Launches

11 Simple Options to Increase Your Year-End Giving

You’ll notice the title of this post is “SIMPLE Options to Increase Your Year-End Giving,” not “EASY Options . . .” Because we all know there’s a big difference between simple and easy! Simple is focused, minimal, and uncluttered. Easy is typically done in a short time period and with little work.

Simple is Joanna Gaines decorating a room effortlessly and beautifully. Easy is me picking up her decor at Target rather than me trying to design a room on my own. (Thanks, Jo!)

And I’m not trying to pull a bait-and-switch on you here. You’re too smart for that. So, while some of these ideas will take more time and effort than others, all of them will help you improve your nonprofit’s fundraising campaign this season.

People are feeling charitable (and tax-deductible) this time of year, so let’s make sure your cause gets their attention.

 11 Simple Options to Increase Your Year-End Giving

1. Ask For Only One Thing

Chances are, you’re going to be asking for donations. If that’s the case, ask your tribe to show you the money. Don’t also ask them to follow you on social media, watch your latest video, join your Facebook Group (<— Oh, hey! I have one of those!), sign up for something . . . and, well, you get the point. Keep your emails and communication focused on the one, main thing you want them to do.

The exceptions to this rule would be something like a contest where they have to take multiple actions for an entry. Additionally, you can still leave some of these smaller asks in secondary spaces like footers. You can also still make some of these requests occasionally on your platforms.

However, when you are sending an email, posting about your campaign, or presenting to a group of people, keep it simple. Ask for only one thing. Don’t clutter your message.

Let’s look at the facts. According to Nonprofits Source, “30% of annual giving occurs in December.” So, this is no time to confuse people on what you want them to do! Giving them too many options or actions may even result in them taking no action at all. Yikes.

2. Evaluate Your Website For Optimal Giving

Even if people typically donate to your nonprofit through social media, text, or an app, get your website’s house in order to optimize year-end giving. Many people still give through websites, and if someone is new to you or your cause, they may check out your site before giving through another avenue like texting.

Make sure your campaign is front-and-center on your homepage, your donate button is easy to see and ideally in the top right corner, and evaluate any other pages where giving should be mentioned.

You don’t have to only designate one or two pages for fundraising efforts. Don’t bombard people, of course, but it may be appropriate to create an “event” for your campaign on your calendar page or add it to your About page. Additionally, you can create a banner at the top of your site that will display on all pages. (See mine in red at the top?) This is done through the “Hello Bar” plug-in on Wordpress and the “Announcement Bar” in Squarespace.

Want more of an explanation? Take a look at my video on how your website is less like IKEA and more like a mall.

3. Increase Your Promotion Frequency

There’s a tricky balance to this, and I explain it more in this video, but you definitely want to increase your email/social media/video/promotion frequency leading into year-end giving. This practice holds true with any launch, but especially because you’ll be dealing with a lot of competition during the holidays. Other nonprofits will be combing the interwebs for more donations, too, and lest we forget about all of those unbelievable sales at your favorite retail stores.

The takeaway here is that you shouldn’t send an email in November and December, post the campaign on social media a couple of times, and call it a day. You are going to have to work hard for that money, as the song goes. And you’re going to have to see it through until the end. Give Back Nation states that 12% of annual giving occurs during the last three days of December!

The caveat here is for my friends who’ve been so busy working that they let all their marketing and communications efforts fall by the wayside. Is that you? No judgement, but now’s the time to rev up those engines. Start now by sending your audience an email on what’s been happening, posting the latest on social media, and having general update conversations with people. This way you aren’t only going to send them a bunch of requests for money. That’s no bueno.

4. Offer Multiple Ways to Give

Give your people multiple ways to give. This goes back to the basics of knowing your audience. If you have a younger audience, consider adding the ability to donate via text. Check out these compelling stats from Mobile Cause, including the one that says, “96% of donors use a mobile phone as their primary device.”

If you have an older audience, you might want to consider hopping back on the snail mail wagon. There is no perfect answer here. There is only the answer that works for your tribe. Again, you always want to make it easy for them to give by removing any barriers in their path.

5. Add a Bonus

If you’ve got merchandise on your hands, you may want to give donors a gift in exchange for their contribution. You could even have something created just for this purpose, like a mug, tumbler, t-shirt, or jewelry.

People who are invested in your organization and your cause will be delighted to receive swag for their support. Plus, then they’re carrying your message around with them in public.

6. Get Up Close and Personal

I don’t need to go in-depth on this one, but a face-to-face interaction will always be your best bet. It works better than any sponsor presentation, email, video, or social media post. Get on the calendar of your biggest donors to date, or potential big givers, and make your case over lunch or coffee. Maybe even pay for it!

Another option here is to at least email people personally and start a conversation. Don’t rely on the mass emails that come from your organization. Write specifically to them, and make sure they know it’s coming straight from you. (For the right people, phone calls or video chats are also a good option here.)

Don’t have time? This is potentially the most powerful of all the ideas you’ll read here today, so if you don’t have time, I suggest you make it.

7. Get Everyone on Board

Year-end fundraising is an all hands on deck situation! Make sure your board, employees, volunteers, and any other key stakeholders are carrying the banner.

I talk about this topic a lot on the blog and elsewhere as it relates to launching, but this is a big deal, so it shouldn’t be left to the development or communications department. Everyone needs to be involved!

