The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

How Often Should Your Nonprofit Send Email to Your List?

Kivi Leroux Miller for Nonprofits: A Social Media Hack to Maximize Your Time and Effort without Sacrificing Your Impact

When you’re trying to create impact in the world, it may seem like there’s not enough time in the day to do everything that you need to do. The term “lifehacking” came about from those working in tech startups needing to find ways to prioritize tasks and maximize the hours in the day to get a quality output from your time and effort.

Good Data for #GoodJobs

Kjerstin Erickson

Connect with students to “MOOC-source” your data

The following is a guest post Amit Jain, lead researcher and marketing director at Coursolve.

The #GoodJobs Challenge

The following is a cross-post by Lucy Bernholz, philanthropy wonk and visiting scholar at the Stanford University Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. You can read the original post on Lucy's blog, Philanthropy 2173, here.

Seven Easy Ways to Repurpose Your Content

Below is a follow-up by Kivi Leroux Miller, president of, to a question submitted by a participant during the April 3, 2013, webinar about communications planning. To view the presentation, please click here.

Building a Solid Fundraising Plan

The following is a cross-post by Stephen Pratt, Root Cause's director of financial sustainability. You can read the original post here.

Bringing art to people: 8 ways an event can transcend genre, geography and demographics

The following is a cross-post by P. Scott Cunningham, founder, O, Miami Festival. You can read the original post here.

Interview with Fundraiser Andrea Kihlstedt

Andrea Kihlstedt, author of How to Raise $1 Million (or More) in 10 Bite-Sized Steps, recently spoke with her publisher about fundraising. GuideStar has published excerpts from Ms. Kihlstedt's book (see the links below), and we're pleased to be able to share her additional thoughts with you.

Your book has an ambitious title—How to Raise $1 Million (or More) in 10 Bite-Sized Steps. You're saying it can really be boiled down to 10 steps? I'm skeptical.

I worked with organizations on capital campaigns for over 25 years. Early on, this kind of awe-inspiring fundraising seemed hugely complicated to me. But gradually, as I worked on campaign after campaign, I came to see that they're really based on simple concepts. To the extent you can stay focused on these prescribed steps, your success will be more likely.

There's a lot of conventional thinking when it comes to fundraising. What "truisms" should be cast aside today as antiquated?

I'm not sure we should cast aside truisms but some things are happening that are changing the way people function.

When I began, people had more time to volunteer. Their lives were more stable and they expected to work for the same company and live in the same community for most of their lives. And the word "community" meant a geographic area or neighborhood.

It doesn't take hard research to see that these things have changed. Today in many families both partners work full-time. In small and mid-sized communities, many of the businesses aren't locally owned. And many people have stronger ties to their Facebook communities than their next-door neighbors. All of these changes have consequences in fundraising. They lead to less active volunteer involvement, giving that isn't restricted to the community, and less loyalty to specific organizations. Today it's as easy to feel great about a gift you make to an organization in Somalia as it is to your local hospital. And, funny enough, many organizations raising money through the Web make you feel even more connected than ones in your hometown.

Social media—do you see it playing a substantial role in tomorrow's big-dollar campaigns? How?

I have a hunch that over the next few years, the space between crowd-sourced fundraising methods and capital campaigns will shrink. When I look at fundraising platforms like KickStarter or DonorsChoose, I see the principles and systems of capital campaign fundraising laid out remarkably well for small individual drives. Teachers can raise money for their classrooms through DonorsChoose and artists can run their own little campaign campaigns through KickStarter. Traditional campaigns haven't yet figured out how these new platforms fit in, but within a couple of years, I'm sure they'll be incorporated into every campaign.

Most organizations, at one time or another, have launched a major gifts campaign. As a percentage, how many do you think succeed in raising most of their goal? And what's the leading reason, generally speaking, for those that fail?

There's no way of knowing how many major gift campaigns fail. But I'm quite sure when they do fail, it's for two reasons: 1) They haven't communicated clearly the real difference a donor's money will make in the lives of others, and 2) They haven't found the courage to ask people face to face for specific gifts.

