Category Archives: Published Articles

Will Your Nonprofit be Ready for the Future of Payments?

This article was originally published on in January

15NTC poster

from on instagram

One recent sunny afternoon in Austin, I gathered with a small crowd of NTEN 501 Club NPTechies to lunch and learn about digital currencies and payments innovations.

We were there to talk about Bitcoin—what it is (digital cash), what it isn’t (internet not required), why you would want to take advantage of it (0% transaction fee, anyone?), and what you need to know before implementing (multi signature wallets!)

The informal discussion was led by presenters, David J Neff, Digital Strategy Manager at PwC and Jacob Parks, Legal Researcher at the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. (You can watch the whole thing on Capital Factory’s YouTube or read my blog post for a summary.)

Most importantly, I learned that tech-savvy charities need to address changes happening in the payments landscape NOW.

Timing is perfect for you to learn from trailblazing organizations already breaking ground on the new frontiers, while still being early enough to claim advantages for your own cause. For example, digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, offer an excellent fundraising currency for micropayments and microlending because they provide a platform where you can give $0.25 without credit card fees eating it up.  Organization who have a good strategy in place will be poised to gain exposure to new sources of support with little accounting risk.

Digital currencies aren’t the only thing shaking up the payments landscape. Changes in physical security, such as chip-and-PIN (smartcard) technology, are already being used widely in Canada and Europe and will be expanding in the United States. ApplePay and others are radically increasing the adoption of tap-to-pay NFC platforms, especially in event-based scenarios. Will your nonprofit be ready?

All this innovation has not gone unnoticed at the major nptech software companies, either. PayPal has added digital currencies and wallets to its lineup for merchants and more is on the way. Even Microsoft is accepting Bitcoin! Software providers who want to keep their customers are looking for creative ways to integrate more payment options into their solutions. As they do, more charities will have more ways to connect with donors within existing toolsets.

At the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference, we are going to take this discussion to the next level with an expanded panel of experts to talk about how payments innovations are changing the way organizations engage with their constituents. David J Neff will join NTEN veteran, Jason Shim from Pathways to Education Canada, as well as pros Alissa Ruehl from Blackbaud and Robin Dupont from PayPal in a panel you won’t want to miss!  

See you in at #15NTC

NTC15 Session #1048:
Cryptocurrency that Cares: A primer on how digital currencies and payments innovations can help your organization

 Follow along on Twitter with #15NTCmerchant on Wed, Mar 4 1:30pm – 3pm CT

Travel Tips for Families: Austin and Chicago

(This article was co-authored with Kendra Thornton and was originally posted on Rose is A Rose. Reposted with permission.)


Traveling with families can be a joy that creates a lifetime of memories. Travel expert, Kendra Thornton and I have created these guides to each of our respective home towns. You will find this article full of tips for anyone traveling to Austin or Chicago with their families!


Part 1: Local’s Guide to Austin, TX

By Stacy Dyer

Austin is famous for its music, food, and sports; yet it’s the distinctively “weird” Texan culture that reverberates through visitors, young and old. Families visiting Austin can visit these top spots to get a taste of the quiet beauty and unique culture locals enjoy year-round.


Walk in the Park: Zilker

Zilker Park is one of Austin’s best-loved parks. While swimming in Barton springs can be refreshing, there are plenty of other attractions at Zilker. Don’t miss the long-running Zilker Zephyr miniature train ride and for a little touch of local Austin musical history, visit the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughn next to Lady Bird Lake. There are plenty of sports including weekly soccer tournaments during season and an 18-hole disc golf course. Depending on when you visit, Zilker Park plays host to a variety of special events and performances, some of which are free. In the spring, you can find free Shakespeare in the Park at The Sheffield Hillside Theater and in the summer, Blues on the Green provides regular musical performances. Austin City Limits music festival, hosted at Zilker every fall, provides an intense, immersive experience for every musical taste. During the holidays, a magical Trail of Lights culminates in the towering Zilker Holiday Tree.


