Make Every Day a Campaign Day

By Aly Sterling, founder and president of Aly Sterling Philanthropy

Top 10 reasons why a “campaign mentality” will boost your overall fundraising program

campaign mentality (kamˈpān menˈtalədē) – noun

A constant mindset and approach to fundraising that includes heightened communication, focused goals, intentional donor cultivation, powerful case stories and active board engagement fueled by a sense of urgency and purpose.

 …In other words, acting like you are always in a campaign, even when you are not.

But wait, you might ask, our organization hasn’t completed a capital campaign or endowment campaign before. And we aren’t planning on one anytime soon. How does this apply to us?

Because you don’t have to be in a campaign to glean the benefits!

If you’ve been involved with a campaign, you know the palpable energy and decisive focus associated that is exciting and motivating. At its core, all it takes is assembling a group of committed people around one goal with a start and a finish.

It’s amazing what can be accomplished and how the residual benefits are felt for months and years to come.

Then why do we get to the finish line of our campaigns and lose our momentum and energy?

For many organizations it’s because our development teams are running on fumes. If we are lucky, we might have a one dedicated full or part-time employee who is singularly responsible for everything. They may produce the newsletter, write the grants, enter the data, manage fundraising events and, if there’s any time left, run the donor stewardship program.

I’m exhausted just typing that that laundry list of responsibilities!

“I know that I should be spending more time with our current donors, engaging them in the same fashion we did when they made their first gift. But as a one-person shop, it keeps getting pushed to the bottom of my list.”                                          

– Development director

When a campaign wraps up, it shouldn’t surprise us that the task of keeping volunteers and donors actively engaged in the mission and impact of their gifts falls far down the list of things to do.

After all, everything with a deadline gets attention (think newsletter, grants, events) and anything that doesn’t (donor cultivation, stewardship) gets moved to tomorrow’s to-do list. And moved again. And again…you get my point.

Specifically, a “campaign mentality” has the following characteristics:

  • Heightened communication
  • Focused goals
  • Clear leadership
  • Donor cultivation
  • Powerful case stories
  • Accountability
  • Active board engagement

…all with a sense of urgency and purpose!

You might ask, why would adopting this “campaign mentality” be worthwhile? Is the pain really worth the gain? (Especially in addition to everything else I have on my plate right now?)

Our firm has become a fierce advocate of its worthiness. We believe the act of moving from a mindset of scarcity to one of plenty never fails to deliver.

And so, with a marching band’s drum roll, I share with you what we’ve learned from decades of experience working with all kinds of nonprofit organizations.

ASP’s Top 10 Reasons You Should be in Campaign Mode, Every Single Day

  1. You will have a clear and tangible reason to fundraise.
    Who doesn’t like a solid reason to give? One that has a clear “why” and charitable investment attached? Despite our best efforts, very few donors want to give to overhead. So package your programs and mission differently, in a way that shows the donor exactly what $100 or $1,000 or $10,000 will accomplish. Then bake in the manpower to get it done.
  2. You will get to hone your message, stories and relevance.
    There’s no better time to involve your staff in sharing their client stories and successes. It’s hard to motivate this to happen when there isn’t a clear reason, which is why creating a year-round environment that recognizes and rewards (sometimes literally) submissions of stories and success must be a priority.
  3. You and your team will feel energized with a sense of urgency and purpose.
    Research and personal experience tell us that when we create an authentic sense of urgency and need, people respond in kind. Support for your mission should know no season. Look to create micro-giving opportunities every quarter at a minimum, and then demonstrate the caliber of change that occurs with donor investment. Watch the giving continue…
  4. You will gain NEW donors, NEW volunteers and NEW board members.
    When we ask people to join our efforts and give them roles and responsibilities that are clear and realistic, together, we create success. Success builds confidence and loyalty, so people will continue to say “yes” when you ask because they know your organization has a proven track record and you will be respectful of their time and talent.
  5. You will set the bar even higher.
    While you might have had a few successful campaigns in the past to brag about, what’s next? What is your BHAG, your blue sky, your “what if” vision to get others excited about? In today’s competitive fundraising landscape, if we aren’t stretching and constantly inviting others into our realm of possibilities, we might as well be inviting our donors to dream elsewhere.
  6. You will attract and retain (and possibly expand) staff differently.
    Simple fact: If you can prove you can routinely raise more money, year-after-year, campaign-after-campaign, with a solid model like this, you can justify more staff to help you continue to replicate it. It’s no different than our for-profit friends. #takesmoneytomakemoney
  7. You won’t take your current funding resources for granted.
    You know this better than anyone else. In the realm of nonprofit funding, nothing is guaranteed. But we can count on unstable government support! That is why advancing and expanding your private fundraising efforts simply can’t wait.
  8. You will be reminded that your mission impacts and engages the entire community.
    For organization that would like to expand its donor base – this is how you do it! Segment your programs and services to align them with like-minded, external affinity groups (local, regional and national). Speak their language and seek to engage with them in a custom way. It’s all very possible, but you can’t catch a marlin using walleye bait.
  9. You will get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
    While this is one of the hardest pills to swallow, it is the most worthwhile. When we set clear goals, create a start and finish, and ask someone (your development committee or an ad hoc volunteer group perhaps) to hold us accountable, we will see our confidence and sense of self soar. Left to our own devices, however, most of us will avoid setting up those meetings and lunches or following up on pending asks and volunteers gone rogue. That is, until we are have a “buck stops here” moment and are forced to do it. At which point we often see it’s not so bad and we’re actually pretty darn good at it. That’s because we’re doing something we’re passion about: connecting a need with someone who cares.
  10. That magical mission moment occurs: You turn away one less person.
    In the end, there are no short cuts, no magic wands, no outsourcing of creating genuine joy and excitement about being part of something bigger than us. It’s just one ask, one person at a time.

