Quality Over Quantity

Blog Post by: Kim Perry

It seems like everything’s getting higher these days: gas prices, weather temperatures, Kardashian wedding bills. 

But you know what’s also on the rise that has us crying tears of joy? 

Individual donor giving. In a BIG way.  

Last month, our STUDIO 4Forty nonprofit teams hosted seven of our signature events across three days that raised an astounding $1.7 million (net). What is particularly noteworthy about that sum is the fact that many of those events had reduced attendance, but as we witnessed through incredible event day giving, this clearly is the year of quality over quantity when it comes to donors. Less has proved to be so much more at smaller events with the right people in the room. Even with smaller crowds, we’ve seen revenues increase over prior years, and in some cases, we’ve seen major increases. 

From various raffles selling out, to the live auctions and paddle raises absolutely crushing previous years’ totals, these smaller crowds are mightier than ever with an eagerness to give. 

What may be perceived as a ticket revenue loss ultimately proves to be a meaningful gain when donors spend more on event day than in years past. 

So how do you get the “right” people in the room? Based on the trend of our spring events, we can’t stress enough the importance of taking the time to comb through your donor base and analyze your data. Who were your big event-day donors and bidders who attended pre-COVID events? Have any of those donors returned to your events last fall and this spring? If not, why? Has your development team done personal outreach to past and present top donors inviting them to upcoming events? Spending time to make a personal phone call or sending a text to those you have a close relationship with feels more inviting than just receiving an invite. A personal handwritten note or email paired with the invitation conveying something appreciative like, “we are so grateful for your support at our past events and hope to see you at our upcoming fundraiser – your presence is truly a gift!” A gesture that simple moves the needle emotionally when donors have as many choices as they do with in-person events back in full swing in their communities. 

Something else to keep in mind with regards to attracting the “right” guests is how many new people may have moved into your community over the past year and making a marketing and PR effort to get your event on their radars. With so many people moving state to state and suddenly finding themselves transplanted in a new community, we want to encourage you to do something creative to make your event seem compelling. A cute mailer that says “Are you new to our AMAZING city?! We can’t wait to welcome you at our party of the year! Make new friends and learn how our organization is making a BIG difference in your new backyard.” 

We can’t stress enough the importance of putting in the time to do this research, legwork, and outreach to get the right people in the room for your event. 

It’s so easy to get distracted by the event itself and become overwhelmed by production to pull it all off. So, take the time to pause and put a plan in place for the people you want to see who can truly make a financial difference for your organization. 

After all, what good is a fundraiser without the funds?  

Pantone Color of 2022

Blog Post by: Allie Duggan

New year, new color! It’s that time again and Pantone has spoken. Typically Pantone will choose a color from their existing library, it’s extensive so it gives them a lot to choose from, but they did things a little different this year. For 2022 they have invented PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri. As the name implies, it is a shade of periwinkle. This bold choice to create a whole new color is indicative of all things new that are emerging this year in all aspects of life, technology and trends. Veri Peri has big things in store. This shade represents inventiveness and creativity and it can be very powerful when it comes time to set intentions through the rest of this year.

If we look back at 2021’s Pantone colors of the year, they were Ultimate Gray 17-5104 and Illuminating 13-0647. These colors were a symbol of strength and hopefulness, which was fitting coming after the struggle of 2020. Some may say that 2021 gave us two colors, rather than one because we just needed a little extra after the heavy year of 2020. Veri Peri stands alone with a strong mixture of blue and red. The loyalty and reliability of blue combined with the vitality and spirit of red give birth to a color that evokes comfort and vigor all in one.

We are now a few months into 2022 it is fitting that Very Peri is a symbol of inventiveness and creativity. I don’t think anybody is a stranger to becoming inventive in doing things differently and coming up with creative ways of living a “normal” life through a pandemic and that is here to stay.  “As we emerge from an intense period of isolation, our notions and standards are changing, and our physical and digital lives have merged in new ways. Digital design helps us to stretch the limits of reality, opening the door to a dynamic virtual world where we can explore and create new color possibilities. With trends in gaming, the expanding popularity of the metaverse, and the rising artistic community in the digital space PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri illustrates the fusion of modern life and how color trends in the digital world are being manifested in the physical world and vice versa.” Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of The Pantone Color Institute

The creation of a new color for 2022, versus choosing an existing color, reflects the expansive possibilities ahead of us. It wipes the slate clean and makes way for a fresh start, exactly what is needed right now. Periwinkle, and its properties as blue and violet mixed together, opens up a world guided by our intuitions instead of doing things the same old way they have always been done. It inspires you to look deep and align your goals with your emotions. Doing this acts as a catalyst to bring your dreams to life this year!

