Bob Prenovost of PM-Volunteers receives Giving Hearts Award

“No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.”   Amelia Earhart

ripples on water

Last May, I sat down at my kitchen table to write a letter as a small act of gratitude. The letter was to nominate Bob Prenovost, founder of, for the “Outstanding Volunteer Fundraising of the Year” for National Philanthropy Day in Vancouver, BC.

The rules of the Giving Hearts nominations stipulate that the nominee must be informed, so I told Bob of my plan. I’m sure he was rather surprised that a virtual stranger was doing this, but he was too polite to say anything.

I work as a fundraising and communications consultant and, in May 2013, I completed one of’s popular Non-Profit Project Management Training Workshops. Although I had been hearing about PM-V for years, it was my first chance to really see it in action. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude that these busy professionals were taking their time to share their expertise with non-profits and charities.

The course was amazing – 10 hours of instruction over 4 Monday evenings, with 4 dinners, a take-home workbook, and a celebratory party – all for the amazing price of $100. I was deeply impressed by the generosity, professionalism and warmth of Bob and his team.

I’m happy to say that my nomination was successful and on November 15th 2013 Bob Prenovost will be honoured as the Outstanding Fundraising Volunteer of the Year – an award that he richly deserves for his exceptional leadership, innovation and philanthropic vision.

Maimonides said, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Bob Prenovost’s work with exemplifies these wise words. Through his leadership he has created a committed team of “knowledge philanthropists” that have helped over 100 charities and non-profits in Vancouver since 2009.

PM-Volunteers began with a few scribbles on a napkin. Bob recalls, “In November of 2009, I attended a project management professional development conference. Chatting over coffee at one of the breaks, my colleagues and I mused over how we could combine our ongoing professional development requirements with giving back to the local community. These ideas about how to connect skilled, volunteer project managers with not-for-profit organizations seemed just a bit too interesting not to pursue!”

Within a month, Bob had transformed those scribbles into™ (PM-V), a unique and powerful program in which volunteer project managers give their time, expertise and mentoring to the charitable and non-profit sector in Vancouver.

By teaching charities and non-profits essential project management skills and best practices such as scheduling, budgeting, work breakdowns, risk management etc., Bob and his team of volunteer professionals empower charities to achieve their missions and visions and help ensure the ongoing success of the philanthropic sector in Vancouver.

Here are some of the amazing results that Bob and his team of knowledge philanthropists have achieved to date:

  • over 7000 hours of pro bono professional project management services have been given back to the community valued at over $700,000;
  • 95 community projects have been supported by volunteer project management professionals;
  • 102 non-profit organizations have been engaged and 96% of them would consider using PM-V again for future projects;
  • 100 project management professionals have volunteered through PM-V and 92% of them would volunteer again for future projects;
  • 200 non-profit sector leaders have successfully completed PM-V’s Non Profit Project Management Training Workshops.

Bob envisioned PM-V as a values-based, mission-driven organization that has a triple bottom line — where the volunteer project management professionals, non-profit organizations and communities all win. Here’s how it works:

  1. The volunteer project managers gain insight into the unique challenges of non-profit work and increase their familiarity with a wider variety of projects, while also earning professional development units for their service.
  2. The charities and non-profit clients get practical, professional help with their projects and develop their understanding of the project management process. These skills can be applied to future work across their organizations.
  3. Hundreds of charitable missions are advanced thanks to this special partnership.

Everyone wins!

Bob wrote, “I have come to understand that philanthropy can take many forms. We can, of course, give our money and our time, but one of the most powerful ways to create sustainable and positive social impact is by being a knowledge philanthropist… sharing our knowledge and skills and, in turn, learning from and about the organizations that we choose to support. Through my own involvement as part of a knowledge-driven, capacity-building initiative, I have benefited by gaining a much different perspective on many of the social issues and opportunities in our community.”

The ripple effect of Bob’s vision will be felt across the sector for generations.

