Nonprofit Fundraising Strategies

I attended a dinner and silent auction last night. It was for an organization I respect, that does good work, and is generally good stewards of their funds and resources. This year is their 50th anniversary and so their annual event was at a fancier place than normal – a country club golf course place.

I have a problem with these kind of events. Nonprofit staff and volunteers spend so much time putting them together. And they cost a great deal of money to host well. And the whole point of them is to raise more money. I know it is a stressful process for the staff and volunteers – I’ve run a few myself and been a staff or volunteer person for numerous others. Even good, stable (not-enormous, but large enough) nonprofits hope to clear $10-15 thousand dollars. Which, honestly, barely accounts for the time and effort put in by so many people.

So why are these still a thing?

  1. Donors like to be recognized and they like to be recognized in a fancy way.
  2. Donors forget to give if they aren’t reminded in person
  3. This encourages donors to invite their friends and potentially create new donors.
  4. The nonprofit can show the work they have been doing and the successes they have had.

These are all good reasons. And they are reasons this kind of event happens every weekend, all over the country, year after year. On its face, this is fine. But I know a lot of the guests would rather not be there. So how do we make sure nonprofits are supported without making nonprofits jump through giant, flaming hoops (and then calling them financially irresponsible for doing the few things that gets donors to give)?

I don’t know. I’ve just been thinking about this. (I mean, it’s been rolling around in my brain for years, but I haven’t put actual thought to it as I’ve been out of the industry for a while and honestly, much smarter people have been talking about this as well.) Especially because I’m not sure if the model will work quite as well as the generation shifts. This event was full of white hair. Uncomfortably full. There should be more support for this kind of program. I think that we are going to need a reckoning of how we support social change and nonprofits and beneficial organizations. Because I know a lot of people my age don’t give to charity. They don’t trust them (but they’ll trust for-profits or start-ups because they are “better at managing money” which is the largest load of manure but that’s another topic.) They don’t know who to give to. Their budgets are tight (though research says that in general, a poorer person likely gives a larger percentage of their income than a more wealthy person).

But is the catered dinner, formal dress, silent auction going to hold in the years to come? What other strategies will nonprofits have? I know there are a lot of innovative ideas being experimented with and trialed in the field. I look forward to being a part of more of them. I hope for success in making nonprofits more able to raise funds from the people that support them.

I don’t have a point with this. It’s just thoughts. But, for a closing thought – the best thing you can do for an organization is to start a monthly donation.

Podcast of the Moment – Break the Twitch

I’ve been listening pretty non-stop to the Break the Twitch podcast. It’s a really well done podcast that I’m especially enjoying for the pace and audio type. It’s a softly-spoken interview-style podcast. It seems like a lot of the podcasts that I listen to are loud and full of energy and that’s great sometimes, but it’s been raining here and it’s a weird cold, fluctuating temperature, and it’s dark and in the mornings or late at night when I’m driving my head can’t deal with energetic people.

Sidenote, in my old car the radio got secondary FM channels. Our local NPR affiliate station has a secondary channel attached to it that plays classical music 24/7 and I miss having access to that so much. Nothing was nicer than driving back home at 10pm in the dark in winter listening to classical music. (Old person in training here).

But yes, if you’re into intentional living, reducing consumption, minimalism, etc. then Break the Twitch is a great podcast.

I cried at work today

My stress reaction is crying. To most kinds of situations. Sometimes I can hold it together long enough if there’s something that really needs to be done but at the end, my body is going to deal with all of the pent up energy by exploding my face. Super fun.

I’ve cried on planes, in train stations, in stores, at the doctor, and now at work. Though I’ve probably cried at work before but honestly I can’t remember. Probably not like this though.

I guess I’m stressed out. The end.

60 Day Countdown

So I’m back. Trying again. And this time, planning to start what I’m sure would be my new year’s resolutions 2 months early. In theory, I can get all the kinks out of my new habits and routines in these wild and hectic months, then I should be in better stead for the beginning of 2020.

(YIKES, 2020.)

So. Last 1/6th of the year goals, plans, and routines. (I’m rounding down to 8 weeks).


  1. Log food everyday in MyFitnessPal and Noom.
  2. Prep food for workday lunches on the weekend.
  3. Fill up my giant water bottles at work.


