Leveraging Interest Groups to Communicate Your Mission and Vision

Nonprofit Social Media TipsNo money to get the word out on your nonprofit’s initiatives? No problem. Leverage your allies.

Consider that your stakeholders, that is, donors, clients, sponsors, board members, staff and volunteers that are involved with a nonprofit, become spokespeople for it simply by their association with the group. Making the most of their individual and collective voices is a smart and economical way for nonprofits to spread the word on who their organization is and what it’s doing.

Maximize messaging.

One way for a nonprofit to maximize its supporters’ potential impact is to encourage them to talk about and promote the organization and its efforts during their interactions with people outside of the charity, such as with family, friends and colleagues. Another means is to recruit available staff and volunteers to participate in opportunities on the organization’s behalf where their presence, and possibly voice, could heighten the nonprofit’s visibility, such as through business happenings and networking events, social media platforms, community outreach initiatives, awards programs and print, radio and televised media opportunities.

While it’s easy to see that the potential reach of a nonprofit’s supporters is far and wide, the organizations need to be sure that their supporters follow a defined direction in their outreach efforts or else the organization’s message could become lost, muddled or even distorted. For those reasons, nonprofits should provide their allies with a clear understanding of the organization’s key messages and talking points, so they’ll be able to effectively communicate the organization’s mission and initiatives to others when opportunities arise.

Remember, too, that while people involved with a nonprofit may be able to promote the organization in general terms, their message will be more effective if it’s aligned with a specific cause or initiative. Recently, for instance, one of Astor Services for Children & Families’ supporters used crowdfunding to alert others about a marathon she was running to benefit the organization. The initiative also was posted on social media and in the news media, helping her to surpass her goal by more than $1,000.

The idea is for organizations to start their outreach with a core group of stakeholders from which to branch outward, allowing the same message to be conveyed through many different means, in the hopes that it goes viral. After all, the more communities’ businesses and residents connect with a nonprofit, the more likely it is that they’ll take up the organization’s cause through financial contributions, volunteerism and other means.

Strive for balance.

At the same time, nonprofits should look for a balance in what is shared about them, how it’s communicated and how often. Social media, for instance, provides an easy way to communicate news in a readily accessible medium, but it can be overdone, causing people to bypass posts instead of reading and sharing them. Still, it can be difficult to know how much is too much. Data analytics on social media posts can be helpful in showing what’s been most effective in terms of opened, shared and commented news. Personal preferences can also help guide a nonprofit on what’s a suitable amount of news to share, including specific supporters’ feelings on what’s appropriate.

It’s also important to keep in mind that different demographic groups respond to news items and media outlets differently. That means it’s essential for nonprofits to know how to direct their messages to appropriate audiences, what the interests of that group are, and what they’d be likely to react to and read. It’s also key for nonprofits to know who, of their supporters, are the best people to deliver the organization’s news to each of their audiences. Some supporters, for instance, are happiest and most effective when they serve as ambassadors and help to fortify connections. Others may be more inclined to take the role of askers, where they ask probing questions of others, or serve as an advocate or advisor. Knowing what each ally’s comfort level and strength is can fortify a nonprofit’s position, as can being responsive to incoming interest in its cause.

Something else for nonprofits to think about is the general public’s knowledge of their cause. Autism, for instance, is a national issue that is so largely recognized that local nonprofits dedicated to the issue might find that minimal funds for their outreach efforts suffice. Other, lesser known groups that don’t have that kind of movement might need to dedicate more funds toward their effort to connect with others.

Adapt to changes.

By utilizing their allies’ reach, nonprofits can increase the span of their marketing efforts at a minimal cost, helping ensure that more of their money goes directly into their programs and services. For many, however, as their organization grows and expands its services, so will the pool of people it serves, necessitating a greater investment for its outreach programs to connect with target audiences. As always, it’s a matter of balance.

Big, small or no budget, effective outreach efforts require ongoing attention to successfully reflect the regular changes that a nonprofit and its communities experience. At Astor, we constantly go back to the data and hold up the mirror to see what’s working and what else we can do.

Back to the Basics: Getting Started in Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

P2P Fundraising TipsDo you feel like your organization has exhausted its fundraising opportunities? Does making your ever increasing budget feel like getting blood from a stone? Has your organization considered peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising as a way to expand your donor pool and your bottom line? Read on for a P2P primer and how to get started in P2P!