6th and Lamar: A “Whole” lot of Weird

Not just a grocery store, Whole Food’s world headquarters is an experience! Even if you aren’t doing your weekly shopping, there is plenty to enjoy at Whole Foods flagship store. Beer lovers can walk through the refrigerated beer aisle. And those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the chocolate fountain in the bakery. Park in the below-ground garage and have your groceries delivered to your car with a special elevator! Top off your shopping expedition by grabbing a quick sandwich or salad bar to enjoy on the outdoor patio. Wash down your lunch with a locally-brewed Sweet Leaf Tea. Stroll across the street to shop at Austin institutions such as Bookpeople or Waterloo Records and buy a “Keep Austin Weird” t-shirt to commemorate your trip.

Where to Stay: Driskill Hotel

The historic Driskill Hotel is a luxurious downtown hotel that provides everything travelers need with distinct Austin style. Young guests are “deputized” upon check-in with an official Driskill Deputy sheriff’s Badge and presented with a certificate signed by Colonel Jesse Driskill, the hotel’s founder. Kids also get a coloring book and crayons, and free cookies! No historic hotel would be complete without a haunting or two; ghost hunters should ask for the official list of ghost stories at check-in.

Where to Eat: Food Trucks

Who wouldn’t want to be served gourmet-quality dishes from a restaurant on wheels? Austin food trailers are unique and delicious. Sample different menus in a kid-friendly lot at the Midway Food Park on S Capital of Texas Hwy, which even boasts a playground! For more, try the food trailer parking lots on South First Street, East Sixth, West Campus, or in the Mueller district. Wherever you go, don’t be afraid to sample something that sounds bizarre! (East Side King serves deep-fried beets so delicious, even the pickiest eaters will love them!)

Check out this map for more spots to bring your kids in Austin, TX!

View Austin kiddo spots in a larger map


Part 2: The Local’s Fun Guide to Chi Town

by Kendra Thornton

There’s a lot to love about Chi Town. It’s one of the birthplaces for American history, and it’s a vital mecca for food, arts, culture and music. Travelers from all over the world find the history and sports magnetism of Chicago to be an incredible adventure. From a local’s perspective, there are a few things that people can miss on the big tours that run the tourism show in Chi Town. Whether you are just stopping in for your first trip or this is your second trip, there are some amazing places to check out next time you’re wandering the Windy City.

Check Out Those Dinosaurs

The Field Museum in Chicago is located right off South Lake Shore Drive, and it’s one of the best places to see some art, culture and history for an afternoon. It’s also a good place for fun recreation if you’re traveling with kids. The Field Museum is most well known for its dinosaur fossils exhibitions, but there are all kinds of seasonal, yearly and one-of-a-kind exhibits that you’ll love to explore. If you’ve visited the museum in the past, you’re guaranteed to find something new the next time you go.

Sail the Waters

If you have the time on your next trip to Chicago, you should definitely take a trip out to see on the Tall Ship Wendy, a pirate boat tour on Lake Michigan. This adventurous ride is made for any sea lover who loves some adventure and lots of good humor. While educational, it’s also quite fun to explore with the entertainers on board, and you’ll get to learn about the area while taking in some incredible sights. There are tons of photo opportunities along the way as well.

Where to Stay in Chi Town

Whether you love the old historic hotels like The Drake or you want something more modern like The Peninsula, there are a variety of different hotels in downtown Chicago that offer incredible views and quick trips to wherever you want to go. To compare all of their rates and get the best ratings on hotels in Chicago, I’ve found Gogobot to be one of the best sites to find information. You can check out all of the four-star and five-star luxury hotels as well as cheap bed and breakfasts and highly rated three-star hotels that may interest you.

Eating Rich for Cheap in Chi Town

Chefs love Chicago. Whether it’s the sports, beer or just that deep-dish pizza, there are a ton of different world-renowned chefs who have started restaurants here. You’ll find some of the best restaurants while exploring the streets of Chicago, but one of the ultimate places to go any time of day is the South Water Kitchen in the Loop. A native Chicagoan makes food here, and the menu reflects that kind of flair and pizzazz. It’s also got all types of classic dishes, which is perfect for those picky eaters in your party.


Special thanks to Kendra for her contribution to this article!

Increase Your Donations through Audience Segmentation

This article originally appears on the blog.

Increase Your Donations through Audience Segmentation

By Stacy Dyer

Audience segmentation is something businesses figured out a long time ago. To get an idea of why segmenting your audience data is so important, watch this video about Star Trek Red Shirt Death Rates with Matt Bailey:

OK, so you’re not trying to survive the next away mission (maybe you are, but that’s a different article), still there’s a few key points to learn from this example.

