Big News: Startup Challenge to Fund & Showcase Social Impact Ventures By Women

How do we disrupt the nonprofit sector? I’ve talked about the dire need for nonprofits to innovate over the years on Frogloop. Why? Because there are over 1.5 million nonprofits in the US that are working in similar issue areas and trying to address global warming, poverty, the gender pay gap, affordable healthcare, education, etc.

If we are going to truly solve these problems and bring about real change, organizations must change the way they do business and begin to think outside of the box. This means building programs or products that can scale. This means testing news ideas quickly, failing fast, and taking those lessons learned to continue to iterate on the program or product. A lot of organizations get excited about potential to innovate inside their organization, but don’t have the funders to back it. Women Who Tech wants to help change this. We’re launching a crowdfunding competition on March 25th called the Women Startup Challenge, in partnership with Craig Newmark of craigslist and craigconnects, to showcase and raise money for innovative women-led ventures (that includes nonprofits and social impact startups) that are committed to solving problems for people, businesses, and the planet. Care2 who runs this blog is a sponsor too.

Your Organization Can Win Up to Another $50,000

In addition to crowdfunding money for your venture, you could win the chance to pitch your startup beforea panel of judges, comprised of angel and VC investors who will award the winning pitch up to $50K in prize money (with no strings attached), plus additional prizes throughout the competition, including a consultation with a partner from 500 Startups and other Angel and VC investors, a profile article about your startup by Craig Newmark of craigslist and craigconnects on Huffington Post and highlighted by our partner Medium, startup-friendly services like in-kind services from lawyers, discounts to General Assembly classes, comp tickets to the Forward Web Tech Summit, and more.

To participate, you just need you to fill out a short application here on March 25th describing your venture. Women Who Tech will review your application and email you within 48 hours to let you know if you are approved to participate in the Challenge. Then, if you're approved, CrowdRise will build you a fundraising page in the Challenge and we'll also get you some next steps.

Who Can Apply?

  • A startup, social venture, or nonprofit that has a rapidly scalable business model.

  • Incorporates technology into the approach, which allows the company to rapidly scale in a manner that traditional small businesses cannot.

  • Fast growing with degrees of innovation.

  • The ability to change a product or service to meet target audience needs/demands.

Why a Women Startup Challenge?

Did you know that only 7% of women-led startups receive investor funding, despite that fact that women-led startups have 35% more return on investment than tech companies founded by men. The lack of funding for women-led startups is unacceptable, and we want to do our part to change it.

In addition, to the Women Startup Challenge, we are also hosting the Women Who Tech TeleSummit, where you will learn everything you need to know to build, scale, and fund your venture, featuring the most inspiring tech changemakers, disruptors, startup investors, and entrepreneurs such as Lisa Stone, CoFounder of BlogHer, Kimberly Longey, COO of Free Press, Shireen Mitchell of Digital Sistas, Susan Mernit of Hack the Hood, and more. This is an inclusive event where both women and men are encouraged to be a part of.


Making Your Organization More Fluid

This post is an edited excerpt from When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business, by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant. The book identifies four principles that will guide successful businesses now and in the future: Digital, Clear, Fluid, and Fast. This excerpt is from the chapter on Fluid.

There has been a long-standing love/hate relationship in the business world with hierarchy. It has helped us scale and get things done, and it also reduces complexity for us by providing a set of rules about who gets to decide on things, but it frustrates us by making us less agile and bogging us down in bureaucratic details. And although many call out for “flattening” the hierarchy, what we really need is for our hierarchies to be more fluid and flexible. When you look at the threads that connect the companies that have unlocked the potential of a fluid hierarchy, you will see that two fundamental building blocks can enable such a system in your organization:

  • understanding what drives success, and
  • investing in soft skills.

