The title of the article, which is “Nonprofit Chart of Accounts: A Guide for Getting Started.”

Nonprofit Chart of Accounts: A Guide for Getting Started

Between the limitations of restricted funds and the need to continue fueling charitable missions, your nonprofit must keep organized data for a successful approach to accounting. A foundational tool for keeping organized finances is the nonprofit chart of accounts (COA), which is a resource that records your organization’s financial activity.

In this quick guide, we’ll explore how you can create a COA by covering the following topics:

As a nonprofit leader, you know that accurate financial records and reporting are crucial to maintaining your 501(c)(3) status. Let’s explore the basics of COAs so your organization can establish a system for reliable recordkeeping.

What is a nonprofit chart of accounts?

A nonprofit chart of accounts (COA) is a spreadsheet or table that lists an organization’s financial accounts and ledgers. This table is a directory of your nonprofit’s financial records, helping you organize important information about your finances. It is typically divided into five categories:

  • Assets, or anything that your nonprofit owns.
  • Liabilities, which include everything your nonprofit owes.
  • Net assets, or the total amount your nonprofit is worth. This is calculated by subtracting your liabilities from your assets.
  • Revenue, which consists of any funding your organization receives through its various income sources.
  • Expenses, or all the expenditures your nonprofit incurs for its operations and fundraisers.

While it offers a broad overview of your finances rather than a deep dive into insightful metrics, your COA is the foundation upon which you’ll build reports that summarize your financial data, such as your:

  • Statement of activities: Outlines your organization’s revenue, expenses, and net assets
  • Statement of financial position: Indicates your nonprofit’s financial health by breaking down your assets, liabilities, and net assets
  • Statement of functional expenses: Shows how your funding is used to fulfill your mission by dividing your expenditures into the categories of program, administrative, and fundraising costs
  • Statement of cash flows: Reveals how cash moves in and out of your organization

According to Double the Donation, these financial statements are helpful when filing Form 990, which has a direct impact on your nonprofit’s ability to maintain tax exemption! In other words, your COA is an important tool for finding the information you need to file, as well as navigating financial records in case of an audit.

How to create a nonprofit chart of accounts

Every nonprofit’s finances are unique, and your chart of accounts will be, too. Although your chart must be organized in a way that makes sense for your organization, you can use the following steps to guide its development.

1. Determine your numbering convention.

A chart of accounts uses a numbering convention to identify certain categories of financial data. While your organization can use whatever system works best for your data, the numbers are usually organized as follows:

  • 1000: Assets
  • 2000: Liabilities
  • 3000: Net assets
  • 4000: Revenue
  • 5000: Expenses

You’ll use this numbering system to categorize your financial data and then create subcategories to make your records as detailed as possible. For example, your subcategories might look something like this:

  • 1100: Property
  • 2100: Employee salaries
  • 3100: Restricted net assets
  • 4100: Event ticket revenue
  • 5100: Fundraising expenses

Depending on the complexity of your budget, you may need to get more specific with each category. For example, money spent on donor recognition efforts may be lumped in with fundraising expenses or given its own category. Ultimately, it depends on how much your nonprofit gains and spends in a given category.

2. Fill in the account information.

Once you’ve determined how you’ll categorize financial data, it’s time to set up the document! List your financial activity according to your category numbers and their names. Place the account number in one column and its name in the next.

For example, your list of assets might look something like this:

  • 1100: Checking
  • 1200: Savings
  • 1300: Investments

In the next column, you’ll list the main category for these records, which would be “Assets” in our example.

3. Add notes as necessary.

For extra transparency in your financial records, be sure to include a column for notes. This way, you’ll be able to look back on your spreadsheet and remember exactly what each account refers to.

For example, if your nonprofit relies on fundraising event revenue, it might be helpful to categorize fundraisers by event type and include a note for more details. This way, you’d be able to see that record 4200 refers to the revenue collected from product fundraisers specifically, rather than a lump amount of all fundraising revenue.

Best practices for maintaining your chart

After your nonprofit creates its chart of accounts, you need to maintain it over time to ensure it accurately reflects your changing financial activities and circumstances. To ensure you properly maintain this resource, employ the following best practices:

  • Work with a nonprofit bookkeeper. Partner with an expert who can review your chart of accounts. Foundation Group’s bookkeeping guide recommends hiring a professional who has experience with nonprofit finances and a deep understanding of state and federal rules. This way, you’ll entrust this full-time job to an expert who can handle it.
  • Keep your accounts simple. While your COA should offer ample detail to be easily navigable, it must also avoid becoming overwhelming. Group accounts where possible but divide them into more specific subcategories when necessary.
  • Remove unused accounts from your chart. To ensure your chart is relevant and up-to-date, remove any unused or unnecessary accounts. For example, there’s no need to log a category for federal grants if your nonprofit doesn’t plan to apply for any.

Above all, remember to include room for growth in your COA. Your nonprofit’s finances will change over time, and the best way to account for that is to make the chart easily editable. Additionally, familiarize yourself with each account to avoid creating unnecessary ones when it’s time to log a new activity.

Many nonprofits start as a charitable mission with a few initiatives, then expand over time into an organized operation with a clear mission and fundraising approach. Naturally, your nonprofit’s finances can become increasingly complex as a result. With a COA, you’ll be able to stay organized with your accounting, ensuring you comply with nonprofit requirements.

The article's title, "A Step-by-Step Guide to Choosing Event Management Software," beside an illustration of a woman using a laptop at a desk.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Choosing Event Management Software

For event planners at an association, nonprofit, or other organization, investing in the right event management software can streamline many of your tasks, making your job easier.

From large trade shows to fundraising events, having an event platform that facilitates planning, alleviates common bottlenecks, and enhances the attendee experience can ensure success every time. It also ensures your organization has ongoing access to data that you can use to guide your future decision-making.

However, there are a lot of options on the market and not all of them provide the same level of support or effectiveness. Here’s how to make the best decision before you invest. 

What is Event Management Software?