  1. Different people are motivated by different things
  2. People are more likely to do what you want when your message resonates with their individual perspective
  3. Tailor your message to connect with that perspective

Let me give you an example of what this means for nonprofit fundraisers.

Pretend you run an animal welfare organization. You have both myself and my husband in your database because we both animals. But there is a key difference in our perspectives. (You happen to track this key detail in your CRM because you are a rock-star fundraiser!) What is it?

I am a cat person.

My husband is a dog person.

Now you want to send us each an email asking to give to your annual fund.

To me, your appeal features a picture of a sweet, fuzzy kitten. I am more likely to connect emotionally with your message and click to go to your donation form.  There, I see a picture of another cute kitten. Now I know I am in the right place! You are bunch of kitten-loving fools and of course I am going to support you!

To my husband, you send the same appeal, but feature an image of a dog instead. He sees your adorable puppy face and raises you another donation!

What happened here? It was the same campaign, the same message, and you doubled your responses (and donations) just by segmenting your audience.  By targeting each segment with an email and landing page specifically designed to create an emotional connection with them, you were able to tap into sources of support which you would not have otherwise.

That is the power of segmentation.

One message doesn’t work for everyone. Identify what key attributes differentiate your audience and target campaigns to emotionally connect with each segment of your donor base.

4 Results from Crowdsource Experiment at #12NTC: Nerd, Geek and Gear Herding

This article originally appeared on the blog.

4 Results from Crowdsource Experiment at #12NTC: Nerd, Geek and Gear Herding

By Grant Howe and Stacy Dyer

At the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference (#12NTC) in San Francisco, California, we led a session called Nerd, Geek, and Gear Herding 2.0. Building on last year’s session, we were pleased that this year we had the opportunity to introduce the “crowdsourcing” experiment to collectively solve our nonprofit technology problems.

#1: Bridge Communication Gaps
Our first “crowdsourced” dilemma asked how to deal with a strong technologist who is working towards the right goals, but struggles with communication style. The importance of resolving the communications issues vs. insulating the technologist from communications was discussed. Solutions included bridging communication style gaps with coaching and buffering systems. Appropriately timed conversations can provide focus–sometimes geeks don’t like to be interrupted!

#2: Managing Without Authority
Second, we talked tips for managing without authority, such as project managing a cross functional team and getting buy-in from executives or board leadership. Here the crowd agreed you need to offer solutions, not just bring problems. Also, face-to-face communication is better than email to build trust.

#3: When It Ain’t Broke
Third, we talked about some of the implication to being “too good” at your job. When the server hardly ever crashes (because you’ve moved your IT infrastructure to the cloud), how do you get buy-in for incremental improvements? The key is to leverage technology and technical personnel as trainers and thought leaders within your organization. Raise the visibility of high-tech projects and people.

#4: Newbies Welcome
Finally, the “crowd” offered tips for making valuable, newly hired technical staff feel welcome. Tips included having all the resources they need (eg, desk, email, paperwork) ready to go. A welcome sign, snacks and a drinking cup as a gift was discussed as a high impact / low cost way to make them comfortable.  Invite the new employee to a welcome lunch with staff they will need to work with on a regular basis. Have them pass out treats as way to introduce them to other staff around the office.

Overall, our first “crowdsource” was a great success! If you have other tips or suggestions, please add them to the comments here! Thanks again for another great conference and we look forward to continuing our “experiment” again next year!

Grant Howe and Stacy Dyer presenting at 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Fransisco

Four Strategies for Engagement with Location-Based Services

This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of onPhilanthropy.

Four Strategies for Engagement with Location-Based Services

By Stacy Dyer

You may be hearing about a popular new social media activity. Multiple apps, including Foursquare, Facebook Places, and Gowalla, allow individuals to check in at various locations using their smart phone, and then share their check-ins with their friends. Players can collect points and organizations of all kinds are offering real benefits for virtual check-ins.

Location-based games and services have seen exponential growth over the last three years. Nonprofit organizations are using them to increase their visibility to a growing audience of relatively young, affluent, and highly engaged supporters.

Getting started is easy.  Here are four strategies you can use to maximize your engagement with constituents using location-based services.

