Blog Archives

Advice to my younger-fundraising-self about event management

blog carnivalThis month DonorDreams is hosting the nationally acclaimed Nonprofit Blog Carnival, and this month’s theme is: “If you could go back in time and give your younger-fundraising-self one piece of advice, what would it be?” In addition to asking other non-profit bloggers to submit posts for consideration, I am also focusing this month’s DonorDreams blog posts on the topic. The April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival is scheduled to go live on Thursday, April 28, 2016. So, mark your calendars because this month promises to be full of fun submissions.

Today’s time machine post involves a younger me who learned valuable lessons about inspiring and managing special event volunteers. Enjoy!

howard1As many readers know, I was once an executive director for a non-profit organization that ran a Duck Race fundraiser. For those of you who don’t know what a Duck Race is, it is simply a raffle where serial numbers on the bottom of little rubber ducks correspond to numbered adoption papers sold to donors. The first 10 ducks that cross a water raceway finish line win prizes. The challenge from a revenue perspective is essentially two-fold:

  1. Sell lots of sponsorships
  2. Sell lots of duck adoptions

The key to selling lots of duck adoptions is also simple. Organize as many volunteer teams as possible. Encourage them to sell to their friends, family and co-workers AND set up adoption tables in high foot traffic areas (e.g. outside of grocery stories, in malls, etc).

The big challenge from a non-profit fundraising professional’s perspective is:

  • inspiring volunteers to sell duck adoptions
  • creating a culture of fun
  • being creative with accountability
  • instilling a sense of urgency
  • keeping people focused on the goal

Being a young fundraising professional, I made the decision to use weekly update reports in an effort to inspire competition between duck adoption teams as well as foster a sense of accountability and urgency.

Of course, as we got closer and closer to the event and the duck adoption totals weren’t exponentially jumping, my weekly reports ended up doing the opposite as they were intended. Not only were volunteers uninspired, but some board members started whispering about whether or not I knew what I was doing.


howard2In the 1986 box office flop Howard the Duck, Howard gets transported from his home world of “Duckworld” by a dimensional-jumping device. If I had access to that device today, I would totally transport myself to a place where I could share the following nuggets of advice with my younger-fundraising-self:

  • reporting can cut both ways with volunteers (esp. when falling short with goals)
  • always find good news to spotlight regardless of how small it may be
  • perceived negativity is like a flu virus (very catchy and spreads quickly)
  • “who” issues the report is important (peer-to-peer accountability is powerful and reports should come from the volunteer event chair and not staff)
  • positive incentives and fun recognition items are important to tie to a reporting tool

I would also put my arm around my younger-fundraising-self and tell me that using “reporting tools” to create accountability and “goal setting” to create urgency are best practices, but these tools must be used in conjunction with the following volunteer engagement strategies:

  • well run, in-person meetings
  • mission-focused messaging and activities
  • training
  • setting expectations upfront
  • helping people feel organized and being personally organized
  • celebrate success (both big and small successes early and often)


Where is a dimensional-jumping device when you need one?   😉

If you are a non-profit blogger who wants to participate in this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival and submit a post for consideration on this month’s carnival theme, click here to read the “call for submissions” post I published a few weeks ago. It should answer all of your questions and clearly explain how to submit your entry. If not, then simply email me and I’ll be happy to help.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Get more from your prospect research and screening efforts: Part One

Good morning, DonorDreams readers! As many of you know, my work schedule has become challenging in recent months, and I’ve asked a number of “virtual online friends” to help me out with guest blog posts. Today’s post is from Sarah Tedesco, who is the Executive Vice President at DonorSearch. She talks about the role that donor and prospect screening can play in helping your special events raise more money. I hope you enjoy this morning’s post.  Here’s to your health!  ~Erik


3 Ways Prospect Research Can Help You Raise More Money from Events

Most nonprofits host at least one event annually. Even smaller nonprofits will typically make the push for one.

Cost per dollar raised (CPDR) is often the biggest factor in deciding on an event type. Smaller nonprofits with tighter budgets cannot afford to make the upfront investment for something like, say, a concert. Instead, they can opt for an event like a walk-a-thon. Each event has its merits. It comes down to individual circumstances.

Given the heavy emphasis on CPDR, nonprofits absolutely have to maximize fundraising in every aspect of the event. Prospect research is a valuable asset for such maximization.

See what a screening can do for your next event in the three benefits listed below.  

1. Teach You Valuable Information About Your Guest List

guest listSo you have your RSVP list. You know who is coming. What do you do with that information?

Hopefully, you use it! And by use it, I mean doing more than making sure you have everyone’s t-shirt size or dinner order. Both pieces of information are important for the flow and preparation of your event, but they’re not incredibly relevant to the task at hand — fundraising.

