Advice to my younger-fundraising-self about event management

blog carnivalThis month DonorDreams is hosting the nationally acclaimed Nonprofit Blog Carnival, and this month’s theme is: “If you could go back in time and give your younger-fundraising-self one piece of advice, what would it be?” In addition to asking other non-profit bloggers to submit posts for consideration, I am also focusing this month’s DonorDreams blog posts on the topic. The April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival is scheduled to go live on Thursday, April 28, 2016. So, mark your calendars because this month promises to be full of fun submissions.
Today’s time machine post involves a younger me who learned valuable lessons about inspiring and managing special event volunteers. Enjoy!


howard1As many readers know, I was once an executive director for a non-profit organization that ran a Duck Race fundraiser. For those of you who don’t know what a Duck Race is, it is simply a raffle where serial numbers on the bottom of little rubber ducks correspond to numbered adoption papers sold to donors. The first 10 ducks that cross a water raceway finish line win prizes. The challenge from a revenue perspective is essentially two-fold:

  1. Sell lots of sponsorships
  2. Sell lots of duck adoptions

The key to selling lots of duck adoptions is also simple. Organize as many volunteer teams as possible. Encourage them to sell to their friends, family and co-workers AND set up adoption tables in high foot traffic areas (e.g. outside of grocery stories, in malls, etc).
The big challenge from a non-profit fundraising professional’s perspective is:

  • inspiring volunteers to sell duck adoptions
  • creating a culture of fun
  • being creative with accountability
  • instilling a sense of urgency
  • keeping people focused on the goal

Being a young fundraising professional, I made the decision to use weekly update reports in an effort to inspire competition between duck adoption teams as well as foster a sense of accountability and urgency.
Of course, as we got closer and closer to the event and the duck adoption totals weren’t exponentially jumping, my weekly reports ended up doing the opposite as they were intended. Not only were volunteers uninspired, but some board members started whispering about whether or not I knew what I was doing.
<Sigh>
howard2In the 1986 box office flop Howard the Duck, Howard gets transported from his home world of “Duckworld” by a dimensional-jumping device. If I had access to that device today, I would totally transport myself to a place where I could share the following nuggets of advice with my younger-fundraising-self:

  • reporting can cut both ways with volunteers (esp. when falling short with goals)
  • always find good news to spotlight regardless of how small it may be
  • perceived negativity is like a flu virus (very catchy and spreads quickly)
  • “who” issues the report is important (peer-to-peer accountability is powerful and reports should come from the volunteer event chair and not staff)
  • positive incentives and fun recognition items are important to tie to a reporting tool

I would also put my arm around my younger-fundraising-self and tell me that using “reporting tools” to create accountability and “goal setting” to create urgency are best practices, but these tools must be used in conjunction with the following volunteer engagement strategies:

  • well run, in-person meetings
  • mission-focused messaging and activities
  • training
  • setting expectations upfront
  • helping people feel organized and being personally organized
  • celebrate success (both big and small successes early and often)

<Sigh>
Where is a dimensional-jumping device when you need one?   😉


If you are a non-profit blogger who wants to participate in this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival and submit a post for consideration on this month’s carnival theme, click here to read the “call for submissions” post I published a few weeks ago. It should answer all of your questions and clearly explain how to submit your entry. If not, then simply email me and I’ll be happy to help.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
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http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

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