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An Untapped Gold Mine: Business Networking for Event Fundraising Success

Section: Blog

If you, like most event fundraisers, are tasked to meet ever more challenging goals from your major fundraising events in a time of diminishing returns, why not start the new year with a fresh perspective?

Let’s face it: It’s hard to take responsibility for raising more when the relationships that lead to success are often out of your hands. Generally, when it comes to special events, the executive director and the board do the heavy lifting of securing honorees, major sponsors, golf four-somes, etc., leaving the development and special events teams to handle follow-up and lesser commitments.   This top-heavy approach can lead to a gap between the major contributors and more modest supporters who may be below the radar of the board. This target range presents a golden opportunity for you to contribute by bringing supporters to fill the gap while also bolstering funds that are raised in the upper and lower brackets of the event donor pool.

What is it, then, that those higher-ups have that you don’t that allows them to tap the deep pockets of major event donors? How can you develop that same skill? It’s very simple, yet at the same time, hard to attain. The fact is that it’s all about connections – personal and professional. In the case of your board, people with money and power are connected to others with similar levels of influence. Remember the adage that “like likes like?” It’s true. Your board members bring connections that add value to their participation in your organization. Do you bring the same?

How can you strengthen your value to your organization with your own connections of significance? How can you bring relationships to the table to help support special events at all levels? In the process, also, how can you add value to your own professional profile as you further your career, be it with your current organization or elsewhere?

The answer is …. Get out of the office! Leave the safety of your cubicle and join the vibrant world of business networking. This remains a largely untapped gold mine for development and special event professionals from nonprofit organizations. Business networking provides an open-ended opportunity to cultivate your own connections to facilitate success with your events.

There are so many organizations where your profile as a representative of a nonprofit organization will be welcomed – dedicated lead-generating groups, women’s organizations, rotaries, chambers, industry panels, trade groups, etc. To get started, check your local papers or ask some of your board or committee members where you might start.

Find a group or groups you like and dig in. Get to know the members. Join a committee. Make a presentation at a program. These are golden opportunities to build prospect lists, recruit committee members and connect with potential sponsors. The people you meet may or may not be at the level of major donors. They are likely, however, to know and/or do business with potential honorees, larger sponsors and more mid-sized businesses that might benefit from event sponsorships. Once you develop the connections and ask for specific introductions, you’ll be surprised at the willingness of your new associates to open doors for you.

In networking it is always best to start by giving referrals and by making introductions. Soon, you will be getting referrals from those you have helped first. Remember, your own board and committee members are already in your network. They may make excellent connections for your new acquaintances if you approach introductions as having potential mutual value. When you develop a reputation of providing reciprocal value to those you meet, word will spread and you will be known as a valued networker. Everyone you meet is a potential event attendee. Some of those people can open doors to contacts or contribute directly to help you meet your goals.

Good networking takes several years to hit its stride.   To be successful in this social, but “what’s in it for me” world of monthly or weekly obligations, breakfast meetings, evening programs and scattered one-to-one luncheons, it’s important to participate regularly and not expect immediate results. Try not to fall into the trap of saying you have no time for this… If you don’t make time, you’ll never grow your footprint of connections and influence (except, perhaps, with the person in the cubicle next to you.)

A few tips to enhance the value of your networking investment:

  1. If you attend with a colleague, split up when you arrive. Do not work the room together or sit together during the program. Remember, you already know each other. You are there to make new connections.
  1. Don’t let your agency hold you back if they don’t cover costs for dues or meeting fees. Consider these relatively modest fees an investment in your future. When you weigh the relationships you will build to make you a more seasoned professional with a strong sphere of influence in the community, the cost is nominal.
  1. Develop a strong elevator pitch that goes beyond the mission of your organization. Promote your events and opportunities for involvement. Tell compelling stories of the work of your organization. You might be surprised in turn when someone in the crowd seeks you out to share stories of how he or she has been touched by the work you do. Invite participants to join your committees, contribute auction items, attend events, provide pro-bono services, and introduce you to potential journal advertisers and sponsors. Remember, in return, you offer an opportunity for your new colleagues to make significant contributions that showcase their own skills while meeting like-minded professionals to extend their networks.

It’s time that event fundraisers expand their thinking from serving as in-house resources to building connections in the business community. Go out there and “tap the gold mine.” As with most endeavors worth pursuing, it’s hard work and it takes time. The rewards, however, are unlimited.

A Stellar Marketing Strategy for Fundraising Events

Section: Blog

A Fundraising Event Marketing Strategy?
“We’re not in Kansas anymore!”