(For more, read this post.)

8. Go Outside

Yes, it’s getting chilly outside, but this may be the prime time to get out there and start cultivating more donors at events, whether you’re hosting them or not. There’s already plenty happening this season!

It’s easy to leave all of the fundraising to your digital marketing strategy, but shaking hands has a powerful impact on people. In fact, this study shows that “a handshake preceding social interaction enhanced the positive impact of approach and diminished the negative impact of avoidance behavior on the evaluation of social interaction.”

A handshake and a smile can put people at ease, and give you an open door for talking about your cause. Someone may not be ready to give during that first interaction, but you’re paving the way to a future relationship, which is a big win overall.

9. Participate in #GivingTuesday (At Least to Some Extent)

Some of you probably love #GivingTuesday, and some of you don’t. Some of you may even be new to the “holiday” as a whole, since it’s been around less than a decade.

Now in its seventh year, this unofficial holiday occurs the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and celebrates ways people can contribute to causes, whether monetary, through volunteering, or some other type of involvement.

A few of my clients have participated in #GivingTuesday in the past, but most haven’t. What I suggest to them all, however, is to jump into the mix in some way or another. There are tens of thousands of charities participating each year, so why not be a part of the conversation?

You don’t have to come up with a specific campaign for this purpose, but I think it’s a great idea to send an email on this day, post on social media about your campaign, and anything else that keeps you in front of your audience while numerous other nonprofits are out there seeking for donations.

Even the most generous of us still only have so much money to go around, so make sure you’re getting a piece of that pie.

10. Ask Partners to Promote

If you are lucky enough to have influencers, partners, sponsors, and the like who rally around your cause, it may be time to call in a favor. You may, of course, need to do something for them in return (or at least offer), but if there’s someone who can help you get your message out in the world, this could be a great time to rally the troops.

Let me sing my song again, though: Make it easy for them. Don’t just say thanks, and leave them to put together their own social promotions and emails. It’s less likely to get done, or the messaging may not be what you want. Always offer to create whatever resources they may need. If they don’t need you, great! But if they do, you’ll be the hero!

11. Recruit Someone to Match Gifts

I’ve left this one for last because it’s potentially the hardest. In fact, because we’ve crossed the line into November, it may even be too late. But depending on your resources, maybe not! I’d certainly give it a try. If it’s an option you need to table for now, make it one of your 2019 priorities.

And let me clarify. This section could include workplace charitable giving with a matching option, or one of those, “Give by December 1st and all donations will be matched up to $50,000” kind of campaigns that is instigated by one generous donor.

According to Double the Donation, “Mentioning matching gifts in fundraising appeals results in a 71% increase in the response rate and a 51% increase in the average donation amount (and that’s prior to receiving matching gift funds).” That stat makes it a big deal!

So, determine your heavy-hitters as well as your corporate partners, and see what it will take to move the needle in your direction. This could be a huge win for your nonprofit!

(Not sure where to start? We have a resource that may be a huge help to you, and it’s releasing in a couple of weeks! Stay tuned!)

What else has helped you haul in those end of year donations?



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

 People are feeling charitable (and tax-deductible) this time of year, so let’s make sure your cause gets their attention.

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


10 High Result, Low Budget Launch Marketing Ideas

A few days ago, I laughed and cried my way through the Won’t You Be My Neighbor? documentary about Mister Roger’s and his famed neighborhood. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it!

As a kid who watched and loved that show, it brought back a lot of memories. However, as a kid who grew up to be a marketer, I can’t help but watch everything through that lens as well. Occupational hazard! One of the things that struck me was his approach to the concept of his show. He stripped away a lot of the fanfare and gimmicks he saw on other shows, leaving room for his authenticity, playfulness, and heart for educating children on important values. And kids loved it!

Okay, so what does this movie have to do with launching, you might ask? Well, it’s that same lesson I want you to take into your next launch. People will ultimately resonate with you and your mission, not simply because of some stunt or gimmick.

Sure, there might be times when those kinds of tricks enhance your launch, but don’t come to depend on them. If you have a sale every time you launch a new product, for example, people may start to only buy at that time. After all, when’s the last time you bought something full priced at Old Navy? With a new sale every other week, they’ve trained people to wait for the next sale before making a purchase.

I’m also reminded of those launches that give away the latest iPhone or a European trip. Does anyone else sign up for all of those? I know they do because I never seem to win! However, as soon as that giveaway is over, I jump ship and unsubscribe. That’s no way to build a loyal list.

But I also realize that people also have to see and hear your mission to get on board. So, let’s talk about 10 high result, low budget launch marketing ideas that I love. There are varying levels of time and energy required for each, but I’ve seen them do great things for other nonprofits and social enterprises, and think they can serve you well, too.

 10 High Result, Low Budget Launch Marketing Ideas for Nonprofits and Social Enterprises

1) Empower People to Share About Your Launch

There’s still no better form of advertising than word-of-mouth. So, why not increase yours by empowering people to do just that? And it helps when you can give them a nudge, too!

I wrote a whole blog post about this idea, but the gist is that you should provide pre-written social media samples (text, images, videos, etc.) to your staff and key stakeholders for every major launch. Essentially, you’re giving them all the tools they need to help promote with little effort on their part. If they have to think hard about it or write their own, they’re much less likely to take action.

