Learn what your nonprofit can do to become eligible for Google Grants before applying.

Is Your Nonprofit Eligible for Google Grants? How to Apply

Did you know Google awards nonprofits with $10,000 in free AdWords spending each month? It’s true, all thanks to a program called Google Ad Grants.

With Google Grants, organizations just like yours get a monthly grant of $10,000 to spend on Google ads. When used effectively, this funding can go a long way to boost traffic to your nonprofit website and even increase donations.

If your nonprofit is looking to get started with Google Grants, the first step is to apply. In this post, we’ll walk you through 5 questions you need to ask during the application process to ensure your nonprofit obtains (and maintains!) your Google Grant:

  1. What is Google Grants?
  2. Are all nonprofits eligible for Google Grants?
  3. What can my nonprofit do to become eligible for Google Grants?
  4. How does my nonprofit apply for a Google Grant?
  5. Can my nonprofit lose its Google Grants eligibility?

Applying for a Google Ad Grant doesn’t have to be complicated. Just follow our guide and you’ll be on your way to your new AdWords account in no time!

Bonus! Already have your AdWords account set up? Learn how to manage your Google Grant and see better results by reading this essential Google Grants management guide from the consultants at DNL OmniMedia.

Before exploring Google Grant eligibility, make sure your nonprofit understands what the Google Grants program is.

1. What is Google Grants?

Before you can start the enrollment process, you need to be clear on what exactly you’re applying for.

Put simply, Google Grants (also known as Ad Grants or AdWords Grants) is a program wherein Google provides eligible nonprofits with an in-kind donation of $10,000 in monthly AdWords funding.

But let’s back up even furtherwhat exactly is Google AdWords in the first place?

Google AdWords ads are the paid search results that appear at the top of your search results screen based on the keywords included in your query. Here’s an example of what that might look like:

Your organization can use Google Grants to create ads that appear at the top of Google search results.

In order to see your ads appear here, your nonprofit can bid on relevant keywords using your Google Grant money. 

Of course, there are certain parameters for Google Grant recipients, including a $2 cap on your maximum bidding amount and a requirement that all keywords must be relevant to your cause. These restrictions mean that you won’t be able to spend your money on exceptionally high-traffic terms (think: “animal rights organization” or “wildlife sanctuary”) or terms that are entirely too general (think: “free eBook” or “donate to nonprofits”), but it also means that you’re likely to see greater results from the ads you do run.

Google Grants come with a host of benefits for organizations who know how to maximize their funding, including:

  • Greater visibility and reach for your nonprofit.
  • Increased traffic to key landing pages on your site (such as your donation form or volunteer information page).
  • Free promotion for your online content, including your blog or educational resources.
  • Potential for online donations, volunteer sign-ups, event registrations, and email list subscriptions!

Depending on how you plan out your AdWords strategy, you can use your ads to complete nearly any goal you have in mind. The options are endless!

The bottom line: Google Grants is a highly profitable marketing tool that almost all nonprofits can take advantage of with very low risk. Through this program, you can put your name in front of thousands (if not millions) of new eyes every day—why wouldn’t you take advantage of that?

Not all nonprofits are eligible for Google Grants; find out which organizations can't receive Google Grants.

2. Are all nonprofits eligible for Google Grants?

Google Grants can be an exceptional resource for many nonprofits, but it’s important to know that not all organizations can take advantage of this program.

Specifically, the following types of nonprofits are ineligible for Google Grants:

  • Schools or educational institutions.
  • Government organizations.
  • Hospitals or healthcare organizations.

Google does have similar philanthropic resources for educational institutions, or you could check out our list of school fundraising ideas if you’re raising money for an educational organization.

If you’ve made it past this first barrier to entry, you’ll also need to consider other requirements Google has in place to enusre that all nonprofits receiving Ad Grants are legitimate charitable organizations. To qualify for a grant, your organization must:

  • Hold valid charitable status in your country. In the US, you’ll need to be registered as a 501(C)(3) organization.
  • Be registered with Google for Nonprofits and TechSoup. (Not registered? We’ll walk you through how to get started in the next section.)
  • Have a functional website as recognized by Google.
  • Adhere to program policies for using your Google Grant funding. For example, you can’t use your AdWords money to promote anything outside the scope of your nonprofit’s true cause, and you can’t use the money to sell products that don’t contribute to your organization’s charitable efforts.

Google puts these standards in place to make sure that its grants are being given to valid, upstanding nonprofits who can actually benefit from the ads. Take some time to review their requirements as a team (or with your Google Grant management consultant) and make sure you’re up to code where it counts. If not, you can always look into alternate fundraising strategies!

The bottom line: Google Ad Grants are not given to all types of nonprofits. Your nonprofit must abide by certain criteria in order to receive AdWords funding, so make sure you understand their eligibility requirements before attempting to enroll.

There are steps your nonprofit can take to become eligible for Google Grants.

3. What can my nonprofit do to become eligible for Google Grants?

If your nonprofit meets the baseline requirements for receiving a Google Grant but isn’t quite ready to enroll, there are a few measures you can take to get your application approved on the first try.

The best strategy? Work with a Google Grant management consultant who can walk you through the application process from start to finish. 

These consultants (who often offer other digital marketing or fundraising strategy services) have experience identifying any issues that might keep you from receiving a grant, and can help make sure you don’t get denied on a technicality or mistake.

Plus, once you’ve been approved for your grant, the consultant can help you put together a strategy for maintaining eligibility and using your full $10,000 as effectively as possible!

With your consultant’s guidance, your team can take the following steps to get your organization ready for your Google AdWords application:

  • Register with TechSoup. If you haven’t already, make sure your nonprofit is validated with TechSoup.org. You may need to set up a new registration or claim an existing nonprofit account. Either way, this step is vital to Google for Nonprofits (and therefore, Google Grants) eligibility. It may take a few days to receive your validation, so make sure you add some wiggle room to your timeline.
  • Make sure your mission is clear. Both on your website and your grant application, your nonprofit’s mission should be front and center. Make sure Google can quickly understand what programs or efforts you’ll be using Google AdWords to promote. Note: it helps to have a concise mission statement on the front page of your site!
  • Update your nonprofit website. You’ll need to tie your Google ads to your website, so make sure it’s in good shape before launching your account. Your website should be as optimized for both search and user experience as possible, with relevant content that’s readable by Google. (Hint: follow our best practices and your site will be ready in no time.)