The Context

The classic and comfortable triad of pre-event communications; the save-the-date postcard, the sponsor solicitation letter and the printed event invitation/reply card are facing obsolescence. The printed journal distributed at the event has been eclipsed by the advent of better and broader use vehicles delivered by a mix of both printed and digital media. Email marketing, a/v presentations, social media and mobile technology all contribute to opportunity for greater engagement and better returns. Progress doesn’t move backward. Organizations and Board Members who bury heads in the sand will be passed over by more progressive nonprofits.

Establishing an Event Marketing Strategy

We all know the adage that those who “fail to plan,” in fact, “plan to fail.” In the frenzied world of fundraising, however, development and event staff are often pulled from project to project and event to event with little time or focus on strategic planning. Couple that with the fact that fundraising professionals have little grounding in marketing and multi-media, and the results are not surprising. While some organizations hold onto the status quo with all their might, others dip their metaphorical “toe” in the water, employing a bit of new media here and there – too little to have any consequential impact. Only the biggest and most sophisticated agencies with marketing departments and/or ad agencies embrace best practices with all the latest technologies. It’s overwhelming, but doesn’t have to be.

A Road-map to a Strategic Plan

A basic strategic plan begins with certain key questions.

Who do you wish to reach out to for this event? This includes both past attendees plus those whom you wish to attract for the first time. Age, sex, geography, connection to your organization?

Start with this simple question and you’ll be on the right path for a successful fundraising strategy.

How to Make Your Fundraising Events Stand Out and Raise More

Section: Blog

How to Make Your Fundraising Events Stand Out and Raise More
by Karen Perry-Weinstat, President, Event Journal, Inc.

Recent statistics show that there are now over 1.5 million tax-exempt organizations in the United States. As the need for worldwide help and relief continues to grow, so do the number of nonprofits. Despite this increase, however, funds donated to charities has not increased relative to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.  Nonprofits now vie for support from a pool that hasn’t increased, making competition for donations a fact of life. So, how does your nonprofit shine through?  In a time when there have never been more special events, how can you stand out from the crowd and raise more money?

The best way to begin is to ask key questions. It is important to understand your target audience to appeal to potential participants. This helps set the stage for exciting event themes and compelling calls-to-action to engage prospects.

To determine the success of any venture, it is important to determine the goals and to ensure that the budget is sufficient for them to be reached. If you seek to increase event revenues by 50% versus year ago but are working with the same resources, you’ll be hard-pressed to deliver.

Fundraising events that promote solely with “old-school” techniques like a save-the-date postcard and printed invitation will fade away as their older target demographic ages out. To stand out today, it is critical to develop a dynamic, digital experience. Once promotional materials are created, organizations need a full-on campaign to promote the event across all media.

Aggressive promotional efforts begin with a dedicated event website with online registration, but must drive traffic to the website with email and social media posts that deliver time-sensitive messages with increasing frequency as the event date nears. As posts are shared and emails are forwarded, this goes beyond your existing database to reach friends and colleagues of your supporters (also known as “viral” marketing.)

Thanking donors after the event with more than a form letterwill favorably impress participants. Standing out from the crowd can be as simple as sending links to view online photos, reporting on the dollars raised and how they will help your mission, etc.

Standing out from the crowd with your fundraising event takes planning and hard work. Once you create a profile as an active organization, in-tune with participants’ wishes, your events will develop a buzz and keep you above the fray!

Fundraisers Leave the Printed Ad Journal Behind for an E-Journal Alternative

Section: Blog

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center and St. John’s University are among an increasing list of organizations that have turned to an on-line ad journal to support their fall/winter 2014 events. Fundraising professionals have become more demanding in their expectations and are eschewing the passive paper journal for the dynamic outreach capabilities and added fundraising opportunities of the online e-journal.

As you are likely aware, the ad journal is part of the formula for raising funds with special events, offering sponsors recognition in print and supporters a way to channel their donation dollar while receiving some acknowledgement. However, this tried-and-true fundraising practice may raise money, but is extremely wasteful as event guests quickly flip through the booklets and toss them aside.

In 2002, Long Island businesswoman, Karen Perry, as journal chairperson for a large fundraising event, looked for a better way. Finding none readily available, she drew on her own rich marketing and non-profit experience to develop an original web-based alternative. In consultation with professional fundraisers and event planners, she designed specialty software and a system of on and off-line components that brought the concept to an entirely new level. The resulting system offered benefits and advantages to all involved; the sponsors, the guests, the honorees and the organizations.