Event management software is a tool that supports the entire planning process for your event. This typically includes online registration, attendee badging and check-in, and gathering reporting data. 

Well-selected event management software is capable of:

  • Ensuring team productivity and successful working relationships
  • Enhancing attendee satisfaction
  • Improving return on investment (ROI)
  • Gathering strategic insights for decision-making
  • Reducing event planning costs and time drains

The best event management software helps you plan and execute events from start to finish. 

Types of Event Management Software

Every organization’s event needs are different, which is why there are so many different platforms to choose from. There are primarily two types of event management software:

Specialized Single-Purpose Tools

Some software products are single-purpose tools, meaning they are very good at doing one thing or one event. These tools can typically handle tasks like:

  • Registration and ticketing
  • Event marketing and promotion
  • Mobile app design and management
  • Floor planning
  • Badging
  • Sponsor management

If one single, specialized platform meets your specific end goal, it may be more cost-effective to consider this option.

All-in-One Event Management Software

All-in-one event software aims to address all of your event needs in a single platform. This typically includes all event planning tasks, including those listed above.

While these platforms have a higher cost, they can streamline event planning by keeping the entire project within a single application. This often includes everything from registration, event marketing, and event reporting. Their more robust features make them ideal when you’re not just planning a single event but likely will host multiple over time. 

What are the Common Features of Event Management Software?

Depending on your event needs, your software should include the tools and features necessary to plan an effective event and manage it from start to finish. There are numerous areas to consider, such as:

Sponsor Management

Managing sponsors is critical for all event planning teams. Event sponsorship management features can include:

  • Sponsorship categories to organize sponsors based on commitment or sponsorship levels
  • Digital asset management for sponsor logos and graphics
  • Sponsor portals that provide sponsors with relevant information
  • Custom sponsor branding options
  • Sponsor advertising options through an event app

These features streamline the sponsorship process, enhance sponsor engagement, and maximize the value for both event organizers and sponsors.

Registration Technology

Most event management solutions support establishing and managing your event registration process. Though tools are different, expect to find features like:

  • Badge creation and printing
  • Various types of registration, timelines, restrictions, and other customization options
  • Automated registration emails to provide reminders and detailed information for attendees
  • Group registration options
  • Secure payment gateways

These features are designed to make the registration process as smooth and efficient as possible, improving the experience for attendees and providing event organizers with essential data and insights for future event planning and marketing.

Event Marketing

Many platforms offer marketing tools that will assist in growing your total registration and attendance. Some of the most common features of event marketing are:

  • Email tools for sending various messages like event invitations, registration confirmations, and newsletters
  • Customizable event website, including registration forms, speaker profiles, agendas, and payment tools
  • Social media integration, which streamlines access to various social media platforms to share updates and engage with attendees before, during, and after events
  • Marketing analytics and reporting

Having a strong marketing plan is vital to ensuring your event produces the ROI needed to make the whole event worth it.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing Event Management Software

Before deciding on any platform, it’s crucial to know what you need the tool to do based on the way you run your event. Effective event management software must meet your specific needs, and while these may change, consider what key factors matter most or how adaptable your prospective platform is. Here are several essential factors to keep in mind: 

Event Goals and Objectives

When selecting event management software, consider how the solution aligns with your event’s objectives and the overarching goals of your organization.

The software you choose should not only resonate with these goals but should also amplify your ability to achieve them with finesse and precision. It’s about finding a tool that transforms your vision into reality, fostering an environment where every aspect of your event is seamlessly orchestrated to meet, and even exceed, your attendees’ expectations.

Attendee and Staff Experience

The software you select should specifically address the types of experiences you hope to create for both attendees and event staff. Giving your attendees an impactful experience is key to building relationships. Always look for:

  • User-friendly experience for attendees
  • Ease of use for your staff
  • Available onboarding support

Keep an eye out for solutions with an easy-to-use but intuitive interface and supportive tools. You don’t want to make more work for your team or make it complicated for attendees to get the support they need.

Event Planning Frequency

How often do you plan to host events? For occasional or one-time events, you need solutions that align just with that type. However, if you’re hosting events on a regular schedule, it’s more important to ensure the planning and execution of multiple events at one time can work well together. 

Necessary Features

While event software with a plethora of features might seem attractive, focus on those that are essential for your specific requirements. Identify the features that are critical to your event’s success. This could range from registration and ticketing systems to attendee engagement tools or analytics.

Software bloated with features you’ll never use can lead to unnecessary complexity and costs. It’s important to differentiate between ‘nice-to-have’ and ‘must-have’ features. Use cost-effective decision-making and keep your budget in mind as you conduct research into potential options.


Many organizations use a variety of digital tools in their daily operations. The right integrations with an event management system can keep everything smooth and organized. Consider tools that align with your CRM, for example.

Steps to Choosing the Best Event Management Software

Navigating the event management software landscape can be intimidating, with an array of options each boasting unique features and capabilities. However, selecting the right software is crucial for your event’s success. Simplify your decision-making by following these steps:

1. Understand your event management needs.

Using your event goals, figure out what specific needs you want your event management software to address. For instance, consider:

  • Event types 
  • Team skills or in-house supportive tools
  • Target audience and attendees 
  • Growth rate over time
  • Analytics insights
  • Regulatory or compliance concerns

Note these down and use these as a reference as you begin exploring potential event solutions for your organization.

2. Identify your event management software non-negotiables.

Every event management solution should support the way you plan to operate your events over time. Outline factors you consider non-negotiable or the specific features and tools you want your product to offer. This may include:

  • Functional aspects like ticketing, event registration, attendee engagement, and agenda management
  • Integration requirements, including marketing and CRM tools
  • Training and support
  • Security features

For example, if you’re planning to host a hybrid or virtual event, you might want to prioritize solutions that make it easy for you to engage attendees online.

3. Research and compare software providers.

Once you have these lists, it’s time to check out the products on the market. During your research, consider the following information:

  • Market research and case use studies
  • Vendor evaluation, including references and reviews
  • Pricing comparison among products

Compare each solution based on your requirements and needs to start compiling the top options for your team to consider.

