4 Things to Keep in Mind When Hosting a Virtual Auction

Thinking of a virtual auction?

Over the past two-or-so years, your nonprofit has probably had its fair share of virtual fundraising events. You may have incorporated virtual peer-to-peer events, galas, or entertainment-based events like trivia nights, concerts, and comedy shows. These virtual events became a key fundraising strategy to survive and thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By now, you (hopefully) have the back-end operations of virtual fundraising events running like a pro. But, while it is important to make sure the event runs smoothly on the back-end—both for the sanity of your team and the event functions’ efficiency—the guest experience should be your number one priority. No one wants to give if they’re not having a good time!

A virtual auction is one type of nonprofit fundraising event that works particularly well online. But, your guests will only enjoy the event if you plan it with their enjoyment front and center from the start. 

With that in mind, this guide will discuss four things to keep in mind when hosting a virtual auction event. 

Cover all of your bases when planning for the event.

When planning your event, there are probably a ton of logistics and overall strategy-related questions you’re considering. How much do you need to raise? How will you market the event to have a massive turnout on the day-of? How will the event factor into your overall fundraising strategy for the year?

All are important questions and far from the only considerations you’ll be working through. In particular, we’d recommend incorporating the following three tasks into your planning process to make sure you’re accounting for the guest experience:

  • Prep staff and volunteers. When you host an in-person event, you’ll probably have a run-through with staff and volunteers before the event begins to make sure everyone knows where they need to be and when they need to be there. Don’t skimp on event training just because you’ve gone virtual! Make sure staff and volunteers know the general rundown of the event, how to navigate your event software, and how to answer any questions that might pop up.
  • Make sure you have the right tech on hand. With an auction, this means your nonprofit auction software. This software will host your event from start to finish, so it should have features such as mobile bidding, streamlined checkout, live video streaming, item promotion, and engagement tools like leaderboards and fundraising thermometers.
  • See what your peers are up to. Now, your nonprofit shouldn’t aim to follow each and every virtual fundraising event trend out there. However, considering your guests are probably attending their fair share of virtual events nowadays, it’s worthwhile to make sure you’re standing out from the crowd. When planning, check out what your peers are pulling off in their virtual events, whether that’s reading nonprofit influencers’ blogs, well-regarded publications, or attending educational webinars. It could give you a few engagement tactics to incorporate into your next event!

Planning the event is only half the battle. Next up is actively taking steps to make the event enjoyable from start to finish.

Make it easy to join and participate in the event.

Have you ever heard the saying “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression”? Well, it’s true! And for your event, it means that you need to impress guests from the very first second.

Begin with making it easy to join the event. The technology you choose will play a huge role in this. Ideally, guests should be able to follow a link that takes them directly to the event. Or, as Handbid’s guide to silent auction software mentions, you could choose a solution with a native mobile app for iPhones and Androids. Then, guests just download the app and search for your event. If the process is more complicated, write out clear, step-by-step instructions and send them to guests in advance.

After guests join the event, it needs to be easy for them to participate in the festivities—i.e. bid on items. This is where mobile bidding comes into play, empowering your guests to view pictures and descriptions of items and place bids. Ideally, guests should be able to receive push notifications or SMS messages that let them know when they’ve been outbid, so they don’t have to keep an eye on items of interest for the entire duration of the event.

Plan for engagement from start to finish.

Let’s be honest—it’s easy to “zone out” when you’re staring at a smartphone or computer screen. We all collectively spend so much time staring at screens that they’ve lost some of their charm!

Unfortunately, this works against your virtual event. Instead of being in a venue and chatting with other guests, event attendees are at home, alone, and may lose interest from time to time. That’s not an indictment of how interested guests are in your cause—it’s just a fact of the virtual realm!

So, it’s up to you to capture and recapture guests throughout the event. Consider sprinkling the following engagement strategies into your event:

  • Incorporate live entertainment. This could mean a band playing live music, a comedian showing off their best bits, or even an inspirational speaker giving a motivational speech.
  • Hire an auctioneer. Auctioneers are known for keeping the energy alive at auction events. Invite one to fast-talk through a few of your top-value items throughout the event.
  • Procure eye-catching items. Handbid’s guide to silent auction items lists 40+ ideas that are sure to grab guests’ attention, such as signed memorabilia, tickets to major sports events, and one-of-a-kind artwork.
  • Encourage a bit of healthy competition. Encourage guests to battle it out with their bids. With your auction software, show a leaderboard (i.e. who is winning which items) or even a list of the top event supporters so far.

Make sure to say “thank you” after the event is complete.

When the event is over, you might be tempted to kick up your boots and call it a day. Don’t relax just yet!

Make sure that you show both event guests and donors that you appreciate their participation and contributions toward your cause.

For those who donated items to your event, send a thank-you note their way. Express your gratitude for their unique donation (mention it by name) and provide a receipt that outlines what they donated to your event. While you shouldn’t (and can’t reliably) advise donors on whether their donation is tax deductible, this information will give them what they need to speak with their accountant about it.

You might be interested in whether donations are eligible for any corporate philanthropy programs through which employers make matching donations. Because these programs vary widely across different employers, it’s best to share information about these programs with your donors and encourage them to investigate whether their company offers one. This information can be included in your thank-you note!

For event guests, you should also send thank-you notes after the event wraps up. For guests who made particularly large contributions, you could also call them or send handwritten notes. 


We’re now multiple years into the widespread use of virtual events. At this point, your organization is a pro when it comes to planning and running smooth events. But have you perfected the virtual guest experience for your next auction?

With these four tips, you’ll plan and host an event that not only runs smoothly on the back-end, but is enjoyable for guests from start to finish. Good luck!


Jeff Porter headshot

Jeff Porter, Founder & CEO of Handbid, has spent 18 years in the nonprofit industry. In 2004 he founded the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association of Colorado where he still resides as board chair. Jeff learned early on that nonprofits desperately needed better and more affordable fundraising solutions.  Leveraging his software background, he built most of the tools his charities used, and in 2011 he launched Handbid at his own fundraising event.  The goal was to improve the guest experience, reduce administration and increase revenue.  Handbid accomplished all of those goals, effectively doubling revenue in its debut. Nine years later, Handbid’s suite of tools has delighted over a half-million guests, generated millions of bids, and helped thousands of charities raise well over $100 million.

Pledges vs. Donations: What’s the Difference?

Pledges vs. Donations: What’s the Difference?

While building your fundraising strategy for your organization, you may have come across two different terms for types of fundraising: pledges and donations. At some point, you’ve probably thought to yourself, what is the difference between pledges and donations, anyway? 

Although they’re similar, pledges and donations aren’t the same things. Understanding the difference between these fundraising types can help you plan more thoughtful fundraising events and initiatives to engage your supporters. 

With that in mind, in this post, we’ll explore: 

  • The Difference Between Pledges and Donations
  • When to Ask for a Pledge
  • When to Ask for a Donation
  • Choosing the Right Software Tools for Collecting Pledges and Donations

Both pledges and donations can help you boost your organization’s fundraising efforts and connect with your donors on a deeper level. Read on to find out how!

The Difference Between Pledges and Donations

pledge vs. donations infographic

A pledge is a promise a supporter makes to donate a certain amount at a specified time or after certain criteria have been met. A pledge can be conditional, meaning the organization has to do something in order to eventually receive the donation. It can also be unconditional, meaning there are no strings attached to the transaction. Essentially, a pledge will eventually lead to a donation, but it isn’t an immediate contribution. 

On the other hand, a donation is the immediate transfer of money or goods from a donor to your organization. Donations can be accepted at any time. They include individual donations, in-kind donations, legacy or planned donations, matching gift contributions, volunteer grants, and other monetary contributions. 

99Pledges_Nonprofit-Courses_Pledges-vs.-Donations–What’s-the-Difference-_Supplementary.jpg

When to Ask for a Pledge 

You might consider asking for donations to be the default fundraising option, but there are certain scenarios where you might want to ask for pledges instead. You can ask donors to pledge donations when you’re conducting fundraising initiatives like: 

  • A fun run or a-thon-style fundraiser. In an a-thon-style event, participants try to complete a certain activity for as long as possible. For example, in a dance-a-thon, participants dance for as long as possible. In a fun run, participants run for as long as they can or complete as many laps as possible. Donors pledge a fixed donation amount and contribute donations once the event concludes based on how long participants engaged in the activity. 
  • Your annual fundraising efforts. When conducting annual fundraising efforts, you can ask donors to pledge a certain amount to your annual campaign and fulfill that pledge before the end of the year. 
  • A text-to-pledge campaign. In a text-to-pledge campaign, you can text supporters directly asking them to pledge a certain amount to your fundraising efforts. Then, you can follow up later on, send them your online donation form, and ask them to complete their donation. 

