Deciding on a Crowdfunding Site? Use this Checklist


Aesthetics: Are the fundraising pages/template appealing to donors? Can you post videos and pictures?


Ease of Setup: How easy is it to create the fundraising page and are there technical skills needed?


Methods for Making Donations: Can donors make contributions through credit cards or e-checks and how quickly are deposits made to your account?


Costs for Using Platform: Are there set-up fees and/or a monthly fee? Are there additional administrative costs for sending checks or statements?


Social Networking Marketing Tools: Will the site help publicize/promote your fundraiser? How does the platform integrate with social networking sites? Can your donors and volunteers set up their own pages to help raise funds?


Traction: Does the crowdfunding site have significant followers or number of daily visitors? What are the demographics? How likely are they to become donors of your cause?


Success Stories: Check out the projects that are currently listed to determine what types of projects are getting funded.

For more ways to help sustain your organization, see The INS Group’s list of recommended reading here:

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Donors, Fund Development, Fundraising, Marketing/Public Relations, Resource Development, Strategic Planning

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Crowdfunding 101: Answers to Commonly Asked Questions

questionmarkWhile crowdfunding should not be used exclusively as the solution to annual fundraising success, it is an effective new approach to raising awareness and funds for a specific nonprofit project or initiative.

What is crowdfunding?

A fundraising method using networking through online social-media platforms and Internet technologies to secure small to medium monetary donations from individuals to large “crowds” focused on a short- to long-term fundraising campaign.

Why should nonprofits use crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding rallies communities and individuals to be emotionally invested, it offers an opportunity to share your organization’s “compelling story,” and it provides a purposeful goal with tangible or emotional rewards. This approach also allows for transparency and active communication with engaged contributors who share through social media.

What are the benefits of crowdfunding?

It enables nonprofits to leverage support from a wide variety of stakeholders, provides a space for testing what motivates different groups to give, and an opportunity to communicate with donors directly and describe the positive impact of their support.

How does it work?

Nonprofits set up a campaign master page, while individuals create fundraising pages on behalf of charities they support and donors and volunteers set up pages to encourage friends and colleagues to donate. Through this crowd-sharing strategy, information about your project spreads from current supporters to support from “strangers,” and your campaign can eventually gain traction from people around the world based on its success.


Want to learn more about expanding your organization’s network? Join The INS Group “Best Practices for Building Collaborative Relationships” webinar on June 24 (2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. ET). Register here.

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Donors, Fundraising, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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8 Strategies to Drive Donor Dollars

DonateDollarThere’s a growing demand for nonprofits to articulate to funders the results they hope their work will achieve and to track whether those results are actually happening. Organizations are being asked to show the outputs of their efforts, including the number of people served, the number of services provided, and so forth. The good news is that a combination of traditional fundraising strategies and technology tools can allow even small nonprofits to leverage their resources and build organizational capacity.

1. Focus first on individuals for donations. Giving USA reports $335 billion was contributed to nonprofits in 2013 by individuals, foundations, and corporations, with 72 percent coming from individual donors.

2. Don’t overlook younger generations, women, and communities of color as potential donors. Each of these market segments are gaining economic power.

3. Tailor your messages. The most-effective fundraising campaigns have carefully targeted messages directed to each donor segment.

4. Implement a multi-pronged fundraising approach that includes both short-term strategies, such as one-time giving at events, and long-term strategies (planned giving).

5. Leverage online fundraising and giving platforms such as DonorsChoose and CrowdRise.

6. Recruit volunteers to help post daily to your Facebook, Twitter, and other social-media accounts and create online fundraising campaigns. Share case studies and examples on social media to demonstrate how your organization has made an impact.

7. Focus your time and energy on loyal donors who attend activities and events, engage with you on social-media platforms, and regularly volunteer.

8. Document donor giving frequency, preferred giving vehicles (mail, email, web, and events), age and gender, range of giving over time, and motivation for past giving to ensure the best use of your resources.

For additional insights on building your organization’s capacity, register for The INS Group “Best Practices for Building Collaborative Relationships” webinar on June 24 (2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. ET). Find out more here.

Posted in Capacity Building, Donors, Fundraising, Nonprofit Management, Resource Development, Strategic Planning

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Keys to Ensure Your Next Special Event Is a Success!


A poorly executed and disorganized special event can have the potential of generating unfavorable publicity for your nonprofit, faith-based organization, or agency. Here are some pointers to make sure your event is a success:


  • Select a chairperson who is qualified and will work hard
  • Solicit volunteers who are organized and ready to help
  • Choose active, dedicated, and supportive board members
  • Allow ample time for volunteers to do a thorough job
  • Allocate adequate staff support
  • Use up-to-date mailing lists
  • Recognize leaders in your community
  • Raise a significant amount of money to cover expenses and the time investment
  • Have a high ticket price structure
  • Pre-sell tickets
  • Target a well-defined market
  • Promote community involvement and continuing support
  • Be planned down to the last detail


Want to learn more ways to raise funds and build relationships? Join our webinars on May 20 and June 24 (2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. ET). Register here.



Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Donors, Fundraising, Marketing/Public Relations, Nonprofit Management, Special Events, Strategic Planning

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The ABC’s of Marketing Nonprofit Special Events


When marketing your special event, it’s important to use both traditional formats – such as sending out direct mail and soliciting print, radio, and TV media outlets – as well as untraditional.

Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube):

►Connect with and engage your audience via special giveaways, early-bird registration fee, and announcements of special guests or speakers

►Create a branded hashtag (#) to corral the conversation

 Online Event Page(s):

►Register on websites such as Eventbrite to advance the planning of events, for social-media integration and to advertise ticket sales

►Encourage people to purchase tickets or sign-up for an event online or through your mobile app

►Keep track of sign-ups as they happen and alert the attendees as needed


►Use an up-to-date email list and send out announcements via an email newsletter

Leverage Audiences by Establishing Partnerships:

►Identify influential bloggers and ask them to help spread the news and review your event both during and after event.

►Collaborate on promotion with your partners using the same hashtag (#)

Make Invitees Feel Special:

►Allow certain audience privileges the general audience may not receive

For more nonprofit insights, register for our Crowdfunding webinar on April 1, Fundraising webinar on May 20, and Collaboration Building webinar on June 24. Get the details and register here.

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Fundraising, Marketing/Public Relations, Nonprofit Management, Special Events, Strategic Planning

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9 Special Event Strategies for Nonprofit Capacity-Building


Special events are a great way to build awareness of your organization or cause, raise funds, and recruit board members and volunteers. They can also be time-consuming, costly, and lead to staff burnout if not approached strategically. Before you launch headlong into a special event, consider these tried-and-true capacity-building tactics:

Hold a “signature event,” something that is well-liked and expected by your community each year. When an event is repeated, people in the community learn to plan for and expect it – and over time, you will find that events will become more successful.

Choose an event that fits your nonprofit’s existing resources and advantages.

Consider an event that’s a good match for your mission and that includes your target audience.

Plan early. This starts with writing a special event strategic plan that includes the amount of funds your organization wants to raise, how they will be raised, and from whom (your target audience).

Develop a realistic budget. In addition to ticket sales, your budget should include ancillary methods of raising funds, such as in-kind donations and ad book sponsorships.

Select an attractive and affordable venue to make it a memorable experience, while making a profit.

Identify add-ons to your event. These can include silent auctions, raffles, even celebrity cook-offs.

Present awards to local leaders and/or celebrities to draw a crowd

Determine clever ways to make the pitch during event. From text-to-give campaigns to table cards, the opportunities to make “the ask” during your special event are endless.

For additional insights on capacity building, register for our 2015 webinar series on April 1, May 20, and June 24 from 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. ET. Find out more here.

Posted in Capacity Building, Fundraising, Marketing/Public Relations, Nonprofit Management, Special Events, Strategic Planning

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Applying for a Grant (Part III)? Important Steps to Follow



These are the final yet all-important components of creating a grant-writing proposal. This is part of an ongoing blog series; read part II here.


STEP: Establish a Plan for Long-Term Funding

►Show the funder that your organization is working toward sustainability and self-sufficiency

►Determine how ongoing programs/services will be funded

►Develop a strategic fund development plan


STEP: Provide a Thorough Budget

►Clearly show how the funder’s money will be used

►Base your budget on realistic estimates for each line item (create a budget narrative)

►Personnel costs: contact similar organizations to determine salary ranges (secure a salary survey)

►Correctly add numbers, check your numbers, and re-check your numbers


STEP: Use Plain English, Be Clear & Concise

►Keep your proposal simple – write in layperson’s terms

►Avoid use of jargon and acronyms

►Identify proposal reviewers, using both person experienced in the field and a person who knows very little about the field and your organization


STEP: Don’t Give Up!

►Contact the funder to learn why your proposal was not funded

►Resubmit your proposal submission

►Work with a grant-writing professional and/or take grant-writing courses

Posted in Capacity Building, Donors, Fund Development, Fundraising, Grant Research, Grant Writing, Grants Management, Nonprofit Management, Philanthropy

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Applying for a Grant (Part II)? Don’t Overlook These Essential Steps



It’s important that nonprofits dedicate ample time and resources to create the essential components of a grant proposal package. Here are a few steps in our ongoing grant-writing series. Read part I here.


STEP: Follow Directions

►Don’t lose out because you did not follow directions

►Read the application guidelines thoroughly

►If you don’t understand something, contact the funder’s staff


STEP: State the Need

►State need in terms of community, not the needs of organization

►Communicate what makes your program or project unique

►Outline how programs/projects fill a gap

►Know what services and programs are already provided

►Use statistics, case studies, and testimonials to provide evidence for your claim


STEP: Create Measurable Objectives and a Strong Methodology

►Ask: How will you accomplish your goals and what is the impact to be made?

►State objectives that are tangible, specific, concrete, measurable, and achievable in a specified time period

►Justify why particular methods are used/activities are implemented

►Include “best practices”


STEP: Establish a Meaningful Evaluation Component

►Determine how you measure your success. Will it be through surveys, focus groups, or other evaluation tools?

►Whenever possible identify an outside evaluator to prepare a professional evaluation

►Local universities are great resources for program evaluation


For more ways to help your organization build capacity, see The INS Group’s list of recommended reading

Posted in Capacity Building, Fund Development, Grant Research, Grant Writing, Grants Management, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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Charitable Solicitation Laws FAQs

FAQBelow are frequently asked questions The INS Group has heard from clients when establishing a new nonprofit or when creating a strategic fund development plan.

Where do I register my nonprofit with the state or how do I know if our organization has registered and is current?

Most states now require that charities, nonprofits, and their fundraisers register with their state, describe their fundraising activities, file financial documents, and pay an administrative fee.

►In most states, filing takes place with the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, or the Tax Division and your state will require online or in-person filing.

►35 states and the District of Columbia now accept the standardized Uniform Registration Form. Additional supplemental information may be required with this form.

►Law for Change, contains listings of each state requirement and links for where to register or obtain a license.

What are the penalties if we don’t file or don’t file correctly?

If your organization is raising funds without the proper licensure, it could be subject to fines, administrative penalties, and potentially civil or criminal  prosecution.

What are the costs associated with filing, fees, and penalties?

Costs will vary depending on the state’s administrative fee, the amount of money the organization raises annually, and on the number of branches or chapters the organization houses within the state. In North Carolina, fees range from $50 to $400 annually.

What documentation do I have to provide when filing (Charitable Solicitation Compliance)?

Documents that must accompany annual charitable solicitation compliance filings usually include the nonprofit’s Form 990 (IRS annual return), audited financial statements, and/or state-specific financial reports. Documents that must be filed by nonprofit organizations with initial and/or annual registrations can also include: articles and bylaws, lists of officers and directors, IRS Determination Letter and/or Application for Exemption (IRS Form 1023 or 1024), fundraiser contracts and/or copies of direct-mail solicitations.

What do we need to know when hiring a fundraising consultant?

You should not hire a fundraising consultant without first confirming he or she has a license or is registered with your state as required by law. To search your state’s registry, you will need the name the consultant uses for business transactions (business, personal, organization, or legal name). In your state the person may be a licensed or registered solicitor, fundraising consultant, or both. A licensed solicitor may automatically be given rights as a fundraising consultant or the licenses may be issued separately. Confirm which type of license the individual has and if current. Know what he or she is allowed to do under the license(s). Protect your organization from questionable actions or activities related to your fundraising strategies. If fundraising is questioned, supporters will question the organization’s ability to manage programs and its leadership’s credibility.

Gain additional nonprofit insights and register for our upcoming grant-writing webinar on Dec. 10, 2014 (2 pm – 3:30 pm ET):






Posted in Capacity Building, Fund Development, Fundraising, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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Want to Impact Policy? Advocate



Through advocacy work, nonprofits can provide research, outcomes, testimonials, and best-practice models so that public officials can make informed decisions on policies and laws that impact the communities they serve. Here’s how can your nonprofit can strengthen its capacity to use advocacy to impact governmental policy:

Review your mission. What types of policies would enable you to better meet your goals?
Engage policy makers by building relationships with local and state public officials. Be sure that your staff and board members know their representatives and senators. Get to know their staff by attending their events and inviting them to yours.
Become a resource for public officials, especially for those who have been advocates for causes that align with those of your organization. Create simple fact sheets that clearly define your organization, its mission, and its benefits to the greater community.

Develop a written strategic advocacy plan identifying current policies that need updating or gaps in services that could be addressed with public attention or dollars.
Select a number of public officials identified as decision-makers on policies aligning with your organization’s goals. Set up face-to-face meetings to cover specific talking points. Ask how you can help one another to make a better community.

Learn more ways to build your organization’s capacity when you register for our upcoming grant-writing webinar on Dec. 10, 2014. To register, visit


Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Nonprofit Management, Resource Development, Strategic Planning

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