Posts tagged fundraising

7 do’s and don’ts of trade show exhibiting: Tips for fundraisers

These guys are refreshingly straightforward about what they're offering.

Make it obvious what you're offering, like these guys.

This week I attended my very first ISES (International Special Events Society) luncheon in Portland. The topic was “Killer ROI: Best Practices to Grow Your Business Through Trade Show Exhibiting.” The panel consisted of Michael O’Loughlin, Vice President of Blue Ocean Events; Tracy Martin, Trade Show Manager for Bravo Publications & Trade Shows; and Todd Sears, VP Sales & Marketing at Skyline Displays of Oregon. Collectively, this panel had a bevy of advice on and experience participating in, consulting on, and organizing trade shows.

Although there are significant differences between the for-profit business industry and the nonprofit industry, I listened in hopes of gleaning helpful information that can be applied to fundraising (vs. sales). I’ve seen nonprofit booths at street fairs, community festivals, and music concerts – not exactly trade shows, but close. After all, isn’t the goal (or maybe it should be) of the organization in both circumstances to reach new individuals in order to educate them, understand their needs, and give them an opportunity to fulfill both their needs and those of your organization? Whether it’s switching phone carriers or making a charitable donation, we have to think about how best to engage with people to accomplish our goals. Here’s a few tips I learned:

  • DO advertise BEFORE the show (or festival, fair, etc.). The majority of attendees have decided ahead of time (before a trade show) what they are looking for and who they want to visit. So promote your attendance at the event before it begins – reach out to existing supporters and new ones you think might be interested. This could be as simple as an E-blast to let people know you’ll be making a physical appearance.
  • DO have a clear goal before you set up shop. Be as specific as possible about what you hope to accomplish. For example, say “I want to sign up 10 people to volunteer with our organization each day of the event,” not “I want to tell people about our mission.” The more measurable, the better you can evaluate your results.
  • DON’T give away a bunch of stuff. When you give away promotional items, you don’t necessarily attract the RIGHT people to your booth. You may just be wasting money and time on people who don’t care about what you do but just want a freebie.
  • DO take advantage of physicality. Engage the 5 senses. Do what direct mail and the Internet can’t. Get creative with it, but make it relevant to your organization.
  • At the same time, DON’T dilute your message with too much going on, visually or otherwise. Keep your booth’s banner straightforward: say who you are, and what you do, in a nutshell. Keep it simple.
  • DO have conversations. Avoid asking yes-or-no questions. Instead, ask what interests a visitor about your organization, what they like or don’t like about something, etc. Don’t ask “Do you have any questions? Would you like some information?” etc. You’re much more likely to get short, disengaged answers.
  • DO follow up on your leads within 7 days, if not 2. After 2 days, a person will have forgotten 88% of what you said to them.

Does anyone have any experience working a booth at a fair or festival for your nonprofit organization? How did it go? Was it worth it? I’d love to hear about your experience!


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It’s almost here…

My thesis deadline and defense.

Getting a job!



Moving back to Portland (granted I can find an apartment).

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: Probably nothing, because the traffic on this blog has dwindled to next to nothing so chances are nobody’s reading this. Sad. But I PROMISE I will be back (but not with a vengeance) come June. Think of all the exciting things I’ll have to share! Yes, shamelessly plugging my future posts…

(my mind is whirling with thoughts)

Anyway, what’s happening now is I’m editing the first draft of my thesis to submit to my committee on Tuesday. I’m sitting at about 70 or 80 pages – much to my own surprise. I’ve uncovered some really remarkable stuff and I wish I could sit down with each one of you event planner/pr pros/students/anyone who will listen because that’s easier than trying to write it all. Wait, I am writing it all. But, like I said, it’s 70-80 pages and nobody wants to read that. But when I have a second I will post on young professional donors, donor motivations, benefits of special events for nonprofits, relationship management and special events, and so on. Basically, it’s about kick-ass strategies to make friends with your publics/audiences/guests/donors/communities and develop mutually beneficial relationships rather than just asking for money or telling people what they should think, feel, and do. It’s better in the long-term and much more fun.

So I hope the little teaser piqued your interest. Stand by for more.

P.S. The job search is going well; I’ve got my first big interview in 2 days. Thrilling!

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Social entrepreneurs: the next generation of philanthropy?

The word “philanthropy” translates literally to love of humans or love of mankind, but we typically define philanthropy as giving money, providing in-kind goods and services, and volunteering time to charitable causes and nonprofit organizations. Traditionally, charities are held responsible for affecting positive change and meeting needs that government and private enterprise have inadequately served.   

According to a recent article in The Tennessean by Jeff Cornwall,the Millennial Generation (that’s me!) is expanding beyond this common definition by harnessing the power of free market capitalism to benefit relevant social causes. “Social entrepreneurs,” seek to create sustainable, profitable business that are independent from reliance on benefactors but still bring about positive results in the community.

Cornwall cites this generation’s lack of trust in government to solve social problems as one of the main motivators for this new movement:

“Several surveys have found that many people in this generation don’t believe that government is the most effective means to solve many of today’s social problems — the private sector offers more efficient and effective solutions. They no longer believe that massive programs work. Instead, they hope to create solutions that solve one small problem at a time.”

So, what does this new trend mean for traditional nonprofits and charity organizations? As a millennial myself, I can vouch for the lure of the efficiency and efficacy of companies driven by profit-demanding management. However, I also doubt that public trust in the socially-responsible business management of corporations, eroded by recent scandals (ahem, Enron), will be completely restored anytime soon.

In the end, our perceptions of organization value have a lot to do with marketing, communication, and an attention to public-organization relationships; certainly some for-profits give me the warm fuzzies much more than steely and holier-than-thou charity organizations. I admit it’s mostly in the messaging I receive and my personal experiences interacting with the organizations. For-profit companies succeeding with a social mission likely make that social priority clear to consumers and other stakeholders. More importantly, they make that priority clear to others who care as well.

Which is not to say it’s all a marketing ploy. Instead, I see it as the best of both worlds: creating sustainable, profitable businesses driven by philanthropic (and phyto-thropic?) principles for the benefit of the whole community. Nonprofits can learn from this strategy by likewise engaging donors not with a “what you can do for us” message but instead “here’s what we can do for you.” Of course, donors need to be assured that their money is going to a good cause. For some, that’s all they need to know. But many of us, millennials especially, want to have our cake and eat it too. Does it make us greedy or selfish? Perhaps, but I suspect many of us simply want to erase the delineation between socially-beneficial charity and profitable business.

Nonprofits today can take advantage of this trend by exploring ways they can mimic capitalist business strategies while maintaining a mission for social good. In my research for my honors thesis, I’m finding that in the right context, fund-raising events can provide a great opportunity for nonprofits to offer donors unique benefits in exchange for their dollars and time. Capitalist? Maybe a little. Philanthropic? Yes. In every sense of the word.

Thanks to Sam Davidson, in his post “Millenials and Social Enterprise” for directing me to the article.

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Are nonprofit-donor relationships just a click away?


Last week’s BusinessWeekonline article ‘Click Here to Save Darfur’ by Catherine Holahan explains how online social networking sites like Facebook or Myspace have enabled charity and activist groups to quickly rally support and turn it into real dollars and feet on the street.

For example, Camp Darfur in Second Life(a virtual reality world where users live through an avatar) allows visitors to tour a simulated refugee camp to educate them about the conflict in Sudan. It also provides visitors with ways to get more involved in raising awareness about the Darfur genocide.

My question is, how do online social networks translate to the fundraising and marketing world? Are the online relationships initiated through sites like Facebook or Second Life replacing traditional relationships, or are they filling a new niche? Personally, I  believe that the proliferation of such online opportunities does not signal a decline in demand for real-world interaction with brands (be they nonprofit organizations, politicians, activist groups, or corporations). The ease of bringing charitable or other causes to the Internet also impacts the public’s perception of their credibility. When any Joe Schmoe with a domain name can set up a fraudulent charity, it’s hard to judge the authenticity of a legit organization. It’s like the e-mail from the Nigerian Prince, but more sophisticated.

This is why I think it’s still paramount for ‘brands’ to cultivate personal relationships with their publics – whether they are donors, customers, or voters – on a physical level. But they shouldn’t ignore the popularity and success of online tools. Instead, I think the answer lies in forming a strategy that integrates online social networking with real-life, personal encounters. In cases where this is impossible, due to monetary or physical constraints, then Web 2.0 seems to provide an excellent solution. Either way, we’re talking about a means to an end – if the desired outcome can be best achieved purely through online interaction, then that’s what the organization should do.

In the end, for the same reason that brick and mortar stores have not been demolished by online retailers like Amazon, I doubt that online social networking will replace all traditional relationship management strategies. But, in the same way that online shopping has changed consumer’s habits, this new opportunity will certainly influence the next generation of donors.

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I can’t escape my thesis any longer


Alright, I admit it. I’ve been stalling on my thesis for the Honors College here at the U of O. I’ve spent the last 4 years dreading it and doing quite well at putting it off. But the time has come and I am finding myself piled elbow-deep in stacks of books and papers. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I have discontinued my long-cultivated habit of procrastination. In fact, I have found this blog to be an excellent way for me to simultaneously avoid working on my thesis and still feel as though I’m being very productive. It’s like I work for the Ministry of Silly Walks – I’m expending a lot of energy, but I’m not really getting where I need to go.

In case you’re curious, my thesis topic is still somewhat smushy in my mind, but pretty much it has to do with relationship management, nonprofit fund-raising, and the use of special events as a method of cultivating young professional donors. I think it’s cool.

If all good things come to an end, then my time of blissful dalliance seems to be up. I’m making a promise – I’m going to get my rear in gear. Please, for my sake, hold me to it.

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Branding with emotion: A human encounter

I just checked out Seth Godin’s recent post on “Fear, hope, and love: the three marketing levers” on his blog, Seth Godin’s Blog, and it got me thinking. My aspirations as an event planner go well beyond wanting to manage caterers and table arrangements. I want to work strategically with brands (nonprofits are brands too) to create opportunities for touchpoints – experiences that allow relationships to form between the brand and the individual.

Call it what you will: marketing, branding, relationship management, development, etc. Regardless of title, it’s a moment of tangible interaction between the organization and the individual. This encounter can end up painfully impersonal – think bland slideshow presentations, cookie-cutter decor, a cavalier attitude, etc. Or it can be a remarkably HUMAN moment. What makes such an event human? I would venture that it has something to do with distinctive personality and emotional connection. Godin explains that brands succeed in persuading consumers to take action via one of these three basic emotions: fear, hope, and love.

“Every successful marketer (including politicians) takes advantage of at least one of these basic needs.

Forbes Magazine, for example, is for people who hope to make more money.

Rudy Giuliani was the fear candidate. He tried to turn fear into love, but failed.

Few products or services succeed out of love. People are too selfish for an emotion that selfless, most of the time.”

He goes on to explain that sometimes love arises from hope, usually only after a brand has sufficiently endeared itself to the consumer. Tom Belford for The Agitator responded in his post “Hope & Love…Yeah, Right!” by writing about the “Super Seven” emotional drivers, identified as:


Either way, we can agree that emotion is paramount in appealing to consumers and creating meaningful relationships with them. The long-term success of fundraising depends entirely on the quality of relationships built between organizations and donors. Events, as I see it, are prime opportunities to introduce brands in an emotionally relevant way, by creating physical, memorable, multi-faceted, and PERSONAL interactions between two entities.

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It’s shake and bake, and I helped!

Bake sale

 The Valentine’s Bake Sale is over. Whew! It’s surprising how intense a tiny little church fundraiser can get for a few hours (hence the “shake” in the title). It’s like a flash flood. Before it began, I had a few goals in mind: 

  • Expand the product offerings – in other words, avoid the usual downpour of chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, and brownies.
  • Reduce waste (from saran wrap, zip-locks, etc.).
  • Introduce a standardized pricing guide to eliminate price discrepancies.
  • Raise money – preferably more than last year.

By all these accounts, I think the event was a success. A few of the goodies arrived individually wrapped (some quite smartly), but overall I think we ‘done good’. And more so, I hope it will get the ball rolling on people considering alternatives to plastic packaging and implementing greener practices in the future. We also raised about $680, which, if I recall the figures correctly, is about a 25% increase over last year. For that, I can’t take credit – it could just be that more sweet-tooths showed up this year than last, or that the kids brought more tantalizing treats.

Speaking of tantalizing treats, we had the most creative year yet! In addition to the standard fair, we had homemade jam, sweet honey BBQ sauce, and HANDMADE TAMALES! The tamales went in about 3 seconds. I didn’t even see them get sold; I just turned around and they were all gone! Warmed my little heart.


Sure, most of the treats weren’t as designer as some of the beautiful store-bought goodies. But I bet you can’t find something more endearing than a 15-year old football player showing up with a plate of slightly smushed and sloppily frosted cupcakes that he baked all by himself. That, my friend, takes the cake.

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