Nonprofit 411: Improving Board Performance

Nonprofit 411 Clark-minby Sarah Lange, Clark University School of Professional Studies

Executive directors and directors of development often cite under-performing boards as one of the top challenges they face. In addition, board members cite meetings, paperwork and minutia as the things they enjoy least. But change is possible. An engaged board of directors can help nonprofits fulfill their mission in new and surprising ways. Good boards don’t materialize out of thin air: they are the result of strategic, thoughtful work, and a year-round investment in recruitment and education.

However, most of the methods, processes, and structures that some nonprofits use are outdated. Given this, it’s no wonder that boards sometimes fail to fulfill their duties and not realize their potential.


An active, engaged board results from proper recruitment. Create a Board Development Committee (BDC) comprised of 3-4 people willing to take charge of the development of your board. Next, collect a list of 25-100 names of potential board members: be sure to consider diversity in all its forms. A diverse board provides you with access to multiple perspectives, skills, attitudes, and cultures. Channeled properly, this will lead to more creativity and innovation.

Be strategic when selecting board members. The #1 selection criteria for any new board member should be a passion for your organization’s mission, because they’ll go the extra mile. Look at where the organization is in terms of its stage of development. You’ll need a different type of board for each stage: Start-up, Stabilization, and Continued Growth. Regardless of the stage, it’s important to have board members and/or staff with the opposite personality type that stage requires, as these people will help nudge you to the next stage of development.


Orientation and activation are the job of the Board Development Committee. At the very least, orientation should consist of a tour of the organization and a review of the board manual. Ensure that the expectations, duties and responsibilities are clear to everyone involved. People perform better when they have a clear understanding of what it is they’re supposed to do. Engage new members immediately by assigning them to a committee. The BDC should check in with new members before and after each meeting to get their feedback about their experience and offer guidance or support as needed.


Investing in the growth and development of board members is essential to improving board performance. The best way to identify the strengths and growing edges of a board is to conduct an assessment, and then develop a plan for addressing identified needs. It’s also a good idea to conduct a skills and interest inventory so you know which gifts board members are bringing to the party. Ongoing education should be a regular part of board meetings.

And don’t forget to celebrate. Be sure to integrate fun and celebration into the life of the board. Sharing updates and accomplishments at the beginning of each meeting can set the tone and be uplifting to the overall attitude and moral of the members.

These are just a few tips to help you improve board performance. Remember: board members want to help, but it’s our job to show them how to support the work of the organization.

Nonprofit 411: Are You Still Living in the 1980s?

By Barry MacQuarrie, CPA, Director, Business Automation Solutions, Kevin P. Martin & Associates, P.C

Ever feel like your nonprofit organization is operating the same way it did in the 1980s? Yes, the 1980s, a decade that brought us the ‘Miracle on Ice,’ the Celtics dynasty and, of course, the first laptop. Who can forget the laptops from such memorable companies as Osborne, Compaq and Kaypro? Although the 80s was a great decade, it’s also when we started to spend time keying and rekeying data into our new desktop accounting applications.

Sadly, many of these time intensive activities continue today. Let’s look a simple sale transaction. You place your order, the vendor enters the information and mails a paper copy of their bill. You rekey the data into accounts payable and process your payment. They receive your check and rekey the same data into their billing app. There must be a better way!

The impact of new technologies during the past decade has been nothing short of amazing. We share our lives on social media, depend on our mobile devices for everything and have moved to the cloud. Developers are constantly building new apps that can radically change the world of business.

By embracing these radical new technologies, we can break old habits and build organizations that are more efficient and reliable. Image a day when your order from that vendor sets off a series of financial transactions that don’t require a single person to manually rekey data. Here a few areas that you can explore to make your organization more efficient:

  • Processing Vendor Bills – There are new apps that can fetch your vendor bills, analyze the bills using OCR and create usable data that can be automatically posted to your accounts payable app. No more rekeying data!
  • Expense Reporting – In a similar fashion, these apps digitally capture receipts, create expense reports, automate the approval process, provide reimbursement and automatically sync the data to your accounting app. Rekeying data is one again eliminated!
  • Time Tracking – Anyone using manual time cards or spreadsheets to track time? Today’s time tracking apps allow employees to clock in and track their time on a mobile device, change job codes with a simple click and electronically submit their time for approval. These apps will push the approved data to your payroll and accounting apps. Bye, bye rekeying of data!
  • Integration and Automation Apps – Imagine if an action in one app could automatically cause action in other apps and integrate data. For example, someone donates via your website and an app automatically adds them to your mailing list, sends an email alert to the management team, builds a thank you email and tweets about their donation. Just one more way to eliminate keypunch!

