Jump Start Your Nonprofit Feasibility Study: 5 Strategies

By Bob Happy, President, Averill Fundraising Solutions

For nonprofits large and small, feasibility studies are a staple of most of your major fundraising efforts. Whether you’re planning a capital campaign or creating a new annual fundraising plan, conducting a feasibility study is generally seen as a cornerstone of campaign planning.

Yet, although most nonprofits agree on the importance of these studies, not all understand the huge impact they should have on the planning phase of your campaign from the very beginning.

Instead of thinking of feasibility studies as just one rung in the planning phase ladder, it’s time to start treating these projects as planning phases in and of themselves.

When your feasibility studies shape the course of campaign planning from the outset, there’s no limit to what your nonprofit can achieve. In this article, we’ll dive into the ways your nonprofit can jump start the benefits of feasibility studies by incorporating them as a holistic element of the campaign planning process.

Follow these key steps to conduct more dynamic fundraising feasibility studies:

  1. Take a step back and focus on fundraising objectives.
  2. Enlist the expertise of a fundraising consultant.
  3. Build a list of dependable stakeholders.
  4. Have your fundraising consultant lead the study.
  5. Compare expectations to the results of the study.

Ready to change the way your nonprofit’s feasibility studies shape your campaign planning process? Let’s dive into these effective strategies!



Whether your fundraising goals are unclear or your pathway to achieving those goals is undefined, your nonprofit could benefit from revisiting its fundraising strategy.

This is why fundraising feasibility studies are so popular, especially when planning particularly ambitious fundraising campaigns However, revitalizing your fundraising strategy shouldn’t be left to the late stages of your campaign planning phase.

Start addressing cornerstone strategy challenges early on in the campaign planning process by conducting a kind of preliminary feasibility study.

Meet with your staff and board members to complete an informal strategy review to start off your campaign planning period. This way, you’ll have a sense of where your team stands and what issues you’ll want to address later on during your official study and throughout the entire planning process.

You should review the following questions with your team:

  • Where have your past fundraising campaigns and events fallen short? In the past, your team may have struggled to reach your fundraising goal. Or perhaps you ran into difficulty building a robust prospect list. Knowing the core challenges your nonprofit faces is necessary to conducting an effective feasibility study.
  • What improvements need to be made to your fundraising strategy? Before launching into the study, get a sense of where your team members think the bulk of your strategic issues stem from. They may be onto something, or they might be missing bigger issues that have fallen off their radar.
  • How does your nonprofit want to see the campaign play out? Aside from reaching your fundraising goals, what kind of impact does the team want to see at the end of your proposed campaign? This might relate to growing your fundraising capacity, reaching new supporters, or building relationships with corporate sponsors.

Having a general idea of how internal members of your nonprofit feel about your current fundraising strategy will help guide the fundraising feasibility process moving forward.

While this is just a preliminary planning exercise, it can offer useful insights to leverage when conducting the study and planning elements of your proposed campaign.



After conferring with your nonprofit’s staff, the next way to boost the effectiveness of your planning phase is to hire a fundraising consultant to conduct your official feasibility study and oversee the planning period moving forward.

Not only can a fundraising consultant lead the way for a successful fundraising feasibility study, but building a relationship with a consultant at this stage can set your fundraising strategy up for success in the long term.

Whether they help direct your fundraising campaign or offer ad hoc services as the fundraising calendar goes on, you’ll be able to count on having them as a partner to help your team navigate challenges as they arise.

Here’s how your nonprofit should begin a partnership with a fundraising consultant:

  1. First, do your research. Since a partnership with a best-fit fundraising consultant can stand the test of time, conducting extensive research is key. Ask members of other nonprofit organizations if they have any recommendations, and search databases of fundraising consulting firms to build a list of possible partners.
  2. Next, choose a pool of contenders. You’ll want to narrow your list based on factors like experience level, the prestige of the firm, the services they offer, and their general price points. Create a list of around 5-10 fundraising consultants for further research, and then refine this list to just a handful of stand-out options.
  3. Then, reach out to your top choice. At this stage, you’ll extend a Request for Proposal (RFP) to your favorite fundraising consultant. This will introduce the consultant to your organization and call on them to outline how they could enhance your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts.

Bonus! One way a fundraising consultant could help plan your next fundraising campaign is by analyzing your contributor retention strategy. If they find your approach needs a boost, they might prescribe revitalized retention strategies like these suggested by Qgiv.



For your formal fundraising feasibility study to yield meaningful results, you’ll need to carefully choose individuals for your stakeholder interviews. These shouldn’t simply be members of your staff or prospective givers, but a diverse array of dependable individuals.

The stakeholder interview period isn’t just a useful way to learn about how these individuals perceive your proposed annual campaign, capital campaign, or other fundraising project.

Rather, think of it as a useful engagement tool to help strengthen ties between these essential supporters and your nonprofit during campaign planning.

When you bring stakeholders in on the ground floor of your campaign as central elements of the campaign planning process, you can trust that the campaign you plan will be tailor-made for their future support.

To start your official feasibility study interviews off right, work with your consultant to build a list of stakeholders who you’ll invite to be a part of your fundraising feasibility study and the overall campaign planning phase.

Be sure to explain to these individuals the function of the study, their role in it, and how their feedback is necessary to strengthening your organization. Include the following individuals on your stakeholder list.

  • Board members
  • Staff
  • Givers
  • Volunteers
  • Community members
  • Peers at other nonprofits
  • Corporate partners

Once you’ve got a list, your fundraising consultant will draft a set of interview questions. These should get at the heart of how these individuals relate to your cause, what motivates them, and why they’re inspired by your proposed fundraising campaign—or why they’re not.