#1 Promote it at your event

Special events are the ideal time to take advantage of location-based services. During busy events, festivals, or other gatherings, the more individuals who check in, the more likely the location will become designated a “hot spot.” Hot spots are promoted to the top of the list whenever anyone in the area checks in, thereby piquing the curiosity of a wide audience. Promote your participation with visual signage in prominent locations. It reminds casual players to pull out their phones and check in.

#2 Offer a special

Offer a special to encourage folks to check in at your event. It can be a free drink from the concession stand, or a free give-away. Be creative. For a more long-term investment, consider offering a reward to the person who checks in most often (e.g. called “the mayor” on Foursquare) at your location.

To ensure an exceptional experience for those who check in and attempt to redeem the special, be sure to train all staff and volunteers.

#3 Drop an item or create a badge

As previously mentioned, Foursquare is not the only location-based service. Gowalla, an Austin, Texas-based company, has its own service, allowing users to unlock badges and encouraging players to leave or swap items when checking into locations. Facebook Places allows you to use Facebook to “check-in” to locations, as well as tag them in posts and photo uploads.

Consider creating a special item just for your event. Players may carry your item to a distant place and drop it off for the next player who comes by. Consider this example: a South by Southwest Music Festival (SXSW) badge from Austin is dropped off at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, or even farther away. How could such an activity spread brand awareness for your organization?

#4 Make it an adventure

Are you part of a collective of city theaters or museums? Consider creating a trip including all of your participating locations. You can highlight key attractions and direct players to hidden gems. Combine your trip with a special to create a special scavenger hunt game.

You could also develop adventure tours for volunteers to target parks for clean-ups, or donors to visit locations being benefitted by their support.

“One thing I like best about location-based networking is that people often link their check-in service to their Twitter accounts,” says Kristen Britt O’Donnell, director of public relations and marketing for Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, Inc. in North Fort Myers, Fla. “Having the Twitter link gives our organization yet another opportunity to engage with supporters one-on-one, by thanking them for stopping by, asking them how their visit was, or offering them suggestions for a future visit.”

Your options for using location-based services are limited only by your creativity. If you keep it fun and engaging, your forays into using this dynamic social media activity will open a new channel for you to connect with your community and donors.

To read more about different ways organizations can get started with Foursquare, specifically, check out this post on the Sage Words blog: “Foursquare is open for business! Not-for-profits take note.”

How I Met Geordi LaForge at SXSWedu!

How I Met Geordi LaForge at SXSWedu!
by Stacy Dyer

I had the privilege to hear LeVar Burton speak at SXSWedu, a conference focusing on innovation in learning.

Stacy Dyer and LeVar Burton at SXSWedu

Stacy Dyer and LeVar Burton at SXSWedu

In his keynote address Burton shared his philosophy: “at the intersection of technology and education, storytelling is the key to learning.

Wise words indeed from a talented artist and life-long learning advocate who has been a part of the legendary Reading Rainbow franchise for 23 years–the third-longest running children’s series in PBS history*. A new Reading Rainbow app will be release in a few weeks.

LeVar Burton keynote at SXSWedu

LeVar Burton keynote at SXSWedu (photo credit: Stacy Dyer)

Technology aside, it is clear that Burton’s philosophy stems from his formative experiences with great storytellers. From Alex Haley’s epic Roots to Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, Burton’s acting roles immersed him in the visions of great storytellers, and strong family connections to the encouraged an almost evangelistic passion for life-long learning.

According to Burton, Haley’s vision of storytelling demonstrates the indomitable strength of the human need for family, while Roddenberry’s vision sees the infinite potential of humans. For Burton, these vision were bridged by Fred Rodgers. It sounds strange, but for Burton it made sense. Especially when I learned that Burton attended seminary himself (Mr. Rodgers was a minister.) Burton explained how he was inspired by Mr. Rodgers impression of the media of television as a pulpit, as an opportunity to reach his flock and share his message. Burton took this lesson to heart.

After the keynote, Burton was able to attend the networking reception where he mingled with attendees. It was a great opportunity to meet and share ideas with one of my long-time inspirations and idols (did I ever tell you I wanted to be a Star Trek engineer why I grow up?)

How to incorporate the latest technology into effective learning programs is what SXSWedu is all about. As a Star Trek and Reading Rainbow veteran, Burton is uniquely positioned to publicly champion the use of technology while keeping the focus on the content–the story that is being told.