4. Request demos or sign up for free trials.

With your shortlist created, ask for demos or sign up for trial periods that allow you to test-drive prospective platforms. Take the time to read through and understand the often unseen aspects of new software like:

  • Pricing
  • Contract terms
  • Limitations and restrictions
  • Service level agreements
  • Legal and compliance requirements 

Once you’ve asked any specific questions and gotten a clearer understanding of how the platforms work, re-assemble your team and make your decision.

Choosing the right event management software tailored to your specific needs can transform how you orchestrate your events. By thoroughly evaluating and comparing available options, you can make a strategic decision that will yield long-term benefits, enhancing the way you manage and execute your events for years to come.

Higher ed professionals looking for new ways to use their technology to engage university alumni

4 Ways to Leverage Your CRM to Connect with Alumni

Your university’s alumni don’t just give back by donating to fundraising campaigns. They also help current students, represent your school in the community, and so much more. Because of all they do for their alma maters, engaging and connecting with alumni regularly is a priority for most universities.

But to engage thousands or tens of thousands of alumni—all with different interests and relationships with your university—you need the right tool. 

Your constituent relationship management (CRM) system houses all the data you need to successfully communicate with alumni. We’ll cover four strategies for leveraging this impactful tool to improve alumni relationships. Let’s dive in!

1. Identify opportunities to improve alumni offerings.

According to Redpath Consulting Group, one of the biggest benefits of a robust CRM is that it gives you a holistic, 360-degree view of every constituent in your database. By centralizing data in alumni profiles, your staff can get a better understanding of your alumni and the ways they want to engage with your university, allowing you to improve your offerings based on their preferences.

For instance, say that you track survey results in your CRM and recently sent out a survey about your Young Alum Mentoring program. You can analyze survey results both:

  • Individually in alumni profiles. For example, maybe Jane wants to see more STEM mentors available and Javier didn’t hear about the program enough to form an interest.
  • Across entire groups of alumni. You might learn that the class of 2021 expressed the most interest in the program or that liberal arts graduates as a whole feel underrepresented.

To engage alumni based on the feedback above, you might put extra effort into recruiting more STEM and liberal arts mentors. Or, if you discover that the most highly requested change to the Young Alum program is the age cutoff, you can extend the program to anyone who graduated in the last 10 years. 

2. Personalize alumni outreach.

In addition to using the information in your CRM to improve your offerings, you can use information about your alumni’s interests, habits, and preferences to personalize your communications. The more tailored and relevant your alumni outreach is, the more likely each recipient is to read and engage with your messages.

A robust higher education CRM can help you enhance your alumni communications with the following features:

  • Automated personalization: By creating email or text message templates, you can set up your CRM to automatically populate messages with individual alumni names, event attendance, past donation amounts, etc. 
  • Alumni segments: Organize alumni by shared characteristics and send messages that appeal directly to certain groups. For instance, you might segment alumni by class, field of study, career, demographics, and charitable interests to send more relevant messages.
  • Action-triggered email series: With integrated email automation tools, such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud, you can use your CRM to set up entire email series that are triggered by alumni actions. When someone first joins your email list, for example, they might trigger a series of welcome emails.

To see these tactics in action, take a look at this example email message that recognizes recent alumni donors who graduated from a university’s business school:

Felicia, thank you so much for your generous $200 donation to the Randolph School of Business. Your gift will go towards scholarships for BIPOC students with dreams of earning their MBAs just like you did. Our current and incoming students appreciate your passion for excellence and inclusivity—thank you again!

3. Manage events.

Events are one of the most common ways that universities engage their alumni, whether they take the form of class reunions, volunteering events, or virtual public lectures. Your CRM can help you manage all of your alumni events by centralizing event data and automating reports and outreach.

A comprehensive CRM solution will allow you to:

  • House information about event logistics, plans, and invitations.
  • Send personalized invitations to relevant alumni.
  • Track event registrations and attendance.
  • Manage relationships with event sponsors.
  • Identify, recruit, and communicate with volunteers.
  • Report on the success of event marketing messages.
  • Send personalized thank-you messages and post-event surveys.
  • Track event-related donations and fundraising goals.

Plus, you can analyze data about your event’s success after the fact, helping you improve future event marketing and management. For instance, Double the Donation explains that tools like Google Analytics can help you report on user behaviors on your alumni website. By tracking website engagement data in your CRM, you can discover how engaging your event landing pages are and identify ways to improve them.

4. Engage alumni in fundraising.

Higher education CRMs include a variety of features designed to help institutions track and boost fundraising. You can record donations, monitor fundraising metrics, send personalized donation appeals, and more. 

By leveraging these features with alumni engagement in mind, you can increase the number of alumni who participate in your fundraisers and improve their experiences. Features like donor segmentation, marketing automation, and donation histories allow you to streamline alumni fundraising and track your results.

For example, say that you’re promoting a capital campaign to renovate a beloved dormitory and give students living there a better experience. You might use your CRM to take the following steps to engage more alumni in fundraising:

  1. Search alumni profiles for financial capacity markers that indicate which alumni might be good candidates for major giving.
  2. Create a segment of all the alumni who lived in that building while on campus.
  3. Reach out personally to alumni in that segment to ask for donations.
  4. Design and automate an email series about the capital campaign’s purpose, progress, fundraising needs, and expected impact.
  5. Track donations from alumni and send personalized thank-you messages that include their names and donation amounts.

Once the campaign is over, you can easily use your CRM to follow up with all the alumni who participated in or engaged with the capital campaign. Then, you might add them to a new segment of capital campaign donors and tailor future appeals based on their interest in this campaign.

If you need help taking full advantage of your CRM or feel that your current system isn’t meeting your university’s needs, connect with a higher education technology consultant. These experts can analyze your tech stack, recommend new solutions or integrations to fill gaps, and even implement a new CRM for you. When you have a robust CRM you can leverage strategically, you’ll be able to engage alumni more effectively and efficiently.

