How to Create Breakthrough Communications on a Budget

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Picture this: You’re a nonprofit organization that does critical work to improve your community. You’ve identified a science-backed solution that will make a significant impact on countless individuals and families, but it requires parents, educators, business executives and community leaders to know about it and take action. It’s a big undertaking, but your team is up to the task. There’s just one problem … your annual communications budget is a meager 0.02% of your total annual budget — barely enough to get some brochures or signage printed.

This is a real-life example from a nonprofit I recently met with that epitomizes the age-old adage of marketing on a shoestring budget. For some nonprofits, their communications outlook is not so dire. But for most of us in the nonprofit sector, we consistently struggle with the need for more communications and marketing resources than our budgets allow. So, how do we create breakthrough communications on a budget in a world where the only messages that seem to rise to the top have paid advertising behind them?

A team of Nonprofit Leadership Center partners and leaders set out to answer this question at the Public Relations Society of America’s Sunshine Conference — the premier annual conference for communications professionals from across the state of Florida.

Nonprofit communications tips

Led by United Way Suncoast CEO Jessica Muroff, NLC’s former director of education and communications Jennifer Dodd and yours truly (Jesica D’Avanza, founder and chief strategy officer at Round Square — a brand and communications consultancy for nonprofits), we offered practical tips and advice for nonprofit communicators on a budget. From our breakout room to your boardroom, here are the top 10 takeaways to help improve your nonprofit communications and break through on a budget.

1. Resist the urge to run toward tactics.

In our increasingly competitive giving environment, the sense of urgency to generate funds today often requires immediate action that can lead to tactical, transactional activities over thoughtful and targeted strategies. While social media campaigns, e-newsletters and community events are important, you’ll be most effective when you give yourself the time and space to understand your audiences, build and strengthen relationships with them and develop communications designed to tap into what will move them to action. The most powerful thing nonprofits can do to improve their communications is to focus. By honing in on what’s most important to achieve and most likely to generate results, you can focus your limited time and resources to drive strategic outcomes rather than sprinkling them across many different priorities with reduced impact.

2. Ask your audiences about themselves.

The key to effective communications is understanding what motivates or limits your audiences’ engagement. But you don’t need a robust market research budget to communicate with greater impact. Take time to sit down with a cross-section of your various stakeholders and ask them what their current perceptions are of your organization, what strengths and challenges they see with your programming, what would inspire them to get or stay involved and what would prevent them from engaging. Qualitative interviews with as few as 10 individuals who reflect your audience base can reveal important themes and insights to inform your messaging and communications strategies. Doing this on an annual basis ensures you are having a regular dialogue with those you serve and keeps a pulse on your ground game.

3. Define and articulate impact.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but many nonprofits struggle to demonstrate their impact beyond counting the numbers of individuals served or dollars invested. Sit down with your leadership team to define what impact truly looks like for your organization and how you can measure it. How are people benefiting from your services? How have their lives changed? How has your impact contributed to overall community improvements? Whose stories can you identify and elevate to make that impact real? Donors and supporters want to understand the impact they’re making. Make sure the way you’re measuring and messaging about it is a story that’s clear and compelling.

4. Think about communications beyond a department.

Communications is not just the responsibility of your communications and marketing department; every person that works at your organization is responsible for helping convey what you do, how you do it and why it matters. Likewise, your brand should be a guide for every decision your organization makes and every action it takes. Think about communications as much broader than a single individual or department. What can every staff member and volunteer do to contribute to your story?

5. Remember, it’s about them — not us.

As hard as this may be to hear, few people really care about your organization — they care about how your organization benefits them, their families and their community. Today, people say they wouldn’t care if 77% of brands disappeared (Havas Group). As nonprofits, we must lead with our audiences and not ourselves. Tapping into universal truths that everyone can relate to and leading with your audiences’ needs is the first place to look to drive relevance and resonance.

6. Create a year-long road map.

One of the simplest things you can do to ensure a more effective communications approach is to create a strategic content calendar to guide all your communications efforts. This spreadsheet maps what’s happening in the world around you, popular moments in time, sector or service-related issues/opportunities, local community events and your organizational offerings. By mapping out a flow for content and messaging topics in advance, you can ensure the right mix of communications — from emerging news and organizational updates to community-curated content, questions that spark conversation and simple ways to “surprise and delight” your audiences. A strategic content calendar can help ensure your communications channels are telling a strategic story, week to week and month to month, and are not just a catch-all for everything you need to say and could possibly ever say.

