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story word in vintage metal type printing blocks over grunge wood

What’s Your Narrative?

By Patrick Coleman


Humans are literally built to learn through stories.  Storytelling is a fundamental way to communicate, one that pre-dates the earliest pre-historic cave paintings. Since the beginning of humankind stories have been used to share knowledge and have been central to handing down history and traditions.  I venture to guess, just about now, you are thinking about the stories of your ancestors you’ve been told along the way.

More than a buzzword for marketers and communicators, storytelling has evolved into one of the most powerful marketing tools for organizations today (both for-profit and non-profit alike). Check out this infographic from OneSpot on the science of storytelling.   

According to OneSpot, Americans consume an average of 100,500 digital words daily and 92% of these consumers want stories.  Storytelling engages the head and the heart and makes the connection personal.

Ensuring your organization has an interesting narrative is essential. Well-crafted stories engage donors, raise awareness, demonstrate a need and illustrate the impact you have on your community.  Compelling stories connect people to your organization and your mission.  Remember these topline content guidelines when crafting your stories:

Elicit Emotions.  

Use emotion to connect on a human level.  Facts and figures are important, but stories are memorable. Your stories need to move the reader — make them feel something and ideally propel them to take action.

Appeal to the Senses.  

Use language that paints a picture and enables the reader to experience the story.  If you were writing about food you’d use descriptors that would make the readers’ mouth water.  Apply that same tactic to your writing.  

Focus on Why not What.  

Tell supporters why you do the work you do.  Dimensionalize “the what” by showcasing the outcomes – or the “why” of your work.

How is your organization using storytelling to enhance your fundraising?  What insights and tips can you share?  We love a good story, so be sure to share!

leisure, holidays, reunion, people and friendship concept - happy teenage friends hugging at summer garden party

Homecoming: A Great Time to Connect with Alumni

This fall many schools and parishes are hosting homecoming festivities which are a fun way for students, parents and parishioners to show their parish pride!  As the name implies, homecoming is also a time to invite former students and parish members back to campus to keep them connected to you and your mission.

If you haven’t done so already, now’s the time to share details about your upcoming homecoming.  Alumni are an important constituent who can help you advance your mission.  Keeping them engaged in your organization can have significant payoff in the long run which is why they should already be part of your fundraising strategy playbook. Here’s a quick game plan to help you tackle this initiative during homecoming:

  • Create a special invite for alumni encouraging them to come back for homecoming festivities.  Distribute via traditional channels (bulletin, flyers at local establishments, local newspaper, email if you have that info, etc.) as well as socially on popular social sites.
  • If you haven’t done so already, create an alumni Facebook group and include details on how to join the group in your homecoming alumni invite.  You can use this group as a way to publicize homecoming events and so much more year round! Share news of the site with existing parish and school members and ask them to share with alumni they know.
  • Engage alumni ambassadors to help spread the news and get their classmates to attend homecoming.


Now that you’ve spread the word, on game day:

  • Have parish/school members staff a highly visible alumni table where attendees are encouraged to check in. Use the face-to-face greeting as a time to collect up-to-date email, phone and address information (use an ipad for quick and easy data collection) so you can add them to your ongoing communications outreach. Be sure to encourage them to join your alumni Facebook Group.  Create signage with the group name for easy reference.
  • Tap into alumni nostalgia and connection to the school.  Consider selling school spirit wear or car magnets so alumni can show their pride.  Use GiveCentral Go to collect sales on the spot!  Designate a project or program that money collected will support.
  • During halftime, make an announcement welcoming alumni and inviting them onto the field for special recognition.

In the week following homecoming, be sure to use the data you collected and send personal thank you notes to alumni who participated in homecoming activities.  Leveraging homecoming is a great way to kick-start or invigorate your alumni relations plan which should already be part of your fundraising strategy.

