Data and Analytics

Data and Narrative – Why the Balance is Important

Data and Narrative – Why the Balance is Important

While meeting with During a recent discussion about mission-driven and fundraising communication, someone mentioned, “You can’t share a narrative without stats and you can’t share stats without the narrative.” This sentiment is a nice reminder to start off the year. Nonprofits must strike a balance when communicating the quantifiable effect of their work and sharing the stories of success. Most readers will recognize that this is true, but may not stop to consider why this is important. For fundraising-related communication both of these aspects appeal to different individuals.

Some donors are most inspired when they feel the human connection and hear the first-hand experience of those that are benefitting from a program or organization. For this group, the data is nice, but doesn’t mean as much as a real story that shares experience and perspective.

Others approach giving from with a “Spock-like” viewpoint. The human emotion isn’t important; they want to ensure that their contribution is having a statistically relevant influence on the society around them. To them the human stories are nice, but aren’t the reason to give – as one individual’s experience is less pertinent than the broader reach and effects.

These two examples are endpoints. Most supporters are somewhere between them when assessing motivation for giving. Balancing narrative and data ensures that you’re reaching all of your audience and addresses other important factors. Sharing data that is definable and relevant to your work builds transparency and trust. Sharing stories reinforces to your audience that you’re invested and connected to the experience of those benefitting from your work.

As you work on communication in the New Year remember why this balance is critical. Below are a few links from the last week that may be helpful for you.

  1. It’s resolution time! Ashley Thompson of NPEngage shares five resolutions for fundraising.
  2. Twitter received a mixed response when a rumor was published that they’re considering changing the character limit from 140 to 10,000. Ash Read of Buffer shares thoughts and reflections.
  3. Jimmy Daly of Vero explains why your newsletter may not be working and provides advice on making it better.
  4. REJOICE. Internet Explorer 8, 9, and 10 will likely be killed next week. Owen Williams of The Next Web has the details.
  5. Forbes published their 30 under 30 of social entrepreneurs. It’s a great read if you want to be inspired and hopeful (or feel old).
  6. Your long read of the week – Will Oremus of Slate explains how Facebook builds their algorithm.


Custom Images for Nonprofit Facebook Posts

Custom Images for Nonprofit Facebook Posts

As you may have heard, Facebook announced the rollout of Reactions, their addition/replacement of the “Like” button. Another recent Facebook change also has a tremendous influence for how nonprofits communicate.

When you share a link, Facebook searches it for any images that are on the page. If an image is found, it includes the image as part of your Facebook post. You can remove it, but for many in the nonprofit field, it is often best to utilize the visual element in the post. Earlier this year Facebook added the option for an organizational page to upload their own image for a post. This is especially helpful for links to pages that don’t have any images or just have logos.

For example, if you link to an Eventbrite page that doesn’t have an image, the visual offering in Facebook will be the Eventbrite logo, like the image below.


Eventbrite logo


It is not very visually appealing for a Facebook post, so this is a great opportunity to add a custom image. Facebook recently adjusted this functionality for company/organization pages and made it much easier to choose the image or images that you can include in an update. Below is an example. You can check or uncheck the boxes for any of the three photos or you can add your own photo.


Diffferent Images


I reviewed data for one of our clients to evaluate if adding customized photos changed the reach and engagement for their posts. Our client has monthly volunteer events with two different partner organizations. For both monthly events, when we link to the volunteer sign-up page, the image associated with the update is part of the logo of the partner organization. This is what it looks like.


Just Logos


One image is a partial logo, one image is blank, and one is a logo of their organization. Over the last few months, we’ve been customizing the image with photos of volunteers participating in the activity. Below is an example.


Personal Photo


For one of the monthly events, the posts with a custom photo had a 51% increase in organic reach and five times the number clicks on the link to the volunteer activity. The difference was similar for another event with a smaller sample size. The posts with a custom photo had a 158% increase in organic reach and 2.3 times the number clicks on the link to the volunteer activity.

