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Four reasons nonprofits should engage millennials

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

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.

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

Five tips for fashion-forward communication and fundraising

in Communications, Giving by Amy Wong Leave a comment

In full disclosure, I am not a fashionista. In fact, I hate shopping for clothes. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have some knowledge of what is going on in fashion. I have a teenage daughter – need I say more?

However, I pay close attention to what is happening in marketing communications and fundraising. I spend a great deal of time reading, listening to experts in the field, fielding questions from clients, trying new things and making sense of it all. What I have found over time is that there are many similarities to fashion. So, as a nod to some of my favorite fashion designers (Coco Chanel, Donna Karan), I compile this list of Five Tips for Fashion-pearlsForward Marketing and Fundraising.

  1. Stick with tried and true– not trendy: Well-written content, proper grammar, attention to detail and forging strong relationships never go out of style. While industry trends come and go (QR codes and telethons anyone?), strong writing and relationship skills continue to be the basis of every successful campaign.
  2. Accessorize: If you stick with what is tried and true, adding trendy accessories is definitely acceptable, as long as they don’t take over the outfit! One of my colleagues says it well. “Social media is a tool not a strategy.” So use tools/accessories such as social media, to enhance your basic outfit (plan). But, don’t use them without some strong wardrobe basics.
  3. Stay classy: Just as a revealing outfit speaks volumes about the person wearing it, so does inappropriate communications and fundraising. I am amazed by people who forget their manners and resort to tactics that compromise their integrity and that of their organization. Yes, today’s society is much more accepting of poor language, revealing clothing, etc. But that doesn’t mean it should make its way into your communications and fundraising efforts. Stay classy. You never know who you may offend.
  4. Edit: Yes, there can be too much of a good thing. So, just as you take a look in the mirror before you head out the door, take a look close look at your campaign before you launch. If there is too much there, do some editing. Or if there is not enough, add some more.
  5. Change with the seasons. Just as you change up your wardrobe as the seasons change, consider making modifications to your materials and messages. They also get bored easily. So don’t be afraid to try new things and make changes to keep things fresh.


Take a minute and look at your fundraising and communications plans just as you would your wardrobe. Consider making necessary adjustments so you too can be fashion-forward in your efforts.


Donor Communication – Comparing it to “the big game”

in Communications, Giving, Planning by Amy Wong Leave a comment

In the spirit of yesterday’s “big football game,” I thought it could be fun to think about donor communications in the context of the pregame and four-quarters.Football scoreboard

Pregame:For nonprofits, the pregame is typically the year-end appeal. A strong year-and campaign often dictates what an organization will be able to do in the next year. If this is the only appeal you do, make sure it includes a mix of mail, social media, email communication and phone calls. You are competing against many other quality “teams” for your donor’s dollars.


The First Quarter: In the first quarter, your donors are still interested – similar to those who are just sitting down to watch the game and much-anticipated commercials. They have come to the party by making a gift at year end, and your organization is still fresh in their minds. Keep your organization front of mind and set up the coming year.  Consider:

  • Sharing goals for the coming year and how donor gifts will help achieve those goals
  • Producing a calendar of events for the coming year
  • Explaining any changes you anticipate for the year


The Second Quarter:The second quarter can go either way. If your team is still in the game, they will remain engaged. If your team is way behind, you may lose donor interest and they will find something else to do and support. So it is important to keep them in “the loop.”

  • Maintain regular communication – once a month is recommended through e-newsletters or print if your budget allows.
  • Use social media to share photos, organizational events, etc.
  • Keep donors apprised of special events, newsworthy items, etc. through special communications


Halftime:This is a great time to showcase your talent. Your audit should be done and you can share success from the prior year.

  • Create an annual report. It doesn’t have to list donors unless that is important to your constituents. It can be a simple year in review completed in-house and sent out electronically via email and social media channels.
  • Send reports to donors who have endowed funds. Tell them how their gifts were used, the value of their fund and other relevant data.


The Third Quarter:The game is more than half over, but there is still work to be done. Update your donors on your goals. Don’t lose steam as you prepare for year-end. Continue regular communication like you did in the second quarter. If your donors continue stay engaged, this will help your year-end appeal success.


The Fourth Quarter:At this point, you don’t want to rely on a Hail Mary pass. Controlling the game is where you want to be. Make sure you are very strategic and thoughtful in planning and executing your annual appeal.  A strong game plan is going into the fourth quarter will make a significant difference and carry your organization through the end of the year.


