Marketing Your Fundraising Event – 5 Creative Strategies

By John Haydon, Originally Posted Here.

Marketing your fundraising event is arguably one of the most important aspects of holding a fundraiser.

If you don’t promote your event, how will people know about it? And if no one knows about it, how will you receive donations?

Your focus must be on properly marketing your fundraising event to avoid empty seats and empty donation boxes.

Here are 5 marketing tips you can follow to promote your fundraising event:

  1. Secure sponsors
  2. Use merchandise to promote the event
  3. Pick your best features
  4. Focus on your cause
  5. Plan a fantastic follow-up strategy

Your plan to act will include measuring success through product sales, appropriate implementation of technology, and promotion of your cause. All the while, you’ll be building lifelong relationships with sponsors and supporters, creating the perfect strategy to guide you through your fundraising event.

Read on to create your marketing plan for your next event. And if you need some ideas before you start marketing, check out Double the Donation’s 61 Awesome Fundraising Ideas for inspiration.

1. Secure sponsors

Sponsors provide key funding and a great opportunity to attract a broader range of attendees.

Once you have your sponsors, you’ll want to take steps to make sure they have a good experience so they’ll partner with you in the future.

  • Be upfront about what their involvement will be. Is this a small time commitment or a large one?
  • Keep them in the loop where necessary. Your sponsors will most likely want updates on your progress, with details including the number of attendees your event expects to bring in.
  • Demonstrate your gratitude for each of your sponsors. Remember these are the people who are directly supporting you. Make sure they know you’re not taking them for granted.

Keep in mind, sponsors are a crucial component when it comes to the success of your event and nonprofit, so make sure they’re happy!

2. Use merchandise to promote the event

You can design and sell custom merchandise to create buzz for your event.

Product fundraising will kill 4 birds with one stone:

  • Raise brand awareness: Putting your logo and information on a t-shirt, water bottle, or draw-string bag will provide amazing advertising opportunities for your cause.
  • Demonstrate appreciation: Merchandise can serve as thank yous to donors!
  • Generate revenue: Selling merchandise will create more revenue, adding to your funding.
  • Advertise sponsors: Discuss with your sponsors where you’ll advertise their brand. Your most supportive sponsor should have the most advertising material. For example, their logo might be on all the signs, tents, and t-shirts whereas a lower-tier sponsor may have their logo on a water fountain.

Using merchandise is a quick and easy way to raise money and advertise your upcoming event all at once so plan to order some t-shirts!

3. Pick your best features

The interesting and attracting aspects of your fundraising idea are your best features. Be sure to focus your marketing around these points in order to attract the most attendees. But keep your cause in mind as well!

You can do all this by:

  • Write an event mission statement. You’ll want to assess what’s really important to your nonprofit and why you’re holding the event. Think about how this event is going to impact your cause. How will your event matter?
  • Marketing your big ticket item. Advertise the most exciting aspect of your event, whatever it may be. For example, if the event is a concert, advertise the most well-known band performing. Show off what will bring the most people to your event.
  • Give participants next steps to get involved. While the event approaches, you can suggest supporters join your email list, which can give them a countdown to the event and other updates to keep them interested in your nonprofit’s work. Find a way to get them involved in your nonprofit’s community.
  • Picking out your best features will draw more attendees to your event, giving both your nonprofit and your cause more exposure. This can lead to more donations and overall support, so it’s important to understand your intent and market your best-selling aspects to involve potential attendees.

4. Focus on your cause

If you focus your passion on your cause, you have the potential to attract others with similar passions, which can build lasting relationships.

Ways to display your cause and your accomplishments are as follows:

  • Slideshow: A slideshow is an easy way to show off your cause. Throw some pictures of your board from previous activities and project the slideshow onto a screen at your event.
  • Video: A step up from a slideshow, a video will be a little more engaging because it’ll require more attention at your event. You can display it similarly to a slideshow.
  • Guest speaker: Have an executive director or service recipient speak to your past support for the community and for your cause. Stay away from self-congratulatory speeches and focus on the impact in a heartfelt and genuine way.
  • Brochure: At your event, you can hand out a packet with information on your nonprofit, its history, and your cause. This way, your attendees can take the information home with them, too.

The idea behind your event is to raise awareness about your cause, so be sure to display your efforts so attendees know your organization’s mind and heart are in the right place. This will gain authority for your nonprofit as well.

5. Plan a fantastic follow-up strategy

Thank everyone within 3 days of your event. This includes attendees, donors, fundraisers, and anyone that contributed to your cause. Follow this advice on how to Make Your Donor Feel Like a Hero. You can send thank you emails or letters, or to be even more personal with a phone call.

Your donors will want to know how they’ve positively impacted your nonprofit. You can easily do this through your emailed newsletter. Let them know how much you raised and update them on your cause.

Your follow-up strategy is key for donor retention. You should look into sending out surveys to further gauge the results of your event. With the feedback from these surveys, you can learn what you should do to improve when planning your next event.

Now that you know how to perfectly market your next event through these 5 steps, it’s up to you to take action and hold a successful fundraiser.

About The Author

John Haydon is one of the most sought-after nonprofit digital marketing experts, with a sincere passion for changing the world. He has spoken at the Nonprofit Technology Conference, New England Federation of Human Societies, New Media Expo, BBCon, Social Media 4 Nonprofits, AFP New Jersey, and several others. John is also the author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies and Facebook Marketing All-In-One (Wiley) and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, Social Media Examiner, and Social Media Today.

What Not to Say in a Grant Application

By Diane H. Leonard, GPC

Sometimes, it is just as important to know what NOT to say, as it is to know what TO say. This isn’t only true in real life scenarios, but also in grant applications.
Instead of talking about what to say in your grant applications (that is what we focus on in Grant Writing 101), we thought what if instead we focus on what NOT to say in a grant application?

Grant Application
Here are the 3 things you should NOT say or use in grant applications:

1. “We are not sure how we will continue the program after your grant funding ends.”

The reality is, you are seeking grant funding, so clearly you don’t have all your resource needs met or a major donor with an unlimited checkbook to support your work. You truly might not be sure which of the pending proposals will piece together to support the program in the upcoming fiscal years, but you DO have a plan for who you are asking for support from and when, *right?* You should share that plan. Outline the other types of revenue you use to support your programs to highlight how your organization is not grant dependent. Outline the long-term funding relationships you have in place.

2. “We hope to be able to…”

It doesn’t matter how that sentence ends. As the Rockstar organization that you are, you can’t, in fact, you don’t just hope to do anything. In a grant funded world you will do something. You don’t hope to create impact, but rather you will create impact. You don’t hope to increase knowledge, but rather you will increase knowledge. You don’t hope to change behaviors, you will change behaviors. You DON’T simply hope. Your organization to is good at what you do to simply hope.

3. Buzz words, phrases, or industry jargon

Including buzz words or industry jargon in your proposal makes it more difficult for the reviewer to understand. Words like unique, collaborative and impactful are all overused words in narratives. Reviewers begin to discount what those words mean as they have become such overused buzz words. Select impactful language that the rest of your narrative supports.
Acronyms annoy and confuse the reviewers. A fellow grant reviewer sitting on a panel with me once said point blank that acronyms actually made them angry and they would stop reading as a result. Unless you are desperate for space in a character counted situation, look at your response and consider how to eliminate, or at least reduce, your use of acronyms for the sake of the reader.

