Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fundraising? Use your noggin.

Most non-profits are partially funded by donors. Securing their dollars isn't as difficult as you may think. But, you do need to do your homework and use common sense.

An example of homework is to investigate the foundation, individual or corporation to find out past giving patterns. In the United States, you can do that by reviewing their 990 tax filings.

There are all kinds of tips for successful fundraising. I encourage you to find someone in your community or on your LinkedIn page who has a good track record for raising money. Learn how to be a success - and a failure - before you start knocking on doors.

Building  relationships is important in any kind of work you do. In fundraising, it is especially important to know your audience - the audience of donors. Know who they are, how they function, where they like to spend their free time and what is important to them. Know their granting habits. 

MARKETING TIP: Find out if you are a good match for a gift - before you ask for the deal.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Faulty communication

I just had the most fascinating private message conversation on Facebook with a marketing director for a local franchise company. After looking at her firm's FB page, asking her 30 minutes worth of questions and searching the web, I still do not know what her company sells.

On my personal FB page, I list a lot of job openings. Times are tough and I have helped friends secure interviews and new jobs. So the post about this fire safety company was intriguing. It never talked about the product or service, just the benefits of working there.


So I dug trying to find out if this was a legitimate company. I don't want to post bogus information on my page.

I'm still unsure.

MARKETING TIP: Always make sure your product or service is foremost in all of your communication. Be credible with your message. Make sure all your employees know what your products and services are.

Options to giving freebies

Artists, performers, crafters, writers, photographers ... the list goes on.

Too often, they do not feel that their work is worth a price. So they give it away. Shame. I don't believe in the "starving artist."

I suggest that artists and crafters always charge a fee or request something more than the obligatory sign or program thanking donors. And then, those signs only usually include the top supporters - not the one who gave a beautifully hand-turned raku bowl for auction.

I believe that an artist or crafter should have a tiered price list.
  • Retail - selling directly to the public
  • Wholesale - selling to another business for it to resell on the public retail market
  • Family/Friends/Non-profits - a special price for those people who are your absolute worst customers - the ones who shame you into giving at least one piece of your work
There is an option, however for non-profits. I recommend creating some type of criteria for your gift. You may ask an organization to apply to you for a donation.
  • You may require an organization to focus upon your work through press releases and media interviews.
  • You may choose 2-3 organizations to support - and that's it. No more.
MARKETING TIP: Be upfront and honest with customers - including non-profits, friends and family. You cannot work for free. So be sure to either be paid in money or in a fashion where a lot of potential new customers will see your work and your pretty face.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A personal note

I always say that you should post on your blog at least once a week. As you see, quite a few have passed since my last entry. My mother passed away in October and my father has been ill.

So this leads me to talk with you on a personal level ...

In this world where we are expected to work 40+ hours a week, take care of family, grab a minute for ourselves and watch the world go by because we're so busy, I encourage you to adopt the notion that family comes first.

Say it aloud: "Family comes first."

Yes, it does interfere with income, your TO DO list, personal and professional aspirations and goals. Yes, it does interfere with your free time. Yes, it does cause considerable stress at times.

But do it.

In the end, you will be very thankful that you did. You will have few or no  regrets. I learned to love and enjoy my mother and miss her terribly.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Are millennials moving out of your town?

I recently read where millennials are moving in droves from small rural towns to the big cities in search of a well-paying job and excitement. Face it, what can a 23-year old do in most small towns? Not much.

One way to retain youth in your community is to get them involved early on. Small town leaders across the country are seeing the benefit. For instance, Greensboro, N.C. was the first city to create a youth council. It has been copied by cities 'round the world. Here, youth work with community leaders and the city council to create activities for kids so they learn skills which will help them through life - leadership, organization, fundraising, etc.

I am a fan of small town boards creating a shadow organization of local students. They actually participate in local government activities. They may have a non-voting seat on the town board. However you want to frame it, the kids get buy-in early on to help grow their community.

MARKETING TIP: Large companies look for places to locate which offer a good quality of life. One aspect is youth involvement and leadership.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Is your press release ready to send? Think again.

