TopNonprofits Virtual Summit Interview

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I have the pleasure of delivering the keynote presentations for TopNonprofit's Virtual Summit for Nonprofit Changemakers #TNPNC20. If you are looking for fundraising strategies in challenging times, this summit is for you! My topics are:
Sept. 15 – Donor Engagement: Connect, Cultivate & Close
Sept. 17 – Virtual Leadership: Creating a New Culture

I interviewed Amy DeVita, host and COO with TopNonprofits. I hope you enjoy the interview! The link to register for the summit is located at the bottom of the page.

Can you tell us about TopNoprofits and the services you provide?

Sure! The mission of TopNonprofits is "To equip nonprofit professionals with practical insights from top organizations and leaders." Launched in 2011, the idea was to leverage collaboration through the internet to share ideas, best practices, and advice.

Over the years we have continued to grow our offerings. We started with lists that helped fill some voids and really put us on the map. From there we continued to share content and create unique content as blog posts, a newsletter with a roundup of great information from a variety of sources. And, in more recent years, we have produced a podcast, webinars, virtual workshops, and ....coming soon: the Virtual Summit for Nonprofit Changemakers!

How has TopNonprofits assisted clients during the pandemic?

We've just continued to do what we do. Our business has always operated virtually, so transitioning to #WFH didn't phase us at all and we've continued to serve both our audience and sponsors without sacrificing any quality.
Further, we are seeing that even the most dedicated "we need to be in the office"-types are, out of necessity, adjusting to remote work and learning. On our site, Under the "Resources" tab, you'll find that we are continuing to offer free and On-Demand webinars, connections to a database of nonprofit experts, whitepapers, podcasts, and a list of books intended to provide opportunities for professional development.
And, I think that now is definitely the right time to offer the Virtual Summit. More people are more comfortable with ZOOM meetings and distance learning combined with the facts that travel and large gatherings are really not possibilities.

Can you tell us what brought about the idea of hosting the Summit for Nonprofit Changemakers?

Funny enough, it goes back to the very impetus to my launching Third Sector Today, which eventually merged into TopNonprofits. Back in 2012/2013 I would go to industry conferences and witness the excitement and enthusiasm of the attendees. I'd attend sessions and find some so packed that many attendees were sitting on the floor or standing. I would think about how many people would not be able to attend these conferences - and how many of those folks really need this knowledge. After all, attendees' organizations would need to shell out money for relatively expensive registration fees, travel and hotel costs, and all of that time out of the office! Don't get me wrong- I think face to face and in-person events are vitally important, but I also think that increasing accessibility by virtue of cost or convenience is vital to the sector. And, due to COVID-19 those IRL opportunities are just not a reality right now.

And, finally, it goes far to serve our mission: to equip nonprofit staff with practical insights from top organizations and leaders.

The greatest challenge was curating the right mix of experts. I think we succeeded on that end! There are 24 experts--including you, Kristal!-- who will be presenting live and online, over the course of the two-days. I am very thankful to the colleagues who helped connect me to such great experts!

What can attendees expect to learn and take away from the conference?

Well, I would like to think there is something for everyone here. First of all, we focused on 3 primary topics that are important to every organization: fundraising, marketing, and leadership. After that, we made sure that we weren't repeating learning objectives. So, as an example, planning for board succession is very important, but we don't want to have 4 speakers present on it. I am really grateful for the colleagues who helped connect me with so many amazing experts; without that, I think I would've had a potential problem of staying in my safe space with only voices I knew. This is so much more interesting!

And, of course...this isn't just about Nonprofit it is about Changemakers. What does it mean to be a changemaker? Very clearly, this is a time in the US (and elsewhere) where discussions around race and equity aren't just important; they are mandatory. There is a movement going on around us right now that demands we quit sweeping those discussions under the rug and start having some real and probably uncomfortable conversations. Change needs to happen. Our speakers and attendees want to be an agent of change for the greater good.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about your organization?

Although this is live and online, as a trained educator, I am fully aware that distance instruction is different!
Our speakers are prepared to present via Zoom and they all have varied approaches, styles, and tools. In other words, this is not going to be one Powerpoint presentation after another.

In addition, we have added some really fun elements, too! Thanks to the our sponsors, we have been able to engage a visual recorder, who will summarize key points of sessions into a really cool graphic representation and we have added a conference App that will increase networking opportunities (especially for a virtual event!) and a lot more bells and whistles like allowing you to select the sessions most important to you and import right into your calendar so you don't miss it! There will also be giveaways, at random times during the summit we will randomly select a winner who is in attendance.

