We are very excited to provide you with this first edition of Tanner LLC’s Not-for-Profit News! We are providing our quarterly newsletter at no cost to give back to the organizations that are making such an impact for good, especially in these challenging times. We hope you find the articles timely and valuable. We invite you to provide us the names and email addresses of anyone else you know who might also enjoy receiving future editions of the newsletter. Best wishes for a successful 2021!
Making Virtual Your Reality
Last year, organizations were forced to adjust their operations to ensure a COVID-safe environment for staff, volunteers, recipients, and board members. Additionally, annual events that were typically a core part of fundraising had to be reimagined.
Many events were cancelled outright, while others were drastically changed. The gala became the un-gala. The fun run morphed into the un-run.
And while everyone longs for times when social gatherings and events weren’t dangerous, socially distancing will be the norm for a while—and fundraising will continue to be impacted.
Interestingly, a number of nonprofit organizations have modified their annual events and discovered their net donation income holding steady or even improving. Part of this success is due to less money required for event staging, as well as supporters rallying in times of need.
So, how did COVID-successful nonprofit organizations maintain donations, participation, and awareness? At the most basic level, their websites are effective and versatile, with easy ways to make donations. Better still, their websites have donation pages specific to fundraising events. This not only reinforces their virtual efforts, but also provides flexibility to invitation-only events.
Here’s a look at how to successfully make “virtual” your reality:
Peer-to-peer is a tried-and-true method of fundraising that has been enhanced by social networking. It thrives in the virtual landscape and can be attached to any virtual event.
Several platforms are specifically designed to manage personal fundraising pages. To spread the word, individuals and organizations can easily set up funding pages on several social networking sites like Facebook to better reach their community of friends.
To build momentum, engage your constituents to start a fundraising challenge. Be sure to provide this group with your best fundraising materials, including suggested verbiage for emails and social media posts and graphics.
Key board members, staff, active volunteers, and your most dedicated donors help set the bar for others. Share pointers on how to take good pictures, and set up a schedule to remind leaders when to update their pages.
Birthdays are an excellent time for a peer-to-peer appeal and are more evenly distributed throughout the year. Combining a birthday wish and fundraising for a specific event is more likely to increase donations.
Deconstruct the Big Event
Your annual fundraising event probably fills several hours with programming to welcome and entertain donors and guests. It likely includes a time for socializing, a highlight feature, an awards ceremony to recognize achievements and, of course, the final appeal. It results in a lot of photos and video that you’ll use throughout the year to create additional marketing materials for your mission.
The good news is, aside from the physical interactions and face-to-face socializing, most of your programming can be reimagined to fit a virtual event.
Your main event can be produced and delivered in less time and with less expense if your delivery platform is a livestream. Production quality may decrease, but the current expectations are more lenient and production services are getting better.
Consider Alternative Programming
Given the extreme nature of the pandemic, you might consider programming that is outside the norm. There are many video platforms that work well for managing large or small groups, as well as apps and entertainment services specifically designed for online group interactions. These could be used in combination to enhance your event’s message, fun factor, and social interaction.
They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, so don’t hesitate to look to other nonprofits to see what they’ve done for their big events. Borrow their best practices and make them your own.
Put the Fun in Fundraising
Many activities can be held virtually and used in conjunction with your main event—a performance livestream or hosted awards ceremony, for example—or be one of several mini-events replacing your prior annual scheduling.
Consider these options:
Auctions: This activity translates well to a virtual event and there are several technologies designed to replicate the excitement of outbidding a fellow participant. Donated items can be previewed via email links, with personal notes attached to specific potential bidders. Sending your audience bidding number paddles, libations, or snacks adds to the fun.
Virtual tours and open houses: If you can’t bring people to your event space, bring the event space to your people. A behind-the-scenes tour can be difficult with a large group, but a virtual tour allows for many people to share the experience. Virtual tours are also great for showing off new facilities and exhibits and explaining what it takes to make things work.
If you conduct the virtual tours or open houses live, you can also leave time for a lively question-and-answer session after the tour.
Virtual runs and bike tours: Many nonprofit organizations sponsor fun runs or bike rides as their main fundraisers and promotional events. Making these virtual doesn’t require a lot of effort.
People still register, you still provide a suggested route or duration, and there’s plenty of content for your highlight reel. You benefit from these virtual events by asking participants to wear promotional clothing you’ve provided ahead of time and to take pictures and videos of their efforts.