Today, educational technology leaders must focus on building a technology infrastructure for learning. What I have learned at SXSWedu this year is that infrastructure is only the first step. Tech won’t teach. As a learner and mother, I am intrigued how the next generation of educators are leveraging technology to create opportunities for extraordinary educational experiences.

* Source:


QR Codes: A Tool for Multi-Channel Campaigns

This article about what these little codes and tags can do, who is already using them successfully, and how you can leverage this handy little app in your own multichannel campaigns originally appeared in the November/December 2011 of Advancing Philanthropy.

QR Codes: A Tool for Multi-Channel Campaigns

By Stacy Dyer

Quick Response (QR) codes – those two-dimensional matrix bar codes designed to be read by smartphones – are growing in ubiquity. You see them more and more in magazine ads and catalogs, directing consumers to pull out their mobile devices and click. QR codes have incredible possibilities for nonprofit marketers who want to take advantage of the emotional connection and immediacy generated by their causes.

What Can QR Codes Do?

Enabling your audience with QR codes gives them the ability to immediately take an action.  QR codes can be created to prompt a phone call, send a text message, or click a hyperlink.

Think of the power of being able to link your supporters directly to your donation form, rather than your home page. QR codes can help eliminate disconnect between exposure to your message and the action you want your audience to take.

Donation forms are only one example. Advocacy institutions can create a QR code embedded with a phone number to call a local politician’s office. As part of green initiatives, museums, like the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, Penn., use QR codes to direct visitors to more information about artists or exhibits online rather than distribute brochures (The Handheld Guide: Experimenting with Mobile Technology in Museums

Foundations organizing races, golf tournaments, or other events can collect registrations or sign up volunteers by directing supporters directly to a form on their website that has been optimized for mobile viewing.  By combining the power of QR codes and customized web content, the options for implementation are limited only by your creativity.

Who Uses QR Codes?

QR codes naturally target a younger, more affluent crowd. Tech-savvy Millennials and GenXers will be the most likely audience to scan and click first, but anyone with the ability to download an application, or “app,” on their phone can join the fun.

To increase the consumption of your mobile content, be sure to let folks know the benefits of scanning the code and what they can expect to find on the other end of the link. Offer exclusive content or discounts on services or admission. Depending on your audience, you may also want include instructions for downloading the app using their mobile phone.

While baby boomers aren’t as likely to use them, displaying QR codes is unlikely to put off more mature supporters—they will simply ignore them. With the opportunity to reach new audiences and capitalize on emotional, “in-the-moment” giving, there is nothing to lose by incorporating them into your strategy.

How Can You Use QR Codes?

First, create an emotional connection with your audience. The best time to do that is when they feel the height of that emotion—when they are at your event, in your museum, or reading your publication. “Wait,” you say, “that doesn’t have anything to do with technology!” You are right. This is something successful fundraisers are already doing. QR codes are simply another tool to remove barriers and encourage supporters to act.

Remember to consider the medium with which your audience will be consuming your content: a mobile phone. Optimize your landing pages for mobile viewing. Point QR codes directly to a donation form that has been optimized for mobile viewing and has been tested with the web browsers used by those mobile devices. Create customized, abbreviated forms that require minimal typing and are easy to view and understand.

Direct mail remains the cornerstone of many annual campaigns, yet online giving continues growing year after year.  QR codes offer the perfect bridge to combine multi-channel marketing efforts. They are not the most graphically attractive, but they are not expensive to implement either. By bridging the gap between offline and online engagement, this new technology gives fundraisers a powerful new tool.

In a recent Idealware article, Henry Quinn, marketing manager at L.L. Bean reminds us, “Implementing QR codes across your marketing efforts is a tactic, not a strategy.” No matter how hot or trendy the new widget, the tool itself does not complete the job. However, with the right tools, getting the job done can be easier, more efficient, and more effective.

Get the Word Out: Event Fundraising Using Social Networking

This article was originally published by Fundraising Success in September 2011


Get the Word Out: Event Fundraising Using Social Networking
By Stacy Dyer

Fundraisers know the key to successful special events is good attendance. A well-attended event garners not only more revenue from registration fees or ticket sales, but also broader exposure for your cause to your community and their networks.

But, event fundraisers are on a hard deadline. Unlike an annual campaign or endowment drive –which can be ongoing throughout the year – in order for supporters to participate in your special event, they must be aware and take action before the big day.

How can you best spread awareness to as many potential supporters as possible when you have limited budget and resources? Leverage social media to get the word out quickly and efficiently throughout your nonprofit’s network.

In The Networked Nonprofit, authors Beth Kanter and Allison Fine write, “Networked Nonprofits work as social networks, not just in them.” According to Kanter and Fine, by connecting individuals with common interests and goals, nonprofits create an ecosystem of organizations and people eager to help.

And, by utilizing “free agents”individuals working outside the organization who can organize and raise funds – nonprofits can capitalize on the power of social media to get their message out.

Social Networks Disseminate Information

Individuals are more likely to support a cause when asked by someone they know, even if it is not a cause they would have otherwise supported. This is especially true if the audience you are trying to reach is Millennials.

According to the 2011 Millennial Donor Survey, a recent study from Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates (JGA) and Achieve, 56 percent of young donors between ages 20 and 35 report they get information about organizations to support from their peers.

The same study found that 33 percent of donors in the same age group learn about organizations to support from Facebook. Ninety-three  percent of those surveyed report giving to nonprofits in 2010. The power of social networks to disseminate information and motivate supporters to act is clear.

Case Study: Habitat for Humanity Winnipeg

While using social networks to maximize event fundraising may seem like a new concept, it actually is not. Habitat for Humanity Winnipeg is a nonprofit utilizing a team-based fundraising structure.

Since 1993, Habitat for Humanity Winnipeg has organized an annual special event called the Cycle of Hope.

“Riders journey 1,600 km and raise enough money to enable Habitat for Humanity Winnipeg to build a new, affordable home for a very deserving family,” says Heather Scott, the organization’s database and administration supervisor.

Each Cycle of Hope rider is required to raise a minimum of $2500 to participate. Habitat for Humanity Winnipeg encourages team members to tap into their own social networks for support.

“The cyclists said the easy-to-use, peer-to-peer fundraising tool we put in place made it easier for them to reach out to more people they knew,” explains Scott. “We also host about four meet-and-greets in the office, so new riders can talk to and learn from experienced riders. They discuss fundraising and other tips and techniques.”

The above-mentioned team members function as Kanter and Fine’s “free agents” for the nonprofit.

Enabling supporters with online fundraising tools they can share through their various personal social networks (email, Facebook, Twitter) is critical to Habitat for Humanity Winnipeg’s success.

“Using an online fundraising and event management tool made it very easy during the postal strike that occurred during this year’s Cycle of Hope,” says Scott. “Some supporters who would have normally mailed in cheques used the online system and I’m hoping they now see how effortless and quick it is to give in that way.”

Cycle of Hope participants can even embed special fundraising forms directly on their own blog or web site, allowing them to capitalize on people’s tendency to donate to causes their friends ask them to support.

“We raised $60,000 more this year over what we had hoped,” says Scott. “We received donations from all over Canada, the U.S., and Europe. In the past, I had only seen one donation come from overseas. Next year, I’m looking forward to seeing that market grow even more.”

The donors reached by these “free agents” may not have any particular affinity for Habitat for Humanity Winnipeg itself, or may not even live in the same country, but they have a great affinity to support their friends, so they contribute.

Social Media is a Contact Sport

As you can see, using social networks to increase support for an organization’s special events is quite powerful. If your organization has been sitting on the sidelines, now is the time to stand up and start engaging.  As Kanter and Fine say in The Networked Nonprofit, “Social media is a contact sport, not a spectator sport.”

Online Advocates Help You Raise More

This article about online advocates, entitled “Online Advocates Help You Raise More”, originally appeared in the May/June 2011 issue of Advancing Philanthropy

Empower your raving fans to fundraise on your behalf

By Stacy Dyer, Sage North America

Humans are social creatures.  We are more likely to support a cause when asked by friends or family.  Make the most of people’s natural social nature by empowering those individuals who are most passionate about your cause to share their passion for your cause and solicit support on your behalf.

“We work hard to develop long-lasting, strategic relationships with individuals, organizations, and businesses, so our pool of existing supporters and donors are essential to us,” says Jessica Anderson, communications manager for Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC). “Not only are they the most loyal event participants, but they also reach out to new supporters with whom we wouldn’t otherwise connect.”

It’s about more than just getting people to sign online petitions. Encourage your raving fans (you know who they are, right?) to ask their own social networks to support your cause online. There are several ways to encourage personal advocacy online.