From there, you shouldn’t have much stopping you from securing your AdWords account and funding.

However, keep in mind that these requirements may change according to Google’s current standards. To limit any confusion or frustration, we recommend working with a consultant who can streamline the process. After all, it’s their full-time job to understand Google Grants, not yours!

Bonus! Want to learn about the nonprofit consulting process before you find your own Google AdWords consultant? Learn what to look for in a web consultant by reading this post from DNL OmniMedia.

The bottom line: There are steps nonprofits can take to increase their chances of receiving a Google Grant, such as optimizing their websites and double-checking their charitable status. For best results, it’s always wise to work with an expert Google Grant consultant who can get your application approved instantly.

Follow these steps to complete the Google Grants application process.

4. How does my nonprofit apply for a Google Grant?

Once you’re confident in your eligibility, it’s time to start the application process!

Luckily, when it comes to managing your Google Grant account, the application is the easy part. As long as you’ve got your eligibility in order, just follow these guidelines to get your enrollment started:

  1. Sign up for Google for Nonprofits. Along with Google Grants, Google also offers other benefits to nonprofits as part of their Google for Nonprofits program. Once you’re a registered “Google Nonprofit,” you can also access the YouTube Nonprofit Program, Google One Today, and more. This application is fairly straightforward, so expect questions about your tax ID, non-discrimination policies, and general contact and organization information.
  2. Register for Google Grants. After your application for Google for Nonprofits has been processed and approved (which could take several months!), you can access Google Grants from your Google account. You’ll simply need to choose whether you’d like to register for Google AdWords or AdWords Express, a lightweight version of AdWords that requires less hands-on management. For optimum results, we suggest choosing AdWords.
  3. Create your AdWords account. Follow Google’s steps for account creation. You’ll need to enter some basic information first before you can get started creating your first ad campaigns, ad groups, and keywords. (Note: while you can set up your campaigns and ads yourself, a nonprofit consultant can provide greater insight into which keywords and campaign strategies can deliver the best results.)
  4. Have your account reviewed by Google. After you’ve finalized setup, you’ll need to submit your account for Google’s review using your account ID number (which you can find by clicking the person icon in the top-right corner of your account). Google will review your account to ensure it’s in line with its AdWords policies, and you’ll be notified of your approval (or any errors that need to be addressed) via email.

That’s it! In just 4 simple steps, your nonprofit should have everything you need to get started managing your account and seeing the results of your new ads.

The bottom line: To set up your Google Grant, sign up for Google for Nonprofits first. Then, you’ll be ready to work through the AdWords registration and approval process following Google’s guidelines (and with the help of your Google Grant management consultant).

Be careful to abide by Google Grant management best practices and policies so your AdWords account stays active.

5. Can my nonprofit lose its Google Grants eligibility?

After setting up your account, managing your account and maintaining your grant eligibility is an ongoing process. If you aren’t maintaining your AdWords account to Google’s standards, your grant funding may be suspended temporarily or indefinitely. 

To keep your account in good standing, pay attention to a few key requirements for your Google Grant:

  • Account activity. Google doesn’t give out money to organizations who aren’t using it! Show Google that you’re taking account maintenance seriously by logging in at least once a month and updating your account every 90 days.
  • Ad relevance and geotargeting. In addition to having ads that accurately reflect your nonprofit’s cause, Google also requires that all ads are targeted to a specific geographic location. That way, users only see advertising that’s relevant to them.
  • Monthly keyword evaluation. To keep your ads profitable, Google asks that you conduct their Keyword Performance Report once a month. This report can show you where your chosen keywords fall on Googe’s Quality Scale and help you optimize your keyword list for best results.
  • A minimum 5% click-through rate. In order to improve ad relevance and user experience, Google requires that all nonprofit accounts maintain a 5% click-through rate (CTR) after their first 90 days as a grant recipient. Accounts that don’t meet this requirement will be notified within their accounts, and the account will be suspended if this goal isn’t met for 2 consecutive months.

Though these are some of the most important eligibility and management requirements, they aren’t the only ones. It’s important that your team stays active in your campaigns and is consistently optimizing your AdWords strategy in order to maintain your account.

If these standards seem like a lot to keep track of, remember that you can always seek outside help of a consultant. They can manage your account for you, freeing up your time to other important tasks at your nonprofit.

The bottom line: Google requires that accounts meet certain requirements in order to remain active. By paying attention to these goals, you can make sure your account stays in good standing and is successful.

Google Grants can be one of the most valuable marketing tools your nonprofit has access to. Now that you know how to apply for these grants, you’re halfway to Google AdWords success!

Check out these resources for more insight into online marketing and fundraising:

  • Our Favorite Nonprofit Software. Finding the right technology can make a big difference in your nonprofit fundraising strategy. See our top choices for nonprofit software to find tools to complement your Google AdWords strategy.
  • DNL OmniMeida’s Top Nonprofit Websites. No matter how successful your ads are, you won’t see any boost to your online engagement if your website isn’t ready for visitors. Get inspired by checking out DNL OmniMedia’s favorite nonprofit websites.
  • DonorSearch’s Top Fundraising Consulting Firms. Ready to bring on the help you need for a stellar Google Grant strategy? Find a firm that can fit your needs by taking a look at the best fundraising consultants according to DonorSearch.

15 Cheap Fundraising Ideas

It’s not easy fundraising these days. With increasing pressure for nonprofits to maximize impact while minimizing overhead, it can be difficult for fundraisers to justify big, fancy galas or swag-overloaded charity runs.

But whether you’re a small, mid-size, or large nonprofit looking for creative ways to put on cheap fundraisers, here are a couple of ideas that are fun, creative, and get people giving!

1. 50/50 Raffle

Have participants purchase raffle tickets to enter a drawing. Half of the entry fees are awarded as the winner’s prize, and half goes to your charity.

2. Cooking Competitions

Who doesn’t love a good chili cook-off? Contestants bring in a specific dish, their best entree, or whatever criteria you choose. Diners donate for the meal, and vote for the winner.

