The Nonprofit Guru

Social Media and Fundraising October 23, 2014

Filed under: Direct Mail,Social Media — reneeherrell @ 9:00 am

Tweet Fundraising

While online giving constitutes only 10% of total philanthropic giving, the average online gift is $146 vs. the average direct mail gift is $38. This build a pretty strong case for your organization to conduct fundraising online. While social media is a wonderful way to help promote fundraising campaigns – it is the messenger, not the message. Read on to learn more about how to strategically utilize social media to support your online fundraising.

Fun Facts about social media and fundraising

  • Social media augments, but does not replace traditional fundraising techniques
  • Social media is a tool to spread your organization’s fundraising message; it won’t create the message
  • Giving drivers for fundraising are still the same (e. still need to send out a year end appeal). Social media spreads the word about the year-end appeal to current and potential supporters
  • Social media is a two-way relationship between the organization and its followers. The organization must engage followers in a meaningful way first, before asking them to support the organization
  • A mature social media following and engagement takes time to build
  • Utilize The organization’s social media followers to spread the word about the organization and its fundraising appeal
  • Since we often/naturally trust our friends over media reporting, utilize the organization’s friends (e. Action Team, Superintendents, education advocates, etc.) to gain support of the organization’s social media through their social media followers
  • Ask a donor to make a $1 donation for each new “like” that the organization gains on Facebook, follower on twitter or new email subscriber
  • Organizations can buy likes on Facebook through an ad function that allows for highly targeted marketing to specific zip codes, demographics, people who would have an affinity towards your cause and any other desired criteria

The “do’s and don’ts” of social media and fundraising

  • Always post a photo with any social media post
  • Successful online fundraising campaigns are visually stunning and engaging
  • Do not conduct a competition on Facebook (e. the first 10 people to make a donation, will receive…); it doesn’t work.
  • Social media is a popularity contest; be outwardly verbal but not desperate; not surprisingly, desperation will not make you popular
  • Never post on social media platforms in the first person; social media outlets are the “voice” of the organization, not a person (even though a person is actually typing the posts)
  • Target the majority of fundraising promotions and efforts through Facebook as it has tools most conducive for this and people are more accustomed to respond to Facebook fundraising pitches
  • Do not use to twitter to make the fundraising pitch; use it for news and updates

The Fundraising Easy Button October 1, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — reneeherrell @ 9:30 am


Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 4.38.02 PM

If fundraising had an “easy” button, it would be the program wish list (pictured above). As fundraisers we hope that every person we meet is philanthropic and wants to donate because it makes them feel good. Yet, there are a lot of individuals who are more transactional and less philanthropic. The program wish list is for these folks!


My client Employment & Community Options created a foam poster board of their program wish list that offers different opportunities to donate at different amounts and for different items needed – each advertised on a post it.



Often donors like to know where their money is going directly – and each post-it offers this information to the donor. There is a range of donation amounts to meet any donor’s pocketbook. The donor can take the post-it directly to the check-out table and make their donation.


Very simple. Very effective. Some would say… easy.



While the program wish list looks pretty sitting on an easel, it is much more effective to take the foam board off the easel for a spin around the room. At one event, one of the guests decided to make it his mission to “sell” every post it on the board. He was completely successful for many reasons:

1) He gave first.

2) He was also a guest so it was easy for him to make a peer-to-peer ask (as opposed to a staff member asking.

3) Speaking of staff, they all donated via a post-it because they were asked – and could not say no to an enthusiastic volunteer.


To create your very own program wish list, work with your nonprofit program staff to develop a wish list of items they need for their programs. While an iPad may not seem like a “necessity” to most people, it is for your program participant who is non-verbal and the iPad provides a way for him or her to communicate with others. Research the cost of each wish list item and create a post-it for each wish list item. Make sure you have a wish list that offers a range of donation amounts that fit the different size pocket books of your donors. Develop a pretty and creative board to hang your post-its on.


Create a Program Wish List:

  1. Offer a range of donation amounts $25-$1,000
  2. Attach these amounts to items needed
  3. Utilize a volunteer to walk the wish list around the room and ask people to “purchase” a wish list item
  4. Be prepared to take credit cards for the purchase of your wish list item.