Bonus! What’s one great way to choose influential stakeholders for your study? Consult giving analytics to get a broad view of who is giving, how much they’re contributing, when they’re inspired to give, and other helpful information.



When the time comes to conduct the formal feasibility study, your fundraising consultant should take the lead. Since they aren’t an internal member of your team, stakeholders will feel more free to offer up feedback than if a staff member ran the interviews.

Additionally, your consultant will feel comfortable asking tough questions of your stakeholders that members of your team may not know how to approach.

During the interview process, your consultant may ask stakeholders questions similar to these:

  • How does the work of this nonprofit influence your day-to-day life?
  • What is your level of involvement with other nonprofit organizations?
  • Does this nonprofit’s mission inspire you?
  • Do you feel the proposed campaign is worthy of your support?
  • Are factors including the fundraising goal and campaign timeline reasonable?
  • Can we count on you to make a gift? Volunteer? Help connect us with other givers?

Once the interviews close out, your consultant will gather the results and take some time to analyze them. This stage should be conducted carefully and may take some time. When the consultant has finished their review, they’ll present their findings to your team.

Bonus! Looking for more fundraising feasibility study questions? Check out Averill Fundraising Solutions’ list of the top fundraising feasibility study questions before you launch your next study. Learn all you need to know to ask the right questions of your stakeholders.



At the end of your fundraising feasibility study, you’ll confer with your consultant and go over their analysis. Additionally, your consultant will outline a series of next steps for your nonprofit that will help address issues that came to light during your feasibility study.

During this stage, ask your team: are these the results we were looking for? How do these findings match up with our initial expectations of how our proposed fundraising plan would perform?

Even though fundraising feasibility studies are among the most common services provided by consultants to nonprofits, all too many organizations hesitate to take effective action once their study concludes.

However, when your nonprofit considers feasibility studies to be an intrinsic part of the campaign planning process, it’s difficult to lose sight of how impactful the results are on your fundraising strategy and proposed campaign.

When the results come in, your team will be better prepared to make the necessary changes because the study itself wasn’t a tacked on, standalone step of the planning process. Rather, since you’ve been addressing the feasibility of your campaign plan from the beginning, you’ll already have an idea of how to take the next steps to prepare for the campaign you envision.

This may mean that your team needs to pause your proposed campaign while you get things in order behind the scenes. Or, you could simply adjust aspects of your plan (like your goals, campaign timeline, data strategy, etc.) to be more realistically achievable.

The bottom line? Ensure that your feasibility study is a fully integrated element of your planning phase and not a cursory element of the campaign planning checklist.

While this may seem like a difficult change to make if your nonprofit is used to considering these studies as discrete steps in the planning process, you’ll be thankful later on when your nonprofit starts building fundraising capacity faster and reaching ambitious goals quicker than ever.

If your nonprofit wants to revolutionize the way you plan fundraising campaigns, changing your approach to fundraising feasibility studies is a must.

By integrating your feasibility early on during the campaign planning period (rather than at the tail end of it), you’ll get more out of the campaign planning process and hit more fundraising bullseyes than ever before!

About the Author 

Bob Happy brings nearly 35 years of experience providing expert leadership and direction to clients across the not-for-profit sector to his current role as President of Averill Solutions. Before forming Averill Solutions, Bob served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the nation’s largest fundraising firm. He has mentored hundreds of professional fundraising practitioners and many have joined him at Averill Fundraising Solutions.

6 Facts to Learn About Your Fundraising Event Attendees


By Sarah Tedesco, Executive Vice President, DonorSearch

Tracking just a handful of useful metrics at your events will help refine nearly every aspect of how your nonprofit interacts with its supporters. Your fundraising events can and should serve multiple purposes!

Most importantly, this includes identifying prospective major donors within your list of registered attendees. You already work to develop relationships with prospects, but you should constantly strive to streamline the identification process.

After all, prospect identification can be time-consuming process without some smart guidelines in place. Focus on these data points to sharpen your accuracy:

  1. History of charitable giving
  2. Political contribution history
  3. Preferred communication channels
  4. Participation with other nonprofits
  5. Professional history and network
  6. Other wealth indicators

Your fundraising events represent major learning opportunities. Refine your prospect identification by researching or soliciting important information about your attendees!

As one of the most important metrics in donor prospecting, giving history is a surefire way to identify individuals with the proven desire and ability to support nonprofits. 

There are two effective strategies for screening your event attendees for this data:

  • Use a prospect research database to identify the giving histories of your attendees beforehand.
  • Use a prospect generator tool to search donor lists of nonprofits with missions similar to your own. Cross-reference these to identify attendees and prospects who will seriously support your mission.

Check out our prospect generator tips on the DonorSearch blog for more ways to use these tools!

As often overlooked but extremely valuable metric, political contributions indicate a prospect’s willingness to financially back up their values.

Build your prospecting strategies around political contributions if your nonprofit:

  • Is starting a capital campaign for a major project.
  • Is deeply cause-based and/or socially conscious.
  • Has explicitly stated political positions.

This metric gives you a fuller sense of prospects as individuals. You already know what causes move them, but what social or political issues motivate them, too?

Political contribution history isn’t data that you’d typically solicit from event attendees, but there are search tools and prospecting services that can help.

Knowing the best way to contact a prospective donor goes a long way to developing that relationship in the future. Try to collect this information from all of your donors and registered event attendees.