With a text-to-pledge or annual fundraising pledge campaign, supporters can choose their own donation amounts. You can offer a handful of suggested donation amounts to help supporters choose the right amount for them and give them an idea of the type of donations you’re looking for.

Another advantage of pledges is that, when hosting an event like an a-thon challenge, participants will be motivated to engage in the activity for longer to raise more money from pledged donations. They can be a great motivational tool to reach your fundraising goals. 

When to Ask for a Donation

Of course, there are plenty of scenarios where it makes sense to ask for straightforward donations. These include during: 

  • Online or direct mail fundraising campaigns
  • Events
  • Peer-to-peer or crowdfunding campaigns
  • A matching gift drive or other corporate philanthropy initiatives

These donations will go swiftly and directly to your organization’s fundraising reserves, allowing you to put them to use right away. 

To help you determine whether to ask for pledges or donations, let’s take a look at an example of different ways you might incorporate these fundraising types. Perhaps you’re looking for effective baseball fundraising ideas to raise money for your youth baseball team. If you want to collect pledges from supporters, you can host a hit-a-thon fundraiser where supporters pledge to donate a certain amount for every ball participants hit during the challenge. This encourages participants to try to get as many hits as possible throughout the event. 

If you’re looking to collect direct donations, you can launch a more traditional fundraising campaign like a handwritten letter campaign, bake sale, or merchandise sale. This allows you to earn on-the-spot donations from your supporters. 

Either fundraising style can bring in plenty of donations for your cause. Choosing the right option depends on the style of fundraising event you’re hosting. It also depends on whether you hope to gain access to donations immediately or if you’re able to wait for pledged donations to be fulfilled at a later time. 

Choosing the Right Software Tools for Collecting Pledges and Donations

Whether your fundraiser is focused on collecting pledges or donations, you’ll need to use the right software tools to easily gather these forms of support. There are plenty of platforms and resources available for nonprofits, schools, youth groups, and other organizations looking to fundraise on a budget. 

Here are a few different types of fundraising software solutions that can help you raise more: 

  • Pledge fundraising software helps solicit pledges and collect donations. Check out 99Pledges’ roundup of effective fundraising platforms to review some of the top options available. These solutions allow you to quickly set up and share donation pages in conjunction with your fundraising events or campaigns. 
  • Online donation tools allow you to collect direct donations. They offer the ability to create branded online donation pages and collect donations using a secure payment processor. These tools range from user-friendly platforms that help you create streamlined online donation forms to systems that also allow you to create peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns and track donor information. 
  • Marketing tools help you promote your pledge or donation campaign. These tools include email marketing platforms and social media scheduling tools that allow you to create and schedule marketing campaigns. 

Conduct a tech check-up for your organization to determine which fundraising tools you may have to invest in. Search for tools that are free or offer low platform costs to help stick within your budget. 


Now that you know the difference between pledges and donations, you can confidently choose the right fundraising avenue for your organization. Remember, whether you’re asking for pledges or donations, you must show donors you appreciate their support. Expressing gratitude will make donors much more likely to give the next time you have a fundraiser! 


Picture of Brad Dowhaniuk

Author: Brad Dowhaniuk

Brad Dowhaniuk is the co-founder of 99Pledges, which provides schools and teams with an easy-to-use, web-based fundraising solution to manage and drive success in Fun Runs, jog-a-thons, baseball hit-a-thons, and much more.

Creating a Mobile-Friendly Nonprofit Website: 5 Tips

Have you ever visited a website that looked absolutely terrible on your mobile device? Perhaps the text was illegible, the menu was about seven items too long, or there was a pop-up ad with a microscopic “X” button. If so, you understand the importance of creating a mobile-friendly nonprofit website. 

Research on user experience has proven that mobile-responsive nonprofit websites are important because:

If you’ve been conducting a tech check-up or reviewing your online presence and determined that your website is coming up short regarding mobile-friendliness, this post is for you. We’ll cover what makes a website mobile-friendly and five tips for improving your site’s mobile version. Let’s get started. 

What is a Mobile-Friendly Website?

A mobile-friendly website offers an equally positive user experience on mobile devices as it does on desktop or laptop computers. 

You can make your nonprofit’s website mobile-friendly using responsive design. Responsive design adjusts to the screen size automatically, no matter what device the visitor is using. This type of design is highly fluid and quick to design because the process is automatic. Responsive design is the default for top content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress and Drupal

The top nonprofit websites make use of responsive design to offer pared-down mobile versions that make online engagement a breeze. 

5 Tips to Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly

Your nonprofit’s supporters use your website to make online donations, register for volunteer opportunities, sign up for your email newsletter, and more. Therefore, making your website mobile-friendly has wide-reaching implications for both your marketing and fundraising strategies. If you can’t effectively engage with supporters via their mobile devices, you’ll have a challenging time trying to earn their online donations. 

To ensure that your website’s mobile version appeals to supporters and offers a positive user experience, incorporate the following guidelines: 

1. Test your website for mobile-friendliness.

As you redesign your website, the changes you make to the desktop version might have unintended consequences for mobile performance. That’s why Kanopi’s guide to website planning and development recommends testing your website for mobile-friendliness on an ongoing basis, just as you assess other elements such as load speed and accessibility. 

Use both automated and manual testing to determine mobile-friendliness. Here’s a breakdown of the difference between these two types of testing: 

  • For automated testing, use tools like the Google mobile-friendliness test. You can also use built-in tools in your CMS to run preliminary tests assessing your site’s mobile quality. However, don’t only rely on these automated tests to determine mobile-friendliness because they won’t pick up every mistake and you’ll need a human eye to fully assess the mobile user experience. 
  • For manual testing, pick up your phone and routinely browse your website’s mobile version. Review important pages such as your homepage and online donation form to ensure there aren’t any formatting issues. Take a close look at your menu and other navigation tools to make sure everything is functioning properly for mobile users. 

Using a combination of these tests should help you catch as many mobile formatting issues as possible and correct them before they negatively affect your website traffic and SEO rankings. 

2. Simplify your content.

The smaller size of mobile screens means you shouldn’t cram your site’s mobile version with too much content. A cluttered website can overwhelm or cause formatting issues for mobile users. 

Double the Donation’s guide to nonprofit web design recommends streamlining your website by: 

  • Employing simple navigation. Keep your main menu to five items or less and make sure each item is large enough to be read easily. Consider using a toggle or hamburger menu that appears only when mobile users touch it to keep the main view uncluttered. 
  • Choosing images and graphics carefully. Too much visual content can clutter up your website and make it challenging for users to find what they’re looking for quickly. Select your website’s images and graphics carefully by choosing just a handful of eye-catching images for important pages like your homepage. Also, make sure any infographics you include have large enough text to be read on mobile devices. 
  • Using sufficient white space. Use white or negative space to break up pages and draw visitors’ attention to important information and elements such as your call-to-action (CTA) buttons. 

Apply these tips to not only your main website pages but also to your nonprofit’s blog posts. Ensure each of your blog posts looks great on mobile by designing them in a vertical format, with large text and attention-grabbing images. Include social media sharing buttons so visitors can easily share posts on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

3. Choose large, readable fonts and text sizes.

Another consequence of the smaller screen size of mobile devices is that text can be harder to read since it appears much smaller than on desktops. Reading text on a phone can be especially difficult for users with visual impairments. 

To improve the mobile reading experience, choose your fonts and text sizes with these tips in mind: 

  • Your text should be responsive on mobile devices. The text should automatically adjust to smaller screens and should be scalable if visitors have large text settings on their mobile browsers.
  • In general, you’ll want to choose sans-serif fonts because they tend to be better for online readability. Sans-serif fonts like Arial, Helvetica, and Futura have a more bold, streamlined appearance than serif fonts like Times New Roman, making them more accessible. Plus, sans-serif fonts are often seen as more modern than serif fonts, which can help convey your nonprofit’s forward-thinking brand. 
  • Your CTA buttons should be large and eye-catching. Your CTA buttons should be large enough to be read on mobile devices. Make sure these buttons also have sufficient color contrast between the text and button color so that they stand out on both mobile and desktop, while also making them more accessible to visitors with visual impairments. 

Readable fonts and text sizes ensure that visitors won’t have to zoom in on your site’s mobile version or struggle to understand what your text or CTAs are communicating. 

4. Increase page load speed.

A Google study revealed that 53% of visitors will leave a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load on mobile.

A fast website load time is important for both your desktop and mobile versions, but just like all other site elements, you must optimize your mobile load time individually for the best results. This ensures that both site versions are fully optimized and helps catch any issues that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.