Post Game: Take time to celebrate, assess your program, and reflect on the good you do.

10 ways to improve the board, staff relationship in a small nonprofit

in Boards, Giving, Volunteerism by Amy Wong Leave a comment

I hear countless stories from small nonprofits who are frustrated with their boards.

Surprise, nonprofits! The boards get frustrated with you too.

I tend to see the biggest frustration with smaller nonprofits for several reasons:

  • They don’t have internal resources to manage a board effectively.
  • They are often run by individuals who are passionate and capable of running the organization, but have received no training in managing a board
  • They have little board turnover. This leads to stagnation, boredom and apathy.
  • They are not strategic in their board recruitment. As author Jim Collins would say, nonprofits “need to get the right people on the bus.”1 Many do not.


Unfortunately, this frustration can be detrimental to the organization over the long term. So, here are some suggestions to help nonprofits AND their board members develop a successful relationship.

Suggestions to nonprofits:

  1. Have an outline of board member expectations – and stick to them. Financial support, meeting attendance and volunteer expectations are key components of this outline. If they don’t agree, they shouldn’t be a board member.
  2. Communicate regularly and clearly. One of the best pieces of advice I received was from a board member. “Remember that you live your job every day. We don’t and we forget some of the things you tell us. So, if there is something important you want us to know and learn, keep telling us,” she said. Ergo, regular communication is critical.
  3. Delegate. Your board is there to support you. If you outlined expectations, you should be able to delegate tasks. So, don’t just talk at board meetings. Create action items.
  4. Have a nominating committee. The job of this board-led committee is designed to recommend potential board members with specific skills who will help your organization move forward.
  5. Set term limits. It doesn’t matter how well you implement suggestions 1-4. There will always be board members who aren’t effective. Term limits help you rotate “underperformers” off the board.


Suggestions to board members:

  1. Make a gift! Period, done, end of story. If you are a board member of a nonprofit, you must write an annual check to the organization. Make it meaningful. • Ask questions. If you don’t understand something, ask. Your question may help the organization run more effectively.
  2. Offer your personal or business expertise. Do you know how to write business plans? Are you an accountant? Do you understand marketing or social media? These skills can greatly benefit a nonprofit.
  3. Don’t just offer suggestions, offer solutions. Smaller nonprofits are often operating at capacity. Provide ideas that will help solve problems without overtaxing the organization. You may have a good idea, but it may be impractical to implement. (i.e. an additional fundraiser may solve the financial issues, but be totally impossible to implement due to limited staff time.)
  4. Be present. Attend meetings, be an active participant and advocate for the charity anywhere you can. Being on a board should not be about status. It is about doing things for the greater good and helping forward the mission of the organization.


Like any relationship, a successful nonprofit/board partnership must be a two-way street. There must be open communication, clear expectations and a shared vision. When this occurs, nonprofits thrive, boards become engaged and the community as a whole benefits.

For additional resources on board development for nonprofits and board members we suggest the following resources:
• Board Source:
• The National Council of Nonprofits: Article on Board Development:
• The Nonprofit Expert: Article on Board Development

1 Jim Collins “Good to Great” multiple references

Simplifying the Fiscal Cliff Deal and its impact on nonprofits and donors

in Giving by Amy Wong Leave a comment

Digital Image by Sean Locke<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Digital Planet Design<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

As a fundraiser, you are likely confused by what the Fiscal Cliff means for your organization. Imagine what your donors think. I have been asked by several of my nonprofit clients what the legislation means to them and those who support them.

Many of the early explanations have been highly technical and geared toward professionals in the tax, legal and financial fields. That’s not very helpful to those in the trenches who are trying to make sense of it all.

I’ve teamed up with Lori Sheets, senior manager-assurance and advisory services, with Bober Markey Fedorovich in Akron, Ohio, to help sort it out. Lori specializes in working with nonprofit organizations, and has helped highlight key points of the Act so it is easier to understand and explain to staff, donors and board members.