For any of us old enough to remember the DOS version of QuickBooks, some of these apps seem too good to be true! However, they really do exist and can be used to dramatically change your organization. They can help you move your operations out of the 1980s and create a more efficient and fun place to work.

Nonprofit 411: Questions to Ask Yourself about Client Confidentiality and the Mobile Workforce

By Dan Keleher, KPM Consulting, LLC


Nonprofit 411 KPM 2The global workforce is evolving into a remote and flexible environment. According to Strategy Analytics there is potential for the mobile workforce to increase from 38.8% of the global workforce in 2016 to 42.5% by 2022. This move is seen as mutually beneficial for employees and employers.

With the increase in the mobile workforce, employers are identifying cost savings in areas as diverse as real estate/office space and training of new employees, and are reporting increases in productivity due to reductions in days out sick. Employees are reducing personal expenses with reduced commuting costs as well as time savings. The increase in remote work has also opened opportunities for workers with physical disabilities or limited mobility. Ultimately, all of this contributes to a more productive work environment.

What does this mean for your customers and their data? Doesn’t the remote worker introduce more security risks and a greater chance of a data breach? Not necessarily, as long as everyone is doing their part. First, as the employer you need to take a serious look at your data security program.

  • Has your Information Technology (IT) staff established substantive security measures? Are they monitoring firewalls and intrusion detection, encrypting data at rest, encrypting laptop hard drives, pushing updates for anti-virus or malware programs, and establishing email filtering and multi-factor authentication for network access?
  • How are your data security policies and procedures? Are you prohibiting the storage of customer data on mobile devices such as laptops, flash drives, and smartphones? Are you requiring the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when remote users connect to your network? What about requiring users to ensure the latest system and application patches and updates are installed on their laptops; and prohibiting the use of any company owned device by any non-employee?
  • How is your data security training program? Is your staff receiving updated training throughout the year on the current data security policies and procedures? What about why strong passwords are important, or how to identify phishing and possible malware attacks?
  • Do you have a fully implemented incident response program? Do your staff know what to do in case of a lost or stolen device?
  • When was the last time you reviewed and updated your Massachusetts data privacy Written Information Security Plan (WISP)?

Ensuring your mobile workers do not jeopardize your customer’s confidentiality starts with ensuring that your organization has a strong data security program and that all employees are educated on the part that they play in that program.

Dan Keleher is the Executive Director of KPM Consulting, a subsidiary of Kevin P. Martin & Associates, P.C. He can be reached at KPM Consulting offers a variety of services including IT risk assessments, business continuity planning, vulnerability scans, SOX compliance reviews, MA data privacy planning, HIPAA compliance reviews, data center reviews, and security testing.


Nonprofit 411: Securing Growth Capital in Challenging Times

Nonprofit 411 People's UnitedBy Bruce Figueroa, Head of Non-Profit-Banking at People’s United Bank

Nonprofit organizations looking to issue bonds for capital projects, or to refinance existing debt face one of the toughest financing environments in years due to rising interest rates and recent changes in tax laws. Careful, expert analysis and advanced planning are critical for all organizations today to be able to structure the most efficient long-term financing vehicles to help fund new projects.

The pressure on interest rates is real and growing. Ten-year Treasury rates have risen more than 125 basis points or 60% since Labor Day, 2017—with more rate hikes expected in 2019. Meanwhile, bank direct purchase tax-exempt bond rates have increased due to the corporate tax-rate changes that went into effect on January 1, 2018. The combined impact of these changes means that a nonprofit that might have financed a project at 2.5% before the changes in both market rates and the tax code, could now face tax-exempt rates of 4.5% or even 5%.

Given this backdrop, nonprofits need creative, customized financing solutions and expert analysis in three areas: peer comparison, debt capacity and cost/benefit views on various debt structures.

Creative Financing Solutions

Tools such as interest-rate derivatives can help protect against interest-rate risk in a rising rate environment. Instead of taking out a floating-rate loan or bond during construction and convert to a fixed-rate when construction is complete, the nonprofit can partner with a bank to design an interest-rate derivative with a forward starting rate lock based on the project completion date. This rate reduces risk, improves the nonprofit’s forecasting and its ability to service the new debt.