Daily, reporters around the world weed through hundreds of emails in search of material they can actually use. Most of what they receive is deleted. If you want your release to stand out, here are some tricks of the trade:
  • Write a very short, pertinent subject line and don't use the words "Press Release".
  • If there is a date for an event, start the subject line with the date.
  • Include contact information - day and night phone and the contact person's name.
  • Send the press release in the body of the email, not as an attachment. 
  • Make it easy on the newsroom by sending the release as a Word document, not in a PDF format.
  • Photos help sell the story to the reporter or editor. For print, attach hi-res images.
  • Do not abbreviate names of places or things. Spell them out.
  • Double-check your spelling, punctuation and grammar. Are your tenses correct?
  • Keep your press release to no more than a page and a half double-spaced - or 300 words.
  • Write an enticing first couple of sentences. That is called the lede.
  • If you're writing about an event, make sure you have the cost of admission, hours, geographic street location, parking information and what people will be able to see or do.
  • Avoid using a press release to sell something. You'll just piss off the reporter. If you're selling a product or service, create a newsworthy reason to send the release. Focus upon the newsworthy aspect, not the product or service.
  • Avoid adjectives. They'll probably be deleted. Remember - just the facts.

MARKETING TIP: There are a lot of so-called PR people out there who think they know what they're doing. A press release can garner tremendous publicity if it is written correctly. Make sure your PR person does just that.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hey non-profits, do you know what your IRS tax classification is? It might be affecting your fundraising efforts.

In the United States, there are different classifications for non-profits. A 501(c)3 allows festival and event donors and sponsors to take their financial contribution off their taxes. Not all festivals and events fall into that category. Some claim to be non-profits, but don't have a 501c3 exemption code. Others have not followed up with their states to be tax exempt. Still others are simply - for profit.

For those which desire to be non-profit, it's important to make sure you can give something back to your sponsors. Look at your articles of incorporation. What do they say?

MARKETING TIP: When you're out fundraising, you will have more success if you are a 501c3. To find out how to set up a 501c3 or change from a 501c4, call Internal Revenue Service. Be sure to file the proper paperwork with your state office which handles corporations. It's worth the effort.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Russians hack into Tennessee farmers' market website - steal domain

You never know when someone is going to come along and steal your website and/or domain. That happened to me in 1999. I was one month into a new job when my organization's website went dark. I learned the bill had not been paid several months earlier, thereby allowing a local jerk to buy up the domain name. He kept it for a year and we bought it back. Yes, it was part of a local political vendetta and my organization survived, but we took a hit. We had not been hacked, but robbed.

Now I see that Russian hackers stole a farmers' market's domain. The farmers' market is located in Tennessee. There is no logic here. It's just plain theft and meanness. What are some ways to prevent this from happening? One way is to make your site private and to make sure you own it. Not sure? Who Is and Go Daddy have online portals to help you find out. If you can, so can robbers.

MARKETING TIP: Your website is not only your best online portal, but it is an investment. Protect it. Keep your passwords in a safe place and share that information with one more person. Who knows what might happen to you? Consider paying a few dollars more to have your site private. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Non-profit boards sometimes go 'round in circles

Do you sit on a non-profit board? Are you part of an organization which has a board of directors? If so, check this out.

Boards go through stages and it's important to recognize which stage your board is in - and how to react and work with the members.

Keep in mind that when a board becomes dysfunctional, donors see it. Customers see it. Staff sees it. The end result is a downward spiral which can kill an organization.

MARKETING TIP: Putting your best foot forward often means looking inside first.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Changing Taxes and Your Bottom Line

The tax structure in the United States changes all the time. It affects small and large businesses, festivals, non-profits, educational institutions and individuals. For instance, an effort is afloat where I live for professionals (CPAs, lawyers, etc.) to charge sales tax.

As a result, if you hire one of these, you'll need to be prepared to pay more. Where do you get the money? You increase your fee, find new ways to make money and find new customers or sponsors.

It's important to keep up with legal changes and budget accordingly.

MARKETING TIP: If you have to increase your rates, feel free to explain why.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Fundraising for your festival or event? Setting your budget?

If you have a festival and no start-up seed money, you're not alone. Thousands of festival organizers see that same scenario each year. So this year, start something new. When you're creating your line items for your budget, add a line called "2015 seed money." When your cash starts coming in, put some there - first. Resist the temptation to touch it. Treat it as a savings account. You may even want to open a separate bank account just for your seed money - just so it won't be easy to touch.

At the same time, ask your donors to sign up for two years. Be sure to get their commitment on paper. A signature goes a long way. Granted, we don't know what next year will look like financially. But, at least you've got their commitment now to include you in their own 2015 budget.

MARKETING TIP: Save yourself, and your sponsors, by making it easy for them to partner with you. Think ahead.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Are you the right person?

Are you the right person to be the spokesperson for your business? Your festival/event? Your attraction? If you're unsure, here is a short list of criteria:

Enunciate clearly. I find some small business owners really want to be the point person for their product/service, but hearing and understanding what they say can be a challenge. In a case like this, the owner should find someone else to do the speaking.

Be available 24/7. You never know when you'll get a phone call from a reporter. You never know when your product/service - or an employee or member of your team - suddenly is in the news. If you don't want to be "on the clock" all the time, find someone else who is capable.

Be knowledgeable. Learn as much as you can about your product/service, festival/event or attraction. If you're asked something you don't know, then quickly find the answer and provide it to the reporter.

Answer the question. Reporters aren't looking for people who love to talk. They're looking for concise answers. Someone who loves to ramble probably isn't the best person to be your spokesman.

MARKETING TIP: Putting your best foot forward includes having the right person for the right job.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Want financial satisfaction? Listen to The Stones!

There is a business side to any successful musical act. Members want to perform, be creative and have fun. But they also want to make money. Here are some great tips from The Rolling Stones about how to do it.

MARKETING TIP: Keep an open mind. Good advice can come from the most unusual places!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Can people actually read the copy on your website?

When you're creating a website, the copy is extremely important. You want to make sure it can be read. So here are some points to consider ...

1) Use a font large enough for people to read. Keep in mind that when your audience gets a little older, the font needs to be a little larger.
2) Use a standard color for your text. Search engines don't really like it when you jump from one color to the next in your regular text. That's okay if it's part of an ad, but not in your text.
3) If you insist upon using more than one color in your text, make sure it can be seen. Look at this one from the NC Aviation Museum and Hall of Fame. Blue does not show up against black. Red is a color which cannot be seen by 25% of the population. That's right. If you're color blind, red and green may show up as a gray.
4) Make sure your own contact information is clear and on the home page.
5) Keep your copy enticing and short.

MARKETING TIP: When you're creating a website, check it out on different computers to see what it looks like. It's your #1 sales tool and you want it to be seen.

Monday, October 28, 2013

What are people talking about? What are their reviews?

Are you checking your reviews for your festival, event, attraction or small business? Why not? Your customers are.

Regardless of how much effort you put into advertising, word of mouth and social networking, REVIEWS are what is driving a purchase.

And I admit, I look there first, too. I want to see what other people have written - their experiences, their likes and dislikes. I want to know what others are saying. And if you're a hotel, check out this article. Your customers are setting the pace for all of your future activities.

MARKETING TIP: Every now and then, search your festival, event, attraction and small business to see what others are saying about you. Hope it's good!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Oh where oh where .... I receive a lot of press releases. Some are very good. Others aren't. I received this today. Initially, it looks okay, but for those people who may be traveling to the coast or who are new to the coastal area may not know where the Oceanic Restaurant is physically located or where to park. That information should have been included. Once I receive a physical address, then the release is ready to be used in print. ... But not before. And, since not everyone uses the Internet, include a phone number for more information.

Wrightsville Beach, N.C. - Prime oyster season has arrived and Wrightsville's Chamber of Commerce is launching an annual Oyster Roast on Sunday, Nov. 3, 5-7 p.m. This all you can shuck and eat festival will be surfside, on the new pier at Oceanic Restaurant, located at ______. Parking is available at ___________. All who love fresh local oysters and the beach are invited to attend.
Event proceeds will benefit historic Howell Cottage, built in 1940, later relocated to burgeoning Historic Square on Wrightsville Beach. Historic Square, off Salisbury Street near Town Hall, is also home to Myers Cottage, built in 1907, and Palmgren-O'Quinn house, built in 1946.
Wrightsville Beach has over 20 historically designated properties, representing a span of Carolina coastal living and architecture from 1907 to 1955.
Howell Cottage is home to the Wrightsville Beach Visitor's Center and Chamber of Commerce.
Wrightsville Beach Chamber of Commerce is a nonprofit organization, "serving the interests of citizens, tourists and the business community for over 30 years," says Sue Bulluck, Chamber president.
Due to the generosity of local sponsors, Chamber Oyster Roast tickets are only $25. This includes all you can eat local oysters, sides and one drink ticket. Ticket sales are limited.For information, call _______To buy tickets visit: 

MARKETING TIP: When you're writing a press release, consider people may be reading it who are unfamiliar with your area. Be specific. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Got camera? Got photo release form?

It's pretty much always been that if you're photographing at a public event, you don't need to have a form signed by the person you're photographing. However, if you're going to use it for financial gain, you do.

It's a good idea to get a lawyer to draw up a release form for you, just to protect you. For example, if you have a photo of a nice looking couple sitting by a water fountain and you want to make a post card out of it, the couple might want to collect some money from you. However, if you set the shot up and have them sign a release acknowledging that you can use the photo for commercial purposes, then you're okay. Or, you may want to pay them up front.

Oh yes, there are some  terms and agreements to look into. That's why you need a legal eyeball.

MARKETING TIP: Photos are truly your best promotional tool. Just be careful.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

LinkedIn is a great portal to connect with peers and learn

LinkedIn is often overlooked as a resource for small business owners and festival organizers. So many understand Facebook because it's so well advertised. Everywhere you look you see someone's FB logo. But you don't see that with LinkedIn. Why? Because LinkedIn is completely different from Facebook. The purpose is totally different.

I view LinkedIn as a personal and business development portal. I can join groups, such as small business, art, festivals/events, human resources, marketing or whatever. Once inside the group, I can ask questions - and answer others. I use LinkedIn as a place to seek advice and bounce ideas.

It's a wonderful platform to learn from others and share knowledge. We should all consider seeking out as many opportunities to learn from others in our chosen fields. I highly endorse the use of LinkedIn.

MARKETING TIP: Knowledge is power - and money in the bank - if you use your knowledge wisely. Continue your learning process by joining LinkedIn and get active on the site.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Seeking Feedback from your festival vendors and customers

What makes your festival so great? Your customers and vendors. So why not feature them in your promotion? This year, get your smart phone or video camera and wander the streets. Be sure to carry a release form with you.

Ask your customers and your vendors why they like attending and participating in your event. What have they purchased? What time did they arrive? What did they come to see? Have they been to your festival before? Will they come back?

Be sure to get a release form signed giving you permission to take their photo and post the video online. Make sure you have a place for them to print their name, as well as sign it. Get the city and state they're from. This way, you can also track where people are coming from and use it to promote next year's festival.

MARKETING TIP: Engage your customers and vendors in your promotion.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Gone fishin' ...

I took a hiatus this summer from posting, but am now back at it.

We're entering fall, a time of church bazaars, yard sales, street festivals, estate auctions and holiday markets. The events calendar is full of activity. So how do you stand out?

Do you have a smart phone? If so, point the camera towards - you. Turn on the video record button and talk. Yes, that's you - not someone else. Talk to your camera just like you would be talking to your best friend and personally invite people to your event. Post that video on your social networking sites. Ask all your friends to help you share your invite.

MARKETING TIP: If you're organizing an event, you really need to become a shameless self-promoter - of the event. Let people begin to associate you with it, particularly if the event happens on an annual or regular basis.