Tag: donor

Top 5 ways Canadians Give to Charity

On average Canadians gave $531 last year to charity. In Alberta the average was a little higher at $596.96 per person. Although it would not be surprising if this average amount drops a little this year due to the dropping price of oil and the effect on the local economy. These stats came from an article last week in the Calgary Herald. The article was based on a recent Statistics Canada report. As an organizational leader for a nonprofit I am always thrilled to read any report about how people express there generosity and how they donate to charity. In the video below I talk about the top 5 ways listed in the report as the ways Canadians give to charity. Some of the ways will definitely not surprise you -but one or two just may.


Donate to your favorite charity’s administration costs

No wise charity leaders out there or fundraising will be suggesting that their organization plan its Christmas appeal around covering administration costs this season. However as wise leaders understand we do have to invest in our administration or our fundraising to increase our ability to make the impact our charity is intended to make. Imagine if a friend suggested that you invest in the favorite companies stock. The company bragged that it invested no money on staff, operations ,technology or training and development. You might thing that this company might not be a good long term investment. However Marina Glogovac President and CEO of CanadaHelps.org, points out in her recent Huffington Post blogpost  that this is what we do to charities when we expect them to direct donations. We encourage or demand of them that they spend money only on direct programs not the other things we would expect a for profit company to do. Below is a link to a vlog post that further covers this double standard we have for charities:

Do you want to be happy? Spend your money helping others

Research demonstrates that spending your money “pro socially” can make you happier. Elizabeth Dunn in her research found that after giving people experience both positive mental and bodily affects. For a charity talking about the positive benefit to the nonprofits users is something that is often linked to a donors gift. It is not uncommon to hear your $100 means one new clean well for a certain village. We are less likely to talk about the benefit to the donor themselves in giving a gift. We might make reference to a tax benefit- but we are less likely to talk about the positive mental benefit of spending your money pro socially as Dunn’s research suggests. Maybe as charity leaders we should be posting this type of research on our websites. We all want to be happy- maybe we should start writing the happiness we are creating not only for our users but also our donors in our case for support.

Fundraising in Uncertain Times

In Alberta Oil and Gas is a big driver in the local economy. Some Albertan’s don’t like to admit this but if the price of oil is low (which it is now) it has a strong impact on our local economy. As NPO leaders we know ultimately this has an impact on our fundraising so we need to be prepared to take corrective and purposeful action. This short video speaks to a couple of strategies your small charity can use to respond in an economic crisis.

Is your E-Newsletter generating Donations?

Is your E-Newsletter generating Donations? If you have read any of the other posts on this blog you will know I am a big fan of social media. However I do not believe that social media alone will change our fundraising or revenue generating world.  I do believe that effective social media usage is considered and utilized in concert with your website and your organizations e-newsletter. An article on NonProfit Tech for Good (Nonprofit Tech for Good, September, 2014) suggests:” Despite the rapid rise of social media, more online donations are made from a click in an e-newsletter than any other source. “This article goes on to illustrate that organizations should consider how using their e-newsletter in concert with other digital tools is likely a wise practice. I suppose a logical assumption for a charity is that despite the growth of social media that e-mail is still a powerful tool in an organizations fundraising arsenal. The article suggests: Furthermore, email still dominates among online adults of all ages and thanks to the rise of social media, e-newsletter growth in the nonprofit sector grew 14% in 2013, especially for small nonprofits. Thus, not only is the myth that social media replaces email false, but now it is also understood and proven that email use is increased by social media and that in fact the two tools are complimentary and increase the success of your online fundraising campaigns (Nonprofit Tech for Good, September,2014).

The article mentioned above lists 10 best practices for you e-newsletter but I am only going to comment on a few. The first practice mentioned relates to mobile access and design. For our organizations website a little over a year ago only nine percent of our website visitors were viewing our site from a mobile device- recently this percentage went up to about 25 percent. Currently the percentage that view our website from a mobile device is growing by about 1% per month (today closer to 30% of our visitors view us from a mobile device). For you newsletter it is likely a good assumption that a growing number of your readers are going to read the newsletter from the phone or tablet in the future.  Nonprofit Tech for Good (September, 2014) describes;” 66% of emails are now opened either on a smartphone or tablet. For email to continue to be effective in your content and fundraising strategies, your nonprofit must prioritize mobile design.”