Use these strategies to improve your website’s mobile load speed: 

  • Minify the code by removing unnecessary characters and spaces. This helps reduce the bandwidth necessary to load your site on mobile devices. 
  • Optimize images by resizing and compressing them. This also helps save bandwidth and makes your images look better on phones.
  • Eliminate redirects by scanning your website for unnecessary redirects. You can use the tools within your CMS or use a free tool like Google PageSpeed Insights to check for redirects and other page speed issues. 

If your website loads too slowly, visitors might get distracted by texts, social media pings, or other notifications that come through their mobile devices. On the other hand, a fast load speed maintains their attention, allowing them to find what they are looking for on your website faster, keeping them engaged with your organization. 

5. Eliminate pop-ups. 

Pop-up ads and messages can be annoying on desktops, but they tend to be even more obtrusive for mobile users. That’s because the “X” button is usually a lot smaller on mobile devices than on computers. 

Plus, pop-ups that appear on your site’s desktop version will more likely than not cover the entire screen on mobile devices, which can cause a frustrating user experience. Mobile visitors will probably end up exiting your site altogether rather than struggle to close out a pop-up message or ad. 

However, this doesn’t mean you should avoid pop-ups altogether. When your desktop pop-up messages are tastefully designed and appeal to your visitors’ intentions, they can be an effective way to grow your audience. For example, you might use a desktop pop-up message to encourage visitors to sign up for your email newsletter, take advantage of a sale for your online merchandise store, or download your digital resources.

But ultimately, it’s best to remove these messages from your site’s mobile version, as they can end up doing more harm than good. 


Whether you’re creating your nonprofit’s development plan or looking to improve your online engagement strategy, prioritize creating a mobile-optimized website. These tips will help you create a website that looks just as good on mobile devices as it does on desktops. 

This guest post was contributed by Anne Stefanyk of Kanopi Studios.

As Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, Anne helps create clarity around project needs, and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. She enjoys helping clients identify their problems, and then empowering the Kanopi team to execute great solutions.

Building Relationships With Major Donors: 5 Best Practices

Different nonprofits have all sorts of fundraising strategies that they use to earn the revenue necessary to operate the organization. Large nonprofits can invest in enterprise-level solutions, such as DRTV, while small nonprofits may get creative with their limited resources by hosting accessible crowdfunding campaigns. However, there are a few fundraising strategies that nearly every nonprofit can benefit from, especially when it comes to cultivating major donors.

Contributions from a few major donors often make up the bulk of a nonprofit’s fundraising revenue. While relying on a handful of individuals to keep your organization running might sound like a precarious situation, if you build strong relationships with your major donors, they can be one of your most reliable, sustainable revenue sources.

Forming relationships with major donors does have some degree of organic development based on personal connections. However, you can take targeted actions to cultivate these relationships, leading to improved fundraising. Here are five ways your nonprofit can build connections with major donors:

  1. Define your major gifts process.
  2. Send targeted messages.
  3. Offer multiple engagement opportunities.
  4. Keep in touch after your initial ask.
  5. Be open to multiple kinds of support.

Following best practices like these can help you systematically approach your major donors. However, be sure to always keep in mind that your major donors are people and not money dispensers. Strategies like these are meant to facilitate natural relationship building, so your nonprofit can develop meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships that will lead to long-lasting support. Let’s get started.

1. Define your major gifts process.

As with any fundraising initiative, your team will need to stay organized when cultivating major donor relationships. Keep track of each relationship’s progress as your nonprofit grows and attracts more donors. By tracking each interaction, you’ll be able to collect and document key information about your donors and avoid mistakes such as confusing donors’ names in conversation or making major solicitations too early in the relationship.

CharityEngine’s guide to nonprofit CRMs recommends looking for a platform that allows you to track each step of the major giving process, including:

This graphic outlines the four steps of the major giving process.

  1. Engagement begins. Few supporters will make a major donation at the very start of their engagement. During these initial interactions, major donors will likely start as moderate supporters.
  2. Prospect research. Use prospect research tools to learn more about your donors and discover if any of them have the potential to become major donors. Your CRM should either come with prospect research tools or integrate with third-party databases to help your nonprofit gain supplemental donor information.
  3. Stewardship. After you’ve identified your prospects, you’ll begin cultivating a relationship through a variety of interactions. Be sure to make note of these in each of your donor profiles to help inform your next course of action in the donor journey.
  4. The gift. Make note of each gift in your donor profiles. Thank them and use prior information to continue building the relationship and set your nonprofit up for receiving future gifts after additional stewardship.

These steps provide a general outline for the major gift process that can help you monitor how close each donor is to making a gift. By tracking individual interactions and your donors’ responses, you’ll be able to determine what actions your team should take to move them along to the next phase.

2. Send targeted messages.

Your nonprofit likely sends out automated messages to your donors, tailoring each one with personalized information like the supporters’ names and other specific details. While this approach can work for your average donors, you’ll want to avoid sending pre-written, generic messages to your major donors.

You should consistently stay in touch with your major donor prospects with personalized correspondences to keep up a personal relationship. As part of this communication, consider turning off your regular donor communication emails for them, ensuring you don’t inadvertently send them a routine request for a donation when you’re in the middle of courting a major gift.

Instead, write individualized messages sharing information about your nonprofit that is targeted to their interests. This can include impact reports, personal invitations to events, and especially stories about your nonprofit’s success. Getting Attention’s guide to nonprofit storytelling offers some key advice on how to construct an engaging story:

  • Know your story’s objective. You shouldn’t be telling a story just for the sake of doing so. Instead, each of your stories should be tied to a specific objective. Ask what you want your major donors to do or think after reading your stories. For example, you may want to inspire them to think more deeply about the impact of making a donation in the days leading up to your major gift request, or, when the relationship is in the beginning stages, you may want to focus on cultivating initial interest.

 

  • Inspire empathy. Donors give because they feel a personal connection to your nonprofit. Stories that emotionally move your supporters can lay the foundation for this deeper connection, which you can then build on through additional interactions. Plus, as you continue to communicate with your major donors, you’ll want to share new information with them, and your nonprofit is likely to always have new stories based on your beneficiaries, volunteers, staff, and other members of your organization.

 

  • Use visuals. Visual elements draw your supporters’ attention, help them better envision your nonprofit’s impact, and can evoke an emotional response to your mission. Choose visuals that help support your story, such as photographs of the people your story is about or graphics that help supporters visualize key statistics related to your cause.

As you gather more information about your major donors, you’ll be better able to tailor your stories and messages to their specific interests. For example, in your first interactions with these supporters, you may base messages and conversations on the initiatives they’ve supported in the past. But as you learn more about their motivations, you can provide more detailed messages targeted for their goals and personal investment in your nonprofit.

3. Offer multiple engagement opportunities.

Your relationships with major donors need to be built on more than just repeated asks for donations. In fact, only asking potential major donors for gifts is likely to result in your nonprofit losing prospective donors. Instead, your stewardship process should include extending invitations to your donors for a variety of engagement opportunities, such as:

  • Events. Nonprofit events can vary widely, so consider your major donors’ interests when inviting them to attend. For example, your more athletic donors may be interested in participating in a community 5K, while other donors may prefer an exclusive gala. Then, take note of which events your major donor prospects do attend in their donor profiles, so you can be sure to invite them to similar events in the future.

 

  • Advocacy campaigns. Advocacy campaigns allow your nonprofit to advance your mission and give all of your supporters a new way to get involved with your cause. For your major donors, advocacy campaigns provide an opportunity to get involved in supporting your nonprofit’s mission and impact in a new way.

 

  • Office tours. Giving your major donors a behind-the-scenes look at your nonprofit can help them feel a little more like VIPs. Get in touch with them to schedule an office tour and ask high-level staff members to meet with them on your set date.

 

  • Volunteer opportunities. Your major donors are invested in your nonprofit, and many of them might want to get involved with a more hands-on method of supporting your cause. Share volunteer opportunities with major donors, and work with them to find roles that suit their skills and interests.

Make note of each engagement opportunity your major donors participate in so you can continue presenting them with activities that will deepen their connection with your mission.

4. Keep in touch after your initial ask.

Developing meaningful relationships with donors takes time, and your nonprofit should continue to steward these relationships after your initial ask. If your donors say yes, you should continue building your relationship and restart their donor journey to lead them towards making another contribution.

After a donor’s first major gift, be sure to thank them profusely for their generosity. This can be conducted a number of ways, but at minimum, it should at least include several one-on-one conversations where you thank them directly for their contribution.

Ensure you never miss a follow-up appointment or message by using major gift tracking and donor management tools to schedule your continued interactions after your ask. Note if the ask was successful and reasons for why it was or was not. This will help your team create a unique strategy for approaching each major donor and will lead to future successful asks.

5. Be open to multiple kinds of support.

Over the course of your nonprofit’s relationship with your major donors, they may not always be able to make a major gift or offer the same level of support they had previously. In these situations, your nonprofit should be flexible and work with your donors to find a solution that works for their current financial situation.

