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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.

Football Meets Philanthropy: What nonprofits can learn from Super Bowl ads

in Communications, Marketing by Lauryn Rosinski Leave a comment

By Lauryn Rosinski – Marketing and PR Account Coordinator 

You know the drill: You walk into your office the morning after the Super Bowl. Your coworkers are gathered around the water cooler, talking excitedly. After all, they still cannot believe what they saw on television last night.

No, they aren’t talking about the game. They aren’t even talking about the halftime show. (Sorry, Justin Timberlake.)

They are talking about the commercials.

For the past 52 years, Super Bowl commercials have become famous for being creative, quotable and memorable. They have also been known to make smaller brands household names in a matter of seconds. In fact, some companies’ websites have shut down overnight from the sheer impact their commercials had on Super Bowl viewers.

Sure, we have all had a good laugh from watching whacky Doritos commercials. We may have even felt patriotic after watching the famous commercial in which Coca Cola customers sing “America the Beautiful” in different languages.

However, as entertaining as Super Bowl advertisements can be, they can also teach for-profit and nonprofit organizations about marketing, branding and using their creative voices to deliver a message.

Check out some examples of this year’s Super Bowl commercials – and see the key takeaways that nonprofits can learn from them.

1: Budweiser – “Stand by you”

Budweiser made a pretty shocking move this year when they decided to not feature their infamous Clydesdales in this year’s Super Bowl commercial. Instead, they went for a different approach – they promoted Anheuser-Busch InBev’s philanthropic water giveaways after natural disasters.

This Budweiser ad is successful for several reasons. First of all, it gives current and potential customers an idea of what happens behind the scenes at Budweiser. Secondly, it effectively promotes the Budweiser brand by telling a story. Thirdly, it explains that AB InBev is a beverage and brewing company that is also committed to creating a cleaner, healthier world through different initiatives.

And, most importantly, it shows why Budweiser helps with AB InBev’s mission.

When marketing themselves, nonprofits should take a page from Budweiser’s book. They need to focus on three key aspects of their organization – who they are, what they do and why they do it. This will not only help potential donors and volunteers understand their mission more clearly, but it will also inspire them to get more involved.

2: Groupon – “Who wouldn’t”

Groupon’s message for this year’s commercial was obvious; in fact, the star of the commercial, Tiffany Haddish, states what that it is in the first seven seconds of the ad:

“When you use Groupon in your neighborhood, you’re not only saving money – you’re also supporting local business.”

If the commercial just ended here, it would be considered boring and on-the-nose. However, the 2018 “Who wouldn’t” ad takes a silly approach following this statement. Haddish goes on to ask what type of people wouldn’t support local business. The viewers are then shown a comedic scene in which a snobby man talks about how he cannot stand local business – and later gets hit by a football.

Again, the message is simple – don’t be like this guy and to support local businesses by using Groupon.

This Groupon commercial exemplifies certain aspects of strong marketing. For one, its key messages are clear throughout the ad and it conveys the tone of the brand by using humor.

Before nonprofits market themselves, they must always keep the image of their brand in mind. What do they want target audiences to know about their organization? Who do they serve? How do they want to be remembered by potential donors and volunteers? If nonprofits can answer these questions, they will be able to market themselves more effectively and successfully.

3: Stella Artois – “Taps”

Anheuser-Busch knocked it out of the park again – and this time, they did it with a Stella Artois ad.

In the 2018 “Taps” commercial, viewers can see people using water as a part of daily life – whether they are taking baths, washing their hands or cleaning lettuce for dinner, they all have access to clean water. The commercial then shows people in developing countries, walking with large water jugs on their heads.

As A-list actor Matt Damon goes on to explain that, while some can get water within seconds, others have to walk six hours to get water for themselves and their families. He then encourages viewers to purchase limited edition Stella Artois chalices, with the proceeds of the purchases going to, an organization that invests in clean water initiatives.

This commercial will make you want to immediately purchase a Stella Artois chalice – and that is the whole point.

