Millennials, Money and Marketing

Balancing new school & old school fundraising is as important as balancing new school and old school technologies.

Balancing new school & old school fundraising is as important as balancing new school and old school technologies.

A recent Fortune poll revealed that millennials, more so than their Baby Boomer and Gen X counterparts, value companies that give to charity. As the generation that came of age during the Great Recession, millennials saw big companies fail and the greed of others affect the lives of countless working Americans. Millennials are also the first digital-native generation, looking to build brand trust not only on product quality, but on brand development and social media. Therefore, it's not surprising that millennials value corporate social responsibility. 

Millennials will buy a pair of shoes because another will be donated to a child in need, in the case of the boom of popularity of brands like TOMS. The TOMS brand was able to sell millions of shoes that were not luxury or high-fashion - their signature style is a simple canvas slip-on - but because they were able to build a brand that made people feel good, something that everyone wanted to be part of. Millennials, however, will also be the ones to challenge those same brands on the responsibility of such acts of charity, and question how this practice affects local economies. In an increasingly globalized world, this generation, and those to come, will be more and more aware of how their purchasing and actions affect others around the world, and want to hold companies accountable. 

This same principle applies to millennials and non-profits. This group expects that if they give a dollar, they should be able to see the impact of that dollar, and more often than not, they will want to direct that dollar to a specific cause to guarantee its impact. As millennials begin to reach the age where they are building wealth, they are treating their donations as investments for social good, and as such, they expect to see returns. Millennials want to build trust with non-profits just as they do with corporations, so communication is key to acquire and maintain young donors. When a non-profit can demonstrate its successes on social media and share individual impact stories rather than using digital tools simply as another means to ask for money, they will likely see more success among donors, young and old alike. 

Keeping Your Cool



Those who know me best know there is one thing I hate more than anything in the world: heat.  I start complaining in Spring once it hits 77 that “It’s too hot outside”, and needless to say this current North Carolina summer has me paying all my money to Duke Energy to make life bearable.


In addition to the heat, summer is normally a time of transitions in organizations, old leaders leave, new staff comes on board, and new goals are implemented for the staff.  All these changes can sometimes make for a stressful time period where planning for the future is tough. Here are some tips on how you can keep your cool during the summer transition heat:

  1. Figure out what is staying the same: Even with new leaders and new staff, there are likely things that will stay the same, and odds are you know what they are.  Figure out what you are going to have to do regardless of what else is happening in the coming year and focus on planning for that.

  2. Engage with your team members: One of the nice things about the summer is that it tends to be a slower time at most universities and non-profits.  This is the perfect opportunity to re-engage with your team members, and figure out how you can best support one another.  Like I mentioned on my blog on summer planning, you can calendar your whole year out now, so why not bring everyone on the team in to make things smoother down the road?

  3. Relax a little: transitions happen, but stressing out rarely makes them go any more smoothly.  Try to keep calm and focus on getting your job done. Pretty soon, the Fall will be here and peak fundraising season will be in full swing. Keep your cool so that you can focus on doing your job well when the workload heats up!

Post Script from my Summer at the Gift

Caitlin Scurria | Development Communications Intern

Caitlin Scurria | Development Communications Intern

From my first week, I learned that The Gift Develeopment Group was like no other business I had ever been apart of. There was never a day that I worked as The Gift's summer intern that looked the same. Everyday when I walked in I had different kinds of tasks to complete, whether it was writing a blog post, creating a logo, brainstorming for a report, or anything in between. I didn't sit in a cubicle closed off from the staff and I was always included in important meetings where I felt comfortable contributing. 

I've learned so much about planning and designing deliverables for clients, creating and maintaining websites, reviewing proposals, and fundraising for good causes and good people. I came out of this summer with new, valuable experiences that I am excited about. 

The people at The Gift have their own special gift. They have this great passion for people, integrity in their work, and philanthropic minds. 

Thank you Tonya, Maria, Chris and most of all Mary Elizabeth for your patience and kindness as you showed me the ropes of business development, marketing, graphic design and communications. I wanted this internship ever since I walked past your beautiful office and found out what you do for people in our community. 

This summer was amazing and I will miss you all greatly. 

Not Winning: Facing up to Banana Peels and Uphill Boulders in Fundraising

One of my favorite writers, Nora Ephron, told a story once about slipping on a banana peel in public. She said that if people watch you slip and you try to play it off, they're laughing at you, but, if you tell the story of how you slipped, they're laughing with you. I choose to tell the story of how I slipped. And of course, the eternal optimist in me gleans to the wisdom of the woman who is Why Harry, Met Sally.

As a fundraiser, you'll have good days, great days, and a lot of tough days in between. It truly is the nature of the beast of begging for what you believe in.

A year ago we took on the challenge of trying to raise money in the developing world for a meaningful cause. There are women who deserve high quality health care in Zambia. They deserve a hospital that is not in a state of disrepair. So, we decided to work with a great team of people to try and build one.

