#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week eleven | 5 ways to involve young people in your organization

Young Alumni Fundraising - Part I (2)

It seems appropriate to write about volunteerism during National Volunteer Week, doesn’t it?

One of the big lessons learned in #whatgiveswednesday so far is: involve young people in your cause. As Sheena Greer told us“We are going to give our time first and our money second.” 

Does that mean that millennials are rushing to volunteer for us and soon after giving us money? No! So, how do you get them to give their time?

Here are five ideas I came up with:

  1. Find your young champions. Chances are you’ve got at least one young person involved with your organization. Take her out for coffee. Ask her why she cares. Ask her what involvement gets her most excited about your org. Ask her if she can bring some friends the next time she’s volunteering!Find your young champions.
  2. Create a young council / board / focus group / whatever. Sarah Kathryn Coley created a GOLD (Grads Of the Last Decade) Council at the university where she works. Sarah Kathryn says, “These volunteers are eager to help with peer-to-peer solicitations and educating young grads on how to get involved in the life of the university.” Like Carolyn Hawthorn told us, millennials don’t want to hear from your organization, they want to hear from their friends.Create a young council - board - focus
  3. Have volunteer opportunities. Before you try to get any young people on board with your organization, are there opportunities to be involved? Can they plan an event or do some meaningful work for you? If so, you better…Have volunteer opportunities.
  4. Make volunteering fun! Sheena told us that volunteer experiences should be moving, fun, and highly social. I’m a big fan of Students Offering Support (not just because it was founded by a Laurier grad). SOS has chapters at different universities and students pay a nominal fee to participate in an “Exam-AID” group review session, getting support from senior students (volunteers) in advance of their exams. The money raised is spent creating sustainable education projects in developing nations. Everyone wins! You connect with peers, benefit from the experience yourself, and impact others. Wouldn’t you want to be involved in that? (And make sure there’s a hashtag. Everyone loves hashtags!)Make volunteering fun!
  5. Hold an event. It sounds cliché, but it works. The Canadian Opera Company has Operanation and the Royal Ontario Museum has Friday Night Live. In both cases, young people buy tickets to go to a fun party (with hashtags!) that make people think, “This organization is cool!” These are big events by big organizations, but you can replicate this coolness (because seriously, cool matters) for your organization! I worked at a small independent school before Laurier, and we used to hold young alumni pub nights. Wings, nachos, and a free drink ticket goes a long way! I used to make a lot of friends among the young alumni when I was the one with the drink tickets. Building those relationships had huge value, and I saw the money come in from those engaged young alumni later. It works!Hold an event

What awesome ways have you involved young people in your organization? Share in the comments.


Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past eight years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week five | guest post: five ways we increased our young alumni giving participation rate

5 ways we increased our young alumni participation rate

We did it! We finally stopped talking about young alumni and started talking to them. At The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), 30% of our alumni base are considered “young”, or graduates of the last decade. This is a large enough percent to make us blink twice and get to work.

Since we began focusing on young alumni, we have seen an increase in our young alumni giving participation rate of approximately 50% compared to this time last year. There are so many different ways you can engage this group of alumni, but here are five ways that have worked well for us so far.

  1. We established a GOLD Council (Graduates Of the Last Decade). This group serves as an advisory board for young alumni initiatives in the areas of philanthropy, programming and marketing. These volunteers are eager to help with peer to peer solicitations and educating young grads on how to get involved in the life of the university.
  1. We segmented our email appeals for young alumni. In a world of texts and tweets, most young alumni don’t take time to read an entire email. We started using shorter sentences, more photos, and began sharing our calls to action in the form of infographics.
  1. We completed “check-in calls” in our telefund/phonathon instead of soliciting them for donations over the phone. Our student callers contacted the most recent UNCG graduates who have been out of school for six months or less. We asked how they were doing, updated contact information, and connected them to our career services center if they were still looking for employment.
  1. In May 2014, we launched our very first 24-hour giving day. We knew these were all the buzz, but didn’t know if it would work for us. It was a great success and allowed us to talk about giving in a new way. Our alumni were given the chance to make a gift, wear our school colors, and tell the world why they #BelieveInTheG on social media. We are continuing the campaign this year but for 48-hours and hope to get even more donors.
  1. We beefed up our alumni club events and networking socials. By offering more opportunities for alumni to gather, we learned that we do have a lot of young alumni who want to get more involved. They just need to know how to get plugged in. Taking time to make personal connections with young alumni at these events is key in making sure they stay engaged and eventually give of their time and their treasure.

