Put The Fun in NonProfit Fundraising: The Gala

gala dinner

Image via wikicommons (Graham-Killers)

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about raising funds within an office environment. This go-round, I wanted to explore a fundraising ideas that was a bit more universal and accessible to all non-profits: The Gala. Galas are the kind of event that can be scaled up or down depending on your non-profits budget and needs. They are generally wildly successful if done correctly, and provide a great platform to spread information about a particular cause.

Galas are one of the most popular fundraising events, but they also require the most planning. If your nonprofit is planning on going the gala route for your next “round” of funding, the first step should always be to form a planning committee. This committee should be made up of people with event planning experience and large professional & social networks.  Make sure to give yourself some runway time and start planning at least 9-12 months in advance.

The next thing to consider is the theme or topic of the gala. You can of course make it a general event that raises funds for your overall organization. But, you will create more buzz if you have a theme that coincides with a specific cause your organization supports. The more fun you have with the theme, the more fun your guests may have at the gala.

Remember that the entire point of the gala is to raise funds, so you must be mindful of budget. Determine how much you will need to charge in order to break even. If you’re a non-profit with a generous event budget, it may be worth it go bring on a celebrity or entertainer.  However, be mindful that those individuals may come with additional costs (transportation, lodging, etc.). If your nonprofit is a bit smaller, consider having a local politician or community leader speak at your gala; they usually require less upfront costs and will still draw a crowd. Another thing to keep in mind is how  much you’re planning on spending on location and catering services – and hotel/transportation for guests if applicable.


If funds are tight, a great idea would be to look for businesses to sponsor your event. The rule of thumb is try to keep the number of sponsors to around two, to avoid being overshadowed at your own event.

With these tips in mind, you should have a good foundation to build off of. Remember to have fun with it, and never forget the mission of your event!


For more information on running a great gala, check out these other resources:






What is Impact Investing?

helpful investment

The phrase “impact investing” has only been around since 2008, and became trendy about two years ago. But it has become a firm part of the world of philanthropy because of its effectiveness and mission.

Impact investment is, simply put, an investment that an individual or company makes into other companies, organizations or funds, with the intention of the investment having a positive (social or environmental) impact.

The Global Impact Investing Network says it best:

“Impact investments are investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.”

Impact Investing is an interesting concept, because philanthropy was previously a field in which entities made donations and did work to minimize the [negative] impact that businesses had on society. But the concept of impact investing shows that socially responsible business practices are both possible and effective.  Investors who practice impact investing are already good at making smart investments. Their goal is to make their investments more valuable.

This leads to the question of what actually counts as an impact investment? The exact specifications will vary based on who you speak to. Many companies will argue that every portion of their investment will have a positive impact on some level (ie: they create jobs, are providing a service, or meeting the demands of the people).  But, in order to truly narrow it down, one must look at the intention of the investment and its actual impact. There are organizations that are actually working on impact investment certification (similar to LEED standards for environmental impact and USDA standards for food.)

There is a spectrum that one can look to, to determine the level of impact your impact investment really has. There are three levels: Impact Motivated, Impact Committed, & Impact Certified.

An investment can be considered “Impact Motivated” if there is a general desire for positive impact along with the focus on financial return. Investments shift into “Impact Committed” when there is an explicit intent to have a social impact, and a commitment is made to measure the impact against specific metrics. “Impact Committed” investments are also committed to a high level of transparency and a regular reporting schedule. The highest level on the impact investing spectrum is an “Impact Certified” investment. In order for an impact investment to be considered “certified”, the investment’s positive impact must be measured against third party metrics, have third party validation, and hit a minimum score.

To learn even more about impact investments and their philanthropic impact, you should read through this fantastic guide that the Case Foundation put out: here

Fun Phone Apps That Make Philanthropy Easy

iphone photography

One of the most beautiful things about the ever-changing landscape of technology it has made it easier and easier to give back to your community and the world. Technology connects us to people we never would have been able to reach on an individual level, and makes philanthropy far more accessible. These days, there is literally an app for everything, and apps for philanthropic efforts are aplenty. These are some of the most interesting ones that I’ve come across.


