This can definitely be a challenge. My advice; start your communication with your potential and confirmed committee members early. I typically start 10-12 months in advance. This will allow most individuals ample time to make room in their schedules for the planning process and the event itself.
It is best to have committee members from a variety of backgrounds. Yes, the “well-known” committee members have a broad reach in the community with several connections, but they can also be committed to several projects at one time. Do not be afraid to enlist young professionals and others who may not be as connected; these individuals are driven to succeed, what to get their name out in the community and often are not committed to several projects at one time…meaning they can dedicate more time to your event!
Define clear expectations and goals during the recruitment process. If attending meetings is vital to the success of the process, make sure to state this in the expectations. At times, I have listed that 50-60% of the monthly meetings must be attended to receive recognition on event materials.
Make it clear if they will be expected to solicit for monetary or in-kind donations. Will they be required to sell event tickets? If so, will there be a minimum for each individual to sell?
Many people are not comfortable asking others for money or “stuff” however; they may still be a very valuable committee member. Assign them to a task that fits their strengths; decorations, volunteer recruitment, etc… Do not assign a committee member to a task they are not comfortable with, you are setting your committee up for failure and it will only lead to last minute work on your part and could affect the outcome of donations. If you can assign committee members to tasks they enjoy, they are more likely to stay on schedule and be successful.
Stay connected throughout the planning period, even during those periods of time with less planning action. Meeting with the committee on a regular basis; I typically hold monthly meetings leading up to the event. However, 6-8 weeks prior to an event the meetings will be held every 2 weeks. Create an agenda for each meeting; this will help ensure the committee stays on task. Make sure when the meeting is complete that each individual has a clear understanding of their next steps. Send a meeting follow-up or minutes within 24 hours of the meeting as a reminder of what was discussed and everyone’s required follow-up. In those notes highlight the deadlines that were set at the meeting and of course, do not forget to provide the date, time and location of the next meeting. I typically like to send our meeting reminders 1 week and 24 hours prior.
Hold committee members accountable for the responsibilities they selected. Do not down play the importance of their tasks. Unfortunately, those tasks that the committee fails to complete are ultimately your job. Do not wait too long to step in to ensure the task is completed on time and correctly.
I believe a great committee with an event better leader will make an event successful. Finding the right members is just as important as selecting the right date, venue and auction items.
Name: Lisa Shipley
What she does: Public Alies Iowa, Program Manager
How she spends her free time: Right now I fill it with getting situated with my new apartment. Typically I fill it with walks, spending time with friends, reading a good book, watching movies, volunteering, and being an active Alum through AmeriCorps and Public Allies.
What she loves about her job: Right now I have a dream job (I could only be saying this because I’m still in the ‘honeymoon phase’ since getting hired on haha). My current job over laps many of my passions — leadership training, mentoring/coaching, commitment to service and AmeriCorps, and continuous learning. My supervisor is supportive, encouraging, provides direction with flexibility, and offers a helping hand when she can.
Hardest lesson learned on the job: Knowing when it’s time to move on — from a job, a project, a volunteer position, etc. This was a hard lesson to learn but I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn it now versus later in life. Through this experience of ‘letting go,’ I have learned that by doing such I provide room for others to grow and learn, as well as for me to do the same.
What inspires her: Teaching others any type of material. Not only does it push me to learn more about the subject matter, but it also challenges me to relate the material to them so they would have concrete examples to work with. It’s important to keep educating ourselves and others because I feel the good majority of inaction comes from not being informed. By being more informed about a variety of different topics, we’ll become a less passive society with only occasional interest in life altering topics — trafficking children in the US, the effects on children and their education from inactive parenting, and equal opportunities for all preferences of lifestyles.
How she got to Des Moines: I grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, IL, and for the past six years I have lived in Indiana — attending Ball State University in Muncie, IN, completing a RM-of-service in AmeriCorps, and working with a local nonprofit. September 14, 2013 I moved to Des Moines, IA for a Program Manager position with AmeriCorps: Public Allies Iowa.
What she wishes she knew when she started her career: That I should have paid a lot more attention to the ‘theory classes’ I had while in Undergrad. By doing that information could be applied a lot more easily now.
