Wednesday, March 25, 2009

If the party doesn't sound one will want to attend!

Most small to mid size organizations start with a small event that grows...hopefully into a mature and diverse fundraising program. (let's assume the ideal) As your other revenue streams mature, the event continues to be an important part of non receipted revenue, community engagement and your organizational culture/history.

Events are also the easiest part of fundraising for your board and volunteers to understand. (Sadly, many smallish organizations struggle to help their board see beyond securing auction items. We can talk about overcoming that in another blog)

My organization has one event a year and it is an important one for all the reasons mentioned above. Like many of you we are finding that we need to work harder to deliver the same results.

Do Not Panic!

If you are working on an event and are finding the road bumpier than last year, whatever you do not panic. Raising alarms, desperate plees for attendance, extended early bird deadlines and discounted tickets scream out failure!

Stay the course, think of things differently, work hard and engage those closest to your organization in helping to be a part of your success. Actually, they key for any fundraising success is a positive attitude. Perhaps this is most true with event fundraising.

Instead of the economy being your excuse for a mediocre result, perhaps it is an opportunity to refresh your strategy?

Keep your "tribe" involved and informed

Part of my strategy this year is to keep my board and those closest to us involved in our progress several times a week with a quick email update. This is my fifth event here and I've noticed that this year we are getting more unsolicited board "energy" and involvement than previous years. I'm not begging for help - I'm sharing information and keeping them involved. Then they phone us with help rather then us phoning them. Far better!

A gift for you

The update I wrote yesterday is I think quite good for many reasons and today it is my gift to you. Copy it, use it, try some of the ideas in it.

Here it is: (most names have been change - except for the ones of the stellar, amazing and extraordinary staff who read this blog. Judy and Karin you are incredible!)

March 24, 2009

Dear Members,

Things are moving so quickly, I thought it would be a good idea to give you a private/inside scoop on the conservation dinner and the evolving strategy to ensure its success.

You and our fantastic committee have been working very hard to secure fantastic auction items. My office is full of great stuff that I am trying to convince Judy and Karin to let me buy - but they won't let me!

This email will focus on our current priority - tickets sales

This event has never had to market itself in the past and has consistently reached 500 attendees or close to it. This year the climate is a little different and we are working on proactively ensuring we have a full room of enthusiastic shoppers. I have attached a list of who has purchased tickets to date so you can see if you contacts are there yet.

We have Engaged a "Ringer"! Please join me in welcoming Tammy (copied above) to our team. Tammy is a volunteer who came to us from the Neighbourhood Network. We are very fortunate that she expressed an interest in volunteering for the foundation at just the right time. Having recently found herself with a bit of spare time Tammy was looking for something to do. A quick look at her resume, which outlined 20 years of experience in sales with a large IT company, was all it took to get her on board. So yesterday we put her to "work" on helping sell tickets/tables for the dinner.

This is what we have done to date to ensure we get to our objective of 50 tables:

2. The Local Resort will be promoting our event in their online newsletter to 22,000 at the end of the month. This will have a link to a new welcome page for them on our website.

3. Local Marina will be mailing 500 order forms with a cover letter encouraging attendance to their boaters. They will also be soliciting a sponsorship from all the marina's under the umbrella of the their Association.

4. Local Tourism business will be promoting the event on their website and to their constituents

5. I have posted personal invitations to five Facebook Groups

6. A Corporate Friend is sending promotional emails to their contact lists.

7. Karin is continuing to proactively seek out media attention and media sponsors

8. My email updates go to 400 people. We have sent two.

This is what we will be doing next week to get to our objective:

1. Tammy is currently reviewing lists from previous years and will be making phone calls to "regulars" reminding them to purchase their tickets before the early bird deadline Friday. She will also be spending next week on the telephone reminding people to be sure to get their tickets while there is still room.

2. Tammy and Karin will work together next week to consistently assess momentum and develop ongoing strategies. (I'll be away next week but available by email.)

