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My Tips on Crowdfunding & Peer to Peer Fundraising

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This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. Listen below!

 

After last month’s topic of social media and #GivingTuesday, I wanted to dig in a little further to a subset of that topic: crowdfunding and peer to peer fundraising. It’s a great way to get exposure to your cause and get access to a new donor pool.

First, let’s do some quick explanations of what exactly crowdfunding and peer to peer fundraising are.

Crowdfunding is online fundraising for a specific project that is designed to be funded through many people with smaller donations – namely, by a crowd. If you’ve heard of platforms like GoFundMe, that’s an example of a crowdfunding campaign – GoFundMe actually even has a platform designed for nonprofits called CrowdRise. Crowdfunding campaigns are usually started or come from the nonprofit itself.

Peer to peer fundraising takes crowdfunding one step further – it’s the idea that fans of the nonprofit become fundraisers themselves. They create their own profile page where they can share their story and make an ask, then ask their friends to donate to their campaign. Most all of this work is done online.

Now that we’ve defined the terms… let’s talk about some best practices for them.

Crowdfunding

Don’t create a crowdfunding campaign just because it seems like the thing to do. Be thoughtful, and make sure you have these things in place before you put together a crowdfunding campaign:

  • A specific, tangible ask: General operating asks are usually not very successful when it comes to crowdfunding campaigns. Special projects, one time events, or unique programs are the best thing to ask for. Make sure it’s something that people can feel good about being part of and that they can see how it’s making a difference. Having it be something that’s one time makes it feel more compelling.
  • A short timeline: To create a sense of urgency, try keeping to a timeline of 4-6 weeks for your crowdfunding campaign. It’s enough time for people to share and participate in the way that feels best, but not too long that it feels like it’s not special.
  • Enough person-power to manage it: Like any other type of campaign, you need to have a plan in place and enough time to send emails, post on social media, and maintain the page. But in addition to that, make sure you have enough time to manage technology glitches, questions from donors, and other last minute things that come up. You can’t just slap up a page and leave it – make sure you have enough time to stay with it.
  • Goals around both fundraising and marketing: Crowdfunding is not necessarily going to yield you as much money as many of the other traditional sources of donations. But: it could yield you more donors and a lot of eyeballs on your campaign and your work. So think of your campaign in both senses.

If you think you have a good idea for a crowdfunding campaign… you can amplify it even more with a peer to peer element to it

Peer to Peer

  • Make it easy: Make sure the process of setting up a fundraising page is very easy. Plug in some template information that automatically populates a page, just in case people just want to set it up and go. Put together a toolkit where people can grab content for emails, social media posts, and other outreach. You can even offer phone check ins for people who want some additional coaching.
  • Encourage story telling & acknowledgment: The more genuine and authentic the asks are, the better. So keep reminding your fundraisers to be transparent about their story and connection to the cause and why they are raising money for the nonprofit. The more compelling the story, the more convincing the ask. They can do this in thanking their donors, too.
  • Use incentives: Don’t spend a ton of time and money on gifts, but think about rewards to drive your fundraisers to keep spreading the message. There are lots of ways you can structure this: rewards for the most donations, the most donors, the most shares (you can track it through using hashtags). Or you can always have a drawing for something that anyone who shares a certain amount of times is entered into.

Crowdfunding and peer to peer fundraising can be a great source of exposure and revenue from a new donor pool. Hopefully these tips can help you envision how to put together a successful campaign!

-N.C.

My Tips on Social Media & Giving Tuesday

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This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic click below.

 

We’re all living online – so your organization should be, too. But there are so many platforms and so much to say: so how do you manage it?

