"Let's Talk Nonprofit" is a blog by Third Sector Consulting that addresses common questions that nonprofits have. Questions about fundraising. Questions about boards. Questions about what's going on in the nonprofit sector today. Ready? Let's Talk Nonprofit.

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Foundation Tax Forms as a Free Research Tool

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Foundation Tax Forms as a Free Research Tool
Unless you're an accountant, you probably don't like tax forms. But if you're a nonprofit (and especially if you're a grant seeker), you should love them. That's because tax forms - specifically the 990-PF - are a terrific, free research tool. Tax forms are a treasure trove of information. You can learn about a foundation's giving guidelines, how much they give, who they've given to recently, and so much more. (read more)

What Nonprofits Can Learn From Cross-Country Skiers

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What Nonprofits Can Learn from Cross-Country Skiers
Every four years, the Olympics showcase the best of the best athletes on the world's biggest stage. This year, we'll see new stars, even new sports (mixed doubles curling, anyone?) This fundraising lesson comes from a timeless and classic winter sport. And, as a bonus, you'll find a fundraising effectiveness exercise. What's working? What's not? And what could you do differently? This post will help change the way you think about raising money. (read more)

What Fundraising Metrics Are Worth Measuring?

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What Fundraising Metrics Are Worth Measuring
The new year is a great time to set new goals for your organization. Even if it's the midway point in your fiscal year, you can still set goals - for the fiscal year or this calendar year. Just don't wait until the end of the year to measure your success! Check out these 10 fundraising metrics you might consider tracking and reporting, to help you reach your year-end goals. (And don't miss the 2 metrics that no nonprofit can afford to ignore!) (read more)

How To Help After a Disaster

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How To Help - After a Disaster
It's been 5 days, and Harvey is still wreaking havoc across the South. And it will be months - even years - before the area fully recovers. People want to help, and you may be one of them. Consider these options to help the victims of Harvey as well as future disasters. You might be surprised at what you shouldn't do. (read more)

Telling Your Nonprofit's Story With Guidestar

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Telling Your Nonprofits Story With Guidestar
Savvy donors and foundations are using Guidestar to learn about your organization. And savvy nonprofits are using Guidestar to tell their organization's story. So, what does your Guidestar profile say about you? Guidestar promotes transparency, and you can earn a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum seal, based on what you share. What color is your profile? (read more)

5 Things To Do Before June 30

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5 Things To Do Before June 30
Ah, June. School's out. Pools are open. Vacation season is in full swing. Alas, summer isn't always a picnic for nonprofits. That's because the beginning of June also means the end of June isn't far away. And for many nonprofits, June 30 marks the end of their fiscal year. Regardless of where you are in your nonprofit's "year," there are five things you need to do now. (read more)

Meeting Your Fundraising Goals - This Year and Next

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Meeting Your Fundraising Goal - This Year and Next
There's been a lot of talk lately about the President's proposed budget for 2018, which seeks to reduce or eliminate hundreds of programs. The key word is "proposed." The proposed cuts may or may not happen. Regardless, what the President has proposed should serve as a reminder to all nonprofits that it's important to create and keep a diverse revenue stream. And it all starts with your fundraising plan. (read more)

Bylaws Are More Than A Buzzword

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Bylaws Are More Than A Buzzword
Being part of a nonprofit organization can feel a little crazy sometimes, don't you think? There's good news. Your bylaws can help stop the madness. Bylaws are an essential governance document and they should be revisited from time to time. Learn how to use your bylaws to guide and strengthen your organization. You'll also find an 11-point checklist for what your bylaws should include. (read more)

How Does Your Board Compare?