The title of the post next to a graphic of a man standing on a stack of coins holding a lightbulb.

Funding Your Mission: 4 Nonprofit Financial Management Tips

When you think about your nonprofit’s funding, the first thing that comes to mind is probably fundraising. Your team likely plans and launches multiple fundraisers throughout each year to bring in enough revenue to fund the various initiatives associated with furthering your mission.

However, proper financial management is just as important as fundraising for making a difference in the community. As funding comes in, you have to carefully plan how you’re going to spend it in order to make the most of it. Then, you need to report on your fundraising and spending to demonstrate that you’re using your donors’ money wisely and complying with government regulations for nonprofits.

In this guide, we’ll share four proven tips to help your organization manage its finances more effectively. Let’s get started!

1. Create an Annual Operating Budget

Jitasa’s nonprofit budgeting guide defines a budget as “a planning document used to predict expenses and allocate resources for your organization.” While there are several types of nonprofit budgets you might create (such as budgets for specific programs or long-term fundraising campaigns), your annual operating budget serves as the master financial plan for your entire organization, making it a critical component of your strategy.

Let’s break down the two sides of an operating budget—revenue and expenses—in more detail.


The revenue side of your nonprofit’s operating budget details all of the funds your organization expects to bring in throughout the year. To keep your budget organized and make more accurate projections, we recommend categorizing your revenue by source.

Here is a breakdown of the major nonprofit revenue sources and a few subcategories you might include under each one:

  • Individual donations: Small, mid-sized, and major gifts; event revenue; in-kind donations
  • Corporate philanthropy: Matching gifts, volunteer grants, sponsorships
  • Earned income: Membership dues, branded merchandise sales, fees for services
  • Investments: Endowments, brokerage account interest, stock returns
  • Grants: Government grants, public and private foundation grants, Google Ad Grants

Having a combination of these revenue streams in your budget can help your organization achieve financial sustainability, as you’ll still have plenty of funding you can rely on if one source falls through. And if everything goes according to plan, you may have additional funds that you can reserve for the future or use to expand your organization.


In general, nonprofits find it most useful to organize the expense side of their budget based on how their spending furthers their mission. These functional expense categories, as they’re known, are also consistent with nonprofit tax returns and other required reports.

The three types of functional expenses are:

  • Program costs, which are directly related to furthering your mission, meaning they’re different for every organization. For example, an animal shelter would include spending on pet food, toys, and medical supplies under their program costs.
  • Administrative costs, which are necessary for your nonprofit to operate and include expenses like staff salaries, utility bills, and purchases of office supplies.
  • Fundraising costs, which are the upfront costs associated with fundraising campaigns and include event planning, marketing, and fundraising software investments.

You may have heard of the 65/35 “rule” of nonprofit budgeting, which states that nonprofits should spend at least 65% of their funds on their programs and no more than 35% on administrative and fundraising costs combined. In reality, this breakdown looks different for every organization. Treat this rule as a guideline to help you allocate more funding toward your mission and cut administrative and fundraising costs where possible.

2. Implement Fiscal Policies

Fiscal policies give your team guidance on how to properly handle your nonprofit’s funds day-to-day as they act on the predictions in your budget. Make sure to implement the following regulations at your nonprofit:

  • Gift acceptance policy. This details the types of donations (both financial and in-kind) that your nonprofit can and can’t accept, as well as the circumstances under which you’ll accept each contribution.
  • Expense reimbursement policy. If your employees or volunteers spend their own money on behalf of your organization, this policy outlines whether they can be reimbursed and the procedure for providing reimbursements.
  • Investment policy. This provides guidelines for investing, withdrawing, and spending your nonprofit’s reserve funds so you can effectively save for the long term.
  • Staff compensation policy. This ensures all of your employees receive fair salaries and benefits while preventing overcompensation for leadership (which has damaged some nonprofits’ reputations).

Compile all of these policies in a shared organizational handbook so that your team members can easily reference them as they go about their daily tasks.

3. Compile Financial Statements

Think of your nonprofit’s financial documentation as guiding your organization’s activities before, during, and after funds change hands. Your budget applies before, your fiscal policy handbook during, and your financial statements after, since their purpose is to summarize financial data for easier analysis.

Here is an overview of the four core nonprofit financial statements and what each one reports:

  • Statement of activities: Revenue raised, expenses incurred, and change in net assets
  • Statement of financial position: Assets, liabilities, and net assets
  • Statement of cash flows: Cash movement in and out of your organization through operating, investing, and financing activities
  • Statement of functional expenses: Detailed breakdown of program, administrative, and fundraising costs incurred

These four documents are extremely useful for reporting your organization’s financial history and health on its annual tax return. Plus, DonorSearch recommends attaching your financial statements as appendices to your nonprofit’s annual report so supporters and stakeholders can learn more about how your organization has used its funds in the past year.

4. Hire a Bookkeeper and Accountant

Since bookkeepers and accountants both work with financial data, it’s common for nonprofits to confuse the two roles and only hire one or the other. However, bookkeepers and accountants have different functions within an organization, so you need both to effectively manage your finances.

Bookkeepers take care of your nonprofit’s day-to-day financial needs. Their duties include basic data entry, writing checks, making bank deposits, and running payroll. While bookkeepers need some basic training to do their jobs well, they don’t need specialized education or certifications.

Accountants, on the other hand, need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field and a CPA certification to be qualified for their role. This is because accountants focus on financial data analysis and reporting tasks, such as reviewing your nonprofit’s budget and fiscal policies and filing tax forms. Having a bookkeeper to keep accurate records allows your accountant to focus on the analytical responsibilities they specialize in.

Pro tip: If your organization doesn’t have enough work to warrant hiring a full-time bookkeeper and accountant or the budget to do so, you can invest in outsourced nonprofit bookkeeping and accounting services to gain access to the financial expertise you need at a lower cost!

