Learn about donation matching with this quick guide.

Nonprofit Basics: Donation Matching

Corporate philanthropy is a powerful concept. Through employer giving initiatives, companies and their employees can make major differences in the causes that mean something to them. Donation matching is one of the most popular ways companies give back to their communities.

Through this type of workplace giving program, nonprofits can multiply the donations they’re already receiving. We’ll explore the basics of donation matching, providing you with tips for getting started at your organization.

What Is Donation Matching?

Donation matching is a corporate giving initiative in which companies match their employees’ charitable donations. When an employee donates to a nonprofit, they’ll submit a request to their employer. Then, the company will then make its own donation to the same organization.

Most often, companies match gifts at a 1:1 ratio, or a dollar-for-dollar rate, which doubles the initial donation. So, if an employee donates $50, the company will donate $50 to the nonprofit.

What Are The Benefits of Gift Matching?

At its core, donation matching provides nonprofits with free money! Nonprofits can multiply an organization’s revenue by making donations go further and ensuring donors feel like they’re making a difference. When you notice many of your donors work for the same company, that can also indicate a potential corporate partnership opportunity.

An astounding $2-$3 billion is donated through gift matching each year. However, there’s an additional $4-$7 billion that goes unclaimed, according to Crowd101’s corporate giving statistics page.

So, while donation matching can transform fundraising revenue, not enough organizations are leveraging these programs!

From the corporate perspective, companies can increase employee satisfaction and position their organization as a desirable place to work. In fact, 88% of companies believe effective employee engagement programs like matching gifts help attract and retain employees. Not to mention, for-profits can give back to their communities and attach their names to worthwhile causes.

These statistics communicate the importance of gift matching.

How to Get Started with Donation Matching

Pursuing gift matching is a smart move! Now, you’re probably wondering where to start. Here are some easy ways you can fold donation matching into your current fundraising activities.

Know how these programs are constructed.

Before scouring your CRM for donation matching opportunities, take the time to understand how these programs are set up. That way, your team can guide donors through the process.

Companies create guidelines to ensure the donations they’re giving will make a difference in causes that align with their objectives. Our guide to corporate matching gifts breaks these guidelines down into a few pieces, including:

  • Match ratio. This is the rate at which a company will match each donation. For example, most companies will match at a 1:1 ratio (i.e., a dollar-for-dollar rate). Other companies may go lower or higher, typically anywhere from .5:1 to 3:1.
  • Minimum and maximum match. Companies apply minimums and maximums to their gift matching programs. The most common minimum is $25, although some go as low as $1. Maximums typically range from $1,000 to $5,000 but sometimes go even higher than that.
  • Employment status. An individual may not be eligible for gift matching depending on their employment status. For instance, a company may limit participation to just full-time and retired employees, excluding part-time workers.
  • Nonprofit eligibility. Typically, companies allow most 501(c)(3) organizations to be eligible. The most common restriction is for religious organizations. Employers typically won’t match donations made directly to houses of worship.
  • Submission deadlines. Deadlines ensure match requests are submitted in a reasonable amount of time. Companies usually require requests to be submitted by the end of the year or within a set number of months after the donation is made.

Every company’s guidelines are different. That’s why investing in a matching gift tool is critical. As we’ll explore later, an employer search tool will instantly pull employers’ guidelines, so you can keep track of donors’ eligibility.

Market donation matching to donors.

Bloomerang’s guide to donor engagement explains that matching gift eligibility can signal potential long-term donor relationships. Push these relationships in the right direction by promoting matching donations to your donors!

Here are a few key moments to promote donation matching:

  • During the donation process. Include a snippet about gift matching on your donation form. This is a prime opportunity to feature your employer search tool. Your donors may even increase their initial donations after finding out they’re eligible.
  • Throughout your website. Feature information across your website, encouraging donors to check their eligibility. You can even create a page devoted to explaining donation matching and its impact on your cause.
  • Across communications. From your newsletter to social media posts, you can include donation matching in any of your communications.

Start marketing matching gifts to your donors through these avenues, so you can obtain your portion of the billions of dollars that go unclaimed each year! Automating your outreach using your dedicated tools will simplify your nonprofit’s marketing even further.

Leverage gift matching tools.

Dedicated employer giving tools will help you drive more matches to completion.

To start, embed an employer search tool into your donation page, confirmation page, and anywhere else on your site. This will empower donors to research their employers’ programs and find the necessary forms at any point.

As the world’s most comprehensive, accurate matching gift database, Double the Donation has records on over 24,000 companies, representing almost 27 million match-eligible individuals.

That way, you can relax knowing you’ll be able to determine your donors’ eligibility within seconds. Our gift matching tools with auto-submission functionality take this a step further. You’ll remove steps for the donor by enabling them to submit forms directly from your confirmation page. As soon as someone donates, here’s what will happen:

This graphic breaks down the donation matching process when using auto-submission tools.

  1. Our tools will check their donation’s eligibility for auto-submission.
  2. If eligible, they’ll be prompted to provide a few pieces of additional information and check a box authorizing Double the Donation to submit a match request on their behalf.
  3. Their matching gift request will be submitted, and the employer will send a check to the nonprofit.

That’s it! There’s no need for donors to fill out complex forms or navigate confusing employer giving portals anymore. Simplifying the matching gif process means more revenue for your cause.

Other Resources to Explore

Nonprofit Basics – Learn more nonprofit management essentials by exploring other expert resources.

Matching Gift Auto-Submission + CSR Platforms | What to Know – Curious about what gift matching auto-submission entails? Check out this blog post that gives a rundown of the process.

Corporate Philanthropy – Nonprofit Catalog – Donation matching is just one piece of the corporate giving puzzle. Learn about other types of corporate philanthropy with this guide.

Employee engagement is an essential nonprofit basic.

Nonprofit Basics: Employee Engagement

Engaged employees are motivated to work, easy to get along with, more likely to stay with the company, and happy to speak well of their employer to friends and family. For nonprofits, engaging your employees and volunteers will make your organization more efficient and a better place to work. 

Additionally, nonprofits can also appeal to for-profit organizations by emphasizing how employee engagement can be improved through corporate philanthropy. To pitch your organization to these businesses, your team will need to have a strong understanding of what employee engagement is and how it impacts both the for- and nonprofit worlds. 

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is how mentally and emotionally connected employees feel with their work. Engaged employees feel a personal investment in completing their day-to-day responsibilities and actively seek to help their organization succeed. 

What are examples of employee engagement?

Employee engagement will look different at different organizations, depending on the industry, size, workplace culture, and engagement opportunities. However, a few common types of employee engagement across workplaces include:

  • Participation in work-related events
  • Open socialization and camaraderie with co-workers
  • Interest in additional opportunities outside of daily responsibilities
  • Promotion of your organization to friends and family outside of work hours
  • Consistent attendance, performance, and positive attitude 

Employees will show their engagement in various ways based on their personality, interests, and role. For example, more introverted employees working on tasks they can complete independently may not be as social as team members on collaborative projects, but they can still show their engagement by meeting a high performance standard and actively seeking out growth opportunities for their role. 

How can I improve employee engagement?

While employee engagement looks different for everyone, you can boost employee engagement throughout your company with the following tips:

Create an employee satisfaction program.

You can measure how engaged your employees currently are, what is impacting their engagement, and take action to increase their engagement with an employee satisfaction program. 

Employee satisfaction programs primarily rely on information collected from your employees. Surveys are an easy way to centralize all of your workplace feedback. Send out surveys to your employees following key moments in their work at your organization. For example, you might survey new employees who just completed onboarding to understand what materials were helpful for their training and what parts of the process were confusing. Or, you may send out a general survey at the beginning of the year asking employees what types of events they participated in or would look forward to joining in the future. 

Negative surveys can often be even more helpful than positive ones if your organization has a closed feedback loop system in place. The closed feedback loop process follows these steps:

A closed feedback loop can be used to help manage and improve employee engagement.

