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Five Ways to Give Back to Your Community

Wanting to change the world is a noble cause, but trying to figure out how to do just that can be overwhelming. A good place to start is your own community. Here are five simple ways that you can:

Tutor: Overextended teachers (and school budgets) unfortunately means that some kids will fall through the cracks and not receive the individual attention they need. Volunteering as a tutor will give kids a much better chance of succeeding in school.

tutoring_center_3349979270Mentor a Youth: Unfortunately, not every youth has a positive adult role model in their life. By volunteering to serve as a mentor, you can have a huge impact on a child or teen’s performance in school, self-confidence and self-esteem, and decision-making, particularly when it comes to potential interactions with the juvenile justice system.

Coach: Youth sports leagues are always in need of coaches. And best of all, you can stay in shape while teaching kids the importance of teamwork and persistence, lessons that will serve them well in the future.

Community Cleanup: A common but still necessary suggestion—people are slobs. Make that park or beach experience the best it could be for both yourself and others by organizing a cleanup day. Best of all, you can see results pretty quickly, so volunteers will leave feeling good that they accomplished something. images

Help Out a Senior: Not everyone in a nursing home receives regular visitors, so stopping in for even a short chat will surely brighten some days. Another way to get involved is to help elderly neighbors by running errands, cleaning their yard, or any other task that no longer comes easy to them.

Drivers for Survivors: An Interview with Sherry Higgs

sherry-founder-thumb-200Drivers for Survivors is a Fremont, Calif.-based nonprofit that provides rides to medical appointments for people dealing with cancer. They serve patients of all genders fighting all forms of cancer and have given more than 9,600 rides to date. Drivers for Survivors currently operates in the East Bay area of the San Francisco Bay, offering rides to residents of Fremont, Newark, and Union City. In addition to offering transportation for patients who need to get to their doctor’s appointments, Drivers for Survivors emphasizes an element of companionship in its programming that helps to counteract the emotional toll of treatment.

  • There are more than 100 different types of cancer, and they can affect any part of the body, according to the World Health Organization.
  • An estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed this year in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
  • Roughly 36.9% of the population will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime, according to the NCI.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer accounts for only 1–5% of all breast cancer diagnoses, tends to be diagnosed in younger patients, and often develops quickly and spreads aggressively, according to

Sherry Higgs started Drivers for Survivors in 2012, after battling inflammatory breast cancer, one of the rarest and most aggressive forms of breast cancer. Since the organization’s humble beginnings—Higgs had never worked in the nonprofit sector before, and she built the charity from the ground up—Drivers for Survivors has helped 258 patients get to their medical appointments and now oversees 134 volunteer driver-companions who serve 228 active clients. Higgs was kind enough to sit down with us and answer some questions.

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-3-20-11-amGreatNonprofits: Can you talk a little bit about your own experience with cancer?

Sherry Higgs: During the time I got sick, I saw a lot—experienced a lot—and I was devastated. [The diagnosis] put me in a tailspin. I was in shock. Untreated, I was told I had six months to live, and I already had a lot going on in my life. When I began treatment, I wasn’t in a situation where I had a lot of family here, so it was a little bit tricky. I had some people help me, but there were certain appointments I couldn’t go to as fluidly. Everybody’s so busy with their lives, and when you go through something like this, you’re at the hospital or the doctor’s office constantly. That’s your life. That’s the new you.

GN: Is that what inspired you to start this nonprofit?

SH: Yes. Well, throughout the process, I would be sitting in the chemo rooms, and I’d be around people, some much older than I was, and I saw them experiencing a little bit of isolation. An example of that would be somebody would pick up a magazine, flip through it, put it down, and then they’d pick it up again. It’s stressful. I’m watching all these things, and how some of these people seem so lonely. Sometimes they don’t have anybody sitting next to them to talk to them. And you’re about to undergo chemo, and you’re by yourself—it just didn’t seem right. So I inserted myself into the community, met with about 400 people, and slowly started to realize that everyone had a story and substantiated the need. The conversations alone demonstrated that cancer touches everybody’s life in some way.

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-3-28-30-amGN: What do you want people to know about Drivers for Survivors?