What other things do you have that are “no-no” items for including in the text of your grant application or the story you are creating for a grant application? Share them with us in the comments section of the website or via social media.

About The Author

Diane H. Leonard, GPC, President of DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is an experienced and highly respected grant professional who provides grant development counsel to nonprofit organizations of varying size and scope. Diane founded DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC in 2006 and has secured millions of dollars in competitive grant funds for clients from the federal, state and local governments, and private foundations.

How to set up your website for maximum online fundraising success

By Julia Campbell

Your nonprofit website is the most important tool in your fundraising, marketing, outreach, and communications toolbox – BY FAR.

Think about how you conduct research on things that interest you and causes that you care about – you Google them, right? And what happens if you end up on a website that is clunky, ugly, takes forever to load, and has tiny text that you can’t read?

You would click away, without even giving it a second thought.

This is the main reason that Google is penalizing websites that are not mobile-friendly, by having them show up lower in their search results. After all, Google wants to provide their users with a productive experience, and a terrible website showing up in search results is not good business for them.

Too many nonprofits want to focus on the next shiny new platform, or tool, or social media site – without taking a good hard look at the damage their website is doing to their marketing and fundraising efforts.

Your website is your first impression to people who do not yet know who you are but want more information. And we all know – you only have ONE CHANCE to make a good first impression.

This is especially true when you are trying to raise money and solicit donations online.

Here are my top 7 tips to set up your website for maximum online fundraising success:

1. Enable one-click donations

Did you know that 65% of nonprofits require three or more clicks to get to the form that allows someone to make a donation?

Website visitors should be able to donate with just one lick of the mouse or tap of a button. This means having a bright DONATE button on the homepage of your website. When visitors click on the DONATE button, bring them directly to the donation form where they can enter the amount and their credit card information.

DO NOT send people to the “Ways to Get Involved” page or any other page on the website.

2. Make your website responsive

Having a responsive website is no longer optional in today’s always-online environment. Your website visitors should be able to easily access your site from any size screen, whether it be their desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Responsive websites shift their content to fit any screen size. Test out your website by pulling it up on a variety of phones and devices to see if it works.

Blackbaud found that responsive nonprofit websites receive a 34% increase in donations! In addition, a responsive website will certainly please those 16.6% of donors that give directly from your email appeal on their mobile device. (More emails are now opened on mobile devices than desktop, so make sure your email appeals change accordingly also.)

3. Less is always more

Eliminate all distractions on the online donation page of your website.

Take off any Facebook and Twitter feeds, remove the “sign up for our email newsletter” box. If you can, use a service like Leadpages.com to make the page completely free of any links – this is often called a “squeeze page” and it is used effectively by businesses of all sizes.

Think about it like this – they pressed the DONATE button. So get right to the credit card information!

You can and should use your logo, colors, and consistent branding so donors will know where they are and not get frightened off. Adding a video/or visual is always good as well (more in the next bullet).

4. Include visuals

When I encourage you to include visuals on your online donation page, I mean one clear photograph or video that showcases your impact. The purpose of this visual aid is to push the donor prospect even closer to pulling the trigger on the donation – or maybe increasing the size of their donation.

Here are two great examples of visually appealing online donation pages:

  • Project C.U.R.E. – photograph, small paragraph telling the donor where the money will go, several donation levels, and the form right underneath
  • Invisible Children – large, colorful photograph and the only option is to enter in a donation amount and click “once” or “monthly”
  • Operation Smile – hard to ignore powerful photograph, compelling ask, gift levels, and the credit card form immediately visible

5. Showcase your best stories

Showcasing the stories of the people you help and the impact you have is the absolute best way to build relationships with existing donors and to convince new people to jump on board.

Housing a diverse selection of impact stories in a particular, dedicated section of your website is also a great idea. Nonprofits that do a fantastic job of collecting and showcasing impact stories on their website include the Harlem Children’s Zone (hcz.org), Denver Rescue Mission (denverrescuemission.org), and Women for Women International (womenforwomen.org).

Remember: Your website exists to educate people about your mission, but it also exists to inspire them to take action on behalf of that mission. Otherwise, why have a website at all? The best way to do this is through compelling visuals and succinct storytelling, threaded throughout the site.

6. Encourage monthly gifts

Monthly online giving has been growing leaps and bounds, and your nonprofit needs to take advantage of this philanthropic trend.

For more on monthly giving programs and for some wonderful advice on how to create monthly giving programs, be sure to check out The Hidden Gem: How to Create an Awesome Monthly Giving Program with Erica Waasdorp.

7. Encourage sharing

Studies have shown that giving to charity is good for your health – but it actually makes you happy too!

When your donors give to you, they are expressing their values, their ethics, and their priorities. Give them a chance to share that they made a gift by including social share buttons on the Thank You page after someone enters their credit card information.

73% of nonprofits do not offer a “share” option after an online donation – and that seems like a serious missed opportunity.

Not everyone will take advantage of this, of course, but my bet is that the younger generations will – thereby giving you free advertising, and showing off that this person felt so strongly about your cause that they were willing to make a financial commitment!

More resources: For a template donation page, visit this infographic that I shared on Pinterest: 6 Elements of An Effective Online Donation Page

What other advice do you have about creating great nonprofit websites for maximum online fundraising success? Share them with us in the comments section of the website or via social media.

Looking for more detailed advice about all things digital marketing, online communications, social media and nonprofits, visit us here!

Join us for How to Create a Strategic  Online Communications Plan for more digital marketing and social media strategies.

About The Author

Julia C. Campbell, Founder of J Campbell Social Marketing, consults and trains nonprofits on the best ways to use digital tools to raise money and awareness for their organizations. Her blog is consistently featured in the list of Top 150 Nonprofit Blogs in the world, and she is currently publishing a book on storytelling and social media with Charity Channel Press. She has helped dozens of nonprofits small and large with their online fundraising and marketing campaigns, raising over $1 million for social causes.  

 

16 Ways To Get More Comments On Your Facebook Page

By John Haydon, Originally Posted Here.

You know that engagement is important, but getting fans to comment on your Facebook updates can feel like an uphill battle.

And it can sometimes be painful watching other nonprofits who seem to make massively engaged fans. What are they doing that you’re not?

Even the most active Facebook Page began from a standing start. And many of them got to where they are today by making it easier for fans to comment on their Page.

