Long Term Leaders Impact the Mission

To build capacity a nonprofit needs to engage leaders in their mission and the services and programs it provides. As leaders become more engaged they further strengthen the organization and partner to generate social change.

Often the biggest challenge is gaining potential leaders’ attention. Once they are attracted, nonprofits focus on engaging them for the long term. As the last post discussed, monthly giving programs create the opportunity to strengthen the relationship. The next step is full engagement.   

Full engagement includes volunteering in the programs, board leadership, and supporting the organization with a planned or major gift. Connecting at this level is a long term process. Leaders pushing the envelope and asking before the connection is fully developed threaten to lose potential leaders. Since these are substantial gifts, the key is connecting the potential leaders’ passion and capacity to give with the organization’s mission.

Nonprofits provide leaders with the opportunity to grow their passion and make an impact on their community. By giving, leaders are an essential part of the social change the nonprofit is fighting for. Leaders want to make an impact with their money as well as their time.  Most leaders start by giving what they consider a small amount. With education and engagement the gift increases and so does their impact.

Successful volunteer development plans, encourage buy-in by asking leaders how they want to participate. Capacity is a key word. Not every leader has the time, energy, ability or desire to become a board member or make a substantial financial commitment. Creating many different types of giving opportunities encourages all leaders to find a level they are comfortable with and can be accountable for. 

Sometimes the commitment leads to the leader making a major or planned gift.  To identify which one is right for the donor, look at the donor’s financial situation. A donor in the position to make a major gift has ample income beyond his daily needs. An organization defines a major gift by examining the donor’s and their own finances. These type of gifts stretch the donor’s ability to give and substantially increase the organization’s ability to serve.

There are many types of planned gifts. Donors interested in making a planned gift have valuable assets and may be looking for additional income. Some planned giving opportunities create a return for the donor as well as provide a gift to the nonprofit. Creating this opportunity leads to a win for the donor as well as the community.

Nonprofits and the community depend on their leaders to donate their time and financial resources. Leaders can not succeed if they are not aware or don’t understand the expectations. Communicating these expectations through a volunteer commitment form leads to a strong relationship between leaders. We will discuss this essential tool in our next post.  

The How to’s of Monthly Giving Programs

More and more nonprofits are building monthly giving programs and there is no doubt why. Regular monthly donations add up to a steady stream of income funding day-to-day expenses as well as strengthening the connections between donors, leaders, and the nonprofit. But like any funding stream, monthly giving programs come with additional costs and logistical challenges. Preparing for these challenges is the key to a stronger bottom line.

Monthly giving programs provide an opportunity for donors to break down their donation into twelve smaller chunks instead of a large gift once a year. Often the donor realizes a monthly giving program encourages him to give more as well as connects him to the nonprofit year after year.

Beginning the program is easy. Provide the donor with the choice of making their gift monthly instead of once a year. Then the donor provides his credit or debit card information along with the amount he wishes to give. Ask the donor if he wants a monthly receipt or a single one at the end of the year. Finally, create a new monthly donor category in the database.

The consistent stream of income is a huge advantage, but there are some additional costs. First, small monthly credit card donations lead to additional credit card fees. Second, since the gift is automatic, donors do not have a regular opportunity to assess their budget to determine whether they can afford to increase their donation. Third, the regular credit card breaches require nonprofit staff to follow up with donors to gather new credit card information. 

Since the donation continues year to year, there is not a built in time to thank the donor for his donation. Clearly, a letter at the end of the calendar year is important for tax purposes but adding a handwritten thank you note in the middle of the year adds a personal touch. Providing thank you notes and donor information before every board meeting encourages board members to participate in raising funds and creates connections between donors and leaders.

A monthly donation program also creates a stronger incentive for organizations to create a regular newsletter. The newsletter reminds donors why their donation is important. Including a donation envelope with the newsletter encourages the donor to give a little more. E-newsletters are a cheaper more efficient way to connect with donors. The email should include just the beginning of each of the articles (total of three or four) with a link to the website where donors can read the rest. Linking to the website encourages the donor to visit the website and hopefully land on the donation or volunteer pages.

Even though the donor gives monthly, the organization should still send an ask letter during the end of the year campaign. This letter, tailored specifically for monthly donors, encourages the donor to assess their year end financial position and make a second gift if they are able. The letter should thank the donor for their monthly gift as well as ask for a second smaller donation to fulfill a special need.

Monthly donors may seem like obvious candidates for major gifts and some may be, but others are better candidates for planned gifts. We will discuss what to look for when making that distinction in the next post.

Engage MORE Leaders to Develop Diverse Revenue Streams



Although many pundits and government leaders have declared the end of the great recession, demand for services continues at unprecedented levels. Unfortunately, the growth in demand has coincided with an unprecedented drop in nonprofit financial support. Investment income, corporate giving, and individual donations all plummeted from 2007-2010. Today, four years later, the decline is still visible.

Nonprofits unable to balance, build, and develop diverse revenue streams are closing their doors or being taken over by those that can. The large number of nonprofits closing and merging is making many potential donors nervous and they are asking additional questions and exploring more than just last year’s audit.

Everyone agrees diversifying and expanding revenue is essential, but the task is daunting. Government funding can be federal, state, or local and even a mixture. Corporate funding can come from marketing, foundation, or employee giving. More and more individuals are giving through a donor advised fund. Not to mention all of the new earned income methods. Clearly the complexity of the task has grown.

Developing these revenue channels takes a steady investment of resources and time. Before leaders can identify the streams to target, they must identify the resources and connections they already have and can build on. Different revenue streams require different resources and tools. Not only are there many more sources but the resources and tools needed to create these new channels vary depending on the sources sought.

Although some of the resources differ, one resource is consistent across all sources. Fundraising is often more successful as the number of people engaged grows. Increasing leaders, increases connections, and increasing connections lead to more knowledge of potential sources and more interest in the mission.

Once new volunteers and potential donors are involved, leaders must understand the terms and know what question to ask to identify new opportunities and sources. This blog will provide some tools and strategies to help leaders expand revenue to fund essential programs. After all, raising money is not a goal it is the way to fund programs. Neither is stability, but it leads to a stronger organization with leaders that have more time to invest in the mission. Next post, defining the terms.