No More Special Events

No More Special Events: A Look At The WHY

Tom has stood on podiums (literally) for 30 years and shouted NO MORE SPECIAL EVENTS

This works as a napkin message – It’s powerful and simple.

I don’t do the ‘standing-on-a-podium’ thing, but I’m not above shouting IN ALL CAPS to make a point:

NO MORE SPECIAL EVENTS!

I get the occasional challenge, “But Nick, events are how we build relationships!”  Or, “Our event gets the word out!”

In years and years of doing this, no one has ever said, “Our event is our CASH COW!”

WHY are you doing the event?  Is it to raise money? Or, is it for MARKETING? (Start with WHY.)

It’s really helpful to make a distinction between MARKETING and SALES. Here is a great nugget to bridge the relationship between MARKETING and SALES:

It is the job of marketing to provide qualified leads for sales.

I hear many people who want to defend events with a marketing rationale. If you want to run events as a part of your MARKETING STRATEGY – great! Just don’t PRETEND your events are great fundraisers. And if MARKETING is the end goal, then how much are you telling your story at that golf outing?

Also, if you’re going to do an event to ‘BUILD relationships’ then it begs the question – what is your strategy to MAXIMIZE relationships?

NB: We’ve been on this rant for a few decades now. There are events that raise money – a lot of (net, net, net) money. Here are some examples:

  1. The EVENT is the IMPACT. There are some organizations whose impact is using a community’s ability to raise money. For example, Pelotonia here in Central Ohio, which has raised over $100M for cancer research. They are in the event business: the money they raise from one event a year is given directly to cancer research (read: curing cancer!). Pelotonia is in the EVENT BUSINESS – most organizations (i.e., you) are not.

  2. But what about WALL STREET?!?! Those ‘guys’ (I think, often citing Robin Hood as a model) all get in a room and give MILLIONS! This is an anomaly, not a model.  When you can get a bunch of hedge fund titans in a room to throw their egos behind your philanthropy, have at it!

  3. RECOGNITION EVENTS.  These are events where the money was not raised, but simply RECOGNIZED, at the event. In all of these cases, I submit that more money could be raised if we were clearer on the WHY.  While the organization might be ASKING because of an event, people aren’t GIVING because of the event; they are giving because of the IMPACT!
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Get Rid Of Your Sacred Cows Forever

NOW is a great time to turn SACRED COWS into HAMBURGER! NOW is a great time to shed BAGGAGE which is holding us back and keeping us from making QUANTUM LEAPS!

Any time I am in front of a audience, I ask people to spend time writing down the SACRED COWS of both the Non Profit Industry (Third Sector, Fundraising, etc.) and of their particular Organization. I usually provide some ‘yeast‘ with things like:

  • “We need this event to raise awareness/friends.” Special events are not ‘special’ and not ‘events.’ ‘Donors’ hate to go. Staff hates to put them on. The ‘triple net‘ is a very poor return-on-energy and return-on-investment.
  • “Peers must solicit peers (for money).” Just the idea of the word ‘SOLICITATION’ (the implication of which I cannot go into in a PG-13 document), should be enough to make you give up on this 1950’s idea!
  • “Feasibility studies are mandatory.” Internal leaders enlist external consultants to do a feasibility study for justification, CYA, and backup. Consultant conversation with a prospect goes like this: “If XYZ nonprofit org were to do a hypothetical campaign with a hypothetical goal, how much hypothetical money would you hypothetically give to this hypothetical campaign?” (UGH!)

I find it fascinating that allowing people to talk about their SACRED COWS and the baggage that they are carrying around unleashes such an enthusiastic response.

I encourage you to go ahead and ‘vent‘ but then get on to talking about real issues that need to be dealt with and that are still happening because “It’s the way we’ve always done it.”

It’s always a great time to get your team together and talk about turning all those SACRED COWS into HAMBURGER and dumping all the BAGGAGE that we are carrying.

On my trip around the world, I saw those ‘sacred cows’ walking around the streets of India. I also learned that once these cows become too old or die, the carcasses are shipped across the border and turned into hamburger.

Along those same lines, a Hindu sage, Ramana Maharshi, asks: “Would you carry your luggage on your head while on board a train?” He says we are not lessening the burden of the train by keeping it on our head, but only straining ourselves unnecessarily.

Special Note: We do take a hard line on many things we consider to be OLD THINKING. The good news is that if we take something away, we’ll always give you a NEW way to think about it. Read more about Sacred Cows and Change here.

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Take A Quantum Leap (Audio)

We’re reposting some of OG’s greatest hits – Here he is with the companion audio to the Campaign Manifesto: Take a Quantum Leap. If you know us well you’ve heard the first 5-10 minutes of intro – Feel free to scoot past!


(Recorded by Tom Suddes)
Right click and save for listening offline.

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Memorable Experiences as Powerful Predisposition

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we are going to use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!

This week’s theme is: COMMIT TO BETTER PREDISPOSITION.

33Napkins-18-SpecialEvents

You’ve seen our rant on “No More Special Events.”  If not, I’ll summarize here: SPECIAL EVENTS ARE NOT ‘SPECIAL!’

They rarely generate income anywhere close to the corresponding staff and volunteer effort and time – Even though we’ve spent more that half the year selling tables, sponsoring golf holes or lining up silent auction items.

P.S. Not only do your volunteers and staff hate these Non-Special Events, so do all of the ‘INVITEES’ … who clearly don’t want to go to another ‘un-memorable, time-away-from their-family’ auction, gala, ‘fundraiser’!!!

Instead, MAKE EVERYTHING YOU DO A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE!

A ‘MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE’ is about your Vision, your Message, your Impact.

Every ‘MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE’ is an incredible PREDISPOSITION OPPORTUNITY.

