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How to Achieve Gold Medal Fundraising

in Fundraising, Nonprofit, Planning by Lauryn Rosinski Leave a comment


Sochi 2014 Russia Olympiad Winter OlympicsBy Sara Lundenberger – Director of Fundraising Consulting 

I am a self-identified Olympics fanatic. I spend hours watching sports I don’t completely understand, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the hard work and dedication that goes into each of these disciplines. For two and half weeks, athletes from around the world become famous celebrities. After the Olympics end, though, the cameras and the eyes of the world go away.

Your fundraising campaign may have the same problem. You focus on events, campaigns or grant requests when they are in front of you; however,  when the campaign is over, you don’t think about them again until the next event, campaign or grant has to be done.

The work of Chloe Kim, Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu does not end once they leave the Pyeongchang Games. They will continue to train, compete and win – and you, through your fundraising initiatives, should do the same.

As you watch the remainder of the Winter Olympics, consider just how many similarities there are between fundraising and the sports. I guarantee it’ll be a fun way to do some homework for the year ahead! Here are a few to get you started.


Events: Snowboarding halfpipe

If you are a fan of the halfpipe, you know that the entire event lasts about 45 seconds. In that 45 seconds, snowboarders do the best tricks and show their best skills to score the highest points. Sound familiar? Planning an event takes tons of time and resources for a relatively short time period.

Nonprofits do their best to tell their stories to raise the most money they can in one night. What they can learn from the halfpipe is this: snowboarders are calm, cool and collected all the time. They see their events as fun and always push the envelope to come up with a new trick. They would NEVER say, “But I did it that way last year” –  and you shouldn’t either!

Annual fund: Figure skating long program

In the long program, skaters are not required to do specific moves as they are in the short program. They are given the latitude to do what works best for them, with some minimum requirements.

Much like an annual fund campaign, do what works for you! If I can’t land a triple axel consistently, I’m not going to add it in to my program. If you only have a few email addresses for your donors, don’t do an email campaign. The important part of the long program is this: it is a marathon, not a sprint. Your annual fund should encompass many pieces and different types of communication, and it should last all year.

Grants: Four-person bobsled

There aren’t a lot of team sports in the Winter Olympics, but one that relies on teamwork is the bobsled. In the four-person bobsled, there is a driver, two pushers and a brakeman. These four athletes have specific jobs; some are more important in the beginning (the pushers) and some are used at the end (the brakeman).

Writing a solid grant proposal also takes a team. The finance team, program team, executive director and grant writer all have to be on the same page in order for a grant program to be successful. Some may be more important in the beginning, like the executive director and the grant writer, while the program and finance teams are needed at the end.

Although the bobsled team is made up of four individuals, they all have the same goal: to win. Organizations that receive a lot of grant funding have clear goals and objectives, implementation plans and excellent budgets. This shows funders they are prepared, organized and willing to use the funding efficiently and for its intended purpose.

Planned Giving: Biathlon

The biathlon is a cross country skiing race with periodic shooting stations. Skiers must stop at the stations and fire five rounds at very small targets with special rifles. For each missed shot, the skier is required to take penalty loops. This race is long and exhausting and has a staggered start. The staggered start means the racers don’t know what place they are in until they cross the finish line – and this is important. They have no idea if they are ahead or behind. Add in the uncertainty of missing your rifle shots, and you can go from ahead to behind very quickly.

Biathlon, Athlete, Olympics, WinterLike biathlon, you don’t always know where you are when it comes to planned giving. Donors don’t always share if or what they have left your organization in their will. Through time, they may change the amount or take you out altogether. Like the biathlon, your planned giving team needs to work as hard as they can to educate donors on their options, despite the fact that they may not actually see where they finished until years later.


Overall, your fundraising plan should be agile and strong. Don’t be afraid to throw yourself head first down an icy track on a little sled (that’s actually the sport of skeleton – watch it!) and try something new this year! A small change in your fundraising plan could make a huge difference in your bottom line. Enjoy the 2018 Winter Olympics and go for the gold in your 2018 fundraising!


Data and You: Why organized information is essential to your nonprofit

in Consulting, Fundraising, Nonprofit, Planning by Lauryn Rosinski Leave a comment

By Amy Wong – President 

I recently participated as a panelist for a professional development program for our local Association of Fundraising Professionals Chapter. The session, “Data – A Fundraiser’s Best Friend,” focused on the importance of collecting and managing data, and how to use that data to effectively raise money.

