New Commonwealth Insights: The Census is Coming, and Nonprofits Should Prepare Now to Ensure Everyone Counts

Comm Insights 2019 3rd ed social media-minToday, we released the latest edition of Commonwealth Insights, “The Census is Coming: How Nonprofits Can Make Sure That Everyone Counts–and Why They Should.”

The Census is nearly here, and nonprofits around the Commonwealth should prepare now to mobilize their communities in support of a complete count. As trusted messengers, nonprofits can leverage existing assets and take advantage of new ones to raise awareness, help individuals access and complete the Census, and coordinate efforts with partners to maximize collective impact.

This edition of Commonwealth Insights features case studies of three nonprofits–Castle Square Tenants Organization, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, and the Chelsea Collaborative–working to ensure that their communities count in 2020. Their work can serve as a guide for other nonprofits.

The report is a practical guide that contains useful tips and resources for nonprofits to drive participation in one of the most foundational, high-stakes activities that communities undertake.

This is the third edition of Commonwealth Insights published in 2019. You can read all past editions of Commonwealth Insights at Please feel free to reach out to us with feedback on this or any Commonwealth Insights issue.

We are grateful for the generous support of our organizational sustainers, the Barr Foundation, the Boston Foundation, and the Highland Street Foundation, which makes reports like Commonwealth Insights possible.

Our Shared Sector: 3 Key Diversity and Inclusion Strategies for Nonprofits

By YW Boston

Our Shared Sector Nov 2019-min

The previous two editions of Our Shared Sector described the differences between each part of the “DE&I” Acronym–diversity, equity, and inclusion. The articles also covered several steps that nonprofits can take to weave these principles into their organizational cultures.

Your organization may now feel ready to embark on their diversity and inclusion journey towards a more equitable workplace. Or you may have already begun to implement changes. What happens when you stumble across roadblocks and find the need to re-assess? Here are three key strategies to address common pitfalls during your diversity and inclusion journey:

  1. The diversity within your staff may not be reflective of the diversity of your constituents.

One of the business arguments for DE&I raises a concern that understanding a breadth of markets is impossible without diversity of thought. After all, diversity boosts innovation within organizations. How then can companies measure whether they are building a representative workforce? DE&I experts suggest that leadership should compare demographic information to the makeup of employees within their organization. Reports show that although women made up 51% of the population in the United States in 2012, the number of women within executive teams only accounted for an average representation of 16%. Representation is even lower at the intersections of race and gender.

  1. A diverse pool of candidates may be hiding in plain sight.

When it comes to hiring, where can nonprofit organizations find diverse professionals that are representative of their constituents? We often hear recruiters and leadership executives justify their lack of diverse hiring by claiming they simply can’t find any diverse candidates. In some cases, going as far as claiming that diverse candidates do not exist or show interest in their industry. It’s important to remember that it’s not just about knowing where to look, but how. If you only look in those places that have already produced homogeneous candidates, you are unlikely to find much diversity. Instead, try sourcing through the networks of your diverse peers. Reach out to candidates and invite them to apply to a position within your organization. Furthermore, diversity may be hiding in plain sight, as some diverse folks may be “coding” to try and fit in.

  1. You may need to re-evaluate your metrics.

Let’s say your organization is trying to address racial or gender wage gaps. Research shows that women, particularly women of color, earn less than their male counterparts. Additionally, people of color, women, and in particular women of color are less likely to be considered for promotions or find placement in leadership positions. One way to address wage differences as early as possible is by paying close attention to how inequities manifest themselves during the hiring process. The Equal Pay Act— a law amending the Fair Labor Standards Act that was signed in 1963 and advocated by YW Boston— encourages candidates never to reveal their previous salary to future employers. This is important because candidates, particularly candidates with diverse intersecting identities, may have been underpaid at their previous position so bringing up past salaries during a negotiation or using them as a starting point may be detrimental to the candidate. After all, salary is often a better indicator of a company’s budget size, not of employee experience.

