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Alano Club of Kent County finds benefit in a new Donor Database

When Alano Club of Kent County came to Kennari Consulting for annual fund coaching, donor software was high on their list of priorities. An Access database had been in place for many years storing member, donor, and other transactional donor-like data for the organization. Any type of data entry was a challenge. Mailing lists were a cumbersome task of sorting through hundreds of names and acknowledgement letters were done manually one-by-one.

After implementing a new donor database, Alano Club of Kent County quickly accesses their data through a new lens of grouping, reporting, and analysis. Staff thinks more strategically about who is receiving an appeal based on previous giving amounts and timeframes, rather than an all-or-nothing approach. Acknowledgment letters are now processed through the database, instead of manually. Year-by-year comparison reports of specific donor and member appeals are now possible with just a few clicks. Monthly statements of payment transactions for groups are now processed in a matter of minutes.

By making the commitment to “good data,” Alano Club of Kent County is already seeing the benefits of a strong donor management tool after one year.

“Since starting with DonorSnap, our entire team has become more efficient and productive. We would spend hours sifting through data and sorting mailing lists for each mailing and event. We are now able to pull reports with ease, which now allows us to do even more mission work for the community.”
~Kevin M. O’Neill-Boehm, former Executive Director

The Alano Club of Kent County serves those recovering from addiction and their families by providing a welcoming place to support meetings and fellowship.


Round Table Round Up: Meaningful Development Plans

Close your eyes. You’re 14 years old and you just received your school report card. You hold it in your hands as your eyes scan the page top to bottom. A… A… B… A… F… Next to the “F” your teacher has written, “Need to apply yourself in class. Not living up to potential.”

Do your development plans sometimes feel this way? Your reporting and planning time always sneaks away? Your development plans are not living up to, what should be, a meaningful potential?

Forecasting development plans and creating regular “report cards” to track your progress can help your organization in the long-term achieve an A+.

National and Individual Fundraising Trends
Looking at national fundraising trends can help you craft not only an achievable fundraising goal, but a specific, measurable fundraising goal for your organization. From this, you can look at your own fundraising trends.

  • What is the breakout of giving from the last three years?
  • What were the “outliers” and how can we use this information in the future?
  • What worked and what didn’t work last year?

Evaluate your events, direct mail campaigns, other communications, and renewal rates throughout in answering the three questions above.

Three Year Outlook Strategies for Growth
Create three-year strategies for growth in your organization by thinking about what lies ahead and being prepared.

  • What are the needs of your organization over the next three years? Will you have new programming? A capital campaign? Endowment campaign? Increased operating needs?
  • What are the best strategies for growth of your organization? Are you renewing, recruiting, and cultivating all types of donors? Do you have a strategy for planned giving?
  • What resources does your team need to meet these needs? Will you need additional staff? Additional materials?

This three-year plan should include specific dates for direct mail appeals, board solicitation strategies, major donor solicitation plans, event time frames, goals, and strategies, and grant time frames and goals.

By creating this three-year outlook plan, you will be able to better anticipate the needs within your organization. This is not to say that everything will go exactly as you have planned, however, having a plan with specific strategies can give you a base – a cohesive and consistent vision – despite the unexpected in your organization.

Budgeting Process
To supplement your three-year plan strategies, create a three-year budget. This budget should include the revenue goals in consistent sections. Many organizations track giving from Individuals, Businesses, Foundations, and Events while others track by “appeal” type and track giving by Direct Mail, Events, Grants, Major Gifts, etc. As long as it’s consistent and easily pulled in your database, it doesn’t matter which specifics you track! Just remember to keep the categories broad so it doesn’t get too detailed for the board and leadership to digest.

Once you have listed all goals, use this as a tool to either meet or increase your goals in the future. Craft specific, measurable, realistic, and time-bound strategies that will help you meet these goals. Once your end date has come, evaluate!

Gather the data from your team and set a reporting process and plan. Use your data to support your plan and demonstrate that in the report.

Working with Your Board of Directors
Reporting to your internal team is important, but communicating the development plan with your board members is equally as important.

  • Demonstrate how your plan will address specific goals for your organization and how strategies will be implemented and post-evaluated. These details will help them understand and approve the plan.
  • Get them on board (pun intended) with the strategies and let them know of their responsibilities within the plan.
  • Keep them in the loop! Reporting back to your board of directors must happen for them to be effective in their role in the planning as well. Did they include personalized notes to donors in the last direct mail campaign? Was that campaign a success? Tell them! Let them know that they made a positive impact and they will be apt to do similar activities in the future.

