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Strategize your Fundraising Event

Section: Blog

In the frenzied world of event fundraising, development staff is often pulled from project to project and from event to event with little time to focus on strategic planning. So, often, they enlist the comfortable triad of pre-event communications: the save-the-date card, sponsor solicitation letter and the printed invitation/reply card. But this one-size-fits-all, tactical approach to event promotion is facing obsolescence because it hasn’t changed with the times. Without first identifying event goals and strategy, it’s like throwing something against the wall and hoping it will stick.

We all know the adage that those who “fail to plan,” in fact, “plan to fail.” Only after formulating a strong strategy can we begin to determine and enlist effective tactics, both traditional and innovative. Begin with key questions about your event objectives and think big picture:

What are the primary and secondary goals of the event? To raise money? To demonstrate impact? To inspire participation? To strengthen relationships? As you plan your event, it is important you keep these goals in mind.

What is the takeaway? What is the most important piece of information about your organization you want to impart? Make sure that message is being communicated before, during and after the event.

Whittle down your audience…

Whom do you wish to engage with this event? This includes both past attendees plus first time participants. Are past supporters vendors / acquaintances of your honoree? What about age, sex, income, geography and connection to your mission? How might the above strategies differ for each of these audiences?

When is the best time to reach your supporters? How early should you start marketing the event? If your event is in the fall, are your supporters accessible over the summer – or do you need to begin marketing in the spring?

How do you want the event to make people feel? Inspired? Empowered? Like a team member?

Based on your event strategy, determine which tactics to employ to help achieve your goals. While some organizations hold onto the status quo with all their might, others push the envelope each year, deploying new ideas. It is important to add new tactics each year because your donor base is evolving. Tactics should be analyzed post-event to determine which to keep and which to abandon. Determine a return-on-investment for each tactic, wherever possible.

Mass print media has been eclipsed by the advent of targeted, digital media. Email marketing, online ad journals, a/v presentations, social media and mobile technology all contribute to opportunity for greater engagement and better returns. Segment your list and target different messages to different audiences. For example, try sending different appeals to corporate sponsors, emerging donors, honoree supporters, etc. Each of these groups has a different reason for their involvement in your event, so it is important to craft a message that will resonate with them.

Because the digital landscape is changing rapidly, organizations need to keep pace with technology. While larger, sophisticated, nonprofit organizations are able to embrace best practices with the latest technologies, smaller agencies can benefit too. They just need to understand their limitations and know when to outsource to seasoned event professionals.

Progress doesn’t move in reverse, so don’t be afraid to step back and ask the hard questions, such as “Why are we doing this?” Organizations and board members who bury their heads in the sand risk alienating the next generation of supporters. More strategic and  progressive nonprofits will be quick to scoop them up.

5 Pro Tips for Your Guest Check-In Area

Section: Blog

Event Check-In: Last minute detail or critical element of event success? In a world where first impressions mean everything, we think the latter!

Does anyone remember studying “the halo effect” in sociology 101? This theory asserts that first impressions lead to an overall bias as to how follow up experiences are perceived. It’s a fancy way of saying that first impressions count, and pave the way to guests enjoying (or not enjoying) an entire event. Talk about a lot of pressure! For this reason, the importance of a smooth guest check-in cannot be underestimated. With over 20 years of event experience, Steve Feder, founder of CheckIn Tech, shares with Event Journal his 5 tips to make guest check-in areas both inviting and seamless:

1. Don’t Overwhelm Guests – Throwing around copious amounts of staff and signage isn’t always a fail-safe check-in approach. When possible, ensure that 1 smiling human being greets guests when they arrive, (versus a “Welcome” sign on an easel). A little personal warmth goes a long way!

2. Meet Guests at Eye Level – Greeters sitting behind traditional 6-foot tables should be reconsidered. There are times low banquet tables are unavoidable, but try using high-top tables instead. This allows greeters to meet and check in guests, eye to eye, and facilitates a more personable interaction.

3. Consider Your Ratios – Use the 100:1 rule. For every 100 guests, assign one individual to check them in. If check-in is more involved than simply looking up a name, then adjust this ratio. The appropriate ratio will yield an optimal check-in time of under 5 seconds to avoid long lines.