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

Nonprofit 411: Get Off the Sidelines on Workers’ Compensation

Nonprofit 411 People's United-minBy Bruce Figueroa, SVP and Nonprofit Banking Lead, People’s United Bank

Nonprofits cannot sit back and assume their workers’ compensation policies will protect them from injury claims. To the contrary, active involvement and participation by senior executives in the workers’ comp management process is essential to ensuring the health of the organization and the mission.

Workers’ compensation coverage is one of the biggest expenses for nonprofits that deliver human services. In fact, for many of these organizations it ranks behind only physical infrastructure and salaries in terms of cost. Many organizations assume their sizable policy payments mean they have their exposure and risk under control. But when it comes to workplace injuries, there is much more to consider:

  • What are the best policies to prevent accidents and avoid claims?
  • Is there a plan in place to respond if-and-when someone gets injured on the job? Who is in charge?
  • Who is documenting the event and how? How will the organization investigate what happened?
  • What can an organization do for and about individuals who suffer multiple injuries or file multiple claims?

These questions are complicated by the fact that, given their limited resources, most small and mid-sized nonprofits do not have a dedicated risk manager on staff. Instead, the responsibility of risk management is usually taken on by a director or human resource manager who also wears many other operational hats.  Although these individuals might be highly committed and resourceful, they generally do not have extensive experience in managing crises or the ability to answer detailed questions in specialized areas like workers’ compensation. For example, does your organization know if volunteers are covered under your policy? Likewise, nonprofits often are unaware of the many options available to them and to their employees in terms of modified responsibilities and other means of facilitating injured employees’ return to work.

Because nonprofits without a dedicated risk manager often lack such a detailed level of knowledge, organizations could be vulnerable to claims, and less-than-fully prepared to manage crises when they do materialize.

There are standard workers’ compensation procedures and provisions that can protect both employees and organizations. To be effective, however, these elements must be in place before an injury or claim occurs. For this reason, advanced planning around established workers’ compensation “best practices” should be mandatory for all human service nonprofits. At a minimum, nonprofits should:

  1. Develop full knowledge of relevant workers’ compensation statutes, since workers’ compensation is a statutory benefit and can differ significantly from state to state;
  2. Understand legal defensibility, or how to use statutes to manage or defend a claim. In some cases, it might be best to deny a claim up front in order to engage a legal process;
  3. Implement procedures for accident investigation and claims management. To make this process consistent and effective, the organization must fully engage both supervisor and employee;
  4. Establish corrective action plans to prevent recurrence. In addition to making sure you don’t make the same mistake twice, this is a critical way to lower the organization’s experience modification rating (experience mod) and reduce loss costs;
  5. Hold periodic meetings with safety committee, management and your insurance company/broker;
  6. Create and implement a working strategy around the claims process. Review it periodically, and be willing to modify it when needed.

Given the scope of these requirements, it’s clear that nonprofits cannot afford to leave workers’ compensation claims up to human resources, the finance department or an insurance company. It’s time for directors, human resource managers and other executives to get off the sidelines and take on the responsibility of protecting the organization, its employees and its mission.

Bruce Figueroa is the Head of Nonprofit banking at People’s United Bank. The Nonprofit team meets the financial service needs of over 500 nonprofit institutions across the Northeast including credit commitments of over $1.3 Billion to support their missions. Contact Bruce at or visit our website at

Member Spotlight: Essex County Community Foundation

Member Spotlight ECCF-minBefore Sept. 7, 2019, many may have thought of the Beverly-Salem Bridge as just an average fixed-span roadway connecting the cities of Beverly and Salem, which lay on opposite sides of the Danvers River. But after, as the sounds of live music and laughter hung in the air and the bridge was illuminated in a shimmering purple light, it became so much more.

For seven days, painting, poetry, music, dance, theater, games and storytelling took up residence there, and they brought the bridge to life during the week-long Crossing Water arts festival, one of 12 public art and creative placemaking projects funded by the Creative County Initiative (CCI) of Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF).