And, last but not least, CFRE has approved the summit for up to 18.75 CE units.

So, I think what we are offering here is a tremendous value on every possible front: learning, networking, and earning professional development credits. I hope that your network of nonprofit professionals will join us for what promises to be a spectacular opportunity- especially the TWO keynote addresses you'll be making!

Any questions? Contact [email protected]

Register for the 2 day conference:

Summit Information:

Press Release:

Facebook Page:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Funding and Resources (updated 4/8/2020)

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COVID-19 Funding by State: Community Foundations Nationwide Launch Coronavirus Relief Efforts

COVID-19 Federal Funding/ COVID-19 Government Funding

DoorDash COVID-19 Financial Assistance Program

Financial assistance for eligible Dashers that are diagnosed with COVID-19 and have been active on the DoorDash platform for at least 60 days and have completed at least 30 deliveries in the last 30 days.

Facebook Small Business Grants Program

We know that your business may be experiencing disruptions resulting from the global outbreak of COVID-19. We’ve heard that a little financial support can go a long way, so we are offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits to help during this challenging time.

Fashion Nova Cares

Fashion Nova Cares, and COVID-19 relief effort is launching an initiative with Cardi B to establish immediate relief to those who need it most. From April 8th through May 20th, they will be give away $1,000 every hour per day for 42 days for a total of 1,000,000 dollars given to those who need help. If you or someone you know could use the help, go to and submit your story.

John A. Hartford Foundation Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Resources for Older Adults, Family Caregivers and Health Care Providers

The Foundation compiled a list of resources from their partners and grantees. The Foundation regularly updates with information for older adults, family caregivers and health care providers.

OpenRICE - Learning Portal for Nonprofit Organizations

OpenRICE is the Glasscock School's initiative to provide free, timely expertise in the form of short, open sessions geared towards the nonprofit community.

PEN America Writers’ Emergency Fund

PEN is inviting applications to its Writers’ Emergency Fund. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic. PEN America is expanding the fund as part of its efforts to support the literary community at a time when the health and livelihoods of so many are at risk. Through the fund, grants of between $500 and $1,000 will be awarded in support of writers demonstrating an inability to meet an acute financial need, especially one resulting from the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. The fund is intended to assist fiction and nonfiction authors, poets, playwrights, screenwriters, translators, and journalists.

Shea Moisture $1 Million Community Commerce Fund

SheaMoisture announced, under its long-established Community Commerce business model, a $1 Million Fund to support entrepreneurs of color and small businesses.

The grant intends to show the power of small/black-owned businesses to help communities, while also hoping to minimize the financial disruptions that many are experiencing from the current global crisis.

Texas Black Expo/HEB

The Texas Black Expo has partnered with several major corporations including H-E-B, Enterprise Holdings, Chevron and UPS, in an ongoing effort to support small businesses affected by the devastation of COVID-19.

Unbound - Virtual Conference for Nonprofit Leaders

Unbound - Unbound is a DonorSearch virtual conference geared towards the nonprofit community. It begins on April 6th and will have daily presentations throughout the pandemic.


COVID-19 Webinars for Nonprofits and Small Businesses

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The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted everyone, including nonprofits and small businesses. I have spoken to many nonprofit leaders and small business owners about the financial impact. I am doing a series of webinars to help with understanding how fundraising and grant writing will change going forward. You can register for the complimentary webinars below:

COVID-19 Funding for Nonprofits & Small Business - April 16, 2020 - 11:00am CST

Fear In Fundraising? How To Communicate With Donors Now - April 23, 2020 - 11:00am CST

Corporate Sponsorship - The New Normal - April 27, 2020 - 11:00am CST

Causality Brand Grant -Service-Based Grant exclusively for Nonprofit Marketing and Branding

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I know you've heard me talk about the Causality Brand Grant before. In case you missed it, let me refresh your memory. Causality offers full (pro bono) and matching (partial, funding requirement of 50%) service grants to help nonprofits have access to their services at no or low cost. "Causality can help you build your “toolbox” of dynamic and sustainable communications elements and empower you to use them—elevating your brand and enhancing your ability to serve."
Check out my interview with Terri Gaines, President of Causality.

Can you tell me about your organization?

My husband Steve and I started a small branding firm in the late 90s and grew it to an award-winning advertising agency with a staff of 15+. We had clients large and small, from insurance to banking to small businesses and we were very successful.