Twiddling your thumbs with a guest list in front of you is a missed opportunity. Research the attendees and learn about them before you see them.

Prospect screening can reveal so much about donors, like their:

  • Giving histories
  • Financial situations
  • Philanthropic interests
  • Business affiliations

Developing prospect profiles on all of your guests prior to the event will supercharge your staff’s ability to mix and mingle when the big night rolls around.

You might know some of the high-quality donors in attendance, but prospect research will help you round out the list. Once you know who is coming, create your VIP, very important prospect, list.

Your staff can study those individuals and make sure that they dedicate some time to stop by and check in with each VIP.

2. Point Out the Donors That Warrant Extra Post-Event Attention

follow upMuch like you can create a pre-event V.I.P. list, you can do the same after the event.

The post-event research can accomplish two tasks:

  1. Making up for the pre-event process if you didn’t perform an advance attendee screening.
  2. Finding the VIPs who weren’t on your initial list.

Your organization’s handling of event acknowledgments and follow-ups is crucial. You know this, so any information you can gather to improve the process should be welcomed with open arms. Well, open your arms to prospect research.

A high-attendance event, like a 5K, is going to have far too many participants for your staff to reach out to one-on-one afterwards. But, certain donors warrant that type of follow-up.

Consider an example scenario with a donor named Ron who attended your fundraising dinner and auction as a plus one. At the event, he ended up bidding on and winning one of your middle-of-the-pack auction items. You learned his name and various personal details through his auction win, and screened him after the fact.

Your post-event screening revealed that he’s a perfect candidate for planned giving. You now have a direction to go in after sending your acknowledgements.

Knowing what to send immediately after a contribution is easy…it’s a thank you. The next stages of building a communication stream require much more nuance and perspective. That’s when prospect research is so necessary.

3. Help You Adjust Your Event Strategies

strategic planning implementationAlbert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Insanity is a strong word, but you have to switch things up if your fundraising events aren’t bringing in enough money. That can mean adjusting the event itself or hosting an all new event. Choosing the latter option will take some effort, but there is no shortage of fundraising event ideas out there to get your mind going.

Rather than just guessing the solution to your issue, let prospect research lead you in the right direction. Have the data inform your plans.

Screen those you invited, those who RSVP’d, and those who attended. There’s going to be some overlap among those categories, but it won’t be all overlap.

Look for trends in your fundraising performance and commonalities among the various prospects you screen. To isolate the trends, you’ll need to analyze multiple years’ worth of participation.

For instance, your research could show that despite the fact that one of your events is largely populated by millennials, they’re collectively donating less than any other age group in attendance.

That could direct you to assess how you’re collecting donations. Maybe the event needs an online giving component. Maybe you need to optimize the process for mobile donating.

In another scenario, you may notice that an event you’ve hosted for five years draws a disproportionate percentage of small and mid-level gift donors as compared to major gift donors. If that event isn’t yielding enough funds, find ways to attract those missing major gift donors.

Whatever the solution you’re searching for, it starts with the data.

Attending industry conferences can also be another great source of insight into fundraising event best practices. For more information, here is a great list put together by IMPACTism of the upcoming conferences in 2016.


As you can see, there’s a place for prospect research in any and all phases of an event. Incorporate the screenings into your other betterment techniques and see even greater results.

sarahSarah Tedesco is the Executive Vice President of DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing retention rate and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.

Build relationships with donors before asking them to sponsor your event

sponsorshipsMy neighbor owns and operates a home business, and last week he received a letter from a local non-profit organization asking him to sponsor a no-show” event. Upon digesting the solicitation, he promptly scanned the letter and emailed it to me with a few choice words. To say he was upset would be an understatement. So, I thought this might have the elements of a good blog post about how to avoid donor reactions like the one my neighbor experienced.

I’ve decided not to share the letter because I’m not a fan of public shaming, but after reading the letter I am comfortable sharing the type of information they sent him. Included in the letter was:

  • date of the no-show event
  • brief explanation of how it works (e.g. send in your contribution and bid online for auction items)
  • list of sponsor benefits
  • sponsor menu (enclosed with letter)

In order to avoid making assumptions about the source of my neighbor’s emotions, I emailed him and asked him to articulate exactly what made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. This is what he said:

If you want a donation, ask. I feel that this is a deception. I just don’t get this warm and fuzzy feeling from the letter.”

