorporating storytelling strategies into your fundraising campaign. Stories appeal to the emotional quotient of your members by giving them more to grasp, rather than just a piece of mail. After all, people remember stories way more than they remember facts and figures.

There are many ways to tell a story that effectively appeals to your audience. One way to do so is simply by sharing the history of your nonprofit organization. For example, you can touch on things like the overall brand story, your personal influence behind your nonprofit, and constituent stories that showcase how transformative your organization is. 

Just make sure that when you do share constituent, case studies, and other success stories, you do so in a way that is well-thought-out and ethical. For example, ethical stories take the protagonist’s feelings into consideration, shape the stories in a way that maintains dignity and respect, and does so in a transparent and honest way. 

3. Direct mail pairs well with fundraising opportunities

Not only is direct mail a powerful marketing and fundraising strategy on its own, but it also pairs well with a number of other digital and face-to-face methods as well.

In this case, incorporating a multichannel approach leads to more touchpoints overall. And with more touchpoints, comes more donations! Furthermore, incorporating a multichannel approach will lead to a higher engagement overall between campaigns. This occurs because more channels lead to more encounters with your supporters on multiple platforms. After all, if your donors think about your organization more often, they will likely want to donate more frequently and more generously. 

One example of incorporating direct mail with other channels includes bringing more traffic to your website, alongside your direct mail campaign. To do this, integrate your direct mail and digital strategies by including the URL or QR code driving donors to your online donation page in your direct mailings. Or, you can even include your dedicated mobile giving number and specific trigger words so that donors can quickly and easily text in their gifts!


All in all, direct mail is an immensely transformative tool to implement within your marketing strategy. When you integrate this powerful channel alongside your current marketing strategy, you get to reap benefits such as an increased ROI, powerful storytelling opportunities, and integrated fundraising campaigns. Good luck!

This guest post was contributed by Grant Cobb at GivingMail.

Grant Cobb is a fundraising specialist with over 6 years experience in the nonprofit space. Currently the head of marketing and analytics at GivingMail, he is a huge proponent of data-driven decision making and the push to bring high-level analytics and fundraising to all.

gabrielle in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Marketing a virtual nonprofit event is essential for generating the revenue and engagement you need!

2020 proved what we’ve known for a long time – nonprofits are resilient. Virtual events have been an effective option for nonprofits of all sizes for a year that looked very different from others. As we hit the ground running in 2021, virtual events can and should play central roles in your engagement strategies.

Unlike the lesson from “Field of Dreams,” just because a virtual event is built, doesn’t mean that contributors will come or that donations will flood in. To get the word out in today’s virtual world, you have to invest as much into your marketing efforts as you do to your fundraising!

To get the most from your fundraising, your virtual event needs to be marketed effectively before, during, and even after. 

There are a few reasons why this is true. Marketing provides you with an excellent chance to engage with the larger community and your supporters. Also, marketing informs people about what you do, your mission story, and over time, it helps to build your brand awareness. Let’s get started on 3 amazing marketing tips essential to planning and promoting your next virtual event:

  • Recruit ambassadors to help spread the word.
  • Centralize the virtual event experience.
  • Target your messages to particular donor segments.
Recruit ambassadors to help promote your virtual fundraising event.

1. Recruit ambassadors to help spread the word.

If you’re looking for a creative way to generate excitement for your event and reach new donors, we’ve got the perfect strategy for your nonprofit: Ambassador Fundraising.

This new trend harnesses ambassadors, or your most loyal supporters, to spread the word about your virtual event and fundraise before, during, and sometimes after.

Think of it as creating a fundraising army, whose built-in social and professional networks allow you to engage and funnel new volunteers, donors, and activists to your cause. But for it to be successful, you need to choose the right ambassadors for your cause.

Good places to look for ambassadors include:

  •  Board members: Board members are natural ambassadors. They are already committed and dedicated to the success of your nonprofit. They often have large professional networks, making them perfect social fundraisers. Engage them at a new level and watch their contacts turn into participants for your event.
  • Event committee: The people working on the event itself are passionate about the outcome! Tap the most dedicated committee members to become your ambassadors.
  • Volunteers: Volunteers are another reliable source for ambassadors, since they are deeply involved with your cause. They are used to giving their time and talent to your efforts. Target your most active and generous volunteers and ask them to join your ambassador campaign.
  • Micro-Influencers on social media: This is a great place to look if you’re just starting your ambassador program. Look for local personalities with a large network and an active social media presence.
  • Sponsor connections: Ask your sponsors and long-times community partners if they know of potential ambassadors. Call in those favors you have stored up to get great ambassadors working for your team.
  • Honorees at your signature event: Honorees are well-respected members of the community, which makes them the perfect supporters to raise donations before the gala.

Once you find the right ambassadors, the next step is to set them up for success! Outline clear goals, provide the right marketing assets, and let your ambassadors loose. Watch as their new network brings new attendees and donations to your virtual event.

Centralize the virtual event experience to simplify the process of promoting it.

2. Centralize the virtual event experience.

The world of fundraising has changed. Virtual events mean trading ballrooms for family rooms, stages for screens, and in-person entertainment for a new level of online engagement.

Successfully marketing your virtual event depends on your ability to reach and engage donors through a seamless donor experience. That’s why it’s essential to centralize the virtual event experience for your attendees – a one stop shop for them to support your mission virtually.

Tapping into the power of a tool like the OneCause Virtual Event Center takes the virtual experience to the next level. For your nonprofit, it means a centralized destination to point supporters towards with your marketing efforts. For your supporters, it means the ability to:

  • Engage with the event using a single device (mobile, tablet or desktop)
  • Register to effortlessly gain access to the virtual event
  • Consume content before, during, and after the virtual event
  • Explore why supporting the mission of the Nonprofit matters
  • Donate through traditional means (e.g. fund-a-need, live appeal)
  • Bid effortlessly in silent and live auctions without leaving the broadcast (i.e. live stream)
  • Purchase raffle tickets and other fixed price options

Centralizing your attendee’s virtual event experience means a more intuitive user experience during the event, resulting in boosted engagement and revenue.

Creating that sense of a giving community before, during, and after the virtual event – and delivering a delightful, online experience anytime, anywhere – is critical to fundraising success in this new virtual world. By centralizing these efforts, marketing your event is as easy as ever.

Target your promotional messages to specific segments of your donor  base.

3. Target your messages to particular donor segments.

Data is the key to unlocking your virtual event marketing potential! It allows you to engage better with donors and grow at scale (while still being personalized). By targeting your marketing messages to specific donor segments, you can boost engagement and registrations for your virtual event.

How you decide to segment your donors depends on the needs of your organization. Let’s take a look at a few ways that you can segment your donors to help make sure you are connecting with donors where they are.