7. Use other people’s megaphones.

Lean on community partners, business sponsors and other influencers to help you extend your messages in ways you would not be able to do on your own. From strategic collaborations with the business community to digital influencers who have a personal experience with your mission, identify authentic voices and companies that believe in your mission and can elevate your work without the added cost. Likewise, it’s imperative that you find ways to add value to your partners — from introducing them to new audiences and recognizing them on your channels to being a trusted thought leader for information and guidance in your area of expertise.

8. Don’t underestimate the power of a hand-written note.

What’s old is new again, and that’s certainly true when it comes to the power of human connection. The Girl Scouts of West Central Florida sends hand-written congratulatory notes to women who are honored throughout the year in the community. Finding ways to honor female leaders who are doing amazing things in the community is an authentic extension of the organization’s brand to develop strong girls who become strong women. Showing you care is a simple, yet powerful way for your senior leaders to build relationships with other community leaders and start conversations that can lead to collaboration and community change.

9. Start from within.

So often when it comes to communications, nonprofits think about how we’re communicating externally. But the best communications start from within our own teams. Nonprofit leaders must cultivate a culture that elevates customer experience, consistent communications and authenticity. When everyone is on the same page and they understand the power their role can play in your larger story, your internal stakeholders become your most powerful ambassadors. Make this an ongoing, regular part of the dialogue that extends from day one onboarding to weekly and monthly team meetings and all-staff retreats.

10. Let go of what’s not serving you.

With limited time and resources, you can’t do everything. Focus on where you can have the deepest impact. Look at your online data and analytics and focus your efforts on the communications channels and content topics that are driving traffic and engagement. Consider de-prioritizing the ones that are not. Don’t just be on Instagram because everyone else is. Make sure you’re being intentional about the time and strategies you have and make every communication count.

Grant Applications Now Being Accepted to Drive Census Participation

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Allegany Franciscan Ministries is now accepting grant applications from organizations working in targeted communities that have historically low rates of participation in the Census to drive 2020 outreach.

The next Census is scheduled to occur in April 2020. Partcipation is critical to determine how federal grant funding and assistance programs are allocated to states and local nonprofits to solve critical social needs facing individuals, families and our communities.

The Allegany Franciscan Ministries’ Tau Grants support nonprofit organizations in the Tampa Bay and Palm Beach regions with budgets of $2 million or less to reach communities that have historically low rates of participation in the Census to ensure as many households participate as possible. Strategies and community outreach efforts may include …

  • Convening community complete count groups or subcommittees
  • Conducting targeted communications efforts
  • Organizing events to promote participation
  • Providing organizational capacity to support Census 2020 work
  • Supporting collaborations between local community groups to engage in outreach
  • Establishing community sites to provide information and assistance

The deadline to apply for the first cycle of Tau Grant funding is Thursday, September 12, 2019, at noon ET.

Learn more about this funding opportunity, eligibility criteria and guidelines here, or contact Brittney Frazier at 727-507-9668 or bfrazier@afmfl.org.

Grant Applications Now Being Accepted to Drive Census Participation

Team NLC News

Allegany Franciscan Ministries is now accepting grant applications from organizations working in targeted communities that have historically low rates of participation in the Census to drive 2020 outreach.

The next Census is scheduled to occur in April 2020. Partcipation is critical to determine how federal grant funding and assistance programs are allocated to states and local nonprofits to solve critical social needs facing individuals, families and our communities.

The Allegany Franciscan Ministries’ Tau Grants support nonprofit organizations in the Tampa Bay and Palm Beach regions with budgets of $2 million or less to reach communities that have historically low rates of participation in the Census to ensure as many households participate as possible. Strategies and community outreach efforts may include …

  • Convening community complete count groups or subcommittees
  • Conducting targeted communications efforts
  • Organizing events to promote participation
  • Providing organizational capacity to support Census 2020 work
  • Supporting collaborations between local community groups to engage in outreach
  • Establishing community sites to provide information and assistance

The deadline to apply for the first cycle of Tau Grant funding is Thursday, September 12, 2019, at noon ET.

Learn more about this funding opportunity, eligibility criteria and guidelines here, or contact Brittney Frazier at 727-507-9668 or bfrazier@afmfl.org.

3 Ways to Increase Your Productivity at Work (without Working More)

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Recently being disconnected from the Internet made me realize how out of practice I’ve gotten at staying totally focused. I found myself checking the email icon on my laptop regularly to see if I had any new messages, even though I wasn’t connected to WiFi.

Did life as I know it cease to exist? Of course not. I was actually getting more done.

Research says we lose 15 minutes when we hop from task to task. So what can we learn from my hours without Wi-Fi about increasing productivity at work and becoming less distracted leaders? Here are three suggestions for becoming a more present leader.

