Homeless youth

Homeless youth
People we don't see.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Is your big event worth it?

In the past year I have read about several different non-profit groups making changes to their annual event. Some groups have a huge Gala annually, others a breakfast, luncheon, or sports event. Across the board, it seems like groups are making changes from completely cancelling their event to reducing costs, changing the date, or changing the event itself (eg: from a full-out Gala to a luncheon). Meanwhile, others wonder if it's all worth it.

My first thought is YES! My immediate second thought is that is also depends.

For me, like any event, the BIG event of the year and it's success depends on the overall relevance of the event, your expectations around the event, and what the main purpose of the event is.

For me, our annual event is about building donor relations and introducing potential new donors (friends of current donors) to an amazing show of who we are and what we do.

It's not about raising money, although that is an incredible side-benefit if done well. When I look across the room at a Gala and see all of the happy people, not only engaged with the mission but with their friends and other donors, I can help to think how much of a success that is. How many of these guests are at the Gala for the first time? And for the first-timers, will they be more likely to financially support the mission after the Gala?

Our Gala is coming up in September and we are very much focused on creating an amazing event for our donors and potential donors. We have pressed the message to the committee and board that we want people to bring friends that have never been to one of our events. We want guests to look around the room and NOT know every person they see! This is another of the huge benefits of your annual event as you get long-time supporters with people considering support and magic can happen!

Consider all of this before making a decision to cancel your annual event. In some cases it might be best to cancel it and move on, yet if donor cultivation is important to your overall mission you may want to look at how you can make the event better on all levels before getting rid of it.

As always, I would love your feedback. I continue to be so grateful for all of your support!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dan Hanley with Opera Colorado

It's a beautiful morning in Denver, Colorado. I'm at me desk thinking about the day and also thinking of the reception I attended the other night. The event was a birthday celebration for a well-known catering guru in the community and I was thrilled to have been invited.

When I arrived I surveyed the space, an art gallery, and began to think of my plan to connect with others attending the party. As much as I was there to celebrate the birthday of a peer, I also wanted to take advantage of meeting people and introducing Opera Colorado to folks who might not know much about us.

I should add here that I love events like this. I love business, social, professional events where I have the opportunity to engage with my peers and introduce the world of opera to those who may not know about it. Many times events like this are called Business After Hours and I try to make at least one a week.

The key to attending these events, and the reason I try to attend them, is to, as Rupaul would say, work it. If you decide to attend an event like this it's important to not just be a flower on the wall but actually meet people and talk about your non-profit. We get into dangerous territory when assumptions are made that everyone in a given room already knows all there is to know about your non-profit. Opportunities like this are the key ingredient to "social" media: actually meeting face to face with other human beings.

I realize that this might be uncomfortable for smoe. In a world where we communicate with thousands of people via Facebook and Twitter, it can become different to actually converse, to talk about your non-profit's mission with somenoe who might actually want to support you. Yet this is all vital. I love facebook. I love Twitter. Nothing excites me more, though, than seeing a room filled with people who may or may not know about Opera Colorado and who may or may not even enjoy opera. The conversations I have are thrilling and no matter what type of social engagement I am attending, if I extend my hand to as many people as possible and simply say "I'm Dan Hanley with Opera Colorado", the magic of fundraising continues!

Try it! If you have been in fundraising for years, try it. If you are quite new to fundraising, try it.

No matter where you live, there are organizations that have some type of monthly or quarterly meeting. Check out your local Chamber of Commerce or regional non-profit agency. In the Denver area we have several opportunites to meet with peers monthly.

Attend, introduce yourself, follow-up with people you met. Then let me know all about it.

As always, thanks so much for reading my blog!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Changing the world

I am in the second week of my vacation and am having an incredible time. A lot of beach time, time with friends and family, long walks with my husband, and amazing vegan food.

I have also had a lot of time to think about how I can be a voice for the voiceless and how I can help make the world a better place by fundraising. My day job, as many of you know, is to fundraise for Opera Colorado, one of the best opera companies in the country. I feel so grateful to be able to do what I do as I believe keeping the arts (and opera) alive in our communities is so pertinent in keeping a vibrant community.

For those of you reading this blog who are fundraisers (and I know there are a lot of you!), you must know how important your work is in changing the world. We all work for so many amazing organizations that on a daily basis the world is a better place because of all the work our groups do.

Although this blog, Fundraising for Free!, is all about sharing fundraising ideas that work for me, the bigger picture is to help others making positive change in the world.

So back to that for a minute. My tip for this post goes back to you and your relationship with your donors. Make sure they know how important the mission of your group is to you, and why you think your group changes the world for the better. The more they know about this the closer your relationship will be.

Back to my vacation. Thanks to all of you for your amazing support. I'd also like to do a shout out to one of my readers, Jasmine, who has a Smoothie King shop in Port Orange, FL and invited us in. We loved it there and she made us feel right at home. Stop in if you're ever in the area!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Vacation time!

I have heard this many times from fundraising professionals: "I have so many vacation days saved I have no idea how to use them."

And every time I hear that my mind goes to the same thought:


Yes, many of our peers work, work, work. They completely rock at their job, they are stellar fundraisers, they make the world a better place for all, their eyes are always on the prize, etc. And, they have a challenge relaxing or taking a vacation. One of my core beliefs is that I cannot care for the world if I am not taking care of myself first.

So tomorrow, my husband and I are headed to Port Orange, Florida to visit my mother-in-law. And we're driving! From Denver! I am so excited I can barely stand it! Vacation to me is always some type of road trip, a new adventure (this time we are going to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis), trying vegan food where you think there would never be vegan food, visiting friends and family, and (number one) the beach!

What does my vacation have to do with Fundraising for Free!? We MUST take care of ourselves. Making sure you take vacation is a great start.

So I am off! I might write a blog from the road and might not. I will defintiely be in gratitude for many things, one of them being all of the support I get for this blog, and how many amazing conversations I have had with people who got something out of what I shared. It's just amazing how life works.