Every nonprofit has different financial goals, so keep that in mind as you consider how to apply the tips above at your organization. Also, remember to regularly revisit your budget, fiscal policies, and financial statements so that, with your bookkeeper’s and accountant’s help, you can stay on top of your nonprofit’s needs and create the best possible management strategy.

The title of the article, which is “Donor Stewardship: Tips for Cultivating Major Gifts.”

Donor Stewardship: Tips for Cultivating Major Gifts

When it comes to fundraising and marketing, your nonprofit needs to maximize its revenue in order to fund its important work. Aside from inspiring donors to give more, you must cultivate deeper relationships with them to show your appreciation and strengthen the community surrounding your organization.

Donor stewardship allows you to do both! In this guide, we’ll explore how you can cultivate major gifts through effective stewardship by covering the following topics:

  • What is donor stewardship?
  • How to steward donors
  • Donor stewardship tools

Donor stewardship is not just a fundraising strategy, but an important part of building the community that defines your nonprofit. That’s why you’ll need a thorough understanding of stewardship before you can develop a plan of action.

What is donor stewardship?

Donor stewardship is the process of building relationships with donors after they make a gift to your nonprofit. By strengthening these relationships, you’ll help donors feel a sense of loyalty to your organization, increasing the likelihood that they’ll give again—and sometimes in larger quantities!

Effective donor stewardship can help your nonprofit in many ways, but it also benefits the donor. Building a relationship with donors and encouraging a response initiates reciprocal communication, through which both your organization and your donor benefit from stewardship.

How to steward donors

Understanding the benefits of donor stewardship should incline you to take action. Use the following stewardship strategies to start cultivating major gifts.

1. Thank the donor for their gift.

Not only should you thank donors for their contributions, but you must thank them as quickly as you can. As a result, supporters will associate giving with the positive feeling of being appreciated, and this sets the foundation of your stewardship campaign. Once a donor feels recognized the moment they contribute time, money, or other resources to your nonprofit, you’re poised to continue this stewardship.

Here are a few effective channels you can use to recognize your donors:

  • Email: CharityEngine’s nonprofit donations guide recommends leaning on email as the foundation of your fundraising strategy, and that includes following up with thank-you emails!
  • Events: Donor appreciation events are like a grand gesture of gratitude and can double as stewardship opportunities when you offer additional ways to give at the event.
  • eCards: Make thank-you messages fun with exciting animations and branded designs on digital greeting cards. For example, Youth for Understanding (YFU) created the following digital card to celebrate its 70th anniversary and express gratitude for those who have donated.
An example of a thank you eCard, which can be used as a donor stewardship strategy.

Timely appreciation and personalized outreach are the key to donor stewardship. The more you can learn about your donors, the easier it is to develop genuine relationships with them and encourage greater giving. For example, understanding why a donor gives to your organization can provide valuable insights that will help your stewardship efforts.

2. Research and segment your donors.

To send messages and plan stewardship activities that resonate with donors, you’ll first need an understanding of their ability and motivation to give. Research your supporters and append any existing data to gain a comprehensive view of their involvement with your organization. Some key questions to ask include:

  • Where do they live? Local supporters may be available for in-person stewardship activities, such as volunteer opportunities, facility tours, or a luncheon with your board members. Supporters who live farther away may be more responsive to virtual events or consistent communications.
  • Why do they donate? Knowing why a donor gives can indicate what would motivate them to increase that gift. For example, if they donate in honor of a loved one, you might ask them to make a larger tribute gift on special days.
  • What is the frequency of their giving? Recurring donors may be promising candidates for major gifts. In addition to pursuing them as major donors, guide other supporters through the giving levels by asking one-time donors for another gift and occasional donors for a monthly commitment.
  • What are their communication preferences? Donors are more likely to increase their gift size when you ask through the communication channels they frequently use. For example, send an email newsletter about the importance of major gifts to the group that prefers to receive messages this way.

This information can be used in your marketing efforts, too, when creating social media posts or crafting email newsletters. For example, you may learn that your college-aged donors tend to use Instagram daily. If these individuals are young, unemployed college students, they may be more receptive to a crowdfunding campaign rather than major giving.

3. Create a stewardship matrix.

Equipped with information about your donors, you’re ready to create a specific plan for donor stewardship. Double the Donation’s donor stewardship guide recommends organizing this information in a stewardship matrix, which is an outline of the method and cadence your nonprofit will use when reaching out to donors.

Following this matrix ensures that you’re engaging your supporters throughout the donor journey. Consistent communication will keep your nonprofit at the top of a supporter’s mind and keep your mission relevant when it’s time to choose where to give.

Donor stewardship tools

Now that you have a donor stewardship plan, you’re likely ready to jump in and start fundraising! However, you’ll need the right tools to execute this plan and ensure your fundraising succeeds.

Look for nonprofit fundraising software that offers the following features to ensure it aligns with your approach to stewardship:

  • Major gifts features help you identify opportunities and track their progress.
  • Email automation will make it easy to communicate regularly with donors.
  • Robust reporting and analytics will help you segment your donors according to any filters you want.
  • Optimized online forms can help increase conversions.

Your stewardship efforts are more valuable when you have technology that records and tracks all engagement with your nonprofit. With a close view of your donors and their activities, you can quickly discern whether or not your stewardship efforts are working. If not, you’ll have the data to see where you’re falling short, and you can quickly pivot to keep those donors engaged.

The article's title, "Ways to Use Learning Management Software to Engage Members," beside an illustration of someone using a laptop.

5 Ways to Use Learning Management Software to Engage Members

In today’s dynamic landscape, associations play a key role in facilitating networking opportunities, promoting professional development, and providing resources for their members. However, with increasing demands and expectations, simply offering membership benefits is no longer sufficient.

To build a thriving membership program, your association must evolve and find innovative ways to engage members continuously. Learning management software (LMS) emerges as a powerful tool that not only streamlines administrative tasks but also enhances member experiences through personalized learning opportunities.

