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Many nonprofits are making plans for in person fundraising events – and there are great resources out there for making the shift back. Mobile Cause recently came out with “8 Strategies to give donors confidence attending in-person events” and the list is full of good information on how to adapt in this new normal. The report shared that 79% of nonprofits polled are holding in-person events before the end of 2021.That statistic seems to hold true for Kennari Consulting clients, both in the local Grand Rapids, Michigan community and also with our clients in other areas. Another tip from the report was to “make it easy to donate anywhere and anytime” – encouraging nonprofits to have online donation forms and text to give options for in-person events (as well as virtual). The average text to donate gift size is $122, which is larger than many would assume.
More information can be found here. We appreciate Mobile Cause making this resource available to all!
We love a great recurring giving program! Why? They are easy for donors to set up. Donors rarely cancel their recurring gifts. In fact, donor retention is higher for recurring donors. According to The Nonprofit Recurring Giving Benchmark study, recurring donors have an average retention of 90% – compared to an overall retention average of 46%.
Recurring giving often comes with a few behind the scenes challenges though.
1. Back End Management and Reporting
Even though it is easy for your donor to “set it and forget it”, a recurring gift requires a little more TLC on the backend. Make sure you are familiar with editing the gift transactions in case the donor must update a credit card, increase or decrease their gift amount, or even pause their gift for a moth or two. Keep a close eye on expiring credit card data, also. Create a plan for communicating with your recurring donors when their card is nearing its expiration date.
Reviewing any failed charges should be simple through the back-end management of your giving platform. Many platforms have a series of attempts to recharge a failed transaction. Make sure you know if yours is one of them – whether you’re using your donor software online gift management, or a third-party tool such as Qgiv.
Running any reports on recurring gift transactions should be easily accessible, for you and your finance team. Work with your finance team to understand how often they want to see data for recurring transactions. Some may want data when the deposit batch is processed every few days. You might also consider setting up an integration between the giving platform and QuickBooks if one is available.
2. Forms Management
While you might think your giving form is a piece of cake to make a gift, test it out just to be safe. Ask a colleague or two that are not part of the fundraising team to try the form also.
If you have a branded recurring giving club, you should have a separate donation form for it. This will differ from the general form by showing giving impact and outcomes. The donation amounts will also reflect your giving levels for your giving program, or they should at least be relative to typical recurring gift amounts, $10, $25, $50, and $100 for example.
Almost all donation platforms offer the option to let your donors pay for the credit card processing fee. Use it – because donors do!
3. Managing Your Recurring Donors
When a donor sets up a recurring gift, it is important to communicate with them accordingly. Determine the steps your organization will take for their first initial gift transaction, each additional charged gift, and any extra communications they might receive. In the initial thank you, let them know how they’ll hear from you in the future – extra news for recurring donors, consolidated receipts in the mail in January, monthly transaction email notifications, etc. Let them know how your recurring giving program works, too – the gift goes until they stop it, for example. Make sure the donor has the right contact name should they need to make any changes.
Reviewing any of the automated email responses that the giving platform has is also critical. Many platforms have automatic emails for: initial gifts, each transaction, and failed transactions. If you aren’t sure what auto-generated emails your platform has, reach out to support.
4. Database Tracking
Now that the donations are processing, make sure it is clear in your database who your recurring donors are! Your database should have a tag or group function to label them as a recurring donor.
If known, use the notes function to provide any background information on the donors giving intention. Why did they make the gift? Are they friends of a board or staff member? Any important details that might provide history on why the donor made the gift – or cancels in the future – will be helpful. Likewise, use the database action or task tracking function when any contact is made with the donor. Examples include sending a sticker or decal for the giving club gift, the donor called to increase the gift amount, or their yearly receipt was sent in January.
While these are common challenges with a recurring gift program that’s already in place, we’re also including a few resources to build your program.
- In May 2021, Laura Kruisenga, COO of Kennari Consulting, presented a webinar through Qgiv called Recurring Giving Solves All Your Problems. A replay is available on the Qgiv blog.