Understanding what drives your success may sound like an issue of strategy rather than organizational culture or structure, but it’s important to remember that there are different levels to understanding what drives the success of your organization. At the basic strategic level, you must get clear on where your company is going to compete and how you will win with your particular set of products and services. QLI [a healthcare company that we profile in the book] provides rehabilitation services to people with brain and spinal cord injuries, so its high-level success drivers revolve around providing high-quality medical care to patients. In that sense, it doesn’t need to be fluid. QLI could hire the best-trained physical therapists, speech therapists, and so on and put them into a rigid, vertical hierarchy and still provide high-quality healthcare. But QLI has figured out that there is more to their story

At QLI, high-quality health care is a given, but from the very beginning QLI staff realized that they were not just dealing with patients that had healthcare issues; they were dealing with people whose lives had been shattered. Rebuilding a shattered life requires more than medical attention. It requires a deep knowledge of the patient as a person and integrating that person’s life and passions into the medical care. It is that kind of intimacy with the patient that requires a flatter hierarchy, where the people know more about all facets of the patient’s life are the ones who get to make the decisions, regardless of their title. When they do this, they get better results. QLI does not choose to be fluid because it is a cool new management technique. It chooses to be fluid because that makes it more successful.

Take Zappos as another example. At a high level, all it does is sell shoes and other apparel online, so its success could be driven by solid logistics, good relationships with manufacturers, and effective marketing. But early on, Zappos figured out that giving the customer a “wow” experience is actually at the heart of its success. Zappos realized that it needed to draw people in with not just good customer service, but customer service that would blow people away. The kind of customer service where customers hang up the phone, and literally say “wow” out loud.

Understanding success at that level has implications for the culture at Zappos, particularly around being flat and fluid. To provide a “wow” experience, it had to give more power to people at the lowest levels of the hierarchy, the call-center employees, because they were closest to the customer. Zappos call-center employees make their own decisions about whether or not to upgrade a customer’s account or give them free shipping. They are famous, in fact, for being able to stay on the phone as long as they want with customers. (The record is more than 11 hours with a single customer.) Note that, despite this inefficiency, Zappos managed to grow from $1 million in sales to $1 billion in sales in just eight years.

We could try to scare you into being fluid. We could make a compelling case, actually, that the Millennial generation is going to storm into the workplace over the next several years and demand it. But you won’t access fluid’s true power by being reactionary. You need to look more deeply at your organization and your business model to understand what drives success and clearly identify how being more fluid does or does not connect to that.


9 Things To Do After A Donor Donates

Acquiring a new donor is just the start. Developing long-term donors who contribute year-after-year should be the goal of any fundraiser. Donor acquisition takes a lot of work.

What can you do to improve your donor retention rate? Consider these nine ideas:

  1. Say thank you. A “thank you” is one of the easiest things you can do, but it’s often forgotten. People remember thank yous, especially if they’re personalized and inventive. Just watch how the ONE organization thanked its volunteers and supporters.

  2. Celebrate donors as they give. Use social and other platforms to thank them publicly and to welcome them to your organization’s community. Don’t forget to include top donors in annual reports—they look for their names, so mention them.

  3. Share tangible impact. Show how a donor’s gift impacts your organization, its beneficiaries, and the surrounding community. Says Marc Koenig of Nonprofit Hub, “The more pointed your message is, the more likely you’ll achieve that deep emotional resonance with your most important donors—the ones who are truly committed to your cause, long term.” Such stories satisfy donors and can drive additional gifts and conversation. Use visuals and video, too. Visual media will be remembered longer than an email update or tweet.

    Image credit: Pixabay
  4. Develop relationships. Take time to learn about your supporters. What are their other interests? Why do they give to your organization? How can you foster their interests?
    Image credit: Olaf MeyerRelationships last longer than donations and produce a win-win environment. Supporters feel good about your organization and the impact they’re making. You get support and advocacy.

  5. Segment donors. “Meeting donors where they’re at is a combination of providing the right message in the right place at the right time,” says Jeffrey Haguewood of Hubspot. “However, it’s extremely difficult to do when sending impersonal mass communications. That is why segmenting donors is an important fundraising tactic and best practice.”

    Donors support you for varying reasons. One may have a personal connection to your cause. Another may just like what you do in the community. Use those reasons as segments. Then send specific content that will motivate them to act.

  6. Stay in touch throughout the year. The more you engage with donors, the more they will remember your cause. Use email newsletters to share in-depth updates. Reach out to donors on social every so often. Send personalized notes when it’s a donor’s birthday, anniversary, or other momentous occasion.

