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The Downsides of Linear Thinking, and Why We Need to Embrace Failure

The world is complex. Therefore, to put order to things, we try to become more organized and linear in many aspects of life and existence: In battle: first we send the scouts to check out lay of the land and our enemies’ strengths and weaknesses, then we send in the infantry. In marriage: First, we date, then we have the parents meet, then we get married. In going to IKEA: First we spend 30 minutes finding parking, then we get panic attacks in the lamps aisle, then we get into fights with our partner.

In the nonprofit sector, this linear sort of thinking is pervasive, seeping into every aspect of our work


A Simple Month-by-Month Cultivation Plan for Major Gift Donors

Cultivating your potential major gift donors builds and strengthens your relationship with them.

Cultivation is a fundraising art, and today you’re going to learn tips on Cultivating Donors.


Younger Women Take Modern Approach to Philanthropy, Suggests Study

Millennial women are moving philanthropy forward with a more social and inclusive stance towards giving, suggests a study by Fidelity Charitable, one of the largest donor-advised funds in the US.


The 3 Keys to a Thriving Membership Organization

The road to success for membership organizations has changed—and changed dramatically—over the past decade. What used to work doesn’t, and many organizations that haven’t updated how they operate are struggling with dwindling memberships and sliding revenue. In this post, I’m going to explore the main reasons the landscape has changed, and the three keys that are driving growth for today’s successful membership organizations.


Funder Partnership—or Wannabe?

Funders are used to hearing different versions of the meaning of “partnership” from nonprofits wanting to work with them (aka receive funding). All too often the proposed “partnership” involves the funder supporting the initiatives or priorities the applicant brings forward with minimal input from the funder. On the other hand, the applicant sees that the funder 1) has “a lot of money” and 2) supports [insert general category the nonprofit works in]. Therefore the funder is fair game to “partner.”

I’ve been on the receiving end of these requests. When, however, I asked, “So you’re applying to receive x dollars ... where is the partnership portion for the foundation?” I frequently didn’t get an answer.


So, Why All This Fuss about Outcomes and Results?

This post is reprinted with permission from What Matters: Investing in Results to Build Strong, Vibrant Communities, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Nonprofit Finance Fund.

You are likely not alone if you are wondering why we have written a book about the potential to orient our social system around results and outcomes. Because isn’t that what it’s already about? Don’t we already provide funding to hospitals to keep people healthy, to homeless shelters to end homelessness, to childcare centers to prepare children for a fruitful life, and to job training programs to find people permanent employment?

Unfortunately not.


Building a Donor Base from the Ground Up

Nonprofits tend to go for the big money—primarily grants and major gifts—when building their development program at the start. Then, at some point, many find they need to diversify their funding sources by building an individual giving program that targets lower-capacity donors.

The idea of building a donor base from scratch can leave a lot of fundraisers (neophyte or not) feeling overwhelmed. But with reasonable investments and consistent efforts, any nonprofit can get there. Let’s break it down ....


No More Pledges!

The word “Pledge” has a negative connotation. For many, they won’t even consider an extended payment plan.

You surely have heard this sort of a comment: “I don’t pledge (making the fatal word three syllables!). I’ll make a gift, but I don’t know how things will be in the next few years. So I’m not going to pledge.” Or, “I just don’t believe in pledging. I’m almost certain I’ll give again next year, but I won’t pledge.”


Nonprofits and Generation Z

As the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, millennials are a trendy topic to write about. Nonprofit and for-profit professionals alike want to understand how consumers and employees in this age range operate. Whether they’re praised for being “tech-savvy” or criticized for being lazy, millennials are all over the news. In their shadow, however, lies Generation Z, which is preparing to make a name for itself.


How to Find the Right Funders by Hacking 990s

It can take dozens of hours to find the right funders for your nonprofit, especially if you’re reaching out for the first time. What funders say on their websites is often quite different from reality. So how can you find funders that are most likely to give to your cause?

IRS Forms 990 hold secrets to what funders really want to fund, and they’re free for public use. Our team at Instrumentl assembled the top four tricks to leveraging 990s from some of the most successful nonprofits.


Want to Save Money for Your Nonprofit? Create Multi-Use Content

Does your nonprofit struggle to create content that doesn’t break the bank? Is your marketing team hoping to find content ideas or platforms that actually provide value? For some organizations, the answer may lie in creating useful content that can be used in multiple ways.


Who Is Your Board Fundraising Spark Plug?

Imagine the following scene.

The lonely staff fundraiser—let’s call this person Executive Director or Development Director—sits alone in a very small room, thinking about a very large fundraising goal.

“Hello, board!” the fundraiser cries out. “Are you there?”

A long pause. Nobody answers.


Three Key Strategies Needed to Become a Major Philanthropic Gifts Wizard

While this might sound scary at first, put on your rose green-colored glasses and just imagine what it will be like once you venture through the forest and come out the other side.


How to Select the Right Prospects for Your Organization ... and for You!

Choosing prospects is critically important. Of course, it’s a no-brainer that if you don’t have the right prospects, you’re not going to raise the funds you need to fulfill your organization’s mission. Yet sometimes, if you’re like most of us, you head out to ask without thinking it through enough.