2) Update Your Website . . . In More Than One Place

This may seem like a silly thing to state, but remember how we’re all still waiting for common sense to catch on? Yep, this goes in that category. I’m saying it because I see it.

If you’ve got a huge launch coming up, and you don’t make it prominent on your website—and in multiple places—you’re doing yourself a big disservice. It’s common to put a launch image or blurb on your homepage, but what about other pages? It might be a great fit there, too. And, depending on how someone found you, they may not even land on your homepage first, so you don’t want them to miss the memo.

3) Add Bonuses to Your Launch

Bonuses are usually my preference over discounts. This way you aren’t devaluing your service, product, event, or whatever else you may be creating. Plus, they can make your launch even more exciting, resulting in more eyes paying attention.

Bonuses are normally offered during the pre-launch or early launch phase, and examples can include one-on-one time with you, an additional product, a video series, a gift from one of your partners, etc. The options are endless!

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes sales and discounts are the way to go, but take a look at bonuses as well. “Limited time offers” fall under this umbrella, too. They’re a great way to ask people to take an action with a deadline in mind, which is often very beneficial for you in the planning stages.


4) Email Your Tribe (More Than Once)

Inboxes fill up fast, so don’t rely on just one or two emails to make your big announcement. And people often have great intentions to buy or donate, but they’re also bombarded with a million distractions every day.

So, create a series of emails to educate and inspire your tribe to take action. Find different angles of your launch to address in each one, rather than simply repeating the same information.


5) Jump On Facebook Live and Instagram Live

Over the last couple of years, video has become hot, hot, hot! For this introverted copywriter, that’s a real bummer, ha! For others it may be great news. Regardless, it’s important to sit up and pay attention. Takeaway —> You can’t ignore video!

So, it’s time to jump on Facebook and Instagram Live. What you should love about this marketing channel is that it’s super cheap. As in free. You don’t need a studio or all the fancy lighting. With the click of a button, you’re in business.

If video is new or uncomfortable to you, I suggest starting with Facebook and Insta Stories because they disappear in 24 hours. Less pressure, hooray! Once you have a little more courage, or if you prefer to force yourself as I do, give Facebook Live a chance. Video allows you to talk to your fans almost as if you were in the room with them, giving you a fantastic opportunity to talk about your launch and cause.

6) Utilize All Your Real Estate

If your organization has multiple websites, email lists, social media channels, or apps, make sure they’re all involved and promoting. This is no time to be timid!

When I was an event marketing director, our main sources of revenue were events and curriculum. The curriculum purchasers logged in regularly to view materials, and we also had an internal bulletin board on their website for announcements. So, you’d better believe I promoted events over there!

Besides your main website and social media, where else can you communicate to potential donors and customers?

7) Ask Partners to Promote Your Launch

Who do you know that can help promote your launch for free? This can be individuals or companies. It might be official partners and sponsors, or casual friends of your nonprofit or social enterprise that want to see you succeed enough to promote on your behalf.

This is a great opportunity to get in front of entirely new audiences. Just remember, however, that you may need to scratch their back in the future, too.

8) Let Your Audience In On The Process

Create ready-made buyers when you give people a say in the end result. Allowing your audience to provide ideas, feedback, or suggestions during the pre-launch phase to gives them ownership and gets them excited. They’re more likely to participate and share the launch as well.

I’ve seen authors allow their fans to choose book covers, course creators ask for suggestions, product makers seek out testers, and much more. How can you get your people involved?

9) Share Customer Reviews or Testimonials

We all love social proof. It’s the reason we seek out Yelp and Amazon reviews. It’s nice to know that someone has come before us and already loves what we’re interested in. It simply helps us proceed with confidence.

Obviously, some launches lend themselves better to this idea than others, but don’t be afraid to think out-of-the-box. If you have a fundraising campaign, for example, add testimonials to your site (and giving page) from those that have benefitted from your work or have previously donated.

Here’s an example from Signify.

10) Pre-Sale Your Launch

Wouldn’t it be a wondrous thing to have money coming in before you’ve officially launched? That’s the beauty of a pre-sale.

This is why some events allow you to purchase tickets to the following year before you even walk out the door. It’s also why movies sell tickets months in advance. And don’t forget about those books that come with pre-launch bonuses, or courses that give you a discount prior to hitting the market. The pre-sale has definite advantages for both you and the buyer!



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

 Let’s talk about 10 high result, low budget launch marketing ideas that I love. There are varying levels of  time and energy  required for each, but I’ve seen them do great things for other nonprofits and social enterprises, and think they can serve you well, too.

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


How to Start a Successful YouTube Channel

Been thinking about starting a YouTube Channel for your nonprofit or social enterprise? if so, you’re not alone. My intern, McKenzie Bethel, is about to share some compelling stats that may move you beyond simple curiosity.

In fact, for nonprofits, it may be the perfect time to begin! Just a few weeks ago, the video giant announced YouTube Giving, which will offer expanded tools for soliciting and receiving donations. But no matter your business model, here are a few, easy ways to create your YouTube channel.

 How

It can be difficult to clearly convey what you are thinking and feeling through written text. While traditional social media sites are great for starting, growing, and expanding your organization, sometimes the human to human connection can get lost in translation. This is one reason video has become so popular. It’s the next best thing to being in the room with someone.

