Why Training Your Board Is So Important

By Brian Saber

If we think we can send board members out to fundraise without giving them tools, we might need some analysis. What are we thinking?! It’s a license for complete failure, and the proof is in the pudding. Time and again our board members fail to partner successfully with staff to develop the organization’s resources because we never show them how or provide the training.

But They’re So Successful!

Yes, we ask people to join our boards because we think highly of them. They might be successful businesspeople or impassioned community activists or enthusiastic volunteers. They might be articulate believers or prominent philanthropists. We bring them into the fold because they have a talent, track record, or other indicator of high ability or “success.” And we mistakenly translate this into an ability to fundraise.

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. That would be unpalatable to almost anyone, but more troublesome is the fact that asking is the least of where we need their help. We need them to open doors and cultivate people who can make major gifts.

So What Do They Need?

Well, what did we need?

First, we needed to understand the goals of the organization and how our fundraising helps the organization fulfill those goals.

Then we needed to understand the mechanics of fundraising. How do we figure out who might be a prospect? How do we learn about a prospect? How do we begin to cultivate a prospect? When and how do we ask for a gift?

Once we’ve got the mechanics, we need practice. Now of course we probably got that original practice on the job. Perhaps we were mentored and went on our first cultivation and solicitation calls with a seasoned professional. Or we started small and learned by trial and error. We certainly asked lots of questions, read articles and books, perhaps attended professional development programs.

Are we providing any of this to board members? I’ve worked with more than 100 boards and I can vouch that very few of them even fully understood the goals of the organization and how fundraising fit in. Perhaps they knew what the organization did, but not why it did it or what the ultimate goal was. Without this understanding, the fundraising is nothing more than an obligation.

Before engaging me, more than half those boards hadn’t had a lick of training…and they’d been pushing their board members to fundraise for years (as many as 100 years!). Obviously not a formula for success.

And virtually none – not 5% – had been given the opportunity to practice what they had learned.

But We Don’t Have the Time or Money

I spent more than 20 years working at social service and small arts organizations, so I understand the scarcity of resources. So let’s be as creative and resourceful when it comes to fundraising as we are about everything else.

Let’s start by carving out time at every board meeting to discuss mission, to give board members a chance to articulate their story, to teach the mechanics of fundraising as we know them, and to give board members the opportunity to practice.

Fifteen minutes per board meeting will make a world of difference. We can all find 15 minutes to carve out for something so important. Fifteen minutes doesn’t cost us any money.

No doubt money is helpful when it comes to training. Can you put anything in the coming year’s budget? Perhaps you can at least have your board and fundraising committee chairs take a webinar or read a book (they might fund this themselves)? Starting small is fine – you don’t have to accomplish everything right away.

Maybe the board would even be willing to underwrite having a retreat with a trainer? They understand the value of training in their lives and they want to succeed – they just don’t know how. Don’t be shy about proposing this. What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll say no! And that’s good training for you as an asker!

Here’s to giving our board members the tools to be successful partners in developing our organization’s resources.

Learn more from Brian in his upcoming webinar “Get Your Board to Give Their Biggest Gifts and Help You Fundraise”

 

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.

How long does it typically take to set up a monthly donor program?

By Erica Waasdorp

How long does it typically take to set up a monthly donor program? From soup to nuts.

At a recent webinar, I was asked the above question.

The answer is: if you focus on it, you should be able to be up and running within a week.

I realize that development people in small to mid-size organizations especially are always pulled in multiple directions and distractions are easy.

That’s why I recommend you don’t launch the program until you have thought through and put in place the basics. But with a little bit of focus that can be done in a few days.

You most likely have the systems already in place. Brainstorming about a name for a program can be done in an hour or so. Creating a monthly donor donation page can literally be done in a few minutes. Adding the auto-responder and thank you email might take a few more minutes. Creating the hard copy thank you letter should be pretty straightforward based upon your thank you for one time donations.

I have one important recommendation: always TEST the process. Have someone make a first monthly donation and make sure that everything works and looks exactly as you’d like it to look before you go live to the masses.

Once you have these basics in place, you can start thinking about promoting the program. Instead of asking for a one time donation you’ll be able to start asking donors to consider a monthly gift. Start with people who are already caring about your organization. Your staff. Your volunteers. Your board. Then expand from there.

Don’t over-think it. Keep it simple and based upon what you’re already doing in your other areas of fundraising. Except that you’re now focused on generating sustainable revenue for your organization for many years to come. Your clients, children, animals, people you serve will benefit.

And, depending where you are on your monthly donor program, if you’d like to get some tips and pointers and handy materials to help you get started or growing, consider a Charity How To Webinar on monthly giving. You’ll not be disappointed.

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.

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.

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.  

 

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!

Major Gift Fundraising is Like Dating – 4 Steps to Success

By Kathie Kramer Ryan – Arroyo Fundraising

Would you ask someone to marry you on your first date? Chances are, no way! It’s just as unlikely that you—as a development professional—would ask a prospect to make a major gift to your organization during your first meeting.

If you are planning or implementing a major gifts program, it’s a great time to review these 4 Steps to Fundraising Success.

Step #1: Identify

First, you’ll want to identify prospects who have the potential to become donors to your organization. Prospects may include friends and colleagues of your current donors, board members, committee members and other stakeholders. Consider former board members, event attendees and (if applicable) site-visit participants.

If you work for a school, consider your students’ families, or your alumni. If your organization is a hospital, consider your patients’ families or former patients.

Step #2: Cultivate

You want to cultivate interest in your organization and its mission while building relationships with individual prospects. In our dating/marriage proposal analogy, Cultivation is the dating phase. Cultivation – or relationship-building – occurs anytime you “touch” or communicate with a prospect.