SH: That we are a heart-driven organization. We understand the importance of having someone in your life who’s been through treatment and who knows firsthand about offering hope . . . that you want the people around you to understand. . . . There was a woman I was close with who was going through treatment, one of our clients, and it turns out that she would come back from treatment each day and take care of her husband who also has cancer. So you really never know what’s going on with people. The majority of our clients are the underserved and seniored. Everyone is welcome to use our service if ambulatory and in the service area. You’re going through cancer, and you’re traumatized a lot of the time. Just having somebody there and not having to deal with it by yourself gives a sense of hope to the point of feeling like “Hey, I can do this.”


Drivers for Survivors is always looking for more volunteer-companion drivers in Fremont, Newark, and Union City, Calif., as well as corporate sponsorships and people who are willing to donate specialized skills such as grant writing. If you’re interested in getting involved, check out their website or browse our Top-Rated Cancer Nonprofits and Top-Rated Breast Cancer Nonprofits for an amazing organization near you. And consider sharing this page to raise awareness about inflammatory breast cancer and the amazing work being done by Drivers for Survivors!

Pressing for a Wider Audience

With the year coming to an end, donors are looking for causes to support and news organizations are writing stories about charitable giving, so there’s no better time to make news releases a part of your communications strategy.

26990135184_03de9cd1c8_bHere are some tips for composing your press release:

  • A catchy title. Unfortunately, if the headline is bland, your release’s chances of getting picked up are slim, so make it count!
  • Get to the point quickly. News outlets may not look beyond the first paragraph of your release, so if you are promoting an event or announcing an award that you’ve received, don’t bury that information.
  • Maintain focus. There’s no reason why you can’t send out multiple releases, so stick to a single award announcement, event, or launch of a new program or campaign. Cram too much and you risk the thing that you most want to publicize getting cut by an editor.
  • Use quotes: A quote, whether from a staff member, volunteer, or client served, can frequently tell a story better than simply listing a bunch of accomplishments. And ending your release with a strong quote will leave a lasting impression.
  • Make it visually stimulating. Including photos and a video will help increase likes, shares, and retweets. Remember, it’s all about reaching the biggest audience possible.

Getting the word out early and often will only help your organization when it comes time to promote events or fundraising campaigns, so be sure to make press releases a regular part of your outreach.

And feel free to check out these recent Top-Rated Award winners who successfully got their message out:


Tracking Your Donations

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-10-07-27-pmThe New Year is almost upon us, which hopefully means you’ve already received plenty of donations from people eager to beat the clock striking midnight on Dec. 31 and the deadline for 2016 tax write-offs.

And checking the status of those donations is easier than ever thanks to GreatNonprofits’ new page design.

Simply log in to the site, scroll over “Hello, [screen name]” on the right-hand side of the page, and then click “Manage My Nonprofit.” From there, click the “Donations” button on the top navigation bar, and you are ready to keep track of the status of your donations by date, the donor’s name and e-mail address, and dollar amount, as well as any special requests from the donor.

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-10-09-01-pmDonations made on GreatNonprofit’s website are mailed to you once a month on the 15th of the month from our processor JustGive, which charges a fee of 4.5 percent of the donation, plus 25 cents for processing and handling. Donors are notified of these fees prior to making their Giving Basket transaction.

GreatNonprofits wishes you a great holiday season, and hopefully you will have plenty of reason to check your Donations Received page! (And don’t forget to thank your donors!)

Five Ways to Thank Your Donors

Post it!

It’s nice to feel appreciated for all the hard work that your nonprofit does—especially in the form of donations that allow you to continue that work. And those generous donors who allow you to do so like to feel appreciated as well. Since this is the time of year when your organization is likely to receive the bulk of its annual donations, here are a few tips for thanking your donors:

Personal visits

While it’s impossible to visit with every one of your donors, especially if you are working with limited time and a small budget, try meeting with your largest ones in person once a year. You can also save time by inviting donors to tour your offices and related facilities, which would really allow them to make a connection to the work you do. Or even better, host an event for donors if you are in a party mood.

Phone calls

In this impersonal world of texting and e-mail, actually dialing the phone would allow donors to hear from the tone of your voice just how appreciative you really are. It will only take a few minutes per call, and allows you to still make that personal connection if personal visits are impossible.

Public recognition

If your organization has Facebook or Twitter, there’s no excuse for not posting a quick but heartfelt thank you. Also be sure to thank them on your website and newsletters.


