The 80-20 Rule for Giving Events

This band performed at a Crescent City Farmers Market fundraiser.

Only 20 percent of the actual actions in a fundraiser should actually occur during a giving day or event. Just 20 percent. The other 80 percent should be spent getting ready for the event (50 or 60 percent) and then post-event follow-up (20-30 percent).

Follow-up is more than a thank you. It consists of making sure you fulfill your promises, and cultivate the relationships that you just invested so much energy in consummating or renewing.

Yet most people are super worried about the day of. And rightly so, it is the most public aspect of your giving event.

Over-focusing on the day of can create a failure. The day becomes a panicked scurry to try and turn the tide. If your organization manages to be successful in spite of its lack of preparation, but you fail to follow up with savvy community oriented communications, then expect a one and done success. More than 95 percent of those donors will disappear into the night.

A giving day or an event should not be a heart attack moment. If your event is well planned and the footwork is done well, then you will find yourself in the middle of a success. The fundraiser should be more relaxed, something you enjoy, and execute with confidence. In an ideal situation, day of brainstorming focuses on how to extend positive momentum, and maximize efforts to make sure that money isn’t left on the table.

The Majority of the Work Happens Before the Fundraiser


I like to tell people a fundraiser is made or lost before it begins. It is the preparation that causes a fundraiser succeeds. A strategic approach:

  • Breaks away from vanilla fundraising best practices
  • Identifies a clear goal
  • Hardwires mission into the fundraiser to build awareness
  • Fundraising walls (dead spaces in your giving day)
  • Anticipates the need for community, and builds its efforts three to six months in advance
  • Recruits the necessary third party players well in advance
  • Gamifies the event to make it as fun as possible for all parties
  • Develops a crisis communications plan because, yes, things happen

There are endless days of lists, check sheets, email opt-ins, preparations, materials development, behind the scenes interactions, partner preparations, and private meetings with core stakeholders. In the context of a pie chart, the actual giving event’s actions minute in comparison to amount of pre-event communications.

The best made plans and all of the footwork cannot guarantee a success. But they come damn close, particularly if a nonprofit or company knows its issue or market, respectively, and understands what motivates its community.

Yes, crises happen, too. And it’s always good to be prepared for three types of crises:

  • Internal team error or act
  • Extended party (vendor such as giving platform, internet host, etc.) failure or event
  • Larger world issues
    • One major event I had the privilege of working on in DC experienced a serious crises. We were all ready for a massive fundraiser at the Kennedy Center. Things were pointing the right way, but it was tight. Then Ronald Reagan passed away, and the deceased president’s state viewing at the U.S. Capital was scheduled to begin two hours before our event. Unbelievable. We were sunk. Lemonade was made, but there was little we could do.

      Such crises events are relatively unusual. In all, I have seen three of them on giving days and fundraisers, and have read about a half dozen more. So walk forward with confidence, but have your ducks in a row.

      Finish Strong


      Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of any giving event is the post-fundraiser cultivation. This is the difference between a transactional moment when you lose the customer or donor immediately following the event, or retain a healthy portion of participants as valued members of your community.

      It’s so easy to be short-sighted here.

      I know many start-ups don’t have the infrastructure to execute a smart automation strategy. Nonprofits are often stuck with that inflexible database nonprofit software company who shall remain unnamed.

      Are you really going to send impersonal communications to them? Blanket solicitations and generalized thank yous with vague report backs on progress? Most Kickstarters and other fundraising events have to do that much, but most nonprofits don’t even report results. How crazy is that?

      If you are talking about a fundraiser that’s in excess of $500,000, can you really afford not to invest in a basic package? I feel like the faster you can start communicating to your investors (yes, that’s right, investors) in a customized matter that acknowledges their interactions on your fundraiser, the better your efforts will become.

      Think about it. A basic marketing automation account with SilverPop costs roughly $1500 a month. HubSpot may be less, Marketo may be more, and there are solutions, too, like Pardot and Eloqua.

      If you want to make your event more than a financial transaction (and perhaps a bad taste in the mouth) for your customers and donors, then you’ll need a post-fundraiser plan. Have it ready to activate the day after your fundraiser ends.