Is there a nickel's worth of difference between the sexes when it comes to philanthropy?

Research shows that women give more generously and more publicly. But personally I haven't found that to be the case. Generous people give generously whether they're male or female. If anything, the gender differences are becoming less distinct as women play a more equal role in society.

Along the same line, tell me the differences you perceive between today's donors and, say, those of 15 years ago.

I encounter more wealthy young people than I did 15 years ago. It's not uncommon today to meet people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who have made a ton of money. Many of them are risk takers. They're impatient, keen on seeing results, and excited about innovating. To them, traditional campaigns are boring. They're more interested in investing in social good than outright gifts. That said, I have been involved in campaigns where wealthy young donors have been heart-stoppingly generous.

Everybody and his brother is afraid of asking. I realize there are workshops and role playing but I'm in a hurry. Tell me the best QUICK way to overcome fear. And please don't pull a Nike and say, "Just do it."

Speak from your heart and only ask for gifts when you're fully committed to the cause, which means you've made your own gift first. Your commitment will carry you through your fear.

When you ask someone to give, you have to be ready to have a serious and personal conversation about you we believe in. That sort of intimacy requires courage.

You've consulted with organizations for nearly 30 years. Tell me the worst piece of advice you ever gave to an organization—something that still makes you cringe today.

I've given my fair share of lousy advice, but probably the worst is when I've encouraged clients to be too cautious. In my early years, I was so keen on successful campaigns that I was too timid and conservative. It would have been wrong of me to suggest foolish risks, but big, bold ideas, if supported by excellent people, have a way of attracting remarkable resources.

What's your favorite philanthropy quotation?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." Anaïs Nin.


© 2013, Emerson & Church, Publishers

Andrea Kihlstedt has written two books on capital campaign fundraising and a third on Asking Styles. She cofounded Asking Matters, an invaluable resource that teaches people how to ask for donations in a natural way that complements their own personal Asking Styles.


Tell the IRS What to Do

And Don't Forget to Tell Them If You Change What You Do

Tell the IRS What to Do

The Department of the Treasury and the IRS wants the public's input on what they should be focusing on between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014. Recommendations should be submitted by May 1, 2013. The process for submitting recommendations and the criteria for evaluating them are outlined in Notice 2013-22.

To Get More Subscribers, Focus on the Path

Reprinted from Nonprofit Marketing

The Mysteries of Fundraising

The following is a post by Chuck McLean, GuideStar's vice president of research.

The Giving Partner: One Answer to Ending the Focus on Administrative Expenses

The following is a cross-post by Susie Bowie, director of nonprofit strategy at The Community Foundation of Sarasota County, a GuideStar DonorEdge Learning Community member. You can read the original post on the Giving Partner Blog here.

Top Indicators of Nonprofit Financial Health

The following is a cross-post by Peter Kramer, Manager, Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF). You can read the original post on NFF's Social Currency Blog here.

Doing Better: Accelerating the Performance and Visibility of College Access and Success Programs

The following is a cross-post by Anne Radday, Senior Manager of Research, Social Impact Research at Root Cause. You can read the original post on the Root Cause blog here.

Big News from the White House

Jacob Harold

Online Fundraising and the Top 10 Most Generous Online Cities of 2012

The following is a guest post by Steve MacLaughlin, director of Idea Lab, Blackbaud.

5 Social Media Marketing Tips for Nonprofits

The following is a guest post by David Bakke, a contributor for Money Crashers, where he discusses the importance of smart money management, small business, and charity.

Does your organization excel at major gifts fund raising? Cash Prize to be Awarded!

The following is a guest post by Paul Jolly, founder of Jump Start Growth, Inc.

Getting Gender Back in Giving

The following is a cross-post by Riki Wilchins, executive director of TrueChild, an organization that helps donors, policy-makers and practitioners reconnect race, class and gender through “gender transformative” approaches that challenge rigid gender norms and inequities. You can read the original post on the Council on Foundation’s RE:Philanthropy Blog.

Want to Know What Your Major Donor Is Thinking? Try This Question!

Excerpted from the Fired-Up Fundraising Blog

Six Simple Steps to Major Gifts for Small Shops

Do you want to significantly boost your fundraising revenue this year?

Does your organization get most of its fundraising income from events and grant writing? If so, you're not alone, and there's good news: there's an additional audience waiting to support you. If you really want to see a significant jump in your annual fundraising results, it's time to start cultivating and soliciting major gifts from individual donors.

This year, I've issued a Major Gifts Challenge on my blog to encourage executive directors and development directors like you to solicit major gifts for the first time or in a more strategic way.

Asking individuals for donations in a personal, face-to-face way is the most effective way to increase your annual fund.

Step 1: Define a Major Gift

What is a major gift at your organization?

For most small and mid-sized organizations, the term major gift doesn't mean $1 million or even $100,000. A major gift of $10,000, $5,000, or even $1,000 could mean a significant boost to your annual fund.

When I worked at a battered women's shelter, a major gift was $1,000. When we received $1,000 or more, it was cause for celebration. In contrast, many hospitals and universities consider a major gift to be $25,000 or even six figures or higher.

Do you know what a major gift means for your organization? To determine what a major gift is at your organization, check out my recent post as part of the Major Gifts Challenge.

Step 2: Get Your Board Members on Board

Do you have 100 percent board participation? In other words, do all of your board members contribute to your annual fund? Do you have an annual board retreat where you discuss fundraising and how each board member can get involved?

A board retreat is a great opportunity to have a conversation about the importance of board member participation and a discussion about how board members can get involved with fundraising. Board members can participate in any or all of the steps below.

Step 3: Identify Prospective Donors

Use your database to identify your top donors. Run a list of your top donors and be sure to include cumulative giving. This process will also help you identify what a major gift is for your organization, based on your results.

Once you have your biggest donor list, narrow it down to your top 20 prospective donors, based on their giving and their connection and involvement with your organization. (A one-time big donor, who only gave as a result of honoring someone, is not a great prospect, if they don't have any interest in your organization.)

Step 4: Cultivate Your Top Prospects

Get to know your donors in a personal and meaningful way.

Start with your top 20 list and visit them at their homes or offices, invite them to your events, and ask them to take a tour. Ask open-ended questions and find out why they give to your organization and what makes them want to keep giving. Find out if they would like to be more involved by volunteering.

Step 5: Ask for a Gift

This is the most important step. Schedule time to meet with each of your top 20 prospects and ask for a specific amount for your annual fund. Do not skip this step.

Step 6: Say Thank You

Once you receive a gift, say thank you. Call the donor up, send an e-mail, mail a letter. Once is not enough.

If you want to raise more money this year, the key is to raise major gifts from your best donors. If you want more help, join the Major Gifts Challenge by visiting my Web site,, where you will find all the details about the Major Gifts Challenge. It's FREE, no strings attached.

Amy Eisenstein, MPA, CFRE, Tri Point Fundraising
© 2013, Tri Point Fundraising

Amy Eisenstein, MPA, CFRE is a fundraising consultant for local and national nonprofits. She's raised millions of dollars through event planning, grant writing, capital campaigns, and major gift solicitations. Her "no-nonsense" approach to fundraising yields amazing results for her clients. Find Amy on Twitter @AmyEisenstein.

"No Surprises" Is a Good Motto for Board Fundraising

Excerpted from the second edition of Fundraising Realities Every Board Member Must Face: A 1-Hour Crash Course on Raising Major Gifts for Nonprofit Organizations

Are you leveraging the power of your influential followers on social media?

So, you have a Facebook and Twitter for your nonprofit. Great, so does everyone else.You also post content and updates several times a day. Wonderful, so does everyone else.

How to Share Photos for Maximum Persuasion Power

The following is a guest post by Nancy Schwartz, Speaker-Author-Strategist,

Most Locals Don’t Know About Local Charities

The following is a guest post by Jessica Belsky, director of communications at GreatNonprofits, the leading developer of tools that allow people to find, review, and share information about great -- and perhaps not yet great -- nonprofits.

4 practical tips to help your nonprofit grow

The following is a guest post by Alana Bender.