  1. 3 personal training sessions per week
  2. 3 additional workout sessions
  3. 30 min yoga 5 times a week
  4. Complete Chloe Ting’s 8 week challenge
  5. 5 yoga classes
  6. 5 dance classes

(Oh, that’s a lot a lot now that I look at it. Two of those overlap, but still, yikes.)


  1. Complete Noom activities every day
  2. Post something to blog every day
  3. Post one thing for sale every day (on average)

Let’s go!

Tomorrow, I’m planning to talk about the biggest hurdle I need to overcome in my current habits/schedule in order to help this along.


I’ve always loved old things, especially when they have a story. As a child, I loved looking at the photo albums my mother made and those at my grandmother’s house. I worked in an archive in college and was fascinated to read letters written during the Civil War. During college I also took all of the 8 mm videotapes my mother took of my brother and I as children and digitized those. I’m still not done, and I need to get up the motivation to actually finish that project. There’s some amazing videos of my brother and me.

A while ago, my dad showed me a packet of postcards he had from his father. I digitized them (thanks student job at my university for those skills) and I love them. My grandfather was a skilled writer and he sent postcards back to my grandmother often while he was overseas. So I’m going to start posting those, probably once a week.

Once I get my stepdad’s scanner set up, I need to start my next project of digitizing the yearly photo albums my mother made. They’re 3″ 3 ring binders so it’ll take some time.

Here’s to family history and archiving!

July 2019 – Finance Update

I’m not going to do another full financial breakdown on costs until the end of this quarter. But after actually thinking about really cutting on costs (but not even being super strict about it – I’d estimate I spent about 30% more brainpower), this month went actually very well. I ended up at the end of the month with $800 and change left. Which, in addition to my automated savings means a savings rate of 45%. Which is amazing!

That’s such a jump, whereas last quarter I had a negative savings rate!

It’s been very changing to see just how little effort it takes to make a decent change and inspires me to keep fixing things and tweaking things and doing better. So we’ll see how August goes!

Fixing My Inflated Lifestyle – Frugalwoods Style

I know my spending is out of whack. I know it in the moment when I pull out my credit card. So, this is mortifying, especially when I think about how long it has gone on and how much money I have wasted.

I was raised frugally. I know all the concepts (and will talk about the ones that I practice by habit and the ones I’m going to bring back to my life later). So it’s embarrassing to be wasting money like this. So, here in all it’s glory are my expenditures for Q2 2019.


Paycheck 8,999.11 Ultimately, this does need to increase.
Other Income 1,492.18 See below.

What is my other income?

I use Ebates (now Rakuten) whenever I’m shopping online. All my credit cards are cashback cards and I attempt to use them based on the percentage. This works particularly nicely when I get 3% back on hotels for work and get reimbursed by my company. My work pays a per diem when I travel, so if my food costs are under the per diem, I make money.

There are always unaccounted for funds though. I babysit and work as a mother’s helper, but that tends to be cash and is deposited occasionally. I also sell things on Facebook Marketplace and Poshmark, which is either cash or Poshmark credit until I deposit it.

So ultimately, this is a low ball amount, but I’m not great at tracking cash inflow.


401K1,457.89Includes my employer match
Savings1,139.78Roth IRA and other investments

If calculated just based on income, this is a 25% savings rate. Which is great! It’s my goal to improve that but there’s a bigger problem below.

Fixed Expenses

Rent2,985My 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment including all utilities.
Insurance899.7Car and Renter’s Insurance. I need to reach out the insurance company because I think I could be doing a lot better.

Variable Expenses

Groceries774.47This is too high for a single person. And it’s because I get lazy. So, I need to really work on using up what I have, not wasting food and meal prepping for the week.
Gas/Public Transit288.68This is about 11 full tanks for me which is higher than normal. I drove to Florida and back which would explain most of that. I fill up about 3x each month.
Car Maintenance222.22My tire blew out! So irritated.
Medical310.08Paid the bill for my yearly varicose vein shots and an MRI.
Charity841.57This is actually under my goals. One of my goals is to set up a Donor-Advised Fund to get this consistent.

There are a few opportunities for saving here. If I could get down to about $150/month in groceries I would be saving around $325 each quarter. I’m driving quite a bit right now, but reducing it slightly would probably put me more at $200 a quarter, savings of $88.