In this situation the data supports common sense. By using a more personal and dynamic visual image, there is greater engagement with the page. I’m exciting to continue to evaluate these changes and how they will help our this nonprofit.

Below are a few news items that can help you get through the day:

  1. A report from the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Urban Institute finds that retaining donors is an increasing struggle for nonprofits.
  2. #Fundchat’s weekly chat covers Effective Altruism vs. Traditional Charity.
  3. The Daily Show used Google Ads in a very creative way – creating custom videos for specific searches about Trevor Noah. Stacey Rizen of UpRoxx shares the details and links
  4. I missed this link last week, but the clever folks at the M+R lab created the “If This, Then Totally That” tool.
Three Questions to Consider When Considering Salesforce

Three Questions to Consider When Considering Salesforce

As data needs evolve, many nonprofit and social enterprise organizations transition to Salesforce as their data management tool. This process can be complicated and time consuming. If you’re planning on making this transition, one of the the most important actions you can take is to ask yourself (and team) thoughtful questions to determine what your needs are and how to bend Salesforce to meet your business practices. These three questions are a great place to start.

One-to-one or Bucket?

There are two account management options when setting up your nonprofit account in Salesforce. The question lies in how you want organize individual constituents that are not associated with an account, company, or organization.

One-to-one allows for each individual to be represented by a contact and an account that are linked together. The advantage to this is it makes an individual grouping less complicated and you can connect opportunities to an individual at the account level. The challenge is that there are two records for the individual – a contact record and an account record. This can be confusing for staff.

The bucket account model is such that each individual has a contact record and are linked to a single account – most often “Individual”. Any account functionality is meaningless and the account links people together that are not associated with each other. The advantage to this method is that it is simpler. The challenge is that you cannot use some account functionality.

There isn’t a right/wrong answer – just an answer of what makes the most sense for your organization based on your data needs. Bucket makes more sense if you have a small number of contact records that are not associated with an account or are worried about keeping your account set-up simple. If that doesn’t fit your organization, one-to-one makes more sense. The move from one structure to another can be complicated, so it’s important to consider what your long-term goals and needs might be.

What are your “sales”?

Salesforce was a created as a sales implementation tool. Obviously many nonprofits have adapted it for their use, but it’s still helpful to think through your business and data practices to determine what corresponds best to the traditional sales model. These will be your organization’s opportunities and help build a sales pipeline to track.

Individual donations and major gifts are easy to correspond to a sales cycle. Does your organization need to track training opportunities, grants, or sponsorship? What are the steps in this sales process? What data do you need to track the progress of these developments? These questions can help you determine your setup needs and reporting structure.

Which communication touchpoints do you want to capture?

Every organization has different goals and key touchpoints for data capture. Some need to only track transaction and event-related milestones. Others want to track any communication touchpoint. Did the supporter email a question or call the office? Is that something that needs to be tracked/logged? Determining how which communication you want to track will be critical in how you setup your contact and account fields.

These are questions are the first of many to consider as you onboard Salesforce. If you’re in need of non-database reading, we recommend the following links from the last week:

  1. Mary Cahalane reminds us that the key to donor communication is the donor.
  2. If you haven’t dug into M+R’s benchmark report yet, Marjory Garrison shares key points for Communications staff.
  3. John Haydon compiles 25 tips from Twitter pros.
  4. Your long-form read of the week is actually a collection of long-form reads. IssueLab has a collection of 63 articles and resources related to how nonprofits are working on immigration issues.


Four Strategies to Build Interest-based Email Segmentation

Four Strategies to Build Interest-based Email Segmentation

Mike Snusz of Blackbaud recently wrote an article that highlights the over-reliance of segmenting messages by donor vs. non-donor. Snusz points out,

When constituents think about your organization, do they really view themselves as a “donor” or “non-donor?” You won’t hear someone say “I’m a non-donor at XYZ Food Bank.”