Yes, we have seen growth, but we have a long way to go. We have learned that if you take time to invest in alumni while they are young, then you have a better chance of retaining them as donors in the future. How have you targeted young alumni in your annual giving strategy???


Written by Sarah Kathryn Coley

Sarah-Kathryn-Coley-114x160Sarah Kathryn Coley is an Associate Director for Annual Giving and Alumni Engagement at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is passionate about helping young alumni understand why it is important to give back.

Connect with Sarah Kathryn via:
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Barista to CEO: Young Constituents

Barista to CEO-Young Constituents

I had the great privilege and pleasure of seeing Penelope Burk speak recently. More than just speak, she presented the latest findings of what she’s known for: the (in this case, Canadian) Burk Donor Research Study.

What stood out for me was when she commented on an area of interest for me (as evidenced here… and here): Young Constituents.

When it came to this group, Burk shared that:

  • They have a lower capacity to give (often due to student debt)
  • When they do give, they give larger amounts to fewer organizations (younger donors believe that these gifts make a bigger difference because they keep the cost of fundraising down and the impact on the organization up)
  • When they give, they are active donors; they actually want to be involved in the activities of your organization

Here’s the rub: the attitude of an active donor is being highly undervalued, and passive donors (who give with little expectation/involvement) are – forgive me for being blunt – dying out, and will likely not be giving in seven years.

What does it mean to be an active donor??? As I said before, it means these donors want to be involved. It also means they will encourage their social networks – online and offline – to get involved as well. They are influential; not in their capacity to give as much as their ability to connect others to an organization. And – this is where I might get your attention – they will have a capacity to give significant gifts soon.

As Penelope Burk said, these young people are baristas… and baristas… and baristas… until suddenly they’re CEOs! And, as my mentor Paul Nazareth added when I had a coffee with him a few weeks ago: while they’re working as a barista, they’re working on their start-up company on the side…

We cannot ignore our young constituents!

This is all I’ll say for now, but stay tuned, because in honour of the 3-year anniversary of www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com, I’ll be making an announcement on November 21st about a new initiative. I can’t wait to share it with you!


Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Guest Post: Finding Life’s Sweet Spot — Pursuit of Passion, Living your Purpose.

Oprah Winfrey once said, “Do what you love, give it back in the form of service, and you will do more than succeed.” Since graduating from Syracuse University almost three years ago, I’ve been working toward my goal of finding life’s sweet spot: the intersection of my passions and purpose. While it hasn’t always been easy (and I have had my share of a few minor setbacks) I’ve continue to learn so much about myself and from others in the process. Moving to Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2011 was truly the start of something new: I was making friends, interning at an awesome PR firm, and experiencing the sights and sounds of a brand new city. Little did I know that the baby steps I had begun to take would lay the foundation of my love for philanthropy and communications.

My career thus far has allowed me use my communications skills to advocate for causes that I am interested in – meet my passion. From education and healthcare, to technology and nonprofit, I’ve built a solid resume of experiences all the while impacting the lives of others through service – meet my purpose. The most connected I’ve been to achieving this was during my AmeriCorps experience with Higher Achievement DC Metro. As the Alumni Outreach VISTA, I worked directly with high school alumni of the after-school program, and built partnerships with community organizations in order to provide the students with academic and social opportunities so that they could thrive long after their days in Higher Achievement. I also worked with the communications manager to give the organization a stronger voice on social media, which was a very rewarding experience. Being a VISTA taught me a number of things, but it revealed to me most I’ve got a heart to serve, and I must make that an integral part of my career.