It’s important to be comprehensive when thinking about social media for nonprofits: so, let’s think about the classic questions:

Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

  • Who? Who are you looking to communicate to with your social media posts? Current donors, prospective donors, clients, volunteers, the general public? This decision will help inform which platforms you should be active on.
  • What? What content do you want to share on social media? Your organization is doing so much at any given time, so think about what you want to share with your followers. This can include: stories, facts, history, internal information, news related to your mission, and more. It’s also a good idea to be thoughtful about sharing posts of similar or partner organizations – this can help expand your reach and also position your organization as an expert.
  • Where? Which platforms do you want to be on? Think quality over quantity here: instead of getting on everything, get on the spaces that 1) your current donors and constituents are on and 2) your desired donors are. Are you going to do more longform posts? Think Facebook or LinkedIn. Connect with other organizations and share out more regularly? Twitter. Do you have amazing photography? Instagram.
  • When? Just like any other communications, map out a calendar that ensures that you are posting consistently and not only about one topic. Frequency depends on platform: Twitter is constantly changing, so you’ll post way more on there than Facebook, for example.
  • Why? Why be on social media? It’s an opportunity for you to engage with your community in a unique way that they are already doing – you’re meeting them where they are. It’s very donor centric.
  • How? Who’s going to do it? Some nonprofits keep social media management in the marketing team, some have a development staff member do it. Some have multiple people involved and some just have one (or less than one!). Make sure that person has a clear idea of what the organizational voice is.

As a fundraising person, I’d be remiss talking about social media without mentioning one of the important social media days for the year for nonprofits – Giving Tuesday.

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday aka #GivingTuesday takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving every year. It’s a day that celebrates nonprofits and donors, and encourages contributions. Some nonprofits put a lot of efforts and energy into this day, and others send a simple email and do a quick social media post. It’s up to you and your organization what feels best, but know that it’s a very heavily saturated fundraising day.

But: it’s a heavily saturated fundraising day for a reason. So I believe it’s important to at least do something. At the bare minimum, I recommend doing one simple email blast to all of your lists and one social media post on all of your platforms. The next step is mobilizing your board by sending them an email template that they can forward to their contacts as well as links to the social media posts so that they can share them. The more your message is amplified, the better!

If you want to go crazy on that day, you can be pushing out communications about it for weeks in advance, have matching gifts lined up, and even do a live event to encourage donations. Then you’ll want to post on social media a whole bunch on the day of, and don’t forget to say thank you after.

Next month we’re going to talk about crowdfunding and peer to peer fundraising: so stay tuned for that, which is also related to social media. For now, get a plan in place for your social media approach for the end of the year: because it’s coming up fast!

-N.C.

My Tips on Year End Fundraising

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This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

End of year campaigns: they’re the lifeblood of a lot of nonprofit organizations. The holiday season, the season of giving: people are more inclined to make donations, and nonprofits are more inclined to ask. And it’s incredibly important, especially since many organizations have a fiscal year that is the same as the calendar year, so the pressure is on to raise money and reach your goals. So how can you set your organization up for success?

First: think of your year end fundraising as a comprehensive campaign. Remember that while your direct mail appeal may take a lot of your energy and time, there are several other communications that are part of the campaign, including your website, emails, social media, and in person asks. Think of all of the communications during this time as being part of this one campaign.

Then, spend some time setting your campaign up for success. We’re talking about this topic in September so you can take some of these suggestions and run with them. It’s early enough to spend some time on these things, so let’s go!

  • Goals: Take a look at what you raised last year and see how you can adjust your expectations. Have you done a lot of cultivation work, and expect to see an increase in gifts? Has this year been challenging, so you don’t want to be over-ambitious? Be thoughtful about the goal you set: it is discouraging if you’re not even close to reaching it, and it can feel like you don’t need donations if you quickly blow it out of the water.
  • Ask & tagline: Usually, I recommend doing a general operating support ask for year end campaigns. It is often a main component of the year’s fundraising, so it is nice to demonstrate the need for general support. But, there are cases where a more specific ask is more compelling and needed. Maybe your organization has a specific program that needs help, so go for that. I also like the idea of having a tagline: it could be something as simple as Season of Giving, or it could be something more geared toward your organization. Then you can use that everywhere you’re talking about it.
  • Segmentation: You don’t talk to your grandma the same way you talk to your best friend, so why would you send the same letter to all of your donors? There are so many ways you can split up your list: by donation level, longevity of giving, or more. Then just tweak your letter to include details about their relationship to your organization. It can feel much more personal then.
  • Campaign structure: There are several ways you can structure your year end campaign. You can do something simple, just one mailing and a few email follow ups. Or you can do something complicated, which includes paid advertising, several mailings, several segmented emails and social media. It depends on your organization’s size, so be thoughtful.
  • Project management spreadsheet: This is what has kept me sane for every campaign I’ve managed!! Create a spreadsheet that simply includes the task, who is responsible, due date, date accomplished, status and notes. Then map out the entire campaign, setting your ideal drop date and scheduling backwards from there.
  • Tracking & reporting: Be thoughtful about how you are tracking donations to the campaign. Set up codes to track whether people are responding to the mailing versus email, which mailing they respond to, etc. This will help inform next year’s campaign – ie, if fewer people respond to emails at a specific time of year, think about switching it up for next year. Then, set up a schedule where you are regularly sharing this tracking document with interested parties, including staff and board.

