All posts by Aspire Contributor

Understanding Financial Audits: A Quick Guide for Nonprofits

The word “audit” tends to bring about anxiety and concern when the average person hears it. We picture horrible visions of the IRS combing through our personal information and telling us we did something wrong or owe money. While this may be the case for many individuals, there’s no need for nonprofits to have this same sense of stress and concern. 

Nonprofits don’t pay taxes, so there’s no reason for the IRS to come around, telling you that your organization owes money. However, audits can be incredibly useful for nonprofits to ensure donations are processed properly, tax forms are filed, and general accounting best practices are followed at your nonprofit. 

In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of nonprofit auditing so that you can better understand how your organization can use this important tool. We’ve pulled information from Jitasa’s comprehensive nonprofit auditing article, pared it down, and made it into this more digestible overview for the busy nonprofit professional. We’ll cover the following: 

Audits can be very useful for nonprofits to increase transparency for nonprofits, create regular financial accountability, and find new opportunities for improvement of financial practices. Let’s get started! 

Why Nonprofits Conduct Audits

Chances are, you don’t look forward to the IRS auditing your personal finances. There are not many people who jump up and down with excitement at the idea of the government double-checking their taxes. 

But nonprofits don’t pay federal income taxes. Sometimes their 501(C)(3) status means they don’t even have to pay state taxes! So, why should nonprofits need to go through a tedious auditing process? 

Some nonprofits are required to conduct regular, annual audits. Meanwhile, others simply volunteer to do so because they see the value in these comprehensive assessments of their nonprofit accounting systems. Your nonprofit might be a part of the former group if (required to conduct an audit) if: 

  • It’s written in your bylaws. Some organizations require annual or semi-annual audits in their bylaws to ensure financial compliance and effective accounting practices. 
  • Your state requires an audit. Some states also require audits from nonprofits—generally, if that organization accepts a certain amount of funding (usually more than $500,000) from the state government. 
  • Your federal funding exceeds $750,000. If your nonprofit accepts federal funding of over $750,000, you’re also required to conduct an audit.
  • Grant applications require an audit. Grant-makers want to be sure that your organization will use their funds wisely, so they sometimes ensure accountability by requiring financial audits. 

Even if you’re not required to conduct an audit, you may still find it a useful tool to ensure your organization has strong financial practices. Plus, you can communicate with supporters that you do conduct regular audits, increasing financial transparency and establishing trust in your organization’s financial practices. 

Internal vs. External Audits

While there are many types of audits out there, there are two main categories within the realm of financial audits: internal and external audits. These two differ primarily based on who conducts the audit: 

  • Internal audits are conducted by your team internally. The purpose of these audits is to discover potential opportunities to increase organization and streamline operations. 
  • External audits are conducted by a third-party auditor. Much like hiring a fundraising consultant, external audits are useful because they provide an outside perspective unclouded by attachment to your organization and mission. These audits are useful for ensuring financial controls and complying with accounting best practices. 

Solving financial discrepancies and ensuring accounting best practices not only keeps your finances organized, but also helps your organization with capacity-building initiatives. After all, it’s much easier to plan for growth when your finances are well-organized. 

Selecting a Financial Auditor

If you choose an external audit, your organization will need to select a financial auditing firm to conduct it. Start your research for an auditing firm by reaching out to your accountant and other organizations for referrals. Supplement this list of referrals with other firms you find through online search. 

Once you have an initial list of potential auditors, you can start narrowing your list to only the best candidates based on your organization’s needs and budget. Then, you should ask each firm specific questions that will help you further narrow your selection. These questions may include: 

  • What percentage of your clients are nonprofits? 
  • How long will the nonprofit auditing process take? 
  • What is your firm’s fee structure? 

Vet your top-choice auditors further by asking other organizations they’ve worked with for reviews. They should have experience, expertise, and the right technology to keep your information safe. This will help reduce risk at your organization as you’ll hand your auditor sensitive information to work with. 

Once you’ve vetted your preferred auditing firms, submit an RFP to solidify the agreement. Then, you can simply make your selection. The work isn’t over after you’ve found your auditing firm because you’ll still need to prepare for the audit. 

Preparing for an Audit 

To prepare, you’ll need to pull together all of the documents and reports that your auditor will review while conducting the audit. Much of this information will be available in your nonprofit accounting software, especially if you use a dedicated software solution rather than spreadsheets. 

Some of the steps you’ll take using this data will include:

  • Reconcile all bank accounts. 
  • Review uncleared transactions. 
  • Review your nonprofit’s vendors. 
  • Review customers’ or members’ payments. 
  • Review undeposited funds. 
  • Look for coding errors. 
  • Review your capitalization. 
  • Review your account balances. 
  • Review your accounts receivable and payable. 

When you’re reviewing all of this information, keep in mind that you’ll be reviewing both monetary and non-monetary transactions. Even if they don’t directly add to your bank account, in-kind donations should be recorded in your accounting system along with their approximate value to your organization. It’s easy to overlook donations of items and forget to include them in various accounting reports, but it’s a necessary step to keep up with GAAP standards and to have a successful audit. 

After the Audit

When the audit ends, you can breathe a sigh of relief, but only for a moment. You’ve made it to the other side of the process, but there’s still some work to be done. 

First, you’ll need to implement any recommendations made by your auditor. These changes should fix systemic issues by updating the financial processes at your organization so that you don’t run into similar concerns in future audits. 

Then, you’ll need to evaluate your experience with your auditor. You should ask questions such as: 

  • Are you satisfied with your chosen auditor? 
  • Did you notice any challenges or disputes among your staff members during the audit? 
  • Was the presence of the auditor disruptive to your regular organizational activities?

Chances are, this won’t be your nonprofit’s last financial audit. By asking these types of questions and considering your experiences now, you can improve your audit experience next time around. 

Financial audits may seem frightening in the beginning, especially if you’re comparing the experience of personal audits to those conducted at your nonprofit. However, nonprofit financial audits are ultimately a good thing! They can help you uncover mistakes or process discrepancies to improve your nonprofit’s accounting system over time, ensuring you always have the resources you need to further your mission. 

Author: Jon Osterberg
Jon Osterburg has spent the last nine years helping more than 100 nonprofits around the world with their finances as a leader at Jitasa, an accounting firm that offers bookkeeping and accounting services to not for profit organizations.

What’s in a Nonprofit Logo? 4 Things to Consider

Your nonprofit’s logo is a core element of your brand, as it acts as a reflection of your organization and mission. When supporters and new prospects view your logo on any marketing materials and donor communications, they should be able to immediately associate it with your mission. 

When we think of brands like Starbucks, Nike, and Mcdonald’s, the first things that come to mind are probably the mermaid emblem, swoosh marking, and golden arches. Loop’s nonprofit branding guide describes the logo as the “foundation of your overall visual brand” which is why it evokes so much emotion and recognition. It’s included in almost every document you create! 

As such a centralized element of your nonprofit’s mission, creating your logo requires additional time and effort to be sure it accurately reflects your mission and makes an impact on viewers. In this guide, we’ll cover four considerations your organization should take when creating your logo, including the following steps: 

  1. Reflect on your mission. 
  2. Consider the different types of logos. 
  3. Choose your colors. 
  4. Display your logo prominently. 

Ready to design a stunning new nonprofit logo? Let’s get started. 

1. Reflect on your mission. 

Your logo should reflect your nonprofit’s mission and will represent it moving forward. Therefore, before you start designing, you’ll need to take some time to consider your mission and how you present your organization to the world. 

Consider questions such as: 

  • Who is your target audience? They’re the ones who will interact with your logo the most. Ongoing donor engagement can begin with an impactful logo.
  • What makes your organization unique? Think about the elements of your mission that help your nonprofit stand out from others that represent similar causes. 
  • What is your ideal tone? Organizations with more formal, professional tones will have a slightly different tone and personality than ones with more casual or playful characteristics. 

Answering these questions before diving into different logo options will help you ensure your logo helps tell your nonprofit’s story and accurately reflects your cause. For example, a nonprofit that caters to children might decide to use a logo with dynamic shapes to emphasize its creative side rather than a monogram with hard ridges. 

2. Consider the different types of logos.

When you start considering the design that you’d like to see in your own logo, we recommend getting inspiration from other nonprofit organizations. Explore the best nonprofit websites to see how others incorporate their logo and the types of logos they chose. 

