The Nonprofit Guru

Corporate Philanthropy: Hostile Takeover or Helpful Charity? March 4, 2015

Filed under: Corporate Philanthropy,Huffington Post — reneeherrell @ 12:22 pm

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: How-to-Instagram-for-Good March 2, 2015

Filed under: How-To-Guide,Online Fundraising,Social Media,stewardship — reneeherrell @ 12:27 pm

Did you know that 53% of donors will leave a nonprofit because of a lack of communication


Thanks to our modern technology, nonprofits can communicate in less than 140 words and with one photo to keep donors engaged. Instagram is a simple as snapping a photo and sharing it online. The key to making it an effective strategy to communicate with current and potential donors is the messaging of and with the photo. Here are my TOP 8 WAYS TO UTILIZE INSTAGRAM to thank and communicate with current donors AND engage potential donors, AND solicit donations for your organization. Check out how Charity:Water does it!


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#1 Share the NEED for your organization.


Charity Water Instagram Post Need


#2 Ask for a DONATION to support the NEED.

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#3 Share SUCCESS stories that are a result of a DONATION.

.Charity Water Instagram Post Success Story 1


Charity Water Instagram Post Success Story 2


#4 THANK your donors for the DONATION.


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#5 Give updates on your PROGRAMS that are a result of a DONATION.


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#6 Point followers to read your BLOG about the organization’s PROGRAMS.


Charity Water Instagram Post Blog


#7 Promote your organization’s PRODUCTS for sale that will support PROGRAMS.


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#8 Show off the CELEBRITIES who support your cause to encourage others to DONATE.


Charity Water Instagram Post Celebrity


“Heart String” stories: Telling Your Organization’s Story January 6, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — reneeherrell @ 9:00 am

“If you want people to understand and identify with a complicated concept, tell a story about it.”

-Donald Miller, Author and Storyteller



This video demonstrates that how you tell your story will change how people will respond – and will result in donations to your nonprofit organization.


Andy Goodman, author of Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes, says that “sometimes you may find it particularly difficult to explain what you do in a concise and compelling way.”


In his storytelling workshop that I attended in 2013, Andy shared a story that demonstrated a number of facts about welfare. After the story, he shared the actual statistics – that did not actually line up with the story. However, what made the greatest impression on the audience and the message that they walked away with – was the story.


As nonprofits, we need to develop our “heart string” stories that help convey the programs we produce and the statistics we are trying to change or increase.


How do you write a good story?


According to Donald Miller, author and storytelling guru, “stories are terrific tools for communications. They instruct, provide rest, give us inspiration and help us learn empathy for others.” Stories are “a sense-making device.”


If you want to convey how your organization helps the community or a certain population, tell a story about an individual you were able to help with your services.


When telling the story, clarity is key. Miller says that “within a story, life seems to be clear” but cautions that the storyteller that “the more a story rambles and wanders, the more it feels like real life and the less people will engage.”


To gain clarity, you need a structured plot.


Miller’s storytelling formula:

  1. A character has a problem.
  2. Then meets a guide who gives them a plan and calls them to action.
  3. That action either results in comedy or tragedy.


In the case of your nonprofit “heart string” story, the guide is your nonprofit (services or the program manager implementing the programs) the action will result in success for the character.


I agree with Miller that, “good stories don’t happen by accident. They are formed and molded and edited so they are clean and clutter free.” I encourage you to spend time writing out your heart string stories – whether the story will be told live in front of a group of potential donors or through a compelling direct mail letter. Rehearse the story so that it is clear, concise and to the point. Don’t ramble and keep it short.


Ask for Advice, Get Money Twice December 15, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — reneeherrell @ 12:42 pm


Although the artist Pitbull is not my usual “go to” for fundraising advice, his latest pop song “Feel This Moment” featuring Christina Aguilera has solid fundraising advice:


Ask for money, and get advice

Ask for advice, get money twice.


There is something very valid in Pitbull’s lyrics. When approaching potential donors, it is often better to ask for advice than to ask for money.


It follows my favorite fundraising magic statement:

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When we ask individuals for “advice” instead of “money”, we are telling them that they (and their ideas, opinions and feedback) are important to the organization. We are also sharing our upcoming project or need within the organization that will require additional funding. This invites the individual to become our organization’s collaborator. In order for a donor to give, they must understand that there is a need. When you make them part of the conversation around the need, there is a higher likely hood that they will want to help fill this need.


Feasibility studies are another way to strategically ask for advice from current and potential donors. While the study is meant to determine if the project is “feasible”, I see the real value as an opportunity to sit down one-on-one with individuals and ask for their advice. While I am asking for their advice, the organization is gaining buy-in for their project.


As fundraisers, we have heard that involvement leads to investment. Asking for advice is a way to “involve” an individual with your organization. Often we are looking for reasons to meet with our long-time supporters or engage new supporters. Sharing with them about what the organization is currently doing – and then asking for their input is a valuable way to engage the donor.