And when it comes to video, there’s still no one bigger than YouTube. Along with connecting to your audience, YouTube can be used as a great marketing tool.

Why YouTube?

Over two million videos are viewed on the platform each day. Just imagine how much attention even a portion of that could bring to your nonprofit or social enterprise!

A little over 10 years ago, Google bought YouTube, making it one of the most searchable platforms around. This merger is great news for your organization and growing a channel, as this allows you to appear in many more search results.

YouTube has become a powerful form of communication because it makes sharing your message incredibly simple. And unlike other social media outlets, YouTube’s content is widely consumed outside of itself, such as on other websites. Embedded videos allow users to share your content almost anywhere for more people to see.

Another perk is its longevity. Videos are often watched and shared months after they were posted, even without promotion.

Before you jump in, though, there are a few things you need to know to make the best out of your new YouTube channel.  

 

1.     Choosing a URL

As they say, the internet is forever. Well at least your YouTube URL will be. Google, the owner of YouTube, makes it very difficult to change your URL, especially if you have a young and growing channel. Unless you qualify for a custom URL, you are stuck with the first one you select.

Choose something that is synonymous with your organization and brand. It’s also a good idea to examine your other platforms. Having the same username across all of your different social media channels makes it easier for your audience to find and connect with you. Using a tool like Namechekr will help you make sure that the name you want is available on multiple platforms.  

 2.     Consistency

The key to a successful YouTube channel is being consistent! To keep an active audience, you must be active as well. One way to stay consistent is to let your viewers know when you will be posting and to stick to that promise. It lets them know that you will be coming back regularly and are committed to your work. It also gives them something of yours to look forward to.

The frequency of your uploads depends on the type of channel you have. With a vlog, you would want to post more often to keep the audience in tune with your daily life. For most other channels, posting once a week is sufficient.

Whatever upload schedule you decide on, stick to it! Your audience will lose trust in you and your nonprofit or social enterprise if you make promises that you cannot keep. 

 

3.      Optimization

If you haven’t heard yet, YouTube is going through major algorithmic changes. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with, even for the current, popular creators. However, there are a couple of ways to stay ahead of the game.

Quality, quality, quality. No one wants to watch a blurry, difficult to see video. High resolution, high quality videos will attract more viewers. More viewers will, in turn, encourage people to like, share, and subscribe. And greater interaction will increase the ranking of your video and that is how more people will see it.  

Close behind video quality is content optimization. Telling YouTube what your videos are about will help them reach more people. The title, tags, and description will tell YouTube’s algorithm how to categorize your video and make it appear in the appropriate search results.

Find the right buzzwords that relate to your video. Use them in your title, tags, and description along with other relevant words that will attract a larger audience. Shorter descriptions tend to perform better. Not many people want to read an essay before watching a video.

A good rule of thumb is to keep the description under 180 characters without forgetting the most important information. With that being said, do not use fluff words. YouTube can detect “filler” tags and will shift your video ranking lower. Use words that are relevant to the context of your video, channel, and cause-focused organization as a whole. Always include your website, social media links, and other links you want your viewers to have handy.

 4.     Thumbnail, Title, and Trailer

The thumbnail and title are the first two viewed elements of your video. If they are not interesting enough, no one will click to watch more. YouTube is considered one of the largest search engines at the moment, so having a catchy title can increase your channel traffic tremendously.

Make sure your title is short, yet engaging and descriptive. One thing to note is that video titles are not permanent! You can play around with different keywords and title structures to see what works best for you.

One of the easiest ways to gain views is by having incredibly eye-catching thumbnails. YouTube will offer random screenshots for you to use as thumbnails, but it is a much better decision to create custom thumbnails. A great resource for that is Canva. Canva has many templates, including one specifically for YouTube thumbnails. This way you always get to control what people immediately see on your videos, rather than worrying about someone’s eyes being closed or mouth being open.

While you want to make your thumbnail interesting, avoid click-bait! Click-bait is using a provocative title or photo in order to get someone to click on it, only to find out the topic is not related to the content at all. Click-baiting is very deceiving and will make your current followers, and new viewers, lose trust in you.

Your video titles should be short, sweet, and clever but not to the point where they are difficult to understand. They should hint to the biggest point in the video without giving too much away.

Your channel trailer may be the first video your growing audience will see when they visit your channel. It’s a short clip that promotes your channel and hooks your audience into wanting to see more. The best trailers show the highlights of your page and display your businesses content in a fun way. Instead of sitting down and talking about your channel, show us!  

If possible, use clips from previous videos and compile them into your own little story reel. That is a creative way to explain what your channel is all about. Keep your trailer short and sweet, too. YouTube analytics predict that trailers under 40 seconds perform better than longer ones. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to make the viewer subscribe. If you were a new viewer, what is something you would be excited to see?

 

5.     Content

Content is the heart and soul of your channel. Ultimately, it’s what draws viewers in and keeps them coming back. Your channel is the perfect place to introduce your work or cause, share ideas, and promote upcoming launches. The most common and successful videos for small businesses and organizations are product explanations, customer testimonies, and tips.

It sounds daunting to create so much new content, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Repurposing video and content is more than welcome in the YouTube community. For example, if you are already producing a podcast, try taping it and posting that footage to your channel. People would love to see the mannerisms and facial expressions that go along with their favorite podcast.

Another way to repurpose content is by using footage from a previous event and adding to it. Show snippets of the event and add in your commentary so the viewer is engaged. Of course, the type of content you choose to post will depend on each organization, but a good rule to follow is to mix it up. Switching it up between sit-down videos and “in the field” type videos will keep your audience looking forward for your next upload.

 

6.     Be social, share, and collaborate

Popular videos are promoted more often by YouTube and that’s all thanks to engagement levels. More subscribers and more views will place your videos higher in search results. It’s a huge plus if someone subscribes to your channel right after watching one of your videos, according to YouTube.

The easiest and most organic way to generate growth is to ask for it! Share your channel and videos on your other social media channels and website, tell your friends and colleagues, and collaborate with other entrepreneurs and organizations. Using a Call To Action (CTA), is a great way to get the word out about your cause and YouTube is no different.

Each one of your videos should have a CTA at the end to further engage your audience and encourage them to take action. Tell viewers exactly what you want them to do whether that’s subscribing, liking, or sharing your video. 

Last but definitely not least—become a part of the YouTube community. Find channels that correlate with your organization, cause, or personal brand and engage with them! Even leaving a simple comment on another creator’s channel can connect you with the right person.  

Contributing to discussions will attract new viewers to your channel as well. Leaving thoughtful comments will grab the attention of passer-by and encourage them to check out your content. Avoid spamming others’ comment sections, however. That gives of an insincere vibe and will not yield great channel traffic results. 

 

Would you like to see this advice in action?

Here are four examples that showcase the tips above. The first two are nonprofits, and the latter are for-profit organizations.

The Task for Global Health has a wide variety of videos. Some explain who they are and what they do, and others are stories from communities they have served. And Dosomething.org caters to young people, so they have a more laid-back approach to their channel. The incorporate interviews, challenges, and some public service announcements into their content.

The Body Shop is a cause-oriented brand. They use their YouTube channel to show tutorials for their products and on occasion, have serious conversations. Finally, most of us know about Tom’s Shoes and what they stand for. Their videos range from completely creative content to their newest shoe to showing off their charity work. These four organizations can be great inspirations for your own channel.

Does your organization have a YouTube channel? If so, leave your link in the comments, and we’ll check it out!


 McKenzie Bethel

I’m McKenzie Bethel and I’m a fourth-year Economics Major at the Georgia State University with a minor in Journalism.

I have many hobbies but writing, filming, and creating content hold a special place in my heart. I hope to use economics to advocate for caused-focused organizations in the future.

LinkedIn



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

 It can be difficult to clearly convey what you are thinking and feeling through written text. While traditional social medias are great for starting, growing, and expanding your organization, sometimes the human to human connection can get lost in translation. Along with connecting to your audience, YouTube can be used as a great marketing tool.

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


How to Make Your Next Event More Successful

Quick note: During the summer, we'll only be publishing one blog post per month as we focus on some new activities and allow you some down time without falling behind on content.

I don't know about you, but I love events. I love attending them, of course, but also working on them behind-the-scenes. When I was an event marketing director, I was able to help create a dynamic experience for almost 8,000 people. And with my nonprofit and social enterprise freelance clients, it's still a blast to see an event go from concept to completion, resulting in smiling faces, sales earned, and money raised.

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of working with one of my favorite local organizations, Atlanta Dream Center, on their annual benefit dinner. I had been volunteering with them for three years at that point, and they were Signify's first, official client, so they'll always have a soft spot in my heart. Understandably, I was thrilled to be working with them on a professional level now, too.

At the end of the evening, we had quite a surprise—we had not only met the fundraising goal, but we had quadrupled the previous year's total! High fives all around!

However, I don't think it was an accident. After working on so many events over the years, both large and small, I believe there is a key factor we implemented during the event planning process that changed everything.

So, if you're looking for event planning tips, this one's a doozy! Here's how to make your next event more successful than your last. (Hint: It's probably not what you think.)

 How to Make Your Next Event More Successful

If you stumbled upon this post looking for the latest event planning tips and tricks, you might be a little disappointed. But, hang with me, I think you'll still learn a really valuable lesson, especially if you're a beginner to the event planning world.

You see, what I've found over and over again, across many contexts, is that while there are always shiny, new ideas to make your event look awesome, there is one element of event planning that should always get the spotlight.

It's the step that should never get skipped.

So, what is it? Strategy.

I truly believe taking a more strategic approach to planning the 2016 Atlanta Dream Center (ADC) annual benefit gala was key to its financial success.

Here's why.

A FOUNDATION FOR SUCCESS

When I first started as a contractor for the benefit dinner, I was mostly working alongside the development director, who had been in the position less than a year. So, we were both newbies to the event. And even though the dinner was entering its fourth year, I felt like the event was still just trying to get off the ground. 

There was no established model to follow. The ADC staff had tried a few different formats, but hadn't really fallen in love with one yet. That gave us a lot of latitude without a tremendous amount of expectations, except for the fact that this was their largest fundraiser of the year. #NoPressure

There were a couple of things we immediately did to start off on the right foot. The first was to get organized. Those who had been in charge of the dinner previously were no longer with the nonprofit, so we had to conduct a treasure hunt for some of the assets because I really wanted to take a look at what had been done before to assess how effective it was, and ways to build on it.