Today, Event Journal, Inc. offers fundraisers an interactive, e-journal website with event information, color ads that link to sponsor websites, a photo gallery, embedded video and more. Online, secure registration for purchasing tickets, ads and sponsorships make it easy and interactive for sponsors and more profitable and easier to manage for fundraisers.  An available email marketing option adds exposure for the event and drives traffic to the e-journal, where viewers find all they need at their fingertips. The service also includes an elegant e-journal presentation at the event and, if required, companion printed material for a comfortable transition. The company’s full-service approach includes design of all the materials required and implementation and organization of the entire process; supporting non-profits in a time when staffs are traditionally overstretched. exponentially increases the outreach for the event and the journal, reaching a broader audience for more potential participation. A “Share” feature on each page allows participants to spread word to their own social media networks and the software automatically feeds keywords into search engines for prominent optimization of search terms related to the event. According to Google Analytics, the typical e-journal reaches 5-10 times the viewership than the total attendance at the event! And, with the site live for several months pre-event and a full year post-event, the organization, its honorees and its sponsors receive goodwill far beyond the shelf life of the printed book.

Each year since the company’s inception, revenues have increased, as a growing group of nonprofits embraced the idea and renewed annually. In the past few years, the company has experienced record growth, as “going green” has become an imperative, and organizations are hard-pressed to be creative and to offer more in a difficult economy.

Focus On These Top 10 Items for Great Email Appeals

Section: Blog

As we close in on the end of 2014, numerous advice will flood your emails and internet searches explaining the best practices for end-of-year email appeals. As this advice is great to end your year on a strong note, the great thing is that the advice can carry over into all the other seasons as well. It doesn’t matter if it’s targeting only year end or special events, take your new-found knowledge into all of 2015.

Claire at has given us an example of a great year-end email appeal and has pointed out several ways why their email appeal is so great.

Here are 10 things to focus on when writing up your own end-of-year (or anytime) email appeals:

  1. The subject line
  2. The sender
  3. The salutation
  4. The header
  5. The first sentence
  6. And the second sentence
  7. Two paragraphs telling a short story
  8. The ask
  9. The close
  10. Important contact information

To read why these 10 items should be your top focus when writing you email appeals, check out Claire’s entire article here: What Works; What Doesn’t? Nonprofit Year-End Email Appeals

Photo: clarification: Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

Building Your 2015 Nonprofit Marketing Plan

Section: Blog

As the end of the year nears, it’s time to start concocting your marketing plan for 2015. Nonprofit Hub Magazine recently ran an article with an infographic showing you exactly where all the “tetris blocks” fit. Starting off, you need to first determine which of the “pieces” are most important to your organization’s goals and then find out how to put all the pieces together to maximize potential.

New2015 copy


View the original source here: Building Your Nonprofit Marketing Plan

Nonprofit Search Engine Optimization

Section: Blog

Nonprofit search engine optimization. It might sound scary to some, but it’s your best bet at getting your organization found (also social media, learn more about social media sharing buttons). Getting new donors to your site is the hardest step, for once they’re there, you have control over whether or not they stay. But how do you get people, who may not know about your site, to click to your website? In the land of ever-growing technology, the answer is search engines. It is critical that your organization’s site shows up on the first page of search inquiries, but how do you make that a reality? While the concept can seem a bit daunting, there are some easy-to-incorporate techniques to help you get “searched” and it starts with nonprofit search engine optimization.

Laura Packard from has a few simple search engine optimization techniques to help non-profits get noticed. She notes that search engines use numerous factors to determine rankings on pages but some of them you can control yourself:

  • Use keywords in your URLs – Start with a good URL and build from there. Use your main keywords, your organization’s name, or an acronym.
  • Use keywords in your content – Write for humans first, then optimize for the web second. Use keywords in your text and in meta descriptions, but don’t “over-stuff”. Google is now penalizing sites for using too many keywords in an unnecessary fashion.
  • Get quality links to your site – Get friendly with others and link to them. Most often if you’re producing quality content or making a difference, they will return the favor. Guest blog for another organization or reach out to publications to feature your organization’s site or content. When others link to your site, you build search engine optimization “juice” that feeds your search ranking.
  • Tell Google about your site – Create a Google+ page for your organization and post all of your content to the platform. This tells Google, directly, to crawl your site and fetch your links, especially to anyone you are already connected to via Google. Add the +1 button to your content so others can share as well. When others +1 your content, it will increase  your odds of showing up higher in search results.

Want to know all the details to easily increase your organization’s search engine results? Check out Packard’s entire article: Simple Search Engine Optimization Techniques for Non-Profits and Political Campaigns

Thank Donors – Why Everyday Should be Thanksgiving

Section: Blog

If you’re a nonprofit, every day is Thanksgiving…or should be.