  • How your donors were acquired
  • Size of gift
  • First time versus returning donor
  • One-time gift versus recurring donations
  • Age/demographics
  • Donor interest

You can even target the way your donors have engaged with your events. For example:

  • New donors who haven’t attended an event before
  • Loyal donors who used to attend events but haven’t virtually yet
  • Lapsed donors who haven’t donated in a while but need to be re-engaged

Figure out what will help you scale your virtual event fundraising while also keeping a personal touch to your efforts and roll with it!

After figuring out how you’re going to segment your donors, the next step is to create marketing messages tailored to their particular motivators. For example, donors who haven’t yet attended virtual events should be clearly shown how your virtual event will work and that your past virtual events have been enjoyable experiences for attendees and impactful for your cause.

Think about taking a multi-channel marketing approach to reaching these segments. Multi-channel marketing refers to using a variety of mediums to spread the word about your event in advance. Reaching a wide audience can be a difficult task. The best way to do so is to diversify your communications!

Use marketing channels such as:

  • Email newsletters
  • Social media networks
  • Text messages
  • Video marketing
  • Direct mail
  • Print handouts
  • Bulletin boards

A tactful multi-channel strategy is key to attaining maximum engagement with your event. But don’t try to do it all at once! Choose 2-3 tactics that work best for your team and your mission and focus your attention there.

Conclusion

In order to cultivate better relationships with your supporters, your organization should be consistent in its outreach, communications, and engagement. A strong marketing strategy for your virtual event will give you what you need to grab and maintain donors’ attention from a distance.

Guest Blogger in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Tailoring the Proposal

There’s a saying in the world of grant seeking: “If you’ve met one funder, you’ve met one funder.”


Part of what makes grant-seeking challenging is that every funder wants something different. The essence of what they want is the same—what do you propose to do, what difference will it make, and where do we, the funder, fit in?—but the narrative configurations, space limits, and formats in which they want this information varies greatly.


This means there is no one-size-fits-all approach to requesting grant dollars. To stand a chance of cutting through the competition and getting a grant, it is necessary to tailor a proposal to each funder.


There are two levels of tailoring a grant application: first, tailoring the format to meet every specification of the application guidelines and process. And secondly, tailoring the message to the unique interests and priorities of the funder.

Tailoring the Format


Completing a grant application can feel like a game of jumping through hoops. You may need to squeeze complex answers into painfully few characters…provide letters of support, a logic model, and executive summary…then mail it to the funder, three-copies-double-spaced-paper-clipped-not-stapled.

Coming across a grantmaker with no specified format can feel like a dream, especially since they can be far and few between. Following strict application, instructions is a reality of grant seeking.

Keep in mind that you have choices. If a funder’s specifications strike you as too onerous or time-consuming, step back and weigh whether it’s worth the time and risk to apply. Sometimes, it’s reasonable to calculate that the opportunity cost of applying to a funder exceeds the potential gain.

If you decide to go for it, commit to making sure that your application follows every guideline and instruction. Don’t be tempted to believe that your organization’s relationship to the funder is so solid, or your program so unique, that you can cut corners. Not following directions could land your application straight in the reject pile.

Tailoring the Message


It’s not enough just to adhere to instructions and fit your standard narrative into a funder’s format. Writing a truly compelling proposal requires tailoring your content and message too.


What’s important to keep in mind is that funders don’t exist to fund your organization’s mission. They exist to fulfill their own missions by investing in organizations and projects that bring their priorities and beliefs alive in the world. Grantmakers are looking for proposals that they can take to their boards of trustees and say: “This—this project, this idea—is what we are looking to accomplish.”


Tailoring content to a grantmaker doesn’t mean you should distort the truth, alter your deliverables, or design a project just to please a funder. Rather, it is the work of good writing to consider the reader’s point of view (in this case, the funder’s mission and interests) and to place emphasis on aspects that will excite and activate what the reader cares most about.


Following below are four practical tips for tailoring the message of the proposal to the funder:

Align


Before you write, think. As part of your pre-writing process, brainstorm the unique alignment between your organization’s mission, or the project you’re proposing, and the mission and interests of that funder. This means you should find different alignment for the same project with different funders.


For example, for a proposal written by a food pantry about its community food distribution service:


To a funder whose primary interest is the well-being of children, the alignment is in showing how distributing food benefits families and, ultimately, children. The proposal might emphasize stories about families or highlight statistics about child hunger.


To a funder whose primary interest is ending poverty, the alignment is in showing how addressing food insecurity helps lift people out of poverty. The proposal might include evidence about how this has worked in other communities.

Activate


Once you’ve identified this alignment, articulate it in key places of the application, especially the cover letter and introductory and concluding sections of the narrative. You may literally refer to the funder (e.g. “Like the XYZ Foundation, the ABC Organization believes that no child in our community should be hungry…”) or you may not name them, but “speak to their mission” by using words and ideas that match or imitate the funder’s own word choices and priorities.

Acknowledge


Demonstrate that the grantee understands and appreciates the funder’s vision by acknowledging their leadership and impact. For example: “The ABC Organization is deeply grateful that the XYZ Foundation has been a champion for improving access to healthy, fresh food in Cleveland’s inner city neighborhoods.” Showing gratitude can go a long way.

Attribute


Literally, write the funder into the solution that you propose to help them envision your partnership. Attribute future success to them, should they decide to invest in your organization, in key places of the document: “With generous funding from the XYZ Foundation, ABC Organization will ensure that these children start the school day with a hot, nutritious meal so that they can learn and grow towards better futures.”
Tailoring your proposal format and message is the first step in showing a funder that your organization can be trusted and counted on—and put you one step closer to getting the grant.

Convey the Core Compelling Idea

While facts, figures, data and details are necessary to strengthen a grant proposal, they alone don’t win the grant. What can set your proposal apart is a clear, compelling, and unifying narrative thread that makes clear to the reader how your organization’s work is important, urgent, unique, and deserving of funding.

Keep it Simple

In the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, authors Chip and Dan Heath discuss ideas that manage to stick with the reader. By “sticky,” they write, “we mean that your ideas are understood and remembered, and have a lasting impact—they change your audience’s opinions or behavior.”


The Heath brothers explain that making an idea “stick” starts with keeping it simple, according to this formula:

Simple = Core + Compact
Core: Hone in on the core concept
Compact: Succinctly communicate this core concept

How is this practical in the context of grant writing? Can a grant writer deliver a succinct, simple, core idea when a grant proposal demands so much information?

Make it Memorable

The answer is that a grant writer not only can, but really must, anchor a grant proposal around a core compelling idea to stand a better chance of cutting through the competition for grants.