When reaching out to donors or volunteers, nonprofits should appeal to the emotional side of their audiences. After all, the nonprofit sector is an emotional business. It is heartbreaking to see the struggles and challenges those whom nonprofits serve face; however, having the chance to help them is also incredibly rewarding.

If nonprofits market themselves in a way Stella Artois marketed, they will be unforgettable and unstoppable.

4: Kraft – “Calling all families”

Although there are millions of nonprofits with different missions and goals, one theme throughout the sector remains the same – nonprofits thrive because real people get involved.

Although Kraft is not a nonprofit, the marketing saw the importance of real families and decided to promote them.

In the first installment of the “Calling all families” advertisements, Kraft encourages families to submit family photos via social media. During the second half of the Super Bowl, Kraft showed several pictures of beaming families, all of whom were hoping to be featured.

Kraft’s commercial is successful because it acknowledges its consumers and gives them an activity to get more involved in their brand. Nonprofits should take similar steps when marketing to volunteers, donors, staff members and other audiences. Whether it is a contest or simply saying “thank you,” nonprofits should show those dedicated to their mission that they are appreciated and needed.


Ultimately, nonprofits just need to stay true to themselves, the people they serve and their audiences.

At the end of the day, successful marketing will mean a touchdown for a nonprofit.

Annual fund planning in January – WHAT?!

in Fundraising, Planning by Lauryn Rosinski Leave a comment

By Sara Lundenberger – Director of Fundraising Consulting 

You rushed around in November to get an annual fund appeal out the door. I’m guessing that the last thing you want to think about right now is your next annual fund appeal. I mean, you’ve got until November, right?  Wrong. To avoid all that rushing around and to make your appeal that much more effective, there are things you can (and should) do now, and throughout the year, to prepare for that big push in the fall. Whether you increased giving this year, stayed the same as last year or fell short of your goal, here are a few ideas to help jump start your efforts to make a difference in your annual fund giving this year.

Make a plan

I’m a planner. I have spreadsheets, checklists, to-do lists, etc. You name it and I’ll plan it. Not everyone is like this and that’s okay. However, take some time to put some thought into your annual fund plan. Successful annual funds consist of more than one letter, once a year. In fact, the most successful campaigns make some contact with their donors at least 10 times before an ask is made. Now is a great time to sit and think and plan different ways you can connect with your donors throughout the year. For example, use your newsletter, e-newsletter and social media stories and posts to engage with your audiences.

Writing it down doesn’t mean you have to follow through on everything you thought of, but it will get you moving in the right direction. You can use a pencil if it makes you feel better, but if it isn’t even on your radar, what is the likelihood that you’ll do anything at all?

Look at more than dollars raised

Hitting your fundraising goal is going to be important to your board, executive director and program staff. But it doesn’t always tell the whole story of how successful your campaign really is. Take some time to consider how many gifts came in, what the average gift amount was, how many new donors you had, how many donors you lost and identify opportunities for larger gifts. Knowing where your money came from is just as important as how much came in.

If your database has a LYBUNT (last year but not this year) report – run it! Then personally contact each and every person on that report. If they gave you a donation last year, find out why they didn’t give again this year.

Combat donor churn

For every donor you lose, you need to gain four to take their place. That is tough to do, so you need to do your best to keep the donors you have. Donors want to hear from you more often than once a year. They want to be thanked properly and timely, and they want to know what their donation did for your organization. Thank your donors, invite them to volunteer, send them information about your organization (that doesn’t ask for money); i.e., keep them informed! Especially with the new tax laws, a larger standard deduction eliminates the ability to deduct charitable gifts, which may change the way donors act in 2018, making it even more important to communicate with your donors throughout the year.  They’ve already given to your organization so they are interested in what you’re doing. If they don’t know how their donation helped, why would they give to you again?

Thank them

Did I mention thanking your donors? I did – twice. A proper thank you letter with the correct name, donation amount and any restrictions should be sent within 48 hours of receiving a gift. Especially when it gets to the end of the year, donors are keeping track of receipts for their taxes. Do not make them call you for their thank you!