Utilize the advice you receive wisely:

  1. Shape and better the proposed project.
  2. Gain an understanding on whether the individual is interested in financially supporting the project or not.
  3. Create an appropriate donation solicitation for the advisee.

Join me at the San Diego AFP Luncheon on 12/5! December 1, 2014

Filed under: AFP,Overhead Fundraising — reneeherrell @ 12:18 pm

AFP San Diego Chapter Luncheon Workshop – December 2014

Title: Keep the Lights On: The Overhead Myth

Date: December 5, 2014 at 11:30am -1:30pm

Location: Mission Valley Double Tree Hotel, 1515 Hotel Circle South, San Diego, CA


Moderator: Renee Herrell



Judy McDonald, Parker Foundation

Peter Ellsworth, Legler Benbough Foundation

Senator Dede Alpert (Retired) Girard Foundation


Session Description

Fundraising for overhead has always been a challenge for nonprofit organizations. Funders often focus their giving on programs. The “overhead myth” is centered on the idea that nonprofits are valued by how little they spend on overhead. Overhead includes salaries for non-program management, office space, office technology, and office supplies – the non-sexy budget line items of a nonprofit organization. Often nonprofits get caught in the “Nonprofit Starvation Cycle”, a vicious cycle that starts when funders have unrealistic expectations of how much nonprofits should spend on overhead and value nonprofits who spend little on overhead. To meet these unrealistic expectations, nonprofits begin to skimp on overhead and misrepresent their costs to make their overhead look smaller to receive funding – thus perpetuating funders’ unrealistic expectations. Three local funders will speak about why they fund overhead through the foundations they represent and how to positively shift the culture and mindset around nonprofit overhead.


This panel discussion is based on the article I wrote for Huffington Post: The New Four-Letter Word in the Nonprofit Sector

Register here:

More information at:


Membership Engagement: Effectively Involving Individuals with Your Nonprofit November 24, 2014

Filed under: membership — reneeherrell @ 10:00 am

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For my full article, click here:


Huffington Post Article: Billion Dollar Blow Out November 12, 2014

Filed under: Huffington Post,Major Gifts,Nonprofit Education — reneeherrell @ 3:45 pm

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For the full article read below of click here to Huffington Post.

If you had a billion dollars, would you give it all away?


Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates did it and then asked others to do it.


Mark Zuckerberg has  to do it.


And one of San Diego’s leading philanthropists, T. Denny Sanford, has already donated a billion dollars and pledged to give even more.


In total, 127 of the world’s wealthiest individuals and families have signed the infamous giving pledge to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.


Sanford’s philanthropic philosophy is to “aspire to inspire before you expire.” In fact, Mr. Sanford plans to give away all of his money to charities before he passes.


Sanford’s latest aspirations led him to team up with National University Chancellor Michael Cunningham, a man who Sanford respects for “his vigor, vitality and direction.” Together they created the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy.


Sanford’s $1 million gift to National University, California’s second-largest private, nonprofit university, comes with a vision: to not only positively influence nonprofits but the leaders that serve these causes. According to Sanford, “there are great schools for philanthropic organization management and administration but we didn’t see a school in the market that would specifically support nonprofit fundraisers.”


As you can imagine, fundraisers approach Mr. Sanford quite often asking him to support their causes. He probably knows fundraising pitches better than most fundraising staff members. And because of this, he wants to help fundraisers hone their craft in order to better engage philanthropists – like himself – to support very important causes. Through the Center, “nonprofit’s frontline people will be taught how to properly and professionally present the cause that they represent to donors and the community.”


“There are so many great causes that go unfunded or are poorly funded. I really think this system and methodology at National University will be very, very effective in educating nonprofit fundraising leaders.”


Sanford has sage advice for nonprofit professionals. Keep the fundraising pitch focused on the cause and make it as simple to understand as possible. The ‘Sanford rule’ – as he calls it – is that you must be able to tell your charity’s story in a way that your grandmother would understand it in no more than a 10-story elevator ride.


“Oh, and sign up to take workshops and classes at the Sanford Philanthropy Center at National University.”


There will be no shortage of students for National University’s new nonprofit education offerings with 1.4 million tax-exempt organizations in the United States that represent the 3rd largest workforce among U.S. industries (behind retail and manufacturing) and reported 1.6 trillion in revenues (National Center for Charitable Statistics).


It is Sanford’s intent to take this program to other educational institutions throughout the United States because not every nonprofit leader can come to San Diego.


Sanford says that the education offerings will “not be out of a book, they are going to be hands-on.” The Center’s mission is to effect positive change through the development of nonprofit leaders and teachers through the offering of inspirational and impactful programs that meet 21st century global needs.


The Sanford Education Center officially opened its doors in La Jolla, CA on September 18th. The state-of-the-art-facilities include a lecture hall space, capacity for 150-plus people and integrated video technology where many of the workshops, seminars and classes in the Master of Arts in Cause Leadership will be held.


“In one way shape or form, all nonprofit employees are in the business of raising money. There are no schools nationwide that do a significant job for the people who are on the frontline of nonprofits meeting with donors – until now.”




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