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Round Table Round-Up: Ways to Impact Giving at your Evening Event

Your evening event is an important element in your development program – and a rare opportunity to be face-to-face with your donors. Events are often costly and time consuming, so taking every opportunity to make the most of them is critical.  Simply gathering donors together and then making an ask doesn’t ensure people will give.  And though there is no magic formula, there are a few critical pieces you can put in place to create a better environment for giving.

Purpose and Goal

Each event should have a purpose and a goal. This helps drive the planning and expectations.  Typically evening events have a focus on donor renewal and cultivation. Perhaps they made a first time gift at a luncheon or through some other engagement. As this is a time when you can deepen engagement with your mission, the evening event can secure a renewal or an increased gift. Is this an annual event, or perhaps the celebration of a successful campaign?

Determine the financial goals for the event. How much money do you need to raise? Are you trying to increase donations at a certain level? Will you be using the proceeds for general operations or perhaps for some kind of program expansion? It’s important to be clear on these details.

Events as Cultivation

We often refer to cultivation as a gardening term. Always remember that cultivation is a process, and your evening event is an opportunity for donor cultivation. Take a look at your top prospects and those in the pipeline of your major gifts program. Evening events can be a great way to move them up a level, especially if you take strategic steps with your Donor Development Committee to invite them.


Compelling testimonials show how this person’s life is different because of your mission. Throughout the year be collecting stories from program staff that could be used in your event.  You need to select people who are comfortable and dependable on the stage. The use of videos can also be part of the testimonial when appropriate. Be sure to rehearse with the patron/client so they are comfortable, and you get to see if they need coaching. Program staff can play a role in sharing testimonials but avoid using development or executive staff in sharing testimonials. If you have an emcee, it’s important they have been prepared to step in if needed.

Match and Challenge Gifts
Leverage gifts in the form of Match or Challenges can take your event fundraising up a notch. People respond favorably to these opportunities to increase the impact on your mission. Know the difference in types of leverage (See last month’s Round Table Round-Up for details!) The main thing is to be clear, consistent, and accurate in how you describe your match or challenge. Seek your match or challenge from one of your significant donors.  They could be an individual, foundation, or corporation. Sometimes pooling several donors together to make the match large enough can also work. Share with them the impact you’re trying to achieve with the leverage.


Honoring someone who has made a significant impact on your organization can also increase the results of your event. Choose someone who has been a longtime donor, leader, or volunteer whose name will be a draw for people to attend the event. They should be willing and able to share their passion for the organization at the event. Honorees can also be a great way to increase sponsorships. Engage one or two people from their network to be on the committee to make sure all the right people are invited.  Look for small ways to make it special for the honoree, like a food choice, color scheme or flowers.

Opportunities to Give

Events often offer multiple ways to give. A compelling ask from the stage is probably the strongest way to raise money at events. Choose the right person, usually a board member, donor, or volunteer who can share a blend of their passion for the mission with the theme of the event. Auctions and raffles, while not mission-focused, can add to your bottom line. Fund-a-Need and Giving Trees can also be ways to give.

Your evening event can be an even greater success if you implement these strategies!

Roundtable Round Up: Challenge & Match Gifts

How does Leverage work? As in physics, leverage is a simple tool to make your work more effective. It is loved by funders (those supplying the leverage), donors (those who meet the match), and of course, the organizations who receive them. Leverage uses a gift from a funder to inspire giving from other donors and take three different forms:

True Challenge:  All or nothing ~ Real urgency   (least common)
Match:  As much as is raised ~ Less risk
Challenge giving: No risk ~ hope to inspire giving  (most common)

Depending on how they are structured, Match or Challenge Gifts are great ways to help with the 3 elements of fundraising – Renew, Recruit, Cultivate. If applied to support new programming, they may recruit new donors who take an interest in your expanded work. If part of a Capital or Endowment Campaign, they might cultivate much higher giving from donors who support your operations, or annual fund.

Why is Leverage so attractive?
Funders like it from the Big Picture viewpoint. They see that by offering a challenge or match, they can make a large impact and help an organization move towards greater sustainability. Donors with more modest means like to see their dollars go further and that they are part of a group effort to support an organization they love.

Leverage in Campaigns is part of Campaign Design, or how the campaign is structured to be attractive to donors. It can be targeted to staff, family foundations, businesses, or other specific groups unique to the organization or campaign. Match or challenge gifts can help spark the early adopters to give, help give a boost in the middle of a campaign, or be the inspiration to finish the public phase and meet campaign goal.

Leverage in annual fundraising is a really good way to inspire giving to specific programs, to increase size of giving, bring in new donors. It is often used at events to encourage “new and increased gifts” or can be a match that lasts for an extended period of time. Consider how you can take advantage of a specific situation such as honoring a long-time leader, starting a legacy society, or celebrating a milestone year.

Using the Leverage
Make sure to have clear and accurate talking points for the specific leverage you have secured. Share it with all who could be ambassadors for making sure you meet the match or challenge. This includes staff, board, and committee members. Additionally, look for ways to include it in newsletters, e-blasts, appeals, on the website and in social media posts. Keep good records of your progress to share with the funder, your board and the donor base.

Securing the Match or Challenge takes building relationships with your donors. Look at those who are already strong supporters and consider asking them to make a larger gift as a match or to be part of a pool of donors who, together, supply a leverage gift. Is it okay to ask again? Yes! (Unless they said it’s a one-time offer.) If the match was successful this year, be sure to share the impact with the donor – your gift helped us start a new program, inspired increased giving at the $500 level, brought in 75 new donors – and see if they’re interested in doing it again.

Leverage is a great tool for increasing your fundraising. Look for strategic ways to secure and apply Challenge or Match gifts and you can help your donors make a bigger impact, which in turn, helps your organization grow its mission!

5 Tips For Choosing a New Donor Database

Every nonprofit makes a donor software decision at some point. Maybe you’re a small organization that has gotten by with spreadsheets to track contact information and have used your accounting tool for donations. Maybe you’ve been in a database for several years, but it just doesn’t seem to fit your needs any longer. If you are starting to feel like it’s time to make a move into a new donor database, how do you choose? Here are five tips to help make that decision.

  • Needs List – Develop a list of functionalities that a database must have for your organization. Beyond that, what are some tools that would be a bonus to have? You might not need an email tool built in to the software, but you should want your acknowledgement letters processed out of a database in a relatively easy fashion.
  • Demos – Most donor software tools offer a webinar introduction that lasts 30-60 minutes. This alone should not be enough to make your decision. If you wish to look at a tool beyond that demo, reach out to a sales representative for a more detailed one-on-one consultation to review some specific examples of reports, or other tools. The Needs List you created will come in handy here!
  • Peer Review – Reach out to other similar organizations in your area to find out what donor software they are using. Also find out if there are local user groups for some of the donor software options you’re considering. Conversations with peers are a great opportunity to get real-life pros and cons of different systems from hands-on users. Make sure you talk to someone who is actually using the new system you are looking at – everything looks good in a sales demo. Find out what actual users love and hate about it.
  • PricingDo not let pricing alone dictate your decision. While it’s important to find a cost-effective solution, you do not want to sacrifice finding something that meets most or all of your needs simply because it’s “free.” Also, find out how long the pricing will stay at the rate you sign on with. Most software is now a subscription-based cost, and we’ve seen a few double or triple in year two and three for users. What sounds affordable up front might not be that way in a few years.
  • Support & Training – Find out what ongoing support the software company offers. Some have free support in the form of email only, while others include live chat support. Also, discover what sort of resources are available for your organization to learn the tools. Do you learn it on your own or are there webinars, one-on-one training etc.? You will want to ask if these are included or an additional cost.

If the decision is still challenging, ask for help! There is incredible potential with having the right system – and incredible time wasted in making a move into the wrong system. It’s worth the extra time.

Campaign Completion: New Home Brings Grand Rapids Chamber Into the Future

When an organization determines their home doesn’t fit their work, it’s time to make a move! The Grand Rapids Chamber (Chamber) realized they needed an office space that could be a hub of activity and services for their members, so they reached out to Kennari Consulting for assistance in fundraising for their new home.

The Chamber exists to be an ally, an advocate, and agent for change to the local business community. Grand Rapids has seen explosive growth in recent years, and the Chamber has also grown to keep up with the business community’s needs. As they looked for successful models in other growing cities and applied them to Grand Rapids, they quickly saw that the office in the Waters Building, which had served them well for many years, no longer was the right fit. In 2017 they developed plans for a new location on Calder Plaza. After outreach and careful planning, the new office was designed based on the needs of their members. Full of light, technology, meeting spaces large and small, and accessible parking, the focus is on who would be coming to the Chamber and what they would want to do there.

Kennari Consulting worked with the Chamber to engage strong volunteer leadership for their campaign. We then identified key stakeholders within their membership and helped develop campaign strategies to secure support for their project. Each campaign is unique, and because the Chamber is a membership organization, we created a unique plan for engaging a large pool of member prospects who gained visibility through multi-year sponsorships in the bustling new space. The campaign provided an opportunity for increased interactions with current and prospective members. The dynamic new office has raised the profile of the Chamber and greatly increased usage by members. It’s an excellent example of the power of place and space.

“When the Grand Rapids Chamber made the decision to transform our office into an open and collaborative epicenter of business activity in West Michigan, we knew that we needed an experienced advisor to guide the procurement of financial support. Kennari Consulting acted as not only as an advisor, but as a partner through a process we were unfamiliar with as an organization.”
~Rick Baker, President & CEO, Grand Rapids Chamber

To learn more about the Grand Rapids Chamber, visit

Round Table Round Up: Lapsed Donors

While we tend to think of lapsed donors at the start of the new year, it really is a process that should be reviewed year-round.  In fact, more than ever, lapsed donor strategies need to be in place to ensure the best retention rates possible. Did you know that donor retention rates have been on the decline since 2008? In fact, the national average for repeat gifts from a donor who has given multiple times is only 65%. Even the very best organizations aren’t going to have a 100% renewal rate.

All of this means two key things: you must have a plan in place, and you must be intentional about renewing, cultivating, and acquiring new donors

However, if you don’t yet know your numbers, it will be difficult to create a plan. Your lapsed donor goals should be included within your development plan and retention rates can be expected to resemble this if you have solid best practices in place:

  • First time donor repeat gift – 25%
  • Second time donor – 50%
  • Multiple time donor – 65% or higher
  • Monthly donors – 75% or higher

The easiest way to do this is look at the total number of donors in 2017 and find out how many of those donors also gave in 2018. This is your retention rate.

Whether you are pulling lapsed donors from 2017 who didn’t renew in 2018 or a donor who gave at an event in one year but not the next, the strategies for each resemble one other. Once you run that lapsed donor report, assess which lapsed gifts require more sensitivity to renew, and which ones will just be too costly to renew. For instance, if a major donor’s $5,000 gift lapsed, you might consider bringing that donor on a tour, inviting them for coffee, etc. However, a gift of $25 may end up costing you the same amount in company expenses to renew. Determine time and resources when trying to renew these gifts.

Make sure to let these donors know you have missed them and what you will be able to accomplish in the new year with their renewed engagement. Maybe update them on a crucial project they helped fund the prior year. Make sure the donor knows that you know who they are!

Overall, the best thing you can do is not let your donor lapse in the first place. Do this by proactively reviewing monthly or quarterly reports to see whose gift is about to lapse. The next best thing is to have a monthly giving plan in place since retention rates are highest amongst this group.

Retain activities and initiatives that are working from year to year. If you drop an initiative, have a plan in place to transition those donors into another giving opportunity. Do what makes sense for you and your organization. But react appropriately to your donor’s behavior and their data trends. Don’t just pull a lapsed donors list and mail everyone the same letter.

To summarize in one word, PLAN, and your retention rates should be on the rise.

Intern Spotlight

Meet Quinn Kendra, a Senior at Grand Valley State University majoring in Public and Nonprofit Administration, with an emphasis in Community Development and Planning. Quinn interned with Kennari this fall and is anticipating graduation in the spring.


7 Things I Learned in Four Months of Fundraising Work

As a senior in college, I thought fundraising was simply raising money for a cause or organization. After my four months as an intern at Kennari Consulting, I have realized that it is much more than that. Here are seven lessons that I learned working with Kennari Consulting:

1. Fundraising is not all about grants. It seemed that, from my previous experience, grants were one of the only ways for nonprofits to raise substantial amounts of money. The truth is, that could not be further from the reality of the world of fundraising. Nonprofits use several different methods in order to fundraise, and if they were just going after grants, organizations would be missing out on countless other opportunities.

2. Always have a plan. There is nothing worse than starting a project without knowing where it’s heading. The same goes for fundraising. What does the organization need? How much money will it cost? Where will the money come from? These questions should be answered before anything is done. If you don’t have a plan, create one.

3. Relationships matter. Working in fundraising means consistently running into people that you have likely worked with before, so always be aware of that. Be kind and understanding of the people you work with, both directly and indirectly, because it matters (and you’re going to see them again in a few weeks). Always being mindful that every person you encounter is important.

4. Focus on the individual. When jumping into the world of fundraising, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the number of prospective donors. Every person seems like they could be a major donor, but that often is not the case. By dedicating ample time and energy to specific prospective donors, the results will turn out to be much more in your favor.

5. Inclination matters. People are usually only going to donate if the organization has directly affected them or they are otherwise passionate about the cause. Through my experience shadowing meetings with the Kennari staff, I learned a valuable lesson about fundraising: Don’t ask for donations unless the prospective donor has a personal connection with the organization’s mission (or you can find a path that connects them to the mission). No matter how well a nonprofit delivers their mission, major donors aren’t going to support everything.

6. The holiday season is about more than just giving gifts from a store. Interning at Kennari during the fall semester taught me that the holiday season is an essential time for nonprofits to fundraise through the giving efforts of the holidays. Nonprofits must be prepared to use the holiday season to their advantage! Encourage your friends and family to give back this holiday season by supporting an organization that means something to them.

7. Organization is arguably more important than anything else. Keeping organized saves time and energy that could be used elsewhere. Always plan ahead and have a mental snapshot of what your day, week, and month are going to look like. Use sticky notes, set yourself reminders, and create folders for everything. Also, your calendar is your best friend.
Interning at Kennari has been one of my most memorable college experiences, and I could not be more thankful for the opportunity to learn from such an incredible staff. I’m looking forward to seeing how I can help make an impact in the community after graduation!

Quinn was an absolute joy in the Kennari Consulting office! We appreciated his upbeat attitude and willingness to tackle any project thrown his way. We wish him the best as he finishes up school next semester and begins his career!
To learn more about Kennari Consulting’s internship program, please email Kim Kvorka at

National Philanthropy Day 2018

Kennari Consulting was a proud sponsor of this year’s National Philanthropy Day (NPD), presented by the Association of Fundraising Professionals West Michigan Chapter (AFPWM). Our own Steve Ozinga was the Chair of the event, working many long hours to ensure the day was a success. Congratulations to him and the entire AFPWM team on what truly was an inspirational afternoon.

National Philanthropy Day is a great chance for fundraising professionals to come together with peers, celebrate some of our community’s outstanding leaders in philanthropy and hear from great minds in the philanthropy world. This year, AFPWM welcomed keynote speaker, Dan Pallotta, an award-winning speaker, author, and fundraising innovator. His keynote address was a breath of fresh air – and we are proud to stand beside so many and say, “I’m overhead.” Kennari wholeheartedly agrees that nonprofits need to invest more in infrastructure and overhead or are otherwise paralyzed by a lack of resources. Pallotta’s speech was inspiring and we hope this marks the beginning of a movement to change the rule book for the nonprofit sector.

Additionally, congratulations to all of this year’s awardees: Vicki Weaver (Spectrum Health Foundation/Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation); Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors; Louise “Punky” Edison; Stephanie Kerr-Cathey (Kids’ Food Basket, Muskegon); Lake Michigan Credit Union; Veverly Austin (Girl, Get Your Fight Back and Rock The Runway); Janean Couch and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation Youth Grant Committee. And to all out there serving our community through their tireless work in the nonprofit sector, we salute you. Keep up the good work!

To view Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk, click here.

Strategic Plan Sets Course for Success at Ottawa County Parks Foundation

Kennari Consulting works with organizations of all sizes, focus areas, and passions. Ottawa County Parks Foundation is no exception!

In 2015, a small group of Ottawa County, Michigan residents formed an all-volunteer committee with the intent to form a Parks Foundation. A year later, that dream became reality and the Ottawa County Parks Foundation (OCPF) was formed! OCPF reached out to Kennari Consulting to assist with its inaugural Strategic Plan. Over the summer of 2016, the Kennari Strategic Planning team worked with the Foundation to create the important first plan. After defining OCPF’s Value Proposition, Mission, and Vision, we defined important strategic priorities for a brand new foundation. This included alignment with the Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission, Board and Infrastructure Development, Visibility, Financial Sustainability, and support of land acquisition and development.

Over the past two years, OCPF successfully launched its fundraising programs, became ingrained in Ottawa County, created working committees under the Board, hosted a number of successful cultivation events, and hired its first full-time employee! Kennari Consulting is currently working with OCPF on a Strategic Plan refresh that will help carry the organization into the next phase of success.

Strategic Plans are important for multiple reasons, including organizational alignment, simplification of decision making, and consistent communication. For more information on how effective Strategic Planning can benefit your organization, please contact Steve Ozinga, Vice President of Strategic Planning and Planned Giving at or 616-340-8771.

“Kennari Consulting was hired to lead the newly established Parks Foundation Board through a strategic planning process in 2016. This was a critically important project because the organization was new and needed to determine its core beliefs. Steve Ozinga of Kennari led the Foundation Board through the process and did an outstanding job. Board members were fully engaged and excited to contribute. Most importantly, the resulting product is one that has provided the framework for Foundation’s activities over the past couple of years. The plan does a wonderful job of identifying the Parks Foundation’s basic mission and includes text with a timeless quality that is used regularly in Foundation documents. The Parks Foundation was more than satisfied with Steve Ozinga and Kennari’s work on the strategic plan and continues to rely upon them for assistance with strategic decision-making.”   ~John Scholtz, Director, Ottawa County Parks

To learn more about Ottawa County Parks Foundation, visit their website.

Round Table Round Up: Event Follow Up – Maximizing the Benefits of Events

Though it often feels like getting through an event is a major hurdle, it’s really what happens after the event that makes all the work worthwhile. Don’t let all that hard work go to waste! Here are some strategies for making sure what happens after your event keeps your donors engaged all year long.

Philanthropy vs. Fundraising

Rather than simply fundraising for the net return of the event, you can take it to the next level by looking at events as ways to renew, recruit, and cultivate donors. An important component of philanthropic events is equal attention to your follow up.

Plan Post-Event

Knowing that the days immediately after the event will likely be jammed with “catching up” on other demands, it is helpful to make your follow up plan and have time scheduled on your calendar for those important details. Here is a handy guide for planning the week, month, and three months after your event.

Within One Week

  • Process cards and deposit checks If possible, at the event so if there is any omission in information, problems can be immediately resolved. Look for opportunities to convert donors to pay in unique ways such as text to give and other electronic methods.
  • Thank You Letters should be written in advance to speed the process. There is really nothing more important than prompt donor acknowledgement. Your donors are likely donors to other organizations, so your thank you lag time may be noticed.
  • Facebook/Instagram posts will be a great way to keep the focus on your event. People like to see pictures of themselves and their friends. Photo posts get the most attention and can help grow interest in your event. Social media posting is also a way to thank sponsors, honorees, and committee members.
  • Email to Attendees “Here’s what you helped us do!” Send an email letting them know that they participated in the success of your event. Share some photos and the results. Links to video and testimonial message are also great to include.
  • Cards to Participants/Committee Members More than just donors need to be thanked! Send kind and intentional notes to those who helped make the event a reality.
  • Major donor and first-time donor calls Block time in calendars for the day after an event to make calls. Voicemails are acceptable. Determine prior to the event who will need to make calls. Significant donations should get a call right away – same day if possible.

Within One Month

  • Internal Staff Debrief with the development team and key players involved, such as program staff that may have helped with identifying stories or data, will help maintain the relationship between development staff and the rest of the organization.
  • Committee Debrief Find a committee member to host this to change the tone. Must be guided discussion to ensure feedback on specific pieces. It is an opportunity to see how they felt about the planning process and whether they feel connected to the event’s success.
  • Follow Up with Honoree to acknowledge the personal impact the honoree made on your organization. Share how they helped bring new people into the donor family through their influence. Look for ways to keep them engaged by being on the committee or have them present the award next year.
  • Donor Development Committee follow up on high-level gifts. The DDC is already trained to help with donor relations so it’s part of their charge as a volunteer. They can help with customizing next steps for major donors or those whose gifts increased.

Within Three Months

  • Sponsor Report Develop a 1-page recap that shares the success of the event, number of people in attendance, dollars raised, number of first-time donors. Focus on the benefits they received so they will see the marketing value as well. Send program to absent sponsors. NOTE: Be sure to thank all appropriate contacts at the sponsor’s business: CEO, Marketing Manager, “table wranglers.” Offer sponsors the opportunity to give feedback on benefits.
  • Set a Google alert on sponsor/donor names ( so you can be reminded of when they are mentioned online, and then reach out to let them know you saw it.
  • Donor tour You can invite all donors – most won’t come but they’ll be glad they were asked. Those who are interested will be able to see the facility and your mission in action.
  • Schedule next year’s event!  It might seem really soon, but there are so many events, you want to stake your claim early. Check nonprofit calendar to avoid conflicts with other key events. Commit to a date and time and get your event on the calendar as soon as possible.

Happy Events!


Round Table Round Up: Planned Giving – Why You Should be Doing This Now!

A generational transfer of over $59 trillion is underway through 2052. Approximately 97% of donors leave a planned gift to an organization because they care about the charity. Nonprofit organizations need to take steps today and build necessary infrastructure to allow donors to leave a legacy and impact society in perpetuity.

Planned Giving Overview

  1. Why do donors make charitable bequests?
    • 97% care about the charity
    • 82% want to do something special
    • 35% as income or estate tax planning strategy
  2. What is Planned Giving?
    • Planned giving is a program of various financial instruments that can be adapted to each donor’s needs.
    • Each donor is unique; what works well for one, does not work well for another.
  3. Why is Planned Giving important?
    • $57 trillion transferring between generations through 2052
    • Three options for wealth transfer: Government, Heirs, and Charity ($8 trillion transferred to charity in 2003)
    • If you don’t ask, someone else will!

Common Types of Planned Gifts

  1. Gift in a Will or Trust
    • Last will and testament or a trust are the legal documents that give the individual right to exercise the disposition of assets
    • Bequest: specific provision in the will
  2. Beneficiary of a life insurance policy
    • A donor can buy a life insurance policy naming your organization as the beneficiary and pay premiums on it
    • The donor may claim a tax deduction
  3. IRA Rollover
    • Donors 70.5 and older
  4. Charitable Gift Annuity
    • Contract between charity and donor where the donor transfers cash or property to a charity for a lifetime income stream & partial tax deduction
    • When the donor passes, the gift stays with the charity
  5. Charitable Remainder/Lead Trust
    • More complex, usually executed by a designated professional
    • Individuals with larger incomes (i.e. those who may be inheriting money from parents)
    • Donor or charity receives a set percentage of the value annually
    • When the donor passes away, the remainder goes to the donor or charity

Is Your Organization Ready?

  1. Simple steps to start:
    • Clean up database to determine best prospects
    • Targeted mailings, asking donors if they’ve considered leaving a legacy
    • Cultivation is key; how cultivated are your donors? How much do they know about your organization; where does your organization compare?
    • Utilize CPA’s/Attorneys who may be on your board and have estate planning experience
  2. Marketing Strategies
    • Greatest & Silent Generation
      • Hard-copy information
    • Baby Boomers
      • Hybrid: hard-copy & online
    • Generation X
      • Transitional generation = multiple channels
    • Millennials
      • Online/text appeals
      • Want a seat at the table
      • Different definition of support
      • Heavy advocacy
    • Others include:
      • Planned Giving inserts
      • Donor Stories (people like to see their name in print!)
      • Planned Giving ads
      • Internet and social media outreach
      • Tagline in stationary and flip envelopes

Non-Negotiables: Make Sure You Have Proper Documentation

  1. Gift Agreement
  2. Letter of Intent
  3. Attorney Letter
  4. Scholarship Agreement

Identify Prospects

  1. Who is your target? Overlay with generational metrics
    • Consistent annual fund donors over 70 who have given the last 3-5 years.
    • Alumni

Debunking a Planned Giving Myth

  1. “If they leave a planned gift, they won’t contribute to my annual fund.”
    • According to Dr. Russell James, annual giving increases 75%, due to increased investment.