Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Meaning Behind "Music for the Cure"

I am not sure how to write an introduction to this piece. I was so moved by the creative thought, the inspiration and the personal stories. I am also moved by the commitment of Farmers and Merchants Bank and its CEO Henry Walker to a cause that touches everyone of our lives. I think the moral to the story here is that creative thinking begets creative solutions. Read and enjoy. Bunnie

The Meaning Behind “Music for the Cure”

by Henry Walker, CEO, Farmers and Merchants Bank

A core philosophy of Farmers and Merchants Bank and a Walker family tradition, is to proactively support community programs that make a difference. This value has been upheld since my great-grandfather started the bank over 100 years ago. Now four generations later, this value is highly regarded despite the turbulent economic landscape. In this time of hardship, it has become necessary to break out of the box in our strategic thinking and find new ways to promote the causes we advocate.

As the current CEO, I am honored to serve as a board member for the Pacific Symphony and an advocate for breast cancer awareness as a Pink Tie Guy for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. It is my mission to increase exposure for each organization. Identifying new ways to raise funds was essential for these organizations to continue their mission.

That’s when a new idea was born, paving the way for each one to reach new audiences with the potential for significant financial growth. It started out as a thought and sparked into an entire theme, merging the two organizations for a big event. It is unusual for an arts organization to align itself with a health-related cause, but this partnership brought innovative ways to capture new audiences, create a buzz for both organizations, and most importantly, amplify the message of breast cancer awareness. When the organizations came together to find common ground, the Pacific Symphony discovered the impact of breast cancer within their own orchestra. Their assistant conductor, Maxim Eshkenazy, was still recovering from the loss of his cousin and music instructor who inspired him to play the violin, eventually leading him to become a conductor for a world-renowned orchestra. Music has obviously played a large role in the lives of the Pacific Symphony members, and Komen also recognized the healing power of music to ease pain and suffering for women who are in the fight of their lives. Out of this recognition, the first ever “Music for the Cure” was born.

The Pacific Symphony’s annual “Tchaikovsky Spectacular” often draws the same crowd year after year. It seemed to be the ideal fit to incorporate Komen and launch the first-ever “Music for the Cure.” Advertising was key to increase involvement and jumpstart ticket sales. Farmers and Merchant’s marketing department worked in conjunction with our public relations agency to develop an overall campaign that included bus advertisements to roll across streets, neighborhoods and freeways to capture the attention of drivers across Southern California.

The stage was set and the organizations were jumping over hurdles to work together, but in the end their hard work culminated in a highly attended event that took on a pink hue never seen before at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. The concert ended with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture, climaxing into a burst of thundering canons and spectacular fireworks to commemorate breast cancer survivors who have overcome a devastating disease that affects one in eight women nationally.

The first ever “Music for the Cure” provided an opportunity for the general public to support breast cancer awareness and the preservation of music, two key programs in Orange County. The increase in potential donors, supporters and fundraisers is still being realized, but the cross-pollination led to a sold-out crowd. The convergence of these organizations has created a new role model for partnerships that are necessary during these difficult times.

For more information or to arrange an interview with Mr. Walker, Contact Robyn Williams at http://www.hkamarcom.com/

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nonprofits Seek Alternatives to Weather Economy

There is never enough time or enough money to do everything you want or need to do. Nonprofit managers have to find resources that will allow them to stretch their budgets to their limit. I was contacted by Grassroots.org and did a bit of research. The tools they offer have the potential of saving nonprofits a lot of money. The irony is that they themselves have to raise donations in order to provide these services. Here is a description of all they do and the various tools you might find useful. Bunnie

Nonprofits Seek Alternatives to Weather Economy

by Molly Fergus, Grassroots.org

As the nonprofit sector adjusts to a rough economy, more groups are turning to Grassroots.org for solutions. Membership has nearly tripled in the last eleven months for the organization, which gives 501(c)3 groups free technology tools, including web building, web design, graphic design, language translation, and SEO consultation, among other resources.