They might prefer to be contacted via:

  • Email
  • Direct mail
  • Phone calls
  • Text message
  • In person at meetings or events

You can also analyze your records to identify communication methods that generate the most responses.

Remember, communicating with prospects in a way that doesn’t work for them can mean they’ll miss your message or even feel pestered. 

Participation in nonprofit activities is a great indicator of an individual’s willingness to provide greater support because it reveals commitment beyond writing a check.

Ask your attendees to provide some information, and look for indicators like these:

Use this information to quickly identify individuals who have the time and desire to support your work 

Plus, your prospect might already have connections with another nonprofit with which you’ve partnered in the past!

Researching the professional histories of any attendees who prove themselves to be particularly generous is a smart move.

This will reveal some useful information about your prospects, including:

  • Rough giving potential. A prospect’s line of work and job titles can roughly indicate their giving potential and help to immediately focus your research.
  • Potential for corporate support. Generous donors who work for generous companies are a huge opportunity for nonprofits. Check out 360MatchPro’s rundown of top corporate philanthropy programsfor more info!
  • Networks and connections. Maybe a current donor and your new prospect were colleagues in the past. Finding human connections is a great development strategy.

These insights can make a crucial difference as you begin to narrow down your prospect list and focus your efforts after a major fundraising event.

Traditional indicators of wealth are always useful, although rising costs of living in major cities have required some strategy adjustments to make up for inflated markets.

Some dependable wealth marketers to research about your prominent attendees include:

  • Real estate
  • Business ownership
  • Major physical assets
  • Financial investments

These indicators are great for gauging more than giving potential, too. 

An individual who owns a large home and a business with its own building is likely to care a lot about the social and economic health of that community, particularly when government policies and tax codes seem to fluctuateevery day.

Fundraising events are a perfect opportunity to hone your prospecting skills. Research attendees beforehand to make solicitations during the event, then do more research later on guests who were especially generous.

Using data and specialized data tools to drive your prospecting is the best investment your nonprofit can make in it’s ability to grow and pursue and its mission!

About the Author

Sarah Tedesco is the Executive Vice President of DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing retention rate and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.

Skin in the Game: The Importance of Board Giving

By Avrum Lapin, President, The Lapin Group, LLC

When we engage with new clients, we always begin with the imperative – up front and with clarity – that in order for the campaign or fundraising project to be successful, 100% board participation is required. Board members, as the legal stewards of the organization, must lead by example. The impact of board members’ participation goes well beyond the individual donations themselves.

Nonprofit organizations rely on their boards for many functions: governance and budgeting, guidance, community involvement and, of course, fundraising. Though some boards downplay the fundraising aspect, it is essential that each board member be an active participant in ensuring the financial health of the institution. The boards that waffle on this target, by not articulating a clear expectation upfront, are most often the ones who fall short of their fundraising and leadership goals. The majority of successful organizations report high board giving rates. In fact, studies have found that board giving is more positively correlated with overall fundraising success than any other single factor.

Many boards have mandatory giving policies. According to a recent BoardSource survey, 68 percent of nonprofit organizations have a policy requiring board members to make a personal contribution on an annual basis. Some boards have a “give or get” policy that allows board members to either give a personal contribution or raise the funds from family and friends to equal the amount of the required gift. We prefer a “give and get” approach, obligating the board member to lead with a personal investment, inspiring others by saying “join me,” rather than outsourcing their responsibility to others.

Of course, not every board has a policy that requires board giving. For those that do, the process is straightforward and requires a simple call to remind board members of their obligation. The process of new board member recruitment and orientation should include an early and candid conversation about fundraising expectations and financial obligations. Board leadership must set a good example by giving first and publically announcing their gift as a way to encourage others.

Board members may not choose to give for a variety of reasons. Board members might not understand why their contribution is necessary. Compared to major gifts, annual gifts from board members might feel inconsequential. It is up to the board chair and professional leadership to inform each board member of the importance of their giving and why their gift counts.

If board giving is not a precondition of board membership, some leaders often feel uncomfortable broaching the topic and may avoid asking because it feels embarrassing. They don’t want to feel like they’re pressuring fellow board members, or stretching them beyond their capacity.

Some feel that contributing their time is sufficient and that a donation isn’t necessary. While time is valuable, board giving of actual dollars is important to the financial health of nonprofits and creates, and reinforces, a culture of giving that is not attainable by volunteering alone.

The most common reason for individuals not giving is that they simply have not been asked. Board leadership’s duty is to make sure to personally ask for a gift from each board member. A personal ask will yield a greater return than an impersonal direct mail or email request, hoping that “they will get it.” Within the personal conversation, leadership should articulate the organization’s needs and mission and clearly explain both their nonprofit’s financial challenges and opportunities, and the practical and inspirational function of the board member’s gift.

Why 100%

Boards are responsible for the financial health of the organization. However, BoardSource reported that less than half of nonprofits (49%) reach the magic number of total participation.

Board giving typically accounts for 10% of an organization’s total gifts. Interestingly, the number of dollars is not as significant as the act of making the contribution. Through personal philanthropy, each member publicly recognizes and commits to the organization. Board members who use a community chest like the United Way or a Jewish Federation to make their gift should designate their own organization as one of the recipients of their charitable funds. 100% participation indicates that each board member has a strong commitment to the organization and its mission. The message to the donor community is quite compelling and a necessary motivator for others.

Making board giving mandatory – an expectation of membership, has a direct impact on others supporting the organization. Appeals to donors are strengthened and more convincing if a board member can explain the reasons to support the organization and doing so annually. In addition, many foundations only contribute to organizations where every board member is a contributor. By showing that a board is fully invested, doors open to outsiders who may be willing and prepared to support the nonprofit.

