Renee Herrell's Blog

The Nonprofit Guru Is In

Throwing a Party! (Gala Invitation Sample) April 1, 2014

Filed under: Special Events — reneeherrell @ 9:30 am

It is officially gala season and I imagine – you, like me – are out on what I fondly refer to as the “charity circuit”.


Special events are a key part of a fundraising program – however, I will almost always recommend that nonprofits DO NOT start a new gala as a mechanism for fundraising because there are already so many galas being hosted EVERY. SINGLE. WEEKEND.


However –  if you absolutely must throw a gala – here are some helpful hints on how to create a successful gala invitation.


Use a “live” stamp on the envelope so it has a personal feel and will encourage the recipient to open the invitation. Points for hand-written name and address – especially of your top attendees from last year.

JFS Invite 5

Include a personal note on the invitation so the recipient knows this invite was personalized to them – and that the organizations wants them to attend the event!

JFS Invite 1

Honor an important community member who has made a difference in your organization – AND who will attract other attendees (like the honoree’s friends and admirers).

JFS Invite 2

Offer special discounted pricing for individuals who are “under 40″ to increase your organization’s next generation of donors – AND offer special pricing for first time guests in order to increase new attendees to get to know your organization better through the gala.

JFS Invite 3 1

Include a full listing or just “highlights” of your auction to wet the appetite of your attendees or offer options for those who can not attend but can still contribute by bidding on auction items.

JFS Invite 4


Peter and the Wolf: How the Opera is Dying With Its Patrons March 28, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 2.40.20 PM


Check out the full post here:


Your Multigenerational Development Office March 1, 2014

Your Multigenerational Development Office - Advancing Philanthropy Winter 2014


Read the rest of the article here: Your Multigenerational Development Office – Advancing Philanthropy Winter 2014


Huffington Post: The Four-Letter Word in the Nonprofit Sector February 11, 2014

Filed under: Huffington Post,In the development office,Nonprofit Careers — reneeherrell @ 8:26 am

The Four Letter Word Screen Shot


Check out my blog post in the Huffington Post:

Please like, share and become my fan!


Show Your Donors Some Love February 3, 2014

Filed under: stewardship — reneeherrell @ 9:30 am

Love is in the air. So, go ahead and use the excuse of cupid’s arrow to show some love to your donors.

A couple years ago at the San Diego Alzheimer’s Association, we came up with a great idea to show love to  a specific donor segment: payroll deduction donors and corporate match employee supporters. Sometimes we take for granted our “Steady Eddy” donors who give every single month (or quarter) through their company’s payroll deduction or United Way. These are the donors we were “going steady” with month-after-month, the donors who give often and regularly, the ones you can count on, and the ones that keep our programs funded and operating every day.

So, we wanted to show them some love and make them our sweethearts during February. We partnered with one of our supporters who hosted a gratis lunch for these supporters to say “thank you” for being our Valentine.

Check out the Donor Thank You Template below and here: Thank you Sweethearts Luncheon

Thank you Sweethearts Luncheon 021012

I also received this Valentine’s Day card from the American Heart Association that I thought was sweet – albeit impersonal – and a cute way to tie in their mission “heart” with an appeal.

Valentine's Day Card from American Heart Association 1

Valentine's Day Card from American Heart Association 2


Sample Annual Report: It’s That Time of the Year January 27, 2014

Filed under: Faith-based Fundraising,stewardship — reneeherrell @ 3:17 pm

It’s January and hopefully you are coming off of a successful year-end giving season and that you made (or surpassed) your goal. Now it is time to report to donors on how their money is being put to good use. We call it “stewardship” in the fundraising business. Many nonprofits utilize Annual Reports to show off how many people they served, with what services, how effective those services were and who helped contribute to make these services possible.

Here are some good examples:

However, Annual Reports can be time consuming to put together and expensive to publish! I do believe that all nonprofits should know the “impact” that their nonprofit makes in the community like they know the names of their children. I recommend always knowing these “impact facts”:

  • How many people you serve?
  • In what geographical region?
  • With what programs?
  • How many times a year?
  • What are the successful outcomes?

Here is a simple two-page annual report that was printed in color back-to-back. Most nonprofits could create and print this in house to send out to donors. It positively demonstrates the good work of the organization and how many people were impacted.

Components of a successful annual report:

  • Impact facts (see above)
  • % increase from the previous year of services, people served, monies raised, etc.
  • Photos of your good work
  • Success stories of people impacted by your good work
  • Letter from your CEO or Executive Director thanking donors for their contribution
  • Amount of donations received and simple organizational budget of expenses (colored graphs work well here)
  • What did the donations make possible within your organization?
  • List of donors (if it makes sense for your organization)
  • Possibly highlight a donor who has made a significant contribution or difference this past year

Here is a great sample annual report that was sent to me from my church:

North Coast Calvary Church Annual Report 1

North Coast Calvary Church Annual Report 2


New Year’s Resolution: Set Fundraising Goals January 7, 2014

Filed under: How-To-Guide,In the development office — reneeherrell @ 12:36 pm


The New Year provides an opportunity to reflect on last year’s fundraising efforts and how to make this upcoming year’s fundraising even better than the last. The economy is starting to turn around and giving to charities is on the rise. So, use this New Year to set your fundraising goals.

1. Set a Goal.

Determine your overall fundraising goals:

  • Total dollar amount to raise – $250,000
  • New donors acquired – 50
  • Increase from current donor giving – 20%

To determine your goals, examine your goals from last year (if you made them) and/or the actual amounts fundraised in order to determine this year’s goals.


2. Break It Down.

Break out your total goal into categories:

  • Major Donor Solicitations – $100,000
  • Special Events – $75,000
  • Direct Mail – $30,000
  • Home Parties – $15,000


3. Develop Strategy to Reach Your Goal.

Under each category, develop specific fundraising strategy to meet your goal:

  • Major Donors:
    • New donors: Purchase a mailing house list. Ask current donors to host a home party and invite their friends and neighbors – potential new donors – to hear about the great work you are doing.
    • Current donors: Get to know your current donors and their reason for giving. Offer them opportunities to increase their giving that will make an even bigger impact for the people, animals or populations they serve.
  • Special Events: Identify new sponsors. Develop strategy to upgrade current sponsors with new benefits and perks. Engage the board to commit to sell 10 tickets each.
  • Direct mail: Find a donor to offer a challenge match. Develop an appeal for year-end and mid-year.
  • Home Parties: Identify current donors who could host a home party by opening their home to their friends and colleagues who would have an interest in your organization and the capacity to give.

Check out a template with past year’s goals and actuals, this year’s goal and strategies to reach the goals: Setting Fundraising Goal TemplateSetting Fundraising Goals Template abbreviated


4. Track Progress Towards the Goal.

I have a client that uses one of the best – and most simple – tracking systems towards their fundraising goal. I’ve recreated it in a simple format that you can use: Fundraising Dashboard Template





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