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Donor Participation Project

Fundraising Leadership: Building a Positive Team Culture

As a fundraising leader, building a positive culture is one of the most important things you can do. Your team culture impacts morale, productivity, and staff retention—all of which drive your organization’s success. Craig Evans, associate dean for development and external relations at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, shares some advice for developing a healthy team dynamic:

Establish ground rules and define expectations.

Sit down with your team and determine guidelines for how you’ll work together. Discuss what you each expect from one another and from leadership. Revisit these rules regularly and hold each other accountable. When done right, ground rules can transform team dynamics and set the tone for a supportive culture.

Prioritize check-ins and communication.

For remote or hybrid teams, check-ins are critical. Hold weekly virtual coffee breaks or meetings and do quick “electronic drive-bys” via messaging to stay in touch. Ask open-ended questions to see how people are really doing. Look for ways to strengthen relationships, not just tasks.

Gain buy-in through transparency.

Explain your reasoning behind new initiatives to get team support. Educate senior leadership on approaches that work. Share wins and lessons openly. When people understand the why behind decisions, they’ll be more invested in success.

Reflect daily on your leadership role.

Each day, ask: What does my team need to hear from me? What do senior leaders need to know? What can I do to support my team? Look for ways to empower others, not just command them. Your team’s morale depends on your ability to step back and consider their experience.

An intergenerational team takes work.

Focus on shared goals and an open environment where all feel heard. Help younger members develop through mentorship. Discuss challenges candidly to build trust despite differences. When you hire, consider soft skills and culture fit—not just expertise.

With the right mindset and tools, you can build a fundraising team that accomplishes amazing things. But never stop reflecting on how to strengthen your leadership and support your team. Their success and the organization’s impact depend on it.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

Donor Participation Project

Ten Tips for Donor-Focused Writing

Effective communication is key to building meaningful relationships with donors. Your writing should focus on the donor, not your organization. Here are ten tips for crafting donor-focused communications from our session with Debbie Meyers.

Know your audience. Research your donors to understand their motivations and interests. Segment your list and tailor messages to different groups.

Make it personal. Use donors’ names, mention their previous gifts, and highlight their impact. Thank them for their loyal support. Ask for and use personalized salutations.

Praise and thank. Express gratitude for donors’ gifts and their role in achieving your mission. Thank them specifically for the change they make possible.

Use a conversational tone. Write the way you speak to build rapport. Use contractions, end sentences with prepositions, and start sentences with conjunctions like “and.” Keep your language straightforward and friendly.

Be original. Avoid clichés and “mad libs.” Come up with creative ways to start thank you letters beyond the standard “Thank you for your gift of $X to Y program.” Share stories and examples that are unique to your work.

State your purpose. Don’t bury the lead. Explain why you’re communicating within the first paragraph. Be transparent about asking for donations or help. Your donors will appreciate your clarity and honesty.

Tell a story. Stories inspire action. Share stories of how donors’ gifts impact real people. Storytelling triggers emotions and makes information more memorable.

Show impact. Highlight compelling statistics and specific examples of how you’re achieving results. Focus on outcomes and impact, not just activities. Build a case for the importance of donors’ support.

Keep it concise. Aim for short sentences, active voice, and straightforward language. Follow the “rule of three” to keep discussions brief. Pack each communication with value for the reader.

Start and end strong. Begin by stating your purpose clearly. End by reiterating key points and issuing a clear call to action. Thank the reader again for their support. Strong endings create lasting impressions.

Following these tips will help you craft donor communications that inform and inspire. Build trust through authentic and impactful messaging focused on your donors’ interests and motivations. Make each interaction an opportunity to strengthen your relationship.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

Donor Participation Project

How Nonprofits Can Unite Marketing and Fundraising Teams

For nonprofits, uniting marketing and fundraising teams is critical to success. But this is often easier said than done. Marketing and fundraising require different skills and mindsets, and teams can easily become siloed. However, with leadership, communication, and shared goals, marketing and fundraising can work together effectively.

The first step is getting leadership on board.

The executive director and board must understand why marketing and fundraising alignment matters and push for collaboration. They should bring teams together, set shared priorities, and make cooperation a key performance indicator. Without leadership buy-in, other efforts are unlikely to succeed.

Improving communication is also key.

Teams should meet regularly, share updates, and understand each other’s challenges. They should review each other’s content calendars and campaigns to identify opportunities to share messages and leverage resources. A shared project management platform can also help keep everyone on the same page about workflows, deadlines, and responsibilities.

Finally, teams need shared goals to work toward together.

For example, they could aim to increase website traffic by 25% or acquire 500 new email newsletter subscribers. Joint goals give teams motivation to cooperate and share insights. They also make it easier to measure the impact of collaboration.

While united marketing and fundraising teams require effort, the payoff can be huge.

Working together, they can tell a nonprofit’s story in a powerful, compelling way. They can also save time and money, eliminate duplicated efforts, and gain a more complete picture of donor relationships. With leadership, communication, and shared goals, nonprofits can overcome divisions between marketing and fundraising for better results overall. Alignment may not happen overnight, but with commitment, teams can get there.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

Donor Participation Project

Fundraising Through Gaming: Tips from the Experts

Fundraising through gaming and Esports is a growing trend that many nonprofits are eager to tap into. According to experts Diego Shifter and Dan Long, gaming fundraising has the potential to reach new audiences and raise significant funds. However, it requires careful planning and the right approach to be successful.

Leadership buy-in

Shifter, former corporate fundraising officer at the USO, says obtaining buy-in from leadership is the first step. Educate them about the size and impact of gaming audiences to address stereotypes. Gaming is mainstream, with the average gamer age 33 and nearly two-thirds of adults gaming regularly. fundraising success stories and the potential to reach younger donors can help build their support.


Long, community manager at the St. Baldwin Foundation, stresses that building community is key. Use platforms like Discord to connect with influencers and their audiences. Schedule regular community events to strengthen relationships. Consider an ambassador program to work with influencers closely tied to your mission.

Emotional ties

While big names may raise awareness, the size of someone’s following alone does not determine fundraising success. Emotional ties to the cause matter more. Work with influencers genuinely passionate about your nonprofit’s work. Their authentic stories will resonate far more with audiences than fame.

Give back

Matching gifts are a useful incentive, as donors see their contributions doubled. Start with a feasible amount based on your current fundraising, and scale up as community support grows. In-kind donations of gaming equipment or experiences also work well for prizes and events. Keep your nonprofit mission central, not cash or prizes.

Successful campaigns take time.

Start small, learn from mistakes, and build upon wins each year. With the right community and corporate partnerships, gaming can become a powerful tool for fundraising and beyond, as nonprofits and companies work together to achieve shared goals. But like any skill, mastering gaming fundraising is a marathon, not a sprint.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

Donor Participation Project

Introduction to Live Streaming for Fundraising: The Tools and Platforms

Live streaming is an emerging way for nonprofits to connect with new audiences and raise funds. While the concept may seem foreign, live streaming simply means broadcasting video in real-time over the internet. For fundraisers, live streaming presents an opportunity to engage with donors directly and raise money through an interactive experience.

To get started with live streaming, you need a few tools.

OBS, Streamlabs and Stream Elements are popular free broadcast software options. They allow you to stream from your computer by combining different media like webcam footage, screen sharing, graphics and audio. These software programs connect directly to streaming platforms like Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn Live. Each platform has a different audience demographic, so choose what is right for your base.

Twitch is popular with gamers, so it works well for charities in that space. YouTube and Facebook have broad audiences, while LinkedIn Live may suit charities targeting professionals. The platform you choose will depend on your needs, but you’ll want to create an account, learn the interface and promote your live stream to viewers. Some platforms like Twitch also integrate extensions like Tiltify and Donor Drive that allow viewers to donate directly.

To make an engaging live stream, consider adding extras

like a Discord chat for viewer discussion, on-screen challenges and rewards with donation targets, and guest appearances from board members or program participants. Work with a streaming consultant if needed. They can advise on best practices and even operate your broadcast software during the live stream.

While live streaming may be new territory, it allows you to connect with audiences that prefer to consume content and donate digitally. With the right tools and preparation, live streaming can be an innovative fundraising approach for forward-thinking nonprofits. Overall, expanding into this new medium will help future-proof your fundraising for the increasingly digital world.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

Donor Participation Project

Fundraising in the Gaming World: How to Get Started

The gaming industry is massive and growing, with an estimated 2.7 billion gamers worldwide. For nonprofits, this presents an opportunity to tap into new audiences and fundraising channels. However, entering the world of gaming philanthropy requires an understanding of the culture and tools to authentically build community.

