Guest Posts

How to Wow Supporters After Your Event

If your nonprofit has a big fundraising event on the calendar, and it probably does, this is one post you won’t want to miss! Event planning is extremely popular in the nonprofit sphere for one reason: it works. But it also takes a lot of effort and time, am I right?

You absolutely want to make the experience top-notch for current and prospective donors. Please do that first. However, there’s a vital piece of event planning that often gets left out: the follow up. It’s not the most exciting thing to talk about, but I can’t stress it enough.

Having a solid follow-up plan is part of what makes an event strategic for your organization, and not just something you do every year.

You’ve put so much hard work into planning this event, and an excellent follow-up strategy makes it more effective. What you say and how you say it could mean additional donations, recurring donations, and higher attendance at the next event. That’s why today’s post matters.

And it comes to you from my new friend Erin at Funraise, which a super sweet nonprofit fundraising software built by nonprofit people. (I’ve taken the backstage tour, and it’s pretty awesome!) Okay, back to today’s post. I think you’re going to like it!

How to Wow Supporters After Your Event

Congrats, Fundraiser, the big event day is behind you! Hopefully, you’re propping up your feet and giving yourself a pat on the back for a ginormous job well done. Fundraising events are no small feat, and it can feel awesome when that behemoth is behind you. After you’ve taken some well deserved R&R, it’s time for the next phase of the event. No, we don’t mean cleaning up/organizing the event supplies that've taken over your office. It’s time for event follow up that'll wow supporters and attendees.

Attending an event should be an excellent experience for supporters, and extending that warm, fuzzy feeling beyond the event is an exciting bonus for them. It’s a chance for you to build BFF-status relationships with donors.

Follow up is critical: not only does it give you an opportunity to extend a heartfelt thanks, but it also opens the door for you to establish your nonprofit as an organization that genuinely cares about relationships. And that’s something you can take to the bank.

Follow up strategies for 1 to 7 days after the event

The first phase of event follow up is what happens immediately afterward. Typically this is a thank you for attending and donating (because they donated... right?). If your organization wants to build relationships beyond the event, this is a must.

Here are some ways to say thank you that'll make a lasting impression.


Pick up the phone and say thank you

Calling attendees is an easy thing to do the day after the event that leaves a big impression on donors. If you had a lot of attendees and donors, prioritize your call list by first following up with donors who made the most substantial gifts or strategize by calling first-time donors. If you need help getting through the list, ask a board member to come in for an hour to make some calls.


Send a day-after email to everyone who attended

Use this email to share how much money the event raised and what the funds will be earmarked for. This touchpoint allows you to show attendees the next steps for engagement, such as signing up for your email list or following your organization on social media. Schedule the email in advance so you can relax a tiny bit post-event.


Record personal thank you videos

Did you know there are video services that can help you make a custom thank you video for each attendee and supporter? Services like BombBomb make it possible, and it’s a delightful surprise in someone’s inbox. Short, personalized videos are an unexpectedly wonderful alternative to mass emails if you’re looking for something a little more personal.


Mail a handwritten thank you note

How awesome is it to get a card in the mail these days? Much more awesome than getting endless flyers from the local pizza joint. Make your supporters’ day by sending them handwritten thank you notes after the event. You could even create a custom postcard that includes a powerful image or two from the event, so they have a memento.

Bonus: This is a great engagement opportunity for your board members. Ask them to come by the office and write 10 cards each. You’ll be done in no time.


Jump on the text train

Using the same service that you send text messages with, send out a quick "TY for the amazing night! We hit our fundraising goal!" text. You can point supporters to your website to check out groovy event photos or tease them with the exact amount that was raised. (Sneaky tactic—if you didn't hit your goal, they may send a post-event donation.)

Tip: It can be helpful to block off time in your calendar in advance for event follow up. Also, if you anticipate having a lot of follow up to do, schedule emails, order mailers, or set up text messages before the event. Organize some volunteer or board members ahead of time to lend a hand.

Keeping in touch and building relationships

Follow up with supporters doesn’t end after the initial post-event thank you. You’re now on the path to creating life-long relationships with them, so it’s essential to have a game plan. Here's how you can keep in touch with supporters to build relationships that outlast the event.