16 Ways To Get More Comments on Your Facebook Page:

  1. Ask specific questions – Asking your fans what we can do to cut down carbon emissions might get comments from your biggest fans, but most of them would just skip to the next item in their news feed. Specificity will get more comments
  2. Ask yes or no questions – Yes or no: Are you more likely to answer “yes or no” questions, or open-ended ones that require more time and attention? You get the point.
  3. Ask timely questions – Are you staying home or traveling this weekend? Focusing on your fans interests, and how those intersect with your mission, is a key part of growing an engaged community.
  4. Ask edgy questionsGreen Peace does a great job with this by asking questions like “Do you live near a nuclear power plant?” Adjust the edginess factor to your community, and certainly your mission.
  5. Ask true or false questions – True or false questions work really well for historical societies, whose fans love to show off their knowledge of history. Always begin these questions with “True or False:“. Fans will be more likely to answer if they know that a simple answer is all that’s required.
  6. Ask questions about a photo – Share a photo an ask your fans to comment. For example, an animal rights org could post a photo of animal cruelty and ask “What’s wrong with this picture?”
  7. Ask poll questions – Text updates makes it easy to create polls on your Page. Just make sure you give people the answer choices (A, B, C, etc).
  8. Ask fun questions – Don’t be afraid to go off topic with your fans. It will remind them that you’re just like them, and will establish a more human connection. For example, “What’s your families favorite vacation spot?”
  9. Ask directly – If your Facebook Page is new, or if it’s been dormant for months, getting any kind of response from fans can be difficult. If that’s the case with your Page, try messaging specific fans that you know personally, asking them to comment on a post. Tell them you think they’d offer value and insight around a particular conversation. Be sincere.
  10. Ask preference questions – When you were in college, did you prefer essay questions or multiple choice questions? Exactly.
  11. Ask who’s attending an event – You can pose this question to fans located near an upcoming event. Bonus points if you share a link to your Facebook Event.
  12. Ask those who attended the event to share a favorite moment – If you’re a national organization that help an event in Chicago, you can target an update to those attendees asking to share their impressions. This will mainly get responses from your core fans, but will give less active fans a deeper look at your organization’s culture.
  13. Ask for tips – This one works well if your organization works with families. Asking for tips on how to get kids out of bed earlier would leverage shared experiences among your Facebook fans.
  14. Ask humanistic questions – This works especially well if your organization deals with a disease or syndrome. For example, The Brain Aneurysm Foundation launched their Page simply by asking: “When you were first recovering from a brain aneurysm, what gave you the most hope?”
  15. Ask fill in the blank questions – Another way to make less work for your Facebook fans is to use “fill in the blank” questions. When you ask these, always begin with “Fill in the blank:”. Your fans will be more likely to answer a question if they know what’s expected. And everybody knows how “fill in the blank questions” work.
  16. Reply and pay attentionPeople skills 101 talks about acknowledging when someone answers a question. When your fans answer questions, comment back and deepen the conversation.

Learn more about nonprofit Facebook marketing with John’s next live webinar Create a Vibrant Facebook Community – How to Get More Likes, Comments and Shares on Your Page Updates

Corporate Social Responsibility: How to Secure Corporate Support

Corporate Social Responsibility: How to Secure Corporate Support

By: Heather Stombaugh, GPC

Corporations invest in social responsibility programs and activities to support their triple bottom line: people, profits, and planet. Companies are smart to be concerned about corporate social responsibility (CSR), both because CSR is a driver among consumer groups and because some labels— think “organic,” “recycled,” “smaller carbon footprint”— are generally more costly for companies to attain, thereby reducing shareholder profitability. A corporation’s long-term success is based on its ability to balance the vision against the interests of key stakeholder groups.

As a for-profit company, my company–JustWrite Solutions–considers these questions all the time. We have a formal CSR program based on our shared philosophy, vision, and values. This is critical: it’s how corporate leadership thinks about their giving. Consider how you can use the following information to your advantage if you are seeking a donation or sponsorship from my corporation.

  • Philosophy — “It’s not what you gather but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you have lived.” – Helen Walton
  • Vision — By building stronger nonprofits, we build stronger communities around the world.
  • Values — Accountability, Creativity, Excellence, Integrity, Learning, Partnership, Service, and Ethics

Reflection on these elements of our business practice gives us a clear idea of how we should invest philanthropically. We created a number of Social Justice Scholarship programs, the first of which was implemented at Carey High School in Ohio, where six members of the JWS (myself included) graduated. We recently created three new Social Justice Scholarships to support students pursuing careers in the service sector, from the military to social work, service to people with intellectual/development disabilities, suicide prevention, and work with LGBTQI youth.

These decisions are based on needs in the nonprofit sector and our philanthropic investment ideals. Our CSR discussions over the last five years led to the creation of a new national nonprofit to provide technical assistance to help small nonprofits improve their readiness for fundraising and grant seeking. CSR for JustWrite Solutions is and always will be evolving. Sound familiar in your experience with corporate partners?

The transition of how we invest our time, talent, and treasure into the community always reminds me of the best, most appropriate ways for nonprofit professionals to approach corporate partners. Before you open that corporate door, carefully and purposefully determine if your nonprofit is actually aligned with potential corporate partners. Examine the corporation’s:

  • Vision statement
  • Values statement
  • Corporate social responsibility and stewardship pages
  • Most recent CSR and annual reports
  • Recent press (google news)

Then, stay focused. Write an alignment plan. Find a connection in the company (friend of a board member, gatekeeper, door opener). Be brief in your request for partnership—remember it’s not entirely about money here.

Purposeful alignment takes time and thoughtful examination. This planning can save your nonprofit from spending resources unnecessarily and better prepare you for sustainable success.

What are your “battle stories” from working with corporate partners?

About The Author

Heather Stombaugh is a nonprofit expert with more than 16 years of experience in leadership, programs, and fundraising. She is the founder of JustWrite Solutions, a national nonprofit consulting firm. She serves as an expert for CharityHowTo, CharityChannel, and Thompson Interactive. Heather is an officer of local and national boards (Grant Professionals Foundation, Baskets of Care, AFP Northwest Ohio, JWS Partners for Charitable Support) and an active member of the Grant Professionals Association (GPA Weekly Grant News Editor and Approved Trainer). She is one of fewer than 50 people in the world who holds both the GPC and CFRE. Heather lives and breathes nonprofits!

3 Reasons to Build Relationships with Grant Makers

By Diane H. Leonard, GPC

What is all the talk about in grant seeking best practices about building relationships? Are relationships with grant makers really such an important part of the process?

Yes!

As CharityHowTo colleague, and fellow GPC, Heather Stombaugh says, People Grant to People, Not to Proposals®. While not all grant makers have the capacity or preference to communicate with potential grantees prior to making a grant award, there are important reasons to keep in mind that relationship building is a key best practice in grant seeking.

We Build Relationships

Here are 3 reasons why you need to TRY to build relationships with grant makers before you start on your draft application:

  1. Confirming Potential Alignment

You should confirm that the reasons you think you are a good fit with a potential grant maker resonates with the grant maker as well. The grant maker does not want you spending time crafting a proposal, that regardless of how well it is written, will not be a good fit for the funder.

  1. Putting a Face to a Proposal

Before you submit a proposal as an unknown organization or name on a cover letter, reach out to personalize the process and let the grant maker know a bit about you before you work on an application for submission. Your conversation is the first impression for the proposal you plan to submit.

  1. Clarifying Questions

Having the opportunity to connect with a grant maker, whether via phone or email, will give you the opportunity to ask questions about their process or priorities that may sway your specific request or language choice in a proposal to increase your competitiveness.

Are you convinced that building relationships with grant makers is something you should start to do? Great! Now it is time to read on, and learn about 6 Tips to Improve Your Relationships with Grant Makers or register for our upcoming FREE webinar: Why Build Relationships with Grantmakers?

And then you can learn more tactical tips via our on-demand recording to learn about how to Establish and Maintain Excellent Grant Maker Relationships.

About The Author

Diane H. Leonard, GPC, President of DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is an experienced and highly respected grant professional who provides grant development counsel to nonprofit organizations of varying size and scope. Diane founded DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC in 2006 and has secured millions of dollars in competitive grant funds for clients from the federal, state and local governments, and private foundations.