Collect new names

I think the most difficult thing to do in an annual fund is to find new names to add to your list. Purchasing lists can be expensive, time consuming and usually have a very low return on investment. But if you are sending to the same people over and over every year, your annual fund will suffer. First make sure you are soliciting your “inner circle.” This includes your board, employees, vendors, volunteers and committees. Then start thinking. Add event participants, clients or grateful families (depending on the type of service you provide) and other people who are close to your organization and keep working outwards. If you have their name, address or email – add it to your list.


Individuals are the largest segment of donors, giving more than 70 percent of all donations. Too many times, nonprofits focus on grants and fundraising events throughout the year while ignoring their annual fund until they send one mailing in November. Make some of these small changes now to make your annual fund more successful.

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.

Nine lessons learned from clients in 2017, and how we’re using them in 2018

in Communications, Leadership, Planning by Lauryn Rosinski Leave a comment

In our roles as fundraising and communications professionals at Dot Org Solutions, we educate and guide our clients so that they can raise the most money and awareness as possible for their organizations.

But we have a little secret; one we don’t often share. We learn a great deal from them as well, putting some of their best practices into use in our own company.

That’s because nonprofits have some unique qualities that those of us in the for-profit space should emulate. Yes. For-profit companies should emulate certain nonprofit qualities. There’s certainly a touch of irony in that statement given that boards and others in business often tell nonprofits that they need to run more like businesses. In some respects, I agree. But in terms of having passion for helping others and making the world a better place, most nonprofits can’t be beat.

So, at Dot Org we are taking nine lessons learned from working with our clients in 2017 and are putting them to use in our 2018 planning. We hope that by adopting and incorporating these best practices into our work, we will be an even better company in the future.

#1: Focus on the mission.

More than 95 percent of our clients are nonprofit organizations. It’s the core of what we do here at Dot Org. (Hence our name.)  When we help them plan, develop marketing messages, fundraising campaigns, write grants, etc., we are always highly focused on their mission. We decided to take the same approach and let our company mission drive everything we do. Our mission: to support nonprofits in their fundraising and marketing efforts so they can better serve their clients and build better communities.

#2: Find your niche – do what you do best.

We cannot be all things to all people. And we often tell our nonprofit clients to do what they do best and not develop a new program or service just to get additional funding. We’ve decided to focus on what we do best here at Dot Org – content, strategy, training, planning, branding/brand integration, marketing and fundraising campaigns. This focus will help us get even better in these core areas so we stay true to our mission.

#3: Collaborate.

I think the word nonprofit should be synonymous with collaboration. That’s because nonprofits often must work together to best meet the needs of the constituents they serve. We are seeking ways to collaborate with key partners as well in 2018 to better serve our clients. We already have some partnerships in the works and are looking forward to rolling them out throughout the year.

#4: Tell stories.

We’re great storytellers – for our clients. Sometimes it’s just hard to tell our own. But, we realize how important it is to share our own experiences and the great work of our clients with others. So, we’re going to focus on sharing more of what we do and why we do it. We will also be developing some training and education opportunities to help nonprofits perform better, which we will be rolling those out during the year.

#5: Have clean data.

Ok… This one sounds a little strange. But we spend quite a bit of time helping nonprofit clients set up and clean up their constituent database systems. We preach about the importance of pristine donor data and how it is critical to better communications and fundraising. So, when we implemented a new software system for ourselves this year to create internal efficiencies, we needed to get all of our customer, vendor and prospect data into one place. Wow. What a mess. Our data certainly isn’t pristine. We have much work to do. So, like we advise our clients, we vow to create better data entry processes and continue to clean up our data to save time and better communicate with our clients, vendors and prospects in the future.

#6: You don’t marry everyone you date.