Consider if there’s a specific type of logo that you tend to gravitate toward. Wix provides a list of the nine types of logos that organizations can choose from, including the following: 

  • Wordmarks consist of the organization’s name, artfully written out. 
  • Letterforms only include one letter, usually the first letter of your organization’s name. 
  • Monograms leverage the organizations’ initials, generally used for organizations with well-known abbreviations like NASA. 
  • Symbols or pictorials are images that represent the organization’s identity, like Apple. 
  • Abstract marks are images that are more metaphorical representations of an organization’s branding, rather than a direct correlation like symbol marks. 
  • Mascots are cartoon characters that represent and become “ambassadors” or the organization’s brand. 
  • Emblems are more ornate designs that are usually similar to traditional crests. 
  • Combination marks are any two elements combined together to create one mark, such as words below a symbol mark. 
  • Dynamic marks are versatile, unique marks that can take on any shape that may not fit into the above traditional logo markings. 

The above photo provides examples of each type of logo organizations can choose from. Notice that one thing all of these logos have in common is simplicity. Your logo is featured everywhere from your t-shirts to event registration forms, meaning it should take on many shapes and sizes. Therefore, simplicity is key. 

3. Choose your colors. 

If you already have a brand guide that describes the colors that your organization will use for your brand, be sure your logo reflects those colors. If you don’t yet have a guide like this, choose the colors that you’ll use to represent your organization. 

Consider the natural association colors have with concepts and ideas and which will align best with your mission. For example: 

  • Red: Red is often associated with health, passion, and strength. 
  • Green: Green is often associated with growth and prosperity, making it a great option for conservation-related causes. 
  • Yellow: Yellow is linked to the sun and brings feelings of warmth and happiness.
  • Pink: Pink is often associated with creativity and innovation. It’s often associated with causes in the LGBTQ+ space.

Choose just a few colors to use in your nonprofit’s logo to make sure it remains simplistic. Then, make sure you have several versions of the logo; one in color, one in black, and one in white to use on various products and with any background. 

4. Display your logo proudly. 

After you’ve created your nonprofit’s logo, it will be featured on all of your marketing materials. Make sure your logo looks good everywhere and include it on your nonprofit’s: 

  • Website. Consistent branding is one of the most important best practices for your website. Include your logo on every page of your website and make sure it links back to your homepage. 
  • Letterheads. When you send direct mail to donors, sponsors, or other supporters, it should be immediately clear to your recipient which organization sent the letter. Include your logo on the letterhead to make sure this connection to your cause is clear. 
  • Emails. Set up your email templates to include your logo and organization branding. That way, every message you send will look professional and include your organization’s specific identity. 
  • Social media. Often, organizations use their logo as the image on social media profiles. This helps new supporters immediately identify the logo and recognize it in the future. 

While these are some of the core channels used to market nonprofit organizations, they’re far from the only options available. Getting Attention’s nonprofit marketing guide also names event materials, videos, content marketing, text messages, and Google Ads as marketing tools that nonprofits can use. 

As you put together your marketing plan, consider where you’ll need to leverage your logo and where it looks most natural and professional for that material. Then, choose the version of your logo that will best suit the channel. For example, you might use your black-and-white logo on the top of your letterhead because it looks the best on printed paper. And you may use one with the tagline for t-shirt designs but omit it from the top of your website. 

While your nonprofit’s logo doesn’t make up your entire brand identity, it acts as a core element to your nonprofit’s visuals. Put time and effort into ensuring your logo is as attractive and well-designed as possible to create a positive correlation between your cause and your identity. Good luck!

Author: Ryan Felix
Ryan is a co-founder of Loop: Design for Social Good who brings a strong intuition and insight to create bold, creative & impactful websites. Ryan has led design studios in Toronto and New York using his knowledge of Human Centred Design to increase meaningful conversions and design enjoyable web experiences.

A man and a woman look at computer

Numbers to Know: Interpreting Website Engagement Data

When a supporter googles your nonprofit and clicks on your website, what do they do from there?

The hope is that your supporters actively explore your site’s content, use your online giving page to donate, and sign up for your newsletter or fundraising events. 

However, some nonprofits make the mistake of taking a “set it and forget it” approach when it comes to their websites. Instead of consistently considering and reconsidering their supporters’ experiences using the site, they put a lot of work into the look and functionality of the site upfront, hoping it’ll do the trick of catching people’s attention and getting them to act without ongoing updates. 

But the reality is that the best way to get the most mileage out of your site as part of your branding strategy is to actively monitor and course-correct how your supporters are engaging with it. You can do so with the help of website engagement data, which reveals how your supporters are currently interacting with your site so you can develop a plan to improve that experience. 

Making data-based decisions about improving your site can help you set yours apart as one of the best nonprofit websites. To help you get started, we’ve created this mini guide to interpreting website engagement data. In it, we’ll cover: 

Tapping into the power of website engagement data won’t require you to be a master web designer or expert coder. You’ll simply need the ability to continuously improve your website and envision a better, brighter future for it based on what you’re seeing in the data. 

Overview of Nonprofit Website Engagement Data

Nonprofit website engagement data is any data that gives a nonprofit insight into how supporters find and interact with their website. 

There are a number of different data points that you can measure to understand how your supporters are engaging with your site. These include: 

  • Conversion Rates: Conversion rates show you the percentage of users who complete a desired action. For example, you might track your conversion rate for how many people sign up for your online newsletter or donate to your online fundraiser. The specifics will depend on the context of your organization’s size and the pages in question. That said, action page conversion rates (such as your donation page) should be around 21%, while site-wide conversion rates should typically be between 2% and 5%
  • Bounce Rate: Bounce rate tells you the percentage of site visitors who land on your site and only visit that one page before leaving your site, rather than exploring other pages or converting. 41% to 55% is considered an average bounce rate
  • Page Views: Page views tell you how many people have visited a certain page within a set amount of time. You can improve your page views by working to gain more traffic through methods like optimizing your site for SEO, which helps your page rank higher on search engine results pages so that more people see it! Amount of page views will vary page by page, but tracking page views over time will give you an idea of which pages are most popular and thus most useful for your audience. 
  • Channels Visitors Are Coming From: Knowing where your website’s traffic is coming from can help you make informed decisions about which channels you use to market your web content. You might, for example, notice that email traffic converts at a higher rate than other traffic sources and decide to more intentionally highlight your web content in your email newsletters. 

Measuring engagement data like the data points described above can help you in a myriad of ways. Let’s take a look at three of those ways. 

  1. Knowing how your site engages your supporters will help you improve your digital fundraising strategies. If, for example, you know that a certain blog post gets the most page views of any other page on your site, you could include links to your donation page in that blog post to encourage people to contribute to your cause. 
  2. Website engagement data can help you to better optimize other marketing efforts outside of your nonprofit’s website. Say you notice particularly high conversion rates for website visitors registering for your organization’s fundraising event after sending an email campaign advertising the event. That tells you that sending out emails ahead of an event may be a particularly effective strategy for future events. 
  3. Your website engagement data can help you learn how to best share key information with supporters. For example, maybe your website’s blog has a high bounce rate. That tells you it might be worth it to invest some time into optimizing the content and presentation of that content in your blog posts. 

Answering Key Questions Using Website Engagement Data

If you’re unsure of where to start when it comes to measuring and using your website engagement data, asking targeted questions is a great way to begin. The questions that will be most useful for your organization to answer will depend on your mission, what you know about your supporters, and what you’re currently trying to accomplish.

Let’s look at some of the most common questions nonprofits ask and then work to answer them using what you can observe with your website. 

Are your action pages accomplishing their goals?

Action pages are pages where website visitors are encouraged to complete a specific action, like your donation page or contact page. If you’re wondering how well these pages are succeeding in encouraging visitors to complete the desired action, measure the conversion rate for those pages. 

Remember, the conversion rate will tell you what percentage of users complete a desired action. Once you know your baseline conversion rate for these pages, you can take steps to increase the rate. Here are two suggested actions if you want to increase conversions on one of your action pages: 

  • Optimize the content on your action pages. For your website visitors to complete the action that an action page points them toward, they need to feel inspired to do so. You can inspire your visitors in a number of ways. For example, you might use descriptive and interesting language to catch your visitors’ attention. Or, you could include an engaging and emotionally evocative photo or stronger call-to-action copy ahead of the form or other tool for completing the action. 
  • Make forms easy to use. Much of the time nonprofits rely on forms as part of their processes to capture emails, collect donations, or complete other actions. But getting your visitors to your action pages won’t do you any good if your forms are inconvenient or confusing to use. Prioritize making the form short, labeling required fields, and making the form tab-friendly for those who navigate using a keyboard. 