7 Tips to Get Your Organization to Embrace Asking

By Brian Saber

We all know that asking doesn’t just happen out of nowhere. Your organization and staff have to embrace fundraising clear across the board in order for you to develop a strong culture of asking.

Think of what it would mean if you did have a culture of asking. First and foremost, fundraising would stop being a dirty word! We all know that as soon as we mention the word fundraising most people cringe. Well, that isn’t going to get us anywhere, is it? So how do we shape a culture of asking and a strong fundraising future at our organization?

1) View capital campaigns as the standard

During a capital campaign we invest a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money to put asking front and center. Capital campaigns use strategic approaches to fundraising that engage people, create a clear focus on larger gifts and an energy that drives success.

It’s no surprise that these campaigns are often successful. We can’t always operate at this level, but we can apply some standards from these campaigns to our organization.

2) Asking can’t only be about money

We’re never going to have a culture of asking if the only clear reason for asking is the “need” for money. We first have to make sure we have shared values and can articulate them. That comes about when our board and staff experience programs and report back at meetings.

3) Get the leaders involved

Our leaders must set the example by asking. Are your executive director and board chair asking? If the leaders aren’t asking, why would anyone else? Even if you have full-time development staff, it’s important for the executive director to be out front fundraising.

Oftentimes board members don’t even realize what fundraising is. For most, when we say fundraising they assume it means asking everyone they know for money. We need our board to fundraise by opening doors and cultivating people who can make major gifts.

4) Train everyone to ask

Most people have little or no fundraising training and that’s a recipe for disaster. Any task can only be done well if one is taught how to do it and then given the opportunity to practice what they learned. Asking people to do something they don’t think they can do well will cause them to resist helping.

5) Create an asking plan

Develop an annual fundraising plan that quantifies how many cultivation and solicitation meetings you plan to conduct. Board and staff need to work together to create the plan if everyone is going to commit to it.

Outline clear goals and objectives for the plan, and then assign people the roles they agree to take. Have a set completion date for the plan. This way everyone has a date to stick to and tasks will get done one time. Be sure to review the plan regularly and report on progress.

6) Don’t twist any arms

Everyone has to willingly accept their assignments – going out there under duress will not be helpful. And don’t assign more than 4 prospects at a time to board members – this will be overwhelming and cause less work to get done.

7) Be realistic

And perhaps most importantly, be realistic; we can’t go from 0-60 overnight. It’s much better to celebrate many small successes than it is to set the bar too high. Never forget to celebrate every one’s large and small asking successes; they deserve it. And since the New Year is here, it’s the perfect time to evaluate what’s realistic and what you can do more of this year.

So the next time you get frustrated about the lack of asking at your organization, take a good hard look at whether you’re creating a culture that supports it.

Learn more from Brian in his upcoming webinars.

About The Author

Brian Saber is President of Asking Matters – a online learning platform that trains people how to ask for money and motivates them to do it! Combining the best low-expense and high quality resources in the field, he promises that Asking Matters will help countless organizations continue to do incredible work for their causes.

4 Steps towards LOVING Special Events

By A.J. Steinberg

It’s hard to believe, but some nonprofit professionals don’t really love hosting special events.  In fact, lots of folks seem downright ambivalent, at best.

Does that sound like you?

No worries. You’re probably just suffering from event burnout – an ailment common among nonprofit organizations.
Event burnout isn’t your fault. The issue lies in everyone’s high expectations for special events coupled with dizzyingly tight budgets. You can see how a nonprofit professional could blow a gasket. The pressure is enormous.

Here’s the typical scene:

Your board wants you to produce an entertaining event so their friends can have fun. The CFO wants you to pull in stratospheric sums that will be the savior of next year’s budget. The ED needs an event to touch the guests’ hearts. To top it all off, you are expected to work with a committee of volunteers who have absolutely no training in either event planning or fundraising.

Just thinking about all that can give you hives!

Step away from the stress for a moment, put the unrealistic expectations aside, and consider the upsides of what you can accomplish with this event.

  • Energize your board by giving them a simple plan for soliciting donations and selling tickets. Watch them light up as they realize how many great assets they have at their fingertips. Most boards just need a little prompting and some easy-to-follow protocols.
  • Work with your CFO to create realistic monetary goals, figuring out ways to augment the event’s revenue stream. Let your committee brainstorm on connections they can bring to the table. It’s amazing the amount of auction donations, sponsorships and ticket sales they can drum up with a little help identifying their potential contacts.
  • Work closely with your ED to ensure she knows the event’s goals and understands your strategy for both revenue and guest engagement. Bring her to a committee meeting so she can strengthen relationships with your volunteers. Take time every couple of weeks to meet and discuss how the process is progressing, giving her confidence in your planning abilities.
  • Choose event committee members wisely, as they are the key ingredient in your recipe for success. These volunteers will bring in donations, help with sponsorships and sell a boatload of tickets. Competent committees will also take much of the event production workload off your shoulders.

 Truly, the best part of hosting an event is building and strengthening relationships.  

  • A well-run event brings pride to board members, and encourages future enthusiastic participation
  • Your organization’s staff feels satisfied by their experience working as a team
  • Your volunteers feel appreciated and excited to work with you on future events
  • Your guests have heightened awareness of your organization’s mission, and look forward to participating in more meaningful ways

And don’t forget, your event also made money. A well-organized event can make a delicious profit.

Special events can definitely be sweet. When else can you have the undivided attention of hundreds of good-hearted folks for your call to action? This isn’t an internet video, this is real life, baby! And real life is where meaningful relationships are born.

Sure, there will be hard work and some headaches during the planning process. But you didn’t become a nonprofit professional because it was easy. You chose this work because you could make a genuine difference in the lives of people and communities.

There’s no better pathway to achieving that goal than special events.

Now is the time to pull it together and face your next event with a positive “can do” attitude.  Join me in singing the praises of special events, because we both know their hard-earned, sweet success makes it all worthwhile.

Learn more about fundraising events with my upcoming webinars.

About the Author

A.J. Steinberg, founder of Queen Bee Fundraising, has been creating outstanding special events since 1999.

In 2015 A.J. created Queen Bee Fundraising which focuses on the art of nonprofit special event management.  Along with producing nonprofit events, A.J. teaches volunteers and professionals the strategies for producing successful fundraising events, along with guidance on how to successfully lead volunteer committees to achieve their goals.

A.J. works with a broad spectrum of nonprofit clients including The Jane Goodall Institute, Cystic Fibrosis, BreatheLA and Union Rescue Mission, A.J. is a leader in the field of committee-based fundraising.

The Nuts and Bolts of Direct Mail

By Erica Waasdorp

Before I got ‘hooked’ on monthly giving, I was already a direct mail ‘aficionado’. Why? Because direct mail works. Because people respond to it. Because you can measure what you’re doing. You can see how many fundraising messages you mail out and how many donations you receive back.

But yet, so many people are no longer ‘trained’ in direct mail. They think that all donations are generated by social media. They think that everybody does everything on their smart phone.

For the past 35 years, I was fortunate to work at Reader’s Digest and later for and with a number of nonprofits that were so driven by direct mail and saw how important testing was within the campaigns they were doing.

Always improving. Always finding ways to do things cheaper or better, to get more responses. Isn’t that what you and I as fundraisers are always trying to do? Improve? Raise more money? Upgrade more doors?