  • Employee provides feedback. Survey your employees on a semi-frequent basis to ensure you’re receiving a reliable stream of feedback without overwhelming your staff with surveys. Try surveying random samplings of employees at various intervals to ensure no one employee is over-surveyed. 
  • Technology alerts manager if immediate follow-up is needed. Employee satisfaction tools can analyze a survey’s content and elevate it to manager if the feedback is negative. For example, your survey might ask employees to rate their overall satisfaction out of 10 and any surveys with a six or below are automatically elevated. 
  • Manager takes action. Upon receiving a survey, a manager will evaluate it and get in touch with the employee who submitted it to address their concerns. 
  • Causes of problem are identified. After collecting multiple surveys, analyze their contents to find common trends that could be a sign of persistent problems that impact multiple employees. 
  • Organization fixes underlying factors that caused the problem. Consult with employees and management to understand why issues are occurring and create a system that addresses these concerns. 

The cycle then repeats the next time an employee provides feedback. By continuing to act when concerns are raised, you can improve immediate employee engagement and identify and resolve root causes of problems. 

Explore corporate philanthropy. 

Employees want to work for businesses that making a difference in the world. In fact, 90% percent of employees who work at socially-minded companies say they’re more inspired, motivated, and loyal.

By participating in corporate philanthropy and providing employees opportunities to give back themselves, you can boost their engagement while at work. Host employee volunteer days, make contributions to local nonprofits, and start a matching gift program, especially if your employees have already advocated for one

As a nonprofit looking for business sponsorships, emphasize improved employee engagement as a benefit of partnering with an organization like yours. 

Provide growth opportunities.

Employees will feel more motivated to work if they feel they are advancing professionally. After all, it’s easy to stay engaged when the work is engaging, rewarding, and challenging. 

Have managers meet with their direct reports to discuss the future of their careers and gather ideas about how their roles can be expanded. Then, give employees the opportunity to move into higher roles by allowing them to take on new responsibilities, attend professional courses, or sit in on meetings for positions they’re considering moving into. 

Other Resources to Explore

Nonprofit Basics – Learn more nonprofit management essentials by exploring other expert resources.

Top Corporate Giving Software to Drive Employee Engagement – Get more information on corporate giving tools and how they can directly improve employee engagement. 

Getting Employees to Care: Employee Engagement and Culture – Explore how employee engagement, workplace culture, and motivation are tied together and can be improved by making strategic changes at your organization.

Learn the basics of nonprofit accounting and why it’s so important for your organization.

Nonprofit Basics: Nonprofit Accounting

Your fundraising team works hard to collect donations on behalf of your nonprofit’s mission. From the lengthiest of capital campaigns to the shortest giving day, you work hard on many initiatives to bring in money that will fund all of your organization’s expenses.

But just bringing in the money isn’t enough. This funding also needs to be allocated to various aspects of your mission and reported on according to the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). This allocation, reporting, and financial decision-making is where nonprofit accounting comes into play.

What is nonprofit accounting?

Nonprofit accounting is the process by which organizations plan, record, and report their finances on a regular basis. This process helps you make smart financial decisions so you can remain accountable to donors and meet your organization’s financial goals.

Nonprofits use a system of fund accounting rather than the traditional accounting system used by for-profit organizations. Fund accounting allows nonprofits to prioritize accountability to their donors over profitability for the organization.

Using this system is necessary because nonprofits sometimes receive gifts with restrictions placed on them by donors. Restricted gifts allow donors to ensure the funds they contribute are dedicated to the project they’re most interested in at your nonprofit. Your nonprofit is legally required to abide by these restrictions to stay accountable to the donors. Fund accounting makes it possible for nonprofits to organize this data and allocate funding accordingly.

What do nonprofit accountants do?

Nonprofit accountants ensure your nonprofit maintains the GAAP standards and help interpret financial data to make informed decisions at the organization. Specifically, they’ll help to review and reconcile your accounts, balance both sides of transactions, and compile statements and reports of your financial information.

Moreover, accountants help put together important financial preparations at your organization. For example, they help your nonprofit prepare:

  • Your budget. Your accountant will use information from previous years’ fundraising strategy and your past expenses to determine your budget for the coming year. This budget typically contains conservative numbers to help the organization maintain financial stability and provide some flexibility for unexpected expenses.
  • Audit materials. According to Jitasa’s nonprofit audit guide, some organizations have it in their bylaws that they need to complete an annual audit of their finances. Others may be required to do so by the state or federal government. Your accountant will pull your reports and ensure all financial information is complete and accurate for this auditing process.
  • Tax forms. Although nonprofits don’t pay taxes, they still have to file annual tax forms. Your nonprofit accountant will compile your financial information for your Form 990 and any other required tax information to provide to the IRS.

All of this preparation requires intimate knowledge of your organization’s financial systems as well as the ability to read and understand all of your financial data. While very small organizations often rely on their executive members to accomplish these tasks, mid-size to large nonprofits often prefer to outsource their accounting needs or hire an internal accountant.

What are the types of reports used in nonprofit accounting?

In addition to everything listed above, accountants are also responsible for pulling together statements and reports of your financial data from your accounting software, whether that’s a dedicated fund accounting solution or a spreadsheet.

Let’s explore these reports further.

These nonprofit accounting reports will help your organization keep financial data organized.

Statement of Activities

The nonprofit statement of activities is parallel to a for-profit’s income statement. This document lays out the organization’s revenue and expenses for the year in rows, then organizes each by restriction in the columns. The statement of activities categorizes the revenue and expenses, allowing the nonprofit accountant to analyze that data more effectively and review the organization’s net assets.

Statement of Cash Flows

Your statement of cash flows shows how cash moves in and out of your organization. This statement breaks down cash flow into three categories of activities: operating, financing, and investing. This way, you can see how your organization receives and uses money from fundraising, grant-seeking, and investing.

Statement of Financial Position

Your nonprofit’s statement of financial position is also known as your nonprofit balance sheet. This statement shows the financial health of your nonprofit by laying out your assets, liabilities, and net assets. When your net assets are positive, your organization is likely in a generally positive financial position, while having negative net assets means you likely have some financial reorganizing to do.

Statement of Functional Expenses

The statement of functional expenses breaks down your nonprofit’s expenses, organizing them by how they were used at the organization. There are three function categories this statement uses to organize expenses: program, administrative, and fundraising. The report is useful when it comes time to fill out your nonprofit’s Form 990, which organizes expenses in the same way.

What are nonprofit tax requirements?

Your accountant will also help your organization comply with federal and state tax requirements. While state tax requirements differ depending on the state in which your nonprofit is registered and operates, the federal requirements are similar between organizations.

Nonprofit accountants help organizations with forms such as the:

  • Form 990. Small nonprofits with less than $50,000 in gross receipts may file the shortest version of the Form 990, the 990-N. Meanwhile, mid-sized organizations (with less than $200,000 in gross receipts) file the 990-EZ, and larger organizations file the full Form 990. This form is where you lay out your nonprofit’s expenses, revenue, executive salaries, and board members to ensure financial transparency with the IRS.
  • Form 1099. Your nonprofit issues 1099s for contract workers who are paid at least $600 for the services they provide to your nonprofit. This helps those non-employee contractors to complete their own tax forms. To issue this form properly, your nonprofit needs to collect a W-9 from each contractor to outline basic tax information. Collect this form early in your relationship so you’re sure you have everything you need when it comes time to issue the 1099.

Tax season can be a stressful time for anyone, but for a nonprofit professional who already wears many hats, it can be closer to a nightmare. That’s why nonprofits frequently rely on an outside accountant to help organize and report their financial information for taxes.

Other Resources to Explore

Nonprofit Basics – Learn more nonprofit management essentials by exploring other expert resources.

Nonprofit Form 1099 Guide – Your organization needs to issue 1099s  to any contractors you work with at the beginning of each year. Learn more about how and when to issue these tax forms.

Corporate Matching Gift Programs – Nonprofit accountants have more flexibility when setting your nonprofit’s budget if you maximize your fundraising efforts. See how corporate matching gifts can help you maximize your fundraising strategy.

Learn the basics of graphic design for nonprofits with this guide.

Nonprofit Basics: Graphic Design for Nonprofits

Creating the right image for your nonprofit is essential for generating positive brand awareness. Sloppy or unprofessional-looking marketing materials can reflect poorly on your nonprofit and veer prospects away from your cause. On the other hand, effective graphic design for nonprofits will help create a memorable and inviting tone for your organization.

Whether you hire in-house nonprofit graphic designers or outsource the work to an agency, your team should understand the basics of designing attractive artwork for your cause. To help, we’ll explore the fundamentals of nonprofit graphic design, including the different types and elements to include in your brand guide.

What Is Graphic Design For Nonprofits?