If I can leave you with anything, it’s this: You can integrate a little campaign magic into your on-going, day-to-day, initiatives.

Ask your development committee or a select group of dedicated volunteers to help where your resources are scarce. Determine what other activities you can (and should) give up in order to get it done.

While your fundraising program will certainly benefit, the people and purpose you serve will be the real winners.

3 Major Stewardship Opportunities You May Be Missing

Donors often think of their philanthropy as an investment in the future—and they want to see a meaningful return. Development professionals know how critical it is to show donors the impact of their past contributions. However, one opportunity that is often missed is the chance to provide a personal touch through meaningful stewardship that facilitates Personal Impact Experiences (PIE).

More PIE, Please!

Personal Impact Experiences are about leveraging the information we know about a donor into a personally resonant demonstration of a contribution’s impact. Working with donors naturally reveals details about their lives, personalities, and preferences. These details enable us to work with them in a way that suits their communication style—but they also give us useful insights into how we might make stewardship more meaningful. Consider the personal touch of the hospital that received a valuable painting as a gift from a donor couple. When the couple received a holiday card from the organization featuring the painting prominently on display, they felt the impact of their contribution in a uniquely personal way.

Are you missing these 3 opportunities give donors more PIE?

  1. Take it down to the individual level
    People give to make a difference in the lives of others. When we share the impact of a contribution, it is often meaningful to share an individual person or family’s story. Donors might know the technical impact of a contribution already, but the personal connection conveyed through a story is more memorable, meaningful, and moving than a simple statistic.

    Well-known psychological research also supports this tactic. Psychic numbing is the term for the phenomenon that occurs when we try to imagine and empathize with a massive number of people. Both circumstantial evidence and scientific research have proven that we find it easier to empathize with fewer people, and easiest to empathize with only one.

    Taking this into consideration during stewardship, the individual stories we share should be selected with a donor’s own experiences and values in mind. Knowing a scholarship donor has a passion for animals, for example, we might share the story of impact in the life of a scholarship recipient who shares that passion. Personally relatable stories will maximize the impact.

  2. Tie it to the donor’s life-changing experiences/personal story
    Major contributions often have a broad impact, and there are many details of the organization’s important work that can be shared. When determining which details to feature prominently in our stewardship communications, it is most effective to share those details that have a close tie to a donor’s own experiences.

    Recall the concept of Development Magic. Donors find the most joy in their contributions when there is a clear tie between the philanthropic opportunity and the donors’ own life experiences and passions. These passion-based philanthropic opportunities are only possible when we uncover the personal reasons why donors give—but these reasons do not cease to be significant after a contribution has been made. Consider the donor who endowed a lecture series in honor of her late husband. Her personal reason for supporting research in this disease area drove the organization’s stewardship efforts—leading to larger, more meaningful giving.

    When projects have many details and broad-reaching impact, be sure to provide the information a donor will find most meaningful by considering what drives their motivation.

  3. Share your own personal experience
    Whether they give from their personal funds or serve the mission primarily through funds development, development professionals are often deeply connected to the organizations they serve. When seeing the impact of the work firsthand, development professionals can develop personal reasons for supporting the cause that are highly relatable to donors. As we encourage donors to think about and share their own reasons for giving, we can set the stage for these conversations by leading with our own experiences.

    How has the mission impacted you personally?
    -Where have you witnessed its results?
    -When you consider the organization’s impact, what is most meaningful to you?

    Considering the answers to these questions and sharing them, as appropriate, can create an environment where donors feel welcome to share what is meaningful to them. It can also provide an “inside scoop” on what is happening at the organization, which helps reinforce a donor’s impression that he or she is part of the team.

