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Top 10 Secrets of a Nonprofit Event Specialist

Section: Blog

Chris Lipari, is founder and owner of Lipari Production Group, event specialists providing production and consultation services to nonprofit organizations. LPG has produced events ranging from large star-studded benefits to “K9K” walks across the Brooklyn Bridge. Chris shares his top 10 “insider secrets” for successful fundraising events. These tips resonate with Event Journal, because they are many of the same suggestions we give our clients:

  • Think strategically about your event. What is your organization hoping to gain from the event? What do you want the event to achieve and communicate? Set goals — and not just financial goals!
  • Determine how you want your event to make people feel. How do you envision the complete event experience, from start to finish?
  • Build an infrastructure into your development team to anticipate, plan and manage your annual major special event. Your other development activities should not come to a screeching halt each year when the event is being planned. If this is the case, consider outsourcing more responsibilities to seasoned event professionals.
  • Engage all departments in your organization: development, communications, finance, and programing to work as a team – you all have the same goal!
  • Be smart about budget – both revenue and expenses. Dinner Galas are costly to produce and are not the right fit for every organization. Consider other possibilities, such as a cocktail party or tasting event.
  • The planned flow of an event is always likely to change. Who is the one person who knows the objective of the event, what should happen and (most importantly) is empowered to make real-time decisions to create a positive outcome?
  • What are you spending money and time on?  Do you really need a printed journal?  Make use of video projection to recognize supporters and sponsors at the event.  Consider a digital event journal. It lives online year-round, saves paper and is one less thing for guests to carry home (and throw away!)
  • At the event, you have a captive audience. How are you going to communicate with them? Attendees should walk away with new knowledge about your organization and its mission, and why you need their support. There must be a compelling call to action.
  • Who are your guests? Often, tickets get passed down the line and may end up in the hands of a table sponsor’s guests who have no connection with your organization and its mission. Find a way to engage these people too. Make sure there are giving opportunities for guests at every financial level. Not only will this yield more revenue, it will allow your organization to capture guest information and begin to cultivate these new donors.
  • Make sure to hold a post-event debriefing: the good, the bad and the not-so-good! Consider sending a short survey to board and committee members and a selection of guests.  Take specific notes, so you can start to build a year-to-year dossier of the event and build on your success.

The Balance of Power between Boards and Executive Directors: How to Share Authority

Section: Blog

by Guest Blogger, Katherine DeFoyd, Growth for Good

What constitutes a healthy relationship between an executive director and a board of directors? How can organizations strike a healthy balance of power? 

Most successful executive directors are entrepreneurial self-starters. They are mavericks. These characteristics inspire them to provide services to the world that the free market cannot provide, e.g., arts education, youth development, senior services, affordable healthcare. They lead lean organizations, with fewer resources than their for-profit counterparts. And while their “get it done” attitude is what makes them successful — unchecked, it can be a barrier to healthy board relations and organizational growth.

Executive directors often feel they do not have time to seek input from board members, thus making decisions in a vacuum. Board members are left asking themselves, “Why are we here?” When board members have minimal opportunity for meaningful input beyond basic legal and fiduciary oversight and fundraising, they lose interest, pull away and stop contributing energy, ideas and money. This disinterest further drives the executive director to act alone. We call this downward spiral the “Lone Ranger Syndrome.”

Healthy board and executive director relations come down to a thoughtful and inclusive planning processes and honest, ongoing communication of progress toward goals. As one executive director said, “You can’t build an airplane while you are flying.” Good planning must include an organization’s executive director/staff and board leadership. This includes all planning categories: strategic planning, fundraising planning, and event planning. Plans should not be expressed in a few PowerPoint slides with broad sweeping statements and visions of grandeur. Instead, plans should include:

  • Agreed upon, clearly defined goals
  • Time-bound, measurable objectives
  • Realistic budgets
  • Specific tasks
  • Well-defined roles & responsibilities

An inclusive planning process is time-consuming and less efficient than some executives would like. But it is essential that it include board and staff members so there is real buy-in with their responsibilities. By helping to set the vision, board and staff members are eager to do their best work.