As I mentioned in the post https://mathiesonlarry.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/how-do-you-use-your-social-media-to-raise-money-for-your-charity-part-2/ the authors at Nonprofit Tech suggest making you content easy to share. They advise: ”Enable social sharing. Hosted e-newsletter services allow subscribers to share your entire e-newsletter to their social networks, but allowing subscribers to share individual articles is smart strategy. “ It makes a lot of sense to share the great work your organization is doing with all the stakeholders in your email list, but if a few of these individuals share your story with all their contacts- this clearly increases your reach. The article goes on to recommend 8 other best practices-so if you have a few moments I would recommend clicking on the link below in the references to read the rest of the post.


Nonprofit Tech for Good (2014) 10 e-Newsletter Best Practices for Nonprofits in Nonprofit Tech For

Good Sept 28 2014 as retrieved from:  http://www.nptechforgood.com/2014/09/28/10-e-newsletter-best-practices-for-nonprofits/

Triple Threats: Volunteers who donate.


              Around here we talk about a group that is pretty special to us, we refer to them as our Triple Threats. These are the individuals who give us their: time, treasure and talent.  For example our board members are triple threats. We recruit members to our board who have specific skill sets that we need (talent) ,they all donate in various ways and they devote their time to board meetings, committee meeting and events. However fortunately we also have other volunteers beyond our board members who are triple threats. Most research I have read about volunteers is that they are more likely to donate to charity and in general they donate more.

          Turcotte (2012) in his report, Charitable giving by Canadians describes: “It is well-known that giving, volunteering and helping others are all strongly associated: people who participate in one of these activities are also more likely to participate in another. In addition to having stronger pro-social values, people who do volunteer work are more likely to be solicited for a donation in the course of their activities and to experience social pressure (especially if this pressure comes from people they know well).Thus, in 2010, among people who had performed 60 or more hours of volunteer work in the previous year, 91% made donations, giving an average of $784 In comparison, 79% of those who had not volunteered during the year had made donations, averaging $288.” Even though volunteers are more likely to donate they may not necessarily donate to the organization they volunteer for.  There can be a number of reasons for this, but for our organization for a long period of time we held a view point that our volunteers gave us their time- we should ask them for their money too.  However reading research that had the same conclusions as the Turcotte study, made us realize that besides being foolish this notion was not helping our fundraising efforts.  Some of our volunteers were volunteering in our House and donating to the charities across the street (literally).

           There are 14 Ronald McDonald Houses in Canada; according to the national charity 5000 volunteers support those Houses. We have more than our share of good luck as over 1300 of those volunteers (or 26%) support our two Ronald McDonald Houses in Calgary and Red Deer.  Each year more and more of our volunteers become triple threats and we have employed a few tactics to make our volunteers aware of how they can financially support us. However one of the things we are launching this year is a new way we are thanking and recognizing our triple threats. The photo above is of a lapel pin that we had made for our volunteers. The three stars represent family members in the families we support but as well they represent: Time, Treasure, and Talent.  We have already presented our board members these, but as well at this year’s volunteer appreciation event we will be giving out these pins as well. They will be given to volunteers who both give their time as well as participate in our monthly giving program. If you don’t understand why we would focus on the monthly giving program you can read this blog post that explains why a charity might focus on this program:



Turcotte, M (2012) Charitable giving by Canadians, as retrieved from:


Do you know how you are helping your corporate donors?


            Probably a better question than the one in the title is: can you articulate to your corporate donors how supporting you is good for their business? In an article titled Why giving is good for business Blake Mycoskie of TOMS describes:” I also saw that TOMS didn’t need conventional advertising; it just had to focus on giving and doing so in a sustainable a way—in other words, on our story. In the process, we would turn countless other strangers into our most vocal marketers.” Working with your charity may offer a strategic or market advantage to some of your corporate supporters. If you are aware of ways that companies benefit by helping you-get good at telling that story. 

          Our charity is supported by a lot of oil and gas companies. Some of these companies are more concerned about an internal or inward message given by their community support instead of an outward message. That is they view a lot of their community investment activity as a human resources activity, they are marketing inward instead of outward. This makes sense. In the same article Mycoskie suggests:” When you incorporate giving into your business in an authentic way, you attract amazing employees. You can only grow and keeping growing if you hire great people. We have employees who have left impressive companies and with generous perks to work in a warehouse without air conditioning or heat. And the reason certainly isn’t because we pay them more. It’s because they want to be part of something bigger. In fact, the greatest competitive advantage you have is to allow your employees to feel they’re making a difference.”