What she wanted to be as a little girl: Growing up I had interests in teaching and service (nonprofit or government).
Dream job?: My dream job is service based, with 60% being administrative and 40% being direct service. Additionally, the supervisor would not only be supportive and encouraging, but would also be a great coach/mentor. This would provide me with an example to learn from, as well as challenging me exceed my comfort zone(s), so I can reach that next level in my career.
Connect with Lisa on LinkedIn.
By Brianne Sanchez, YNPN Des Moines founding co-chair
One of the trickiest parts of creating a new organization from scratch is how to grow with very little capital. (Human capital, we have in spades. Cold, hard, cash – not so much.) So far, we’ve relied on the personal generosity of our Leadership Team to pay for food, post-its, etc. But we had our first in-kind sponsor this fall and want to tell you all about it!
YNPN Des Moines was searching for a spot to host our mid-year Leadership Retreat when serendipity smiled upon us. The kind staff at the Ingersoll Square lofts invited us to use their community room, take a tour of the growing development and even bought us Gusto Pizza. Clearly they knew the way to YNP hearts is through our pie-holes.
So our leadership team spent a sunny fall day celebrating our accomplishments over the past six months and plotting
world domination the next few months for the organization. We used our willpower to not hold our planning meeting in the Ingersoll Square hot tub or pool, which are right outside the community room. There’s also a workout room.
Frank Levy, one of the Newbury Living business partners who is developing the property, told us a little bit about their income restricted apartment options, and the business in general. Quote of the day: These income restricted apartments might be a good fir for young nonprofit professionals who are “Not properly compensated by society for the value they bring.” Preach, Frank.
Frank is a Harvard Business School grad, so obviously we wanted to pick his brain for startup advice. “Have audacity” he told us. Bring something fresh to the table, and everyone will want to be part of it. We adopted an “audacious” agenda and really appreciated Newbury Living’s support.
If you’re in the market for a new place that’s close to downtown, allows dogs, has in-unit washer/dryer and is owned by a dude as cool as Frank is, consider Ingersoll Square for your new home. It might be closer to your budget than you think. Call 599-0201 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to find a way to partner with YNPN Des Moines, send us a line to email@example.com
By Kelli Lydon, co-founder of the Des Moines Rehabbers Club, a nonprofit that seeks to revitalize neighborhoods by connecting homeowners to the resources and education they need to fix up and maintain their houses.
At the YNPN Des Moines “Making the Ask” event at Saints Pub in Beaverdale, fundraisers of all levels got to ask seasoned professionals how they get the job done. Zachary Mannheimer, executive director of the Des Moines Social Club, Jack Reed, development director of the Ronald McDonald House, and Emily Williams-Bouska, chief development and communications officer of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland were experienced enough to give sound advice but close enough to their days as rookie fundraisers to relate to the fresh faces in the room.
The range of experience among the crowd made me realize how important these skills are in many different fields and for many different positions within a nonprofit. Development directors and professional fundraisers do great work, but it’s also important for board members, volunteers, and other leaders to know how good fundraising and development is done and to become part of the process.
Our expert panelists were each great mentors in their own ways, but one thing they had in common was that they’d been down in the trenches of fundraising for a while and they’d seen it all. Based on their answers to the host’s questions and question from the audience, I think their advice breaks fundraising down into three stages.
Back at the office, it’s all about preparation and organization. A donor database is crucial and how you use it can be the difference between making a successful ask and looking like a total rookie. It’s important to have a central location for tracking things like where a potential donor has given money in the past, preferences for communication, and contact you’ve had with them. A donor database is the key to adequate preparation for making the ask.
Making the ask is only about 10% of the total time you’ll spend fundraising, according to the panelists. Some tips for the actual fundraising conversation include:
- Have a definite goal in mind and aim high.
- Quantify your organization’s impact and why the donor’s gift is a sound investment in your good work.
- Leave the potential donor with something to mull over after you’re done (a brochure about your organization, a summary of your plan for the coming year, etc.)
- Learn to read the situation through experience, sometimes through trial and error. Listen to the donor and relate your work to their experience and concerns. Be flexible in conversation and style while remaining committed to your goal and message.