Peer Comparison

An informed peer comparison analysis gives borrowers a valuable view into their own performance vs. those of similar organizations. This comparison – offered by bankers with expertise in the particular sector – can define key performance indicators (KPIs) and help set realistic performance objectives against those KPIs. Metrics typically include cash flow, debt service, operating performance and balance sheet measures such as leverage and liquidity.

Debt Capacity

The simplest debt analysis looks at the current level of debt and infers a debt coverage value. A more thoughtful analysis will also use peer comparison information to assess additional capacity and consider the impact of future projects and capital investments. Knowing debt capacity is vital for planning purposes and to set appropriate fund-raising targets.

Comparative cost/benefits

Changes in interest rates and tax rules continue to shift the cost/benefit analyses. For example, if the upfront fees on a taxable loan are $40,000, while the upfront fees on a tax-exempt bond are $150,000, a comparative cost/benefit analysis needs to factor in the size of the issuance and its duration to determine if the higher upfront fees of a bond are worth paying. It’s important to conduct these analyses well before the organization will need to issue debt.

Adjusting to New Terrain

The facts on the ground—higher interest rates and a less advantageous tax code—are putting pressure on nonprofits looking to issue debt and plan for projects. Fortunately, there is still a strong appetite among regional banks to purchase these bonds. And by teaming with expert bankers, not only can nonprofits access creative, customized financing solutions, they can also gain insights into three critical areas for future planning: peer comparison, debt capacity and cost/benefits.

Bruce Figueroa is Head of Non-Profit-Banking at People’s United Bank. He leads a team of specialized bankers that partner with nonprofit institutions across industries, to provide strategic solutions for financing, liquidity, risk, operational and resource management in support of their missions. Please contact Bruce at


Nonprofit 411: Four Reasons Nonprofits Should Be Especially Careful About Intellectual Property

Nonprofit 411 Tennant Lubellby Ellen Lubell, Tennant Lubell, LLC

If “intellectual property” only conjures up images of trade wars and monkeys taking selfies, it’s time to think again. Intellectual property or “IP” is relevant to all of us and should be a concern to your nonprofit.

The website you launch, the software you develop, the logo you design, and the photos you download all involve IP. When using them or permitting them to be used by others, the stakes may be higher than you think.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property refers to the original creations of authors, designers, artists and scientists that are protected in the United States by copyright, trademark and patent law.

Copyright law gives the creator of a work such as a software program the exclusive right to control its copying and distribution. Trademark law gives a company that develops a catchy new logo the right to control copying and use of the logo. Patent law gives the inventor of technology such as solar panels the exclusive right to control their manufacture and sale.

IP laws are intended to encourage development and dissemination of new works for the good of society by granting, for a designated period of time, exclusive rights to the creator. To assure that the exclusive rights are protected, IP laws impose penalties for others using the works without authorization.

IP laws apply equally to for-profits and nonprofits. Both can protect their own IP and permit others to use it, and both need to obtain authorization to use IP owned by others.

So why should your nonprofit be especially careful about use of intellectual property?    

  1. To avoid “private benefit” — As a tax-exempt organization, your resources must be used to advance your mission. If you use them to benefit anyone or anything other than your mission (more than just incidentally), this may be considered “private benefit” and may jeopardize your exempt status.

Your IP may be among your most valuable assets. If you decide to permit others to use your IP, be certain you are getting full value for that use, taking into account the amount of time and resources you expended to develop it when assessing its value. Avoiding private benefit makes good financial sense and will keep you in legal compliance.

  1. To comply with funder restrictions or requirements – If you created IP using grant funding, don’t assume that you can do whatever you like with it. You will need to review the terms of your grant to determine what your funder permits and, if additional uses are permitted, whether any acknowledgments or disclaimers are required. If you hire subcontractors for grant-funded projects, be sure their subcontracts reflect funders’ requirements on ownership and use of IP developed for the projects.
  1. To maintain good relations with volunteers and others with whom you work on an informal basis — Informality is essential to the operations of many nonprofits, but when it comes to intellectual property, formalities such as written agreements are generally required. Nonprofits often feel that they need to keep things “loose” and “friendly,” but losing rights to IP you’ve paid for, or getting into a dispute over the use of IP can damage relationships.
  1. Because your reputation is valuable – Whether you permit someone to use your IP or you use IP owned by someone else, make sure the intended use is authorized in writing. Your use of others’ IP without permission can risk the loss of trust or an infringement lawsuit, and misuse of your IP by others can put your reputation at risk.

