Tag Archives: fundraising

Event Followup

Last weekend, I attended a fundraising gala for a local nonprofit. Like most galas, this was the organization’s largest event of the year. It’s an opportunity to bring in new donors, highlight current donors through sponsorship, and celebrate friends and supporters while raising awareness for the work that you do.  Most organizations put all of their energy into the planning and day of event activities. The real work, however, starts as soon as the event is over.

Thank everyone!

Say thank you both publicly and privately. Send hand-written thank you notes to as many guests and supporters as you can. Include a photo from the event. (This can also be accomplished electronically.) Call your VIPs and sponsors to thank them and ask for their honest impressions. Listen to their feedback. Determine how they can become more involved with your organization and followup with a note that includes information that is pertinent to them. Be grateful for the support you received from your community. Nurture every relationship, including your vendors. Be sure to let them know how their services contributed to the success of your event.

Share the results

Tell everyone about your success. Post photos and share behind the scenes tidbits through your social media outlets. Alert the press so that they can do a post event story. Success breeds success. People who hear how outstanding your event was this year are more likely to want to contribute to or participate in your future events.

Debrief ASAP

Meet with your staff and volunteers as soon as possible and go over the event in great detail. What worked? What didn’t? Where is there room for improvement? What do you want to remember for next time? Gather impressions, take notes and write a report. It will be invaluable the next time you start planning an event.

Look at the Numbers

Analyze your budget. Reconsider your assumptions. Where were you over/under budget? What are some costs you can reduce the next time around? Where do you think you should have invested more?

Build Your Constituency

Ideally, prior to your event, you will have identified people who have not been active with your organization in the past. Maybe they’re friends of a donor or guests of a sponsor. Capture their contact information and followup after the event with a card or letter that thanks them and asks them to become more involved with your organization. Try to find out what their interests are. Ask if they would be interested in volunteering, hosting a meet and greet, or coming by your organization for a tour. This way, they can self-select whether or not they want to become more involved. You’ll get far better results than if you were to just add them to your mailing list.

Recognize Your Volunteers

Bake some cookies, hang up a “We did it!” banner, and be sure to acknowledge everyone who helped to make your event possible. Keep notes in your database about volunteers who really outdid themselves. You’ll want to refer back to this when it comes time hand out volunteer of the year awards or to highlight a volunteer’s work in your newsletter.

Read three more tips for following up after an event.


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Are You Effective in the Eyes of a Funder?

What makes an effective nonprofit? The Association of Small Foundations recently released a report highlighting five key areas that should be considered by foundations as they evaluate prospective organizations for funding. Keep these criteria in mind when writing your proposals or meeting with donors:

1. Clear mission and purpose. The most fundamental quality of an effective nonprofit is clarity about its mission—both what it seeks to accomplish and why this purpose is important.

2. Ability to perform key functions. How well do you communicate your vision? Do you engage stakeholders? Are you tracking outcomes? What’s your plan for the future?

3. Strong practices, procedures, and policies. Donors should consider the following:

  • Financial—Is there solid fiscal management? What does your 990 look like? Is there a diverse range of funding?
  • Governance—Is there strong and active leadership? Are board meetings scheduled and attended? Who’s on the board?
  • Organizational and Program Development—Is there a strategic plan in place and is it being used? Is the organization recognized as an institution; it is not identified solely with one or two individuals who work there?

4. Good people. Above all, nonprofits depend on one key resource to fulfill their missions: qualified, skilled, and talented board members, staff, and volunteers.

5. Ability to mobilize others. How well do you engage volunteers, other nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies in addressing the root causes of problems and bringing about long-term change?

This report also offers great tips on performing due diligence. Read more to find out what prospective donors are looking for when they review your financials,  call up your executive director, or stop by for a site visit.

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Spring Cleaning Your Website

Spring has sprung in Charlottesville! If you didn’t get a jump on spring cleaning, there’s no avoiding it now. While you may be tempted to start by boxing up old files or dusting cobwebs out of corners, I suggest you start by cleaning up your most public interface: your website. Some of these suggestions may be obvious, but I know that many of you rely on volunteers or staff who are not web developers and have little, if any, website experience. Often, nonprofits’ websites are created by a professional firm and then managed and updated in house. Make sure that over time, your site hasn’t become cluttered or disorganized.

Put on a Different Hat

In your position, there are probably a few pages that you visit regularly and others that you never see. Ask a friend who is not affiliated with your organization to help. Come up with a few scenarios and consider how your site looks and feels to different constituents, such as:

  • A supporter looking to make a donation
  • A board member looking to contact a staff member
  • Someone needing assistance who is trying to figure out where to start
  • Someone who wants to volunteer
  • A local business that wants to provide support
  • A former volunteer who wants to know what’s going on at the organization

Check Your Links

Just last week, I visited a local nonprofit’s website to browse a directory of resources. None of the links worked because of a typo in all of the urls (there was an extra www.)  Take a couple of minutes and use a tool like Link Checker to make sure that all of your links are functioning.

Clean Up Your Sourcecode

Do you know what what HTML tags to use where, and what content to place within them? Doing this correctly can have a significant impact on how your website looks on the search results page when someone googles you. Confused? Google Grants offers some useful advice.

Supersize Support

Make sure the volunteer/support sections of your site are visible and easy to access. You don’t want anyone clicking around trying to figure out where to make a donation. A simple solution is to add a donate/donations tab to your navigation bar.

Update Your Content

Have someone take the time to read through your website. This is a great job for an intern or new volunteer. Is your content up to date and relevant? All too often I find staff listings, email addresses, and phone numbers that are incorrect or need to be updated.


What are your web traffic statistics? How are visitors finding your site? What are they clicking on? How long are they staying there? If you’re not hooked up to Google Analytics (or a similar monitoring tool), you could missing some very valuable information about how your website is functioning as a marketing tool.

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Another Woman’s Treasure

I am not a fan of yard sales. Hauling my ill-fitting, out of style clothes, random housewares, and misunderstood chachkes out to front yard for neighbors and strangers to pick through seems embarrassing at best. That’s one reason why I choose to donate my old stuff.

Another reason is the amount of time and energy it takes to hold a yard sale. It’s a lot of work and often the payoff is not worth the effort. That’s why I don’t usually recommend yard sales as fundraisers for nonprofits. It sounds easy enough: collect stuff that people no longer want and sell it to people who want it. But most nonprofits aren’t in the retail business and therefore aren’t equipped to manage the donating, sorting, pricing, vending, and hauling of lots of random stuff. It takes a considerable amount of organization to pull off a successful sale.

That’s not to say it can’t be done. For years, the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA’s rummage sale and FOCUS’s flea market were not to be missed. People lined up around shopping centers waiting to get in. They eventually added “preview sales” where you paid to get in a day earlier. The sales were so successful (and the organizations had so much stuff to store) that they opened year-round retail establishments.

If you’re considering a yard sale as a fundraiser, start by checking out the pros. The Senior Center’s yard sale is going on today and tomorrow. In the past, this sale has brought is almost $15,000! When you stop by, you’ll see why. The sale is held inside the Senior Center, so there’s no concern about weather. There’s great ambiance. A gentleman plays jaunty tunes on a piano as you shop. Everything is clean, sorted, and clearly priced. There are no heaps, piles or boxes to dig through. The volunteers running this sale have been doing it for years and they know what works.

Don’t even attempt this as a fundraiser if you don’t have an experienced yard sale-er on your committee. In addition to the planning, advertising, and organizing, you need someone who understands the yard sale subculture. For a better idea of what’s involved, heed these words of advice from the Yard Sale Queen.

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Samoa Sales – Not So Simple Anymore

Yesterday afternoon, on my way into the grocery store, I was stopped by an all too familiar phrase, “Would you like to buy a box of girl scout cookies?”

Of course, I had already seen them from across the parking lot. A card table with a cheerfully decorated poster board sign, three girls (with a couple of moms lingering in the background), and boxes and boxes of girl scout cookies. My first thought was, “Whoo hoo! Samoas!” My second was the realization that selling Girl Scout cookies had been my foray into fundraising. Samoas, Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos, Tagalongs, and Trefoils helped me get where I am today.

I was a member of Troop 388 for many years. When it came to cookies, our first task was to sell as many as we could in pre-orders. Living in a rural area, I couldn’t go door to door, so many of these sales were to my relatives or to my parents’ coworkers. The real fundraising came after the cookies arrived. We set up our stand outside of the Pantops Food Lion and tried to sell as many as we could to entering and exiting customers. It wasn’t just about sales. It was about the mission of the organization, empowering young girls, building confidence, creating leaders, and making the world a better place. (Oh, and also funding our spring trip.)

Over the years, the cookies have gotten smaller, the price per box has risen (from $2 to $3.50), and the whole operation has fallen under criticism. Did you know that the troop only receives about $.50 for every box of cookies they sell? There are ongoing debates as to whether or not this is a decent nonprofit fundraiser or a shrewd business model. Some people are so put off that they are refusing to buy girl scout cookies as a matter of principle.

This year, the Girl Scouts are cutting their cookie offerings in hopes of increasing profits. My friends at Green Blue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition will be happy to see that by redesigning the cookie package, manufacturers have eliminated 150 tons of paperboard and saved 3500 gal of fuel. (You can fit more packages on a truck if you get rid of the box, thereby making fewer deliveries.) I wonder what effect, if any, the package redesign will have on their brand. If Girl Scout cookies are no longer sold in boxes, are they able to set themselves apart? Isn’t this just a reminder that they’re store-bought cookies like any other? (You know they haven’t been made by real Girl Scouts since the 1930s, right?) Does it really matter since they’re only sold for such a limited time anyway?

I’m more curious about it from a troop’s perspective. Is it really worth the time and energy for such a small profit? There are far more effective ways to raise money to fund trips and activities. Heck, a good old fashioned bake sale would be way more profitable. How much of a Girl Scout’s identity is tied to cookie sales? Does the benefit of confidence building, sales and business education, and community outreach outweigh all of this?

Cookie sales are not as simple as they seemed when I was seven. If, like me, you love the cookies but want to make sure that you’re not exploiting the scouts, you can always make a donation with your purchase, or volunteer with a local troop.

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