The 80-20 Rule for Giving Events

17386266452_34198b4026_k
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

Pre-Event

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

      27964859650_a10e503fff_k

      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?

    Fundraising: To Email or Not to Email

    Smartphone II

    To email or not to email, that is the question of the modern fundraiser.

    I understand the email quandary. We want to reach our customers and very important friends, and make sure they know about our fundraiser (or any other initiative). At the same time, we don’t want to alienate our contacts with spammy solicitations.

    Several years ago, I worked with a nonprofit on their hopeful $30-$50,000 fundraiser. In the beginning, we were all in agreement on the importance of building a strong email list and accessing partner networks to get the word out. Focusing on an exciting initiative, the effort would seek to activate and engage in a first time giving event for this sector of the nonprofit. At that time, this would have been unique.

    But then the corporate messaging initiatives began to take precedence. Protocol mattered more than engagement. Using the list and partners’ lists for the fundraiser came into question. Concerns arose about antagonizing people with the fundraiser. The nonprofit already emailed the list frequently with its various news items and corporate partner initiatives.

    Social media, a single relatively benign email, and content would need to carry the effort. Needless to say, things didn’t fare as well as we had originally hoped. The fundraiser sputtered and bumbled its way across the $10,000 mark. The Fundraising Wall began at the outset.

    Social and Blog Content Usually Can’t Carry the Weight Alone

    7172754660_920f600706_k

    One truth about online fundraisers: It is very, very hard to succeed with social media and blog content alone. I would say it is almost impossible UNLESS you have a super engaged community. Frankly, you need multiple tactics, an integrated strategy (the subject of my last business book Marketing in the Round), but of all the tactics email is almost a must have for a successful fundraiser. .

    An email list really is an extension of a super engaged community, too. I would argue that an exhausted email list that sees mass opt-outs during a fundraiser reflects a larger problem. Perhaps the organization uses its email list as a mechanism to simply ask and get rather than to provide value.

    There is a reverse to that equation. If people are subscribed to your organization’s list and all they receive is valuable information, but are unwilling to receive an email from you about an important initiative, then perhaps they are not really a part of your community. They just like free information.

    This may have to do with the list that they are opting into. Was it clear that they will receive occasional offers (e.g. solicitations) from you? It may be worth segmenting people that complain about solicitations into a different list.

    Also, let’s be honest with ourselves, do people just find our solicitations to be spammy and boring? If your email is a blatant request to give you money for something they may not want, then maybe your quandary is well justified. You may get a few backers or donations. You will also piss off a lot of people, too, particularly if you continuously make obvious uninteresting overtures with your email community.

    Figure It Out or Hit the Wall

    16662548430_b539f18fe7_k

    There are two critical aspects to the email problem: Content and community. There are many resources that can help you create a stronger content initiative with the actual email. Is the email copy entertaining and useful to the list member. Or do they just feel like you are talking about yourself and asking for something?

    Then there are the community members, the people who have subscribed to your list. Frankly, if you are concerned about a dead or dying list, then maybe it’s time to get honest about the state of your email program. Email represents a relationship tool. People who have had enough of your organization’s email, probably don’t belong on the list anymore. Would you email a friend who kept complaining about your jokes?

    While invigorating your list with better content, consider a new opt-in prompt for people who have not opened one of your emails in six months. This inactive list campaign may take more than one communication, but if you are not getting a response, my recommendation is to cull them. In my mind, they have indicated through inaction that the email communications aren’t working for them. Let them go.

    Focus on stronger content, more value, higher open rates, and better interaction with your email community. Figure it out before your online fundraiser, or you will hit the Fundraising Wall.

    There are many other components to a successful online fundraiser, including online advertising, influencer activation (your influencers, not those big wig celebrities!), PR, live events and more. But without email as a basic fundamental outreach, you may be dooming yourself to a lesser fundraising effort.