Consider how the funding process works in many foundations: the program officer reviewing your proposal is also reviewing many others, all that are stuffed with large amounts of information. She or he is responsible to boil down the main ideas of each proposal, to summarize what’s most important for a board of trustees who will decide on funding.


The program officer will likely forget the specific facts and figures they read in your proposal, but what they’re more likely to remember is a sticky core idea. An hour after reading, what is the bottom-line impression or message that you want him or her to remember?

Distinguish What’s Unique

The executive director of the Hunger Network was challenged to demonstrate to funders the organization’s unique contributions as compared to the region’s flagship food bank.


With help from Grants Plus, she hit upon the core compelling idea that sets the Hunger Network apart:


While the food bank is the region’s largest distributor of food, by managing the volunteers who operate area food pantries, the Hunger Network is the region’s nourisher of people. Food awaiting distribution in a box or on a shelf does not feed a community. It is in transferring food to hungry people that it becomes nourishment.


This concept isn’t complicated—rather, it’s because the idea is intentionally simple but powerful that it calls the reader’s attention and is likely to stay in their mind.


That’s just the effect that the Hunger Network’s grant proposals suddenly had on funders, the executive director explained: “The response I was getting from program officers was ‘Oh—now I get it.’”

Work Your Core

The core compelling idea should be distinguishable as the core of every grant proposal you write. When you step back from the details, what will stay with the reader?


Think of the core compelling idea as the overarching theme of your grant application that conveys how your organization makes a powerful difference and what sets it apart. It is the answer to why the funder should want to fund your request, so that through their investment they can see their own mission come alive in the world.


A core compelling idea has these qualities:

  • It is tailored to the funder: Start with recognizing what matters to the funder. Your core compelling idea should vary from one application to another based on the priorities of the specific foundation. Imagine you are a food pantry preparing two grant applications. The first funder’s key concern is child hunger. The second funder’s interest is improving academic outcomes. Your description of your organization and programs will likely be very much the same between the two proposals. But the core compelling idea the proposal is anchored around will be different: for the first funder it should be centered on ending child hunger, and for the second it should make the link between food access and education.
  • It’s simple: A core compelling idea is compact—think around 25 words. A sticky idea starts with being simple. In the example above, about the food pantry applying to the funder concerned with academics, a simple and compact core compelling idea might be: “A child who is hungry at home is a child likely to struggle at school.”
  • It’s declarative: There’s an emphatic energy to the core compelling idea. It shouldn’t just summarize, but declare something of interest and confidently convey a point of view—fitting, since after all, a grant proposal should be a persuasive document.
  • It’s bold: There may be an element of surprise or the unexpected, even a flair for the dramatic, that captures the reader’s attention.
  • It gets repeated: By reinforcing the core compelling idea in different words and different places throughout the proposal, the concept is more likely to stay with the reader. The grant writer of the hypothetical proposal about hunger and academics would want to reiterate in several places why hungry children struggle to learn and how providing access to food can improve academic outcomes.

A core compelling idea is not your organization’s mission statement or a description of what your organization needs. It is a bold and compact statement that declares what’s most important about your organization or project, and is repeated for emphasis throughout the proposal.


Don’t leave it to a busy program officer to deduce and later recall what’s most important from your proposal. Make his or her job easier, and your own chances of funding greater, by making sure your proposal is one that sings clear and true with an unmistakable and unforgettable compelling idea at its core.

This article was contributed by Lauren Steiner, President of Grants Plus

Lauren Steiner is the president and founder of Grants Plus, a national leader in grant seeking consulting. Grants Plus has secured more than $165 million in grant funding for nonprofit organizations around the country since 2007. Under her leadership the company has received many awards for growth and innovation including a 2016 Smart Business: Progressive Organization Award, and a 2016 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award from the American Psychological Association.

Lauren is past president of the Grant Professionals Association Ohio–Northern Chapter as well as an active member and former board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Greater Cleveland Chapter. She was awarded AFP Greater Cleveland’s Outstanding Fundraising Professional award in 2017. She is an active member of the Giving Institute and serves on the editorial review board for Giving USA. Lauren teaches a graduate-level course in philanthropy at the Mandel School of Applied Social Science at Case Western Reserve University.

Sam in Uncategorized | 0 comments

As a nonprofit professional, you have a lot to juggle: administrative tasks, event planning, fundraising asks, and more. But there’s an important component of your team that helps you push through these challenges and raise your level of success.

These are your volunteers.

Your volunteers make up the backbone of your organization. Without their help, many smaller (but still important!) tasks would be delayed or go unfinished altogether, which could significantly slow down your team’s progress. That’s why prioritizing volunteer engagement is essential. So what’s the best way to keep your volunteers engaged? Communication.

Effective volunteer communication keeps the wheels of your organization turning and ensures volunteers are up-to-date with what needs to be done. That’s why we’ve outlined our top strategies for mastering volunteer communications at your nonprofit:

  1. Make use of social media and email.
  2. Leverage your website.
  3. Make a good first impression.
  4. Regularly check in.
  5. Keep your volunteers updated.
  6. Segment your communications.

Keep your wheels turning and your volunteers engaged with the right kind of communication strategy. Let’s get started.

1. Make use of social media and email.

As you prepare to reach out to both potential and current volunteers, there are two top channels to consider: social media and email. Through social media, you can recruit volunteers, and through email, you can keep them directly updated.

But those are just a few of the benefits of using these channels. Let’s dive more specifically into each so you can get the most out of them.

Social Media

Social media can be used to share your recruitment message, but it’s essential that you don’t just post and walk away. According to the InitLive volunteer management guide, it’s helpful to craft a formal social media campaign. This campaign should outline what your message is and include content that is meaningful to your supporters.

Here are some tips as you prepare to engage with your audience:

  • Be brief. Shorter posts get straight to the point and are easier for readers to digest. This will encourage more engagement from your supporters.
  • Don’t feel the need to post all the time. While regular updates are important, you don’t always need to post multiple times a day. In fact, posting too often might turn off some readers.
  • Post new information. Share content that might not be found on your website or blog, which will add value to the post. For example, offer early access to new opportunities or highlight some of your standout volunteers!

As you share your content, make your recruitment link available on your specific posts and in your page description. Then, you should see more volunteers signing up!

Email

Email is also an important element of volunteer communications. Email not only helps recruit new volunteers, but it also serves as a way to keep your current group of volunteers updated (more on that later!).

Use email outreach to give past volunteers exclusive access to your available volunteer positions. You can even encourage them to share volunteer opportunities with their circle of friends, or offer a referral gift as an additional incentive to get the word out.

There are many ways both social media and email outreach can contribute to a solid volunteer communication strategy. Start by sharing meaningful but relevant content that will boost recruitment numbers, and you’ll be on your way to even more engagement.