Major donors can support your cause in a variety of ways outside of monetary donations. For example, during a capital campaign, a major donor may only be able to make a relatively modest contribution themselves, but they can still help your campaign by facilitating introductions to other donors who might be interested in your cause.

Support like this from major donors can help your nonprofit increase and diversify your revenue sources. Donors with business connections can put your nonprofit in conversation with corporations that have philanthropic missions that align with yours, potentially leading to a sponsorship or even establishing a corporate giving program for their employees.


Major donations keep your nonprofit running. Ensure that you are investing in these relationships to build mutually beneficial, fulfilling connections that will lead to continued support. Leverage your nonprofit’s software platforms to monitor your interactions and make data-driven decisions to continually move these relationships forward. Good luck!

This guest post was contributed by Philip Schmitz of CharityEngine.

Philip Schmitz is the CEO and founder of cloud-services leader BIS Global, creators of the CharityEngine fundraising & communications technology platform. Founded in 1999, Phil has managed the vision and strategy for BIS’s suite of integrated business applications & hosting tools used by more than 400 businesses & non-profits.

6 Ideas for Empowering Members with Career Development

Think back to when you got your first job. Maybe it was at your local pizza shop, ice cream parlor, or neighborhood pool. Odds are, you didn’t just apply for the role out of the blue. You probably spent some time perfecting your resume, reaching out to potential references, and practicing for the interview.

Your members have joined your association for the same reason—to gain access to valuable career development opportunities and guidance on how to advance their careers. But, are you doing all you can when it comes to facilitating your members’ professional growth?

When you provide members with opportunities to advance in your industry, you’re creating a better member experience for them, which could boost your renewals. Ultimately, what’s good for your members is good for your organization as a whole! But how do you ensure that your career development offerings are what your members are really looking for?

Here are 6 ideas for empowering your members to advance professionally:

1. Enhance your educational offerings and certifications.

Your industry probably offers certifications your members can obtain to prove their skills. For example, nonprofit certificates alone run the gamut of skillsets, from grant writing to leadership, marketing, and fundraising. Other industries might require skilled trade or software certifications.

If your organization doesn’t offer a way for members to achieve these certifications or training opportunities, members might start looking elsewhere—and take their membership dues with them.

To give your members educational opportunities that they see value in, use a learning management system (LMS). You can offer courses and lessons that your members need to achieve the certifications that are important to them.

A quality LMS can offer the following features to help facilitate members’ continuing education:

  • Content storage to keep track of documents, lesson plans, and other learning materials in a centralized location. Members can return to the content at any time to prepare for assessments or brush up on their knowledge.
  • Assessment tools to test members on what they’ve learned and measure their progress. You can adjust your learning strategy based on members’ test results.
  • Certification issuing so members have physical proof of their educational accomplishments. Once members pass all necessary assessments, your LMS can issue them the certificate or educational credits they need.

Sometimes a certificate is all that stands between a member and a potential raise or promotion. Your continued education opportunities could transform your members’ lives—and make you a crucial part of their career.

2. Offer a membership directory.

An online member directory can be a great way to grow your community as well as provide networking and career opportunities. They can help advance your members’ careers in many ways, such as providing the information they need for entering a mentor-mentee relationship.

To provide the most value with your membership directory, include each member’s:

  • Name
  • Contact information
  • Photo
  • Join date
  • Relevant social media handles
  • Business address
  • Industry/sector
  • Specialty
  • Alma mater

But your directory is more than just a database of information. It can also create relationships and opportunities for people outside of your organization, which can also lead to new members. By making your directory accessible to the general public, external people will be able to browse it and get in touch with an individual or company they’d like to connect with.

For example, MemberClicks’ guide to membership directories explains that a chamber directory can point prospective customers, business partners, and employees to your members’ businesses. This can also bring direct traffic to your members’ businesses and grow their customer bases.

3. Create a mentorship program.

Creating a mentorship program is a great way to help members gain access to expert tips and advice for advancing their careers.

Use your membership database within your association management system to identify members who you think would make great mentors. These may be longtime members, respected experts in the field, or those who’ve taken on leadership roles within your organization.

Then, once you have a few mentors on board, reach out to prospective mentees. New members, younger members, and those who are looking to advance in their careers could all benefit from your mentor program.

Give your mentors and mentees more structure to their mentoring sessions by creating specific training resources or learning materials they can work through together. Encourage them to meet up a couple of times each month for a defined time period to work through the materials, as well as any other conversations that would benefit mentees.

4. Host events and networking opportunities.

Give your members a more engaging way to learn and grow professionally by hosting an educational event or networking opportunity.

Educational events and networking opportunities allow members to interact with each other, form relationships, and learn about industry trends and developments.

For instance, let’s say your organization is an association for sports psychologists. By hosting a conference, you can bring members together to hear talks from industry leaders on topics like reducing anxiety or treating concussions. They can bring these tips back to their own practices or teams to ensure they’re offering the best care possible.

Depending on your budget and goals, your event could be a conference, webinar, or night out at a local restaurant. These experiences can be either in-person or online. You can even offer a hybrid conference so members can choose how they feel comfortable participating.

Check out Re:Charity’s guide to livestreaming to review the top strategies and tools for hosting virtual and hybrid events. From Facebook Live to Zoom chat rooms, there are plenty of ways to engage members in events and networking opportunities, even if you can’t meet in person.

5. Provide access to industry publications.

Trade publications are invaluable resources for the latest trends and developments in your field. Consider offering free or highly-discounted subscriptions to members so they can stay up-to-date.

For example, if you’re an association for professional dog trainers, giving access to your industry’s leading magazine can be a great asset. It can provide members with the latest tips and best practices for topics like online training, working with puppies, teaching agility, and more.

You can even make it easy for your members to access industry information by transforming your association’s website into an important source of industry information. Write high-quality blog posts and news articles highlighting different trends or interviewing well-known leaders.

6. Ask your members for feedback.

The best way to know if you’re on track with providing career development opportunities that are valuable and relevant to your members is to ask them!

You can request member feedback using a short survey that asks about career development needs, or you can include it as part of your longer member needs assessment. Either way, be sure to ask members:

  • How would you rate our career development opportunities on a scale of 1-10?
  • What opportunities have you taken advantage of?
  • What opportunities are you planning to take advantage of in the future?
  • Are there any career development opportunities we don’t offer that you think we should?

Make sure you sample a wide range of members, including both new and long-time members, younger and older ones, and those in different sectors of your industry. This way, you can accurately assess if you’re meeting all their needs.


Offering career development opportunities that speak to the needs of your members is a powerful part of your association’s membership benefits. It can establish your association’s reputation as a valuable organization within your industry and engage with your members in a meaningful way. Most importantly, it can help your members bring their careers to the next level by helping them achieve professional goals and aspirations. Overall, by offering these valuable opportunities to members, you prioritize their needs and ensure you’re advancing your mission effectively.

This guest post was contributed by Kerry McCreadie of MemberClicks.This guest post was contributed by Kerry McCreadie of MemberClicks

What matters most to membership organizations? As the Senior Content Marketing Manager for Personify’s Wild Apricot and MemberClicks products, this is the question always on Kerry’s mind. Their goal is to help nonprofits, associations, and clubs discover the solutions that solve their most frustrating pain points—while growing and retaining their member base. As he CEO and Founder of their own nonprofit organization, Kerry is passionate about nonprofit and charitable work—especially in the arts.

 

Conducting a Tech Check-Up: A Quick Guide for Nonprofits

These days, there are a plethora of software tools available for nonprofits. From constituent relationship management (CRM) databases to marketing solutions and donor research platforms, nonprofits have their pick of advanced tools and resources. But how can you know if your organization is using the right tools and doing so effectively?

A nonprofit technology assessment can reveal where your organization stands in relation to your technology tools and usage. This check-up process reveals the successes and gaps in your tech strategy, ultimately allowing you to understand where there’s room for improvement.

Better technology usage can lead to a host of benefits for nonprofits, paving the way for more effective, intentional marketing and fundraising strategies. Use this guide to understand everything you need to know about nonprofit technology assessments, including:

  • When Should You Conduct a Technology Assessment?
  • Important Tech Tools to Prioritize
  • Steps of a Technology Check-Up
  • How a Tech Consultant Can Help

As DNL OmniMedia’s guide to nonprofit technology assessments states, this process determines “whether your nonprofit’s use of technology is lagging (behind the times), adapting (caught up, but not innovative), or maturing (ahead of the curve).” Your organization might fall anywhere along that continuum. A tech assessment can illuminate the next steps to take to ensure you’re using the best technology and strategies.

The reasons each organization decides to undergo a tech assessment are varied and unique, so let’s get started by exploring why your organization might want to take on this project.