READ: THIS 15-MINUTE ROUTINE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER LEADER

3 Ways to Increase Your Productivity at Work and Stay Focused

1. Close your door more.
While having an open-door (or open inbox) policy is important for cultivating a strong culture, there are times when you need to minimize distractions, such as drop-by meetings, hallway conversations or constant Slack or Microsoft Teams messages. Let your teammates know that you need some time to focus on an important task and when you’ll be available later that day. Consider scheduling some focused work time during regular intervals each week.

2. Work out of the office.
Literally removing yourself from the daily distractions of the workplace, whether that is a physical or home office, can help you focus. Whether you take a few hours to work at a coffee shop or public library during their slower times or take a few hours to work outside, a new environment can help you be more productive from time to time. Need more proof? Check out this TED Talk: “Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work.”

3. Schedule the big things.
Determine the time of day when you’re most productive, and spend those hours on your most important tasks, like creating a major gift solicitation strategy or writing your annual appeal letter. Schedule “busy time” on your calendar for those periods to protect that time from other demands or focusing on the “small stuff.”

Our nonprofit work saves and changes lives. It’s worthy of your focus. Don’t let the daily distractions keep you from changing our community.

Take Back Control of Your Workday

Studies show that during an average workday, a person can lose up to three hours to interruptions and time mismanagement. Join the Nonprofit Leadership Center on March 8 for Work, Interrupted: Taking Back Control of Your Workday.

During this half-day course, you will:

  • Learn surprisingly easy and practical solutions to become less stressed, more productive and more successful
  • Explore real-life experiences and strategies for how to handle work interruptions
  • Discover how to add extra time to your day

Get nonprofit leadership tips and tools delivered to your inbox by joining our VIP list. You’ll receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, which also includes the latest nonprofit trainings, classes and events at NLC to help you thrive personally and professionally.

3 Ways to Increase Your Productivity at Work (without Working More)

Sara Leonard Tips

Recently being disconnected from the Internet made me realize how out of practice I’ve gotten at staying totally focused. I found myself checking the email icon on my laptop regularly to see if I had any new messages, even though I wasn’t connected to WiFi.

Did life as I know it cease to exist? Of course not. I was actually getting more done. 

Research says we lose 15 minutes when we hop from task to task. So what can we learn from my hours without Wi-Fi about increasing productivity at work and becoming less distracted leaders? Here are three suggestions for becoming a more present leader.

READ: THIS 15-MINUTE ROUTINE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER LEADER

3 Ways to Increase Your Productivity at Work and Stay Focused

1. Close your door more.
While having an open-door (or open inbox) policy is important for cultivating a strong culture, there are times when you need to minimize distractions, such as drop-by meetings, hallway conversations or constant Slack or Microsoft Teams messages. Let your teammates know that you need some time to focus on an important task and when you’ll be available later that day. Consider scheduling some focused work time during regular intervals each week.

2. Work out of the office.
Literally removing yourself from the daily distractions of the workplace, whether that is a physical or home office, can help you focus. Whether you take a few hours to work at a coffee shop or public library during their slower times or take a few hours to work outside, a new environment can help you be more productive from time to time. Need more proof? Check out this TED Talk: “Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work.”

3. Schedule the big things.
Determine the time of day when you’re most productive, and spend those hours on your most important tasks, like creating a major gift solicitation strategy or writing your annual appeal letter. Schedule “busy time” on your calendar for those periods to protect that time from other demands or focusing on the “small stuff.”

Our nonprofit work saves and changes lives. It’s worthy of your focus. Don’t let the daily distractions keep you from changing our community.

Take Back Control of Your Workday

Studies show that a person can lose up to three hours to interruptions and time mismanagement every day. Join the Nonprofit Leadership Center on August 25 for Work, Interrupted: Taking Back Control of Your Workday.

During this half-day course, you will:

  • Learn surprisingly easy and practical solutions to become less stressed, more productive and more successful
  • Explore real-life experiences and strategies for how to handle work interruptions
  • Discover how to add extra time to your day

Get nonprofit leadership tips and tools delivered to your inbox by joining our VIP list. You’ll receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, which also includes the latest nonprofit trainings, classes and events at NLC to help you thrive personally and professionally.



Sara Leonard, MBA, CFRE
, is a fundraising and board governance consultant. She created the Fund Development Academy at the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay, where she is still a trainer.

Her firm, the Sara Leonard Group, delivers professional guidance, education and facilitation to those responsible for fund development, including fundraising professionals, CEOs, CFOs, board members and other nonprofit staff.

