Take Your Organizational Show on the Road
If you work for an institution with donors and prospects who live in or visit other places in winter, you should, at some point, consider taking your organizational show on the road to cultivate and educate them.
What do I mean by that statement?
Each nonprofit is different. Here are some examples of targeted “road trip” constituents in my career. (Assume that within each institution we are talking about donors and prospects for time, talent and treasure.)
- Universities—Alumni, parents, friends, students
- Hospitals—Patients, families of patients, friends, physicians
- National service organizations—Stakeholders, peers, members
- Social service organizations—Friends, community, volunteers
The list for types of individuals varies. Many institutions go on road trips to visit donors and prospects where they vacation. I have been to Florida, Texas and California many times just to visit key individuals in order to cultivate and steward prospects. At times, I also have solicited these individuals at the time of the show. It all depended upon the purpose of the show and the invited audience.
The type of “show on the road” varies with the institution. When I worked at a university, I would take the president, beloved coach, beloved professor and current students on road shows. We would meet at hotels, homes, restaurants and other places. We brought the university to its constituents.
Whether it was a small or large group, the audience loved the attention. Of course, the primary goal was the entertainment and education of the group. The secondary goal was eventually to meet with key wealthy prospects individually.
The end goal was to generate greater awareness of the institution, to continue the love of the alma mater, and to build relationships between current organizational leaders and those forever tied to the institution. We would leave these areas by setting the stage for future visits.
It always helped to have key alumni and friends host the events for the institution. In some cases, we created alumni clubs and planned annual winter trips. Over time, attendance and awareness grew—that made my job easier.
I also worked for a national organization that encouraged one-on-one visits. For several weeks each winter, I would rent a car in Florida and drive throughout the state. I would allow plenty of time for one-on-one visits. All of these visits were relaxed and conversational.
I built many relationships during the winter months that served me well throughout the year. The second visits, in many cases, always were better than the first because the prospects began to know and trust me. They ultimately knew I wanted a certain end result on their terms.
I recently returned from a reception in a valued supporter’s home in Florida. It was a first for our organization. We did not have a large turnout by design. We wanted to learn how to build relationships with our friends and supporters in this type of setting. We understood this would be the start of a long-term process that would lead to greater resource development in the future.
The hosts, guests and organizational leaders were very pleased with the outcome. I was excited because this road show involved donors wanting to interface with our organizational leaders. Many were guests who were either on vacation or lived in the South Florida area. They wanted to learn more about the vision and direction of our organization in a relaxed atmosphere.
The Florida event site consisted of a beautiful private home on a sunny, 80-degree, February day, while in Indianapolis it was a balmy 36 degrees. I wondered if the same people would have attended an event in Indianapolis at the same time.
Going forward, consider road shows for your prospects and donors regardless of time of year. Many organizations routinely do them. Ask those development directors if there is a pay-off for this activity. You will see them smile.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at email@example.com or 317-224-1029.