Send a survey

It’s super valuable to know what supporters thought of your event. Feedback from people who were there means you'll be able to plan a solidly successful event year after year. Asking for feedback also signals to supporters that you value their opinions and feedback, which in turn builds trust. Put together a short survey that you can send them in the weeks after the event, or as you prepare for next year's big event.


Share impact stories

We heart storytelling. Sharing stories that make your donors’ hearts flutter is a great way to build transparency and show donors the impact of their giving. If you fundraised for a specific initiative or program at your event, find a story related to that.


Ask your supporters to share their giving stories

The social proof of giving stories is solid gold. In your follow up with supporters, connecting your supporters with the results of their giving and having them share is something you can do to engage them and recognize their support.


Add a personal note on future snail mailings

You might send event attendees snail mail down the road: an annual report, a newsletter, or even a direct mail piece. Personalize it by adding a short handwritten note, making the mailer feel less like a mass blast, and more like recognition of the relationship you have with attendees.


Create a video

Video is an awesome way to connect with supporters and attendees. You could create a special year-end video to talk about your organization’s impact and tie in the role your event played in it. These days, video doesn’t have to have a slick production value to be impactful so pull out your smartphone and hit record.

As you prepare for your event, you probably have pre-event communications and marketing planned. Consider expanding this plan to include post-event follow up for at least three months following the event so you can organize your follow up strategy ahead of time.

Events are an excellent way for your organization to build community, grow awareness, and gain support. Capitalize on the momentum from your event with follow up that shows supporters that you're more than just a one-note organization. Your nonprofit values relationships and you’re in it for the long haul.

If you’re serious about becoming an event follow-up master, check out Funraise’s Events & Ticketing solution where nonprofits can easily set up follow-up email automations via seamless integrations with MailChimp, Constant Contact, and other email marketing platforms. Also manage everything from event registration and ticketing to collecting donations, all in your donor CRM. No more letting prime relationship-building opportunities slip through your fingers!


Erin Booker of Funraise

Erin Booker is Head of Content at Funraise. Funraise provides innovative and friendly fundraising technology built on a foundation of nonprofit experience. We've found a way to raise the funds and the fun.


Visit www.funraise.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn!



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Having a solid follow-up plan is part of what makes an event strategic for your nonprofit, and not just something you do every year.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.


Note: I’m an affiliate for Funraise, which means I may get a small commission from sales purchased through this site. But I only recommend products and services I think are valuable!

From Paralysis to Print: Write and Publish Your Book

I’ve heard different stats over the years, but it’s staggering that as many as 90% of Americans want to write a book! Now, I’m not entirely sure that I believe the number is that big, but I do think it’s pretty darn high. And with the rise of self-publishing to level the playing field, it’s now easier than ever.

The problem? It’s still really hard to do. Most of us, myself included, may feel like we have a book or two in us, but a much smaller percentage actually gets it done. And then, an even smaller number reaches the publishing process.

It also seems like a complicated industry, doesn’t it? From actually sitting down to write, to the editing process, to finding a publisher (if you want one), to seeing your little labor of love on a shelf—there’s a LOT to do. In fact, you probably have a lot of questions.

So, what’s a girl or guy to do? You can ask my friend, Sara Shelton, who has a few books under her belt as a ghostwriter, editor, and coach. If the process seems intriguing but daunting, Sara will take you from paralysis to print by answering five of your most asked questions about writing and publishing a book.

From Paralysis to Print: 5 Common Questions About Writing and Publishing Your Book

So, you want to write a book? That’s amazing!

As an avid reader myself, let me just go ahead and thank you in advance for sharing another story that I can read and recommend to my friends.

And as a fellow writer, let me stop here and encourage that you no matter how difficult, frustrating, and completely unglamorous the writing process actually is, you can do it. You do, in fact, have a story to share!

The truth is a lot of people do! But standing at the beginning of the writing process, so many writers feel paralyzed by the thought of actually trying to get their stories out on paper and into print.

That’s usually where I come in!