What is the Purpose of a Fundraising Event?

two women in dresses on a stage, speaking in a microphone before a crowd

Blog Post by: Krista Elmore, MBA, CFRE

According to Kindful, the nonprofit glossary website, “a fundraising event is an event designed to raise awareness and support for an organization’s mission.” It is the belief of STUDIO 4Forty that nonprofit fundraising events are crucial to the success and lifeline of an organization. Fundraising events not only provide a means to revenue, they are also an opportunity to expand the nonprofit’s notoriety in the community they serve and beyond.

Nonprofit fundraising events are not only fund-raisers, they are also friend-raisers and fun-raisers. Events make a lasting impression not only on the attendees, but also on the volunteers, sponsors, and donors. It is the single best way to tap into the nonprofit’s thread of networks and raise awareness for the services and mission of the organization through pre-event solicitations and marketing, event day activations and communications, and post-event thank you notes and reporting.

At an event, a donor has the ability to actively engage with the charity. Volunteers have an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the organization’s mission and services, which often leads them to become the charity’s longest, and most dedicated, donors. With an opportunity to serve and engage, donors and volunteers are more likely to stay connected to the charity for years to come. This one-on-one interaction is critical in establishing loyalty.

If you, as an organization or board member, are worried about the impact an event can have on your staff, their capacity, or the reputation it might create for your organization, I want to encourage you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Events are an opportunity. They provide a platform for brand recognition, mission awareness, and an influx of new supporters and donors. As an example, our first year Wine Women & Shoes partner in Bakersfield, CA in 2021 saw over 50% of their attendees as new donors and sponsors. What an incredible return! Yes, events take a substantial amount of work, but the reward outweighs the burden. If you still aren’t convinced, we’d be happy to set up a time to chat about events and how they will fundamentally improve your organization while staying true to the unique mission and branding of your nonprofit.

Now is the time to re-engage your community with a fundraising event. We have seen tremendous returns for nonprofits that have stepped back into the in-person event arena. Supporters are enthusiastically ready to attend in-person events with their friends and fellow community members to make memories and, more importantly, a positive impact on worthy causes. Creating an exciting atmosphere that resonates will reap endless rewards.

Renew & Refresh

Blog Post by: Jennifer Downes, CFRE

The beginning of a new year is always refreshing as it allows the opportunity to reflect on your organization. The programs you run, event(s), and overall communication with your donors plays a significant role in your fundraising efforts. With in-person events back in full force, this is a great opportunity for you to reflect and refresh your events, specifically with your sponsors.

Sponsors are the foundation of all events. I want to encourage you to think of new, creative, and unique ways to renew and refresh your deck and how you approach them this year. Below are a few tips and tricks to consider:

  • Refresh your sponsorship deck with fabulous new graphics!
    • Switching up colors and textures to catch the eye of your donor is key and helps you stand out from the crowd!
  • Rework the layout of your content.
    • Mixing up the layout of your deck and how you deliver your message will provide your donor with a brand new look and feel.
  • Refresh the sponsorship opportunities that are in your deck.
    • Add new branded opportunities and additional levels (even if you simply rename a few). It will give your deck a new “feel” and allow your donor (new and returning) to be WOWed by all the unique opportunities you’re presenting them with.
    • Think about all the different elements that are within your event. Determine what can be sponsored. Even unique items such as a branded glass, the entertainment for the evening, or a coat check can be a sponsorship opportunity.
  • Ensure you have strong mission communication towards the beginning of your sponsorship presentation.
    • Really determine what message you are trying to send.
    • We need to show your returning and potential new donors WHY we are asking for these dollars and HOW it will help service your community.
  • Refresh your marketing strategy. Dive into the marketing benefits you are providing them now and think through new outlets you can add.
    • Social media really allows you multiple options with minimal to no cost. Think about adding a FB live and/or 60 second video from the donor’s business and post it to your social media pages.
  • Refresh your sponsorship approach. Meeting in person or picking up the phone is always beneficial, but consider creating a specific sponsor-targeted video that you can send with the packet highlighting the event theme, elements, and showcasing your mission.

Now is the time to make sure your event and organization stands out from the crowd! Invest the time now to renew and refresh your sponsorship deck. It’ll be worth it!