    Flickr Enters Downward Spiral

    Traffic for Flickr

    It seems like every year or two you see a Flickr is dying post that sparks a major conversation about whether or not the photography social network will survive. Unfortunately, it seems that the time may finally be arriving for one of the longest standing social networks out there.

    The most recent round of the “Flickr is dying” debate happened two months ago right around when Yahoo! announced it would stop investing in the network and sell it off. That one was sparked by Photoshelter CEO Allen Murabayashi’s Petapixel rant (I am a Photoshelter user) and sparked a strong defense by Thomas Hawk (I am an active friend of Thomas’s on several social networks).

    Murabayashi’s rant seemed motivated by his competitive service offering, but in hindsight the Yahoo! public lack of support at that time may have been the network’s undoing. Things are not the same on the network with interaction and dialogue feeling slow.

    flickr vs 500px

    It’s more than a seasonal slump, which you would expect with warmer weather and enthusiasts running outside to use their dusty cameras. While uber photography social network 500 Pixels has experienced a small decline in traffic, too, their overall page views have declined a little more than a half a percentage point since December. Flickr has declined by more than 4 percent, and is in danger of falling out of the top 200 websites globally.

    Instagram comparison

    The two photography sites are not quite the same with 500 Pixels catering to “serious” photographers, many of whom are pro or semi-pro, while Flickr serves more of the photo enthusiast and consumer crowd. Yet Flickr’s decline is palpable as consumers fly away to more attractive and easier to use options like Instagram. As a result, for the first time that I can remember Flickr is not ranked as a top 10 social network.

    Yahoo! Chases Away Whole Groups of Photographers

    21648989768_9f0a63bb14_k

    Remember when Flickr rebranded itself as a consumer site last year? The new interface has been lacking in my mind (as I noted last May). Load times are slow and the interface was wonky. Yet, this was Marissa Mayer’s grand plan to challenge Instagram.

    At first traffic increased, but the new traffic was not the traditional photography enthusiast, semi-pros and pros that made up most of the social network’s audience. It was consumer who used their smartphones as point and click cameras. Meanwhile, the people that made up the more sophisticated photographers on Flickr began to leave for other places.

    You know what? That worked for Apple when it stopped catering to the Quark and Final Cut crowd. But Yahoo! is not Apple, and so when the plane crashed this winter, things began to fall apart.

    Weekly photo contests suddenly stopped. Load-time issues, upload snafus, and other bugs increased. Auto-upload support for nonpaying Flickr users was taken away. And on the last note, consumers began leaving (because pro-photographers rarely upload scores of photos at a time for anyone other than a client, and when they do they use DropBox or Google Photos or Photoshelter or…).

    Can you blame this new generation of Flickr photography enthusiasts? Why bother? After all, other sites are easier to use, have more interaction, and if you’re going to pay, it may as well be with a more reliable entity than a company cutting itself into pieces for an estate sale.

    So who’s left after the pro and consumer exodus? Enthusiasts who like to upload nature and landscape pics, often the domain of photography hobbyists. And if that’s what you do, good news! Flickr may still be right for you.

    More difficult types of photography — portraits, architecture, nightscapes, monochrome, artificial lighting, etc. — do not perform as well, though. The number of photographers that could create those works are dwindling on Flickr as they seek other networks like the 500 Pixels and YouPics of the world. The feedback is faster and more meaningful there, peer-to-peer. As my friend Richard Binhammer (an infrared photography specialist) says, “My photos seem to be getting more pop on 500 Pixels.”

    And event and selfie pics? We all know Instagram is the place for those.

    Can Flickr Be Saved?

    20584509384_8977a9b348_k

    A lot depends on who buys Flickr. Doc Searls made an impassioned plea for Adobe to buy the social network, saying that Flickr was the best site for serious photographers.

    I’m not sure about the latter anymore, but I do believe Flickr still has value. I’m still there and still use it to house my library. I still get occasional media inquiries to use my pics from Flickr, too. I know others like Thomas Hawk haven’t given up, either.