In Sept. 2008, only 680 organizations used Grassroots.org services. In less than one year, membership has spiked to nearly 2,000 nonprofits, and Grassroots.org has given 501(c)3 groups $1,117,671 worth of technology tools.

Member organizations each have access to $26,293 worth of tools annually. That savings allowed Getting Tools to City Schools to fund its first delivery to P.S. 335 in the South Bronx.

“Thanks to Grassroots.org, our start-up organization has created a strong professional presence on the web,” said Dennis Kitchen, director and founder of the Brooklyn-based organization. “Just as we help schools and students with free tools, Grassroots.org has done the same for our nonprofit.”

That work builds the capacity of nonprofits nationwide, said Grassroots.org Executive Director Shane Hankins.

“By providing free web and technology services, we save nonprofits time and money that they can use to implement real change,” Hankins said. “It’s rewarding that even in a down economy, start-ups can grow because we gave them free tools.”

Beyond web strategies, Grassroots.org members use the free services to build stronger donor and volunteer bases. Massachusetts-based nonprofit Tailored for Success landed a $10,000 grant in 2007 after joining Grassroots.org.

Founder and president Elizabeth Hart said the grant funded Tailored Impressions, a consignment shop that helps economically disadvantaged women return to the workforce.

“This store also allows us to reach constituents who would not be eligible for our services due to financial guidelines,” Hart said. “The positive impact of Grassroots.org's services will be felt for many years."

Interested in joining?

Grassroots.org equips nonprofits with the most current resources by leveraging modern technologies and best business practices. Grassroots.org currently serves more than 1,900 501(c)3 organizations located in all 50 states. To join, visit the sign-up page.

What is the Grassroots.org Toolbox?

The Toolbox is a suite of completely FREE, user-friendly tools designed to build capacity for nonprofit organizations so that they can better focus on their ultimate missions.

Virtual Office Service: Our free phone service program provides nonprofits with a toll-free "virtual office" number, complete with extension and voicemail capability. The "virtual office" number can ring any phone (landline or cell), allowing organizations to connect with clients, volunteers, and donors--regardless of location. It’s an amazing free service for nonprofits.

Social Ventures Project Consulting: Our Social Venture Consulting Program pairs talented MBA students from participating schools with nonprofits in semester-long project-based consulting partnerships. The program helps entrepreneurial nonprofits increase their organizational capacity by providing direct access to free business consulting.

Web Design: Our volunteer web design program pairs talented web-savvy volunteers with nonprofit organizations in need of assistance. Whether an organization is in need of a new site, or simply wants to revitalize their online presence, our designers are ready to help.

Graphic Design:
Our volunteer graphic design program pairs qualified volunteers with nonprofit organizations in need of assistance. This includes developing logos, letterhead, business cards, brand packages, and other materials.

Web Building: Our online website building application empowers even novice users to create professional, appealing websites. The app comes complete with a wide variety of customizable templates including backgrounds and stock images; again at no charge to nonprofit members.

Nonprofit SEO: By optimizing site content for search engines, nonprofits can easily reach new donors, volunteers, and clients with minimal investment of time and money. Our Search Engine Optimization (SEO) program helps nonprofits to optimize their website’s content through online educational materials and individualized consultations.

Content Language Translation: Our language translation program provides nonprofits with free access to an instant website translation service. With this service, one simple click allows visitors to view your site in fifteen of the world's most popular languages.

Domain Registration: Our domain name registration program offers nonprofits one year of free domain registration. Similar to a physical address, a domain name gives an organization a place on the Web to call home, and will facilitate a personalized email address.

Web Hosting: Our web hosting package provides nonprofits with top-quality hosting services at a price any organization can afford, free. The hosting comes complete with 24/7 technical support via telephone, email, or live chat, and can support Content Management Systems (CMS) such as Drupal, Joomla, and Wordpress.