(Cover image is of the 2022 Wine Women & Shoes San Francisco sponsorship deck created by our own Creative Director, Sarah Obialero)

A Time to Dance 

Blog Post by: Kim Perry

The other night I watched the movie “Footloose” – not the terrible remake, but the iconic ‘80s original. In the poignant scene where the pastor announces he’s reversing his decision on the town dancing ban, I started crying as the stunned students realize their senior prom wish has been granted. That pivotal moment as they rejoice felt like a metaphor for recent times and struck me with profound emotional empathy. As cheesy as it sounds, I felt like one of those students when our nonprofit partners were finally permitted to host in-person celebrations last year, after what felt like an eternity.

And in similar fashion to the senior dance, once donors could gather and celebrate their beloved causes at our signature events, they didn’t hold back. Not only did we witness an energy in the room unlike ever before, but  giving was also unrivaled. After being on lockdown and consequently denied the ability to connect with others, everyone was ready to have some serious fun while supporting invaluable missions across the country.

It’s not that in past years our events weren’t a TON of fun. It’s just different now, in the most magical way. So much so that following two of our Fall in person activations, I awoke to emails from attendees praising our signature events as the BEST they had ever attended and asking how they can partner with STUDIO 4Forty….and quickly, please. In my own “Footloose” moment, I not only felt an indescribable happiness for my team and company but also for all our partners returning to in-person events this year. Like a teenager no longer grounded, that freedom has compelled our partners to deliver unprecedented and truly unforgettable events in their communities. It has also compelled donors to give in record numbers because they are ecstatic to be back in the room, together, begin part of something bigger than themselves.

From drum beats and majorettes to drag queens and aerialists, the entertainment at our events has been nothing short of magnificent, and the guests are here for it – relishing every second and raising their paddles higher than ever.

But there’s always one distinguishing factor of a transcendental event and its uplifting effect as evidenced by our post-lockdown fundraisers: the room ignites, the guests jump off their chairs and…you guessed it… start dancing!

An Atmosphere of Giving

Blog Post by: Ashlee Meier

As I’m sure you well know, there is no magic wand when it comes to fundraising. It’s called development for a reason. Development within fundraising is the process of creating and enhancing relationships with (potential) donors to ensure current and future funding. It is a commitment, an investment and, when done well, can prove an incredibly fruitful return.

BUT, what about when we only have their attention for a few short hours at an event?!?AGHHHHH! Woah woah, calm down! While there is no magic wand, after spending a decade between organizing fundraising events as a Director of Development and coaching teams across the country on bringing their events to life, I have found there is one distinct difference between the so-so galas and the unforgettable evenings.

Spoiler alert: It isn’t the decor!

You know the room. You’ve stood in it…or peeked in from a window…or perhaps you’ve been the creator behind it. The room that feels magical. The room that has a tangible electricity running through it. The room that swells with emotion, followed by a wave of generosity sweeping through it in a way that leaves everyone who experiences it excited and fulfilled.

This is the event that blows by its revenue goals. This is the event that gets grassroots social buzz because people just HAVE to share about it. This is the event where guests spend or give more than they anticipated, but rather than regretting it the next day, they already can’t wait to purchase their tickets and do it again next year. It’s a wonderful room to be in…but how do you make it happen? How do you create this atmosphere of giving?

Look at the whole puzzle.
There are a LOT of moving parts to most events and they all require time, energy, and effort to be successful. Trust me, I know how easy it is to get lost in the weeds, carefully considering each detail of every element. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to do that, but you can’t do JUST that!

To create the optimal atmosphere of giving, you have to step back and look at how all those elements fit together and think strategically about how to use the individual components to build energy and focus momentum as a whole. A few things to spend time on: layout and room flow (especially the position of revenue activations), event timing, and the run of show order.

Encourage energy. 
Three words: Music, fun, focus. You might say, well duh, but when you are up to your eyeballs in event details, it’s easy to overlook some common sense pieces.

Music: Being prepared to play the right music at the right time during your event is critical. It helps set the tone for the emotional roller coaster you ideally want to take your guests on, fills any potentially awkward gaps, and adds to the fun. Instead of just throwing on elevator music, consider your song selections carefully both during mingling time and in the run of show. Note: you’ll need to work with your AV team to ensure speakers are in place so guests can hear your music selections in every portion of the event.

