Balancing the Mission Checkbook: Who Pays for the Common Good?

Every nonprofit at some point has to make difficult decisions about what to subsidize and what to let go. There are always limited dollars to spread around to pay for things. Where do you spread it, and how far do you go?

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Innovative Seattle Nonprofit Commissions Social Change Art and a Pop-up Studio

July 25, 2017; LA Weekly The new Seattle-based organization Amplifier is leveraging art to amplify social change messages. Its goal: to help save democracy. With the support of artist Shepard Fairey, it recently “staked out a pop-up studio” that also hosts meetings and showcases “the politically charged art posters” it has commissioned. For example, Amplifier received 5,000 submissions in eight days when it put out a public call for posters for the Women’s March. Amplifier’s executive director, Aaron Huey, and program director Cleo Barnett curated 150 of these to tour nationally; 45 are on display at the Silver Lake gallery, and five were printed and distributed to be carried by the “tens of thousands at the historic Washington March.” It all started last year when the Annenberg Foundation awarded Amplifier a $300,000 grant, deposited the day after Trump’s election. The money was going to be used for a prison reform campaign, but after the election, “a more imminent cause” was at hand: “We the People.” Barnet said, “If you look at the #wethepeople hashtag on Instagram, it’s guns and girls and beer and flags. We wanted to take something that was actually really inclusive and actually is the foundation of our democracy…It was about our American values and capturing the media attention away from the spectacle and pointing it towards the direction that we want to move to, as American people.” Amplifier spent all the grant money on the launch of the new campaign. When it hosted a Kickstarter campaign to recoup the money, it raised a million dollars in six days. To promote the campaign, it took out ads in the Washington Post, dropped off posters at businesses that wanted to support the campaign, and distributed at the Women’s March, as protest posters weren’t allowed at the inauguration. Barnett feels good about the work they’ve done. “Our goal for ‘We the People’ was to capture the whole world’s attention and point them toward a compass of our American values, and we did that…we obviously don’t think we’re heroes and that we can do it alone. It’s always with a community of people.” The pop up space is at 3333 Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake, California, and it will be up through August 4th.—Cyndi Suarez The post Innovative Seattle Nonprofit Commissions Social Change Art and a Pop-up Studio appeared first on Non Profit News For Nonprofit Organizations | Nonprofit Quarterly.

Remaking the American Dream without Homeownership: Implications for Nonprofits

For Rent sign” by Mark Moz

July 21, 2017; Wall Street Journal Last week’s Wall Street Journal explored the business of Wall Street landlords. These are investment companies which purchase single-family homes across the country to rent to families, many of whom were displaced from homeownership in the Great Recession. The article, “Meet Your New Landlord: Wall Street,” profiled the expansion of investor-owned, single-family rentals. Despite the end of the Great Recession of 2007 eight years ago, the homeownership rate in the U.S. continues to be at low levels. According to the article, “The buying spree amounts to a huge bet that the homeownership rate, which currently is hovering around a five-decade low, will stay low and that rents will continue to rise. The investors also are wagering that many people no longer see owning a home as an essential part of the American dream.” Americans have been trained to believe that homeownership is as American as apple pie. Few are aware that the American Dream of homeownership is actually a social construct created by the real estate industry and its allies in the political classes. As Professor Marisa Chappell writes in the Washington Post, “World War I-era real estate agents and the federal government launched the effort to idealize homeownership through ‘Own Your Own Home’ campaigns that associated single-family homeownership with character, thrift and patriotic Americanism.” Then, after World War II, the campaign was revived and policies were created to combat the Depression-era innovation of “public housing.” A bifurcated system emerged based on race and income; low-income and minority households being renters while middle-income whites became homeowners. Middle class white households were subsidized through easy credit, mortgage interest tax deductions, and interstate highways that opened up suburban communities. Today, we see the American Dream remade. As more white and middle class households are choosing rental over ownership, Wall Street has responded with two new products: single-family rental and “rent-to-own” models. A shift in the financing for single-family rentals marks the maturing of the Wall Street landlord business model. While the initial plan of the Wall Street landlords was to scoop up foreclosed homes at bargain rates and rent them until the homeownership market bounced back, investor owners are now seeking conventional long-term financing for their projects. The New York Times features a story on Wall Street landlords (and others) reaching out for conventional mortgage financing from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The prospective homeowner of today is a suburban middle-class renter. Don’t think of this as a “coastal” phenomenon; single-family rentals do best in Rust Belt communities. That alone should indicate that this is a new model, not just a temporary side effect of the Great Recession. Ironically, it’s lower-income and minority households who are now being sold the Homeownership Dream, but the new model is often a scam designed to recycle low-end properties which are not suitable by location or condition for the single-family rental market. These homes are often acquired through tax foreclosure and then resold by contract to buyers who are unable to get conventional financing. “How a Home Bargain Became a ‘Pain in the Butt,’ and Worse” tells the story of a Cincinnatian whose American Dream has become a nightmare. An NPQ article from 2016 profiled similar “rent to own” or “contract for deed” scams being operated by second-tier Wall Street landlords. These investor owners have institutionalized the real estate practice of “flipping” by merging it with predatory lending. What are the implications for nonprofits who work on housing and community development issues? How will this remaking of the American Dream affect their social practice?
  • For nonprofits providing services for low-income households, it is already evident that their clients could be at risk of rental scams or unaffordable “rent-to-own” or “contract-for-deed” schemes.
  • More renter households means more demand for rental housing, which has pushed up rates and will continue to do so. The fact that the U.S. is in a rental affordability crisis is no surprise. Rents are routinely outstripping wages across the country.
  • On the plus side, rental rights advocates may find new allies for reforms. In the past, middle class renters have been influential advocates on issues such as security deposits and landlord liability. Mobilizing middle-income renters to level the legal playing field between landlords and tenants benefits all tenants. On the other hand, mobilizing middle-income single family renters could be a challenge. The days when organizers could show up at a low-income high rise and start knocking on doors are changing.
  • For place-based associations, the notion of working with renters is a whole new world. Traditionally, community-based organizations, civic associations, and development corporations viewed renters as transients and built their practice models around resident homeowners. Now, even “stable” communities are seeing higher percentages of rental housing and renter households.
—Spencer Wells The post Remaking the American Dream without Homeownership: Implications for Nonprofits appeared first on Non Profit News For Nonprofit Organizations | Nonprofit Quarterly.

[PODCAST] Creating and Maintaining a Stellar Board of Directors | Ft. Simone Joyaux

Nonprofit consultant and lover of all things boards, Simone Joyaux knows the ins and outs of what it is that a board of governance does. From recruitment to diversity to her mission to destroy executive committees, Joyaux covers it all. She has posted this information in her free download library along with other topics we didn’t have time to cover. “Governance only happens when you forget individuals and focus as a group. That is a board.” – Simone Joyaux

Board of Governance Recruitment

As Joyaux mentioned, board recruitment is a year-long job. You should always be on the look-out for your next member. It can be hard to decide who is the right choice and where to get started. But just as you are interviewing them, they are interviewing you, too. Joyaux gave six questions that you must ask if you’re being asked to serve on a board of governance. And even if you’re not being asked, you as the interviewer should have answers ready for these questions.
  1. Do you have a policy of performance expectations for board members?
  2. What happens at a board meeting?
  3. When was the last time you had a disagreement at a board meeting?
  4. Is there any kind of annual performance review of the board or its members?
  5. What are your major issues that you’re facing right now?
  6. Why me? How can I help you address your needs?
By asking these questions, and knowing the answers to them as the interviewer, you’re really putting focus on the board serving as a diverse group with a lot of important things happening. Without conflict, set responsibilities and goals and a process to review the progress made, a board isn’t a board at all. It’s half-engaged individuals that aren’t going to accomplish nearly enough.

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nonprofit hubcast   The post [PODCAST] Creating and Maintaining a Stellar Board of Directors | Ft. Simone Joyaux appeared first on Nonprofit Hub.

Finding the Right Donor Database for Your Nonprofit (Updated)

Updated January 29, 2022

Consider this—7 out of every 10 donors only donate once. Not enough to shock you? Let’s add to the mix that 77% of donors leave due to a lack of communication. A donor database trumps a post-it note or spreadsheet any day of the week, but what one is right for your nonprofit?

With the right donor management tool to fit your organization’s needs, you have a better shot at communicating in the right way and building better relationships. When you communicate well with the right frequency, donors don’t leave your nonprofit behind!

To make it easy for you to navigate this article, we’ve broken our discussion into three helpful sections:

  1. Small Nonprofits: You have donors, but not a ton of them. You’re probably using a spreadsheet or accounting software to manage your list. 
  2. Medium-Sized Nonprofits: Maybe you have a donor database, but it’s not performing at the level you need, or, it’s cost-prohibitive to stick with as you grow.
  3. Large Nonprofits: Bringing your A-game is a must. Your nonprofit and fundraising team needs a strong tool with many features. 

Let’s get started shopping for the perfect database!

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1. Yes, There are Donor Database Solutions for Small Nonprofits!

As a small nonprofit, your budget doesn’t have much room to, well … budge.

Just because money might be tight doesn’t mean you should sacrifice comprehensive donor management tools! Like their larger counterparts, smaller nonprofits should use a donor database that allows them to gain insight into their constituents. With more insight comes more ability to strategize, and with better strategy comes support! These software options are well-suited for nonprofits that don’t need an extensive array of fundraising tools but still require the functionality of a database that a spreadsheet can’t provide.


This is the rare situation where “you get what you pay for” doesn’t apply. Although you have to apply to use GiveLively’s software, it is truly a free donor software for nonprofits! While not robust in terms of marketing support or the other bells and whistles larger platforms offer, it is a solid tool for new nonprofits. If you’re currently using a spreadsheet to track donors, this is a great way to get started with a more secure and sophisticated solution.


Donor Perfect’s solution is a long-standing and pretty highly regarded software. Through your Techsoup membership (free for nonprofits!) you can secure a base DonorPerfect package at a deep discount. If you’re running a simple operation you may find it a bit overwhelming, but for small nonprofits that have complex operations, it is a great solution. It helps your team manage donations, contacts, receipting, reporting, and email, from a single system.


Unlimited contacts? Yes, please. That’s just one of the “grow with you” features of this up-and-coming donor database solution. DonorDock boasts a pretty comprehensive suite of features and an Apple-Esque intuitive interface. Don’t let the fact that this software is newer to the market distract you from the fact that it’s ahead of the pack in modern capabilities.


All the bells and whistles of the big guys with an easy-to-use interface and affordable price – that is Auxilia! With a design built for small teams and those seeking a user-friendly interface, Auxilia is a low-stress (sorta fun:-) way to manage donor data. This software is especially great as it prioritizes integration with social media platforms. If your nonprofit is (or, is striving to be) digital-first in your donor acquisition and correspondence, this is a highly recommended tool.

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2. Many Options for Donor Databases for Medium-Sized Nonprofits

If your organization is smack dab in the middle, you’ve got a little bit of money to invest in donor management, and your number of constituents is growing. Even if you’re quickly on the rise, your nonprofit probably doesn’t have the budget to spend an arm and a leg. You’ll need to find a donor database that can accommodate your ever-changing needs and afford you the flexibility you need to grow your donor list. These middle donor management systems are for you!


You’re forward-thinking, so shouldn’t your donor database be, too? Driven gets high marks for social integration and helping nonprofit leaders to see donors from a 360-degree perspective. There’s nothing worse than realizing you overlooked one of your volunteers or members as a top donor, and this software won’t let you make that mistake!

Network For Good

Network For Good is a platform that can affordably scale with your organization if you’re seeking a standalone CRM/donor management tool. While a change to their software packages has added cost for event ticketing, a full suite of functionality is still there for nonprofits with multi-channel approaches.


At Bloomerang, nonprofit success relies on donor engagement and satisfaction. With their database, your donor retention rates are upfront and center on the dashboard so you know exactly how your organization is doing. You’ll also get a view of each individual constituent’s giving history to track fundraising success on a macro or micro scale! Bloomerang engagements are measured in “cold,” “warm,” “hot,” and “on fire!” You’ll get smart reports, a timeline of individual constituents, access to email distribution designed to increase retention, and printed direct mail pieces.


As your nonprofit grows, you’ll be doing more and more to attract and retain support, right? So, you’ll need a donor database that does a few more things, too. Humanitru will help your organization grow through almost any channel, including membership, events, and even volunteers. Best of all, it’s highly integrated with platforms commonly used in the nonprofit sector, including MailChimp and Constant Contact.

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3. The Bigger you are, the Bigger the Deal Your Donor Database is!

As a large nonprofit, you’ve got more constituents and a little bit more to spend. That said, you need a database that can accommodate a significant number of contacts without sacrificing usability. If that sounds like the kind of database you’re in the market for, check out these donor management systems that were built to handle large amounts of donors.

Raiser’s Edge Fundraising Software

Raiser’s Edge, Blackbaud’s fundraising and relationship management solution, offers tons of different giving options all in one place—major giving, annual fund giving, planned giving, and online giving. Plus, you can build a 360-degree view of your supporters and host all of your management in the cloud. With a strategic look at your constituents, you’ll have no problem retaining current donors and building your database through targeted marketing efforts. Bonus – they have a mobile app so you can track your donors on the go!


Well known in the for-profit space, Salesforce is also available for large nonprofits with complex fundraising and donor management needs. Instead of sales, track donations and manage your donors like you would a sales contact. After all, nonprofits are in the business of sales. Unique to the Salesforce system, you’ll have access to pre-integrated applications that can help you with events management and more.

What has your experience been with these nonprofit donor management systems? What would you add to the list?

Originally posted 3.3.14 | Updated 7.12.17 | Updated 1.28.22

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How to Use Communication to Engage With Your Constituency

Communication is key. You’ve heard it before, and you’re surely going to hear it again. And while it may be glaringly obvious and overused, there’s a reason you’ve heard that didactic little phrase from every teacher, manager or counselor you’ve ever had. Communication is undeniably important. It isn’t just a keyit’s the master key. It unlocks every door, behind which are donor and staff retention, increased fundraising, engaged volunteers and so much more. Let’s get our hands on that key.

Treat your donors and volunteers like customers

If you talk to any for-profit business leader, they’ll likely tell you customer service is a top priority, if not the top priority, for their business. This line of thinking should not be exclusive to for-profit business models. Nonprofits have customers, too, and it’s important that we keep them satisfied. The customers of your nonprofit are your constituents: your donors, your volunteers and anyone else directly affected by your work. They’re all buying into your mission, or, in business terms, your product. So keep your constituents happy by creating open lines of communication. Check up on them, and let them know you’re always available to talk or answer questions. Unhappy customers will take their business elsewhere. Philanthropists won’t stop giving; they’ll just find somewhere else to give. It’s up to you to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Don’t be condescending

We’ve all been treated like a Kindergartener in conversation, and it isn’t fun. More often than not, we don’t intend to be rude or condescending. We’re so caught up in doing what we love that we forget to meet people where they’re at. Don’t assume that someone knows all about your organization, even if they’re a donor or volunteer.

If you’re interacting with someone who knows nothing about your work, try putting yourself in their shoes. How would you want to be talked to if you were learning about an organization for the first time? Try to put your organization’s work in simple and relatable terms. Don’t use any confusing jargon or insider language used by you and your staff. Assume they know nothing, and go from there. Remember: it’s better to climb from the ground than fall from the ladder.

Create an elevator pitch

Your constituents include potential donors and volunteers, too. And while a lot of them may hear about your organization through your website or fundraising campaigns, it’s imperative that you’re able to verbally communicate your mission. Enter: the elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a 30-60 second spiel which succinctly captures your organization’s purpose. Be specific, be confident, and, most importantly, be quick—after all, the average adult attention span is about eight seconds.

The best elevator pitches are easy to memorize and recite. It’s important not to sound robotic, but if every member of your organization has a stellar elevator pitch, word of mouth will be your best friend. Plus, if someone is particularly impressed by your elevator pitch, they’re more likely to share it with their peers. It’s like nonprofit gossip, which is, of course, the best kind of gossip.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of your organization and forget the importance of communication. Just take a step back and imagine you’re on the outside looking in. Communicate clearly, succinctly and with humility. Remember that the customer (your donors and volunteers) is always right. Communication is key, and if you remember these helpful tips, just imagine all the doors you can open.

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