Importantly, before you allow for-profit companies to use your organization’s name–your trademark–for a charitable sales promotion or co-venture, you should consider the risks carefully. Your name embodies the reputation you’ve spent years cultivating, which is why companies may wish to use it. Consider how costly it would be if your name were to become embroiled in a controversy over which you have no control, for example involving the companies’ products or financial improprieties.

Nonprofits should be knowledgeable when it comes to business issues, including protection and use of intellectual property. Stay informed on the rules and seek legal advice if you’re unsure. 

Ellen Lubell, Tennant Lubell, LLC,, 617-969-9610

Nonprofit 411: 8 Tips for IT Security

Nonprofit 411 Tech Networks

by Ashley Fontes, Communications Manager, Tech Networks of Boston

Security is a big issue in our everyday lives and you need to make sure your employees, data, and organization are protected.  Cybint News states, “43 percent of cyber-attacks target small businesses, 64% of companies have experienced web-based attacks, and 62% experienced phishing & social engineering attacks.” These statistics are alarming. Cybercrime will continue to evolve because cybersecurity products and solutions simply can’t keep up.

Many nonprofits may think that they are not large enough to be a target but being smaller in size is one of the things that makes your organization more appealing to cybercriminals. Nonprofits and schools usually have fewer IT staff and resources, making your organization particularly vulnerable. Nonprofit technology staff frequently juggle responsibilities to keep the organization’s systems running, which often means that you and your coworkers have less time to focus on security.

We’ve compiled 8 IT security tips to protect your data:

  1. Avoid phishing scams. Here’s a not-so-fun fact – your email filters have a 10.5-15 percent failure rate.  You can avoid phishing scams by practicing the motto, “think before you click”.  Always check that you recognize the sender and domain by hovering over hyperlinks before clicking.  Never open attachments from an unknown source and always contact the person via phone if something seems unusual.  You can also configure rulesin your company’s email system to provide visual cues to your employees about email safety with external sender notifications. Office 365 also offers advanced threat protection for E1 and E3 plans at a discounted price through Microsoft’s donation plan.

Employees are the first line of defense from cybercriminals and are more important than any firewall.  Implementing a security awareness training program at your organization is critical to your IT security strategy. This should include ongoing training and it should be part of your new employee onboarding process. Tech Networks of Boston offers free phishing tests for your employees, which can be a fun way to test their knowledge.

  1. Practice ’think before you click’ when browsing the web. Avoid visiting unknown websites and always make sure the site is protected with HTTPS when submitting sensitive data.  The ‘s’ in HTTPS stands for ‘secure’ and it means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted.  Make sure to never download software from untrusted sources.  Sites that advertise free content such as TV shows, live-streaming, or free software are big red flags and may contain malware. We’ve written more about this here.
  2. Utilize anti-virus or anti-malware programs. Anti-virus software helps to protect your computer by recognizing viruses that can harm your computer by deleting them.  Anti-malware is software that defends against all malware including viruses, worms, spyware, Trojan horses, and other unwanted invaders that can harm your computer.
  3. Keep all software up to date. Microsoft releases hundreds of security patches for computers and servers each month. Always follow best practices for patching and ensure that your devices have the proper updates installed.  If you currently work with a MSP, take advantage of their server and workstation patching services to keep your data safe.
  4. Secure your devices. Always use a passcode on a phone or tablet so that no one can gain access while you’re not using it. For desktop or laptops, make sure you lock your screen or shut down the system when it’s not in use.  If you keep sensitive information on an external hard drive or flash drive, keep them password protected.
  5. Protect all sensitive data. Use encryption when storing or sending sensitive data via email.  Delete sensitive data files from your devices when you no longer need them; this includes keeping social security numbers, credit card information, and healthcare documents removed from your devices. This will be especially important if you were ever victim of a ransomware attack where hackers lock your data and infiltrate your system.
  6. Back up your data on a regular basis and keep it secured. If you are a victim of a security incident, this will allow you to retain your data.  Backups for your entire network infrastructure are crucial and you can enlist the help of a MSP to choose the right solution.  This is also relevant for websites, tablets, phones, and computers. We’ve written more about the ways you can avoid network failures and manage risk here.
  7. Practice secure password management. A strong password should look like a series of random characters and there are some best practices that you should follow when creating them.  While you can use secure password generators online, here are a few simple steps to creating your own secure password:
  • Step 1: Think of a sentence or phrase with at least 8 words that you can easily remember but is hard for someone else to guess. This phrase could be a line from your favorite movie, a quote that you like, or song lyric that always gets stuck in your head.
  • Step 2: Take the first letter of each word in your phrase.
  • Step 3: Capitalize some of the letters at random and leave the rest lower case.
  • Step 4: Now, substitute a number for at least one of the letters, and substitute two more letters with special characters such as an exclamation mark, asterisk, or ampersand.