My first reaction was . . . “Wow, that was a strong reaction!” However, after thinking about it for a few minutes, it dawned on me that:

  • my neighbor didn’t have a relationship with this organization
  • he didn’t have an emotional connection to their mission
  • he didn’t have much (if any) information about their programs
  • the case for support was implied
  • the idea behind a no-show event felt like a slick fundraising trick

I totally get it, and if time machines were a reality, I’d advise this organization to use it and change their approach in the following ways:

  • invest a little time in cultivating the people they plan on asking to sponsor the no-show event (e.g. sit down with prospects, provide info in advance about mission/programming, or at a minimum send a pre-solicitaiton mailing explaining the need and prepping them for the impending request)
  • get to know your prospect’s marketing needs and develop a proposal that speaks to those needs
  • commit to measuring the impact of the exposure that you’re committing to the sponsor (e.g. number of Facebook impressions, etc)

While I don’t know for sure, I’m guessing this organization sent their sponsor letters to a cold mailing list they purchased from a mail house or a chamber of commerce. Cold calls are a brutal way to raise money because fundraising is all about relationships, which is why I’d only solicit people with whom you have a pre-existing donor relationship.

If you are new to the game of writing sponsorship proposals, I really like how outlined what a good proposal looks like in their blog post “10 Essential Steps to Create a Winning Sponsorship Proposal“.

  1. Sponsorship opportunity
  2. Marketing objectives
  3. Measures of success
  4. Value to the sponsor
  5. Unique marketing initiatives
  6. Terms & conditions
  7. Call to action

To learn more about each of these ideas, I encourage you to click-through and read their blog post. It is definitely worth the click and your time!

The bottom line? Engage your prospects/donors and build strong relationships and everything else will fall in place.

How does your organization approach special event sponsorships? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and opinions. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Make your special event fundraisers all about individuals

walkathonLast week I wrote a post titled “Philanthropy is all about individuals” and focused on the newest set of data in the Giving USA annual report. Not surprisingly, the report told us that individuals are responsible for more than three-quarters of charitable giving. Of course, not every non-profit organization asks individuals for their support in the same way, which is why I found the information in Software Advice’s report titled “Which Fundraising Event Is Best for Your Nonprofit? IndustryView | 2015” very interesting.

There are many ways to ask individuals for their charitable dollars and support:

  • special events
  • annual campaign pledge drives
  • direct mail
  • major gift proposals
  • capital campaigns
  • endowment appeals
  • any number of online giving strategies (e.g. personal pages, crowdfunding, social media appeals, website landing page, etc)

Savvy non-profits have a diverse approach and often include many of these strategies in their written resource development plan. Smaller organizations usually embrace fewer of these approaches simply because their organizational capacity doesn’t allow them to do everything.

The following statement from the Software Advice report caught my attention:

“According to the research group Nonprofit Research Collaborative, event fundraising is quite popular: 82 percent of nonprofits host galas, golf tournaments, competitive races and other types of events to amass contributions and raise awareness for causes.”

eventIn other words, most of us run at least one special event as part of our comprehensive resource development program. While this was foreseeable and expected, what was surprising to me was that different size non-profit organizations get more bang-for-their-buck from different types of events. And what floored me was that regardless of organizational size most respondents reported that “fun runs and walks” universally receive a high return on investment (ROI).

And then I remembered what I wrote last week . . .

Philanthropy is all about individuals

Of course, “fun runs / walks” get the most ROI when compared to other events. They engage a lotw of individuals both as volunteers and even more as donors who might have been asked to make pledge for every mile walked.

Janna Finch, who is a non-profit researcher for Software Advice summed it up best when she said:

“We found that fun runs and walks, a-thon events and competitions are best for small nonprofits—including athletic clubs, PTAs, booster clubs and similar—because they are budget-friendly and easy to plan no matter a person’s experience. The good news is many of those types of organizations already host such events and execute on planning them very well.” 

In addition to the report’s finding on”fun runs and walks,” the following are few additional key findings:

  • Small nonprofits are at a disadvantage compared to larger nonprofits: Respondents say the upfront investment for an event is a strain on resources.
  • On average, a-thon events have the lowest cost per dollar raised (CPDR), and thus are suitable for all nonprofits. Concerts have the highest CPDR, requiring a larger budget.
  • CPDR, number of new donors and number of attendees are the most popular metrics to measure event success, used by 83 percent, 80 percent and 75 percent of respondents, respectively.
  • Respondents say that software, including fundraising and event management applications, speeds up event performance analysis and improves experiences for both staff and attendees.


The following is an awesome SlideShare document summary provided by Software Advice that nicely summarizes everything for those of you who don’t have time to read the entire report:

If you do have a little time, you really should click-through and read the report. It contains lots of interesting facts and findings that you and your fundraising volunteers will likely find thought provoking.

Does your organization run special events? How do you determine which ones are best for you, your volunteers, and your community? What data analytics do you track and how do you use it?