Carrying the Capital Boulder Uphill

About three months ago I started feeling like we were moving a boulder uphill. Raising money to construct a hospital or a building with a good case and a strong donor base is usually a no brainer for me. I've done it more than a few times in my career and been lucky to be a part of some fundraising teams that knew how to run great capital campaigns. It's especially hard when our other fundraising projects are going so well. This particular project was beginning to feel very different, and I was losing more sleep than usual thinking about how to fix it.

How It's Typically "Done"

I've been grappling with the difference for the last several months. The difference isn't the case, or the initial targeted donor base. It's the lack of a tangible thing that most people can wrap their heads around. It took this year of carting the boulder on my back to figure it out. Most funding for global projects such as what we are proposing starts with a movement. Examples of this can be found in most international NGO's who hedge their fundraising on the infomercials we insomniacs are all too familiar with in the dead of night. They raise money through heart wrenching evangelistic appeals that reach into the bank accounts each month of good people who see needy children and families in foreign lands they just can't let go hungry or be sick on TV, so they call in their $1.83 a week with thousands of others guilt ridden folks and voila, there it is, they become a loyal donor to a village in Cambodia they'll likely never see. Month over month, year over year, these donors are a part of a large movement of the NGO that spends money on call centers and direct mail to retain and increase their giving. Admittedly, that's not my "kind" of fundraising. I believe that this project can be supported with some strong foundation and individual funding, through cultivation of the right types of donors who are engaged in charting the course for women and children's health in Africa. This takes time, and patience.

Starting our own "Movement" and Sticking With It

There's no happy ending here yet, but as I push the Boulder, I know that it will take an even stronger team of believers to move it with us than I've ever been a part of. First off, we have to start by openly combatting some of the stereotypes placed by westerners on life in Zambia and the developing world. I even needed to be educated on that. Second, we should be prepared, and prepare our volunteers and staff to answer the tough questions about the long term plan for sustainability of a project like this in a place most of them have never visited and will likely never go. Next, we should be very well versed in the geography of the country and history of the country itself, and the potential of the project to impact the population we intend to serve. 

Getting one on one meetings with people who are interested enough to dip their toe in the water in something as complicated and game-changing as building a quality health care facility with ties to a top notch US teaching hospital requires total preparedness and a great story, ready to be told, and engaged to the fullest. 

The Peel

We've learned a lot pushing this boulder up this hill this last year. The good news is that it feels lighter even though we aren't winning right now, we know we will because what we are working for is right. And right always, ultimately, wins in the end.

Harnessing Student Talent in Non-Profit Organizations

Many non-profit employers see potential in student’s abilities to grow their companies, but don’t know how to get students involved or harness their talents once they begin. Instead of simply asking students to tweet about events, post an Instagram of a project or update the company’s Facebook page, here are a few ways to recruit helpful students and use them effectively.

  1. Tap into what motivates students. Emphasize the resume-building opportunities they will participate in to gather relevant experience in their field of study.

  2. Look out for “University Day of Service” events that are happening at a nearby campus to recruit motivated students.

  3. Because peer influences are a driving factor in getting students involved, have former student employees share their experience at the company on their personal social media pages.

How can students help?

Students can offer help with creating and maintaining websites, videography, photography, editing, social media content and calendars, event planning, surveys, market research and blogging.

Students are taught much more than how to tweet and Instagram effectively in school; make sure to tap into these talents to get the most out of your student employee.

Students Can Give Back Too

With exams, extracurriculars and everything in between, the necessity of giving back to the university by making a gift is not at the top of most students' minds. I, for one, think that is a task generally associated with alumni. However, working with The Gift has shown me that getting people in the habit of giving takes a lot of strategy and coordination. I've learned that it's difficult to create a habit out of giving, which is why it's important to build that habit among students.  

As a rising senior, I have never been directly approached to give back monetarily so it isn’t on my radar. I think students should be targeted early on in their college career to get used to annual giving before they graduate. Universities can reach out to their students through their social media platforms, which boast thousands of followers and with events in populated places around campus. These events can also be opportunities to educate students about the importance of giving back, and the impact that private gifts have made on their experience by funding scholarships, study abroad and many other unique educational opportunities. Schools would be surprised by the impact of cultivating student donors from their first year, building a culture of philanthropy on campus. 

Even if students can't give back as much as alumni, their donations are perhaps more valuable. By contributing spare change or small donations, students will form a habit of giving, and continue their commitment to giving back to the university long after their years as undergraduates inevitably pass them by. 


New Fiscal Year's Eve

To many Americans, New Year’s Eve is a holiday at the end of December, celebrated with champagne toasts, fireworks and a giant LED ball dropping from the sky. We also know that many cultures celebrate the New Year on different calendars - in 2016 we had the Chinese New Year in February and will have both Rosh Hashanah and the Hijri New Year in October. One of the least-celebrated New Year holidays is an occasion we at The Gift like to call New Fiscal Year’s Eve. Unlike its counterparts featuring feasts and fireworks, NFYE, celebrated by many organizations on June 30, marks the last day in the fundraising calendar, the final chance to recruit donors and close out gifts. NFYE celebrations feature classic party games such as crafting email campaigns, calling up donors who have not yet made this year’s pledge, and even hand counting gifts to make sure that every pledge has been recorded and every donor thanked. The prize for winning these party games? Reaching and surpassing fundraising goals to make room for new programs, buildings and growth in the upcoming year.