How are supporters finding your website?

Say that you and a few other residents in your town notice a high volume of people consistently trying to cross a particular road downtown that has no crosswalk. While it’s a logical place for people to cross, as it gets them close to popular shops and restaurants, it’s a dangerous road to cross without protection. 

The best course of action would be to encourage the city to put in a crosswalk at that spot, to encourage more and more people to cross the street safely to get to where they want to be. 

Similarly, knowing where your website traffic is coming from will help you to more strategically direct that traffic and increase it! There are six typical sources of traffic: 

  1. Direct traffic: Direct traffic is website visitors who arrive directly on a site. These visitors might type your website’s URL into an address bar or click on a bookmark in their browser. 
  2. Organic search traffic: Organic search traffic is the traffic that comes to your site from search engines like Google or Bing, but isn’t paid for through ads.
  3. Paid search traffic: Paid search traffic is made up of the site visitors that click on a paid-for ad placed on a search engine results page for a specific search query. 
  4. Referral traffic: Referral traffic is the website visitors who come to your site through other websites rather than googling your nonprofit. For example, a local school that benefitted from your nonprofit’s recent book drive might link to your website on their blog, driving traffic to your site through that link. 
  5. Email traffic: Email traffic is the traffic that comes from people who click a website link within an email. 
  6. Social traffic: Social traffic is the visitors who land on your website after clicking a link on a social media platform. This might be a link in a Tweet or Facebook post, or a link in your Instagram bio. 

According to 360MatchPro’s roundup of fundraising statistics, 44% of total nonprofit website traffic comes from organic search. This means it’s well worth your time to “paint a few crosswalks” to your site for organic search visitors. Here are three tips for doing so: 

  • Target specific keywords. Keywords are the words and phrases users will type into search engines that will match them with content that closely aligns with those keywords. By targeting certain keywords for your web pages and using them in organic, natural ways in your content, you can increase your pages’ visibility when users search those terms. You’ll want to choose specific keywords that are closely aligned with your organization’s work. 
  • Maintain heading hierarchy. Search engines need to be able to crawl and index your pages in order for them to rank higher and higher on search engine results pages. One of the best ways to help search engine crawlers do this is to maintain heading hierarchy. Ensure that your headers are in sequentially-descending order. For example, there should only be one H1 on each web page, followed by H2s, H3s, and so on. 
  • Use a custom theme. According to Cornershop Creative’s guide to WordPress for nonprofits, custom themes are inherently more SEO-friendly than pre-built themes because you have more control over the site from the beginning. For example, you’ll be able to control the initial setting of the heading hierarchy more easily. 

Is your website sharing the information that supporters are looking for?

Another aspect of website performance that nonprofits often want to know about is how useful their website is in fulfilling their audience’s needs and providing them with useful information. Bounce rate (the percentage of how many visitors land on your site and leave before visiting another page) can provide some insight into this. 

Recall that 41% to 55% is typical for a bounce rate. This may seem high, but remember that context is key for understanding bounce rate from page to page. For example, perhaps Person A only visits your “About Us” page to get a quick answer to a question about one of your staff members. It would make more sense for them to exit out of your site after looking at that one page. On the other hand, say Person B is interested in donating and clicks on a link on social media that leads them to a blog post. You would want that person to avoid bouncing before navigating to your donation page.  

This kind of context will inform how you improve specific pages to prevent bouncing, but what are some steps you can take to decrease your bounce rate all around? Here are a few suggestions: 

  • Create interesting content. If you want someone to keep exploring your site beyond the initial page they land on, you have to keep them interested! Make sure you’re creating content that holds visitors’ attention. Use clear, concise language to make your content skimmable, provide high-quality images to break up long sections of text, and include buttons that provide links to different pages and resources. 
  • Improve your page load speed. We’ve all been there—a page you click on takes too long to load, you get frustrated, and quickly exit out. Or, if the page does eventually load, there’s no way you want to explore other content on the slow site. To avoid giving your website visitors this type of experience, compress all of your site’s images and reduce redirect chains
  • Build internal links to other content on your site. Building internal links gives your website visitors a clear idea of the next best place for them to go on your website. If, for example, they read a blog post about your upcoming 5K fundraiser, including a link to the registration form would be a great way to encourage visitors to continue exploring your site and completing actions. 

Web engagement data can help drive your nonprofit’s decisions in a number of different areas. It’s worth tracking and reporting on consistently. And the longer you track this data, the easier it will be to see patterns that can help you make your next move to more fully engage your supporters, whether that be strengthening the quality of your blog content, focusing your marketing efforts on social media, or some other new direction. Good luck!

About the Author

Sarah Fargusson
Self-described as a “non-profit junkie,” Sarah has dedicated her career to serving the needs of the non-profit sector. Her project management experience spans a variety of non-profit management disciplines including strategic planning, community engagement, capacity building, fundraising and research. She has worked both in and for the non-profit sector at the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, and the consulting firms The Lee Institute and The Curtis Group. With her ever expanding non-profit tool belt, Sarah joined Cornershop Creative to tap into her techie, creative side, while developing meaningful partnerships with her clients to help them more effectively achieve their goals.

3 Data Points Your Nonprofit Should Collect from Donors

Your nonprofit relies on your donors’ support in order to meet its daily operations. However, if your nonprofit doesn’t fully understand its audience, it’ll be more difficult to engage your donors and motivate them to give. 

Collecting donor data can help your organization create comprehensive donor personas for each of your supporters, whether you have hundreds or thousands of people giving to your cause. While this may seem overwhelming, a strong data collection strategy backed by a solid tech foundation can streamline the entire process. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through the essential data points your nonprofit should collect in its constituent relationship management (CRM) platform: 

Comprehensive data can help your organization steward strong donor relationships and tap into your donors’ unique motivations for giving to your nonprofit. As a result, your donors will feel more passionate about your cause, leading to a boost in online fundraising. Let’s begin. 

Demographic information

Your donors’ demographics will give you a baseline overview of the type of donors that are likely to give to your nonprofit. This will inform your outreach strategies so you can better target your ideal audience or even work towards reaching new audiences. 

Specifically, you’ll want to use your donation page or data appends to collect data points such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Contact information
  • Employment Status
  • Employer

For example, let’s say you collect these data points and discover that most of your donors are Gen Z or Millennials. Younger generations tend to prefer digital communications, so your nonprofit can amp up its social media marketing efforts to encourage donor retention. 

Employer data can also have a huge impact on your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts. If your donors work at companies that offer matching gifts, your organization can receive double (and sometimes triple) the amount of the original donation. In fact, according to Double the Donation, over 26 million individuals work for companies with matching gift programs. If your donors are eligible for matching gifts, they can easily increase their impact and play a more rewarding role in your organization’s journey. 

Nonprofit involvement

By taking a closer look at your donors’ history, you can better understand their giving capacity and interest in your cause. This information will help you tailor your donation appeals, volunteer outreach, and other communications to their needs and preferences. 

Collect the following data points about your donors’ involvement:

  • How frequently they give
  • Their average donation amount
  • The last time they gave
  • The events they’ve attended
  • Whether they’ve volunteered and how often they volunteer

With these data points, you can then segment your communications to better target certain types of donors. For example, you can create an email segment for donors that used to give frequently but haven’t given in the last year to reengage them with your mission. If you have a fundraising deadline quickly approaching and you haven’t hit your goal yet, you can create an email segment for major donors to ask them to help push you over the finish line. 

You can also segment your communications to promote monthly giving. According to Donately, monthly giving can help your organization establish a reliable donation pipeline that you can access year round. Create a segment for donors that give frequently and have the potential to be monthly givers. In your outreach, highlight the various benefits of monthly giving, including the ability to play a more active role in your nonprofit and the convenience of only having to fill out your donation page once. 

Supporter interests 

These are often answers to questions like: What are your supporters’ hobbies? Why are they passionate about your cause? Are they interested in finding new ways to get involved with your organization? 

This information will help you build stronger relationships with donors and find relevant ways to keep them engaged. For example, a donor with graphic design experience may express that they want to play a larger role in your organization. You can then open up a new volunteering opportunity to them, such as improving your fundraising website or your marketing materials. 