4. Avoid Alpha Order Check-In – Do you still use the old “A-F, G-L, M-P, Q-Z” signs that funnel guests to their respective check-in lines? This antiquated approach has been supplanted by more efficient, high-tech options, such as tablet check in. Typically, folks use alpha order when they need to distribute assigned name tags or guest materials. But we have a better solution for that too … read on!

5. Embrace Two-Step Check-In – One stop check–in is perfect for a seated formal event or cocktail reception. However, when name tags or materials assigned to specific guests are indicated, consider enlisting a two-step check-in process. It will speed things up and eliminate lines. Instead of handing out name tags and materials when a guest checks in, split the two procedures up. First, check the guest in using tablet technology. You can even use a service like CheckIn Tech (shameless plug). With tablet check-in, you eliminate the need to send guests to specific tables to check in. Instead guests approach anyone free with a tablet. Once guests have been verified and checked in, they proceed into the event and stop at a second table. This table has name tags and labeled materials displayed outwardly in alpha order. Guests help themselves, with a staff member on hand to assist. If someone can’t find their name tag or were added at the last minute, send that guest to a help desk where a name tag can be printed. This two-step system dissolves the stress and chaos associated with name tag check-in.

Remember, the event check-in area is THE introduction to your event! Consider the above tips and don’t minimize the importance of creating a positive first impression.

Steve Feder is the founder of CheckIn Tech, the #1 on-site, event check-in service in the country. Focus on your event and leave the equipment set up, orientation of volunteers and processing of guests to the experienced on-site managers, included in your packaged pricing. Want to take it up a notch? CheckIn Tech can also provide wireless printers for on-the-spot name tag printing and additional staffing, if volunteers are not available. Contact CheckIn Tech for additional information.



Income prediction & price setting for special events

Section: Blog

Annual events build community and raise critical, unrestricted income. But how can an organization effectively set sponsorship levels, predict revenue and plan for income?

If this is a new event, start with a little research into organizations of a similar size and geography. What types of sponsorships do they offer for their events? You’d be surprised how much information is available online. While it’s hard to determine if their event fundraising goals were actually met, it can still be a good indication of what your specific market will bear.

Katherine DeFoyd, Founding Partner of Growth for Good, a nonprofit consulting firm advises that 80% of your income will likely come from 20% of the top prospects. DeFoyd recommends creating a chart, such as below, to calculate how many gifts are required at each level to meet your organization’s goal.

DeFoyd advises, “It is critical to identify at least three prospects for every gift needed at every level.” Each identified prospect must possess either a previous history of giving at the desired level or a close personal relationship with one of the event honorees, chairs, or board members.

When establishing sponsor levels, it’s okay to have one or two levels that are truly a reach, says Karen Perry, President of Event Journal. She has observed that large donors often gravitate toward the second highest level, so she recommends bumping up the value of the second level. Perry says, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get!”

Be very clear and specific in the way you establish your sponsor levels. The highest levels with the most benefits should be promoted first. Try to offer some kind of unique, value-added benefits for top-level sponsors – something that will tie in with their business objective. At every level, benefits should be clearly spelled out. You may also wish to offer advertising alone, for those who wish to support your organization, but cannot attend the event. There should also be a level available for young professionals — a great way to cultivate young donors.

Remember to reach out to all past attendees, even if they attended to support a specific honoree. Your organization’s mission may have resonated with them and they may wish to stay involved. So don’t assume otherwise and pass them over.


Be empowered. Be a “Samantha.”

Section: Blog

When it comes to fundraising, who wouldn’t like to have a few secret powers? The power of absolute persuasion, the power of duplicating money, to name a few.

Some of you may have grown up watching the TV show, Bewitched, or its reruns. Others may be familiar with the 2005 movie of the same name. Bewitched arrived on TV sets back in 1964 and ran for eight seasons. It starred Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens, a witch who falls in love with and marries a mere mortal, named Darrin. Samantha’s “power” poses a problem for Darrin and seems to cause him emotional discomfort. He makes Samantha vow not to use her powers. But, of course, she can’t quite help herself.

It’s no surprise that the strength of Samantha Stephens struck a chord with many people, especially women. Samantha always accomplished her goals, no matter how ridiculous her methods may have been. Bewitched enjoyed high ratings and sitcom longevity with its zany, yet resonating message.