- Qgiv recently updated their eBook – Radical Recurring Giving Guide. Download your copy today!
- Kennari Consutling has a long-standing partnership with Qgiv and would love to connect you with someone at Qgiv if you wish to demo of any of their online donation or event management services. Email Jaime Van Essen for more information.
Nonprofits need a “license to solicit funds” in many states. Soliciting is very broadly defined. Basically, if the organization is communicating with anyone directly (mail, email, peer-to-peer campaign, social media, etc.) and there is any kind of opportunity to donate, you need to be licensed in the state where the person receiving the communication lives. Each state has different requirements, exemptions, and renewal processes, so it is important to look at the regulations individually by state. To make matters even more complicated, different departments manage this in different states. In Michigan and Indiana, this is managed through the State Attorney General’s office. In Florida, it’s the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
This is not meant to overwhelm, but to inform! Below are a few steps you can take if you are unsure of what to do next:
1. Make sure you have a license to solicit in the state your nonprofit is registered. There are some nonprofits that are exempt, so don’t panic if you aren’t licensed (for instance, in Michigan, exempt organizations include churches, some schools, and certain veterans’ organizations). Do your research on qualifications and requirements for an exemption, as you may still need to file paperwork in that state.
2. If you only solicit in a couple other states beyond your home state, google “license to solicit donations in
3. If you solicit more broadly or have active social media fundraising where it is difficult to determine geographic reach, it might be worth engaging a partner to help! Start by consulting with your organization’s legal counsel if you have it. We have worked with the firm Copilevitz, Lam & Raney, PC, who are professionals in this space. Another great resource is Harbor Compliance. They have provided key information on Fundraising Registration Solutions as well as a Fundraising Compliance Guide.
4. If you solicit donations in a state and you aren’t licensed, you may be contacted by the state’s licensing body at some point. Our experience has always been that states are very flexible in working with you to get things rectified and are not typically punitive right off the bat.
5. Being compliant and transparent builds trust with donors – so take this seriously and commit the time to making sure you are on track!
Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth has provided quality after-school programming to children and youth in the Grand Rapids community since 1938. A crucial part of their mission is to support youth in graduating from high school and one of the best ways to achieve this is by ensuring that students entering high school are prepared and ready. Kennari Consulting is honored to support their work and has assisted with strategizing and writing grants to help them acquire the funds needed for their essential programming.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids was recently awarded a $50,000 grant ($25,000/year for two years) from the New York Life Foundation to establish the Be Ready program, which is an evidence-based, comprehensive program to prepare students for a successful transition into high school. The program provides a range of classes and activities for 8th and 9th grade students that focus on information about high school, social-emotional support, and positive academic behaviors. The program includes activities during the 8th grade year and the summer before 9th grade, a focus on parental/familial involvement, and continued support once they begin high school.
Research shows that supporting students transitioning from middle to high school can be helpful in easing that adjustment and ultimately reducing school dropout rates, significantly increasing the likelihood of graduating from high school. The Be Ready program will ensure that youth transitioning from middle school to high school in Grand Rapids are prepared both academically and in regard to social-emotional development, with special attention given to addressing learning loss that may have occurred in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This program represents one of many initiatives Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids has implemented to ensure access to equitable recreational and educational opportunities for all youth in the community.
“We are absolutely thrilled to receive this competitive grant,” said Angie Stumpo, director of development. “This funding will greatly help our future high school freshmen to be extra ready for the transition to high school. We are so grateful to Megan and Josh at Kennari for all their work on this grant and many others. We highly value their partnership, and they have been instrumental in our ability to achieve our financial goals.”
To learn more about Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth, visit bgcgrandrapids.org.
Meet Rebecca Rowland! Rebecca is a senior at Western Michigan University, graduating this summer. Rebecca is majoring in Organizational Communication and minoring in Event Management and Psychology.
My expectations coming into this internship were pretty high. I was going to be able to work with multiple organizations to help them with communications, marketing, fundraising, events, and campaigns. I did just that and more. Being able to use skills I have learned in school in an actual work environment was definitely a highlight. The staff at Kennari is truly a team; they all have roles that intermingle and personalities that work so well with one another. I felt so welcomed and learned so much from each of them. I also enjoyed working with so many different client organizations. From working on campaigns to helping with sponsorships and events, I really learned so much about the work and planning that goes into running and funding a nonprofit.
The best experience I had at Kennari was being able to be a part of their client roundtables. Each month, one or two of their consultants would pick a topic that they are an expert in. They then would hold a meeting for all of their clients to attend and learn more about that topic. Some of the roundtables I participated in covered how to engage board members and fundraising volunteers, mobile and text giving, and corporate sponsorships. I felt like I was getting an upper hand in the field because I was able to learn about these topics along with our clients. I want to thank Kennari for giving me this opportunity and teaching me so much!
Rebecca was a wonderful addition to our team this semester! She was willing to take on any project, big or small, and produce results that exceeded expectations. Our team and our clients benefited from her positive attitude, eagerness to learn, and quality output. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for Rebecca!
To learn more about Kennari Consulting’s internship program, check out our careers page.
Connecting your volunteers to your organizational needs and goals is important work; volunteers, including the board, are a key to significantly increasing your fundraising outcomes. However, keeping your volunteers engaged and feeling like they are making a meaningful contribution can be challenging.
Effective volunteer engagement cannot happen without the right support structure in place. Meeting structure, technology, administrative support and follow up are key foundational pieces that need to be in place to inspire the most engagement. Other key components of volunteer engagement in fundraising include advocating for your organization, providing guidance, establishing connection of your organization with potential supporters, and raising money. Understanding the role of fundraising volunteers is crucial to utilizing them towards to achieve organizational goals.
The Four Roles of Fundraising Volunteers
Donor Intelligence: Nonprofits need to know the community of donors well to grow their donor base. Volunteers can help the organization learn more about their existing donors and provide input on donor prospects. The more detail about preferences, connections, and history the board and other volunteers can provide, the better a nonprofit is able to treat the donors like the individuals that they are.
Inviting the Donors: We all are drawn to organizations that someone we know introduced to us. Based on what is known about donors and donor prospects, volunteers can invite them to the appropriate events or cultivation activities. This can include luncheons, galas, tours, and also donor specific events designed to further engage them in the mission like one-on-one coffee get togethers or house parties.
Thanking the Donors: Adding personalized thank yous to your stewardship process is a simple but very effective way to cultivate donor relations and to increase their giving. Volunteers can play an important role by making thank you calls or sending personal notes to donors who have made significant gifts or attended events.
Asking for Gifts: Asks made by a volunteer are sometimes the most effective! There may be times when a volunteer is the best person to make an ask, either for sponsorship of an event or in a face-to-face setting. Sometimes, even having a volunteer in the room while the ask is made can make the difference needed to secure the gift.
Getting the Most Out of Meetings
When meeting with your volunteers, include opportunities to engage volunteers by sharing successes or inspiring stories that relate to your organization or board in some way. That being said – only have meetings together when there is news to share or work to do! Prepare for the meeting so that it includes a variety of speakers, and make sure you have time to follow up with those who were unable to attend (or encourage other attending volunteers to help with contacting non-attendees!)
Structure for Success
Your fundraising volunteers, board members, and committees must have a clear structure in place for them to be successful. Setting clear goals for the group and for each volunteer will make sure everyone knows their role. If they feel as if they can no longer serve on a committee, listen to them and try to find another way to engage them in a way they can continue their support. Most of all… when it comes to interacting with your volunteers, don’t forget to have some fun and celebrate your achievements together!
In today’s fundraising landscape, mobile or text giving is no longer avoidable. In 2020, mid-size nonprofits saw a 25% increase in online giving, and 28% of contributions were made through a mobile device, so it’s time provide your donors with the proper tools to make their gifts easily.
Did you know that 98% of all text messages are read, and 90% are read within 3 minutes of being received? Adding options like QR codes or mobile giving by text messaging to your already existing toolbox of fundraising options, will not only simplify your donors giving experience, but will also give an added benefit of being seen quickly. To adjust to this new way of fundraising there are multiple resources and platforms available to help get you started.
When should I use a mobile giving option?
- Fundraising Events – offering a mobile giving option is most beneficial when repeatedly displayed and viewed by donors throughout the event by providing constant reminder to donate by scanning a code or texting a number.
- Appeals or Giving Campaigns – provide your mobile giving option on a reply device or letter for donors to make a quick gift from their mobile device.
- Specific Tangible Needs – If you are communicating with your donors by text message, it’s easy and convenient to notify them of a specific need. For example, “text MASKUP to 12345 to make a gift that provides masks to our volunteers”.
- Monthly Donor Acquisition, or Bonus Donor Acknowledgement – Communicate with a new or existing donor by text message to direct the donor to a video on your webpage that includes a testimonial of a monthly donor. Send to people who have donated in the last 6-8 weeks as a reminder that monthly giving is an option, OR as an added thank you – because an extra thank you is never a bad idea!
What are my options for mobile giving?
- QR Codes – These are free scannable codes that are easy to print on newsletters, event handouts, signage, etc. When scanning the code, the URL you link to the code will come up on the users device, taking the person who scans it to your donation page or any other link you want to be easily accessed.
- Text to Donate – Your organization designates a specific keyword that is sent by text message to a specific number and the auto-text response will have a link to donate to your organization. This works especially well in live situations when your donors are captive and are ready to make a gift. There are several providers like Qgiv, Simple Texting, or GiveLively that offer this service.
- Text to Give – Another form of text giving through keywords, but it is limited to a specific dollar amount of $5, $10, or $25. The donation flows through the donor’s mobile carrier bill and is then sent to your organization some time later. This is a popular method for crisis fundraising, however, it does have a lower rate of actual gifts received because the charges can often be dropped off mobile bills before they reach the intended organization. You also are unable to collect any contact information for the donor aside from the cell phone number unless you engage in a more detailed mobile communication strategy.
What platforms are recommended for mobile giving?
- Qgiv – Multiple options and packages are available for online fundraising, including donation pages, mobile giving, events, peer to peer fundraising, etc. allowing your organization to choose the package that fits your needs. No long-term commitment is needed, but the quarterly discount is an added bonus to allow some time to familiarize yourself with the products offered.
- SimpleTexting – A platform to create keywords for text communication with donors. The text response typically contains your own link that you choose for donations or any other purpose. Cost is affordable and based on the number of outgoing messages sent.
- GiveLively — A donation platform that has no cost outside of credit card processing fee. Multiple packages are available with options that include donation pages, mobile giving, peer to peer giving, etc. It is user friendly and allows the ability to customize to send content of your choice.
How do these platforms work with our existing database?
- When using QR codes or SimpleTexting, donors are usually directed to the online form you choose. If that form is integrated with your database, it is an easy transfer of data in the method you’re familiar with using.
- Qgiv and GiveLively use their own donation merchant accounts and forms, thus requiring manual entry or importing of data. Qgiv does have some templates available for downloading convenience, depending on the donor software.
Mobile and text giving is an easy way to engage donors and spread awareness for your organization. By adding these simple tools to your preexisting events or fundraising efforts, your giving and captured donor information will increase! For more information or have any questions please reach out to us; we are happy to help.
For a variety of reasons, many organizations do not have a good, consistent fundraising reports that they regularly pull and use. There are also not one-size-fits-all reports that work perfectly at every organization. Identifying what is important to share, making sure data can be easily and consistently pulled from the database, and then committing the time to this process is essential.
There are two many categories of reports that are important to regularly review:
- External, high-level reports for leadership
- Internal, detailed reports for the development team
While there generally is some overlap, each category has a different purpose and so the reports within that should also have different information.
External Reports to Inform Leadership
Your Leadership team might include your executive director, executive leadership team, board, and perhaps even a donor development committee. External reports are meant to inform these groups. They serve to celebrate successes and help to identify where change might be needed. It is important to keep this report in a simple and consistent format, especially if you are not sharing any reports with the board at this point. There are a few different options as far as format and what type of data to share but pick one and stick with it! Whoever presents this data to leadership needs to fully understand it and be able to answer questions about it.
Finance reports are important and should be reconciled with when pulling fundraising reports. But they should not be shared in place of fundraising reports. There are different ways to classify things and a different level of detail required in both systems. If the only report leadership is seeing is about cash in the bank, it becomes difficult to get organizational buy-in and a discussion around other important but not dollar related fundraising goals.
Internal Reports to Inform the Development Team
There are helpful reports to pull in order to inform fundraising goals and planning each year. It is important for development staff to look at a variety of metrics, and more data and detail than is shared with leadership. When planning, use at least three years of comparison to inform your development plan. Giving by Donor Type: Between individuals, businesses, and foundations, recording the number of dollars per category, per year.
• Giving by Gift Type: How many gifts to you get by check, credit card, online, securities, in-kind, or other?
• Major Donor Metrics: How many new major donors are you getting each year? How many major donors increased their giving this year over last? What dollar figure comes from major donors each year?
• Acquisition Metrics: How many new donors are you getting each year? What are those appeals that acquire the most new donors each year?
• Retention Metrics: What is your overall donor retention rate? What is your retention rate for new donors? What appeals have the best and worst retention?
• Lapsed Donor Data: Where and when are we losing donors? Can you put a structure in place to look at donors 3 months ahead of time and try to capture them before the lapse? How are we engaging with event donors who didn’t attend an event?
• Event Data: What are the amounts raised in each segment of your event (sponsorships, ticket sales, donations, donations from those who cannot attend). What are your expenses and what’s the overall net?
• Gift Metrics: What are your most common gift amounts, particularly in direct mail/online giving? Look at your “check boxes” both in hard copy and online and consider changing those to allow donors to more naturally upgrade their giving.
Having a few consistent reports that are regularly reviewed can not only help keep everyone on the same page, but it can help inform strategies and focus on the right priorities. If you need a sample or just don’t know where to start, please reach out! We are happy to help.
Last year, we urged our friends and partners in the nonprofit community to Keep Calm and Keep Moving. While we are not completely past the challenges we faced in 2020, we wanted to take a moment to recognize the incredible tenacity shown during this unprecedented time. While there are dozens of examples of innovation and creativity to point to, the following are a few highlights of how our clients adapted their programs and services this past year.
Driveway Cabaret, Civic Theatre – As they say in the theater, the show must go on! And this was certainly true for Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, who reimagined the way they brought performing arts to the community after having to cancel most of their season. With Driveway Cabaret, actors brought the show to lawns and driveways across the city, delivering short productions at each stop before moving to the next home. This initiative was incredibly well received with the Theatre hosting over 100 outdoor performances. This clever adaptation kept the spirit of the theater alive at a difficult time for the community and provided a critical source of revenue while the theater was closed.
Farmworker Safety Kits, Migrant Legal Aid – Migrant Legal Aid is a trusted community resource for migrant farmworkers seeking legal justice, and last year, MLA’s work adapted to the needs of farmworkers who have been heavily impacted by the pandemic. More than 5,000 safety kits were distributed to area farmworkers and their families with information about COVID safety measures, reusable masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves. MLA’s outreach ensured reliable supplies and information reached this vulnerable population that often faces increased barriers to accessing preventative and emergent health care.
Supporting Student Learning, Numerous Organizations – Students throughout the community faced many new challenges this year with virtual learning taking place for at least part of the year at most area schools. For many families, supporting students at home was a significant challenge. Across West Michigan, numerous organizations stepped up to provide additional resources and support to students and families. In Grand Rapids, the Boys and Girls Club’s Learning Assistance Program offered a physical space for students to participate in online learning, with access to technology, academic assistance, extracurricular activities, and meals. On the lakeshore, Read Muskegon partnered with other area agencies to develop the Muskegon Heights Hope Center, a drop-in learning center for families in transient living situations or without the technology to complete online learning. In addition to supporting learners, the center also provided family literacy programming, meals, and connection to social support services.
As we move into the new year, there is still some level of uncertainty impacting not only the ways organizations offer programs and services that are core to their mission, but also how they approach fundraising. With each of the clients we work with, we are continuing to evaluate the best ways to communicate with donors, plan events, and prioritize fundraising needs for 2021 based on the trends we are seeing across the entire sector. As you make your fundraising plan for the year ahead, here are some of the key things to keep in mind.
- Continue to be flexible and adapt – Last year required new approaches to fundraising, and while we are slowly returning to “normal,” we must remain flexible and develop plans that can be adapted as needed. Events planned for 2021 – even those slated for the fall – should take into consideration that even when larger in-person gatherings are allowed, donor behaviors may take time to shift back. Not only should virtual options continue to be offered, but it may be a good time to reconsider or reimagine long standing events. Technology has enabled us to connect with individual donors in new ways, some of which can and should continue.
- Your donors still want to hear what you need – One of the most encouraging trends from last year was how donors stepped up to support the organizations they care about. While giving early in the pandemic was focused on basic needs delivery and health care services, many organizations we work with across the sector continued to see strong fundraising results later in the year, with many even seeing growth over 2019. In part, this was due to strategic communications that clearly indicated what the organization needed. Donors recognize that it will take some time for nonprofits to recover from 2020 – continue to share how you are adapting and what additional resources are required to do that, while also making sure to keep the focus on the future.
- Continue to broaden and diversify your network – The pandemic has not affected all parts of the community – or all donors – uniformly. Organizations with diverse networks are better positioned to weather times of challenge. Leveraging your board and volunteers is a great way to reach new networks – if you lack diversity in these areas, now is a good time to implement an intentional strategy to grow your reach.
While it may feel like additional effort up front, these practices will continue to pay off well beyond the current season. As we have certainly seen over the past year, through adversity comes innovation and progress. Keep moving forward – we’re here to help.
Meet D’onna King! D’onna is a senior at Grand Valley State University, graduating in April with a Bachelor’s degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration, with an emphasis in Budget and Finance.
My time with Kennari Consulting was more than just an internship; I was able to learn valuable skills, gain references for my resume, and create relationships with professionals that can be a resource after graduation. I never realized how important networking with professionals was before this internship.
I was able to work alongside members of the grants, project management, and admin teams – I was even able to work directly with the president of Kennari Consulting. I particularly enjoyed working with the project managers because I was able to shadow meetings with clients and attend events. While participating in client meetings, I learned about working with donor databases, researching projects, social media marketing, and presenting in webinars.
During my internship, I had the opportunity to attend Degage Ministries’ Celebrate Community event. This event highlighted the ways I can continue to help those in my community by volunteering my time. I also attended the virtual Young Professionals of Color Conference. This conference helped me learn how to reinforce my personal and financial foundations to weather these challenging times and to continue to build professional success in the face of uncertainty.
This internship has provided a jumpstart to my nonprofit career. When I first started, I had no clue what I wanted to do; now I am walking away with two new internships secured and a career path ahead of me!
It was an absolute pleasure to work with D’onna this semester! We are so grateful for and impressed by her ability to adapt to a virtual internship setting. Among D’onna’s most impressive attributes are her ambition, eagerness to learn, positive attitude, and willingness to take on any challenge. We are excited to see the impact she will no doubt make on the nonprofit world!
To learn more about Kennari Consulting’s internship program, check out our careers page.