Planning Ahead, Virtually
What will be your new normal? As communities get better at navigating health and safety protocols, and as more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, new opportunities will no doubt present themselves for fundraising events.
But one thing is certain—the way we’ve been conducting our fundraising will continue to evolve. It may be that patrons actually like the casual nature of virtual events. Or maybe they’ll be so excited to get out, dress up, and party that your formal gala will be a super-event for the next few years. (With that in mind, book your fall 2021 dates early!)
Certainly, there will be more virtual event providers and fewer issues around technology. How you tap into the new opportunities is only limited by your team’s imagination.
How to Fight Board Fatigue
For some, working from a home office is not new and might have been a carefully considered choice. But the pandemic has forced many institutions to adjust, sometimes radically, to maintain an effective work environment.
Now many months into these new arrangements, signs of general fatigue threaten productivity and enthusiasm, not just for employees but for board members as well. People no longer consider virtual get-togethers after work clever and fun.
When it comes to your board, how do you fight lethargy and keep your board members engaged and enthusiastic?
Keep Up the Energy
Here are a few strategies to keep up your board’s energy and focus.
Keep meetings snappy. Perhaps the most important practice for managing your board members is top-notch organization and communication. The most successful meetings have a stated goal, attendees ready to contribute, a purpose communicated within the time allotted, and a written record of the process and outcomes.
As you organize your agenda, arrange them so that you tackle more important items first. Participant attention tends to fade within the first 20 minutes of any meeting. If there’s an informational item that could be conveyed by email or document, consider adding it to the agenda as a reference.
Limit the time for your online meeting to an hour or less. Put a time frame around each agenda item, including kicking off and closing out the meeting.
Up your virtual game. You’ve seen the commercials and internet memes of conference calls with continuous disruptions and distractions. Everyone is frustrated and nothing gets accomplished.
However, as we are now realizing, virtual meetings can be productive if you know the technology, so continue to get better at your video conferencing platform. If your platform has built-in engagement tools like voting and polling, try them. Many platforms are upgrading frequently, so stay on top of updates.
Encourage empathy. The pandemic has added unique challenges to everyone’s lives, and these challenges may affect your board’s performance.
Spend time understanding the difficulties and concerns your board members may be facing and consider board changes if necessary, even if only temporarily.
Your board may be able to redistribute tasks if one member is overwhelmed or takes time off. Make it a point to ask whether additional resources are needed for any assigned duties.
Ask for Input
Your board is likely one of your most valuable sources of advice and feedback. If you sense board boredom, ask them for help and continue to seek their input on how to keep your organization engaged during these continuing challenges.
A high-functioning board is a must. Our team is familiar with board engagement and can help you keep your board on track.
Are You Subject to Sunshine Laws?
It’s likely you’ve been meeting and voting virtually. If so, ensure your methodology complies with state regulations regarding online meetings.
Because of COVID-19, many states have relaxed their “Sunshine Laws” to allow for virtual meetings, but there might be some additional requirements to do so. If your organization is subject to these laws due to your funding sources, review your bylaws to ensure there aren’t specific restrictions on your board meetings and voting protocols.
Make Your Annual Report Work for You
Once a year, you get to tell the world your story in long form and provide context on your strategy. Make the most of your annual report by answering four important questions:
1. Who are you? Be loud and proud about your mission. If your mission statement is tired or unclear, craft a new one. This is your chance to tell your donors—both current and potential—why you exist.
Tip: Your report might be digital. Would a video work better? If so, production quality is key.
2. What did you accomplish? Explain your organization’s impact this year. Highlight your successes and be open about any failures, particularly those that were pandemic related.
Tip: Use infographics to show the connection between donors and their impact. Put donors in the picture and use personal language: “Your generous support helped X number of people, animals, virtual performances, etc. We couldn’t do it without you.”
3. Who made it happen? This is a perfect opportunity to acknowledge and thank your major donors, key patrons, and board members. But don’t forget your volunteers. Take time to highlight those who have not only gone above and beyond in terms of support, but also those who help you achieve your day-to-day goals.
Tip: Pictures really do say a thousand words. Showing people’s faces—yes, even if masked!—is a good way to honor them.
4. What does it take? This section includes your financial information and should show donors that you have been responsible with their gifts. This section might include the same reporting from your Form 990 but be wrapped in a compelling narrative that gives context to the numbers. Tip: Donors appreciate transparency. Introduce your financials with a summary that