Fun: The work you do is serious, no doubt, and perhaps your event is, too, but even the most uplifting, powerful and inspirational agendas need a little fun in the mix to encourage energy! Think about ways to sprinkle in fun that is authentic to your organization and mission.

Focus: You have the power to focus your guests using the big picture pieces mentioned above (layout, timing, run of show), so do it! Decide what your priorities are and use volunteers, music, lighting, height – whatever it takes to draw your guests’ attention to where YOU want it at the time you want it there.

Capitalize on momentum. 
You’ve nailed down a masterpiece layout, the music is just right, your guests are having fun, are focused on the good work you do and positive energy is coursing through the room….now what? ATTACK! Just kidding….but really, NOW is the time to make your ask! Whether that’s through a live auction, fund-a-need, or a simple conversation, you have set the stage, and now it’s time to invite your guests to REALLY be a part of the core goal of the day. When you’ve invested in creating an atmosphere of giving, this moment becomes special, memorable, exciting, and difficult to say no to.

Creating an atmosphere of giving is one of the (many) areas we love to work on with our STUDIO 4Forty partner teams and seeing their results is oh so fulfilling. Recently, a first year team who had to postpone their inaugural event due to Covid, finally got to see their hard work come to fruition. They committed to listening and following our STUDIO 4Forty best practices while incorporating their incredible depth of supporter knowledge and event experience. The result was a truly magical event in year one that created fabulous momentum for their mission and brought in 183% of their net budget goal. Yes, you are seeing that correctly…83% more than they had hoped for.

Yes, it’s another thing to think about, but I promise you – it’s worth it! And if you don’t know where to start, we’d love to help.

Letter from the President, 2022

Blog Post by: Heather Frank

Over the years, I’ve chosen a word to set the tone and expectation for the year ahead. In 2021, I chose the word resilience. 

If I’m being honest, the last two years have really tested me, both professionally and personally, as I constantly strive to really be all things for all people. In the reality of this time, I’ve learned that all people don’t need all things, but DO need great friendship, partnership, and mentorship. 2021 started off full of hope, and ultimately proved to us just how much hope inspires and is realized through hard work. So as we look back and reflect, I do it through a lens of celebration, collaboration, communication, success, failure, and adaptation.

Let’s talk about success, because our story here at STUDIO 4Forty (thankfully) just keeps getting better. A company started in 2008 with an idea from founder Elaine Honig, an event to benefit nonprofits with a focus on women, now boasts three event brands, offers digital courses, and champions an incredible staff of strong, smart, sophisticated women… not to mention, partners with nonprofits doing incredibly good work all over the country (and Canada)!

How have we grown? In 2021, we reached $100 million net raised from 553 events…and we’re just getting started. This success wouldn’t be possible without the amazing support of our charity partners and their dedicated commitment to their missions and local communities, nationally and internationally.

We celebrated a year of milestones for our staff, too. Our four project managers, including myself, Ashlee Meier, Krista Elmore, and Jennifer Downes, all took and passed the Certified Fund Raising Executive exam this year to earn that distinguished designation. This continued commitment to expand our knowledge of ethical and uplifting fundraising for our expanded philanthropy community was accomplished with you at heart. And since we have passed, we’ve inspired several of our fellow fundraisers to apply and take the exam themselves. We’re thrilled to see our community rise up and take on the challenges of these past years with so much hope and resilience of their own.

The successes of 2021 extended to our nonprofit partners, too, in big ways. After a year and a half of so much uncertainty, we were able to return to in-person events for many of our teams and feel the energy and excitement of giving in those event spaces! We saw some of the most successful in-person events in the history of our company, raising more net revenue for incredibly deserving nonprofits than ever before. We felt a renewed sense of hope, empowerment, and community that we soaked up and celebrated with each of our partners. Being back on the road to support each of you has renewed our souls more than you will ever know. We genuinely LOVE being by your side on this fundraising journey.

We gratefully brought new friends and partners into the STUDIO 4Forty family this year. We have seen and felt the excitement of a return to events and we can’t wait to see what 2022 holds.

So, in the end, we’re doing it. We’re growing. We’re challenging ourselves. We’re making moves within our communities. And we’re not taking no for an answer. We have been resilient, and now we look to 2022 with a new word: courageous. I challenge you to have the courage to be adventurous and to create change. If I see you on the road, hug me, because I’m a hugger. If I see you in a digital course, send me a message, because I want to hear from you. And if I don’t see you, give me a call! I mean it when I say I’m here for you.