Nonprofit graphic design refers to the artwork a nonprofit uses to market its cause. It’s the practice of composing and arranging words, shapes, colors, and other artistic components to communicate a message. Nonprofits use graphic designs in a variety of digital and print materials, from their official logo to printed flyers and solicitation letters.

Materials that incorporate designs might be used to advertise an upcoming campaign, express gratitude to supporters, or tell the nonprofit’s story. Used in both the digital and print space, artwork tells supporters what the organization’s cause is all about.

By implementing branding and visual hierarchy techniques, a nonprofit can create designs that spruce up its marketing materials and communicate its message.

3 Types of Graphic Design For Nonprofits

It doesn’t matter what your organization’s mission is or what platforms your nonprofit uses to promote its work. Nonprofit graphic design is an essential part of furthering your cause.

Design intertwines with every piece of collateral you create, starting with your logo and even filtering into your office space and event venues. To help you gain a better sense of where design comes into play, let’s explore three main types of graphic design for nonprofits.

There are three main types of nonprofit graphic design.

Digital Designs

Modern organizations need to have a digital presence if they want to continue their work. From designing your nonprofit website to venturing into social media and email, effective digital graphic designs for nonprofits can help your cause thrive.

Across these different platforms, you might create designs, such as:

  • Infographics. These break down complex information into bite-sized pieces and visuals. Often used to articulate statistics, infographics make it easier for people to understand the importance of your work. They’re also incredibly shareable, making them perfect for social media marketing.
  • Illustrations. These are original visualizations drawn by artists. Think of it as a way to explain an idea without text. Eye-capturing artwork can help tell your nonprofit’s story. While ideal for digital outreach, you can also incorporate them into printed materials, like t-shirts.
  • Videos. Great for embedding into your website or posting on social media, videos are a proven way to humanize your nonprofit’s work and put a face to your cause. They enable supporters to hear directly from your leadership, volunteers, and beneficiaries. While you might not immediately associate videos with needing graphic design expertise, there’s a lot that goes into video, audio, and graphic editing.

Whether you’re designing your website, a board report, or an email newsletter, these common types of graphics will be helpful for communicating your message. Note that more goes into your design than these reusable graphics, though. As we’ll explore later, you’ll also want to consider the layout of your website, emails, reports, and so on.

Print Nonprofit Graphic Design

Even in a digital-first world, print marketing is still essential for pushing your cause forward. A few common print materials that incorporate graphic design for nonprofits include:

  • Flyers. When designed effectively, your campaign flyers can stand out among a swarm of other brochures on a bulletin board. Kwala’s guide to fundraising flyers explains that your design should include elements like your campaign name, participation details, fundraising goal, contact information, and a call to action.
  • Direct mail. Any piece of direct mail you send to supporters should come across as professional. This includes everything from donation solicitations and volunteer appreciation letters to postcards. Add your logo to your letterhead, brand your envelopes, feature your brand colors and fonts, and include perforated return slips with pre-addressed envelopes for donations.
  • Merchandise. From t-shirts to stickers, make sure your merchandise designs encapsulate your organization’s identity. Infuse your brand colors, logo, typography, and illustrations to effectively communicate your mission.

Print materials are essential for keeping in touch with supporters who aren’t active online. Especially when you put thought behind your designs, these materials can come across as much more personal than generic digital outreach, like mass emails or social media posts.

Environmental Designs

Believe it or not, graphic design for nonprofits comes into play with your environment, too. Whether in your office or at an event space, the designs you use can help create an immersive, inviting atmosphere.

For instance, you might incorporate design strategies by creating:

  • Donor walls: Show appreciation to sponsors and major donors with a donor wall. Choose a layout that complements the architecture of your office space. Then, brand it using your organization’s preferred fonts, colors, and shapes that communicate your mission.
  • Murals: Ideal for your office or a prominent location in your community, a well-painted mural can draw awareness for your mission and create a more immersive environment. Illustrations should feature your nonprofit’s name and contact information, like your social media handle.
  • Banners: This is one of the simplest types of environmental design. Create a lightweight banner that you can transport to different locations, like fundraising events and industry events. All you really need to include is your logo, tagline, and colors.

This type of nonprofit graphic design should be more subtle and blend into your environment. Combining elements of graphic design with interior design will ultimately create a coherent, branded space.

Elements of Nonprofit Graphic Design

Regardless of the types of designs you create, several elements play into all of them. Whether you’re brand new to graphic design for nonprofits or a seasoned expert, make sure you know these basic elements before your next project:

  • Color palette. Colors create a mood within your artwork and can help tell your brand’s story. For instance, red communicates urgency and is often associated with health or disaster relief organizations. Green is often associated with the Earth and growth, making it ideal for environmental organizations. Note that different color combinations can alter supporters’ impressions further.
  • Typography. Fonts can also alter the mood your designs elicit in supporters. The main categories of fonts are serif, sans serif, cursive, and script fonts. As an example, sans serif fonts are minimalistic and offer crisp readability. If an existing typeface doesn’t suit your brand, you can always create your own.
  • Spacing. White (or negative) space refers to the space between design elements. Morweb’s guide to nonprofit web design best practices explains that an appropriate amount of space makes it easy to read content without feeling distracted.

Before creating your nonprofit’s graphics, your best bet is to create a brand guide that defines these characteristics and guidelines that every design should follow.

In any case, remember that your ultimate goal should be to balance aesthetic appeal with technical functionality. In turn, you’ll create standout, visually-engaging graphic designs for your nonprofit.

Other Resources to Explore

Nonprofit Basics – Learn more nonprofit management essentials by exploring other expert resources.

Nonprofit Branding: The Complete Guide + 10 Examples – Your nonprofit’s brand should shine through in its graphic designs. Learn the essentials of nonprofit branding and see real-world examples from notable organizations in this guide.

12 Best Nonprofit Graphic Design Tools to Amplify Your Cause – Transform your designs with the right tools. This guide shares some of the best low-cost tools out there.

In this entry, you'll get an overview of feasibility studies.

Nonprofit Basics: An Overview of Feasibility Studies

In order to lead a successful fundraising campaign, your nonprofit has to put a lot of time and effort into planning it. From working to understand your donors to investing in the right fundraising tools and launching a robust marketing strategy, there are a lot of moving parts to manage.

But these tasks become especially critical (and complex) when it comes to planning large-scale campaigns, like capital campaigns.

In order to make sure that a capital campaign is truly a viable project for your nonprofit and that you’re setting achievable goals, you should conduct a thorough feasibility study. These studies can be complex, so we’re here to help you get up to speed on the basics. Let’s go!

What Is a Feasibility Study?

A feasibility study helps your nonprofit assess its current capacity and readiness for conducting a large-scale campaign, like a capital campaign.

The study tests your preliminary plans and goals by gathering input from the stakeholders who will later help make the campaign a reality, including board members, major donors, and other funders and partners in the community.

Nonprofits typically conduct a capital campaign if they’re building or expanding a facility, investing in an endowment fund, or purchasing equipment or supplies. Because of the size of these projects, they can take multiple years to complete, which is why it’s so critical to know whether your nonprofit is ready to launch a campaign at the desired scale long before you begin investing heavily in planning it.

4 Steps to Conducting a Fundraising Feasibility Study

To get a complete picture of your organization’s current ability to conduct your large-scale campaign, you’ll need to conduct a thorough feasibility study. Here are the four major steps you’ll need to take to conduct your study:

This image lists all the steps of conducting a feasibility study, which are explored in the text below.

1. Identify key supporters and stakeholders.

Without a good number of supporters to back your campaign, you’ll struggle to meet your goal. That’s why the first step of conducting a fundraising feasibility study is to identify your key supporters and stakeholders.

Of course, you likely already have some supporters that come to mind, like your board members, long-time major donors, community stakeholders, and local business owners. Learn more about them by conducting prospect research.

Prospect research is the process of identifying new potential donors (or, at this stage, getting to know existing supporters) who have both the capacity (wealth) to give large gifts and an affinity (warmth) for your cause. Prospecting will involve leveraging your current donor database, prospect generator tools, government records, and more to learn about your supporters.

Once you’ve identified a prospect you think would likely want to back your project, it’s time to start getting to know them. Take your time identifying your key supporters—building a genuine relationship with a prospect is far more valuable than scurrying to secure a one-time donation.