Understanding your supporters’ passions can also help you craft personalized donation appeals that are more likely to inspire action. For instance, if you’re an environmental organization, you may have several donors that give because they care deeply about saving endangered species. In your donation appeals to these donors, you can then emphasize the different ways your nonprofit’s work is helping to protect endangered animals. 

By taking the time to get to know your donors, they’ll feel more valued and appreciated by your organization. At your next in-person event, ensure that members of your nonprofit board or staff are present to engage with donors one-on-one and ask them about their interests. If you have a large donor base, you can create online get-to-know-you surveys that take just a few moments to complete. 

To steward strong donor relationships, you need a comprehensive understanding of each of your supporters. The accessibility of data has made it easier than ever to create donor personas and use this information for better engagement and outreach. Use donor data research tools, like your donation page and data appends, to collect essential data points and learn the best ways to drive donor retention. Good luck! 

About the Author

Jacob Spencer | Customer Success / Account Manager at Donately
I strive to make every step of our customer journey as enjoyable as possible. My goal is to turn everyone that trusts Donately into a raving fan! Raising funds can be daunting, but we know that with the right tools, it can and should be easy. 

Throughout my career, I’ve been able to help sales and success teams tackle new markets, grow and expand. Leading with empathy, listening to actually solve problems, and remembering that we are all human are the key elements to growing any business in a meaningful way.

When I’m not working you can find me spending time with my wife, 2 boys and our Border Collie, Abbie. Family>Everything.

Taking email marketing a step further: 4 tips for nonprofits

A multi-racial group look at a computer screen together.

Whether you have an upcoming fundraiser you’re trying to promote to donors or if you’re preparing for the end of the year, your nonprofit needs a focused and impactful marketing strategy. 

Email marketing has traditionally been the backbone of nonprofit marketing strategies for years. And not without reason! Nonprofit email marketing is a powerful tool that allows your organization to reach individual donors with specific messages that engage them with your organization. 

However, this only works if your organization keeps up with the latest trends and strategies for email outreach. If you fail to do this, your organization might fall behind and spend more and more time on an inefficient strategy. Make sure you’re using the most effective email marketing tactics to reach your supporters by leveraging the following tips: 

The average email open rate for nonprofits is much higher than other industries. This rate rests around 26% compared to the national average email opening rate of 6%. Take advantage of this opportunity and make sure you’re making the most of your outreach by ensuring your email strategy is up to date.

1. Identify and segment your audience

Sometimes it seems like the most time-efficient way to get a message across to your audience is to send a mass email. That means if you have an upcoming fundraiser, you would add all of your donors’ and supporters’ email addresses to the recipient box. While this might seem time-efficient, it’s actually not effective at all. 

People are much more likely to read and engage with messages that are personalized. In fact, according to one source, 74% of Gen Zers, 67% of Millennials, 61% of Gen Xers, and 57% of Baby Boomers all prefer personalized messages in the marketing messages they receive. That’s over half of your audience (no matter their age) that prefers a more personal touch to your emails. 

The best way to make sure you personalize each email you send is to segment your audience and craft messages per segment. It might take slightly longer than a mass message, but it’s a much better strategy. 

Doubleknot’s segmentation guide explains that there are three primary types of data that nonprofits can use to group their audience into segments for marketing purposes: 

  • Sociological. These data points include the social, cultural, economic, and lifestyle traits of your target audience. For example, you might use gender or age as data points for some segments. 
  • Preferential. When donors provide you with information about their communication preferences, you can also use this to make specific segments. For instance, if a donor prefers to only receive emails twice a month, you can limit the number of messages you send them. 
  • Psychological. These are the traits that you might collect via survey or in notes after a one-on-one conversation with a supporter. Psychological data comprises an individual’s values, passions, interests, etc. For example, if you know a donor’s motivations to give, you can mention those aspects of your mission in your outreach to them. 

Save relevant details regarding this type of data in your nonprofit’s CRM. Then, use that information to create segments and better personalize your outreach strategy. Be sure to regularly clean up this data in your database so that you are always working with the latest information. 

2. Set a purpose for each message

Each email that you send to your audience should have a concrete purpose. The last thing you want to do is to send mindless emails that don’t call your supporters to do anything — these types of messages simply waste both you and your supporters’ time. 

Strategize what the most important thing you want to promote at your organization is. Ask yourself, “Why are we sending this email?” Then, you can use that information to structure your messages and encourage supporters to help you accomplish your goals. For example, consider promoting opportunities for: 

  • Online fundraising. Use your messaging to explain how the funds will be used and to share stories of previous fundraising campaigns that impacted the community. Then, be sure to include a link to your donation page so that people can give directly after reading your message. 
  • Event registration. Use these messages to highlight key aspects of the event like the auction items for lower-level audiences and your VIP tables for major donors. 
  • Volunteer events. Send specific outreach emails to talented supporters for specific volunteer opportunities (like graphic design skills). Or, send a more general message to past volunteers asking for help at your next event. 

Appreciation messages need to have a purpose too, even if you’re not immediately promoting an upcoming campaign. You should explain the impact supporters had, thank them for getting involved, then offer a next step, like filling out a feedback survey. 

You should always include an opportunity for your supporters to get involved after reading your message. These calls to action should link your readers to proper landing pages directly from your email. For example, link to your online donation page as a part of your fundraising outreach and to event registration pages when inviting people to attend your next big auction. 

3. Conduct A/B testing for various strategies

A/B testing allows your nonprofit to test aspects of your email outreach on your audience to see what strategies are most effective. Essentially, it helps you gain insight into what your audience responds best to so you can use that data for future campaigns

You should only ever test one variable at a time. Send one message using one strategy to half of your audience and use the other strategy for the other half. For example, you might send a message to half of your audience using a graphic style image and another message with a stock photo to the other half. Whichever gets more click throughs is the more effective image strategy. 

Some of the factors you might choose to test in your emails using A/B testing include: 

  • Subject lines
  • Calls to action
  • Images
  • Videos

Make sure you have relevant metrics you can measure to see which option performs better during tests. For example, you might measure the email open rate when testing two different subject lines or the click-through rate when testing different calls to action. 

Save this information and update it when necessary. A/B testing is an important aspect of donor data because it describes those preferences specific to your audienceIt’s much more precise than simply reviewing statistics for general audiences from other market testers and will be useful in future campaigns. 

4. Use email addresses to target ads

You can take your email strategy a step further by leveraging your email addresses to create ads that will help drive more traffic to your organization. This process is called email mapping. It allows your nonprofit to send targeted ads to a list of specific email addresses.

Although many organizations are often hesitant to leverage ads, whether due to financial strain or a lack of understanding of their impact, Feathr’s nonprofit advertising guide explains that there are a great number of benefits that accompany this strategy: 

  • Increased reach, providing more opportunities for supporters to get involved with your mission. 
  • Major returns and campaign conversions for a low-cost outreach strategy. 
  • Automation options, saving your team’s time for working on other aspects of your mission.

When you use email mapping to display ads to your supporters, these messages will show up in the margins of web articles, on their Facebook feeds, and elsewhere across the internet. Be sure the message you display relates back to your email campaign. This repeat exposure reminds your supporters about the opportunities you offer to get involved and increases the chances that they will do so. 

Now that you know email outreach strategies, create goals based on what you want to pursue. Be sure each goal is tied to a specific measurable metric so that you can define what success looks like for your organization. The key performance indicators (KPIs) you might choose to track could include your email open rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate. 

Consider which KPIs will be more impactful for your particular mission. This tracking of metrics will also help you identify improvement opportunities for future campaigns. Good luck!

About the Author

Aidan Augustin | Co-founder & President, Feathr |
Aidan Augustin is the co-founder and president of Feathr, an industry-leading software company making digital marketing more accessible to nonprofits and event organizers. Feathr has helped over 800 nonprofits and thousands of events know, grow, and engage their audiences. When he’s not steering the ship at Feathr, he’s playing strategy games, singing karaoke, or reading books about people who changed the world.

Go Virtual With These 5 Online-Friendly Fundraisers

Virtual fundraisers have grown in popularity over the last few years for both nonprofits and donors alike. These low-cost fundraisers save you money, increase your ROI, and expand your donor base. Your supporters will be excited for more opportunities to participate in events and contribute to your cause. 