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How Does Your Board Compare
It's not unusual for people to keep doing what they've always done...especially if they don't know any other way. Just knowing how your board compares to other nonprofits can help you see where there are opportunities for improvement. Here are 10 points you can measure against and what the data means for you. (read more)

The Best Boards Practice Good Governance

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The Best Boards Practice Good Governance
When I grow up, I want to be a BOARD MEMBER!" Said no child. Ever. So, it's not surprising that a lot of people join boards without really understanding what a board really does (or is supposed to do). The best boards practice good governance. But what does that really mean? And what does "good governance" look like? Essential governance practices are explained here, plus a 7-point checklist for you to use. (read more)

How to Get Donors to Like You (and Give More)

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How to Get Donors to Like You and Give More
Dale Carnegie's seminal book, "How To Win Friends and Influence People," was published 80 years ago. It's an oldie...and a goodie. It wasn't written for fundraisers. However, there are many lessons you can apply when you want to raise more money for your nonprofit. Use what you learn here to build relationships, make stronger appeals, and show appreciation to your donors. Then, you'll raise more money. (read more)

How to "Be Your Donor," and Why

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How to Be Your Donor, and Why
"Be Your Donor Day." Have you heard of it? It's not a traditional holiday and it gets little fanfare. However, this simple concept has big implications for your nonprofit. Think of "Be Your Donor Day" as a time to measure your donors' giving experience. From testing your donation system to tracking your back office process, you want to make sure every donor's experience is a great one. (read more)

10 Tips for Year-End Fundraising Success

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10 Tips for Year-End Fundraising Success
It's back-to-school time. And if you have kids - whether they're in kindergarten or starting college - you make a plan for getting ready for that all-important first day. What about your nonprofit? Are you getting ready for the most important time of your year? December can be make-or-break for your organization's annual budget. If you haven't started planning your year-end fundraising campaign, now's the time to start. And here are a few ideas to get you going. (read more)

Anatomy of a Stellar Thank You Letter

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Anatomy of a Stellar Thank You Letter
Here are some simple truths: When you give someone a gift, you expect them to say "thank you." And when a donor makes a contribution to your nonprofit, you should always say thank you. In writing. It doesn't have to be handwritten. It could be a typed letter. Or even email. Whatever medium you choose, your "thank you" should have some basic elements. Follow these four simple steps and you'll take your thank you letters from average to All Star! (read more)

5 Fundraising Lessons from Give Big 2016

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5 Fundraising Lessons from Give Big 2016
Give Big Day had its challenges in 2015. One major fundraising platform crashed, making the system unavailable to donors for most of the day. Yet the Gallatin Valley (Bozeman, MT) crushed its $300,000 giving goal and raised more than $420,000 using what they called Plan B. Here's what they did. And, just like Bozeman, you can raise more money when you apply these five overarching themes to your fundraising. (read more)

How You Should Be Talking To Your Donors

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How You Should Be Talking To Your Donors
Penelope Burk literally wrote the book on "Donor Centered Fundraising" in 2003. So, the idea of donor-centricity isn't new. What's donor-centricity, you ask? It's organizing everything you do around the wants and needs of your donor. And in nonprofit communications, there's nothing more important than making the message about your donor. Here are some examples of how a lot of nonprofits talk to their donors...and how you should be talking to your donors. (read more)

How To Have Better Board Meetings

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How To Have Better Board Meetings
Do your board meetings feel like a necessary evil? Well, there's hope. You can have better board meetings. Great board meetings are possible, but they don't just happen. They take planning, preparation and a commitment from everyone, from the board officers to each and every board member. Here are 14 tips for better board meetings, with specific suggestions for your board chair, treasurer, secretary and the individual board members. (read more)

Do You Have Board Members or Bored Members?

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Do You Have Board Members or Bored Members
You know those conference name badges with the colorful ribbons that say "Speaker," "Sponsor" and the like? I attended a conference recently where some attendees were wearing strips that said "Bored Member." (They were tchotchkes from the exhibitor's hall, and they were the hottest item there.) Silly as it seems, it does make you think. Does your nonprofit have "bored members?" Are you one yourself? If you answered yes, here's how you can change that. (read more)

Do You Have Too Many Competing Priorities?

