Conference Roundup: AFP New Orleans
Last month I had the pleasure of joining the New Orleans chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for its annual conference, a tight and terrific two-day gathering on the beautiful campus of Holy Cross School. Organizers jammed as much education time as possible into what actually amounted to a day and a half. I couldn’t make all of the sessions, of course, but here are some nuggets of information gleaned from some of the ones I did attend.
From opening plenary session, presented by Mark Romig, CEO of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp.
- “Social media is key to taking your marketing to the next level, especially for smaller organizations with limited budgets. Be sure you’re monitoring and listening to what’s being said about you, and react when necessary — but always be pushing out useful information to your followers. Social media is transforming the way we market.”
- “Refresh your marketing campaign every three or four years.” Even if it seems like your mission isn’t conducive to changing up your marketing, you can keep your campaigns fresh. “You’re not rebranding; you’re just trying to look at things a different way. Focus on research. Talk to your donors. See how they are receiving your messaging. Is there something they aren’t understanding about what you do? Research is where you should be.”
- “Segment by psychographics rather than demographics. Whether someone is 18 or 62, they want the same things from New Orleans … some want the music, others want the architecture, others want the food and so on.” For Romig’s organization at least, interests are more of a common denominator than age.
From the session “The Terrible Ts: Trash, Toilets & Tents,” presented by fundraising consultant Susan Mancuso:
- Before you even start planning an event, ask yourself these questions:
- Does it fit with your organization’s mission, vision and values? “If you can’t answer yes to the first question, then you have no business doing the event.”
- Have you found a niche for this type of event in your market? You don’t want to go up against another larger organization that is already doing something similar.
- What are the favorable results for your organization from this event? Will it result in friendraising? Fundraising? Brand building?
- Do you have the ability to attract enough attendees to make for financial success? Do the math … if you’re going to need 300 paid attendees to make any money, and you only wind up getting 30, you’re going to have a problem. “Too many people set ticket prices before they work out the budget.”
- Is this event the best use of your staff time?
- Create a folder with the following tabs: Budget & Timeline, Committee, Sponsors, Food & Beverage, Decorations, Entertainment, Logistics, Printed Materials, Publications, Volunteers, and Next Year.
“I call it ‘Susan’s Hit by a Bus Theory.’ If you get hit by a bus, can the event go on? Can the next person come in behind you and pick up where you left off?”
- When considering sponsorship levels, add a “dream” level. Inspire potential donors to think big. “They want us to inspire them to think big.”
- What gifts can you add on to the sponsor packages that have perceived value but cost you nothing or next to it? Can you work out a deal for free parking for sponsors? Or a free hotel room?
- Create a timeline and budget. Having it planned out in advance and handy whenever a question or problem arises keeps you from being the bad guy. “Your budget is neutral — like Switzerland. It’s an impartial measurement tool,” so you can refer to it when someone is pushing to do something that is too expensive or not worth the time or effort.
- “A timeline empowers your committee to do a better job for you.” Don’t be afraid to create accountability. “I usually e-mail each member’s ‘homework’ within 24 hours of a meeting. Then we start each meeting checking homework to make sure everyone has done what they said they would do.”
- “The greatest disservice you can do to your volunteers and to your event when you are pulling together a committee is to take a volunteer who says yes when they mean no.”
- The more time you spend with volunteers on the front end, the easier they will make your life. “Don’t let anyone sit at your committee table and breathe good air” if they aren’t going to be an asset to the committee.
- When looking for a committee chair, “go for the big fish. If they’re passionate about your mission they will surprise you.”
- “When it comes to events, fundraising success depends on what you did six to 12 months ago.”
From the session “Inform, Entertain and Activate!” presented by James Anderson and Alice Ferris of GoalBusters Consulting:
- Social-media myths: Social media is inexpensive. Social media is fast. Social media is “viral.” Social-media results can’t be measured. Social media is hard. Social media is “just for kids.” Social media is optional.
- Goals of social media should be to inform, entertain and provide an opportunity for interaction; remove barriers to participation; make supporters a part of the story; and create a “virtual porch” where supporters can congregate.
- Social-media audiences consist of these groups:
- Loyalists: They automatically like and retweet anything you post. They are always there.
- Transactionals: They are there to get specific information that is of specific, individual benefit to them.
- Stalkers and lurkers: They’re always there and paying attention, but they don’t engage you until you say something that touches them. And it’s often the strangest things that touch them.
- Test drivers: Their friends suggest that they like your page. “If you don’t turn them off, they won’t leave you. But if you don’t turn them on, they won’t love you either.”