Whether you’re hosting a virtual or hybrid event, online-friendly fundraisers are a lucrative, creative way to raise more for your organization. Here are a few fundraising ideas to get you started: 

  1. Read-a-Thon 
  2. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising 
  3. Social Media Challenges
  4. Matching Gifts 
  5. Text-to-Give 

Before embarking on an extensive online fundraising campaign, set goals for your nonprofit. Consider what your target fundraising amount is, what your audience will learn about your organization through the campaign, and how you can create a positive, memorable experience. Let’s dive into five online fundraisers for your nonprofit!

1. Read-a-Thon 

Read-a-thons are an excellent avenue for an online educational fundraiser. If your organization is education based or partners with a school, a read-a-thon can help increase literacy among your students while also raising money for your cause. 

Read-a-thons are fully online, and raise funds by having students reach out to friends and family for a flat-rate donation. Then, students will read as much as they can over a specific period of time. 

To take your read-a-thon online, you can use an online platform, such as Read-a-thons web-based software, to help students, parents, and teachers stay organized. Students will use the platform to log their reading time after every, so family and friends can see updates on their progress, which can inspire secondary donations. 

Students, parents, teachers, or supervisors can all access Read-a-thon’s school fundraising software to update student reading times, making this online fundraiser suitable for all ages of students. 

To encourage students to participate, you can also offer select prizes based on how much students read or raised. Select the top readers and top fundraisers from each class for special prizes, and offer something smaller for other students to encourage full participation. 

2. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising 

Peer-to-peer fundraising, also referred to as P2P fundraising by industry experts, is a classic way to encourage your supporters to help with fundraising and expand your reach to new donors. Get in touch with your supporters and offer them the opportunity to raise money for your nonprofit as volunteer fundraisers. 

Your ideal volunteers are heavily engaged supporters who would be excited to share their involvement with your nonprofit online and can easily speak to the strengths of your organization. Once you’ve recruited your volunteers, host training sessions to support your volunteers with talking points about your peer-to-peer fundraising goal, mission, and campaign message. 

Help your volunteers create their own fundraising pages to share with their friends, family, and personal networks. Encourage them to set a personal fundraising goal for themselves and to reach out to their networks for donations. Some peer-to-peer campaigns even set deadlines for when funds have to be collected to inspire potential donors to act quickly to join the cause.

Here are some channels your volunteers can use to share their fundraising pages: 

  • Social media 
  • Email
  • Personal Text Messages
  • Personal blogs

Your supporters are foundational to your nonprofit, so peer-to-peer fundraising is the perfect way to use their personal experiences to help inform and inspire new donors. 

3. Social Media Challenges 

Social media challenges are a simple way to get a variety of donors involved in your fundraising, spread your message widely, and build your organization’s community. Everyone knows the viral ALS ice bucket challenge because it was memorable and raised awareness for the cause for everyone who completed or watched someone else complete the challenge. 

Take to your nonprofit’s social media profiles and encourage your supporters to create videos, images, and messages about your challenge to share with their networks. Here are some details to include in your social media challenges: 

  • Your organization’s mission 
  • Your goal for the fundraiser 
  • How the challenge works 
  • How to donate 

After posting your social media challenges, be sure to ask your staff, board members, volunteers, and followers to engage with the post and complete the challenge to help start building momentum. Use the challenge as an opportunity to build a stronger community by inspiring your followers to participate. 

4. Matching Gifts

A matching gifts campaign can help supplement other fundraisers and provide continued support long after its initial launch. With a matching gifts campaign, you can increase the revenue from donations already being made without asking your donors to give more! 

Many companies offer matching gifts opportunities for their employees. If their employees make a charitable contribution to a registered nonprofit, and submits an application to the company, the company may match a certain percentage of the gift made. Some companies match up to 100% or even double the amount of an employee’s donation. 

Encourage your donors to check their matching gift eligibility on your website’s donation page. You can also promote your matching gifts campaign through social media and newsletters to inspire donors to check their eligibility and company policies. Some companies will match a gift months to a year after it’s been made, meaning if you start promoting now, you might start earning extra donations immediately. 

5. Text-to-Give 

Text-to-give fundraisers utilizes one of the best ways to reach donors on-the-go, mobile messaging. Like other online fundraisers, you can promote it on your social media pages, website, and newsletter to get supporters excited about your cause. 

For a smooth campaign, you can use a text-to-give software that allows you to customize your campaign. Snowball’s text-to-give fundraising guide outlines how to optimize the experience for your nonprofit and your supporters: 

  • Use memorable keywords. Have donors text a short keyword related to your mission to your organization’s number. Long keywords are easy to misenter and can be difficult to remember. For example, READ is far easier to type than, SUPPORTOURSCHOOLREADATHON.
  • Use a peer-to-peer campaign. As part of your peer-to-peer campaign, have your volunteers share your donation number with their friends and family to give them another way to donate and spread the reach of your campaign. 
  • Use simple messaging. People who prefer texts likely also prefer brevity when it comes to messages. Be clear and concise in your text message response and on your donation page

Texting is a way to casually connect with donors who may be overwhelmed by your volunteer programs or website. Start a text-to-give campaign to offer donors a simple way to contribute to your cause. 

Fundraising is all about earning the revenue you need to keep your cause going while spreading the word about your organization, your mission, and your ongoing work. Whether it’s online or in-person, fundraisers are an opportunity to educate your supporters and inspire them to join your cause. Use your branding, powerful language, and online marketing materials to ensure your online fundraising success.

About the Author

Howard Gottlieb

Howard Gottlieb has been a serial entrepreneur for more than 35 years. His latest venture, Read-a-thon, is a novel school fundraising concept that truly shifts the paradigm when it matters most. Read-a-thon replaces in-person bake sales, magazine drives and the like with a contactless method of raising much needed cash, one that can be used both in real classrooms and virtual learning spaces. The real bonus? It promotes literacy and gets kids excited about picking up a book.

8 Critical Questions to Ask During a Nonprofit Re-Brand

Reflect – Rethink – Rebrand on wooden blocks. Business and inspiration concept

When you think of branding, you might envision corporations branding their products with a logo or a catchy slogan at the end of a commercial. Yes, these are all examples of branding, but they’re only half of the picture. The concept of brand recognition isn’t exclusive to for-profit entities. In fact, your nonprofit should have its own brand identity that shapes your community-building interactions. 

If you’re new to branding, you might have some questions about how to go through the process, from shaping your story to personalizing your social media profiles. Don’t worry, this is a good thing! Here are some questions to ask and answer throughout the nonprofit branding process so you can ensure you have all your bases covered. Let’s get started!

1. What is nonprofit branding?

Nonprofit branding is what distinctly sets you apart from other nonprofits in the space, attracting supporters that resonate with your specific identity. The branding process entails creating a strong public-facing persona for your nonprofit through design and messaging. It’s far more than just your website design or your marketing materials. Essentially, it’s the who, what, and why your nonprofit presents to your community. 

2. What’s our current branding strategy?

Every rebranding strategy needs a baseline to build off of. Take some time to assess your current nonprofit branding strategy, focusing on elements such as your mission statement, messaging, online presence, and visual elements (logo, colors, and font). Then, decide which elements you want to keep and which ones aren’t working as well for your organization so you know where to begin. 

3. Why are we rebranding?

Once you’ve thoroughly analyzed your current brand status, it’s time to tackle a different question: why will a rebrand benefit our organization? Here are some common reasons nonprofits decide to rebrand that might resonate with your organization:

  • To add cohesion to your identity
  • To appeal to a new audience
  • To level up to industry standards
  • To compete with the opposition
  • To accommodate new products or mission
  • To make your brand complement your advertising or outreach strategy

Your rebranding is a large undertaking, so understanding exactly what your goals are is essential for staying focused.

4. What’s our new brand vision?

If you don’t know exactly what you want your new brand to look like, never fear! There are many ways to be inspired by the world around you. Here are some ways to come up with a few ideas:

  • Take inspiration from many organizations in the space, both for- and nonprofit. 
  • Ask your nonprofit colleagues for advice.
  • Consider which tactics have worked for you in the past that you want to keep.
  • Ask your current supporters and board members what they’d like to see change.

The sheer amount of branding possibilities can make the process feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Use the resources around you to jumpstart your creative process!