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Photo essay of charity auction fundraising best practices

CoverA few months ago, my husband and I attended the Community Crisis Center’s 28th annual benefit auction. I’ve only attended this event a few times, but it ranks up there as one of my favorite non-profit special events for the following reasons:

  1. The mission of this organization is powerful
  2. Gretchen Vapnar, who has been the executive director for decades, is an extraordinary visionary, strong non-profit leader with a fun innovation streak
  3. This benefit auction is the “granddaddy” of them all in our community. It was the first charity auction event that raised significant money and became what resource development professionals would call a “signature special event

Every time I attend this event I’m impressed with all of the things they do right. So, this time I decided to take pictures of things that I consider important to the success of such an event and share them with you.


Meet Karen Fox

KarenKaren and her husband Dan are the co-chairs of this event. They have volunteered and co-chaired for countless years. The following are just a few reasons I decided to include Karen’s picture as photo evidence of a best practice:

  • Recruiting the right volunteers for your event is important. You need people with time, energy, vision and a desire to succeed.
  • Karen and Dan’s social network is large, which makes them ideal co-chairs because it provides them with a fertile environment from which to recruit other volunteers, sponsors, in-kind auction item donors, and event participants.
  • Karen and Dan’s long-term commitment to this event brings continuity and stability.

If you want to read more about the growing importance of volunteerism and some of the best practices involved with recruitment and retention, then you want to check out the Stanford Social Innovation Review’s article “The New Volunteer Workforce“.

Live auction and silent auction

LiveCharity auctions are funny and quirky events. There is a weird “bargain hunter” mentality that is pervasive. I am a firm believe that you need to offer donors more than just a simple silent auction opportunity.

As the old saying goes . . . “Go BIG or go home,” which is why I think a live auction needs to accompany your silent auction.

guitarThe following are just a few tips you might want to consider:

  • Remember that donors can buy most of the stuff you’re auctioning off at the store or online. So, don’t try to sell them stuff . . . ask them to bid on “one-of-a-kind experiences” and things that are difficult to find and purchase. In other words, don’t auction off tickets to a sporting event. Package those tickets with luxury transportation, unique dinning, a meet-n-greet with people close to the team, special tours of locker rooms or behind the scenes stadium spaces.
  • Room set-up is critical. You want to get as much as you can all in one room because people will want to get up periodically from their dinner table and check on their bids. If they need to leave the room, then they are less likely to get up and monitor their bids.
  • Be smart when establishing your opening bids and incremental bid increases. Make sure to value the auction item and set the opening bid at 50% of the items value.
  • bid formI love the idea of adding a “guaranteed winning bid” to the bid form. You need to be careful about where you set that number, but I suggest setting it around 50% above fair market value.
  • I didn’t get a picture of Terry Dunning, who was the live auctioneer at the event, but it is important that you recruit someone who knows what they are doing. Terry is retired, but back in the day he was a professional auctioneer. He is a pro and knows how to maximize bids (aka donations to your organization).
  • The silent auction is typically big (however I encourage you to keep it reasonable and at an appropriate scale for how many people you have in your room), which is why you want to divide auction items into sections (e.,g. sports, home improvement, entertainment, etc). Consider closing down bidding one section at a time with 10 to 15 minutes in between closings. This strategy allows donors who lose their bids to get more aggressive with other competitive and open bids. Don’t forget to use a “countdown” to give donors notice and an opportunity to sneak in last minute bids.
  • Don’t wait to the last minute to secure silent and live auction items. Give yourself many months (maybe even as many as 12 months) to secure fun and unique items. You also want to circle back around to donors who were active in your auction and ask their thoughts about what they want to see in next year’s auction. It only makes sense, right?

 Don’t leave money on the table

pledge formWhen running a charity auction, there are always winners and losers at the end of the evening. There are donors who want to support your mission but couldn’t because they were outbid. Of course, the Community Crisis Center had a solution for this. They placed pledge cards in the middle of every table.

However, please note . . . it is NOT good enough to simply put the pledge cards on the table and wink at your donors.

The organizers of this event put together a powerful mission-focused video presentation and a group solicitation was made from the podium. As is the case with all fundraising appeals, you need to “make the ask” if you expect people to give.

Well organized checkout process

checkoutNothing is worse than having to stand in long lines at the end of the evening to figure out what you won, pay your bill and collect your winnings. I just love how this organization does their checkout.

  • It is computerized
  • There many different checkout stations which keeps lines short
  • They take credit cards (I can’t remember if I gave them my card info in advance, but I think pre-registration is always a great idea because it speeds things up at the end of the evening)

I could go on and on, but I will stop here; however, I will include just a few more pictures after my signature block without any explanations. Let’s see if you can guess why I took the pictures and what makes it a best practice for your charity auction.   😉    Please share your thoughts in the comment box below because we can all learn from each other.

