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.

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