Example: “You can dance if you want to you can leave your friends behind” becomes Y&d!YwtYc1Yf6

As you know, you should never share your passwords or write them down. We recommend using a password manager on your computer or phone and always having a passcode or password lock on your devices.

We’ve also created a handy document of cybersecurity terms you need to know to stay informed.

Do you have any tips we haven’t mentioned? We’d like to hear yours! Get in touch with us here.

Nonprofit 411: Useful Techniques for Search Engines and Online Databases

Nonprofit 411 MagnusBy Roger Magnus, Roger Magnus Research

Nonprofit workers regularly utilize web search engines and online databases to inform decisions about programming, prepare grant applications, and to achieve many other goals. For these tools, there are many different—and often unknown— ways to search depending on what search features a search engine or online database contains and how they are phrased. One must look at the “Help” menus of each tool to determine the available techniques, and many of these can be combined with others.

Here is a list of quick techniques that nonprofits can start using today to more effectively and efficiently utilize search engines and online databases:

Quotes – Use “ ” for terms with several words to search as a phrase. Without these quotation marks, many websites and databases will search for document hits for each term listed.

  • Example: “Massachusetts business” – returns the exact phrase ONLY

Boolean Searching – Use connectors such as AND, OR, NOT between search terms to narrow or broaden list of results.

  • Business AND Massachusetts – both business and Massachusetts appear in any relevant document
  • Business OR Massachusetts – either business or Massachusetts or both appear in any relevant document
  • Business NOT Massachusetts – business excluding Massachusetts appears in any relevant document

Nested search – There is an order of operations with connectors. Depending on the database or web search engine, AND is usually of higher order than OR or NOT. Use parentheses to search terms correctly or you may not get the results you expect.

  • Massachusetts OR Connecticut AND business – Will retrieve documents with either the term Massachusetts or the terms Connecticut and business together. These concepts are NOT parallel and not likely desired.
  • (Massachusetts OR Connecticut) AND business – Will retrieve documents about Massachusetts and business and/or Connecticut or business. There could be some good articles comparing business in both states.

Proximity Searching – Use connectors such as Within (W) or Near – One term W X (sequence dependent) or Near X (to sequence dependent) number of words of another. These search terms are both more refined versions of AND to retrieve fewer and more relevant documents.

  • Business W (2) Massachusetts Business preceding Massachusetts by two search terms or fewer appear in any relevant document.
  • Business Near (2) Massachusetts– Business within two or fewer search terms of Massachusetts irrespective of order will appear in any relevant document.
  • Business (S) Massachusetts – Business and Massachusetts in the same sentence
  • Business (P) Massachusetts – Business and Massachusetts in the same paragraph

Wildcard or Truncation

  • Wildcard(s) – Place holder(s) in term (beginning, middle, or end) that can be filled in multiple ways
    • Wom?n – to find woman or women
  • Truncation – Word stem that can be filled in at the end multiple ways.
    • Research* – to find research, researches, researching, researcher, etc.

AtLeast – Document will contain X or more references to search term. With this many references, one would expect the focus of most of these articles would be on her and that she would not be mentioned tangentially.

Document segment searching (Such as Title, Title and Lead Paragraph, Author, Text of document, Publication Name, Subject terms of document usually listed at bottom) – Search for terms in particular areas of documents to target search results.

Time frame – Can search for yesterday, a week ago, a certain year, back to the beginning, or a range of dates of coverage for a particular website, database, or publication.