Once we had them collected, my suggestion was that we move everything to Google Drive so all stakeholders would have instant access. This plan worked great, and allowed us to collaborate well. It also solved the problem of keeping everything in a central location should someone else leave in the future.

The other, main thing we did was set up regular planning and check-in meetings leading up to the event, which was about five months away. Some of those were just between the development director and I, and some involved all department heads for the organization that needed to have a say in aspects of the dinner. 

These two choices may seem easy, small, or inconsequential, but I promise you that they made a big difference in the tone and feel of the event right from the start. And everyone could feel it.

Never underestimate the power of being organized!

STRATEGY'S ROLE IN EVENT PLANNING

Now, we were ready to start the event planning process. And this is where strategy became the star player.

During one of our early meetings, the entire team was sitting around a table discussing the format, logistics, and what people liked and didn't like from previous years. I also started asking them more questions about who would be in the seats.

This proved to be a key moment because, not only should you ask this question every time you plan an event, but that year was a turning point for the organization. The goals for this dinner were bigger because costs had risen, of course, but they were also gaining a bigger reputation in the area.

Previously, it had been friends, family, and close partners who attended the event. That year, however, they wanted to target new individuals and corporations. Essentially, they were ready to broaden their reach.

So, we had to start looking at everything fresh for that year's dinner. What had worked in the past might not work for a new crowd.

We revamped the sponsorship package, added a lot of cold leads to the potential sponsor list, and changed the format of the event to be more forward-thinking and informative, rather than using "insider" language as they had done before.

This new group of attendees might not be familiar with the different ministries under ADC's umbrella, or know why the work is important, or understand how their donations can effect people and programs all over the state. It was a big opportunity, and we didn't want to miss it.

I also created::

  • Positioning language for the sponsorship package, instead of it just be a list of benefits, which helped people understand the what and why of their mission.

  • A formal sponsorship letter that anyone on the staff could use as a framework to solicit donations.

  • Talking points so that anyone who spoke about the dinner to a potential sponsor, donor, or ticket buyer could stay "on message," relaying the most important aspects of why the event was being held and what the money would go to.

  • The text for the website and email/print newsletters, so that everything was aligned and on point.

  • A marketing plan for them to see the event strategically from start to finish, even if I wasn't around.

  • A press release to get the word out about the event's success after it was over, which could bring more eyes to their work, resulting in even more new supporters, donors, or partners.

The ministry also began working on ways they could highlight their uniqueness, as well as how it relates to the overall mission of the organization. We needed to clearly communicate how everything worked together. And it turned out to be a very cool, experiential element of the evening that they now improve each year.

From the initial conversation to the wrap-up meeting, my goal was to bring a new level of professionalism to the event, and a fresh pair of eyes.

Don't get me wrong, their staff is outstanding at what they do, and they are relational to the core. (And a whole lot of fun!) But, like many small nonprofits, they struggled with systems and processes. Strategy wasn't the foundation of the event. 

(Note: Having an annual fundraiser because everyone else does or simple because you need money isn’t a strategy—or even a very good reason. Make sure you truly understand why you want to host the event before you put your staff through the pain of executing it.)

We made a huge amount of progress that year—and it showed. Yes, the final fundraising tally was fantastic, but those who had previously attended their benefit dinners also noted how different everything felt. They could see and feel the shift and intentionality, and they were really looking forward to the next one. That's definitely what you want to hear!

The staff also said that it was the most relaxed they'd felt at the benefit dinner. (<— Also what you want to hear!) Each person knew their role, and were able to connect with sponsors and donors throughout the evening rather than running around putting out fires and pitching in on last-minute logistics. 

One of the other things I suggested to the team was that we not only ask for donations at the end of the event, which was already part of the plan, but we give attendees other ways to stay engaged and build deeper relationships with ADC throughout the year. This was important both for the die-hard fans and the people who were new to the mission.

You don't want to have a great event and captive audience, and then just say you'll see them next year. You want to give them a clear next step, and make it easy to take.

Our answer was to have staffed tables and flyers available in the lobby while people waited in line for valet service. This move gave attendees options for getting more involved with whichever ministry struck a chord with them that night, as well as opportunities to further utilize their time, resources, and funds to support the nonprofit.

DETERMINING SUCCESS

It's absolutely true that sales and donations are important. Those things keep the doors open and the lights on. And it's equally true that people have planned events with far less strategy and still seen great results.

But planning a successful event can be seen so many different ways:

  • Hitting bigger sales and revenue goals

  • Increasing attendance

  • Not driving your staff insane

  • Letting you sleep easier at night

  • Allowing your tribe to take the right, next steps with your organization

That's why I think strategy is the key to making your next event more successful. It certainly worked for Atlanta Dream Center, and I think it will work for you too.

 

“‘Exceed expectations’ is an overused expression with few who can document occasions when they actually did exceed expectations. Kristi Porter is one who can point to the work she did with the Atlanta Dream Center and accurately state that she exceeded all of our expectations. You will be well pleased with the results achieved by bringing Kristi onto your team.” - Mark Northcutt, Atlanta Dream Center

 



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

 After working on so many  events  over the years, both large and small, I believe there is a key factor we implemented during the event planning process that changed everything.So, if you're looking for event planning tips, this one's a doozy! Here's how to make your next event more successful than your last. (Hint: It's probably not what you think.)