An act of kindness is like a pebble tossed into a pond with the ripples spreading outward. Bob Prenovost’s visionary act is like hundreds of pebbles tossed into a pond, again and again. The ripple effect is immeasurable.

I congratulate Bob Prenovost and his team at on their achievements.

The Outstanding Fundraising Volunteer of the Year Award will be presented to Bob on National Philanthropy Day, November 15th 2013 in Vancouver. Tickets to the event may be purchased at AFP Vancouver.

Heather Wardle CFRE is a fundraising and communications consultant in Vancouver at She is a board member of the Vancouver chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and is the Chair of AFP’s Scholarship and Mentorship Committee.

7 steps to start your charity’s peer-to-peer fundraising campaign

This is the second article in a series on peer-to-peer fundraising for charities and non-profits. In this post, I’ll explain 7 action steps you can take to launch your year-round peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.


Research the best possible online tool for creating personal giving pages.

There are lot of free, low-cost and fee-based options on offer and more are being created every time. Research and compare pricing, functionality, geographic reach (e.g. is it available to your supporters in their country), performance reviews, design, tone, the level to which the donor can personalize their page, and ease of use for both your supporters and you. There lots of reviews online about different tools. See for one example.


The details of how to do this and how to brand your page will depend on which provider you choose. It shouldn’t take long to set up your charity’s site – just about an hour or two. Make sure that the text and images you use to brand your site are compelling and inspiring.


For year-round fundraising, your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign should be a permanent fixture on your website and should fit within your overall design. It should:

  • be on your homepage – perhaps with a click-through button;
  • be explained on a great landing page that is simple to figure out and with FAQs. For an excellent example of a landing page see charity:water’s page
  • use graphics to support your text;
  • include prominent calls to action;
  • come with tools to share via email and social media;
  • have well-written and compelling templates for emails so that all your supporters have to do is hit send;
  • highlight events for fundraising – birthdays, holidays etc.


Have a comprehensive marketing and communication strategy to introduce people to the idea of peer-to-peer fundraising and to coach them along the way. This would include:

  • a social media strategy;
  • a donor stewardship strategy to thank donors, such as immediate phone calls to thank people whenever they create a page (see more details about stewardship below);
  • a calendar and strategy for key dates for your organizations and holidays that your supporters might want to tap into for their fundraising pages – e.g. Mother’s Day, Earth Day, International Women’s Day;
  • regular news about your peer-to-peer campaign in your newsletter, and blog so that your supporters know these tools are available and so that they can be inspired by stories of how people are using them. Using blog posts or newsletter articles to highlight a donor’s story is also a great way to thank that person, if they’re willing to have their story shared;
  • consider rotating in different projects. Depending upon your organization’s greatest needs, you can change where the funds are going every so often. For example, you could establish quarterly projects that will be funded, in whole or in part, by the proceeds from your supporter fundraising program.


Test your campaign in house and iron out any kinks. See if board members, volunteers, staff and your closest supporters will start the ball rolling with their own campaigns and share their feedback with you on how the process can be streamlined and improved.


Pick a date for your public launch for the campaign and start spreading the word, following your communication and marketing plan.


As in everything else in fundraising, you can’t overestimate the power of good donor stewardship – thanking people for their gifts or efforts on behalf of your charity and showing them the impact that their generosity has made. With peer-to-peer fundraising you need to have a clear strategy to keep your fundraisers in the fold. Be proactive.

  • When someone creates a giving page, pick up the phone and call them right away to thank them, to see if they had any problems with the platform, to ask if they need any help or information, to provide them with any materials that will make their page more interesting – like photos.
  • Stay in touch with your fundraisers, especially with your most active ones, and send them personal notes (a good board task);
  • Share their success stories to both recognize their efforts and inspire others to follow in their footsteps. This can be done through your newsletter, Facebook page, Twitter, blog etc.
  • Close the loop. Make sure that you let your fundraisers know what type of impact they are helping your organization make. Try to give them concrete information and share pictures, stories and even video, so that they can also share this with their friends who have given. This is the easiest way to cement a positive relationship between your organization and your supporters and keep them inspired and engaged;
  • Show them the love. Make them feel like a part of the family – invite them to special events, call them, send them birthday cards, share your success stories — and they will continue to raise money for you year after year.