    What do you do to make stewardship personal, meaningful, and relevant to donors? What strategies have you implemented with success?


5 Ways Small Nonprofits Can Improve Financial Health

By David H. King, President and CEO, Alexander Haas

Nonprofits of all sizes can experience cash shortages, and many do: Around half of U.S. nonprofits have less than one month of operating reserves, according to a recent study.

Nearly two-thirds of charities have annual budgets of less than $1 million, which makes them similar to small businesses in terms of spending and revenue. Nonprofits face many of the same challenges as their commercial counterparts. They are under-capitalized, lack reserves to withstand a crisis or act on a special opportunity, and struggle to stay afloat from one pay period to the next.

So, how can small charities overcome these obstacles and improve their financial health?

1. Be proactive and diligent about building an operating reserve.

Even if it’s just $500 a week, get in the habit of setting money aside. Too often, nonprofits try to accumulate a large lump sum before transferring it to reserves. It’s never the right time to let go of a big sum, so move money into a reserve account in small, regular increments. This method will help you create a meaningful reserve without hampering cash flow.

2. Don’t focus on raising endowment funds.

That may seem counter intuitive, even heretical, but here’s my logic: If a nonprofit has a $1 million budget and raises $1 million for an endowment, at a 5 percent annual spend rate it would receive just $50,000 each year. That’s a lot of money being held captive rather than providing meaningful support. If the organization should need cash to stay afloat, in most cases it would be prohibited from accessing the endowment corpus, the original assets.

In contrast, if that same nonprofit raises $1 million in operating reserves or establishes a quasi-endowment — a board-designated investment fund with fewer restrictions than a true endowment — it can still draw down on earnings and access the capital to weather financial troubles or launch a new program.

3. Invest in areas that generate revenue.

Nonprofits want as much money as possible to benefit programs, and that makes sense. However, failing to invest in fundraising creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of scarce resources.

Most charities have four sources of potential income: grants from foundations or government agencies, service fees, endowments, and donations. Government funding is highly unstable and becoming harder to find. Fee-based income is limited, because many nonprofits provide services people cannot afford. We already covered endowments. So, donations are the one form of revenue that nonprofits can control directly.

Yet too often, chief executives and trustees hesitate to invest in experienced fundraisers. Instead, they hire on the cheap, and the results reflect that. In the for-profit world, that would be the same as hiring poorer-quality salespeople and wondering why sales are weak.

4. Stop categorizing mission-critical things as overhead.

A talented chief executive officer is not an overhead expense. Can you think of any successful for-profit business that thinks of its top leader as overhead?

Nor is a talented chief financial officer or bookkeeper overhead. An organization cannot administer a tight $1 million budget without a competent person managing its finances. The same goes for talented development professionals; without revenue, organizations go bankrupt and programs die. A mission-critical function or activity should not be classified as overhead.

5. Choose the right bank.

Find an institution with a representative dedicated to working with nonprofits. This person will understand your structure, your financial statements, your balance sheet, and the scarcity of resources nonprofits face. She or he will be able to help you get a line of credit before you need it. Often, smaller banks are better than large ones at understanding nonprofits and other small enterprises.

Carefully considering each one of these steps can set your nonprofit up for success in the days ahead.

Three Quick Lessons from our Donor Survey on Planned Giving

By Bill Jacobs, Founder, Analytical Ones

Recently, we did a large sample national survey of donors in the United States. We asked a wide variety of questions on planned gifts and their answers were surprising.

First, is the untapped resource for planned gifts.

In our survey, over one-third of respondents indicated that they currently do not have charitable giving in their will or estate but would consider adding one.

Strikingly, that was twice as many people who have indicated they have already included a charity in their estate.

Think about that. That means potentially for every planned gift you have already secured, there are two more out there just waiting on you to ask them.

So first, if you don’t already have a plan to land more planned gifts from your donors, you really need to make that your first priority.

Next, check out this graph:

This shows the correlation between income and making an estate gift. Not surprisingly, the higher the annual income of the donor, the higher the probability they have already included a charity in their estate plan (blue bar).

But what’s surprising is that the biggest opportunity for winning new estate gifts (orange bars) are from donors from $75,000-$250,000 annual income group.

Usually, most charities go after their most wealthy donors when prioritizing estate gifts prospects. Our survey data shows that if we lower the income bar we will close more estate gifts.

Lastly, one question that is often debated in developing a model for identifying planned giving prospects is whether there is an age ceiling. The results from our survey seems to suggest there is.

Once a donor reaches 75-years old, their likelihood to consider adding a charity is half of what a donor under 75 years is.

Of course, you may have to wait longer to realize the gift. But your likelihood of securing the gift will be higher if you target donors under 75-years.