I’ve been working as a freelance writer and editor for five years now, and in that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to come alongside and work with several authors during the writing, editing, and eventual publishing of their books. No matter which hat I’m wearing in the writing process, I love helping my clients cross the finish line to see their words of wisdom, stories, and advice finally on the page in print.

But like I said, the process of moving beyond fear-induced paralysis at the thought of writing a book to actually holding your final printed copy in your hand isn’t an easy one. So to help you move from paralysis to print, here are answers to five of my most frequently asked questions about writing a book.

1)   Where do I start?

There’s no “right” answer to this question. My best advice? Just start! If you have an idea, a vision, a story you think is worth sharing in print, then decide right now that you’re going to share it.

Then, get organized. I can’t stress this enough! Spending time on the front end of the writing process thinking through and organizing your thoughts will save you a lot of time (and maybe even money!) on the back end.

Once you’ve got a clear idea for your book, sit down and create an outline. Think through each main point you hope to hit—the takeaways you want readers to leave with—and organize them into chapters.

Next, write down the details under each chapter that you’re going to use to support those main points or takeaways—the stories, research, anecdotes, history, and more that will reinforce your point. (Pro tip: Index cards spread out on the floor are a great way to see your outline come to life!)

You can dive as deep into the outline as you’d like, but at the very least, start with getting your thoughts into some kind of organized format. Trust me, you’ll be so thankful you did this when you finally sit down to write!

2)   What DOES the writing process like?

Everyone’s writing process is going to look different, but I can almost assure you it won’t be seamless and smooth. Sometimes your writing is done in the back of a crowded coffee shop. Sometimes it’s done in the early morning hours in your bedroom before the sun rises. Sometimes it’s done in the car pickup line, or the benches of basketball practice, or the middle of the night hours when you just can’t sleep.

My best advice for diving into the writing process is to do your best to give it a good mix of structure and grace. Wake up early or stay up late for some uninterrupted hours of writing. You know how much time you have to offer, so offer that to your process.

Don’t look at your phone, don’t answer your email, don’t scroll through social media. Just write.

Maybe even give yourself a word count goal to hit each day. And then, aim for it. Some days you’ll go above and beyond. Other days, you’ll barely get there (which is where the grace comes in). Whatever the writing process looks like for you, go into it with as much structure and dedication to it as you can and give yourself a break on the days it just doesn’t work.

3)   What do I do to get published?

For the most part, publishing still falls into one of two major groups: traditional publishing or self-publishing.

Traditional publishing means your book goes to a professional publishing house and it is printed and distributed under their umbrella. The pros? You’ve got an entire group of people whose time, energy, and resources are devoted to your book. They take care of editing, design, promotion, and more. And depending on your deal, you typically get paid up front for your manuscript as well as in royalties from sales.

The cons? It’s very difficult to get in the door of a traditional publishing house. It requires a lot of work—the research to find the right potential publishing houses or agents for your book, the writing of a query letter to get the editor’s interest, the compiling of a book proposal to pitch your book, and more. Agents and publishers will want to know things like how big your social media following or potential audience is. They want to see how they might be able to sell your book to that audience. And they often get the final say in how your book takes shape and is edited. In a lot of ways, you lose control.

But in self-publishing, the control stays in your hands. You get to decide how you want to edit, promote, and even sell your book. You get the freedom to write the book you want to write! And with programs like Create Space, IngramSpark, and Kindle Direct Publishing, the process is easy for even the most beginner of writers.

The bad news? The expense is all your own. You have to front the money for things like edits, design, promotion, and more. If you want your book to sell, it’s typically up to you. While it is most definitely a great option, writers who choose to self-publish need to know the hustle is real!

KP note: Even with most traditional publishers now, you will still be expected to do a little or a lot of the marketing and promotion. It depends on your existing audience, the publisher, and more. So, don’t just expect to get out of it with a traditional publisher! If you have a particular publishing house in mind, see if one of their existing authors will answer a few questions for you.

4)   Where is it important to invest my money in the process?

A lot of this depends on the publishing route you end up taking with your book. If you’re in a traditional space, those publishing houses and agents will likely have agents, designers, marketing teams, and more already lined up to help you. But if you’re not (or if you just want to turn in the most well-rounded and polished copy of your manuscript), your first expense needs to be a good editor.