Follow-up after a meeting is just as important as the preparation you’ve done before the meeting. Pay attention to the donor’s preferred method of communication. If the donor states a clear preference for email, follow through with that. If you don’t know, defaulting to a handwritten thank you note is a safe bet. Following up later is also a good way to show you’re dependable and committed to the donor’s interest as well as your own. In addition to a simple thank you for the meeting and (hopefully!) their donation, take the opportunity to answer a question the donor had or provide more details on an area of your work you discussed. If the donor relationship requires a long term strategy to ensure continued support, the three stages end up becoming more of a cycle.
The conversations I had and overheard after the panel discussion showed that there was something in that advice for all levels of development. I know I started scratching down notes immediately about how we could apply these tips to the growth and development of my organization. YNPN has been great for getting young professionals in the room with experienced mentors and this was a perfect example of why it’s so valuable.
Is event planning one of the “Other Duties as Assigned” you’ve taken on in your role as a YNP? Tasked with pulling off an auction and not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered.
As Events Manager for a non-profit organization based in Des Moines serving the state of Iowa, Stacie Garmon produces events for anywhere from 10 to 15,000+ people. She’s responsible for a 3-day children’s festival, auction gala, two golf tournaments and two children’s events, annually. Stacie shared her project management timeline and advice with us in a series of guest posts you’ll want to bookmark!
I work on a continuous 12 month rotation. I have a separate “events” calendar designated for inputting reminders for events throughout the year (when to contact certain sponsors, donors, vendors, etc). This can be a lifesaver during my busier times of the year.
12+ months prior:
The moment an annual event ends is the moment the planning process begins for the following year. As soon as an event is completed, I do a review of current event with the committee for areas of success and those areas that need adjustments in the future. Doing this immediately following the event will ensure it is fresh in your mind. Review the budget, revenue, ROI, sponsors, donors and sales.
- Select a chairperson /leader. This should be someone who can commit to the entire event process. Selecting the right person can make your event extremely successful!
- Build your volunteer event committee and create sub-committees as needed.
- Establish event goals: Gross revenue raised, event budget, attendance desired, and sponsorship dollars.
- Select event date, venue and entertainment (live bad, auctioneer, performers). When setting a date – do your research. Avoid major sporting events and activities important to your community (i.e. Iowa/ISU game or the Iowa State Fair), as well as other major fundraising events that could cause your supporters to choose which event they will attend.
9-12 months prior:
- Schedule a meeting with your “procurement” (solicitation) committee volunteers for auction and in-kind items.
- Brainstorm items to target. Be creative, think outside of the box and do not be afraid to go after those hard to obtain items/packages. Create your “procurement” goals and deadlines.
- Identify event sponsorship opportunities/levels and benefits.
- Begin creating event materials. If you do not have a graphic designer, consider hiring one.
- Database review of sponsors, donors and procurement lists.
- Start implementing event information on your website and social media pages.
5-8 months prior:
- Mail/email procurement request (solicitation) letters.
- Have procurement volunteers begin following-up to request letters 2-4 weeks after mailed.
- Create “save the date” cards to be emailed/mailed to prior event guest, sponsors and donors.
- Begin tracking event information: donors, items procured and sponsorships, etc…
- Continually review procurement results and event revenue progress.
- Develop save the date/invitation mailing list.
- Confirm all hired entertainment/auctioneer, decorator, rented equipment, program speakers and honorees.
- Finalize event decor and “theme” (if required).
2-4 months prior:
- Begin creating/defining the day of event accounting processes.
- Finalize invitation mailing list.
- Begin establishing volunteer duties.
- Begin recruiting volunteers for the day prior and day of the event.
- Meet with venue, caterer, entertainers to review details (floor plan, food, timing, flow, special needs, etc…).
- Begin packaging items together, creating unique auction packages.
3-4 weeks prior: This is the time period where my office begins to look chaotic, but it’s ok!
- Complete procurement and finalize item packaging.
- Begin assigning auction items to live vs. silent.
- Create event signage and displays.
- Coordinate all day-of event equipment (computers, printers, tablets, etc…).