10 Questions with Nonprofit Leadership Center CEO Emily Benham

Team NLC Stories

As a nonprofit that exists to support other nonprofits, our team at the Nonprofit Leadership Center believes that the best lessons come from nonprofit leaders themselves. Developing and connecting nonprofit leaders to strengthen organizations and our community starts with celebrating and elevating others who are doing exceptional work to improve lives, change outcomes and enhance our world.

We’re thrilled to launch our new 10 Questions With Series that profiles nonprofit and business leaders across the Tampa Bay region each month who are making an enduring impact on our communities. We thought it was only fitting to start with our own CEO Emily H. Benham before asking others to sit in the hot seat.

Emily has led the Nonprofit Leadership Center as CEO for the past five years. Prior to joining Team NLC, she spent more than 15 years at the Bayfront Health Foundation in development. She lives by the mantra “cultivate an attitude of gratitude — every day in all that you do.” When Emily is not at work, you can find her in the barn with her horse Current Affair.

Q1. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Emily: I wanted to be a doctor. I love science. I was going to go to medical school. In college, I was pre-med and a music major. My experiments blew up one time too many, and I retreated to the music building where I stayed.

Q2. What drew you to your current role as CEO of the Nonprofit Leadership Center?

Emily: My love of learning. I had an opportunity to make a career transition, and I stepped back and asked myself what I’ve always loved to do. I loved to learn. This was the perfect home for me. At NLC, we offer a variety of lifelong learning opportunities that develop and connect nonprofit leaders to strengthen organizations and communities.

Q3. What do you think is the most important factor to attract today’s donors in an ever-changing world?

Emily: More than anything, it’s an authentic connection. People are looking for that connection to a person, a cause and an institution. That comes with developing relationships over a period of time and stepping away from the transactional nature of fundraising to really focus on transformational relationships. It’s about knowing what your institution needs, knowing what your donor loves and putting those two things together.

Q4. Why do you think so many nonprofits struggle to get out of the transactional mode?

Emily: I think it’s a combination of things. It’s the everyday pressures of having payroll to meet, a budget to meet and getting money in the door today. Organizations aren’t necessarily taking the long-term view on needing to build a relationship with a donor to understand them and why they care or don’t care about their organization before actually making an ask. Our timeline is not necessarily our donor’s timeline, and I think we forget that.

Q5. What is the most important piece of advice you’d give to new professionals or emerging leaders?

Emily: Lift your heads up from your personal dashboards. They’re very important and serve as guideposts, but lift your heads up from that and listen, watch and connect to those around you. You’re going to learn the most from watching and connecting to others.

Additionally, I always coach emerging leaders to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. I once worked at an organization that received the largest gift in the institution’s history. We were obviously thrilled. This was going to have a huge impact on the organization and those we served. However, the top priority for one of my colleagues was whether or not he was going to have to change his business card. Although I was frustrated by his response, I realized that from his perspective, the gift was not going to make his job any easier and only meant that the name of his department was going to change. Putting myself in my colleague’s shoes allowed me to better understand his perspective and how to best respond.

Q6. As the CEO of NLC, we all know you’re a self-proclaimed lifelong learner. Although you’re a seasoned leader, what do you still want to learn more about?

Emily: Personally, I want to learn how to play the guitar. I want to learn how to decorate a cake, because I love baking. My other love is riding horses, and I have a now 17-year-old retired thoroughbred who I am always learning to do more with.

Professionally, I’d like to learn more about coaching. I’m exploring becoming certified in coaching because I see a lot of need in the field and I always want to be sure, while we do it informally every day, that I know everything I need to know to be able to help people excel. Additionally, I always think I can learn more about accounting, so I’m going to take some more accounting courses here at NLC.

Q7: What’s the best book you’ve read that every nonprofit leader should read?

Emily: I think Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. Tony Hsieh is the CEO of Zappos. He’s an amazing leader who created a culture in his workplace of happiness. That comes out through every person you talk to on the phone of delighting the customer. We’ve modeled a lot of our practices here at NLC on him and his company, and I think that’s the way that businesses and nonprofits can really distinguish themselves.

Q8: What’s something interesting that most people wouldn’t know about you?

Emily: I play the cello and met my husband in our college orchestra.

Q9: Being a music major and meeting your husband in your college orchestra, you’re clearly a music buff. What’s on your current playlist?

Emily: Well, I just bought a pick-up truck and have a six-month subscription to satellite radio. I’m loving the symphony channel. Listening to classical symphony music brings me delight and happiness every time I drive my truck.

Q10: What food could you not live without?

Emily: Coffee. Is coffee a food? If coffee’s a food, then it’s coffee.

BONUS QUESTION: What’s your favorite class or series you’re currently offering at NLC that nonprofit leaders shouldn’t miss?