Cheers to you, dear friends! May your families be blessed in all the things that are to come,

Heather Frank,

President, STUDIO 4Forty

TikTok

Blog Post by: Allie Duggan

Back in April I wrote a blog post about the power of social media, but I want to dive a little deeper in my upcoming posts and focus in on how to maintain (or grow) your presence on a regular basis through the different platforms available. With TikTok as a top contender in the social media market these days, I’m going to begin with that platform and take a closer look at how these short videos can make a huge impact for your organization. TikTok has become a game changer in how to get the word out about the work non-profits do, and made it possible (even easy) to go viral and reach people you might never have before.

TikTok gained huge popularity when the world was shut down due to COVID-19 last year and since then it has continued to grow as a leader in the way people share and receive information. The concept was originally short videos of 15 or 60 seconds, but has recently expanded to allow 3 minute videos. The longer videos are great for certain applications, but for the most part I would stick to the shorter ones. The reason for this is humans, especially in this day and age, have a very short attention span. Most people will not sit captive for 3 minutes, unless they have already invested in a previous clip that they were waiting to get more information on.

The scope of content on TikTok is so vast, there is truly something for everyone. The most popular and original creators started with a lot of different dances, and it kept much of the population entertained during lockdown, doing their own renditions, but it has grown so much since then. There is Foodie Tok, Disney Tok, Mom Tok, Nostalgia Tok, Craft Tok. The list goes on and on, it’s insane the amount of niche corners TikTok has established. On top of all of these fun and silly “Toks” there are impactful videos as well, making a huge difference.

The short videos are a great opportunity to make an impactful, short mission video to introduce your organization, giving them an inside look into how you serve the community. This resonates in a much different way than posting a photo on Instagram or Facebook. One page I happened to come across and ended up following recently is called Colby’s Crew Rescue. They rescue horses from auction who would have otherwise ended up being sold and killed. The transformations of these horses that they show are incredible and inspiring. I am an animal lover, but I have never really connected with horses as I am deathly allergic to them, but through TikTok that mission reached me. I absolutely love seeing what they are doing to help and every once in a while contribute to their cause – simply because of their TikTok videos!

Another way to reach an audience is through music on the app. Different songs are naturally associated with different emotions, and using one of those in the video can extend your reach to people far beyond your area. The Oregon Zoo was able to reach 4.7 million views on an Earth Day video just from picking the right song that tugged at the viewers heartstrings (in this case, Surender by Natalie Taylor). After you have been scrolling through videos for a while you will get a sense for what songs are trending and you can use this to your advantage to extend your reach.

And, you don’t have to go in the direction of an emotional mission moment, you can choose to do a challenge instead. The American Heart Association introduced the “Keep the Beat Challenge” which tied into their organization in a fun and creative way. This not only introduced an audience to the organization, but it asked them to participate and help spread the word about the work of the American Heart Association. Getting influencers involved in something like this creates a huge wave to recruit an endless number of others to join in and post too.

Get creative and take some notes on trends that are happening on the app and you’ve got the perfect tools to go viral and reach an audience you maybe never would have before!

The Power of Kindness

Blog Post by: Jennifer Downes, CFRE

Every morning as I walk my six and eight year old to the entrance of their school, we greet every single person that we pass with a, “Good Morning.” Simple, right? But you would be surprised with the expressions we receive from this act of kindness. The majority of the time we get a delighted, “Good Morning” response and you can tell that our words made that individual (adult or child) smile, even if it’s just for a few seconds of their day. Sometimes people look at us like we’re crazy and don’t respond at all. That’s ok, as we keep moving forward and, more importantly, keep being kind. 

Why is kindness so powerful? According to mentalhealth.org, “When we practice kindness either to other people or towards ourselves we can experience positive mental and physical changes through lowering stress levels and increasing the body’s production of feel-good hormones such as dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin.” Wow, being kind literally changes your mental and physical being. Talk about a powerful tool that everyone needs to start using more often! 

Are you having trouble with staff fatigue or overall morale at your workplace? How about with your donors? Are they feeling your stress? Let’s face it, 2020 and 2021 have carried just a little bit of stress! In a world that has so much happening, it seems that those around us have forgotten what the power of kindness truly holds! Simple acts of kindness can help boost feelings of confidence and happiness which will contribute to an overall positive workplace and happy donors! 