2. Create a case for support.

The next step in a feasibility study is to draft up a case for support (also known as a case statement). This document explains the purpose of your campaign and gives compelling reasons why your supporters should help you with your campaign.

You should include the following in your case for support:

  • Overview of your organization’s mission, story, and larger goals
  • An explanation of why the project is needed
  • Projected costs and a timeline
  • Reasons your supporters should help fund the project

Once you’ve created a compelling case for support, you can use it in the interview phase of the feasibility study to gather feedback on your campaign from your key supporters.

3. Interview your key supporters and analyze your data.

During this step of the study, you find out how your supporters feel about your campaign and how viable your project actually is given your organization’s current capacity.

For the interview portion of the study, you should prepare thoughtful interview questions that help you better understand why your key supporters back your organization and what they think about your project. Many nonprofits have a fundraising consultant conduct these interviews so that they can obtain objective information from their key supporters.

For the data analysis process, you’ll take a critical look at the results of your interviews, your donor data, and the information you’ve gathered from prospecting.

4. Evaluate the results of your study.

Once you have all of the information from your feasibility study compiled, it’s time to evaluate the results. Typically your results will point to four options:

  1. Move forward with the campaign.
  2. Adjust your working fundraising goal up or down depending on the results.
  3. Adjust the timeframe of the campaign to allow for a longer donor cultivation process.
  4. Hold off on conducting the campaign.

If your organization is ready to move forward, it’s time to make any necessary adjustments to your campaign plan and present it to your organization’s leaders.

However, learning that your nonprofit isn’t quite ready for a large-scale campaign can be a tough pill to swallow, especially after investing time and effort into a thorough feasibility study. But you can use the feedback and data you’ve gathered to begin refining your organization’s strategies and planning for a bright future.

Working With a Fundraising Consultant: The Key to a Comprehensive Feasibility Study

Many nonprofit organizations find it helpful to call in the help of a third-party expert—a nonprofit fundraising consultant—when conducting a feasibility study. While these professionals will be invested in your organization’s unique goals, they can also help you take an objective approach to the feasibility study and set you up with the fresh strategies your need to succeed with your campaign.

Specifically, they can help with the following:

  • Conducting thorough prospect research
  • Facilitating objective interviews with key supporters
  • Assisting your organization with data analysis and interpreting the results of your study
  • Helping your nonprofit determine the next steps after a feasibility study

Feasibility studies are an important part of preparing your organization to dive into a large-scale campaign. Make sure to allow yourself plenty of time to collect all the information you need to evaluate your organization’s capacity and to lean on the help of outside experts as you conduct your own study!

Other Resources to Explore

Nonprofit Basics – Learn more nonprofit management essentials by exploring other expert resources.

Creating a Fundraising Strategy: 12 Steps for Your Nonprofit – Looking to streamline your entire fundraising strategy? This guide can help!

Choosing the Right Prospect Research Consultant: 5 Factors – Prospect research helps you learn more about potential donors in your community. In this article, you’ll learn what you need to consider when hiring a consultant to assist you with prospecting.

This article will provide a comprehensive overview of nonprofit crowdfunding.

Nonprofit Ultimate Guide | What to Know About Crowdfunding

Every fundraiser aims to meet essentially the same goal: to raise money and awareness for your cause while connecting with supporters. When it comes down to the details, some fundraising methods will meet your needs better than others. If you’re looking for a lot of support, a big audience, and the opportunity to expand your support system, crowdfunding is the way to go.

However, there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the how-tos and best practices of crowdfunding for nonprofits. In this guide, we aim to increase knowledge that drives successful campaigns.

Specifically, we’ll walk through the following frequently asked questions:

In the end, you should have a solid understanding of nonprofit crowdfunding and feel prepared to lead your team in the right direction.

Ready to get started? Let’s dive in.

What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a type of crowdsourcing that collects goods or services from a large group for an individual or organization. In terms of nonprofit fundraising, crowdfunding is a unique method that typically collects small (or mid-sized) donations from a large group of people, usually over the internet.

Basics of nonprofit crowdfunding

Though it can raise money for just about anything, crowdfunding is often used to collect funds for specific projects before a preset deadline⁠—and expand support for your cause through the power of urgency and online convenience.

How does crowdfunding differ from peer-to-peer fundraising?

Crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising each rely on social sharing in order to reach a community-focused network of supporters. The main difference, however, is that crowdfunding for nonprofits typically involves a single online campaign page hosted on a crowdfunding site.

P2P fundraising, on the other hand, equips each fundraiser with their own personalized fundraising page, each collecting funds for a common goal.

Nonprofit crowdfunding versus peer-to-peer fundraising

How does nonprofit crowdfunding differ from individual crowdfunding?

Although crowdfunding for nonprofits and crowdfunding for individuals may share many similarities, there are a few key differences between the two ideas.

For one, nonprofit fundraisers offer a unique incentive for giving: tax exemption! Registered 501(c)(3) organizations receive tax-exempt status from the U.S. government, which means donations made to the nonprofits can reduce donors’ taxable income when it’s time to file.

Additionally, nonprofit crowdfunding efforts are generally held to a higher level of accountability than individual fundraisers. When a nonprofit indicates that they’ll use the funding collected for Purpose A, they’re typically required to follow through with doing so. As a result, supporters may be more trusting of crowdfunding campaigns benefiting verified nonprofit causes.

In this guide, we’ll focus primarily on nonprofit crowdfunding⁠. However, the tips and tricks shared may be beneficial to individual fundraisers as well.

What are common uses of crowdfunding for nonprofits?

Nonprofit crowdfunding can be used to collect funds for just about anything that aligns with the organization’s overarching mission.

Though the fundraising need can vary dramatically depending on the fundraising organization, we’ve compiled a list of ideas for which a nonprofit may enlist the help of a crowdfunding campaign:

  • Natural disaster relief
  • Other crisis or emergency aid
  • Research funding
  • Educational programs
  • Upcoming events
  • New programming or projects
  • Supply or equipment purchases
  • Social justice initiatives
  • Environmental conservation
  • Sports and recreation activities
  • Healthcare treatment and support
  • Animal welfare
  • Advocacy efforts
  • Capital campaigns
  • Annual funds
  • General fundraising

The opportunities really are endless!

For even more ideas, consider browsing a few popular crowdfunding websites to see what other organizations (particularly those with similar missions to your own) are doing.

What are the benefits of crowdfunding for nonprofits?

Crowdfunding is a powerful fundraising method that brings fundamental advantages to nonprofits organizing the campaigns⁠—not to mention the audience that benefits from the project or program being fulfilled.

As you explore possible reasons to host a crowdfunding initiative, here are a few key reasons to consider:

Nonprofit crowdfunding can raise money quickly

Raising money quickly

Crowdfunding is one of the fastest ways for nonprofit groups to raise money for a project, need, or cause. When promoted strategically via social media, email, and word of mouth (more on that below), a crowdfunding campaign has the potential to reach hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Some campaigns even go viral⁠—and vastly exceed their goals.

Nonprofit crowdfunding can help spread mission awareness

Spreading awareness

Crowdfunding campaigns that seek to raise money for a cause can also help shine a light on that particular issue. For example, an organization raising funds to fight a rare illness may also find that the campaign educates people about that condition, not to mention its treatments and symptoms. The same scenario can occur for crowdfunding pages highlighting social, economic, or political injustices. Campaign creators not only raise money, but they also educate their peers about the overarching issue behind the financial need.

Nonprofit crowdfunding can help bring people together

Expanding new donor reach

Because of their social focus, crowdfunding efforts can also be an excellent way to engage with first-time donors. Supporters might locate your campaign page through a friend or family member, then choose to get involved. From there, the organization has an opportunity to develop an ongoing relationship and keep them coming back to support your efforts time and time again.

Nonprofit crowdfunding can help increase reach

Bringing people together

By its very nature, crowdfunding brings people together and unites them with a common purpose. Individuals can band closely to support a nonprofit cause by contributing to its crowdfunding campaign. When people see their peers supporting a charitable mission online, social proof determines they’ll be more likely to contribute as well. And when the fundraiser reaches a milestone or hits its goal, the entire community is able to celebrate⁠—and feel good knowing that they played a role in the organization’s mission success.

How much does it cost to launch a nonprofit crowdfunding campaign?

The fees for nonprofit crowdfunding can vary greatly depending on the platform you choose. While kicking off a campaign is generally free of cost, it’s important to be mindful of other expenses that may arise.