At its core, P2P fundraising allows organizations to tap into their supporters’ networks of family, friends, and coworkers. Without P2P, an organization’s donations are generally limited to their existing constituency and those who they can reach through various marketing methods. Through P2P fundraising, organizations greatly expand their universe of donors, while empowering their supporters to contribute more to causes they are passionate about. Even better, your supporters make better fundraisers than your staff because their donation asks are more likely to result in a donation. Your organization needs to ask hundreds or perhaps even thousands of people for a donation before receiving a gift. However, through their authenticity and personal connection, your supporters are likely to generate a donation by asking a just handful of their contacts for their support.

P2P fundraising has existed in various forms for years. Did you know the Girl Scouts were selling cookies to support troop activities in the early 1900s? Though providing something in return, the Girl Scouts understood that their girls were their best advocates and could make the biggest impact on fundraising through P2P methods. Around 1970, CROP Hunger Walks organized by Church World Services, and WalkAmerica, the predecessor to the March of Dimes’ March for Babies really got things rolling for fundraising walks. Since then, other popular events have emerged centered mostly around walks, runs, and cycling events.

From the Pan Mass Challenge benefiting the Jimmy Fund at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, to the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk, to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, many larger nonprofits turned to P2P fundraising to generate a significant amount of revenue. When online P2P fundraising was introduced in the late 1990s, popularity and revenue generated through these campaigns exploded. Today, with advanced social media tools and an increasingly peer-enabled world we live in, P2P fundraising is more important than ever! And it is not limited to larger organizations – organizations of all sizes and missions can get in on this lucrative fundraising venture!

What Types of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Are There?

Though there are many different types of P2P Fundraising that exist today, below are the four most common types of campaigns for your nonprofit to consider.

Proprietary Organizational Events

These events are developed and executed by the organization, and are likely the ones you are more familiar with. Though these events tend to be runs, walks, or rides, like the aforementioned examples, you will also find other types of events such as bowling tournaments, dance marathons, and even jump rope events. These events are also touted as a way to spread awareness about the organization and the cause. As they tend to take place at yearly intervals, proprietary events can foster loyalty to the organization.

Third Party Events

Third party events take advantage of existing events, typically athletic or endurance types of events, to engage fundraisers. For example, nearly 175 different non-profits have participants run and raise money through the Chicago Marathon. The obvious advantage of this type of P2P fundraising is that the organization doesn’t have to put on the event itself. The disadvantage can sometimes be that the connection with the organization is not as strong, as runners may sign up with a non-profit to gain entry into the event. More work is needed to form a connection with the cause and the organization.


This type or P2P fundraising in facilitated by the nonprofit, while the actual planning of the personal campaign is handled by the fundraiser. For example, charity:water encourages their supporters to set up a fundraising page for their birthdays and ask for donations in lieu of gifts. This type of fundraising also includes memorial and tribute pages, dare campaigns (I’ll shave my head if you help me raise money), or events such as bake sales, athletic endeavors, or parties. This type of fundraising is limited only by your organization’s willingness to cede control and the creativity of your supporters.


Peer-2-Peer Fundraising TipsThis type of fundraising is gaining in popularity in other types of business and is very similar to crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is the practice of financing a particular project by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people. Movie producers crowdfund the making of their movies, entrepreneurs crowdfund business ventures, newlyweds crowdfund honeymoons. This is the next generation of P2P fundraising!

This type of fundraising has been limited to major donors in the past. For example, when financing the construction of a new building, large donors are sought out for naming opportunities and sponsorships. In this model, P2P fundraisers are recruited to help raise a certain amount of money for a particular project in a certain amount of time. Like do-it-yourself, there is no event for the organization to produce, and it has the benefit of allowing supporters and donors to be very involved and excited about financing a project. This could apply to funding a certain type of research, feeding a certain amount of people during the holidays, providing shelter to fire victims, and so much more!

Is Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Right for Us?

Though exciting, P2P fundraising is not a fit for every organization for a variety of reasons. Before you get started it is wise to do a self-assessment and some evaluation.


Every nonprofit is looking for the silver bullet of fundraising, but we all know there usually isn’t one. Like anything else, raising money takes time, effort, and budget. Before starting off, ask yourself these questions.

  • Do we have staff available to dedicate to these efforts? There should generally be someone or a team who is ultimately accountable for generating revenue through this campaign. This is typically a fundraiser, not a member of the marketing or IT team, though those functional areas will also be critical to setting up the campaign. If your organization is smaller, is everyone’s plate already overflowing?
  • Do we have budget to invest in a new campaign? There is a lot more involved than just setting up a website and letting your supporters go to it. Costs for marketing, event costs, and supporter resources are just a few things to consider.


Looking around the industry and your own organizational niche can shed some important light on what the market will bear when it comes to introducing a new campaign.

  • Take a look inside: Does your organization already have a P2P campaign? Have you ever tried one before? If so, how did it go? The past is not always the best predictor of the future, but it can provide hints on what went well and what did not, providing you with ammunition to improve upon existing or prior campaigns.
  • What is working in the industry: As you evaluate different types of P2P campaign, talk to others who have been involved in managing these campaigns. What are the primary pros and cons from their point of view? What would they do differently? Observe their campaigns online and in-person and look for insights that can help you. Remember, there is no better form of flattery than “borrowing” techniques that are working well for others!
  • What is working in your local area or with your direct competitors: Can your immediate market sustain a new fundraising effort? Are there other programs like yours that already exist? If so, what spin could you put on a new campaign that will set it apart from the competition?


Internal and external expectations can go in several different directions, but here are the two most common, but very opposite, possibilities.

  • No buy-in: You are very excited by the prospect of starting a P2P campaign, but you are having difficulty finding any other champions within your organization. Starting a new campaign of this magnitude takes commitment throughout the entire organization. Continue to build your case until you have solid buy-in, particularly from senior management.
  • Unrealistic expectations: Your board chair saw the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge or some other P2P campaign and believes that you too can bring in a windfall with very little effort or investment. This kind of attitude is setting you up for failure. As noted above, adequate resources and staff time must be dedicated to a campaign like this – and not just at the beginning. An ongoing commitment and the realization that most “overnight successes” are actually years in the making.

Get Started!

Peer-to-peer fundraising is one of the most rewarding experiences for both participants and staff alike. If you’ve done your homework and are ready to take the plunge, you will not regret your decision!

To see how your existing event stacks up against similar P2P campaigns, or to see what may be possible for a new one, be sure to check out the recently released Peer-to-Peer Benchmark Study from Blackbaud!

3 Excellent Fundraising Event Ideas for Fall

Cool Fundraising IdeasThe leaves are changing color, the temperatures are dropping, and the kids are back in school. We all know what that means. Fall is here.

Guess what else is here? Fall fundraising season. It’s time. Gather your volunteers. Book your venues. Invite your donors.

First though, you will have to choose which events you will be hosting. In this article we discuss three excellent easy fundraising ideas, if they are not a good fit find more fundraising event ideas here.

As you make your selections, just remember one thing. Creativity is king in the fundraising world. Your supporters are just as bored with the same old, same old as you and your staff are. Shake things up!

Ready for a way to bust out of the gala and run/walk back and forth? Try these three fundraising event ideas on for size.

Fall Fundraising Event #1: Speed Networking

If you want creative, look no further than speed networking. This fundraising event combines three separate types of fundraisers into one super, spectacular fundraising extravaganza! I say that jokingly, but speed networking truly does combine three individually strong fundraising events into one night to remember.

Speed networking is a mix of:

  • speed dating
  • networking luncheons/dinners
  • happy hour events

Many of your supporters are professionals looking for social and casual avenues for networking.

As a fundraising organization, you should be able to appreciate the concept of “it’s who you know” as well anyone. Help strengthen your community of donors by bringing together a group of like-minded individuals to mingle in an interesting format, all for a good cause.

Promote the event across your various communication channels, and especially on social media. Speed networking is likely to draw a slightly younger crowd as its greatest appeal is to young professionals. So, plenty of marketing using your strong social media presence is a must.

Speed networking will run in much the same way as a speed dating fundraiser, minus the romance.

Have all attendees pay a small admission fee. Set up a series of two person seating arrangements. Break the group in half and designate one half as the seated section and the second half as the shifting section. Give professional pairs around eight minutes to mingle before calling for a switch.

Offer cocktails and light hors d’oeuvres throughout the night to cap off the experience.

It is always great to gather many of your supporters in the same room and find a way to reciprocate all they do for you. They’ll be grateful for the many valuable connections.

Fall Fundraising Event #2: Weight Loss Challenge

Why worry about holiday weight gain? Get into those skinny jeans early and stay that way with a weight loss challenge fundraiser. Also called a weight loss-a-thon, weight loss challenges are fundraising events for those of us looking to live healthier lifestyles.

They function just like other “a-thons,” from the more standard walkathon to the less practiced read-a-thons. This time though, instead of competing to walk the most miles or read the most books, people will be competing to shed the most pounds.

Host the event via a peer to peer platform and run one competition for individuals and one for teams. People will gladly sign up for the charitable incentive to stick to their fitness goals.

