Encouragement. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t like to be encouraged. Whether it’s an uplifting word or an elevating deed, we all appreciate being encouraged to push through the challenging times and to excel in all that we do. And nonprofit leaders and their staff are especially deserving of encouragement. As Angel Oak Creative has declared 2020 the Year of Encouragement, it made me think about how we can encourage organizations beyond financial contributions. I’m certainly not suggesting that you quit supporting nonprofits financially. To the contrary, keep giving! And, look for opportunities to support them in other ways. Here are eight simple examples that come to mind:
- Volunteer – Time is money. Or at least that’s what they say. Using your time and talents to encourage nonprofits has HUGE value! Whether it’s sorting clothes at a thrift store or using your photography skills to capture their mission in action, your personal investment can help an organization achieve something it couldn’t possibly do with only their own staff and resources. Just ask Donna Pygott, Executive Director at North Raleigh Ministries: “We could not do what we do without the many volunteers who give hours of their time and share their expertise with us. Don’t get me wrong, we always need money, but the other gifts are also imperative to our success and provide a great deal of encouragement.”
- Be a social ambassador – One to many. There’s power in numbers, and it’s hard to beat social media when it comes to connecting with lots of people with limited effort. Just one post, Tweet, Insta-story, etc. can dramatically increase awareness of an organization and its impact. You can share about when you volunteer, give or are just thinking about the organization. You can also make a difference by re-sharing a nonprofit’s posts with your network. Again, this type of encouragement just takes a few seconds, but can move the needle for awareness, fundraising, volunteerism and more. Don’t underestimate the power of the post!
- Tell a friend – Like posting on social media, word of mouth is also a powerful tool for encouraging nonprofits. Hanging out with some friends after work? Mention your volunteer experience with that homeless shelter over the weekend and encourage others to consider volunteering with you next time. Attending your church small group? Chat up that donation you made to the food bank and how easy it was to make a difference.
- Serve on the board – For some, serving on a board is akin to going to the dentist. But that’s why this commitment is such a great way to encourage nonprofits. Especially when you’re an active board member. According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals Triangle Chapter President and TLC Development Officer Alyson Stoffer, this kind of commitment is a huge encouragement: “Board members are investing a great deal of time and money for those impacted by our missions and do it unpaid. I’m greatly encouraged by the overwhelming love, dedication and leadership these board members provide to make our organizations and community better for everyone.”
- Donate your gently used technology – I can’t count how many nonprofit leaders I’ve seen lugging around ancient laptops that look like they were manufactured in the 1980s. Most of us are upgrading our laptops every four to five years. So, rather than sticking your old MacBook Pro or MS Surface in some drawer, do the factory reset thing and pass it on to your favorite nonprofit executive director so they can have more than one program/application/window open at a time without their laptop crashing.
- Invite your company to get involved – Nonprofit leaders love it when supporters get their companies and coworkers to engage with a cause. I’ve seen this return major dividends with a number of organizations Angel Oak Creative serves. One supporter doubled their donation by applying to have their $5,000 matched by their company. So, an extra $5,000 was raised by simply filling out an online form with the employer! Another opportunity for employers to get engaged is with volunteer days. It can be a huge encouragement to have five or 50 employees show up to help bag groceries or build a house. And, that’s great team-building too!
- Write encouraging letters/emails to the staff and leadership – We’re going to get a little old school here. Nonprofit leaders appreciate an encouraging word from their supporters. A nice thank you note or “hang in there” email can make the day of a nonprofit professional. Of course, including a $5 Starbucks or similar gift card to show your appreciation for their hard work is a nice touch.
- Pray – Finally, if you’re a person of faith, prayer can be a powerful, encouraging force for nonprofit leaders and their organizations. And don’t just pray, but let them know you’re praying for them and ask how you can pray for them.
No matter which of these you choose to practice (hopefully multiple!), you’ll be a huge source of encouragement for the nonprofits you love. The key is to do something to show our nonprofit leaders and their staff how much you appreciate the work they do and impact they make on our community. And there’s no better time to start encouraging, as Angel Oak Creative works to make 2020 the Year of Encouragement. Share your stories of encouragement with us on our website or via social media. And be sure to use #yearofencouragement! We encourage you to start encouraging today.
– David Chatham, Senior Marketing Consultant