During my year of AmeriCorps service, I also became involved with other organizations in the D.C. area. My work with Capital Cause has enhanced my teamwork and partnership building skills; my board position with First Book-DC allowed me to flex my social media muscles in building awareness around the importance of children’s literacy; and my involvement with the local chapter of Levo League has strengthened my leadership and event planning skills, and broadened my network of young women professionals in the area. Each of these examples have come into my life at their own unique time, but have allowed me to challenge myself in new and exciting ways to give back to my community. They have also inspired me to encourage my fellow millennials to push themselves to discover what it is that they love, and how they can do it every day.

While it’s great to have that 9-to-5 just to stay alive, I think it is also so important to have an outlet in which to express yourself creatively. For me, it is writing for my personal blog – Young, Gifted & Precise – say hello to the sweet spot. As a 20-something trying to navigate her way through a world of friendships, jobs, student loan payments and non-stop media, I’ve used my blog not only as a way to share my story, but to connect with my fellow millennials to gain their insight on similar challenges. It’s sometimes tough to remain consistent, but is giving me the opportunity to become a better writer, and learn more on how to market to the millennial audience. This is just one way in which I have found one of life’s many sweet spots (achieving my dream career is next). It truly brings me joy to write, and I just hope that my love for the craft will encourage someone to take a chance on themselves to be greater than they were the day before.

To my fellow millennials trying to find the sweet spot: Don’t be afraid to step out on faith and live the life you’ve always imagined. Take risks. Have conversations with new people. Re-connect with old classmates, co-workers and family friends. And most importantly, GIVE BACK TO YOUR COMMUNITY. It’s so easy to walk around big cities like New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles and get caught up in the (struggle) lap of luxury. But trust me – you will receive the most fulfillment in spending time helping others. Whether it is mentoring middle school kids once a week or serving food at your local homeless shelter, make sure you get in touch with your community through some form of service. You never know how your service to the community can elevate your professional career, and even help you discover passions you never thought you had.


Written by Chastity Cooper


A PR and social media marketing strategist based out of Washington, D.C., Chasity Cooper hopes to one day become a fierce combination of Olivia Pope, Michelle Obama and Claire Huxtable.

Connect with Chastity via:

5 Things I’ve Learned about Fundraising at Trinity College School

Today is bittersweet.  It’s my last day in my office at Trinity College School where I’ve served as Alumni Development Officer for 3.5 years.  The sweet part is departing TCS for an exciting new position at my alma mater Wilfrid Laurier University, but it is always difficult leaving an incredible work experience like TCS has been for me.

So, in honour of Trinity College School, its alumni, and all of my outstanding colleagues that I’ve had the pleasure to work with and learn from, I wanted to share with my readers what I’ve learned about fundraising at TCS (I’ve boiled it down to five things, but there are actually hundreds).

What I’ve Learned about Fundraising at Trinity College School

Young People Will Give
You know my feelings on young alumni by now – you must ask them to support your school.  Why do I feel so passionately about that?  Because at TCS I’ve learned that they will give.

Yes, they’re different.  They won’t just give because it’s a habit or because it’s expected of them.  They’re skeptical; they want to see how you provide value, to them or to your community.  They want to know what the impact of their gift will be, and they want to be told that their $25 will make a difference.

So what?  They have different needs than other donors.  So meet those needs, and ask. Because they will give.

