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?

    Punish Geoff Fundraiser: Civilination!

    My former colleague Andrea Weckerle is organizing a fundraiser to build a Civilination Academy for Online Conflict Management. She asked me to help, given my past history, and of course I am delighted, so welcome to the second Punish Geoff Fundraiser: Civilination!

    I have struggled with civility since I started blogging in 2006, and began openly discussing the matter over the past two years. For the most part I have overcome my mouth, though there is always progress to be made.

    I don’t want to preach. So the above video tells you why I made the moves, mostly out of a desire to become a better man, but also a result of consequences.

    Below I explain why I am supporting Andrea’s cause and think you should, too. And last but not least are the incentives, a $1000 match, and the yet to be mentioned punishment for reaching my goal of $5000.

    Why an Academy?

    A lot of people think civility means the nice police, and I have said as much in the past. However, I now realize this is not at all true,. It’s more of a rationalization that I used to justify hard shots.

    Civility, just like civilization, is derived from the Latin word, civilis, which means of or pertaining to citizens or public life. While civil conversations are polite, it is because they are for public consumption in larger communities.

    In my mind, discourse of opinion should be waged without assassinating character. Frankly, rough characters assassinate their own reputations well enough without the help of name calling and vigilante muckraking. A skilled communicator should be able to make a point without a Howard Stern shock jock style.

    It took me a couple of years, but I learned how to levy points without calling out names or smearing wholesale belief systems. I wage public discourse using pause mechanisms when I am angry, by thinking through points on a greater level, exiting conversations that become too toxic, and frankly by insisting on additional editing to work through harsh points.

    The Civilination Academy is intended to be a resource for everyone online, everyday Internet people, family, friends, business executives, experienced professional communicators, as well as social media and online community managers who are often at the forefront of managing online disputes. Civilination wants to build a library to help people learn how to handle the various misunderstandings, clashes, and reputational hits that occur online. God knows all of us who work online deal with these situations regularly.

    I love this idea, and wish such a resource had been available to me when I made my decision to become more mindful in my speech.

    OK, What’s the Punishment?

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    When I first came up with Punish Geoff, it was a sideways acknowledgement of my civility issues. Today it’s to champion mindfulness, and I am quite happy about that.

    During the original fundraiser, I ended up dressing in drag as a punishment. And after asking my Facebook community, it seems folks wanted a redux, not just for a 30 minute hangout, but for a full day.

    Well, a full day in drag and endless photos published on the Internet that I will never be able to live down is going to cost you. If we raise $5,000 in your donations by the end of the week, I will go to work a full day in drag. Yeah.

    In addition, I will personally match the first $1000 in donations. Finally, anyone who donates $100 and emails me the receipt to geoffliving [at] geofflivingston [dot] com will get an autographed copy of my first novel Exodus as soon as they ship. These incentives are in addition to Andrea’s rewards for various donations. That same $100 will get you a second autographed copy of her book, Civility in the Digital Age.

    So what are you waiting for? Donate now and PUNISH ME!

    Final Punishment: Sandwich Board Shame at the White House

    Finally, it’s time for the third punishment from The Punish Geoff Fundraiser for Mark Horvath’s InvisiblePeople.tv. Yes, the sandwich board was donned saying, “I’ve written two social media books. Please hire me.” But instead of a walk of shame in front of Congress social media savoir faire was mocked in front of the White House.

    Enjoy the fun.

    And do support Mark Horvath’s InvisiblePeople.tv. Mark’s journey across the continent has finished in Canada and now enters the U.S. leg as he drives back to the West Coast highlighting the hidden faces of homelessness across America.

    Thanks to all of you who donated and supported the Punish Geoff Fundraiser.

    Mark Horvath on Punish Geoff Fundraiser Impact

    Mark Horvath sent this video last night to thank all of the people who donated to and shared The Punish Geoff Fundraiser. Thank you to the 30 donors who have made $2055, and a significant impact on InvisiblePeople‘s drive across the country. Every dollar counts against a matching grant offered by the Pierce Family Foundation.

    BUT WAIT. We’re not done yet.

    There’s still two days left, and one punishment left to accomplish… Making me walk in front of Congress wearing a sandwich board that says “I wrote two social media books, PLEASE hire me!” We’re roughly $1100 away, less than what you collectively contributed Thursday and Friday of last week.

    There are three things you can do:

    1) Please Donate

    2) Realize Your Impact

    If you want to see InvisiblePeople.tv’s work, simply watch this movie trailer (coming out in 2012). It is incredible how Mark is raising the visibility of homelessness. You can help continue this fantastic project!

    3) Have Fun

    The Geoff Punishments will be metered out next week. We’ll have a lot of fun with it, promise! Stay tuned for details.

    Most importantly, thank you for your support.