Encourage 100% Participation

Though the easiest way to accomplish this goal is to make board giving mandatory, it is not always possible to change the by-laws or the existing requirement of being on a board. The goal, therefore, should be to create a culture of giving, expanding the relationship between the organization and the stakeholder, where everyone not only expects to give, but does so out of desire and a sense of personal commitment, not just out of obligation.

It is apparent that engagement is a key component. Through many different surveys and reports, it is clear that board members give more to organizations that offered substantive, meaningful board experience. The more engaged they could be on their board, the more they wanted to support the organization financially. This finding is hardly surprising as people support those organizations to which they are connected.

Engaging boards should be a priority from both the board and professional leadership. This may take the form of giving every board member a fundraising task such as making phone calls or writing notes. By connecting board members to the fundraising process – “giving and getting,” they will have a deeper understanding of the importance and impact of their own gift. Once this culture of giving is established and takes hold, and becomes a priority throughout the organization, the subject of personal giving by board members becomes a more straightforward expectation.

Engaged boards members will link the organization to their personal networks by making personal introductions, asking associates, friends, and families for gifts and allowing their names to be used in solicitations. Board participation has a deep impact on fundraising. When board members are asked to make requests to friends, business associates, or others in their various personal orbits for financial contributions, those organizations met their goals more frequently than those that did not ask board members to take these actions. The foundation for this rests in each member financially contributing on an annual basis.

Board member giving is a public commitment to the organization’s work. Most nonprofits list their board members on their website and in their annual reports. Board members who take pride in the public recognition should make a personal gift part of their investment. As the hit Broadway musical Hamilton explains, “When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game.” Boards that require skin in the game create stronger boards, more financially sound institutions, and deeper donor pools that will help to advance and grow the organization.

My colleagues and I are interested in your experiences. Let us know what you are thinking. Please feel free to contact me at The Lapin Group at 215-885-1550 or alapin@thelapingroup.com to discuss this further.

About the author

Avrum Lapin is President at The Lapin Group, LLC, based in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, a prominent full-service fundraising and management consulting firm for nonprofits. The Lapin Group inspires and leads US-based and international nonprofits seeking fund, organizational, leadership, and business development solutions, offering contemporary and leading-edge approaches and strategies. A Board member of the Giving Institute and a member of the Editorial Review Board of Giving USA, Avrum is a frequent contributor to eJewishphilanthropy.com and speaker in the US and in Israel on opportunities and challenges in today’s nonprofit marketplace.

Decoding Donor-Advised Funds: From Data to Practical

By Keith Curtis, Founder and President, The Curtis Group

Donor-advised funds began in the 1930s, but in recent years these funds have become the fastest growing vehicle in philanthropy. Contributions to donor-advised funds grew at three times the rate of total charitable giving in 2016 according to the National Philanthropic Trust.

Donor-advised funds defined: Donor-advised funds (DAF) are donor-established philanthropic funds that are maintained, operated and controlled by a sponsoring organization: community foundations, like the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, national funds like Fidelity Charitable and Vanguard, or single-issue charities like Tidewater Jewish Foundation. To establish a DAF, a donor makes irrevocable, tax-deductible contributions to the sponsoring organization and then recommends grants to approved charitable organizations.

Recognizing a gap in data and analysis about DAFs, Giving USA Foundation recently released “The Data on Donor-Advised Funds: New Insights You Need to Know,” a report analyzing DAF giving patterns against Giving USA reports and other national giving assessments.

Following the report’s release, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel of experts in a live Giving Institute webcast to discuss the report and the role that DAFs play in philanthropy. I was joined by Una Osili, Professor of Economics and Associate Dean for Research and International Programs, Indiana University, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy; Pam Norley, President of Fidelity Charitable; Dave Scullin, CEO of the Communities Foundation of Texas; Mike Geary, Attorney at Law, LLC, at Geary, Porter & Donovan, P.C. To purchase the full report, visit Giving USA.

(From left to right: Aggie Sweeney, Chair, Giving USA Foundation; Rachel Hutchisson, Chair, The Giving Institute; Dave Scullin; Pam Norley; Mike Geary; Una Osili; Keith Curtis, Founder and President of The Curtis Group.)

In thinking about the results of this report and the growth of these funds, here are the steps you should take to be successful raising support through DAFs.

Who is getting the funds?

  • Of the $390.05 billion contributed to charities in 2016, DAFs received over 5% ($23 billion) according to Giving USA: The Annual Report on Charitable Giving. There has been steady growth in contributions to, assets in, and number of DAFs created since 2008. In 2016, overall charitable giving in this country grew 2.7 percent over the previous year. In that same time, contributions to DAFs grew 7.6%, which is almost triple the overall charitable giving growth rate. Education, religion and public society benefit sectors historically receive the most dollars from DAFs.
  • For the most part, giving to and from DAFs largely reflects trends seen in philanthropy across the country. However, education, not religion, received the most dollars from DAFs. Also, arts and international sectors received larger shares of giving from DAFs compared to overall giving. These deviations from national trends more closely mirror high-net-worth giving trends as identified by the U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy.
  • DAFs are used primarily by individuals committed to philanthropy. Panelist Pam Norley, president of Fidelity Charitable, now the largest national charity, affirmed this commitment when sharing that 85% of donor-advisors at Fidelity Charitable are making grants to more than six different organizations annually.