       Our Ronald McDonald Houses runs a program we call Home for Dinner. In the program groups of 3 to 12 people bring in groceries and cook a meal for all the families staying at the House. All sorts of groups now do these dinners but 9 years ago we only had three groups a month who would make these dinners.  The dinners reduce costs for our families and free up time so they can spend more with their child who is seriously ill. We wanted to increase the number of groups making dinners for families, because it was a benefit for our users. We started talking about the program to all of our corporate supporters as a potential team builder for some of their staff. We knew that many of our corporate donors were interested in ways to engage their employees in the charities the companies were supporting. Little did we know how doing something that was good for families would also be good for our fund development program. I could tell you countless stories of how companies continued to give larger gifts as their employees became more engaged with our program. One of our presenting sponsors of our biggest fundraising events had supported us for three years. At the end of the term they thought it was time to support another cause, so their community investment team sent an email to all staff encouraging them to vote between three other charities as the company’s charity of choice. Instead of votes the employees emailed back we love Ronald McDonald House- we know those families we ate dinner with them. Ultimately the company signed on as presenting sponsor for three more years. 

         Encouraging their employees to volunteer or become engaged with nonprofits is good business. In the United Health Care/ Volunteer Do Good Live Well study they found;” Encouragement from the workplace strengthens volunteers’ relationships with their employer and colleagues. This research shows that company involvement in employee volunteer opportunities can lead to employee well‐being and positive attitudes towards employers.”  In the study the researchers found that 81% of the respondents said that volunteering with work colleagues had strengthened their relationships with colleagues.” Most of the companies we work with are pretty concerned about having strong, productive teams. Most invest money in activities and events specifically directed towards team building. Getting back to the intention of some of our corporate supporters to create a positive message to their employees about the company through their community investment, the same study found that 76% reported feeling better about their employer because of involvement in their volunteer activity.

Nine years ago we had three groups a month, now we have a dinner group almost every night of the year. Everyone wins with this program our families, our organization and our corporate donors. Now that we are booked for dinners usually a month or two in advance, we prioritize staff from corporate groups who are significant and repeat donors to our charity. We offer this as a benefit to corporations who support us. When we are courting companies that we want to become donors we describe this program as an opportunity that they will be entitled to as a corporate donor.   Years ago we asked companies to have their employee’s help us with this program from what we thought was a place of need. Now we know the program can function as a donor stewardship activity for our current donors and as an added incentive for corporate prospects. What is really great it is it is a volunteer activity that makes it even more likely that the company and its employees will become even more engaged in what we do.


 Mycoskie,B . (2014) Why Giving is Good for Business as retrieved from: 



Volunteer Match (2010) UnitedHealthcare / VolunteerMatch Do Good Live Well Study: Reviewing the

          Benefits of volunteering; as retrieved from:


How is your nonprofit engaging Millennials ?


           I love the way Millennials engage with the charities that they are passionate about. A lot of nonprofit leaders or fundraisers are more concerned with engaging more mature donors. In general the older we get the more likely we are to have more disposable income, and as a result, make larger average gifts than some of our younger donors may make. On average Millennials do give smaller gifts, however they do tend to have a propensity to help an organization in a variety of ways, and they are very prone to doing a lot of marketing for your charity using their social media networks in a way that some other age cohorts are not as likely to.

           For example when studying millennial donors Feldmann et al (2013) found:” Their interactions with nonprofit organizations are likely to be immediate and impulsive. When inspired they will act quickly in a number of ways, from small donations to short volunteer stints, provided that the opportunities are present and the barriers to entry are low (p.3)”. These authors go on to describe (Feldmann, et.al. 2013):” Peer influence plays an important role in motivating Millennials to volunteer, attend events, and participate in programs and give. We have some groups of Millennials supporters who definitely are always looking for different ways to support our organization.

           One of these groups Team McAwesome is one of our regular Home for Dinner groups who come in to make Sunday Brunch at least once a month for our families. In essence they are donors, as they buy the groceries to make the brunches, but they are also volunteers as they come in to prepare and serve the meal itself.  I am not sure I can remember all the ways the individuals in this group help us. Well let’s try, they have used other groups they belong to –to fundraise for us, they volunteer at our fundraising events or are participants at them. Whenever they make brunch they take photos and promote our cause on their own twitter and instagram feeds. In addition they routinely share, like or re-tweet our organizations own social media posts. Some nonprofit executives fail to focus on this group, as their average donation is smaller than other age cohorts, but to ignore the variety of ways these supporters will help your organization seems unwise.

