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


MomDaughterThe Community Foundation of Sarasota County often uses The Giving Partner profile for Forty Carrots Family Center as a great example for nonprofits that wish to share meaningful information about their programs and services with donors and funders.

Even with its long history of successful programs and accomplishments, Forty Carrots’ team, led by executive director Michelle Kapreilian, is always looking for improvement. Together with nationally-known outcomes guide Hal Williams, the board and staff teams have embarked on an exploration to change the way they track and define program results.

Michelle recently shared five things Forty Carrots is learning from its focus on tracking achievement:

  1. A results focus is a mindset change for an organization. Forty Carrots included executive staff and its board of trustees in moving to this new perspective. It then trickled down throughout the organization.

  2. Moving toward tracking outcomes instead of activities is a process that involves some experimentation. Some of the changes worked as intended, but others did not. Forty Carrots took the successes and built upon them with continuous refinement. It viewed strategies that did not work as lessons for future decisions and changes.

  3. A results focus does not mean that an effective program needs to change, only how the results are measured. Michelle encourages mindfulness about not disrupting qualities that are key to program effectiveness or implementing processes where clients feel a need to “perform”. The focus should remain on understanding the real results.

  4. The “See and Hear” strategy can help drill down to the core of seemingly intangible and hard to measure outcomes. This involves looking at what you see and hear to identify whether a key indicator of success is present or absent, or that a behavior change has taken place.

  5. Discussions about the technology necessary to track your new outcome measures should be part of your organization’s investment. It begins with a clear understanding about what needs to be tracked. Understanding the technology choices available, investing in the right software, and staff training follow.

Seven local agencies in Sarasota are in the midst of finalizing a “small change project” with Hal Williams, in which they have taken an important program and refined the way they track and define outcomes.

The Forty Carrots case study and Michelle’s willingness to share it have helped our foundation and the participating agencies appreciate the process of this kind of work. It requires patience and commitment from all levels of a nonprofit team—from its volunteer leaders to the program staff.

We’ll be sharing more soon.

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.


Penelope Burk

Months after the Giving Challenge, we still marvel at the number of new donors who came forward to support organizations they did not donate to in last year’s event. According to Penelope Burk, CEO of Cygnus Applied Research and author of “Donor-Centered Fundraising” and “Donor-Centered Leadership,” it’s pretty likely that first-time donors will not give again. Why? We don’t always do the right things to make them feel good about their first gift.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County and The Patterson Foundation invest heavily in the Giving Challenge with the hopes that gains made in a 24-hour period will continue to nurture and sustain participating nonprofits for many years to come.

According to Burk’s research, 87% of donors said they needed only three things to give again:

  1. To be acknowledged in a prompt and meaningful way.
  2. For their gift to be assigned to a specific purpose.
  3. Communication about what the gift accomplished or helped to accomplish.

5 Penelope Burk Tips for Thanking Donors:

Burk says, “A great thank you letter can carry a donor into a greater commitment.” Donors consistently said that being thanked was the single most important communication they ever receive from nonprofits.

  1. It shouldn’t be more than one paragraph long.
  2. Stop hand-writing a crossed out “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Wilson” for the more familiar “Jerry and Judi.” Donors are likely to think you made a mistake and didn’t bother to print a new letter, Burk says.
  3. Consider the impact of the highest level volunteer at your organization, a board member, calling to thank a donor for her first-time gift. 92% of donors said they would give again if a board member called to thank them. (And imagine how fulfilling this fundraising role can be for the board member who is uncomfortable asking for money.)
  4. The sincerity of your thank you letter is everything. An informative thank you letter full of programmatic details can be icy; be genuine instead.
  5. Write using “you” instead of “your” to emphasize the donor instead of the donor’s money.

Other donor-centered advice from Penelope based on data from her extensive research:

  • Every organization’s mission out there is “worthy.” Successful organizations move beyond the “worthiness” factor in their appeals and thank you letters.
  • Consider the cumulative impact of making one call each morning to a donor (only to thank them) and one in the late afternoon. Starting and ending your day like this can create unlimited potential for future gifts.
  • Donor recognition didn’t make it to the top three factors driving donor loyalty and more generous giving over time. Think about it.
  • In many cases, an organization can get a first gift by selling its brand. After that, it’s about showing your philanthropic investors they have a good return on their investment.

Many first-time gifts were made on September 1 and 2. With the strength of our nonprofit community and so many committed staff and board members out there, we know we do a lot of things right. Our continued message: let’s make sure the impact of the Giving Challenge lasts far beyond the 24-hour success we experienced and read about.

Penelope Burk visited Sarasota on November 18 for a special session with nonprofit leaders, a partnership of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, U.S. Trust, and Merrill Lynch.


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

Just the thought of raising money can be a real challenge for many nonprofit board members. And it’s understandable when we frame “fundraising” in limited contexts.  But it’s easier when you think of your board as a team…and maybe even a fun team that is serious about helping your organization thrive. (Newsflash: your board is a team.)

I’m not your biggest sports fan, but I do know that on teams, each person plays a different role. On your board team, some people will feel comfortable making an “ask” while others will never feel comfortable doing so. It’s like asking a quarterback to be a wide receiver. You need both and wouldn’t expect one to perform the same role as the other.

With each Giving Challenge, we search for ways to help nonprofits raise dollars and build their strength. This year we have a new grant incentive, and it’s all about your board. Hint: how can you use the community excitement behind the Giving Challenge to rally your board’s enthusiasm for your mission?

Here are three ways your board can leap into the Challenge:

  1. Commit to 100% board participation in giving during the Challenge. If you’re asking the community to support you during this 24 hour period, it sends a powerful message when your board supports your organization too. Everyone can participate as a philanthropist in the Giving Challenge by donating $25. Last year, 74% of nonprofits indicated that some board members gave to them during the Challenge, and 19% indicated that everyone on the board gave. It would be exciting to see those percentages rise!

  2. Consider all of the ways your board members can be part of your fundraising team: hosting a gathering at their home; enlisting the support of their business; sharing their enthusiasm for your mission with their friends, family and colleagues via email, social media or a letter; thanking your donors. (Check out GuideStar’s recent blog post by Rachel Muir, CFRE for more.) Last year only 28% of board members participated in thanking Giving Challenge donors. That’s an opportunity for growth, and it’s actually fun and meaningful to thank donors.

  3. Evoke that team spirit! Anyone–not just board members–can be more open to fundraising when working together for the benefit of a cause near and dear to everyone on the team, right? Just look at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troope board in last year’s Giving Challenge. They do look like they were having fun. (The board challenged the community with their own match for dollars raised during the campaign.)


Can your board come together with a team spirit to help your nonprofit raise money, share excitement for your accomplishments in the community, and have a good time doing it?

You might just be the right nonprofit to earn one of two $1,000 grants that will be awarded for “Best Board Member Engagement” in the Giving Challenge.  With a positive experience in this campaign, the doors are wide open for a year of more board participation in fundraising.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County