Posts

Goals are for Soccer!

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November tends to be a month of practicing gratitude. And who would argue that? Gratitude is never a bad idea. Gratitude, however, is a concept that is applied to the past and the present, typically. But what about the future? Personally, at this time of year, I’m preparing for the holiday season – time with friends and family, expressing gratitude, love, charitable giving, and my not-so-warm feelings about cold weather. Professionally, however, I’m thinking about my business and how I’d like it to perform next year. Not just how it will perform, but what types of projects I want to work on and who I want to work with. I hesitate to call it goal setting because that just seems so cliché. And I refuse to think of my goals as being SMART (if you haven’t heard that one yet, Google it). Plus, goals are for sports. I’d rather set a whole plan in motion. This is a time of year to be intentional. But more than that; it’s a time of year to be real with yourself. There’s a brand spankin’ new ye

Creating Events to Cheer For

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  Many nonprofit organizations create, coordinate and manage events throughout the year. Some are blissfully small and manageable while others are community block-busters (literally) that just seem to grow and grow.  As a former nonprofit manager I've lamented plenty over the years about the extreme amount of money, energy, and effort coordinating special events takes. It's hard work no matter how you slice it.  As a management consultant working mainly with nonprofit leaders, I hear all the same laments.  From the side of the table I'm currently on, the perspective is very different and it has me asking lots of questions and raising several concerns. The big two being: Why are you doing these events? Are they working? The majority of the people I pose these queries to can't answer them. In most cases the event in question was established before they became involved in the organization and they haven't been tracking any data associated with the event in order to mak

Fancy Meeting You Here

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Me, as Executive Director of a Main Street organization, running a black tie fundraiser gala: I remember being whisked away by the lovely ladies at the local salon. They literally kidnapped me off the street (thank you Melanee and Charla!), fed me champagne and went to work: plucking and tweezing, brushing and crimping, spraying and sponging, gluing and glittering until I came out perfectly glossy and gorgeous. And with eyelashes!! It was magnificent. I was Cinderella at my own ball. Only instead of losing a heel, I willingly gave them both up once an hour, donned my Nikes and dashed around town to ensure the logistics of my event were still holding up behind the scenes. Also me running a black tie fundraiser gala: I also remember the year the rental company called the morning of the big event to let me know they couldn't deliver my tables and chairs due to staffing issues. Oh hell no! I jumped in our local realtor's box truck (thank you, Loni!) and drove 45 minutes out of town

Setting Up Engaging Booths at Community Events

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There’s nothing worse than setting up a table at an event and watching every single attendee ignore you. Oh, wait – there is. To add insult to injury, most likely you paid for this privilege. As someone who is involved in planning and carrying out large-scale community events, it’s really painful for me to witness this. While I’m grateful for businesses that are willing to pay big price tags to participate in events, I want to see everyone having a great experience and finding it worth their time and money. Some participants just magically know how to engage a crowd and it shows; they’re generally the ones with big groups of people around their table or tent. Some of the most engaging event participants I’ve seen have done things like bring a prize wheel, have really exciting raffle prizes, offer face painting to children, or set up a little table where kids can paint a pumpkin or plant a seed. If your company is participating in events and looking for better ways to engage with the co

Events: The Buyout Option

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I’m blaming it on summer fun! I’ve been teasing you about the eBook on events that I’m putting together...and it’s not finished yet. :(  So to help ease the pain, I’m going to give you a fun, outside-the-box idea that I’ve come up with that can be a great supplement – or maybe even a substitution - for your nonprofit fundraiser ticketed event. In all honesty, I didn’t invent this – it’s an idea that I heard of several years ago that I believe should become a bigger idea, so I’m adding a new level to it. Back in the day, I caught wind of an organization holding a “plateless” dinner. And, wow, was I jealous! Here I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off organizing a black-tie fundraiser gala - spending more and more hours of my week on just this one thing as the end of September neared – while some genius was raking in the money and planning nothing!? To explain further, the plateless dinner was a fundraiser for this particular nonprofit organization. They sent out fancy

10 Ideas to Kickstart Your Funding Plan

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Funding Planning seems to be on a LOT of minds right now. Perhaps you're feeling a bit squeezed dry from all we've been through in the past 2.5 years. Maybe it's just a 'holy moly the new fiscal year is starting...NOW!' bit of anxiety. Whatever the reason, if you're stressing about moolah, here are a few things you can do to get yourself a bit more organized and ready to make money this fiscal year: Determine your income goal for the next fiscal year and compare it to what the organization brought in last fiscal year. What's the difference? Talk to board members and current funders about possible ways to bridge that gap. Make a list of funding you know is guaranteed this fiscal year. Make a list of current income streams that you feel you can increase this year. Dust off last year's donor solicitation letter, update it with juicy data and stories of success and compelling statements about your new plans. Send the new draft of your letter to your board an

MAIN STREET MANAGERS: WE WERE WRONG

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I’ve been thinking a lot about Main Street (historic downtown) events and street closures. Partly because I’m consulting with several Main Street communities this summer. But also, partly because one of my dearest friends is a Main Street merchant and her community has elected to shut down their Main Street Friday evenings through Sunday mornings. When I was a Main Street Manager (if you know me well, this is my version of “This one time in band camp”) I got an earful from Main Street merchants every time my organization put on an event that caused street closures. Every. Single. Time. Downtown retail business owners let me know how much they disliked the street closures. How bad it was for business. How bad it was for customers to not be able to park outside their shop. How much money they lost during events. How many people wanted to just use their bathroom. How much loss they suffered from shoplifting. How disruptive all the unchaperoned children were. And I would argue back: but th

13 Ways to Know if You've Got Entrepreneurial Spirit

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We've got spirit, yes we do! We've got spirit, how about you? Do you remember that from high school sports games? We may have rolled our eyes at the simplicity of the cheerleader chant but add a couple of decades and some of us are running around with this mantra in our heads. We're the ones with entrepreneurial spirit. We don't call ourselves business owners - although most of us are, in fact, business owners - we call ourselves entrepreneurs. And we've got spirit. How can you tell an entrepreneur from a regular business owner? How do you know if you are one? There are too many differences to count but I'm going to give you 13 of them. Why 13 and not a nice even 10 or a round 15? Well, that's #1 on the list: 1. We don't pay attention to societal norms and expectations. You say 13 is a cursed number. You won't even allow it to be a number on an elevator button. Entrepreneurs laugh and make 13 their new lucky number. We're ok with going against th

No More Shoestrings!

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  If I had a dollar for every time a nonprofit leader said to me they couldn’t afford something because they had a “shoestring budget” I’d have enough money to buy them all slip-ons by now. At some point in our history the word ‘nonprofit’ became synonymous with things like poor, needy, make do, sacrifice, zero/balanced budgets, no growth, trudge along. Not every organization runs like this, but many do. And I’m on the verge of pulling a Moonlighting version of Cher. Snap out of it! Nonprofits are businesses that must operate with a mindset of sustainability and growth. To do this, each organization must plan a budget that exceeds its annual expenses. A budget that nets out to zero (income matching expenses, dollar for dollar) does not do this. I urge every nonprofit leader to examine their annual budget thinking “what would I like to be able to do next year that I don’t have the funds for this year?”. When you’re planning next year’s budget ask yourself (and also your staff and board

Strategic Planning: Its not just for nonprofits anymore

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When I started doing strategic planning work with my nonprofit clients, I would tell them that it's just a business plan, but for a nonprofit. But something felt ‘off’ in that statement. It was a great way to get my clients to comprehend the need to have such a plan and the types of things that would go into a plan, though, so I continued to use that analogy for a while. Until one day I decided that I, personally, needed a strategic plan. It seemed a bit silly, but there were things in my life that I wanted to work toward. I wanted a clear roadmap to help me determine what types of things I would need to do to help me achieve these goals and when I should do them for maximum impact. And, of course, I also wanted to know how long it would take me to reach such achievement. (Yes, this is me in my personal life. I’m the life of the party with my spreadsheets and budgets!) That’s when it hit me – strategic plans aren’t just for nonprofits. Everyone should have a strategic plan! Ok, may