Now that we’re set up for success, and have thought through strategy, components, and tracking, let’s talk best practices.

First, the appeal package.

The letter is arguably the most important part.

  • It should feel personal, but informative. The recommendation here is to write at a fourth grade level – not because your donors won’t be able to understand it, but because that is the most approachable tone. When you write a letter (or maybe an email!) to your friends, you don’t write a college essay, do you?
  • It should be very donor centric. Once you’ve written your letter, go back through and count how many times you have written YOU (meaning who you are writing to, the reader). Go through and transform as many sentences as possible to include the word YOU. For example: if you’ve written the sentence, “Our organization transforms lives,” change the sentence to “Your donation will transform lives” or even “You will transform lives.” Make the letter very active, assuming that the reader will make a donation.
  • It should lead with feelings and wrap up with facts. It should include a story of someone whose life has been transformed from your organization’s work, so the reader can be drawn in by the impact. That story should include the problem, solution, and what the reader can do to help be part of it.
  • It should include the call to action early on. You can (and should) re-ask several times, but there should be an ask in the first couple of paragraphs – even if it’s just a hint of what you are asking. It should be clear what you are asking the reader to do from the top.
  • It should include a P.S. The P.S. is a super important piece of real estate, and most readers at least look at that. It should be a direct reaffirmation of the ask.
  • As far as format, there are competing opinions. I personally like to keep it to one page, but there are experts who say it should be a double sided page. Feel free to bold, underline, or italicize special phrases, but don’t overdo it.

Besides the letter, you can think about attachments. There are several types of things you can do, either just a client story, or quotes, or an infographic with data around impact, or just organizational facts. It depends on what you think will be the most compelling for your readers. Just don’t overload the package with facts – you want to lead with the heart here, not the brain.

Then, you’ll want to think about email.

  • Emails should be very short and sweet. Get to the point! We all get so many emails – so make it compelling and overly obvious what you’re asking. Try to put at least one donation button above the fold.
  • Include images. Have the background be a light color and the text be a dark color. Again, very easy to read and accessible.
  • The schedule of emails widely depends on your organization and how often your donors receive emails from you for the rest of the year. If you never email them the rest of the year, don’t email them ten times in December. At the very least, do at least one in November, and maybe four in December, including two in the last week of the year.
  • We’ll talk more about email & social media during a future episode centered around Giving Tuesday.

Don’t forget to mobilize your team to help get all of this out – including your board of directors. There are several ways you can use them: have them write handwritten notes that you include in some special letters, have them forward your emails to their contacts, or share your posts on social media. You’re not alone!

-N.C.

My Tips on Advancing Your Career as a Fundraiser

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This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

Fundraising is such an important element of nonprofit operations, and as long as there are nonprofits, there will be fundraising jobs to be filled. Fundraising as a career is a great choice, as there are a lot of directions you can go, so there is good job security!

That’s great news, but how do you keep advancing your career as a fundraiser? There are a few tips for helping keep your career moving.

Take full advantage of learning opportunities

Fundraising is a unique job because there is always something to do. There are always more people to reach out to, more donors to thank, and more collateral to make. Take full advantage of all of the activities you are doing, or could do, in your current role. Don’t stay stagnant – explore every facet of your position. If you have an idea, take initiative and go for it! Try new things and pay attention to things that you really love to do. That will give you a better idea of what to look for in your next role.

Explore your options

Once you feel ready to explore new challenges and opportunities, think about what aspect of fundraising you really love. There are so many, that fit with different skills and aptitudes, so think about what you’d like your days to look like.