In this guide, we’ll discuss five impactful ways to leverage this technology. First, let’s take a closer look at what an LMS is.

What is learning management software?

Learning management software is a digital platform designed to streamline the creation, delivery, and management of educational content and training programs. An LMS provides a central hub where organizations can host, track, and organize various learning activities, such as webinars, courses, and assessments.

For associations, an LMS simplifies the process of offering high-value learning opportunities to members in several ways:

  • Centralization: An LMS serves as a centralized repository for all learning materials, making it easy for associations to organize and manage educational content.
  • Accessibility: Members can access learning resources anytime, anywhere, providing flexibility and convenience in their learning journey.
  • Customization: LMS platforms often offer customization options, allowing you to tailor learning experiences to meet specific member needs and preferences.
  • Tracking and reporting: An LMS provides tracking and reporting features, enabling you to monitor member engagement, track progress, and assess the effectiveness of your learning initiatives.
  • Integration: Many LMS platforms integrate seamlessly with other association management software and content creation tools, streamlining administrative tasks and ensuring a cohesive member experience.

An LMS empowers you to deliver high-value learning opportunities that are accessible, engaging, and tailored to the needs of members. Ultimately, it allows you to drive member satisfaction, retention, and organizational success.

How to Leverage Learning Management Software

Equipped with an LMS, your association can deepen member engagement in the following ways:

1. Host a variety of educational events.

Chances are, your association already uses event software to organize events catering to members’ interests. Many LMS solutions have event capabilities so you can organize all sorts of educational opportunities for members.

Some popular types of events your association can virtually host using an LMS include:

  • Webinars: These online seminars involve presentations, workshops, or panel discussions on various topics of interest. Webinars provide flexibility for members to participate from anywhere, fostering accessibility and engagement.
  • Q&A sessions: Interactive question-and-answer sessions provide members with the chance to engage directly with subject matter experts or industry leaders. These sessions promote dialogue, knowledge sharing, and networking among participants.
  • Training workshops: Virtual training sessions offer members the opportunity to develop specific skills or knowledge in a structured environment. Workshops can cover a range of subjects, from technical skills to leadership development.
  • Networking sessions: Virtual networking events facilitated by an LMS create opportunities for members to connect, collaborate, and build relationships within your association community. Whether through breakout rooms, discussion forums, or virtual meet-and-greets, networking sessions foster camaraderie and professional connections.

When deciding which types of events to prioritize, it’s essential to consider members’ specific interests, preferences, and learning needs. By understanding their goals and aspirations, you can tailor your event offerings to deliver maximum value and engagement.

2. Offer certification programs.

Certification programs offer significant value for association members, providing tangible credentials and recognition of expertise within their respective fields. With an LMS, your association can:

  • Process payments for courses
  • Deliver and score assessments
  • Award downloadable and printable certificates

Additionally, certification programs not only serve as catalysts for individual professional growth but also elevate the reputation and credibility of your association. As members pursue and achieve certifications, they become advocates and ambassadors, further strengthening your community and influence.

3. Provide an exclusive resource library.

A comprehensive resource library is a cornerstone of member engagement, offering a wealth of valuable content that fosters continuous learning and professional development. Your association can use an LMS to build a website with gated, members-only resources tailored to their unique needs and interests.

For example, you might share content such as:

  • Industry reports
  • Case studies
  • Expert interviews
  • Templates

Take a strategic approach to content development and curation, ensuring that the library stays up-to-date, relevant, and aligned with industry trends and challenges. Regular updates keep members engaged and interested in exploring new resources.

Furthermore, your association can explore creative ways to monetize the resource library by offering access to non-members for a fee. This not only generates additional revenue but also extends your influence and provides valuable learning opportunities to a broader audience.

As members engage with your resource library, they gain valuable knowledge, insights, and practical tools that enrich their professional journey. This fosters a culture of continuous learning and knowledge sharing, strengthening the bond between your association and its members and promoting long-term engagement and satisfaction.

4. Nurture a learning community.

Building a vibrant and supportive community lies at the core of every successful association. Leveraging an LMS, you can cultivate a dynamic learning community that fosters collaboration, connection, and shared growth among members.

Several ways to promote a sense of community with an LMS include:

  • Building leaderboards. Leaderboards showcase members’ achievements and progress, fostering healthy competition and motivating participation in learning activities. 
  • Awarding digital badges. Digital badges serve as tangible recognition of accomplishments, encouraging members to strive for excellence and engage actively in your association’s educational offerings.
  • Creating discussion forums. Discussion forums provide a space for members to interact, share insights, seek advice, and collaborate on projects. This facilitates peer-to-peer learning and knowledge exchange.

As members engage with one another and actively participate in your association’s learning opportunities, they not only acquire knowledge and skills but also forge meaningful connections and relationships. This sense of belonging and camaraderie enhances the overall member experience, driving loyalty, satisfaction, and long-term engagement. 

5. Create tailored learning opportunities.

Remember that one size does not fit all, which means your association should embrace personalized learning approaches to cater to diverse member needs and preferences. By integrating your LMS with your membership management software and leveraging data analytics, you can gain valuable insights into member behaviors, preferences, and learning objectives. 

Through targeted surveys, solicit feedback and input from members to create more tailored learning opportunities. Consider including questions such as:

  • What format or type of learning do you prefer most?
  • How relevant are our current learning opportunities to your needs?
  • Which topics or areas would you like us to cover more?
  • What improvements, if any, would you like us to make to our learning program?

By adopting a learner-centric approach and adapting offerings according to member interests, you can maximize engagement and satisfaction with your educational benefits.

Learning management software represents a game-changing technology for associations seeking to enhance member engagement and deliver high-value learning experiences. By leveraging an LMS to host diverse educational events, offer certification programs, curate an exclusive resource library, foster a vibrant learning community, and create personalized learning opportunities, you can empower members to achieve their goals and aspirations. 

Moreover, by harnessing data-driven insights and member feedback, your association can iteratively refine and optimize its offerings, ensuring relevance, resonance, and impact over time.