5. When do we want our rollout finished?

Once you set your goals based on who you’re trying to reach with your brand, you should pick a target completion date for your rebrand. Setting a completion date for your rebrand from the very beginning is crucial to prioritize only your most important updates. Be sure to set reasonable goals based on your timeframe. For example, a simple logo rebrand won’t take as long as a comprehensive website rebrand. 

Your timeframe also determines the scope of your campaign. If you only have a month, it probably isn’t feasible to undertake a holistic campaign that would normally take six months to execute. Understand that a comprehensive, high-quality strategy can’t be rolled out overnight, so you should prioritize the work that needs to be done.

6. How does my story fit in?

You can shape your brand identity in many ways, but the most important is by strategically telling your story. 

Every nonprofit is built on a good story. If you present yours compellingly, people will naturally gravitate toward you to learn more about it. So, figuring out your storytelling strategy is a crucial part of your branding process. Keep in mind are Getting Attention’s elements to consider while crafting your story:

  • Understand your audience. The very first step might seem obvious to you, but its importance can’t be overstated. Start your storytelling process off on the right foot by firmly grasping your audience’s characteristics and what they respond best to. For example, if your supporters are mostly older, saturating your story with new slang that they don’t know isn’t the best idea. To learn more about your unique audience members, examine your performance analytics, such as content performance and engagement by demographic, and adapt your ideas from there. 
  • Activate empathy in your audience. Humans are emotional beings! You should leverage this trait by including emotionally compelling media in your story. For instance, if you’re creating a tab on your website dedicated to storytelling, include photos and videos. This media transcends language, conveying emotion to an even broader audience than your written segments can. 
  • Highlight specific goals. Broadly, you should show a connection between your mission statement, vision statement, and your story. You can also use your story to emphasize a wide range of performance indicators, such as money raised or membership growth rate. 

At the end of the day, you know your story better than anyone else, so brainstorm with your team to determine the most effective storytelling method. It’ll introduce you to many new audiences that care about your mission.

7. How will we plan our rebranding campaign?

You should spend ample time preparing in advance so that your rebranding journey is as smooth as possible. Moreover, you should use several materials to center your thinking, such as:

  • A brand style guide. This is where you can let your creativity take control to determine your artistic branding. Include your logo, colors, and fonts for all of your materials. Be as detailed as possible by including your brand color hex codes and examples of your graphics. Keep it consistent across all of your platforms and deliverables so your viewers correctly associate you with your brand.
  • A digital strategy plan. The new normal for making your organization visible is by promoting it over the internet. So, if you haven’t invested in your digital presence yet, it’s time to get started! In this guide, you’ll lay out your trajectory for all things digital outreach. For example, you might discuss redesigning your website or launching new social media profiles to reach new audiences. 
  • A language and tone guide. Your language choices and tone throughout your written materials should be consistent. Your tone determines the feeling you want your audience to associate with your brand. To help define your tone and brand personality, brainstorm a list of tone adjectives to characterize your organization and brand.  
  • A data collection method. As with any significant change, you want to monitor your progress over time so you know what you need to change. You should plan how you’ll measure success throughout the rebranding process. How will your key performance indicators (KPIs) change with your new brand? You might keep track of metrics such as your social media engagement and share of voice, blog post engagement, and other awareness-related KPIs to monitor the response to your rebrand. 
  • A call-to-action plan. Throughout your written materials, you should include calls-to-action (CTAs) to prompt your audience to complete certain activities. These should be structured around achieving your predetermined goals. For example, you might include specific guidelines for your website call-to-action buttons or how you’ll draw email recipients to your website using CTAs. 

Keeping organized is the key to a successful rebranding campaign, so stay on top of the planning process!

8. Who will help us with our nonprofit rebrand?

There’s no doubt that refreshing your brand can be a daunting task. If you want further support, consider working with a nonprofit branding agency. According to Fifty & Fifty, they’ll provide numerous services such as: 

  • Graphic design
  • Web design
  • Online ad campaign design
  • Social media content production
  • Search engine optimization

Experts in branding know what makes donors tick and new visitors click. They’ll be able to guide you and transform your brand into one that donors and prospects love. Plus, they provide in-depth KPI analysis and insights so you know what’s working and what should change. Working with a nonprofit branding agency is a great way to kick off your rebranding efforts to impress your community.

Keeping your brand up to date is a large undertaking, but is incredibly important for your nonprofit to appear fresh and in touch with your community. You don’t have to go through it alone, either; nonprofit branding agencies and your connections in the field will help motivate you throughout the process. Ultimately, your prospective supporters might know who you are, but your new branding will center your why for all to see.

About the Author

Javan Van Gronigen
Creative Director | Founder

As Founder and Creative Director of Fifty & Fifty, Javan is the tip of the proverbial spear. Javan started his digital design career 20 years ago as Art Director for what is now one of the world’s largest digital agencies (Mirum, a JWT Company). He then moved on to Invisible Children where he was responsible for managing the team and all digital assets through the entire historic Kony 2012 campaign. At Fifty & Fifty, Javan has participated in and led every project, including 300+ websites, campaigns, and brands.

8 Dos and Don’ts of Building a Nonprofit Volunteer Program

Three volunteers help clean up the beach

To build a volunteer program that supporters want to get involved with, you need to focus on each part of the program, from your recruitment strategy to your branding approach

Looking for tips on how to make your program as effective as possible? Good news: There are tried-and-true best practices you can follow. Let’s take a look at what to do and what not to do when creating your nonprofit’s volunteer program. 

Do: Create a targeted recruitment strategy. 

A targeted recruitment strategy increases your marketing team’s return on investment (ROI) because you’ll connect with audience members who are most likely to be interested in your volunteer program rather than casting a wide net and hoping to engage one or two volunteers. 

Reach out to people who have already expressed interest in your organization and may be the right fit for your volunteer program. These individuals may include: 

  • Lapsed volunteers
  • Social media followers
  • Email subscribers
  • Past event attendees
  • Donors

After you identify these individuals, send them messages that resonate with their interests. For instance, you might send your lapsed volunteers a message saying “We miss you! Want to get involved in the work we’re doing today? Here are a few upcoming activities that we think are the right fit for you.” You can also create social media posts highlighting your program’s opportunities and benefits to give followers a sense of how they can and why they should participate. 

Finding new volunteers is similar to reaching out to new donors. Both processes require connecting with your prospective supporters and highlighting the aspects of your organization that will appeal to them the most. 

You can even use the same tools, such as your donor management software, to engage volunteers. Your donor management software or donor database should contain information about not only your donors, but also your past event attendees, lapsed volunteers, and other individuals who have engaged with your nonprofit over the years. This tool will help you collect contact information for prospective volunteers and create communication strategies to reach out to them. 

Don’t: Neglect volunteer safety. 

Safety should be your number one priority when planning your volunteer opportunities. Consider things like this when choosing how your volunteers can help you carry out your mission: 

  • Physical safety: Although it may seem obvious, it’s worth the reminder: The activities you plan should be safe to do. If there is a risk of injury—like when building a house for a family in need—provide a thorough training process so all volunteers feel comfortable using your equipment or carrying out specific responsibilities. You should also have them read, agree to, and sign waivers to highlight the potential risks of volunteer activities and protect your organization from liability. 
  • Cybersecurity: If you offer online registration tools and/or virtual volunteer opportunities, keep volunteers’ personal information safe through airtight cybersecurity practices. These practices include requiring complex passwords for your online registration system, such as using a mix of character types and requiring that the password have a minimum number of characters. If you accept credit card information from volunteers, your payment system should be PCI compliant. That means it should align with established security standards. 

Poor security practices, whether in-person or virtual, can leave a lasting negative impression on your volunteers and expose them to unnecessary risk. On the other hand, emphasizing safety measures will provide volunteers with an experience that builds their trust in your nonprofit. 

Do: Consider volunteers’ interests and preferences.

Your volunteers likely have a wide range of life experiences and skills. That’s why you should offer a variety of volunteer opportunities. 

According to Double the Donation’s volunteer management guide, volunteering can take many forms, including:

  • Event volunteering
  • Skilled volunteering (including providing specific services like PR assistance, legal guidance, or accounting support) 
  • Administrative work
  • Advocacy

Conduct surveys to gather information about the types of volunteer opportunities that supporters are most interested in, whether it’s the ones listed above or opportunities unique to your organization’s work. Then, assign the volunteers to the opportunities you know they would be best suited to do. 

Don’t: Bore your volunteers. 