With three weeks to go, 35 tables to sell and $30,000 in sponsorship to secure, everyday is important. We will continue to keep you posted on progress. Please DO NOT worry about duplication in this case. The more buzz and enthusiasm we can create the better.

Please remember to stay positive with your contacts. We are not desperate - we are being proactive and innovative. This event has a very public reputation for being incredibly successful and we of course would not want to compromise that. We are confident the event will continue to be full of energy and a lot of fun. We all just have to work a little harder to do it.

Thank you - don't hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Kimberley MacKenzie, CFRE
Executive Director
Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation

By the way: since that email was written we have sold several more tables and another sponsorship. Everyday a little bit of progress is made.

Oh and if you are in there can buy your ticket here. (it really is a lot of fun.)

Now its your turn, tell us your strategy for ensuring a successful event this spring?

Thank you for spending time here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The world water crisis reached out to my bathroom

Water is essential for life. Without water we cannot live.

The simple fact of the matter is – we can’t make more water. We have a limited supply. We absolutely must cherish what we are so fortunate to have.

I remember a couple of summers ago having some girlfriends over for an evening of food and wine. We live in the country and evenings like that carry on until the next day. At about two o'clock in the morning, after I had finished cleaning up, finding people beds and pillows I was finally ready to wash the hot stickiness of a very humid evening off my face and go to bed. I turned on the tap expecting cool clean water and I got a sputter of brown sludge...then nothing. Our supply had dried up. I was completely baffled and I must say a little scared because all of a sudden the largest public health issue of our time - the world water crisis - had reached out to me in my bathroom.

Nearly 1.1 billion people (roughly 20% of the world’s population) lack access to safe drinking water. The lack of clean, safe drinking water is estimated to kill almost 4,500 children per day. In fact, out of the 2.2 million unsafe drinking water deaths in 2004, 90% were children under the age of five. Water is essential to the treatment of diseases, something especially critical for children.

Yet many people in Canada don't seem very worried. I often wonder what other countries think about us when they see how we take this life depending natural resource for granted the way we do.

Today is world water day. The theme this year is transboundary water. I wish that water was more evenly distributed across the planet. I really do. I'm embarrassed by Canada's abundance of and our neglect for such a life saving resource.

A lot of agencies are doing amazing work getting water to the people and changing the local economy as a result. There are a lot of videos about walking for miles to secure a gallon of dirty water.

I like this video though because it helps us see how this problem could impact more affluent western countries.

If we take care of our water, our air will be cleaner and the land will be stronger. People will be healthier. It is a pretty simple cycle. Do something today to conserve the worlds most precious resource. Here is a list of ideas to get you started.

Thank you for spending time here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My relationship with Ken Burnett

I'm in a relationship with Ken Burnett. Have been for some time actually. I suppose it is time to come clean since Canadian Fundraising and Philanthropy tells all the sorted details in their March Newsletter.

It all started about a year ago when I was working on a direct mail piece and it was a bit of a struggle. I picked up Ken's book The Zen of Fundraising for some inspiration. There was a reference that I didn’t understand so I decided to drop him a note and ask him what he meant. He says at the back of the book to contact him, the email address is right there - so I did. (Buy the book if you don’t believe me)

Ken actually wrote back – within 24 hours. After I got over the initial shock of it all (as well as the cynicism that perhaps this was someone on staff and not actually him) we started a dialogue. He shared resources and information and gave me about one hour of free consultation. I was so grateful for the experience I offered to do something for him – although I couldn’t imagine what it could possibly be…

My story continues here on the Canadian Fundraising and philanthropy newsletter. Read it and then start some new relationships of your own!

Thank you for spending time here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Should a rape crisis centre use sexuality to raise money?

This issue has received a lot of attention recently in Belfast. A struggling rape crisis centre hired a burlesque star to perform at an event. Of course this move secured a lot of attention from the media. I read about it on the UK’s Professional Fundraising blog. On that blog I commented that I hoped more blogs talked about it so as to generate more attention for the small struggling charity in Belfast. So it seems only fitting to mention it on my own blog.

