catHappy Halloween, nonprofit friends!

Is your organization dressed up in any of these costumes today?

  • Hot Costume! The Black Cat
    Has your organization fallen victim to a robotic donor engagement strategy, doing special events in the same way as all the others, or describing your programs and services using generalities? Or are you creative, resourceful, and specific in your efforts? Be The Black Cat! Stand out!

  • Old Tired Costume! The Friendly Ghost
    Are your websites, social media platforms and Giving Partner profiles up-to-date with the newest success stories about your programs in action? We recently learned from Derrick Feldmann that the biggest turn-off for younger donors is old, crusty information about your nonprofit online. Don’t let your online presence be a ghost of your nonprofit’s past.

  • Hot Costume! The Good Witch
    Witches have wands, as everyone knows. Wands have a way of making things happen. And the results tend to be very visible, at least in the movies. Walk around in full character as The Good Witch, with your wand in hand at all times so that your focus is on your outcomes. Convey your results to your donors in lively stories using the real people, animals, or places you are helping. (And don’t forget to drop them in “examples of program success” in your Giving Partner profile.)

May your haunting this evening be fun and safe, without spooking your donors.

Happy Halloween!

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County


earthBefore fundraising life gets hectic with the onset of season in Southwest Florida, take one moment to step back and look at the world from above.

The global view combines all the details of colors, expanses of water and land, and swirling clouds into one big sphere.

Visit or bookmark these fabulous resources to widen your perspective on how our world is changing and the impact it may have on your fundraising efforts:

The Financialist: 5 Trends in Philanthropy

Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy: Women Give 2013

#NextGenDonors: Respecting Legacy, Revolutionizing Philanthropy

Fired Up Fundraising: How Major Donors are Changing and What to Do About It

Give Smart: Spotlight on Remarkable Givers’ Philanthropy Strategy

What studies, articles or resources would you add to the mix?

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

shrunkfundraisingSuccess in fundraising requires intelligence, sensitivity, courage, patience, dedication, integrity, follow-up and follow through. It’s hard, rewarding work.

As obsessed as staff and board members have to be with fundraising to make sure their important work continues, it seems a little bizarre that only 26% of local organizations have a written fundraising plan. 

(This percentage comes from current data from the 350 nonprofits with updated profiles in The Giving Partner.)

If you are sitting in the seat of a funder or donor evaluating a potential grant or gift, imagine the internal conversations you might have if the nonprofit requesting support does not have a written account of how it plans to secure operating and program dollars for the year.

We answer lots of questions about fundraising plans and what we are looking for, specifically in regard to The Giving Partner question. Here are some of the most common ones:

Q: What is a fundraising plan?
A: Preferably, it is not a large, cumbersome document that a fundraising rocket scientist must put together for you. In its most basic form, a fundraising plan provides guidance about:

  • The total dollars you need to raise over the next 12-18 months for your mission and operations.
  • What sources you will approach for funding (individuals, foundations, corporations, board members, etc.) and the vehicles you will use (annual appeal, major gift solicitations, special events, planned giving marketing, collaborations for special grants, etc.) along with the funding goals for each.
  • When and how you will implement the various components of your plan.
  • Who is responsible for each component.

Q:  What format are we looking for?
A: It doesn’t matter. A fundraising plan can come in any number of formats but should specifically convey your major funding goals, fundraising tactics and the timeline you have established for achieving them. The document should be useful for your organization. (The Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s fundraising plan is in the format of a chart, and is quite handy!)

Q: How complex should our plan be?
A: Again, it’s all about your organization. The size and complexity of fundraising plans are variable, depending on the size and complexity of your organization and its fundraising resources. If your organization is all-volunteer or has a small budget, your plan may even be contained on a single page.

Q: Is a list of special events a fundraising plan?
A: No.

Q: How do we get started if we don’t have a plan?
A: The important thing is to start somewhere. Look at last year’s budget and review your sources of revenue. Can you increase individual gifts this year? By what percentage? How might you do that? What new sources of funding can you consider?  What are the resources you will need to implement them?

To upload a fundraising plan in your Giving Partner profile, it doesn’t have to be a work of art. It will not be viewable to the public, but it will help the Community Foundation verify that you have a written plan. Most importantly, it will help everyone on your board (and staff, if you have staff) get on the same page about how you will raise money and measure your success.

This week, we will post some fundraising resources for you. E-mail us at Susie@CFSarasota.org if you have some good suggestions!

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

A recent article in the New York Times by Wealth Matters columnist Paul Sullivan discussed how and why people are making their charitable giving decisions.

Sullivan’s perspective and highlights of the recent U.S. Trust report he cites shed even more light on the importance of tools like GuideStar‘s DonorEdge platform, implemented here in Southwest Florida as The Giving Partner.

Increasingly, donors are sharing that tax incentives and tools for giving may not be as important to them as understanding which organization(s) are the best matches for their passions and charitable goals.

While financial advisors may focus on the technical aspects of the donation vehicle when working with individuals and families, many donors wish to focus their conversations largely on their charitable interests as well as family goals, the U.S. Trust report says.

This is a common experience with our donor development team here at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Vehicles for giving are important to donors, but many donors wish to talk more about maximizing their charitable investments by partnering with organizations that can address their aspirations for environmental preservation, better health care, access to human services and education, experiences in the arts, and a myriad of other “creating a better world” goals.

The U.S. Trust report shares that donors also wish to have a greater understanding of how their gifts are making a difference. We second that.

The Giving Partner is a tool to help donors make more informed decisions about giving, and the hefty program section of each nonprofit profile contains the long and short-term success measures of the organization’s programs and services, how success is measured, and examples of success.