Type of publication – Can specify newspaper, magazine, scholarly journal, report, chart/table etc. to search on.

Number of words – Generally used for longer articles on a subject.

Pages on website – Used to search all files and pages just on that website.

Type of document – Usually for Web search engines (.PDF, .PPT, .XLS, etc.) to search on that type of document ONLY

For further assistance with your organization’s research needs, please contact MNN affiliate member Roger Magnus, Owner of Roger Magnus Research at

Nonprofit 411: Achieving Fundraising Success, Part III- Concluding Your Campaign

Nonprofit 411 giving series 3This three-part article series provides advice to help your nonprofit achieve fundraising gold by equipping your board and leadership teams, safeguarding compliance, and mining giving data. In Part 3, our experts, Lisa Cohen, CEO of Capital Motion, Gail Snow Moraski, Principal of Results Communication and Research, and Brock Klinger, Account Executive at Harbor Compliance, provide best practices for equipping your board and leadership teams, safeguarding compliance, and mining giving data at the close of a campaign.

How should we “debrief” at the close of a campaign?

Lisa: Information-sharing to maximize campaign success is ideally baked into the DNA of the leadership and board team by the close of the campaign. Having put together materials like board “brag books” of interactions with program clients that they found particularly fulfilling, and having shared stories and information throughout the campaign, debriefing will be a natural and important final step in the process.

The team will find that they have learned as much—if not more—than they have shared. Documenting that learning is invaluable. One well-run strategy meeting with an excellent note-taker ought to do it, and be sure to catalogue what was learned from each constituency touched, on what key topics, and what the next steps are on each important open issue, if there are any.

How can we evaluate our performance to drive future strategy?

Gail: Once your campaign is concluded, you can gather metrics on how the various tools and strategies performed for you, evaluate return on investment (ROI), and use that information to inform future campaigns.

For example, if an email service such as MailChimp or Constant Contact was used to send out either a fundraising-focused email blast or an e-newsletter that contained information about a fundraising campaign, before finalizing plans for an upcoming campaign, your organization should review the performance indicators available within the email service tool to see if time and money spent on such an e-communication makes good sense. For example, the number and percent of individuals opening the e-communications should be reviewed as well as information on the click-through rate by readers on any button, image, or link that took them to a website page containing fundraising campaign information.

Are there any regulatory items to address at the end of a campaign?

Brock: Since many requirements are based on contribution and revenue levels, you may find that you have new requirements to address after a successful campaign. A significant campaign may expand your footprint or increase contribution and revenue levels to the point that you have new fundraising registration and financial reporting requirements to meet. For this reason, you’ll need to conduct a post-campaign compliance check and adjust your practices as necessary. If you’ve been involved in a co-venture, your teams will need to compile financial data and file as required.

Do you have any other tips on achieving fundraising gold?

Gail: There’s a lot of great data available in the various online/digital marketing tools and platforms an organization uses to promote a fundraising campaign, and it’s so worth mining the data associated with past campaigns to ensure the best possible ROI on time and money expended for a future one.

Brock: It might seem like a lot of work, but compliance more than pays for itself by inviting donor trust, which is key to the success of any fundraising campaign. For example, studies have shown that solicitations that include disclosure statements get a measurably higher rate of return than those without. So it’s not just about government paperwork. Compliance reassures potential donors that your organization is legitimate and committed to sound governance. Meeting all of your legal and regulatory requirements also safeguards your board of directors, who can be held personally liable for any lapses or oversights.

Lisa: Your leadership teams are the champions of your brand, your fundraising ambassadors. Nonprofits that take time to inform and engage them reap the rewards in fundraising success.

We hope this article series helps you achieve better results at each phase of your fundraising campaign. If you have further questions for our experts, feel free to reach out to them directly:

Lisa Cohen, Capital Motion,, 617-545-7937

Gail Snow Moraski, Results Communication and Research,, 781-267-6687

Brock Klinger, Harbor Compliance,, 1-888-995-5895

Nonprofit 411: Achieving Fundraising Gold, Part II- Building Momentum

Nonprofit 411 giving series 2This three-part article series provides advice to help your nonprofit achieve fundraising gold by equipping your board and leadership teams, safeguarding compliance, and mining giving data. In Part 2, our experts, Lisa Cohen, CEO of Capital Motion, Gail Snow Moraski, Principal of Results Communication and Research, and Brock Klinger, Account Executive at Harbor Compliance, answer questions about building momentum during your campaign.

