Four Online Fundraising Pitfalls—And How to Avoid Them

posted by
David Clain
Camelot Campaigns

More and more nonprofits are shifting their fundraising focus online—and for good reason. Online fundraising platforms are making it easier than ever for donors to contribute when and how they want to, and they eliminate some of the costs of direct mail solicitations and in-person events.

Data published last year in the Chronicle of Philanthropy shows this trend clearly: online donations to nonprofits increased 14% in 2012 relative to 2011, while overall donations increased by only 1.5% in the same period.


But this trend has been uneven. The American Lung Association, for example, received nearly a third of its private donations through the internet in 2012—but the median large organization raised only 2.1% of its donations online in that period. 

The lesson? Online fundraising is important—and growing more important every year—but nonprofits can't just open a spigot and watch online contributions pour in. Successful online fundraisers avoid the common mistakes that plague so many others. Here are four fundraising pitfalls we see too often, and how can you can avoid them.

Ask a Nonprofit Specialist: What does the repeal of Arizona's solicitation law mean to my nonprofit?

posted by
Anne Byrne,
ASU Lodestar Center

Question: How have the requirements for charitable solicitation registration in Arizona changed with new legislation? What does this mean for my organization? Are we still required to file annual reports? What about internet based fundraising? Are we required to register with other states? Is this good or bad for nonprofits in Arizona?

The Arizona legislature recently passed legislation that repeals Arizona’s solicitation registration laws and the requirement that nonprofit organizations file annual solicitation registration or renewal forms with the Secretary of State. This should not be confused with the Corporate Annual Report required by the Arizona Corporation Commission, which is still required.

Most states typically regulate nonprofit organizations through solicitation laws that are concerned with charitable solicitations from the general public. These laws were designed to protect the public from misleading or unethical fundraising practices.

Ask a Nonprofit Specialist: Engaging the board of directors in fundraising

posted by
Anne Byrne,
ASU Lodestar Center

Question: My board of directors is not effective at raising funds to support our organization. Many members seem afraid of the issue and say things like “I will do anything but fundraise.” How do I get them involved?

Effectively engaging board members in fundraising is a very common challenge for nonprofit organizations. Many board members are unaware of their responsibilities to fundraise or feel inadequate in meeting the challenge. Others may have had bad experiences or have misconceptions about fundraising. While it can be difficult to engage board members in fundraising, there are a few steps that will help ease the way, build confidence and improve effectiveness.

What are you doing for Arizona Gives Day?

posted by
Jill Christiansen
Arizona Gives Day Nonprofit
Outreach Coordinator
Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits

Join the hundreds of Arizona nonprofits who are combining forces on the one day that the people of Arizona have the power to raise as much money as possible for the state’s nonprofit sector through the fastest growing method of giving: online fundraising. And it’s all happening on March 20.

The Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits and The Arizona Grantmakers Forum have teamed up to do what has never been done before in our state. Many states across the nation are already participating in giving days, and it’s Arizona’s turn to cash in. The process is simple, yet powerful. Nonprofits wishing to participate register at, complete their profile, then promote like their lives depend on it. For some organizations, it really does.

As the sector continues to experience cuts from all sources of funding, new ways of fundraising must be created and explored. One of these ways is online fundraising coupled with social media. The success of online giving concepts, such as Giving Tuesday, has increased dramatically, even in just in the past few years. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy and PRNewswire, $10 million was raised in online donations on Giving Tuesday – a 53% increase when compared to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving the previous year.

What happened to the FUN in fundraising?

posted by
Lindsay Walker
Executive Director

Last month, CompassPoint, in conjunction with the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, released a report revealing some unfortunate statistics which provide real insight into the fundraising industry. Through raw data collected from more than 2,700 nonprofit and development professionals from across the country and representing a cross-section of organizational structures, Underdeveloped illustrates the oftentimes challenging career tract of fundraising, particularly within smaller nonprofits. The report explains how frustrations within a development position can commonly lead to myriad hurdles for an entire organization and offers tangible advice on how the sector as a whole can dramatically reshape the field of fundraising.

It’s no secret that fund development is tough work. With limited financial resources and human capital to dedicate toward annual funds, campaigns or special events, nonprofit organizations typically find themselves stuck in a rut; a rut that seldom generates new or additional funds. Moreover, the apathetic and even sometimes fearful attitudes toward fundraising among staff and board members can lead to a philanthropic dead-end. For fundraisers who find themselves discouraged with their organization’s fundraising landscape, or lack thereof, transitioning into another position or leaving the sector altogether seem more promising than transforming a stagnant development infrastructure into a flourishing operation.

A cultural shift within the nonprofit community

posted by
Brandee Wessel,

Director of Development
National Multiple Sclerosis
Society, Arizona Chapter

Gone are the days when nonprofit organizations were able to host a walk, gala, or other fundraising event, and have the entire weekend devoted to their organization. Now, there are often multiple events in the same time period, pulling from a similar pool of donors. What used to be a simple way to engage the community has turned into a competition on how to be more creative in raising dollars. And let’s be honest: our economy appears to be improving in certain areas, but overall we are still a ways off from the good ol’ days where unemployment and the uncertain housing market weren’t hot topics and mentioned in every news portal available. As much as we want to be optimistic, these topics make our community nervous and often unsure of what direction we are heading.

This is why we need to be working smarter, not harder, and we need to start collaborating. It is a time to unite with companies within our community and connect with one another’s missions. How can we help each other? How can we grow our fundraising campaigns and be good stewards in our community while also informing our supporters of the good work they are building on? Many are promoting fundraising campaigns within their establishments, not only engaging employees but engaging customers. This type of exposure is extremely valuable, as many nonprofits do not have a marketing budget. Furthermore, it is wise to learn as much as possible about the companies your nonprofit is connected with. Many have a matching gift program that will automatically double and sometimes triple the donations raised by company employees. This type of support can take your event to the next level.

It is also essential to partner with other nonprofits that have similar missions or even backgrounds within the community. If your missions align, you may be able to partner on projects that would otherwise be put on hold. By identifying potential partners, nonprofits can often accomplish their goals together within the same project. It is also prudent to stay in touch with colleagues and even join in their efforts within the community. For example, there is a local nonprofit whose sole mission is to bring together other nonprofit health agencies. Many times it will arrange for multiple nonprofits to visit and speak to large companies throughout the valley as a way to streamline employee giving campaigns. This is a nice way to not only highlight their respective efforts, but also keep in touch with similar organizations. Such a practice will ultimately pay off in the end when employee dollars are distributed.

Transition From Event-Based Fundraising to Annual Fundraising

posted by
Sheryl Keeme,
Executive Director,

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

If you are depending on special event income to fund your mission, it’s likely you’ve noticed the last five years have felt like you are moving up the down escalator. Perhaps you have noticed that sponsors are gripping their pocketbooks with a tighter fist, attendees are not as plentiful as they once were and high-end table buyers are downsizing their commitments. What’s more is that it doesn’t really matter whether it is a high-end gala or a walk. Keeping staff motivated and raising the big dollars with special events can be an expensive and staff-intensive endeavor that is growing more difficult to sustain in our world’s diminished economy.

Yet, donors are still available but are far more discriminating about where to invest their charitable dollars.  Here are some items that donors want when making their decisions:

  • Results. Donors want to know what happened with the dollars you used to have. What did your organization do to move the marble?
  • Personalization. Do you know me and what I like to support? 
  • Knowledge. Do you keep me informed of mission progress without always asking for support?

So how does an organization make this transition? Here are some steps to get started:


Collect and organize

Vital Fundraising Skill - The Power of Story Time

posted by 
Susie Brown,
personal finance consultant

and freelance writer

Remember in nursery school how fun story time was? Ah, story time, just sit back, relax and let your imagination bring you to new places in time and space. The truth is, story time never gets old for people of any age, and it can be an effective and successful tool for communicating with adults. A story has the ability to unlock doors, unlock hearts, and open minds, all of which helps in fundraising. Here are a few ways telling a story can be helpful in fundraising:

Breaking through the noise—There is no lack of worthy causes for philanthropists to choose from, so why should anyone take notice of your cause? A great way to make your organization stand out from the rest is by telling stories. What has your organization done successfully to change lives and make the world a better place?

Emotional involvement—When people hear a story, they are able to comprehend it with more than just the power of their intellect, they can understand your message on an emotional level. Once people become emotional supporters of your cause, less convincing is needed to gain their support.

Time to Give a Little

posted by
Kayla L. McKinney,
Project Specialist
ASU Lodestar Center

Reality: I think your cause is awesome. In fact, I think your cause is fantastic. You want to help the homeless? Me too! Rescue dogs? Me too! Make sure everyone has access to clean water? I’m on board! 

Other reality: I don’t have the time or money for your cause.

One more reality: I still want to help.


I know a lot of people who understand my plight. I’m a grad student, after all! And being a grad student means I’ve got more than a few limitations, economically speaking. So, how do you, as a nonprofit organization, get me to help you?

Jump head-first into the world of microgiving.

Microgiving is when a person donates small, seemingly insignificant amounts of money to a cause or a nonprofit. And it’s exploding in popularity, especially with our increasingly digital lifestyles. Many microgiving websites make it outrageously simple to donate, and with mobile giving on the rise, we can definitely expect an increase in the number of smaller donations.

I had a chance to chat with Leo Ramirez, President, CEO, and Co-Founder of MiniDonations, and he summed it up excellently: “When compounded, small donations of one's time, talent, and treasure can profoundly impact our world. Not only are these gifts more accessible — regardless of age or income — they're habit-forming: transforming a small giver today into a major donor tomorrow.”

In other words, it’s worth your time to get into the microgiving spirit. And there are lots of ways to approach it. What makes microgiving so neat is how creative some of the organizations have gotten with it. Below are a few of my favorite microgiving options — some your organization can use, some you can be inspired by, and some you can donate to yourself. So, go ahead - think small!

Research Friday: Current Status of Arizona's Philanthropic Resources

posted by
Marissa Theisen,
President & CEO
Arizona Grantmakers Forum

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. Today, we welcome Marissa Theisen of Arizona Grantmakers Forum to discuss findings from the 2010 Arizona Giving Report.

One never-ending concern for nonprofits is funding. Organizations must continually evaluate which programs get priority, and at times, make tough decisions as to which ones get cut. As a state-wide sector, it can help us to understand what funding looks like across Arizona. Arizona Grantmakers Forum (AGF) released a 2010 Arizona Giving Report earlier this year. It provides an overview of the size and scope of philanthropic activities in our state, based on 2008 IRS data. The findings reveal some interesting facts and raise serious questions about the funding of Arizona's nonprofit sector:

First, Arizona's institutional philanthropic sector is smaller than most states. Total foundation assets were just under $6 billion. Arizona ranked 40th among states in terms of private foundation assets per capita. Given Arizona's severe economic challenges, we don't anticipate any significant increase in the total size of our philanthropic assets over the next several years.