3. Trivia Night

All you need is a charismatic host, some witty contestants, pens or pencils, some paper, and some thought-provoking questions. Contestants can either play solo or as a group, writing their answers on slips of paper and turning them into the host. Use separate rounds to increase the points and raise the stakes.

4. Sports Tournament

Healthy competition and a desire to win can get a number of people involved, especially if it’s for charity. Host a round-robin or bracket-style tournament in a friendly team sport. It can be basketball, dodgeball, flag football, or whatever you choose. Teams’ entry fees count toward their donations to your cause.

5. Restaurant Partnerships

There are several local and chain restaurants that are happy to partner with a nonprofit for a night or two. A portion of the restaurant’s earnings for the day go toward that particular organization. There are sometimes even situations where an organization’s volunteers or employees help work behind the counter, or in the dining room, to earn a share of wages.

6. Silicone Wristbands

Remember the Livestrong bracelets? They’re actually really inexpensive to make — as low as 3 cents per wristband. If sold for $1 or $2 donation, the markup is pretty astounding. There are several online companies that do custom work, so create a good share-worthy slogan and offer them as part of your merchandise line.

7. Yard Swap

Not enough junk lying around at your office? Outsource it! Have volunteers bring their used or unwanted items to a yard sale event. Then those same people can hunt for others’ items and take them away to a new home, with all the proceeds going to your charity.

8. Amazon Smile

If your nonprofit isn’t using Amazon Smile yet, that needs to happen pronto. Here’s the basics: Amazon shoppers can select a charity to support. For each of their eligible purchases, Amazon donates 0.5% of the proceeds to your nonprofit. Did I mention it’s free to set up?

9. Grocery Loyalty Cards

On a similar note, many grocery stores offer partnership programs to local charities. Shoppers can modify their grocery loyalty card to specify which charity they’d like to support. In turn, the grocery store allocates rewards to the charity based on their participating shoppers’ purchases.

10. Karaoke

Most people think they can sing, so why not have a little fun with it? Have audience members vote for their favorite contestant. You can even bring in a “celebrity” panel to complement the American Idol vibe of the whole thing. Winners receive a portion of the proceeds, while your audience gets to enjoy a fun-filled and slightly embarrassing evening.

11. Lip-Sync Battle

This is a personal favorite, especially if you’re terrified of singing in public. Participants choose a song they’d like to lip-sync then perform it for a voting audience or judges. Lip-syncers can go all-out, by wearing crazy costumes or channeling their inner Jimi Hendrix with a killer air guitar solo.

12. SMS Giving

SMS giving is similar to a text-to-give campaign, but it’s much more cost-efficient. Set up an SMS message within your donor management platform to send out to your donors, prompting them to reply to the text with a specific code or phrase (like “GIVE” or “DONATE”). Once they do so, your SMS autoresponder replies back with a link to a mobile donation form.

13. Peer-To-Peer Fundraising

While many people use crowdfunding websites (like Kickstarter or GoFundMe) to raise money for their projects, medical bills, and more. Nonprofits can utilize the same strategies through peer-to-peer fundraising, which positions your volunteers as crowdfunders specifically for your organization. It’s an effective tactic to use on social media, and your fundraisers’ support is free of charge.

14. Shave Your Head

It seems pretty drastic (and it’s probably one of the reasons it’s further down on the list), but if you’re willing to part ways with your hairdo, then shaving your head for charity will have people go wild. Set a goal for donors to meet by a certain date. If they match that goal, then your or one of your incredibly dedicated employees or volunteers will shave their head as a thank-you. Bonus points if you send a video of the shaving to your donors in an email. Even more bonus points if you broadcast it on Facebook Live.

15. Corporate Matching Gifts

If you’re struggling to get the funding your organization needs, matching gifts are a great way for a company to show they care about their employees. With Double The Donation, nonprofits and organizations can accept corporate matching gifts by integrating their online donation forms with matching options. While other tools or manually matching gifts can be tedious works, Double The Donation makes it simpler for companies to give on behalf of their employees.

Author Bio

Matt Sutherland is the Communications Director for Click & Pledge, an all-in-one online fundraising platform for nonprofits. Matt’s favorite activities include playing pickup lacrosse games and turning his guitar amp up to 11. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn.

Blackbaud Online Express + Double the Donation Integration Guide

Does your nonprofit use Blackbaud Online Express for your online donation forms? Are you looking to incorporate matching gift information into both your Blackbaud Online Express donation pages as well as across your organization’s broader fundraising?

If so then this guide is for you.

Double the Donation’s Relationship with Blackbaud Online Express:

Blackbaud Online Express is a popular provider of donation forms and fundraising tools for nonprofits.

Double the Donation is the leading provider of employee matching gift data and tools to nonprofits.

This guide was put together to help organizations who use Blackbaud Online Express’s donation forms incorporate Double the Donation’s employee matching gift plugin into their fundraising pages and into their primary websites.

Please note that Blackbaud Online Express and Double the Donation are two separate companies.

Steps to Integrate Double the Donation’s Matching Gift Search Tool with Blackbaud Online Express:

At risk of stating the obvious, the below steps and screenshots are applicable to organizations which already have an account with Double the Donation (Premium Plan) and Blackbaud Online Express.

If you don’t have an account with Double the Donation you can learn more about our service or view our annual service fees and start a risk-free trial.

In terms of integrating Double the Donation’s matching gift search tools into your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy, there are two primary options:

  1. Adding our plugin to the confirmation page of an Online Express donation form
  2. Across Your Other Fundraising Channels (Use your other systems)

Let’s start by looking at how to incorporate Double the Donation’s plugin into an Online Express donation form.

Note: If you have already installed the Online Express donation form to your website, skip to Step #2.

Step #1: Log into your organization’s Raiser’s Edge account. Grab the Javascript embed code with the following instructions:


Step #2: Copy the Online Express Javascript embed code in the popup, and navigate to the page editor on your website where you want the form to appear. We’re going to modify the code by adding Double the Donation’s code snippet to the Javascript embed code. Add the following after the Online Express code:

Your page editor should now look like the following:

Step #3: Change the “XXXXXXXX” to the API Key as seen in your Double the Donation admin portal.

Step #4: Save the changes to the webpage, and view it in the browser. Test the donation form and ensure that the Double the Donation plugin appears on the confirmation page. It should look like this:

Your donation form now incorporates Double the Donation’s searchable matching gift database so donors can easily access company specific matching gift forms, guidelines, and instructions.


Next let’s look at how to incorporate Double the Donation’s matching gift plugin across your broader fundraising

Step #1: Create a dedicated matching gift page on your main website.

Create a dedicated matching gift page on your own website

This is all done by using Double the Donation’s primary matching gift plugin which can be found in your organization’s Double the Donation account management pages. You’ll want to use the following steps:

  1. Log into your Double the Donation account
  2. Access the embed code
  3. Copy the embed code to the dedicated matching gift page on your own site
  4. Our searchable plugin will automatically load

Add Our Matching Gift Search Directly to Your Own Website

Step #2: Direct donors to your dedicated matching gift page across your broader fundraising efforts.

Create a dedicated matching gift page on your own website

This includes in locations such as:

For our complete marketing toolkit which includes suggested marketing locations, downloadable graphics, sample wording, and examples visit https://doublethedonation.com/marketing-matching-gifts/.

Have Questions?

Use one of the following ways to learn more about Double the Donation’s service:

The Top 3 Political Contributions Search Tools

Top 3 Easy and Clever Political Contributions Search Tools

The Importance of Volunteering: Why Donations of Time Are a Path to Giving

Volunteers can offer vital help to your institution and to your alumni community, but the benefits can be even greater for the volunteer. By offering volunteer opportunities, you provide an outlet for alumni to gain experience, develop skills, improve career prospects, meet new people and increase their affinity to your institution. Asking alumni to share something other than money cultivates lasting committed relationships. These deepened relationships, as well as a focus on time versus money can also impact their willingness to eventually donate.

Research helps shed light on the relationship between time and money when it comes to volunteering. A study by Fidelity Charitable* reported that “Eighty-seven percent of volunteers say there is overlap between the organizations they support financially and where they volunteer, with 43 percent describing significant or total overlap with the organizations they support financially and as a volunteer.” It’s unclear which comes first – the volunteering or the donations but they are certainly connected. This report finds that 42% volunteer before they give to an organization; But for the other 58%, it is the other way around.

Another study “The Happiness of Giving: The Time Ask Effective” further substantiates that asking alumni for their time might very well help enhance their giving over time. The study delineates the connection between time and money through a series of experiments in the lab and in the field. This study “examines how a focus on time versus money can lead to two distinct mindsets that impact consumers’ willingness to donate to charitable causes. Their experiments, reveal that asking individuals to think about “how much time they would like to donate” (versus “how much money they would like to donate”) to a charity increases the amount that they ultimately donate to the charity.

Fueling this effect are differential mindsets activated by time versus money: one that leads to the consideration of feelings and emotional meaning derived from an action and another that leads to the consideration of economic utility. Thinking about time activates goals of emotional meaning/well-being and beliefs involving personal happiness. In contrast, thinking about money suppresses such emotional goals and instead activates goals of economic utility and beliefs about attainment of such goals. Consequently, answering a question about one’s intention to volunteer time makes salient the emotional significance of the event, whereby people view charity as a means towards happiness. This mindset in turn leads to a more positive inclination towards giving to charity and hence an increase in actual contributions.

Time to Increase Your Corps of Volunteers?

Since affinity begins while on campus, take advantage of that time to begin cultivating the volunteer spirit. Opportunities to be involved in peer organizations such as clubs, fraternities and sororities, participation in intramurals, community service opportunities, attendance at athletic events, student leadership opportunities and opportunities to interact with alumni all foster engagement. All of these types of actions and activities relate to donations to an alma mater.

Post graduation, reach far and wide for alumni volunteers! Capitalize on the affinity, personal connections and relationships developed during their time with you. Cast a wide net to gain as many volunteers as you can and promote volunteer opportunities through all available channels. Create a broad range of opportunities to help “non-volunteers” get involved. Make it easy to participate. Include some opportunities that may involve long-term commitment, and others that may only take a few minutes of an alums time. Enabling constituents to give in even simple ways can help kindle happiness – and they will feel invested and more willing to engage in the future. It’s never too late to get alumni involved.

Looking for new alumni ambassadors to help swell your volunteer corps? Seek out alums that have been the most involved. Using an online alumni community such as 360Alumni or other similar platforms can help you tap into your “Super Alums”. By viewing analytics that aggregate actions and activities of hyper engaged alumni in a single view (they have joined multiple groups, posted jobs, attended events or reunions, commented on threads, helped with interviews etc) you can easily hone in on these special alums and seek their help. As they are already very active, they are the perfect resource to evangelize the power of participation

Volunteers Will Help You Get It Done!

Setting the connection to donating aside, adding volunteers to your team will help you to accomplish more and free up resources for more robust alumni initiatives. While it may take a bit of extra time to develop and coordinate a wider range of volunteering opportunities, that time is more than paid back through work done and higher levels of engagement.

Consider providing volunteers with tools to help them help you! Online alumni communities and social media groups provide a host of ways to help volunteers connect with fellow alumni – and with you. By providing them with these weapons, you empower them to lead the charge. Now they can post information, answer questions, brainstorm with peers all on your behalf. Encourage them to reach out to fellow alumni and form groups, committees, and dialogue with one another. It’s also a great way for you to support, congratulate and share successes them.

Easy Ways To Get New Alumni Volunteers

  • Provide a wide array of opportunities with varying levels of talent required and time commitments. Examples:
    • Career panel – speaker or panelist
    • Host a student for a 1-day job shadowing
    • Attend a student-to-alumni mentorship event
    • Assist at an alumni event (help with registration; set up chairs etc)
  • Provide options that can be done from home. Examples:
    • Lead a group in your online alumni community on a topic that the alum is passionate about – facilitate discussions and answer questions, online, at a time that’s convenient for them
    • Be an online fundraising ambassador for specific campaigns – promote to your network and facilitate interest and participation online
    • Write blogs, content pieces or promotional materials that relate to alumni interests or initiatives
    • Participate in phone interviews or online discussions via specific groups for prospective students
    • Promote a reunion event within your social network (1-2 posts or more)
  • Provide options that can be done with other alumni (foster networking and sense of community beyond campus). Examples:
    • Join the alumni admission council
    • Serve on a committee
    • Be a reunion committee leader/volunteer, and help promote/manage the online event registration through the online community
    • Lead or join a local chapter – participate in local events
  • Capitalize on a volunteers professional skills. Examples:
    • Invite alumni to join your online mentoring program.
    • Seek out alumni with business experience that could be helpful for job seekers (possibly in specific industries)
    • Request an assist from marketing professionals, graphic designers or copywriters to help promote alumni activities
    • Solicit expertise from alumni event marketers on strategy, logistics, and resources for events
    • Encourage alumni that represent large companies or brands to share their expertise, goods or services for activities, fundraisers, events etc
  • Get social! Use social media to promote your needs and opportunities. Let alumni know how they can make a difference, and show what others are doing (inspiring) . Examples:
    • Use your online alumni community to highlight needs and showcase activities
    • Push out messaging unique to all social channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Alumni Community) regularly; not everyone uses the same channels day-to-day
    • Make it viral – encourage “likes”, “shares” & “tagging”. Ask alumni to please “pass along” volunteer opportunities friend-to-friend

More Volunteers = More Potential Donors

While some may feel awkward soliciting financial donations from volunteers (who have signed on to give through alternate methods), the studies we’ve cited (as well as many others) show that volunteers are already more inclined to give much more than those who don’t volunteer. Volunteers have already demonstrated a commitment of time and energy to your institution showing that they believe in your mission. For this reason, while tracking your volunteer-donors, you may also want to tap them as ambassadors to specific fundraising campaigns they have an affinity to. The key is to provide inspiration to alumni to give of their time and talents, keeping them engaged and feeling good about their involvement.


Christina is on a mission to help millions get better jobs, mentorship and professional and personal development through their networks. Since conceiving of 360Alumni in 2012 she’s led the development of the product, architecture, team, client base and overall company direction. Prior to launching 360Alumni and attending NYU Stern School of Business, Christina ran a web development company and created SuperMeets, a SaaS volunteer management tool for swim teams. Christina is a proud Mount Holyoke alumna and mother of two.

Donor Data: Safeguarding Your Nonprofit’s Most Valuable Asset

We hear a lot about Big Data and how it has transformed the way we live, from hyper-targeted digital ads that drive us crazy to finding cures that may save our lives. There’s no doubt about its power to influence and inform.

While you may not consider yourself to be an active user of Big Data from the perspective of marketing, you are in fact, the proprietor of your own massively important set of data: your donor database. Think of all the data you store in your donor database with information regarding your donors, volunteers, and other constituents. The information stored within that database is critical to many daily tasks your organization completes.

While your data set may be small when compared to Amazon or Facebook, it’s likely the most valuable asset your organization has and should be treated accordingly. The quality of your donor list determines whether you can meet your funding goals, and more importantly, whether you can grow.

Imagine for a moment what it would mean to your organization to lose access to your donor list and, subsequently, its donor data. It’s a frightening scenario, but it’s one that can be avoided altogether if you treat your data with the care it deserves.

That care comes in three forms: integrity, safety, and security.


Data integrity is all about accuracy and consistency. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your donor database:

  • Do you take care when entering names to make sure the spelling is correct and the salutation is right?
  • Are street addresses up to date?
  • Is your email list scrubbed of bad entries?
  • How do you keep track of your constituents’ preferences for receiving mail from you?
  • How do you know your donors’ interests so you can target your approach?

If you can’t answer these questions with a resounding “yes,” then you may need to spend some time updating the integrity of your donor database.

Additionally, your data probably include codes or tags to help in segmenting your lists for special handling. These fields are also crucial for understanding your results and for ensuring that donor intent is honored. What are the rules for using these codes and tags? Are the rules understood by everyone who touches the data? Are they written down in a procedures manual?
How can you ensure the consistent quality and integrity of your database for years to come?

Here are some best practices to follow:

Designate a data manager. Best practice for good data integrity calls for assigning one staff person the responsibility for keeping the data clean. Only the designated data manager should be permitted to create new codes, tags, and user-defined fields. It is their responsibility to educate all users about how to enter the data correctly. It is also her responsibility to keep a procedures manual up to date.

Keep a procedures manual. For continuity, there’s nothing like good documentation that can be shared with new employees. All staff members should be entering and updating data not just to accomplish their individual jobs, but to ensure that the data is available to be used by everyone, and well into the future, long after they may be gone. That means the understanding of what’s in the data should be broadly shared.

Properly train new volunteers and employees. Whether you have volunteers or employees entering donor data, it’s crucial that the data manager have guidelines in place for training new users in the database. Training will allow new users to ask questions and learn why the data are recorded in a certain way. This combined with the procedures manual will give users a strong foundation for data integrity.

Data that is carefully entered and updated provides a wealth of information for building and nurturing the relationship between each donor and your organization. It’s only by carefully maintaining these relationships that you will be successful at growing the resources that your organization depends on to accomplish your mission.


Your data is safe if it is backed up on a regular basis. If your data is kept in the cloud, you don’t need to do these backups yourself. However, for peace of mind, be sure that your database software provider has good, reliable backup procedures, even in the cloud.

If your data is stored on desktops and laptops, it is imperative that it be backed up on a regular basis, preferably every night. It only takes one server failure to completely wipe out years of critical data.

Developing a backup plan is fairly simple. It may take a little bit extra time, but if you lose your database and have timely backups, it will be time well spent.

To develop your backup plan, answer the following questions:

  • What’s being backed up? In addition to your donor database, what other information should your organization be regularly backing up?
  • Where’s it being backed up? Backups should be kept in a fire and flood proof safe or taken off site if the database isn’t being backed up in the cloud.
  • How often backups will occur? If possible, nightly backups are the best way to ensure your data remains accurate.
  • Who’s in charge of performing backups? Dedicate one person, whose responsibility it is to ensure these backups happen regularly. If your organization has an IT professional on staff, this should be one of their tasks.
  • Who’s in charge of monitoring the success of these backups? Whether this is the same as the person in charge of the backups or a different person may depend on the size of your organization. If possible, it’s a good idea to have a second person double check the quality and success of the backups.


In a world where big data is big money, it’s imperative that you take the necessary steps to keep your donors’ data safe and private. Your data should be secure from outside hackers and accidental incursions within your office. You probably already use passwords, virus scanners, and firewalls; what else can you do to keep your data secure?

Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) when logging in. If you’ve ever had to type in an authentication code texted to your phone or sent to your email, then you’ve used MFA. If your donor management software offers MFA, make sure it’s enabled for every user.

Lock computers when not in use. Have your employees and volunteers develop the habit of locking their computer when they’re going to be away from their desk for more than a few minutes. This will protect your data from any prying eyes.

Teach employees to detect phishing emails. Believe it or not, there are still very successful phishing emails going around these days and they can wreak havoc on a network if an employee inadvertently downloads a virus through one of these emails. Let workers know how to spot a potential phishing email and, if possible, hold phishing drills to see how many employees still click phishy emails.

Your mission depends on your donors, and you won’t build a solid, lasting relationship with those donors without paying close attention to those little details that live in your donor relationship manager software. Make sure to sweat the small stuff when it comes to your donor data, because it will pay off in the long run.


Susan founded Telosa (formerly named TRAC, Inc.) in 1986; in 2017, Telosa merged with Donor Community to become Arreva, where she serves as Chairman of the Board. Prior to starting Telosa, Susan worked as a programmer at Health Computer Services at the University of Minnesota and as an economist at the National Institutes of Health. Susan is currently Chairman of the Board at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and is a trustee of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health and the Packard Humanities Institute. In the past she has served on a number of other boards, including Stanford University and Hewlett-Packard Company. Susan holds an M.S. in computer science from New Mexico School of Mining and Technology, and both an M.B.A. degree and a B.A. in economics from Stanford University.

Optimize your membership application forms with this helpful guide!

Membership Applications: 5 Strategies to Boost Enrollment


Ready to start enrolling more supporters in your membership program? Download our membership applications guide to master enrollment strategies!

Supporters who make it all the way to your membership application are the superstars of your nonprofit. They care about your organization so much that they don’t want to just donate — they want to make a long-term commitment to your mission.

The last thing you want is for your membership application form to be so burdensome that it breaks that momentum. It happens more often than you might think!

To ensure that your nonprofit can bring as many members as possible on board without incident, you need to craft a membership application form that gets your constituents excited about joining, not annoyed at the effort necessary to complete the form.

Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered with these top five changes you can make to your application form to boost enrollment in your membership program:

  1. Ensure easy access to your membership application.
  2. Implement intuitive formatting on your membership form.
  3. Include the right balance of application form fields to fill out.
  4. Optimize the design of your membership application form.
  5. Follow up with those who complete the membership application.

Ready to revamp your form? Pull up your nonprofit’s membership or association management software, and let’s dive in!

Ensure that your supporters can reach your membership application.

1. Ensure easy access to your membership application.

The most basic hurdle your potential members have to cross before they even reach your membership application is finding it. Why make it hard for them?

Depending on the type of form you’re using, you have a few options for getting it in front of the right supporters:

  • Paper form: Send paper membership application forms in the mail to engaged donors, and ensure you always have some printed out at the ready at your front desk and at any events you host.
  • Online form: Link to your online form in emails, on your website, on your social media profiles, on event registration pages, and on your donation page. Some web-based membership application forms even embed directly into a website or email.

Online forms are much easier for your nonprofit to process, but you might appreciate having paper forms available in some situations (e.g., at fundraising events).

A majority of your members who fill out an online form get to it through your website instead of an email or social media post. You should pay special attention to your membership application’s location on your website. It should be hosted prominently, with its own tab in your main navigation bar, a link in website footer, and a plugin on your membership program information page, like in the following example image:


Make your membership application easy to find on your website.

Another highly effective place to include your membership form is your online checkout, especially if members in your nonprofit receive benefits such as discounts or priority registration for events. The right membership management software can integrate your membership application into the checkout process, applying any relevant benefits to the same purchase when membership is added to the cart.

Takeaway: Make sure your supporters can find your membership application without having to search for it.

Make your membership application form as easy to use as possible.

2. Implement intuitive formatting on your membership form.

Once your members land on your form, the challenge becomes keeping them there.

The easier you can make your form to complete, the fewer potential members who will abandon it.

With a paper form, you should make instructions as simple and direct as possible so you don’t have to waste time sending it back or calling to follow up on improperly formatted answers. In as many cases as possible, provide a discrete set of options for applicants to choose from instead of leaving them an empty field to fill out. Checking a box leaves less room for error and wasted administrative time calling to fix the problem.

See how a paper application form formatted with boxes where possible, like the following, would leave less room for error? When your staff is inputting the information from the paper form into your membership management database, they’re less likely to need clarification from the applicant:

Make your membership application as easy as possible to fill out and process later.

An online form offers many more opportunities to make application easy for your members and your administrative team. Your membership application form might be able to support some intuitive features but not others, depending on the software used to build it. If possible, though, you should try to include:

  • Conditional logic. Skip pages or populate information based on answers to previous questions on the form.
  • Auto-population. Fill in information automatically from a donor profile or the supporter’s browser.
  • Long time-out. If your supporters have to leave the form without completing it, make sure they can pick back up later where they left off.

The trick is to collect the information you need without asking too much of your members.

Bonus! These are also great features to include in your membership renewal application. To learn more about membership renewal, head over to Doubleknot’s guide to membership renewal letters.

Takeaway: Don’t make your membership application form too hard to fill out.

Don't discourage potential members by making your membership application too long.

3. Include the right balance of application form fields to fill out.

So what information is it you’re looking for? Since you know the value of a comprehensive member profile for future solicitations, you want to gather as much information as you can about your members from the get-go.

But if you overload your membership application form with too many fields to fill out — especially if you ask for information your members would have to look up instead of knowing off the top of their heads — supporters will simply abandon your form.

Striking the proper balance is key. Ask for enough information to inform your membership engagement strategy, but not too much to deter your supporters from completing the form.

Every nonprofit is different, but chances are, these are the only key pieces of information you actually need to start building a member profile:

  • Contact details (name, mailing address, phone number, email address)
  • Payment information
  • Membership level
  • Chapter affiliation, for larger nonprofits

See how manageable the application form below looks? It fits on one page on a standard laptop screen! With fewer fields to fill out, applicants are much less likely to abandon the process:

Don't overload your membership application form with an intimidating number of fields.

Don’t worry if there are other bits of information you might want to have, such as employment information or the name of who referred the new member to your membership program. You can always follow up later on and gather this information, like when it comes time for membership renewal.

Takeaway: Don’t flood your membership application with too many fields.

Use the design of your membership application form to boost completion rates.

4. Optimize the design of your membership application form.

Now that you know which fields you need to include on your membership form, it’s time to get into the design.

There are a few best practices you should follow no matter how you’re distributing your form, whether that’s on paper or on your website:

  • Brand your application to your nonprofit.
  • Emphasize benefits of membership on the form itself.
  • Keep your form short, no more than one printed page.
  • List contact information for questions that arise.

For online membership application forms, you might want to consider other kinds of design elements. For instance, including a progress bar so supporters can see how far along they are encourages them to complete the application.

Also dedicate some time to mobile optimization. You want your members to be able to complete your form no matter how big or small their screen is.

First, ensure that your form is mobile-responsive — that is, that it will automatically resize itself when displayed on a smaller screen. This mobile view should increase the size of fonts, buttons, and input fields to make it easier to read and click with a finger instead of a cursor. You should also use as many drop-down menus as possible (e.g., state, country, membership level).

Splitting your application into multiple short pages instead of one long page, like in the example below, also helps keep mobile applicants moving through the process:

Design your membership application to optimize it for online and mobile applicants.

If you think you’ll need some outside help with this type of coding, reach out to a nonprofit IT consultant. It’s worth taking more time now to boost your membership program later!

Takeaway: Design your application with online and, especially, mobile views in mind.

Link your membership application to your membership software to make following up easy.

5. Follow up with those who complete the membership application.

Your relationship with your members begins with your membership form, but it doesn’t stop there! You have to show your members that you appreciate their commitment and that your nonprofit is up to the task of managing their membership well.

An integrated membership application form sets your nonprofit up for success from the moment new members hit “submit” by:

  • Sending automatic welcome emails. The right software can pull contact information from the application form and populate the email with your new member’s name and membership level.
  • Populating a member profile. Especially if you provide a member directory and public milestone badges to your members, you should automatically set up a member profile for your new member and send them a link to begin personalizing it.
  • Streamlining payment processing. If you wait to process membership fees, you’ll appear unprofessional to your new members. Link your application form to your chosen payment processing solution to begin the process automatically.

The most effective (and popular!) of these strategies is a welcome email, like the one below:

Follow up by sending a welcome email to individuals who complete your membership application form.

While your membership application form itself can’t send emails or process payments, you can integrate your application form with other features through the right software solution.

Takeaway: Make sure to follow up with your new members right away.

With these membership application form strategies under your belt, you’re ready to overhaul your application and boost participation in your program! Don’t forget to download our free membership application samples below.

For more on membership, check out these additional resources on the topic:

  • Best Membership and Association Management Software. A great membership application is only the beginning of a great membership program’s operations. Make sure you support your program with the best membership and association management software!
  • Doubleknot’s Membership Renewal Letters Guide. Now that you’ve worked on recruitment with your membership application form, it’s time to devote attention to retention with your membership renewal letters. Check out this ultimate guide from Doubleknot for strategies and samples of the perfect membership renewal letter!
  • Doubleknot’s Member Engagement Guide. The team at Doubleknot can help keep your members in your program in more ways than one. Read up on top member engagement strategies with this essential guide for visitor-serving nonprofits like museums, zoos, and science centers!
  • Fundly’s Ways to Enhance Your Membership Renewal Letter. Can’t get enough about membership renewal letters? Head on over to Fundly for examples and tips to help you craft the most effective renewal letter for your membership-based nonprofit.

How Crowdfunding Builds Community Support

Crowdfunding has existed, in one form or another, long before the online phenomenon that we know and love today. One famous example is the campaign to build a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. Newspaper owner Joseph Pulitzer asked readers to mail in donations, raising more than $102,000—over 80% of that from donations of less than a dollar.

While the Statue of Liberty is a great example of how crowdfunding builds community support, it also hints at how difficult it was to run a crowdfunding campaign before the Internet—unless, of course, you happened to own a newspaper.

Today it’s much easier for people and communities to empower themselves by raising funds for worthy causes. Communities might be geographical, such as a neighborhood or city, or built around shared interests. Often, the rallying community forms a core group, inspiring people from all over the world to chip in and help turn a dream into a reality. Altruism is real and the desire to help others is universal.

Key statistics

  • Crowdfunding is a global phenomenon—Statista reports in 2016, people used crowdfunding to raise over 738.9 million worldwide.
  • In 2016, Statista found that more than 150,000 crowdfunding campaigns were created.
  • In the business world, crowdfunding is on track to becoming a larger overall source of funding than venture capital, according to Forbes.

Crowdfunding helps strengthen community bonds

Crowdfunding is about more than fundraising—it’s about people coming together around a shared cause in the same spirit that inspires neighbors to help neighbors. It’s a new tool applied to time-honored traditions.

It makes it easier than ever for people to get the most from their efforts, and to work together in new ways. With it, organizers can accomplish in hours what once took weeks. Your crowdfunding campaign page also becomes a space for your community to communicate and support each other as you work toward your shared goal.

Fundraising events can also help communities connect even more, as people talk to each other and get updates about the cause—and our platform makes it easy to accept donations at any event by using a mobile device.

Crowdfunding is a seedbed for grassroots movements

Someone might have an idea for a community improvement project. That person might set out to do it all on his or her own, or be unsure who his or her allies might be in the community. But by starting a crowdfunding campaign, they can generate a gravitational pull, drawing others in the community to their side.

Instead of trying to reach out to this or that person, launching a crowdfunding campaign is a way to begin a grassroots movement. Such movements are about harnessing and leveraging the power of individuals—growing numbers of them—to create change and serve the greater good. Crowdfunding has emerged as an important part of grassroots movements, helping them strengthen and empower communities.