Almost everyone has a smartphone these days, so recording a personalized video thanking donors is quick and easy. It doesn’t have to be long—a couple of minutes should be sufficient. And there’s no need to be stuffy either—if you have talented staff members, don’t be afraid to film a thank you in the form of a song and dance routine. Actually, you don’t even need to have talent—being completely willing to embarrass yourself on film will show just how thankful you are. Another option is to film the clients who’ve benefited from your work delivering the message.

Handwritten notes

In this high-tech world, this is a decidedly low-tech approach, but one that really shows your appreciation. Donors may be slightly shocked to receive a handwritten note, but they will feel much more appreciated than if it had been a thank you that seems vaguely like a mass e-mail.


And remember, when it comes to donations, you can never say thank you enough times. So don’t be afraid to use more than one of these tips at a time. And no matter what form it takes, get that initial thank you out as quickly as possible: the longer it takes, the less genuine it will seem. You can always follow up with more personalized ones afterward.

Five Tips for Using Quotes

Whether it’s from a client served or a volunteer, a rave review of your organization feels great. But what comes next after reading them? Remember: When others say great things about you, it will make more of an impact than you saying great things about yourself. Is your organization taking full advantage of all the positive comments it receives? Here are five tips on how to do just that:

Make quotes a regular part of your funding strategy and volunteer recruitment

Donors want to see evidence of your impact, so including quotes from clients whose lives were changed by the great work you do will add more punch to your grant proposals and appeals for donations.

justgiveAnd when trying to recruit new volunteers, use quotes from past and present ones that show how enthusiastic they are about the work they did, as well as how valued you made them feel.

. . . And your editorial strategy as well

Make quotes a regular part of your blogs, newsletters, and Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media that you use to reach people. People like to read feel-good stories, and more importantly, share them. And if just one person who hadn’t heard of you before is motivated to learn more about you, the quote has done its job.

Timing is everything

Is there a breaking news story or event that ties to the work of your nonprofit? Find a quote or review and use it to reinforce your involvement in the issue. If your organization deals with water, for instance, when news of the Flint water crisis broke would have been a great time to send out a quote to your constituents. The same goes for recent stories of violence in schools if you focus on of bullying, children, and/or gun control.

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-4-34-27-pmDon’t wait until the last minute

If you do commit to making quotes a part of your strategy, finding the right one for a message just moments before it is set to go out can be hectic, especially if you have a lot of reviews. If you start collecting and organizing quotes well ahead of time, they’ll be ready when you need them. You can filter GreatNonprofits reviews by role as well, which will make the job of grouping your quotes easier.

Words paint a picture. . .

But there’s no harm in helping out those words by placing them over a picture, right? As we’ve said before, pictures attract attention. So pairing them with your quote will really make the message stand out.


People are saying great things about you, so why not spread the word? Check out your profile page on GreatNonprofits and start collecting those kind words right now!


Top 10 Tips for Giving

On Giving Tuesday, GreatNonprofits participated in the Reuters Charity twitter chat, which discussed among other topics ways to involve your family, pitfalls to avoid when making donations, and all of the various gift-giving options, such as cash, stock, and charitable trusts. Here are the questions that GreatNonprofits answered:

26019917581_43b98ab8a7_bHow can I make a greater impact with my donations?

Tell your story about giving to inspire others to give. Amplify your giving: Find a group—like a local giving network—and find wonderful, interesting, like-minded people.

I do not personally have extensive resources to give to charity, but I really want to help. What can I do?

Even small donations help the nonprofit know that you care. But if you absolutely can’t spare anything, volunteer. Check out top volunteer opportunities, such as this in SF:

I’m thinking about retiring soon. How can I continue charitable giving when I no longer have the same level of income?

A friend of ours just did this—he left a bequest in his will to his favorite charities.

How can I involve my family in my charitable giving?

Volunteering as a family to collect food in your neighborhood, make sandwiches and hand them out to homeless people.

Giving is part of raising a compassionate child. Tips on how:

How has the 2016 U.S. presidential election impacted the donor landscape? What might changes might donors expect?

Trump’s tax plan would lessen incentives for giving. He’s said he would cap itemized deductions for couples at $200K

How could charitable giving change in 2017 & beyond?

2017 donors will go beyond church, alma mater, and hospital. Donors will give more to local & advocacy causes.

What are some smart tax strategies for donors to use now?

Tax strategies for giving: donate stock, items that can be auctioned, donate through your employee giving program.

What are some common mistakes people make with their giving?

Some people forget to tell their families about their giving. This is a chance to tell kids a story about your values.