2. Leverage your website.

Your website is typically the very first place potential volunteers will go to find out about opportunities with your organization. That’s why you should always keep this information up-to-date, especially if you want to recruit successful volunteers.

Your website will allow you to:

  • Post new volunteer opportunities
  • Offer supporters an easy way to sign up for those opportunities
  • Promote your overall mission

When your website prominently features your organization’s mission and includes clear calls-to-action (CTAs), this will make it easy for supporters to navigate their way to your volunteer opportunities and registration. Even more, a clear and intuitive website will ensure that your volunteers have a basic understanding of your goals and what you need from them.

Once you’ve optimized your website to communicate what it is you need from your volunteers, you’ll be in a better position to communicate with them going forward.

3. Make a good first impression.

Volunteers come to your organization because they believe in your mission. That’s why you should take the time to get to know them, to determine the specific appeal that brought them there and help them learn more.

This starts with your registration process. Use volunteer management software that creates an easy sign-up process and helps you sift through each individual’s information to assign them the best possible fit.

This applies whether you’re organizing an event and need to staff it, or you need people to help with data entry. It’s important to find out what skills your volunteers have and what they would enjoy.

When you clearly communicate with your volunteers and understand what is important to them, you’ll pave the way for a good first impression, happier volunteers, and more work that gets done.

4. Regularly check in.

Even after you’ve successfully recruited volunteers and everything seems to be running smoothly, effective communication doesn’t end there. It’s essential that you regularly check in with your volunteers to keep the engagement going.

For example, you can ask:

  • About any challenges that might have come up
  • If they’re enjoying their role
  • If they’d like to try something else to continue or deepen their involvement

Regular check-ins also include recognition. While it’s probably true that your volunteers aren’t doing this specifically for the glory, it’s important to recognize your volunteers to keep them motivated and ensure they feel appreciated.

Look for ways to communicate your appreciation through social media, email blasts, and even through features on your website. Personalize individual outreach as you say thank you and demonstrate the impact your volunteers have made on your overall goals, whether it relates to fundraising, events, or other tasks. If you’re looking for examples of emails that say thanks, check out these templates, which can be adapted to suit any type of supporter.

Case in point: Regularly keeping up with and recognizing your volunteers will help push your organization closer to achieving its mission. Be sure to openly communicate with them to recognize them for a job well done and make sure they feel fulfilled in their role.

5. Keep your volunteers updated.

Something that’s occasionally overlooked is the idea that volunteers should be treated the same way as your nonprofit’s employees. They offer value, just as your staff does. For that reason, volunteers should know about changes in the organization just like employees do.

Keep volunteers informed and let them know about important developments or challenges that have come up at your nonprofit. In turn, this will help raise engagement and make these individuals feel valued.

You can do this by:

  • Inviting volunteers to certain staff meetings
  • Including them in staff email correspondence
  • Communicating key changes that affect their volunteer positions

The more you involve your volunteers in developments at your nonprofit, the more they’ll feel valued and like they’re a part of your team. This can lead to longer-term engagement and retention, and can also help you build stronger relationships with your volunteers as supporters of your organization.

6. Segment your communications.

We’ve talked about how it’s important to communicate with your volunteers in general and keep them in the loop. However, sometimes certain pieces of information don’t apply to all of your volunteers.

Our last crucial tip for communicating with volunteers at your organization is to segment your communications. InitLive’s volunteer engagement guide notes that sending out irrelevant communications to volunteers will waste their time and lead to frustration.

Just as you would tailor your communications to donors in order to maintain a high donor retention rate, you should also segment your communications for different volunteers so they receive information that’s relevant to them. That way, you won’t waste their time with details that don’t apply to their role or shifts.

In order to do this, consider using a volunteer management solution that helps keep your volunteers updated with automated notifications that apply specifically to them. This way, you’ll be able to keep your volunteers informed, but they won’t need to read every single scheduling issue or other memos that have come up from another team.

The more you respect your volunteers’ time, the more they’ll respect your organization and want to stay involved.


Your volunteers help your organization stay on its feet and keep your day-to-day operations running smoothly. That’s why they deserve to be treated as an essential part of your team, and why communicating with them is so important. Once you’ve mastered your communication strategy with your volunteers, they’ll keep coming back to help you reach your goals.


Be sure to keep these tactics in mind as you build up your volunteer base and continue serving your mission. Best of luck!

Sam in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Here's how to create engaging e-learning for your nonprofit's volunteers.

This guest post was contributed by Amy Morrisey, President of Artisan E-Learning.

You’ve just unveiled a new volunteer training e-learning course. The content is based on the in-person training you used before your volunteer workforce moved to home offices and you had to create an effective learning experience while keeping people safe. All is well… until you receive the first batch of feedback from volunteers taking the course.

In that feedback? A high percentage of learners quit the course halfway through, and an even higher percentage received subpar scores on the assessments—clearly indicating they’re unprepared to be passionate ambassadors for your cause.

You were hoping for a high-quality, e-learning course, but your volunteers have tuned-out the experience. Easily a worst-case scenario! So, what can you incorporate into your e-learning courses to prevent this from happening in the future?

Let’s walk through three volunteer training scenarios you may encounter and how you can create engaging e-learning to keep supporters of all types returning.

Scenario 1) You’re preparing volunteers for their first day on the job.

If you’re a nonprofit volunteer coordinator now, you’ve surely been a first-time volunteer at some point in your philanthropic career. So, let’s flash back to your first day on the job.

Were you nervous? Excited? We’d guess a combination of both.

The first day volunteering at an organization is full of new things—new experiences, people, and tasks. It always seems to feel like everyone around you is already up to speed, right? It’s that first day of school feeling, and the faster you can learn the ropes, the better.

Flash forward to your position now, at the other end of this interaction. You want volunteers to learn as much as possible in preparation for their first day, to make sure they’re ready to tackle essential tasks effectively. This is where e-learning comes into play as the solution to reach both your goals and your volunteers’ goals.

With initial volunteer training, you have to cover a massive amount of new information to prepare them for the job. But, you don’t want to overwhelm them and have them disengage from the material as a result. Here are a few tips to create e-learning that’s valuable for first-time volunteers and accomplishes your goals:

  • Avoid information overload. While you may see your nonprofit’s history as valuable, an in-depth history lesson may take up too much space in your volunteers’ already overloaded brains. Focus on information that’s actionable and directly valuable for volunteers, and consider using images of your team at work to tell a compelling (but brief!) story of your history.
  • Cover a variety of volunteer opportunities. Give volunteers a good look at the many positions available to them, so they can discover which area of your organization they’re most interested in working with. Consider using microlearning courses to highlight each unique opportunity.

The goal here is to cover a ton of information for learners while also remaining interesting. Don’t slap a textbook in their hands (or even a long brochure). Use these tips and they’ll come back after the first day as a volunteer!