ECCF is a charitable foundation – a family of more than 225 charitable funds – with a mission of inspiring philanthropy that strengthens the 34 communities of Essex County. They do this by managing and investing charitable assets ($91 million), strengthening and supporting nonprofits and engaging in strategic community leadership.

The Creative County Initiative – one of several of ECCF’s current community leadership initiatives –  is a partnership between ECCF and the Barr Foundation to strengthen the creative ecosystem of Essex County. ECCF first partnered with Barr in late 2017, when Barr granted ECCF $500,000 to launch the pilot phase of Creative County. Together, with a commitment from ECCF to raise an additional $250,000, an innovative approach to elevating arts and culture in the 34 cities and towns of Essex County was born.

In the last two years, not only has ECCF funded 12 incredible public art projects across the county that have each united artists, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and municipalities, but the Foundation has also worked collaboratively with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission on local and regional cultural plans; launched, a regional platform for local arts and culture; and hosted two Essex County Arts & Culture Summits, which together have gathered more than 700 people invested in strengthening arts and culture in Essex County.

ECCF recently announced a second round of funding from Barr – in the amount of $1 million – to continue this critical work. With a $300,000 second-round commitment from ECCF, over the next three years, the Foundation will invest an additional $1.3 million to equip the Essex County arts and culture community with knowledge, tools and systems to build an arts ecosystem that is sustainable, equitable and accessible for all.

“Arts and culture are so important for strong, connected communities,” said ECCF President and CEO Beth Francis. “And we are so grateful to Barr for their support and so fortunate to have the opportunity to collaborate with so many people in Essex County who are committed to this work.”

CCI is a profound example of how the Community Foundation’s brand of systems philanthropy is making a big impact. Systems philanthropy is ECCF’s innovative approach to long-term social change, not just in the arts, but across all of the Foundation’s community leadership initiatives. It begins with community engagement, identifies root causes, inspires collaboration, invests larger resources over a longer period of time and engages funders as strategic partners.

“This systems approach enables ECCF to work alongside all those with a vested interest in creating population-level impact,” said Stratton Lloyd, ECCF’s COO and Vice President for Community Leadership. “It’s a strategic, holistic form of philanthropy based on strong cross-sector partnerships, a common vision for our communities and trust.”

Trust is a value common throughout all of ECCF’s work.

“Trust is critical to all facets of our mission – from helping our fundholders navigate their philanthropic goals and building capacity in nonprofits to convening community leaders tackling Essex County’s biggest social challenges,” said Francis. “Trust brings with it the ability to make progress, and at ECCF it’s something we value highly.”

For more information on ECCF, visit

From Boomers to “Gen Z,” Nonprofits Should Optimize Donor Outreach for Today’s Fundraising Climate

Giving Item box (4)-minBy Danielle Fleury, Director of Government Affairs

Engaging individuals as donors, volunteers, and general supporters has always been an important part of a nonprofit organization’s overall development strategy. Donors are more likely to respond to messages or calls to action that speak directly to what drives their philanthropic behavior, and nonprofits have long segmented donor lists and tailored asks for support accordingly.

But in 2019, shifting landscapes in both technology and tax policy are impacting who gives, when, how much, and through what channel. In this climate – when more day-to-day activities take place online, and as the full impact of federal tax reform becomes more apparent – there are tangible approaches that can help nonprofits engage new and existing donors, from millennials to retirees. The 2019 year-end giving season is a great time for nonprofits to review segmented donor lists and refine their approaches with each group. For nonprofit development plans, this can mean not only maintaining overall individual giving goals, but shifting strategies to respond to an evolving fundraising climate.

Nonprofits should focus on growing their ‘middle income’ donors that are likely to be most affected by changes in federal tax reform.

Federal tax reform changed the way that individuals file their taxes, nearly doubling the standard deduction and capping the amount of state and local taxes (SALT) that can be deducted. The impact is likely that fewer middle income donors itemized their deductions when they filed in 2019, and have realized that they lost the federal tax benefit for their charitable contributions. In response, nonprofits can shore up their engagement strategies to encourage continued support from middle income donors with the following tactics:

  • Share stories of impact – Routinely sharing powerful stories of impact with this subset of donors can help tap into donors’ altruistic motivations at a time when their tax-based incentives to give are changing.
  • Establish recurring donations – Standing up recurring donations with these donors can build a reliable stream of organizational support, and move the conversation away from lump sums of year-end giving that is no longer tied to tax incentives.

Nonprofits have a great opportunity to expand their donor base to younger donors through targeted solicitation of millennials.   

Millennial donors are both more likely to give and to volunteer than prior generations. Even though they are currently giving less in total dollar amounts than baby boomers or Gen Xers, the high levels of philanthropic activity early in their careers signify that millennials will likely give more as they earn more – an important factor to note as they will soon make up the majority of the workforce. With more daily activity happening online, nonprofits that focus on expanding their online presence and employing the use of technology-centered fundraising strategies are in a great place to expand their donor base to younger generations. Nonprofits can capture millennials’ interest and attention at this critical time with the following strategies:

  • Strengthen mobile strategy – Millennials are likely to receive information about causes that interest them and take action to support those causes from their mobile devices. Nonprofits should maintain an active presence on social media and strategically optimize digital communications for mobile use in order to fully engage with millennials and subsequent Gen Z donors.
  • Build peer-to-peer and crowdfunding campaigns – Daily presence on social media means that millennials are instantly connected to their peers, aware of their causes and philanthropic activity and can easily promote their own giving habits to others. Nonprofits should consider whether peer-to-peer and crowdfunding campaigns is an appropriate complement to their individual giving programs.

Nonprofits can specific giving guidance to retiree donors, particularly those who might be impacted by federal tax reform.

Retirees continue to make up a core component of individual donors, and are also among the most likely groups to be impacted by federal tax reform. Luckily, there are a couple of ways that older donors can retain their tax benefit for charitable donations. Nonprofits can raise general awareness about the following strategies, and walk individual donors who may benefit through some basic steps:

  • Promote Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs) – People who hold Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are required to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) each year beginning at age 70 ½, and donors can fulfill their RMD by a direct transfer of up to $100,000 to charity. Nonprofits with donors in this age bracket should promote QCDs as a way of retaining a tax benefit of charitable giving.
  • Encourage Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) – A donor-advised fund is a charitable giving vehicle administered on behalf of organizations, families, or individuals that allows donors to give, receive an immediate tax deduction, and recommend grants from the fund over time. Nonprofits should remind donors about this vehicle, particularly those expressing concern about federal tax reform.

The increased use of technology and shifting strategies in the wake of federal tax reform have illuminated specific strategies that nonprofits can use to understand and engage donors at different stages of their lives. Segmenting donor lists and employing differentiated solicitation strategies that make sense for distinct categories of donors in this age of evolving platforms and altered policy landscapes can make a significant difference in engaging new and recurring donors.

MNN Supports Policy Proposal to Expand Access to High Quality, Affordable Nonprofit Retirement Benefits

The nonprofit workforce is the lifeblood of the sector. Individuals working for nonprofits often forego higher salaries in order to dedicate their careers to advancing the public good. But many nonprofits struggle to offer the competitive benefits that help them to not only recruit and retain employees, but to recognize the value of their workforce. In addition, a growing number of people are not prepared for retirement. According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, the median retirement account balance is $0 among all working individuals. Even amongst those who have begun saving, the typical worker had a modest account balance of $40,000.

Recognizing this trend, Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg launched the “Connecting Organizations to Retirement” (CORE) Plan – a statewide multiple employer 401(k) retirement plan available to Massachusetts nonprofits with 20 or fewer employees. This innovative plan allows nonprofits to focus on the primary mission of their organizations, while offering a comprehensive benefit to their employees. Currently, 63 small nonprofits around the Commonwealth are participating, helping employees to secure their financial futures.

While great strides have been made in enabling nonprofits to offer more competitive benefits for their employees, the CORE plan is currently limited by statute to those with 20 or fewer employees. On October 31st, MNN testified in support of H.36, An Act Relative to the 401(k) CORE Program, which would remove the cap and allow nonprofits of all sizes to participate.

Allowing nonprofit employers of any size to participate in the CORE Plan will increase access to this critical service. Increased enrollment will also assist in achieving economies of scale, making the plan more affordable overall to nonprofits across the state.

To join in our effort to allow nonprofits of any size to participate in the CORE plan, please contact your legislator today and voice your support of H.36.

To learn more about the CORE Plan, click here. Please contact MNN’s Director of Government Affairs, Danielle Fleury, with any questions.

2019 Conference: Nonprofit Leaders Get “Sustenance” to Strengthen Their Work and Communities

2019 Conference thank you email banner-minFRAMINGHAM, MA – On Wednesday, October 16, 2019, over 600 nonprofit and business leaders attended the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN)’s annual conference, Building A Better Commonwealth. The conference provided 30 workshops and networking to deepen nonprofit leaders’ capacities to build stronger communities, featured a keynote panel discussion focusing on three areas of the statewide sector’s impact, and honored Priscilla Kane Hellweg and Darnell Williams for their storied and influential careers in the nonprofit sector.

“We know that in this line of work, there are often times when your feet are tired, but your soul is rested,” said CEO Jim Klocke in his opening remarks, hearkening back to civil rights icon Mother Pollard. “Our goal today is to give you sustenance so that at the end of each day going forward, your souls may be rested.”

The conference featured a keynote panel discussion moderated by Bob Gittens, Executive Director of Cambridge Family and Children’s Services and Vice Chair of the MNN Board of Directors, with Rachel Heller, CEO of the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), Eva Millona, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition, and Jerry Rubin, President and CEO of JVS Boston.

The panelists discussed the theme “building a better Commonwealth” and how their organizations are addressing critical issues throughout the state. The panel focused in particular on the ways that their respective issue areas–combating “cliff effects” and promoting economic mobility (CHAPA), ensuring a complete count in the 2020 Census (MIRA), and preparing the workforce for a 21st century economy (JVS Boston)–impact the nonprofit sector broadly and thus require collaborative approaches.

“The 2020 Census impacts all of us; if we are under-counted, we will all suffer,” said Millona. “Nonprofits need to work together to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“The issue for many people in this economy is not finding a job–it’s getting a good job that pays well,” said Rubin. “JVS Boston works directly with employers to create these kinds of jobs.”

“We need a culture that calls out what’s wrong in our society, and we need collaboration between organizations to make it right,” added Heller.

MNN also presented the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Awards to Priscilla Kane Hellweg, Executive and Artistic Director of Enchanted Circle Theater, and Darnell Williams, former President and CEO of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts.

Priscilla Kane Hellweg, who co-founded Enchanted Circle Theater 39 years ago, was honored for her dedication to providing arts integration education and for inspiring thousands of children and adults across Massachusetts.

“I still feel inspired whenever I see a child using arts integration go from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can,’” said Kane Hellweg. “It doesn’t get better than that.”

Darnell Williams, who served as President and CEO at the Urban League until September, was honored for his commitment to uplifting communities of color in the Greater Boston area.

In his remarks, Williams implored the nonprofit audience to “keep marching” to the top of the proverbial mountain–and not to leave anyone behind. “We can’t forget to bring the forgotten with us. Reaching the summit happens when we’re all there together,” said Williams.

The conference also featured almost 50 business exhibitors focused on serving nonprofits. Held every year since the organization’s founding in 2007, MNN’s conference is one of the largest events dedicated to building nonprofit capacity in Massachusetts.

Our Shared Sector: After Understanding the “DE&I” Acronym, How Can Nonprofits Start Their DE&I Journeys?

