The Nonprofit Guru

Asian-American Philanthropy: What you need to know as a fundraiser January 23, 2013

Filed under: AFP — reneeherrell @ 3:00 pm

Are you seeking funding for specific populations (ethnic, gender, geographic, economic, etc.)?

Trying to develop a spirit of philanthropy within a specific population?

This month’s Association of Fundraising Professionals luncheon for the San Diego Chapter focused on just this topic. “Diversity, Giving Circles and Foundation’s…Oh My!”, was held on Friday, January 11, 2013 at the Double Tree Hotel in Mission Valley. 
Levin Sy from Engage San Diego
moderated two panelists: Noelle Ito, Director of Community Philanthropy for Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) and Sid Voorakkara, Ten Page Memo, LLC

. These three experts shared their perspectives on diversity within fundraising and San Diego’s growing Asian American community. This luncheon topic was timely, coming on the heels of the publication of the New York Times article on January 8, 2013: Asian-Americans Gain Influence in Philanthropy.

Did you miss January’s AFP San Diego Chapter Luncheon? Not to worry.  I’ve got the recap of the program right here for you.    

Levin set the stage by sharing population statistics for Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders:

  • 52% people of color in San Diego county
  • 63% people of color in Mira Mesa
  • 11% Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) population in San Diego
  • 14% Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) population in California
  • $28 billion is donated in California by foundations, the AAPI population receives 0.8% of this amount


“As funders and gift officers, we have the opportunity to tell the story of how our communities are growing and diversifying.

There is an opportunity to talk about it. And that is a big step.”

Sid shared his experience of funding diverse populations when he worked as a program officer for The California Endowment and how cultural competency programs are built and funded. This was particularly interesting to a room full of fundraisers who are often struggling to find funding for diverse and/or specific ethnic populations in San Diego. The key to getting the funders attention? Collaboration. Sid impressed upon the audience the benefit of nonprofits working together towards the same goal. He highlighted the GreenLining Institute and their national advocacy work to empower communities of color.

As a national membership organization for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Noelle and AAPIP raise awareness of the AAPI community and advocate for more funding to AAPI causes through cutting-edge campaigns, research reports and leveraging grassroots philanthropy.

“Our goal is to get to 1%.”

Noelle hopes one day to move the dial to see 1% of funds donated nationally to AAPI populations instead of the current .4%. One way she is working to increase this percentage is through AAPIP’s National Giving Circle Campaign that will increase AAPI giving circles across the nation. Noelle feels that the key to philanthropy within the AAPI population is education. Teaching individuals that they can make a big difference in their own community through pooling their money together via a giving circle. To-date, AAPIP has launched 23 giving circles including 1,200 giving circle members who have cumulatively given out $1.3 million.

We are grateful for the three speakers providing an invaluable insight into the Asian American Pacific Islander community, their philanthropy and attracting dollars towards diverse communities.

Interested in joining AFP? Check out the top 10 reasons to become a member here.

 Oh, and if you are wondering why I suddenly am posting about AFP? I am honored to announce I was asked to serve on the AFP San Diego Chapter Board of Directors.




How-To-Guide: Kickstart your individual donor fundraising! January 16, 2013

Filed under: How-To-Guide,Online Fundraising,Starting a Nonprofit — reneeherrell @ 8:00 pm

Do you want to start fundraising from individuals for your nonprofit, but not sure were to start? Here are some easy steps to kick start your individual donor giving program:

  1. First and foremost, you need a website! You can use free services like WordPress to create a website quickly and without needing to know all the technical coding.
  2. Once you have a website, you need to have a “donate” page so you can accept donations via credit card online. I have used Network for Good.
  3. And while we are online, get yourself a Facebook page!!
  4. In order to gain individual donors, you need to find people who are interested in your cause and begin to communicate with them so they can understand your programs and your financial need.
  5. The easiest (and cheapest!) way to engage and communicate with potential donors is via email! An easy way to manage your email lists and create beautiful and professional emails is through Constant Contact.

***Okay, are you still with me? Let’s get to the fundraising part!***

  1. At each event your organization hosts or whenever you are out and about in the community on behalf of your organziation, collect as many email addresses as you can.
  2. After meeting folks, send out an individual email (from your work account) reminding them how you met and giving them a link to your website so they can learn more about your cause.
  3. After you have had that personal one-on-one contact and only then, add them to your constant contact (or other email manager).
  4. Friend them through your Facebook page. This is always a great job for an intern!

***Now that you have a budding email list of individuals who are interested in your cause, it is time to solicit them***

  1. Always say “thank you” before “please”. In November (hopefully you have lots of emails at this point), send out an email to through constant contact thanking them for being part of your efforts and let them know what you have accomplished over the last year.
  2. In December, send out an email asking all guests to make a donation to help continue your conservation efforts. List different donation opportunities: $100 allows us to serve 10 kids in our after school program for one week, $500 purchases new equipment (be specific), $1,000 provides a flight for a sick endangered animal to a veterinarian specialist.