When Should You Conduct a Technology Assessment?

While every nonprofit’s motivations and technology situation are unique, there are still several common triggers that encourage organizations to take a closer look at their technology.

It might be the right time to conduct a technology assessment if:

  • You feel you could be seeing greater benefits from your current tech stack.
  • You want to find areas to cut costs and simplify your technology investments.
  • Your organization has reached a plateau with its fundraising or outreach efforts and wants to kickstart its progression again.
  • You’ve seen similar organizations achieve greater results using their technology.

If you relate to any of these statements, you’re in a good position to jump into a technology assessment. Begin exploring the nonprofit resources available for carrying out this assessment. We’ll help you get a head start by exploring the top technology concerns and tools you should focus on throughout your assessment.

Important Tech Tools to Prioritize

As you conduct your nonprofit tech assessment, you’ll want to keep the common nonprofit tools that allow organizations to coordinate their daily operations, including fundraising, donor stewardship, and advocacy, in mind.

Here are the six most popular types of nonprofit software:

  1. Constituent relationship management (CRM) software: Your nonprofit CRM is the database you use to manage supporters and store information that allows you to develop donor relationships. Popular CRM solutions include Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge NXT, Salesforce’s Nonprofit Success Pack, EveryAction, and Bloomerang. Your CRM should be equipped with donor management features, customization options, integrations with other solutions, and automation features to quickly create reports and send follow-up communications.
  2. Virtual donation software: The ability to accept online donations is critical so that donors can give wherever and whenever they want. Your online donation platform should be able to accept a variety of payment options, be accessible on mobile devices, and allow you to customize your online donation page.
  3. Virtual events software: With the rise of remote operations and virtual communications, virtual events have become a central part of nonprofits’ outreach and fundraising efforts. Your virtual event platform should facilitate live streaming, fundraising, registration and ticketing, marketing, and technical support for your team.
  4. Matching gift software: Matching gifts are a highly impactful, but often overlooked source of nonprofit funding. In matching gift programs, corporations match donations their employees make to eligible nonprofits. Investing in a comprehensive matching gift database allows nonprofits to research which of their supporters are match-eligible to know who to reach out to with matching gift information.
  5. Accounting software: Nonprofits must keep track of their financial information to maintain transparency and accountability toward donors, grantors, the government, and the general public. Key accounting software features include the ability to track tax filing status, file documents with the IRS, and adjust user permissions so that confidential donor information is kept secure.
  6. Marketing software: As your nonprofit grows, you’ll need a centralized hub to keep track of your supporter communications and outreach campaign data. Marketing software such as an email platform and social media scheduling tool can provide the framework for organizing strategic communications. Ensure your marketing platforms can facilitate automated communications, supporter segmentation, and data analytics to measure the success of your campaigns.

All of these software tools should work together in harmony to support your organization’s fundraising and communication strategies. Recharity’s nonprofit fundraising strategy overview says it best: “Make technology work for you to improve your nonprofit’s fundraising activities.”

If one element of your tech stack doesn’t integrate seamlessly with the others, it could cause confusion or information gaps down the road. Luckily, a technology assessment can pinpoint any areas of discord so your organization can address and correct these issues.

Steps of a Technology Check-Up

Your organization has a few options for how you’d like to conduct your technology assessment:

  1. If your team has the proper resources and time, you can pursue an in-house assessment.
  2. If you’re looking for a third-party opinion and don’t have a tech expert on staff, you can partner with a nonprofit technology consultant to carry out the assessment.

For most organizations, partnering with a technology consultant is the more feasible option. A thorough nonprofit tech assessment can last anywhere from six to 12 weeks, and your staff members likely don’t have that kind of time on their hands. Plus, an impartial third party can provide the outside perspective your organization needs to fully diagnose its issues and understand which technology solutions and procedures are right for you.

If you choose to partner with a consultant, you’ll need to work with your team to complete the following steps before the assessment takes place:

  1. Determine your goals for the project. Are you looking to clean up your data, outline new tech procedures, or train your team on best practices? Is your aim to scale up your fundraising, eliminate tech barriers, or simply understand where you stand when it comes to technology? Entering the consultant relationship with defined goals in mind can help the consultant hit the ground running immediately.
  2. Create a budget for the project. Your budget should cover the cost of partnering with a technology consultant as well as funding for implementing any new software tools that the consultant recommends. You may also want to set aside funds for an ongoing consultant partnership.
  3. Choose a consultant. It’s strongly recommended that nonprofits working with powerful tools such as those created by Blackbaud and Salesforce should invest in the help of professionals to carry out their tech assessments. Tech consultants offer the background and experience necessary to pinpoint any gaps in your strategy and make recommendations for improvements.

We’ll dive into the specifics of what a tech consultant does throughout the assessment process in the next section. Once the consultant completes the assessment, your organization will want to take the following steps:

  1. Adjust your solutions and procedures according to the consultant’s advice. This might mean investing in new software tools or rewriting your technology procedures to align with best practices. For instance, you may decide to invest in a new software solution, such as a matching gift database. Or, you may need to build an integration between platforms or organize your supporter CRM.
  2. Train staff. Ensure your staff members are familiar with the new tools or processes by investing in staff training. Make sure the team members who will be using the new software tools the most have a thorough understanding of how they work and how they should be using them. Create a best-practices training guide for both long-time and new staff members to reference when they have questions.

By the end of the process, you should be left with a complete strategy for making the most of your technology tools. However, if you still need guidance for implementing your new tools and procedures, nonprofit consultants can offer ongoing training and support.

How a Tech Consultant Can Help

After you’ve partnered with a nonprofit tech consultant, they’ll go through a multistep process to learn about your nonprofit’s goals, assess your organization’s technology situation, and make recommendations based on their findings.

Here’s a general overview of what the technology consultant will actually do during the assessment:

  1. Sync with your organization. The consultant will ask questions to get to know your nonprofit and the issues you’re facing. They’ll ask about your mission, what led you to want to conduct an assessment, and your technology goals. This gives the consultant a starting point from which to build a new strategy.
  2. Analyze your tech stack and develop a new strategy. In this step, your tech consultant will lead your team through a series of surveys to understand your internal technology processes. Then, they’ll devise a strategy to meet your goals. The strategy will include the software tools you should focus on or invest in, new procedures you should implement, and recommendations for additional staff training.
  3. Document discoveries. The consultant will detail their findings in a series of reports or documents that tell your team exactly how you should proceed.
  4. Bring your team up to speed. Lastly, the consultant will sit down with your team to explain their recommendations and deliver any documentation your team needs. At this stage, they may also offer a quote for ongoing implementation services.

Beyond just technology, nonprofit consultants also offer services such as marketing guidance, website development, fundraising solutions, and more. You may discover room for growth in these areas after you’ve taken the time to optimize your technology use. If that’s the case, having a pre-existing relationship with a nonprofit consultant can be a big help.


If you haven’t conducted a technology check-up before, you might be missing out on innovative technology tools and strategies that can help you scale up your data management, marketing, or fundraising efforts. With the help of a nonprofit technology consultant, your organization can start taking advantage of the advanced tools and resources available to nonprofits.

This guest post was contributed by Carl Diesing of DNL OmniMedia.This guest post was contributed by Carl Diesing of DNL OmniMedia

Carl co-founded DNL OmniMedia in 2006 and has grown the team to accommodate clients with ongoing web development projects. DNL OmniMedia has worked with over 100 organizations and assisted them with accomplishing their online goals. As Managing Director of DNL OmniMedia, Carl works with nonprofits and their technology to foster fundraising, create awareness, cure disease, and solve social issues. Carl lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their two children Charlie and Evelyn.

16 Things to Expect in Your Nonprofit’s First Year

The first year of your new nonprofit will likely be a blur of excitement, learning new things, and meeting new people.

And, of course, fulfilling your mission.

It’s amazing how much of nonprofit life is about tasks other than the important work your nonprofit set out to do. You know – the work that makes people’s lives better?

You can find yourself really busy doing all the things. Fundraising. Social media. Donor appreciation. There is so much to stay on top of. But then you have moments of pure joy when a program comes together, your reality aligns with your vision, and you feel like you wouldn’t want to be doing anything else right now.

For many nonprofit leaders, the first year can feel like one intense emotion after another crashing into one another. All while you try to keep cool and maintain an image of a calm, confident leader who knows everything is going to be okay.

To help you navigate and find your way, here are 16 things you can expect in your nonprofit’s first year:

1. You will feel overwhelmed. It is normal to feel overwhelmed in the nonprofit sector, especially in your organization’s first year. There is so much to do all the time! You will need time management and organization tools and strategies. You will learn to accept that you cannot do it all. But, still, you might feel overwhelmed to varying degrees at various times.