Once a campaign starts, how can we keep the momentum going?

Lisa: It helps to break the work into manageable pieces rather than asking each person to go out and ask their friends and colleagues for money all at once (which can be really scary and uncomfortable for some people). A board stymied by their individual to-do lists is absolutely going to stop the ball rolling, which is just what you don’t want.

For nonprofits with professional development staff, one thing that can be helpful is to create a structured handoff from a board member to staff people of donors identified as “hi-potential” by a board member. Why? Board members often express discomfort making an actual “ask,” but can be fantastic at identifying those willing to join the ranks of donors. So this can be super helpful and also can avoid the energy drain of board members feeling uncomfortable.

It’s also helpful to keep everyone working on fundraising fully informed with a steady stream of organizational and project updates. Tools like Frequently Asked Questions that are updated real-time, as the questions are asked and answered, can be invaluable to the team working with community members and funders. Consider also a bi-monthly or monthly all-hands-on-deck conference call or webinar where everyone involved can share the questions they’re being asked, model great answers, hear news from leadership, and feel connected and energized.

What compliance considerations must we address during the campaign?

Brock: If you’ve limited fundraising to certain states, you’ll need to monitor donations received throughout the campaign to ensure that you’re staying within the footprint you’ve established. In some states, registration requirements are triggered if you surpass a certain threshold in number or amount of donations, so it’s important to track your progress state-by-state. It’s also important to meticulously document financials for commercial co-ventures, since many states require a detailed accounting at the close of those campaigns.

In addition, nonprofits have ongoing reporting requirements, including maintaining a registered agent, submitting annual reports, and renewing charitable solicitation registrations, among other tasks. These requirements run throughout the year.

How can we help ensure that we’re hitting our goals?

Gail: One way to gauge success is to review data available in the Google Analytics account associated with your organization’s website (note that having a Google Analytics account linked to your website is a best practice and is easy and free to set up). You can use the Google Analytics tool (for the cases below, access the “Acquisitions” report via Google Analytics’ left-hand menu, and select “All Traffic,” and then “Referrals”) to specifically look at the following data:

  • Number of individuals who visit your website because of clicking on a social media post
  • Number of individuals who visit your website because of clicking on a link in your e-newsletter or e-mail blast

And, of course, Google Analytics will provide general information on the number of individuals who visit your campaign landing page during the campaign’s timeframe (access “Behavior” report, select “Site Content,” then select “All Pages”).

If your fundraising campaign employs Google Ads or social media advertising, these platforms provide extensive performance data such as number of ad clicks, cost-per-click, number of conversions, and cost per conversion (ad clicker completed a specific activity desired by advertiser, such as completing an online form or visiting a certain page). In addition to the easy, obvious review of the volume of clicks and conversions that ads are generating, organizations should pay close attention to the cost-per-click and cost-per-conversion metrics to see if those costs lend themselves to a good ROI equation. If it costs $12.00 for a conversion that equates, on average, to only a $5.00 or $10.00 donation, employing online advertising related to a future campaign may not make good economic sense.

By tracking activity in response to your campaign, you can double down in those areas where you’re getting the best audience response.

These strategies will help you make the most of your fundraising efforts throughout the campaign. In Part 3 in the series, our experts provide suggestions for measures to take once your campaign is concluded.

Have further questions for our experts? Feel free to reach out to them directly:

Lisa Cohen, Capital Motion,, 617-545-7937

Gail Snow Moraski, Results Communication and Research,, 781-267-6687

Brock Klinger, Harbor Compliance,, 1-888-995-5895

Nonprofit 411: Achieving Fundraising Gold, Part I- Laying the Groundwork for a Successful Campaign

Nonprofit 411 giving series 1This three-part article series provides advice to help your nonprofit achieve fundraising gold by equipping your board and leadership teams, safeguarding compliance, and mining giving data. The series will cover best practices during three key fundraising phases: laying the groundwork for a successful campaign, building momentum as the campaign progresses, and concluding in a way that drives future success. Where a deeper dive is warranted, we’ve provided links for you to explore.

In Part 1, Lisa Cohen, CEO of Capital Motion, Gail Snow Moraski, Principal of Results Communication and Research, and Brock Klinger, Account Executive at Harbor Compliance, answer questions about laying the foundation for a successful fundraising program.