So, in conclusion, if you don’t have a plan for capturing more planned gifts, you really need to make it a priority to create one. Secondly, if you have a plan, you may review it and make sure you aren’t aiming too high on the income and age continuums. Our study shows that donors under the age of 75 who have incomes under $125,000 may be your best prospect audience.

Wealth Data: 5 Ways to Learn More About Your Prospect’s Capacity to Give

By Jill McCarville, VP Marketing, iWave

Mo’ money, Mo’ problems major gifts. Some of the most important information you will find on your prospective major gift donors is with regards to their wealth. Follow along with this scenario: your promising new prospect lives in a 7-bedroom house in Texas, has a beach condo in Malibu, annually gives gifts of at least $50,000 to Human Services causes and sits on two boards. This is great, but there may still be wealth indicators that you do not know. What do you know about their securities ownership? Do they have other assets? What is their annual income? These are a few of the questions that researching your prospect’s wealth portfolio can answer.

Wealth data is a primary driver behind your prospect’s ability to give, which makes it a critical component in prospect research. However, nonprofits tend to fall into two camps with regards to their opinion on the importance of wealth data.

Camp #1: It doesn’t matter how much money they have if they’re not philanthropic.

Camp #2: Wealth is all that matters. As long as they have wealth, we can make them passionate about our cause.

Regardless of what camp your organization falls into, all fundraising professionals should be slightly wary of wealth information. You can only find out as much about a prospect’s wealth as is publicly available. And the wealthier an individual is, the more likely they are to find creative ways to disperse their wealth, through financial instruments like LLCs and trusts. As Helen Brown explains in this post, “Evidence suggests that for some prospects publicly-identifiable wealth only comprises a tiny fraction of net worth since so much of their wealth is private. For others, identifiable wealth well over-inflates net worth since it ignores the liabilities on a household’s balance sheet.”

So, wealth data isn’t the be-all and end-all, but it is an excellent baseline indicator that your prospect may have the capacity to donate a major gift. So how do you determine just how wealthy your prospect or donor is? We put together five expert research tips to help you get started.

1. Look for their stock holdings and transactions through SEC Filings

SEC Filings provide excellent insight into your prospect’s liquidity and thus allow you to make more timely asks. They are publicly available through the US Securities and Exchange Commission in the US or SEDAR in Canada, and detail insider transactions and security ownership. If your prospect research tool, like iWave, provides a database like Thomson Reuters for scanning SEC filings, you can use it to quickly search insider transactions and security ownership by individuals, companies, or alumni. You may even be able to set alerts that will notify you of your prospect’s wealth-creating events such as acquiring and disposing of stock.

2. Look for evidences of wealth

As mentioned above, wealthy individuals may have tactful ways of distributing their wealth. However, there are some wealth indicators that are typically associated with high net worth individuals:

  • Does the individual work in a profession typically associated with high net worth? For example: a C-level executive, doctor, lawyer, pilot, real estate investor, etc.
  • Does the individual have a certain level of liquid assets? For example: stocks and marketable securities, government bonds, mutual funds, etc.
  • Does the individual own certain assets associated with wealth? For example: yachts, aircrafts, luxury cars, etc.
  • Is the person a specialized investor? For example: an accredited investor or an angel investor.

There are multiple ways to find this information but the fastest way is through a specialized database such as Prospects of Wealth from Larkspur Data.

3. Look for wealth acquired through financial compensation

Going back to basics, you can look for wealth that is acquired through employment or a board membership with a wealthy company. This information can often be found with some skilled digging online, or databases such as Thomson Reuters or DatabaseUSA will compile it for you in one place. Specialized databases like Larkspurs Data’s Prospect of Wealth may also assign individuals a wealth score based on their title, length of employment, company revenue, cash compensation, or stock information, if they are employed at a publicly-traded company.

4. Determine an individual’s baseline capacity rating

The primary reason a researcher or major gift officer tries to gain insight into a prospect’s wealth is so they can use that to determine an ask amount or an estimated capacity range. Listed below are a few industry standards for using wealth data points to determine a capacity rating.

  • Capacity as a percentage of estimated net worth: Estimated net worth x 5%
  • Annual income represents 10% of net worth: Annual income x 10%
  • Real estate represents 20-25% of an individual’s net worth: Value of primary residence + value of additional properties/20-25% x 5%. More here.
  • Stock holdings represent 30-35% of an individual’s net worth: Current estimated holdings/30-35% x 5%

5. Look at their real estate holdings, charitable giving information, and foundation affiliations

Let’s talk about what are arguably the most important wealth indicators; real estate holdings, philanthropic information, and foundation affiliations. Without these three sources of information, a prospect’s wealth picture will never be complete.

