Is There an App for That (Nonprofit)?

Group of business associates in a line text messaging on their cellphone

In today’s technology-based world, few people go anywhere without their smartphones. Think about it. How often do you not have your phone nearby? I’m betting your answer is, “Almost never.” So what does this have to do with nonprofits? The short answer: Everything.

If your nonprofit isn’t readily available on your smartphone, the truth is you’re losing money. Donors want to be able to find you quickly and be able to donate easily online. You also want your donors to be able to share their enthusiasm about your nonprofit with their friends via social media. And the greater your social media presence, the more likely your donors will be to share your posts, highlighting your successes and your value to the community, which will, in turn, generate more interest in your organization AND more donations. Win-win-win!

Keep in mind this sharing aspect of digital media is free publicity–FREE! So it’s critical your leadership understands the importance of establishing a strong web presence. While this social media sharing aspect is free, creating a digital media presence does require an investment in infrastructure.

In a recent blog post, we defined infrastructure as “systems, staff, and equipment,” and technology plays a role in each of these areas. Here are some questions to consider about the infrastructure required for your digital media presence:

  1. Does your nonprofit have staff dedicated to your web presence?
  2. Is this digital media staff well-trained?  Note: It’s critical that they’re not only tech-savvy but that they also have an understanding of public relations, fundraising, marketing and communications.
  3. Does your staff have the tools (i.e. computers and software) required for creating a strong web presence?
  4. Do you have a digital media plan in place that includes when you publish, what you publish, and how you reach your audience? For example, are you using Facebook or LinkedIn? Are you active on Twitter? Do you maintain a blog? Is your website up-to-date with the latest information? Is your donation button working properly, and are your online donors thanked promptly?

These are not small endeavors, and they do require a regular investment of time and money; however, you’d be hard-pressed today to find a successful nonprofit that isn’t utilizing the internet to its best advantage. I’m not arguing that your nonprofit needs an actual app (though this might be worth considering), but do you need a web presence? Absolutely–no matter the size of your nonprofit–and the bigger the web presence, the better!

In the long run, by investing in the infrastructure necessary to develop a strong web presence, your nonprofit will exponentially expand its impact and save money in the process. And that’s music to your donors’ ears!

created by Kathryn Clarke, Program Assistant, Eno River Consulting

Fundraising: NOT the Luck of the Irish

During the gold rush, some of the most successful miners were of Irish descent, which gradually gave way to the expression, “luck of the Irish.” Ironically, mining success is less a result of luck than it is a byproduct of skill, planning, and grit, much like fundraising. Sure, there’s a chance a total stranger could leave a gazillion dollars to your organization, but it’s certainly not the norm. Rather it is through hard work and a rock-solid plan that nonprofits reach philanthropic success.

While a well-developed and thoughtful fundraising plan is fundamental to success, many organizations operate in a reactive manner, regularly having to put out fiscal fires, as opposed to being proactive in their program development. A well-crafted fundraising plan allows a nonprofit to focus, be strategic and control workflow while moving toward its highest goals.

Here are five golden tips to help you create a dynamic fundraising plan for your organization:

  1. Engagement  While having a single manager for your plan development is wise, a variety of stakeholders should be engaged in the process. Board members, Executive Directors, Development professionals, staff and key volunteers all have valuable insight into goal setting, strategies, activities and needs for support.
  2. Goals  Be specific in setting goals and make sure your goals are measurable and can be realistically attained. That said, be sure to stretch yourself and your staff to work toward your highest goals, avoiding complacency. Don’t be afraid of hard work, and remember how good everyone will feel after meeting or exceeding the challenges!
  3. Strategies  Be specific with the strategies that you will employ to reach each goal. Consider all the techniques you will use to raise funds and cultivate donors. From special events to phonathons, direct mail and volunteer solicitors, utilize a variety of strategies and be sure to evaluate what is working best for your organization along the way.
  4. Timeline  Creating a manageable timeline ensures that you control the flow of work in your shop. A timeline can help you identify downtime for planning, evaluation or office retreats and visually demonstrate the progressive nature of your efforts toward meeting your annual goal.
  5. Flexibility  Creating a plan that is flexible and organic in nature provides space for innovation and for taking advantage of unforeseen opportunities. Evaluate periodically to see what is and isn’t working, and pivot if necessary.

Spring is here and NOW is the time for planning to begin. May the road rise to meet you!