Your volunteer opportunities should be closely tied to and help make an impact on your organization’s overall mission. By involving volunteers in hands-on projects that directly support your goals, they’ll be more engaged and fulfilled. 

For example, if your nonprofit runs a community kitchen for people in need, assign your volunteers different prep tasks so they know they’ve helped put food on the proverbial table. If your organization is an animal shelter, allow volunteers to walk and bathe pets and introduce people to them at adoption events. 

Even when you’re completing routine tasks like stapling pamphlets or sorting canned foods, make your volunteer opportunities more engaging by adding a fun twist. You might play upbeat music or challenge volunteers to sort as many cans as possible, then give a prize to the winning team or individual. 

Do: Brand your volunteer program. 

Your nonprofit’s brand gives audience members an idea of your mission, purpose, and message. Branding your volunteer program can play a similar role in introducing these new opportunities to supporters. 

Your volunteer program’s brand should be a variation of your organization’s primary brand, using some of the same elements so supporters understand that the two are related. As you design the program’s brand, you might use the secondary colors in your brand color palette or a variation of your main logo. 

Make the program distinct from your nonprofit’s other activities by giving it a unique name. For instance, if your volunteer program is focused on local tree conversation, you might call volunteers “Tree Defenders” or “The Tree Team.” 

Branding your nonprofit’s volunteer program helps you increase program awareness. It can also give your volunteers a sense of community, especially when you offer them branded merchandise like matching t-shirts.  

Don’t: Pigeonhole volunteers.

You may find yourself only sending information about upcoming volunteer opportunities to your growing volunteer pool. However, volunteers might be interested in supporting your nonprofit in other ways as well.

Promoting those other opportunities will help your volunteers become even more invested in your mission and inspire them to have a greater impact. Volunteers may also be interested in:

By sending your volunteers information about different ways to engage with your organization, you can appeal to their desire to get more involved. Highlight these opportunities using your social media posts and emails.

Do: Ask volunteers for feedback. 

Build your volunteer program with volunteers’ preferences in mind every step of the way. If you’re uncertain about what your volunteers think, just ask!

Show volunteers that you care about listening to and implementing their feedback by sending them a post-volunteer event survey. Ask questions such as:

  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the volunteer experience? 
  • Did you feel the training process adequately prepared you for the experience? 
  • Would you participate in our program again? Why or why not?
  • Would you recommend our volunteer program to a family member or friend? 

Use volunteers’ responses to adjust your program strategy and let volunteers know how you’re incorporating their feedback. For example, send an email summarizing three to four key trends that emerged from a recent batch of surveys and how your organization plans to adjust your upcoming opportunities accordingly.

Don’t: Forget to show appreciation.

Just as you steward your donors, you must also actively build relationships with volunteers to retain them for the long haul. An effective volunteer stewardship strategy starts with showing your appreciation for your volunteers. 

Here are a few volunteer appreciation ideas to incorporate into your program: 

  • Send thank you emails after each opportunity summarizing what your volunteers accomplished and how they helped your mission.
  • Highlight volunteers’ accomplishments on social media and via your email newsletters. 
  • Send volunteers thank you gifts, such as free merchandise or gift cards. 

Expressing gratitude for volunteers is crucial for improving your volunteer retention rate. This will help you increase your ROI when it comes to finding new long-term volunteers and expanding the program in the future.  

By following these tips, you should be able to build a strong, sustainable volunteer program that engages supporters and helps your organization work more efficiently toward its mission. 

About the Author

Jay Love
Co-Founder and current Chief Relationship Officer at 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.

He is a graduate of Butler University with a B.S. in Business Administration. Over the years, he has given more than 2,500 speeches around the world for the charity sector and is often the voice of new technology for fundraisers.

Connecting Mission-Driven Boards to Donors: Why It Matters

Your donors and your board members might seem like completely disconnected groups in your organization. While your board is a small but powerful team that steers the direction of your organization, your donors are a vast collection of individuals that pitch in to empower your fundraising campaigns and keep your organization afloat.

However, your board members and your donors are actually two sides of the same coin. In particular, both groups help propel your mission forward, represent your values, and raise awareness for your cause. But if that’s the case, then why do these groups tend to rarely work together? 

Encouraging a sustainable relationship between your board members and your donors is an excellent way to boost engagement and improve your public image. Donors want to feel more involved with your organization, and a connection with your board members offers them a glimpse into the inner workings of your organization. Similarly, it’s helpful for board members to get to know your donor base and understand how to work together. 

Overall, establishing some familiarity between your board members and your donors has several key benefits, including: 

Fortunately for many causes, the framework to make these relationships possible is already in place. All you need to do is to extend the invitation. You might be surprised to learn that your board members and donors are eager to get to know one another. 

Plus, connecting your board members with your donors might help to increase overall board engagement and could raise more donations, which will benefit your organization as a whole.

Establishing a strong community. 

No matter the size of your nonprofit, building a community within your organization is important. A strong community means that your supporters are more likely to spread the word about your mission, keep one another informed about updates, and attend upcoming events. 

Establishing a sense of community among your board and then a separate community among your donors has its own benefits. A united board is more productive and more comfortable sharing new ideas, while effectively engaging donors and creating meaningful donor relationships increases the chance of these supporters becoming major contributors. 

If a strong community already brings several assets to your board and your donors, a connection between the two groups would bring even greater advantages to your organization. Here are some ways to establish a better relationship between your board members and your donors: 

  • Dinner parties: If your board members and some donors have briefly met before, consider inviting them to a dinner party at your facility. They can get to know each other in a relaxed atmosphere. 
  • Mixers: Want to get lots of donors to interact with your board members? A mixer can be an effective way to kickstart the relationship between interested donors and your board members. 
  • Outdoor activities: Especially if your organization is nature-focused, an outdoor activity or event, such as hiking or a picnic, is a cost-effective and fun way to engage your board members and your donors. 
  • Volunteer events: Several of your donors or board members might already volunteer with your organization, but hosting a specific volunteer day or weekend for donors and board members will give both groups the chance to meet and chat, all while furthering your cause.
  • Team building exercises: Organizing a team-building activity is a great way to reinforce the idea that your board members and your donors are working toward the same goal. Try an escape room, an obstacle course, or a scavenger hunt to encourage your board members and your donors to work together. 

Creating a community among your board members and your donors requires time and effort, but with so many long-term benefits for fundraising, donor retention, and board engagement, the extra work is well worth it. 

Encouraging deeper involvement. 

Stronger bonds across different sections of your organization can encourage your supporters to attend a wider variety of events. For example, if your donors have had positive experiences with your board members and with your volunteers, they will likely want to attend events with both groups. 

By building a stronger community between your board members and your donors, you can simultaneously encourage both groups to get more involved. For this reason, connecting these two groups is crucial for sustainable participation. 

Additionally, you could design programs specifically aimed at creating opportunities for donors and board members to work together. Some collaboration ideas include: 

  • Partner programs between donors and board members: For your local donors, design a partner program where you pair a donor and a board member together. The partners could brainstorm ideas for an upcoming event or lead a volunteer training program. 
  • Donor input at board meetings: Create an online feedback form where donors can contribute ideas for your organization to further its cause, and then set aside some time at each board meeting to discuss donors’ ideas. Record your discussion in your board’s minutes and make them publicly available to show donors that you’re acting on their ideas. 
  • Matching gift program: According to 360MatchPro’s matching gift statistics page, more than 18 million people work for companies with matching gift programs. This is a great opportunity for your donors and board members to collaborate and research potential match opportunities, especially if many of your board members and donors happen to work for the same company. 

Maintaining board and donor engagement is one of the most challenging aspects of running a mission-driven organization. But by facilitating a working relationship between your board members and your donors with plenty of involvement opportunities, you can effectively engage both groups at once. 

Building an open line of communication. 

Connecting your board members with your donors also opens an essential line of communication between the individuals who steer your organization and the individuals who make those strategic plans possible.

As your board works on your organization’s long-term goals, they should be interested in your donors’ preferred direction for the future of your organization. Similarly, your donors want to know how their contributions are being used to forward your mission, and sharing this impact can play an important role in enhancing your donor communications

There are several ways that you could open the line of communication between your board members and your donors. You can: 

  • Publish your board meeting minutes: Most often, your board members will discuss how to allocate donations, and donors have a right to know this information. Consider publishing a public-facing version of your minutes for your donors to review. This Boardable guide to board meeting minutes can help you record efficient and comprehensive notes that cover all the necessary details your supporters need to know. 
  • Host Q&A sessions: Invested donors would be delighted to have an evening to ask board members all of their questions about how your organization works and how you’re achieving your mission. 
  • Involve donors in the board member selection process: It can be hard to determine if a prospective board member is the right person for your organization. Getting some input from donors can help you decide who to involve while simultaneously allowing your donors to play a bigger role in your organization.