2. You will feel exhilarated. When your efforts pay off and your organization is able to change a life, meet a need, be there for someone going through a difficult time, remove a barrier, or throw someone a lifeline, you will feel more amazing than you ever thought possible. This is why you started this journey in the first place!

3. You will have a successful event or program that exceeds your expectations and makes you think that, YES, I can do this. Maybe it’s your first day of providing food to people in need. Maybe it’s your first community event. Maybe it’s your first fundraiser. When all your planning pays off, you will feel validated that you are on the right path.

4. You will have an event or program that does not go according to plan and makes you think that maybe you were crazy to think you could do this. Yes, there WILL be things you try that don’t quite work out. This is part of nonprofit life, trying new strategies and seeing what works and what does not. You will learn to learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward.

5. You will have a tiny moment of clarity that reminds you why you chose this path and affirms that you are on the right path. The tiny moments can pack a punch even more than the really big moments. The one-on-one connection with a person your organization is serving. The text you receive from a person who benefitted from your organization. The tiny problem you solved that allowed everything to fall into place. These moments keep you going and fill your heart.

6. You will wonder how on earth you are going to raise the money you need to meet so many needs. This could be a weekly, daily, or hourly occurrence. That feeling of … how. But as you get the training you need, put a fundraising plan in place, and experience small successes, you will realize that you can raise the money you need for your organization to thrive.

7. You will feel like you could accomplish so much more if you did not have to worry about money. If only you could focus 100% of your time and energy on the work your nonprofit does in the community. Wouldn’t that be great? It can be frustrating to feel like you have to spend so much energy on fundraising. But when you find the right strategies, fundraising will get easier, and you will have more time and energy to devote to programs.

8. You will feel the need to broaden your mission to meet all the needs you see in front of you. This is mission creep, and during the first year of your nonprofit, it will be tempting to take on more responsibility so you can help more people, meet more needs, save more animals. But as you grow into your role, you will realize how important it is to remain focused and grow slowly in tandem with your capacity.

9. You will be filled with love and gratitude for your board and volunteers. It is an amazing feeling when your board members dig in and do the work and move the organization forward. It is beautiful when volunteers go the extra mile to meet the needs your organization exists to serve. There are moments when everyone works together for the greater good, and you will experience and savor these moments.

10. You will feel like you’re all alone. But as surely as you will experience moments of unity, you will at times feel like you can’t count on your board, your volunteers, or your friends and family. Your volunteers have other priorities and their interest in being part of your organization’s work can ebb and flow. As time goes on, you will learn how much you can count on from each board member, volunteer, friend, and family member.

11. You will feel the urgent need for a social media coordinator. Managing multiple social media platforms can be a significant time suck. Social channels are important for your nonprofit’s growth, but you can only put so much time into the task. Invest in a social media scheduling tool, and put together a team from your board and volunteers to share the task of creating and posting social media content. Social media management is also a great task for an intern.

12. You will scream into the void for lack of a director of development or professional fundraiser. An organization has to grow to be able to afford to pay someone to shoulder the responsibility of fundraising. Yet how can an organization grow without that person? The reality is, your startup nonprofit has a fundraiser … YOU! With time and the right strategy, you can find your fundraising groove and fully fund your programs. Seriously, you can.

13. You will not know which cloud-based donor platform to choose. It’s one of the most frequently asked questions among nonprofit leaders. Which donor management system should we use? The market is crowded with options, all with different features and pricing plans. You want to choose something you can stick with for a long time. Don’t agonize over these types of decisions. It’s like buying a car. Get something that meets your needs, is in your price range, and you can see yourself using. Pick a platform and embrace your choice!

14. You will rage in frustration over your email marketing program. Sending regular emails to your supporters is an essential strategy for building a loyal base of donors and volunteers. Many of your social media posts will go unseen by a huge chunk of your supporters, but creating nonprofit emails can challenge your patience in so many ways. As you get into a routine and learn the ins and outs of your platform, you will dread it less. Still, a volunteer who enjoys creating nonprofit emails is a gift.

15. You will feel like you have so much to learn and not know where to start. Online courses and webinars can teach you a lot. A mentor can also be extremely helpful during your organization’s first year. You can also learn by networking with other founders of nonprofit organizations and participating in Facebook groups. In time, you will not be the student, you will be the teacher.

16. You will look back on your first year and realize that, WOW, you learned and accomplished a lot!


About the Author:

Sandy Rees is the author of this guide to a nonprofit's first year.Sandy shows founders and leaders of small nonprofits how to fully fund their dream so they can make the difference they want to make in the world. She has helped dozens of small nonprofits go from “nickel-and-dime fundraising” to adding 6 figures to their bottom line. As a trainer, she shows her students how to find ideal donors, connect through authentic messaging, and build relationships that stand the test of time, so that fundraising becomes easy and predictable. Find out more at www.GetFullyFunded.com.

How to Successfully Onboard Event Staff and Volunteers

Event staff and volunteers are integral team members for organizations all around the world; they can even be the main workforce behind large events or programs. With such a crucial role to fill, it’s important to invest in setting up your event staff and volunteers for success. 

Getting these individuals up to speed quickly allows them to develop crucial skills and start fulfilling expectations much sooner than they would otherwise. With a complete onboarding experience, they’ll spend less time learning through trial and error and more time carrying out their duties.

At InitLive, we’ve worked with thousands of organizations to train and manage their event staff and volunteers. We’ve seen which tactics tend to work well and which tend to fall short of expectations when onboarding newcomers. Based on this experience, we will look into what steps are required to successfully onboard and train your event staff and volunteers. Here is a quick outline of what will be covered in this article: 

  1. Provide Sufficient Training.
  2. Lay Out Expectations Upfront.
  3. Share Access to Event Materials.
  4. Create a Direct Line of Communication.

Ready to learn more about successful onboarding? Let's jump in.

1. Provide Sufficient Training.

Volunteers need to be given training just like any employee would require. It’s important to ensure that every volunteer is set up for success from their first day to their last. There is nothing more frustrating to a volunteer than the feeling that their time is being wasted. Investing in training for all your new volunteers and training for existing volunteers who are being tasked to perform new duties is essential to successfully onboard your staff. 

A simple and effective way to provide training during the onboarding process is through online training. Online training offers the most accessible and convenient training experience. Going digital allows your volunteers to do their required training on their own schedule, whenever it’s most convenient. Most online training tools also offer you the ability to incorporate online assessments to ensure that every volunteer has obtained the information they need to succeed from the training courses. 

Training should line up directly with the roles and responsibilities that fall under their duties as well as any health and safety training that is required. Your training program should be ready to go before you even begin recruiting your volunteers. That way, they start training right away. 

2. Lay Out Expectations Upfront.

Nobody likes being blindsided with responsibilities or tasks they didn’t sign up for. In order to find the right volunteers for the right roles, you need to communicate what the expectations are for each of your volunteer roles. This will ensure that every volunteer who signs up to work will understand what they are committing to.

A volunteer role description should be as detailed as possible to ensure that no expectations are left out of the role or shift listing. Here is a quick list of things to consider adding to your event volunteer role descriptions: 

  • A simple but descriptive role title - You want your role titles to describe the role’s main duty or responsibility. For example, go with distinct titles such as Clean-Up Crew Member, Athlete Registration Clerk, or Refreshment Stand Clerk.
  • A list of tasks - Here you want to quickly outline the tasks and duties that will be performed in this role. This where you really need to set expectations and provide the volunteers with an idea of what they will be doing during their shifts. 
  • Skill requirements - List the skills required to perform each task for the role. For example, this could include ‘money handling’ or ‘food preparation.’ 
  • Certification qualifications - If the roles require specific certifications, you should state what they are. For example, list out details such as the need for a driver’s license, background check, or CPR training. 
  • Physical requirements - Some roles will require physical abilities, and that should be defined in your role description to ensure people aren’t injured on the job. This includes things like the ability to lift 50 pounds, walk 5K, or stand for 5 hours. 

The time investment required to create full role descriptions is well worth it as it will ensure that every one of your volunteers understands what they are responsible for on the big day. This role description can be reused over and over again if you host similar events where the scope of work doesn’t change. 

3. Share Access to Event Materials.

Next up is ensuring your volunteers and event staff are equipped with all the tools and information they need to do their best work on the event day. There is nothing worse than a lost-and-late group of volunteers right when they are needed the most. 

To avoid any confusion and reduce shift no-shows it is important to ensure every volunteer has quick and convenient access to their personal volunteer schedule and any additional material they may require.

Here is a list of materials volunteers require access to when they are working:

  • Their personal schedule with detailed shift information like location, time, and who their supervisor is 
  • Access to a venue map that clearly outlines the various volunteer shift locations to ensure they are able to find and start their shift easily  
  • Emergency plan documents to reference if needed 
  • An event itinerary to keep track of activities and aid people when required
  • Any other vital information like health and safety protocol documents

Providing access to material through an event volunteer mobile app offers a great solution for event producers and their volunteers. Mobile access to all these documents ensures that everyone has access to what they need without the risk of losing paper documents. 