I generally don’t have too many medical bills. One of these was a yearly expense and the other was a required scan to investigate some odd blood numbers.

The car expense was definitely not expected. I paid up front for all of my oil changes for a number of years when I bought the car, so in general, any car expense will be highly unexpected.

I’ll talk about my giving goals and strategy at a later date.

Discretionary Expenses

Shopping420.13This is a lot. And to be honest, it’s ridiculous, considering it doesn’t including clothing or gifts. So combined, that’s an insane amount.
Clothing/Shoes805.81A lot of this was bought and hasn’t yet been returned. However, a lot of it should not have been bought in the first place. And I did lose out on money because I returned a number of things too late. After future returns and what I received on a gift card, this value is likely more like $400. So, this should still be drastically reduced.
Fast Food598.04This is an unacceptable amount. It’s terrible for my health and my budget.
Restaurants46.12I’m okay with this.
Exercise1527I’m currently paying for a YMCA membership. I used to use this a lot but it’s less convenient at my new apartment so I think it’s time to cancel.

Additionally, I paid for 9 months of personal training in bulk during this period. It’s a large expense but I’m trying to put my money where my health goals are in a productive way.
Gifts746.37This was a gift heavy period.
Mother’s Day $50
Niece’s Birthday $11
Joint gift for Father and Stepmother for multiple holidays $470, some of which my brother should repay
Wedding gift for a high school friend $200
Ongoing gift for father and stepmother of Netflix $21
Events22.85I went to a screening of “Playing with FIRE”. I’ll talk about it in a different post.
Personal Care275I got my eyebrows threaded and paid for two Life Coaching sessions. I think I’ll probably stop with Life Coaching.
Parking6I try to avoid these but it happens sometimes.
Subscriptions20.97Amazon BritBox. Just cancelled it.
Fees78My Chase checking account has a $25/month fee and I’ve been slacking on transferring everything out. I have a $1/month fee from Acorns which I have closed out.

So that’s where things got really out of hand. Particularly the combination of shopping, clothes/shoes, and gifts. Yikes. Speaking of shopping, here’s an incomplete list of things that bought:

  • Swapping unused subscription box items on MySubscriptionAddiction
  • Perler beads off Facebook
  • Random organizers
  • Shoe inserts
  • A gift that ultimately can’t be used as a gift
  • Cultivate what matters planner
  • Probably junk food
  • And obviously other things I can’t even remember at this point

So, drastic cuts are in order. I’d love to get the combination of Shopping and clothes/shoes to under $100 each month. Which would save me $925 in a quarter. Gifts should be much less moving forward, but I should also work on making things as gifts.

Fast food should be eliminated altogether. $600 savings per quarter

Because here’s the bottom line. With an income this quarter of $10,491.29, I spent $10,863.02 outside of my savings. So I took all of the funds to use for savings from savings I already had. So it’s actually a negative savings rate. Which is a punch in the gut.

And that’s not even including a completely separate grouping of items – vacations. I had two trips come up this quarter which were amazing, but I didn’t really budget for them in advance. And in total I spent $986.58 on current vacation expenses and $1,722 on pre-payments for vacations next year. So, I’m around $5,000 in the red this quarter.

So this is my reckoning. Things need to change drastically. This is step 1 of the Frugalwoods challenge and it’s a blow. But it’s good to know. Just based on what I calculated, I should be able to cut out $3,390 per quarter without blinking.

But my goal for the Frugalwoods challenge is to re-set my baseline. To go back to how I grew up and actually value my money and time. And to change my habits around spending money.

Off to Day 2!

QOTD – 4/3/19

It’s better to disappoint a few people over small things, than to surrender your dreams for an empty inbox. Otherwise you’re sacrificing your potential for the illusion of professionalism.

I don’t remember where I found this, but searches seem to attribute it to Manage Your Day-to-Day by Jocelyn Glei. I haven’t read this, so I must have seen it quoted elsewhere.

Q1 Spending Summary

January Spending

You can see that spending is obviously out of control here.
Travel: Not as bad as it looks. Around $580 of it was paid using Chase points, not money, so that was actually free.
Events: This is a semester-long payment for Arabic classes.

Exercise: I signed up for the YMCA again, so there was a registration fee.

Shopping: $283 is wayyyy too much.

Fast Food: $151 is even worse than the shopping budget.