With so much riding on reaching year-end fundraising targets, how can you effectively reach your donors this NFYE? This week my inbox has been flooded with emails from organizations, universities and even political campaigns scrambling for last-minute gifts. While there are thousands of email campaign templates designed to increase open and clickthrough rates, a few simple details can make your NFYE messaging stand out from the rest.

  • Personalization: This does not just mean including the donor’s name in the message. Personalization also means crafting a unique message so that your donor who has not given is not getting the same appeal as donors who already have. You can take it to the next level

  • Urgency: Your donors likely aren’t living on the same schedule as the fundraising world, so they don’t have a natural incentive to give by June 30. Your campaign and messaging needs to emphasize the need for immediate gifts, by highlighting a particular program short of its goal or issuing a matching challenge with a deadline.

  • Engagement: While these appeals need a direct ask for financial support, it doesn’t have to be the only element of the communication. Engage your constituents with some of the best stories from the past year, particular highlights or milestones of your organization, or even invite your community to give their own feedback on the year so that you can start the next year even stronger.

Cheers to the New Year; let’s party like it’s FY99.


Gift Top Five

Last week,I was given the honor to coach a committed group of board members on fundraising, and I really wanted to distill down to the basics at the end of the day. I knew that this room full volunteers had heard it all before, from how the art of the ask to the zeros on the checks. Many have spent years shaping the future of an institution that they all believed in, and put their hearts and souls in. It all came back to the WHY, HOW and WHEN as I worked through the 8 hour day of coaching, reigniting and reconnecting to purpose.  

Why is Reconnecting Passion

How is the Method to Get it Done

When is the Timeline to Do it

So, I set out on a mission to reconnect to passion and ended it with the my personal Top Five Things I always remember when I am asking for a gift. Unlike Letterman, I only need one hand to make a point.

#1  When I make a connection or ask for a Gift, it isn't about me or what I want or need, its really about the cause.

#2  I can't ask for a Gift, unless I’ve given one myself. 

#3  I should speak with authenticity, and have a story to tell about the impact that cause or institution has made on a life, or even my own.

#4  People always, ultimately,  give to People.

#5  Listen. Listen. Listen. We really only learn when we listen.


”I've found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver”.- Maya Angelou

Your Summer Fundraising Planning Guide

Creative Commons Stinson Beach  by Kglavin CC BY SA

Creative Commons Stinson Beach by Kglavin CC BY SA

As the heat goes up and our campuses, colleagues, and donors leave for vacations, the workload in most fundraising offices tends to lighten a bit.  The traditional non-profit fiscal year ends on June 30, and by now most of us have an idea of where our final numbers will be, even as we try to squeeze in a last appeal or giving push to close out our fiscal year.


This more relaxed atmosphere presents us with a great opportunity to plan for the next fiscal year.  Organizations with fundraisings plans generally raise more money and it helps to keep us as development professionals accountable to our goals.  You can find plenty of resources online attesting to the importance of a fundraising plan, but today I want to get into several things to consider when formulating it.

First, data.  You don’t need a statistician to do a hardcore analysis or predictive modelling on your data to find useful results from it.  Things as simple as the median or mode gift will tell you a lot about your annual fund population and what you should be asking for.  This can be found pretty easily using Microsoft Excel or another spreadsheet software.  Additionally, you can learn a lot about your donor population’s interests by seeing where small donors give their money.  Odds are that your larger donors probably have similar interests, and gift volume shows trends that total dollar amount might miss because of confounding variables. If an area has large gift volume but a small dollar amount, this typically means that you haven’t been asking major donors to fund it as much as you could.

Next, calendaring. Planning out when you are going to do things is vitally important so you can keep yourself on track and accountable throughout the coming year.  If you work with institutional funders such as corporations and foundations, this could mean putting the funding cycles of the organizations you want to ask for money on your calendar.  If you work in annual fund this means planning out your mailings and electronic outreach, and if you work in major giving, this means looking through your portfolio and seeing if there are individuals who are overdue for a meeting.

Finally, setting goals. While this is a conversation that does not involve only one person, having an open conversation with your boss about what the monetary goals are is important for the organization and for you personally.  Looking to see what you think you can reasonably accomplish and by when will allow you to have a successful year and allow you to achieve great results for the causes that you represent.


Taking a look through the Sieve of Giving at our HBCUs


Giving requires a surplus, a sacrifice and can be a struggle for those without any history of that habit. Yes, Giving is also habit forming. 

As we at the Gift work through our philanthropic vision for these institutions, We know who we will need to reconnect to the cause of saving them. We want them to answer the call. That is all. 

While CIAA is a great way to connect with others like us, and give back, let's get beyond that, and think about legacy in a way we never have before. Let's join together, let's be in solidarity for scholarships, school infrastructure and programs more than ever.  We need you to lead the charge as others will not. You, are now more than ever, the change.

Let's make this an outpouring in our hour of need!  Let's give like we've never done before.