Over time, we found that our work for nonprofits was the work that we enjoyed most. In 2009, we rebranded to Causality to work exclusively with nonprofits and good causes. We have a core staff of designers and web developers who have been with us since the early days who all embrace our mission. We are grateful to be able to do our part to help make a difference. It is the motivation behind our tag line: Do good, help others, go home happy.

In the 10 years we've been Causality, we’ve also added government agencies and education clients to the mix. We found that their needs and our solutions are very similar to those of nonprofits.

We now provide our branding, marketing, graphic design and web site design services exclusively for nonprofits, government agencies and education clients across the U.S.

Where did the idea for a service grant come from?

Even before we were Causality we had always done pro bono work whenever we could. We found that much of our pro bono work was repeat work. It’s great to develop long term relationships, that’s very important to us, but we also wanted a means to offer our pro bono services to a more diverse audience of nonprofits and to contribute to help solve their branding challenges.

Shortly after we rebranded to Causality, we launched the first Brand Grant offering Full Grants to qualifying nonprofits through an application process. We received 50 applications that first time and we awarded two pro bono projects. We continued by doing this twice a year.

During that first year, we received input from medium to larger organizations who were interested in the program but felt they their needs were different from those of the smaller nonprofits. They typically had some level of funding or the capacity to raise funding for certain projects but were looking ways to extend that funding. In 2011, we added the Matching Grant program which is a partial pro bono grant.

Through the Matching Grant, organizations can receive a project with a 50% reduction in cost. When a Matching Grant is awarded, we discuss the project and put together a proposal that details the project, the deliverables and the full cost for the project. We apply the 50% reduction for the pro bono portion of the Matching Grant and the remaining balance is what is required from the organization to proceed with the project.

Over time, both grant options have become very popular. We now offer the grant four times a year and receive an average of 100 applications, awarding 2-3 full grants and 6+ matching grants each quarter.

Can you tell me about one of your most recent projects?


Rebranding Crisis Clinic is one of our recent favorites. They had been Crisis Clinic since 1964 and had a longstanding history and excellent reputation in the community. However, their 20 year old brand was becoming increasingly irrelevant. The logo had a rotary dial phone and the word “clinic” was being use to describe phone and online services.

Over time, Crisis Clinic’s programs and services evolved and expanded to better meet the needs of people living in Seattle and the surrounding areas. This included the role that smartphones and text messages have in communication.

We dug in and conducted a brand assessment of their Board of Trustees, staff, volunteers and greater community to learn what the perception of their role was in the community. Common key words that people chose were “connector” and “connections.” We initiated the name change to Crisis Connections and visually represented connections with the hand and device forming a heart. This new branding better supports their mission and embraces the ways people connect.

What are three tips for submitting a strong application?

  1. Always have a compelling challenge related to branding. The last and most important question asks what branding or communications challenge your organization faces. For example: Is there a stigma surrounding the work you do or the people you serve? Is your organization being confused with another or is your mission being misunderstood? Do you lack awareness in your community? Lack of funding or shortage of staff is not considered a compelling challenge for this grant, it needs to be something branding or communications related so that we can envision a solution with the services we provide.
  1. Be sure to ask for projects that fall under our areas of expertise. The Causality Brand Grant is not a funding grant, but rather a services grant providing branding, marketing graphic design and web site services. We don’t fund supplies or vehicles or other tangible items (we’ve been asked for a van!). The grant also does not cover hard costs such as the cost to print materials. However, just about any branding or communications service is included.
  1. Be specific about your project. When we evaluate grant applications each cycle, we work to align requests with our predicted capacity for the next three months. It is helpful to know “project specific” details. If your request is for “marketing materials” it is helpful to quantify this as “a series of four program brochures and a pocket folder” so that we can have a good idea of scope. It helps us to not under or over estimate the projects we award that quarter. To be fair, we realize that sometimes, an organization may not know what they need and could benefit from consultation towards identifying needs. That is a valid project request, as well.

Should an applicant only ask for one service?

An applicant may ask for one or more services. It is helpful for us to know the breadth of the needs. We do ask that the organization identify each project and list them in priority order. As mentioned above, when we evaluate grant applications we work to align requests with our predicted capacity for the next three months. So if we have a finalist organization whose first item is something we won’t have capacity to handle, we can move down to the next item in the list to make the award happen.

If awarded a grant, what are the obligations of the recipients? The obligations are really no different from any other type of project engagement. We consider these to be highly collaborative projects where we partner with each client to work towards a mutual solution/result. We ask that we have a consistent point of contact within the organization, that the organization is responsive to requests for feedback, content or any other needs and we ask that once we begin a project that the organization commits to maintaining a reasonable project pace. These are really essential to any successful project.