This would include any platform fees, campaign set-up fees, payment processing fees, and more. It’s also worth noting whether the pricing structure involves a fixed price, a percentage of funds raised, or some combination of each.

Many fundraising sites even offer a decreased pricing scale for registered nonprofit organizations. Not to mention, there may be an option for donors to cover their own processing fees by supplementing their initial donation amount. In such cases, your organization may be able to collect up to 100% of the contributions.

How do you start crowdfunding?

Every campaign will be different depending on your cause, goal, and timeline. Keep those factors in mind while you’re planning, and follow these general steps to get started:

Crowdfunding step-by-step walkthrough

1. Set your goal and deadline.

In any fundraising campaign, it’s important to be straightforward. Transparency proves that your cause can be supported and also helps inform your supporters about when and how to donate.

Having a specific goal and deadline can also help you manage your time as you plan the rest of your campaign. Specifying a goal, like raising money for supplies or funding repairs to your facility, will motivate supporters to give and create a sense of urgency for the fundraiser. Urgency can also be highlighted by a deadline since this gives supporters a clear picture of how far away you are from your goal⁠—in terms of both time and funding.

2. Plan your campaign.

Decide how you want to promote your cause before actually announcing your campaign. This gives you an opportunity to establish a detailed plan for fundraising before you solicit support.

Crowdfunding thrives on social media’s timeliness and ease of use, so focus your efforts on those platforms. Hosting a small event might also be helpful as long as you have the time and resources to plan and promote one. For larger crowdfunding campaigns, tiers of donation amounts with small perks can be an effective way to incentivize giving.

Some campaign methods might not make sense for your fundraiser, and that’s okay. Choose what works best for your goals, needs, and timeline.

3. Choose a crowdfunding service.

If you’re looking to launch a crowdfunding effort, one of the most essential first steps is selecting the fundraising website through which you’ll host your campaign. After all, this is the interface that your donors will be directly interacting with in order to support your cause.

Lucky for you, there are a ton of excellent options to choose from that may be a great fit for your upcoming project or expense. But how will you know which one offers exactly what you need?

You’ll want to start by comparing third-party crowdfunding platforms⁠. Be sure to select the solution with the features, user experience, fees, and payout models that best align with your organization’s overarching goals and priorities. Then, make your selection!

4. Launch a crowdfunding page.

Once you’ve established which platform to use for your campaign, it’s time to set up and launch your online fundraiser. Make sure to populate your campaign page with your goal, some images, and other helpful details. Then, begin linking to it in promotions and social media posts.

Example crowdfunding page for nonprofits

Since your nonprofit website is the go-to source for information about your organization, be sure to include details about your campaign there, as well. Write about the purpose of your fundraiser, including information about events and goals throughout the campaign. Make sure your crowdfunding page is clearly linked from your site, too.

5. Tie in matching gifts.

Did you know that you can substantially increase the potential of your upcoming crowdfunding campaign? Be sure to integrate corporate matching gifts into your overall crowdfunding efforts to do so.

Benefits of matching gifts while crowdfunding for nonprofits

Millions within the workforce⁠—and even some retirees⁠—qualify for matching gift programs through their employing companies. However, the vast majority of these individuals have never been made aware of the programs’ existence. And as a result, more than $4 to $7 billion in available matching funds go unclaimed by eligible donors each year.

So think ahead! Promote matching gift opportunities throughout the entirety of your crowdfunding initiative. Take a proactive approach to inform supporters about matching gifts. You won’t regret it⁠—and the resulting impact will be huge.

6. Promote your campaign.

Once you’ve announced your fundraiser and have begun accepting donations, you’ll need to market your campaign to get your audience giving. Drive engagement by posting your campaign on all social media platforms, reaching out to people already associated with your organization, and encouraging people to tell their friends.

Promoting a nonprofit crowdfunding page on social media

Plus, be sure to tell your existing supporters about the campaign and encourage them to get involved⁠—whether by contributing themselves or sharing the link online!

7. Update your supporters.

Keep your supporters updated regularly, so they stay invested in your crowdfunding campaign⁠—and your overall cause. Donors will appreciate updates on your work, and others in your network may feel increasingly motivated to give after seeing a progress report.

Updating supporters on your nonprofit crowdfunding efforts

For example, providing followers with the exact amount of funding raised can illustrate the power of someone’s donation. This is especially true as you approach your goal and need only a few more donations to reach it.

How do you market a crowdfunding campaign?

After building the framework of your crowdfunding initiative, your top priority should be marketing your campaign.

Ultimately, crowdfunding efforts depend on effective communication to spread the word about your ongoing fundraiser. Without strategic promotions, your audience won’t know how to contribute to your campaign⁠—or even that you’re hosting a campaign in the first place.

Try these recommended tools and methods for reaching out to your target audience and highlighting your crowdfunding fundraiser:

  • Social media: Introduce your campaign on social media to capitalize on the sharing power of the platform. Publish content across your platforms and use tools that allow users to link to giving pages on their profiles. Consider posting at key points of the day when social media traffic is high, and use a hashtag to increase visibility and engagement.
  • Email: Supplement your social media promotions with direct email blasts about your campaign and upcoming deadlines. However, you’ll likely want to use email to support your promotions rather than as a primary source of marketing efforts when it comes to crowdfunding.
  • Gatherings: Host small gatherings throughout your campaign. You might celebrate with a launch party, midpoint gathering, and final celebration. For in-person events, a donation station with a laptop or tablet displaying the campaign can encourage donations. Plus, displaying a QR code that leads to your giving page can go a long way!
  • Giving incentives: Offer donors something small in return for donations. Encourage larger gifts by offering a big prize once an overall goal is achieved.
  • Peer-to-peer: Incorporate peer-to-peer tactics to encourage supporters to share your crowdfunding page. When your campaign is complete, leverage the powerful network you’ve created to launch a future social fundraiser.

No matter how you choose to get the word out, your primary focus should be expanding your outreach and keeping donors connected.

Multiple ways to promote a nonprofit crowdfunding campaign

What happens if my organization doesn’t reach our crowdfunding goal?

Picture this: You set your crowdfunding deadline at the beginning of your campaign, and it ultimately creeps up sooner than you anticipated. You’re still short of your overall fundraising goal when the time is up. What now?

Though it’s not the intended outcome for any fundraiser, it’s an important question to ask.

In the overall crowdfunding market, there are two types of campaigns: “all or nothing” fundraisers and “keep it all” fundraisers. In an “all or nothing” campaign, the individual or group behind the effort can collect pledged funding only if the fundraiser is successful in meeting its goal.

Generally speaking, however, the most popular nonprofit crowdfunding providers are going to skew toward the “keep it all” funding structure⁠. This means that you’d walk away with whatever funding your donors had contributed despite not reaching your goal.

However, we recommend double-checking the terms provided by your crowdfunding site (or prospective platform) to ensure your team receives the funds regardless of your fundraising total.

What are some crowdfunding best practices for success?

Optimize your campaign! Check out these tried-and-true fundraising tips to bring your nonprofit’s crowdfunding efforts to the next level.

Nonprofit crowdfunding best practices

Perfect your pitch.

When fundraising for a nonprofit, it’s essential to perfect your pitch. Be sure to write an engaging and honest story explaining the scope of the organization’s cause and its impact on the community. Avoid information overload, but include the two most important topics: your nonprofit and the cause it supports. Plus, incorporating testimonials from those affected by your organization can help donors understand the impact they can make.

Give a glimpse.

Adding photos and videos to your crowdfunding campaign can help donors understand the organization’s cause and connect with it on a personal level. Showcasing a positive outlook and determination can encourage donors to support the cause. It’s important to attach a face to the cause so donors can make a deeper connection with your nonprofit’s mission.

Extend your reach.

Consider reaching out to local businesses and organizations that may be interested in partnering to support your nonprofit crowdfunding campaign. Ask if they would consider matching donations with a one-off matching gift program or perhaps donating space to host a fundraising event.

Promote giving levels.

One of the best ways to encourage larger donations⁠—and reiterate the impact of an individual’s contribution⁠—is by incorporating concrete giving levels. We recommend tying each level to a tangible use of the funding to help contextualize donations. For example, let’s say a $10 gift feeds a family of four for a day, while a gift of $100 equips that family with nutritious food supplies for the whole month.