How can I be sure when giving to a charity that my information is safe and will not be shared?

You can give safely and to any nonprofit in the U.S. on  

Where can I go if I need some help deciding which charities to give to?

Check out #nonprofit recommendations from other donors and volunteers on

Lights, Camera, Action!


Creating a video for your nonprofit organization can seem like a large project, but the benefits of getting behind the camera—or in front of it—are worth it. It is estimated that more than 100 million Internet users watch online video every day. And videos inspire people to get involved or donate to a cause—pages with video stories get twice the donations of those that do not have them. Here are some five simple guidelines for creating a video story: (more…)

“Why Don’t I Solve This Problem Called Hunger?”- An Interview with Andre Angel

andre_and_cheryl“As an entrepreneur and someone who has sold so many companies, I know how to build a business, so I thought, ‘Why don’t I solve this problem called hunger?”

Andre Angel is a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist who has built more than a dozen companies and, so far, created successful exits from eight of them. He created TangoTab, a marketplace app that helps restaurant owners manage their customer traffic to fill their empty (underutilized) seats by offering incentives to consumers to come in at less busy hours. Every time a customer uses his app, the company donates a meal to a person in need, locally. So far TangoTab has fed nearly 1.7 million people.

  • Approximately 795 million people do not have enough food to lead a healthy and active life, according to the World Food Programme
  • 45% of deaths for children under 5 are caused by poor nutrition
  • According to an estimate by the World Food Programme, $3.2 billion is needed to feed the 66 million hungry school-age children


Charities Focused on Helping the Homeless

homeless_manAlmost all of us see and interact with people experiencing homelessness on a daily basis, and in some cities the housing options are so limited that the experience of running into homeless kids and families isn’t abnormal. Like many social issues, homelessness and lack of housing—even for kids and youth—have become normalized simply because the issue is so widespread, and many people aren’t sure how they can get involved. We compiled some statistics about homelessness in the U.S.:

  • More than 57,000 veterans are homeless each night, according to the Huffington Post
  • 25% of people experiencing homelessness are children, or roughly 138,000 kids on any given night
  • One in five people experiencing homelessness is suffering from a severe mental illness


Five Tips for Giving as a Family This Holiday Season

In kids’ eyes, the holidays are a season for getting. And although that may be true for the more fortunate ones, it’s also never too early to remind children that it’s also the season of giving. And just because they may not have the means to help someone else financially does not mean that they can’t help spread a little joy to those in need of some.

Here are five tips for giving as a family this holiday season! (more…)

To Engage and Retain Millennials, Think Beyond Done-in-a-Day


When I graduated from college, I wanted to get deeply involved with a community-based organization, and knew from my internships that nonprofits had an interest in reaching my generation. But, I didn’t know where to start looking, how to pitch my skills, or how to communicate my willingness to commit more than a day of volunteering. I’ve spoken to numerous millennials who have had my same experience—and nonprofits who are eager to reach them. Yet, engaging millennials involves a little more than just using social media, as so many blogs recommend. Although millennials attach greater importance to social good than previous generations, the data shows them falling behind in nonprofit engagement. In 2014, 26% fewer millennials volunteered than Gen X, and gave 20% fewer median hours. As most millennials are still discovering their philanthropic passions, this is the best time for nonprofits to share the value and impact of their work to engage millennials for years to come.

Give Joyfully and Fearlessly

1. What issues do you care about? You can make a difference on a wide array of issues—especially during this uncertain time. There are many ways in which you can give and make an impact. Your donations could. . .

These are just a few examples from the GreatNonprofits 2016 Top-Rated Nonprofit List.

268022096_e52a1c90e6_z2. Go with your heart—are you interested in having a local impact or national? National organizations tend to have more impact in raising awareness and policymaking, and therefore can have broader impacts. The advantage of local giving is that you can get more involved with an organization in addition to donating. There are thousands of nonprofits in each major city providing services ranging from meals for the elderly to legal aid for the low-income. Find your city’s list of nonprofits: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Honolulu, New York, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and more.

3. Go visit the nonprofit and experience it for yourself. Many nonprofits have community outreach events—and you can drop by and talk to them at their table at the community fair, or at their open house. Walk around and see if you can meet some of the people they serve—talk to them and get a sense of what services they value and their experience with the organization. Sign up to volunteer and see firsthand the work of the nonprofit. By volunteering, you will meet other volunteers, even some board members or clients, and get to witness their program firsthand.