Major Gifts Take Time
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a small taste of major gift fundraising while at TCS, which is an area of fundraising that I’m really keen to pursue further.  My first exposure to major gift solicitations was simply observing, listening to, and learning from my Executive Director.  What did I learn?  That these gifts take time and that you must be persistent.  It’s not just wining, dining, and schmoozing.  It’s not just having the confidence and courage to sit across from someone and ask them for $1 million.  It’s identifying, cultivating, researching, planning, strategizing, and then asking… and then waiting… following up, asking again… trying from a different angle, and then waiting again… and then following up again, and then – maybe – there’s a “yes”.

This has been a great lesson to learn, because it’s not really the attitude I went into fundraising with.  I imagined it being difficult, but not because of the time it takes.  This takes special skills that not everyone has, and if I’m to continue in the direction of major gift fundraising, I’m grateful that I learned from the best, and I intend to cultivate and sharpen those skills in myself.

Mobile Giving is Tricky
Mobile giving a.k.a. text-to-give or text-to-pledge continues to be a hot topic among fundraisers.  I had the opportunity to implement a mobile giving program while working at TCS.  Our program uses the text-to-pledge method, whereby a donor can text us with their name and the amount of their donation.  We receive an email with their name, donation amount, and phone number, and then we can follow up by phone to confirm and process the donation.

The nice thing about this process is that, unlike other programs, no percentage of the donation goes to the service provider and we receive the name of the person making the donation.  Normally with mobile giving programs, all you would get is the money, minus the portion that goes to the service provider.  That’s why mobile giving works so well for disaster relief.  An organization raising money to aid, for example, people after the earthquake in Haiti just needs money!  It doesn’t matter who’s giving it, it just matters that the money is coming in, and that it’s coming in fast.  That’s another key element to make mobile giving work: urgency.  When people sense urgency and a genuine need for money, they’ll respond quickly, and move on with their day.

So mobile giving is great for unique, urgent situations, but will it become an alternative to sending your cheque in the mail?  My feeling is no.  I don’t think mobile giving is another way of giving as part of a regular Annual Fund.  Giving online via your smart phone is one thing, but people still want a connection when they’re making a donation for the most part, so we still want to keep it as personal as possible.  My verdict is that mobile giving does not work for the average organization.

Customized Fundraising is the Key
What is the future of fundraising???  Customization/Personalization.  This is not a new insight, to be sure.  People are always more likely to respond to something if they feel it is written to them.  When you get a mass email, you feel no remorse in deleting it, but if you feel something has been sent specifically and thoughtfully to you, you may pause and give it more attention.

Fundraisers everywhere are getting really excited about new trends like crowdfunding and mobile giving, and there is certainly some great new technology out there that we can capitalize on, but I think our best bet as fundraisers is using new technologies to complement our existing programs, and take advantages of the ways that technology can assist in a customized and personalized giving experience.

I’m sure you want an example, so here it is: one of the coolest projects I worked on while at TCS was an animated video that we made with an incredible company called Switch Video.  The video was intended for all of our alumni and parents, to educate them on two capital projects that are the top priorities of the school’s current capital campaign.  There was hope that we would encourage more gifts to the campaign, but the main focus was building awareness of the projects.  The video was cool simply because it was animated; a totally different approach from a 150 year-old school that uses traditional marketing for the most part.

That said, the video’s “coolness” went far beyond animation.  The video was also customized for 5,500 unique recipients.  These recipients would receive a unique email with their name in the subject line, their name in the body of the email, and a unique URL to view the video.  Then the video was also customized to include their name (and grad year, if applicable) in different parts of the animation.  For example, when called to make a contribution to the campaign, an envelope popped up on the screen with the TCS logo in the return address spot, and the alumnus’ or parent’s name in the centre.  Pretty cool, eh?  Think of it as a mail merge, but for video.

This is the future of fundraising.  We need to focus on using new technologies to assist us in the age-old effective tool when it comes to fundraising: personalization.  When we’re looking for a big gift, we wouldn’t send a general letter to someone, would we?  We’d meet them in person.  So let’s take that idea and apply it elsewhere!  I’m glad TCS reinforced this idea for me through this amazing project (and many others).