Regardless of how you choose to equip your volunteer with these materials, what is important is that they are given everything they need to perform their duties while ensuring the event runs safely and smoothly. 

4. Create a Direct Line of Communication.

Communication is an absolutely vital part of onboarding and managing a team of event staff and volunteers. It is important to establish an open line of communication with volunteers from the day of sign-up to the work itself to the day after your event is over. In order to accomplish this, determine who is responsible for communicating with volunteers.

Consider assigning volunteer team supervisors who are responsible for managing and communicating directly with your team of volunteers. This ensures that volunteers understand who to contact with questions and who to expect a response from. By assigning a supervisor to a team of volunteers, it is less likely that any question is forgotten. 

As for keeping volunteers in the loop on any schedule updates or shift changes, consider investing in a volunteer management software that automatically communicates updates to volunteers who are affected by any changes to the schedule. This communication automation ensures no updates are left uncommunicated and everyone is always kept in the loop. 

Mobile communication tools like a volunteer management app also allow for quick direct communications during the event. This tool will allow volunteers to send chat communication directly to their supervisor when needed, ensuring no volunteer is left in the dark. 


Now it’s time to start implementing your event staff and volunteer onboarding strategy. No matter how large or small your event or program is, taking the time to implement the above recommendations will ensure that your team is set up for success and that everything runs smoothly.

This was a guest post contributed by Cassandra Smallman of InitLive.This guest post was contributed by Cassandra Smallman of InitLive.

Cassandra is a passionate content creator dedicated to fostering positive impact through thought leadership in both the Nonprofit sector and live events industry. You can find her work at www.initlive.com or on Linkedin and Twitter.

Preparing Your Board Members for Action at Your Nonprofit

When it comes to joining a nonprofit board, there’s usually a pretty steep learning curve. Every organization has its own quirks and operational processes, so even if a new board member has previous experience serving other nonprofits, they’ve never served your nonprofit.

Without guidance and ample training, new board members may struggle through the adjustment period, or worse, they may never find their footing and wind up leaving before the conclusion of their terms.

A new year gives you the opportunity to re-evaluate your board experience and ensure you’re taking every step necessary to set members up for success from the start. Whether your training is formal or more relaxed, it should provide everything new board members need to know to effectively serve your organization.

Comprehensive training sets a positive tone for a member’s term and enables them to become engaged in their work right away. Not to mention, this contributes significantly to your board’s professional development as a whole. It ensures everyone is on the same page so that members can collaborate toward achieving goals and making strategic progress rather than slow down organizational growth.

To help you start their terms off on the right foot and encourage continuous development, we’ll review a handful of training best practices that your nonprofit can easily implement, including:

  1. Review board member responsibilities.
  2. Share helpful documentation.
  3. Offer insightful training courses.

Your board members are the true changemakers at your organization. Ready to set them up for successful terms with exceptional training? Let’s dive in!

1. Review board member responsibilities.

You can’t expect board members to live up to expectations if they don’t even know what those expectations are. Starting preparation off on the right foot means thoroughly reviewing responsibilities, both for general board members and for specific leadership roles. Typically, this is done as part of the onboarding process, but you should also review duties on an annual basis with returning members.

According to Boardable’s guide to board member responsibilities, there are several core responsibilities that any nonprofit board member should fulfill. A few common duties include coming prepared to meetings, offering their skills to advance the organization’s mission, and recruiting standout members. While there are countless others, all responsibilities are typically divided into three categories across many nonprofit boards:

The core duties of nonprofit board members are care, loyalty, and obedience.

  1. Duty of Care: Members should be committed to fulfilling their roles and assisting the organization to the best of their abilities. In other words, they should actively participate, practice open communication, follow through on assignments, and support program initiatives.
  2. Duty of Loyalty: This responsibility means that all activities and decisions should be completed in the best interest of the organization, not the individual board member. Those who exemplify this duty fully embrace your mission.
  3. Duty of Obedience: While board members should do everything in their power to drive the organization’s mission forward, they still must follow your organization’s guidelines. These guidelines are found in your governance documents, and a board that strays from these rules can steer your organization in the wrong direction.

While each board member is expected to adhere to these duties, leadership holds a higher level of responsibility. For instance, on top of the core expectations listed above, the chairperson oversees board meetings, helps appoint committee members, and makes high-level strategic decisions with the board that align with the nonprofit’s mission. As another example, the secretary schedules meetings, records and distributes meeting minutes, and assures that all documents are filed and accessible.

In addition to these duties, members will have individual roles that depend on your organization’s unique needs. By clearly stating who’s responsible for what, each of your board members can take the steps necessary to lead your organization toward a sustainable future.

2. Share helpful documentation.

As part of the onboarding process, board leadership should provide sufficient resources to catch everyone up on the organization’s history, processes, and mission. Not to mention, sharing the proper resources can help more experienced members fulfill their tasks as well. 

When bringing on new board members, consider putting together a welcome packet complete with helpful documents. Documents are always part of an effective training experience, and a welcome packet will ensure they receive these in an organized fashion that doesn’t overwhelm them.

According to this guide to welcoming new board members, there are several documents you should share during onboarding, including:

These are key elements to include in your welcome packets for nonprofit board members.

  • History one-pager: This covers your organization’s history and mission in-depth. It provides context and helps them fully understand your work.
  • Roles and responsibilities: This reviews what duties are assigned to which roles. Including this enables members to quickly revisit expectations at any point.
  • Organization bylaws: A copy of your bylaws helps members understand the decision-making hierarchy and what they can (and can’t) do.
  • Financial data: Include financial data such as your annual budget and any recent financial audit results. Knowing where your organization stands financially can inform members’ decisions and is a crucial responsibility of the board.
  • List of current leadership and board members: This page should include a brief bio, a photo, and contact information for leadership and current board members.
  • A calendar: This lists any upcoming board meetings and events. Sharing this upfront allows members to mark their calendars and adjust their schedules accordingly.
  • A list of committees and their charges: This names each committee and its correlated responsibilities. Be sure to also include committee members’ names.

Pro tip: A board portal with document sharing capabilities will allow you to consolidate all essential documents into one convenient location. That way, your team doesn’t have to deal with reams of paper that just take up space or keep track of multiple email attachments.

3. Offer insightful training courses.

One of the best parts of nonprofit boards is inclusivity. Anyone can volunteer to serve so long as they have a passion for the cause, but this doesn’t mean these individuals always have the skills to fulfill expectations. To be resilient and effective leaders, board members must invest time in improving their abilities and growing their knowledge of effective governance. That’s where training courses come in.

Training courses—particularly those that are online—are a convenient way for new members to get up and running and for veteran members to continue advancing their skills. 

As covered in DonorSearch’s virtual training resources guide, virtual training courses were popular long before the shift to working from home due to their many advantages. While in-person training is certainly engaging, it can be extremely inconvenient and inaccessible. Compared to face-to-face training, online courses tend to be low-cost or free, so you don’t have to worry about purchasing physical resources either.

Professionally-developed online courses tend to be high-quality and offer a high level of education and training, which is a vital part of any board’s development. Making use of these courses can help members become true assets to your mission. Not to mention, offering such opportunities can contribute tremendously to board engagement.

Whether board members need help mastering governance practices or your executive director wants to strengthen teamwork, there are plenty of training opportunities available.

For inspiration, check out this Nonprofit.Courses page that presents specific content aimed at training board members at any nonprofit, from grassroots organizations to international NGOs. These courses are created by professionals in the field, which means you can easily provide an enriching experience with specialized expertise.


Your nonprofit expects so much from its board members. In turn, you need to thoughtfully prepare them for the hard work ahead of them, and that starts the moment they walk into the boardroom for the first time. Investing time and resources into training your board members is a key component of growth.

Whether your board is full of returning members or brand new faces, you’re never past the need for training. By sufficiently preparing these individuals, you’ll empower board members to effectively complete their tasks and overcome any obstacles thrown their way. In turn, they’ll be well-equipped to serve as committed ambassadors and advocate for your mission for years to come.

This was a guest post contributed by Boardable.This was a guest post contributed by Jebb Banner of Boardable.

Jeb is the founder and CEO of Boardable, a nonprofit board management software provider. He is also the founder of two nonprofits, The Speak Easy and Musical Family Tree, as well as a board member of United Way of Central Indiana and ProAct. Jeb is based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Donor Appreciation: 4 Effective Strategies for Nonprofits

When was the last time you received a really good “thank you” from someone? Did someone send you a note thanking you for a birthday gift? Did a family member thank you for a favor you did for them? Chances are, if the appreciation note came as a letter, you didn’t immediately throw it away. And if it came in person, you may have thought the words over during your next commute. 