How does this possibly connect to our mission as fundraisers?

Recognize and tap into what makes you unique. Samantha played down her natural abilities to appease her husband, but always managed to assert her power and individuality in the end.

We all have “secret powers” – things that come easier to us than others. Uncover these talents in yourself and your team members, and then figure out how to monetize them.

Be bold like Samantha! Engage donors with novel approaches deploying the best team asset for the particular challenge of each ask.

Make it look effortless – like Samantha’s cute little twitch of the nose. When you employ your special talents with the challenge at hand, getting to the “yes” can be magical!

Be proud of what you bring to the development team at your organization. No one does or sees exactly what you do or works it quite like you. Own it! See the special talent in each teammate, as well, and let them put it to work. Achieving “power”ful fundraising results may be just a nose twitch away!

Summer Reading (& Writing) for Nonprofit Professionals

Section: Blog

Writing and publishing a book has never been easier, thanks to the upswing in self-publishing, e-books and on-demand printing. Nonprofit organizations are among those reaping the benefits of publishing their own books. Writing a book can help promote your mission in several ways, such as creating shareable content, bringing in new supporters and positioning your organization as a thought leader. To learn more about what a self-published book can do for your organization, review this article on the topic posted by Jay Wilkinson at Firespring.

In the meantime, check out these “summer reading” titles of note:

The Blue Sweater is the story of a woman who left a career in international banking to spend her life on a quest to understand global poverty and find powerful new ways of tackling it. It all started back home in Virginia, with the blue sweater, a gift that quickly became her prized possession — until the day she outgrew it and gave it away to Goodwill. Eleven years later in Africa, she spotted a young boy wearing that very sweater, with her name still on the tag inside. That the sweater had made its trek all the way to Rwanda was ample evidence, she thought, of how we are all connected, how our action — and inaction — touch people every day across the globe, people we may never know or meet.

The Promise of a Pencil chronicles Adam Braun’s journey to find his calling, as each chapter explains one clear step that every person can take to turn their biggest ambitions into reality. Braun began working summers at hedge funds when he was just sixteen years old, sprinting down the path to a successful Wall Street career. But while traveling he met a young boy begging on the streets of India, who after being asked what he wanted most in the world, simply answered, “A pencil.” This small request led to a staggering series of events that took Braun backpacking through dozens of countries before eventually leaving a prestigious job to found Pencils of Promise.

Almost Home tells the stories of six remarkable young people from across the United States and Canada as they confront life alone on the streets. Each eventually finds his or her way to Covenant House, the largest charity serving homeless and runaway youth in North America. From the son of a crack addict who fights his own descent into drug addiction to a teen mother reaching for a new life, their stories veer between devastating and inspiring as they each struggle to find a place called home. This book includes a foreword by Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

The House on Henry Street is part of the history of New York City, as well as a key moment in the growth of social work in the United States. It is integrally related to the story of progressivism and social reform. Although the book’s style is simple, it tells a complex story, both of one woman’s indomitable nature, and of a special institution in a particular neighborhood of New York City. “The House on Henry Street “reflects the spirit of an optimistic era in which actors were part of larger social and political changes. It is also a history that moves easily from the personal, through the community, and finally to the national levels of American government. Professionals in the fields of volunteerism and philanthropy, women’s studies & social welfare will find this absorbing.

It Takes a Dream is the story of Hadassah, beginning in the early days of the twentieth century, when the Jewish population of Jerusalem was enduring very difficult living conditions, and suffering disease and hardship. It was in this setting that the renowned and beloved founder of Hadassah, Henrietta Szold, became inspired to help improve the lives and health of Jerusalem’s citizens. Spanning two centuries, reaching virtually every corner of the globe, the epic story of the Hadassah organization is the inspiring and fascinating history of generations of determined women who worked to heal, enlighten, educate and save lives.

Event Sponsors Seek a Meaningful Connection

Section: Blog

As a representative of a nonprofit organization seeking corporate event sponsors, you are in the unique position to serve as a matchmaker. You have something corporations want — a loyal, engaged community with a passion for what you do. Corporations seek to engender goodwill by supporting organizations with relevant social missions. In doing so, they care about being seen by as many of the right people as possible. Your job is to entice these corporations your way.

This means you should only approach corporations that are truly a good fit for your event. You need to do your homework! Sending email blasts like shotgun pellets to large lists of companies not only doesn’t work, but it dilutes the sanctity of the trust that you need to foster with your supporters and constituents. In safeguarding that sanctity, you make selecting your organization for sponsorship all-the-more attractive.

As a result of your research, it is important to approach decision makers with a unique idea that was developed just for them. You should be familiar with the corporation’s goals and initiatives and be able to demonstrate how your concept will benefit them. Arm yourself with information (including past attendance and donor demographics) that draw a clear picture of your supporters. Remember, you are the gatekeeper to a community that is the ideal target market for this well-aligned corporate partner. Be ready, willing and able to clearly demonstrate that this is a win-win scenario.

It is said that “people give to people,” meaning the influence of board members and honorees is critical in securing sponsors. Your job is follow their “ask” with a compelling story and a proposed sponsorship package tweaked to the needs of each prospect. The right match will create a charge, and that positive energy that will shine through when you speak to corporate decision-makers.

In order to make the right “match,” you must always make sure the trust you have developed with supporters and constituents remains paramount throughout this process. For example, you have a responsibility to align only with those corporations that share your ideals.   By becoming a sponsor, a corporation is admitted into your organization’s “inner-circle” and you are the conduit of extending that trust to them.

At the end of the day, corporations are seeking to connect and to differentiate themselves from competitors. As a matchmaker, you hold the key to this golden opportunity that will lead to your ultimate goal: advancing your organization’s mission.

Tell Your Event Donors You LIKE Them

Section: Blog

Did you ever have a crush on someone that acted like you didn’t exist?  You’d see them in the hall, your eyes would light up, you’d pause, hoping they’d talk to you, compliment your outfit, ANYTHING. And then … nothing. They’d pass right by you and talk to someone else. Lauren McCarthy describes this scenario in an article on npENGAGE. Except it happened to her with a nonprofit.

After spending much time, money and effort on a peer-to-peer fundraising event, she was ignored by this nonprofit … no email. no mail. nothing. She believed in the mission of this organization and posted about them on social media. She wanted to read updates on their various programs and hear their success stories — but they just kept ignoring her.

After doing some digging, she found out that, as an event participant, her name was suppressed from direct response solicitations. If your organization isn’t soliciting its event donors, you’d better believe that another organization will. One health organization found that approximately 40% of its event sponsors were giving to other organizations, while being suppressed from it own solicitations. Talk about leaving money on the table!

Your donors tell you just how much they like you each time they donate or volunteer their time to your organization. Periodic analysis and data audits are a great way to ensure you’re telling these donors just how much you like them back. Just like in junior high school, if you don’t ask your crush to the school dance, someone else will!

Read this story in its entirety on npENGAGE.


Our Favorite Online Event Marketing Tips

Section: Blog

Online marketing has changed the event landscape. There are countless articles about how to market your event online, but most tips are generic and can’t be actioned. EventMB shares these event marketing tips — all actionable tasks designed to grow your guest list. Not all relate to nonprofit events, but here are several that do:

  • Promote your Speakers: Create images that combine event branding with your speaker’s name and photo. Send these images (in multiple sizes) to your speakers for use in their own social media posts or websites. Also create a quote image featuring their face and one of their best quotes, along with your event hashtag.
  • Create an Awesome Video: Make the video fun, rather than overly promotional. The goal here is to garner attention, to make people FEEL something that will pique interest. Upload the video directly to Facebook, Vimeo and YouTube to maximize reach.
  • Reach out to Influencers – Correctly: Quality over quantity. Send personalized requests to 20 best-fit influencers. Provide content relevant to their audience. If you want them to post a tweet, send a few unique, pre-written options. The less work they have to do, the better.
  • Run a Contest to Drum up Buzz: Encourage potential attendees to share a picture or comment on a status for a chance to win a prize. Or invite attendees to vote on a small event detail such as dinner theme by commenting on a status. Offer free tickets, VIP experiences, or anything else you imagine. Just remember the better the prize, the more interest you will generate.
  • Add Social Share “After Sale” Buttons: Turn excitement into referrals by incorporating social sharing into your sales funnel. Include pre-populated social media actions, requiring minimal work for optimal shares. With Event Journal, social media sharing is incorporated into every page of every website. Also, purchasers are prompted to share news of their attendance several times during the checkout process.
  • Host a “Pre-Event” Event on Social Media: The best way to give people a taste of your event is to host a pre-event event. Whether it’s a behind-the-scenes Facebook Live broadcast or a Blab with some of your key speakers, be sure to advertise it across multiple platforms.
  • Offer a Private Facebook Group Exclusive to Attendees: Schedule periodic posts to the group to keep people engaged and share information that is relevant to attendees.