Alumni Engagement is a Beautiful Thing
Finally – alumni engagement.  I don’t know where else I’ll work in my career, but in many ways it’s hard to imagine an alumni community more engaged than the alumni I’ve met at Trinity College School.  Perhaps it’s the significant tuition they pay that makes them feel more invested in the life of the school.  Perhaps it’s the formative years they attend TCS during (ages 15-18, in particular).  Perhaps it’s the extremely small community they’re a part of, and that the intimate size is easier to stay engaged with.

Whatever it is, it made working at TCS a total pleasure.  There’s a big event that I organize annually; it’s a shinny (hockey) tournament for alumni, parents, and friends of the school.  Coincidentally, it takes place tomorrow, and will mark my last day of work at the school.  Unfortunately, the event was created to honour the memory of an alumnus of the school who was tragically killed while cycling across Canada.  But, the goodwill it creates in the community, and the positive way it honours the memory of this alumnus, is a beautiful thing.  With many events, we have to work really hard to get good attendance.  With this tournament, I sit back and watch the registrations roll in.  People are delighted to drive up to the school for a day of hockey and a dinner at the end of the day.  It involves a lot of organization, but not a lot of “work”.  It’s a pleasure to be involved with.

There’s also the Alumni Association, a small volunteer group made up of a variety of alumni from different grad years.  I’ve gotten quite close to a lot of the members of this group, and seeing their genuine interest in and love for the school makes my work so meaningful.  They want to provide value for their fellow alumni, organize events that provide new ways to engage the disengaged, connect alumni together and celebrate the thing they have in common: that they attended Trinity College School.  It’s hard not to get excited about their passion.  It’s what makes the work I do so… fun!!!

The alumni engagement at TCS is something I will always take with me, and will positively inform the communities I work with in the future.  I’m forever grateful.


And with that, I sign off as the TCS Alumni Development Officer!  www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com will continue strong, always with the memory of TCS, but with new experiences and projects, too!

Thank you, TCS!


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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NPD.Sig.Hor.ColorI wanted to write a rare off-schedule post to recognize this special day of the year: National Philanthropy Day!!! 

National Philanthropy Day – celebrated on November 15th since 1986 – is “the special day set aside to recognize and pay tribute to the great contributions that philanthropy – and those people active in the philanthropic community – have made to our lives, our communities and our world.” (National Philanthropy Day – Official Website)

I’m proud to live in Canada because our Parliament recognized this significant day last year with a new bill.  This is an official day!  An official day to celebrate the meaningful time, talent, and treasure given by generous people from coast to coast.

I’m also proud to work in this field; a field where on a daily basis I get to experience the selflessness and passion of people who want to make an impact and a difference for the causes and organizations they support.  It is a beautiful thing!


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Guest Post: Be A Part of Something Bigger — Together in Action

In today’s world, it is so easy to get caught up in our own agenda and what “I” need to do. When you volunteer, you are selflessly giving of your time and energy to be a part of something greater than yourself.

Volunteering and Civic Life in America issued a report showing that Americans significantly increased their commitment to volunteering and civic engagement in 2011, with the national volunteer rate reaching a five-year high as 64.3 million Americans volunteered through an organization, an increase of 1.5 million from 2010.

Giving back is very important to the future of our society, and when companies start taking an active role and encouraging employees we can accomplish great things!

One Islandia based tech company is going the extra mile and rallying their troops in each of their offices across the country to give back!

CA Technologies is a global corporation with a local commitment and celebrating its 8th annual global employee volunteer program: CA Together in Action.

The volunteer efforts are in full swing happening throughout the month of October in locations such as Islandia, NY; Framingham, MA; Tampa, FL; Atlanta, GA; New York, NY; Pittsburgh, PA; Portsmouth, NH; Plano, TX; Lisle, IL.