When I talk about data with clients and in discussions like at the AFP session, I always say the same thing. “Data is one of the most valuable things your nonprofit owns. If possible, it should all be in one place and should be looked after with great care.” The initial response is usually a perplexed look. But as I start to explain why, that look morphs into an “ah-ha” moment.

The value of good, readily available data 

Most nonprofits rely on volunteers and philanthropic income to advance their missions. Managing both requires keeping information up-to-date and readily available. Yet many nonprofits fail to keep accurate records that are easily accessible.

Why is good, readily available data valuable?

  1. You save time– Chasing down lists from colleagues, cleaning up addresses, merging files, correcting typos and manually calculating financial information for the business office all take up valuable time. Having access to information with a simple query or report can save you hours a week, giving you more time to focus on nurturing important volunteer and donor relationships.
  2. You spend less money– We all have been on the receiving end of mailing gone bad. Consider the cost of multiple, accidental solicitations to the same address. At roughly 50 cents per piece to mail, plus printing (often around $1 or more per solicitation package), a poor mail merge or data disaster could be costly, not to mention the ill will you cause with donors or prospects.
  3. You are less likely to be embarrassed– Even the best kept databases have some information that isn’t 100 percent up-to-date. Make sure you track information such as marriages, divorces, deaths, job changes and other key information that can save you from embarrassing situations later. The last thing you want to do is to mail an invitation addressed to a major donor and his/her deceased spouse.
  4. You get valuable information that helps drive your fundraising strategy –Many organizations keep their donor information on spreadsheets. While we applaud their effort to keep records, it is difficult to extract information that can be valuable to your fundraising strategy. Having easy access to reports for lapsed donors, outstanding pledges, giving by constituency and other key metrics can tell you where you need to spend your fundraising energy.


Collecting your data

Collecting the right data is just as important as keeping it clean and easy to find. What you collect is often tied to the resources available at your nonprofit. For larger nonprofits, there may be a team dedicated to managing the database, whereas a smaller organization may have a person managing the data along with other tasks. So it is important to be specific on what data you collect on a regular basis.

What data should you collect?

  1. Constituent information – The types of constituents are specific to each organization, but key constituents often include board members, donors, volunteers, media, prospects, alumni, etc. At the very least, you should strive to capture title, name, address, salutation, email, phone, spouse/significant other, giving history, deaths of spouses and any preferences for being contacted (i.e. no mail, no email, no phone calls).
  2. Just the facts– Never track anything you don’t want the donor to see in their file. A donor can request to see the information at any time. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you have added information that the donor may find offensive or is untrue.
  3. Information that matters– Every organization needs access to specific reports and information. Work with your business office, campaign committee, board and others to determine what information they need and when. These conversations will help determine what you need to collect in your system and streamline your reporting process in the long run.


Taking care of your data

Collecting, managing and capturing accurate data is a long-term investment and should be a priority for every nonprofit organization, regardless of size. So, take the steps necessary to ensure that your data-collection efforts are sustainable. Once you’ve made the commitment to improve your organization’s data, maintaining it is the next step.

How do you maintain good data?

  1. Invest in a system– All constituent data relevant to volunteer and fundraising activities should be housed in one place. Invest in a donor management system specific to nonprofits. There are many options. Make sure that you get a system that will work for your organization. Not every system is right for every nonprofit. Don’t over- or under-buy. Hiring a consultant specializing in databases can often help you determine what is best.
  2. Have a written process to enter the data – I can’t stress enough how important this is. Having a system to define how certain data is entered and by whom helps avoid clean up later. This process will include things like how you want addresses to be entered. (Do you use “Street” or “St.?” Do you enter phone numbers as 555.555.1212 or (555) 555-1212? Do you include salutation as a required field? Dear Mrs. Smith vs. Dear Carol?) If your key data person leaves for a new job, this guide helps staff maintain integrity until a new person is in place and gives guidance to a new person.
  3. Put restrictions on who can enter data– It seems like it would be productive to let as many people as possible enter data. But the more hands you have in the data, the more chances there are for mistakes and inconsistencies. Put restrictions on who can enter data to maintain data integrity, consistency and accuracy.
  4. Manage what you can handle– If you have limited staff and time, determine what information is most important to your organization. Maybe all you can do on a regular basis is enter names, addresses and gifts. That’s okay. Just make sure you enter that data accurately consistently.


It is quite possible that your organization has some work to do to get its data in order. Know that you aren’t alone. We have even seen nonprofits with the best data professionals have their own struggles. Just keep in mind that having good data is a long-term commitment and fixing data isn’t going to happen overnight. As we tell our clients in our consulting practice at Dot Org, take one step at a time toward getting the best data possible. You will definitely see how it helps you do your own job better and how it benefits your organization in the long run.