  7. Invite top donors to join an exclusive community. Or, in Lori Halley’s (Wild Apricot) words, make them feel “special […] respect, loyalty, commitment, and trust are the cornerstones of most relationships.”
    Image credit: dan hodgett
    Give donors opportunities to provide input into new programs or to participate on a donor board. Offer discounted pricing to galas and other invitation-only events. Share stories privately before going public with them.

  8. Ask for ongoing support. It never hurts to ask, so just do it! Donors supported you once; they’re likely to do it again. Remember to be specific. Explaining why you need a recurring gift and what impact it will have is crucial to raising support.
  9. Analyze your retention rate and increase the lifetime value of your donors. Every year, evaluate whether retention has gone up or down. Decipher what caused the increase or decrease. Use the data  to improve your communications and programs. Smart Annual Giving offers a step-by-step guide for figuring out an annual retention rate. 

For additional resources, visit Give Local America. We created a toolkit and free training to help nonprofits better fundraise.


About Lori Finch

Lori Finch is the Vice President of Community Giving, Kimbia and the General Manager of Give Local America. With an extensive background working with nonprofit organizations, Lori is uniquely suited in her role of managing relationships with Kimbia’s community foundation clients and partners, helping to ensure their success. Prior to Kimbia, Lori spent six years at The San Diego Foundation where she served as Director of Nonprofit Programs, developing education resources and tools for more than 250 local nonprofits. She holds an MBA from The University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, and a B.S.B.A in Finance from Georgetown University.


1.      Share tangible impact. Show how a donor’s gift impacts your organization, its beneficiaries, and the surrounding community. Says Marc Koenig of Nonprofit Hub (http://www.nonprofithub.org/fundraising/5-simple-rules-to-increase-donor-loyalty/), “The more pointed your message is, the more likely you’ll achieve that deep emotional resonance with your most important donors—the ones who are truly committed to your cause, long term.” Such stories satisfy donors and can drive additional gifts and conversation. Use visuals and video, too. Visual media will be remembered longer than an email update or tweet.

2.      Develop relationships. Take time to learn about your supporters. What are their other interests? Why do they give to your organization? How can you foster their interests?


Why You Should Crowdfund for Your Nonprofit

Crowdfunding is a great tool to raise money and engage your audience and your donors. And, it might be surprising but it's even effective in engaging and retaining new donors. If that's not enough to get you out there crowdfunding right now, we've got more...

You might remember that we reported on an infographic last year called Cracking the Crowdfunding Code, released by Craig Newmark, of craigconnnects and craigslist. Just to remind you, here's a snippet:

And while that infographic talked a lot about best practices and crowdfunding facts, we've got some new information for you. MobileCause released an infographic with even more reasons that you should crowdfund.

A few highlights and tips on how to ramp up your crowdfunding:

  • Partner with celebrities in your community. This is a great way to kickstart a crowdfunding campaign with a bang. It can energize people and get them motivated to see someone that they look up to supporting your cause. 
  • Incorporate a video. Make sure that you're using videos when promoting your campaign. Individuals raise a whopping 4x more when videos are used.
  • Don't leave the Millennials out in the cold. Unfortunately, Millennials are often discounted as slacktivists or just plain lazy, but they don't deserve that bad rap. Millennials are creating real change, and they're also giving back. 71% of Millennials have fundraised for a nonprofit.

  • Remember the thank you note, but forget the gift. It's critical that you show your donors some lovin' and make them feel valued. That means thanking them when they support you. A study from Yale showed that thank you gifts reduced altruism and decreased donations.
  • Crowdfunding creates a sense of urgency. Crowfunding campaigns are most effective when you're raising funds for a specific project or campaign versus very generally for your org.

What crowdfunding campaigns are you going to take on this year?




Wrap Up of Nonprofit Llama Drama

Did you catch the llamas on the loose yesterday? They were all the rage, and some nonprofits ran with it too.

If you missed it, let's quickly recap: Described as the "Bonnie and Clyde of llamas," two llamas broke out of an Arizona retirement home and instigated a high-speed llama chase across the state. The Twittersphere erupted, nonprofits spoke out, and the llamas were on everyone's radar.

