Nonprofit

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.


Cause Marketing in Action: Foojee and Global Village Project

Many of the nonprofit leaders I speak to are eager to align with companies for short-term sponsorships or long-term partnerships. And many of the small businesses owners I talk with want to be more charitable. It seems like an easy match, right? Not always.

Nonprofits are more likely to target individual donors or grants before approaching companies. And small businesses aren’t always sure how to implement a giving strategy, so they may only take advantage of opportunities that fall into their lap.

More often than not, it looks like a middle school dance with each occupying their own side of the gym. But I’m hoping to help fix that issue, and one way I’ll do that is by bringing you stories of philanthropy in action. Having an example to follow on the cause marketing journey can not only show you what a for-profit/nonprofit partnership looks like in action, but give you a glimpse of the magic it can create—on both sides.

So, on the eve of International Day of the Girl, I’m beyond delighted to tell you about the successful partnership between Foojee, an outsourced Apple IT department, and Global Village Project, the only school in the country dedicated to educating refugee girls who’ve had their education interrupted.

Lucas Acosta, the owner of Foojee is a long-time friend, and Amy Pelissero, head of Global Village Project, is someone I’ve heard about for years and am glad to finally meet. They are a fantastic case story of what is possible for a local social impact partnership.

 Amy Pelissero and a few of the students at Global Village Project

Amy Pelissero and a few of the students at Global Village Project

First, we’ll get Lucas’ point-of-view on the partnership, and then bring it home with Amy’s perspective. I loved reading their responses, and think you will too!

Why did you choose to partner with Global Village Project?

Amy and her team have created this education from scratch, and have proven it to be successful with hundreds of refugee girls. They’re doing such impactful work, and I wanted to be a part of it in some way.

Why is this cause important to you?

There are two main reasons why GVP is important to us. Education is near and dear to our hearts at Foojee. We feel that education has an opportunity to improve a life regardless of a child's parents, culture, or religion. Secondly, GVP is focused directly on a segment of our society that is often overlooked: refugee girls. Women, especially in developing countries, are often the last to be recognized and supported, and GVP is solely focused on them.

What are the benefits you provide to the nonprofit?

We provide all of GVPs IT services including Mac and iPad management, networking, and security, and we do it at no cost to them. Why not just give money? We could donate money, but GVP’s efforts are so close to Foojee’s values that we want to offer our strengths to their cause.

What has this partnership done for your internal culture?

We’re not here to just provide IT services. We can use our strengths for good. We’re doing IT work, yes, but we’re here to serve a bigger purpose. We can make a positive impact in our society by our work, and partnering with GVP gives us a tangible way to contribute to our purpose.

Has this partnership benefited you externally, for example with clients or other partners?

We’ve been able to partner with Apple’s volunteer program, which has been a great opportunity for all three organizations. We introduced GVP to our local Apple team and within a few months, Apple employees were volunteering at the school by helping teachers best utilize their iPads and Macs in the classroom.

What is your hope for the future of your partnership with Global Village Project?

My hope is that GVP can continue to assist more girls, and extend their reach into more communities. If Foojee can play just a small part of their success, then I’m happy to continue partnering with them.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Sign up to volunteer! The stories I hear every time I visit just send chills down my back. GVP is on the front lines of restoring hope and building foundations to an underserved segment of our society. Here’s a video we made a couple years ago about the school to learn more.


 Lucas Acosta of Foojee

Lucas Acosta is passionate about Apple technology and people. If it’s got an Apple logo on it, his company, Foojee, makes it work in business and education. Lucas has been converting Windows users since 1993 (at the age of seven).

When he’s not building Foojee, you’ll find him reading about tech and business, crafting fine coffee, running, catching up on his favorite TV shows, or hanging out with his wife, Cristina and their daughter, Emilia.

Website I Twitter I Facebook I LinkedIn


Here’s what Amy had to say.

Other than simply getting your IT needs managed, how has this partnership benefited GVP? What makes Foojee a good partner?

GVP was connected with Foojee in 2014—just as I was finishing my first year as Head of School—and I feel certain that our partnership has been foundational to the tremendous growth we have seen over the past four years. When we met, GVP was tightly strapped financially, and the pro bono work Foojee provided allowed us to broaden our services and our capacity across the board at a time when we could not otherwise afford to do so.

We were able to invest in new laptops, interactive whiteboards for our classrooms, online assessments and learning platforms for our students, and a STEAM and Career Exploration program because of what they were providing.

Foojee also acted as a powerful connector. They introduced us to Apple Education support services, Apple Store volunteers, and new potential friends and donors through their strong social media presence and the powerful promotional video they produced highlighting our partnership.

In addition to allowing us to expand and strengthen our services and our capacity to do the good work we do, Foojee provided us with knowledge, skills, and leadership that we desperately needed around IT and education.

