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News You Can Use

News You Can Use
Issue 141/September 2014

Donor Retention: Keeping Ice Bucket Challenge Donors from Evaporating

Rhonda McClungRhonda McClung
Vice President 

The wildly successful Ice Bucket Challenge in support of the ALS Association brought in $100 million in 30 days, an amount that continues to grow as the challenge spreads globally. In addition to the dollars though, it brought in more than 3 million new donors in that same time frame. Many people who knew little to nothing about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the progressive neurodegenerative disease, dumped ice water on their heads and followed up with a gift. 

Opinions about the merits of a single-disease organization raising that much money so quickly are in no short supply, but there is another challenge the ALS Association faces: how to turn a one-time virtual event (most people won’t dump ice water on their head twice) into long-term awareness and advocacy. Turning just one percent of these first-time donors into volunteers would net 30,000 new advocates for the cause. 

Most nonprofits will never face the challenge of integrating 3 million new donors into their communications and volunteer strategies, but even those with significantly smaller numbers of new donors should have a plan for moving donors from one-time investment to long-term involvement. This issue is different than retaining annual fund donors from one year to the next. It’s a question of creating opportunities for new donors to learn about and actively participate in the organization’s mission. 

For the ALS Association, the obvious question is: How do you turn 3 million new donors – or even a small percentage of them – into long-term advocates for the cause? But every organization should ask itself how to turn every first-time donor, especially those who came to their cause with little knowledge of its work, into a well-informed advocate. Here are some points to keep in mind when working to cultivating first time donors into repeat donors, loyal advocates for your organization. 
  • Pay attention to what brought the donor to the organization. Social media played a critical role in the spread of the Ice Bucket Challenge so social media should be the means of reminding people what they supported. The Ice Bucket Challenge will cool off, but this very visual campaign has an opportunity to continue using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to keep people aware of the cause and the impact of their gifts.

  • Respond to donors in the way that they originally reached out to the organization. Online givers provide email addresses. Send thank you letters, newsletters and other information about participating in the organization by email. For gifts that came in the mail, respond with information and opportunities through the mail. Let people operate within their own comfort zones.

  • National organizations with local chapters should provide the chapters with contact information of local donors so that they can keep these new donors aware of what’s going on in their area. Organizations with smaller geographic reaches should continually remind donors about the impact on their community, friends and neighbors.

  • Be vigilant in addressing misinformation about the organization. The ALS Association is currently fighting off a fake news article alleging that it spends only a small percentage of its funding on its mission. In a virtual world where information is passed quickly but not always tracked for truth, every nonprofit needs to know what is being said about it and reach out to correct bad information.

Few nonprofits will hit the viral campaign jackpot like the ALS Association. But every nonprofit needs to develop a plan that answers the question: How do we turn a first-time donor into a long-term advocate?    

If you’d like to further discuss ways to improve your donor retention, please feel free to contact me at 816.237.1999 or at

Team Announcement 

Judy Keller

“I am pleased to share that Judy Keller, previously Senior Vice President, will be undertaking an expanded leadership role with Jeffrey Byrne + Associates. Judy brings more than 30 years of experience in nonprofit management and development and her extensive background serving within nonprofits, on various Boards and as a fundraising consultant will strengthen and enhance our fundraising team. We are happy she has expanded her role with JB+A in this capacity.”
– Jeffrey Byrne, President + CEO
Jeffrey Byrne + Associates, Inc. (JB+A) is pleased to announce the promotion of Judy Keller, formerly Senior Vice President, to Executive Vice President of the fundraising consulting firm, based in Kansas City, Missouri and Edwards, Colorado.  Judy joined JB+A in 2006 as Vice President after a distinguished career serving as Executive Director of the American Lung Association of Kansas for 11 years. Judy has held various leadership positions, including President of the nationwide Congress of Lung Association Staff, President of the Kansas Asthma Coalition and Tobacco Free Kansas Coalition and has served as a member of the American Lung Association and American Thoracic Society Boards of Directors.
Judy has served scores of clients in the Midwest and throughout the nation during her past eight years in fundraising consulting for JB+A, ranging from strategic planning, annual campaigns, major gifts, fundraising feasibility studies for capital campaigns, planned giving and endowment advising and management of small, medium and large capital campaigns.  Judy’s most recent client successes include capital campaigns for Lawrence Public Library (KS), Willa Cather Foundation (NE/national), Assistance League of Kansas City (MO) and Citizens Climate Lobby (national).  She has conducted development audits for health and social service organizations nationwide.
Judy’s new responsibilities include a transition into the management team of the firm: overseeing and executing marketing and sales efforts, conducting strategic planning for JB+A and client engagements and providing leadership to the firm’s operations and entire staff.
Founded in 2000 in Kansas City, Missouri, Jeffrey Byrne + Associates, Inc. is a nationally-recognized fundraising and financial development firm that specializes in building organizational capacity and conducting major gift, capital and endowment campaigns solely for nonprofit organizations. Led by founder and President + CEO Jeffrey Byrne, its team of consultants has successfully guided more than 300 nonprofit organizations through campaigns raising more than $1,000,000,000.

Take a few moments to complete our brief survey, and receive a copy of  JB+A’s 
“Insights to Giving USA 2014:  What Do the Statistics Really Tell Us?

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Board Succession Planning

Mary Ellen Clark

Mary Ellen Clark
Senior Vice President

Succeed: (suh k seed), “defined as 1) to thrive, prosper, grow; 2) to accomplish what is attempted or intended”. These are terms every Board leader hopes will be associated with his or her work with an organization. In order to assure that important projects will move forward and that the mission of the organization will be met, the important activity of Succession Planning must be implemented and considered a key element of planning. 

Succession planning has been a serious part of organizations for the past decade. It allows for the organization to plan for the sudden change in personnel due to, for instance, staff members moving when the opportunity of a lifetime comes along, transferring or experiencing family changes... and you’re left with a large hole in your plan. We now see the strongest and most effective Boards doing the same:  planning ahead for change. 

Board Composition
The most forward-thinking boards consider skills and experience, not just titles. There are Board positions that must be filled by a sponsoring organization representative as stated in governance by-laws.  These individuals and their talents should be considered in the complete make up of the Board. While Boardroom diversity progresses slowly in some organizations, striving for balance is key. 

Director of Development
The trend in nonprofits of term limits for Board members (two or three years) may seem like a short period for a Director to make a real impact. New Board members can make a more immediate impact by participating in a detailed orientation program and a Board mentorship program. By teaming an experienced Board member with a new Board member, the result can be powerful. Organizations should also plan for ongoing Board education, either from an internal source or professional expert. 

Term Limits
The trend in corporate director term limits over the past few years has changed, opting for longer terms to capitalize on experience and Board training. (Businessweek, May 2013) Board service by these corporate leaders to other organizations is also being limited, having an effect on securing strong volunteers for our nonprofit boards. 

Lack of Board planning can lead to repeating the same programs year after year because they are a pet project of certain Board leadership or may result in ineffective fiscal oversight because “we’ve always done it this way”. If your Board has not considered term limits, Board composition evaluations, routine education programs and succession planning, imagine the even greater success you could find if they did. 

If your Board is looking for a “Board composition matrix” to review and use to evaluate future Board members, contact our office at 816.237.1999 or email me at 


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