The nonprofits who used the llamascade to their advantage tied the incident to their cause. It's critical to be flexible and able to curate content relevant to events in real-time, while making it relatable to your audience and in this case fun.

How did you your nonprofit use the llama drama to your advantage? And if you didn't jump on the bandwagon, how can you envision tailoring these types of events to your audience when they are quickly unfolding in realtime?


Awesome Sessions and Events to Supercharge Your #15NTC

The Nonprofit Technology Conference holds a special place in my heart and my calendar. This year, #15NTC brings the party to Austin, TX. Besides an agenda that's chock-full of fun parties, juicy sessions, and inspiring speakers, NTC is also a chance to reconnect with colleagues, meet other professionals, techies, and organizers in your movement and network.

Whether you need help gearing up to implement a new cloud software solution, you're experimenting with mobile messaging, or reviewing your online fundraising campaigns, NTC is a great opportunity to learn from others' experiences.

Here are a few of the events and sessions on my radar as I plan for 15NTC. 


Tuesday, March 3rd 7pm

Many thanks to Peter Campbell for keeping this tradition alive! #NTCBeer, now in it's 7th year, will help kickoff NTC in a big bubbly way. RSVP on Facebook.

Wearable and Mobile Tech: What it Means for Nonprofits

Wednesday, March 4 1:30-3:00pm

Mobile technology is taking over! From apps to beacons, drones, and mobile ad targeting, this session will review new possibilities mobile tech is creating for nonprofits and how you can make smart investments in mobile. http://sched.co/1z3V

Does Your Content Strategy Now Trump SEO? Trends and Tips to Help You Get Found in 2015

Thursday, March 5 10:30am - 12:00pm

Information discovery is changing. People learn about news or issues through Facebook first. So what does that mean for your SEO strategy? What can you do, as a nonprofit, to get found? Learn why your content strategy is now so essential for getting your message out, and how to get noticed online in 2015 without spending a fortune. http://sched.co/2GO9

Building Diversity, Accountability, and Empowerment into Your Organization

Thursday, March 5 1:30pm - 3:00pm

An honest assessment of where we’re falling short and strategies for moving forward will help us build welcoming, sustainable communities for social change. http://sched.co/1z4X

Sex, Lies, and the Internet

Friday, March 6 • 10:30am - 12:00pm

This panel will wrestle with how to fight online harassment and online mobs, and why it matters to all of us in the nonprofit community. http://sched.co/1z4Z (Note: I'll be moderating this panel. Stop by and say hi!)

Igniting the Plenary Stage

Morning of Day 1 and 3

This was one of my favorite parts of last year's NTC. Ignite sessions give presenters 5 minutes and 20 slides to share a unique story. Listen up, it goes quickly! Check out the lineup of Igniters here.

Online NTC

Can't make it to Austin? Check out the online NTC. There are a ton of great sessions available live and moderators are great at taking questions from the online audience.

What are you looking forward to? See you in Austin!


Digital Adoption Survey Aims to Learn More About the Digital Divide 

How do online services and Internet access help you and your team deliver services and programs, and connect you with the people you serve? A new Digital Adoption Survey  explores how organizations keep staff connected, from offices to virtual teams, as well as how the Internet factors into program or service delivery.

NTEN and Mobile Citizen are teaming up for this survey to better understand online technology and digital inclusion among nonprofits and the communities nonprofits serve. Throughout this digital adoption survey, we define digital divide as any barrier that prevents people from being able to access technology.

With this survey, NTEN and Mobile Citizen also seek to better understand how your organization’s communities influence the technological decisions your staff and board make. We hope this research provides an initial benchmark that we can all learn from and build on together.

Data from the survey will be shared in multiple formats this Spring,including a full report, webinars, and case studies. Better understanding the tools and needs of nonprofit staff and the community will also help develop resources, educational programs, and other content in the near future. But to get this information, they need your help.

We're calling on all nonprofits to take this short and important survey. All survey participants can enter a drawing for a $500 Amazon Gift Card! The survey should take about 15 minutes to complete. Your answers will remain anonymous and will be reported in aggregate only.