Peer-to-peer fundraising – how to add it your charity’s fundraising strategy

What is peer-to-peer fundraising?

Peer-to-peer fundraising is friends asking friends, usually using an online platform on your own website or another fundraising website, that allows individuals to create fundraising pages to collect donations for your charity. Your supporters can personalize their fundraising page with text, pictures and videos and share their page with their friends easily through email and social media.

The benefits are huge. First, by getting your network the tools to fundraise on your behalf, you expand your reach exponentially. Every charity has power fundraisers in their midst – people that love what you do and are happy to spread the word for you. More and more donors are not content with sitting on the sidelines and writing a check; often people want to get more involved in the causes they love and this is a great way to do that. Some of your charity’s greatest fans may not be major donors; in fact, they may have a very limited capacity to give in terms of money, but they may have great, untapped potential and enthusiasm to spread your mission to others and to fundraise on your behalf.

All your organization needs to do is to give your supporters the tools they need to become fundraising all-stars. You also need to thank them and recognize their efforts, large and small, and share their stories to inspire others to follow their lead.

10 reasons why your charity should add peer-to-peer fundraising to your mix:

  1. By getting your network to fundraise on your behalf, you expand your reach exponentially, growing your charity. It’s one of the most cost-effective ways to find new donors and prospects;
  2. It gets results: Peer-to-peer fundraising gives high fundraising yields and increased donor acquisition. According to one study, each “active” fundraiser (where active = raises $1 or more) brings in $568 through his or her fundraising page and brings in an average of 7 donors, of whom 4, on average, will be new to your charity;
  3. You get great response rates: friends asking friends to donate results in something like 10 times higher response rates and 52% higher donations than cold calls and emails;
  4. Peer-to-peer fundraising adds diversity to your fundraising mix and helps to make your organization’s funding more stable. it makes good sense to add another string to your fundraising bow, provided that it has good return on investment in terms of time and money. Peer-to-peer fundraising can have a much better ROI than events;
  5. It’s a simple way to transform every birthday, holiday and other milestone into an opportunity to give to your charity. charity:water’s birthday campaign using peer-to-peer giving has raised over $9 million in a few years and over 40,000 people have pledged their birthdays to the cause, giving a steady revenue stream throughout the year. The average amount raised by a person’s birthday campaign at charity:water is $770. (See more about the peer-to-peer birthday campaigns below);
  6. It brings your greatest fans closer to the organization. Peer-to-peer fundraising allows your supporters to get more involved with your organization and its mission. It also allows helps you forge a deeper connection with supporters by linking fundraising to the special events in their lives;
  7. It provides an opportunity for those who love your organization to do more than just give money, especially if they are already giving to their maximum capacity. Many of your supporters may be cash poor but enthusiasm rich and you can tap into their enthusiasm and creativity. At an organization I used to work at, we had one donor who wanted to do more but was uncertain about how. One thing she knew she was good at was baking bread, so she wondered if she could teach others how to bake. After discussing her wish with me, I helped her create a personal giving page called “Dough for Dough” where her friends could make a donation as a thank you for her baking lessons. Her initial fundraising goal was about $350; to date, she’s raised over $5800 and brought about 127 donors to the charity. She now feels closer than ever to the organization and its mission;
  8. The example of one person’s act of generosity will inspire other people so that more and more people will create giving pages, if you communicate the story well. In the example given above, the donor was initially inspired to do more after reading a newsletter article I wrote about an 8-year-old who collected bottles for our cause;
  9. It’s low-cost, and easy to manage and administer once you’ve got the pieces in place such as your online platform. There’s a wealth of online tools such as Razoo, Crowdrise, Canada Helps and more that are free or low-cost and that can be set up very easily and quickly for your organization;
  10. Other charities are using it so your organization risks getting left behind.