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3 Strategies to Streamline In-Kind Donations for Supporters

Without fundraising, nonprofits would be hard-pressed to fulfill their missions. But monetary gifts aren’t the only contributions beneficial to your nonprofit. Other donations, such as in-kind gifts, are just as useful. Accepting in-kind donations allows your nonprofit to increase support by capturing the generosity of supporters who might not be able to donate monetary funds.

To help you maximize in-kind donations for your nonprofit, this guide will cover the top strategies for streamlining your in-kind gift process. That way, you can confidently solicit and accept a variety of donations from loyal supporters.

What are in-kind donations?

According to Jitasa, in-kind donations are contributions of products or services that companies and businesses give to a nonprofit instead of a cash contribution. This includes:

  • Goods. These are typically physical materials or assets that nonprofits can use to enhance some aspect of their work. It’s a great way for donors to support your organization while staying sustainable by recycling their items. For example, if you plan to host an auction, you might solicit in-kind donations of auction items from supporters.
  • Services. This type of in-kind donation is a contribution of time and expertise to perform a service that your nonprofit would otherwise have to pay for. Donations of services are particularly useful if your nonprofit is still small and doesn’t have the extra budget to hire external professionals. For example, an individual working at a marketing agency might donate their services to design marketing materials for your upcoming fundraising event.

Volunteer time is another common yet often overlooked type of in-kind gift. As volunteer time is estimated to be worth about $32 per hour, it is an incredibly valuable type of donation for your nonprofit.

Much like with any other type of donation, it’s important to recognize donors for their generosity after an in-kind gift. Establish appreciation strategies to specifically recognize donors for their in-kind gifts.

Now that you know what in-kind donations are, let’s dive into the top strategies for streamlining the in-kind donation process for supporters.

1. Establish clear guidelines for in-kind donations.

Have you ever tried making a payment for an item or service and had trouble getting your payment to work? Your first reaction was probably frustration. You may have even decided that you didn’t need that item.

It’s a similar feeling for donors—regardless of their gift type, you need to make the process easy to ensure that they go through with their gift. In-kind donations are no exception. However, their donation process will be slightly more complicated, as donors will need to go beyond inputting their payment information.

To ensure that donors go through with their in-kind gifts, establish clear guidelines. These should include:

  • Type of goods and services. Be upfront about the type of in-kind donations you’ll accept. This may change depending on where you are in your fundraising cycle or your current organizational needs. For example, if you’re hoping to plan several events in the next year, you might request the services of a fundraising consultant.
  • Condition requirements. For goods, specifically, include any requirements you have for item condition. For instance, if you’re looking for auction items, you’ll probably be looking for new or gently-used goods. If you’re looking for lighting equipment, you may be satisfied with functional items that show some wear and tear.
  • Excluded in-kind gifts. If there are any common types of in-kind gifts that you specifically won’t accept, include them in your guidelines. Let’s say that you’re looking for marketing help. You may request specific services to meet your exact marketing needs, such as branding expertise or video content creation.
  • Donation process. For goods, establish a drop-off point where donors can leave their gifts. Or, if you have extra staff time, create a pick-up system. For services, provide guidelines as to the commitment that you’d like the donor to make, whether they need to work with you on-site or if remote is acceptable, and any other expectations you might have.

After you’ve established guidelines for in-kind donations, add them to a landing page on your nonprofit’s website. That way, supporters can easily reference this information if they’re considering making an in-kind gift.

2. Promote in-kind donations to supporters.

If you don’t inform supporters about in-kind gifts, they may not even consider making them. Properly market in-kind gifts by promoting them through multiple communication channels. That includes your:

  • Website
  • Emails
  • Social media posts

In your messages, focus on the benefits of in-kind donations for supporters. You might say that it’s a convenient way to recycle their items while contributing to a great cause. Or, you could say that donating services allows them to give back to the community without any financial commitment. Add a link to your in-kind donation guidelines so that viewers can easily get started with the process.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to seek out local businesses to help promote in-kind gifts or make contributions directly to your nonprofit. For instance, if you run a soup kitchen, you might ask local grocery stores to promote your request for in-kind donations of canned food. Or, you might ask the same store if they’d be willing to donate that food directly.

3. Host an in-kind donation event.

Much like regular fundraising events give supporters a structured way to make financial gifts, an event that focuses on in-kind donations streamlines the gift-giving process.

Two great ideas to consider include:

  • Recycling drive. With a recycling drive, you can make money with in-kind donations of recyclable materials such as metal, plastic, or textiles. Ask supporters to collect these items and donate them to you. Then, sell these items to a local recycling center and put the funds back into your mission. If you don’t have the employee time to spare, Donate This Recycle That recommends arranging for pickup with recycling centers instead.
  • Clothing drive. Clothing drives are flexible events that can serve many different purposes. For example, if your nonprofit’s beneficiaries are people experiencing homelessness or poverty, you may organize a clothing drive to obtain winter clothing for them. Or, you can host a clothing drive fundraiser by selling any donations back to a recycling organization.

There are a variety of other donations that can feature in-kind donations, including second-hand store events and auctions. Don’t be afraid to get creative with events, but be sure to make your donation process clear for each one.

In-kind donations allow you to leverage the generosity of supporters who might otherwise not be able to contribute to your nonprofit. With a streamlined and convenient process, you’ll be able to maximize the number of donations you receive, allowing you to push forward your mission. Be sure to properly recognize in-kind donors to encourage their continued support and secure their future financial generosity.

Tips to Cultivate School Spirit in Your Next Fundraiser

Picture this—your elementary school is bustling with students returning from the summer holiday and your school board is brainstorming how you can channel their school spirit and excitement into your next fundraiser.

By tapping into this collective energy early on as the new school year kicks off, you can establish a solid foundation that not only celebrates the return to school but also builds anticipation and support for upcoming events. 

To keep the momentum going even after your initial back to school event, consider using these tips to generate school spirit and maximize funds.