Created by Amy FitzGerald, MSW, Senior Consultant, Eno River Consulting, www.enoriverconsulting.orgIf your organization wants to develop a robust fundraising plan, we can help. Call 919.234.7281 for a free consultation.Untitled design (2)

Winning the Impact vs. Overhead Argument

pendulumIt’s been nearly seven years since Ann Goggins Gregory and Don Howard coined the phrase, “nonprofit starvation cycle,” to describe the underfunding that results when nonprofits attempt to win over the community by underreporting overhead. For far too long, overhead—loosely defined as fundraising and administrative costs—has been used as the primary basis for decisions about nonprofits. It’s been nearly impossible to dismantle the widespread belief that skimping on overhead equates to being a “good” nonprofit, worthy of individual charitable donations in addition to government and foundation grants.

More recently, nonprofit professionals and advocacy groups, including Guidestar and Charity Navigator, have made strong, evidence-based arguments for why the impact of an organization’s work is a much more important indicator of success; yet the overhead myth continues. Perhaps what’s blocking sector-wide change is a clear picture of a) what happens when nonprofits lack the infrastructure required to fulfill their missions and b) what specifically is needed to maximize impact.

Christina Triantaphyllis & Matthew Forti presented evidence in their 2013 follow-up piece to Gregory and Howard’s “The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle” (SSIR, 2009) revealing that a lack of uniform measurement and evaluation (M&E) tools is a major obstacle in shifting the focus from overhead to impact. We, at Eno River Consulting, agree that M&E is a critical piece nonprofits must develop to ensure transparency, accountability and strategic planning. We also believe in prioritizing all components of infrastructure–namely systems, staff and equipment–for nonprofits to both remain viable and be optimally efficient.

Here is Eno River Consulting’s illustrative guide to ending the vicious cycle of nonprofit starvation:

ERC, Impact Vs. Overhead v2

Stay tuned for additional blog posts in which we’ll explore how the nonprofit sector can flourish both economically and programmatically through wiser investment in infrastructure.

Give Me Six Hours


Abraham Lincoln was a President, who overcame adversity to achieve great things and effect change. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which led to abolishing slavery in the U.S., established the National Banking System and the Department of Agriculture, and is the only President of the United States to hold a patent.

How did he accomplish such great things? He spent time sharpening his blade. He had a strategic plan. He didn’t “wing it.”

President Lincoln recognised the importance of strategic planning. Our founding leaders had a vision; Lincoln created a plan to achieve it by saving the Union, realising the vision of our forefathers that all people were created equal.

Leaders and employees of nonprofit organizations are constantly being pulled in different directions to serve multiple constituencies. There aren’t enough hours in the day, week, year to do what is required to effect change, nonetheless to set aside to plan for the future. Planning feels like a luxury when “riding the bicycle while building it” best describes the daily reality of working to fulfill a mission, often with inadequate resources.

As a Harvard Business Review article, Delivering on the Promise of Nonprofits,  (, points out,  “this “scatterization” is as much a function of how the nonprofit sector is organized as it is of how the organizations themselves operate”. Today’s nonprofit organizations are called upon to solve big problems, address the needs of our nation and people, and like Lincoln, create change. Therefore, a well developed strategic plan is the tool necessary to do so and the time spent “sharpening the axe” well spent.

Be like Lincoln. Spend time creating the plan and sharpening the tools that make accomplishing great things possible.

created by Courtenay Bailey, Senior Consultant, Eno River Consulting,

50 Ways to Love Your Donors

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in a variety of ways around the world. In parts of Europe, keys are given to lovers and children alike to assist in unlocking the “giver’s heart.”  Strategically and authentically cultivating donors is vital to our everyday work toward building successful fundraising programs and sustainable organizations. Taking a cue from American musician extraordinaire, Paul Simon, here are Fifty Ways to Love Your Donors and support the opening of their giving hearts:

