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Millennials and post-Millennials, Generation Z, live, eat, and likely even sleep, with their phones. The word Millennial has become so overused that it sounds less like a term for a generation and more like fingernails dragging down a chalkboard. Regardless, you can’t ignore the largest generation in American history and the hours they consume media online. Plus, unlike the upcoming Generation Z, Millennials have billions of dollars to spend -- or donate.
Obviously, this makes your video content very important. I constantly hear from nonprofit organizations struggling with how to effectively leverage the attention of this digitally-immersed audience. Below are some of the primary issues I see from nonprofits when trying to tell their stories through online videos:
Your nonprofit sells bracelets made by youth from disadvantaged neighborhoods and 100% of the proceeds go to raise awareness about polluted water for endangered species in third-world countries with evil dictatorships. Huh?!
That’s too complicated. Keep it simple.
We all know many of the reasons domestic violence victims don’t escape their abusers: fear, a sense of helplessness, and financial dependence among them. But an estimated 40 percent of domestic violence victims say that, among the ties that binds them, is their concern for what will happen to their pets if they leave them behind, as domestic violence shelters in Maricopa County generally don’t allow pets, except for service animals.
That is, until now: In 2015, the Sojourner Center in Phoenix started––as a pilot––the region’s first animal shelter to serve the pets of domestic abuse victims. The Arizona nonprofit, Lost Our Home Pet Rescue, is providing the pet care expertise for Sojourner’s project.
The shelter provides basic daily care, exercise for dogs and cats, and special accommodations for birds, fish and other family pets. The shelter is also where the animals’ owners––victims of domestic abuse––can be with their pets for the therapeutic value of companionship and for simple continuity with an old friend. In early 2016, it housed seven dogs, eight cats, two turtles and one parrot near the building where the residents stay for up to 120 days. After the initial stay residents can move into their own apartments for as long as two years, taking their animals with them.
It seems like a self-evident solution have a shelter for pets so that more victims of domestic violence will seek help, as well as to protect animals likely to be abused if left behind. But in today’s fundraising environment “you have to prove things,” says Teri Hauser, Sojourner Center’s chief advancement officer. “Not only do funders want evidence, but so do program staff members, who must always weigh the value of competing demands for resources.”
Fundraising is an undeniable part of the nonprofit sector, particularly for 501(c)(3) public charities. Like it or not, money is the fuel of the economy in a capitalist system. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics at The Urban Institute, 2013 saw $1.74 trillion in total revenue for the nonprofit sector. Roughly 21% of this came from gifts, donations, and grants, while 79% came from fees, contracts, and other revenue streams. In short, almost a quarter of the sector’s revenue comes from fundraising.
According to the 2014 Giving USA Report, 72% of all giving is done by individuals. This means that the quarter of the nonprofit sector’s revenue that comes from fundraising is mostly made up of contributions from individual donors. According to the US Census Bureau, 73.4% of all households reported having high-speed internet access. In every age category, over 50% of households have high-speed internet access. Even in states where the amount of people with high-speed internet access is lower than the national average, at least 62.3 percent of people have high-speed internet, with at least 80% owning a computer. According to the Pew Research Center, 73% of online adults use Facebook. Over 80% of all adults under 50 use social networking sites of some kind.
The reality of the age we live in is that the internet is here to stay. Younger generations have been raised with it and on it. It has become the way we get news, the way we entertain ourselves, the way we communicate, and, in many ways, the way we do business. The nonprofit sector must take heed to proceed carefully, as more and more of our fundraising begins to happen online. The days of major donors being completely cultivated and stewarded online are not here by any means. But the days of these donors only having knowledge of, and contact with your organization through personal face-to-face interaction are long gone. The internet has become a vital tool in our nonprofit fundraising arsenal, and as such we must move forward with gusto in this area.
As we move forward, we have to make sure that we do so in a way that allows our fundraising online to be reliable and sustainable. If we do not, we run the risk of damaging our donor base and running out the potential for funds. Organizations would be wise to heed the following recommendations as they begin to utilize internet-based fundraising.
The contemporary nonprofit sector exists within a shifting landscape of complex social problems, innovative technologies, and the growth of grassroots efforts. In order to be successful in effectively addressing social ills, nonprofit organizations must learn to utilize a network strategy of collaboration amongst diverse stakeholders to create true social impact. While there are many benefits related to a network-centric framework, including access to new and diverse perspectives, networked resources, and mobilized, coordinated action, there are also barriers to effective networking that can arise, such as collective preconditions, substantive uncertainty, and competition within the network. By utilizing four key strategies of involving diverse stakeholders, creating a backbone infrastructure, developing shared terminology and measurement indicators, and promoting collective action, organizations can find success in effective networking and produce meaningful social change.
There is a saying among fundraising professionals that proposal writing is both an art and a science. The art aspect refers to how well an inspired writer describes a project and the grant-seeking organization. The science aspect refers to the comprehension of the technical structure upon which those words are arranged” (Blanchard & Bullock, 2010).
Grant funding can be a great way for a nonprofit to boost its revenue, with giving by corporations and foundations in the United States in 2013 amounting to $67 billion. Many nonprofit organizations are active in the grants marketplace, seeking funding to support their programs and operations; but with the number of nonprofit organizations on the rise over the last decade, the competition for funding has become more intense. Grant seekers must find ways for their proposals to stand out among the rest.
While many nonprofits give much attention to fundraising and grant writing, they often place less emphasis on supporting areas – such as planning and budgeting – that can improve the likelihood that a grant request will be funded, as well as lead to further financial stability of their organization. It is not always enough for an organization to write an amazing grant proposal. While that may help to win grants from some funders, other funders will want to take a more in-depth look into the organization and the program before awarding funds.
Some of the most common errors with grant proposals as identified from the perspective of the grant reviewer are:
Nonprofit organizations rely on a strong base of volunteers. Getting people behind a cause is not particularly difficult, but learning to harness the energy of your nonprofit’s mission can take some work. The following tips will help you gain, manage and inspire volunteers for any nonprofit.
When someone expresses interest in volunteering for your organization, make sure that it is followed-through with immediately by you or a member of your staff. Urge the person along by either email or calling them a.s.a.p. If they don’t get back to you within a week, call to re-express your need for their time.
2. Shower Volunteers with Recognition:
You basically cannot say thank you enough to volunteers. Let them know often how much you appreciate them putting in their time and effort towards progressing the mission of your nonprofit.
3. Discuss How Their Contribution Helps:
Often volunteers may feel jaded that their efforts aren’t making much of a difference. Let them know exactly what their contribution does for your organization.
4. Know What Volunteers You Need:
To get the most out of your volunteers, make sure to know what type of volunteer services you need to achieve the long and short term goals for your nonprofit.
There’s a saying that often refers to personal relationships: Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.
But think it over for a bit, and you’ll soon see that it’s quite applicable to management, too. It takes time for an organization to build a good reputation, but it takes only one publicized issue to ruin it.
The issue in question doesn’t even have to be true. The public’s perception of the brand value of an organization (whether it’s for-profit or nonprofit) is easily affected once talk starts to spread. In this day and age of social media, news — especially the bad kind — spreads fast, and no one is exempt.
However, according to a poll conducted by Deloitte (one of the Big Four professional services firm in the world) during a webcast, only 24 percent of the participants belonged to organizations that had formal ways to measure and assess brand value. Worse, fewer than 22 percent believed that their respective organizations would become the subject of negative publicity on social media. The problem with this outlook is that it leaves organizations ill-prepared to handle large-scale PR problems.
As a keen volunteer at our local charity, AlphaTutorials, I was tasked with helping them try to attract more students, as they were in decline every year. The charity seeks to improve the education of those in need for free, while also providing tuition for students. This is done with the help of local teachers who volunteer their time. The centre had helped me a couple of years prior, by allowing me to earn my A level Psychology, which was something I decided to do to improve my own education. It felt right that I do something to help them back.
One thing was apparent when I sat down and tried to figure out how I would help AlphaTutorials as a volunteer. I knew that the main resource we had available at our disposal was knowledge. We had qualified teachers in all the main subjects taught across the UK, from Mathematics to the sciences, and therefore it made sense to try to utilise this to our advantage somehow.
Only a few weeks prior, I had stumbled on the story of Pat Flynn, who wrote about how he had sold educational resources which proved popular when he started his website SmartPassiveIncome.
I saw no reason why we couldn’t do the same, with our goal being to funnel students to the centre, but also diversify into resources. We sat trying to understand our market and we found websites focusing on Sociology revision resources doing quite well when giving them away for free. We obviously couldn’t compete with a free product, so we decided the best subject for us would be psychology,as that was one of the most popular but underserved subjects in terms of online resources. We set up a partner website, Loopa Psychology and spent the last 12 months focusing our efforts on trying to make it more visible within the searches. Our main method of doing this was utilising our network of teachers to have schools refer students to the site or have us added among their list of recommended reading websites.
SEO & Link Earning Strategist
This blog post is for nonprofit organizations and charities that are looking to increase their online exposure (without spending loads of money) so they can receive more volunteers, donations, attention etc.
Here are some tips for nonprofits to improve link earning within their online communities.
Link earning is building relationships with valuable websites within ones specific industry that generate high quality content.
Link earning helps improve search engine rankings and drives traffic to the website. It’s great when people share your content; it’s even better when they are real people doing it of their own accord. Quality content is the foundation and incentive for shareability.
Arizona Campaign Director
In April, I left the helm of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, after ten years of building it into a force for strength and progress in serving the state’s nonprofit community. It was not easy to leave the Alliance, because I still consider the position of CEO of the Alliance to be one of the best anybody could have. To work every day with and for some of the most inspiring and passionate people dedicated to building a stronger Arizona was a dream come true. Only the opportunity I am now pursuing at Open Primaries to reform our political system could draw me away, because I know that nonprofits need a stronger partner in government in order to succeed.
So, as I made my transition – keep in mind that I am still working a nonprofit, just a c4 instead of a c3 – the moment gave me reason to reflect upon the 10 years of experience I had at the Alliance and with colleagues across the country through the National Council of Nonprofits. I first tried to remember what it was like in 2005. The economy was booming, and nonprofits were talking about creative ways to sustain themselves through social enterprise. Meanwhile, we were concerned about the huge leadership transition coming, as baby boomers, in the top positions at so many nonprofits, were heading into retirement years. And there was much talk about nonprofits running themselves more like businesses.
Wow, ten years passed, and here we are in 2015: social enterprise is the rage, the boomer retirement wave is a concern, and people are talking about nonprofits operating like businesses. Really?