For many small and mid-sized nonprofits, just reaching a point in which you have enough accurate and accessible data to segment your messages can be a challenge. Segmenting by donor vs. non-donor is often done because it’s one of the few data points available. We’ve previously discussed questions you should consider when determining how and when to segment messages. Segmentation by industry/profession, volunteer activity, age, or how they learned about your organization provides an opportunity for more personal and engaging communication.

Snusz discusses the need to shift to communicating based on volunteer interest. This is the best segmentation because you’ve catered communication directly to the individual regardless of their professional, donation history, and volunteer program. But, how do you reach a point in which you can segment by volunteer interest?

A/B Testing

A/B tests can help you determine what messaging and interest groups individuals may want to be apart of. If an audience member consistently opens emails on a particular subject matter and doesn’t open other emails – it is safe to assume that they are interested in those topics.

Tracking Links

While Snusz’s promotion of the Luminate Online Marketing is a corporate plug, the concept is very valid. If you send a newsletter-style email and you’re able to see which readers are clicking on specific links, you can get a better sense of their interests. It’s imperative to determine the best way to track their interests in your data management tool.

Ask at the point of sign-up

If you have an email sign-up widget or link on your website, include a question that asks about their interests. This can be open-ended or a multi-select checkbox. Asking at this point helps you determine what types of message your audience may enjoy the most. If you’re not quite ready to start segmenting by interest, you can still add this question – it will help you prepare for this eventual segmentation.

Ask anytime

Asking at the point of registration is the easiest, but you can ask at any time. It can be over the course of a phone conversation, an in-person meeting, or an online survey to all audience members. There is no need to be afraid to ask individuals who are already supporting you!

These four tips will help get you on a path to stronger email segmentation. These four links will help get you on a path to stronger knowledge!

  1. The Guardian published an anonymous article from a nonprofit communications staff that is frustrated with their executive leadership’s refusal to use social media.
  2. News organizations that are nonprofits have an increasingly vital role in the new industry. Ruth McCambridge of NPQ shares data from a recent Knight Foundation report on the sustainability of this group and discusses the need for local foundation support.
  3. Fundchat had a thoughtful Twitter chat this week regarding social media and ethic in fundraising.
  4. In a post with refreshing transparency, Jay Geneske explains how and why the Rockefeller Foundation redesigned their website.
Planning for Future Technology and Communication Needs

Planning for Future Technology and Communication Needs

We’ve been working with a client on strengthening how they use Salesforce. During this process, I’ve realized that their Bucket set-up is no longer the best option for their organization. A one-to-one model makes more sense. If you’re curious about the difference click here. When the organization set up their Salesforce account, a bucket model made more sense. After ten years, their audience and data needs have changed.

How do you balance short-term ease and long-term flexibility? What may be the easiest and most cost-effective solution may cause issues in the future. Strategic plans can (sometimes) be beneficial, but for technology and communications planning, it’s impossible to plan five years in the future. For small nonprofits, this is a critical challenge. How can you justify investing in a more comprehensive online fundraising platform if you’re concerned about keeping the lights on.

As you’re thinking about the future, there are a few trends to consider for planning. Below we highlight a few questions to consider for each area.

Text Messages

Do you see any possibility of utilizing text messaging to communicate with your supporters? If so, what could that program look like? Who is your target audience? What segmentation would you want to create?

Mapping out these ideas is important to do before looking for vendors to help with this issue. Balancing strategy and technological capability can be tricky. You want to find the technology to meet your needs, instead of developing your strategy based off of the limitations of the product you signed a contract for.

Mobile App Development

Our industry is fraught with people claiming to have the silver bullet to solve your fundraising or visibility problems. Social media will not single-handedly create a new donor base. A “viral” video will not make your cause an overnight sensation. A major gifts officer cannot bring their robust rolodex and create a major gifts program overnight.

Some nonprofits have developed mobile applications to support their work. The successful apps are solving an issue and providing a convenience for the user. While mobile applications can have value, they won’t succeed without a purpose. Who is your target audience? Why should they download this? What solution, convenience, or entertainment are you providing for the user? How does this tie into your mission?  These questions are critical to consider as you think about app development.