  • Real estate holdings, especially additional properties, indicate an individual’s wealth and help determine capacity.
  • Charitable gift size helps determine if the individual has a history of donating major gifts.
  • Foundation Affiliations are often overlooked in their importance of finding wealth capacity. If someone sits on multiple foundation boards, they may have wealth to give. This is especially true if the individual sits on the board of a family foundation. If this is the case, not only do they likely have wealth, they have also set up a way for them to distribute that wealth to certain causes.

Now that you have some tips on what to look for to understand the capacity and lifestyle of your prospective donors, you may be thinking; how? Wealth screening is an incredible way to get to know a large number of your donors, almost instantly. Screening enables development departments to segment hundreds or thousands of individuals into a prioritized list of prospects, sorted by greatest capacity and inclination to donate a major gift to your organization.

There you have it. Wealth insights are very important to understanding full picture of your prospective donors. These 5 tips along with the right wealth screening tool should help you start determining whether your prospect has wealth to give.

Click here to download our Prospect Research with a Purpose eBook, which is full of more great tips!

Communicate the Transformative Impact with Social Return on Investment

By Richard Tollefson, Founder and President, & Michal Tyra, Director of Client and Community Engagement, The Phoenix Philanthropy Group

For nonprofits, communicating impact and value is crucial. While most businesses answer to a select group of owners, investors and shareholders, nonprofits must justify their existence and performance to a wide range of stakeholders. Donors, program partners, volunteers, board members, legislators, clients and local leaders all want constant assurances that their time, money and influence are being well spent. Organizations that fail to do this effectively may soon find themselves falling behind.

Effectively assessing and communicating why the organization and its programs matter, though, can be tricky. The age of increasing donor sophistication requires that nonprofits do more than simply share heartwarming stories about their clients. Even traditional quantitative tools such as cost-benefit analyses fall short in their ability to look beyond immediate direct and indirect impact.

A new approach, however, has recently started to gain traction. A Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis offers nonprofits the potential to look beyond the standard impact metrics to the value of the outcomes of its services. Put more simply, while most impact reports or “stories of change” generally refer to inputs (resources devoted to a program) and outputs (things the program produces), SROI can measure the outcomes (things that are different because that program exists).

Recently, a partnership of local stakeholders, led by the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, with research conducted by the L. William Seidman Research Institute and support from the Arizona Community Foundation, J.R. Hollon & Associates, InMedia Company, The Phoenix Philanthropy Group and Salt River Project, ambitiously attempted to determine the SROI for Arizona’s nonprofit sector as whole. Laurel Kimball, Ph.D., the study’s project manager, says the aim is really to determine, “What difference do nonprofits make? If 20 teenagers, for example, go to college rather than to prison as a result of a nonprofit’s program, what is the economic value to our state?”

The study surveyed more than 4,000 nonprofits about their programs and services to determine the SROI for each organization and then aggregate this data for Arizona as a whole. While the study was partially stymied by insufficient survey responses and available data, those organizations that were able to provide complete responses offered a glimpse into the powerful potential of SROI.

One of the most compelling examples is that of Boys & Girls Club of Central Phoenix. While it’s simple to measure its inputs ($11.1 million, 236 staff and 823 volunteers, 13 venues) and outputs ($14.1 million in direct impact to 11,000 young people from 4,155 households), if we go one step further and measure outcomes in just the one area of increased parental productivity, the impact figure jumps to $126 million.

A shocking difference, yes? And this isn’t some fancy accounting trick. It’s simply looking at impact from a more comprehensive point of view. Imagine being able to take that kind of data into a solicitation with a prospective donor. Or using it to reengage current supporters at a higher level. It could have a transformative effect.

So, is SROI worth the time? Though the process can be a bit complicated, we definitely believe the benefits are worth the trouble. According to Beyond the Bottom Line: The Economic and Social Value of Arizona Nonprofits (available at, here’s why:

To keep the organization’s focus on the issues it seeks to address. Calculating SROI is similar to strategic planning. It’s about looking expansively at the organization’s programs and who they affect, beyond the nuts and bolts to the ripples that extend far beyond the immediate line of sight. Looking downstream helps those involved to visualize the big picture and consider how every action their organization takes touches each stakeholder along the way.

To evaluate with data the effectiveness of a particular program or service. To develop a proper SROI analysis, the organization needs to evaluate each of its programs and services individually — establishing a list of the affected stakeholders and translating those effects into a monetary value. This provides a crystal-clear insight into each program’s impact and effectiveness. It can demonstrate which programs help achieve the overall mission and which do not.

To create a common language for discussions with business leaders and funders. Anyone who’s ever met with a potential corporate funder has probably noticed their priorities and concerns were a bit different from the standard donor. They were likely less interested with anecdotal evidence and more concerned with hard numbers. Because SROI was designed to be an evolved version of the standard corporate cost-benefit analysis, all partners and funders will appreciate the process and its results.