But what to say……

We could talk about the difference between burlesque and stripping. A topic my dear husband willing researched for me. According to his research burlesque is an art form that started in the 1800’s as musical, comedic theatre with gross exaggeration and parody. Sounds fun.

“The UK scene is definitely growing with the introduction of the London Burlesque Festival in 2007 and the Ministry Of Burlesque gaining a seven-figure investment from a major mainstream media company in mid-2008 to create an IP/TV channel and TV studios which are entirely dedicated to the artform. Club Noir is officially the world's biggest burlesque club according to Guinness World Records, with up to 2,000 people at their events in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London.”

Hmmm. Isn’t’ that interesting mainstream media in the UK is investing huge amounts of money into burlesque but we are condemning a small charity in Belfast for doing the exactly same thing. (If you haven’t read “Uncharitable” by Dan Palotta you may want too)

All that is sort of boring though…this argument is about something bigger...

Should a rape crisis centre use sexuality, aka burlesque, to raise money so that they can help more victims?

Should a breastfeeding organization take money from companies that violate the WHO Code for the ethical marketing of breastmilk substitutes so they can help more new mothers?

Should an environmental organization take money from businesses that make parking lots for us to park our cars on and build houses for us to live in so that we can create more wetlands and plant more trees?

Should children’s organizations raise money to stop bullying by creating boxing matches between police officers and firefighters?

Should a humanist organization run a bus campaign claiming there isn't a God?

This is not a question of the right or wrong decisions of a small charity in Ireland. This is a question about values.

I can’t claim to be an expert on counseling rape victims. Fortunately that is beyond the scope if my experience. But if the crisis centre in Belfast can help more women recover from their assault and eventually have a sexually satisfying relationship; I would enthusiastically attend an event with a burlesque dancer.

We, fundraisers, do not have the right to judge the decisions of other charities. Each charity has to determine its own values.
Jim Collins states"

In truly great companies, change is a constant, but not the only constant. They understand the difference between what should never change and what should be open for change, between what is truly sacred and what is not. And by being clear about what should never change, they are better able to stimulate change and progress in everything else.

To compete, we have to change, we have to embrace our values and we have to evolve. Why should small charities anywhere be any different? The only people who have the right to judge whether a charity made the "right" decision based on their values is....

THE DONOR, who presumably shares the same values and will withdraw their support if a charity strays too far.

You might have different ideas about this. I welcome the debate. "Angry feminists" you are welcome here. Middle aged men who wanted to comment on this but are too. What do you think?

Thank you for spending time here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Cost of a "Flat" World

In my last post of 2008 I made a list about what I learned last year. As I move through 2009 I've blogged about learning stuff , SOFII , pushing our own boundaries,

Now it is time to reflect on number 5. Blogging.

I like my blog. It is very cool that people from 25 countries around the world take time to read it. (In fact this weekend I intend to write about sex so be sure to sign up as a follower so you don't miss it!)The relationships I have developed through online channels this year never would have happened without the Internet and my ability to type.

Yesterday I started wondering if we aren't loosing something as we pursue this idea of a flat world. I received this note:

Last week we received a donation from "Mrs. Norman" with a different hand written note. The cheque had the wrong date and we didn't have her phone number on file. So I wrote her a handwritten note asking for her phone number and informing her of her mistake. She wrote me the note above and sent in a new cheque...with her phone number. (I thought about typing it out for you so it would be easier for you to read, but I won't. See if your eyes still recognize cursive writing.)

Now I could phone Mrs. Norman and thank her. Which I did. We had a lovely conversation during which I learned that Mrs. Norman is 91 years old and no longer has any connection to our cause other than her donations. She keeps making them because they remind her of more active days at the cottage when she was a child and later as a mother with her own kids. Her connection with us is very important to her. My connection with her was very intimate and it started with an exchange of hand written notes.