Database Management

This can be one of the most challenging areas to project. Your audience and communication channels will change. Your pipeline for programming or donations will evolve.

There are many questions to consider when thinking about your database in the future. Do you project your audience groups changing? How do you plan on connecting your database to outbound communication? At what rate has your database been growing? Do you foresee any reasons that growth may increase or decrease? Do you think that the relationship management of your constituents will change?

These questions are a starting point for your organization to begin discussions around how you plan for your changing technology and communication needs in the future.

Below are a few links from the last week that we enjoyed:

  1. When accidentally sent a text message intended for 4,000 people to their 2.1million list, they had to react quickly to avoid a fall-out. The Chronicle of Philanthropy provides the details on their response.
  2. January is critical to donor retention. Allison Gauss of Stay Classy shares the reasons why.
  3. Carolyn Stein of Network For Good updates year end online giving numbers.
  4. Someone who I recently followed on Twitter and highly recommend is Sheena Greer. I enjoyed her playdate concept and the need for creating safe spaces for nonprofit professionals.
  5. And the recommended longer read of the week is from Steve Boland of NPQ who details advantages, challenges, and data with different giving day structures.

How Nonprofits Can Manage Individuals Who Unsubscribe from Emails

How Nonprofits Can Manage Individuals Who Unsubscribe from Emails

As we approach the year-end giving season, your organization is likely increasing the quantity of outgoing emails and focusing them on giving. For most nonprofits this will lead to an increase in users who unsubscribe from your email communication. No matter how much time you dedicate to crafting the perfect content, segments for different audiences, and subject line – someone will opt out. This is the cold harsh reality of nonprofit emails.

How do you manage the individuals who unsubscribe?

After someone clicks unsubscribe in an email system, they’re opting out of future email communication from that same system. Constant Contact, Vertical Responses, Blackbaud, and MyEmma all work to ensure that those audience members will not automatically receive messages in the future. What else can you do?

Tracking email opt-outs in your database is a time-consuming but valuable task. This helps you understand if there are certain types of audience members who are opting out of your content. Tracking this information is a useful data point to better understand your email content. While time is always a challenge, this is a great volunteer activity or something you can do while catching up on your favorite reality tv show.

How do you communicate with your users who unsubscribe?

For many organizations the majority of individuals who unsubscribe are audience members that staff don’t have a personal relationship with. They’re likely someone who signed up for an email or registered for an event in the distant past. There isn’t much you can do for these individuals.

But, many organizations also struggle with key audience members opting out of communication. This could be due to the number of emails they receive or because they went on an email clean-up binge. A former colleague had to deal with irate volunteer event chair who was upset that she was not receiving email messages. When told the exact date and email that she opted out with, the volunteer replied, “I didn’t realize that opting out of your emails meant I wouldn’t receive your emails.”

If you notice a key volunteer unsubscribed to your email, you can reach out to them personally. It’s imperative not to automatically opt them back into email. Pick up the phone or send a personal email and ask what caused them to opt of communication. If you position the conversation as they’re helping you make better decisions and write stronger communication, the volunteer will be more likely to share their feedback.

How do you prevent users unsubscribing from email communication?

We’ve discussed how to handle individuals who unsubscribe, but what steps can you take to prevent them from even happening?

Types of emails – What are the kinds of emails you’re sending and how do the subscribe rates vary per email? Are you sending the same type of email multiple times in a row? If you’re seeing much higher rates for advocacy related email content, then it might make sense to better educate your supporters on how advocacy affects your organization’s mission. Another opportunity is to create a segment of users who want to receive advocacy updates.