For advisors who may have more knowledge about giving vehicles than knowledge about local organizations, The Giving Partner is a perfect aid to help them gain a better understanding of the nonprofit choices in our local market, and to also understand their financial history, management and governance structures–in addition to the priceless information about programmatic impact.

Donors can go directly to the tool to do the same.

As we move more deeply into an era where donors view themselves as charitable investors, community foundations and nonprofits share responsibility to equip them with current, in-depth knowledge about who is doing what and the difference it is making.

Special thanks to GuideStar for its vision in making this tool available and to the many nonprofits and donors in our local community who make The Giving Partner possible in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and Desoto counties.

The Giving Partner is a partnership among four foundations:  The Community Foundation of Sarasota County, The Patterson Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, and the Manatee Community Foundation.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

As we continue discussing nonprofit communications, we wanted to share some of our online favorites with you–blogs and online resources that have stood the test of time, generating excellent content just for nonprofits over the years.

On each of the following blogs, remember that you can subscribe and have new posts delivered straight to your inbox. You can also follow each on Facebook and Twitter for fabulous links on the social media sites you are already living on.

  1. Kivi Leroux Miller’s Nonprofit Marketing Guide & Blog

  2. Nancy Schwartz’s Getting Attention Blog

  3. John Haydon’s Blog

  4. Beth Kanter’s Blog, Beth’s Blog

  5. Big Duck’s Blog, Duck Call

Who isn’t on our list that you would include? We love to share your resources with others.

Subscribe, follow, and learn from these dudes and divas of nonprofit marketing and communications. We’re always learning new things from them and staying up-to-date on the latest trends and research.

Of course, if you’re not getting The Giving Partner blog delivered to your inbox, you’ll find the magic “subscribe” field in the upper right hand corner.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County


legacyThis morning at 7:00 a.m., a very special month-long campaign is launching–the Give to Legacy of Valor match gift opportunity, created by The Patterson Foundation to inspire our community to share its generosity with 12 nonprofits in our region that have existing profiles in The Giving Partner, have ongoing programs benefiting veterans and are current partners in the Legacy of Valor campaign.

Head on over to www.givetolegacyofvalor.org, and you will find our giving platform–energized with a Leaderboard that updates every 60 seconds with gifts from the community and links to The Giving Partner so that donors can learn more about the programs, finances, management, governance and needs of each organization.

As participating agencies began discussing their strategies to inspire supporters and citizen philanthropists to give, conversation was buzzing with the power of storytelling.

Shining the light on one veteran who has benefitted from an inspiring performance, a service animal, a new home, a job–when shared with succinct, compelling language–can establish an emotional connection with a donor like nothing else. When paired with good data reflecting the organization’s long and short-term impact and a clear call to action, these stories will woo potential supporters.

We encourage you to visit the 12 Legacy of Valor organizations online over the next month. Check out their profiles in The Giving Partner and visit them on Facebook.

  • What stories are being shared about the veterans who will benefit from a financial gift?
  • Are you “meeting” individuals whose lives have been changed by the support of donor dollars in action?
  • How are stories enhanced with videos or images?
  • Is there a call to action?

Here are links to the organizations participating in this campaign, in which donations of $25 to $1,000 will be matched dollar for dollar by The Patterson Foundation:

In the program section of each Giving Partner profile, every organization has shared the details of its veterans program–the budget, what is being achieved, how it is measured, and an example of program success.

We are grateful to The Patterson Foundation and to Magnify Good, providing strategic communications support for this initiative, for spotlighting the importance of The Giving Partner as a tool for storytelling, transparency and sharing impact.

You can follow this campaign using #LegacyofValor and by visiting www.givetolegacyofvalor.org. Join us in making a difference for local veterans and their families by making a donation, sharing links, forwarding messages, and tagging participating agencies on social media and beyond.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County


crownHave you crowned your board members yet?

These Kings and Queens of Communications are–or should be–your organization’s number one messengers. To uphold the royal crown, each board member should be

  • A donor, making at least one financial gift that is meaningful to her each year, without being asked.
  • An ambassador, talking about your organization in her various networking circles of friends, family, colleagues and business associates.
  • An informant, always holding up her antennae for news, events and discussions that could influence your organization’s mission and work in the community.

Your staff or board chair should help equip your board members with several pieces of bling for their communication crowns:

  1. Good stories about what your organization is accomplishing.
    It’s great to share a few compelling stories about your organization’s success with board members. It is even better to let them witness the creation of good stories by observing your programs in action. Offer those opportunities and expect board members to make the time to show up. You will notice that it becomes easier for them to speak about your organization from the heart.

  2. Your organization’s greatest needs.
    Keep your board members up to speed about your greatest funding needs so they can speak intelligently with potential donors, funders and supporters in a unified voice. Since your most pressing needs may change from month to month, consider including an item in each board meeting’s consent agenda listing your 5 greatest needs.

  3. Your organization’s profile in The Giving Partner and GuideStar.
    Everyone can view your organization’s profile online at www.thegivingpartner.org and at www.guidestar.org. Do your board members know what members of the public are reading there? Both locations include lots of information about your organization, including their names as the guys and gals in charge. We frequently encounter board members who are surprised by what we know about their organizations because they have never seen the profiles.

Encourage your board to share your organization’s news (as appropriate) on social media. You might send them sample messages they can customize to make things super easy.

Consider having board members rotate turns at board meetings sharing an example of how they talked about your organization to others over the last month–two minutes or less. (Thanks to Northern Trust’s National Director of Philanthropic Services Marguerite Griffin for this great suggestion.)

What success stories do you have from your board member Communications Kings and Queens? We would love to share them.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County