Area Nonprofits Look to Achieve Top 20% Status

by Amanda Kochirka

Is your nonprofit organization in the Top 20% of its peers in our region? This is a question we pose to prospective clients on a regular basis. You may have picked up our top 20% handout at Nonprofit Day or seen it during a one-on-one meeting, but if you’re not familiar with it, you can download it here.

As we look forward to 2018, many nonprofit leaders and boards are re-assessing various aspects of their organizations to determine what changes are needed to better navigate the ever-changing nonprofit landscape. To help you start these conversations, here are some areas your organization should be thinking about as you move into the year ahead:

Digital connections for donors are vital – According to the Federal Reserve, the use of personal checks has been on the decline since 2003, down to 15 percent of non-cash payment transactions. The reason? Convenient methods of electronic payment such as credit/debit cards, of course, but also with newer methods like Venmo and Apple Pay. Despite this development, many nonprofits struggle to stay ahead of the digital curve even though electronic giving is taking over the sector. According to a recent report from Blackbaud, over 60 percent of Millennials and nearly 50 percent of Gen X’ers prefer to give to organizations via their mobile device. The same report revealed that over half of all Millennials, Gen X’ers, and Baby Boomers prefer to give to organizations via their website. If your organization is still lagging the in the digital space, 2018 is the time to invest in getting up to speed, whether it’s creating a more robust website or developing a separate mobile platform that makes direct giving and peer-to-peer solicitations easier.

Guarding donor data – As the number of individuals giving via digital platforms increases, another problem arises. In 2016, Google found that the number of hacked websites rose to 32 percent, which is a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. It seems that every few months we hear of another large organization being hacked and all their donor or customer data is compromised, causing headaches for their stakeholders and a potentially reputation-destroying scenario for the organization. Even major brands like Verizon, Equifax, and even the CIA were exposed to major hacks and leaks in 2017. Nonprofit organizations handle a significant amount of personal information from donors, partners, and possibly even volunteers. Organizations should be consistently investing in steps to improve the security of their websites and donor databases as time goes on (because threats are ever-evolving). This process could start simply with a switch to website encryption (https instead of http) or making sure your donation portal integrates with a trusted, secure platform.

Attracting and engaging younger board members – Bringing younger board members into the fold of your organization often brings a perspective that is tech-savvy, creative, and ambitious. These traits can give way to a more successful process of determining how to keep your organization relevant in years to come. Engaging Millennials requires hands-on relationships and long-term commitment so learning the best ways to connect with that generation to bring them on board can take some time and effort. Nonprofit leaders must learn how Millennials connect and engage with a cause, which usually begins with the digital space, including Google searches and website/social media visits. Look at your current volunteer pool, are there any young professionals already involved with your organization who might be looking for a larger role? Connecting with young professional groups in your area can also be an effective way to tap into a younger pool of potential board members, some organizations nationwide have even partnered with these groups to host nonprofit speed dating events to introduce young professionals to a variety of organizations in their community to increase the likelihood of instant gratification for getting involved with a local nonprofit.

These are just a few of several trends coming down the pipeline for 2018. The bottom line, though, is this: if your organization wants to break into and remain in the Top 20 percent of organizations in our region, understanding and proactively planning for these trends and their implications is vital. Nonprofit organizations in the Top 20 percent enjoy the ability to attract higher quality board members and staff, as well as attracting better quality donors who are willing and able to support the organization even during times of recession. Top 20 percent nonprofits also have a higher likelihood of developing strong and meaningful relationships with their stakeholders across the board, which often results in the creation of a pool of engaged brand ambassadors who are willing to go to bat for your organization time and time again.

If you would like more information, please contact Amanda at