By the time you’ve finished your book, it’s become a real labor of love. And that makes seeing it through fresh and unattached eyes a difficult thing to do.

If you’re working with a rough draft and unsure of the direction of your book, a developmental editor is a great investment to help craft a better structure and clearer overall picture for your book. They may do everything from telling you to reorganize your chapters to suggesting you cut some of your content altogether—and that’s okay! They’re reading the book with eyes to make it better!

A copy editor is key for any writer because they’ll read your book with a fine-tooth comb, checking and correcting every single grammatical and mechanical error. Though both types of editors are going to be an investment to your project, it’s one you most definitely want to make so that you walk away with the best possible product ready to print.

Beyond editorial costs, many authors need to look specifically into designers to help them layout their book and even create a professional, eye-catching cover. Others choose to set aside funds to hire a team to help them market the book.

My advice to writers who will have to make any kind of financial investment to get their book published is to choose where you spend your money wisely. What matters most to you in the process? Start there and then see what funds you have left to go elsewhere.

5)   How will people know I wrote a book?

How do people know anything about what’s going on in your life? Because you talk about it!

If you’re going to do the incredibly hard and amazing work of writing a book (something most people only ever dream about doing), then you have officially earned the right to shout this accomplishment from the rooftops! Or at the very least, from your social media, email, blog, website, and any other form of connection you have to your people. You, your family, your friends, the people in your office or on your team—those are the best ways to promote your book from the get go.

If you have the funds, you can of course hire a marketing team or booking agent to help get the word out. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t. Instead, be proud of the work you’ve done and find ways to share that work with the people in your networks through promotion on channels like social media, email, podcasts, and more.

Interested in writing a book? Have a few more questions about how to make the publishing process happen for yourself? Find me online at www.saralshelton.com and let’s get connected!


Sara Shelton

Sara Shelton is a full-time writer and editor working with clients to bring their stories and words to life. When she’s not working on manuscripts, curriculum, website content, magazine articles, and more, you can find Sara sharing a bit of her own work at www.sara-laurence.com.

Connect with on Instagram and Twitter at @saralaurence.  



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

The process of moving beyond fear-induced paralysis at the thought of writing a book to actually holding your final printed copy in your hand isn’t an easy one. So to help you move from paralysis to print in your writing, here are my answers to five of my most frequently asked questions about writing a book.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.


Why Nonprofits Need Influencers To Grow (And How To Do It Right)

Have you heard the buzzword “influencer” and wondered what the heck it was? Or if it’s a familiar term, have you struggled with how to find one of these elusive creatures to work with your nonprofit? Well, never fear—today’s post is for you.

While influencers have always existed, the Internet Age has given them new meaning, as well as new ways to capitalize on their popularity. (Cue the Wicked soundtrack!) Social media brought with it a whole host of new job possibilities. I mean, 15 years ago, we all would’ve laughed someone out of the room who said people would pay to watch another person play video games. But, here we are…

So, if getting an influencer to spread the word about your cause is on your To Do List, Kayleigh Alexandra of Micro Startups is going to break it down for you. I’ve seen social impact organizations have great success with this tactic, so I’d encourage you to give it a try and see what happens!

Why Nonprofits Need Influencers To Grow (And How To Do It Right)

Growing your nonprofit can be tough. Aside from competing for attention against so many other worthwhile nonprofits, making donors care about a cause is a big task. Thankfully, influencers are here to make all of that a breeze.

It’s important to make time for your nonprofit marketing, and using influencers doesn’t just save you time—it’s also highly effective. Keep reading to find out how your nonprofit can benefit from an influencer collaboration in 2019.

What are influencers?

While you might not know exactly what influencers are, you’ve probably already encountered them without realizing it. Influencers are social media stars, tastemakers who command significant influence over their followings online.

There are countless examples of online influencers: Kim Kardashian, Marie Kondo, Jake Paul, Huda Kattan, Andrew Bachelor, Gary Vaynerchuk, Joanna Gaines—the list goes on. And for every influencer, there are ten more examples of brands partnering with them for a marketing campaign.