Our partnership with Foojee has allowed us to build and develop a model STEAM program for refugee teenage girls with limited English and schooling and to enhance our program’s impact. GVP would not have been able to integrate and take advantage of technology in so many powerful ways without Foojee. They have provided invaluable support for our staff and students and directly and positively impacted the lives and learning of our students.

Foojee’s partnership has strengthened GVP in so many ways, including adding strength to our voice, our mission, and our vision of ensuring that refugee girls have the education they need to pursue their dreams. They believe in the work we do, stand beside us, and support us. We know that our strong collaboration allows us to join together to create a bigger impact in our community and dream a better world.

How do partnerships in general benefit both your internal and external culture at GVP?

In August we started our 10th academic year at GVP! Founded in 2009 by a handful of visionary volunteers with big dreams and a very brave first class of 30 students, GVP has become a place where we make a difference and dream a better world, one girl at a time.

Since our inception, we have served 225 refugee girls with limited English and interrupted formal schooling in our all-day academic program. Currently, 37 of our graduates have gone on to graduate from high school and 26 are enrolled in or have graduated from college.

Given that 75% of older newcomer refugee students do not complete secondary school and only 1% of refugees access tertiary education, we are proud to report that 96% of GVP alumnae who completed our program continue their education beyond our school. We depend on partners like Foojee to turn our dreams and our students’ dreams into a reality.

GVP’s founders understood the power of a strong community of support and imagined and created a place where a village of support enabled them to start and sustain a brand new school for refugee girls. GVP is the only school in the nation dedicated to educating newcomer refugee teenage girls.

We are certain that we have been able to make a difference for almost a decade now due to the strength and support we have found in our friendships and partnerships. We rely on our connections and relationships to influence our ways of thinking and doing, and are incredibly humbled by the opportunities our partners have opened to us. Together, we are transforming lives, our work, and our world.

What is your hope for the future of the partnership with Foojee?

I hope that our partnership will continue to develop and deepen with time. I see a future where we generate more recognition for the good work both organizations are doing, where we can help each other increase connections and meet new potential partners, and where the relationship is more evenly balanced.

Foojee has done so much for GVP, and we aim to give back to them in all the ways that we can. Specifically, I hope that we can continue to work thoughtfully and strategically to increase brand recognition and media coverage, to increase sales and funding, to attract new donors, volunteers, and clients, and to inspire change.

What do you wish more for-profit organizations knew about partnering with nonprofits?

Positive collaboration allows organizations to join together and make even bigger strides in bettering their community and improving the world. The end result of this kind of collaborative partnership is that both organizations are stronger.

Working with nonprofits can provide for-profit employees and leaders with a stronger sense of purpose, engagement, and create recognition for the good they are doing. Nonprofit partnership is a worthy and wise investment of resources.

Anything else you’d like to add?

We strongly believe in the power of collaboration and community—and in the power of each one in a partnership to positively influence and impact the other. We are deeply grateful to Foojee for their strong support and for the impact they are making in our school and in our students’ lives each and every day.


 Amy Pelissero of Global Village Projec

Amy Pelissero is the Head of School at Global Village Project, a special purpose school for newcomer refugee teenage girls with limited English and formal schooling. She has more than 20 years of teaching experience with students from preschool through adulthood, and strong ties to the refugee community.  

Amy lives in Decatur, GA with her husband and two daughters, and loves reading, writing, travel, live music, and time with family and friends. 

Website I Twitter I Facebook I Instagram



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

  Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek at a cause marketing partnership. Having an example to follow on the cause marketing journey can not only show you what a for-profit/nonprofit partnership looks like in action, but give you a glimpse of the magic it can create—on both sides.

 Kristi Porter 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.


5 Essentials You Should Be Communicating to Your Donors


Today’s guest post comes from Amy Crowell, a fundraising pro if there ever was one! Her company, Next Stage Advisors, helps nonprofits through event consulting, board development, grant writing, and more.

Amy and I go way back to the days of when I was at a hospitality PR firm and she was at a little ol’ org called Share Our Strength. Yep, that one. During her time there, she raised more than $3 million dollars for their No Kid Hungry campaign, so she definitely knows her stuff.

Below, she’s boiled down donor communications to a few, main points that you should be aware of. If you’re strapped for time and resources when it comes to talking to your donors, make sure you at least cover these five bases.

PS: These same ideas work for social enterprises, too!

 5 Essentials You Should Be Communicating to Your Donors

Nonprofits, no matter their mission or size, are always on the lookout for more donors. But some organizations aren't event sure how to start the process of engaging new people into their mission, never mind actually turning them into donors.