Sometimes client and vendor relationships just don’t work out. It is important to know when the relationship isn’t working and make the choice to move on. That said, we also need to remember not to burn bridges. You never know when you may run into the ex at some point and want to remain amicable.

#7: Plan and set goals.

We spend lots of time working with clients on developing marketing and fundraising plans that align with their goals. We’ve certainly gotten better at this as our company has grown, but we’re making a conscious effort in 2018 to develop solid goals and objectives along with action plans to go along with them.

#8: Remember why you do what you do. What’s your end goal? 

This one ties back to the whole concept of mission. But sometimes it’s hard to focus on the end goal when we are busy, tired, frustrated or fatigued by the length or stress of a project. It’s also easy to lose sight of the “why” we are working on something. So, we’re taking some cues from our nonprofit friends when we get in this situation and asking ourselves “what did we do to make a difference today?” If we can answer that question, we get back to understanding the “why.”

#9: Slow down and savor the successes.

Actually, this bit of advice is something we all can benefit from. Whether it is the homeless program placing a family in a new home after a tragedy, a musical organization building confidence in its young singers, or a community health center providing healthcare to immigrants, nonprofits celebrate and savor successes every day. It is human nature to try to fix things and dwell on what isn’t going well. We’re going to make a conscious effort in 2018 to slow down, breathe and step back to enjoy what we have accomplished.

Whether they know it or not, our nonprofit clients (and thousands of other nonprofits like them), have a profound impact on all of us here at Dot Org Solutions. We thank them for all they do to make our communities great places to live and wish them much success in 2018.

Finish Strong! 6 Tips for Successful Year-End Fundraising

in Boards, Giving, Planning by Sara Lundenberger Leave a comment

The end of the year is approaching and we all know what that means! Nervous fundraisers are doing everything they can to hit their yearly fundraising goals; running their donor lists and checking them twice to make sure they don’t miss any possible dollars. Although there are only a few weeks left in the year, here are a few things you can do for a final push to hit your goals.  Remember: 12 percent of giving happens in the last three days of the year!

1- Make sure 100 percent of your board has given
Having the financial support of your board sends a message that those closest to your organization believe in the mission. There are also many grantors that require 100 percent participation for funding. If you need to, enlist your board chair for help to solicit those last-minute shoppers. Remind your board that even making a pledge and paying it in the new year can still count as a participation in 2017.

2- Post on your social media
No, social media is not going to bring in significant dollars. (I can repeat that if you need proof for your executive director.)  In 2016, social media brought in about 7 percent of all donations. BUT, post a compelling story about someone or something your organization did in 2017 and you might gain a few new donors and/or followers.

3- Send out an e-blast/e-newsletter
For every 1,000 newsletters you send, you can expect a $44 return. That doesn’t sound like much, but if a donor’s first gift is $44 from an e-newsletter, imagine their potential once they’ve been stewarded and thanked all year long. Keep it simple and to the point. Nobody has time to read a three-page story, especially at the holidays; however, a reminder about your organization, why you are important and what you did in 2017 might be enough to persuade someone to give you their year-end gift.

4- Remind donors about stock gifts
The stock market is up, so if you can accept stock gifts – DO! Stock is a great way for donors to give to your organization, sometimes at a higher amount than they could in cash. If you can’t accept stock this year, add it to your to-do list in January.

5- Pick up the phone
Visit the ghost of Christmas past and remember the days of actual phone conversations. Call your largest donors who haven’t given yet and gently remind them about the importance of their donation. Even better, enlist your board members (who are always asking how they can help) to call a few donors and thank them for their support.

6- Make a plan for next year
You know all of those awesome ideas you have right now that you don’t have the time, money or the resources to implement? Write them down for next year!

You still have plenty of time to engage your donors and hit your fundraising goals.  Good luck and Happy Holidays!

Sara Lundenberger, director, nonprofit consulting

For these times, they are a-changin.

in Communications, Leadership by Amy Wong Leave a comment

Maybe I am dating myself. And yes, I admit to overuse of an oft-quoted Bob Dylan song lyric as an entry to a blog/article. But as a near life-long resident of northeast Ohio (minus six years during college and in my early 20s) I have noticed more change in the last five years than I have seen in a long time.