  • Do you love relationship building? Think about Donor Relations, Major Gifts, or Strategic Partnerships.
  • Do you love events? Think about Special Events or Community Relations.
  • Are you very process oriented, or do you love data? Think about Development Operations or Donor Database roles.
  • Do you love to write? Think about Grants.
  • Do you love people management & have years of experience in fundraising? Think about becoming a Development Director.

Instead of just applying for any fundraising position you see, be thoughtful about what area of development you would like to go into next.

Network

What about if you’re not sure what area you want to go into, or you want more information? That’s where networking comes in. Find and identify people who have what looks to be your dream job, or close to it. Contact them to set up an informational interview or phone call. Keep the conversation brief, tell them what you are looking for, and ask about their experience. You can get a ton of insight from these conversations. And don’t forget to connect with them on LinkedIn!

And, we all know about those general networking events that are put on by various organizations. If you go to those, have a goal in mind. If you are trying to advance your career as a fundraiser, try to find others who also work as fundraisers and ask them about their career growth. See if what they share resonates with you.

Find mentors

I would not be where I am today without the professional mentors I have been lucky to have along the way. My mentors have been sounding boards that have encouraged me at the right moments and asked critical questions when I needed it. I can’t recommend mentorship highly enough.

But you can’t find a mentor out of thin air. The trick is, when you come across someone you click with (whether it is a boss or other professional colleague), to be vulnerable with them. Share with them your thoughts and fears about your career, and see how they react. If they are a good fit for mentorship, things will naturally fall into place (if you let them in). Don’t worry – we were all where you are once!

-N.C.

My Tips on Using Technology in Fundraising

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This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

Technology is a huge topic, and there are countless ways that nonprofits can use it. Today, we are just scratching the surface of some of the more basic components of how nonprofits use technology, but I encourage you to take a look at the resources at the end of this post for more.

Remember: just because a technology exists doesn’t mean you have to use it. Be thoughtful about what technology you choose – choose things that make your work more efficient or that enhance your donors’ experience.

As far as raising money goes, direct mail is still king for most nonprofits, but electronic communications are also important as they are an important component of relationship building.

Before we get into revenue generating activities, let’s talk about something super important: donor databases.

Donor Databases

Donor databases are important because they help you manage relationships. It’s a system where you can create a record of every donor to your organization and their donation history, and can contain a notes section where you can share and track other information. So, if you win the lottery tomorrow, your replacement will be up to speed on the relationships the nonprofit has with its donors.

It’s also a good checks & balances system to compare with your financial books – so it’s a good way to manage and steward donors’ money.

There is a huge variety of databases, so choose wisely! Do adequate research before you select the one you want. Think about what you might use the database for… the very basic functionality will be to record donors and their donations (including details like amount, date, method, and what appeal they respond to). But, there are other functionalities that you can also have. Do you want robust reporting, to track volunteer hours, manage your events, track campaigns and/or moves management? Think about all of your potential needs and find something that works with all of it.

Once you’ve found your ideal database, follow some best practices. Make sure you have standard data entry rules where consistency is the main focus. Do annual maintenance checks of things like duplicate checks and blank addresses – this will save you time in the long run.

Electronic Communications

Websites

Everyone has a website (I hope!), so we don’t need to talk about why to have one, but let’s talk about some things to make sure you have. Try to consider everyone who might be looking at your website: clients, donors, media, the general public. Do a delicate dance of addressing the needs of everyone. Make sure to have a Donate button in the top banner of every page on your website, that links directly to the transaction, not another website. Make it very easy to donate on your website.

E-newsletters

Much like donor databases, there are a wide variety of e-newsletter vendors available, so try out a few and see what you like. Many of them have built in analytics, so take a close look at those and use them to your advantage, doing A/B tests with subject lines and content to see what your audience responds to. This is especially helpful with fundraising emails, as you can see what resonates with your audience

Social media

Get on channels that your audience is on, not everything. Have a playful voice that rings true to your organization, but also feels authentic. Interact with people and make it feel like a conversation, acknowledge comments. But don’t stay on everything all the time, as that gets overwhelming. Try to check in daily.