Like most similar events, this weight loss-a-thon will raise money through pledges made based on participant performance. Your competitors can gather set amounts just on the basis of entering and/or they can gather pledges per a certain amount of pounds lost.

Find health experts like personal trainers and nutritionists to volunteer their services in-kind to help guide the competition and make sure everyone is making the right decisions for their own needs.

It’s a fundraising event that lets participants do well by themselves, while doing well by others. Plus, this whole event is low-cost, meaning there is a huge chance for a favorable fundraising return on investment.

Fall Fundraising Event #3: Vacation Giveaway

As we round the corner towards fall, we’re harshly reminded that the joyous vacations of summer are a thing of the past. Our wanderlust sets in and we start making plans for our next big trip. Satisfy that travel bug. Offer up the trip of a lifetime with a vacation giveaway!

Run your vacation giveaway like a travel raffle. They take ingenuity, dedication, and some good fortune to come together, but, boy, when they do come together, it is something to behold.

The best part about hosting a travel raffle in the fall is that it will be used in the coming winter or spring, meaning both warm and cold weather destinations are up for grabs.

Plan the greatest trip you can think up. The biggest obstacle you’ll face is securing enough items to put together an entire trip package. A prize on the minimal side of things will have lodging and airfare. Build up from there with excursions, dinners out, and various other must-sees depending on the locale.

You’ll be able to put together a complete travel package through gifts in-kind from various businesses and supporters of your organization.

Sell tickets for the raffle at a set price according to how much the trip is worth. Then, invite everyone to the big pick and announcement. Prospect research will help you find both candidates to donate gifts and candidates to buy raffle tickets.

All three of these fundraisers are sure to bring success. They each address a different kind of audience and need. One or all might be the right choice for your organization. Take your pick and get to work!


Fundraising Advice – Be Creative!

Nonprofit Fundraising IdeasNonprofit leaders have always had to be creative to attract board members, donors and general attention. In a crowded field of many very worthy charities, it takes something very different to get noticed.

The stakes continue to get higher every year. People may look forward to the annual gala, golf tournament, fashion show and casino night. But executive directors and CEOs of charities are taking their fundraisers to a new level.

Nonprofit leaders have always had to be creative to attract board members, donors and general attention. In a crowded field of many very worthy charities, it takes something very different to get noticed.

The stakes continue to get higher every year.  People may look forward to the annual gala, golf tournament, fashion show and casino night.  But executive directors and CEOs of charities are taking their fundraisers to a new level.

Marathons begat walk-a-thons which led to bike-a-thons that turned to super walks.   Now, Avon encourages people to walk 39 miles to raise money for breast cancer.

Thrill seekers and daredevils have their opportunity to get involved in their personal passions and still give back to the community.  Over the Edge works with organizations to rappel down the side of a building!  Gilda’s Club, Make-a-Wish, Boys and Girls Club and Shatterproof are all lining up to rappel down.

Last year, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral and raised more than $100 million by urging people choose between donating or dumping ice water over their heads for awareness.  Yes, people really drenched themselves in ice-cube laden water.  Similarly, the Polar Plunge asked people to immerse themselves in icy water to encourage generous giving.

Outside the danger aspects, other creative ideas are finding a place in the nonprofit world

Fundraising Ideas

HOPE Outreach, Canstruction®

At HOPE Outreach Center, we’re hosting Canstruction® to supply food pantries with much needed food.  We discovered that this innovative event has had significant success in other markets, and we felt that now was the best time to launch it in our own backyard.  This unique but growing fundraiser allows companies to create a team-building experience and do something important for the community.  It takes ingenuity and perseverance to create the incredible structures that are made entirely of cans.  But it works.

Why are we – and so many others – taking a chance with new ideas?   It’s no longer an option, it’s a demand that we find ways to increase our visibility, and to give our public something new to consider.   Door to door asks are no longer effective.  Direct mail is getting too costly for the benefit. Galas still have their place, but require so much up front that the risk factor is considerable.

So we take risks in other ways.  By trying something new, something that the community can get behind, something that speaks to our mission and our mindset, we can make an impact on hunger and raise awareness of the issue – and some of the solutions.

Businesses are always getting creative. Some exhibit it in innovative corporate titles.  Yes, Sales Ninja, Marketing Rockstar and Creative Superhero are actually on business cards! Other companies have clever workspaces with standing desks, meditation rooms, and internal juice bars.

In the nonprofit world, all our creativity is focused on gaining visibility, understanding and ultimately funds.

From our point of view, there’s no better reason.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin