Category Archives: Nonprofit Fundraising

How to Make Your Nonprofit’s Emails Stand Out on Days Like Giving Tuesday

clock and faceAlthough it has been around only since 2012, Giving Tuesday (on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving) has become the established “opening day” for year-end online donations to nonprofit organizations.

Last year (in 2015) for example, almost 700,000 online donors collectively gave over $116 million dollars to charitable causes, according to a report by ImpactLab.

Suffice it to say that no nonprofit wants to be left out of the action. And judging from the number of emails in my inbox this morning (they haven’t stopped yet!) most nonprofits have realized this fact. The sheer number of emails is verging on annoying–problematic, as it might lead some recipients to give up and delete the whole lot.

But politely staying out of the fray is no longer a realistic option. So the question becomes, how can a nonprofit distinguish itself from the others within an email subject line or (if it’s lucky and the recipient actually opens it) within the short space of an email?

Here’s what I’m observing various groups trying:

  • Matching gifts. Subject lines like, “Donations matched for Giving Tuesday!”, “Urgent: Your gift will go twice the distance today,” and “3-1 Match for Giving Tuesday Only” are so common that they hardly attract attention. But on the plus side, if a donor was already thinking about making a gift to a particular group, seeing a time-delimited match might tip the balance. Matching gifts also offer a subtle way with which to establish a group’s credibility, if the donor offering the match is well respected.
  • Specific reminders of what a gift will support. With every other nonprofit asking for money to help its cause, it can be eye-catching to see something like, “Send a Girl to School for $58” or “$50 will plant five native trees.”
  • An end-of-day goal. The National Wildlife Federation, for example, set a goal of receiving sufficient donations with which to “plant 5,000 native trees, in order to help wildlife survive and thrive for years to come.” On the one hand, such a goal seems rather arbitrary (couldn’t it wait until tomorrow?); on the other hand, it effectively reminds donors what their collective response can achieve.
  • Humor and/or baby seals. I did enjoy Oceana’s email subject line: “There’s a sea lion pup who wants you to open this email.” The photo inside is, of course, adorable. (Those baby seal pictures never get old!)

Sad to say, some of the email subject lines are just plain dull, such as, “Today we celebrate Giving Tuesday.” (That’s the only one I saved long enough to quote!) But at least that nonprofit didn’t sit this year’s Giving Tuesday out!

Trump Plan to Cap Itemized Deductions a Concern for Nonprofits

As has been widely reported, President-Elect Donald Trump’s plan to change the U.S. tax system includes placing a cap on itemized deductions–$100,000 for a single person, and $200,000 for a married couple.

Sound like plenty to cover your deductions? (It sure is for mine.)

But we all have cause for concern about the impact on U.S. nonprofit organizations, because charitable donations are on the list of potential U.S. tax deductions.

Suddenly, the wealthiest of donors will have less incentive to give. And there’s no question that tax deductions form a part, though not all, of donors’ motivations to give (witness the end-of-year donation rush).

This is especially troubling news when issued around the same time as a report from the Institute for Policy Studies, finding that recent growth in philanthropic giving is concentrated among a handful of high-income, high-wealth donors, while giving by lower- and middle-income donors is steadily declining–mirroring the increasing concentration of societal wealth.

If I were in charge of a nonprofit right now, I’d work extra hard on that end-of-year 2016 campaign to my wealthiest donors!

Online Places to Do Holiday Shopping for a Cause

holiday lightsA shout-out to Nonprofit Tech for Good for compiling a list of 30 Online Stores That Benefit Nonprofits, just in time for the start of the holiday shopping season.

My family could have used this the year I announced (in classic Berkeley style) that I wanted to reduce consumerism and overconsumption by having us give and get only gifts from nonprofits that year.

I think I confused them. I received things like shrunken wool sweaters from Goodwill.

Perhaps, like many people I’ve met, they have no idea what a nonprofit actually is. Fortunately, Nolo has an answer for that.

But the technical definition can’t possibly reflect the great variety of nonprofits that exist in the U.S., from service organizations with an online store on the side to museums and hospitals to Goodwill and its ilk.

You’ll find all of those on the list above, plus a few websites that are dedicated to selling goods and then forwarding the profits to various nonprofit organizations and causes.

Now, if only I could try on one of those beanies . . . .

Hmm, Maybe a Scoreboard Wasn’t Quite What This Donor Thought He Was Funding

grassHere’s one you can file under, “Complying With the Letter of the Law Won’t Necessarily Keep You Out of Trouble.”

The University of New Hampshire seems to have been, legally speaking, properly handling a testamentary donation when it used one fourth of the $4 million that thrifty library cataloguer Robert Morin saved and left to the college for–are you ready?–a football scoreboard.

Mr. Morin had, it appears true, made a mostly unrestricted gift. By law, a nonprofit that receives such a gift must simply put it toward purposes that it believes to be appropriate within its mission. Sports is unquestionably part of a university’s mission (as opposed to, say, sending all the board members to Vegas for a weekend’s entertainment).

But does such a gift honor the donor’s legacy and convey a positive message to possible future donors? Many say not.

The importance of books and the library to Mr. Morin is revealed by the fact that, of his large gift, he earmarked $100,000 for the library where he worked for nearly 50 years.

The library was, according to reports, Mr. Morin’s “whole life;” he was so devoted to books that he systematically read nearly every one ever published in the United States. He also liked to sit outside the library smoking a pipe and chatting with students.

Perhaps if he’d been rolling in dough, the university’s use of his life savings would be less subject to question. But this is a man who reportedly lived humbly, drove an old Plymouth, and subsisted on frozen dinners.

In the end, it comes down to a public relations matter. In its press release announcing the gift, the university tried to allay criticism by saying, in essence, “He liked football, too!”

Other potential donors might not be so convinced–and even if they make gifts to the college, they might place more restrictions on them. Such restrictions can be a pain to deal with, particularly after years pass and the recipient’s programs and activities change, as described in Nonprofit Gifts: When Strings Are Attached.

New Edition of “Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits” Hits the Shelves!

effn5_1_1Nolo’s all-around guide to raising money for small to mid-size charitable organization has been a success since it was first published, not only becoming a resource for not nonprofit staff, but used at many universities to teach fundraising principles.

We’re please to announce that the book has just been released in its fifth edition.

Like every Nolo book, we take pains to update and freshen it up before issuing a new version. This latest one features:

  • Detailed new advice on running a crowdfunding campaign, including how to choose the best crowdfunding platform.
  • New stories from fundraising experts, such as Ligia Peña’s description of how to hold a donor-appreciation event, and John McArdle’s discussion of how to take donors’ personalities and wishes into account when crafting appeals.
  • New sample letters and marketing materials.

Check it out, along with Nolo’s other publications on starting and running nonprofit organizations.