Exercise: I signed up for the YMCA again, so there was a registration fee

February Spending. Ugh.

Again. Pretty terrible.

Paycheck: I rearranged my 401K, so I’m contributing less at the moment. The idea is to ultimately put the same amount into investment privately, but I obviously need to cut my spending in order to do that effectively.

Savings: Corrolarily (not a word), you can see that funds are not being automatically added to my Roth IRA bi-weekly instead of me doing it in March of the next year every time.

Car Expenses: Renewed my registration.

Fast Food: It’s even worse this month! And it was a shorter month. This is my biggest problem.

Shopping: This might also be my biggest problem.

March Spending. Gracious.

So this month went completely off the rails.

Other Income: I received cash back rewards from 2 credit cards ($488 from my Costco credit card!). I also sold a few things.

Travel: This is big. I have a trip planned for Vegas for the 1st weekend of April and I’m seeing two Cirque shows. These amounts are for two tickets for each show as well as ?????

Car Insurance: My car insurance has spiked! That’s basically a $100 difference from last month. I just started my new term, so it may be due to the accident last year. It’s on my to-do list to contact the company and figure it out.

Doctor: I have genetically terrible varicose veins so every year I have a check-up and shots to clear up any new ones. This was a $20 co-pay for three appointments.

Shopping: The sad part is that off the top of my head, I can’t tell you what this is. I do know a large part of it is a LOFT order that I put in at the end of the month that will likely include a lot of returns in April’s budget.

Fast Food: Terrible as normal. Given the total amount on Fast Food I spent this quarter ($503) means that at this rate, I will spend $2000 this year on Fast Food. I refuse. This is a terrible waste of money. So here’s to lowering that so far down and putting all of that into savings (assuming I can get everything else down to get below my income).

Restaurants: This is a separate category that I only use when I go out with people. It doesn’t happen too often and is an acceptable expense. I hosted my dad in March and we went out to each all weekend.

Exercise: This is primarily payments in advance. I bought multiple Groupons for personal training and dance classes that I plan to use over the next four months.

Personal Care: I got a massage due to some consistent pain one day. I also bought a Dexa Scan off Groupon that I’m excited to talk about later.

Fees: This I’m mad about. I was charged $95 when I transferred my investment accounts from Edward Jones to Charles Schwab. This is just irritating. On my fault, I closed out my Chase Savings account and forgot that the linking of the accounts eliminated their normal checking account fee. So now I’m in the process of moving everything to Charles Schwab.

I’m not sure if this is an ideal way to explore my spending. I include any spending, including when I use credits to pay for something at this point. But it’s more than obvious from these that a lot needs to change. So I’ll be looking at that. My budget categories also need to be revised so hopefully I can get that straightened out and get April back on track.

Glow Up

Quarter 1 2019 was a bust.

I managed some things: my sleep schedule got better, I started moving a little bit, my apartment got cleaner. But I batted pretty close to zero on my important goals. You know those things that are important? The big huge goals that you know you need to focus on, but yet are still somehow so easy to let fall by the wayside?

  • Get healthier
  • Save money
  • Be organized
  • Be the adult you want to be.

So those all fell by the wayside. I gained weight. I spent money in new and ridiculous ways. I slacked off at work. I did all the things that I specifically did not want to do.

And maybe it’s because I’m focusing on the negative actions. I grew up very tangentially in the Church of Religious Science (spiritual metaphysics for hippies). We went there occasionally, but at a pretty formative part of my life. And my dad gave me this set of books called the Sara books. It’s a trilogy of books about this girl and an owl. And the biggest object lesson from the books is that “birds of a feather flock together”. And along with that comes the notion that the universe provides. But it provides what you focus on. So focusing on not eating crap means I end up eating junk food to a degree that’s absurd even for me. And so on and so forth. So maybe there’s more to that than I would like to believe. I would go and review those books but I think I lent them to a friend who lives across the country now.

(In case you’re interested, the books are literally called the “Sara Series” and are by the Abraham-Hicks organization – or Esther and Jerry Hicks.)

So, it’s just past April 1st and it’s time to start again. Maybe focusing on the positive actions this time. So here’s a video that, despite being aimed at people a decade younger than me, inspires me to actually make the changes I want to make.

Here’s to new beginnings. Over and over and over again.