Bridging the communication gap between donors and board members can clear up any points of confusion and make it easier to plan for big-picture changes that appeal to all parties. That way, everyone will be on the same page about how to move forward and will appreciate knowing their opinions matter.

Increasing transparency.

Fraud and corruption risk don’t only impact for-profit organizations — they’re a threat to the mission-driven world as well. With this in mind, it’s understandable that your donors will want to know how their money is being spent. 

Donors might feel more trusting of your organization if they feel connected to your board members. If you’re transparent about your onboarding process for new members, how your board meetings are run, and what tasks your board handles, your donors will have a better sense of your board’s purpose and your organization’s goals. 

Another way to increase transparency between your board and your donors is to publish the results of all voting items after a meeting. This way, your donors can understand what decisions were made and how this will impact your strategy moving forward. 

Overall, the more transparency you can offer your donors, the better. Not only does increasing your board’s transparency reduce the distance between board members and donors, but it also ensures that you’re managing your organization honestly and ethically.

Adding a more personal touch. 

Because donors naturally outnumber your board members, your donors might feel as though their voices aren’t being heard by your organization’s leaders. When it comes to building lasting relationships with your supporters, you want to show your donors that they are invaluable to your organization. 

For this reason, connecting your donors with board members can add a personal touch to the way that you conduct your supporter relations. As you probably know, personalizing your outreach materials and segmenting your donors often leads to higher response, conversion, and retention rates. 

So, if personalization can enhance your fundraising and outreach efforts so significantly, why not apply the same personal approach to relationship-building? With these strategies, you can potentially create lasting connections for years to come. 

To take a personalized approach to the donor experience, designate a point of contact or two for donors to reach out to with feedback or suggestions. Donors will feel as though they have a direct line for sharing their suggestions. For larger donor bases, you might consider only sharing the contact information with major donors, because an influx of emails or calls can easily overwhelm your board members. 

Your board members can also get involved with other aspects of interacting with donors. For instance, they might personally reach out to request donations or say thank you to those who have recently given to deepen those connections even further. No matter your approach, connecting your donors with your board members will naturally personalize each donor’s experience.

Connecting your board members with your donors is a great way to grow your organization’s community, encourage more people to get involved, and give your donors insight into the inner workings of your organization. Although it might take some extra effort to forge these connections, they can propel your organization’s work forward. 

Author: Jeb Banner is the founder and CEO of Boardable, a board management software provider for mission-driven boards. 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.

4 Ways to Boost Your Volunteer Program’s Brand Recognition

What is your volunteer program’s brand? Or, maybe a better question, does your volunteer program have a brand, to begin with?

Your volunteer program’s brand encompasses your logo, brand colors, fonts, and the tone and message you’re trying to convey to your audience. When these elements are streamlined and cohesive, your brand becomes a powerful marketing tool for appealing to and recruiting new volunteers to help your cause. 

If you’re looking for creative ways to engage volunteers and increase your program’s brand recognition, you’re in the right place! We’ll review these four tips for boosting your volunteer program’s brand awareness: 

  1. Create a brand style guide. 
  2. Develop your brand’s personality.
  3. Design branded merchandise.
  4. Use uniform branding across marketing platforms.

Ready to improve your volunteer engagement strategy with greater brand awareness? Let’s dive in. 

1. Create a brand style guide. 

It’s vital to document all of your brand elements in a written style guide. This guide should consist of all of the defined elements that your team will need while creating any communications on behalf of your organization. Your brand style guide is a crucial guiding resource for creating digital and print marketing materials. 

Your brand style guide should include specifications for your brand’s:

  • Logo – Include several logo variations, such as black and white versions or other color options.
  • Colors – Note your brand colors with their hex codes and label primary and secondary colors.
  • Fonts – List all of your approved fonts, when each font should be used, and specify the guidelines for using bold, italics, and different font sizes.
  • Tone/message – Provide information on the tone of your volunteer program’s brand by mentioning the types of words your team members should use and when or avoid communications and describe your brand’s personality.

Remember to make your volunteer program style guide easily accessible once completed. Send it out to your full team, and let them know who to contact if they have any questions or concerns. This ensures that everyone is aligned with your brand guidelines!

2. Develop your brand’s personality.

Beyond the visual elements, one of the most impactful elements of your brand strategy is your brand’s personality, tone, and message. These elements convey your program’s beliefs and values and form a strong impression in audience members’ minds.

Your brand’s story and personality are crucial factors that will help you get the attention of your target audience. A brand personality refers to the human characteristics that are associated with a brand. For example, a friendly brand will use more of an informal tone and warm, inviting colors.

Getting Attention’s nonprofit branding guide describes these main elements of developing your brand’s message:

  • Connect with your audience using a message that compels them to act.
  • Make interacting with your brand a rewarding experience for volunteers.
  • Include calls to action to encourage prospective volunteers to join your organization.
  • Create a memorable message using emotion and tangible rewards. 

When you develop your brand’s personality, it allows you to determine how you will choose other brand elements, such as colors and fonts. These help craft a well-rounded sensory experience for your target audience.

3. Design branded merchandise.

Creating branded merchandise turns your volunteers into walking advertisements for your program. When they wear or use your merchandise in public, they help spread awareness of your logo, colors, and other brand elements. These also make great gifts to show gratitude to your helpful volunteer team!

Consider creating branded merchandise such as:

  • T-shirts – This is a great way to promote your volunteer program to a larger audience. Use a t-shirt design platform to develop your custom t-shirts. Remember to brand your t-shirts with your organization’s logo and colors.
  • Mugs – Designing mugs with your organization’s logo along with your volunteers’ names reminds them of your organization each time they enjoy a drink! Plus, your logo won’t wear away over time.
  • Tote bags – Tote bags can be used over and over again, at the grocery store, department stores, or just for general storage. Consider offering a sustainable tote bag designed for every age and brand it with your company’s colors and logo.
  • Sweatshirts – Who doesn’t love comfy sweatshirts? This will not only make a great gift for your volunteers but will easily help get your organization’s name across when your volunteers wear it.

Make things fun by asking your volunteers to participate in a design competition. Ask volunteers to submit design ideas and allow them to vote on their favorites using a poll system. This is a great way to get all your volunteers engaged and feel a part of your nonprofit.

4. Use uniform branding across marketing platforms.

Now that you’ve got a better understanding of your brand’s elements and personality, it’s time to get your strategy up and running. As InitLive’s volunteer management guide explains, effective volunteer recruitment requires a multi-channel marketing approach. To keep your brand consistent and raise awareness, we recommend keeping your branding elements uniform across platforms.

These platforms include your:

  • Volunteer management app – This will help you improve your communications with your team by sending alert notifications to everyone all at once. Your volunteer management app can be branded with your logo, colors, and fonts to help reinforce brand recognition and offer volunteers a professional, uniform experience. 
  • Social media profiles – Social media is one of the most effective ways to reach a large audience all at once! Create fun and engaging posts and stories to attract your viewers. This is the perfect way to tell a story about what your organization is all about.
  • Printed materials, such as flyers and direct mail advertisements – This is the time to use your graphic design skills and create exciting flyers and other marketing materials to get your name and brand across! Post these in high-traffic areas where your target market is most likely to see them.

Every marketing message that is created on behalf of your volunteer program is an opportunity to inspire and bring in new people to support your cause. This is why it’s crucial to ensure that all of your materials and communications promote a consistent and cohesive brand story.

Exceptional branding is critical to help you raise awareness of your volunteer program. Now that you’ve learned several ways to boost your program’s brand recognition, it’s time to start planning accordingly and put it into action! Whether you want to attract new volunteers or remind your organization’s existing volunteers why they dedicate their time to your organization, investing in a well-thought-out brand will set your program up for success!

About the Author

Shreya Tragad

Shreya is a creative content creator focusing on delivering information about the importance of volunteerism for nonprofit organizations. She is passionate about creating engaging content, writing, and graphic design to help viewers easily retain information. You can find her work at or on Linkedin and Twitter.