Choose a memorable theme

A memorable theme will set your fundraiser apart and encourage participation. Therefore, instead of being just another one-off fundraiser, your school can use your fundraiser as an opportunity to reconnect with your community while raising funds. 

For example, let’s say a school decides to use the theme “A Wildlife Adventure” to brand its fundraiser meant to support more hands-on learning initiatives such as field trips and outdoor education programs. With a clear brand, the school can then reap the following benefits:

  • An aligned fundraising purpose ensures that all fundraising activities and promotions directly reflect the theme’s focus on wildlife and exploration. This fosters a stronger sense of purpose, which deepens the engagement and investment of your supporters.
  • Distinct branded merchandise like custom animal plush toys, explorer kits for kids, or adventure-themed t-shirts helps you effectively raise funds while also promoting a sense of fun and excitement around your fundraiser.
  • Multiple branded fundraising activities such as an auction where participants bid on fun, family-friendly experiences like zip-lining or tickets to the zoo. Additionally, you may add in more branded fundraising opportunities such as a bike-a-thon or outdoor adventure day.

A cohesive theme for a school fundraiser can be a powerful tool in uniting students, parents, teachers, and the wider community towards a common goal, generating excitement and participation across the board. Invest time in brainstorming effective fundraising themes and think through all the details—from marketing materials to auction items to merchandise—before selecting one. 

Plan engaging activities

Engaging activities are crucial to the success of school fundraisers, as they significantly influence participation rates by making the event enjoyable and memorable for everyone involved. It’s best to actively involve your community from the planning stages through to the execution of the fundraiser, ensuring that activities are inclusive and appeal to a broad audience.

Here are some ideas for making sure your fundraising activities align with your community’s interests and fundraising goals: 

  • Provide options and survey your school community. Offer a variety of potential fundraising activities and use surveys to gather input from students, parents, teachers, and staff to identify what resonates most with them.
  • Consider timing when planning your events. Take into account the local community calendar, key holidays, and the school schedule to choose optimal times for your event that avoid conflicts and maximize attendance.
  • Offer multiple ways to give or get involved. Various donation formats such as text-to-give, recurring giving, or pledge fundraising could spice up your fundraising events while offering participants the choice to give in a way most convenient to them. 
  • Try different formats. Maybe you’re used to in-person fundraising events but are ready to give hybrid or online events a chance. You don’t have to choose just one.’s guide to online auctions suggests running both an in-person and online auction to maximize funding. 

Research previous fundraising activities and explore what has been successful at nearby schools to gather proven ideas and avoid potential pitfalls. Analyzing these can provide valuable insights into what resonates with your community, helping to tailor future fundraisers for greater impact and success.

Encourage student involvement

Students are pivotal in boosting school spirit as the primary ambassadors of their school’s values and culture. By actively participating in and leading school events, students can encourage a positive culture.

Give them a role to play to bolster their involvement by suggesting they provide any of the following: 

  • Marketing assistance: Students can help create posters, social media posts, and branding ideas. Have them create a content calendar or vote on your fundraiser’s theme. You can provide extra credit to the students who assist in your marketing endeavors. 
  • Friendly grade-level competition: See which grade can raise the most funds and incentivize revenue with a prize like a school field trip or movie day.
  • Event day talent showcase: Highlight school talent by having student musicians or singers perform during your event. This not only provides a platform for students to shine and share their skills but also adds a personal and engaging touch to the event.
  • Planning and coordination efforts. Enlist high school student volunteers for event day set up and tear down. Remember to thank your students and parents throughout the volunteer process for lending a helping hand.  

Involving students in various capacities, such as marketing, organizing, and performing, not only empowers them but also enhances the overall atmosphere of school events.

Partner with sponsors

The right sponsor can take a school fundraiser from good to great. According to Getting Attention, sponsors can help you by providing financial, in-kind, and media support. In a school context, a valuable sponsor could also provide the following:

  • In-kind gifts like food or baked goods for a fancy fundraising gala from a local restaurant. You could even have them offer cooking classes or culinary experiences to further enhance your fundraiser’s appeal.
  • Financial assistance from larger corporate support in the form of matching gifts or through direct donations. This can often inspire other businesses to contribute, creating a ripple effect of support. 
  • Volunteer help from local community organizations. Perhaps a local print shop will offer to print off your fundraiser programs and other organizations could sell your event tickets at their business.
  • A fun and accessible venue from nearby businesses. Utilizing a venue that’s well-known in the community can enhance the event’s visibility and accessibility, encouraging greater participation and support from residents and businesses alike.

By contributing financially, in-kind, and through volunteer help, sponsors can greatly reduce your overhead costs, allowing a higher percentage of the funds raised to be directly allocated toward your school’s initiatives.

Celebrate your progress

Positive communication plays a vital role in the success of a school fundraiser as it directly influences the level of enthusiasm and participation across the school community. By regularly updating students, parents, and staff on the progress and impact of the fundraiser, you can maintain high engagement levels and foster a sense of shared school spirit.

Here are some ways to share your event’s progress:

  • Fundraising thermometer. This is a great visual tool to share the success of your fundraiser as it provides a clear representation of your achievement toward your goal in real-time.
  • Thank you letters. Handwritten notes or quick branded e-cards are reliable ways to show your appreciation and remind every contributor of your gratitude.
  • Final fundraising metrics. Sharing these metrics after your event is a powerful way to underscore the success and collective effort of the community, highlighting the tangible impact of everyone’s contributions.

The strategic use of positive communication methods, such as a fundraising thermometer, thank you letters, and the sharing of final fundraising metrics, is instrumental in amplifying the success of a school fundraiser. 

These approaches not only keep the community informed and engaged but also reinforce a culture of appreciation and recognition, essential for building lasting school spirit.

School fundraising is no small task—leverage the power of school spirit to bring in funds and maximize engagement. The above tactics can be tailored to any school, audience, or fundraising need, just be sure to gather school community input early and often before launching your fundraiser. You’ve got this!