Pivoting Events for the New Reality [free resource round up]

Pivoting Events for the New Reality [free resource round up]

This is a Free Resource Round Up featuring some of the fundraising event resources we have at Productive Fundraising. When writing this it is late spring of 2020 — a crazy time for events as we’re in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has completely thrown fundraising events through a loop. Everybody’s had to deal with these decisions: Do I cancel? Do I postpone? Or do I take it virtual? Well, good news. There are tons of great resources out there to help with these decisions. Here are a few resources to get you started in case you are still grappling with these decisions:

But what I want to focus on is the bigger picture with fundraising events. What happens after this year? Are these changes we’re going to make this year permanent changes? Or is this just a one time thing? Can we use this as an opportunity to maybe re-evaluate some of those events? Could we get rid of some of those events that we do because we’ve just always done it this way. Do you find that you get the same people attending your events who would probably contribute to your organization, whether you did the event or not? I truly believe that the primary purpose of a fundraising event is not necessarily to raise money as much as it is to introduce new people to your organization. So what can we do to keep things fresh and exciting and bring in those new people?

Yes, we still want to make money. But let’s not use our events as another tactic to get funds from folks who would possibly contribute another far easier way. So take a chance to evaluate your current events, which ones are doing that? Which ones match your mission? Is there a reason you should be doing a golf tournament? Are you an athletic organization, something sports related? Is there a mission tie to it? What about your gala? Are there these tedious events that take tons of staff time and really don’t make that much money? Is there something you could do more mission-related to show people what you do and inspire them and really use that event to tell your story? Is it a unique event that really gets people excited?

These are some of the ways I evaluate fundraising events and my friends, Jim Anderson and Alice Ferris at GoalBusters Consulting created this great evaluation sheet. It’s one of my favorite resources that I keep in my library. It’s simply called Evaluation Sheet For New Fundraising Ideas. But my trick with this tool is to put everything on there. Put your current ideas and plans on there but then also put potential new ideas on there too! In our current reality you could put the potential virtual ideas on there and evaluate it against what you’re currently doing. This tool can help you see the potential impact of your ideas – and what I want you to do is not just see it through this year, but look at this as a lasting change. Be thinking ‘how can I make my job easier and let us raise more money at the same time?’ I think it’s a great opportunity for us to be able to do that.

So, here’s my bottom line with events: No more than two major fundraising events per year. And ideally just one. Just do one big thing, go big! Get it done with, then you have more time to spend one-on-one with donors and more time on stewardship. Events take us out of that mode where we’re building those individual donor relationships. Nearly 80% of all fundraising dollars come from individual relationships and I think that’s going to shift even more in our current reality.

So you’re ready to plan a new event, what’s that first step? Most people jump right into the what, how, why, where, all those logistics questions with an event plan. I don’t like to do that first.

I like to start with the budget because if the budget doesn’t make sense, then I don’t want to put all the effort into thinking through all those logistics. So just take the big picture view of the budget. What’s that look like? What could ticket prices be? What kind of sponsorship revenue could be had? On the expense side, big picture, what are we going to do with virtual? We’re going to have to do a tech crew, make it big, increase that production value. Virtual events need to be more like TV shows. You need to do something more engaging on those virtual events. So you’re going to need to spend some money. So work out that budget. Virtual events seem to be cheaper than regular ones, but they’re not free. You need to invest in that production quality and make it something people actually want to see and attend. So do that budget first … here’s our Event Budget Template.

Then if you have something viable, develop a preliminary event plan (here’s our Event Planning Template) that you could possibly run through the food chain and see if we can get everybody on board and go in this direction.

So those are some of the event resources we have here. I encourage you to check those out, they’re in the links. I encourage you to use use this time when maybe we can’t do those live events to re-imagine the ones you’ve had in the past. Think about how they can be adjusted for the future and what do you really want that to look like? You have the chance to reinvent your job right now. What will it look like two years from now when all of this is over and we can go back to fundraising the way we want to fundraise. But let’s not fundraise the way we’ve had to fundraise because we’ve always done it this way. Use this time, fundraisers.

Want Your Donor Experience Monitored (for FREE)?

Want Your Donor Experience Monitored (for FREE)?

What’s the donor experience like at your organization?

Do you have good stewardship? Do you have speedy gift acknowledgements?

There’s no doubt that it’s in your fundraising plan, but is it actually happening? And how’s that affecting the experience of your donor? Maybe they get a spurt of activity and then hear nothing from you for three months, because you got busy and focused on other things. This is very common, but a lot of times we don’t realize it’s happening because we’re in the weeds. We’re planning that next event, or we’re responding to whatever crisis is going on, and it just gets away from us.

So how do you monitor this? One of my favorite tips is to simply trade time with another fundraiser. Make a small nominal donation to each other’s nonprofit and then you each agree to simply monitor your experience. Record what happens. Do this for three months, six months, even a year and report back. Show the other person what their donor experience is actually like!

We have a simple tracking report template that you can use to monitor your friend’s nonprofit. So, when you get something from their nonprofit you just pull up this free resource, fill in a couple of data points, and put it away until the next contact happens.

CHECK IT OUT

How to Get Your Donors to Open Your Email Newsletter

How to Get Your Donors to Open Your Email Newsletter

This week, let’s look at your email newsletters. A lot of times when we’re writing our email newsletters, and especially those subject lines, it’s like we’re in a fog. Like we’re just going through the motions, like we’re just trying to get it done. We don’t really think about it. So often I see email newsletters titled something like, Weekly eNews From ABC Charity, or Your Monthly Newsletter. Does that inspire me to open it? Nope. It really doesn’t. If I’m a die hard supporter of that organization and I’m just itching for the news, then yeah, maybe I would. But chances are it’s probably just your board members and key volunteers who fall into that category! And the audience you’re hoping to reach is hitting the delete button.

How do you get those casual donors to open your email newsletter? You need to excite them. And guess what? There’s actually proven science out there that shows what people open. That’s what we need to be doing. So here it is: it’s shorter headlines, usually six to seven words, and these are keywords full of impact. They’re coming from that lead story in our newsletter. Please stop saying “This is a Newsletter.” You have to say what’s happening in that lead article using action words. And you want a mix of words – common, uncommon, emotional, powerful. When you’re coming up with content ideas try to come up with anything that’s a how-to or a list. An article like“9 Ways That We’ve Helped Our Community” is going to get higher click rates that “Our Report to the Community“. Now, I know that this is all a lot to learn and keep up with. So guess what? I use a tool.

What do I use? I use a tool put out by the company called CoSchedule. They have a great headline analzyer tool. It’s simple, you type in the headline that you think you want to use and it scores it (out of 100). So this video/email for example, is titled How to Get Your Donors to Open Your Email Newsletter. It scored a 71/100. Typically, I want to make sure it’s at least a 70/100 before I send something out. If I have time, I’ll try to get it a little higher. But if not, I’m happy with a 70/100. After all – I’ve got other things to do. But, I’ve made sure that all the effort I put into creating my newsletter content is realized by having people actually open it!

So that’s this week’s free resource: CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer. Check that out. Take the 30-60 seconds before you send something, and put the extra effort in, to ensure your constituents actually open it!

CHECK IT OUT

How to Write 3 Minute Thank You Notes

How to Write 3 Minute Thank You Notes

Today, we’re talking about handwritten thank you notes. We need to do them. We need to thank our donors. If you don’t send handwritten thank you notes, please start doing sp. But I know what you’re thinking, “They take so much time.” But, they don’t have to take so much time if you use the @fundraiserchad 3 Minute / 3 Sentence Thank You Note Formula.

It’s three minutes, we can do that. And it’s only three sentences. The first sentence is, what happened. The second sentence is, the impact of what happened. And the third sentence is, what you appreciate about them. Use that word, “appreciate.” That’s it, it’s that simple. Why don’t we take a look at an example:

hand-written-thank-you-note-sample

That’s it, fundraisers. It’s simple. Do handwritten thank you notes. Your donors will appreciate it, your staff will appreciate it, your family will appreciate it. It makes a big difference. Use the formula. Want a simple reminder?

Give the @fundraiserchad Thank You Note Formula a download, hang it on your bulletin board and make thank you note writing a part of your weekly routine.

DOWNLOAD NOW

How to Manage Your Grants, So They Don’t Manage You

How to Manage Your Grants, So They Don’t Manage You

This week’s featured resrouce is our grant calendar template. What’s a grant calendar template you ask? Very simply, this is the tool you use to manage your grant seeking efforts. This is how you make sure you don’t miss a deadline and it lets you see all of your grant activity on one page. It’s incredibly valuable. I never felt like I had grants under control until I started using a tool like this.

So give it a download and fill it in. Take an afternoon and get all your grant information in one spot. Then you only have to review it once a month! It will be very easy to know what application deadlines or grant report deadlines are coming up within the next 30 to 60 days. This will help you organize your time better, because with grants it’s not usually a quick one afternoon deal. We might have to request letters of support or other key things, so having upcoming grants on the radar and having everything in one place is incredibly valuable. Even if you outsource your grant writing, I encourage you to do this. It’s how you manage your freelancer(s). So when you have your check in calls with that person you have something concrete to refer to and review with them. It’s the key management tool.

Give it a download, fill it out, and put it to use in your organization.

FREE DOWNLOAD

Your Key to Year Over Year Fundraising Event Growth

Your Key to Year Over Year Fundraising Event Growth

If you’re in the middle of planning a big fundraising event, you’re probably already dreaming of that day where you can put it to rest. A lot of times I see nonprofits do the event and then send out the thank you notes and they’re done. They don’t think about it anymore until about three or four months before it comes around again on the annual calendar. I encourage you to spend a little bit more time on that event right afterwards and save yourself a lot of time and frustration. Plus, you’ll be more likely to take that event to the next level the following year.

How do you do that? An event recap. Not a giant report, but a one page overview of the event. It contains a little bit of background information about the event (in case somebody has to recreate it next year) and then some comparison data. It answers questions like: What’s the purpose of this event? How did this year compare to the year before? Which way are we trending?

The final two components are what helps to take the event to the next level in future years. You need to answer: What went really well this year? and What do we need to work on for next year? If we document that, then when it’s time to get started the following year, we can pick up right where we left off and not have to recreate our previous work. So I encourage you to spend an hour or two to do an event recap, put in your files, then forget about the event. Go take a rest, go take a spa day, go take a hike, get some “me time” and really recover. Give yourself that self-care that we need after these big gigantic fundraising events and rest assured that next year’s event is already on the path to success.

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Are You Sure You’re Reporting Impact to Your Donors?

Are You Sure You’re Reporting Impact to Your Donors?

Are you telling your donors what you actually do with their donations? Do you report on impact? Do you tell them what happened? Many of you are saying, “Of course, I do that. I send a gift acknowledgement letter as soon as they send a donation. I have to. It’s the law. Of course we do that!” But…are you? We think we do it. We send that letter and that letter says what we’re going to do with the dollars, not what we did with them. It probably takes us a few months to put those dollars into action, actually create some impact, but we don’t really tell the donor that. We never report on that impact.

So, perhaps you put that information in a newsletter or an email blast. Do you know the open rate on your email blast? It’s probably 20%, maybe 30% if you’re really lucky. Those’re the only people who are getting that information! And are they actually reading the full article? Probably not. So they’re never really hearing what you actually did with their support. They have to guess. They have to assume that we did what we’re supposed to do.

Don’t make them assume. Tell them! One of my favorite tools for this is the impact letter. This is an additional piece of correspondence, without an ask, that comes out maybe three to six months after their donation.

It simply says: Dear donor, thanks so much for your loyal support. It’s been about six months since you so generously gave to this cause. We just wanted to let you know what we did with those funds. We have done …. And you list a couple of key points, key initiatives, key items of impact that have happened because of that donor.

This is where you give them credit. Lots of you language – you, your. Not me, we’s, or ours. Make the donor the hero of that impact letter. They did this. Without them, none of that would’ve happened. Give them credit. Once they get that, they’re simply going to say, “Wow, this charity actually told me what they did with my funds. I like them. They’re trustworthy. I bet I could give more support to them, and they’d put it to good use as well.” That’s what we’re after.

Then the loop is closed and we are ready to have that conversation about increased support. The donor feels appreciated. Because this is really about that donor experience. Everything we do, we have to monitor that donor experience. How would it make you feel? Do you feel like a dollar sign or do you feel like a trusted partner? That’s what we’re after. So use an impact letter. We, of course, have a great template here at Productive Fundraising. Give that a download, put it into use in your organization.

How to Speed Up Your Grant Preparation Time

How to Speed Up Your Grant Preparation Time

Grants are a great way of raising dollars, but they take a lot of time. Writing those proposals is so time consuming, which can be frustrating when so much is uncertain. Will this get approved? Will it not? So, full disclosure, I have some strong beliefs about grant writing and I actually prefer to outsource it.

But, lets talk about how to write grants when you do need to write one in house. A lot of the things that go into grants are repeated time after time, and sadly, lots of shops just keep recreating those specific items for every proposal. The key here is to not reinvent the wheel. Because a lot of grants ask for the same general information – your mission, your current programs, your strategic initiatives – you should develop a boilerplate proposal. Then you have something that you can just plug and play.

I have what I like to call my ‘fundraising go bag.’ It’s a list of all the documents that are routinely used for grants. I have print outs of them and I also have a digital file folder of them. Every time I go to write a grant or need that information, it’s all in one place, ready to go. It saves me a lot of time.

Check out our free resource — the Fundraising Go Bag Checklist. It lists everything that you need to assemble in advance to make the grant writing and preparation process so much easier. Do it once … don’t reinvent the wheel.

Thank You Letter Checklist [free download]

So your year end appeal is written and off to the mail house…You’ve setup some pre-holiday visits with your key donors. Lapsed donor lists are printed and you’re checking the daily. What else can you do to boost fundraising before the end of the year?

Have you read your standard gift acknowledgement letter lately? Is it actually enjoyable to read? Has it been updated in the last six months? Is it donor centric?

Check out this great Thank You Letter Checklist from my pals at Agents of Good and see if your letter is up the task of making your donors feel amazing.

DOWNLOAD HERE

Fundraising Appeal Editable Template [free download]

Need a head start on your next fundraising appeal?

Start with @fundraiserchad’s free editable template. It will show you what goes where and help you remember to include some of the key components to optimized fundraising appeals.

DOWNLOAD HERE

This template is just one of the components of our Fundraising Appeals Toolkit. This toolkit give you the instruction, resources and inspiration to create a fully optimized fundraising appeal for your nonprofit organization (all for just $89 … the ROI is incredible)!