The most effective relationship-building consists of touches that are tailored to your prospect’s interests.

Step #3: Solicit

Next you will solicit a gift. While there are no set rules about how long Cultivation should last before Solicitation begins, you’ll generally spend more time cultivating for a larger ask and less time for a smaller ask.

There are many ways to ask for support, including by email, letter, phone call, or a face-to-face meeting. As a general rule, the larger the gift you are asking for, the more personal your approach should be. In other words, when you ask for a major gift, do it in person. Just like asking someone to marry you!

Step #4: Steward

Finally, steward your donors. Stewardship is thanking your donors and showing them the impact of their gifts, and it’s critical to ensuring this first gift is not the last gift. Effective Stewardship continues to build the relationship between your donor and your organization.

Be sure to join us for our next free webinar “ 7 Steps for Getting Started in Major Gifts (Even in Small Shops).” See you then!

About the Author

Kathie Kramer Ryan, founder of Arroyo Fundraising, has excelled in development and leadership positions in the nonprofit sector for 17 years. Kathie raised over $40 million as a frontline fundraiser and has helped raise millions more as a fundraising coach and consultant. A national expert on donor cultivation and major gift fundraising, Kathie serves thousands of nonprofit professionals annually as a fundraising blogger, speaker and trainer.

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.

How To Banish Empty Seat Syndrome

By A.J. Steinberg

Have you ever suffered the pain and embarrassment of empty-seat syndrome. You know…that horrible experience of staring at a half-full venue when your event hasn’t sold nearly as many tickets as expected.

There’s no reason for your event to languish from lackluster ticket sales. As a nonprofit event planner with over twenty-years of experience, I have found some simple ways to avoid this event malady.Here are the top five ways to get your guest list filled without making yourself crazy:

1. Choose A Realistic Ticket Price: Carefully consider what your supporters and target demographic can afford. Analyze what you are offering them – overcharging is a real turnoff for event goers.

General rule of thumb is that ticket prices should cover the hard costs – venue, food, beverage and rentals –  of producing your event.

2. Make Your Event Irresistible: No one is all that excited about attending the same old event year after year. To sell tickets you must freshen up your event and make it enticing to those who may be bored of the same-old program.

Consider adding a theme to your event and build expectations with a clever invitation. Come up with a tag line and logo that engages your supporters’ attention. This doesn’t cost extra money and does a lot to sell tickets.

Using creativity when creating an event goes a long way to generating interest and ticket sales, and won’t add an extra dime to your event budget!

3. Honor an Influencer: Whether they are wealthy donors or strong champions of your organization’s mission, saluting a person or corporation does much to sell tickets.

When honoring a corporation, you set the stage for that company to purchase tables and ad space in your tribute program. Corporations have earmarked funds for their upper level management to attend charitable events, and honoring their business ensures they will want the tables filled when they come onstage to accept their award. Similarly, honoring an influential individual brings their social circle into play when creating your invitation list.

 People are proud of their achievements and want to have friends, family and colleagues on hand to witness the tribute.

4. Use a Volunteer Event Committee to Plan Your Event: Using dedicated individuals with strong social circles to help with your event planning not only lightens your staff’s work load, but also extends the reach of your mailing list.

When people put time and effort into a project they have “skin in the game” and are far more likely to open their address books and share contacts for your invitation list. These volunteers also encourage their friends and family to attend their event just as they have supported events of those same folks in the past.

All the effort your committee puts into the event’s planning makes them determined for the event to be a success.

5. Use Social Media Effectively to Build Excitement: Don’t be afraid to delve into the world of social media when it comes to promoting your event. Facebook and Twitter will build excitement as you post updates for your auctions and stage program.

Online calendars and “What’s Happening” websites are excellent way of capturing the attention of those who are looking for something to do on the day of your event.

It is important to remember that most tickets are sold either immediately after receiving an event invitation, or two weeks prior to the actual event. Don’t panic if you have a sales slump between those time periods – continue to be enthusiastic and promote the heck out of your event. If folks don’t know about the event, they can’t buy tickets!

Learn more about fundraising events with my next webinar How to Sell Tickets and Fill Seats at your Fundraising Events – A Step by Step Guide

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.

Improve the Odds – Ask Face to Face

Most fundraisers would prefer do just about anything than ask someone for money face-to-face. Even for those, experienced or not, who find it somewhat “easy,” it can be awkward and anxiety-inducing. Yet we do it – or we aim to do it – because deep down we know it will end up making a huge impact… and the facts back that up.

face-to-face

Asking in-person is proven to have the highest rate of success among all methods.

Kent Dove of the Indiana University Foundation analyzed different ways of giving. Unsurprisingly, direct mail has the lowest success rate of the traditional fundraising methods –just 1-2%. Phone calls – not cold calls but calls from one’s Alma mater or place of worship – have a 25% success rate.

Face-to-face asks however – 75%! That means three out of four face-to-face meetings result in a charitable gift of some kind. Those are great odds.

The largest gifts from donors always come from asking in-person.

How many of the big donations you read about came from direct mail, special events, or a phonathon? Next to none! Large gifts come about by cultivating donors over time and getting to know them in person, and then finally asking them face-to-face to make a gift.

But why is face-to-face soliciting so successful?

Well, first of all, if someone agrees to even meet with you, that shows a very high interest in donating of some sort. Generally your donors won’t want to meet if they aren’t inclined to give you a gift.

Second, meeting in-person is proven to build the relationship. It causes a deeper level of empathy to develop between you and your donor, which would not be reached otherwise. Being with each other physically and being eye-to-eye creates an immediate bond – a direct desire to come through and be seen as good in the other’s eyes. This solicitation is much more powerful than connecting over the phone or through email.

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.

View & register for Brian’s upcoming webinars.

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