Offer incentives.

Crowdfunding also goes hand in hand with product fundraising⁠—and tying the two together can produce excellent results. For your next fundraiser, you might offer exclusive incentives for donors who hit certain giving levels, such as a t-shirt, hat, or something else entirely.

Make the most of workplace giving.

Workplace giving programs are a key form of corporate philanthropy that you don’t want to overlook. Employee matching gifts are one of the most popular examples⁠—which we’ll explore further below⁠—but it can also include efforts such as volunteer grants, employee giving stipends, in-kind donations, and more. Keep in mind that your supporters can be some of your biggest advocates when it comes to workplace giving, so encourage donors to look into the kinds of programs that their employers offer!

How do crowdfunding and matching gifts work together?

Corporate matching gifts can be one of the most effective ways to amplify the impact of your crowdfunding campaign and bring your overall fundraising to new heights.

According to recent matching gift research, more than 26 million individuals work for companies that match employee gifts to charitable causes. And the availability (and knowledge) of corporate matching results in increased donor conversion rates and larger donation amounts.

In fact, 84% of survey participants say they’re more likely to donate if a match is offered, and 1 in 3 donors would give a larger gift if matching is applied to their donation. All in all, this leads to a 71% increase in response rate and a 51% increase in average gift size when donation matching is offered.

Increase crowdfunding results with matching gifts.

So if you want to maximize giving for your upcoming crowdfunding campaign, make sure you don’t overlook the opportunities presented by matching gifts. We recommend:

  • Promoting matching gift information to donors (many qualifying employees have no idea that their companies offer such programs);
  • Collecting donor employment data to uncover eligible matching gifts;
  • Following up with donors after they give to provide company-specific match program guidelines and next steps;
  • Leveraging a crowdfunding platform that integrates with the leading matching gift software provider, Double the Donation.

The simpler you make matching gifts for your donors, the more likely they are to participate. And as a result, the more your crowdfunding efforts will benefit!

What are some nonprofit crowdfunding campaigns to be inspired by?

If you’re looking for examples of real crowdfunding campaigns hosted by⁠ (or benefiting⁠) nonprofits like yours, you’ve come to the right place.

Check out the following success stories⁠—and make a note of the most impactful elements.

Sample nonprofit crowdfunding campaign
Still live at the time of posting, this ongoing campaign is raising funds for a middle school’s musical theater department ahead of an upcoming performance.

Here’s what this campaign does well:

  • Shares a number of photos of students involved in the production, effectively associating a lot of real faces with the cause;
  • Provides an in-depth background for the fundraising need, including funding for sets, costumes, and technical equipment;
  • Incentivizes giving by ensuring individual donors and business sponsors that contributions made to the fundraiser are tax-deductible.

Sample nonprofit crowdfunding campaign
Here’s an example of a crowdfunding campaign benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, hosted by a dedicated supporter of the organization.

Here’s what this campaign does well:

  • Empowers supporters to fundraise on behalf of their favorite nonprofits, offering easy ways to share their own personal connections to the cause;
  • Verifies that the funds raised are going directly to a registered nonprofit group (and even provides the EIN for the organization, making matching gifts easy!);
  • Surpasses its original fundraising goal by nearly $2,000, ultimately raising around 379% of the initial target.

Sample nonprofit crowdfunding campaign
Crowdfunding efforts can also be used to collect funding needed to start a nonprofit⁠—and that’s exactly what this group did! Though it appears that they fell short of their initial fundraising goal, they were able to raise more than $1,000, which was then used to kickstart the organization.

Here’s what this campaign does well:

  • Provides tangible giving levels that correspond to real impact, ultimately encouraging supporters to increase their donations;
  • Showcases the organization’s overarching goals, mission, and vision;
  • Encourages community through easy social sharing options, an embedded campaign wall with fundraising updates and messages from supporters, and more.

Sample nonprofit crowdfunding campaign

One California-based nonprofit is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with a crowdfunding campaign. And in only seven days, the organization collected nearly $1,500 for its cause!

Here’s what this campaign does well:

  • Provides a comprehensive overview of the organization’s history and growth since its inception over a decade ago;
  • Utilizes special edition apparel and other swag to drive giving at different levels;
  • Shares fundraising milestone updates on the crowdfunding page to celebrate success and encourage continuous support.

Crowdfunding results will vary depending on the organization hosting the fundraiser, its audience, and more. Keep in mind, though, that Nonprofits Source estimates that the average nonprofit crowdfunding campaign raises around $9,237.55.

How can you thank crowdfunding supporters?

After an individual contributes to a crowdfunding campaign, your organization has an opportunity to begin stewarding them into a long-term supporter of your cause. Not only that but thanking donors for their support is just the right thing to do!

That said, in your acknowledgments, be sure that you:

  • Address individuals by name (i.e., “Thanks, Chad!” vs. “Thanks, donor!”);
  • Thank donors for their specific gifts (“Thanks for your generous $100 donation to our campaign!” rather than “Thanks for giving!”);
  • Provide additional context for the tangible impact made possible through a donor’s gift (“Your gift empowers us to offer much-needed school supplies for students in low-income areas.”);
  • Share ongoing ways that supporters can stay involved with your nonprofit (request a matching gift, sign up for a newsletter, connect with your organization on social media, etc.).

If you’re looking for a unique and engaging way to wrap up your crowdfunding effort, we recommend exploring an eCard campaign. By employing a dedicated digital greeting card software, you can easily send creative thank-you notes online.

Check out these examples from one nonprofit, Youth For Understanding:

How to thank crowdfunding donors

How to thank crowdfunding donors In a world where you’re constantly fighting to break through the clutter, fun online greeting cards can be an excellent (and low-cost) way to get your message to stand out.

Launch your own donor recognition digital letter portal for your team members.


Final Thoughts

Crowdfunding is a powerful tool that can help nonprofits raise funds and awareness for their various causes. By integrating the reach of social media and the convenience of online giving, nonprofits can tap into a widespread and diverse donor base to drive support.

In order to maximize giving, it’s important to note that many companies offer matching gift programs, which can double or even triple the impact of a donor’s contribution to your efforts. Take the time to educate and promote the opportunities to supporters, and see how donation-matching can bring your next crowdfunding campaign to new heights.

Keep learning! Browse these additional recommended resources to dive deeper into top nonprofit fundraising practices:

  • Nonprofit Basics – Learn more about nonprofit management essentials by exploring our other expert resources. This includes handy guides on topics like cause marketing, Google Ad grants, corporate sponsorships, and graphic design.
  • Digital Marketing – Understand the basics of digital marketing for nonprofits with this fundamental overview. Explore key components of nonprofit digital marketing, what makes mission-driven marketing unique, and more.
  • A Crowdfunding Guide – Check out more crowdfunding best practices to set your organization up for maximal success. Read this guide to nonprofit crowdfunding and starting your own crowdfunding campaign.

Bring your crowdfunding to new heights with matching gifts.

Follow these best practices to learn how to start a foundation.

Nonprofit Basics: Starting a Foundation

Interested in establishing a permanent positive impact? Starting a foundation is a great way to further the social good initiatives you care about. Individuals, families, and corporations are all eligible parties that can start their own foundations. 

If you’re looking to create a long-lasting family legacy or have become increasingly aware of an unmet social need, starting your own foundation will propel your ideas forward. Let’s break down some foundation basics.

What is a foundation?

A foundation is a charitable trust or nonprofit organization typically formed to provide charitable grants to other organizations or institutions. Foundations can support a variety of different causes such as those related to science, religion, education, or culture. 

There are two foundation types: public foundations and private foundations. Public foundations are funded by a variety of sources, such as individuals, private foundations, or government entities. These separate sources make it easier for the foundation to decrease its financial risk by diversifying its revenue. The majority of community foundations are public foundations which are also known as grant-making public charities.

Private foundations are typically funded by individuals or families. Private foundations are subject to greater regulations by the IRS as they must meet a certain yearly “payout requirement”. Oftentimes, private foundations are a direct reflection of individual or family values. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a well-known example of a private foundation. Some other examples of private foundations include family foundations, corporate foundations, and private operating foundations. 

What are the benefits of starting a foundation?