          Even if Millennials can’t give as much as other demographic groups, they nonetheless are willing to raise funds for causes they care about usually by calling on friends and family. (p.3)”.  Some of the other findings in this study –we are starting to see in our own fundraising efforts. For example Feldmann, et al (2013) found:” While Millennials don’t give a lot, they do want to give what they have. One new finding this year is that 53% of the respondents said they would be interested in monthly giving. This format offers nonprofits an opportunity to experiment with soliciting smaller but more regular gifts.”  Another trend in donor support that we are starting to see more frequently is also described by these authors. “Another, less cyclical trend in peer fundraising is the Millennials are starting to ask for donations in lieu of gifts for birthdays and other events. This trend is worth watching (and capitalizing on) as social networks enable and facilitate such giving with greater reach and speed.”

             Supporters in this age group can be triple threats, they raise money for your organization, they volunteer and they market for you using their social network.” Seventy five percent of Millennials like, retweet or share content on social media (Feldmann, et.al)” so if you are able to engage them or enlist them they will be strong and frequent promoters of your cause. However the small nonprofit must continue to be diligent in interacting and engaging these supporters as it is likely that your charity is not the only one they are interested in. In the same study the authors found that 65% of Millennials receive emails or newsletters from one to five nonprofits. Like any donor Millennials must be stewarded and frequently engaged by the organization.



Feldmann, D,.Nixon.J, Brady,J.,Banker-Brainer,L. & Wheeler,L. (2013) The 2013 Millennial  

          Impact Report, as retrieved from:  www.themillennialimpact.com.

Chasing New Donors?

       It can be pretty tempting for a small charity to invest a lot of resources and staff time chasing new donors.  For our own charity I know it often feels like we are on that treadmill to always find and attract new donors. For the last 8 or 9 years we have been pretty successful at doing that, however there appears to be a lot of evidence that making sure your current donors are engaged and impressed with what you are doing makes a lot more sense economically and in terms of fundraising success.  Burk( 2003,p 96) suggests:” Successful fundraising is not the process of accruing an ever-increasing volume of donors; it is recognizing the ones with the potential for contributing progressively generous gifts, then making it as easy as possible for them to do just that. Retained donors are increasingly cost effective over time because they tend to give more while requiring less investment based on cost per dollar raised.”

            For a small charity that has some level of success in finding new donors- this success can often be the factor which stands in the way of objectively considering what you need to be doing to retain your current donors. Burnett (2002) describes;”  As new donors cost around five times more to recruit than lapsed donors cost to reactivate, why is it nonprofits usually persist in spending the vast bulk of their promotional resources on finding new resources.”

How does a small nonprofit reactivate lapsed donors or make sure that donors continue to support them? Burnett has some pretty practical advice for a charity he suggests:” First remove anything that might make them want to leave you in the first place- discover through research every conceivable reason there could be why anyone might leave you, and work to eliminate those factors (Burnett, 2002, p.157).”

            For our own charity whether we are trying to engage a new donor or re-involve a past donor we often offer to give a tour of one of our Houses. This gives the opportunity to talk about what our team is doing with donations and how people can support what we are doing. Talking about these things is pretty important, but our Director of Development is pretty good at engaging donors in a conversation that is fairly similar to what Burnett is suggesting.” How did you hear about us?” “What originally made you interested in RMH?” Do you support other similar charities” What do you like about your support to their cause? Do you like the way they recognize your donation? Do you like the way they communicate with you about how your donation is being used?”  Not that Marla peppers people during a tour with all of these questions –she is pretty good at weaving some of them through the tour and the conversation. Also she is fairly likely to ask a few questions about our own efforts to avoid losing them as a donor. “Are you receiving our newsletter?” Is there anything about it that you particularly like or dislike?” Is there anything we could be doing to inform you better on what we are doing with your support?” “Did you receive your thank you letter and receipt in a timely manner.”

There are likely a few thousand other questions a fundraising or nonprofit executive could be asking but the point is to keep creating opportunities for your donors to give you feedback about their satisfaction with their donor experience with your organization. Otherwise they will tell you in our least favorite way, they will stop giving to you and start giving to another charity.


Burk, P (2003) Donor Centered Fundraising: How to Hold on to your donors and raise much more    

          money: Hamilton: Cygnus Applied Research, Inc.

Burnett,K (2002) Relationship Fundraising: A donor –based approach to the business of raising money:

          San Francisco: Jossey –Bass.