See You on the Frontlines: A nonprofit consultant’s resolution for a new year

in Nonprofit, Volunteerism by Lauryn Rosinski Leave a comment

By Jeanine Black – Director of Marketing and PR Services

One of the main reasons I love where I work and what I do is that we help nonprofits; in fact, we specialize in it and have made it our company’s primary mission to provide thoughtful, honest advice combined with excellent quality work to help nonprofit organizations be successful. I truly cannot think of a more fulfilling calling than to assist organizations who are trying to change the world in a very real, altruistic way. And, even more impressive, they do it on shoe-string budgets, with minimal staff, limited resources and never enough time. I am awed by their passion, commitment and the love they have for those they are trying to help.

However, as marketing and fundraising consultants, much of what we do is behind the scenes. Meaning, we work closely with nonprofit leadership teams, helping them determine how best to raise awareness of what they do and how to raise the money to do it. We consult with them, often privy to the inner workings of the organization, whether we’re writing a fundraising or marketing plan, developing content for their website, working with the media on their behalf or developing compelling materials that help them tell their stories. It’s wonderful work and there is no doubt we are assisting them in their missions.

And until recently, I thought it was enough.

Shortly before the holidays, my 16-year-old daughter, Emma, and I volunteered to make blankets for the homeless with a group called Because I Said I Would, Akron. (We live in Akron, Ohio, so I try to focus our volunteer efforts in and around our own community.) The blankets were, in turn, to be donated to the Akron Snow Angels, who deliver much-needed supplies to the city’s homeless population during the cold winter months. It was a nice night. She and I made two, heavy-duty blankets with material that we donated ourselves (this was not a requirement). I was proud of our efforts and felt good about taking time to help make what looked like about 100 blankets to be distributed throughout the city.

But then I started to think about who would get those blankets – where they would end up – and wondered if we couldn’t do more. The next day, I signed Emma and me up for an Akron Snow Angels mission. We would take our volunteering one step further by handing out blankets and other supplies and, most importantly, meeting those we were helping.

Although we’ve volunteered for other organizations before, this was an experience neither of us will ever forget. It was Sunday, Jan. 7 and it was about 6 degrees outside. The weather was brutal. We visited Second Chance Village and Summit Park, located by Haven of Rest Ministries in Akron. Second Chance is a homeless village in Akron and Summit Park is frequented by many of Akron’s homeless. We met men and women, young and old. Our duty was to hand out pants – sweats, jeans, overalls…anything to add another layer. Everyone was pleasant, polite and grateful for all we were doing for them. And it broke my heart. At one point I was in tears. Whether it was the man who was beaten up on the bus or the woman with her teeny, tiny bedraggled dog or the teenage girl, same age as Emma, who got to me, I don’t know. I think that young lady got to Emma, too. “She’s so young, mom,” she said to me, as the girl walked away. But there was also laughter and hugs and hot coffee and lots and lots of thanks given.

Since that day, I’ve been thinking about what more I can do to help – there’s always capacity for doing more, right? And I realized maybe it should start at work. Like the blanket-making, our work is meaningful and helpful and valuable, but, again, it’s behind the scenes.  Don’t get me wrong, sometimes what a nonprofit needs most is an outside perspective to help them determine where they are and what direction they should head. And we provide them that. But daily, our clients are fighting housing discrimination; serving homeless families; ensuring our kids get a quality education; advocating and educating on behalf of those they serve in an effort to create a better world…the list goes on. And we need to understand that side of their operation as well.

As a nonprofit marketing consultant, I think it’s imperative that we experience the frontlines  – to roll up our sleeves. For them, they are living and breathing their work, day in and day out. If we can join them in the trenches, whether it’s a client or another area organization, we enhance our knowledge and our expertise of nonprofits, while doing the world a bit of good. We can say to them, “Okay, we get it. We really get it.”

So I resolve to do better this year – to make strides to get to know the people our clients are serving. We can serve them that much more effectively and help them in their missions to build better communities.





Four reasons nonprofits should engage millennials

in Giving, Nonprofit, Volunteerism by Lauryn Rosinski Leave a comment

By Lauryn Rosinski – Marketing and PR Account Coordinator

Let’s face it: In this day and age, millennials get a bad rap. I have personally heard the following statements about Generation Y from a variety of demographics:

“Millennials are selfish.”