St. Raymond



With the end of the fiscal year looming, St. Raymond de Penafort parish needed to quickly raise $30,000 to cover a budget shortfall and keep parish operations on sound financial ground.  But how? The answer lies in a longterm commitment to nurturing donor relationships and regular communications that didn’t always ask for money.

St. Raymond de Penafort parish consistently uses the GiveCentral communications feature to create a dialogue with parishioners and strengthen the community.  Monthly emails celebrate the vibrant community and showcase stories about the good work ministries are doing, the success of the school children, parish happenings and much, much more.  Through these stories St. Raymond built intimacy, demonstrated how donor dollars were helping and kept parishioners engaged in and tethered to their shared mission.  

When the parish faced the budget shortfall, naturally they turned to their parishioners for help.  They sent out a different type of note, one that detailed the parish’s financial shortfall and asked for help.  The response was immediate and powerful, raising $30K in less than a week, wiping out the parish debt for the year.  

How GiveCentral Made a Difference

The positive response and outpouring of support was rooted in a strong relationship the parish built with parishioners through a commitment to consistent communication that went well beyond asking for money.  These regular electronic communications sent from the GiveCentral portal fortified the relationship between parish and parishioners and played a key role in the community coming together in a time of need. When the email came asking for financial help, parishioners didn’t hesitate to generously give.  What’s more, providing supporters a way to give electronically offered supporters a quick and easy way to answer the call for help.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but we were very pleased with the outcome”

  • Roberta Nicholas – Communications Coordinator/Accounting

How often are you sharing your story s to strengthen your donor community?  If you don’t have a donor communication strategy in place, it’s time to start planning!



Autumn is officially here!  As I look outside, I see the leaves slowly starting to change; turning that warm red and deep gold that signals Autumn has arrived.  

Fall is for layering and cozying up.  The same “fall rules” apply to your organization…it’s time to cozy up to donors and layer in some easy-to-organize FUNdraising activities to engage your supporters and/or raise funds to fuel your mission.  From tailgaters to Oktoberfest and Halloween parties, and everything in between, for many nonprofits fall is brimming with fundraising events.  It’s also an ideal time to prep for your year-end appeal.  Here’s some fall-focused tips to keep in mind:

Show Donors Some Love This Fall

Making donors feel loved and helping them understand the important part they play in your mission is a key ingredient for successful fundraising.  That’s why you need to nurture donor relationships throughout the year, not just when asking for money.  Fall is the perfect time to “hunker down” and connect with donors to thank them for all they do to help your mission thrive, without asking for money.  Why not host a tailgater at your next football or soccer game?  Or, invite donors to a coffee where you share stories of the impact they are making.  These easy-to-implement activities will go a long way in showing your gratitude.  

Are you ready for some fun?

FUNdraising doesn’t have to be a chore (or a bore), it can – and should – be fun.  Fall is the perfect time to bring donors together – after being away for the summer – and there’s no better way to do that than planning a fun Fall Fest! Put your fun cap on and dream up activities that will draw donors to your event.  Remember the golden rule, you need to at least double your expenses to make any event worthwhile.  

Grab Them On The Go

One of the great things about fall is the weather and that means outdoor fundraisers.  GiveCentral Go is great for fundraising activities because you can accept payments on the spot, regardless of location.  The GiveCentral Go mobile app and card reader process payments on smartphones and tablets with the simple swipe of a credit or debit card. Funds are deposited directly into the online GiveCentral account.  Try GiveCentral Go at your fall fundraising events.

Avoid End-of-Year Pitfalls

October is the beginning of the year-end homestretch.  Set aside time in October to properly plan for your end-of-year appeal.  Create your fundraising plan and make sure you have the tools and team in place to make it your most successful year yet!  
A brand new season is on the horizon.  Are you ready to take it on?

Palm Trees

GiveCentral Proud to Participate in DFMC Conference

The Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference (DFMC) is underway in beautiful San Diego.  Diocesan fiscal leaders from across the country are once again gathering for the four-day conference where they will collaborate with colleagues and participate in a variety of fiscal-management focused educational seminars, work sessions and exhibits.

As a partner committed to helping Dioceses across the nation grow their giving, GiveCentral is honored to once again participate in this annual event.  This year, GiveCentral hosted breakfast on Monday, September 19th for all attendees.  We were happy to see so many of you and look forward to a great conference!

With its focus on continued education, DFMC offers attendees the chance to hear from organizations who can help them achieve their mission.  Our GiveCentral team will be on hand throughout the conference to demonstrate our turn-key, online donation service.  Though GiveCentral’s full suite of integrated capabilities, we have successfully helped many Dioceses and Archdioceses across the country raise more while simultaneously reducing staff time spent on administrative work, freeing them up to spread their mission (and who can’t use more time in their day?).

“GiveCentral is taking the Diocese’s fundraising operation in the right direction. In our first year of using GiveCentral for the Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, we not only met our goal, but exceeded it by over $1.1M! I appreciate the detailed, real time reports, and I know our donors appreciate how easy it is to use. I recommend GiveCentral to any organization that is serious about fundraising.”


  • Tony Brandolino – Director of Stewardship and Development

If you are headed to San Diego for the conference,  we’d love to connect and show you how we can help you grow your giving!

Ice Bucket Challenge

A Wonderful Success – The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Do you remember the phenomenally successful viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge from two years ago?  The viral, crowdsourced fundraising campaign – which, according to the national chapter of the ALS Association, raised an astonishing $115 million during a six week period – is a newsmaker once again.

Researchers – funded by the ALS Association, through ALS Ice Bucket Challenge donations –  have identified a gene that contributes to ALS.  According to the national organization it’s the third research breakthrough made possible from the fundraising success of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

When more than 17 million ALS Ice Challenge Bucket videos flooded Facebook the summer of 2014 participants were not only having fun.  They – along with the 440 million people who viewed the videos 10 billion times – knew participating would make a difference in the important work of the ALS Association (the only national non profit fighting Lou Gehrig’s Disease on every front).  How wonderful such positive outcomes came so fast!

This August, the ALS Association is building on the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge, seeking to raise awareness and funds to finish what the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge started in 2014: an end to ALS. The new campaign, called Every Drop Adds Up, pays homage to the Ice Bucket Challenge, visually emphasizes the now iconic “bucket,” and builds on the idea that when people come together they can make big, impossible things happen.

It’s a great example of building on fundraising successes and keeping the momentum around and commitment to a cause moving forward!  What lessons can your organization learn?

A political campaign has a few fundraising tricks up his sleeve that you can adapt for nonprofit giving. Ethical, of course!

Campaign Fundraising Like a Politician

Lessons Learned from Campaign 2016

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a political junkie…when it comes to candidates’ campaign fundraising strategies, that is. As nonprofit fundraisers, there is much to learn from these seasoned pros. Their undeniable success at raising tens of millions of dollars to fuel their political campaigns is intriguing, educational and – most importantly – doable.The frontrunners in today’s election season, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, in particular, use varied methods to achieve success. This New York Times article offers an interesting look at the differences between the Clinton and Sanders approaches to fundraising. Using that as a stepping stone, I’ve compiled a few lessons I’ve learned from studying these campaigns that you can apply to your playbook:Read More

Charitable giving is UP for the second straight year!

Charitable Giving On the Rise for Second Consecutive Year

The numbers are in… 2015 was another record-setting year for charitable giving. According to the recently released Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report of Philanthropy for the Year 2015*charitable giving topped $373.25 billion in 2015, making it the highest single year of giving to date. The annual report is a publication of Giving USA Foundation in partnership with Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.According to the much-anticipated annual report, total giving grew 4 percent in 2015 (when adjusted for inflation) representing an increase of $14.21 billion over 2014. It’s the sixth consecutive year of charitable giving growth. That’s great news for nonprofits.“If you look at total giving by two-year time spans, the combined growth for 2014 and 2015 hit double digits, reaching 10.1 percent when calculated using inflation-adjusted dollars,” said Giving USA Foundation Chair W. Keith Curtis, president of nonprofit consulting firm The Curtis Group, Virginia Beach, Virginia. “But these findings embody more than numbers—they also are a symbol of the American spirit. It’s heartening that people really do want to make a difference, and they’re supporting the causes that matter to them. Americans are embracing philanthropy at a higher level than ever before.”

Charitable Giving: By The Numbers

Here’s a look at some of the other findings from the report:

  • Charitable contributions from all four sources – individual giving, foundation giving, charitable bequests and corporate giving – increased in 2015, with those from individuals once again leading the way in terms of total dollar amount, at $264.58 billion.
  • Not only did individuals give the most; by upping their 2015 gifts 3.8 percent when measured in current dollars (and 3.7 percent when inflation-adjusted), they were responsible for two-thirds of the year’s overall increase in total giving.
  • Of the nine charitable sub-sectors—religion, education, human services, foundations, health, public-society benefit, arts/culture/humanities, international affairs and environment/animals—all but one (foundations) had growth in charitable donations over 2014.
  • Giving to religion still ranks first in terms of total donations received (32%), more than double the next highest sector (education). At $119.30 billion, 2015 religious giving increased 2.7 percent in current dollars.
  • Giving to International Affairs saw the highest percent increase over 2014 (17.5 percent in current dollars). As the report points this significant increase may be due to the growth in the number of active international charitable organizations; use of more strategic fundraising methods; and increased focus on international issues among foundations.

The report details a variety of other interesting findings that are worth the read. You can download the full report or a free highlights report here. *Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2015, a publication of Giving USA Foundation, 2016, researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Available online at the Giving USA store.

Alumni are ready to become your advocates and supporters. Reach out!

Keeping Grads Connected to Your Mission

Cheers to the Class of 2016!

It’s graduation season. Mortarboard caps are being flung high into the air as graduates embark on a new adventure and the next phase of their life journey. For schools, these newly minted alumni are an important part of your organization and future funders of your mission. Regardless if they are graduating from 8th grade or college, you need to build on your obvious connection and their affinity for their alma mater. Take thoughtful – and creative – actions to develop a long-term relationship – really a friendship – that can pay dividends in the future. Just like the investment parents make in a child’s education, you too need to make investments in your alumni relations efforts. Here are a few pointers to remember to help you build an engaged and committed alumni community. These tips, while geared toward alumni, can certainly be applied no matter what donor group you are courting:

Students first, alumni forever.

Transform your graduates into advocates – and supporters – of your school by engaging them while they are students. It’s the positive memories they build as students that they – and you – draw on when asking them to support your mission. As they transition to graduates, make sure you capture their contact information so you can continuing reinforcing and deepening your relationship. Read More

When it comes to giving, your first priority should be convenience for your donors.

The Age of Convenience

It’s the age of convenience. Everything – in every category imaginable – is geared toward making things easier and more convenient. We have a need for speed and ease!Today, we rely on the internet for just about everything: news, shopping, banking, socializing, and much, much more. Quick and easy is the name of the game in our increasingly online-focused world. Having instant – and seamless – access has become an ingrained part of our culture. As such, your donors expect the same level of ease and accessibility from your organization that they find elsewhere… and all from the palm of their hand.Regardless of where donors spend their hard-earned money – ordering groceries online, e-shopping, downloading music, paying bills electronically or supporting a worthy cause – donors are primed for and – quite honestly, expect – hassle-free online buying experiences. I know I do!To help ensure your supporters have a great giving experience, try these tips:

Make it mobile friendly.

Donors are on the go. Ensure you are optimized for mobile giving so donors can give anytime, anywhere, from any device.Read More