DEIForNonprofits (1)-min

The last edition of Our Shared Sector described the differences between each part of the “DE&I” Acronym–diversity, equity, and inclusion–and explained how the differences between each requires distinct approaches in improving them at an organization. This edition focuses on steps that nonprofits can take to weave the principles of diversity, equity into their organizational cultures.


Increasing diversity within an organization most often means working with the Human Resources team, and any others in charge of hiring and promotion. It may mean creating or adjusting your hiring handbook or including language in job postings that indicate that people of color, women and non-binary individuals, those with disabilities, etc. are encouraged to apply.


By focusing on equity, an organization addresses all aspects of their work with an understanding that not all employees or potential employees have access to the same resources. Using an equity lens means asking questions such as: “Where are you posting the job description? Is the language accessible? Are you listing skills that allow other people to apply?” For example, you may recognize that while a job description states, “Master’s degree preferred,” not all prospective employees have had access to graduate education, so it is worth evaluating comparable skills sets for the job, such as experience working in the community.

Utilizing an equity lens means realizing that people of less privileged backgrounds often do not enter an organization with the same resources as their privileged counterparts. Therefore, it is equitable to provide them with additional support, such as providing them with professional development opportunities. Additionally, an equitable lens recognizes that leadership must ensure that white people and men are contributing to inclusion and are committed to change on an institutional level.


Inclusion works to create a welcoming work culture–one where individuals of all identities and racial and ethnic backgrounds feel that they are being supported and able to succeed. One strategy many workplaces employ is creating an Inclusion Committee. Committees such as these work with senior leadership and provide a space for individuals to brainstorm how to better support people of color and women in all levels.

What’s the next step?

Even after understanding the differences in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, actually putting a plan in place can feel daunting.

Keep these three pieces of advice in mind during your DE&I journey:

  1. It takes time. DE&I work is an ongoing process that will require both time in employees’ work schedules and a long-term plan that the organization commits to seeing through.
  2. This is not easy work. People are not used to discussing equity in the workplace, and it is going to be hard to get everyone on board. That is why leadership buy-in is so crucial–support from the top can provide needed guidance to the entire organization.
  3. There is no “right way” to do equity work. Each organization must come up with a plan to address their particular workplace dynamics and opportunities.

Consider reaching out to experts to ensure your organization makes the space and time to create meaningful cultural change.

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

Nonprofit 411: Today’s Leadership Skills to Support Tomorrow’s Nonprofits

Nonprofit 411 WittKieffer-minBy John Fazekas, WittKieffer

Today’s nonprofits need leaders with more to offer than passion for the mission. They need executives who can build a brand, differentiate the organization from competitors and guide it to sustainability. Clarity on strategic priorities and proof of impact have risen to the top of organizations’ priority lists, with substantiated results expected of top nonprofit executives. In an effort to identify their next leader, organizations are prioritizing the following as essential skills and competencies:

Fundraising, Fundraising and More Fundraising: Many organizations require that their new leader demonstrate an ability to identify and tap new sources of revenue as part of a larger fundraising strategy. Whether donations, grants, corporate alliances or programmatic partnerships, CEO and executive director candidates must have an acute ability for accessing funding alternatives.

Partnering/Building Alliances: Nonprofits are looking for leaders with an entrepreneurial spirit who can identify partnerships with other entities in the community, and use these partnerships to do more for the population by offering complementary services.

Strategic Program Leadership/Performance Metrics: Wise spending, a pragmatic review of programs and using hard data to demonstrate actual impact and effectiveness of programs and services are all points of emphasis in the recruitment of new executives. Today’s leaders are expected to introduce innovations, design and implement comprehensive performance metrics, and be willing to cut ineffective and inefficient programs.

Social Media/Brand Building: Organizations want leaders who know how to build brands. There is no single media or social media tool that is a must-have, but today’s nonprofit leaders must know how to appeal to a new generation of supporters in a manner to which they will respond and share the organization’s story with others.