As I mentioned up top, there are tons of ways you can use technology, and I encourage you to use the web as a resource. Check out the Nonprofit Technology Network (www.nten.org) and their spectacular conference, or participate in online webinars through places like Foundation Center (www.foundationcenter.org). Many tools will also have online communities and blogs that you can interact with.

And of course, if you want more in depth help looking at your technology (especially your use of your donor database – one of my specialties!), you can always hit me up.

-N.C.

My Tips on Staying Sane as a Nonprofit Fundraiser

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This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

We’re all working our hearts out to help improve the world, through the organizations we work with and for. But we can only give to others as much as we have given to ourselves, so it’s important to talk about how to stay sane and thrive as a nonprofit fundraiser.

Not taking it all on

Fundraisers have a tough job. They have organizations relying on them, and therefore people who receive services relying on them. After all, this work can’t be done without the funds to support it.

As someone who works in fundraising, it can be easy to take on the pressure, especially if budgets are not being balanced and money is not coming in. But this is too much to take on as one individual person. Fundraising is too volatile of a practice to have any one person to blame. You could work for hours on a mail piece that raises a small amount of money or you could get an unsolicited donation that blows everything out of the water. The point is, it is not solely on your shoulders if the money does not come in. You cannot take on the pressure that if your work does not produce the money you were expecting, you failed. There are too many other factors to consider. So let that go, and hopefully, that helps you feel better and stop worrying.

Communicating

A lot of stress comes from not fully understanding expectations, from your boss or your board. When there are misunderstandings, it can be a huge point of stress. Communicate as much as you can with your boss or your board about what you think your priorities are, what you are working on, and what you aren’t working on. That way, they can let you know in advance if they have a different idea. And you’ll feel better that you guys are on the same page.

Staying Organized

Lists…. Ahhhh. OK, I know not everyone is like me and feels better about their projects after making a list. But I know many of us are! Figure out what planning mechanism works best for you and stick to it. Do you like spreadsheets? Post-it notes? Whatever it is, stay organized as much as possible. Having something to refer to every day about your tasks can help you stay sane.

Taking breaks

Did you eat lunch at your desk today? How about yesterday? As much as possible, take breaks. If you’re able to eat your lunch away from your desk, do it! Getting out of your work environment can relax your mind and get you in a better headspace. Sometimes, it can even help you solve a problem. There have been many times where I have not been able to figure something out, I’ve walked away from my desk, and came up with the idea as soon as I sat back down.

Lunch breaks are nice, but there is something else equally as important: vacations. Make sure to schedule and go on vacation. Do as much prep work in advance, over-communicate to others when you will be on vacation, and set an out of office email for when you will be away. Then, don’t check email!!! Even glancing through will just get you back in the mindset of work mode. When you’re on vacation, don’t dwell on what may or may not be happening at the office. It will all get sorted out. And if it makes you anxious, tell one person you trust that they can text you with anything urgent.

No email outside of work

Speaking of email outside of work… try not to check it so much. If you heavily rely on that tactic now, try to wean yourself off. Go in phases… try not checking email from Friday night to Sunday morning, then all weekend, then no weekday evenings… once you get into the habit of not responding to emails on off hours, your coworkers will adapt to you.

In conclusion

At the end of the day, although we’re doing important work, many of our tasks have arbitrary, internal deadlines. If you’re coming up on something stressful, see if you can shift any of the timeline. Breathe, and remember you are doing great work!

-N.C.

My Tips on Mobilizing the Board for Fundraising

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This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

“I want to join your board of directors, but I don’t want to ask for money.” How many times have you heard that!? This month’s post – and podcast – helps you figure out what to do to combat that statement.

Boards come in all shapes and sizes. Some help out more with daily work because there are fewer staff, some are more strategic thinkers. Sizes range from 5-25, or even more.

No matter what, the board of directors of a nonprofit is responsible for making sure the organization is being fiscally responsible. This means making sure the nonprofit is spending money the right way, but it also means raising enough money to keep going.

But what do you do if your board doesn’t want to “ask for money?” We’ll talk through some ways that you can mobilize your board for fundraising without them outright asking for money.

How they can play a role in each part of the donor cycle

Fundraising isn’t just about asking for money. Donors go through a cycle, and board members can have a part of interacting with them at any part during that cycle.

  • Identify: Do your board members have friends, family, colleagues who might be interested in supporting the cause? Or, even people who are committed to supporting them as an individual. Or: if board members don’t want to tap into their personal networks, they can help with attending events for organizations like yours, and meeting others who care about what you care about.
  • Research: This is information gathering. Some of this is doing research online, but some of it is also just finding out more information about a donor or prospect – that could mean taking them for coffee or even just asking questions at an event.
  • Cultivate: This looks different depending on what your organization does, but this is the time when board members can often shine. It’s educating donors about the organization and the impact it is making. It’s sharing personal stories about their connection and experience, and connecting the donor or prospect with the organization. This is the friendraising portion of the donor cycle.
  • Solicit: There may be some board members who are comfortable with coming with a staff member on a major donor visit and ask, which is great. If they aren’t, they can write personal notes to go alongside appeal letters through the mail, to have a hand in the solicitation part of the cycle.
  • Steward: Stewardship is a lot of gratitude – saying thank you and showing them the ways their donation has made a difference. Board members can make thank you calls or write notes, and just keep donors informed about the organization’s work.

Systems & reports to help support your board

All of this work is for naught if it’s not being communicated back to the organization’s staff and put into the database. Build systems that are a fit for your board – some are more tech savvy and might want to fill out Google forms about donor communications, and some might want to fill out paper forms. It’s important to listen to what they want and build those – otherwise, they will never get filled out.

There are a variety of forms that can be created. One of the most important forms is a donor contact form, which is completed any time a board member interacts with a donor, and describes the communication on both sides. This is put into the database as a contact note.

Once the information from these forms is put into the database, a report should be created from the database that includes all of the information and is generated on a regular basis for board members.

A few last comments

Remember that your board is meant to help you. If you set up some systems and structures to support them, and show them the variety of ways they can get involved, they can be a force of nature for your organization.

Don’t forget, it’s always good to offer fundraising training to your board. Even if they are familiar with fundraising, there are always new insights to offer, and it can also be a good chance for people to share their wins in fundraising.

The important thing is to provide board members with information and resources they need to do their job – to an extent. Strike a balance between responding to these requests and taking care of other work. Focus on mobilizing the board to the extent that it will help you with your work because at the end of the day, the organization is what you’re all working for.

-N.C.

My Tips on Fundraising Events & Galas: Part 2

This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

We have a doozy of a topic this month, friends. We love ‘em, we hate ‘em, we love to hate them: it’s fundraising events and galas.

But they don’t have to make us tear our hair out! There are a few things to do to help us maintain sanity and make sure our event is a success.

Click here to check out the post & podcast from part 1. Read below about part 2!

So all of these event elements are great: but how do you do all of this and stay sane at the same time?? Here are some tips to help keep the burnout at bay.

  • Put together a project management spreadsheet and timeline. Build out a timeline as early as possible, and build in plenty of buffer time. Include all deadlines and who is responsible. Once it’s built out, share it with everyone involved.
  • Engage a committee. If there is a board committee working on the event with you, establish a consistent meeting schedule and goals for meetings at the beginning. Make sure there is a job description for committee members, and that there are clear expectations of everyone.
  • Engage the full board. They are key in getting attendees in the room and sponsors for the event.

Again, remember that the event you are pouring your heart and soul into is just one evening for your guests. So don’t forget to use it as an opportunity to build relationships with the people in the room that will last much longer than a few hours.

And (try) to have fun!

-N.C.

My Tips on Fundraising Events & Galas: Part 1

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This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

We have a doozy of a topic this month, friends. We love ‘em, we hate ‘em, we love to hate them: it’s fundraising events and galas.

But they don’t have to make us tear our hair out! There are a few things to do to help us maintain sanity and make sure our event is a success.

Before you do anything else: establish a goal. Do you want to build relationships with your current donors? Do you want to engage new supporters? Something else? This will help shape a lot of your decision making.

Also remember that the event is just a blip in a donor’s experience with your organization – so consider the entire experience (before, during, and after the event) for the guests.

Now: let’s get to the event! Make sure that you are illustrating the impact that your donors have through their participation as a supporter.