So, when I started presenting webinars on monthly giving, I asked the question: “How many times do you appeal to your donors for money in the mail?” And so many said: never, once a year, twice a year, with some exceptions who mail 4 or more times a year.

Well, if many organization’s year-end appeal results are any indication, direct mail still responds at 600% or higher compared to email messages. I’m seeing cost to raise a dollar of $0.05 to $0.10 in some cases!  And that is just looking at the donations that are directly attributable to the appeal (in other words that came in with a reply form).

This means that direct mail still works. Yes, is it more expensive than email, absolutely. But not 600% more expensive.

And the good news is that you can create a direct mail appeal and create an email appeal variation as a version, so you can totally repurpose the content. Especially those donors who are responding to direct mail and email will be more engaged than those who respond via direct mail or email only.

At a recent conference, the ASPCA, one of the top 50 mailers in the country, shared that between 7 to 10% of their most recent new online donors were trackable to their direct mail campaign. Yes, they donated online, but they would have never gone online if it wasn’t for the direct mail piece.

So, direct mail is not dead and it must be part of your fundraising strategy. But, many fundraisers do not know how direct mail works and what’s important. Yes, storytelling and writing letters and emails are important, but it’s also crucial to look at targeting, timing, design, print, production and postage. That’s what you’ll get in the Webinar: The Nuts and Bolts of Direct Mail!  

About The Author

Erica Waasdorp is President of A Direct Solution, located on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  Erica lives and breathes direct response and fundraising and can be considered a Philanthropyholic. She has published one of the very few books on monthly giving, called Monthly Giving. The Sleeping Giant. She co-authored the DonorPerfect Monthly Giving Starter and Marketing  Kits and she regularly blogs and presents in person and via webinars on anything direct mail, appeals and monthly giving.

You Can Do It! 5 Tips to Get Your Fundraising Print Publications #OnPoint

Strategies and tactics in fundraising may change, but print publications continue to be a critical resource in the nonprofit toolbox. According to Kivi Leroux Miller’s 2016 Nonprofit Communication Trends report, print remains one of the top five most important communication channels in the nonprofit sector.

Image Credit: Kivi Leroux Miller

Every nonprofit should invest in creating compelling fundraising publications. However, in the tumult of other pressing needs, many small nonprofits put off developing their annual reports, cases for support, and other collateral to save money. Let me put this simply: in ANY business, you must spend money to make money. Nonprofits are businesses; ergo, nonprofits need to spend money to raise money.

I hear you now: “That is all fine and good, Heather, but let’s live in reality. We do not have the money or the staff or the time or the expertise to do print publications.” But you do and you can, because you must. You do not have to hire a big consulting firm to make a great publication. You can do it with existing resources—including your Board and volunteers—if you focus on best practices and follow these five tips.

1. Define your expectations in writing. I use a questionnaire to start any publication project. I ask lots of questions of the nonprofit, like:

  • What is the purpose of your publication? Why is this effort important?
  • Who is your primary target audience? Secondary audiences?
  • What is your fundraising goal(s), in $$, related to the purpose?
  • Who is the project lead (one point of contact only)?
  • Who are your internal decision-makers (i.e. who has the authority to approve proofs)?
  • What channels do you currently use to communicate with your current and potential donors?
  • What is the geographic scope of the fundraising effort?
  • If people could use only three words to describe your organization, what would you want those three words to be? (ex. conservative, progressive, friendly, casual, professional)
  • What three words describe how you do NOT want to be perceived in the community?
  • What collateral have you published recently? Which is your favorite?
  • Does your organization have a style guide or do you reference a major style guide as a standard (AP, Chicago, etc.)?
  • How do you plan to distribute your publication?
  • What’s your print budget?
  • What is the deadline to go to print?

2. Use a team approach. Fundraising publications are of the highest quality when more than one brain or set of eyes is involved. Gather a team together and identify a project leader. (That could be you.) Delegate tasks, and serve as the hub of all the work that goes into the publication. Work with other staff and volunteers to get it done. #ProTip: Find a friendly graphic designer who may be willing to donate some or all her time to the project. Moreover, did you know some graphic designers specialize in the nonprofit sector? They are out there if you look!

3. Allow adequate time for the project. Publications should not be thrown together in haste. That leads to mistakes and missed opportunities. Writing and design are creative processes that require a reasonable time investment. Do not give burden yourself unnecessarily by trying write, design, print, and mail, for example, an invitation in the space of one day. You can have publications good, fast, or cheap. Pick two, but you cannot have all three.

4. Print your publications with a vendor. I am realistic about budgets, and you can get away with printing some publications on your desktop printer (like invitations to less formal events). However, for publications like cases for support or annual reports, work with a print vendor. Digital printing is a more affordable option than traditional printing on presses, and the quality of digital printing is just as good as traditional printing (which was not always the case). Do you want to spend all that effort on creating a beautiful publication only to print it on your desktop printer and have it look unprofessional?

5. Set a deadline for final changes. If at the last minute, you discover a donor’s name is misspelled in the annual report, that is a simple fix. However, if at the 11th hour you decide you want to change the design or copy of an entire page, you are in for a world of issues: that is not a quick fix and will affect the flow of the entire publication. Plan for multiple stages of editing and proofing (including a formal final review), but be reasonable. If you are not, the revisions will never stop. Set and stick to your publication schedule.

How do you stay on time, track, and budget with your fundraising publications?

Are You Ready to Create Your Powerful Case for Support?

Check out our upcoming 90-minute live webinar How to Create a Powerful Case for Support – the Must-Have Fundraising Publication for Every Nonprofit. You will learn proven practices and strategies to create a compelling and powerful Case for Support for your nonprofit. Through the Case for Support, you engage donors—new and potential—through your credibility, data, and consumers’ stories. The Case helps you motivate donors to give by using storytelling and graphics.

About The Author

Heather Stombaugh is a nonprofit expert with more than 16 years of experience in leadership, programs, and fundraising. She is the founder of JustWrite Solutions, a national nonprofit consulting firm. She serves as an expert for CharityHowTo, CharityChannel, and Thompson Interactive. Heather is an officer of local and national boards (Grant Professionals Foundation, Baskets of Care, AFP Northwest Ohio) and an active member of the Grant Professionals Association (GPA Weekly Grant News Editor and Approved Trainer). She is one of fewer than 50 people in the world who holds both the GPC and CFRE. Heather lives and breathes nonprofits!

This blog was influenced by an original blog post, Pain-Free Publications, by Ericka Kurtz of JustWrite Solutions.

10 Ways to Use Instagram for Nonprofit Visual Storytelling

10 Ways to Use Instagram for Nonprofit Visual Storytelling

By Julia Campbell

Instagram is growing rapidly, with 26 percent of adults now using the social media network. Yet, only a few nonprofits include Instagram in their social media strategy…and even fewer use it properly.   

Here are 10 ways that you can use Instagram for your nonprofit visual storytelling:

  1. Post eye-catching, colorful photos.

The only way to cut through the clutter and grab attention on Instagram is with great photos. Photos that feature people in small groups, action shots, interesting angles, and bright, colorful backgrounds work best and get the most engagement.

colorful photos

 

  1. Write great captions.

Captions are incredibly important when building a community on Instagram. Use emojis to add some flair. Put the most important words and information up front, knowing that on mobile devices the caption is cut off after three lines.