The fact is that a note or token of genuine thank you sticks with us for a little while. You receive a warm, fuzzy feeling in your stomach when you know that someone truly appreciates you. 

Nonprofits often don’t put enough stake and effort into their appreciation of supporters.  They frequently think a simple “thanks” will be enough. However, when you show real, genuine, heartfelt gratitude for your supporters, they remember it. 

Showing appreciation to your supporters is a crucial part of developing a sustainable system for your organization. That’s because it plays directly into your donor retention strategy. 

Retaining supporters is the best way to bring in consistent revenue, increase that revenue, and spend less on fundraising acquisition activities. On average, donor retention rates rest around 40% to 45%, but thousands of dollars more can be saved simply by increasing this by a few percentage points. Those percentage points become attainable when you work to build stronger relationships with your supporters, starting with (you guessed it) appreciation. 

In this guide, we’ll walk through a few of our favorite strategies that nonprofits can use to improve their appreciation programs and increase retention with supporters. Specifically, we’ll cover: 

  1. Calling your donors. 
  2. Creating a timeline specifically for first-time donors. 
  3. Focusing on the impact supporters have made. 
  4. Responding directly to supporters’ interests. 

Ready to jump into appreciation strategies? Let’s get started. 

1. Call Your Donors

When a donor gives online to a nonprofit, they expect a confirmation email. It’s become common practice for them to receive a combined confirmation and appreciation email in response to their contribution. If this constitutes the extent of your appreciation efforts, you’re likely leaving donors feeling cold. 

Ideally, your organization should be reaching for the stars to stand out from the crowd. That’s what helps build relationships and keeps them coming back. Therefore, it’s necessary to find a new and more personal way to communicate your appreciation. 

We recommend calling your donors. When nonprofits call their donors within at least 90 days of their contribution to say “thank you,” first-time donors are more likely to give again, to give sooner, and to contribute more to the organization. 

This graph displays the impact of phone calls on donor retention rates.

The graph above shows the immense impact that a phone call can make on the likelihood of a donor giving a second time. No phone calls lead to about 33% of donors giving a second time, one call results in 41% of donors giving again, and more than one call results in 58% retained supporters. 

When you make these calls, they shouldn’t be completely aimless or unscripted, although they also shouldn’t be unfriendly or rigid. We recommend taking the following steps to prepare for these calls, while also ensuring they’re as natural as possible: 

  • Check out the donor’s information in your donor database. Take note of how much they contributed, how long ago, what campaign it was for, and other important details that can help lead to a more personalized conversation. This is one reason why it’s so helpful to have access to your database as a part of a fundraising mobile app. You can do your research from the same device you call with!
  • Plan out what you’ll say ahead of time. Planning conversations beforehand can help them be more straightforward and minimize rambling. The main purpose of the call should be appreciation, but donors do frequently want a “next step” as well. However, make sure this “next step” isn’t to donate again. For example, if you send a welcome packet after a first donation, ask donors if they’ve received it or if they have any questions for you. If they haven’t read it, then ask them to take a look so they can learn more about your mission. 

As our world has become more and more digitally minded, we have inadvertently taken the personalization out of many of our communication strategies. How connected do you feel reading an email or a social media post versus actually talking to someone on the phone? Picking up the phone or scheduling a time to connect via Zoom is a way to add that personal touch back into interactions. 

These personal connections are what drive supporters and help you develop relationships with them. The next step you should add into your organization’s strategy is ensuring these relationships are cultivated early, as soon as you know someone has taken interest in your organization. 

2. Create a New Donor Timeline

Not all donors should be treated the exact same way. Everyone is unique and, therefore, different appreciation strategies will resonate more effectively with different groups of supporters. That’s why nonprofits group supporters into carefully selected segments for marketing and communications. 

One of the most important segments you can create for your donor appreciation strategy is new supporters. These are the people with whom you have an early opportunity to establish a relationship. More importantly, you may not know much about them, and they may not know much about you yet.

New supporters are also those who have the ability to give a “golden donation,” or the second gift that any individual gives to an organization. The majority of donors will only give a single donation to nonprofits. However, repeat donors (those who give the “golden donation”) are much more likely to continue contributing in the future. You can see the comparison of the new versus repeat donor retention rate below:

These graphs display the difference between first-time donor retention rates and repeat donor retention rates.

That’s why after you’ve acquired a new donor, it’s important to establish a relationship so that they’re more likely to contribute that second “golden donation” and continue giving into the future. 

After you’ve created a new donor segment in your system, you should create a plan that’s devised specifically for them. 

This timeline will give you ample opportunity to show your appreciation by email, phone, and mail. You can send information for the supporter to learn more about the mission, collect feedback, and invite them to get more involved. Then, you can ask for the second gift. Below is an example of a well-planned new donor timeline for nonprofits: 

Take a look at a well-planned donor cultivation timeline.

After you’ve acquired your second donation, that doesn’t mean your job is over. You’ll still need to put in the effort and work to continue stewarding your supporters and encouraging them to get more involved with your mission. However, having that strategy in place for the first few months of your new relationships ensures they’re off to a good start. 

3. Focus on Impact

Donors don’t give to organizations; they give to missions. They’re not contributing to your organization just to help you out, but because they want their funds to go toward a good cause and you can help get it there. 

Emphasizing the impact that donors have on your mission brings the note of appreciation back to the roots of the cause: your mission. 

Your mission is the common goal that aligns both you and your supporters, which is why it’s such a great emphasis for effective appreciation strategies. 

Bloomerang’s nonprofit CRM guide explains that all of the information you’ll need to put together an impact statement for your supporters lies in your donor database. This is where you can find detailed information about the amount that a donor gave and the campaign to which they gave it. From there, you can see the information about what the campaign achieved, and send that information to your donors. 

In the donor thank you templates found from this resource, you can see that almost every appreciation letter has some variation of an impact statement. For example, the major donor appreciation letter includes this paragraph: 

Your gift will provide [describe the actions you’ve taken and the impact the gift has made. Use specific details that correlate with the exact gift amount, like “Your gift has provided X amount of books for kids with low access to education.”] 

Get as specific as possible with these impact statements. Remember the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from a successful thank you that we talked about earlier? Generally, this statement is what accentuates this feeling. It also creates a level of transparency and trust between your organization and the donor, meaning they’re more likely to trust you with their money again in the future. 

4. Respond to Donors’ Interests

When you read up on various donor appreciation ideas, you’ll likely get a list of potential activities and actions that your organization can take in order to say “thank you.” However, you shouldn’t just pick the most creative idea you find (or worse, blindly point to pick one). Rather, you should make sure the idea is well-adept to suit your specific donors. 

Consider your audience. If it helps, create an average persona (or several for each campaign). These personas will likely look drastically between organizations. For one, it might be a 35-year-old woman with children attending the local school. For another, it might be an elderly man dedicated to preserving the history of the town. Either way, knowing these traits will help you choose and design the best appreciation ideas to suit their interests. 

For example, Eleven Fifty Seven’s list of appreciation ideas includes the following: 

  • Host a Tour (Or Virtual Tour). Giving donors the opportunity to see your mission in action will have an enormous impact on their likelihood to give again. Utilize live-streaming on social media or tools like Zoom to make it easy, accessible, and safe.
  • Texting your supporters to say thank you. Text messages have an average open rate of about 98%, much higher than that of email. However, not everyone will appreciate having messages sent in this manner. Generally, your younger, more technologically adept audience will be more accepting of this type of appreciation message than other segments. 
  • Spotlighting donors on social media. Carefully consider which social media platform you want to use to get the most attention from your audience. For example, if you’re trying to reach people ages 30 to 49, you might consider using Facebook because 77% of this age group is on that platform. However, if you want to use Instagram, you’ll want to tailor your message for those ages 18 to 29 as 67% of that age group uses that platform. 

Communicating appreciation for your donors is never a random process. It’s a very important part of your organization’s strategic plan and should be dealt with methodically. Carefully consider each element of the process from the platform, the message, the images, and the other elements you use to craft your note. 


Showing appreciation for your donors is more than simply saying a quick, “thank you.” Rather, it’s an opportunity to enhance relationships, build trust, and help supporters dive deeper into your mission. That’s why it’s so crucial to create a concrete strategy for handling donor appreciation at your organization. 

These four tips are by no means the only ways that you can show your appreciation. However, if you’re just getting started building your strategy, they are a great place to start. Good luck!

This was a guest post contributed by Jay Love of Bloomerang.

This was a guest post contributed by Jay Love of Bloomerang.He has served this sector for 33 years and is considered the most well-known senior statesman whose advice is sought constantly.

Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth.