what millennials wantWith Millennials (aged 15 to 35 years of age) now the largest, most diverse generation in the U.S. population and making up the majority of the workforce, nonprofits are asking lots of questions about how to engage them.

How can we attract them as staff and keep them? What do they like as donors? As volunteers? Is it true that Millennials only respond to messages on their smart phones and social media?

Last week the Community Foundation of Sarasota County hosted a panel discussion led by some very talented local Millennial leaders to ask them these questions.

Here’s what we learned from our moderator Murray Devine, Communications Project Manager, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, along with his panelists: Andrea Knies, Assistant Director for Community Engagement, New College of Florida; Abigail Oakes, Education and Communications  Coordinator, Nature’s Academy; and Robert Young, Attorney at Icard Merrill Cullis Timm  Furen & Ginsburg PA.

Three Common Myths Millennials Hate

  • Myth: It’s all about me. Reality: Millennials want to be—and are—very involved in their communities. They also love working on teams and being part of teams.
  • Myth: You can best connect with me on my smart phone. Reality: They value and respond well to personal outreach.
  • Myth: I’m ready to take over the organization shortly after I start working there. Reality: They value access to key decision makers both to share ideas and to learn from them.

Millennials as Donors

  • Millennials look for a clear, concise, and well communicated mission.
  • Make it easy to give.
  • They’re masters at detecting canned content and know when they are part of a mass marketing effort or fundraising ask. #notappealing
  • When they’re personally invested in the mission—as volunteers—for example, Millenials are more likely to donate.
  • Millennials enjoy the elements of friendly competition. This is why the Giving Challenge and gamification of philanthropy can be very attractive to them. Teamwork and collaboration for causes they are passionate about speak to the social aspects of what they crave.
  • Annual giving is not a “done deal.” They are often more likely to give when a friend asks or in response to an individual outreach made by someone at the nonprofit.
  • They like to know exactly where their money is going—even if it’s going to operating.

Millennials as Volunteers

  • If you find one passionate Millennial volunteer, you can often access their network of friends and colleagues.
  • Millennials often look for a social component to volunteer opportunities.
  • They will volunteer to tell your organization’s story and do it freely, but you have to give them an easy and engaging story to tell.
  • Taking ownership of specific projects is appealing to most Millennials.

Millennials as Nonprofit Staff Members

  • Even if they don’t have a vote on a final decision, they value the opportunity to have a voice.
  • Money isn’t everything in a position. The opportunity for personal growth, informal/organic mentorship, and participation in key aspects of the operations can be very important.

We hope you will use the insights from this honest conversation to shape a few strategies to engage this huge pool of talent. We don’t want to lose them to other organizations, or to another community.

It’s also noteworthy that generations have a lot in common. Aren’t most of us more attracted to personal outreach than to mass appeals? Don’t most of us value being asked for our input and for opportunities to grow in our positions through access to experience?

Our panelists made it clear that they enjoy working with different generations, and they value relationships with older generations where reciprocity exists.

Post your comments and thoughts here and we’ll publish them to add to the conversation.

-Susie Bowie
VP of Philanthropic Education & Marketing
Community Foundation of Sarasota County


halA month ago, I woke up in the morning to find my iPhone in a terrible state of affairs on the floor beside the bed.

Apparently, in the midst of a nightmare I had flung my phone across the room. There was no protective case on it, leaving the screen shattered.

Not two hours later, I was waiting patiently in line at the Apple Store—anxiously hoping someone could repair the screen and forgo an expensive purchase of a new device. I also happened to be thinking…about outcomes. Embarrassing.

“If Apple was a nonprofit, providing a charitable service to me,” I thought, “what would I hope for in this experience?” Exactly what I hoped for as a paying customer at one of the most successful companies in history: a result.

Guess which question mattered most to me that day:

  1. Did my Apple representative care about me?
  2. Did my representative empower me to learn about the value of a protective case for my phone and explain the psychology of why I neglected to have a case in the first place?
  3. Was the Apple Store a place where I felt comfortable sharing how the phone accident made me feel?
  4. Did they actually fix my phone?

Questions similar to 1, 2, and 3 are often found lurking on evaluations forms for nonprofit services. It’s not that these measures of satisfaction aren’t important, but they do not get to a result.

My purpose in spending time on a Saturday at the Apple Store was not to have a satisfying experience with the employees or to be educated about protecting my screen–not even to shop at UTC for a few hours while waiting. I needed to have my phone repaired.

Smart donors are asking the same question of nonprofits delivering important services. They want to know how their dollars will actually impact another person, move the needle on a cause, or change the community.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is helping donors make investments where they can make the biggest difference through their philanthropy.  We encourage donors to look at performance instead of being hyper-focused on reasonable administrative costs required to achieve good results.

Through the program section in The Giving Partner, we find meaning in great examples set by organizations that are specific about their achievements. They set an expectation for talking more about results, instead of focusing on lists of activities that may or may not produce results.

Think about it the next time you’re shopping for a new product or service provider. I bet you will select a company that delivers the result you’re looking for. Any laundry list of activities they provide will be irrelevant unless the final outcome is what you had in mind.

What happened to me at the Apple Store that day? The tech team couldn’t match a new screen to the brains of my phone. So they gave me a new phone. Nice!

The activities they carried out behind the scenes to reach this outcome mattered little to me. I left feeling “satisfied” with the nice people who helped me. More importantly, I left with an iPhone that worked—a result I was happy to invest in.


Outcomes guide Hal Williams is currently working with a group of seven local organizations on a small change project through the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to help redefine (and simplify) the way they track outcomes for a specific program. Look for case studies shared on this blog.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

Jennifer Vigne

Jennifer Vigne, CFRE

Anecdotal stories abound about non-profits that have raised significant money.  “ABC organization receives largest gift in its history.” “Generous donor bequeaths biggest gift to her alma mater.” “Charity X endowment grows by double digits.”  You get the idea.

These accomplishments create tantalizing headlines that singularly focus on highlighting a non-profit’s new revenue.  Yet as successful fundraisers well know, there’s always more to the story than what’s mentioned in the headline and much more work involved that got them to that success.

As President of the AFP Southwest Florida Chapter, our association is committed to advancing ethical and effective fundraising.  We recognize that fundraising is a long-term investment that needs daily shepherding.  If done well – thoughtfully, consistently, and strategically – then non-profits will transition from survivability to thrivability.

Listed below are ten things each of us should know about successful fundraising.

  1. Have a Vision:
    Be willing to dream big and create ambitious goals.  As Jim Collins, author of Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, remarks “Have a big, hairy audacious goal (BHAG) and seek progress toward an envisioned future.”   Donors are inspired by a compelling vision and they want to see your vision in action which is evidenced by your passion.

  2. Create a Plan:
    A recent post in the Stanford Social Innovation Review highlights research that suggests the clearest predictor of successful fundraising is the existence of a formal fundraising plan. Creating a clear plan of action with quantifiable metrics, timelines, and goals will keep the lens clear and help you remain focused on your objectives.  As Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.”  Don’t let your plan get dusty on a shelf, use it! And, if you don’t have a plan, begin one today. It’s really that important.

  3. Master the Art of Communication:
    People remember 10%-30% of what they hear, and 80% of what they will say so allow your donors to share their story before you tell them your story. Before you know it, they will be telling your story if you actively listen to them. Isn’t it ironic that the word listen has the same letters as the word silent?

  4. Value the Relationship:
    It’s important to understand fundraising trends and general fundraising principles, but it’s equally important to understand your donor as a remarkable individual.  They are each wonderfully unique, thus understanding their individual values and giving preferences is key.  Giving USA reports that in 2014, 72% of all giving was by individuals and 8% came from bequests.  That’s a whopping 80% of all giving that can be attributed to the individual donor.  In short, this is an area worth your time and investment.

  5. Appreciate the Donor Cycle:
    Solicitation is only one part of fundraising. Sure, it’s an essential part of raising money, and no organization will be successful without it.  But successful fundraising strategies include all components of the donor cycle (identification, qualification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship).  This moves management system requires the element of time, and gifts will harvest at varying rates.  Just remember, long-term fundraising within a true philanthropic culture will not be effective if the donor only hears from you when you are asking for money.

  6. Leverage Fundraising as a Shared Responsibility:
    Philanthropic support thrives when fundraising is a shared responsibility.  With the changing philanthropic landscape and heightened sophistication of donors, the most successful organizations are now expanding beyond the development staff and involving their entire community – the CEO, board members, staff, and even volunteers – in their fundraising efforts.

  7. Recognize Fundraising is a Relational Business:
    If you’re dedicated to successful fundraising, then you already “get this.” Yet, this simple term is often misunderstood.  It is a fundraising approach that puts the donor right in the center.  That’s right, the donor.  If you’ve followed tips 1-6, then you’re already well on your way.  The donor will notice your authenticity and transparency.  Focusing on the donor relationship means that you are also willing to invest in the personal touch. Start your day by writing handwritten notes, thank your donor more than once, and by all means, don’t under-estimate the power of a personal face-to-face meeting.  A donor-centered approach will pay dividends.

  8. Collaborate with Others:
    Collective impact is a buzz word these days, and for good reason.  Donors want to see more shared vision and we need to perpetuate generosity for our community’s benefit, so collaborating just makes sense.  No singular organization “owns” a donor anyways so be willing to work together and exchange ideas.

  9. Remain Flexible and Adaptable:
    If you truly have your donor’s best interest at heart, then be patient, flexible and adaptable when they respond with a “no” to an ask.  Timing is very important.  Use your discernment.  Perhaps they need more time to understand your mission, or maybe they have other pressing needs to address.  How you respond to a “no” can speak volumes to your donor.  Until they tell you “No, not ever,” continue your efforts with them.  They will appreciate your long-lens view, and the donor relationship will be preserved.

  10. Be Your Best Professional Self:
    Ethics and professional knowledge matter and donors value the consummate professional who is committed to doing the right thing.  It builds trust.  In order to serve our donors well, we need to invest in our own professional development.  Commit to taking continuing education courses, obtaining professional certificates, or attending conferences and seminars.  Read professional fundraising books, follow fundraising blogs, and join AFP! We look forward to seeing you!

Jennifer Vigne, CFRE is the president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Southwest Florida Chapter and the executive director of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

knowyoursupportersThe new year is all about starting fresh and finding new perspective. Setting goals — both personal and professional — is only natural. But there’s always a catch. The trick is creating goals you can keep instead of falling into the pesky two-week resolution trap. (We know — we’ve been there, too.)

The same is true in the social sector. There’s no better time than now to refresh and revitalize your nonprofit’s communications strategy. But with limited time and resources, where do you start and what steps can you take to succeed?

We’re sharing our top five things to know as you begin this new year and hope it will help you set the tone for successful nonprofit communications in 2016.

  1. Learn to write it down. We’re not talking about writing a thesis. A one or two-pager can really help everyone in your organization understand your communications plans for the new year. Writing it down — whatever it is –shows that you care enough to develop something with goals that you can measure and have thought through some ways to make it happen.
  2. Prioritize strategy before tactics. Does this send a shiver down your spine? It’s like when you’re told to eat more vegetables. Most people don’t want to do it and prefer to skip to the cupcakes instead.Strategy is the building block for everything — it guides what tactics you choose and gives you the best chance to meet your communications goal. Strategy is about the cohesion of the timing of what you want to share, how to say want you want to say and who to inform before the entire community hears about your nonprofit’s announcement.
  3. Get to know your audiences. Your audience is donors, you say? Not all donors behave in the same way. The more you know about your supporters and stakeholders and tailor what you want to say and how you deliver it, the more responsive they will be. This translates to more donations, volunteer time, positive word of mouth about your organization and more.In the communications world, we call this defining a persona. What is it really? Digging deep and creating a written profile — a story — about your targets. If you put pen to paper and really define this group –create a fictitious name, add a picture, dive into their lifestyle, beliefs and habits — you will uncover new ways to reach them and help them become loyal to your cause.
  4. Think quality before quantity. It can be easy to over commit to digital channels in your communications strategy. Rather than feeling the pressure to produce a certain number of blogs or tweets per week, try listening and engaging on a limited but strategic basis. Set up social streams based on topical and mission-driven hashtags that will provide opportunities to grow your audience and increase engagement.
  5. Simplify in a multi-channel environment. It seems like every time you turn around there are new communications channel options being introduced — including some you may not have heard of (Viber, ShareWall, RebelMouse to name a few). You don’t have time to evaluate all of them — let alone try to be an expert at each one. Pick two or three that will reach those you care about and focus your efforts there instead of spreading yourself and your resources too thin.

That wasn’t so painful, was it? Here’s to a more strategic and successful 2016 for you and your organization!

Special thanks to strategic communications guru Roxanne Joffe, Founder of Magnify Good, for sharing these smart communications tools with us. Learn more about Magnify Good online at www.magnifygood.com.


We’re reviewing the results of the 2015 Giving Challenge survey, in which 221 participating organizations shared their thoughts and input about the largest online giving event in Florida’s history.

As we reflect on your feedback and ideas for the future, along with so many touching comments of gratitude, we are also meditating upon answers to the question the community may be most interested in: “How will your organization use the funds it raised?”

It is an inspiration to consider the varied and impactful work that will be achieved with the $6.9 million raised from so many generous donors and citizen philanthropists, with support from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and The Patterson Foundation, the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, Manatee Community Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

In addition to funding some of the hardest and most-needed dollars to come by–general operating support–here are some of the programs and projects your Giving Challenge contributions will make possible here in Southwest Florida:

  • Scholarship funds—for special camps, tuition, attendance at after school programs, athletic programs
  • Rescue and rehab for dogs and cats, some with medical and behavioral needs
  • Veterinary bills for rescued wildlife
  • Development of a school library and computer lab
  • Toiletries for school backpack programs
  • Maintenance and upkeep for the two oldest building in the city – the Bidwell-Wood House (1882) and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901)
  • Temporary financial assistance to a family whose child is on the cancer floor at All Children’s Hospital
  • Critical veterinary care for 75+ pets of low-income families
  • Student Playwriting Festival and the development of a new event for the area, Twenty-Minute Musicals
  • Youth bereavement camp for children who have lost a parent, guardian, or sibling
  • ALS research and raising awareness of the disease
  • Update and purchase of new equipment
  • Community outreach and education
  • Veterans Farm Project and other programs to help vets, but we anticipate primarily for the farm project
  • Parent success programs and support of student character development
  • Musical performances
  • Food for children and families in need
  • Programming expenses for Architecture and Design Month
  • Texcellence program and program related initiatives.
  • Subsidizing costs of living quarters for retired circus performers
  • Furnishings for a new nature center
  • Live, local music talent at out 70+ free events in downtown Bradenton
  • Medical equipment loan program
  • Garden seed for volunteers to prepare for empowering a hungry world to grow food
  • Educational program for elementary and pre-school students
  • New building costs, furnishings & medical equipment
  • Free counseling hours
  • Child care services to low-income children in DeSoto County
  • Construction of six new affordable homes in Warm Mineral Springs
  • New transport van
  • Solar power expansion and operations
  • Support for active duty Coast Guard personnel and their families
  • Purchasing and renting musical scores
  • Disaster relief
  • Music education, entertainment, and community engagement
  • Support girls with financial assistance to participate in outdoor leadership opportunities
  • Spay/neuter services
  • New habitat for six African Servals
  • Updated sound system and microphones for performing arts
  • Architectural and engineering study of a facility
  • New home construction
  • Expanded programs into South Sarasota County serving an additional 2,000 children
  • Renovations to Wildflower Preserve
  • Increased shelter space and improved living conditions for families with minor children
  • Advertising to increase mission bandwidth
  • Support Our Troops care packages
  • Increase face to face interaction with citizens of our seven sister cities across the world
  • Enhance and expand Parkinson’s education programs
  • Occupational Therapy equipment for students
  • Bulletproof vests for K9s in Florida
  • Broadcasting on WUSF TV, WUSF 89.7 and WSMR 89.1
  • Resources for teachers and students in Sarasota County Schools
  • Field trips, equipment, and other educational opportunities outside the classroom
  • Help qualifying patients in Florida who are undergoing cancer treatment and need help paying their rent/mortgage, utilities and car
  • Add new, eligible children to the Imagination Library program
  • Bullying prevention workshops and programs
  • Hearing aids to those who cannot afford them
  • Weekly mission flights to missionary families serving in Haiti, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic.
  • Playground equipment
  • STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts & mathematics) programs and clubs for students
  • New uniforms for athletes
  • Artist residencies
  • Safe homes for foster children
  • Young Entrepreneurs Academy and Youth Leadership
  • Medical care, spay/neuter, food and shelter for homeless cats and kittens
  • Water filters and training for mothers in Ghana, West Africa– impacting 10-15 villages
  • Restore a mural that has deteriorated due to water damage
  • Replace crucial but aging field research equipment
  • New air conditioner
  • Therapy and classroom supplies for children with autism
  • Update learn-to-sail boats
  • Accessible bus for residents who are mobility impaired
  • Technology upgrade
  • Granting wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions
  • Books for young children in poverty

That’s quite a list. And it’s only part of what we’ll see happen in our community and beyond over the next six months with this infusion of generosity.

Whatever role you played in helping to make this happen–whether it was serving as your nonprofit’s Team Leader, fundraising as a board member, or giving your time, talent or treasure to the Giving Challenge campaign–thank you.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

A Giving Challenge campaign that garnered attention from the beginning–and was ultimately selected by a local panel of media judges as one of two Best Overall Campaign recipients–belonged to the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast.

“Make 24 hours equal forever” was its very apropos call to action, considering the organization’s work to protect the environmental character, biodiversity and natural integrity of Florida’s Gulf Coast.

But beyond this mission, we can’t help but love its implications for every organization that took such time and effort to prepare for a record-breaking day of giving in Florida on September 1 and 2.

By now we all have the numbers firmly engrained into our consciousness. In just 24 hours, more than 36,400 individual donations were made to 449 local nonprofits serving Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and Desoto counties yielding $6.7 million from online gifts, matching funds from The Patterson Foundation, and funding from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, Manatee Community Foundation, and the Knight Foundation.

Long after the media attention, Donor Lounge fanfare, and Leaderboard addiction melt away, we have opportunities of a nonprofit lifetime in front of us.

On this first week of Fall, it’s a perfect time to consider how we can harvest the Giving Challenge and its treasures for all they are worth.  Here are three plans your team should be jotting down furiously, while all of this is fresh and exciting.

  1. Your plan for retaining the donors who contributed to your organization in the Giving Challenge.
    Whether your organization had one new donor or hundreds of new donors, don’t let them be “first and only” gifts. Let’s also consider the long-time supporters who gave during the Challenge. Going forward, how will your nonprofit make sure these donors feel appreciated, are engaged, and give again? For first-time donors, getting that second gift is both a challenge and an opportunity. Meet it!

  2. Your plan for sharing the impact Giving Challenge donations will make.
    I bet you have a plan for how your organization will spend the funds it raised in the Giving Challenge. How will you share the impact those dollars will make on real people, on animals, on important issues, or our environment? When donors can see their gift tied to a real result in the community, they are more likely to give again. Consider videos, newsletters, media relations, your website, social media–all of the different ways you can share the outcome created by so much generosity.

  3. Your plan for harvesting what you learned.
    Every time we host the Giving Challenge, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County learns a little more about our internal capacity, what we could do better, what worked really well, what surprised us, how we could be more efficient or effective using technology differently. We capture these comments from our team members and from external feedback and use them in multiple ways. We know there are similar nuggets about your team and about the fundraising/communication strategies you tried. Apply them to your work throughout the year, outside of the Giving Challenge, to build your fundraising strength and experience.

Thousands of people were part of the $6.7 million success our community owns. We owe it to them and to the important missions that were part of the Giving Challenge to carry that success with us into the future.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County


The countdown clock on the Giving Challenge website tells me we have less than 3 days until the 24-hour giving “extravaganza” we’ve been waiting for officially begins.

Here are some closing thoughts about exploring new possibilities in giving, brought to you by the letter “r.”

  1. Represent community. 
    Be an active role model in creating community. Be complimentary of what others are doing. We’re all in this together. See another organization doing well in the Giving Challenge?  Imagine what its success will mean for the people, places, or animals that benefit from its mission.

    Two people who have been particularly active on The Giving Partner’s Facebook page sharing positive commentary about other organizations: Carisa Campanella of Neuro Challenge Foundation and JoAnne DeVries of the Hearing Loss Association of Sarasota. What nice examples they have set for building community online.

  2. Respect that donors are all different.
    It’s true that some donors choose to give to animal causes rather than those serving people. Some give to education, some to the environment. Some donors give to the same organizations year after year. Other donors give to a different organization every year, depending on where they can maximize their dollars. One reason philanthropy works in our community is because we have so many diverse interests when it comes to social causes. Respecting these differences will lead to more giving for all of the missions we care about.

    As you see the Leaderboard fill up with donations, remember that each one is there because one person deeply cares about making the world better in a certain way. We should celebrate that.

  3. Resist the urge to compare your campaign to others.
    Be proud of what your organization is accomplishing. Money for your mission is good! But so is bringing your team together, building an online community around your work, making more people aware of the services you offer, growing the fundraising participation of your board, appreciating your volunteers…

    Have you moved the needle in any of these areas? That’s success. If you set your target too high, that’s okay too. You learned what’s possible and what to tweak in your future fundraising efforts.

  4. Recognize your people.
    I bet you didn’t do it alone–we hope you didn’t do it alone. Donors will give. Social media ambassadors have been liking and sharing your posts on Facebook or Twitter.  Others have helped you plan and execute your campaign. Whether you celebrate digitally or at your office, take the time to thank people for being part of your organization’s success, and most importantly, share what this success will mean for the people, special places, or animals you serve.

  5. Reveal yourself as a new donor!
    What if each nonprofit staff member, volunteer, or board member gives to her own organization and to an organization she hasn’t supported before? You too can be part of The Patterson Foundation’s generous matching dollars, up to $250 when you give to a nonprofit as a new donor! Go to http://www.GivingPartnerChallenge.org to find the 449 participating nonprofits.

See you on September 1 & 2 from noon to noon!

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County