Both formal and informal communication is essential to board and executive director cooperation. Board meetings are the forum to report on program progress, budgets, and to make governance decisions. Another executive director said, “Too many nonprofits only present a rosy picture to their board and sweep challenges under the rug.” Informal communication between board meetings among staff and board members is also critical. This builds trust. Staff members feel safe and can be frank about progress (or lack thereof) toward an objective. It also allows board members to become advocates and help offer solutions, find extra resources and use their executive intellectual skills to move the agenda.

We hope this advice helps your organization build a better board!

 

Tap into New Donors via Special Events

Section: Blog

When planning a fundraising event, it is easy to get buried in the details, of which there are many. But remember that an event is more than “just” an event. It is an opportunity to tap into hundreds of new donors. If you hyper-focus only on the event details and think only about existing donors, you are missing out on a tremendous amount of potential and an opportunity to build new relationships.

Think about it … 500 people in a room … a captive audience … all there with open ears, willing to hear your organization’s compelling message. What percent of guests are people in your donor base and what percent are completely new to your organization? These guests, friends of friends, individuals from sponsoring companies may have a personal connection to your cause. But you won’t know unless you connect to them.

Here are some ideas to maximize their potential impact to your organization:

  • Pre-event, run attendee names through an online donor research tool to determine which guests you want to seek out
  • At the event, be certain to capture contact information for guests, especially email addresses. Make sure check in staff is aware that this is a priority. You can even enlist a few floaters with iPads to unobtrusively approach guests for this information, tableside.
  • You may also be able to obtain this information if holding an auction or availing yourself of event pledging. Remember, many of your attendees have not personally laid out a penny to attend your event and may want the opportunity to donate. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.
  • Present giving opportunities that will appeal to people of every level. Often tickets get handed down the line and may end up in the hands of entry level or administrative employees of your sponsors. Not only will this yield more donations, it will allow your organization to capture guest information and begin to cultivate these young donors.
  • Do post-event research on event attendees. Cultivate obvious donors, but do not disregard the second tier prospects.
  • Have staff make a thank you call to designated guests to engage them, thank them for attending and to invite future involvement in your organization.
  • Events are vehicles to bring in new prospects. These are people you would otherwise not meet, so view this as an opportunity. Develop these donors beyond just the event.

Follow Up:

  • Thank You
  • Send Video
  • Offer Volunteer Opportunities
  • Offer peer to peer fundraising opportunities

Event Journal gives nonprofits a tool to engage event participants. More than just a registration page, our robust event websites allow users to explore your organization and gives you a vehicle with which to engage them for a full year plus.

 

 

PCI Compliance Checklist for Nonprofit Organizations

Section: Blog

To protect your nonprofit organization’s bottom line, reputation and the trust of supporters, you need to achieve and maintain PCI compliance for your shopping cart and donation portals. PCI refers to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard set by major credit card brands to ensure that organizations do everything in their power to protect supporters’ data security. Failing to meet PCI compliance standards could leave you at a higher risk of a data breach. Also, in the case of a data breach, your organization could face steep fines and the additional financial burdens of a forensics audit and card replacement costs.

If your organization accepts credit cards or stores payment data of any kind and hasn’t yet become PCI compliant, you need to take action right away. You can also process payments through a third party that offers this level of security, such as Event Journal.

This article by Fenella Yin Fang Kam outlines six ways to help achieve PCI compliance to protect your organization from serious financial risks:

  1. Protect Your Data With A Firewall: A firewall adds extra layers of data security and makes your organization less susceptible to a breach. 
  2. Get Secure Payment Technology: Encryption and tokenization break your donors’ data into codes that data thieves are not able to read or translate.
  3. Install Malware Protection And Anti-Virus Software: PCI compliance standards also require malware protection and anti-virus software installed on all of your computers.
  4. Limit Access To Your Payment Data: PCI requirements dictate that you limit access to stored payment data.
  5. Change Your Passwords: While complicated passwords are hard to remember, the added data security they offer makes them worthwhile.
  6. Work With Your Merchant Services Provider: Working with an expert merchant services provider that’s dedicated to your bottom line makes the PCI compliance process easier. 

 

Check the six items above to start your path to data security success today, and click here to read the article in its entirety.