You want me to do what? January 9, 2013

Filed under: Board — reneeherrell @ 8:00 pm

Most Board members struggle with asking their friends for money. I’ve talked about it here and you probably have experienced this in your own nonprofit.


So, imagine my surprise and delight when I received this video in my email inbox from Sasha Clines, Board member for Jeans 4 Justice. Watch her fundraising appeal that she sent out to friends and family to gain donation for her nonprofits. (You will most likely want to recruit her for your Board immediately!).






I had the opportunity to sit down with Sasha and ask her about fundraising as Board member.


RH: Why did you join Jeans 4 Justice (J4) Board of Directors?
SC: I got involved with J4J because their mission spoke to me personally. But I joined the Board because the organizations programs changed my life and their community supported me through that transformation.


RH: Why is it your responsibility to fundraise as a board member?
SC: I think it is key as a Board member to help the growth and sustainability of an organization, a large part of which in the non-profit world is fundraising. Even if you don’t like to ask for money outright you can find ways to connect your organization with people who can make a gift and have a development staff member do the ask or you can utilize tools the organization can provide for you to make the ask easier.


RH: Why create a video to fundraise?
SC: I chose to create a video because I felt that it was the most personal way for me to reach out to my close network. Also, people’s inboxes are flooded with emails and anything that I could add to help it stand out made it more likely to be opened and read which makes a gift all the more likely too.


RH: What is your next idea for fundraising as a Board member?
SC: My next idea for fundraising is to help facilitate presentations to companies like Wells Fargo and Qualcomm where there are opportunities to engage employees to participate in our programs while raising money. The added benefit, companies like Wells Fargo and Qualcomm will usually match dollar for dollar what their employees raise or give to a non-profit which means twice the money for J4J.


Little by little, a little becomes a lot January 2, 2013

Filed under: Leadership — reneeherrell @ 10:38 am

Do you remember this “I Love Lucy” clip?



Sometimes I think this video is a good example of what is often happening in nonprofits. Nonprofits are often under-staffed and the staff wears multiple hats with to-do lists that are too long and unrealistic. And bless their hearts, nonprofit staff work so hard to get it all done – often staying late and working weekends. Sometimes things don’t get done or they slide off the to-do list because there is not enough time, resources or expertise. It often feels like the chocolates are coming too fast on the conveyer belt and staff members are trying to wrap them or hide them or eat them in order to avoid them not being wrapped.


This same principal applies to our lives as nonprofit leaders. Often we want to make big changes and try to move a mountain in a day without the right resources, expertise or help. Change often doesn’t happen in one day. It is an ongoing, long-term shift in direction.


I found this great saying on a friend’s Facebook page: Little by little, a little becomes a lot.


As you enter the year, remember that it is the little consistent steps and changes that take us to our ultimate goal. The key is pacing and keeping at it every day.


Happy New Year!


Elevator Culture: Getting out of your comfort zone December 21, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — reneeherrell @ 12:00 pm

This morning I was thinking about changing a culture. It is actually something I do for a living – changing cultures in nonprofits. It starts with the nonprofit wanting to increase their fundraising, launch a capital campaign or engage their Board further in their activities. In order to do this, often the culture of the organization needs to change. To increase fundraising, they need to implement additional or new fundraising activities. To engage the Board, they need to find new opportunities for Board members to engage and then actively pursue the members to be part of the activities of the nonprofit in a meaningful way. This is a change in their “business as usual”.

However, it is not easy to change a culture. A great way to look at this difficulty is to put your self in an elevator. Last week, I was riding the elevator up to my room at the Omni Hotel San Francisco.  The culturally acceptable way to ride an elevator is to remain amazingly silent (I even feel the urge to breathe quietly), not talk to anyone else in the elevator (even if you know them) do not look at anyone else in the elevator, and fix your gaze on the lighted numbers until the elevator doors open and everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief (especially me, because most likely I was probably holding my breath trying to be so quiet).

  • What if we started engaging people in conversation in the elevator?
  • What if looked around the elevator and smiled at others who were riding along side of us?

This would be changing a culture.

As I was saying, this is not easy. Even me, who can chat anyone up at anytime (Lord help all those poor unsuspecting people who sit next to me on an airplane. By the end of the flight, I will know your dreams, fears and at least one of your most embarrassing moments as well as the names and ages of your grandchildren). Like I said, I can engage just about anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Yet, on an elevator, I obey the culture. I do not talk to my neighbors and I stare silently ahead. Which is fine and dandy on an elevator. But what if you wanted to accomplish something that is above and beyond your “business as usual”? Can you continue to do the exact same activities and expect bigger and better results?

I had a client who needed to desperately increase their fundraising. They were in the red every month and the majority of the staff were in the process of jumping off the ship because of the organization’s financial instability. If the organization kept on the path they were on, they would have to close their doors.