Emily: This question is way too hard. If I had to choose, it would be our upcoming Board & Senior Leadership Conference in November. The issue of organizational culture is so important for nonprofits to get their arms around, and this event will help attendees with steps they can take to either build a culture or change a culture. I’m really excited about that.


Would you or someone you know be a great leader to profile for an upcoming 10 Questions With Series article? Email us at info@nlctb.org with your recommendations.


Don’t miss great advice from nonprofit leaders or the latest tips, tools and trainings for nonprofits. Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter to get exclusive nonprofit leadership information delivered to your inbox.

10 Questions with Nonprofit Leadership Center CEO Emily Benham

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As a nonprofit that exists to support other nonprofits, our team at the Nonprofit Leadership Center believes that the best lessons come from nonprofit leaders themselves. Developing and connecting nonprofit leaders to strengthen organizations and our community starts with celebrating and elevating others who are doing exceptional work to improve lives, change outcomes and enhance our world.

We’re thrilled to launch our new 10 Questions With Series that profiles nonprofit and business leaders across the Tampa Bay region each month who are making an enduring impact on our communities. We thought it was only fitting to start with our own CEO Emily H. Benham before asking others to sit in the hot seat.

Emily has led the Nonprofit Leadership Center as CEO for the past five years. Prior to joining Team NLC, she spent more than 15 years at the Bayfront Health Foundation in development. She lives by the mantra “cultivate an attitude of gratitude — every day in all that you do.” When Emily is not at work, you can find her in the barn with her horse Current Affair.

Q1. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Emily: I wanted to be a doctor. I love science. I was going to go to medical school. In college, I was pre-med and a music major. My experiments blew up one time too many, and I retreated to the music building where I stayed.

Q2. What drew you to your current role as CEO of the Nonprofit Leadership Center?

Emily: My love of learning. I had an opportunity to make a career transition, and I stepped back and asked myself what I’ve always loved to do. I loved to learn. This was the perfect home for me. At NLC, we offer a variety of lifelong learning opportunities that develop and connect nonprofit leaders to strengthen organizations and communities.

Q3. What do you think is the most important factor to attract today’s donors in an ever-changing world?

Emily: More than anything, it’s an authentic connection. People are looking for that connection to a person, a cause and an institution. That comes with developing relationships over a period of time and stepping away from the transactional nature of fundraising to really focus on transformational relationships. It’s about knowing what your institution needs, knowing what your donor loves and putting those two things together.

Q4. Why do you think so many nonprofits struggle to get out of the transactional mode?

Emily: I think it’s a combination of things. It’s the everyday pressures of having payroll to meet, a budget to meet and getting money in the door today. Organizations aren’t necessarily taking the long-term view on needing to build a relationship with a donor to understand them and why they care or don’t care about their organization before actually making an ask. Our timeline is not necessarily our donor’s timeline, and I think we forget that.

Q5. What is the most important piece of advice you’d give to new professionals or emerging leaders?

Emily: Lift your heads up from your personal dashboards. They’re very important and serve as guideposts, but lift your heads up from that and listen, watch and connect to those around you. You’re going to learn the most from watching and connecting to others.

Additionally, I always coach emerging leaders to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. I once worked at an organization that received the largest gift in the institution’s history. We were obviously thrilled. This was going to have a huge impact on the organization and those we served. However, the top priority for one of my colleagues was whether or not he was going to have to change his business card. Although I was frustrated by his response, I realized that from his perspective, the gift was not going to make his job any easier and only meant that the name of his department was going to change. Putting myself in my colleague’s shoes allowed me to better understand his perspective and how to best respond.

Q6. As the CEO of NLC, we all know you’re a self-proclaimed lifelong learner. Although you’re a seasoned leader, what do you still want to learn more about?

Emily: Personally, I want to learn how to play the guitar. I want to learn how to decorate a cake, because I love baking. My other love is riding horses, and I have a now 17-year-old retired thoroughbred who I am always learning to do more with.

Professionally, I’d like to learn more about coaching. I’m exploring becoming certified in coaching because I see a lot of need in the field and I always want to be sure, while we do it informally every day, that I know everything I need to know to be able to help people excel. Additionally, I always think I can learn more about accounting, so I’m going to take some more accounting courses here at NLC.

Q7: What’s the best book you’ve read that every nonprofit leader should read?

Emily: I think Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. Tony Hsieh is the CEO of Zappos. He’s an amazing leader who created a culture in his workplace of happiness. That comes out through every person you talk to on the phone of delighting the customer. We’ve modeled a lot of our practices here at NLC on him and his company, and I think that’s the way that businesses and nonprofits can really distinguish themselves.