Scenario 2) You’re tasking volunteers with a complicated but essential task.

Now, consider your progression after that first day of volunteering. As one volunteer shift became two, your first month became your second, and so on… your return was rewarded by an increase in opportunities. But of course, volunteering at a nonprofit isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. For every exciting, constituent-facing task is a less exciting, perhaps even complicated, filing task.

As you continued volunteering, you gained access to more and more of the nonprofit’s operations. You became more essential to their efforts and carried more responsibilities. But, you also learned the hard lesson that sometimes, volunteering for a nonprofit can be dull, complicated, and carry a large learning curve.

Clearly, you overcame these obstacles. And now you can help your volunteers do the same. They’ll continue building their knowledge and adding value to your organization.

Here are a few tips to make a complicated, and perhaps even boring, topic engaging in an e-learning course:

  • Find creative ways to display less-than-exciting content. Ditch the droning webinar and voiceover in favor of something more engaging. Live-action videos, simulations—you name it; get creative! And remember, you can always work with an e-learning content development consultant to assist if you’re struggling to do so.
  • Have learners practice challenging skills. Consider using e-learning games that encourage volunteers to practice through repetition. They can make mistakes and learn from them, without the consequences of slipping up on the job!
  • Use examples to convey complicated topics. Don’t just tell a volunteer what to do—show them. Let’s say they’re learning how to check in individuals at a disaster shelter. Don’t list the steps. Walk them through an example of checking in a family (give the family members names!) and have them learn by doing.

Think of it this way: your nonprofit is incredibly intentional with the stories it shares externally to be both ethical and effective. You should be just as intentional with the stories you share internally—including how you present training to existing volunteers. This isn’t the time to get complacent because they’re already returning regularly. Continue to engage them with valuable content.

Scenario 3) You’re training volunteers with diverse backgrounds.

Lastly, we need to acknowledge the nonprofits that are operating here, there, and everywhere around the globe. If your nonprofit is working with volunteers that speak a variety of languages and are from diverse cultures, this section is for you.

If you’re welcoming volunteers whose native language is something other than English, it’s up to you to create e-learning courses that are accessible for all. Here are a few tips we’ve found for engaging e-learning across cultures:

  • Translate your e-learning courses. If you work at a U.S. based nonprofit but you’re welcoming volunteers from other countries, avoid creating content that caters to a U.S. view. Translate your content to be in the learner’s native language and consider working with a narrator that speaks in an accent familiar to the learner.
  • Provide any information about your location’s culture. Specifically, focus on where your nonprofit’s culture differs from the learner’s. What do volunteers need to know to be successful when giving their time with your organization?
  • Use immersive scenarios. Consider taking things a step further by walking volunteers through a day in the job at the new location, via a scenario.

With these strategies, you’ll provide the needed training to all volunteers, regardless of the language spoken. 


To wrap up, we know that volunteers who tune training out will be ill prepared and unlikely to give their time in the future. Whether you’re conducting onboarding, elevating volunteers’ skills with complicated tasks, or working with supporters from diverse backgrounds—it’s up to you to prepare them with engaging courses.

Use these tips to create courses that keep your volunteers engaged for the duration. And, if you need help implementing them, consider bringing on an e-learning content development firm to help you do so.


Amy Morrisey is the president of Artisan E-Learning.

Amy Morrisey is the President of Artisan E-Learning and serves as Sales & Marketing Manager. Amy started with Artisan as a contract writer/instructional designer. She was our Production Manager for four years and helped the team to double its capacity. As President, she stays focused on maintaining the high standards our clients have grown to expect. She believes that staying close to our clients, our people, and our work is a smart way to do that. One of her favorite things to do in the e-learning world is jump in with a client to write a storyboard that is creative and application-based. Before working with Artisan, Amy spent 17 years in corporate training and development predominantly teaching leadership development and coaching teams and executives. She currently serves on the board of ATD Detroit.

Emma in Uncategorized | 0 comments

This year, the term “virtual fundraising” became a hot topic for nonprofit professionals everywhere. While online giving was on the rise even before 2020, it wasn’t until this year that virtual fundraising became the rule rather than the exception.

Since stay-at-home orders were first put in place, your team has likely learned a lot about how to pursue your mission in a remote landscape. Your team has launched virtual events, engaged with donors online, and continued to raise needed funds.

But in some cases, it’s possible that you’re relying on band aid fixes or a disconnected network of tools that you’re already starting to outgrow. As we approach a new year, it’s a good opportunity to revisit your virtual fundraising strategy and make improvements.  

To reach your online fundraising goals in 2021, your nonprofit must leverage powerful tools and engagement data throughout every aspect of your strategy. 

At SalsaLabs, we empower nonprofit professionals with software solutions for smarter fundraising, data management, and donor engagement. Based on some of the strategies we’ve seen work well throughout the challenges of COVID-19, we’ve compiled a list of recommendations to elevate your upcoming fundraising efforts:

  1. Use data to better inform your campaigns.
  2. Send targeted communications to supporters.
  3. Utilize marketing automation tools.
  4. Choose unified CRM and fundraising software.

Just because 2020 is almost over doesn’t mean the need for virtual fundraising is going anywhere. Even once in-person interactions are safe again, nonprofits will likely continue to employ virtual engagement tactics because they are so cost-effective, efficient, and widely accessible to supporters. 

With all of these potential benefits, it’s clear why your virtual fundraising strategy needs to be in tip-top shape. Now, let’s dive into how you can make those improvements.

1. Use data to better inform your campaigns.

At the heart of any successful fundraising campaign should be a strong understanding of two main things: your supporters and your past campaigns. 

When you capture, record, and use this relevant and highly informative data, you’ll be better able to plan and execute any fundraiser.

This way, you can make plans based on real knowledge of what will resonate with your supporters rather than on assumptions. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of stereotypes like “older supporters don’t understand social media” and “Millennials can’t stand phone calls,” but these cliches don’t reflect the uniqueness of your supporter base. 

Analyze your existing supporter data and past campaign information to consider questions such as:

  • What types of marketing tend to lead to more first-time engagements? For instance, are you more likely to get more new donors via Google ads or social media?
  • What leads to the highest engagement among your existing supporters?
  • In which ways do your donors prefer to give?
  • When is the best time to send emails or post on social media?

To know the answers to these questions, you need to be recording various metrics-based goals like click-through rate, dollars donated, number of new supporters, and more. When possible, try to track these metrics for different groups of supporters, such as by age group. This will help you determine how, when, and where to tell your story in a way that will resonate most effectively with your target audience.

According to AccuData’s guide to data marketing, data-driven campaigns have up to 5 times the ROI, so this practice is sure to pay off with more revenue for your mission. 