      What do you think about the right balance of efforts for a fundraiser?

    LinkedIn Is What It Is: Personal, Employer, Business

    LinkedIn Page

    I opened the new LinkedIn Android app the other day and saw an unexpected message, “The One Stop Shop to Manage Your Personal Brand.” Because of my own hang-ups about the term “personal brand” I was taken aback. But like it or not, LinkedIn has become the place to manage your professional reputation.

    It has also become much more than that. LinkedIn offers brands an ideal platform for employee communications — future (e.g. recruitment), present, and past. The social networks also provides B2B brands a great place to market.

    For those that are still stuck in the Twitter and Facebook for brands universe (and maybe, just maybe Instagram, too), please keep in mind how big LinkedIn has become. More than 400,000 million people are using the social network to talk about their professional life. Let’s take a quick look at each of these three forms of communication on LinkedIn; personal, employer and business.

    Personal Marketing

    Profile Pic

    With most people looking for work online today, LinkedIn has become a nexus to build a personal profile and network. There are many ways to stand out on LinkedIn and strengthen your presence.

    LinkedIn profiles serve as a place for potential employers to check out your history. In many ways, the profile has become the modern resume. In addition, potential contracts and speaking opportunities can come through LinkedIn.

    Attracting people to and making your profile stand out are the primary means of personal marketing on LinkedIn. Here are a few methods:

    This latter point may seem obvious, but don’t post your cute dog pic on LinkedIn. If social media made a level of uncouth personality acceptable on the Internet, then LinkedIn became the social media place where the old school mindset of act in a professional manner still reigns. Many people and brands are relieved about that, too. Save the personal posts for Instagram, and button it up on LinkedIn.

    Employee Communications


    I remember when LinkedIn launched in the early 2000s. It was hyped as a place to network and find new jobs. After a period of time, employers started using LinkedIn for recruitment purposes.

    Then LinkedIn built company profiles. Networking became smarter and you could identify past and present employees through search. The algorithms began sourcing news about company x, particularly when there was a clear tie between an employee and corporate page.

    The reality for most brands is that employee communications should begin inside their physical and virtual walls and on their web site. It begins with culture in direct communications up and down the ladder. Another reality exists: Many conversations are occurring about brands out of those domains, and on social media sites like LinkedIn and GlassDoor.

    With so many people talking about work and their future on LinkedIn, it can become the central hub of an HR and recruitment social media strategy. Here are some quick tactics to help facilitate that:

    Market Your Corporate Brand

    Adobe Marketing

    Not only has LinkedIn made itself a great place to engage in employee communications, it has also become a fantastic marketing venue for B2B marketing. Conversations and content galore on professional topics ranging from IT security to digital marketing are everywhere.

    Businesses that offer some sort of B2B offering — product or service — need to experiment with LinkedIn as a means to brand and generate initial content leads. Here are some ideas for your efforts:

    • Build an engaging corporate profile page that shows what the company does, and how it helps the industry and your customers). Use Showcase pages to highlight particular product areas and include calls-to-action to drive traffic to your site.
    • Use LinkedIn’s advertising platform (sponsored updates) to communicate with customers. This is a good way to extend the reach of your corporate profile.
    • Pulse Articles are also a great way for a brand to show thought leadership. Find spokespersons who are willing to use their profiles and publish articles, then promote them on your company profile page.
    • Consider LinkedIn sister brand SlideShare as a means to create content that engages prospective customers. You can integrate SlideShare into your page.
    • Manage a group to build subject matter expertise for your company

      . LinkedIn is in the midst of revamping its groups for better functionality and results.

    What LinkedIn marketing tips would you add to these lists?

    Technology Challenges Facing Today’s Marketing Workforce

    My friend Steven Slater recently began working In his new capacity he places senior marketing executives at large companies.

    Steven told me about the new position at CommCore‘s 30th Anniversary party (pictured above) last month in Washington, DC. While we chatted he mentioned how technology was providing some of the greatest challenges for companies seeking capable marketers, ad for potential marketing executives trying to find work. I followed up with Steven, and asked him some deeper questions about these difficulties. Here are his insightful answers.


    GL: What is the biggest challenge facing company’s trying to recruit able marketers?

    SS: It would be hard for me to identify one challenge when there are multiple, which in every one of my cases, are directly or indirectly related to marketing technology. Senior marketing leaders are facing increasing pressure from leadership to make the most of technology investments – to achieve company-wide objectives that the technology was promised to deliver.

    Coupled with this, senior marketers are uncertain of skills needed. And, believe it or not, some hiring managers are finding frustration hiring and retaining junior staff to perform in less technical marketing roles, because new entrants are rushing to acquire technology cred to their resumes.

    GL: Why are marketers struggling so much to embrace technology tools?

    SS: There are a combination of factors, most of which I believe are intimidation, complexity and cost. Given these, it’s often easier to ignore the issue, or take baby steps, as I’ve heard it said. As an aside, ‘baby steps’ creates difficulty scaling, because hard won added resources yield only incremental capabilities.

    For the brave, here’s just a flavor of the issue:

    A) The tens of numbers of competing vendors with tools–online applications, bolt-ons, stand-alones, with myriad capabilities for Customer Relationship Management, Marketing Automation, and Content Management Systems, among others, serve to create daunting decisions.

    B) There are numerous capabilities within one system, which alone are rarely used to capacity. Then, some companies have multiple, integrated systems, connected to create seamless capabilities from demand generation to lead generation to funnel conversions and to close, and more. These have somewhat complex processes for data owners with hand offs and usage rules. Other companies have get even more sophisticated an integrated system, to systems of systems, often tied in some fashion with Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP platforms, spanning enterprise wide with integrated cross operational capabilities.

    C) Marketers are often the front line of managing these systems, putting in place the controls for usage and figuring out ways to avoid corrupting data, so the output is remains of value.

    D) Marketers are also responsible for the knowledge and resources that go into norms and best practices for social media. And they must ensure through metrics that resources expended for content generation achieve intended results, and that technology and processes are in place to capture the data, and the entire operation is continually improved.

    E) Most often marketers also are responsible for data collection and analysis, including from their own systems collecting any and all data generated from inbound and outbound communications, with additional capabilities to mine market intelligence, competitive intelligence, discover market opportunities, and to test concepts and forecast results, along with other predictive measures leadership can use to reliably deciding how to invest for growth.

    GL: How can companies find more capable marketers?

    SS: The answer is not so straightforward, and in my opinion, the biggest conundrum. The technology has evolved more rapidly then available documentation (economic-based) that would help inform and advise HR professionals who in turn could advise hiring managers.

    A recent statistic cited nearly 50% of marketing hires failing in six months due to mis-alignment of skills to business needs and requirements. This occurs on both sides of the hiring equation between a candidate and hiring managers. The dialogue goes something like this: A candidate says, “Yes, I can do that,” and hiring managers believe a ‘marketer’ is a ‘marketer,’ so he/she should be able to perform. But today, no two marketers are alike.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which defines and categorizes the U.S. workforce by jobs, titles and wages, have yet to tackle today’s marketing roles. Meantime, academia continues to churn out marketing candidates that are the same as yesterday’s marketing candidates.

    Based on a 6-month study that I conducted this year, I was able to determine based on hundreds of marketing job requisitions, that hiring marketers truly need candidates who have: sophisticated statistics in order to develop and test scenarios with volumes of collected data; economic understanding to identify internal and external market influences and pressures to anticipate buying patterns, to unwind business models, and to help anticipate market cycles; an analytical ability for ways of gathering and measuring useful data, and overall, develop order to data chaos; strategic thinking to help align capabilities from technology to organizational objectives; and not least, the ability to compile compelling presentations that leadership can easily digest for decision making.

    In practicality, though, hiring managers should focus on those who think strategically, are comfortable with process, or learning process to help it evolve for efficiency without sacrificing quality, and who posses a “have-no-fear” approach to experimenting with technology, yet who starts their exploration with a mindset of a desire outcome.

    GL: Is there an answer or a solution to the capability gap?

    SS: Yes, I believe the solution wrests in the hands of academia. Their entry requirements, curriculums, and graduation requirements must better align with employers’ hiring needs – along the lines of marketing is now a much “harder-skill” discipline then it was taught.

    GL: Do you see technology continuing to create this disparity or will the next generation of marketers be better at adapting to new technologies and methods?

    SS: I have little doubt the next generation will be superior, primarily because far fewer systems will exist, and skills, therefore, will be better defined, categorized and quantified.

    To me, the past is a very clear barometer of the future, and it has proven over time that technology tends to narrow to a few, manageable number of competitors. When that occurs in our case for existing marketing technology, then a near perfect alignment of skills will occur, and the gap will disappear.

    Case in point, at the turn of the 20th century, there were dozens of U.S. automobile manufacturers, yet only three survived 100 years. The big three U.S. auto manufacturers compete with few other American companies due to the high barrier to entry.

    The same will occur with the technology used by marketers. If anyone remains unsure, I challenge them to find a 2015 resume listing skills in Wordperfect, Dbase, or Lotus.

    About Steven Slater

    Steven Slater is a marketer and business developer who has staffed, built and run marketing departments for commercial and non-profit organizations ranging in size from $1M to $5 Billion.

    As the field of marketing has evolved into a digital environment, he is focused on improving marketing performance by connecting hiring managers with those who have a unique set of skills and capabilities. A perpetual student and practitioner of marketing innovation, he has spent the past year studying the widening gap between skills and organizational needs, using the findings to chart a mix of required skills–the ingredients to marketing success in a digital age.

    Steven is part of long-established Employment Enterprises, Inc. and works alongside people and services from Temporary Solutions. This helps him offer marketing people skills as contingent-consultative or permanent staff – or, in other words, the right skilled individuals, at the right time to solve digital challenges.

    Andy Gilman on How Social Media Changes Crisis Communications

    Meet Andy Gilman, president and CEO of CommCore Consulting, otherwise known as “The Tylenol Man.” In 1982, when the Tylenol Crisis broke out, Andy prepped Johnson & Johnson Chairman James Burke for his 60 Minutes Interview, considered a turning in helping to resolve that issue.

    Today Andy is still working with many brands to resolve crises, but in a digital world. That’s why we asked him to join us on August 27th and host a crisis exercise at xPotomac 15 (register today using the code “Geoff” and get 20% off). Andy will be hosting a live social media crisis scenario to close xPotomac, challenging your ability to handle a tough situation on the fly.

    Here is an interview I conducted with him last week.

    GL: How have things changed since 1982?

    AG: We often talk about what would happen if Johnson and Johnson Tylenol had occurred today in the Internet age, and it would change a lot. First of all, it would have to be faster.

    Second, they would probably need to use many more channels. For example, in 1982 they could hold a press conference and get three networks to cover it. There wasn’t even CNN at the time. Now you would have to be able to communicate through Twitter, through a blog, through Pinterest, through Facebook.

    The thing that links it all is that you have to develop messages, you have to be consistent in your messages, and you have to have the ability to adjust as time goes.

    GL: Is the Internet a good thing or a bad thing for crisis communications?

    AG: The Internet changes everything for crises. Because of the power of the Internet – think about mommy bloggers, Food Babe, It can create a crisis without all the facts. That’s bad. On the other hand, the Internet allows you to communicate rapidly to all of your stakeholders, and in some ways not use the filter of media to get out more information.

    The New York Times a couple years ago did a piece on Walmart and alleged bribery in Mexico. In a typical old school style, you would have one person from Walmart with one comment in the New York Times article towards the end of the long expose.

    Walmart decided to post a Youtube video that afternoon with its chief communications officer. He was able to give the company’s point of view in three or four minutes. If you are a stakeholder, an employee, a shareholder, a regulator or a customer, you can see the entire statement, not just one comment.

    Here’s another way the Internet can be used during a crisis. Barilla Pasta a couple years ago had an issue. Their CEO Guido Barilla said he wouldn’t even let a homosexual be in an advertisement. They realized they made a mistake. [Barilla] did use YouTube to apologize, but then they used their homepage, they used ads featuring gay people, they met with groups, they used many more tools to reach out to people.

    Now they have regained trust in the GLBT community. Organizations like HumanRights Watch can say here is one of our more favored companies because they turned it around.

    GL: Can You Compare Barilla’s Response to the Chic-Fil-A Crisis?

    Andy Gilman-3

    AG: The Internet is just a vehicle. It really starts with who you are as an organization. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a company, a nonprofit or an NGO. What are your values and your messages? You can decide “I don’t want this community to be my customer base,” that’s your choice. But then you suffer the consequences for it, and it is so much easier to spread that information.

    GL: How forgiving are people?

    AG: People can be very forgiving. In the United States, it’s pretty easy to get a second chance if you’re sincere. How you get the second chance is really the question. Can you use a traditional media outlet? Do you need to use your social media? Or do you need to work with a third party? I do think people are very forgiving if you do it right.

    GL: When you think of a Twitter crisis or a Reddit crisis or another social media crisis, what can a brand do? Do they have to respond within hours or is it minutes? How do they deal with this?

    AG: I can’t give you one rule for how to respond. Sometimes the Internet blows up and you let it go. Sometimes you need to post a statement that says we’re aware of it, we’ll get back to you. Sometimes the damage can be so bad that the boycott and the customers’ flight to another product can be almost instantaneous. Other times people can be pretty clever and say it’s just an Internet meme and I’ll still shop there.

    So much of what we’re talking about is what we do and how we react. The precondition of surviving a crisis is building your reputation beforehand.

    If Apple has a problem with where their products are manufactured, any other company would be down the tube. Because everyone loves their Apple products, they excuse them. When Nike had a problem with sweat shops, the issue went viral very quickly. Yet the average consumer says, “I still like my Nike stuff so I give them the benefit of the doubt.” If Tylenol had occurred to another company without the Johnson & Johnson reputation as the baby powder company they may not have survived.

    There are three parts to planning for a crisis. One is to develop your reputation and develop your crisis plan in the event that something happens. Second is your response in the moment, which nowadays has to be fast. Third, how do you recover afterwards?

    xPotomac Returns on June 12

    My DC friends will be happy to know that Patrick Ashamalla, Shonali Burke and I have been very busy over the past few months. We can finally announce xPotomac 15 this June 12.

    Our keynote this year is author Mark W. Schaefer, who just released The Content Code, which highlights how the marketing world has gone mad.  In his new book, Mark challenges communicators to break through information density by thinking about audiences in a new way


    This year’s xPotomac returns to the Georgetown University Campus, but will be held at the Healey Family Student Center, which includes an in-building parking garage. Special thanks to our event host and sponsor the Communications Culture and Technology programShana Glickfield, cofounder of the Beekeeper Group, will again emcee xPotomac.

    The remaining three sessions and their speakers have been selected:

    It’s a data driven world, but you still need creative free thinking to succeed. Senior Vice President for Social@Ogilvy Kathy Baird will discuss some lessons she learned at the Burning Man festival as they apply to digital communications.

    Next up, Gannett’s Director of Social Media and Engagement Jodi Gersh and Assistant Managing Editor, Video for the Washington Business Journal Jen Nycz-Conner will discuss how digital media continues to impact the way news is developed and shared.

    The first millennials are now 35 years old and taking over executive leadership positions. How does the new digital-savvy leadership impact workplace culture. DC-based authors Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant will discuss the concepts discussed in their new book, When Millennials Take Over.

    After our lunch break, crisis communications expert and Commcore Consulting Founder Andy Gilman will join xPotomac cofounders Shonali Burke and Geoff Livingston for a digital crisis communications bootcamp.  Help resolve a digital crisis live! For those that don’t know Andy, he has counseled clients for 60 Minutes appearances, Congressional hearings, and most notably provided counsel to Johnson & Johnson during the Tylenol 1 crisis and the Government of Canada for the SARS Outbreak.

    Register today for xPotomac 15 today! A version of this post also ran on the xPotomac site.