  1. Personalize thank you notes, phone calls and emails.
  2. Acknowledge birthdays and anniversaries.
  3. Recognize professional accomplishments, the addition of children and grandchildren, job changes and other personal events.
  4. Ask for their input and expertise.
  5. Be aware of their hobbies and interests.
  6. Know their business–what they do professionally, that is!
  7. Understand what it is about your organization that motivates them.
  8. Create appropriate connections–personal or written–between them and recipients of their generosity (e.g. scholarship recipients).
  9. Profile them and their gifts in your online or print newsletter.
  10. Recognize where and what they like to eat, including food restrictions.
  11. Respect their boundaries and sense of what is personal and private.
  12. Celebrate and recognize their support to other organizations.
  13. Remember where you left off from your last visit or conversation.
  14. Send appropriate holiday cards that celebrate their cultural heritage.
  15. Invite them to educational and festive events held by your organization.
  16. Cultivate them to serve in key volunteer roles for which they are uniquely qualified and interested.
  17. Ask them how and how often they would like you to communicate with them.
  18. Engage your CEO or Director in the relationship development process.
  19. Greet them with a warm smile, handshake or hug.
  20. Ask your Board Chair to thank them personally for their support.
  21. Acknowledge them and their gifts in local, statewide or national media outlets.
  22. Recognize them with a special award from your organization.
  23. Nominate them for local, statewide or national philanthropic awards.
  24. Provide transportation or other services if they have special needs.
  25. Know whether they like to be recognized or remain anonymous.
  26. Send a handwritten note.
  27. Give occasional and thoughtful gifts that remind them of your organization.
  28. Spell and pronounce their names correctly and know titles.
  29. Send photographs or newspaper clippings from a recent event.
  30. Share current updates and successes of the programs they fund.
  31. Be specific in telling them how your organization used their gifts.
  32. Send them a video thank you from staff and clients.
  33. Make their thank you public, such as with a named scholarship, fund or room.
  34. Give them a personal tour of your facility and programs in action.
  35. Say thank you or give a shout-out on Twitter.
  36. Thank them with handmade treats.
  37. Help them network with other people.
  38. Have a program staff person call them and provide updates on the agency’s work.
  39. Say thank you–again and again and again and again…
  40. Attach personal messages to direct mail.
  41. Invite donors to cultural, sporting or fun events in the area.
  42. Feature them in a story in your print or email newsletter, blog or FaceBook post.
  43. Ask for their advice.
  44. Include them in a feasibility study or organizational assessment.
  45. Invite them to private events or special opportunities.
  46. Appeal to them with an invitation to an intimate educational event.
  47. Listen to their concerns, interests and ideas.
  48. Prick up your ears and listen, listen, and listen some more.
  49. Be authentic.
  50. Thank you-bomb your donors–say thank you often and in multiple ways!

created by Amy FitzGerald, MSW, Senior Consultant, Eno River Consulting,

What are the Top Two Ways to Raise Money?

As the hustle and bustle of the holiday season reach a gale force and nonprofits are generating their life-sustaining year-end support, the most successful organizations are putting the finishing touches on fund development plans for the new year. As part of this process, they are once again asking:

What are the best ways to bring in more money?

The answers are clear:

The winners regarding donor retention, return on investment and sustainability are

  1. in-person meetings and
  2. telephone contact.

Though often overlooked, we know it is personal engagement with donors that drives connection and commitment. Therefore, the aware nonprofit must realize the value of its time, and it must create a plan that involves thoughtful individual contact with the most committed donors, (i.e. long-term, multi-gift and major gift donors).

To make the most of personal contact with donors, nonprofits must convey that while they are the facilitators of positive change, it is the donors, themselves, who are the change agents.  Online fundraising strategist, Matthew Sherrington, poignantly writes that a charity’s job is “to help people do their good work in the world. Not the other way around.” So how do nonprofits communicate this truth?

The answer lies in relating to donors authentically–asking them why they care about the organization and what they hope to see accomplished. Then they can be shown how they have made a difference through data points, which illustrate the nonprofit’s impact in the mission area that corresponds strongly to the interest of the donor, along with information that reflects how their individual giving has furthered that work.

In creating a strong fundraising plan that emphasizes personal contact, nonprofits should keep in mind the parable of the rocks and the pebbles, which Steven Covey so eloquently conveys in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Start by placing the large rocks, (i.e. strongest relationships and possible relationships) in the schedule as a priority, and everything else will follow.

Data Informed Culture

Data Informed Decisions

In your organization you have to make decisions to plan, manage, and operate.  From leadership, to policy, to making decisions and meetings your organization needs a continuous use of assessment, revision, and learning rooted in the way your organization functions.  For continuous improvement your organization needs to set goals and measureable indicators to identify if goals are being met.    

There are three fundamental practices that lead to growth within your organization and create a data informed culture. They are to assess programs/goals by observing the results, and learning from those results to revise or improve your next program or goal.  This model can be used in many aspects of your organization and allows for you to not only have measurable outcomes, but provides you with data that will allows you to improve.

Eno River Consulting works with your organization to create a data informed culture through market research, 360 Assessment, program evaluation, and capacity building.  ERC is equipped to help you through the data informed process of assessment, revision, and learning.  ERC works with your organization to observe the results of the research or assessment and create a learning opportunity for your organization to improve and grow. 

 Market Research

Eno River Consulting can provide a complete menu of custom market research services including qualitative and quantitative research methods and secondary and primary data gathering and analysis.  The data collected will become a spring board to conversations of improving your mission, effectiveness, efficiency and impact.  