OK, you want to start peer-to-peer fundraising…

Read this blog lost on the 7 action steps to launch your year-round peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.

Getting started with online videos for your charity or nonprofit

The following article was written by Heather Wardle, CFRE at the request of the editor of Gift Planning in Canada, July 2013.

Nearly all nonprofits recognize the significance of the video revolution and the powerful storytelling potential that it offers. Creating and sharing videos has never been easier or cheaper, yet studies show that online video is underused by charities.

In June, YouTube published the results of the first-ever survey on nonprofits using online video. Of those surveyed,

  • 80% said that video is important to their organization today
  • 91% said they want to make more video
  • 62% said they designate very little or no staff time for video production and distribution

Is your organization using video to tell its story? If not, what’s holding you back?

Many charities are intimidated by video, thinking that they need a lot of money, staff time, expertise and specialized equipment to create video content.

Here are some tips on how you can start today using the tools and resources you likely already have at your fingertips.

  1. Think about your video strategy — who you want to interact with, what you want to say and what your call to actions will be.
  2. Find a video-maker in your midst. You likely have a staff member, volunteer or intern who would love to create videos as part of his or her role. Find someone who already has some video experience or train someone who has the interest. There are plenty of online classes and local workshops.
  3. Start with the equipment you’ve already got. Smart phones, digital cameras, tablets and laptops with web cams can all be used to shoot your video. In addition, most computers come with free editing software, such as iMovie and Windows Movie Maker.
  4. Get your field staff to film and photograph your charity at work. Donors love being able to see their gifts in action.
  5. Create a photo and video archive and a back-up system to store your materials. The cost of a back-up hard drive is less than $200. If you have a system for filing and tagging your visual resources from the start, you’ll save a lot of time later on.
  6. Get your feet wet with small, simple projects. Use your iPhone or digital camera to film little clips of your organization’s work and share them via your charity’s Facebook page, blog and website. Or use your photos, add music and create a video slideshow.
  7. Sign up for YouTube Nonprofits at This is available free to registered charities in Canada and the US, and allows you to create your own branded YouTube page, to have call-to-action overlays on your videos, and live streaming of your events.
  8. Make sure that your videos get viewed by making them sharable, embeddable and searchable. YouTube’s Playbook for Good gives advice on writing descriptions and tags.

Nonprofits yield more than 4 billion views on YouTube – one view for every 2 people on the planet! So far only 22,000 charities and nonprofits have signed up to YouTube’s nonprofit program. If your charity isn’t one of them, I hope this article will inspire you to build your video program today.

BC charities under stress

Do you feel stressed?

Imagine Canada’s recently released Sector Monitor report has some surprising data on stress in BC charities.

The Sector Monitor uses surveys of leaders and stakeholders in the charitable world and seeks to provide insight into the charitable sector in Canada.

Overall, their survey found that:

  • about 1 charity in 7 appears to be under high stress;
  • 1 in 3 is under some stress and;
  • the remaining half show no significant signs of stress, at least as measured by their survey questions.

The surprising thing is that organizations in British Columbia were statistically more likely to be under high stress than those in the rest of the country. Other groups that appeared to be under more stress were health charities, charities with annual revenues between $150,000 and $499,999 and those organizations that had between 1 and 4 paid staff.

The study also found an overall decrease in confidence among charity leaders over the past year. More leaders predicted that their charity would be weaker, in terms of its ability to carry out its mission in the near- and medium-term, and that the financial and human resources of their organization would decrease over the near-term.

If you’re a small-shop charity in BC that’s under stress, perhaps I can help.