PS — I just got off the phone with Pamela Grow and she reminded me of how important it is for organizations to measure the “true return on investment” after every special event. This reminded me of an awesome tool that my former employer — Boys & Girls Clubs of America — developed for their local affiliates. It is an Excel spreadsheet that helps calculate ROI. You can check it out by clicking here.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847






The 6 Questions Nonprofits Need to Ask Before Hiring an Event Manager

Lisa Green is an aspiring blogger who has graciously agreed to provide this amazing post while I am taking a much-needed vacation for the next few weeks. Thanks, Lisa!  ~Erik

lisa1An event hosted by a nonprofit is often fighting an uphill battle even before the first committee meeting is scheduled. A finite amount of funds and resources are often all that is available to these worthy causes, which makes raising money for cancer research or underprivileged children even more crucial. However, the lack of resources can leave those involved frustrated, overworked and unsure of how to make an event impactful while working under such budgetary conditions.

Even when working with such few resources, a fundraising event can be successful if a nonprofit organization has a high standard of excellence for any sponsor or company they work with rather than aiming for whoever offers the lowest price on the market. A prosperous nonprofit should instead look for sponsors, vendors and companies that can help provide excellent support and top-notch service as well as having experience working in the industry, all while being affordable.

One way to accomplish all of these goals for a fundraising party or dinner is to invest in an event manager. This might on the surface seem like an unnecessary expense, but a quality event management company will know how to make the most out of what is available as well as how to raise the most funds for a cause.

To ensure you are hiring a stellar event manager that will benefit you in the long run, you will need to do your research. In particular, you will need to know what specific questions to ask to help you determine exactly what you’re getting when you hire a company.

Do you know how to work with a nonprofit budget?

An event manager should never ask you to spend outside of your budget. Instead he or she should maximize the amount of funds you have and help you make your gathering look like it cost far more than it actually did.

Verifying that your event management company has worked in the industry previously and asking for specific references or companies they’ve worked with will let you know if they have this capability and if they can provide all that they claim.

What is your experience with fundraising and money collection?

A huge portion of a fundraising event is collecting and keeping track of donations. This can be a tricky business, particularly when working with promised amounts and personal information.

That’s why it is crucial for to verify that an event planning company has a clear plan on collecting funds from your supporters. Whether that is through a verified mobile bidding service that allows you to collect bids from around the globe or a paper-based system that focuses on the crowd in front of you, your event planners should have a sterling reputation with money as well as a clear plan for when you will receive your donations.

It is also important to verify that your event planners have certain connections and abilities to help save you money in the long run. For example, a smaller business might have to pay a large fee for your guests to pay with a certain credit card, but a company with a relationship with that particular card can save you from paying such a large charge.

How involved are you?

This is how you can determine if you are getting a day-of coordinator or a planning partner. An event company that gets involved from the beginning is preferable to one that comes in late in the game, as an involved planner will know your budget, help you craft a doable timeline and will care about your cause as much as you do.

lisa2How can you improve our donations?

Part of the appeal of hiring an event planner for a nonprofit fundraising event is the idea that if the event runs more smoothly and looks more enticing, donations will increase. The company you hire should be able to outline a clear way in which they can help you earn more for your cause, be it a specific marketing plan or an online payment method for auctions.

Do you have any guarantees on your technology?

Should the event planning company have any technology that they offer to employ for your event, be it a customized website or an online auction app, you will need a formal promise that the company has a back-up plan in case of an emergency. This guarantee should come in the form of a service-level agreement (SLA) that details specific ways the company will ensure that you do not lose money in case of a power outage or other disaster.

For example, with a mobile-bidding app, an event-planning company should plan in case of bad cell reception. A SLA would detail what would be done in this case, such as installing cell signal repeaters to ensure constant coverage.

How do you improve guest experience?

Earning money for a good cause is obviously the primary goal of any fundraising event, but it is also important to create an atmosphere that helps attendees enjoy themselves. These event planners should help you plan games or entertainment, as well as help ramp up competition on auctions to help increase donations and interaction among the attendees.

A great event planning company for a nonprofit should do more than just contact caterers or set up a silent auction. They should put the cause first and respect the needs of a nonprofit, ensuring that your charity earns the most donations possible to accomplish the true goal of this event – helping those in need.


Do you want to improve your fundraising event?

Kari Kiel of DoJiggy reached out to me a few weeks ago and asked if I’d be willing to let her periodically guest blog on my site. As I have done from the start, I’m  thrilled to allow other voices access to this space such as Marissa Garza, John Greco, Dani Robbins, Mike Johnson as well as others. I’ve always received rave reviews from those of you who I know about our guest bloggers. I’m confident you’ll love Kari as much as you have the others. Enjoy!    ~Erik

6 Tips to Help Your Nonprofit Achieve Better Results at Your Next Fundraiser

By Kari Kiel of DoJiggy 
Guest blogger

In order to be successful in your fundraising efforts, it’s important to create a solid fundraising plan. Fundraising is not just about sending a donation request letter to your donor database and then waiting for donations to come to you. It’s much more strategic. It’s about effective communication, planning and leadership, managing time and resources efficiently, integrating new ways of reaching out to existing supporters and tapping into new potential supporters.