A few examples of this would be to give random compliments to your staff. Send them a note acknowledging an accomplishment they’ve made or just an encouraging message. Even better, bring in a sweet treat for the whole office to enjoy! With your donors, sending them a handwritten note (especially on their birthday) or picking up the phone to just check in and see how they’re doing really goes a long way. 

There are so many simple things that can show someone that being a human truly means being kind to one another. Let’s use acts of kindness to re-energize your staff, build stronger relationships with your donors, and truly help make the world a better place. 

*Image Credit: BeverlySpeaks.com

Grass Roots Giving

Blog Post by: Kim Perry

Of the countless lessons we all learned in the world of fundraising when Covid hit us between the eyes last year, one that stands out to me is the importance of traditional grass roots giving when embraced by nonprofits. There is such beauty in its simplicity: picking up the phone and calling a donor or taking the time to sit down and write a thoughtful letter to one of your volunteers.

Our President told a story that really resonated with me that inspired her to pursue fundraising as a career and planted the passion seed of helping nonprofits. Her grandmother led a $1million campaign during WWII whereby she and her team would knock on doors, reach out to as many people as they could in various communities ,and ask donors for $1. Their goal was to raise $1million by having 1 million people each donate one dollar. And they were successful in their endeavor – talk about an incredible milestone with such brilliance in its model.

So, naturally, when I witnessed this exact strategy being applied by one of my favorite animal rescue groups leveraging modern technology, I was elated. A horse and animal rescue group in Bakersfield, CA, by the name of All Seated in a Barn launched a one dollar campaign through a cool new software platform called Patreon. Patreon essentially facilitates monetary subscriptions for various causes at incremental amounts and with that subscription, you’re granted exclusive access and perks for the organization. In this case, it’s a monthly subscription that starts at $1 and has tiers going up to $250 per month.

To announce their one-dollar grass roots endeavor, ASIAB launched a major social media campaign, posting throughout the day, every day, to their followers asking them to subscribe with incredibly profound mission messages sharing the difference this would make in saving lives of horses bound for slaughter. If they could get as many as 500 people to commit $1 each, that could save one horse per month at an auction where their fate is determined.

When I saw these posts, I was immediately reminded of my President’s grandmother and her trailblazing idea that motivated me to spring to action. I thought to myself, “I can certainly afford one dollar per month.” So, I clicked the link, and just like that, I chose to commit to a higher tier at a $25 monthly subscription. And all it took was scrolling through my Instagram feed one morning to join this effort and give in a way that feels easy and meaningful.

I’m proud to share that through ASIAB’s one-dollar-a-month campaign, they now have 395 members on Patreon that collectively give $3,627 each month as of today – that’s $43,524 annually! That equates to at least seven horses and donkeys saved from slaughter each month. All because of the power of a traditional grass roots effort leveraged by the modern “door knockers” of today, aka social media platforms. 

I share this story as an example of a strategy EVERY nonprofit can embrace and implement. I would love to see more groups embrace this idea and reap the rewards of a traditional one-dollar campaign that could make a world of difference for their mission. You truly have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

But as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water…

Raising the Next Generation of Givers

Blog Post by: Sarah Obialero

One of my goals as a parent has been to teach my kids the importance of giving back, to raise them to hopefully be the next generation of donors, supporters, contributors to society in some capacity. However, as with most things in life, this has been easier said than done.

At birth, babies believe the world revolves around them and them alone – for obvious reasons.  Therefore, as they grow, teaching kids the fundamental idea of “giving” is often not an easy task. 

It’s hard to know where, when and how to start in getting them to understand. First, I had to set the expectation for myself (the parent) that this will require baby steps. Kids don’t just magically understand at a certain age why they should want to give something without getting anything in return. Nor, do they most truly grasp the joy that can be found in giving.

With my toddler, introducing the idea of sharing, and saying please and thank you has been a good place to start. This is about as much as his two-year-old little brain can handle right now. 

From there, we’re working on being kind, gentle, and forgiving of others (mostly his big sister).

All these things have helped build the foundation for a giving spirit.

From what I’ve read in various parenting books, the fastest way kids learn is by copying their parents (smacks forehead), for better or for worse. So, the best thing I can do is lead by example and evaluate how I personally am showing my kids the importance of giving back.

When my daughter turned six, I decided to test the waters a little. She’s SUPER into cheetahs and often refers to herself as “Cheetah Girl.” Knowing that the cheetah is an endangered animal, I asked her if she would be interested in setting up a fundraiser for her sixth birthday to help save the cheetahs. I sat down with her and showed her the webpage for the Cheetah Conservation Fund and talked to her about how they are working to help save the cheetah population in Africa, and how she could help. She agreed that this was a good idea, so I set up the fundraiser through the Cheetah Conservation Funds webpage and put together some social posts to get the word out. We invited friends and family to donate $6.00 in honor of her turning six.

As donations came in, I alerted her to the progress and comments that her donors were making. She started getting excited. We then recorded a fun video of her asking for friends to join her in the race to save the cheetah. Check it out here! This made her feel like she was actively helping.

We ran the fundraiser for about ten days and raised over $670.00 for the Cheetah Conservation Fund. It took some explaining, but she started to understand that the money she raised didn’t come to her. It went to save the animal she loves so dearly, and I could tell she felt proud. By finding a cause that was important to her, it helped her have a deeper understanding of what it means to give back. At just six years old, she could help make a difference. 

I’m a huge believer in keeping things simple. Leading by example and getting kids involved doesn’t have to be a big production. Doing things like helping a neighbor, donating clothes, toys, or food, playing with kittens at the local animal shelter, or attending a family-friendly fundraiser such as a fun run can be great starting points for teaching the next generation.

Explain to them what impact these actions are making on others and hopefully they will start to feel the joy that comes with giving.

A Friendly Reminder: You ARE Enough

Blog Post by: Ashlee Meier, CFRE

Life is weird right now, ya’ll. 

Nothing feels easy. Every decision is daunting, overloaded with a constant risk vs. reward analysis…or often, risk vs. greater risk. Fear, worry and anxiety run rampant and parallel with incredible uncertainty, both personally and professionally. As if a global pandemic, political divide, and raging judgment weren’t enough, it’s like the blows just keep coming with the loss of military lives, worldwide unrest and natural disasters. 

We’re not built to carry all this. Not ever, but especially not all at once. And yet, we’re left without a choice. If you’re like most people I know, you’re faced with a constant tidal wave of emotions, plus the weight of decisions for yourself, your family, and your clients, without a precedence of what is right or where to turn in these certainly unprecedented times. It’s heavy. It’s exhausting. At moments, it’s debilitating as we reach a new level of fatigue. 

Between the news negativity, keyboard warriors slinging hate on social media, and even experts divided, there are a LOT of people arguing with us about exactly what we should think. Among the chorus of voices that are feeding into your life right now, let me be one. And let me remind you of some very important truths:

No matter what this last 18 months has cost you – you have survived. 

It may be taking everything in you right now – but you are STILL fighting. For your health, for your family, for the work you do. 

And although I may not know you personally, as a fundraiser in a staff or volunteer capacity, I KNOW that since last March there are lives that are better because of you. 

Take a deep breath and let that sink in. 

Let’s be honest, nonprofit work is always hard and right now, it’s so easy to get lost in the weeds, the minutia, the chaos of change. But remember what brought you here. You care immensely about other people…animals…causes…our world and you have committed your life and/or career to a role of serving those you care about. 

YOU are doing what you are born to do. It looks different right now, and you are probably a little different, too. Celebrate your flexibility, your resilience, your willingness to change. Embrace the extra shell of toughness you may have developed, the commitment to going the extra mile, to maintaining your empathetic heart even when it feels like the burden is too great to bear. 

Sure, you may not have reached your budget goal, but those sponsorships you worked extra hard to confirm meant you could still touch those clients…even if it was just one. Maybe that event didn’t bring in every dollar that you hoped for, but those personal phone calls to get virtual cash call pre-commitments that took more hours than your week had to give, equate to lives changed. This labor has not been in vain.

Whether you are a full time fundraiser, program staff, board member, event volunteer, or stay at home parent championing a cause by spreading the word, YOU have made a difference. Because YOU didn’t give up, your organization is still here, working everyday to make the world a better place. Because YOU didn’t give up, individual and foundation giving is up and you are helping donors and supporters fulfill their need to contribute to a cause bigger than themselves. Because YOU didn’t give up, meals were served, healthcare provided, animals transported to safety, shelter doors opened, policies changed, families reunited and SO much more.

Don’t lose sight of all that you’ve accomplished. Don’t lose hope for a better future. YOU are the proof we need that good is still here and people still care about others. And when the world tries to tell you that you can’t make a dent in all that’s happening right now, remember that you already have. YOU are enough. Relish in that.