There are several benefits that come with starting a foundation. Some of these benefits are tangible while others may be more reflective of individual values. Here are a few to consider:

  • Ability to leave a legacy. Foundations can be started for very personal reasons. Private foundations offer an opportunity for families to bond or grieve together. Many times, foundations are started to carry on a family name or honor the life of a passed family member. Cancer research foundations are often created because of this precedent. 
  • Access to tax benefits. When legally registered as a 501(c)(3), the IRS recognizes foundations as tax-exempt. In other words, they can accept donations without having to pay taxes on them. Additionally, with a few restrictions, the donors can claim their contributions as tax deductible. 
  • Ability to directly control your charitable giving. Being charity-minded without a giving plan can be overwhelming. With over 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. alone, there is no shortage of causes that could use resources. But how do you know you’re funding a cause that captures your values? Starting your own private foundation is one way to be sure you’re giving to a cause that matters to you. 

How do I start my own charitable foundation?

If you’ve decided that now is the time to start your own foundation, there are a couple of steps to follow. Be aware that starting a charitable foundation takes time and resources. Therefore, these steps will require careful planning and dedication to  complete: 

This image details how to start your own foundation.

  1. Define your mission statement. Why are you starting your own foundation? How does your cause respond to a pressing social need? A good mission statement is clear, concise, and memorable. Structure yours in a way that is unique to your cause.
  2. Determine whether you want your organization to be a trust or nonprofit corporation. Trusts and nonprofits have several key differences: Trusts have fewer regulations for activities like keeping meeting minutes or appointing officers. Nonprofit corporations offer greater protection from personal liability. However, they have more formal regulations to abide by. Other areas of distinction lie in ownership and investment, specific taxation benefits, and general purpose and goals. If you aren’t sure which one is right for you, consider talking with a financial advisor to gain some insight.
  3. Hire a lawyer and appoint a board of directors. Initial planning as well as ongoing compliance with legal requirements are a must for charitable foundations. Hiring a lawyer and appointing a board of directors will help you keep up with record keeping and tax returns.
  4. Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). This can be done over the phone or via email.
  5. File for tax-exempt status with the IRS. Follow IRS guidelines and fill out the necessary forms to apply for tax-exemption.

Being proactive with your foundation’s legal compliance will ensure you are documenting it correctly. Once you have filed the initial necessary paperwork, it is important to prioritize year-round record keeping. Keeping detailed records will help you quickly resolve any financial discrepancies.

Other Resources to Explore

Nonprofit Basics – Learn more about nonprofit management essentials by exploring other expert resources.

Getting Started with Nonprofit Legal Compliance – Gain some more insight on how to adhere to the necessary nonprofit legal requirements. 

Grantmaking: Everything New Foundations Need to Know  – Read this article for a full explanation of the grantmaking process. 

Employee engagement programs are an essential nonprofit basic.

Nonprofit Basics: Employee Engagement Programs

Every organization wants passionate employees who are committed to their work, but motivating your employees to fully engage isn’t something that just happens by chance. Cultivating a workplace culture of happy, diligent employees requires deliberate strategy and planning through employee engagement programs. 

Employee engagement programs will look a bit different between the corporate and nonprofit spheres, but ultimately all organizations can benefit from gaining a deeper understanding of what these programs are and the elements that make one successful. 

What are employee engagement programs?

Employee engagement programs are deliberate efforts your organization takes to connect with employees and encourage them to take part in building a positive work environment. 

We’ll discuss specific examples later, but ultimately employee engagement programs can vary widely between organizations from informal afterwork get-togethers to an in-office recognition program. 

What are the characteristics of a successful employee engagement program?

Not all employee engagement programs will be successful, and what works for one organization may not reach employees at another organization in the same way. However, all successful employee engagement programs do share a few characteristics, including:

Alt text: All successful employee engagement programs have a few characteristics in common. 

  • Trust and transparency
  • Understanding of employees’ values
  • Room for creativity and self-expression 
  • Respect and appreciation

When planning your employee engagement program, strive to understand how your employees view your workplace. Knowing what they value, how they currently feel about their work, and what motivates them to work will provide direction when planning your first employee engagement program. 

What are examples of employee engagement programs?

As mentioned, there are a number of employee engagement program types you can explore. A few popular ones that will work at most workplaces include:

Allow employees to submit feedback and present their ideas. 

Employees are motivated by a variety of factors, and one of the major ones is personal empowerment. This can take many forms, such as clear career development paths or limiting micro-managing in favor of independent work. 

One popular empowerment option is giving your employees the chance to share their ideas with leadership. These ideas can be aimed at specific tasks employees perform everyday or focused on how your organization operates as a whole. Along with providing employees an opportunity to think about your business or nonprofit more deeply and have their ideas heard, you’ll likely also gather reliable suggestions for ways to improve your organization. 

To collect these ideas, create a feedback survey system. Here are a few different types of survey models:

  • Anonymous online surveys. Anonymous surveys allow employees to speak freely, which may encourage them to share ideas that are critical of your current practices but ultimately useful to hear. Keep in mind that while employees may feel more freedom when using an anonymous survey, if you have any questions about an employee’s responses, you’ll be unable to follow up with them. 
  • One-on-one in-person interviews. Schedule opportunities for employees to meet with their managers and share their ideas one-on-one. These meetings don’t have to be long—about ten minutes unless an employee has an exceptional number of ideas to share. In these interviews, employees will have a chance to be actively heard and talk through their ideas with a more senior member of your team. 
  • Public online surveys. These surveys are also hosted online, but the results of each survey will be associated with the employee who submits it. This can be a useful middleground between anonymous and in-person surveys as employees will be able to submit their ideas on a recurring basis and have leadership follow up with them to discuss questions or further explanations if needed. 

Additionally, you can also send out surveys that ask employees about their specific experiences at your organization. If you aren’t sure how your employees view your workplace culture, this can be a useful way to collect specific information and identify your strengths and weaknesses. 

If employees do report bad experiences, ensure you have a closed-feedback loop system in place to follow up with them. This ensures that their feedback is noted, corrections are made to resolve the issue, and a member of your team reaches out to them to let them know their concerns are heard and are being appropriately addressed. 

Empower employees to plan and lead social events. 

As mentioned, employees appreciate personal empowerment and independence. This applies both when they’re at and outside of the office. While leadership planned and led engagement events can go a long way towards establishing your commitment to a better workplace culture, giving employees the reins has several additional benefits. 

Chances are your employees will have a stronger on-the-ground perspective of what types of events their fellow employees would be interested in participating in. Plus, letting employees plan these events takes scheduling, budgeting, and booking event spaces off of your plate and gives inspired employees the opportunity to take on that responsibility instead.  

Host employee volunteer days.

Employees want to work at organizations they feel are doing good in the world, and you can show your commitment to the causes your employees care about by hosting employee volunteer days. 

Partner with a local nonprofit and organize a day for members of your staff to come in and work together. It will provide them an opportunity to do meaningful work for their community and get to know one another in an environment outside of the office. 

You can also create an employee volunteer grant program. Rather than organizing the volunteer day yourself, employees will volunteer for causes they care about individually. Then, you can show your support by making a donation to the organizations they volunteered at based on how many hours they volunteered. 

Other Resources to Explore

Nonprofit Basics – Learn more nonprofit management essentials by exploring other expert resources.

Top Corporate Giving Software to Drive Employee Engagement – Corporate philanthropy programs can be a major driver in employee engagement. Learn how you can streamline your corporate giving process with these software applications. 

Getting Employees to Care: Employee Engagement and Culture – Interested in learning more about how your workplace culture influences employee engagement? Explore this article on how to motivate your employees by crafting better workplace experiences. 


Nonprofit Basics: College Website

We live in a digital age, where almost every company, organization, and group needs a website to connect with its audience. Your college or university is no exception to this rule. University students want to find information online quickly, whether dates and times of upcoming events, requirements for majors and minors, or contact information for their professors. This means all universities must have a website and keep it current and relevant.

What is a college website? 

A college website (also known as a university website or a higher education website) is an online resource that showcases a university and its activities. College websites are often used as a marketing tool to promote a university’s programs, research, and events to prospective and current students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni. 

Many college websites also have a strong focus on fundraising and connecting with donors. Their websites can present a perfect opportunity to remind prospective donors, such as parents and alumni, about all of the successful projects and initiatives the university undertakes. These reminders serve as inspiration to donate to help continue the university’s impact and better students’ education, extracurriculars, and social events.

How do you build a college website?