Crowdfunding empowers children to make a difference

Supporting a crowdfunding campaign is an empowering experience for people of all ages. In particular, when a child sees someone in need and decides to help out, it helps him or her move from fear and despair toward empowerment and hope.

Engaging with the community through a crowdfunding campaign provides opportunities for young people to be and do their best. Kids really can bring about change and help provide support by crowdfunding community improvement projects and other worthy causes.

Inspirational examples of community support

1. Team Surfgimp-One Final Surf Trip for Jay
Jay was paralyzed at age 17. Sadly, his injuries will take a severe a toll on his health. To help him live life to the fullest Jay found a group of people to train him with special equipment so he could get back on a surfboard. Supporters from all over the world chipped in to help Jay recapture the joy and peace of surfing.

2. Hermosa Beach’s Waving Crossing Guard
When beloved Hermosa Beach crossing guard Oneil Francis found himself without his car after a hit-and-run accident, the community rallied to give him the money he needed for a new vehicle. Locals who knew Oneil as a crossing guard, and loved his signature sunny smile, chipped in. Others who’d never met Oneil read about his plight and joined the effort. Surpassing its goal of $1,500 in only eight days, the campaign was able to give a grateful Oneil $8,995 toward a new car.

3. The Shower of Hope
The Shower of Hope brings mobile shower units to the homeless. In raising over $35,000 from the public, the group was able to provide more than 1,000 showers in three cities during 2017. With communities continuing to step up and support this worthy cause, the organization looks to expand further in coming years.

4. A New Community Radio Station for Santa Cruz
Listeners came together to raise funds for a new radio station—one committed to delivering independent, ethical journalism to Santa Cruz, California. With the help of over 350 donors from Santa Cruz and around the world, the new station is on its way to becoming a reality. To date, organizers have raised more than $218,000 toward their $300,000 goal.

Empower your community

It’s easier than ever for people and communities to empower themselves and make good things happen—from supporting an individual member of the community who’s suffered a loss to providing special programs at schools and improving parks. In the aftermath of disaster, crowdfunding can also help communities remain resilient and resourceful.

As the Acquisition Marketing Lead at YouCaring, Paige Kutilek is keen on creating meaningful and thoughtful content that will have an impact. She’s a dedicated individual with a creative touch who is always eager to learn more. Lover of cats, avocados, and tea.

3 Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits That Leverage Email Marketing

Want an easy and inexpensive way to generate donations for your nonprofit? Consider email marketing. Online giving is more popular than ever, and email can help support your fundraising efforts.

In fact, nonprofits saw a 10.4% increase in online giving from 2016 to 2017, according to the Blackbaud Index, and email marketing generates roughly one third of online donations for nonprofits.

Stats aside, email is a great way to keep donors, volunteers, and other partners up-to-date on what’s happening within your organization. It makes raising funds for your organization simpler and helps to keep donations coming in on a more consistent basis.

As the year begins to draw to an end, email marketing can help you meet, or even beat, your donation goals. Email is a secret weapon for fundraising– and it’s time to learn how to put it to use.

Campaign Monitor has created 12 Tips Nonprofits Can Use to Get Online Donations as an easy-to-read infographic to help nonprofits. Here are 3 tips from the infographic to help your nonprofit raise more funds:

1. Put Email Campaigns and Social Media Together

Email is a great tool for fundraising, but it works best when paired with social media. Using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest can get your message in front of the right people. Most social platforms have special accounts for nonprofits, and some, like Facebook, have donation tools too.

For example, The Royal Children’s Hospital uses Facebook to share different stories and occasionally asks directly for donations.

Including social sharing buttons in your emails is a must, and hopefully something you do already. In addition to this, be sure that the content you have in your email and on your social sites is valuable and can be shared on any platform.

For example, American Lung Association sent a thank you email and asked their readers to share their thanks on Facebook and included links to do so. Their Facebook post has the same image, to keep things consistent. This is a great example of using email and Facebook together.

Not all social media should be about donations. Be sure to mix up what your followers see, and give them ways to interact with your organization that doesn’t involve money. They’ll be more receptive to want to donate at a later date if you’re sharing valuable information throughout the year.

2. Optimize Emails for Mobile

It’s pretty safe to say that mobile phones are here to stay, and marketers need to adapt. More emails are opened on mobile devices than on computers these days, so making sure your emails work anywhere they’re viewed is vital.

As a nonprofit, you probably have limited time and staff to spend on emails, which is where mobile-friendly email templates can be a lifesaver. They’re pre-built to look great no matter what size screen they’re viewed on, you just need to add your fabulous content, links and engaging images. Keep your text fairly short, smaller screens means shorter attention spans, but still include the information that’s going to be useful to your readers.

For example, Whale and Dolphin Conservation has a great mobile-friendly email. Their image is eye-catching, the text is short and to the point and they have a great call to action button right in the middle.

California State Parks Foundation also has a good example of a mobile-friendly email. It’s short, has a great image, and right at the top is a donation link. They share the information they need to, but also make sure their readers have the option to donate from their mobile if they want to.

3. Use Compelling Images

A picture is worth a 1,000 words is so true when it comes to email marketing. Your images will make difference to how people view your organization and how they interact with your emails. Including images that tell your story can help get your message across and share your mission, all without words. And since attention spans are pretty short these days, that’s a pretty useful tool for fundraising.

Photos get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more click-throughs on links than text-based posts on social. Keep that momentum up and use your images on your website, on social media and in your emails for a consistent experience.

Both The Royal Children’s Hospital and The Australian Red Cross use images that convey their message, show who they’re helping, and share what their mission is. Plus they have easy donation buttons in their emails, making it easy for readers to help.

Wrap up

Fundraising online is part of what all nonprofits need to do. Using email marketing makes it much easier to accomplish. You can also use it to stay in touch with donors and volunteers, to share events, and keep them up on how the funds are used. The more people see and interact with your organization, the more likely they are to donate. Use some, or all, of the ideas in 12 Tips Nonprofits Can Use to Get Online Donations infographic and get more donations for your nonprofit.

Author bio

Andrea Robbins is a demand generation marketer at Campaign Monitor. Her favorite things include getting outdoors, a good cup of coffee, and her Siamese kitty. Say hi on Twitter @andirobz