To demonstrate to donors that there is a social return on their investment. In the past, institutional or geographic loyalty made it simpler to attract and retain local funders; however, donors today want to find the programs that offer the best impact in the areas they are passionate about — no matter where they are located. This means more competition for funding and, consequently, more sophisticated stories of change. SROI can help the organization stand out from the crowd.

Intrigued by the possibilities of SROI?

There are several resources available to help get started. The Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits is committed to strengthening the local nonprofit community by helping organizations demonstrate their full impact. Alliance CEO Kristen Merrifield indicated they are developing the “technical training and assistance to help more organizations understand how and what to measure, and to also explore what resources are already in existence that could lend themselves to this work.”

Richard Tollefson is founder and president, and Michal Tyra is director of Client and Community Engagement at The Phoenix Philanthropy Group, an Arizona-based international consulting firm serving nonprofit organizations as well as institutional and individual philanthropists.


Employee Choice Plays an Increasingly Large Role in Workplace Giving and Corporate Social Responsibility Efforts, New Study Finds

Evolution of Workplace Giving Special Report

Special Report from Giving USA Foundation and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy explores how workplace giving is changing

CHICAGO [November 5, 2018]—Changes to the workforce and new attitudes toward work are affecting workplace giving, and philanthropy is increasingly important to employees, employers, and nonprofits, according to a new report released today by Giving USA Foundation and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI.

The Giving USA Special Report on the Evolution of Workplace Giving  finds that employees increasingly want a choice in how their employer gives back, and for their employer to give to a charity of the employee’s choice. This is similar to trends among nonprofit donors overall, who want more information about their donation’s impact and more choice over how it is used. The landscape of workplace giving campaigns has radically expanded to include a wide range of activities, from skilled volunteer opportunities and matching gifts to more traditional federated campaigns such as United Way and the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC).

This special report is a publication of Giving USA Foundation, written and researched by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, with support from Deloitte. Distilling academic research and information from a variety of sources, it provides insights that corporations, employees and nonprofits can implement to strengthen their corporate culture and their community. It presents key findings about corporate social responsibility (CSR) and summarizes previous research about who gives to workplace campaigns.

Among the findings:

  • Employee choice is key. Employees want to use their talents, skills and time on a cause that they find personally meaningful. Employees also respond well when employers match time, donations or other resources to causes that the employee has chosen.
  • Engaged employees are more generous in workplace giving campaigns. Employees who are involved with an employer’s CSR efforts (or otherwise feel loyalty to their employer) tend to give more to workplace giving campaigns. Therefore, it is important that companies educate their employees about opportunities to get involved and keep in touch with employees about the outcomes of ongoing CSR efforts.
  • Nonprofits should seek out longer-term volunteer opportunities with employee groups that fit with their needs, capacity and long-term goals. While volunteering is a common form of CSR, nonprofit organizations should be aware of potential costs, such as for developing new programs or hiring more staff to accommodate large volunteer groups. Nonprofits should not only seek strategic partnerships that benefit the nonprofit, but the corporate volunteer group as well for best results.

“This report underscores the importance of the partnership between nonprofits and corporations,” said Rick Dunham, chair of Giving USA Foundation. “These findings emphasize to companies, fundraising professionals and nonprofits that effective communication, through a wide range of platforms, empowers employees to become donors and advocates for their causes in and through their workplaces, which is not only advantageous for the nonprofit, but for the corporation as well.”

Another theme that emerges throughout the new report is the increased prevalence of technology in the workplace and in workplace giving. For example, employees have come to expect options for how they make their gifts (e.g., payroll deduction, online platforms, etc.). Indeed, the majority of workplace giving now takes place online. While this can be considered a positive development for giving, the proliferation of technology also presents the challenge of how to engage remote workers, who may not be physically present in an office environment, in the company’s CSR initiatives.

Workplace giving is a key aspect of corporations’ giving. Total giving by corporations, including workplace giving, reached the highest inflation-adjusted level ever in 2017 at an estimated $20.77 billion, an increase of 8.0 percent in current dollars (5.7 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars), according to Giving USA’s Annual Report on Philanthropy for that year.

To examine the current state of workplace giving, the report draws on three case studies that illustrate best practices for employee engagement and workplace giving campaigns in action. The first two case studies examine best practices for employers, while the third demonstrates how nonprofits can forge meaningful corporate partnerships and promote workplace giving campaigns.

“We know that workplace giving today reflects the changing nature of work, the role of technology, and the attitudes and aspirations employees bring to the workplace. As a consequence, workplace giving campaigns offer an exciting opportunity,” said Una Osili, Ph.D., associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “This report makes it possible for stakeholders to apply what we already know and look to new areas of research, such as how employers can better engage diverse employees in workplace giving campaigns.”