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Want to Grow Your Business? You Need Help.

Quick note: During the summer, we'll only be publishing one blog post per month as we focus on some new activities and allow you some down time without falling behind on content.

 

Here's one thing I know about you: You want your business to grow. 

Not everyone does. In fact, some people are quite content for their small business to stay small, which is totally fine. They're just looking for some extra money, and a side gig or a "professional hobby" will do. But I know you want to grow your business because it's not just about you. It's about your cause.

Whether you're a nonprofit or a for-profit with a social mission, you want to increase your organization's capacity and influence because you're fighting for something. You may not have a desire to become the next TOMS or Habitat for Humanity, but you do have a desire to help more people. You want to have a bigger impact. You want to do more good.

So, how do you grow your small business?

There's one simple way that I recommend you start thinking about today: Get help. Yes, it may be simple, but I realize it's not easy.

It's not easy to decide to spend the money. It's not easy to allocate your resources differently. It's not easy to bring someone new into your process. But I believe this one decision can make all the difference. 

It has for me, and I think it can do the same for you. And guess what? It may not even require hiring more staff.

 Want to Grow Your Business? You Need Help.

First of all, I realize it's a bit of a Catch-22. You'd be happy to spend the money to get more help...if you could only make more money in order to do so!

I've been stuck on that hamster wheel myself, and some days honestly, I still am. But there is also something to be said for the old adage, "You have to spend money to make money." And I believe that's true. Maybe deep down, you do too.

But, like I said, there's also plenty of good news! It may not require hiring more staff to get your organization to the next level. It may just require some creative, out-of-the-box thinking. Or some networking. Or some short-term effort. Regardless, though, it will require help.

Why? You can only do so much at your current level—even if you already have a small staff. 

The Facts About Small Business

  • The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council states that 89.4% of small businesses have less than 20 staffers. 

  • The Small Business Administration notes that about half of all small businesses make it to the five-year mark, with approximately one third seeing their 10-year anniversary.

  • When looking at just women-owned businesses, Small Business Labs tell us that 41% of my #girlboss peers only have between two and four employees, while 51% are solopreneurs!

  • Finally, this report by Babson College tells us that 70% of the small business owners they polled found it difficult to hire qualified employees.

Besides throwing a lot of numbers at you, what am I trying to say? First, growing a business is hard, but I don't have to tell you that! Second, there is another way to get the help you need and grow your business without necessarily growing your staff, at least in the early stages when bootstrapping is the name of the game.

So, how do you grow your business without hiring more staff?  Keep reading.

 

Getting to the Next Stage of Business

Check out an awesome article from Todd Herman on the "Five Stages of Business Growth." In it, he shows you exactly what you should be focusing on for each stage, which is incredibly helpful. I'm in Todd's program, and I can say that he is an very smart guy. Learning from him has been definitely benefitted my business.

If you want to make it to that five or ten year mark, you need help. If you want to make a bigger impact, you need help. And if you want to avoid burnout for yourself or your staff, you need help.

What does this look like? I think it looks like finding interns, learning from mentors, bartering for services, and/or hiring independent contractors. It could even mean a combination of all of those things—it has for me.

You only know so much. You only have so much time. Why not fill those gaps with people who are there to assist you or are better suited for those tasks? Be the leader who sees the forest, not just the trees.

As I talked about last summer, work ON your business, not IN your business.

Why Is Getting Help for Your Organization So Important?

Right about now, you may be asking yourself why you should be hiring interns, consultants, or indepdendent contractors, especially if it's going to cost you hard-earned money. I mean, what's the big deal? You can just look up a few more articles or take a few courses and figure out everything you need to know, right? Anything you need to learn is just a Google search away.

Yes, that's pretty much true, and I'm guilty of the same thoughts and questions. But there are some INVALUABLE assets that come with these roles. And I’d like to explain by telling you how I've utilized consultants/interns/contractors in the past, both personally and professionally.

  • They provide a set of fresh eyes. We can often lose perspective as we work on our own projects day in and out. Allowing someone to see them objectively can provide insight we couldn't gain otherwise.

  • They cost you less than you might think. While the initial investment may seem significant, especially if this process is new to you, remember that these people do not cost you insurance or other full-time employee perks. You also don’t have to take taxes from their payments.

  • They don't have to stick around long-term. Sometimes you just have a short-term need, or a season that requires an additional set of hands. These people rally around you when you need it, and not when you don't.

  • They can relieve stress from you and your employees. Often small organizations rely on a limited number of people to do a wide variety of tasks. Sometimes, however, these tasks are not suited to their skills. Consultants and third-party contractors who specialize in certain areas can be invaluable to helping you reach your goals, while taking the pressure off your team. This will either allow them room to breathe, catch up on their primary tasks, or take on new assignments within their wheelhouse.

  • They allow you to focus. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. You need to be working on the tasks and goals that specifically require your time and attention. If you have the ability to outsource beyond that, do it. Focus on the things no one else can do for your business.

  • They can provide expansion. These folks allow you to “go beyond” what you’ve already been doing. You can dream bigger, cast your net wider, and experience results you could not have had before at your current pace. But the ROI (return on investment) may be significant. Yes, it's important to consider the cost, but if you make more sales and donations than you would have without their help, it will be worth it!

 

Where Do You Find These Magical Creatures?

Well, of course, if you're looking for someone to help you with your writing, marketing, or communications needs, I'd be remiss not to mention that I can help you with those tasks. Whether you hate doing those kinds of things, or just need to focus on something else that's more deserving of your attention, I'm here. 

I launched Signify almost two years ago to help nonprofits, social enterprises, and other for-profits with a social mission with their marketing and communications. It’s been a crazy adventure! But I love being able to fill the gap for these types of organizations, especially the small ones that need my kind of help, but can’t afford a staffer or an agency.

Most of the people I work with just need help for a short period of time, so I have the ability to pop in and out, as needed. And, during that time, I can help move their mission forward. My goal is to make cause-focused organizations look and sound more professional so they can build a larger audience, increase sales or donations, and do more good.

But here are a few, other resources:

When in doubt, ask around. We all have our own networks, and most people are happy to suggest someone or something that might be able to help you. I also love asking in Facebook Groups because they're already built around tribes.

The point, though, is to not just sit and wonder. It's time to take action.

Hiring Tips From The Pros

I asked a few friends in these roles to share some advice with you. Keep these tips in mind when you hire independent contractors, freelancers, and consultants, so that you can make the best decision possible.

When hiring a graphic designer...

"The first step is to make sure you (and most importantly, your audience) enjoy their overall style. They don't need to have an exact portfolio example of what you're looking for, but the general tone should feel right. Second, I'd look to see if they've worked with similar organizations or have experience in your field. If you're a nonprofit, for example, it can be so helpful to work with a designer who already understands the nonprofit language. Third, consider the energy: the design process requires a lot of honest and open communication. It requires vulnerability on both sides. I think it's important that you feel comfortable with your designer and would enjoy meeting with them! So, ask for a discovery call or meeting to see if the right energy flows!

Your budget may require you to work with a less experienced designer, or a designer who doesn't have a distinct style yet. I wouldn't rule them out for those two reasons, but the energy has to be there."

- Madison Beaulieu, graphic designer and co-founder of Mad + Dusty

 When hiring a web designer...

"If you’re ready for your online presence to capture the essence of your brand, and work to attract clients, you’re ready to hire a web designer.

Before reaching out to an expert, spend time on their website and consider how it resonates with you. If it makes a great first impression, is engaging, and leads you to a clear call to action, you know they can do that for you. Having a beautiful website is one thing, but having one that works is another. My tip for you is to know that you need both!"

- Alison Chandler, website and visual brand identity specialist

When hiring an event planner...

"I think that a lot of people are naïve when it comes to the budget for any event. Many clients don’t know how much it costs to hire a good photographer, caterer, etc. so, they’ll spend money on little things and before they know it, they’re way over budget.

My advice: choose your top three Items and spend the bulk of your money there. My top three are always food, music, and alcohol. I like invitations, but they aren’t the most important item to me. Now, if you’re a graphic designer or your company sells paper, the invitations are probably really important to you and that’s ok. Make invitations one of your top three. The important thing is to focus on what’s most important to you, and then build the rest of your budget from there."

- Kristi Collins, certified wedding and event planner at CoCo Red Events

When hiring voice talent...

"It’s often easier to grab the admin assistant with the great phone voice, or the singing maintenance man for a quick 'read through' of your outgoing message, but resist the urge. It’s not enough to have a nice voice. A quality voice talent must be able to tap into the audience your trying to reach with the feelings you want to convey, so that anyone who hears it will want to take action.

Your message is too important for it to sound like it’s being read from a handwritten notebook. With intentional script writing and the right voice, you’ll move beyond your customer or donor’s heads and into their hearts."

- Jennifer Wilder, voice talent

When hiring any freelancer/contractor/consultant...

"When you hire an expert to help you in a certain area of your business—listen to them. Trust them. You hired them for a reason, so let them do the job they were hired for. Sometimes that means taking a leap of faith and doing something different than you're used to. Sometimes it means trying something new that you're not entirely sure of. Experimentation is what business is all about—trying something new to take your business to a new level."

- Kristen Miller, Sales Funnel Strategist | Social Media Manager | Digital Marketing

I echo all of these ladies, and many of the same principles apply to copywriters as well!

 

If not now, then when?

You may be stuck thinking that you don't have the money or time to find and hire contractors/consultants/freelancers/interns. I get it, and I've been there too. Plenty of times.

And I'm not discounting those statements. They're valid concerns. But here's what I will ask you, "If not now, then when?"

Make a plan to begin your search or interviews. Make a plan to save the money. Make a plan to ask for help. Otherwise, time will continue to fly by, and you'll be no better off in six months than you are today. After all, where were you six months ago, having these same exact thoughts?

I don't want that for you. Your mission is too important. I want you to grow, have a bigger impact, and do more good. 

You've got a cause that you're fighting for. It's time to fight just a little harder.



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

 Whether you're a  nonprofit  or a for-profit with a social mission, you want to increase your organization's capacity and influence because you're fighting for something. So, how do you grow your small business? There's one simple way that I recommend you start thinking about today: Get help. Yes, it may be simple, but I realize it's not easy.

 Kristi Porter, Chief Do-Gooder at Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.