Influencers can be divided into two, broad categories: macro and micro.

Macro-influencers are the A-listers of the influencer world. With social followings in the high hundred-thousands or millions, these individuals are renowned the world over. Consequently, any brand looking to collaborate with them can expect to pay correspondingly high prices.

At the other end of the scale, however, are micro-influencers. These social stars typically have a follower count of around 10-100K.

While they are less well-known than their macro counterparts, micro-influencers enjoy a closer relationship with their followers. They occupy niche areas such as specific beauty subsets (think makeup tips for women with vitiligo), eating gluten-free, or mental health. Their community is intimate and closely-knit, and they’re more affordable as a result of a smaller follower count (though still substantial).

Why do nonprofits need influencers?

We’ve established the difference between macro- and micro-influencers. The former has a large following, so partnering with a macro-influencer for a marketing campaign gets your nonprofit seen by the masses.

But this isn’t the goldmine it first seems. The fact is, while macro-influencers generate more awareness, their campaigns lack engagement.

Research shows that when an influencer’s follower count reaches 1K, the ratio of likes to comments peaks. And when an influencer’s followers exceeds 100K, engagement starts to level out.

Micro-influencers, on the other hand, reach a far smaller audience but with much higher engagement. Their close bond with their followers means their content is received on a deeper, more meaningful level.

And for nonprofits, engagement is crucial. You could create a macro-influencer campaign that reaches 10,000 people. But if those people don’t care about the campaign—if they don’t engage with it—then it will fall flat.

Nonprofits need micro-influencers because the success of their initiative hinges on making people care, and influencers can make that happen.

How do I choose the right micro-influencer?

The key to a successful nonprofit-influencer campaign lies in choosing a micro-influencer who aligns with your nonprofit’s values.

Start with what your nonprofit stands for and the work you do, and go from there. For example, if you work with sufferers of anxiety and depression, a mental health influencer would be an ideal choice for your nonprofit.

You can find micro-influencers in a number of ways. There are plenty of influencer marketplaces that let you easily find influencers, sorted by industry, follower count, social profiles, and more.

But for a quick fix, simply scope out other nonprofits operating within your niche and see who they’ve partnered with. Take a look at their blogs and social media accounts to identify any influencer campaigns, and contact the influencer in question to request a collaboration.

Alternatively, you can search hashtags on social media to see what influencers are already talking about, and what causes might be of interest.

How to launch an influencer campaign for your nonprofit

You know the what and the why. Read on to discover some great influencer collaboration ideas that will grow your nonprofit.

Get your micro-influencer to tell your nonprofit story.

Micro-influencers are characterized by their special relationship with their followers. The interactions influencers have with them are genuine and meaningful—they are real. As a result, they enjoy an honest, trusting follower relationship.

This is a boon for nonprofits. The general public is numb to marketing, either switching over when an ad comes on TV, or switching off when they see one online. But when micro-influencers extoll the benefits of a nonprofit, their followers pay attention.

Use this special relationship to your own advantage and get your chosen influencer to discuss in depth why they partnered with you. They should outline your various initiatives, highlight the work you do, and even meet and interview someone your nonprofit has helped in the past.

Launch a UGC donation matching campaign.

Most brand-influencer partnerships use a contest, competition, or giveaway to grow their business. And while some nonprofits might benefit from this, an even better, albeit similar, idea is to launch an influencer-led user-generated content (UGC) donation matching campaign.

Donation matching is simple, but effective.

Your chosen influencer gets their followers to share an Instagram photo centered around a theme (e.g. if you’re an animal rights nonprofit, they might share a photo of their favorite animal) with a branded hashtag, following and tagging your account. For every photo shared, your micro-influencer donates $1 (up to a given value).

This strategy doesn’t just give you a quick donation boost. It also invites interaction with your social media followers. It creates a conversation with your followers, involving them with your nonprofit work and making them care.

A UGC donation matching campaign also gives your nonprofit a valuable publicity boost, netting you new followers and growing your Instagram account. Combine this with National Giving Day for an added promotional boost.

Involve your influencer to reach unengaged individuals.