Go ahead… hit the “fundraising easy button”.

easy button



“Volun-told”: Shaming your board members into fundraising for your organization September 1, 2014

Filed under: Board — reneeherrell @ 10:13 am

Recently, I attended a committee meeting of a nonprofit because I was interested in getting more involved and helping the organization, but wasn’t sure exactly where I wanted to give my passion within the organization and how I wanted to serve.


Although I had to leave the meeting early in order to see a client, I left excited to get more involved. The next morning I received an email that said: “Never Leave a Meeting Early”.


Whoops! That email had to be directed at me.


Unbeknownst to me, I had been elected chair of a specific effort within the organization without being invited to take on this position. I had been “volun-told”.


This is a common occurrence in nonprofits with a devastating result. When a volunteer (key word is volunteer, not employee) is told to do something, they feel obligated to help. Unfortunately, this feeling of obligation can begin to trump the feeling of passion to help the organization. Possibly leading to feelings of shame if they don’t help and then guilt about all the things they don’t or can’t do on behalf of the organization.


According to Donald Miller, feeling joy in your work is a very motivating factor for helping others.


When individuals join a nonprofit board, we ask that they be passionate about the organization as the first reason for joining. Then, we want them to offer their skills and expertise to help the organization. So, we come up with a list of board member roles and responsibilities. Here’s a sample of a Board Member Role and Responsibilities.


The board member agrees to fulfill these responsibilities and joins the board.


As the nonprofiteer, we expect each board member to fulfill every single responsibility in the exact same way at the exact same time. Is this realistic?


Probably not.


However, I know you are saying: Renee, every board member must make a donation and raise money. Even you say it yourself here.


Yes, this is true. But it is going to look different for each board member.


Executive Directors and CEOs of nonprofits tell me: my board doesn’t fundraise.


My response: That is okay.


Only one or two board members will take on the effort of fundraising as their passion and work of the organization. Yes, you want all members to be involved with fundraising – but they will do so at a lesser effort – because they will be fulfilling their passion for the organization in other areas.


Here are my suggestions for effectively engaging volunteers with your organization by making their work joyful.


  1. Offer opportunities for your board members to get involved with your organization and see what sparks their interest or passion. This will be different for each person – because we are all individuals who do not necessarily want to do the same exact thing. If you took your board to an ice cream shop, they wouldn’t all choose vanilla, would they? It would be a combination of different ice cream flavors served in a bowl or on a cone (regular or waffle?) topped with m&ms or gummy bears or fruit – or all three. Not all of your board members are going to choose to help with fundraising. Board members may choose to help with your marketing materials or coach a program director to improve services or open a door in the community to a business that will partner with the organization.


  1. Offer opportunities that are (first) a match to your board member’s skill set and (second) will help with fundraising. This might look like helping with your social media to help get the word out about an upcoming fundraising effort or inviting their friends to attend your upcoming fundraising event or telling their story through a video or letter to encourage others to give. Note: these activities help with fundraising, but are not a direct solicitation and may be more appealing and “do-able” for your board members who are not passionate about fundraising.


  1. Do not shame or guilt your board into fundraising. Have you ever been forced to do something you don’t want to do? We all have because we felt obligated or that it was the right thing to do. And we may do it once. However, if we are asked to do it again the following year, we would probably turn down the invitation. If you want board members to help you year after year, find meaningful ways to engage them with fundraising that match their willingness to serve.


If we start to look at board fundraising as an individualized plan for each board member, we are going to find more success. Because one size really doesn’t fit all.



AmazonSmile: Shop ‘Til You Drop and Feel Good About It August 25, 2014

Filed under: Corporate Philanthropy,Huffington Post — reneeherrell @ 9:00 am

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 8.21.48 PMCheck out my new Huffington Post blog about ‘donor-consumers’.



Getting ‘in’ with the In-crowd: Upgrading Members to Donors August 1, 2014

Filed under: membership,Uncategorized — reneeherrell @ 9:00 am


the breakfast club

I recently became a member of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Not because I live in Los Angeles or because I plan to frequent the Museum on a regular basis. However, I did want to access something special at the Museum that only members can access. My membership gave me entrance to a sold out art exhibition that I really wanted to see. I also received a discount on my ticket (and 3 friends’ tickets) to the exhibition.