2. Send targeted communications to supporters.

The ability to quickly send a generic email to a mass amount of subscribers is both the beauty and downfall of email.

We’ve likely all received the standard “Dear friend” end-of-year email from a nonprofit. With a line like, “Whether you volunteered with us, donated, or attended an event, we’re grateful for your support,” it’s clear that the organization has no clue who is on the receiving end of the message! This kind of mass email is better than no thank-you at all, but it misses a valuable opportunity to connect more deeply with recipients.

Instead, with segmentation and personalization technology, you’ll be able to send emails that are more relevant and impactful to groups and individuals.

First, creating segments of supporters allows you to address groups based on a particular characteristic. You might choose to create segments based on the following criteria:

  • Engagement type (donor, volunteer, event attendee, peer-to-peer fundraiser)
  • Donation type (major donor, recurring, first-time, year-end)
  • Demographic characteristics (age ranges, location-based, income levels)
  • Interests (loves animals, interest in politics)

These are just a few examples to get you started. You can also create a custom segment based on criteria relevant to your nonprofit. For example, if you work at an animal shelter, you may consider creating segments for whether your supporters are cat people or dog people. Then, when you send your appeal emails, you’ll be able to tug at their heartstrings with the right kind of ask. 

In addition to sending emails that are tailored to different groups, you can also customize the content of the email to each individual. Some email marketing platforms allow you to use data fields to automatically pull data from your CRM and incorporate it into your outgoing emails. 

You could incorporate personalization into your email communications through the following strategies:

  • Tailoring the donation request. Use past data like a recent gift and wealth information to inform your next suggested gift amount. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are becoming more prevalent in donation software and can also automate the task of creating smart ask amounts for your appeals.
  • Using personalized data. Incorporating the supporter’s name, previous gifts or actions, or other details for a personal touch.

Studies have shown that segmentation and personalization can lead to a 760% increase in revenue for email marketers. To take advantage of this, be sure to find an email marketing platform that integrates seamlessly with your donor database.

3. Utilize marketing automation tools.

Once you have an informed, segmented marketing strategy in place, you can rely on automation tools to efficiently drive your efforts forward.

While automation won’t independently drive your marketing strategy to success, it can help to streamline your approach and save time for your team. Automation allows you to reach the right supporter, at the right time, with the right message—without anyone needing to hover over the send button.

Marketing automation is particularly helpful for moving a supporter through a dedicated email pipeline towards a target action (often called a drip email campaign). To give you a better understanding of how this might work at your nonprofit, let’s consider the following two example scenarios.

  1. Sarah signs up for your nonprofit’s newsletter. Over the coming weeks, she receives a “Welcome” series of emails at a pre-specified cadence that include information about your work and mission. The emails stop when Sarah completes the target action of making a donation.
  2. Jackson makes a first-time donation through your online giving page. Your matching gift software finds Jackson’s employer on a list of companies. Jackson receives a series of emails explaining how and why to submit a matching gift request, which stop when the match is secured.

While these target actions are both revenue-based, you can use marketing automation to promote any kind of engagement. For instance, you may want to encourage volunteer sign-ups or advertise registration for your upcoming virtual event.

For nonprofits, automation helps decrease staff time spent on marketing tasks and increases your team’s overall efficiency. Using your limited resources wisely can make a big difference in the success of your campaigns.

4. Choose unified CRM and fundraising software.

While all of the above strategies are helpful, they may be challenging or even impossible without the right technology on your side.

For the most successful virtual fundraising, you’ll want to implement software solutions that integrate with your CRM. You can also opt for a fundraising and CRM suite like Salsa’s donor management software and engagement platform that are built to function together. 

Without a connected system, you may have to rely on manual data entry or spreadsheet imports. Not only does this eat up a lot of valuable time, but it also opens the door for costly errors or omissions. 

Instead, a unified system allows you to trust that all of your supporter interactions and other data are in one place. The ability to see a big-picture overview will help your nonprofit learn more about its supporters, increase engagement, and raise more from your community.

A comprehensive tech stack will transform your virtual fundraising efforts across the board, but to demonstrate just one area of impact, we’ll explore the potential benefits for a peer-to-peer fundraiser. A comprehensive suite of nonprofit tech can:

  • Identify highly-engaged supporters, long-time donors and ambassadors, and invite them to participate with personalized outreach.
  • Send automated coaching emails to targeted groups of participants based on real-time fundraising progress.
  • Sync participant data with existing supporter records in your CRM. 
  • Follow up with new donors to share your gratitude and introduce them to your cause.

As this guide to peer-to-peer fundraising explains, it’s especially helpful to have easy access to performance data while the campaign is occurring. This way, you’ll be able to discover insights on the fly and make changes as needed, rather than having to wait for your next fundraiser. 

While some of these benefits are unique to peer-to-peer fundraising, the advantages of a unified CRM system are applicable to any of your virtual fundraising efforts.


As we move into 2021, nonprofits will continue to rely on virtual fundraising to pursue their missions safely and efficiently. As you prepare next year’s campaigns, make sure you’re relying on data, sending effective and tailored communications, and using a comprehensive and well-integrated database. By following these recommendations, you’ll be prepared to launch your best virtual campaign yet. Good luck!


This guest post was contributed by Hayley Roll, Marketing Analyst at Salsa Labs.

Nancy Schwartz in Uncategorized | 0 comments

As a fundraising leader, two of the most rewarding parts of your job are building meaningful relationships with donors and raising revenue for your mission. Luckily, modern fundraisers are equipped with online tools and digital engagement methods, making it easier than ever to connect with your supporters and collect gifts on the go.

With online fundraising increasing in popularity, this also means that data breaches, hacks, and other forms of fraud can become more prevalent. That’s why investing in the best tools and keeping fraud protection tips in mind is crucial for your organization. One donor data scandal can mar your nonprofit reputation for a good amount of time. 

At iATS Payments, we work with over 14,000 nonprofits to help them process their online gifts safely and securely. We’ve written about online fraud protection for nonprofits before and have compiled some of the essential information and top tips that any fundraising leader needs to protect your online donors in this quick guide. Specifically, we’ll answer the following questions:

  1. What are some common payment scams and risks?
  2. How can you protect your donors from fraud?

Your online donors want to support your mission, but they can’t do so if your tools and giving process are untrustworthy. Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in:

1. What are some common payment scams and risks?

Did you know that 68% of total charitable giving in 2018 in the U.S. came from individual donors, and over half of donors worldwide now prefer to pay online via credit card or debit card? This is extremely convenient since all you need is the card number and some other basic personal information.

However, credit and debit card information is also very delicate. If that information somehow gets leaked, it might be targeted by hackers, scam artists, and even identity thieves. Unfortunately, nonprofit organizations are also targeted more because they tend to be not as aware of the necessary payment security measures that for-profit businesses are familiar with.

For instance, the most common card scams that you should be aware of are:

  • ACH fraud or direct debit payments. While this offers donors an easy way to give by connecting the payment tool directly to their bank account, it can also open the channel to fraud. Often, fraudsters will try and steal a bank account routing number through phishing or database hacking. They’ll then contact your organization and say the gift was a mistake and ask for a refund via credit card or check. They might even contact the bank associated with the routing number and claim that your nonprofit withdrew an authorized amount and request another refund. This results in two refunds of the original online gift to the hacker!
  • Donation form fraud. Sometimes scammers use online donation forms to test out different stolen credit card numbers. If one of the stolen card numbers works, the individual will make a false donation and then ask for a refund, similar to how ACH fraud works. 

Online fundraising likely makes up a good chunk of your overall nonprofit revenue. That’s why you must approach the online giving process carefully, considering all the risks and challenges and acknowledging them before they can even happen. This can often be done with the right nonprofit payment tool, along with other best practices. 

2. How can you protect your donors from fraud?

Now that you know about the common scams and hacks that can hamper your online fundraising, it’s time to take steps to reduce those risks. Let’s start off by going over the payment solution you should depend on, and then go over some of our favorite tips and tricks.

Choosing the right payment processor

When your supporters make an online gift, they’re likely entering information in the donation form on your nonprofit’s website. According to our iATS Payments article on donation forms, it’s crucial that you have a dedicated online payment tool to process the gift, collect the necessary donor information, and keep their financial details secure.

To ensure that your nonprofit payment processor is doing all it can to keep your donors safe, it needs the following fraud protection capabilities:

  • PCI compliance or certification. The Payment Card Industry has a set guideline of safety standards that all online payment tools must meet. Whether you’re a nonprofit collecting gifts or a corporation selling a product for profit, PCI compliance is the minimum requirement, with PCI certification as the top security level a tool can have. Learn more about this topic here
  • Security assistance. If you ever have a problem with your payment tool or find that you do have a data breach, you must have a dependable channel for security assistance from the service itself.  
  • Nonprofit experience. There are some general payment processors, like PayPal, which are easy to set up but might not meet the specific needs of nonprofits. These payment tools are considered large aggregators, and often collect your donated funds in a shared merchant account with other clients before it reaches your main bank account. This can result in a time delay in usable funds for your nonprofit and make you more susceptible to large-scale data breaches. Consider investing in a more specialized payment processor made for nonprofit organizations, like iATS Payments

With the right nonprofit payment processor by your side, your organization is better equipped to handle your supporters’ information and ensure that it is secure. For additional ways you can protect your donors from fraud, read on for some best practices. 

Best Practices for Donor Fraud Protection

What else can you do for your nonprofit to better secure your donors’ data and set up the stage for a healthy and long lasting relationship? Here are our top tips:

  • Improve password security. If any of your staff, volunteers, or donors ever have to create an account with a password, those passwords must be as secure as possible. To screen password safety, consider requiring certain character length, specific symbols, numbers, and a mix of upper and lowercase letters. For more information on making your passwords more secure, explore this Swoop article on modern passwords.
  • Keep an eye out for phishing emails. Phishing emails are scams that ask the recipient to click on links or attachments. These are often tricks that result in the recipient’s personal information being hacked or malware being installed into the device. Ensure that you, your staff, and your supporters know the common signs of phishing emails, like having poor grammar or being sent from a misspelled email address. 
  • Implement CVV2 verification or address verification. Often, hackers only have the stolen card numbers/routing information and not any other crucial identifiers. An easy way to monitor for fraudulent donations, whether by ACH debit or donation form, is to ask for the CVV2 number or the donor’s billing address. 

While the above best practices can help with donor fraud protection, remember that investing in a dedicated and secure online payment tool is the first step. How you protect your donors, and your fraud prevention strategies, will likely change over time, so it’s essential to have a solid foundation with a capable nonprofit payment processor.


To summarize, your donors are the most important and driving factors for your cause, so it only makes sense to do all you can to ensure they’re protected. This not only keeps your supporters’ important information safe, but also sets the stage for a reliable and trusting relationship going forward. Make sure to use a dependable nonprofit payment processor that is able to meet all your needs and keep your donors safe. Good luck!


Author: Matt Dunne

Driven by his desire to support numerous charitable causes in his home country of Ireland, Matt joined the iATS Payments Team in March 2016 to leverage his entrepreneurial experience in support of the non-profit industry. He empowers partner organizations to provide impartial, accurate, and valuable payment information and knowledge to the Nonprofit community.

Remi in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Improve employee communication for your nonprofit in 2021.

Like any other type of organization, nonprofits need to have a solid human resources strategy in place if they want to achieve long-term success and better reach donors. And a critical aspect of human resources is an organization’s internal culture. 

One of the most important elements of internal culture is communications. How an organization handles internal communications sets the tone for everything else that happens in the organization. With a global pandemic forcing many organizations to work from home, how you communicate with employees, as well as how they communicate with each other, is more important than ever.

With the changes and unprecedented events of this year, you’ve probably already thought about your own internal culture and things you can do to improve it. You might even be thinking about implementing sweeping policy changes to encourage a shift in the way employees communicate with each other. Before you do, remember, less is often more. There’s no need to box yourself into a corner by introducing disruptive or confusing new policies all at once.

As a nonprofit, you’re already familiar with making the most of limited resources, so don’t be afraid to start small. Here are four things you can do to improve your internal culture around communication for 2020 and beyond. Think of them as springboards to other changes you can make down the road:

  1. Adopt a more open approach to discussions of compensation.
  2. Prioritize transparency and engagement in general.
  3. Share internal knowledge and documentation freely.
  4. Connect internal goals to your mission and communicate them.

At Astron Solutions, we provide HR strategy support for nonprofits and small businesses, so we’ve seen firsthand how implementing even a few new best practices into your internal communication strategies can spark a lot of beneficial change over the long run.

Ready to get started? Let’s dive in with a brief discussion of nonprofit employee compensation.

1. Take an open approach to discussions of compensation.

Compensation, how your organization pays and rewards employees for their work, plays a huge role in determining the overall tone of your internal culture. However, this doesn’t simply mean employees are only happier and more engaged when they’re paid higher salaries. 

As you’re well aware, the topic of nonprofit salaries is particularly complex and sometimes controversial. Generally speaking, nonprofits experience much tighter or more inflexible budgets than for-profit businesses of similar sizes, which is why we advocate for the concept of Total Rewards. Essentially, this takes into account both indirect and direct forms of compensation.