Every year, employees take time out of their normal business day to enrich the lives and well-being of others in their communities. By supporting a wide range of local nonprofit organizations, including Habitat for Humanity and Boys and Girls Clubs of America, employees give back through volunteer efforts. Volunteer projects include technology programs for under-served youth, environmental clean-ups, building affordable housing and assisting food banks with feeding the hungry.

CA Technologies_HFH_3Since its inception in 2005, CA Together in Action has collectively provided support to more than 1,000 volunteer projects with approximately 45,000 hours of community service. Employees are able to use up to three work days each year to volunteer with organizations of their choice.

Abby Gronberg from The Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation explains that “We appreciate CA Technologies participating in our beach cleanups and enjoy working with this group of dedicated volunteers,” adding that, “In 2012, we collected 12,477 pounds of debris from 219 cleanups. Every little bit helps, and we are so grateful for CA Technologies and the hard work their volunteers do to keep New Hampshire clean and safe for everyone.”

CA Technologies_Islandia_RMSP 1The volunteer efforts even have a international reach. “SOS Villaggi dei Bambini has partnered with CA Technologies since 2008,” said Franco Muzio, National Director, SOS Villaggi dei Bambini Italia. “CA Together in Action is such a positive program that brings supportive and enthusiastic CA Technologies employees together to help support the important work we do for the children and families we work with.”

Check out this video here to see how employees are giving back to the communities where they live and work!


Written by Whitney Delano

Whitney Delano

Click here to connect with Whitney on LinkedIn.

Time for Giving / Giving Your Time

I don’t know about you, but I am full of holiday spirit lately.  With the weather turning colder here in Toronto, the occasional sight of snowflakes, and storefront displays becoming more holiday-themed, I can’t help but look forward to Christmas, which is what I celebrate. I think of family, food, reading by the fire, attending parties, and general merriment.  I also think of giving and receiving gifts, and how fortunate I am to have such an abundance of blessings in my life.

Between thoughts of giving and thoughts of blessings, I can’t help but think of those less fortunate than me.  At a time when all the love and good fortune in my life is staring me in the face, there are many who are on the other end of the spectrum — cold, lonely, and hungry.

So now is the time to give.  I’m a fundraiser – which you know already – so I focus on the giving of funds.  However, I come back to that great phrase again: time, talent, and treasure.  These are the things we can give.  Today I want to focus on time.

Though I normally think of philanthropy as the giving of one’s financial resources, that’s not the root of the word at all.  Philanthropy is defined as an altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement.  Put simply, philanthropy is the love of humankind.

Large donations of money are often the most recognized displays of philanthropy, but there are many ways in which your love of humankind can manifest.  During the holidays, giving the gift of your time has so many benefits.  You benefit the organization you choose to volunteer with, and you benefit the individuals that organization serves.  You meet people from different walks of life – those who are volunteering, and those who need the services of the organization.  If you choose to volunteer with your partner, a family member, or friend, you share a special act with someone you love that represents what the holidays are all about.  And this experience may bring you some perspective during a time of year that’s often thought to be too commercial and capitalistic, too.

And this isn’t to say that monetary donations during the holidays are less meaningful, because that’s not the case at all.  But for those who don’t have the financial capacity to make the impact they want to, a gift of time is a fantastic and commendable alternative.
Someone reached out to me in October and asked me to share an article called:
“20 Successful Nonprofits Started by Students”.

Take a look and be inspired by these young individuals who gave so much of their time to a student project that it evolved into a game-changing philanthropic organization.


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Time, talent & treasure

Happy National Volunteer Week!!!

Fundraisers are no strangers to the power and passion of volunteers.  Whether you’re talking about the members of a board of directors, a campaign cabinet, event chairs, or an alumni association executive committee, we get to cross paths with people who – out of the goodness of their hearts and love for your organization – are willing to part with their valuable time, talent, and treasure.

And that, dear readers, is a beautiful thing.


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email