Here are the high points:

  1. People are seeing less in their paychecks. If you haven’t seen a reduction in your own take home pay, you will soon. Disposable income is reduced by 2% for all wage earners beginning the first pay period of January 2013. There was no extension of the temporary Social Security payroll tax cut which was implemented in 2011 to help stimulate the economy. Reduced disposable income may mean reduced donations to charities, particularly donations given via payroll deduction.
  2. Those earning the most will pay more taxes. The income tax rate for highest earners increased from 35% to 39.6% for individuals earning more than $400,000 annually ($450,000 for couples). “It is possible that higher taxes may reduce the amount they have available for charitable giving,” Sheets said. However, she added, those in this tax bracket who make charitable gifts will see a 7% decrease in the after-tax cost of giving which may be a good incentive to donate to worthy causes.
  3. High income individuals will continue to have limits on charitable deductions. Taxpayers earning more than $250,000 ($300,000 for couples) will have a limitation on itemized deductions. These limits will reduce high-income individuals’ benefit from charitable contribution deductions.
  4. Gifts of highly appreciated assets are still very attractive to donors and charities.  According to Sheets, “Charitable gifts of highly appreciated assets continue to be advantageous for donors. They can receive an income tax deduction and avoidance of capital gains tax. At certain income thresholds, these gifts are even more effective at lowering tax impact.”
  5. Donors age 70 ½ or older can continue to use their IRAs to make tax-free contributions up to $100,000.  Legislators extended this key provision of The Pension Protection Act of 2006 until the end of 2013. Donors can still take advantage of this extension for their 2012 tax year if they make a transfer directly to charity by January 31, 2013.


Other key points

  • There are enhanced deductions for contributions of food inventories (Code Section 170(e)(3)(C)(iv))
  • There are favorable deductions for donating conservation interests (Code Section 170(b)(1)(E)(vi))
  • There are changes regarding contributions of property by S Corporations.(Code Section 1367(a))
  • Enhanced charitable deductions for contributions of book inventories to public schools and corporate contributions of computer inventory were not extended.


Whenever there are changes to tax laws that impact charitable giving, it takes some time to figure things out. Donors may be skittish or decide to postpone their giving until they know more about how the laws affect them.

Ultimately, during any time of change or uncertainty, it is important to maintain strong relationships with donors. They may have to make choices regarding their charitable giving, so the organizations they feel the most connected to are going to continue to be the recipients of their generosity. So, while it may seem appealing to spend most of your time courting your new prospects, don’t forget your current donors who currently have you at the top of their list.

This post is for general information purposes only. For additional information and analysis on the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 and its impact on nonprofits, contact an accounting or tax law professional. We also recommend the following resources for more in-depth analysis or information: 




Making smart charitable decisions

in Giving by Amy Wong Leave a comment

I just finished presenting this topic to a group of smart, savvy business women who wanted to know more about giving to charity. With the giving season coming soon, I thought it would be good to share some of these tips with my readers.

Think about the what:
What to give
There are more ways to make a gift than just check, cash and credit cards. Consider using: appreciated stocks, bonds and mutual funds; property (old clothes, household items, artwork, real estate, used cars); or beneficiary designations in life insurance policies, IRA’s and other retirement plans. Most of these gifts are are simple to accomplish!

What to support:
Donors can choose to make their gift to a specific program or purpose or to an organization’s general fund. I personally like to give my annual gifts to the general operating fund. That way the organization can direct it to the area of greatest need at the time.

Think about the who
Who can I give to:
Not all gifts are deductible and some may be subject to gift tax. Some ways to check:
1. Call your professional tax adviser.
2. Consult IRS Publication 526. It can be found at
3. Confirm the organization has a 501 (c)(3) designation. Is their designation current?
4. Gifts to individuals are not tax deductible.

Who aligns with my beliefs or interests?
Think about the organizations you want to support. Does their mission and services align with what you believe in?

Who uses their dollars effectively?
1. Does the CEO’s salary seem out of line with the organization budget.
2. Do they spend too much on programs, administration and fundraising, but little on programs and services?
3. Does the organization do what it says it will do with the money?

Think about the where:
Where should I look for red flags?
The cost of certain fundraising events may have little or no charitable deduction. The charity should let you know if this is the case. If not, read IRS Publication 526 carefully about:
1. Raffle tickets and games of chance
2. Event tickets
3, Gifts where you get something in return such as a dinner, benefit, tickets, etc.

Where do I call if I don’t want an organization to solicit me any longer?
There is no do not call registry for nonprofits. If you don’t want to be solicited, you will have to “opt out” of future mailings, calls or email solicitations. You can often do this via the mailing, call or email. If not, call the charity directly and ask to be removed from their list.

Where can I learn more?