You can contact them at http://www.grassroots.org

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hotel Negotiations: Getting Deals for Your Conference

Amidst all the bad news of this economy, there is a silver lining for nonprofits who host conferences. Hotels have found their income off as executive travel budgets and meetings have been cut back. Now is an excellent time to negotiate with hotels to get a great room rate, concessions on meals and extra services.

I am a big fan of planning years in advance. But the timing of your conference planning will depend on how large your organization is and how many people attend your annual or bi-annual conferences. If you have over 200 people attend your conferences on a regular basis, then negotiating hotel contracts three even four years in advance can work to your advantage. You can lock in rates now for a conference three years from now, so even if hotel business picks up, you can get bargain basement rates for the future at this year’s prices.

If you’re unsure how the economy will affect conference attendance, do a members’ survey. Are your members’ travel budgets being reduced or eliminated? What is the likelihood they will attend your conference in 2010 or 2011? It’s important to get a sense of what your members’ circumstances are so that you don’t overbook room nights and get stuck with a penalty.

The first stop to negotiation success is to work closely with the convention and visitors bureau. What have they heard about hotels in their city? The CVB’s can do the initial shopping and save you loads of time. Send them your conference needs, attendance records and agenda and let them pick out the hotels that fit your requirements. How many breakout rooms do you need? How large should the general meeting or banquet space be? Do you have to have a hotel that is unionized? Do you need space for a trade show? CVB’s can also give you a schedule of special events happening during the dates of your conference and ideas for how you can leverage them for your members.

Speaking of dates for your conference, if you have some flexibility you will save lots of money for yourself and your members. Weather, time of year, and location can all drive room prices up and certainly can drive airline prices through the roof. For instance, Washington, D.C. is very busy in the spring and summer with tourists and special events. Tampa is very busy in the winter but fairly quiet in the summer. A late October conference in D.C. or a mid-summer conference in Tampa, will allow you to negotiate excellent room rates. (Yes, I know it’s hot in Tampa in July but nearly every hotel in Tampa has a huge swimming pool and face it, most people attending conferences spend most of their time in the hotel anyway).

Don’t be afraid to “play” hotels off one another. If one hotel offers you lower room rates, go back to the others and ask them to beat the price. It also helps if you do a little intel. Check out the CVB calendar to see what conferences will be in town, if it looks slow, you will have an advantage.

And it’s not just room rates. Meals are huge bargaining chips. If you know for a fact that your organization spends $40,000 on meals (including breaks, refreshments, etc.) tell the hotel you will guarantee them a minimum of $35,000 in meals. I’ve had hotels stop in their tracks when I gave them a meal guarantee and instantly concede to what I wanted in room rates. Hotels make BIG money on their meals and breaks. Regardless of what you spend, give the hotel a meal guarantee, you will see that it makes a difference.

As for meals, I always under estimate banquet meals. Hotels will make 10% more than you requested and not every conference attendee will attend the banquet, even if they have paid for the meal. This underestimation keeps me from getting stuck with paying for meals nobody ate and I have never been comfortable with throwing away food.

You have to commit to a minimum number of room nights and sometimes that’s scary because if you don’t reach that number (or typically 90% of that number) your organization will have to pay for the rooms you booked, out of your pocket, as a penalty. This doesn’t have to be an art. Go back to previous year’s conferences and see what your room nights were. Here again, it’s better to under book rather than over book. You can usually add room nights as you get closer to the conference, but you can’t deduct room nights.

Also, never, ever, ever, ever…pay for meeting rooms! Hotels will sometimes suggest that there is a charge for meeting rooms. Unless you are just meeting at the hotel and you are not bringing them meals and room nights, then you will have to pay for the meeting room. But, if you are bringing their hotel paying customers, do not fall for paying for meeting rooms. Those rooms are the enticement of the hotel to get you to bring your conference to them. Ergo: FREE.Always keep in mind, the staff at the hotel you are negotiating with are “salespeople.” They have to sell those rooms and facilities, in fact, they are anxious to sell those rooms and facilities. Remember that when you walk in the door, you are potentially bringing a lot of business to the hotel and you are helping the hotel keep its doors open.