- Finalize event floor plan with venue and decorator.
- Create event program, presentations, speeches, etc…
2 weeks prior:
- Complete auction item assignment.
- Create live auction item sequence.
- Meet with auctioneer prior to completing event program, they often have great insight to where packages will be the most successful. Live auction items are not necessarily items of higher value, many times items are unique and not obtainable by general public.
- Collect event materials and supplies to take to venue.
- Finalize day-off event volunteer task list and schedule.
- Confirm with volunteers that they are still on board.
1 week prior:
- Finalize check-in and accounting processes.
- Create and finalize bid sheets and take to printer if carbon copies are needed.
- Assign guest to tables (if required).
- Assign bidder numbers to guests.
- Create and finalize registered guests’ bidder packets (program, bidder number, name tag, table number).
- Enter last minute registrations as they arrive.
- Create “walk-in” guest bidder packets
- Ensure all auction packages are numbers and have corresponding tags/labels.
- Touch base with decorator on schedule/timeline.
Day Before and Day of Auction: Wear comfortable shoes, stay hydrated and don’t forget to eat! My last large auction event, I was onsite for 20 hours straight!
- Print event registration lists and reports.
- Print final day-of schedule and distribute to event staff and volunteers.
- Deliver all items and materials to venue (if allowed). Often times, I have worked into contract the ability to set-up the day prior. Make sure the venue will be secured if you’re leaving valuable items.
- Decorate venue as planned.
- Display auction packages with corresponding bid sheets, signage, etc…
- Display event signage and other displays
- Hours before event: hold a meeting for volunteers and staff to review event roles and responsibilities. It helps if this can be held immediately follow-up set-up to give a true picture of the floor plan and flow of the room.
Event Wrap-up: The wrap-up is just as, if not more, important than the planning
- Invoicing attendees whose bidder number reflects balance due.
- Arrange for pick-up/delivery of auction items that were not collected at the event.
- Create notes regarding event issues, changes needed, and ideas for future.
- Update event binder or electronic files for future use.
- Thank you letters to sponsors, donors and guests – try to include next year’s event date.
- Reconcile budget, expenses and revenue.
If there was a hashtag to exemplify our professional lives it would be #network. (I couldn’t resist. I mean, we’ve all seen this video, right?) In a culture that’s all about who you know and not what you know, using your network of friends and family is crucial to personal and professional development. And it’s just as vital in the nonprofit sector as it is in the corporate world. But nonprofit professionals, especially young NPs, have a distinct advantage: We get to connect people to the issues they are passionate about and work alongside them to create change. We rely on these “friendraisers” to help further our missions and make a difference in the community.
The September discussion group hosted by YNPN Des Moines was one of a series of professional development opportunities revolving around “Making the Ask.” The big event is Tuesday, October 15, where YNPs get to ask the “Experienced Ones” all of our burning questions (To submit a question or learn more about the event, check out our Facebook event page). In the meantime, below are a few things we took from September’s discussion group.
Ask with confidence – Anytime you ask anyone for anything, assume you will get a “Yes.” A positive, optimistic attitude is an immediate reflection of the passion you have for your organization or cause.
“No pressure” – One of the “A ha!” moments of the discussion was the overuse of the phrase “No pressure” when asking your personal network to support your cause. Unknowingly, these two words imply there was pressure to begin with. It also sends the message that their gift isn’t really all that important (i.e. “If you give, great! If not, that’s okay, too.” Not the best message to send…see tip #1).
Be mission-focused – Not all fundraising asks are universal. Just because you are passionate about your organization’s mission or cause does not mean everyone in your network feels the same. For example, if one friend was to ask me to make a donation to help save sea lions in the Arctic while another was to ask me to donate to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, I’m going to pick the kiddos every time.
Friends with benefits – Everyone has something they can give, even if it isn’t monetary. It could be volunteering time and talents, advocating on behalf of a certain issue, or organizing a donation drive. Research shows that these “gateway” activities will more than likely lead to financial support in the future.
You won’t get if you don’t ask – Get over your fear of rejection, people! We get the satisfaction of seeing our donors’ gifts in action and being part of the solution. But odds are, they want to feel important, too. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Hope to see you at the big event on the 15th!