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Do You Have Too Many Competing Priorities
The new year. It's a time for fresh starts and new beginnings. It's a time for plans...and priorities. If you're like most people, you probably feel like you have too many things to do. And you wonder how you'll get them all done. There's no doubt that most nonprofit employees are charged with doing a lot of different tasks. So, I ask you, what's your top priority? And what would happen if you focused your time, energy and resources on that single most important thing? (read more)

Raise More Money in the Last Four Weeks of the Year

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Last-Minute Tips for Year-End Fundraising
Whether your nonprofit operates on a calendar year or fiscal year, what happens in December is critically important to your annual fundraising success. Giving spikes at the end of the year and fully one-third of December's gifts occur on December 31. So, how can you raise more money in the last four weeks of the year? Here are 4 actions you can take now to raise more money in the next 4 weeks. (read more)

21 Tips for Your Next Fundraising Appeal

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21 Tips for Your Year-End Fundraising Appeal
When it comes to fundraising, what do you need to know? First, abandon the idea of a single "annual appeal." Asking for money is no longer a once-a-year activity. In fact, donors expect you to ask more often (and they respond when you do!), so don't wait until this time next year to ask again. Second, the primary focus of your appeal should be to keep your current donors – not attract new ones. Lastly, here are 21 tips and tricks to a better appeal, every time. (read more)

How To Plan Your First Big Fundraising Campaign

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Before You Start Planning Your Next Fundraising Campaign
So, you want to raise money. A lot of money. But you don't know where to start. Well, you're not alone. Here's the good news. You can raise more money. But first, you need a plan. A recently released study of small nonprofits (less than $2 million budgets) found that, when it comes to fundraising results, "the ONLY thing that matters is whether your organization has a fundraising plan." Okay. So, where do you begin? (read more)

Do You Have An Attitude of Gratitude?

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Do You Have An Attitude of Gratitude
Do your donors feel special? I do, and it's thanks to some tremendous work by nonprofits in my adopted hometown of Bozeman, MT. I made 10 modest gifts to 10 nonprofits on Give Big Day and watched to see what would happen. Wow! Here are some of the ways that I've been thanked for those donations over the last 90 days. Steal these ideas and you'll make your donor's day! (read more)

How One Small Community Raised $240,000 In 24 Hours

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How One Small Community Raised 240,000 In 24 Hours
Organizers expected Give Big Day 2015 would raise $100 million nationwide. I want to give a shout out to my friend Bridget and all those who made the first #GiveBigGallatinValley event such a success. Their efforts raised nearly $240,000 in 24 hours. This month, I'm sharing some of the things Bridget did and ideas you can use when planning your next online giving event. (read more)

Every Board Member Can Be A Fundraiser

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Every Board Member Can Be A Fundraiser
Today is April Fools' Day, but this is no joke. Every member of your board CAN be an effective fundraiser. And when every board member is involved in fundraising, you will raise more money for your nonprofit. I recently facilitated a half-day fundraising training for a nonprofit board. At one point, a board member had that "aha!" moment and announced gleefully, "I can do that!" And she can. Every board member can. Read on and learn how to get your board "on board" with fundraising. (read more)

What You Need To Know About #GivingTuesday and Give Local America

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What You Need To Know About GivingTuesday and GiveBIG Days
#GivingTuesday is the unofficial start to the year-end giving season. Held on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, it follows one day of giving thanks, and two days of getting deals. #GivingTuesday started in 2012, and it's one of two national days of giving. #GiveLocal (or #GiveBig) started in 2014 and is held on the first Tuesday in May. These giving days are growing in size and momentum. And here's how to get your organization ready to participate. (read more)

Improve Your Writing: Keep It Simple. Seriously!

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Improve Your Writing Keep It Simple Seriously
The U.S. Navy is credited with creating the "KISS Principle." The acronym stands for "Keep It Simple, Stupid." You should apply the KISS Principle to your nonprofit's writing. Whether you're writing a grant proposal, a direct appeal or website content, you want to write so your audience will understand...and be inspired to take action. (read more)

Do Your Board Members Know What They Should Be Doing?

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Do Your Board Members Know What They Should Be Doing
The first time I was asked to join a board, I was so honored that I said "yes" without understanding what it truly meant to be a board member, let alone how to be an effective board member. I think a lot of people do the same thing. Do your board members understand the role they play in the management, oversight and success of the organization? (read more)

3 Ways To Celebrate National Philanthropy Day

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3 Ways To Celebrate National Philanthropy Day
Every year on November 15, National Philanthropy Day gives us a chance to recognize and honor the people who make a difference in our lives, in our communities and in our world. You won't find any cards at Hallmark that celebrate this annual event. Even so, I'd like to suggest that you send a card anyway. In fact, I encourage you to thank these 3 different types of supporters this month. (read more)
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