So, I went in and did what I do: I helped them revamp their fundraising program, tweaking their current strategy to be more effective and produce better results and I recommended implementing new fundraising efforts and building the structure they needed to accomplish this. And guess what? Every time I presented a new strategy, they nodded their heads and then proceeded to do exactly what they had done the year before. Why? Because doing what you have always done is within your comfort zone. Like riding an elevator and not talking. If you suddenly started chatting up the person next to you, it would be uncomfortable because “elevator culture” dictates that you are to be silent and do not engage the people around you.

This client did not increase their fundraising, but they kept the status quo that was ultimately much more comfortable.

Changing the culture of your organization or even your personal culture, means stepping outside of your comfort zone. It means trying something different – anything different – to see if you can start producing different results. It can be simple. Like today, I needed to write this blog. I had an idea about elevators and changing culture, but couldn’t put it together in a coherent way. So, I kicked around my place, drinking coffee, changing the sheets on the bed, and organizing the mail and still no clarity for the blog. I was hanging out in my comfort zone hoping for inspiration to strike.

Yet, I have the blog written as you can see. I had to get out of my comfort zone. So, I threw on my tennis shoes and hopped on my beach cruiser and went for a short, but effective coastal cruise. In the fresh air, my brain could bat around ideas and bring up new ones. The scenery – blue skies and the glittering ocean – provided a well needed distraction in order for my brain to sort out my thoughts. And viola, this blog was written!

This all being said, when you want to increase fundraising or simply become inspired to write a blog, you need to get out of your comfort zone.


Because that is where real change happens.


And where you find success.


Direct appeal winner: Opportunity International December 4, 2012

Filed under: Direct Mail — reneeherrell @ 8:30 pm

I recently received this fundraising appeal from Opportunity International in the mail.



In my humble opinion, they did a terrific job with this appeal.

The messaging is simple: girls are not in school.

The donor can help change this: $1 a day will allow girls to go to school.

The keys to their success:

  • Pictures of the girls that a donor will support
  • Facts to build the case for why support is needed
  • Opportunities for donors at multiple dollar amounts: $20 for school for one month, $80 for one trimester, $160 for 2 trimesters, etc.
  • Beautiful lay out that is simple to read and understand quickly
  • Dynamic colors and design

The only negative feedback I could provide was that the mailing was probably very expensive to design, print and mail.


Capital Campaign Killed the Annual Fund November 27, 2012

Filed under: Capital Campaign,Direct Mail — reneeherrell @ 8:30 pm

I have the song “Video killed the radio star” buzzing through my head right now. It seems appropriate for the title of this blog: Capital Campaign Killed the Annual Fund.

When preparing for a capital campaign, one of the poignant discussions is how the capital campaign will cannibalize the annual fund. Often, I will advise clients that they may want to look at holding their annual fund goal the same for the five years of the campaign or even reduce it by 10%. Sometimes we will build in an additional 10% into the campaign budget to cover the loss of annual fund.

Frank Pisch, President of Compass Group says, “With coordinated planning, your annual fund should increase during your campaign period. You will be adding new donors, upgrading current ones and asking many of them to make a capital gift as well. Be clear and definitive and use this campaign time to educate your donors as to what it takes to sustain your organization. Both annual and capital needs are important. Pursue them assertively.”

And then I was introduced to a new way of thinking with Colorado Rocky Mountain Schools. They put in place an aggressive plan for increasing the annual fund each year while raising $10 million through a capital campaign. Lisa Raleigh, Director of Development, shared with me her numbers and thoughts on the annual fund within a capital campaign.

  • 2008/2009: Annual Fund raised $448,000
  • 2009/2010: Annual Fund raised $498,000
  • 2010/2011: Annual Fund raised $525,000 (year capital campaign kicked off)
  • 2011/2012: Annual Fund raised $512,000
  • 2012/2013: Annual Fund Goal $530,000

Although they saw a slight decrease in the annual funds raised this past school year, they still had an increase in their annual fund since they started the capital campaign.

The benefits of the capital campaign to the annual fund:

  • When a donor committed to a campaign 5-year pledge, they were also asked to make an annual fund 5-year pledge. This ensured that the donor did not reduce their annual fund gifts in favor of making a campaign gift. AND the development team started each school year with a nice round number of pledged annual funds towards their total goal
  • Reaching out to donors through the auspice of the campaign, opened the door to re-engage lapsed annual fund donors.
  • When a donor wasn’t interested in making a campaign gift, often they made an annual fund gift instead.
  • “Increased our confidence in asking donors for what we need.”

The challenges of the capital campaign to the annual fund:

  • “While the five-year pledges have been wonderful to have confirmed years in advance, we have found that donors of all levels often choose one fund and decide not to give to the other, and in many cases it seems that the Annual Fund suffers more than the capital campaign, though we work hard to protect the Annual Fund.”


As you can see, there are a number of ways that a capital campaign can enhance – and even increase! – your annual fund. The added bonus is that the capital campaign significantly increases donor’s gifts and provides the opportunity for increased donations after the campaign finishes.

“Once the capital campaign is done, we will be in a position to really go after the Annual Fund in a larger,

more aggressive way, given our newfound confidence in making asks in general, and in asking for larger amounts.”



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