(I will secretly admit to you that yes - ruthless fundraiser that I am I did think about her estate plans)

The point is: With all these electronic relationships are we missing out on something? A level of connection that you simply can't get electronically? I think we are.

Well I better get into work, the Mrs. Norman's of the world won't be around much longer and I have to work on my penmanship.

Thank you for spending time here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Donors are NOT irrational

Seth Godin and Jeff Brooks were talking about "irrational donors" this week. I know they meant well and that it may have even been a little tongue in cheek. Someone who thinks at a higher level could probably pick up on that. I'm not thinking at a terribly high level right now I'm surviving the trenches. I read quickly and moved onto work stuff.

I went back later and thought about it more:

Websters online Dictionary defines irrational as:

a: lacking usual or normal mental clarity or coherence b: not governed by or according to reason

Here are two stories from my trench:

Donor story #1

I was quietly plugging away on an outrageous grant application when the receptionist called me. Apparently a donor was at the front with a complaint. He had two envelopes from us in his hand and needed to talk to the Executive Director. What a nice distraction I donor 1 came in. We chatted. He presented his two envelopes. We had made a mistake.

There was one address, two different names, one actual bank account/person. "Thank you so much for letting us know about this Mr. Donor 1, lets check the database and see what we have there." I said...or something like it anyway.

So. I turned my trusty laptop around, in full view of the donor, sharing all our secrets and showed him not one but two donor profiles. We made a mistake. His name was spelled two different ways. We fixed it right there in front of him.

He then very rationally realized he didn't donate in 2008, took out his cheque book, made a donation and thanked us for all we do.

Donor story #2

Anyone who feels grateful enough for their assistant to send her to New Zealand for four weeks should slap themselves! She doesn't deserve it! Don't do it! Well, for better or worse I did.

Judy is gone but we are doing fine thank you. Or are we????

Well it would seem that our lovely event coordinator whois new to us has been is doing two jobs. Her huge event is in eight weeks and now she is processing donations too...welcome to a small shop! Karin didn't realize that we have two sets of monthly debits. One set on the 1st and one on the 15th.

Now Karin is a very competent, mature, capable and fabulous person. When she realized her error she came to me right away. Apparently 50% of our monthly donations didn't go through in February. It is now March.

"Well Karin what do you want to do to fix this." After some discussion, she decided the smart thing would be to phone the donors and admit we had made an error, ask them if we could process or do they need a months "vacation" for February and a fresh start in March. GREAT! Good for you Karin. Carry on. Then I jumped off to my massage...because that is what Executive Directors actually do when they leave abruptly without warning.

Karin phoned our donors and explained the error. 100% of them were very grateful and understanding. All donations have now been processed and Karin received the gift of developing relationships with some of our donors. All the conversations put a smile on her face. Everyone was very reasonable

So, are donors "irrational". I don't think so. I think they are very passionate about our cause and expect great service. If we given them that...not only will they be very reasonable, they will also be very loyal.

Thank you for spending time here.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Your Personal Brand

I admit it - I have thought about how the Internet can help sell me as a kind of "product". Other than that, I don't really know much about what people mean when they talk about your "personal brand". I just figure that when it comes to the Internet I should try and put my best foot forward, assuming that everyday online I'll be making a first impression with someone.

When my father finally got a face book profile my advice to him was: "Don't put anything up there you wouldn't show the folks in the office". If my "friends" want to look at my vacation or family pictures - they are welcome to them. What you won't find is me at the beach or on Christmas morning - those are strictly reserved for my real friends and family who share the pictures with me. I wouldn't take those into the office - trust me, they wouldn't help to inspire confidence, get a donation or a raise.

You may correspond in your pj's but the Internet is not private. It is a tool. Seth Godin has a great post about this. If you are one of the few people on the planet who haven't yet discovered Seth's blog be sure to sign up for it - you will be glad you did.

Thank you for spending time here.