Is there anything else we should know about the grant process?

It’s a very competitive process. We receive so many applications from great organizations who have interesting projects and compelling challenges. But as a smaller firm, we just don’t have the capacity to award more at this time. We know it can be discouraging to apply and be turned down. Making cuts is the hardest part of the process for us.

We do encourage folks to reapply and are happy to provide feedback on an application. We also keep the questions the same each time to make it easier to reapply. This grant was designed to be accessible for organizations that may not have a grant writer or whose staff may be stretched thin.

To apply for the Causality Brand Grant, click the link to review upcoming deadlines.

Contact Information for Terri Gaines:

Get Ready for the Fall Fundraising Season!

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Last week, I received a few invitations to local galas and fundraisers happening around my city. I thought to myself, summer is really over! It’s that time of year to finish planning your largest fundraisers and events. I want to remind you about an overlooked area: donor communication.

I could do a whole series on this very subject. It is that important. It’s easy to get into the habit of asking for money, but not communicating with the donor in the interim. I bring up communication because right now is prime time. Almost everyone should be back from summer vacation, and that includes your donors! The months August through October set the tone for the rest of the year. If you don’t have a simple donor communication plan, use this one:

-Identify new prospects;
-Clean your current donor database;
-Gather your volunteers;
-Send an email update to your new prospects introducing your nonprofit;
-Remind your current donors about your organization with news, upcoming events, and current campaigns.

-Call, and thank major donors (determine what is considered a major gift in your organization: $5,000, $10,000, $50,000, etc...) Some people call this a phone blitz. This is an opportunity for your volunteers and staff to thank major donors for their continued support.
-Email personal solicitations to your major donors a week after the phone call;
-Prepare for Giving Tuesday by sending out a "Save the Date" to your database the third week in October

November (Giving Tuesday) and December (year-end giving) are prime donor communication months. It will take more than a bulleted list to cover the months that bring your nonprofit the most funding. I may cover this topic in a video or webinar instead of a newsletter.

Are you getting ready for the fall fundraising season? How are you preparing?

New Classes in 2020!

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Stay tuned for FundJoy’s 4-week online classes in 2020! We are kicking off the year with one of my most popular courses: Grant Research & Writing 101, followed by Public Speaking Strategies for Fundraisers. If you have ever struggled with speaking about your cause, making the Ask, or just speaking in front of an audience, I can help you! I was an introverted person. Speaking in front of people did not come naturally. It is a learned and practiced skill. Honing my public speaking skills made the difference in my fundraising career. Hey, if I can do it, so can you! Click the link to let me know which topic you’re interested in. You will receive first notification!

Donors Love Stats that Either Highlight Need or Show Impact.

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For the first time in 50 years, individual giving is less than 70% of total giving. I didn’t want to start the newsletter with bad news, but because we are fundraisers, this information is important to us. There are a ton of webinars discussing the Giving USA 2019 Report. There are also several articles discussing the stats and what has increased/decreased, etc. I want to focus on just one aspect of the report: Individual Giving.

I have nonprofit peers who question the validity of the report. Some fundraisers don’t see the value in analyzing it. The reason for most of my fundraising success is that I study people AND trends. Well-researched statistics matter.

Giving USA 2019 Report Infographic
Image Source:

The Giving USA Report is very detailed, so I rely on infographics. Infographics are good for consuming a lot of information in a short amount of time. This especially helps if you are a visual person. Let me show you how I use giving statistics to my advantage. The first thing I look at is the increase in charitable dollars. Right away, I see that the environment/animal initiatives saw an increase. That is not surprising to me, seeing that this has been the trend over the last few years. What was surprising is the increase in giving to international organizations: 9.6%. This is how I look for trends and what sectors are suffering. I TAKE THIS INFORMATION AND USE IT IN MY ASK MEETINGS. YOU CAN TOO!

Donors love stats that either highlight need or impact.

Use statistics to show how your cause if suffering. For example, here is a script: “In the latest Giving USA Report, it showed a decrease in giving to foundations. Because of this knowledge, my team and I have diversified our funding portfolio and are looking to build relationships with local donors. This works for us because we understand it connects our donors to our cause.”


Use everything you have to close the deal.

Don’t forget about my Prospect Research 101 Class, starting in September. This is one example of how I will teach you how to connect, cultivate and close! Register here.


​ 40 hours to complete a grant application? Is it worth it?