The report highlights areas of opportunity for companies of all sizes, from finding nonprofit partners that are a good match for the skill set and size of a corporate volunteer group, to communicating effectively with employees about ongoing CSR efforts.

Finally, the report confirms that workplace giving and CSR efforts are on track to keep growing in the future. Increasingly, CSR is a factor that prospective employees, consumers and even investors consider before becoming involved with a company. Given this increased focus on CSR, workplace giving campaigns have the potential to be powerful tools to engage employees and allow companies to work in tandem with nonprofit organizations toward social good, the report finds.

Expert Panelists to Discuss Special Report during Free Live Webcast on November 7

On Wednesday, November 7 at 12pm ET, join Giving USA Foundation and The Giving Institute to explore the research and trends highlighted in Giving USA’s Special Report, “The Evolution of Workplace Giving.” Panelists are:

  • Una Osili, Associate Dean for Research and International Programs, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
  • Laura Coy, Director of Philanthropy Strategy at William Blair
  • Katie O’Brien-Jensen, Sr. Leader of Community Affairs at ITW

This event is moderated by Rick Dunham, CEO of Dunham+Company and Chair, Giving USA Foundation.

Register for this free event here.

Read the Full Report

The Giving USA Special Report on the Evolution of Workplace Giving is now available at as a digital download ($24.95) or 50-page paperback book ($29.95).

About The Giving USA Foundation

Advancing the research, education and public understanding of philanthropy is the mission of Giving USA Foundation, founded in 1985 by The Giving Institute. Headquartered in Chicago, the Foundation publishes data and trends about charitable giving through its seminal publication, Giving USA, and quarterly reports on topics related to philanthropy. Published since 1956, Giving USA is the longest running, most comprehensive report on philanthropy in America. Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2017 is available now at Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018 will be available on June 18, 2019.

About the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its academic, research and international programs and through The Fund Raising School, the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. Follow us on Twitter @IUPhilanthropy and “Like” us on Facebook.


Casey Blickenstaff, 312-558-1770, ext. 153

Adriene Davis Kalugyer, 317-278-8972

Donor Management: 7 Strategies to Segment Your Lists


By Joe Klimek, CEO, SofTrek, developer of ClearView CRM fundraising software

Nonprofit giving has been trending up for a while now, finally crossing the $400 Billion mark1 in 2018,and we’re all celebrating because of it. But these positive growth patterns are not a reason to let your fundraising and communication strategies stagnate.

To help your nonprofit continue to grow and thrive in the coming seasons, revitalize your donor segmentation strategies and reach your constituents more effectively.

To segment your donor lists and build stronger connections, try dividing your lists by these techniques:

  1. Preferred communication method.
  2. Event attendance.
  3. Recurring donations.
  4. Age brackets.
  5. Volunteer history.
  6. Giving capacity.
  7. Matching gift eligibility.

Segmenting your donors allows you to send more personal communications, which in turn strengthens their connection to your organization. Philanthropy today relies on genuine and sustained relationships, so read on to learn how to help your nonprofit build those bridges.

Preferred communication method.

Proving to your community that you listen and respond to them is the key to building a strong foundation, and reaching out to them is important for every aspect of your nonprofit’s communication strategy!

Therefore, the first thing you should know about your donors is how they prefer to communicate. When you split your donor population by their preferred communication method, you can save time and money by identifying wasteful communication attempts.

Some common ways to communicate include:

  • Direct mail.
  • Phone calls.
  • Emails.
  • Text messages.

When planning your next marketing campaign, take into account how your donors wish to receive information from your nonprofit. There are two ways to determine someone’s preferred method of communication. The first is to analyze which of your communication attempts spurred them to action. Did they donate after you spoke on the phone? Do they frequently open your emails?

The second is to just ask them! Don’t be afraid to talk to donors directly about their preferences. They’ll appreciate the effort that your nonprofit is making to reach out to them. This is a great question to include when you create and send your next donor survey.

This information, along with everything else you know about a donor, should be kept in your donor database.2

Event attendance.

Another way to segment your donor lists and target them with the most appropriate information for their interests is by event attendance.

Some donors, no matter how long they’ve donated to your organization or how much they support your mission, will never attend one of your events. And that’s okay! But you should keep that in mind for deciding who to send fancy cardstock invitations to.

Consider your list of dedicated event attendees3, and then boost their engagement with some of the following ideas for your next event:

  • Upgrade them to VIP status for your next event.
  • Offer them a plus-one when they purchase their ticket.
  • Send them a nice invitation through the mail.
  • Show that you’ve been paying attention, and send them a thank-you note for their ongoing support.

Your event attendees have demonstrated ongoing support for your organization through their presence, so get them more involved by using their attendance habits as a launchpad.

Recurring donations.

Another valuable segment of your donor population to understand and communicate with are those who give recurring donations.