    The question is who will buy it? If Google or Facebook buys Flickr, I will be downloading all of my photos that day and closing my account. Warren Buffett would be more encouraging. At least you know Berkshire Hathaway would invest in the network again.

    Maybe the right question is, “Will the sale be in time?” Each month that passes, engagement dwindles. Resuscitating a dead social network is beyond even the brightest minds as we have seen with many attempts to restore MySpace (sorry, Justin Timberlake) and Digg.

    Whatever happens, Flickr has been good to me and many other photographers for the past decade plus. If it does fade away, it will be missed.

    What do you think?

    Understanding Photography on Instagram

    rs80923_001_dp_173-asset-_1_

    United Kingdom-based Digital Photographer Magazine interviewed me for their current edition (Magazine Issue #173) on Instagram best practices for photographers. The article is titled “Market Yourself on Instagram”, but it is gated, unfortunately. However, I did keep a copy of my answers, which you can find below.

    DP: Do you use Instagram to post the same content as your other social media sites?

    GL: When it comes to photography, yes, for the most part. I find that crossover between social networks – 500 Pixels to Facebook to Flickr to Instagram to Twitter – is minimal. Each network has its own audiences.

    14880343964_5bc246d71b_k

    Some photos don’t translate well due to the format, which almost forces you to be literal about the rule of thirds. For example, I love this Super Moon photo with the Washington Monument in the lower left for foreground (above), but it breaks the rules. It would never work in Instagram. The photo would be cropped either as another full moon photo, or a Washington Monument pic. Extended in a wide format it would be too small. So I wouldn’t post it in Instagram.

    DP: How do you think the platform helps emerging photographers reach new audiences?

    Nice of Kendall Jenner @kendalljenner to humor me with a selfie. #whcd #nerdprom

    A photo posted by Geoff Livingston (@geoffliving) on


    Me shamelessly promoting myself at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

    GL: I think Instagram has become much more mainstream in the past two years, and is in many ways is starting to replace Twitter. So it’s a good place to brand yourself, regardless of your type of photography. But, for many of us that’s where it ends.

    Portrait and wedding photographers could use it for lead generation, but it would require them to actually network with other people, like and comment. It would not work to just post pics for most. Instagram also has additional potential for photojournalists.

    DP: Does Instagram’s limited format enhance or impinge creativity?

    GL: I wrote four years ago about my dislike for most of the images, and I still don’t like it. LOL. What many of us would consider dodging or burning or adding a bit more yellow to the temperature is replaced with filters. And as a result, bad images are glossed over.

    But for the average point and click person, it improves their efforts. And for all intents and purposes, that’s what smartphones have become, point and click cameras.

    Most importantly, though, Instagram allows people to share their lives in a visual manner. Everyone uses visual media to communicate about their lives. Because of this viral social network, many more people are falling in love with photography. That’s a good thing.

    Over time I have come to realize that Instagram makes good photography stand out that much more. It’s kind of like a Pultizer Prize caliber writer clearly distinguishes himself in an email correspondence compared to the average office worker’s prose. People can see which folks know how to communicate with a lens, and that’s where photographers start to brand themselves.

    DP: How do you use hashtags and geotagging to increase your reach?

    Misty Morning #blackandwhite #monochrome #forest #woods #mist #picoftheday #photooftheday

    A photo posted by Geoff Livingston (@geoffliving) on

    GL: I try to use at least five hashtags per pic, and geotag the photos with location. The reality is that this increases reach by 20-30% per pic. It exposes your work to people who search by topical area, news trend, and location. In my mind, that’s just smart marketing.

    DP: In your opinion, what are its biggest drawbacks and advantages?

    Walk this way. Featuring Fana Lv. #model #asian #asianmodel #walk #picoftheday #photooftheday

    A photo posted by Geoff Livingston (@geoffliving) on

    GL: The power of Instagram as its own type of social photography is both its biggest drawback and its greatest advantage. Instagram is life stream/photoblogging in my mind. Like blogging it can create a sense of expertise for inexperienced smartphone heroes. Within their medium they are just that.

    But outside of Instagram, their photography may not be as strong. To successfully expand their skills, they may need more practice, or need to learn about lighting to take their photography to the next level, or might simply need to learn manual camera basics like ISO, aperture and shutter speed.

    For an Instagram hero, this might be extraordinarily frustrating. They may simply retreat rather than grow and become the photographer they probably could be. This happened with many bloggers who were good writers, but could not conquer other media like magazines, books and traditional journalism.

    A champion on one level is a neophyte on another.

    Walk This Way Beauty Tight Crop Web

    The same could be said for pro photographers who post their outstanding work on the network, and find it undiscovered. They are neophytes in social media and in particular, Instagram. So perhaps they walk away.

    When these two worlds collide — the point and click heroes with the tried and true photography experts — is when photography grows and becomes a wider, more appreciated art form.

    I came to photography ten years ago through blogging and social media, the need for original images was critical. But I would not be the photographer I am today if it were not for 1) a passion for creating visual art and 2) the expert photographers who took me under their wing, and showed me how to realize more of my potential. We need each other in this digital world.

    And now my question to you, the reader: What do you think of Instagram from a pure photography standpoint?

    Ten Years Gone

    26443819376_b8099eaa61_k

    Ten years is a long time. Ten years of blogging? Well, that seemed unfathomable back in 2006, yet, here we are. This week marks my tenth full year of blogging.

    Things have changed so much since I began. Back then it was edgy, then it become profitable. Now, it seems passé and marginalized.

    In 2006, writing something new and cool excited me. In the 2008-9 range, blogging was majestic, an exhilarating experience that brought attention, notoriety and opportunity. By 2011, it became a grind. Feeding the beast to stay relevant forced me into a daily blogging discipline.

    Then after a series of private disappointing events related to my last business book something happened. I stopped giving a damn what other people thought of my blog. Relevancy, topic, edgy, not edgy. It just didn’t matter to me anymore.

    Perhaps I realized what a fool I had been.

    The Joy of Blogging Returns

    26334216691_6e560c0f6e_k

    I still blogged once a week for a couple of years just to maintain presence, but when this year began I gave myself a gift. The weekly blog, a post I would write so often on Sunday night just to get it published, was an act of drudgery more often than not. There was little business value to it anymore, either.

    So I decided to stop, and let myself off the blogging hook. No longer would I write on a schedule for my personal blog. Instead, I write now when the muse strikes me, and time permits. And that seems to be every two to three weeks.

    What a relief. Freedom to write when I want to, what I want to.

    When I press publish, I smile. The joy of blogging returns.

    Forgotten Maybe, But Not Dead Yet

    26434562001_5be8cb81aa_k

    I may be forgotten as a consequence of blogging less, but I’m not dead yet.

    Now I still blog elsewhere for other people several times a week. They’re not blogs anymore, not really. I guess because saying what you think is not really marketing. Blogs have to be polished, relevant to target audiences, geared toward the larger customer experienced ecosystem. No, we call them articles now. It’s not the same thing.

    Here, when it’s said, it’s meant. It’s a hell of lot less frequent, but there is a genuine authenticity to the blogs that you won’t find on a corporate “brand journal.”

    Getting there again was a process. Ten years teaches you if you’re still blogging, it’s because it resolves some sort of creative angst within you. It’s old school. It’s a bonafide antiquated blog, said when it wants to be said.

    Ten years gone. “Then as it was, then again it will be.” And here we are, back where we started.

    The Transparency Failure

    25912936840_eb7cb63c02_k

    Transparency was the ideal of the social media age in its apex. But as the years have marched on, we have seen that society is not ready for transparency.

    Life as an open book is uncomfortable.

    When we see open human nature, we punish people for it, hold them accountable for oddities, and for breaking social norms. Or worse, those naked conversations turn into dinner room and Sunday phone call lectures with parents. Bosses and HR engage in brand control. Spouses get jealous when they see conversations with colleagues and friends.

    Let us not discount what happens when every action becomes catalogued within the corporate world’s marketing databases. Retargeted precision spamming happens in earnest.

    We have seen ourselves — humanity — for what it is, and we became punitive. As posters, we have become self conscious. We let companies exploit our actions. And now when it comes to those naked conversations more often than not we say, “No, thank you.”

    The reality of transparency is that human beings — all of us — are very flawed. We’re not ready to see our lesser selves.

    Recent Events Crystallize the Transparency Failure

    IMG_6581

    Seeing the Obama administration chastise media for not digging deep and demanding transparency from into presidential candidates was quite a laugh. Hypocrisy could not find a better definition than the president’s public lecture.

    The Obama campaign was elected on the promise of transparency, and then systematically shut down the media in its many attempts to seek information. Keep in mind this information should have been provided under the Freedom of Information Act. No, I think Obama’s manipulation of social media in particular, failure to provide access, and pandering to the public with silly tricks (remember the Death Star letter from NASA?) really typifies the failure of this medium.

    Then there is the ultimate in transparency — sort of — The Donald. The more we know about the authentic Donald Trump, the more exposure he gets via Twitter and political gaffes, the less Americans like him.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think this growing negative whiplash is a good thing for our country, but if you want to be a liked, are you going to offer a stream of consciousness on Twitter? Be transparent and be like Donald? No, no, you won’t. Sensible people mind their tongues.

    Finally, the D’Angelo Russell gaffe last week put me over the edge. For those that missed it, the Laker rookie secretly videotaped teammate Nick Young talking about running girls behind his fiancee Iggy Azalea’s back. The video was leaked online, perhaps by a hacker, a SnapChat friend, or by Russell himself.

    I totally agree that Russell broke protocol by not telling Young he was taping it. I also think the story as reported by the media missed a critical point. Young was cheating. He kind of deserves whatever he gets, forgiveness after trial-by-fire or broken nuptials.

    In addition, anyone familiar with the NBA knows this kind of womanizing is par for the course in the league. We just don’t want to see it publicly. Transparency into what NBA players do in their relationships turns heroes into antiheroes.

    Transparency, you say? No, let’s shoot the messenger and completely villanize D’Angelo Russell, a 20 year old kid who made a stupid mistake and broke the code. Perhaps the scandals of the NBA are too close to the truth for Americans. After all, we just recovered from the Ashley Madison scandal.

    Why Dark Social Matters

    26238215196_879e07b1d0_k

    Part of being human is sharing experiences with each other. Sharing forms relationships. Yes, that includes the good Fakebook moments where we share our triumphs with friends and family. There is also an innate desire to share the bad, the daily trudge, the disgusting, and the naughty.

    If you only post on the mainstay networks — LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter — then there is no quarter. You are subject to public indexing, ridicule, and shame. Sure, you could have a private Twitter or Instagram account, but the likelihood of a frequent user remaining private is relatively small. Locked down Facebook posts are also relatively few and far between (and still indexed by the Facebook marketing database).

    Some people still post their unfettered truth. And there are some really cool people that I admire who do it, too.

    But not everyone is so brave. Instead, most need to trust SnapChat AND hope their friends on there aren’t going to rat them out (sorry, D’Angelo Russell). Some choose the anonymity of Yik Yak or another network. Or create an anonymous handle and go “troll” on a main network (even if you aren’t attacking folks, many people are leery of anonymous handles).

    Dark social is the only recourse for people who crave transparency with their inner digital circle and the few who relate with them.

    Think about that. We have forced ourselves to hide our own actions. The private lives of people are digital now, but hidden from the common eye.

    Public transparency for all has failed, my friends. Not because of the medium, but because of who we are.

    What do you think?