Donors notice when you neglect them. Don’t forget to thank donors, every chance you get. Don’t be the type of organization that only gets in touch or tries to reach out when you need money. Make sure you’re involving your donors throughout the year, not just after an event, or after a donation, or during a time of “asking”. Dennis Fischman of Communicate! has come up with 20 creative ways to thank donors throughout the entire year.

  1. Make a gift bag. It doesn’t have to be expensive–just personal, unique, and thoughtful.
  2. Give a toast. You don’t need a special event–you could do this over lunch. Make a video and send it to the donor.  Get creative!
  3. Write a poem. Say why they deserve your thanks.
  4. Send them custom gift labels.
  5. Give a gift card. (Try to get the gift card donated too.)
  6. Send a hand-written letter. Everyone loves handwritten snail mail and it has become a forgotten art.
  7. Use social media to give thanks in public.
  8. Make your own digital greeting card.
  9. Make a Youtube video. Post to your website and take donors via social media.
  10. Bake cookies. Everyone loves a treat.
  11. Make surprise gifts for guests at your events.
  12. Put together a flower basket.
  13. Take a picture. Again, it doesn’t have to be professional, just unique.  The camera on your phone can capture priceless moments!
  14. Pay it forward.  Show them you care about what they care about too.
  15. Do something special for them.
  16. Help them when they’re the ones who need help.
  17. Be there for them. Don’t always just ask for them to be there for you and your organization. Return the favor.
  18. Listen to them.
  19. Say it another language…especially if they speak it. Find ways to break the language barrier.
  20. Show them some #donorlove, without being asked.

Do you have a creative way to say thank you? Have something to add? Comment below!

Don’t Forget The Middle: Why Neglecting Middle Donors Is Costing You Millions

Section: Blog

According to Sea Change Strategies’ “THE MISSING MIDDLE: Neglecting Middle Donors Is Costing You Millions,” nonprofits are missing out on processing donations because they’re overlooking this productive and often committed group of individuals. The middle donors are classified as those who give less than major gift audience, but more than the lower amounts that direct marketing donations usually produce. These amounts range anywhere from $250 to $9,000, Alia McKee, a co-author of the report, told the NonProfit Marketing Blog.

A 2008 study called “The Wired Wealthy” carried out by Convio and Edge Research showed that within these groups participating, donors at the $1,000 to $10,000 levels represented roughly one percent of the donor population, but were giving more than a third of the dollars. Why was it that 1/3 of the donations was only coming from 1% of the donor group? This proved that this financially important group was being untapped. Charitable organizations were, and still are, passing up a much needed group of benefactors: the middle donors.

The study suggests that:”Mid-level donor prospects represent significant income potential and greater retention stability – probably even more than major donor prospects. They are a reservoir of steady support for organizations, if stewarded properly.” Roger Craver suggest that the whole mid-level enterprise needs re-branding and that like the middle child, they should not be ‘forgotten’. “When you see the amount of money that is left on the table by these organization {…{ sooner or later they are going to have to deal with [this neglect] because they can’t squeeze any more blood out of the particular business-as-usual stone they are currently working.”

Throughout the report, Sea change Strategies has come up with 8 habits of highly effective mid-level donor programs and have formulated a to-do list for fundraisers.

To download the complete study and the 8 to-dos to get you started with tapping the middle-level donors, click here – See more at:

Tips for Writing Excellent Fundraising Copy

Section: Blog

Our partners over at iATS have come up with 4 tips for writing excellent fundraising copy. Fundraising is a strategic game that must be played well and make use of all available resources. iATS makes note that “People give to other people and the copy used on website, print and promotional collateral can make or break a relationship with a potential giver”. Copy should engage the reader and encourage them to take action – whether that action be volunteering, donating, or helping in another way. You should use your creative mind to think outside the box with your copy but always keep in mind these four great rules for excellent copy:

  1. Avoid nonprofit jargon – Don’t use pretentious terminology or words that are too hard to understand. Words that can be confusing, unnecessary, or difficult can ‘create a barrier’ with your reader and come across as not personal. People need to be able to feel the words as they are reading, not be looking up definitions.
  2. Don’t be repetitive – While repetition of your message is a great idea, repetition of the same words or phrase is not. It’s a turnoff for the reader to reread the same thing over and over, so endeavor towards copy that is interesting, engaging, and straight to the point.
  3. Show the bigger picture – Don’t focus on the small details. Your copy should focus on the main ‘overall emotional pull’ and your readers should know exactly what you do and exactly you need their help.
  4. Speak to the donor – Don’t focus too much on yourself, instead focus on the potential donor. Talk directly to them with the use of the word ‘you’ and tell them exactly how they, themselves, can make a big difference. Cater your copy so that you build up your donor, not your organization. To learn more from iATS, check out the full article here: 4 tips for writing excellent fundraising copy