Name: Stephanie Majeran
What she does: Drake University, Assessment Coordinator
How she spends her free time: Running! And teaching aerobics, cooking weird “healthy” foods, hanging out with my hubby and puppy, and working towards a Masters in Leadership Development.
What she loves about her job: I have some great, fun co-workers who truly care about doing their best at any job or task thrown their way! I also enjoy the flexible and more relaxed atmosphere at higher ed institutions.
Lowest point in her career: My low point came after 2.5 years in public accounting when I realized that life was too short to be so miserable in a job, especially when working over 40 hours a week. I learned that while a job and money are certainly important, they should not keep you from being happy, pursuing your dreams, and being yourself.
What inspires her: Right now, I’ve been fascinated with entrepreneurial ventures, so reading articles about the amazing things that these innovative people have created has been very inspirational for me.
How she got to Des Moines: I am a Des Moines native, but went to college in Pittsburgh, then lived in Philadelphia for 3 years, then on to Iowa City for a year and Dubuque for a year and a half, before making my way back home!
What she wishes she knew when she started her career: That getting a degree in a certain area does not mean you have to be stuck in it forever, nor do you have to go down the “expected” path.
What she wanted to be as a little girl: Many things, but the one that stands out is a marine biologist. I fell in love with manatees when visiting Sea World in 4th grade and pursued this occupation until I realized that in fact, I am not a big fan of water.
Dream job?: Being my own boss, where I get to help people do what they are good at efficiently and effectively and design solutions to problems.
Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn
Would you like us to get to know you? Then say hello!
When I first started working at The Nature Conservancy just over a year ago we had an infrequently updated Facebook page with around 200 Fans. The page had been up for about two years, and I made the case that I wanted to try my hand at running the fan page. Our tech guy was pretty happy to have it off his plate, so there wasn’t much of a fight there.
Strategic Planning & Goal Setting
My boss took a little bit more convincing. I created a strategic plan for Facebook, which involved looking at other organizations in our same market’s Facebook page. I looked at five “competitors” (in reality all of these people are our partners) and made notes about what content was working well for them, how many fans they had, when they were posting, how often they were posting, and what were the areas I thought they could improve. I took all of this information and created a plan for what kind of content we should post, how often, what times of day, and who I wanted to target. In my opinion, creating a strategic plan like this is absolutely key to the success of your Facebook will help guide you in what you are posting and prevent the “Oh my gosh, I haven’t posted anything on Facebook in a week!” panic attack.
Part of this strategic plan was a numbers goal. The first goal we set was to reach 1,000 fans, because this was the mid-range we were seeing for organizations in our market. The maximum range we were seeing was 3,000, which became our long term goal. We reached our first goal of 1,000 over the course of four months entirely through more frequent and better posts. This got our organization fired up about Facebook and our senior management wanted more results. In June we set aside some money in our budget to run Facebook advertisements, and just last week we hit that 3,000 mark. Note: It’s not impossible to grow your Facebook fan base without advertising money, it will just take longer.
What Does It Mean to Have 3,000 Facebook Fans?
Having this many fans on Facebook has already made a big difference for our organization. One of the biggest things we struggle with is that no one has heard of us, when we’re actually the world’s largest conservation organization and are working across the state of Iowa. Facebook has been a great way to connect with people who have never heard of our organization. The majority of our fans aren’t members, yet, but they’ve given us an invitation to share information about our organization with them, and I hope that continuously working on this relationship will eventually result in new donors. I see a lot of new people regularly engaging with our content, and to me this is very exciting. Now that we have this expanded base the biggest things I’m looking at are how can we turn these people into event attendees, volunteers, and donors.
What Is the Best Content to Post?
The biggest question I get about Facebook is, what kind of content should we share? Well, that’s not always an easy question to answer. I have found that the kinds of posts that are most successful on our page are posts about the work we are actually doing. If we do a prairie burn or host a volunteer work day, people are always excited to see the pictures and hear the stories from our conservation staff.
This is a great example of a post that goes over really well on Facebook. As you can see it got 91 likes, 4 shares, and quite a few comments. This is just a picture one of our conservation staff members took of something he found while he was working.