Below we share six tips to help your organization achieve better fundraising results through strategic planning:

  1.  Choose Your Campaign Wisely

Before you get started planning a fundraising event, you must choose your campaign. Of utmost importance is making sure the campaign theme and type of fundraiser makes sense for your cause. Explore a variety of fundraising event ideas to find the perfect one for your organization.

Consider the following:

  • Mission alignment: does the chosen campaign communicate your mission and/or cause? if you are an organization promoting health and wellness, perhaps your campaign should mirror that mission by offering a walk-a-thon or fundraising campaign that promotes well-being in addition to raising funds
  • External factors: what time of year is it? Are people anxious to get outside where a walk-a-thon or golf tournament might be the right fit? What’s the state of the economy like? Are budgets tight? if so, consider seeking smaller investment amounts from a larger pool of donors rather than hosting an extravagant gala event.
  1. Setting & Monitoring Goals

kari2What goals do you hope to achieve with your fundraising campaign? In addition to raising funds, what else do you hope to accomplish: spread awareness, gain new supporters, strengthen relationships, etc. Jot down your goals as this will shed light on the activities that will follow.

Here are some examples of goal setting:

  • If you wish to spread awareness of your cause and gain new followers, then perhaps an online fundraising campaign is right for you. With a crowdfunding initiative (or peer-to-peer fundraising campaign), you engage participants to help spread the word through their networks via numerous social channels. This attracts funds from a much larger pool of potential donors by spreading your message beyond typical channels.
  • Perhaps your goals are more focused on strengthening relationships with existing donors. If this is the case, maybe a gala fundraising event or celebrity golf tournament is a better choice. You invite select VIPs and treat them to a night of entertainment and appreciation. Money can be raised through ticket sales, a silent auction, contests, and more.

Another part of goal-setting is monitoring progress. You should consistently be aware of where you are relative to your goal. When using fundraising software, fundraising thermometers can help you see where you are relative to your goals and also give you an opportunity to highlight top performers, thus motivating others.

  1. Budget & Resources

Be sure to choose a fundraising campaign that’s within your means. What budget do you have for planning your campaign? If it’s pretty small, perhaps an online donation drive or charity auction might be the perfect fit, as these have lower associated costs.

What about resources? How many people will be working on the fundraiser? Do you have a leadership team to help plan and manage or is it left to just one or two people? Consider your network and your board of directors. Are there any ties to local businesses that might be interested in sponsoring the event? Consider any way you might be able to creatively minimize expenses: Use volunteers whenever possible, use online channels to spread the word (rather than paying postage), and seek donated items for raffle prizes or charity auctions. You may also wish to ask businesses to donate items that typically cost you money (i.e. printing, signage, or decorations) In exchange, you can offer them exposure at the event.

  1. Outreach

kari3Who is your target market and where can you find them? Are they active online? If so, make sure you have a fundraising website that’s attractive and easy to navigate. Then not only will you want to make sure your message gets broadcast through online channels, but also make sure it’s easy for people to share your message. Use social sharing widgets & post cool imagery and videos that draw people in. Give people an incentive to help you spread the word. Award people who raise the most funds or drive the most traffic to your website. Look to relevant social media groups that are already invested in your cause and may be more likely to give back. Don’t forget about online channels such as online community groups, local email lists, online calendar of events listings, etc. Leverage existing connections by asking them to tap into their networks.

If your event is a local attraction (such as a charity golf tournament or local fundraising event) seek local media coverage. Invite media to attend the event and you’ll get some free press and increased awareness. You may also want to put posters up in local stores, mass transport or community centers. Don’t forget about pitching local businesses for sponsorship. They love the opportunity to get their products and services out in front of a receptive local community and in exchange, you can raise money through sponsorship fees and take advantage of their help promoting the event.

  1. Be Organized.

Of utmost importance is being prepared. Create a fundraising calendar and checklist to make sure you are staying on track. Most fundraisers require starting at least 6 months out! By planning ahead, you can ensure sufficient lead time for publicizing and preparing for these events. Situations change, so remaining flexible is essential; however, by scheduling events well in advance you can be certain that everything is in place and ready to help make your fundraising activities successful.

Use fundraising software! There’s no need to create excel spreadsheets and file folders of all your to-do items. With fundraising software, your planning team can use a back-end administration area to manage all the details of the event. They can publish and update information, post announcements, and generate numerous reports. Your organization becomes much more efficient by using a software service. Instead of manually taking registration cards, participants can sign up online and automatically get added to your database and communication list. You can also collect online donations with credit cards instead of manually dealing with cash. Progress is tracked in real-time; as each donation is made your fundraising thermometer rises.

  1. Evaluation

Keep comprehensive records of the entire planning process. See what you did right and what could be improved on. By maintaining records of each contact with potential donors and the work that has been done in your fundraising efforts, you can ensure that you are not duplicating efforts or neglecting to follow up with interested donors. You may want to survey those who were involved. Find out what participants liked about the process. If you utilized fundraising software, did they find the website user-friendly? Did you see donations increase with the ability to accept contributions online? Make use of Google Analtyics®. Your fundraising website can show you were traffic came from. This can help you see which social channels were most effective, or if you received leads from a particular partner or media channel.

In Summary

Strategic fundraising can help your organization be more efficient in your planning efforts. It can also help you maintain a solid reputation in the eyes of your supporters. By managing your fundraising strategy effectively, you can ensure greater financial stability while hosting more lucrative fundraising campaigns.
kari blog sig

“Hangin’ with Henry” and talking about event fundraising

It is the first Thursday of the month, which can only mean one thing at DonorDreams blog. We’re “Hangin’ With Henry” today and talking about return on investment and special event fundraisers. When do special events make sense? When don’t they make sense? 

For those of you who subscribe to DonorDreams blog and get notices by email, you will want to click this link to view this month’s featured YouTube video. If you got here via your web browser, then you can click on the video graphic below.

After listening to Henry and Joan talk for 10 minutes about special event fundraising, please scroll down to the comment box below and share your thoughts and experiences to any of the following questions:

  • What role(s) do special events play in your organization’s comprehensive resource development program?
  • How do you monitor the effectiveness and ROI of your special events? Is there a tool you use? Are there specific metrics your track carefully?
  • What strategies do you use to bridge special event donors to other campaigns and efforts in your organization?
  • Have you ever had to eliminate an event from your annual fundraising plan? What was that experience like? How did you prepare and transition donors?

Please take a minute to share. Why? Because we can all learn from each other! And the comment box is just calling for your help and feedback.  😉

If you want to purchase a complete set of videos or other fundraising resources from Henry Freeman, you can do so by visiting the online store at H. Freeman Associates LLC. You can also sign-up for quarterly emails with a FREE online video and discussion guide by clicking here.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

What have you done to increase individual giving?

Events, Grants and Individual Giving

By Dani Robbins
Re-published with permission from nonprofitevolution blog

eventI was having breakfast this week with a friend and fellow consultant and we were discussing resource development efforts, including events and grants. By now I’m sure you are well aware, I’m not a huge fan of organizations hosting multiple events. Events are expensive, labor intensive and don’t usually generate a lot of income.

I can hear you out there saying “No Dani, they’re fun!” And they are, at least some of them are.

One signature event a year is a wonderful way to engage new donors, connect with current donors and showcase your programs while raising significant money. Even signature events that don’t raise significant money may still be a good use of your resources. However, more than one signature event is too much.

More than one event (two, if you must) may be a sign that your leadership, board or executive, is reluctant to raise money in other ways.

Leadership that doesn’t want to embark on an annual appeal or a major donor campaign will often advocate more grants be written or additional events be introduced. Not only will more events not raise more money, more events will cannibalize your signature event and may yield less income for more work. Any process that doesn’t get you to your goal is a bad process.

The Executive Director is the Chief Development Officer” of any non profit that seeks contributed income. (Erik Anderson Donor Dreams blog) Whether they want to or not; whether they’re good at it or not; whether they have a development director whose job it is or not, the Exec is still responsible for fund raising and one of the responsibilities of a governing board is to raise money. Neither is a role that can be abdicated.

Events are often 5% to 15% of an agency’s budget and generally net 50% of what they cost, sometimes less. Most attendees would be appalled to know that, but it’s true. It’s too high! I recommend events net 75% of what they cost. There are other, better, avenues to raise money.

grantsGrants, which are often 30% to 50% of an agency’s budget, more if they receive United Way funding, are one way. Yet, they too come with a cost. Most agencies get somewhere between 50% to 80% of the grants they submit. That means that the time spent on writing the 20% to 50% of the grants that don’t get funded is time lost. For the grants that are secured, there are reports to be written, dollars to be tracked, objectives to reach and programming to introduce. All of which is as it should be, and none of which is without cost.