Email frequency – What is the pace of your emails? Are you sending them too frequently? This is obviously one of the biggest reasons for individuals who unsubscribe – if your audience receives too many messages that are not of interest to them it will lead to an increased unsubscription rate..It can be challenging to balance long-term goals with your short-term communication needs. A client we work with wanted to send a “Registration closes in two days” email a few days after sending a “Registration closes in one week” email. It was important to balance the need for the organization to remind their procrastinators to sign up against a potential increased rate of individuals unsubscribing from their future communication. These are important questions to consider when mapping out your communication schedule.

Email segments – How are segmenting your email communication? Is content is going to the appropriate audience members? How can you make your email communication more specific and relevant to key audience groups? These are all questions to consider when developing email segments. Relevancy is a critical part of email communication and taking small steps to adjust content for key audiences can have a large impact on unsubscribe rates.

Create options – If someone clicks on your unsubscribe link where do they go? Can you provide options of the audience member only receiving certain types of email content? Giving an email recipient space to self-select the content that is most relevant to them provides a final step to prevent them from opting out from your email communication entirely.

We wish you a luck with your year-end giving campaigns and low opt-out rates. Feel free to opt-in to reading some links from the last two weeks that you might enjoy.

  1. Dustin Kight from M&R provides two perspectives on Giving Tuesday.
  2. Do you struggle with using the right image format? Melanie Pinola of Lifehacker shares an infographic that helps you know when to use .jpg, .gif, and .png.
  3. Molly Reynolds discusses the impact charitable giving can have for businesses.
  4. John Stancliffe of NPQ evaluates the google grants for nonprofits limits and their challenges.
  5. Many people have begun using Medium as a publishing tool. Jason Abbruzzese of Mashable profiles Ev Williams and discusses the future of Medium.
  6. Darren Beck of Sprint shares five free ways to support charities with your mobile device during the holiday season.
Questions for Nonprofits to Consider When Creating Salesforce Fields

Questions for Nonprofits to Consider When Creating Salesforce Fields

Many nonprofit organizations utilize Salesforce for their database management. As organizations look to continually refine and adjust how they manage their data capture, you may need to review how you’ve structured fields.

There are four questions we ask ourselves when we’re reviewing the fields in your database. These may help you think about how you can most effectively structure your database. While the terms are Salesforce specific, the concepts are good for all databases.

How often am I using this information now?

When reviewing how you structure your data fields in Salesforce, you have to balance how you’ve used Salesforce in the past and how you should use Salesforce in the future.

Evaluating your prior use – even if you’re working to change it – is helpful when trying to plan. Past performance and usage is often the best indicator of future use. If you’ve only captured data in a particular field for 12 people in your database of 6000+ contacts, it may be better to use a checkbox or text multi-select picklist.

Will I need to pull reports on this information for grants?

Even with the best planning, the grant-writing process can chaotic. Evaluating if a field may be useful for grant outcomes can help you determine how you want to structure the text and field type.

If you need pull reports quickly and assess information, a structured field type may be best. If you use a picklist, you may have an “other” option. Do you need to capture more information about the constituents that fall under the “other” group? Would adding a text field be beneficial for providing more context for grant writing?

How many users will be using this field?

The number of users in Salesforce or any database can have a direct effect on the quality of your data. The more users you have, the simpler you’ll need to make things. If many people will be using a field, you may consider developing a definition of terms for your users. While “How they learned about our organization” may be a simple field to you, your users may be confused on what this means.

How clean do I want Salesforce to be?

We don’t recommend making your database decisions based on aesthetics, but this is a factor for some users. Some individuals thrive with a messy desk and others can only focus in a structured and clean work environment. Your database is similar. We’ve all worked with folks who are overwhelmed with data capture and review. A complicated and lengthy contact page in Salesforce may cause you to lose your users that are easily overwhelmed. While we believe that the best data capture should always win over aesthetics, Salesforce and database layout is a factor to consider when making your decisions.

These question should help you review how you’re using your Salesforce fields. And these links should help you catch up on nonprofit news from the week.