Peer-to-peer fundraising

First, there is simple peer-to-peer fundraising.  This happens when a donor or supporter shares a link to your donation form on their personal email or Facebook, Twitter, or blog page, encouraging their friends, colleagues, and readers to visit your website and make a donation.

Make it easy for supporters to share your organization’s donation forms on popular networks by embedding “share” links on every donation and event registration form you create.

Personal Fundraising Pages

To engage your supporters even more, allow individuals and partners supporting your organization to host personal fundraising pages on their own websites or blogs.  Maximize distribution with a portable virtual form. Advocates will be more willing to host a form on their site if it does not require visitors to leave their site in order to complete the form.

Make sure you address security within the form itself.  Credit card transaction security is crucial. Allow advocates to host your form without needing to worry about security, and without needing to specially configure their own blog or website.  Sponsors and other organizational partners will find this particularly helpful and will be more likely to not only sponsor your organization or special event, but also fundraise and advocate on your behalf on their own websites.

Ideally, the form you distribute to allow others to fundraise on your behalf will be easy for you to update, at any time.  The wider your distribution, the more difficult it would be to contact each advocate and request them to manually update it.  Create a form that you control, so that if you need to update your message for an urgent call to action, or any other reason, your changes will be immediately reflected anywhere the form is published.

Personalized Advocacy Center

Bring e-advocacy even further by allowing individuals to create their own personalized fundraising page, tracking the donations they have raised for your cause, on your site.  This type of advocacy is often used by registrants of race events, as they ask their friends to sponsor their participation in your run, walk, or ride.  But you don’t need to host a race to encourage advocate fundraising; it can be used in any type of fundraising campaign.

Create widgets online that supporters and participants can customize and share with their own peer-to-peer networks.  Make it both fun and personal.  Allow advocates to upload an image and share a personal statement about why they are supporting your cause.

Encourage your advocates to thank their friends and family who donate or pledge their support. Collect and share the email addresses of donors with the advocate, so they can send a thank you message to each of their personal supporters.

Competition can be a great motivator, too.  Set clear goals for each advocate, and allow advocates to increase their goal to keep the support flowing even after the original goal is met and surpassed. Be sure that any donations your advocate collects offline are counted, too. Use visual progress meters to publically track progress and allow individuals to share their success.

“We’re excited to have an advocacy center for each of our Pennsylvania Environment Ride participants,” says Anderson. “Making it easy for riders to ask their friends to sponsor them in the event, plus get credit for all the donations they raise themselves, will increase the amount of money raised by the event.”

Expand Your Reach

You rarely get anything you don’t ask for, so ask for it!  Your network of supporters, participants, and donors are your greatest asset when it comes to expanding your organization’s reach.  Ask your raving fans and most motivated supporters for help and make it easy for them to do, and you’ll be pleased by the results.


About Advancing Philanthropy
With 32,000 subscribers, Advancing Philanthropy is written for the members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and executives of nonprofit organizations and institutions. The magazine provides ideas and strategies for the fundraising community, and includes information on education, training and advocacy for philanthropy. It also addresses ethical concerns and provides the latest news, resources, tools, models and technology for the sector. Web site:

Online Advocates.. from AdvPhil (pp33-41) Technology MayJun 2011


Participants’ tips for race fundraising success, part two

This article is part two of a series that focuses on the participants perspective of an event fundraiser and how to improve participants’ experience with events, and increase overall event participation. It was originally published by Hilborn eNEWS, formerly Canadian Fundraising & Philanthropy.

If you haven’t already, please read part one of the series.


Participants’ tips for race fundraising success, part two

By Heather Burton, Stacy Dyer, and Stacey Miller

As we said in our last article, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Timing, location and course selection are key starting points to providing a fantastic experience and having us show up again next year.

We’re going to finish our sneak peek into the participants’ perspective with three other areas of focus: technology, marketing and race necessities.

Easy event registration

There’s nothing worse than getting excited about information from a PSA, local newspaper ad or even a friend, only to struggle with event registration. These days, easy online registration is a must for successful charity races.  If we have to step away from your registration for any reason, there is a good chance we might never return.

Consider vendors that specialize in event management software and online event registration. They should have pre-made templates that you can modify to suit your own event, saving you time and effort and making our online registration a breeze. Help us find your form – make it available not only from your website, but also from your Facebook page or anywhere else your supporters might find you online.