A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE isn’t about the number of people in attendance, it’s about getting the best people in attendance. Instead of selling tables, think about getting the best 10 prospects you have in the room (preferably your room) and knock their socks off with the IMPACT.

 

 

 

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Nix the Cultivation Event and GO AT THE GOAL

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we are going to use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!

This week’s theme is: Set your goals of ENGAGEMENT.

We often see ‘Fundraising Plans’ that call for X number of Cultivation Events a year.

The coaching on this one is always the same: Nix the Cultivation Event and GO AT THE GOAL.

  • The best way to build and maximize relationships is 1:1. (See 1x 10x 50x.)
  • When you do an event, your ‘network’ is going to expend a ton of energy getting people to the event – I would rather expend that collective energy on getting 1:1 intros.
  • You do the event and you’re still going to have to work to get the follow-up – which is the goal! SO, just go to the goal.

(See ‘No More Events’ and ‘No More Cultivation’.)

Nixing the event and focusing on getting more visits is a simpler, more productive approach. It may feel challenging to work through the ‘but-what-about-objections.’ So, here’s a few ideas:

  • You need a good message and story for the visit. Absent of this people hear (and what creates our reluctance) is “Can I come and ask you for money?” If instead people heard (and we believed), “We’re having an amazing impact and need more people like you to know about it!” (Read more The Story for the Visit here.)
  • The first visit doesn’t need to be an ambush for money. Quite the opposite – the goal should be to ENGAGE. To LISTEN. And then to overwhelm the other person with the IMPACT so that he or she says, “This is incredible, how can I help?”

This shift in thinking save hundreds of hours, thousands and thousands in fundraising costs and countless lives (because we will generate much more INCOME for our IMPACT).

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The Bystander Effect and Philanthropy

Malcolm Gladwell explores the Bystander Effect in The Tipping Point. He recounts the 1964 New York (Queens) stabbing death of Kitty Genovese. Reportedly, dozens of witnesses heard Ms. Genovese and her cries for help; however, no one called the police.

The story is used to paint a picture of a phenomenon called the Bystander Effect – which has been well studied since. The Bystander Effect is one in which as more people are present at a scene of distress the responsibility for action becomes proportionally diffused.
38 people heard Genovese cry for help. Each knew others heard the cries. They were loud, in the middle of a big city. Each person assumed that someone else was making a call to police. So no one called the police.

This specific story has been debated since, but the point still stands. Take CPR Training for example – You used to shout, “Someone go call 911!” Now you’re instructed to point at a person and say, “YOU – go call 911!” If we need to direct the request for a simple phone call – to save a life – it stands to reason that it would go the same way for philanthropy.

Apply this to special events. Have you been to a special event where people are crying, overwhelmed by the impact of the organization? What’s the average gift size?

Alternatively, we know that if we simply change the context and visit with our best people one-on-one and JUST ASK, the responsibility cannot become diffused. When you make a specific request, face-to-face, the action is increased ten-fold (at least).

There is a world of difference between a plea for help to a group and a specific ask to an individual (or individual corporation/foundation).

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Start Creating Memorable Experiences

STOP SPECIAL EVENTS.

ALERT: SPECIAL EVENTS ARE NOT ‘SPECIAL!’

And, they’re not ‘EVENTS!’ They rarely generate income anywhere close to the corresponding staff and volunteer effort and time. If you really think anyone in your organization wants to work for ‘EVENTS-R-US’ or do one more ‘GOLF OUTING’, ‘STAR BAZAAR’ or BINGO, you need to get out of your office (and out of your dream world!) and talk to your stakeholders!

P.S. Not only do your volunteers and staff hate these Non-Special Events, so do all of the ‘INVITEES’ … who clearly don’t want to go to another ‘un-memorable, time-away-from their-family’ auction, gala, ‘fundraiser’!!!

START CREATING MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES!

MAKE EVERYTHING YOU DO A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE!

They’re more IMPACTFUL. More FUN. More PRODUCTIVE. A ‘MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE’ is about your Vision, your Message, your Impact. It’s not about raising money, selling tables, golf holes or silent bids. Every ‘MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE’ is an incredible PREDISPOSITION OPPORTUNITY to create the perfect FOLLOW-UP. (Something that never happens after a Non-Special Event.)

Nota Bene: If you don’t know the ‘difference’ between a ‘Special Event’ and a ‘MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE’ , think about the difference between a one-ring, carnival CIRCUS with two clowns, an elephant, some monkeys and an old lion … and CIRQUE DU SOLEIL!!! Enough said.

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Triple Net

I learned about the TRIPLE NET concept during my days as a real estate broker and playing real-life ‘monopoly’ purchasing houses and commercial buildings.

In simple terms, the real Triple Net lease means that the tenant is responsible for all of the costs relating to the asset being leased. Usually this means that in addition to the rent, the tenant is required to pay for real estate taxes, insurance, and property maintenance.

In the For Impact world, I use this Triple-Net concept to explain the true value of any fundraising activity.

For example, everyone talks about how much money they generated at their (not) special event. “We sold ‘x’ tables/tickets, etc.” The number stated is almost always revenue.

  • Net Revenue would be total money generated minus actual cost of the event (food, etc.)
  • Net, Net Revenue would then subtract the cost of labor/staff who worked on the event (often two or three people for six months or a year).
  • Triple Net would then also deduct the cost of volunteer time and energy.

Note: Depending on how you want to play this game, there could be one more net, which would be the opportunity cost if staff or volunteers have been working on major gifts or top prospects.

Many smaller events that generate $5,000 or $10,000 in (single) net (revenue minus actual cost) end up having 1,000 women/man hours of volunteer time which comes out to $5 or $10 an hour. Ugh!

Try the Triple-Net math with your fundraising activities:

Is the Net-Net-Net really worth the effort?
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