Write great captions

 

  1. Use hashtags strategically.

Hashtags are a great way to search for new information and new accounts to follow on Instagram, and also a perfect way to be found by new potential supporters. Use hashtags strategically but seeing what others in your industry and around your cause are using. Take a look at what your audience is posting and sharing and what hashtags are trending.

Use hashtags strategically

 

  1. Update your followers on online fundraising campaigns.

Tell your Instagram followers about your online fundraising campaigns! Provide frequent updates on your progress, and let them know how much still needs to be raised.

online fundraising campaigns

 

  1. Showcase your mission.

A photo speaks 1000 words, but a caption explaining your mission and why you do the work that you do works wonderfully on Instagram. Showcase your mission and the beneficiaries.

Showcase your mission

 

  1. Go behind-the-scenes with your Executive Director.

People like to connect with people on social media accounts. Give your followers a glimpse into the life and work of your Executive Director. Make them feel like they are sharing an exclusive, intimate moment.

behind-the-scenes

 

  1. Re-post and share user-generated content.

Share photos and videos taken by your fans, followers, and supporters. They are your best ambassadors. (Always ask permission when doing this!)

share user-generated content

 

  1. Insert CTAs in the captions.

Insert your call to action right in the caption. Double tap/like – get more engagement. Click on the link in bio – take them to your website or online fundraising campaign page. People are more likely to take an action when asked directly.

call to action

 

  1. Participate in social media trends.

For example, the #2016BestNine was a popular hashtag – finding and sharing the 9 most popular photos that you posted in 2016 in a collage format. Another very popular trend is #ThrowbackThursday/#TBT where social media accounts dig into their photo archives for fun and entertaining pictures to post.

social media trends

 

  1. Post videos!

Video is the most popular type of content across social media platforms. Instagram video lets you post a 60 second video, which you can upload to the app or take directly within the app. Post short videos in the field, at meetings and events, and to announce a milestone or special news. You can also use Instagram live video to connect with even more followers, since there is a sense of urgency as they are not archived and you can not view them once the broadcast has ended.

videos

 

What other ways do you use Instagram for visual storytelling? Share them with us in the comments section of the website or via social media.

Looking for more detailed advice about all things digital marketing, online communications, social media and nonprofits, visit us here!

Join us for Julia’s brand new live webinar Instagram for Nonprofits: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Instagram for Raising Awareness and Money for Your Cause

for more digital marketing and social media strategies.

About The Author

Julia C. Campbell, Founder of J Campbell Social Marketing, consults and trains nonprofits on the best ways to use digital tools to raise money and awareness for their organizations. Her blog is consistently featured in the list of Top 150 Nonprofit Blogs in the world, and she is currently publishing a book on storytelling and social media with Charity Channel Press. She has helped dozens of nonprofits small and large with their online fundraising and marketing campaigns, raising over $1 million for social causes.  

 

4 Ways to Use the Social Proof in Volunteer Recruitment

by Tobi Johnson, MA, CVA

When it comes to volunteer recruitment for your nonprofit, understanding human nature and psychology is key. Why? Because our brains determine everything we do. By better understanding what triggers humans to act, nonprofit staff can become better influencers and, ultimately, better marketers.
One of the most powerful and enduring psychological phenomenon is that of social proof. Over the millennia, our species has survived because of our ability to mold our behavior to that of our clan, or risk banishment and extinction. So, we have learned subconsciously that social conformity is linked to our very survival.

Volunteer RecruitmentThe power of the tribe is undeniable, even today. Peer pressure does not just affect teenagers. All of us are hard-wired to pay attention to what others say and do.

Consider Stanley Milgram’s famous obedience experiment. In 1969, he asked groups of actors to stop in a busy New York City street and stare up at a building window. As the number of actors increased, so did the number of passers-by who copied their behavior. This simple experiment demonstrated how the actions of even strangers could influence our own.

Social proof can also be harnessed for social good. It can help nudge community members interested in supporting causes like yours take the next step toward volunteering. Using social proof can help improve the effectiveness of your volunteer recruitment by subconsciously reassuring prospective supporters that volunteering is the “right thing to do.”

Today’s customers (and nonprofit supporters) can get a significant amount of info about your organization before they ever make a donation or reach out to volunteer. Consider the power of social proof in consumer behavior:

  • 92% of Americans now consult online product reviews before making a purchase (up from 88% in 2014).
  • 63% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a site if it has user reviews.

4 Ways to Use Social Proof for Volunteer Recruitment

By showcasing how other community members are supporting your organization through volunteerism, you send subtle messages to others about your “tribe’s” behavior. Here are four ways to highlight the social norm of volunteering for your cause.

  1. Volunteer Testimonials – Create a “why we give our time & talent” or “what it’s like to volunteer” message wall in your lobby or on your website with words and pictures form actual volunteers.
  1. Progress Bars (with People) – Display a classic thermometer or countdown, based on your volunteer recruitment goals and update it regularly to show progress and community support.
  1. Volunteer & Client Success Stories – Share the personal trials and tribulations of volunteers and those they support (wither they be direct service clients or paid staff members). These are even more persuasive when teams tell an emotional story of triumph together on video.
  1. Reference Volunteers’ “Pro-Social” Behavior – Reinforce the norms you are striving for by sharing messages that reflect your specific expectations (while being truthful, of course). For example, “95% of people who request a volunteer application complete it and turn it in within one week” or “the average volunteer donated 6 hours last month, helping us reach our goal of serving 45 youth” or “87% of volunteers log their volunteer hours on time each month.”

In addition, social cues are even more powerful when they are demonstrated through photos. A picture is truly worth a thousand words, and photos will increase the perceived truthfulness of your testimonials. So whenever possible, include actual photos of your volunteer fans.

Beware of Negative Social Proof in Volunteer Recruitment

Similarly, negative social proof, or promoting what people aren’t doing, can be equally powerful but will work against you. So, avoid desperate pleas for help, highlighting the fact that not enough people are volunteering. This only casts doubt, subconscious and otherwise, that your cause is worthy of support. So, always highlight positive behavior in your appeals.

If you use volunteers, you no doubt invest a lot of time and effort in volunteer recruitment activities. Be sure to make them eve more effective by working with human nature not against it. Highlighting social proof is the #1 best way to tap into our inner instincts and nudge people toward your opportunities to make a difference.

Want to Learn More About Volunteer Recruitment?

Check out our upcoming 90-minute live webinar How to Find & Recruit Your Volunteer Dream Team – a Step-By-Step Guide on January 19th (3pm EST) or January 24th (1pm EST). We will share a simple process for recruiting your dream volunteers in ten steps and bonus materials that help translate learning to action.

About The Author

Tobi Johnson is President of Tobi Johnson & Associates, a consulting firm whose mission is to help nonprofit organizations strengthen their volunteer engagement strategy. In 2015, Tobi launched VolunteerPro, an online learning and networking community for leaders of volunteers. Tobi is also the author of Chapter 1 of the anthology Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights for Transforming Volunteer Programs in a Changing World.

The # 1 Fundamental of Monthly Giving

By Erica Waasdorp

I’m so excited… Because monthly giving is becoming more and more popular! Systems keep getting easier and easier.  More organizations have seen the ‘monthly donor light!’

But yet, so many organizations are slow to come on board.  With just a little bit of training, you too can start your monthly donor program and grow that sustainable revenue you need to keep your operating budget growing!

A few years ago, it was all about systems. That’s not the case any longer. You can literally create a monthly donor page in a few minutes, so no more excuses.