As I mentioned in the Culture of Philanthropy or Fund Raising post, according to “Fund-Raising: Evaluating and Managing the Fund Development Process” (1999) individual giving offers the highest rate on return for the lowest cost (5% to 10%) to the organization. It is also the largest post of money given in this country and usually only reflective of the percentage special event income in most agencies’ budgets. In other words, 80% of the philanthropic dollars in this country are given by individuals yet 10% to 15% of most agencies budgets are received from individuals. Like the post says, “opportunity is knocking. Get the door!”

Your board, staff and major donors will be the foundation of any individual giving program and the program should be introduced in just that order: Board giving should come first with the Board setting and then meeting a giving goal. Staff should then be asked and then major donors. Individual giving is about one on one relationships that are cultivated — and later, stewarded — and require intentional asks for specific dollar amounts.

Once those asks are made, as mentioned in the Sustainability by Descending Order of Love post:

“If you have the time and the volunteers, consider asking your larger mid level donors and prospects in person. Those with the potential to become major donors should also be asked in person as should anyone who is committed to your organization.  While we follow the path of descending order of love in planning, we love all of our donors equally.  If someone would like to see you in person, even if it will be a small gift, go.  It is fun to thank someone in person and is worth keeping a committed donor engaged. When that is not practical, the next best thing is a phone bank or phone calls.”

There are a lot of ways to raise money and some will generate more money in less time than others. Nonprofit leaders are busy. Get the best bang for your buck and get on the individual giving path. It will be scary, and also worth it!

What have you done to increase individual giving?  As always, I welcome your insight, feedback and experience.  Please share your ideas or suggestions for blog topics and consider hitting the follow button to enter your email.

A rising tide raises all boats.
dani sig

Every non-profit fundraising event needs clowns

Clown_chili_peppersI’ve seen it happen way too often. A fundraising professional or the executive director says to a group of people — using at a board meeting — something like this: “We need volunteers to help with our special event fundraiser. Who can help?” At first, there is an awkward silence and no hands go up. Then there are a few reluctant hands. Whenever I see this happen, I’m always left wondering if those were the right people for the job and how many of those people are clowns?

Before starting this post, let me just say that my point of view on this issue is obvious . . . stop using group recruiting techniques to recruit people for tasks that require specific skill sets. You are only setting yourself up for lots of grief and possibly failure.

With this being said, the following is a traditional list of characteristics for special event volunteers:

  • Familiar with and passionate about your mission, vision and programs
  • Possess time and willing to use that time to plan and execute the event
  • Have large networks (hopefully ones that don’t overlap too much with the other volunteers on the committee)
  • Willing to ask others for money (e.g. selling sponsorships and tickets)
  • Works well with others (e.g. good listen, not abrasive, demonstrates teamwork)
  • Has a track record of following through on what they commit to doing
  • Well organized

I’ve rolled with this short list for years and it hasn’t failed me.

I use the aforementioned list to identify and target prospective volunteers. I also use the list to develop written volunteer job descriptions. I’ve shares it with volunteers on the recruitment call because I commonly get asked “Why are you asking me to do this?” and I simply tell them that they possess all of these characteristics.

However, I’ve had this nagging feeling for years that something is missing from this list, and I put my finger on it just the other day.

bleachersI was sitting in the bleachers at Wrigley Field. I was there with my father and my partner. The quality of baseball on the field was terrible, there was a constant drizzle of rain falling from the sky, and the fans were obviously getting antsy. Suddenly, one of the fans got to his feet and yelled at the top of his lungs:

“Hey everybody!
Right field sucks!”

He started chanting over and over again “Right field sucks! Right field sucks!” until other fans joined in.

As this played out in front of me, my first thought was “Hey, sit down! Some of us are trying to watch some bad baseball here!” but then it dawned on me. It was a big AH-HA moment.

There are people like this is every crowd. They love attention. They need to be at the center of the action. In grade school, they were the class clown. As adults, they are just clowns.

I don’t mean this in a bad way. These people are outgoing, love being around other people (aka well-networked) and love a good party (regardless of whether it is a baseball game or your agency’s special event fundraiser).

So, on a go-forward basis I plan on amending my special event volunteer list of characteristics to include: “clown“.

bleachers2I’m sure some of you are probably skeptical and for good reason. I mean how crazy and distracting would it be to have a committee of people who all want to be the center of attention. Crazy . . . I’m sure! However, I can’t help but dream about the type of event those folks would build in the name of securing more recognition and attention all to benefit my agency.

I suspect that with a little guidance (and after all isn’t guidance your role as a non-profit professional) this strategy could pay off in a big way.

Regardless, anything will be better than asking people to put their hands up and volunteer.

What characteristics and skill sets do you look for when recruiting volunteers to help plan and implement your agency’s special event fundraisers? What has been your experience with recruiting clowns? Please scroll down and share your experiences in the comment box below because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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