Many nonprofits struggle to make their work seem real to donors. For example, let’s say you’re a nonprofit working with individuals suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. You might find it difficult to make people with no experience of the disease connect with your cause on a meaningful level, simply because it feels too distant.

Micro-influencers are the perfect conduit for breaching that distance. Invite your influencer to see first-hand the vital work you do, and encourage them to share their experience on social media.

Of course, sensitivity and confidentiality is crucial here. But when you and your micro-influencer work together to create a nuanced, insightful social campaign, you turn otherwise indifferent individuals into engaged, committed donors.

Influencer collaborations are an effective and affordable marketing strategy for nonprofits. They drive engagement and get your organization seen, helping you reach a whole new audience of potential donors who might otherwise not know your nonprofit. Use the tips above to create an influencer partnership that grows your nonprofit now and well into the future.


Kayleigh Alexandra of Micro Startups

Kayleigh Alexandra is a writer at Micro Startups, your go-to place for charity news and insight. She loves writing about all the great nonprofits, startups, and entrepreneurs that make waves in their industry. For more of her work, check out the blog today @getmicrostarted.

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Growing your nonprofit can be tough. Aside from competing for attention against so many other worthwhile nonprofits, making  donors  care about a cause is a big task. Thankfully, influencers are here to make all of that a breeze.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.


Your Budget: Go From Cursing to Championing

One of the reasons I love inviting guests to post on this blog is so that they can talk about topics that I probably wouldn’t address myself. And right at the top of that list is budgets! Numbers are something I always struggled with in school (while I excelled in English), so it’s better for both of us that I stick to what I’m good at.

Enter Steve Fredlund. He and I met several months ago in a Facebook Group, and when I saw that one of his areas of focus was budgeting and money management for nonprofits and small businesses, I jumped at the chance to feature his expertise.

I really loved the way Steve talks about “transformational” budgeting in this post, and think it will not only shed some light, but challenge your social impact organization to value money differently in the process.

Your Budget: Go From Cursing to Championing

BUDGET. A 6-letter swear word to many nonprofit leaders and small business owners. It’s about penny-pinching and the restricting of ability to get things done. It’s the mechanism by which a number-crunching, introverted analytic hinders team creativity. Right? 

Yes. Because most of us see it this way, this is precisely what it becomes. Consider how budget discussions and approval are communicated in your organization. For many, it sounds something like, “Well, it’s that exciting time to set the budget again,” or “Sorry, guys and gals, we have to work on the budget,” or “Let’s get the budget stuff done so we can get on to the real stuff we need to talk about.” 

Why You Need to Rethink Budgets

Budget communication both reflects AND creates culture. It gives insight into leadership perspectives on budget, which gives insight into how leaders think about budgeting as a potential tool to move the organization forward. And usually, budget communication is extremely negative or, at minimum, apathetic. But your cash flow is an asset and it is your responsibility to leverage that asset as effectively as possible in support of the overall mission and strategic priorities of your organization. Anything short of that is a suboptimal use of one of your biggest assets, and is a gap in your overall leadership. 

Your finances carry vast amounts of potential energy, just waiting to get released. Your job as a leader is to recognize the full potential energy and release it to maximize achievement of the vision and strategic priorities. I want to encourage you to shift your paradigm about finances—to recognize that great organizations are able to fully release their power and leverage it for success.


3 Budgeting Exercises for Social Impact Organizations

Here are three things you can do to increase the value of your budgeting process, while also changing your perspective about the role of finances in your nonprofit or social enterprise:

  1. Strategy-based budget.  List out all of your major strategies, goals, or initiatives. Then assign each a percentage (totaling 100%) indicating how you WISH all of your available funds were allocated. Do this without regard to your knowledge of the current budget and only consider non-fixed costs. Basically, you are saying, “This is how I wish all of our discretionary spending was allocated.” Then, take this to your finance team and ask them to complete this exercise with the actual spending; have them include a bucket somewhere for the “fixed costs,” and with all remaining expenses, have them allocate out to the same categories you defined. Compare what you find. Eventually, I encourage organizations to create budgets starting first with developing a desired allocation of resources and then building the budget; but for now, this exercise will provide insight into any major disjoints in spending. It will also help you realize how many of your expenses are fixed, to see if there is any way to move spending into discretionary.