We all hate filling out forms, so make sure you remove as many barriers as possible to completing the registration. Most of us like forms that are simple to complete, collecting all the relevant information (such as t-shirt size), in one place.  We understand that you need this information for your database and we support you in that endeavor. But please, collect only the information you absolutely need.  Use an after-race nurture e-mail for additional information or cultivation as necessary.

Ensure your technology includes a merchant gateway so you can securely collect payment at the time of registration. Give me options to pay for my registration, such as credit cards, Paypal, or Google Checkout.

Be sure to capture the registration data in a database so you can run reports and email the participants in case your logistics change. Having email addresses also allows you to add participant information to your fundraising database.

Hear ye, hear ye!

Market, market, market, and market some more! During race season, you’ll have to make a lot of marketing “noise” for us to notice your race – especially if yours is an inaugural race. Many of the most effective channels will run your race announcement free of charge. This includes local running stores, websites, and newspapers. Many television and radio news programs also allow local nonprofits to publicize their events. No matter where you advertise, be sure to include the name of the race, date, time, place, charitable beneficiary, directions for registering and contact information.

Don’t forget about or ignore the role of social media. Facebook and Twitter can be your best friends for viral marketing. People are more persuaded to participate in a race when asked by family or friends, so make sure links to registration forms are easy for us to share directly in our social networks. Allow us to monitor the success of our fundraising efforts with online thermometers or status bars that update automatically whenever a contribution is made.

It’s true that as runners or cyclists we love our sport, but incentives will draw us toward a particular race. Everyone loves to get the “stuff” that comes with organized events. From the souvenir shirt to the bib number, participants feel satisfaction from having proof of completion. Many participate in races year after year just because they enjoy collecting the unique, limited-edition t-shirt included in their race packet!

And don’t forget that we love extras – discount coupons to local smoothie shops, athletic stores, health clubs or spas are popular items. Many times the charity can get these items donated or at a reduced cost in return for the advertising. Make the packet a true “goodie bag” to entice the racer to register year after year, and remember to consider what you can do to make your packet unique. It will get talked about in race circles and draw even more participants to next year’s event.

“This was OK, but…”

We want to remember your race, not only for your cause but because of its excitement and memories. Here are some race necessities to consider.

Race-start excitement Make sure you have a clear starting line with a countdown clock, and have a bullhorn so you can start your race on time. Consider providing entertainment and engaging with a local radio station to make announcements. We appreciate the local touch of celebrities and activities for our families to enjoy while we run or ride.

Quench the thirst, motivate the soul Along the race course, make sure you have plenty of water stations. High school cheerleaders and athletes make a great addition to cheer your racers on. Music is a great motivator, and local musicians might want to join in the excitement. Have people monitoring the course to keep your racers safe.

Celebrate success. After the race is celebration time! Make sure your finish line is appropriately marked and festive. Consider a finish chute consisting of a rope/flag border about six feet wide and long enough to accommodate the maximum number of participants you think will be finishing within any one-minute period in your race. Keep the finish exciting for us by having racers announced as they cross the finish line. Provide water bottles as we finish the race – don’t make us search for water.

Feed us! And don’t forget that during a race we can burn anywhere from 300 to 700 calories that we need to replenish. Most races will provide fruit (bananas, cut oranges), bagels sliced in half or cookies. Many sports-food vendors like to test their latest products at events, so ask them! Additionally you might consider getting sponsorship from massage schools or chiropractic practices. Give us a good 15-minute massage after a 5K run and your event will stand out in the crowd. These activities will help turn your race event into an after-race party!

Holding a charity race can be daunting and rewarding. From start to finish, there are a million little details to which you must attend. However, these steps will help you anticipate the needs of your participants and supporters and provide an excellent race experience to keep attendees coming back year after year.


Heather Burton, product marketing director for Sage North America’s Nonprofit Solutions business, has been involved in the nonprofit sector for more than a decade. Stacy Dyer is a product marketing manager for Sage’s Austin-based Nonprofit Solutions business. She has worked and volunteered with nonprofits for more than 15 years. With more than 20 years of experience in market management and marketing communications for both nonprofits and for-profits, Stacey Miller currently serves as a consultant to Sage Nonprofit Solutions.