Charity Miles


 ( @CharityMiles)

This app is similar in concept to raising funds for a 5K or something of that nature. But, the best part is that you don’t have to be a super active person in order to contribute. Charity Miles allows users to earn money for charity with every step that you take. You can choose from over thirty different charities to contribute to, and it’s incredibly easy to sign up. Just download the app (available for both Iphones and Androids), and the app will track the number of miles that you move. If you’re walking or running, you get $0.25 a mile, and if you’re biking, you can earn $0.10 a mile.





( @ShareTheMealorg )

ShareTheMeal’s goal is to fight global hunger; it costs only $0.50 to feed one child in need for a full day, and that’s what they’ve set out to do. They were the first app to do so, and it is part of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The WFP is a completely volunteer based program, so it functions on donations alone. The ShareTheMeal app supports different groups of people based on current world events, and they are currently supporting pregnant and nursing mothers in Syria. The app is easy to use, with a simple tap of a button, you can donate $0.50 (or more) to feed a child every day.



Donate A Photo


( @donateaphoto )

Donate A Photo is a fantastic idea. Everyone has a smartphone glued to their hands, and the number of photos that we take as a collective is innumerable. Johnson & Johnson figured out a way to make those photos to good use. For every photo that is donated, J&J will donate a dollar to charity. It’s a fun and interesting way to get anyone into a philanthropic effort.

For more great apps, check out these sources: White Fuse Media & Mashable


Put the Fun in NonProfit Fundraising: Office Edition

Fundraising is an integral part of the nonprofit sector, and the demand for new and innovative ways to get funding is ongoing. It’s quite a challenge to come up with new and interesting ideas that are both universally accessible and lucrative, so I wanted to do a small series on some tried and true fundraising methods for some of the industries that I’ve worked in. This month, I’ll focus on simple things that an office can do to raise money for the cause(s) they support.


Recycling Collection

If your workplace is looking to raise money for an environmental cause, holding a recycling collection can be an excellent “themed” fundraising activity.  It’s benefits are two-fold as it raises awareness for recycling in addition to the actual raising of funds. This idea only works in areas where there is a cash reward for exchanging recyclable items. If you are in an area that does a cash reward, then you are in luck. Create a fun, decorated space in the office where recyclables can be brought. Ask office employees to round up cans, bottles, etc from their homes and the homes of their family and friends and have a final cut off date that people can be reminded of. If possible, open the drive up to the community and advertise the collection to the public as well. At the end of the drive, you will be able to exchange your goods for cash and donate that money to the cause of your choice.


Inter-Office Competition

This is a great way to get employees involved and excited about an office activity; everyone loves a little friendly competition. Determine the time frame over which the fundraiser will take place, and the cause that the office will be “fighting” for. Divide the office up into teams; decide if you want to have the competition be departmental or if there should be a mixing of departments to shake things up. When teams are set, let them run free. The fun thing about this kind of fundraising is that the teams can determine what they want to do. Let them battle it out, and keep track of their progress through any number of the crowdsourcing websites available .


The Best Ways To Give Back During the Holidays


There is no better time to start giving back to your community than the beginning of the holiday season. Often times, during the holidays, local organizations and nonprofits will host special fundraisers for charities and people in the area.

The Ronald McDonald House is one of many organizations you can donate to this season. They provide children who have fallen under a serious illness and their families a home away from home to lessen the burden during a difficult time. Last year the Kansas City RMDH aided over 4,500 families in need, serving 87 families at once. While you can always donate money to help the cause, there are also ways to volunteer and provide meals for the families; what better time to support children in need than during the holidays?

Another way one can give back during the holidays is by sponsoring a family through family-to-family.org. Here you can help a struggling family put food on the table for the season or give a child a gift for their special holiday. Often times your local school or religious center will have a food pantry and gifting fundraiser to help out the people in your community.

Volunteering at an assisted living home for seniors is often an overlooked charity. More than 50% of seniors never receive visitors, so why not spend some time at a nursing home? Get involved with some activities, or even simpler, get involved in a conversation with a resident. You’d be surprise how far a conversation or perhaps a card game can go in boosting their spirits.

There are so many options for anyone looking to give back during the holidays. While you may not have the means to support an organization financially, you can always find volunteer work. For more great ideas on giving back during the holiday season visit huffingtonpost.com.


The Do’s and Don’ts of Donations

The holidays are drawing close, and one of my favorite parts about the season is the increased desire to donate and give back to the community. Food banks and clothing drives pop up everywhere, and the spirit of giving is almost palpable. While almost all donations are always welcome, there are certain items that all food banks almost always need. This is a list of the items that you should actively try to donate to your local drive:

Canned Proteins

canned meats

As we know, protein is a hugely important part of human dietary needs; food banks are always happy to receive them. Make sure that it’s canned or heavily preserved though. The last thing you want to do is donate food that won’t last.

Some Proteins to think about donating include:

  • Canned Tuna & Salmon
  • Canned Chicken
  • Canned Beans & Chickpeas
  • Canned Chilis (and bean-heavy soups)
  • Peanut Butter


Hygiene Products

toothbrush and toothpaste

Personal hygiene products are never what people think of first when deciding what to donate. Things that we consider necessities, like toilet paper & toothpaste, are not always covered by government assistance, so food banks and shelters are always happy to have extra hygiene products come through their doors.

The items that are most helpful are:

  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Feminine Hygiene Products
  • Deodorant
  • Razors
  • Bandages
  • Baby Wipes

Seasonings & Condiments

condimentsThis is another category of donations that never occurs to many people. It may not seem like a “necessity” at first glance, but imagine only being able to eat canned tuna with no salt and pepper. Spices are hugely appreciated by shelters and donation-receivers alike. A few things to think about donating when you’re doing your food donations are:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard

(Bonus)Items You Shouldn’t Donate

As I mentioned earlier, almost all donations are welcome, but there are a few things that are just not helpful. Highest on that list is alcohol. Food banks and shelters won’t even accept it; even if it’s a well-intentioned holiday offering. Cake mixes (and any other boxed baked goods) are also a sweet gesture, but usually require extras like eggs and oil, which are generally not available in excess.


For more information on what to donate and give back, seek more information from the articles that inspired this post: 1 2 & 3


Arts and Philanthropy Come Together in Kansas City

Kansas City Art Institute

Photo Courtesy of Kansas City Art Institute

If you follow me on across my social media accounts, you know that the arts (specifically cartooning) and philanthropy are my two major passions in life. So understandably, hearing the news about the donation The Kansas City Art Institute received was incredibly exciting.

Last month, as The Kansas City Art Institute celebrated its 130th anniversary, they received a $25 million dollar donation from an anonymous donor. This donation is the largest that the institute has received since it opened its doors, and is one of the largest donations to ever be given to an art school in America. We have entered a time where the arts are no longer heavily funded in any level of the education system, so this donation will be huge for artists within Kansas City and beyond. According to several news sources, the donation will be split up in a few different ways. A large chunk is going directly to the institute’s overall endowment. But, one of the most exciting parts in my opinion is the $6 million dollars being used as a “challenge” grant that will be used for scholarships. That six million dollars will be used not only to match any other donation the Kansas City Art receives, but to double the donation amount. Having a double-match scenario is rare in scholarship cases, just due to general lack of funding, so this is momentous for the world of arts education.

As a resident of Kansas City, I’m thrilled at this news. This donation is wonderful on its own, but its effects are two-fold. It’s already bumping up the endowment considerably, but a donation of this size has stirred up buzz in general, and will allow for more people to think about donating to the school. As the school’s interim president, Tony Jones said, the donation really is “transformational.”  I’m excited to watch The Kansas City Art Institute flourish in the coming years.


To see the news sources that inspired this blog, click here and here.


Artists Need Philanthropic Funding: Here’s Why

color-692875_1280Art brings sensitive issues to light in conservative societies

More often than not, philanthropic funds don’t go towards culturally sensitive or controversial issues. Art provides a way for sensitive issues like gender-based violence to be addressed in conservative societies. Chris Stone from Open Society Foundations believes that artists can connect to their audiences and foster the exchange of ideas that would not otherwise be possible in these “closed societies”. It’s important to continue to fund artists so that this means of communication remains open.

There is a correlation between arts and social change

Art allows people to share their perspective and experiences, and allows for the discovery of possible solutions to issues.  Arundhati Ghosh from the India Foundation of the Arts superbly summarizes this phenomenon:

“The arts enable us to explore ways of thinking for ourselves, connecting us together through shared experiences – to question, resist, build. Through the arts, an individual’s struggle finds voices as many create common spaces to imagine a collective future. The arts make us human. Social urgency is the most crucial reason why the arts must be supported.”