Whether someone gives a mid-sized to major gift once a year4 or donates $5 to your cause monthly, they are committed to your mission and your nonprofit’s ongoing success.

These donors are the key to your nonprofit’s annual revenue and a vital part of your community.

If you segment by who your recurring gift donors are, you’ll find yourself with a list of people who have seen your nonprofit grow and are committed to helping it continue helping your community. Reach out to these donors with the following strategies:

  • Ask them to consider doubling their donation for the duration of a campaign that aligns with their interests.
  • Ask them to increase their donation amount a little during a capital campaign or similar large fundraising effort.
  • Hold a thank-you event for them specifically, so they know that you see and appreciate what they do for your nonprofit.

You might find that someone giving a mid-level gift regularly has actually contributed the equivalent of a major gift and should thus be treated like a major donor.5

When your nonprofit acknowledges and thanks recurring donors in different ways every once in a while, it keeps those recurring gift donors appreciative of your nonprofit’s efforts as well as encourages them to stay or become more involved.

Age brackets.

While every generation has proven as they come of age that they are just as philanthropically minded as the last, they tend to have different priorities and interests than one another.

The most common way to divide your donor population by age is by the traditionally accepted generation breaks:

  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
  • Generation X (1965-1976)
  • Millennials or Generation Y (1977-1995)
  • Generation Z or Centennials (1996-today)

While Generation Z is still young (the oldest of them are just now starting careers), they are philanthropically inclined like those before and are valuable supporters and volunteers.

Consider some general trends about these different generations6 when segmenting your lists for communication.

For example, Baby Boomers, who grew up without cell phones or the Internet, might appreciate a phone call or a direct mail solicitation more than a Gen-Xer, who might prefer an email.

While there are exceptions to every rule, especially when it comes to generalizing different generations, do your best to communicate in ways that people will be most comfortable with.

Volunteer history.

Many people consider giving their time just as valuable as giving money. And it’s true! Nonprofits rely on the work that volunteers do to keep their worlds turning.

Segment your donor and community data7 by volunteering history, and you might be surprised by what you might find.

  • Are some of your major donors also volunteers?
  • Are there recurring donation givers that are also giving their time regularly?
  • Do families volunteer together?

Analyzing your volunteer data, and then targeting them with marketing materials that are specifically designed for them, is a surefire way to ensure that they feel appreciated as well as want to stay involved with your organization.

A strong volunteer history is an indicator that someone cares enough about your organization to give their time and energy to it, so offer them multiple ways to give back that are related to how they like to help.

Giving capacity.

This segmentation strategy might require more research than some of the others, but it will be worth it in the end. Prospect and donor research8 is a strategy in which your team analyzes publicly available information to determine a donor’s affinity and capacity for giving.

If they’re a donor for your organization, they’ve already proven their affinity, or willingness, to give philanthropically. But what about their capacity?

You can learn about a donor’s capacity for giving by looking up common wealth indicators, such as:

  • Home ownership.
  • Car, boat, or plane ownership.
  • SEC holdings.

These possessions indicate that someone has a large disposable income and is willing to use that money for things that they value. Segmenting your donors by this information requires a customized system9, but the end result is worth it.

If you learn donors’ capacity for giving, and then segment your donor population by that capacity, you suddenly have gained a new list of people to solicit for mid-sized or major gifts.

And because they’ve already proven that they care about your nonprofit, you don’t have to worry about barking up the wrong tree.

Matching gift eligibility.

Whether you already knew this information or whether you learned it through conducting donor research, it’s an incredibly useful way to segment your database: donors’ employment information.

Is your nonprofit actively pursuing matching gifts? If not, segment your population by employer and see if there are large groups who work for companies with matching gift programs.10

A matching gift program is a policy through which an employer gives a matching donation to a nonprofit that one of their employees has donated to, after that employee submits a matching gift request.

It’s free money for your nonprofit, and it doesn’t cost your donors anything, so why don’t more people take advantage of it? The issue is that many people don’t know about it.

Once you know that your nonprofit has a population of matching gift eligible donors, try some of the following strategies to make the most of the situation:

  • Host a matching gift drive, where donors who have already given submit a matching gift request on behalf of your nonprofit.
  • Distribute educational information about matching gift programs to those who work for companies with matching gift programs.
  • Ask those who have contributed matching gifts to talk to their coworkers about also donating, and then submitting a matching gift request.

With matching gift submissions, your nonprofit gets more money to support your cause, and donors get to feel good about helping your nonprofit even more without having to dig deeper into their own pockets!

When you use your donor management software to the best of your abilities and segment your donors for strategic communications, everyone in your community wins. Your nonprofit benefits from improved donor relationships, and your donors get more of what they like about your nonprofit.

For more information on making the most of your donor data, check out some of our favorite resources: