The 80-20 Rule for Giving Events

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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

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      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?

    My 40th Birthday

    I turn 40 years old tomorrow.

    Before I begin, in some ways this post discusses second chances. If you want to do something for my 40th, please donate $40 to DC Central Kitchen. Give someone an opportunity to get off the ground with a new job and life.

    Frankly, it’s been a neurotic odyssey getting to my 40th birthday over the past three months. I’ve had a real hard time with this one, in large part because I don’t think I should be here.
    Continue reading “My 40th Birthday”

    BP: 2010’s Most Irresponsible Corporate Citizen

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    In its continuing Deep Horizon crisis communications effort, BP now claims that it acted in a fully responsible manner. With a horrid combination of PR statements and ads, the oil company tries to maintain its dignity citing flawed efforts (we tried!). Instead BP has destroyed any remaining trust the public had in the organization.

    This company has quickly become 2010’s worst corporate citizen, and it will be hard for anyone to beat them in the year’s remaining seven months (much less the decade). As the bard said, the company doth protest too much. Let’s look at what the mounting evidence reveals:

    BP claims responsibility. The ethical failure in its actions cannot be dubbed socially responsible. Far from it. These corporate executives are demonstrative of some of the worst villainous behavior we have seen in decades.

    The federal government maintains it has its boot on BP’s neck. It’s clear that since Obama has become personally involved — one month after the fact — the federal government is acting more responsibly, suspending further off shore drilling, etc. However, it’s not enough. It’s time to take the guillotine to BP’s neck, and file criminal proceedings against some of the world’s most despicable corporate citizens.

    What Will Top Kill?

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    Thirty six days after the original Deep Horizon explosion and the beginning of the United States’ worst eco-crisis ever, BP will seek to end this oil spill nightmare with its two-day Top Kill procedure. The cement mud mix would effectively plug the well, the latest in many failed attempts to end the oil spill. In the latest effort to quell th spill and public dissatisfaction, BP will show the procedure live on video. But what remains to be seen is what will finally be killed, the oil spill or the last vestiges of public trust for BP and the Obama Administration’s crisis response team.

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    What BP Wants Us to Believe

    One thing is certain, everything for BP and the Obama Administration is riding on Top Kill succeeding. If it doesn’t, the oil spill will continue for weeks on end, with no immediate back up plan announced by the oil company.

    Public trust in BP, the Administration, and their various partners in this effort is close to (if not already) irrevocably tarnished by Deep Horizon. The crisis PR has been terrible with missteps on resolution, horrific transparency on possible solutions, false accounting of actual daily oil spill amounts, the policing of beaches to prevent media reporting, bickering between BP and the EPA, dispersants’ negative impact, a new climate bill that endorses further off-shore drilling, 19 new off shore drilling licenses since Deep Horizon, etc., etc., on and on.

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    What We Really Believe

    Though BP has tried to address these issues, the end result has been public anger, and ridicule rivaling Jon Stewart. One must think Bush era Katrina FEMA officials and Exxon Valdez crisis communicators are relieved to see the grand scale of the Deep Horizon Laurel and Hardyesque bumbling and stumbling.

    Unfortunately, the crisis PR probably cannot recover. The chance to save face was lost long ago.

    The only thing that can end this is a swift conclusion to the oil spill, and then a much better job from all parties on recovery efforts, now and in the long term. So as Top Kill proceeds, it will surely end one thing — the oil spill — or another — any hope for BP and Obama EPA communicators ending this year on a happy note.

    P.S. Generally speaking, the environmental blogosphere’s coverage of Deep Horizon has been apathetic and non existent. It’s been disappointing to have to go to CNN instead of my favorite green blogs for news and opinions. In fact, it’s been a failure in my mind of another kind, and it makes me wonder how serious the U.S. green movement is.

    I do want to thank Joe Romm at Climate Progress for standing above the rest and rising to the occasion. Until BP successfully resolves this, we should follow Joe’s footsteps and cover Deep Horizon relentlessly.

    Geoff Livingston is a regular contributor to the Live Earth blog.