Archive | February, 2011

ABCs of Fundraising: Best Practices for a Successful Event

22 Feb

Monday, February 28, 2011

Fundraising, in some respects, is like an art form. It needs to be learned, appreciated, mastered. It’s true that anyone can ask for money; but, successful fundraising is more than that. It’s building lasting relationships for sustained giving and support. And even given the circumstances of our fledgling economy, charitable giving is up in the United States – over $300 billion!1 It’s time to harness the opportunity. Below are some of my suggestions – alphabetically, of course – for any fundraising campaign. (Note: All of these suggestions can apply to both fundraising campaigns and events.)

Awareness – Creating publicity for the event is first and foremost. If people don’t know about it, they won’t be there to support you.

Best-Practices – Establish a list of best-practices – a list of methods, activities or processes that will ensure a particular outcome – following your event/campaign that you can reference in the future.
Budget – Establish a budget during the planning stages. Consider including staff time and resources to establish a baseline which should make planning in the future easier.

Committees – Establish specific event committees, give them exact expectations, coach them and maintain Communication.
Confidence – Have confidence in your mission. Uncertainty will come across in your ask.

Donations – Obtain as many donated items as possible for the day-of (e.g. tents, AV equipment, photography, etc.). The less you have in expenses, the greater your profit. Or ask local businesses if they would be willing to donate a portion of proceeds for a particular product towards the event goal.
Donors – Make a list of your biggest donors and those people you have identified as the most potential donors (e.g. business owners, well-known society figures, etc.).

Efangelists and Fangelists Employ your brilliant efangelists and fangelists to spread the word for you. Remember that word-of-mouth is a highly effective tool.

Goals – Set realistic goals based on previous experience or similar events done by other organizations. Make sure everyone involved in planning the event knows your goal and your strategy to execute it. (Tip: Typically you don’t communicate this goal to the public, but do reveal the amount raised  and other pertinent details in a press release following the event.) Estimate your expenses for a more accurate picture of net income.

Honor – To bring in an even wider range of participants, honor someone who has been fundamental in mission integration and/or volunteering. Another idea is to honor someone who has been affected by your cause.

Innovation – The walk-a-thon is over-used, and let’s face it, kind of boring. Launch a new idea or even a variation of one that’s being done.

Jobs – Delegate specific jobs to day-of volunteers. Make sure they know explicitly what you need them to do. That way they’re not asking you questions every few minutes and you can concentrate on running your event.
Join – Have a station where people can join your advocacy network or sign up for membership and volunteering.

Keys – The key to any successful event is planning. Don’t rush into an event or campaign without having done research and planned every detail.
Keep – Following your event, hold a wrap-up meeting with your committee. Keep a record of everything that was positive and received good comments as well as the things that need improvement.

Leadership – It’s very important that your organization be visible in every way. That includes your board members. Have at least two or three  (board chairperson and vice-chair would be awesome!) attend your event to talk with constituents and, most importantly, donors and sponsors.

Mission – It’s not just about the money, but the mission. Ultimately, a fundraiser is conducted to further the mission of the organization. Therefore, the mission statement should be prominent in promotional material and at day-off activities.

Network – Join the local Chamber of Commerce, business networking groups, and non-profit organizations. The point is, be visible in the community in order to develop an extensive network.

Opportunity – Take advantage of this opportunity to showcase your programs and services, staff and even facilities. It’s ok to brag a little!

Purpose – Clearly define the purpose of your campaign. That sounds obvious, but sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do. Once you have it in place, everything else can be planned around your purpose statement.
Partnerships – Benefit from partnerships with organizations that share common values or that are willing to align themselves with your mission.

Quality – Quality over quantity. Yes, it sounds cliche, however, designing an event that is both exciting and entertaining will ensure that people come back. Your goal is to raise money, but retaining supporters is easier than recruiting new ones.

Research – Research your ideal donor. Research similar events to see how you can improve on the idea. Research, research, research. I can’t emphasize that enough.

Strategy – Plan your strategy detail by detail ahead of time so there are no surprises. You’ll want to have a contingency plan in place as well in case of bad weather, cancellations, etc.
Sponsorships – Approach potential donors and present the opportunity as a benefit to both their company and your organization.

Timeline – Formulate a logical timeline. This goes for the planning stage and the implementation of the event.
Third-Party Events – Third-party events are excellent ways to meet fundraising goals. Just make sure that the group you are working with aligns with your core values and mission. Not only is this a way to raise more money, but it’s great public relations for everyone involved.

Unique – A great way to get more participants? Make your event unique. Do something that hasn’t been done yet. Stand out.

Volunteers – Recruit a hard-working and trustworthy core of volunteers to plan and run the event. At some point, you may even be able to turn the event over to your volunteers, freeing you up for other  fundraising activities. (Tip: Don’t be opposed to holding informal interviews and having them fill out surveys to ensure they are a good match.)

Walk – Think outside the “walk”. How can you update it to better represent your purpose or brand? Better yet, come up with something altogether original.

(Sorry folks. There just isn’t much you can do with “x”.)
eXperience –  Capitalize on the experiences of your volunteers and supporters. Listen to their suggestions because in all likelihood they have some really good contributions for the planning and execution of your event.

Yield (results) – From year to year, you want to yield greater results. This may mean setting your goal higher, adjusting your strategies and/or updating your best-practices. Yield the results you want, but be proactive about it. A fundraiser is a 24/7, year-round event.

Zeal – Capitalize on the zeal and energy of your volunteers, supporters and attendees. Ask them about joining the committee, helping next year or just completing a survey of the event.

For more in-depth details and consultation, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I want your event to succeed just as much as you do. Let me know if I can help.


1 Great American Merchandise & Events


Your Turn

21 Feb

Monday, February 21, 2011

I’m doing a little research for an upcoming project (*hint hint*) and I need your input. The poll will be open all week so please send friends and fellow business owners over to participate. And stay tuned for details. Thanks so much!

Here’s a shortlink: or press “Share This” at the bottom of the poll box.

What Is Marketing Anyway? Pt. 2

17 Feb

Thursday, February 17, 2011

So now that we’ve defined them, lets really get into how marketing, advertising and public relations coordinate together to work for you. As I suggested, picture marketing as the broader subject; advertising and public relations are supports.

I’m going to take a product through each discipline so you can see each unique function in the creation of a product.

The product we’re going to use is a new post-pregnancy workout DVD series. It will be tailored for women who were active before and during their pregnancies. Each DVD contains a 30-minute intermediate workout by a veteran trainer who is also a mother herself and understands the emotions and challenges involved with childbirth and fitness. We’re going to assume that the product has already been launched and exists in the market.


Marketing is going to play the role of  developing the identity of the product and “creat[ing] the entity that the brand will become.”1 To start, we’ll narrow down our target market to: mothers who is at least 6 weeks postpartum that exercised regularly before and during her pregnancy. Here are some other demographics to consider:

  • a) women who are in their prime child-bearing years (20-35) who exercise regularly; and
  • b) women who are 6 months to a year postpartum still struggling to become fit.

Now that we know who we want to purchase the DVDs, we have to design promotions that will inspire interest and stimulate action. The overall campaign should be inviting, while reassuring the new mom of its safety. In fact, having a doctor’s recommendation for the product will greatly increase its success. Promotions should include trigger words and phrases like “safe”, “doctor recommended” and “short but effective workouts.”

When it comes planning the placement of promotions, we need to consider all the criteria for our target market. Also knowing more about them than just their pregnancy will give a full picture of who these women really are. Through research and surveys, we determine that they are:

  • stylish, first-time new moms eager to regain her pre-pregnancy figure;
  • workaholic moms with at least one child already who just wants to lose the baby weight;
  • single, empowered moms who need a quick exercise option to do after work and before making dinner;
  • newly married women thinking about starting a family;
  • a group of stay-at-home mothers who want to organize a playdate/workout program.

[Are you starting to get a feel for what this product is? At this point in your research, if you can’t answer yes to this question, it may be a good time to stop and re-evaluate your marketing plan. I’m obviously not going very in depth, but you’ll want to find out much more about your target market by getting to know them more intimately.]

We’ve created our product and defined our intended audience. We know more about who they are. We’ve established the emotion of the campaign. Now let’s get the message out there. So how are we going to reach this diverse audience? We go to where they are. We’ll want to advertise in parenting and pop culture magazines; fitness magazines or trade journals; and on women’s television networks like Oxygen, OWN, WEtv and Lifetime. We’ll even consider signing on a celebrity spokesperson. Remember: The idea of advertising is to be visible.

(Note: I am not an expert in advertising by any means. I can only give a concise overview of how it plays into the marketing scheme. There is much more that goes into advertising than just knowing where to place ads. There is an entire psychology to design and placement that I just don’t know enough about.)

Public Relations
Advertising is expensive. Let’s face it – not everyone can afford to place ads in magazines or commercials. This is where public relations can really work for you. Start with some word-of-mouth, networking and partnerships and then when you have the budget for it, conduct an advertising campaign. For this particular product, I think taking a grassroots approach will be successful. It will be a lot of work, but rewarding in the end. We’ll start by partnering with large regional or national gyms and women’s fitness centers (i.e. Gold’s Gym, Bally, even YMCAs) to offer classes incorporating the DVD series. Another idea is to network with OB/GYN and general practice physician groups that can recommend the program to their patients. They will probably not be able or willing to endorse the product per se, however, they may be willing to make information available in their patient resource center.

Fitness is a hot topic and always in the media. We’re also going to position ourselves as experts specifically in the area of postpartum fitness. Media is always searching for accurate resources to verify elements of their work. Think about it: how often does The Today Show or Good Morning America call upon experts on various topics to debate an issue? We’re going to be that expert. There is also a great resource called or HARO that lets you do just that on the ground level. We’re going to become a trusted source that media outlets will contact regularly.

And the most basic PR practice of all is the humble, yet amazingly valuable press release. Never underestimate its power!! We’re going to send press releases to major regional media groups (radio, TV and print) to create a buzz about our new product. The beauty of the press release is that it is earned media. Though it’s a promotional piece that we create, it doesn’t come across that way to audiences. Instead, it sounds like a third-party endorsement and, in general, people are more likely to take action on something they hear from a “peer” than a pushy ad. [Can you tell I love public relations? It’s incredibly useful.]


I sincerely hope this helped answer some of your questions. I love being a resource for my fellow entrepreneurs. If I can help to answer any other questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. Call me at 610.393.4430 or e-mail. Thanks for stopping by.

1 “A branded WORLD” Michael Levine p. 6

What Is Marketing Anyway? Pt. 1

16 Feb

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I get asked all the time, “What is the difference between marketing, advertising and public relations?” Well, I’m here to definitively answer that question. And then I’ll talk about how each relates to the other.

Marketing – While there is not just one definition for marketing because it encompasses such a large range of topics and practices, the American Marketing Association sums it up perfectly: “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” At the core of marketing is defining the identity of your product or service while invisibly presenting it as mutually beneficial to both buyer and seller. It is the broader subject of the three disciplines.

Advertising – Advertising is probably the easiest one to define because it’s the one we know the best; it’s what we see. Advertising is a paid, public promotion or announcement of a company’s message intended to persuade an audience to take action. It’s used to reveal the product/brand and its personality to the target audience. The look is just as important as the message to convey character. If marketing is invisible, than advertising is prominent and obvious.

Public Relations (PR) – Public relations is another practice that has several layers of explanation and because of that is not easily defined in one concise summary. According to the Public Relations Society of America, PR “… helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” While that’s an apt definition, I don’t think it does much to explain how. So, here’s my definition: Public relations is the art of cultivating advantageous relationships and disseminating positive messages about a company or brand by means of free* media. (*Keep in mind, “free” here simply relates to money in it’s strictest form. I’m not taking into account time and resources. Also known as “earned media“.)  It’s understated and behind-the-scenes.

Now that we’ve defined what each is, check back tomorrow to find out how they integrate to create a fully functioning brand.

See you back here tomorrow!

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