Let’s look at one of the biggest fundamentals of monthly donor programs: ASKING.

Building a monthly donor program requires that you ask donors to do so. The more you ask, the more monthly donors you’ll get.  I see the biggest successes with organizations that start with the low hanging fruit in their organization (board, staff, volunteers) and then expand to donors by asking all the time. They start by asking on their donation pages. They ask in their emails. On their reply forms. In their newsletters. They create special invitations.

The more you ask, the more you grow. The more you’ll see monthly donors’ tremendous power. 

If you’re still not convinced,  talk to some organizations who have started building their program. Look at their annualized value.  If you see that the current average gift of a monthly donor is some $24 a month, that’s $288 a year!  What if you were to grow to 100, to 1,000 to 10,000 monthly donors… $28,800, $288,000, $2,800,000… what’s your goal?

Some of the organizations I’m proud to work with now see 50 to 60% of their revenue from monthly donors. So, start asking… Your donors will love you for it because you’re allowing even small donors to help execute your mission.

To help you, check out the monthly giving webinars at Charity How To today and go to www.adirectsolution.com for resources about monthly giving and sign up to follow my #MonthlyDonorMonday with practical tips every week. And if you have any questions, just ask! We’re here to make your life as a fundraiser easier and monthly giving will certainly help you do that.

Erica Waasdorp is President of A Direct Solution, located on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  Erica lives and breathes direct response and fundraising and can be considered a Philanthropyholic. She has published one of the very few books on monthly giving, called Monthly Giving. The Sleeping Giant. She co-authored the DonorPerfect Monthly Giving Starter and Marketing  Kits and she regularly blogs and presents in person and via webinars on anything direct mail, appeals and monthly giving.

6 Tips to Improve Relationships with Grant Makers

As Valentine’s Day approaches, in addition to thinking about your personal relationships, take some time to think about your relationships with your current and potential grant makers for your organization. Here are my 6 tips to improve your grant funder relationships:

1 – Contact your potential funding source prior to applying (whether a new or existing relationship!). Follow their communication preference and capacity guidelines regarding communication. Bottom line, ALWAYS call or email to talk about if your proposal will be competitive if they will allow such a dialogue.

2 – Be sincere. Always. In all interactions. Enough said. Each interaction is building trust with the grant maker. Recognize and respect that.

3 – Always meet deadlines. No exceptions. Set false internal deadlines for yourself. Look over the Finance Department’s shoulder related to submitting grant billings. Look over the Program Department’s shoulder related to submitting midterm or final reports. Do not miss deadlines. Even when extensions are given or late submissions are still accepted, your funder will remember your tardiness, yet not the situations that brought about the missed deadline.

Read more

Key First Step In Grant Seeking: Effective Grant Research

There are numerous paid databases available to assist you in your grantmaker research. They can make your grant research much more efficient. Yet how do you decide which one is right for you? Or if purchasing a subscription versus utilizing library access is most effective?

The answers to these questions depend on what type of organization you are, what sort of grant projects you want to have funded, and what sort of research process and tools you have utilized in the past. There is no one recommended tool that is the perfect solution for all grant seeking organizations.

Tools aside, there are some tips for things to consider as part of your routine for grant seeking that will make research an ongoing habit in your work as a grant professional:

  • Spending 15 minutes one afternoon each week researching new RFPs and potential funders and putting that research onto the calendar for additional follow-up and outreach in the upcoming weeks;
  • Setting aside one day each month to research, dig, and make phone calls related to potential new grant revenue sources including federal, state, and  private opportunities; and
  • Saving research as the unscheduled “filler” when an application narrative or budget is giving you particular trouble and you need to step away from what you are writing in order to give yourself some fresh perspective.

 

Still looking for more detailed information about grant research?

Wondering what is proactive grant seeking?

What are the options for grant research tools? How to access the tools at discounted rates or as the result of professional memberships or other partnerships?

 

 

Then please join us for the live premium webinar of Grant Writing 102: How to Effectively Research Grant Funders on April 12th or April 20th. Can’t make the live event? The recording and all of our bonus materials will still be delivered to your inbox along with Diane’s promise to answer any questions you have! Register here.

How to Write a Bulletproof Grant Budget

Would you believe me if I told you that the grant budget is often the *first* reviewed portion of a grant application packet by the grant reviewer, grantmaker staff, or grantmaker board?

Truth.

The budget by itself tells the reviewer the entire story of your proposal. Or at least it should!

The grant budget you create should be a consistent and compelling component of your overall grant application, not an afterthought or element that finance puts together for you at the very end right before submission.

You want your grant budget to be bulletproof! To tell a story on their own. A story that is consistent with the rest of your application. A story that does not leave the reviewer with questions about how you calculated the expenses included in the budget. A story that is aligned with what expenses are allowable or ineligible for a grantmaker.

Bulletproof grant budgets tell your story by:

  • Being consistent with all aspects of the grant narrative including work plans and logic models
  • Showing calculations when appropriate
  • Explaining components of fringe benefit rates
  • Outlining detail of travel expenses
  • Defining generic “supplies” or “program materials”

Bulletproof grant budgets:

  • Only contain expenses that are related and allowed by the grantmaker
  • Tell your story regardless of the format required by the grantmaker
  • Tell your story of how else the program or project will be funded beyond the requested grant funded
  • Contain budget justifications/narratives when allowable within the grantmaker’s format

 

Still looking for more detailed information about how to create a bulletproof grant budget? Wondering about:

  • What are the steps of developing a grant budget

  • What are the best ways to approach the variety of grant maker required budget forms

  • How to write and develop a grant budget when the grant maker does not provide a required format

  • How to write a grant budget that tells your program’s story

Then please join us for the live premium webinar of How To Write a Bulletproof Grant Budget on March 16th or March 22nd. Can’t make the live event? The recording and all of our bonus materials will still be delivered to your inbox along with Diane’s promise to answer any questions you have!

What Makes Your Grant Proposals Stand Out?

Just getting started in grant writing? Trying to be more competitive with the applications you submit?

There are numerous qualities that describe excellent proposals regardless of the program focus. I believe that they can all be encompassed by these three tools:

Clarity – The goals and objectives for the project are measurable and the evaluation plan for the project is clear and outcome-based.

Concise – The answer directly answers the question. The answer does not contain irrelevant information.

Compelling –  The proposal is written in a way that leaves the reader/reviewer wanting to take action (make a grant award!) to support your idea.

While these qualities are subjective in nature, they are qualities that you should strive for in all of your funding proposals. One of the best ways to display these qualities in your funding proposals is to develop a review team to keep you from writing in a vacuum. My biggest recommendation is to have a trusted colleague who is not intimately familiar with the proposed program review your application to see if it is clear, concise and compelling.

In a grant seeking environment of ever tougher competition, it is imperative to provide a proposal that provides the clearest, yet most energized proposal that will excite the reader and make them want to financially support the program.

 

Looking for more detailed advice about getting started with grant writing? Wondering about:

  • How grant applications vary by funder type?
  • What are the common key elements of a grant proposal?
  • How to develop an initial outline for a grant application?
  • How to create compelling grant application elements that tells a story?

Then please join us for the live premium webinar of Grant Writing 101, or if more convenient for your schedule, join us for the on-demand tutorial of Grant Writing 101 here.

Is Your Organization Ready to Apply for Federal Grants?