  2. Gain outsider perspectives.  An interesting exercise is to give your current budget (or actual spending) to several people unfamiliar with your organization and ask them what they think your vision and priorities based on your budget. You can get tremendous insight from this exercise. This is similar to having new people to come into your building or office and ask what they think your priorities are based on your environment; it creates fascinating discussions.

  3. External research. It’s amazing to me that very few nonprofits and social enterprises have an understanding of how similar organizations are allocating their budgets. I ask, “How does this compare to your competitors?” or “How does this compare to similar nonprofits?” and rarely do they know. Comparing to others can provide great insights, not only for competitive advantage, but to start the conversations about how you could become more effective in your spending.

 There are many more considerations in maximizing your financial investments, and improving the perception of the role of budgeting, but these three are a good start. How you spend your money is more than just a necessary evil. It is as important as the staff you hire, connections you make, and products or services you provide. Every dollar of your revenue is an asset; are you investing it in a way that maximizes your impact or helps you best reach your goals?

Avoid the 5% Rule

When the next budget cycle comes up, consider avoiding the typical process that simply adds 5% to every budget item from last year. This is the central mistake in budgeting for impact; to start with what has been done in the past and making minor tweaks. Using the prior budget to determine the next budget is akin to starting with current policies and procedures to set next year’s strategies.

If you want a transformational budget, then realize that the budget is an “output” and not an “input.”  The budget process starts with what you are ultimately trying to do (your vision, mission, or purpose). From there, you determine your key focus areas for the next one to three years, which leads to your key strategies and, ultimately, to the execution of those strategies. It is from these decisions that the transformational budget emerges. 

Imagine running a nonprofit helping to alleviate the issue of clean water in which 20% of last year’s budget supported efforts in Rwanda and 10% supported Nepal. There are some significant political and world relief changes resulting in far less need for the organization to continue working in Rwanda. Strategically, the organization decides it needs to move staff and facilities to Nepal, but the budget setting is based on last year and the funding to both Rwanda and Nepal is increased slightly, creating a huge disjoint in strategy and funding.

This may be a ridiculous example that would not actually happen in practice, but it’s only ridiculous because of the dramatic nature of the shift. How many smaller shifts are happening every year without the budget reallocation to support it? Many cause-focused organizations know the areas they need to move focus toward, but most use a “last year plus” method for budgeting. The end result will always be a disjoint between impact and financial support.

As a social impact organization, take time to celebrate every dollar coming in. These funds are more than just “money;” they represent the opportunity to have impact. But the ball is now in your court. What are you going to do with that opportunity? The more impact you can have, the more opportunity you will attract; and conversely, the poorer you manage your opportunity, the less opportunity you will have. 


Get Excited About Budgeting

Get excited about strategizing how those funds can be used to maximize impact or profitability. Have leadership discussions that start first with your vision, mission, priorities, and strategies, considering how to optimize movement toward their achievement using your finances. Think less about budget constraints and think more about budget opportunities.

When you have a budget that is lined up with your overall strategies, it generates creativity among each budget manager to truly optimize those funds to carry out their strategies. Further, having a budget aligned with strategies creates peace of mind for leadership (and all stakeholders), knowing that all assets are working together to carry out the desired impact of the organization.

Start seeing budget and finances differently, and you will be on your way to leveraging it most effectively—to maximizing your impact; to achieving your vision.

If I can be of any assistance, feel free to give me a shout at steve@stevefredlund.com or 651.587.5435. You can find out more about me at stevefredlund.com. 


Steve Fredlund

Steve Fredlund, FSA, MBA, SWP has 30 years of experience in Fortune 500 companies in primarily financial and analytical roles, with another 10 years in nonprofit roles including staff, board, founder, executive, and volunteer. He currently does independent consulting, coaching, and speaking focusing on small businesses and nonprofits. Steve helps individuals and organizations clearly define what success means to them, and then figure out how to get there. More information is available at stevefredlund.com.

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