Q8: What’s something interesting that most people wouldn’t know about you?

Emily: I play the cello and met my husband in our college orchestra.

Q9: Being a music major and meeting your husband in your college orchestra, you’re clearly a music buff. What’s on your current playlist?

Emily: Well, I just bought a pick-up truck and have a six-month subscription to satellite radio. I’m loving the symphony channel. Listening to classical symphony music brings me delight and happiness every time I drive my truck.

Q10: What food could you not live without?

Emily: Coffee. Is coffee a food? If coffee’s a food, then it’s coffee.

BONUS QUESTION: What’s your favorite class or series you’re currently offering at NLC that nonprofit leaders shouldn’t miss?

Emily: This question is way too hard. If I had to choose, it would be our upcoming Board & Senior Leadership Conference in November. The issue of organizational culture is so important for nonprofits to get their arms around, and this event will help attendees with steps they can take to either build a culture or change a culture. I’m really excited about that.


Would you or someone you know be a great leader to profile for an upcoming 10 Questions With Series article? Email us at info@nlctb.org with your recommendations.

How to Get Gen Z to Care about Your Cause

Team NLC Tips

Close your eyes. Think about some of the most successful and iconic nonprofit programs and fundraising events of our time. Nationally televised telethons, global charity walks, giving phenomenons spurred by a single bucket of ice. Now open your eyes and come back to reality. Many of the strategies that have worked in the past are no longer relevant or sustainable. Finding fresh ways to deliver your mission, fundraise and inpsire audiences to engage is critical for nonprofits, yet successfully harnessing the idea of innovation and making it a foundtional part of doing business continues to be a struggle for many charitable organizations.

Research from the Bridgespan Group shows that most nonprofit leaders (80%) agree innovation is critical to advance their missions, yet only 40 percent believe their organizations are currently capable of such innovation. All too often, innovation is synonymous with technology, software or the latest app. However, innovation also lies in identifying the place where our audiences’ greatest needs intersect with our deepest organizational expertise. Thus, being relentlessly curious and understanding our audiences is more important than ever.

Enter the next generation of donors: Post-Millennials, often known as Generation Z or Gen Z, represent people born roughly between 1995 and 2010. As this generation begins to enter the workforce, understanding how to engage their time, treasure and talents is one way to think about innovating.

4 Ways Nonprofits Can Authentically Engage Gen Z

By 2020, Gen Z will represent a third of our world’s population. They’ve never known life without the Internet or social media. They’ve grown up witnessing acts of terrorism and school violence as a part of life. And they’re extremely entrepreneurial, interested in hands-on learning and being actively engaged in creating solutions.

So what do nonprofits need to know about Gen Z and how can you engage them authentically? Here are four things to keep in mind.

1. Offer transformational experiences, not transactional one-offs

Gen Z craves authentic and meaningful experiences. They like to share and co-create with peers, and they’re very entrepreneurial. In fact, more than one-third of Gen Z students currently own their own business or plan on having one in the future. With this desire to learn by doing, it’s no surprise that they’re interested in volunteering, with 26% reporting they volunteer regularly and 50% seeking nonprofit jobs. Issues affecting children, animals and health top their list of charitable giving priorities, and they like their social impact to reflect their personal interests.

Today’s nonprofits must think about how the experiences they deliver for employees, volunteers and donors can allow this audience to be actively and authentically involved. From being a meaningful part of helping manage a project to participating in real-world experiences that bring your mission to life, Gen Z wants to do more than just hit a donate button on your website. Consider ways they can see and feel how your mission works, meet the individuals and families you help and be at a planning table with you to help influence ideas or solutions.

2. Simplify and visualize your message across screens

Gen Z has never known a world without smart phones and social media. Although they appreciate and want personal interactions, they are digitally driven and prefer online channels to communicate and give. In fact, 82% of Gen Z is willing to give to nonprofits on their mobile device. With smaller screens and competing messages, today’s nonprofits must make their message as concise and compelling as possible. Keeping things simple, yet highly visual, is the best way to attract Gen Z. Tools like video and striking imagery to tell your story are musts to grab their attention while leaning into their desire for experiential and authentic alignment. Your website and donation tools must also be mobile friendly and easy to engage on the go.

3. Be intentional about demonstrating your impact

Gen Z is highly educated and takes the time to research brands. They have access to information at a moment’s notice and look to Google and social media for their information over other sources, including nonprofit websites and the news. Therefore, it’s critical for nonprofits to convey their impact with clarity and transparency. It’s not enough to talk about what you do, you must tangibly demonstrate why it matters with numbers and stories to prove your purpose. Investing in Search Engine Marketing and ensuring your content is optimized for search is also an important tactic given that’s where they’ll check on your organization and issue first.