Donors come in all shapes and sizes. Your donor may be someone who writes a small or large check, but they could also be a volunteer, committee member, special event attendee, board member, or a donor of products or services that your organization needs.

No matter what type of donor you are talking to, nonprofits need to consistently communicate with donors, while at the same time targeting the specific message that prompted the donor to initially become engaged. Keeping everyone informed may very well graduate them from one level of supporter to another. Use these “5 Essential Tips” to expand your reach and add additional people to your potential donor pipeline.


Essential 1: Who or What You Help

This is a no brainer, right? Of course you are going to tell your potential donors who or what you help. However, it’s more than that. Yes, donors need to be told specifically who you are helping, but they should also be informed of the numerical statistics for the problem in your community you are helping.

Specific and detailed information about the problem you are working towards solving will show that your nonprofit is one that needs to be supported. For example, if a local organization tells you that the teen pregnancy in your state was triple the national average and then explained how they were helping to solve that problem, a donor would be much more likely to support them than if they were merely told that they help cut the teen pregnancy rate.

Tell your donors the specifics, such as:

  • How many people in your community deal with the issue that your nonprofit is trying to solve? Is it increasing or decreasing? How quickly?

  • What progress have you made so far?

  • What innovative methods are you using to fulfill your mission (especially if they are more successful compared to similar organizations in your community)?

  • When you accomplish things that work toward your mission, what changes?

  • How is your community a better place because of your organization, its mission, and successes?

Essential 2: Real Stories About How Your Organization Has Made a Difference

Showing your passion can go a long way to creating a new donor. Most donors give to an organization because they feel an emotional connection. Help potential donors feel this connection by telling them true stories about the work you are doing. Share success stories about people you have served.

Do you have video testimonies from parents or principals that have firsthand knowledge of how your program changed a child? Stories about how your organization extended the life someone, allowing them to attend a major life event of their child or grandchild? Examples of how someone you helped felt less stigma about a problem they had, which helped them to build their self-esteem and have a more “normal” life? Or perhaps you can take them on a tour of your facility to show your organization at work.

If you are looking for new donors, you should have a set of emotionally-driven stories that demonstrate your work in action and the benefits to those you serve.


Essential 3: Why Your Organization is Different

Many organizations look similar on paper—potentially serving the same type of person, geographical area, or otherwise. It’s important to differentiate yourself from others that may appear similar. Why would I give my money to you when XYZ nonprofit down the road does the same thing?

Donors want to know what your organization does that makes you different and worth investing in. Do you tackle the same problem in a new way? Does your program go a step further in that it follows people for six months after they leave, ensuring they continue their path to success? Are you the only organization serving X in this zip code? Do you address something that other similar organizations don’t? Perhaps your organization has more of a “teach a person to fish” versus a “give them a fish” philosophy? Tell your donors!

Essential 4: What Their Donation Can Accomplish

Whatever donors are giving—time, money, services, or products—they want to know how it is helping your nonprfoti fulfill its mission. Even though every organization needs non-restricted funds to pay for expenses like rent, utilities, and supplies, most donors would prefer that their donation be connected more directly to the mission they are supporting.

This is where equivalencies come in. Being able to tell donors that $1 connects a child to 10 healthy meals, $500 pays for a month of diapers for a previously homeless child, or something similar, goes a long way to help visualize what a donation can accomplish and how it helps those you serve.

These equivalencies can be used in multiple places, including online donations, special events (ex: live or silent auction, fund the need campaigns), or challenge/matching grants. Being able to show specifically what dollars can provide is important and will bring more donors to the check writing stage.


Essential 5: Share Your Organizational Goals

No different than deciding which mutual fund you want to invest your retirement savings in, donors want to see long-term goals and a healthy organization working toward them. They want to see an ROI on their investment, such as increased growth towards the overall mission.

Share with donors where you want your nonprofit to be and when. Do you want to reach 85% of your target market by the year 2020? Increase the hours you are open by 10% this year? Hire a new staff member?

Talk about both short- and long-term goals so that donors feel like they are part of your progress and that their money is actually an investment not only in your organization, but to the people or problem you are trying to help. Communicating a high-level vision and what it takes financially to get there will make donors more invested overall, potentially moving them from a one-time donor to a reoccurring one.

These “5 Essentials” can go a long way towards building a pipeline of supporters that can help you not only have increased donations, but also fill other important roles your nonprofit needs such as board members, volunteers, special event attendees, and more.

Be sure each essential is documented so you can share them with all the key stakeholders in your organization—especially staff and board members. Once you have them, you’ll likely find that not only are they helpful when speaking to supporters, they can also be used in other communications such as your website, newsletter, grant applications, and more.

Don’t have all five in place? Add the missing pieces to your priority list to increase success in the future.


 Amy Crowell, Next Stage Advantage

Amy Crowell, founder of Next Stage Advisors, has more than two decades of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, event management, and strategic and financial planning. She has overseen numerous nonprofit fundraisers, including grassroots campaigns, events of all sizes, and national multimillion-dollar corporate-sponsored programs.

Amy helps nonprofits meet and beat their fundraising goals via event consulting, board development, grant writing, and more.

Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

 Use these “5 Essential Tips” to expand your nonprofit’s reach and add additional people to your potential donor pipeline.

 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.


Ask the Experts: Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Each month, I invite guest contributors to speak about timely, relevant, and sought-after topics that are important for cause-focused organizations like yours to be aware of as you grow. For September, Lauren Dawson will be talking about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Lauren is a former intern from a previous job, and we recently reconnected because I was researching diversity and inclusion for a client project. I came across this awesome report from LinkedIn, and after digging a little deeper, realized that Lauren actually works in that department for the business networking giant.

So, I thought this could be a fantastic topic to address here on the blog as hiring and culture are always on the minds of small business owners. As expected, Lauren has some excellent information and advice for your nonprofit or social enterprise!

 Ask the Experts: Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Q: What are the latest trends for diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

A. Some may actually say that diversity and inclusion is the trend of the year, and I’m hoping the attention will continue until it's obsolete. In the era of social media justice, campaigns like #blacklivesmatter and #metoo are the norm, and we're seeing that shift for diversity and inclusion as well.

Customers, employees, and other stakeholders are flexing in powerful ways to influence company decision-making. Where diversity and inclusion may have been restricted to messages of tolerance and team trainings before, it has now expanded to include products, customers, policy work, and more. As a result, employee resource groups are evolving their advocacy to align with business strategy and, by extension, receiving more opportunities to develop and be recognized for their leadership skills.

The latest trend in the tech world as it pertains to diversity and inclusion is the idea of belonging along with the emphasis on inclusion. Because of the laser focus on workforce representation of under-represented groups in tech, some companies had invested in their hiring activities with little movement in the overall representation numbers.

Now, in addition to hiring, investments are being made to increase retention by influencing how people make each other feel and help each other grow in the workplace: inclusion and belonging. With that being said, representation matters and the focus on representation metrics has been a powerful tool to motivate action and attract attention to this important issue.

Q. What's the biggest mistake you see people making in regards to diversity and Inclusion?

A. I think it’s a big mistake to create separate processes and responsibilities for “diversity activities." For example, the diversity team should not be responsible for “diversity hiring,” in my opinion. It should be responsible for designing and implementing strategies to enable the talent acquisition teams and hiring managers to get more diverse candidates in the hiring process and make them more successful.

In general, diversity and inclusion teams should be responsible for folding diversity, inclusion, and belonging into existing activities rather than creating new ones. In some cases, it is necessary to temporarily create a new role or process to manage the change or to pilot a new idea. However, the long-term goal should always be to empower, educate, and equip all employees and teams to infuse diversity, inclusion, and belonging into all business activities.

 

Q. What's your best piece of advice for people interested in diversity and inclusion?

A. In general, my best piece of advice is for people to embrace what they don’t know and proactively seek differing opinions and viewpoints.

Many studies over the years have proven that diverse teams win. In fact, McKinsey’s Why Diversity Matters 2018 report asserts that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns than their respective industry medians.

I believe it’s a competitive advantage, especially considering the increasing demographic changes and global mobility of people and commerce. Every individual can more authentically and sustainably develop their own capacity for teamwork when they align with the principles of diversity, inclusion, and belonging. For people leading these initiatives, patience is key because sustained change takes time to build, and fast change can often be counterproductive given the complexity of what we’re trying to do.

 

Q. What's one thing readers can do this week to improve their own efforts?

A. Lean in to your own ability to build relationships with people who are different from you, inside and outside of the office. Start a conversation with a colleague that you’re not as comfortable connecting with by asking them what inspired them to work at the organization.

Not only does this help create deeper connections and working relationships, but it also helps you develop cross-cultural competency. Learn more about this approach to connection on Charles Vogl’s website.

 

Q. Do you have any resources to share that might be helpful for people wanting to learn more about diversity and inclusion?

A. I recommend subscribing to Fortune’s RaceAhead newsletter for business and societal news related to diversity.


 Lauren Dawson, LinkedIn

Lauren Dawson is an HR Specialist on the Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging team at LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network. She loves karaoke and brunch, and when she’s not in San Francisco, you can usually find her with friends and family in her hometown of Atlanta, GA.

Connect with Lauren on LinkedIn



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  Hiring and culture are always on the minds of small business owners, and few topics are bigger these days than diversity and inclusion. So, I asked Lauren Dawson of LinkedIn to provide some insights on the trends and best practices for nonprofits and social enterprises.

 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.