When thinking about content, think about two things. What are things that a lot of people are going to like, and then what is the message I want to get across. Make sure you’re posting about both things. If you’re posting things that are highly engaging, like pictures of baby turtles, it’s more likely that the article you post about best management practices for agriculture are going to show up in people’s newsfeeds.
A lot has changed at The Nature Conservancy since we made our Facebook page a priority. There is more communication between philanthropy/marketing and conservation staff, our board is more interested in marketing and what it can do for our organization, we started a Twitter feed, our state director started a Twitter feed and we embarked on a relationship with a new marketing firm. For an organization that didn’t really do any marketing just a year ago those are some big changes from something as simple as a Facebook fan page!
Name: Julia Hogren
What she does: Development Coordinator at UnityPoint Health Foundation
How she spends her free time: I try to read and write as much as possible. Glennon Melton once said, “Reading is my inhale and writing is my exhale,” and I agree, so I try to live by that! I also enjoy spending time with family and friends, practicing yoga, watching TV, running, traveling, coffee shops, cooking, volunteering, exploring new restaurants and wine. I hope to get a dog or cat soon as well!
What she loves about her job: Communications work, for me, always needs to have positive repercussions. I’ve consistently worked at nonprofit organizations because there is a significant sense of community and commitment to reach goals. Healthcare is an arena that affects literally everyone in life, good or bad. At the UnityPoint Health Foundation, I’ve learned about so many people, patients and staff, who directly benefit from donated funds. Philanthropy helps our hospitals provide key programs and services for patients and families in Des Moines. My job as a development coordinator allows me to think of creative ways to get that message across.
High point in her career: When I worked in communications for a large church in downtown Chicago, part of my responsibilities involved email newsletter management. There was one gentleman who could no longer attend services, but absolutely loved the congregational community and spirit of the church, and so he wanted to receive email communications that contained daily devotional reflections from staff and leaders. Except these emails, for whatever reason, never went through to him. We consistently failed to figure out why he couldn’t get the darn emails! I felt so terrible, and he was so frustrated. Finally, I just decided to personally send him the email. Every single day. It only took a minute, and brought him joy, and so I did that for months. One day, he sent a letter to our head pastor that included a $1,000 donation. He said he wanted to express his gratitude for the fact that I always remembered to send him his devotion. It wasn’t part of my job, technically, to do that sort of thing–but in reality, it was indeed the point of my job: to care for others despite inconvenience.
What inspires her: I’m constantly inspired by other people. My relationships are a constant source of motivation and creative guidance, and I am so grateful for that. I’m also inspired by art, literature, fashion, faith and nature.
How she got to Des Moines: I came to Des Moines a year ago after accepting a position with the UnityPoint Health Foundation. I spent a brief period in the Quad Cities, but prior to that, worked and lived (and loved) Chicago for about 3 1/2 years.
What she wishes she knew when she started her career: Five years ago, I didn’t realize that part of building one’s career involves trying different things. Most people don’t figure out their dream job straight away; instead, it’s a process of small successes and failures that guide you toward a better understanding of how your particular strengths fit in with an industry or organization. Fortunately, I’ve always been interested in learning new skills whenever possible, but I don’t think I realized in the past how valuable that trait would become. I started picking up graphic design skills on a whim, and now it’s a substantial part of my career path.
What she wanted to be as a little girl: I wanted to be a writer, as well as a ballerina, a mom, a pianist and a singer. I read constantly, often getting into trouble in grade school for sneaking books under my desk. I also talked to anyone and everyone; according to my mother, I had a habit of inviting every guest at the door into our home, including the postman. That desire to read and connect is still with me today, but in a much more regulated way!
Dream job?: My dream job is to be a writer and a mother. Luckily, that combination comes in many forms!
Would you like us to get to know you? Then say hello!
Burnout is an unfortunate reality for many of us in the nonprofit sector. Rick Kozin, director of the Polk County Health Department, recounted his career trajectory from community organizer to his current role at the beginning of our September discussion group at their facility.
He shared a refrain from an “anti-burnout” song that resonated. Remember:
“My life is more than my work; my work is more than my job.”