 

Are you an organization that is considering applying for your first federal grant?

Do you think you are a “grant ready ” organization?

 

You are likely part of an organization that is ready to have grant revenue in your budget; I would agree with that.

The big million dollar question, though, is if you are a grant ready organization and if you will be competitive in the federal grant seeking process.

How can you tell if you are a grant ready organization? How can you tell if your organization which has been successful with private foundations, or maybe with state agencies, or better yet both private foundations and state agencies, will be competitive with federal agencies?

You should begin by looking at three key areas to determine your overall readiness:

Type of Eligible Organization – Is your organization an eligible organization for the specific funding opportunity or specific federal agency you are interested in pursuing? Do you need to collaborate with an eligible lead applicant instead?

Documentation and Capacity – Do you have a strategic plan? Do you have an existing diversified operating budget? Do you have sufficient grant management capacity?

Registration, Policies & Procedures – Do you have your organization’s required registrations completed/updated? Have you reviewed your federal grant management policies and procedures, and are they OMB Uniform Grant Guidance and DATA Act compliant? Have you assembled your grant team?

 

Looking for more detailed advice about getting started with federal grants? Join us for the live premium webinar of Federal Grants 101: Securing Millions for Your Organization, or if more convenient for your schedule, join us for the on-demand tutorial of Federal Grants 101: Securing Millions for Your Organization here.

 

If you have questions about how to:

  • Be “grant ready” to be a federal grantee;
  • Identify potential federal grant opportunities prior to a NOFA/FOA being released to allow for pre-planning;
  • Structure and conduct your pre-planning and application development process; or
  • Create and submit a competitive federal funding application

You don’t want to miss Federal Grants 101!

FREE Step-By-Step Video’s and Webinars to Help Your Nonprofit Succeed!

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FREE Step-By-Step Video’s and Webinars to Help Your Nonprofit Succeed, and much more!

During our interactive webinars many of you informed us that you were not aware of all the complimentary videos and previously recorded webinars available at CharityHowTo.com.  Take advantage of the free stuff available to help your nonprofit succeed in its mission and develop its Web strategy.

When you add a free video or previously recorded webinar to your shopping cart (FREE) the system will automatically create an account for you so you can come back and view your videos as often as you’d like.

There is nothing to download, its instant online viewing access. We recommend a headset or decent quality computer speakers to listen to the audio. So explore CharityHowTo.com and take advantage of the resources we’ve made available to you for free.

Free Step-By-Step Videos

Course Description:The GuideStar Exchange is a free service offered by nonprofit industry leader GuideStar which allows nonprofit organizations to add and update information about their organizations …

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RSS feeds can help drive traffic to your nonprofit website or blog. RSS feeds can also help to keep your constituency up to date about the great work that your nonprofit is doing. This brief free ove…

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Course Description Nonprofits need to leverage the Internet and communication tools to help tell their story and engage their constituency. An audiocast (audio content that is broadcast over the Inte…

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Nonprofits need to monitor what is being said about their nonprofit. It’s important for organizations to listen to its constituency. Furthermore tracking the buzz of your organization is helpful to sh…

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Free-Previously Recorded Webinars

Are you thinking about revamping your website but not sure where to start? Are you working with a web developer but wonder if you’re paying too much? With all the tools and strategies available, it’s …

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More and more organizations are benefiting from using social media tools like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter in their online communications. While the tools can be relatively straightforward to learn an…
We’ve all been there. The breaking news, the big campaign, the recently released video–and that daunting online goal…”Make it go viral!” As nonprofits, we have important news to share, and we want…

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You understand how to track the success of your programs, but when it comes to social media you’re at a loss. How do you show that this new technology is something worth the staff time invested? If yo…
SUMMARYSocial networking tools such as Facebook is a impactful, cost-effective resource for nonprofit organizations to engage donors, activists, potential contributors and others. The problem is many …

Join veteran nonprofit tech strategist Michael Stein as he covers the range of tools and techniques for raising money online. Michael discusses email appeals, social media platforms such as Facebook, ..

The Importance and Flexibility of Microsites

The branding and voice of your nonprofit organization is something you have undoubtedly been working on and revising since the beginning. How you want to communicate with your supporters and how you want your organization to be perceived is critical to your success. Here’s the good news–thanks to microsites, you don’t have to pick just one.

According to Wikipedia, a Microsite is “an individual web page or cluster of pages which are meant to function as an auxiliary supplement to a primary website… The main distinction of a microsite versus its parent site is its purpose and specific cohesiveness as compared to the microsite’s broader overall parent website.” Read that last sentence again and ask yourself about the purpose and cohesiveness of your homepage. By definition, the purpose of your homepage is almost infinite: explain the mission of your charity, inspire readers to get involved, make it easy to donate, etc. Microsites are special because you can define them any way you like and you can (and should) make a unique site for each facet of your audience. Microsites essentially allow you to return to the old days of marketing and let just one call to action dominate the page.

There’s a great article on this topic in The NonProfitTimes, including some helpful suggestions by Todd Whitley, vice president of eMarketing for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In his own words, “[Creating microsites] allows you to break out of a current messaging mode that might be a little bit stayed. We are using language that just doesn’t fit in with our other sites. You can revitalize your brand with a microsite in a complimentary way.”

I have only one warning: Be sure that each microsite has its own purpose and message and isn’t just a mirror image of your homepage on a different URL.  No one wants to be accused of violating Google’s duplicate content policy.

5 Reasons You Should Treat Your Nonprofit As A Business

I had an interesting discussion the other day regarding the word “charity” and it’s appropriateness: some people use “nonprofit organization” and “charity” interchangeably, while others associate charity with something more like hand-outs and pity parties.  They get insulted when others refer to their nonprofit as a “charity,” because they don’t like what the word implies.  While I totally understand that viewpoint, it got me thinking about whether this simple game of nomenclature can affect a nonprofit’s success.

I feel strongly that nonprofits should be run like a business rather than a charity (whatever that means…).  In other words, if you’re not taking steps to clearly define the mission of your organization and promote its cause, you may find yourself without enough capital to continue.

Below are 5 lessons each nonprofit should be taking from for-profit businesses.

  1. Differentiate yourself from similar organizations: A quick GuideStar search for “lupus” returned 578 results.  Make sure your donors know what makes your organization different, whether it be your lower overhead costs or the fact that x% of donations are sent directly to those in need.
  2. Appearance matters: Just as you probably wouldn’t buy a book from a website that looked unprofessional, donors may be hesitant to give money through your website if looks like something you put together in a few hours.  Ask around for web developers interested in donating their skills or pay for a professional layout that can be considered a worthwhile investment.
  3. Value your customers (donors): People that donate to your nonprofit chose yours for a reason, and your job is to keep them coming back.  Just as your organization itself should be different, make sure your donors know that you understand they have options and you appreciate their choosing your cause.
  4. Invest in good people: Due to budget restrictions, it can be difficult for a nonprofit to compete for valuable employees.  If someone would be a great fit for your organization but is being lured elsewhere, look around for other benefits your organization can provide.  Consider vacation time, flexible schedules, etc.; not all benefits have to be monetary.
  5. Don’t neglect marketing: Remember that spending money to promote yourself is crucial in order to gain a larger following and continue with your mission.  This includes advertising and even PR.

So, while what you call your nonprofit organization may not matter, be careful not to get caught running yourself out of business.

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