  1. Thiago Guimaraes of Business Insider compiles demographic data for the major social media networks.
  2. The Red Cross has picked up quite a bit of bad press this week. Laura Sullivan of NPR details the issues.
  3. John Hayden previews some of the features of the new Google Inbox app and discusses how it may impact email marketing.
  4. It’s a John Hayden double dip! Hayden highlights CharityWater’s approach to donations on this post on Razoo.
  5. For your long read of the week, the Stuart Foundation published a research brief that looks at the impact the local control funding formula has has on school districts.
Why People Visit Your Website

Why People Visit Your Website

At this point, every nonprofit organization has a website. A donate button. A link to contact information. But honestly – why do people visit your website? It sounds like a simple question, but within it involves the need to analyze your audience, to assess your organizational strategy, and to consider how your visitors need relate to your intended outcomes. But assessing why people visit your site is equally important for creating more opportunities to accomplish your goals – how can visitor behavior be better utilized to fit the needs of your organization?

From our experience, here are the three main reasons that people might visit a nonprofit website, as well as ways to incorporate these use cases into opportunities for your nonprofit.


Where the Money Goes


Financial transparency is of great importance to more and more donors and volunteers. While there are flaws in some of the methodology behind charity rankings, it is still important to show how your organization uses the money donated through fundraising or grants. By showing how your money is managed, you create a greater sense of trust for those unfamiliar with your organization.

Additionally, by better establishing where money goes, it makes for an easier fundraising ask. By explaining how you use outside contributions to accomplish your goals, you have the opportunity to highlight how important these donations are – and how your visitor can help your nonprofit reach its goals through an investment.


Contact Information


It sounds simple enough, but too many nonprofit website bury their contact information. Similar to transparency, having information on how to directly contact your staff, or thorough descriptions of the work that they individually do, makes for a better user experience.

Your staff, whether it’s two people or two hundred, are the literal face of your organization. Give your visitors the opportunity to get to know you and contact you easily.

In doing so, be sure to track incoming requests not only in an effort to provide competent customer service, but also to provide additional numbers to donors and grant providers about how people connect with your organization. Learning where your incoming requests are coming from is vital for understanding your impact in your community.


Access Your Resources


For many of the nonprofits we work with, much of their work is in providing educational resources to the public about their cause. When people are accessing your site, are they looking for handouts, trainings, or links to other sites? How accessible is this information? How up to date is it?

Additionally consider what of your resources are the most popular – are there opportunities to create additional learning opportunities on that page? How can you keep users on your website longer and, to be direct, to get them to read and do what you want? By creating campaigns around the areas where your visitors are most likely to go, you stand a better chance at connecting with those individuals you would like to reach.

Why do people visit our website? Besides learning more about us, the data shows that our audience appreciates our links of the week:


  1. Joann Collins at Event 360 reviews how support of participants has changed from website and eCommunciations.
  2. Seven nonprofits are helping Twitter test their new Buy button. The NonProfit Times shares the details.
  3. Apple dominated the tech news cycle this week and their mobile payment platform could be important for nonprofits. Robert Hof at Forbes provides details about the program.
  4. Blackbaud created a slideshare guide to raise more money from appeals.
  5. Twitter vs. Facebook is a constant debate for communicators. Juan Jose Mendez at Social Media Today discusses the impact on branding.
  6. Amanda Clark at B2C highlights three challenges from many online marketing campaigns.
  7. Website benchmarks can be a tricky subject. Brett Meyer at Thinkshout dives into some data.
Nonprofits and Fantasy Football

Nonprofits and Fantasy Football

The Labor Day holiday means one thing to Social Change Consulting – football season is finally here. And as we prepare for our fantasy football drafts this weekend, we couldn’t help but notice the correlation between building a strong team and an effective nonprofit.

Fantasy football is a billion dollar industry wherein couch potatoes everywhere can manage a team of professional players in competition with friends, coworkers, and family. One of the first parts of the fantasy football season is the draft – where you and your competing managers select your players for the upcoming season.

In building your fantasy football team, there are certain positions that are more important than others. And their importance lies not only in player performance, but in understanding the data and return on investment that selecting these players can have. And to us, this is just like building your nonprofit.


QB – Executive Director


In fantasy football, quarterbacks score the most points out of every position. There are three “elite” fantasy football quarterbacks – these players consistently out rank their fellow quarterbacks in total points and points above replacement.

But when considering the value at quarterback, it is important to concede that because there are so many quarterbacks who provide the same value on a week by week basis, there is limited upside in selecting a quarterback early in your draft when other positions have a greater impact on your team’s overall success.

Executive directors are often charged with doing it all – from managing, to fundraising, to writing grant proposals, to keeping up relationships with board members and donors. This is their value to your nonprofit team. And while they are critical to a nonprofit’s success, it is important to round out your team with stars in other areas, especially programming and fundraising staff. Finding or becoming an elite executive director is vital for the success of your organization – but balancing their efforts with a strong team is crucial for increasing your impact.


Running Backs – Program Staff


Running backs are your weekly work horses. Over the last few years, it has become more and more common for football teams to deploy running back by committee – in that instead of having one person tackle the heavy workload, they deploy a team of stellar athletes to keep defenses on their toes. From a fantasy perspective, without a strong set of running backs, your team will struggle to succeed. There is a huge dip in production from the elite players at running back to those on the next tier, making it critical to have one of the best in order to best maximize your chances.

The same can said of the staff at your nonprofit who are implementing and deploying your work in your community. Program staff are the heart and soul of an organization – without them, all the fundraising and management in the world can’t save an organization that isn’t having any impact in the field. The ability to fundraise is unquestionably tied to the strength and impact of your programming – meaning your nonprofit’s overall value is very much tied to the people implementing your work.

But like running backs, program staff can easily burn out with excessive workloads, which is why it is important to “hand-cuff” your program hiring by ensuring proper administrative support whenever possible. And when sick days and vacations occur, it is always important to have a deep bench to ensure that your work continues.


Wide Receivers – Fundraising & Communications Staff


Nicknamed the diva position, Wide Receivers are becoming more and more important with each season of fantasy football, as they are gaining increasing leverage and production in professional offenses. As the season wears on, it becomes more difficult to replace wide receivers through free agents, as any emerging elite talent has been taken up by other teams. Because of this, you sometimes are left to take a chance on a boom or bust player – someone that might score a touchdown and help you win your matchup, but can be just as likely to score zero points and sink your chances for the week.

Fundraising and communications fill the same role. While considered a luxury for small nonprofits, the contributions of fundraising and communication efforts can have a huge impact on the overall success of your organization by growing your audience and increasing your revenue. As your nonprofit expands revenue sources, it is imperative to have fundraising and communications staff on board to ensure you are communicating with the right audiences, following up with the right calls to action, and building meaningful relationships with donors and participants.

At a certain level, fundraising and communication staff are also boom or bust – how many nonprofits have interviewed fundraising staff and heard promises of bringing portfolios of donors into the mix? Or talking with communications consultants who promise big returns based on single campaigns? When these promises are delivered, you feel like you just created great value for your team – when they don’t, you are left wondering if you could have used your resources elsewhere.


Tight End – Board of Directors


A common sentiment amongst fantasy football experts (and yes, people get paid to be experts of fantasy football) – be the first to pick a tight end, or be one of the last. The reasoning is again value based – because of position scarcity, there is one player that is remarkably better than the rest. If you have that rockstar, then you will be set. Otherwise, it makes sense to wait until the end of the draft and look for a potential break-out star. Utilizing a high-value pick on a mediocre tight end is not ideal.

It is exceptionally hard to develop a strong Board of Directors. Finding a team that helps with strategic direction, fundraising, and relationship building, all while supporting your organization’s goals and objectives is like finding that one elite tight end. If your nonprofit has this elite board, you are in great shape. You have the positional stability to focus on developing other areas of your organization, such as program staff and development managers. You have the time to search and invest in talent that may emerge over the course of the season. For many small nonprofits, it can be wiser to try and bet on potential break-through board members than invest time in a mediocre talent, just in an attempt to get through another fundraising season or strategy session.


K/DEF – Volunteers and Interns


Kickers and Defenses are usually selected last in fantasy football drafts, for multiple reasons. They score significantly less points than the other positions we outlined. Their performance week to week is somewhat dependent on the teams they are playing, meaning it is oftentimes better to pick up new players and teams on a weekly basis. And because it is so rare for a single kicker or defense to carry your team, the value in investing a higher selection in the draft on one is very low.

Obviously there are a few volunteers and interns that can take your organization to the next level. But as smaller nonprofits, using your limited resources to cultivate volunteers can be challenging. Additionally, as most nonprofits have no doubt discovered, keeping free help on hand over a long period of time is unrealistic, as these volunteers often have a tendency to come and go based on their schedules and availability. This is not to say that volunteers don’t provide value to your organization – but rather, in light of the other important work that your organization is doing, focusing on volunteer recruitment and training, at the detriment of cultivating other important tasks, can be misguided.

Whether you are building a nonprofit or a fantasy football team this weekend, we hope you have a wonderful holiday. With that, we bring you our weekly list of links.

  1. Vera Peedeman of 101Fundraising gives tips on having quality conversations with donors. Vera shares that asking for money is less important than ensuring donor conversations are effective and efficient.
  2. Beth Kanter discusses how the #IceBucketChallenge has led to charity jacking. Which explains why the ALS Association is trying to trademark the ice bucket challenge.
  3. How can A/B testing help your event? Cameron Corda of Event 360, explains how they’re A/B Testing for the MuckFest MS event.
  4. Ron Magill shares a very personal and heartfelt story of anonymous donors that donated millions of dollars to the Miami Zoo.
  5. Data can be overwhelming. Starting small is a key way to build better practices. Caryn Stein of Network for Good provides advice on how to go about doing that.
  6. Jo Miller of GrantChat highlights four steps for successful grant management.
Project Management Tools for Nonprofits

Project Management Tools for Nonprofits

There is no shortage of technology tools, apps, and hacks available to nonprofits. But which ones are actually worth using? We’re so glad you asked.


Finding a calendar application is easy – finding one that actually does everything you want it to do is not. Our new favorite – Sunrise. With a desktop application, easy syncing options, and integration across multiple accounts (including Asana, which we outline below, and TripIt), Sunrise will help keep you on track during your long, eventful nonprofit days.


Free conference calling up to 10 participants, screen sharing, call recording, and social network integration make UberConference a no-brainer for nonprofits looking to save on meeting management. Not to mention – it also has some pretty amazing hold music.


The project management SaaS realm has many competitors – from Basecamp and Active Collab, to higher priced tools such as Zoho. So what sets Asana apart? First – the cost is tough to beat (free up to 15 team members). Second – an extremely simple user interface that allows for commenting, sharing tasks, and integrating team calendars create effective collaboration. Finally, it helps keep work fun, with a feature called “Celebrations” – showing you a unicorn when you complete a task.


We’ve discussed before how important password protocols are for the safety of technology at your nonprofit. Our favorite tool for storing and managing all of our accounts? 1Password. While this is a tool that is on the more expensive side, by syncing your accounts and passwords across multiple platforms and devices, your information has never been so safe.

Your best tool for staying on-top of nonprofit news? The Social Change Consulting Tumblr page.

  1. Nonprofit Quarterly and the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network recently formed a partnership – this initial article compares how the responses from YNPN members differ from NPQ’s broader 2014 reader survey.
  2. Joleen Ong from NTEN attended the 5th biennial Money for Our Movements (MFOM) social justice fundraising conference and shared these reflections.
  3. PND reports on the impact that nonprofits have on California’s economy, which includes 15% of the state’s GDP.
  4. If you’re looking to step into a leadership role at a nonprofit organization, these tips from Idealist Careers may be helpful.
  5. Beth Kanter shares information a free e-book from Network for Good