Promoting your Event on Social Media

Section: Blog

Trying to create a viral buzz for your organization’s next fundraising event? Social media is a powerful tool to gain exposure, when used strategically and effectively. We love this article from Kimberly Reynolds at Social Media Examiner providing “16 Ways to Promote your Event” providing tips to increase awareness, engagement and sales. A few of this tips include:

Use Facebook Ads to Remarket to Prospects: Facebook custom audiences allow you to show ads to people who have already visited your website. This is called remarketing (also known as retargeting). Advertisers can show event ads to Facebook users who left the website before purchasing a ticket.

Create a Highlight Reel from Previous Events: Video provides a unique opportunity to convey the energy and excitement of a live event. Great visuals and catchy audio are a potent combination that drives registration.

Empower Affiliates, Fans and Attendees with “Shareable” Assets: Make it easy to share your event. Provide a website with branded downloadable resources that fit any platform.

Create One Unified Event Hashtag for Use Across All Social Channels: Create, use and market your event-specific hashtag. You should be using this hashtag well in advance of your event dates and it should be included on EVERYTHING … every digital image you create, every piece of collateral, your email signature. Also, remember to include the hashtag in all bio pages, since these tend to be widely shared.

Create One Unified Event Hashtag for Use Across All Social Channels: Facebook recently rolled out its new call-to-action button to “bring a business’s most important objective to the forefront of its Facebook presence. Link a “book now” button to your event website.

Add Your Event to Your Email Signature: Have you considered how many emails you send and receive on any given day? Each one of those is an opportunity to spread awareness for your event. Simply add a hyperlink and/or graphic to your signature line.

Please click here to read more tips from the very informative article.

Introducing ejRemote

Section: Blog

An Online Ad Gallery, Embedded on Your Organization’s Event Page

It’s here and we couldn’t be any prouder! ejRemote appears directly on clients’ event pages … on their own websites or third-party platforms. Participants learn about the event and register online using the nonprofit organization’s existing shopping cart and database. Then, they leave the journal ads to us. Event Journal manages the entire process, freeing our clients up to raise more funds!

Behind the scenes, Event Journal creates, proofs and posts the ads, and hosts the entire ad gallery on our secure server. Event sponsors & supporters receive added recognition via an easy-to-navigate “e-journal” platform. This is not a static pdf or flipbook. This is a dynamic, responsive gallery. Journal ads can be seen in slide view, list view or via a search feature — and ads link to sponsors’ websites.

Event Journal provides a link for organizations to include in their purchase confirmation emails. When clicked on, it directs users to a customized ad submission portal. Users can attach a camera-ready ad or can submit copy for a personalized message and Event Journal creates the ad for them. All ads are posted to the ejRemote gallery in real time and the client is copied on all ad submissions.

At the event, the ad journal comes to life as an elegant presentation, showcased on large screens or table-top iPad displays.

ejRemote is a great addition to the digital Event Journal family. It adds a flexible alternative to our flagship service, EVENTjournal, which provides expanded benefits and opportunities. Please click HERE for more information on ejRemote or call us to discuss which option is best for your fundraising event!  Please view our first ejRemote gallery for Columbia University here.

Is a Business Venture Right for your Organization?

Section: Blog

Event Journal client, Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, Inc. (FREE) of Long Island, NY is a nonprofit organization supporting more than 4,000 individuals with intellectual / developmental disabilities, mental illness and traumatic brain injury. When FREE was seeking better career opportunities for its constituents, administration decided to look within and develop its own opportunities through affirmative business ventures. FREE now operates Terry’s Cafe, a full service catering outfit, made up of individuals with special needs who are interested in food service careers. The same organization also operates a commercial cleaning service called Swept FREE and a retail store called Fancy FREE, which sells gifts and handmade crafts, many created by program participants.

“In addition to providing useful services to the community, our Affirmative Businesses provide a sense of independence and freedom to the men and woman we serve,” said Greg Varro, Affirmative Business Development Manager for FREE. “On top of the income they earn, these individuals obtain valuable training and experience, enabling them to seek employment anywhere else they may choose to live.”

Geri Stengel of Ventureneer is a seasoned consultant to nonprofits in the area of business ventures. She shares some helpful information for organizations considering embarking on such ventures:

Nonprofit business ventures are not a fad or a new idea. Many organizations — from literacy efforts to senior service providers — are creating ventures. Whether large or small, nonprofits run thrift shops, food service companies and even manufacturing companies to fund their programs and motivate program participants.

Benefits of such ventures include producing unrestricted income, enhancing organization’s mission, building an entrepreneurial culture, improving the organization’s recognition and attracting donors, volunteers and staff. Business ventures can increase organization revenue, while reducing vulnerability from changes in donor trends. These diversified revenues can help your organization become less reliant on donations, grants and corporate money, and more self-sustainable.

Here are ten tips Geri provides to ensure your nonprofit’s commercial venture is a success:

  1. Spend Time Planning: Start by identifying an evangelist within the organization who will champion the creation of your business venture, take ownership of the planning process and invest the time necessary to work on the plan. Creating a business plan will clarify your direction, gain buy-in from stakeholders, confirm the venture’s feasibility and identify risks. Define the features and benefits of the product/service. Describe the strategies you’ll use to reach the target market, such as positioning, pricing, distribution channels, sales, advertising and publicity. Budget expenses, project revenue, develop milestones and determine how much money is needed and when.
  2. Stay True to Your Mission: Evaluate the appropriateness of the venture to the nonprofit’s mission. Does the business venture further the mission of the organization? Ventures that are compatible with the nonprofit’s mission are more likely to succeed and have the support of the nonprofit’s key stakeholders.
  3. Practice Good Governance: Get board support early on. If you have to fight the culture of the board or the parent organization, the venture will fail. Managing expectations is important. Keep your board and parent organization informed.
  4. Get Connected: Leaders of commercial ventures need connections to sources of business expertise, industry connections and money. Broaden your existing network by attending conferences, joining organizations and using your Board’s connections. Professionals—such as lawyers, accountants or bankers—can open doors for you.
  5. Ensure Adequate Financing: Money available through grants is limited, and it may be difficult to get donations and corporate money for the creation of business ventures. Therefore, it will be in your interest to learn about new sources of capital, including debt, equity and alternative financing.
  6. Assemble a Strong Management Team: Your top person should be entrepreneurial and have a track record in the industry you’re targeting. Ideally, teams should have, not only industry experience but, functional expertise and industry connections in sales, marketing, technology and finance. Equally important, the people you hire must have a passion for your mission and share the values of your organization. Establish clear lines of authority and responsibility to ensure decision making isn’t slowed by the needs of the nonprofit. Be prepared to pay according to market scale, not nonprofit wages, even though you may be paying your venture employees more than your nonprofit staff.
  7. Benefit by Forming Strategic Alliances: Collaborations are a way to leverage resources, share expertise and spread costs to tackle complex challenges. Partnerships foster mutual benefits, but the alliances exist only as long as they are advantageous to both parties.
  8. Measure Financial, Operational and Social Performance: Healthy revenue and profit margins are crucial to any commercial venture. You must maintain adequate financial information systems to determine the health of the business and hold the management team accountable for making a profit.
  9. Focus on the Customer: Every business seeks satisfied customers who return because they trust the company’s product or service. Repeat customers come at a much lower cost than attracting new customers. Build loyalty by instilling a helpful attitude, delivering on advertised promises, developing a favorable return policy and providing accurate product information.
  10. Adapt Quickly, Thoughtfully and Strategically: Problems may arise for a variety of reasons, usually due to overly optimistic sales projections. Stakeholders will want to know what strategies you have in place to cope with this slippage. Remember, even the most promising start-up may need a greater investment to reach break-even.

 

 

Read Geri Stengel’s article in its entirety here. For more information on FREE, click here.

What Event Fundraisers Need to Understand About Payment Processing

Section: Blog

By guest blogger Michael Kim, Partner Account Manager, iATS Payments

More than likely, your nonprofit is already employing payment processing to manage a multitude of digital transactions. Whether you’re knee-deep in planning your first gala or planning your 100th gala, understanding payment processing is a great first step toward making your fundraising event as successful and profitable as possible. So, what exactly do you need to know?

Payment processing and nonprofits go hand in hand. You’re probably familiar with the basics of payment processing, but let’s talk through how it affects your organization as you plan and execute the perfect event.

Payment processing refers to the back-end steps that make digital transactions possible for your donors. Working with a reliable payment processor allows your nonprofit to sell digital event tickets, promote and sell merchandise, and launch crowdfunding campaigns to ensure you meet — and exceed — your fundraising goals. Obviously, credit and debit card processing is vital for your organization to remain accessible. Plastic is the go-to payment method for many donors, and being able to accept cards online and at your event should already be a no-brainer for your organization. Moreover, fundraising trends show that younger donors are demanding payment flexibility and digital giving. If you’re hoping to attract the millennial market to your event, a working payment processing solution is essential!

Takeaway: Payment processing makes it possible for your nonprofit to move funds from your donor’s pockets to your organization’s bank account. Being able to accept credit and debit payments means more fundraising dollars and a more successful event.

You can accept different types of payments. Your donors want options. The best way to meet that need? Choosing a payment processor that’s able to work with both credit and ACH (Automated Clearing House) debit payments.

Credit Card Processing

Credit card processing refers to the handling of an online credit card donation as it travels from one account to another. When your donor confirms his credit card contribution, his information must go through several checkpoints provided by your processor for security and verification. Generally, any processor will accept the four major credit cards (Visa, American Express, Mastercard, and Discover). Since so many donors find credit to be the most convenient payment method, it’s essential that your payment processor can accept credit cards for all your fundraising transactions.

ACH Debit Processing

ACH debit processing is an alternative to credit or debit card processing. Instead of entering a card number, the donor provides his bank routing and account numbers to directly draw money from his own checking or savings account. Consider it an electronic check. For a deeper look at debit processing for nonprofits, check out iATS’ guide to direct debit payment processing.

Takeaway: Both credit and debit payment processing are useful for your nonprofit. Being flexible as you fundraise and host your event will make donors comfortable and more likely to continue giving in the future.

 

Payment processing empowers online fundraising tools. There are a number of diverse online payment processing tools that you can incorporate into your fundraising strategy. Here are a few resources you might consider as you organize your event:

  1. Online donation forms are one of the simplest ways to engage with donors in the digital realm. When you include an online donation form on your event’s website or Facebook page, your networks can quickly complete their transactions without ever leaving your site.
  2. Fundraising thermometers provide visual incentives to your donors while you track your fundraising progress against your goal. You can also incorporate your thermometer into your event, encouraging guests to give onsite as well.
  3. Recurring donation features enable your donors to go from one-time attendees to long-term contributors. Your guests can use simple online methods of setting up recurring gifts before and during your event. Since many individuals already participate in online bill pay through their debit accounts, ACH debit processing is a great option for you to promote.

Takeaway: Secure payment processing systems equip your organization with valuable online tools for fundraising and community-building. Taking advantage of such features can help push your event toward success.

 

Mobile giving can be an integral part of your event. Thanks to online payment processing, your guests can put their checkbooks away at your fundraiser and instead rely on mobile giving options for all their onsite donations. Consider making mobile donations a central part of your event in one of the following ways:

  1. Mobile bidding software can enhance and modernize your silent auctions. Guests can use their mobile devices to place bids and complete their transactions easily. These services will manage the auction from start to finish, leaving you with more time to connect with donors personally.
  2. Text-to-give services make giving on the go easier than ever. You can utilize text-to-give software before your event and encourage event patrons to use their smartphones to donate at the event as well. These tools are easy for donors and nonprofits, making them a smart strategy for first-time event planners and veterans alike.

Double the Donation’s Top 13 Text-to-Give Services for Nonprofits is a great place to start when searching for the perfect mobile giving solution.

Takeaway: Mobile giving options make donating at your event easier than ever. Incorporate donation opportunities into your fundraiser’s list of events using simple gift-giving software.

 

Fraud happens. Avoid it. Unfortunately, you’re probably aware of the prevalence of fraudulent donations. Working with a trusted payment processor will help you steer clear of fraud as you fundraise. Here are a few ways to combat fraud:

  1. Ensure your processor is PCI compliant. This means that your provider abides by a set of data security standards set forth by the Payment Card Industry. Payment processors who don’t meet these requirements are not secure and put you at greater risk for fraud.
  2. Set a minimum donation requirement. Many hackers use nonprofit donation forms to “check” stolen credit cards by running a test transaction of a very small amount of money. Setting a minimum threshold prevents such fraud from happening on a large scale.
  3. Review your transactions often. At least daily, someone on your fundraising team should check your donation transactions to monitor for fraudulent activity. Report any unusual patterns to your provider as soon as you can.

 

Takeaway: The most important element of dealing with online fraud is making sure you’re working with a trusted, secure payment processor. Different processors offer varying fraud prevention services, so educate yourself on what resources are available to you.

In order to integrate online giving into your fundraising event, you’ll be employing some form of payment processing solution. By understanding how this process works and how it affects your event, you can maximize fundraising dollars and make this event your best yet. If you’re ready to incorporate payment processing into your next event, we recommend checking out iATS, a dedicated payment processor whose products and services might be a perfect fit for your fundraiser.

Happy fundraising!

With over 10 years of experience in ecommerce, point-of-sale, and payments, Michael Kim is responsible for strengthening and growing the partner ecosystem through strategic alliances. Since joining iATS in July 2014, he’s successfully fostered relations with over 20 partners and executed countless joint initiatives to enhance the way they work with iATS. In his spare time, Mike is the IT director and worship team leader at his local church.

Get your Event Sponsored in Five Steps

Section: Blog

Bringing sponsors on board is not easy. Gaining corporate support is all about strategy. CheckInEasy recently shared 5 tips that can help you get the event sponsorships you need:

Plan Ahead: For a corporation,  sponsorships are a vehicle to advertise their product or service by aligning it with a complementary brand, your organization! When planning a new event, think of of potential sponsors and what types of demographics they’d be interested in.

Think Small: You may already have a large sponsor in mind, but limiting yourself to one big fish is not always the best idea. Several smaller sponsors that will attract consumers from separate industries and may be a better bet.

Provide Research: The right data will support any demographic claims. If you’re enticing a sponsor with promises of access to your email list, show up knowing the number of emails on the list as well as the list’s breakdown according to age, gender, geographic location, profession, personal interests, etc.

Present an Organized Sponsor Menu: Provide options for every donation level. Also, make sure your levels are well thought out, in terms of the value they bring. Always start with the highest levels and work your way down.

Brag a Little: Highlight your organization’s history of well executed events. Experience really does matter. Prove you’re up for the task by building a portfolio filled with client referrals, positive online reviews, pictures of beautiful event setups, and even a list of the third-party vendors you use to ensure your events go off without a hitch.

Click here to read this story in its entirety.

 

 

Raising Green on the Green

Section: Blog

While it’s definitely still winter, many Event Journal clients are well on their way to planning golf events for spring, summer and fall. With a little planning, golf tournaments can be a successful source of fundraising dollars for your organization. A recent article by Mark Brewer in AFP’s Advancing Philanthropy outlines several suggestions to assist you with your planning:

One Year Out:
-Secure a date and location
-Recruit a planning committee
-Create and work off a sponsorship plan

Six Months Out:
-Plan catering
-Early promotion via Save the Date
-Plan long term promotion plan
-Order invitations

Three Months Out:
-Begin marketing push
-Set up registration website
-Mail invitations (6-8 weeks in advance)
-Recruit event volunteers

Day of:
Set up sponsor recognition
Organize for seamless check in
Host awards ceremony / dinner

After:
-Thank you notes to volunteers and supporters
-Evaluate event
-Begin planning next year

Event Journal provides easy to use golf websites for information, registration and sponsor recognition. All golf outing website packages include these basics:

  • Recommendation, registration and setup of a user-friendly URL
  • Customized responsive design
  • Event program/overview page
  • Sponsor / supporter acknowledgement page
  • “Share” button that allows supporters to share your site via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Social media icons that link to your organization’s pages
  • One year agreement, with an option to renew
  • Secure integrated shopping cart for online registration, sponsorship purchases and donations
  • Email marketing option

Please call us if we can be of service in making your next golf tournament a hole in one for your organization.