First, do your research.

The gaming community is diverse, including mobile gamers, PC gamers, console gamers, and esports fans. Learn about the popular games, streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube Gaming, and gaming influencers. This will help you determine if gaming philanthropy aligns with your mission and audience. If so, develop a 3-5 year plan to pilot a program.

Build your team.

You’ll need people to manage community engagement, recruit influencers, handle logistics and technology, and more. While you can start small, understaffing the program will limit your success. Consider partnering with consultants and volunteers from the gaming community.

Define your voice and brand.

Decide how you will position yourself to authentically appeal to gamers. You may want to create a separate brand and tone for your gaming philanthropy program. Be genuine by understanding causes gamers care about, like supporting children’s charities or mental health initiatives.

Recruit influencers

like streamers, who broadcast live gameplay and commentary to engage their followers. Do research to find influencers that match your values. Reach out personally to share your mission and invite them to participate. Be prepared to provide them resources to fundraise on your behalf. Thank and highlight them prominently to build goodwill.

Promote your program

through gaming platforms and influencer channels. Engage with followers by participating in livestreams. Be responsive and build trust to gain their support.

While gaining traction may take years, gaming philanthropy has the potential for dedicated, long-term relationships. Follow these steps to start fundraising in the gaming world.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

Donor Participation Project

Building Trust and Relationships is Key for Small Nonprofits

For small nonprofits, building trust and relationships is the foundation for successful fundraising and donor engagement. According to Aly Evans, Executive Director of Foodnet Meals on Wheels in Ithaca, NY, “You can’t get their heart and their mind to address you if they don’t trust you and what you’re doing.” Focusing on trust-building and personal connections should be the priority over technical skills or large-scale initiatives.

Evans emphasizes doing “things that don’t scale” when starting up or rebuilding a development program. Forget what the experts tell you about email frequency or grant calendar schedules. Reach out to donors when you’re thinking about them with a personal card or email. Show donors your work in action by offering behind-the-scenes tours where they can meet clients and see your programs in action. These types of personal interactions are what build lasting trust and partnership.

For small shops without a long history, explore partnerships and alliances that can help build credibility. Examples include:

  • fiscal sponsorships
  • donor-advised funds at community foundations, and
  • university internship programs.

These partnerships allow small nonprofits to benefit from others’ expertise and infrastructure as you focus on relationship building. They signal to donors that a trusted third party has vetted and is willing to support your work.

Evans recommends getting to know individuals in your community like wealth advisors, trustees, and foundation staff. While not directly soliciting them, learn what they do and share about your mission and impact. When the time is right, they may facilitate introductions to potential major donors because they know and trust the work you do.

Building real trust and partnership takes work, but it yields sustaining support for an organization.

By prioritizing personal outreach, community alliances, and a people-first approach overall, small shops can cultivate the loyalty they need to advance their mission for years to come. The systems and technical expertise can follow; first, get out and build those relationships.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

Donor Participation Project

The Declining Number of Donors: What We Know and Need to Know

The number of charitable donors in the U.S. has been declining in recent decades. While overall giving amounts have risen, participation rates have dropped. What’s behind this trend and how can nonprofits reverse it?

Research shows several factors driving the decline in donor participation.

Generational changes are a major contributor, as younger generations are less likely to donate than older generations. Income and wealth inequality also play a role, as fewer people have disposable income to donate. Changes to tax policy, like the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, have reduced incentives for some to give.

However, these factors do not fully explain the trend. Nonprofits must also examine how they communicate with and engage donors. Researchers have found that donors give for two main reasons: to support the public good (the “output” motives) and to satisfy private motivations (the “input” motives). Messages focused only on the public benefits of giving may not resonate with those also motivated by private benefits like social approval or self-image.

What can nonprofits do?

  • First, evaluate fundraising messages through the lens of dual motives. Are you appealing to donors’ self-interest as well as support for your mission?
  • Second, make long-term donor retention a priority metric. While revenue matters, focus also on developing lifetime donor relationships.
  • Third, work with interested donors to engage the next generation. Kids often mimic the giving habits of role models, but many are unaware if their parents donate. Programs where families participate together in philanthropy can nurture a lifelong giving habit.
  • Finally, collaborate with researchers to conduct studies on donor motivation and messaging. For example, research is needed on how different types of campaign matches (e.g. donor matching funds vs. seed funding) influence future giving behavior. Partnerships between nonprofits and researchers can help bridge the gap between theory and practice, generating actionable insights for overcoming the declining donor challenge.

Overall, reversing the downward trend in donor participation will require a combination of adapting to external factors, improving donor relationships and knowledge, and making philanthropy an engaging lifelong affair for supporters and their families. With a research-based approach, nonprofits can find ways to turn occasional donors into regulars and secure their support for years to come.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

Donor Participation Project

Key Considerations When Hiring a Consultant: Build Trust and Set Clear Expectations

Hiring a consultant can be invaluable for advancing your organization’s mission and fundraising goals. However, it requires forethought and clear communication to set the right foundation for a productive partnership.

Consider these key points before engaging a consultant:

Build trust and internal buy-in.

Meet with your team to discuss why you want to hire a consultant and how it can benefit the organization. Address any concerns about job roles or workload to ensure full support. Buy-in at all levels, especially from leadership and those directly involved in the project, is critical.

Define clear deliverables and scope.

Map out exactly what you want the consultant to achieve. Be as specific as possible regarding the scope of work, outcomes, deadlines, and key milestones. Discuss this directly with potential consultants during the interview process to make sure expectations are aligned from the beginning.

Determine data and resource needs.

Ask consultants what information and tools they require to do their job. Make sure you have the ability to provide everything that is necessary to complete the project successfully. If not, discuss options for obtaining the data or resources.

Assign a primary point of contact.

Identify someone internally to serve as the main liaison for the consultant. This person should have good project management skills and be able to devote sufficient time to the role. They will help gather information, address questions, and ensure the consultant has everything they need to meet deadlines and deliverables.

Build in opportunities for feedback.

Do not wait until the end of the project to get updates. Schedule regular check-ins, reviews of drafts, and interim presentations to provide feedback and make any needed course corrections. This also allows you to reevaluate timelines if requirements change.

By focusing on trust, communication, and mutual understanding, you set the stage for a highly productive relationship with your consultant. Addressing key considerations upfront helps avoid potential pitfalls and leads to outcomes that meet, or even exceed, your expectations. With the right strategies in place, consultants can be valuable partners in helping your organization achieve its most important goals.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

Donor Participation Project

The Fundraising Joy of Planned Giving: Why Legacy Gifts Matter to Your Nonprofit

Planned gifts, especially legacy gifts made through wills and beneficiary designations, should be an important part of any nonprofit’s fundraising strategy. These gifts made from assets rather than cash often become a nonprofit’s largest donations. Even small organizations can benefit since anyone can make a planned gift, regardless of age, gender, or wealth level.

The most compelling reason to focus on planned giving is that donors who make legacy gifts become your most loyal supporters.

According to research by Dr. Russell James, donors increase their annual giving substantially after putting a nonprofit in their estate plan. Their lifetime giving, including annual and planned gifts, far surpasses donors without a planned gift. Cultivating these long-term relationships leads to joyful fundraising for both donors and nonprofits.

How can nonprofits attract these valuable donors?

Start marketing planned giving as soon as possible. While the full benefits may take years to realize, early outreach helps build familiarity and comfort with the concept. Use a simple message focusing on a donor’s values and omit scary jargon. Explain options like wills, beneficiary forms, and gift annuities using terms like “future gift” or “legacy.” Highlight impact by inviting donors to special events.


Steward planned giving donors well with personal notes, phone calls, and invitations reserved for your most loyal supporters. But never stop communicating or soliciting annual gifts, even for donors in their 80s and 90s. Realized bequests often happen within a donor’s last five years of life, so ongoing outreach is critical right up until the end.

A planned giving program is a long game that requires patience but pays off tremendously. While each donor lost is sad, their legacy can live on through the fruits of their gift. This is the joy of fundraising through relationships that transcend a lifetime. With the right message and highly personalized stewardship, any nonprofit can experience the rewards of planned giving. The key is starting now to build familiarity and make the most of opportunities to create lasting impact.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.