Benefits of Donor-Advised Funds

  • Create a Strategic Legacy: Donors can think strategically about disbursing funds not only during the upcoming year; but in future years.
  • Ease Administrative Burden: Donors maintain a central record of giving through a DAF. DAFs are similar to a family foundation without the added administrative and filing requirements. Also, many nonprofits are not equipped to accept complex assets, but DAFs are able to do so.
  • Provide a Bunching Strategy: In light of the recent tax reform, DAFs may be a giving strategy for those who no longer itemize every year. Bunching enables donors to increase their charitable contributions and itemize gifts every few years, while taking the standard deduction in other years.

Myths Busted

  • Pledges: While it is true that a donor cannot sign a legally binding pledge from a DAF, a donor can sign a letter of intent, which will be adequate for nonprofits to recognize the gift.
  • Donor Engagement: At The Curtis Group, nonprofits sometimes share that it is too difficult to build relationships with DAF donors. This could be because the award letter did not provide the donor’s full contact information, or your organization is tracking the gift under the DAF sponsor rather than the individual donor. Whatever the case, nonprofits need to be more strategic in identifying, tracking, and engaging with DAF donors. Donor-centered fundraising is critical throughout the fundraising process.
  • Disbursement: Some DAF critics have concerns that donors are funding DAFs but not disbursing funds to nonprofits. You may hear terms like “dormancy,” “pay out rates,” or “warehousing of assets.” There are some donors who do hoard assets, but most do not. Panelists reminded us that DAFs are irrevocable, so funds will be given to the nonprofit sector, whether tomorrow or years from now.

How Can We Leverage This information?

  • Invest in Donor Relationships: Nonprofits must build relationships with donors and not view the grant as transactional. Strong donor relationships will position nonprofits to provide insight about giving vehicles such as DAFs. Take this opportunity to ensure that your nonprofit is communicating thoughtfully, strategically and thoroughly. There is also a unique opportunity through DAFs to build relationships with DAF sponsors, so they are educated about the work of your organization. Schedule meetings with local community foundations.
  • Personalize Donor Communication: Impact reports, invitations, and thank you letters should not be sent to the DAF disbursing the funds. To build relationships, stewardship efforts must be directed to the individual.
  • Market DAFs as a giving tool: On your website and other materials that provide ways to give, you should mention that you accept donor-advised funds. It’s also a good idea to spotlight current DAF holders in your newsletter. But before promoting DAFs, make sure your information is up to date on sites like Guidestar. Details like your address, tax ID and legal name must be accurate.
  • Increase Nonprofit Transparency: DAFs further highlight the need for transparency in nonprofits. As donors select nonprofits to support, DAF sponsors vet each nonprofit before disbursing grants. My colleague Wendy McGrady recently wrote an article about the importance of transparency for nonprofits.

At The Curtis Group, we are passionate about philanthropy. Due to the projected ongoing growth of donor-advised funds, we foresee DAFs playing an increasingly important role in philanthropy. As a donor and as a nonprofit, you need to be informed. With knowledge, we can continue our critical conversations, strengthen our nonprofits, and ultimately increase awareness about philanthropy and its vital role in our country.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: 3 Tips to Maximize Your Campaign

By Abigail Jarvis, Director of Content, Qgiv

It’s really no surprise that peer-to-peer fundraising has seen a boost in popularity alongside the rise of social media. After all, this fundraising strategy relies on social networking. Social media makes it easier than ever for your supporters to directly appeal to their social networks!

But the value of peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns isn’t just measured by the number of new donors your supporters are able to reach.

A truly successful peer-to-peer fundraising campaign will actually bring your existing supporters closer to your nonprofit. That’s because they will get to practice advocating for your nonprofit to their friends and family and emphasizing the
good work you do for your community.

To fully engage your supporters in your mission and your campaign, take these 3 top tips to heart:

  • Choose the right peer-to-peer fundraising platform.
  • Coach and encourage your fundraisers.
  • Host a peer-to-peer fundraising event.

Ready to lead your most successful peer-to-peer fundraising campaign to date? Keep reading!

The best peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns are also the easiest to participate in. Your fundraising volunteers have to do a lot more work to serve as peer-to-peer fundraisers than just submitting a donation through your online form.

You need a peer-to-peer fundraising software solution that can provide:

  • Individual fundraising pages for your supporters. They should be able to update the images and videos on their pages, share them easily across social media platforms, post updates, and display badges for milestones achieved.
  • One central campaign page for your nonprofit to keep track of the overall campaign. You should be able to display a leaderboard, track overall donations with a fundraising thermometer, and give shoutouts to individual fundraisers.
  • Communication features for your nonprofit to stay connected to individual fundraisers. You should be able to share documents and messages with your fundraisers, and they should be able to easily respond with any questions they have.
With these features, your fundraisers will feel confident that they’re prepared to raise money for your cause. They won’t be intimidated by the process!

Besides making the actual fundraising process easier for your fundraisers, you can also encourage participation in a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign with the right coaching.

When we say coaching, we mostly mean providing useful materials to your fundraisers. You have to keep in mind that as passionate as your supporters are, they likely aren’t professional fundraisers! They don’t have the experience you do, so you have to give them basic tools if you want them to have a fighting chance at reaching their goals.

You might consider providing your fundraisers with:

  • Pre-written posts for sharing their fundraising pages on social media.
  • Suggestions for how to share the stories that will encourage donations.
  • Branded images and videos to post on their fundraising pages.
  • Fundraising letter templates, like these from Qgiv!
  • Badges for their fundraising pages when they meet donation milestones.

There are other ways to keep your fundraisers from getting discouraged. Namely, to foster some friendly competition among your individual fundraisers!

You should ensure that you keep your leaderboard updated with the highest-earning individual fundraising pages. Send out regular messages alerting all participants to their new positions on the leaderboard.

Online fundraising is easy to share and spread to a wide audience. But sometimes, you need an in-person fundraising event to harness your supporters’ passion for your cause.

Often, fundraising events are incorporated into peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns from the beginning. For example, your nonprofit could host a charity walkathon for breast cancer research and use a certain amount of peer-to-peer fundraising revenue to earn a place at the starting line.

But what about a closing event to celebrate the end of a successful peer-to-peer fundraising campaign?

When planning a celebratory event
, incorporate your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign by:

  • Seating attendees based on their peer-to-peer fundraising performance.
  • Awarding the top fundraisers onstage during the height of the event.
  • Showing screenshots of the top fundraising pages on the big screen.
  • Projecting your fundraising thermometer at the front of the room.

If you make sure to list these perks in your initial campaign launch materials, your participants will be motivated to raise more to earn them at the closing event!

Peer-to-peer campaigns are great choices for nonprofits who want to truly engage their supporters. With these tips, you can do just that!


About the Author 

Abby Jarvis is a blogger, marketer, and communications coordinator for Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider. Qgiv offers industry-leading online giving and peer to peer fundraising tools for nonprofit, faith-based, and political organizations of all sizes. When she’s not working at Qgiv, Abby can usually be found writing for local magazines, catching up on her favorite blogs, or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.

Tax Reform’s Effects on Philanthropy: Assessing the Landscape Four Months Later

By Peter Fissinger, President and CEO, Campbell & Company

Nearly four months ago, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), legislation that could impact charitable giving in a number of significant ways. By now, we’ve all heard the projections: itemizers could decrease by 27 million and giving could drop by as much as $20 billion in 2018.

Since the bill’s passage, nonprofits have taken action to dampen the effects of these worrying statistics. Many organizations encouraged donors to give before the end of 2017 to receive the greatest tax benefit for their contributions; we shared similar advice last December.

More recently, a number of state legislatures from California to New Jersey have considered bills that create workarounds for the TCJA’s $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local taxes. Under these bills, individuals would make contributions to certain government funds and receive a charitable deduction. (It is unclear whether these workarounds will be sanctioned by the IRS.)

Amidst this flurry of activity, a host of unknowns remain—open questions that have the potential to influence philanthropy and the nonprofit sector at large:

  • How will individuals and families respond to losing the tax incentive to give? Will the doubling of the standard deduction and the estate tax exemption prompt donors to reduce their giving?
  •  If the new tax law does impact charitable giving, will the effects be felt evenly across the sector, or will certain organizations bear the brunt of the impact?
  •  Will the TCJA launch a period of accelerated economic growth, increasing Americans’ disposable income? If this happens, will people respond by giving more to the causes and organizations that matter to them?
  •  Will social programs be cut to reduce the budget deficit created by the tax law, increasing the need for nonprofit support and placing greater demand on certain organizations?

These questions won’t be answered for months—and, in some cases, years—but there are several fundamental steps all nonprofits can take to prepare for the effects of tax reform:


  • Focus on your case for support

    In communicating with donors, now is the time to emphasize your case for support—why your mission matters and what makes your organization capable of doing this important work. Tax incentives are not the sole reason people give, and there is strong evidence that they are not donors’ primary consideration, either.Over the 41 years Campbell & Company has worked with nonprofit organizations, we have observed that the emotional impulse to give usually comes first. Additionally, in the 2016 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy, receiving a tax benefit did not rank in the top three motivators for charitable giving. People make philanthropic gifts for a number of reasons, so remind your donors why they care about your cause. Your case for support is a powerful driver of donors’ thoughts about giving, and it’s completely under your control.

  • Educate your staff about the new tax law

    It’s imperative that your development team be able to speak knowledgeably about the TCJA provisions that could impact your organization. Encourage your team members to follow developments in tax reform; the National Council of Nonprofits’ collection of resources is a good place to start. By staying informed, your staff will be able to adjust strategies as needed and talk with supporters about the TCJA and how it may affect your organization.

  • Communicate with your donors about tax reform

    While you should never offer tax advice to donors, make sure you’re maintaining an open dialogue with your supporters about the TCJA. From your major gifts to your annual fund, donors need to understand the challenges your organization faces going forward. You can also use this opportunity to share and discuss the impact of their gift. If your mission is a top priority for them, they may be inspired to give more in response.

  • Advocate for the nonprofit sector

    Tax reform presented a critical opportunity for nonprofit advocacy, but the voices of leaders from our sector are still needed. Strive to build relationships with your local, state, and federal lawmakers. Every chance you have, articulate why your organization’s work is important—and why the nonprofit sector is an indispensable part of our economy and our society.

When it comes to tax reform, so much remains in flux four months later. By staying knowledgeable, active, and on mission, you can prepare your organization to navigate the months and years ahead.

JUST RELEASED: Special Report, The Data on Donor-Advised Funds: New Insights You Need to Know

GUSA Special Report on Donor-Advised FundsWhere do donor-advised fund grants go?

Education and religion attract the most dollars, Special Report on Donor-Advised Funds from Giving USA Foundation™ and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds

CHICAGO—Donor-advised funds are frequently identified as one of the fastest-growing vehicles for charitable giving, but the question of where those donor-advised fund grant dollars go has remained largely unanswered until now. A new report is the first to uncover these answers. Among other findings, it identifies education, religion and public-society benefit organizations as the types of nonprofits that attracted the most donor-advised fund grant dollars, based on a sample of donor-advised fund sponsoring organizations from 2012 to 2015.

The Giving USA Special Report, The Data on Donor-Advised Funds: New Insights You Need to Know, released on February 28, 2018, was researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI with support from Giving USA Foundation™ and the Fidelity Charitable Trustees’ Initiative. The Fidelity Charitable Trustees’ Initiative is a grantmaking program overseen by the trustees of Fidelity Charitable with a focus on increasing knowledge, information and resources that donors and nonprofits need to achieve their intended impact.

The report presents new and important information about grants from donor-advised funds that financial advisors, nonprofit professionals including fundraisers, and philanthropists can learn from and apply.

“Despite the growth in donor-advised funds in recent years, there has been little quantitative research on where the dollars go. The findings of this report can help demystify this important vehicle for charitable giving, including offering a clear comparison between how donor-advised funds’ granting patterns compare with the distribution of all types of charitable giving in Giving USA,” said Aggie Sweeney, CFRE, Chair of Giving USA Foundation.

“This report offers insight into the granting patterns of donor-advised funds,” said Amir Pasic, Ph.D., the Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the school. “At a time when there are more questions than ever about how the growth of donor-advised funds is changing the field of philanthropy, this new, quantitative research offers some much-needed perspective.”

The report is based on original research by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The school analyzed granting data from a small number of organizations that represented roughly half of all granting dollars from donor-advised funds between 2012 and 2015. The school used IRS Schedule I data and also collected direct granting data from donor-advised fund sponsoring organizations for the sample. Subsector categories were assigned to the organizations that received grants using National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) codes, the same process used to identify contributions to subsectors in Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy.

Compared to the distribution of total U.S. giving as identified by Giving USA, grants from donor-advised funds give a greater share of their giving to education and less to religion.

Giving to education comprised 28 percent of giving from donor-advised funds from 2012 to 2015. For the same time period, giving to education in Giving USA comprised only 15 percent of total giving.

In contrast, grants to the religion subsector represented 14 percent of giving from the donor-advised fund sample, while giving to the religion subsector represented 32 percent of total giving in Giving USA.

The distribution patterns by donor-advised funds track more closely with the trends of high-net-worth donors, who tend to give a larger share of their giving to education than to religion, a trend that was echoed in the study.

“The data clearly identify education and religion organizations as the types of nonprofits that are most likely to attract grant dollars from donor-advised funds,” said Una Osili, Ph.D., associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “We need more data to discover how those trends may unfold over a longer period of time, especially as donors and nonprofits continue to learn about and explore the possibilities of donor-advised funds.”

The study found that granting patterns from donor-advised funds are relatively stable, with each different type of nonprofit receiving a similar percentage of total donor-advised fund giving from year to year.

The report also features new aggregate estimates for donor-advised fund assets, number of donor-advised fund accounts in the U.S., and total dollars contributed to donor-advised funds, finding strong growth in every category between 2008 and 2014. Other sections of the report include a focus on the history of donor-advised funds, costs and benefits, and the future of donor-advised funds in light of recent changes to tax policy.

“In addition to the unique research findings, this report offers important history and context to help stakeholders better understand the landscape of donor-advised funds,” said Keith Curtis, Immediate Past Chair of Giving USA Foundation and president of The Curtis Group, a fundraising consultancy. “This report will help readers develop their organizations’ strategy for how they can work most effectively with donor-advised funds.”

Granting patterns from donor-advised funds are often difficult to track, in part because there is no single source of data that can be used to identify them. Although IRS Form 990 Schedule I requires organizations that house donor-advised funds to record granting data, the grants from donor-advised funds are not separated from other grants the organization makes, so studies must work with individual donor-advised fund sponsors to get accurate data that tracks the grants solely from donor-advised funds. In addition, there are other issues associated with Schedule I data, including that the forms may not be available in machine-readable format, meaning someone would have to enter granting data by hand.

Expert Panelists to Discuss Special Report during Live Webcast on March 1

The Giving Institute and Giving USA Foundation hosted a live webcast on Thursday, March 1, from 1:00-2:30 p.m. Central, where expert panelists discussed the new Giving USA Special Report The Data on Donor-Advised Funds: New Insights You Need to Know. During the free webcast, attendees asked their most pressing questions about donor-advised funds and how to incorporate this giving vehicle into their fundraising plans. View the free recording here.

About 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 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016 is available now at www.GivingUSA.org. Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2017 will be available on June 12, 2018. Read more about Giving USA Foundation’s history, as well as the history of Giving USA and philanthropy in the U.S. in the Giving USA 2015 Spotlight: Celebrating Service to Philanthropy (available as a free download on www.GivingUSA.org).

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 and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. Follow us on Twitter @IUPhilanthropy and “Like” us on Facebook.

The Giving USA Special Report on The Data on Donor-Advised Funds: New Insights You Need to Know is available for $24.95 in digital PDF format or as a paperback book (with digital download) for $29.95.

Giving USA Special Report on Giving to Religion

Giving USA Special Report on Giving to ReliigionReligiously affiliated people more likely to donate, whether to place of worship or other charitable organizations, new report finds.

Special Report on Giving to Religion from Giving USA Foundation™ and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy explores religious giving in an era of declining affiliation and attendance.

At a time when affiliation with a religion and attendance at religious services are both decreasing in the United States, a new report sheds light on how those trends are affecting charitable giving to religious congregations and to other types of charitable institutions.