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MacArthur Foundation is accepting applications for its 100&Change competition. The grand prize is $100 million, with smaller prizes totaling $15 million dollars. Every year I receive emails from clients and peers asking if they should go for it. Hey, I'm an optimist, so I love the enthusiasm. If you ever thought about going after large grants, this newsletter is just for you. We will use MacArthur’s grant as an example.

1. MacArthur Foundation refers to this funding opportunity as a competition. Every time you submit a grant application, you are in a competition. The number one way to submit a competitive proposal is to make sure the funder's values and interests match your organization’s mission and vision.

2. Applicants who applied for the 100&Change grant reported it took 40+ hours to complete the grant application. I will emphasize the "+". Make sure you have the time to devote to an intense and sometimes frustrating process.

3. MacArthur encourages nonprofits with 2 or more representatives to apply. When you're tackling a project of this magnitude, you need a team.

What about local grants?

MacArthur is a grand example, but what about local grants? The same strategies apply. Submitting the grant proposal may not be as time-consuming, but check and recheck your proposal before submission. In my Grants 101 workshop, I always stress asking yourself this one question:

Does the proposed program match the goals, objectives, and priorities of the funder?

Goals: Projects generally should have only one goal. Your goal may include one of these terms: to decrease, to deliver, to develop, to establish, to improve, to increase, to produce, or to provide.
Objectives: Objectives are the specific means of measuring and achieving a goal.
Priorities: What are the funder's priorities? What are their initiatives?

Thanks for joining me on the last webinar: Prospect Research 101. I reviewed the seven steps that outline my prospect research process. If you missed it, sign up for our class: Prospect Research 101, starting September 10, 2019!

For Fundraisers: Q&A

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Question: Bridgett asks, “How do I ask current donors (who have given faithfully over the years) about raising money for unrestricted needs?”
Answer: I noticed in the question that the donor will not accept a visit. At this point, all you have to rely on is phone or email communication. I would take this a step further. Ease into the conversation. You can do this two ways: invite them to your event, or see which events and fundraisers they are attending around town. This method has worked for me. When they ask you what is new, TELL THEM. Faithful donors are more apt to listen. Since they won't accept a visit, easing them into the conversation works much better.

Question: Lisa asks, “How do I get the first meeting with a prospect?”
Answer: I recently did a webinar for Bloomerang discussing how to get a seat at the table. Do your due diligence. Do your research on the prospect. It's interesting that it takes so much prep to get a seat at the table that the meeting itself is sometimes the easiest part. Prospect research involves getting to know your prospect, their affiliations, giving history, connections with your current board members, etc. After that, you can invite them to your latest fundraiser or event, or on an organized tour. I usually don't prefer cold calling or cold emailing. The relationship must be built, not rushed. The goal is long term donors.

Question: Rose asks, “How do I develop the conversation with a potential donor?”
Answer: This all goes back to easing the donor into the conversation. Unless you have some sort of connection or were referred by a board member, for example, the conversation cannot consist only of making the ask. The conversation can start with an email to which you have attached your latest newsletter. (If you do not regularly send a newsletter, please consider doing so. It is a powerful tool and gives the donor a snapshot of your organization. You can send the letter twice per month, or once a month, but just be consistent.) Always give the potential donor more than they expect. Does your research reveal that they are an alumnus of a university that one of your board members attended? Do they have a history of giving to causes related to your mission? Be sure to mention the connection in your conversation. This is the type of small talk you want to have.

Question: Jaye asks, "I am almost 6 months in as the Director of Development for my nonprofit. We just had our biggest fundraising event a couple of weeks ago and one of the donors in my portfolio gave $10,000. He is going to meet with me for the first time on Thursday. My supervisor is pushing me to talk about making another ask at this first meeting but I think that educating this donor is of upmost importance at this stage. Is there a nice compromise to talk about an ask and also educating my donor on our first meeting? Answer: You are right to educate the donor on your programs, initiatives and services. If I were in your position, I would not make another Ask. If it is mandatory, I would ask the donor if they would consider being a recurring donor in the future. You're still asking, which fulfills the directive from your boss, and your not pressuring your donor to give again.

Do you have a question? Submit your question to [email protected]. Your question and first name (or an alias at your request) will be posted on the blog.

LinkedIn "Contact Interests" Feature

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I recently conducted a webinar for Bloomerang called the Assertive Ask. One of the tips I shared was an underutlized tool called "Contact Interests". You can find this on the LinkedIn platform. By using this tool, you can connect with people who are interested in becoming a board member of volunteering at an organization. Click on the picture and check out the tutorial: LinkedIn "Contact Interests" Tutorial.