Understanding Indirect Compensation

While direct compensation refers to salaries, indirect compensation includes elements like:

  • Benefits, like healthcare, PTO, and retirement savings
  • Your performance management styles
  • How you recognize achievement
  • The work-life balance you promote
  • The quality of your internal culture 

By including culture (which is greatly determined by an organization’s approach to communication) as an element of indirect compensation, nonprofits are able to more accurately examine their compensation strategies and then take a more flexible approach to adjust them. 

This is particularly important when you consider that it’s elements of indirect compensation that tend to be the most important factors in your employee retention rate. Indirect compensation is an integral part of why employees stay engaged with their work. Understanding that will help you better develop strategies for improving it (like by improving internal communication) and help you recognize when you’re falling short. 

Discussing Direct Compensation

However, organizations of all types tend to avoid talking very openly about direct compensation. Employees are rarely aware of exactly why they or their coworkers are paid what they’re paid. This can lead to a lot of easily avoidable confusion, secrecy, and feelings of dissatisfaction. 

As a general best practice, your nonprofit should take an open approach to communicating about compensation with employees. On a one-on-one basis, each employee should clearly understand why they’re paid their particular salary. 

Especially for nonprofits that can’t afford to offer extremely competitive salaries for all staff members, you can foster a more engaged, satisfying work culture by taking an open, realistic approach to direct compensation and paying close attention to the quality of your indirect compensation.

There’s a common misconception that nonprofits have a higher-than-average rate of employee turnover because they don’t or can’t pay their employees well. On average, this isn’t true (learn more here), so it’s important for nonprofits to develop robust compensation strategies like any other type of organization.

2. Prioritize transparency and engagement in general.

Most managers of teams in any type of organization already understand the value of transparency, but it can be very easy to let this priority fall by the wayside under the stresses of day-to-day operations. 

Just as you develop stewardship plans to grow your donors’ investment in your cause, you can easily take steps to do the same for employees! More transparent communication and big-picture views of your operations are great ways to start.

As a nonprofit grows and new processes and policies are built out, not every member of your team will have as much insight into their coworker’s tasks or the priorities of other departments as they once did. In your internal communications and announcements, think carefully about whether you have a good reason not to share particular updates or information. 

Many managers worry that sharing too much information about ongoing activities across the organization will be distracting for team members and risk derailing focus. However, increasing transparency around new strategies and updates can significantly increase engagement.

Staff members will be more understanding of changes and feel more invested in new developments when they can contextualize why your organization is pursuing certain projects over others. 

Another strategy you might consider is expanding your training or onboarding process to include overview presentations or shadowing in different departments. Siloing staff members (or even board members) into very specific roles without giving them the chance to see how their work contributes to the bigger picture can contribute to burnout or low engagement.

3. Share internal knowledge and documentation freely.

This relates directly to fostering a more transparent culture of communication in your organization. Organizational history and process documentation can be an invaluable resource for your staff as they make day-to-day decisions and contribute to your nonprofit’s growth.

Internal knowledge and documentation might be intentionally kept siloed or secret. This is typically more common in for-profit businesses than in nonprofits, but you should still avoid this practice in general. Of course, legal and privacy concerns should always be taken into consideration.

If you have no pressing reason to limit the visibility of certain information or documents, though, you should make sure employees are able to easily access and benefit from it. 

If a nonprofit struggles with this strategy, it’s very often because their tech or data structures need improvement. A jumbled (or nonexistent) central database isn’t really benefiting anyone. Consider these strategies:

  • Develop an integrated CRM system. Any new digital or web-based tools your organization uses should ideally integrate with your central database or CRM. A steady flow of data on both your internal operations and donor engagement will give your team a broader and more useful view of the organization as a whole.
  • Look for engaging new tools. If your organization is planning on making new tech investments soon, engaging mobile-based platforms can offer easier access for your staff and more intuitive experiences for donors. Explore DNL OmniMedia’s guide to advocacy apps for an idea of what this looks like in action. 
  • Make use of an intranet network. A secure, internal intranet is a great way to streamline access to documentation across your whole team. You’ll likely need to work with a tech team to build a custom solution, but it’s worth exploring, particularly for larger nonprofits.

Opening up your store of internal knowledge for employees whenever possible is a best practice for any organization. Not only does it communicate trust, but it also increases employee engagement by letting them know that they’re all valuable parts of your organization’s ongoing story. Periodically examine your nonprofit’s tech infrastructure to make sure there aren’t any active barriers to access that could be removed. 

4. Connect internal goals to your mission and communicate them.

As a nonprofit, you have the benefit of being fully guided by your mission, not necessarily by market forces or competing organizations. Chances are your team members have all pursued work in the nonprofit space because they feel personally compelled to contribute to the social good. They’ve all been drawn to your mission in one way or another. 

Fostering that sense of mission buy-in is critical for nonprofit organizations.

Your internal communication style can support mission buy-in by simply being more explicit. Whenever you’re sharing updates about a new goal or development, think about how it ties into your mission, and then explain how they’re related. 

How does each new goal contribute to your overarching mission? Communicate that connection every chance you get. When fully tied into the driving mission, even unexciting internal projects become more engaging for nonprofit employees. 

This is especially important for high-stakes or critical goals, as mission buy-in will likely be a major factor that pushes your team over the finish line.

When it comes to setting internal goals and building structures to motivate your team, working with a compensation consultant or HR expert early on in the development of your nonprofit can have particularly positive long-term impacts. Growth can cause teams to lose focus, and developing a concrete roadmap around your central mission is a smart safeguard.


An organization’s approach to internal communication — transparent or secretive, mission-driven or dull — plays a major role in determining the quality of its culture as a workplace, directly informing employee engagement and retention. 

By implementing one or more of these strategies into how you handle internal communication, you can encourage healthy shifts and growth in your organization’s culture. Take a flexible approach, and find the right fits for your unique mission and team. 


Author: Jennifer C. Loftus, MBA, SPHR, PHRca, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, CCP, CBP, GRP

Jennifer C. Loftus is a Founding Partner of and National Director for Astron Solutions, a compensation consulting firm.  Jennifer has 23 years of experience garnered at organizations including the Hay Group, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Eagle Electric Manufacturing Company, and Harcourt General.  

Jennifer has held volunteer leadership roles with SHRM, New York City SHRM, and WorldatWork. She serves as a subject matter expert to the SHRM Learning System and as a SHRM instructor.  Jennifer is a sought-after speaker for local & national conferences and media outlets.

Jennifer has an MBA in Human Resource Management with highest honors from Pace University and a BS in Accounting summa cum laude from Rutgers University.  

Jennifer holds Adjunct Professor roles with Pace University, Long Island University, and LIM College.

Jennifer received the 2014 Gotham Comedy Foundation’s Lifetime Ambassador of Laughter Award.

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