Philanthropic funding for the arts essentially provides artists with the opportunity to define and shape their worlds, and ultimately shape the world as a whole.

Money Alone Cannot Cure our “Anthropological Adolescence”

We live in a society where more and more people and organizations are donating money. There are efforts to cure illness and disease, and to try to rid the world of poverty. But, with all of the money that’s being put toward these problems, it seems as though sickness, sadness, and poverty continue to persevere. Leonard Vary of the Myer Foundation says that he doesn’t believe anything will be cured if society only focuses on pushing money towards problems. He believes that we need new ideas, creativity, compassion, and understanding in order to overcome our problems. That’s what artists can provide, and why money needs to be put towards funding the arts.

To see the think-piece that inspired this blog, click here.


Donating With the Help of Technology

Mark LitzlerFundraising is a wonderful way to work together with people in your community, and connect them with a cause they feel passionate about. Reaching people on a greater scale means more funds for your charity, improvements for specific programs, and an increase in employee morale. So, how can nonprofit organizations refine their fundraising techniques and connect with their audiences in a more effective manner?  

In the past few decades, technology has reached new heights, and its presence continues to significantly influence our daily lives. In this article, experts in this field have put together a list of trends that’ve proven to be helpful in improving communications with donors, telling better stories, and interacting with your audience in real time. 

1. Crowd funding is dependent on the development of high quality videos that are able to communicate vivid and compelling stories. Despite the expenses associated with a good quality video, film is a medium that has proven to be beneficial time and time again. It’s easily shared among people, and it has the ability to include many elements while presenting a touching story. Vipin Shri considers videos to be “easily digested and shareable content, while adding a certain level of palpability between the donors and the cause.”

2. Blogging and social media engagement have become powerful media marketing tools, that are used by countless of companies and people in order to promote products and connect with followers. As a non expensive marketing platform, blogging is great for non profit organizations that are looking to increase their donor base, while staying within their limited budgets. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are perfect for continually engaging with donors and updating information in real time. These mediums are also great for feedback and open discussions. 

3. Experts believe that receiving feedback is a crucial step in understanding your donors, as well as start conversations with people who browse your website. These discussions are great for understanding donor experiences and answering questions in real time. Its important to remember that anyone visiting a website could be a potential donor, and they need to need to be engaged with messages that are relevant to their interests and searches. 

These are just a few simple tips that can be easily integrated in any organizations marketing portfolio. For a more in depth discussion please visit: http://findaccountingsoftware.com/expert-advice/13-expert-ideas-on-using-technology-to-improve-fundraising/

Japanese Tattooing Get’s an Art Show

Mark Litzler

Japanese Tattooing Get’s an Art Show

Tattooing has a long and storied history throughout the human experience. Almost every culture, no matter how major or minor, has had some sort of history and experience with the art of tattooing. Regardless of whether they were seen in a positive or negative light, tattoos have always drawn attention due to their intricacy and the emotions and spirits that they can represent. They have been attributed to people ranging from powerful warriors and magic users to prisoners and criminals and everyone in between. Now, it seems as though they’re finally getting the artistic recognition they deserve.

Tattoos are growing in popularity in America. One in five adults are getting tattoos and the trend doesn’t seem like it’s going to change anytime soon, especially since tattoos are no longer the taboo they once were. Now, with tattoos becoming more popular and prolific, people are looking at them with an eye towards the artistry that can go into the more traditional forms of tattooing. Tattoos from many Asian countries are still done in very traditional ways and frequently hold very traditional meanings. This, combined with how complex and beautiful they can be, is leading to a sorts of artistic renaissance and resurgence in popularity of these traditional techniques.

Traditional Japanese tattoos are just one example of the art shows built around tattoos. A new exhibit titled Perseverance is showing at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond and is focused solely on this ancient technique. It features photographs of modern and ancient Japanese and Japanese-style tattoos and goes far towards showing that tattoos are, without a doubt, an art form that has been undeservedly ignored for the past centuries. The exhibit shows everything from singular tattoos to full sleeves and designs that use the whole body as a canvas. It’s a must see for anything interested in Japanese history and art!