College websites serve a pivotal role in the functioning and fundraising of many colleges and universities. For this reason, your college or university should ensure that its website is optimized and up-to-date.

If you have a web designer on your college or university’s marketing team, you can potentially build your college website in-house. However, it’s generally recommended to work with a web design and development agency that specializes in higher education web design

A dedicated agency can offer the following services: 


A dedicated web design agency can offer the following services for your college website project: audience research, content strategy, website design, and website support.


  • Audience research: While your team likely has some grasp of who visits your website, an agency can conduct research to better understand your online audience. Then, they can help you enhance your website to ensure that it meets visitors’ needs. 
  • Content strategy: An agency can perform an audit of your content to see what is performing well and what might need improvement. They will work with you to determine what your university’s goals are, then implement these goals with calls-to-action and SEO tactics, ensuring that your website has a consistent tone and style.
  • Streamlined, accessible design: Working with an agency will ensure that your college website’s design is visually pleasing, while also offering the best user experience possible. One of the ways agencies do this is by ensuring that your website is up to accessibility standards so that all users can access and engage with your website.
  • Website support: Links break and bugs appear on all websites from time to time, but with students, faculty, and staff relying on your college website for updates and information, it’s especially important to keep your website functioning properly. Your agency can offer ongoing support to help guarantee that your website is not just operational but optimized.

What are some examples of effective college websites? 

There are plenty of college websites to review to gather inspiration for your college or university, whether you’re looking to tweak your website or complete a full overhaul. Here are a few examples of websites that meet the needs of both the college or university and its users:

1. Kenyon College

Taking a minimalist approach, Kenyon College’s website has an easy-to-navigate layout with a concise sidebar menu. The website also highlights the college’s brand through the tasteful use of the school color purple on the homepage’s background.


Kenyon College’s website is minimalist, with an easy easy-to-navigate layout and a concise sidebar menu.


2. Stanford University

Stanford clearly lays out its top-priority landing pages on their homepage, allowing visitors to gain insight into the site’s most relevant pages. Plus, Stanford keeps its user base updated on current events with links to articles about news in the Stanford area and beyond.


Stanford’s website provides clear navigation, laying out its top-priority landing pages on its homepage.


3. Rhode Island School of Design Alumni

Rhode Island School of Design Alumni is a unique website, with an animated “News and Events” button at the top of the page. The website reflects the school’s goals and values, allowing its brand to shine. At the same time, the site maintains an air of simplicity through its use of a black-and-white background. 

Rhode Island School of Design Alumni’s site is both clever and user-friendly, combining a black and white background with an animated “News and Events” link.


4. Georgetown University

At the top of its homepage, Georgetown University provides a menu that segments its audience based on their relationship with the university. The site also includes a video across the homepage, allowing visitors to experience campus and Georgetown life from their first interaction with the website.

Georgetown University’s homepage includes options to learn more about the alumni experience, campus and city life, and academic life.


Other Resources to Explore

Nonprofit Basics – Learn more about nonprofit management essentials by exploring other expert resources.

The 20 Best College Websites (And What Makes Them Great) – Still searching for more inspiration? Visit Kanopi’s roundup of the best college websites to explore more effective sites. 

Higher Ed Website Design: 10 Trends and Tips for 2022 – Read on for more information about making sure your college website is up-to-date, optimized, and relevant for today’s users.

Learn more how to increase your organization’s impact with engaging nonprofit events.

Nonprofit Basics: Nonprofit Events

Nonprofit events are a highly customizable way to engage with existing supporters and forge relationships with new people who care about your cause. Whether you’re hosting a peer-to-peer fundraiser, live auction, or gala, you’ll need to create a memorable experience for your supporters.

Events are a significant tool to this end since they can easily be tailored to an organization’s needs, preferences, and budget. Let’s explore the basics along with useful ideas to make your next nonprofit event the most successful one yet.

What are nonprofit events?

Nonprofit events are in-person or virtual activities hosted by nonprofits in order to connect with existing and potential supporters. To run a successful event, you’ll need a robust volunteer team, a strong event plan in place, and essential elements like a venue and catering if you’re hosting it in-person. Plus, you’ll need to put a creative fundraising idea into action.

Let’s dive into just a few of the benefits of nonprofit events:

  • Drive revenue. Fundraising events are particularly fruitful in this regard since they are often built around one-time activities specially tailored to generate revenue. Plus, once your event is over, people will be more inclined to become repeat donors if they had a memorable experience at your event and have positive associations with your organization.
  • Raise awareness around your cause. Events are the perfect opportunities to show supporters why they should care about your cause. People like to understand what they’re supporting when they attend a fundraiser, so this is a wonderful opportunity to share your expertise in an impactful way.
  • Build connections with supporters. Events help build meaningful connections with donors and potential donors by providing them with an enjoyable experience and more knowledge about your cause. Beyond donors, it’s just as important to create positive experiences for your volunteers so that they continue to support your organization in significant ways in the future.

What are examples of nonprofit events?

Events can be held successfully in several different formats depending on your organization’s goals. Nonprofits can host in-person events, virtual events, and hybrid events. One of the benefits of living in the age of the Internet is that nearly any event idea can be adapted to fit in-person or virtual formats.

Each kind of event has its advantages and disadvantages, so decide what makes the most sense for your nonprofit. In-person events can be costly if not carefully planned, and can also limit potential attendees to people that live in proximity to where the event is being held. The regional focus may not be a drawback if a nonprofit only serves the local community, but it could be limiting for a large-scale nonprofit.

In-person events, however, provide a face-to-face element that helps people stay engaged at the event and allows them to build meaningful connections with others.

With virtual events, you’ll have the extra challenge of keeping supporters engaged since they won’t physically be together and can easily get distracted. However, virtual events allow your organization to connect with potential supporters who care about your cause across the world. They can also facilitate building community if you make sure that these tools are in place ahead of time while you are planning your nonprofit event.

Let’s explore a few ideas for nonprofit events, all of which can be adapted to your nonprofit’s specific needs, and can be hosted in-person, virtually, or as a hybrid event.

When planning nonprofit events, you’ll need a creative idea that will inspire supporters to attend and give.


Galas are formal events that often feature special performances, a live or silent auction, and the opportunity to socialize with others. Since galas can be expensive, your organization can look for corporate sponsors that will provide financial support in exchange for marketing at your event.

Galas can be hosted virtually with some thoughtful planning, such as asking supporters to dress up and even sending catering to their homes, to ensure that guests enjoy the experience and feel as engaged as they would with an in-person event.


Auctions are a wonderful way to engage your supporters in a fun and interactive way. Guests can bid on special items or packages that have been donated or that your nonprofit has procured at a low cost. Your organization will benefit from all of the proceeds and your guests will be able to enjoy the items or experiences they’ve won s. Auctions can be easily hosted online with the support of a reliable auction software and live streaming service.


Walkathons can help you actively engage participants in your efforts. By adding a peer-to-peer element, you can encourage participants to collect donations from people in their personal network, and to receive pledges for reaching walking goals.

You can either host a designated event where everyone walks together, or host your walkathon virtually by encouraging people to walk on their own or with friends to hit their goals. Consider offering supporters prizes and incentives for raising the most amount of funds.


Concerts are a tried-and-true fundraising event. People enjoy hearing good music, whether you’re able to book a local school’s orchestra or ask volunteers with musical talents to lend a hand. It’s easy to encourage people to invite their friends to this event and potentially draw in more supporters who wouldn’t have been familiar with your organization otherwise.


Webinars are a great opportunity to engage with the topics that your supporters care about in an engaging way. In addition to providing insights from experts during this event, you can offer viewers the opportunity to chat with each other and ask questions while they attend. This event is simple to plan and has low overhead costs.

Nonprofit events are a crucial way to build relationships with new and existing supporters, and to keep them actively engaged with your organization. After your event, keep up the momentum by thanking your audience for attending, and by offering them additional ways to get involved with your mission.

Other Resources to Explore

Nonprofit Basics – Learn more nonprofit management essentials by exploring other expert resources.

9 Volunteer Thank You Letter Samples to Show Appreciation – Engaging your supporters extends beyond the event itself. Take advantage of these volunteer thank you letter templates to show your appreciation to your volunteers for their work.

Nonprofit Marketing: A Guide for Amplifying Your Mission – If you want to learn more about how to promote your event and fine-tune your nonprofit’s marketing strategy, take a look at this guide.