Close your eyes. You’re 14 years old and you just received your next school report card. You hold it in your hands as your eyes scan the page top to bottom. A… A… B… A… A…
At the bottom your teacher has written, “Proud of you and the tools you’ve used to make progress!” You smile, find a magnet, and stick the report card on the front of your refrigerator.
It takes time to get an A, but you know that you have laid out and begun to track the steps needed to reach your goals.

Join Us September 7! Resources & Results – Campaign Readiness

You’re Invited!

It’s time to talk campaigns.

At Kennari Consulting, we are dedicated to giving nonprofit organizations the skills and resources they need to prepare for their futures. On September 7th, from 12-1pm, join us for lunch as we discuss Campaign Readiness and what it means to be prepared for a campaign. Capital campaigns are wonderful opportunities to move your organization forward, facilitate change within your community, and engage your donors, but they require much planning and preparation on a whole range of development components. So even if a capital campaign is the farthest thought from your organization’s mind, join us to learn what strategies you can implement today to guarantee capital success tomorrow. You won’t want to miss it!

Date: September 7, 2017
Time: 12:00 – 1:00 PM
Location: 401 Hall St. SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 – First Floor Conference Room
RSVP: Click here to register

Round Table Round Up: An Attitude of Gratitude

When a donor makes a gift, it should be obvious to send them an acknowledgement quickly. But why? Well, it’s the right thing to do! It also gives the donor confidence by letting them know you did receive their gift and it reminds them why your organization is so important.  It lets them know they made a wise investment!

There are many great ways to say thank you to a donor. First and most important, the thank you letter. Like a broken record, we’re going to tell you that you should have that letter in the mail within 48 business hours of receiving the gift.

What should you include in the thank you letter?

  • Include a story about something exciting happening through your organization’s mission because of donations received. This gives the donor an idea of how the donation might be used in the future.
  • If it’s the first time the donor is making a gift to your organization, if they are a returning lapsed donor, or they made a significant increase, make note of it.
  • Provide contact information, preferably for someone in your development office, as an easy point of reference if needed.
  • Add a P.S. line with an additional call to action to keep the donor engaged: Sign up for eNews, attend a tour, sign up for a volunteer orientation, follow us on social media, etc.
  • IRS Language stating the amount of the gift received, the date, and the value of goods received only, which is usually $0. You are NOT tax advisors, so don’t overthink this part.
  • A live signature – no electronic images!

When thinking through your acknowledgement process, it can be helpful to develop a matrix based on the gift received. This matrix can include strategies for thanking different donors in different ways. Some strategies include a general letter, a handwritten note on a letter, a phone call from staff, or a phone call from the executive director – just to name a few. Think about how you might thank each of these donors differently:

  • First time donor under $100
  • First time donor over $100
  • First time donor over $1,000
  • Regular donor that sends in $100 at year end every December 31
  • Regular donor that sends in $1,500 every spring “just because”
  • Monthly donor
  • A donor that reaches a giving milestone: 5 years of gifts in a row or $1,000 in cumulative giving, for example

Capital Campaign Recognition

The right strategy for acknowledging donors is not just limited to your annual fund donors.  A capital campaign often comes with naming opportunities such as named rooms or space, bricks, tiles, or a donor wall or display. The key to making a donor happy during a permanent naming installation? Communication! Never assume you know what a donor wants their named space to reflect. Even if you ask them on a pledge form to indicate how they prefer their name be listed on recognition pieces, always confirm the listing with them. If you’re able to get a proof of the print or brick, for example, send it to them for approval. They will appreciate the added communication in the long run.

In summary, if you put the same thought and care into thanking your donors as they put into making their gift, they will understand how special and important they are to your organization.  When donors feel valued and important, they will continue to deepen their investment with you.  As a result,  you will see better retention rates, which directly helps your organization achieve its mission!

Round Table Round Up: Comprehensive Sponsorships and Partnerships

Although corporate giving should not be the focus of fund development efforts for organizations overall, it can be an important component of the annual fund.  And, some organizations lend themselves particularly well to a comprehensive program.

Corporate, service club, faith, and student groups can make more informed decisions when you offer them either a comprehensive sponsorship or comprehensive partnership package.  You benefit because a single solicitation annually frees your valuable time for deeper cultivation opportunities.

So, what are they exactly?  Comprehensive packages share these characteristics:

  • They are part of your annual fund strategy.
  • You send one solicitation per year in which you offer a menu of tiered offerings, graduated from small to large, with benefits calibrated to financial size.
  • Donors have some choice and flexibility.
  • Donors care about your mission but also appreciate the self-interested “halo effect” they derive from association with your nonprofit.

Comprehensive sponsorships focus more on event benefits.  Your sponsors will still receive valuable touch points from you throughout the year in order to cultivate relationships.

While both comprehensive sponsorships and partnerships provide your donors visibility, comprehensive partnerships offer a variety of ways for them to engage with you.  This can be through events, volunteerism, education, workplace giving, complimentary memberships or use of your facility, and more.

What do you have to offer your sponsors outside of event benefits? What volunteer engagement activities can you offer your sponsors?

These two questions help determine which path is best for you.

So which is better for you?  Start with some self-analysis of your organization and donor base.

    Sponsorship     Partnership
          X           X Your donors value events and local visibility
          X You have limited time, staff and energy to support a comprehensive plan
          X You have other high-value marketing opportunities for your sponsors outside of events
          X Your donor may add value through expertise, connectivity, etc.
          X Your nonprofit has a significant volunteer opportunities


Whichever route you choose, these key steps will help you design your comprehensive program:

  1. Determine what benefits donors can receive and distribute these across tiers you establish. Identify the donation amount associated with each level.
  2. If you’re creating a comprehensive partnership program, what engagement options would your donors value?
  3. Bomb proof your plan. Confirm you can fulfill the benefits you provide.  Are the tiers graduated appropriately?  Does the monetary value of all benefits exceed 30%?   (An added benefit of this exercise is that it helps you determine the non-deductible portion of a donor’s gift.)
  4. Identify whom you’ll approach.
  5. Meet with your donors to explain your comprehensive program and gain their support.
  6. Listen during these meetings and document their wishes. It will help you with cultivation and guide changes to their partnerships with you.

Ultimately, both of these programs are best for growing and cultivating existing sponsors and relationships. Through the process, you will learn what your donors value about your organization as you begin to build stronger relationships with them and offer them opportunities to have a deeper investment in your mission. And remember, this is not a one-size-fits-all approach. If you are trying to determine the best program for your organization, please reach out to us so we can help you!

Round Table Round Up: Board Manuals

Your Board Manual: A Training Tool and a Permanent Resource

The Board Manual plays a key role in Board Orientation and Training, but it should also be an ongoing resource for members. Board members are often reluctant to fulfill their roles because they don’t feel knowledgeable about the organization they have agreed to serve. These are your highest level volunteers who are making a commitment to assist in the overall accomplishment of your mission. A well-designed manual will provide the basic information they need to be empowered to take action on behalf of your organization.

Your Board Manual should be a living document that reflects current circumstances. As policies, key staff, or processes change be sure to update those pages in hard copies and/or electronically. Assign a staff member the role of making changes as needed and sharing updates with Board Members.

How should your manual be distributed? Hard copy or electronically? This is an organizational decision and, for security reasons, you probably don’t want to simply email it. Depending on your culture, it may make sense to provide a hard copy but also have a protected page on the website with an electronic version. If providing electronically, make sure it is optimized for mobile platforms.

Why do board members need a manual?
Know the people — List of all board members, their terms, and their contact information; a list of staff; an organizational chart
Know the responsibilities — Description of board member responsibilities; job descriptions of the officers; all committee description and a list of members
Know the legal framework — Articles, bylaws, Form 990, board-related policies, liability insurance
Know the organization — A short organizational history, highlighting the key historical events; mission statement; fact sheet about the industry

Sample Table of Contents

  1. History of the Organization and Current Annual Report
    • Board Roster
    • Agendas & Minutes
      • include most recent
      • 3 hole punch agendas for meetings to add to binder
      • include events and meeting dates
  2. Core Corporate Documents
    • Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws
    • Tax-Exempt Status – IRS
    • Tax-Exempt Status – State
    • Mission, Vision, Tag-line, logo
  3. Board Member Policies to sign and return
    • Conflict of interest disclosure statement
    • Code of Ethics for Board Members
    • Expectation Policy
    • (Also included: Emergency contact information sheet for board members)
  4. Description of Programs and Services
    • Strategic Plan
    • Project info if they are in a campaign
  5. Staff Profile
    • Organizational Chart
    • Volunteers: How the organization involves volunteers
    • Personnel Policy Manual
  6. Financial Overview
    • Current Budget and financial statements
    • Most recent Audited Financial Statements
    • Most recently filed Form 990
    • Revenue and expenses at a glance (pie-chart)
  7. Fund Development Resources
    • Case Statement & Messaging Matrix
    • Board Role in Fundraising/Donor Pyramid
    • Current Board Analysis
  8. Board Operations
    • Board of Directors’ Responsibilities
    • Executive Committee Function Committees – Brief description of each
    • Telephone Meeting Call-in Information and Protocol
    • Critical Corporate Resolutions and governance policies
      • Executive compensation policy
      • Full board review of the 990
      • Whistleblower protection

This information was presented at our May 2017 Kennari Consulting client round table.

Intern Spotlight

Meet Claire Timmer, a Senior at Aquinas College majoring in Business and Communication and minoring in Community Leadership. Claire spent both semesters of her Senior year interning at Kennari Consulting before graduating in May.

What were you looking for in an internship?

When I began my search for a Senior year internship, I was looking for a place where I could further my knowledge in the nonprofit sector. Additionally, I was seeking to learn the ways in which the business sector (my major field of study) intersects with the nonprofit sector (my minor field of study). Working with the team at Kennari Consulting, coming into work each time has been exciting, as I am learning new things every day I am here. No one day is the same as the next when you are an intern at Kennari Consulting, and I thoroughly enjoyed that.  

What did you learn from your internship at Kennari Consulting?

Over the course of my internship at Kennari Consulting, one overarching lesson I learned time and time again, was that I had a passion for fundraising and I wanted to turn that into a career after graduation. I learned that there are a multitude of opportunities in the philanthropic world, specifically in Grand Rapids. At Kennari Consulting, I had a behind the scenes look at the day to day tasks and operations of both a consultant and a fund development professional. Kennari Consulting gave me the opportunity to shadow their team of consultants each week. I sat in on meetings with numerous clients, shadowing the consultants and learning a wealth of information as it pertains to philanthropy and fund development. I also had the opportunity to work in the office at Kennari Consulting where I learned the day to day office tasks and operations of the business side of a consulting firm.  

What projects did you work on over the course of your internship?

During my internship at Kennari Consulting, I also had numerous opportunities to work closely with our clients. For example, in the fall semester, I worked closely with the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan to plan their Entre Amigos table hosted luncheon. During the fall semester, I also spent time researching data that Kennari Consulting regularly provides their clients with. For example, I read and studied the Burk Donor Survey and then I presented the information from the Survey to one of our clients. The information I collected from the Burk Donor Survey was highlighted in a Kennari Consulting newsletter as well. During spring semester, I worked with Holland Museum on their first ever Trivia Night table hosted event. I also gained marketing experience working with Our Hope Association to promote their role in the Art Van Charity Challenge. It is evident that Kennari Consulting gave me the opportunity to work hands on with our clients, which is a benefit that an intern elsewhere typically does not experience.  

How will this internship help you in school and/or your career?

As a result of interning at Kennari Consulting, I learned that I want to work in fund development in the nonprofit sector post graduation. Kennari Consulting provided me with the opportunity to work hands on, directly with their clients, from which I learned so much. Another huge benefit of interning at Kennari Consulting is that you make great connections within the community! I met numerous individuals over the course of my internship and I am so grateful that I made connections with so many of them.

I am so grateful to have interned at Kennari Consulting and I will be forever grateful for all the knowledge and experience their amazing team provided me!

Claire has been an invaluable asset to our team during her two semesters at Kennari Consulting. We are so grateful for her hard work and willingness to step up and tackle every project sent her way. While we will miss having her in the office, we are so glad we’ll have the opportunity to see her in the future as she begins her career in the nonprofit sector.

To learn more about Kennari Consulting’s internship program, please email Kim Kvorka at

Round Table Round Up: Planned Giving Basics

Individuals have traditionally comprised the largest donor segment (71% in 2015), so paying attention to this donor segment is important now – and for your long term future.

Some key philanthropic developments impact how you work with individual donors:

  • Fund development is no longer primarily about transactions, e.g. events, direct mail.  Today our ongoing relationships with our donors are key as we connect inclined donors to mission and impact and work for lasting connections through relationship cultivation.
  • Inherited wealth from the Silent and Greatest generations has enabled philanthropy by second and third gens. They are frequently forging their own charitable paths, however, based on their own personal interests.
  • A significant wealth transfer known as the Great Transfer began in 2005 with the Greatest Generation’s wealth shift to their Baby Boomer heirs. The impact is estimated at $12 trillion.  As Baby Boomers die, the Greater Transfer to their heirs, estimated to be over $30 trillion, will take place up to the year 2055.  In Kent County alone, a mere 5% spin off of inherited wealth to the county’s nonprofits would mean over $321 million in nonprofit fund balances between 2005 and 2055.

In this environment, having a planned giving program is key for organizational sustenance and for taking part in the wealth transfer now underway.  Currently, the best prospects for a planned giving program are living, Greatest Generation donors (births in the 1920s, 1930s and early-mid 1940s) whose aggregate $12 trillion in wealth is transferring and Baby Boomers (births from 1946-1964) who will inherit these funds.  Don’t assume your most elderly donors aren’t creating wills into their 80s and beyond; new research shows 65% of donors added their final charitable gifts within the last five years of their lives.

A planned giving program need not be complex.  After all, 80% of all planned gifts to nonprofits are simple bequests made via wills or trusts, and they usually represent a donor’s largest gift.  For those more complex plans, often prompted by unusual family issues or significant wealth or tax issues, know — and be known by — financial advisors and estate/trust attorneys in your community.  They will handle the more sophisticated planned gifts, with your nonprofit a possible beneficiary.

Be ready for these opportunities!  Create simple planned giving materials, and organize and promote a legacy society exclusive to your planned gift donors.  With your board, consider whether an endowment — often the “depository” for planned gifts — is sensible.  And always cultivate your relationships with your planned giving donors.  These are among your very best friends — people who have a history of loyal support for your organization, e.g.  In 3 or more of the past 5 years regardless of amount, and who wish to perpetuate their impact on your mission when they’re no longer here.

And a bonus:  Lest you think that a planned gift will negatively impact annual gifts from that donor, new research shows that annual giving actually increases by 75% once a planned gift is in place.


This information was presented at our February 2017 Kennari Consulting client round table. 

Join Us March 29! Resources & Results – Get to Know Kennari Consulting

You’re Invited!

Register Now!


Kennari Consulting provides a combination of consulting services to help you learn and grow, as well as direct services to augment your internal capacity. Kennari Consulting is one of the largest full-service fundraising consulting firms in Michigan. Sandi Frost Steensma started Kennari Consulting in 2007 because she realized that nonprofit organizations needed more customized, day-to-day, “nuts and bolts” fundraising support as well as campaign coaching. Today, the firm has 10 staff members and serves more than 60 nonprofit organizations with consulting and direct services including, but not limited to: annual fund, capital & comprehensive campaigns, endowment building, planned giving, grant writing, strategic planning, and database training. Join us on March 29 to explore our customized, comprehensive services and learn more about how you might partner with Kennari Consulting.


Date: March 29, 2017
Time: 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Location: 401 Hall St SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503  – First Floor Conference Room
RSVP: Click here to Register

Celebrating 10 Years as Kennari Consulting

I can’t believe that we have already reached the 10-year mark.  It seems like just yesterday that I started Kennari Consulting working by myself as a sole practitioner.  Now here we are, a team of ten, having served almost 140 clients and helping them raise millions of dollars to support their important missions.

I could talk about a lot of things, but I want to mention three important lessons I’ve learned in these ten years.

  •  Listening is critical.  As we’ve grown, we’ve added many services because our clients were asking for them.  We grew because we listened to what our clients have needed to grow their capacity. And for our clients, listening is just as critical.  The better they listen to and understand their donors, the better job they do of engaging people in their mission. Engaged people contribute more gifts to the organizations they love.
  •  Relationships drive action.  Donors are better champions and advocates for an organization when they are engaged in the mission.   Our clients who adopt this philosophy have seen tremendous success.  I also continue to see this dynamic evolve in the overall funding community, in powerful collaborations between nonprofit organizations, and in public-private partnerships.  It really is true: “Connectedness matters.”
  • Change is constant.  After the economic downturn of 2008, donors became more discerning about their giving and how they give. So I have seen many shifts in the philanthropic landscape.  They include a new emphasis on planned giving, a greater role for public-private collaborations, an increased focus on endowment funding for stability, the rise of online giving, and much more.  It just goes to show that fundraising is not a static profession.  We must be in tune with the donor community, and ready to adapt our processes and tools to respond quickly to changes as they happen.  A good consultant is always learning.

I could say more, but the most important thing I can say is this: thank you.  Thank you to our faithful clients for partnering with us to succeed.  Thank you to funders who give so generously to support their communities.  Thank you to board members who give selflessly of their time and talents so that the organizations they serve can thrive.  And thank you for allowing us to walk alongside you for these past 10 years.  It has been a privilege and a joy.


Kennari Consulting celebrated its 10 Year Anniversary on February 2, 2017. 

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