4. Keep the bigger picture in mind

Although Gen Z will soon comprise one-third of the world’s population, they still represent the smallest generational segment of giving, with 9.3 million donors contributing $3.2 billion. Because the majority of young professionals don’t have the same kind of disposable income as their Millennial, Gen X and Boomer counterparts, engaging them in ways that align with their needs can create lifelong relationships and loyalty as they age. Today, that means giving them opportunities to grow their experience or portfolio, connecting them to other leaders to build their personal and professional network and giving them an opportunity to make the social impact they care about.

Smart growth is about thinking ahead for tomorrow while not forgetting where our greatest engagement and support come from today.


Want to be the first to hear about new nonprofit trainings, classes and events at NLC? Sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, chock-full of the latest resources, tips and tools to help you thrive personally and professionally.


Sources:

  1. Is your nonprofit built for sustained innovation?, The Stanford Social Innovation Review
  2. 2018 Next Generation of Giving Study, Blackbaud
  3. Getting to Know Gen Z, Barnes & Noble College
  4. Gen Z: The Next Generation of Donors, Classy

How to Get Gen Z to Care about Your Cause

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Close your eyes. Think about some of the most successful and iconic nonprofit programs and fundraising events of our time. Nationally televised telethons, global charity walks, giving phenomenons spurred by a single bucket of ice. Now open your eyes and come back to reality. Many of the strategies that have worked in the past are no longer relevant or sustainable. Finding fresh ways to deliver your mission, fundraise and inpsire audiences to engage is critical for nonprofits, yet successfully harnessing the idea of innovation and making it a foundtional part of doing business continues to be a struggle for many charitable organizations.

Research from the Bridgespan Group shows that most nonprofit leaders (80%) agree innovation is critical to advance their missions, yet only 40 percent believe their organizations are currently capable of such innovation. All too often, innovation is synonymous with technology, software or the latest app. However, innovation also lies in identifying the place where our audiences’ greatest needs intersect with our deepest organizational expertise. Thus, being relentlessly curious and understanding our audiences is more important than ever.

Enter the next generation of donors: Post-Millennials, often known as Generation Z or Gen Z, represent people born roughly between 1995 and 2010. As this generation begins to enter the workforce, understanding how to engage their time, treasure and talents is one way to think about innovating.

4 Ways Nonprofits Can Authentically Engage Gen Z

By 2020, Gen Z will represent a third of our world’s population. They’ve never known life without the Internet or social media. They’ve grown up witnessing acts of terrorism and school violence as a part of life. And they’re extremely entrepreneurial, interested in hands-on learning and being actively engaged in creating solutions.

So what do nonprofits need to know about Gen Z and how can you engage them authentically? Here are four things to keep in mind.

1. Offer transformational experiences, not transactional one-offs

Gen Z craves authentic and meaningful experiences. They like to share and co-create with peers, and they’re very entrepreneurial. In fact, more than one-third of Gen Z students currently own their own business or plan on having one in the future. With this desire to learn by doing, it’s no surprise that they’re interested in volunteering, with 26% reporting they volunteer regularly and 50% seeking nonprofit jobs. Issues affecting children, animals and health top their list of charitable giving priorities, and they like their social impact to reflect their personal interests.

Today’s nonprofits must think about how the experiences they deliver for employees, volunteers and donors can allow this audience to be actively and authentically involved. From being a meaningful part of helping manage a project to participating in real-world experiences that bring your mission to life, Gen Z wants to do more than just hit a donate button on your website. Consider ways they can see and feel how your mission works, meet the individuals and families you help and be at a planning table with you to help influence ideas or solutions.

2. Simplify and visualize your message across screens

Gen Z has never known a world without smart phones and social media. Although they appreciate and want personal interactions, they are digitally driven and prefer online channels to communicate and give. In fact, 82% of Gen Z is willing to give to nonprofits on their mobile device. With smaller screens and competing messages, today’s nonprofits must make their message as concise and compelling as possible. Keeping things simple, yet highly visual, is the best way to attract Gen Z. Tools like video and striking imagery to tell your story are musts to grab their attention while leaning into their desire for experiential and authentic alignment. Your website and donation tools must also be mobile friendly and easy to engage on the go.

3. Be intentional about demonstrating your impact

Gen Z is highly educated and takes the time to research brands. They have access to information at a moment’s notice and look to Google and social media for their information over other sources, including nonprofit websites and the news. Therefore, it’s critical for nonprofits to convey their impact with clarity and transparency. It’s not enough to talk about what you do, you must tangibly demonstrate why it matters with numbers and stories to prove your purpose. Investing in Search Engine Marketing and ensuring your content is optimized for search is also an important tactic given that’s where they’ll check on your organization and issue first.