The Giving USA Special Report on Giving to Religion released on October 24, 2017, was researched and written by the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy with support from the Giving USA Foundation™.

The report is based on newly released data from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s Philanthropy Panel Study (PPS), which tracks more than 9,000 individuals’ and families’ giving and dynamic factors that influence those practices (e.g., employment, health and marital status) throughout their lives. PPS is the leading and most accurate resource for measuring U.S. household giving.

“By combining the PPS’s extensive, reliable data and the expertise of our research team, the report gives us the ability to discover how patterns of giving to religion are evolving over time, and how faith and religion influence donors’ giving to non-religious causes as well,” said David King, Ph.D., the Karen Lake Buttrey Director of Lake Institute on Faith & Giving at the school. “This report also raises the importance of the need for research in new areas such as how congregations teach, manage, and create a culture around charitable giving in an era of declining religious affiliation.”

A household’s affiliation with a faith tradition and its frequency of attendance at religious services play important roles in their charitable giving to religious institutions and other types of charitable organizations. The report presents a number of findings about the current state of religious giving, addresses the unique challenges of measuring giving to religious congregations, summarizes previous research and provides conclusions about the state of the field.

Among the report’s findings:

  • People who are religiously affiliated are more likely to make a charitable donation of any kind, whether to a religious congregation or to another type of charitable organization. Sixty-two percent of religious households give to charity of any kind, compared with 46 percent of households with no religious affiliation.
  • Although the percentage of people who give to religious congregations is declining, those who give to religion are giving at steady rates. Contrary to popular belief, younger generations do give to religion, and those who give are doing so at a similar rate as earlier generations did at the same point in their lives.
  • Frequent attendance at religious services is linked to both the likelihood of giving to religion and to making larger gifts to religion. People who attend religious services on a monthly basis are 11 times more likely to give to religious congregations, and they give an average of $1,737 more to religion per year than people who attend less than once a month.
  • Donors to religious causes between the ages of 40 and 64 give the largest amounts, giving an average of $2,505 per year. Donors to religious causes who are younger than 40 years old give an average $1,892 and donors who are 65 or older give an average of $2,338.
  • Giving to religion increases as donors’ income increases, but donations decrease as a share of donors’ overall income. Households with an annual income greater than $100,000 give an average of $1,600 more to religion per year than households with an income of less than $50,000.
  • Religiously affiliated households give as much or more to other types of charities as non-religiously affiliated households do.

“One of the more important findings of the study is the fact that younger generations do give to religion, and do so at a rate that is similar to earlier generations,” said Rick Dunham, a Board member of Giving USA Foundation, and President and CEO of Dunham and Company, a fundraising company specializing in faith-based nonprofits. “It is reasonable to expect that as younger generations mature, they will be similarly engaged in charitable giving as older generations are.”

Religious congregations receive the largest share of American charitable giving. They received 32 percent of all charitable donations in 2016, according to the most recent estimates from Giving USA 2017. Giving to religion totaled $122.94 billion—more than double the $59.77 billion given to education, the next largest subsector.

The steady rate of giving among donors to religious congregations, and other findings in the report, indicate that these institutions are effectively engaging their congregations. These interactions at the congregational level are crucial and need to be better understood through additional research.

Giving to religious congregations is often challenging to calculate, in part because there is no single source of data where scholars can gain information about the subsector overall. Because faith-based institutions are not required to file IRS Forms 990, studies must rely instead on data compiled by denominational associations, a process that can miss independent congregations and congregations of different faith backgrounds. Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy is the only yearly report that estimates giving to religion on a national scale across faith traditions. The Special Report on Giving to Religion offers a snapshot of the characteristics and practices of individuals and households who give to religion.

Giving USA has long provided the most rigorous estimations for giving to religion, and this new report using PPS data gives us a more in-depth portrait of individual giving behaviors, deepening our understanding of this vital area of the philanthropic sector,” said Una Osili, Ph.D., associate dean for research and international programs at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.


Moderated by Stacy Palmer, Editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, expert panelists will discuss the findings from the Giving USA Special Report on Giving to Religion during the Giving USA Foundation and Giving Institute November 8 Gurin Forum, “The Impact of Religion on Philanthropy.” Panelists include Wendy C. Abrams, Chair, National Women’s Philanthropy Board of the Jewish Federations of North America; Dan Conway, Senior Vice President of Collegium Holdings, Inc.; Rick Dunham, CEO of Dunham+Company
Una Osili, Professor of Economics and Associate Dean for Research and International Programs, Indiana University, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy; and Kashif Shaikh, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Pillars Fund. Broadcast live from Chicago from 11:00am-12:30pm CDT, the live webcast is free for all to attend. Learn more and register for this complimentary webcast here.


For the purposes of this report, giving to religion follows the same definition used in the Giving USA annual report, which includes giving to congregations, religious media, mission organizations, and denominational bodies. (This definition is based on the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) system.) It does not include donations inspired by religious belief, nor does it count donations to faith-based human services organizations, health care institutions, or private educational institutions.

About 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 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016 is available now at www.GivingUSA.org. Read more about Giving USA Foundation’s history, as well as the history of Giving USA and philanthropy in the U.S. in the Giving USA 2015 Spotlight: Celebrating Service to Philanthropy (available as a free download on www.GivingUSA.org).

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 and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. Follow us on Twitter @IUPhilanthropy and “Like” us on Facebook.

The Giving USA Special Report on Giving to Religion is available for $24.95 in digital PDF format or as a paperback book (with digital download) for $29.95.