And remember, you have just a couple of more weeks to make your 2016 tax-deductible donation count. Giving unleashes endorphins—so give to a worthy cause, and enjoy the true season of giving!

Amazing Kids’ Charities for the Holidays

For many people, the holiday season is an opportunity to reflect on the events of the previous year and express gratitude for all of the blessings in our lives. In the spirit of the season of giving, a lot of these people use the end of the year as an opportunity to support a charity close to their heart as a way to share the love not only with their family members and close friends, but with strangers in need as well.

  • According to the Borgen Project, there are 1 billion children living in poverty worldwide
  • 22,000 children die every day because of poverty
  • 2 million kids die from preventable diseases every year


Tell the World About the Important Work You Are Doing

business marketing online concept

Driving PR to your cause and your website is a great way to amplify the impact you have and attract new donors and volunteers. Let others know about the good work you are already doing by writing a short piece on what your organization’s goals are, adding in some donor and volunteer stories.


Don’t Forget the Thank Yous!

Six blank speech bubbles hanging from threadThanking your donors is the most important gesture you can make to show them how much you appreciate their support.

Recognition for those who took their time and gave money to help your cause is the best way to build long-term genuine relationships. And saying thank you at the right time and in the right way often leads to additional donations from those supporters, both in the short and longer term.

Here is a list of five simple ways you can thank your donors!


Changes with You in Mind

By now, you’ve fought the crowds on Black Friday and worked your fingers to the bone on Cyber Monday, sneakily ordering holiday presents while your boss wasn’t looking. But there are still others hoping to receive a gift from you, one that will enable them to continue their great work of improving people’s lives.

Since 2012, the giving season for nonprofits that runs through the holidays until the end of the year has officially kicked off on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving—Giving Tuesday. Perhaps you were one of the donors whose generosity contributed to the $168 million raised this past Nov. 29, a 44 percent increase over last year’s Giving Tuesday total. But if you haven’t made your contributions yet—or you have and still want to do more—GreatNonprofits has worked hard to make your experience as easy as possible. (more…)

Five Social Media Tips for Nonprofits

Workstation surrounded by manu icones suggesting social media, like twitter, facebook, youtube, Cloud Computing, Google Maps, emailing, RSS and so.

Not having much success at the social media game, or simply getting a late start? It’s imperative that you get the word out about all the great work you do to as many people as possible, so here are some tips to help nonprofits up their game:

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Almost as important as getting your message out there is knowing your limitations. If you are small nonprofit and don’t have a staff member dedicated only to social media, you may want to focus on just a few platforms. Facebook and Twitter, along with a blog, are good starting points. (more…)

Top-Rated Health Nonprofits

Every year, GreatNonprofits announces the recipients of its Top-Rated Awards, charities that have distinguished themselves with outstanding feedback from the clients, donors, and volunteers they work with directly. Nonprofits from all 50 states and cities around the world make up the list, performing inspiring work in a variety of fields, from healthcare to the arts, education, the environmental sector, and more. Their work represents a dedication to improving the lives of their clients, and with health nonprofits in particular, the demand for their services isn’t going anywhere:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 10.5% of seniors 65 and older do not have health insurance
  • From the same data, they estimate that 4.5% of kids and 12.8% of adults aged 18–65 are uninsured
  • According to U.S. census data, the uninsured rate in 2015 fell by about 1.3%, to 9.1%, but that still leaves 29 million Americans uninsured  


Top-Rated Animal Charities

Each year,
GreatNonprofits releases its list of Top-Rated Charities based on thousands of reviews from the people who work directly with the nonprofits—the donors, volunteers, and clients served. Our 2016 Top-Rated Awards highlight charities in 40+ different categories that are working to improve the lives and communities of those they serve. From the arts to health care, human services, veterans’ issues, and more, hundreds of nonprofits have been honored this year for their outstanding service. But one sphere in particular received outsized representation: animal charities. GreatNonprofits gave 186 top-rated awards to animal charities, the most of any category.

  • According to the ASPCA, there are roughly 13,000 animal shelters in the U.S.
  • Every year, roughly 7.6 million animals enter U.S. shelters, 3.9 million of which are dogs and 3.4 million cats
  • 35% of dogs entering shelters are adopted, 26% returned to their owners, and 31% euthanized
  • 37% of cats entering shelters are adopted, 41% are euthanized, and less than 5% are returned to owners