4. Keep the bigger picture in mind

Although Gen Z will soon comprise one-third of the world’s population, they still represent the smallest generational segment of giving, with 9.3 million donors contributing $3.2 billion. Because the majority of young professionals don’t have the same kind of disposable income as their Millennial, Gen X and Boomer counterparts, engaging them in ways that align with their needs can create lifelong relationships and loyalty as they age. Today, that means giving them opportunities to grow their experience or portfolio, connecting them to other leaders to build their personal and professional network and giving them an opportunity to make the social impact they care about.

Smart growth is about thinking ahead for tomorrow while not forgetting where our greatest engagement and support come from today.


Sources:

  1. Is your nonprofit built for sustained innovation?, The Stanford Social Innovation Review
  2. 2018 Next Generation of Giving Study, Blackbaud
  3. Getting to Know Gen Z, Barnes & Noble College
  4. Gen Z: The Next Generation of Donors, Classy

5 Secrets for Nonprofit Career Success

Team NLC Tips

What advice would you give to individuals who want to pursue a successful career in the nonprofit sector? This is a question we’re asked often when we speak to students, new nonprofit professionals and emerging leaders. Nonprofit organizations are more important than ever for the future of our communities and our economy. With more than 83,000 nonprofits in Florida employing 6% of the state’s workforce and generating nearly $90 billion in annual revenue (according to the Florida Nonprofit Alliance), we need courageous, committed and highly competent nonprofit leaders to guide our sector into the future.

So what does it take to become a successful nonprofit leader or steer your new nonprofit professionals toward success? Here are five tips we’ve learned at NLC along our journey.

1. Be relentlessly curious. It’s okay to not know everything, but it’s never OK to stop asking questions or searching for ways to improve and innovate. Being a lifelong learner is one of the most important traits every great nonprofit leader possesses, irrespective of their years of experience. That means being a voracious reader who keeps up with the latest trends, industry research and case studies from other organizations. It means calling on colleagues and consultants to ask questions and brainstorm ideas. It means investing in ongoing professional and leadership development to hone current skills and build new ones. Being consistently curious prevents us from accepting the status quo, and it’s how we continue to learn and grow.

READ: THE 15-MINUTE DAILY ROUTINE THAT WILL MAKE YOU A SUCCESSFUL NONPROFIT LEADER

2. Invest in relationships. Connecting as a nonprofit leader is about more than accepting a LinkedIn request or swapping business cards at a monthly luncheon. Having a network of colleagues across industries, sectors and areas of expertise who you can call on for advice is critical to success. Strong, authentic and trusted professional relationships are also where some of the most intersting and impactful new opportunities originate. It’s easy to neglect your relationships in the day-to-day grind, but it’s also easy to keep them alive and thriving. Grabbing a quick coffee before work, sending an email with a relevant article to a colleague or mailing a hand-written note of thanks are all small gestures that deepen relationships … and relationships is what it’s all about.

3. Think about your nonprofit like a business. While nonprofits are in the business of changing and saving lives, our passion and commitment are not a substitute for a strategic business plan, focused programs and a strong internal culture. From the way you evenutally manage your board and run staff meetings, recruit and invest in employees and cultivate relationships with donors to communicating with stakeholders and evaluating success, the best nonprofit leaders lead with the business of their mission in mind so they can fuel its long-term sustainability and success.

4. Embrace other duties as assigned. Every seasoned nonprofit professional knows that the phrase “wearing many hats” is true for nonprofit organizations and leaders. The words “that isn’t my job” should never come out of your mouth. Those “other things,” big and small, demonstrate your commitment to your mission, to your colleagues and to a better future. Just know when to say your plate is full so that the quality of your work doesn’t suffer by taking on too much.

READ: SELF-CARE TIPS FOR NONPROFIT LEADERS

5. Believe in yourself. If you don’t know where you want to go, someone else will decide for you. Take time periodically to ask yourself how what you’re doing now will help take you to where you think you want to go in the future. Be confident in your skills and abilities, and don’t let others devalue them or decide what you’re good at.

Learning Opportunities for Nonprofit Leaders

Remember our first tip about curiousity being a key to success? Check out these upcoming learning opportunities to develop your skills and deepen your knowledge.

Half- and Full-Day Classes in Fundraising, Management, Finance, Leadership, Communications/Marketing and HR

Certificate in Nonprofit Management at the University of Tampa


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