For many individuals, their first involvement with your nonprofit organization is through a purchased membership. Individuals buy memberships to organizations because it gives them access. I think this concept goes back to our time in high school and stems from our desire to be part of the cool kids club. We have a natural inclination to be part of the “in-crowd”.

Here I am with the ‘in-crowd’ at LACMA:


A sample of membership benefits could include:

  • Membership Benefits
  • Unlimited access to the organization (museum, zoo)
  • Guest passes
  • Discount in the organization’s gift shop, bookstore, restaurant
  • Free or discounted tickets to the organization’s events
  • Sneak peek to new exhibitions or program
  • Member-only events and activities
  • Subscription to organization’s newsletter

With the knowledge of access in mind, you can offer higher level memberships that allows the individual to gain more access or special VIP access to your organization. Case in point, I recently upgraded my Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego membership from the basic level to the Avant Garde level because it gave me access to special art tours and shows. Yes, I wanted to be part of that cool kids club too.

As fundraisers, our next step in the donor cultivation process it to engage our members as donors. This is a tricky transition because a membership is a  “pay to play” relationship. A membership constitutes a transactional relationship because the individual receives something tangible for the money they give the organization. A donation request is one where there is no tangible exchange. How can you successfully do this?

I was pondering the answer to this question when I received a letter from LACMA in the mail asking me to take my membership one step further and become a donor.  This line really intrigued me:

LACMA Annual Appeal Letter Quote 2

This letter tells me that as a member, LACMA is my museum. My “in-crowd”. The letter asks me to make a donation to make the Museum more accessible to others. Those individuals who can not afford access to the “in-crowd” but have much to gain from being a member. Oh, LACMA, you are one smart cookie because you know this girl wants to be ‘in’ the in-crowd and have others join her. Well played!

If you want to read the letter in its entirety, check out the LACMA Annual Appeal Letter.


Top 10 Fundraising Tips to Double your Money (and that you can implement right away!) July 2, 2014

Filed under: Speaking Engagements — reneeherrell @ 7:58 am

collective sun


Please join me for a one-hour webinar hosted by Collective Sun on Wednesday, July 9th at noon to learn about my Top 10 Fundraising Tips! In this fun and interactive webinar, you will learn how to:

1. Fundraise smarter, not harder

2. Get your happy hour on to raise money

3.  Use post-its to make donating as easy as 1-2-3

4. Many more fun, easy fundraising ideas that you can implement right away


Webinar Details

Topic: Top 10 Fundraising Tips!

Speaker: Renee Herrell, M.A., CFRE

Date: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at noon

Cost: FREE


Questions: Ian Campbell at


Giving USA 2014 Report Released! July 1, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — reneeherrell @ 9:00 am


2013 contributions by source

According to Giving USA 2014 Report:

  • A total of $335.17 billion was donated to nonprofits in the United States in 2013 –  almost a $19 billion increase from 2012. This is also a good sign of the recovery and getting closer to the $344 billion raised in 2007 before the economy crashed.
  • The largest component of charitable contributions is Individual Giving with an estimated $241.32 billion, or 72% of the total, in 2013.
  • As a fundraiser, we need to take note that individuals will always be our best and biggest source for donations. This information should encourage us to start or continue building relationships with the individuals in your organization.
  • Not surprisingly, corporations have the lowest contribution overall – just 5%. Unlike individuals, corporations give to nonprofits to receive marketing benefits – both in visibility and positive exposure to the community.


2013 contributions by recipient organization

According to Giving USA 2014 Report:

  1. As it has been the case for 59 years, Religion received the largest share, with almost one-third (31%) of the total – a drop of 1% from the previous year.
  2. Education received the second-highest share, at 16% of the total, an increase of 3% from 2012.
  3. Human Services organizations include those responding to the economic crisis with emergency care and supplies is the third top recipient organization this year at 12%.
  4. Gifts to grantmaking private, community, and operating foundations are estimated to be the fourthhighest ranking recipient category, with 11%  of all charitable giving – up 1% from the previous year.
  5. Health Organizations received an estimated 10% of giving; up 1% from 2012.
  6. Public-Society stayed the same as the previous year with 7%.
  7. Arts organizations have ranked in 7th place for well over a decade at 5% of all charitable giving.
  8. International Affairs organizations rose this year to 4%.
  9. Environment/Animals were at 3%.




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