Something just “feels” different. I can’t put my finger on it, but there seems to be a positive energy cast over the region – an aura that signals some really great things are on the horizon.

I see increased collaboration, new ideas, faster project iteration, a focus on innovation, and even investments in technology and programs that aren’t quite the norm or a guaranteed slam dunk. There are changes in leadership at many levels. Young people are being given a chance to head up organizations and projects, and even though there is still a gender gap, increased opportunities supporting women are emerging.

Leadership Akron’s Community Leadership Institute (CLI) collaboration with Women’s Network of Northeast Ohio is one such emerging opportunity.

I was fortunate to be selected for the CLI Class II, which completed its three-month program in early May. I didn’t know what to expect when the program started, but I knew the content would be valuable since both organizations have a reputation for delivering high-quality programs.

I was certainly not disappointed, but was surprised by how much more I took away from the program than I anticipated. As a CEO, I am constantly looking for ways to do things better for clients and staff. The CLI gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in something that will help me improve and grow personally as well as professionally.

During CLI…

  • I met people who inspired me and that I likely wouldn’t have met otherwise.
  • I learned to embrace the energy and knowledge from our group discussions.
  • I enjoyed that no one talked about how to communicate with a specific age group – baby boomers, Generation Xers or millennials. What we did talk about was how to harness our own strengths and understand the strengths of others to build a better workplace.
  • I made new friends and business connections that will be invaluable.
  • I joined 25 other women in looking for ways to create change in our workplaces and our community.

While heading up my own company and a household with three busy teenagers, I must work to be a good leader and role model. I’m not perfect by any means and I have certainly made mistakes. But I am willing to learn. I think women need programs like CLI to make it easier to gain leadership skills. CLI gave us a “safe zone” where we could be a little vulnerable and honest, while speaking about real issues without being judged.

I am a firm believer that being better requires change, whether it is changing leaders, a habit, an attitude or process. And I truly believe times ARE changing here in northeast Ohio, definitely for the better. And I love it.

5 Things I learned at my first Cleveland GiveCamp

in Volunteerism by Sara Lundenberger Leave a comment
A project near completion

A project near completion

by Sara Lundenberger, fundraising and marketing strategist

A few weekends ago I got the chance to volunteer at the Sixth Annual Cleveland GiveCamp. GiveCamp is a chance for local nonprofits to work with graphic designers, content writers, developers and other volunteers to create a new website, GPS based walking map and even a 3D instructional game for free in 3 days.

Here are the five things I learned that can apply to any job.
1- Preparation is key: As with most projects, a little background work can make a huge difference. The nonprofits that came to camp with content, photos and logos ready to go were leaps and bounds ahead of those that showed up with a lot of excitement, but nothing prepared.
2- If at first you don’t succeed…Pivot: I had the chance to sit in with three different teams throughout the weekend. The common theme on every team was changing directions. If the first idea you have doesn’t work, change it and keep changing it until it does.
3- The tech world isn’t run by 20-somethings: Yes- there were a lot of very young code writers and developers working all weekend. But they weren’t the only ones. Don’t assume that because someone is older than 30 they can’t possible understand CSS or PHP. Knowledge and experience are a pretty unbeatable combination.
4- Think outside the box: Just because you haven’t seen it done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done. I saw a lot of projects that started with a “It would be great if our site could…” and ended with a site that can do that and more.
5- Teamwork always wins: Whether you were on a project team, the security team, a floater and/ or Team Z (the non-technical, everything else group of volunteers) nothing would have been accomplished without teamwork. One team had 19 people working at all hours of the night to finish its project.
5b- Know your strengths: This sort of goes along with teamwork, but is a little different. Everyone has strengths, whether its web development, graphic design, social media or just being a worker. Use what you know and don’t be offended or upset if you aren’t needed.

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