  • Make sure you have visuals that illustrate impact: ideally, display boards with personal stories or quotes and a photo.
  • If your event has a speech component, make sure there aren’t too many talking heads. Including the board chair and executive director is nice, but make sure to have a testimonial of some kind that illustrates impact.
  • If you’re doing a video, focus on the story, and keep it short and sweet, but from the heart. It’s always nice to have the person who is featured in the video there in person, if possible.
  • If you are going to have clients at your event, make sure they are not used as props. Assign them to a staff member they are comfortable with, who will show them around and introduce them. Do not relegate them to a table in the back or ignore them. Incorporate them into the event in a way that feels celebratory and comfortable, but also natural.

Once you have those elements in place: focus on the guest experience.

  • Have great customer service. No matter what is happening behind the scenes, everyone interfacing with attendees should have a smile and an attitude of gratitude.
  • Start and end on time. If you’re having a cocktail hour, be transparent with your guests about the fact that there is an hour of networking before the program begins. Whatever schedule you sent out, stick to it, even if it means shortening some speeches. No one wants to feel as though their time isn’t valued.
  • Keep an eye on quality – to an extent. There’s a delicate balance of investing money in a quality experience but also not going overboard. Make sure that you show that you are using donor dollars in a responsible way.

Stay tuned for Pt 2 next week!

-N.C.

Me & My Sister’s Tips on Fundraising for Charity Walks

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This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

It’s time to get personal. And introduce you to someone very important: my sister Tomasine.

I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2010. I didn’t know anything about it or anyone who had it, so it was a confusing time for me. So I turned to a nonprofit organization for help: the National MS Society.

At the same time, my sister was living across California, and she and my mom wanted to help. They googled walks that benefit MS causes and found Walk MS Silicon Valley, a 1K or 5K walk designed for people with all sorts of abilities – and TEAM CHAPIN was born.

Tomasine and I want to share with you some of our experiences in fundraising for a charity walk – because we’ve learned a lot, raising more than $50,000 over eight years (shout out to our other TEAM CHAPIN members!!). And we know it’s a very common way to raise money for some very important causes out there.

Tomasine is our team captain, coordinating our members and handling team logistics. Our team is made up of family, friends, and others we’ve met who are impacted by the cause. While we are grateful for all levels of involvement, we look for a few key things in a member of our fundraising team.

Desired traits in a team member include:

  • Being comfortable asking for money from their networks
  • Being committed to raising at least the minimum amount required to get a t-shirt (for Walk MS Silicon Valley, that is $100) – it helps create community at the walk
  • Having excitement for the cause – you can walk, be a virtual walker, or just come to the event and spend time with us
  • Being willing to help out at and/or attend team fundraisers
  • Being creative in how they fundraise

At the end of the day, the job of a team member is to raise money. Here are some tips of how we have been successful in asking for money.

  • It sounds simple, but our most successful way to raise money is emailing family and friends, and announcing on Facebook. As we’ve talked about before, it’s very important to share a personal story with this.
  • Don’t forget to remind your donors about checking with their employer to see if they match donations.
  • Team fundraisers have been successful as well. One or two people will spearhead, and others will help with logistics & getting people there. We always share personal stories and information about MS at these events. Our successful events have included: Cupcakes & Gear for a Cure, U-Jam for a Cure, the MS Awareness Challenge, and garage sales.

And of course, we’d be nowhere in our fundraising over the years without saying thank you. A couple of tips for saying thank you that we’ve done:

  • Immediate thanks is always appreciated. I like to do a thank you on Facebook, so that our mutual friends also see and are reminded if they want to donate. If they request to be anonymous or aren’t on Facebook, I send an email.
  • Speaking of Facebook, we’ve also had a team member post fun thank you videos on Facebook, which was very effective.
  • Tomasine always coordinates a post-walk thank you card that is sent to all donors, and includes photos of the team on the walk and another personal message.

We hope that these personal anecdotes help you with your fundraising for any charity walks or runs you participate in. And if our story has inspired you, you can check out the TEAM CHAPIN fundraising page for Walk MS Silicon Valley 2018 (which is happening April 14) at bit.ly/teamchapin2018. Thank you!

-N.C.