360 Assessment

Eno River Consulting can offer your organization a 360 Assessment –a thoroughly objective evaluation of your organization and its brand from the perspectives of all your key stakeholders – clients, board members, staff, donors, community opinion leaders, and other nonprofit executives. The 360 Assessment is often helpful as part of data gathering for strategic planning, as a preliminary step in strategic fundraising and planning major capital campaigns, and in managing an effective organization.

 Eno River Consulting can also intensify the brand of your organization and its performance. Understanding and engaging with staff, board, top donors, top corporate and foundation partners, and program collaborators and competitors and assessing opportunities can yield information that will shift, strengthen, and shape your organization to its fullest potential. Known for candor and good advice, the institutions and people closest to you can be trusted to provide helpful and accurate feedback, thus helping you determine your next steps.

Program Evaluation

Effective programs are a lynchpin of successful nonprofits. Eno River Consulting can assist you with continual assessments of your programming and how to implement reflective protocols to ensure growth and improvement of your programming.  

Capacity Building

Eno River Consulting will help your organization monetize services and develop fee-for-service revenue, thus diversifying your organization’s financial support and providing unrestricted funds to the general budget to support innovation and capacity building efforts.


In closing, ERC offers many options to assess needs within your organization, however the key to develop a culture around data is to take the information and create actions that will result in improvement and growth.  

Power in Social Media

The ALS challenge or donate is a prime example of the power of social media. Philanthropy for the right cause is just a hashtag away! Creative uses of social media can connect you to potential donors. It reminds me of the movie “Pay it Forward”. Students were challenged to do an extraordinary deed for three people and then that person would do the same. Making a greater impact on society. Social media allows you to connect to others in the using the “Pay it Forward” model, but on a larger scale.

Social media allows you to communicate two ways with donors or people just interested in your cause. To bring awareness to your mission you can post to a variety of social media sites, the key is to get creative and find what works for your organization. The two way communication comes from retweeting and commenting on organizations that you follow or that follow you. Building relationships these days does not have to follow the traditional routes taken in the past.

Social media can work for you if your heart is in your mission. You want people to feel connected to your organization through images, videos, or inspiring stories. When using social media it also takes a little luck– and strategy — just like the ALS challenge, however there are people that are just a click away ready to take the challenge or donate!!

ERC is ready to work with your organization to tap into your passion and facilitate true expressions of yourself through social media in ways that catch on quickly.

Opportunity Assessments are a Solid Base for Fundraising Success


What does it mean?


An opportunity assessment, often known as a SWOT analysis, identifies internal and external factors that affect your organization’s growth and sustainability.  The first two letters stand for Strengths and Weaknesses, these components are internal to your organization.  They describe what your organization does well and where it needs to rally, in terms of its internal infrastructure.  The second two letters stand for Opportunities and Threats, these elements are external.  Opportunities describe where your organization might expand or find new potential for development, while threats describe conditions that could pose a challenge to the growth or sustainability of your organization.    

As performed by Eno River Consulting, a SWOT analysis is a collaborative process and includes a variety of stakeholders around and within your organization.  The concerted setting allows participants to provide a more varied, richer and truly strategic perspective and feedback than could be obtained from the view of a less comprehensive and focused assessment

Benefits of SWOT Planning and Fundraising

Whether you’re just launching your organization or you’ve experienced it all, evaluating your assets and challenges represents smart business practice.  SWOT analysis may be familiar to you from strategic planning initiatives, but it also has commanding benefits for sharpening and focusing your revenue generation blueprint.  Organizations that understand their SWOT are able to communicate with prospective stakeholders clearly on the organization’s core abilities and have a deeper understanding of their potential and barriers that are present. 

Using a SWOT analysis for all the major organizational systems that affect fundraising success allows the organization to focus on the touch points and performance metrics that are meaningful to donors.  For strengths, focus on core strengths that highlight distinctions or advantages that your organization possesses that support you standing out from the pack.  Your organization needs to understand its weaknesses to decide what areas should be improved on and in what areas your organization currently struggles to impact the world positively in the ways you seek.

Exploring untapped opportunities within your current stakeholder base will allow your organization to grow.  Identifying potential opportunities and creating a strategic engagement plan will lead to stronger relationships. 

Deeper Understanding

Upon completing an opportunity assessment your organization will be prepared to approach the community that surrounds you with a solid understanding of your current strength and weaknesses and an action plan for strategic engagement. 

Eno River Consulting can work with your organization to facilitate an Opportunity Assessment with key stakeholders within and nearby your organization.


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