“Millennials are lazy and unmotivated.”

“Millennials eat too much avocado toast.”

While I will admit that many of my friends and I have enjoyed large quantities of avocado toast, the other statements could not be further from the truth. In fact, research shows that millennials want to give back and change the world around them. Because of this, many industries can benefit from what millennials have to offer.

Nonprofits are among the sectors that can be positively impacted by “Generation Now.” Here are some reasons why millennials are the future of philanthropic donating – and why nonprofit organizations should reach out to them.

#1: Millennials donate time and money.

This might be shocking to some readers. After all, millennials are oftentimes using their money and resources in order to pay off student loans, find affordable housing and seek a well-paying job.

However, it is true. Millennials are volunteering and contributing to the nonprofits they care about – and they are making a big difference.

According to the most recent Millennial Impact Report, 52 percent of the millennials surveyed made a charitable donation within the month. The same report showed that millennials are more likely to increase their giving year-over-year compared with other age groups. Finally, 46 percent of millennials volunteered for a cause they cared about within the past month.

These statistics show that millennials are willingly giving to nonprofit organizations they care about. The report also reveals that, although millennials might not be able to initially contribute much financially, their contributions increase as time goes on. Therefore, nonprofits should take the opportunity and market to these audiences.

#2: Millennials use social media.

Social media has changed the way we communicate with one another. Channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have made it possible for individuals and organizations to reach audiences they would not have been able to in the past. Nonprofits have reaped the benefits of increased social media usage by advertising events, encouraging donations and sharing stories.

They should also use it to market directly to millennials. According to the Pew Research Center, a whopping 90 percent of millennials use social media. And they use it for more than sharing memes and dog videos.

Millennials use their platforms to engage with friends and amplify their voices regarding social issues. According to the Millennial Impact Report, 51 percent of millennials use their social media accounts to take action when it comes to causes that they care about. By engaging with this generation, nonprofits have the opportunity to find audiences that care about their key messages.

Although it is important to reach out to millennials on social media, nonprofits cannot merely tweet, “Donate now” and expect results. Millennials crave human interest stories and depth behind content. In fact, 60 percent of millennials enjoy reading nonprofit’s successes and how they positively affect the individuals they serve.

An anonymous person once said, “The essence of social media is knowing your audiences and engaging them in something they love.” If nonprofits create the right content and direct it toward millennials, they would effectively tell their stories, share their call to actions and, therefore, be more successful in the online world.

#3: Millennials are the largest generation.

We have all heard the classic saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Members of nonprofit organizations understand this sentiment better than anyone. In order for a mission to be a successful, a nonprofit needs people on their side.

Well, the millennial generation is one big village. In fact, it is the biggest village.

According to the United States Census Bureau, there are approximately 83.1 million millennials in the U.S. In 2016, the number of millennials surpassed that of the Baby Boomers. The larger a generation is, the more influence it will have on society. Due to its sheer size, the millennial generation will completely change the country and the issues surrounding it.

This is good news for nonprofits.

#4: Millennials want to help others.

In order to determine if the “me generation” really is as self-centered as people say, the University of New South Wales conducted an experiment on millennials. Researchers put headsets on the participants, which studied their brainwave activities. The participants were then asked a series of “Would You Rather” questions, including:

“Would you rather take a selfie with an Instagram star and a quiche, or share a bit of your grandma’s famous quiche with your friends?”

“Would you rather be one of the first to have a blue algae latte with random people, or have tea and a meaningful chat with your mom?”

These questions encompassed a larger issue: Do millennials prefer activities and topics that relate to their own self-interests or do they prefer activities and topics that involve others?

The results of the experiment may shock you.

Yes, millennials would rather have a cup of tea with their mother than a trendy drink with strangers. The study also revealed that millennials would rather give food to someone in need, raise money for charity and volunteer at a soup kitchen than have a large number of social media followers, fame and selfies.

Now, you might be wondering: “How does this help nonprofits?”

This research study showed that millennials have a desire to help others and make a difference. Nonprofits are constantly in search of donors and volunteers with the drive and enthusiasm that millennials have. If nonprofits were to create relationships with this generation, both parties would mutually benefit.

In short, everybody wins.


Millennials are the future of this country, whether it is because there are so many of them or because they are influential both online and off. However, they are not just the future… they care about the future.

If nonprofits work with millennials, they will not just create donors and volunteers. They will create partners and brand ambassadors, who will use their time, energy and passion to influence change and inspire others through your nonprofit’s mission.

We promise that we will put down our avocado toast in order to do so.