Contact Bunnie at info at riedelcommunications dot com

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fundamentals for Nonprofit Communication

The following is a re-post from Bob Crawshaw's blog "Traffic on Maine." Bob is a public relations consultant in Australia. I thought this post dovetailed perfectly with Mary Lee Gannon's post on pursuing a "personal touch" when it comes to fundraising (see below). Bob and his colleagues emphasize that communication is an emotional art form. I really like the part about "listening" before you communicate. It is amazing what people will tell you and if you listen they will tell you all you need to know about how to successfully communicate with them. Bunnie

Fundamentals for Nonprofit Communication

Bob Crawshaw, Managing Director of Maine Street Marketing

We just finished the 2009 season for our free workshops for not for profit organisations. Now in its sixth year these sessions offer pro bono marketing advice to volunteers groups, charities and not for profits.

To finish up the 2009 program we asked colleagues in our international PR networks to name the top ten things not for profit organisations must get right when they set out to communicate to their communities. We got more than ten so here's the list.

  • Craft a message that resonates and connects. Before embarking on a PR campaign, craft your message. Who you are and who do you help? Do your services overlap with other groups? How is your organization unique and what makes it stand out? People want to know before investing what area of the community you serve. Is it pets, homeless people, the elderly, disabled children, etc? They also want to know that the majority of funds go to the intended programs and recipients.

  • Find out how to connect emotionally with your target audience. Put a face on the population you serve and tell their story. Describe their situation and how your services have helped them. If you must present a bleak picture be sure to provide a solution. People want to hear positive outcomes to things that affect them and their community so how do your services improve the community's quality of life.

  • Make your message as personal as possible to the audience you are trying to reach. And the information you are giving them has to be kept simple on the front end. People aren't going to read, or listen to a lot at the outset. Once you get their interest then you can deliver more content. So you have to really target your audience carefully. Tossing out lots of content broadly hoping to catch a few is wasteful in this economy.

  • Demonstrate the need, show you have a solution and then share your successes.

  • Listen before you communicate. The good Lord gave us two ears and one mouth for a very good reason.

  • The basic motivation factor of "putting something back in to the local community" is a good message. It leads to a sense of achievement and well being for volunteers and a sense of philanthropy for donors. Also promise donors publicity because people like to be seen to be doing good things.

  • Communications must empathise transparency and accountability. Ensure you report on how the funds you raised are being used and that what you claimed you would do, you actually did.

  • A lot of not for profits want to start with the tactics first and forget to spend a few minutes asking the questions to make their efforts smarter. So before you communicate, ask what is the purpose of my communications? What is the primary message I want to convey? Who is it designed to reach? What do I want people to do after they hear what I have to say? How will I know I have been successful?

  • Have I got my logos, images, taglines and spokespersons ready to roll before I start talking.

  • Understand the media likes conflict. Where there is no conflict or opposing views there is no story. So find a local hero and go for a feature story rather than a news story.
  • What is your value to the community at large? How many people are using your services, how many are unable to get these services? Where would those folks get services if your organization didn't exist? What would happen to them? And what is your impact on the general community?

  • Take advantage of third party endorsements in the form of testimonials from clients, favorable media placements, or even simply through the reputations of the people who serve on your board or who volunteer. But please choose them wisely. The best part of this strategy - it's virtually free.

  • Show the value you provide - the value of your research, the fact you employ real people at all levels, spend your money in the local economy and that you are open to people asking questions and seeing what we do. Wrap those points up in good story telling and tell a story about people who do things. Storytelling is becoming a lost art but you can't lose if you can get a handle on it.

Bob Crawshaw says "... and my very special thanks to our contributors - Chips Henriss, Kristie Aylett, Karen Miller, Tim Entwisle, Janet Bosserman, Jeff Botti, Mike Spear, Rosanne Gain and Susanne Dupes."