Subject Matter Knowledge: Organizations are looking for candidates who truly know the landscape and the key players (returning somewhat to earlier times in the nonprofit industry). This refers in particular to candidates who come from the for-profit sector with impressive resumes, but still must show familiarity with the organization and its environment.

Ability to Demonstrate Credibility, Quickly: Nonprofits look for new executives who will take time to learn the history and culture of an organization. Conversely, a new leader must quickly identify what can and should be done, and display calculated decisiveness. “Slash and burn” is by no means the right course, but changes made early in a new leader’s tenure will confirm the right hire was made.

About the Author

With 25 years of executive search experience, John Fazekas works with colleagues in WittKieffer’s Not-for-Profit and Healthcare practices to identify outstanding leaders for clients’ specific cultures and strategic needs. He has led and supported a range of engagements for CEOs/presidents, executive directors, COOs, CFOs and other key senior roles. Based in the firm’s Boston office, John’s clients include foundations and trusts, major civic and cultural organizations, hospitals, health systems, community health centers, disease-based associations and research institutes, and many other mission-driven organizations.

Creating a Culture of Philanthropy Within Your Organization

Giving Item box (4)-minby Stacy Dell’Orfano, Director of Development, Friends of the Children-Boston

When nonprofit professionals think about development, they typically think about how development professionals get people and institutions to give to nonprofits. But what we need to start thinking about is how to educate and involve the coworkers and colleagues that don’t have “development” in their job titles with the donor cultivation and stewardship process. With this in mind, development is more than just soliciting funds: it is also about creating a culture of philanthropy that is embedded within all aspects of an organization, and where all staff and board play an integral role in building sustainability. The results of culture steeped in philanthropy are accountability for all, shared responsibility, and a lasting impact on sustaining your mission.

Here are 4 steps you can take to build a culture of philanthropy at your organization:

  1. Educate yourself on relevant statistics and trends on giving and donor retention. Bloomerang, a company providing widely-used donor management database tools, found that for every 100 donors gained by nonprofits in 2016, 99 were lost due to attrition. Compounding the difficulty in retaining donors were the changes from 2017 federal tax reform law, which likely were a driving force behind the $3.21 billion drop in individual giving in 2018. These challenges are particularly difficult if you are still looking at donor relationships as a transactional–not a transformational–part of the everyday work at your organization.
  2. Get buy-in from your leadership. Building culture at any organization begins with buy-in from leadership. Share the stats mentioned above, as well as your organization’s data on its donors and attrition rates. Educating those you work for and making them part of the donor stewardship process is essential.
  3. Educate staff on the basics of fundraising and involve them in fundraising campaigns. At Friends of the Children-Boston, we begin this process by hosting a workshop for all staff on Donor Appreciation and Stewardship. We know the workshop is successful if staff leave the session with a better understanding of the “what” and “way” surrounding donor appreciation and stewardship, the donor stewardship cycle, and why it is essential to engage staff and beneficiaries in the donor appreciation and stewardship process. In addition to the professional development this offers staff, the organization itself benefits: at Friends-Boston workshops, we create tangible takeaways for our donors, including template materials for thank-you notes, letters, and cards that are ready for customization. Youth in our programs use these templates to write personalized notes to donors with staff trained to help them. These personalized cards are used for new donor welcome packages and as supplemental thank-yous for key returning donors. We have seen the number of returning donors and multi-year donors increase after implementing these personalized cards. We have even had donors send unsolicited donations after receiving them!
  4. Listen to donors and look for opportunities to engage more deeply.  Reach out to your donors and learn how they want to interact with your mission: do they want to be taken on a site visit, volunteer with your organization, or are they content with personalized thank-yous and updates? Don’t just reach out to individual donors in this process. Include corporate and philanthropic supporters as well.

The deeper you engage with your donors, the more you will make them feel connected to the mission and increase their loyalty to the organization. And because you included staff in the process, they will see and understand that they are an essential part of the process.