Online marketing is a great way to promote your events, and there are a million possibilities for how you can do it. Choose your favorites and start testing them with your audience! Or talk to us at Event Journal about best practices for promoting your nonprofit event online. Read this article in its entirety at EventMB.





Ten Steps toward Securing Event Donations

Section: Blog

Struggling to secure donations for your event? Kelli White of EventMB shares ten ways to boost at-event contributions toward your cause:

  • Step outside your comfort zone: Start out small by asking for in-kind or product donations. Become educated on why donors should be supporting your event. When you convey this confidence in your pitch to potential donors they’ll be more likely to contribute.
  • Pick up the phone: In today’s tech-driven world, it’s easy to overlook the power of a simple phone call. When it comes to financial support and finding people or companies to invest in your event you need to build a personal connection and the easiest way to do so is through real conversations.
  • Build Community Relationships: Find a way to build trust within your community, by being present and interactive in your area. Look for local networking opportunities, community events and opportunities to build relationships with other like-minded individuals.
  • Find Donors Who Connect with Your Mission or Event: Identify people who have a connection to your mission. Once you find these supporters, not only are they likely to become donors, but they will also encourage others to contribute. Ask them them to join your event committee or involve them through a volunteer opportunity.
  • Build Mutually Beneficial Relationships: Find ways to provide donors with proper recognition and value for their contribution. Find out what is important to your donors and look for ways to meet these needs. If supporters see the donation as mutually beneficial, they’ll be more likely to support you year after year.
  • Seek Out In-Kind Donations: In-kind or product donations can prove to be just as valuable as monetary donations, depending on the needs of your event. When you find a sponsor that wants to donate a product or service instead of donating money, think about the benefits that this will provide to your attendees. No matter what they would like to donate there is a good chance that the money you save through their donation can have a significant impact in your bottom line.
  • Outline Your Donation Levels and Opportunities: Define the value supporters will obtain with their donation. Create a web page or printed piece that helps you present opportunities and levels.
  • Share Stories That Make an Impact: Sharing stories that can reflect the impact your donors will have is one of the most influential ways to connect the donors to the cause. Utilize creative messaging with images, video, written stories and artwork. When donors have the chance to form a real picture why there is a need for donations, they’ll be more inclined to open their wallet for your cause.
  • Start Early: Most company budgets are created in the previous year, so target potential donors early on. If a company turns you down due to the timeline, find out what type of lead time they need and put them on your list to approach for next year.
  • Make “The Ask” and Make It Often: A donor will never know that your event needs money if you don’t take the time to ask them for a donation. Sometimes it is really just this simple. Once you have shown the need for their support ask them to contribute. Don’t be afraid to follow up. If you don’t follow up they may think you found the support in another way and you no longer have a need for their support.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.

What is “aspect ratio” and why should you care?

Section: Blog

Aspect ratio refers to how wide an AV image is, compared to how tall. An improperly formatted event presentation can really diminish the impact of your gala content, making your organization appear less professional. It’s possible you could pay for a wide screen TV but then only show standard 4:3 material, leaving gaps on the left and right. Or you might order a large projection screen or iPad centerpieces, then not use the top and bottom due to widescreen content. Not only is there a question of unused sponsor recognition space but, aesthetically, it screams amateur.

What is aspect ratio and why should you care? The truth is, when you work with Event Journal, you don’t need to concern yourself with aspect ratio. That’s because AV coordination is one of the many details we handle to ensure that your event presentation is professional and on point. Event Journal ensures you’re getting the most bang for your buck, using the entire screen you paid for and presenting the very best version of your content.

For more information on aspect ratio, see IMS Technology Services’ newsletter.