How can I get the leadership team fired up?

Lisa: Objects in motion tend to stay in motion, to paraphrase the law of inertia. This law of physics is observably true of effective fundraising; high energy development programs tend to keep on raising money. Programs that have a tough time getting going also have a tough time keeping going. As leaders, the team — executives and board members — can help to generate the energy to put the object (the fundraising program) in motion and to continue to roll it forward.

Fundraising is a new role for a lot of board members, and it’s not always everyone’s favorite job when they first try it. One thing that can help is to reframe the activity set as “community outreach” or “ambassadorship.” This discussion might take more up-front time than just assigning everyone a goal and a list.

These tasks can help to ensure that your board and leadership team members are energized and engaged personally and able to bring their fundraising “superpowers” to the effort.

What do I need to do to prepare the leadership team?

Lisa: It’s been said, of course, and bears saying again, so here goes: be sure to cover the basics before you get started. Make sure everyone is up to speed on the history of the organization, its current mission, population served, programs, budget, and so on.

You can also equip your team by conducting a foundational financial analysis. This is a little different than an audit or routine preparation of required annual financial statements. You may require the assistance of an outside professional, or you may need to ask a member of the financial staff to conduct some financial or scenario analysis that is a bit different from some of the routine work of the office. If the work generates pictures – charts and graphs – showing the impact of major gifts – all the better. This analysis can help a leadership team and board understand and communicate the financial dynamics of an organization and answer questions about how gifts could be of significant impact to an organization’s mission and results, something all major donors and funders want to know.

With so many ways to reach out, how do I focus on the communication tactics that will benefit us the most?

Gail: Often organizations–both for-profit and nonprofit–don’t make or take the time to dig down deep to determine which, if any, of the tactics they employed as part of a past fundraising or marketing campaign were successful in generating donations or some other desired outcome. Most digital marketing platforms, such as email services, social media, and online advertising come with built-in performance analytics tools. Such research and analysis can and should be used to determine where limited marketing dollars and energy should be spent in future fundraising campaigns.

What if this is our first campaign?

Gail: The internet provides so many accessible, no- or low-cost avenues for reaching out. A typical fundraising campaign might include a mix of the following tactics:

  • A website “landing page” specific to the fundraising campaign
  • Posts on a variety of social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn)
  • Email blast specific to campaign or campaign mention in an e-newsletter
  • Online advertising, such as Facebook or Google Ads

Someone versed in these tools and your budget can help you outline the best strategy for your campaign.

Do I need to register before fundraising? What do I need to do to ensure compliance?

Brock: Forty-one states require nonprofits to register for charitable solicitation, and 25 require inclusion of specific disclosures in solicitations. In some states, you also need to get a certificate of authority to conduct operations, a process known as foreign qualification. In each state where you solicit, you’ll need to meet applicable requirements.

The first step is to determine your fundraising “footprint,” the map of states where you’re soliciting. It’s important to understand that solicitation occurs wherever the request for donations is received, not where it originates. With online fundraising, solicitations are potentially reaching donors in all states, which may necessitate meeting requirements across the board. In addition, you’ll need to consider requirements for any special activities such as contracting with professional fundraisers, conducting special events such as bingo, and engaging in commercial co-ventures such as merchandise sales and cash register campaigns.

Once you’ve determined which requirements apply to your activities, you can develop a plan to meet them. Some nonprofits simply register nationwide and begin soliciting. Others take a graduated approach, limiting donations to certain states where they’re registered and expanding their footprint as they grow.

How much time and money will registration take?

Brock: Fees are modest, in the $25 to $50 range. In many states, registration is free, and often exemptions are provided for smaller nonprofits. Yet it can take quite a bit of time to sort through the requirements and file, so it’s really important to address compliance very early in your planning process.

These tips should help you get your campaign off to a strong start by getting your leadership on board, making the most of digital platforms available for getting the word out, and taking steps to ensure a compliant campaign. In our next article in the series, our experts provide suggestions for building momentum throughout your campaign in your ongoing quest to achieve fundraising gold.

Have further questions for our experts? Feel free to reach out to them directly:

Lisa Cohen, Capital Motion,, 617-545-7937

Gail Snow Moraski, Results Communication and Research,, 781-267-6687

Brock Klinger, Harbor Compliance,, 1-888-995-5895