Timing is Everything

Blog Post by: Ashlee Meier

Is it a good time to chat/learn/commit to something? Isn’t that always the question in our fundraising worlds!

When it comes to hosting a successful event, there’s a saying that certainly holds true: timing is everything! From selecting the right date, to approaching sponsors, to releasing ticket sales and orchestrating the event day schedule, strategic timing plays a crucial role in maximizing both the guest experience and potential revenue. 

Our fabulous Project Manager, Christie Howard, discussed the nuances of balancing communication timing with the start of a new school year in our most recent blog post, Balancing Communications. Today, we’ll dive into the numerous ways that timing can make or break your fundraising event, because it is, indeed, EVERYTHING!

1. Picking the Perfect Date:

Choosing the right date for your fundraising event is paramount. A date that clashes with other major community events, school closings, popular travel weekends or holidays can significantly impact attendance. Research local calendars to ensure your event doesn’t coincide with competing events. Also, consider the time of year – outdoor events may be better suited for mild seasons, while indoor events can thrive in any weather. 

We recently kicked off our fall event season the last weekend in August with 3 events that, although wildly successful, struggled with both ticket sales due to events happening so quickly after the start of the school year, and event day heat for outdoor elements. Avoid that when selecting your event date if at all possible! 

2. Sponsorship Outreach Timing:

Securing sponsors is a pivotal part of fundraising events, and timing plays a vital role in this process. Reach out to potential sponsors well in advance of your event date, giving them ample time to consider your proposal and allocate funds. Aim to approach sponsors when they’re finalizing their budgets for the year or quarter and build in plenty of runway for follow up. 

3. Ticket Sales Timing:

Releasing ticket sales at the right time can make a significant difference in maximizing ticket purchases and event attendance. Launch ticket sales when there’s enough excitement around the event without getting lost in the shuffle of other activities, travel or holidays. Create a sense of urgency with strategic pre-sales and limited offerings of VIP or table packages. 

4. Curating the Ideal Event Day Schedule: 

The flow of your event day (or evening) can have a huge impact on guest engagement and revenue generation. There is a delicate balance between having enough time to enjoy all the elements and having too much time, giving guests space to warm to the idea of participating, while focusing them on key activations. You’ll want to ensure the big picture event schedule is structured strategically, and that the Run of Show and/or speaking elements fall within the window of critical mass. High-energy segments, such as live performances or auctions, are best placed when attendees are at their peak enthusiasm.

5. The Fundraising Focus:

While it’s important to create an enjoyable experience for your guests, don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal – funding your incredible work! Strategically time moments throughout the event when you’ll make fundraising appeals. Placing revenue activations thoughtfully in your space layout so guests experience them in the proper timing is key, along with the placement of live auction and paddle raise within your show flow. 

6. Post-Event Follow-Up:

Timing doesn’t end when the event wraps up. Within a day or two after the event, send out thank you emails to attendees, sponsors, and volunteers. Include a recap of the event’s success, the total amount raised, a link to event photos on your social media site, and how the funds will be used. This swift follow-up reinforces the impact of their participation and keeps your cause top of mind. Better yet, start solidifying commitments for next year’s event while they are still enjoying the after event glow!

Mastering the art of timing is a crucial factor for the success of events. From selecting a date that avoids competition, to approaching sponsors at the right moment, timing can determine the level of engagement, attendance, and ultimately, the funds raised. By paying attention to these key timing considerations, you can create an event that not only captivates your guests, but also drives significant support for your cause. Remember, it’s not just about when you hold your event, it’s about making every moment count!

Our team at STUDIO 4Forty are pros on all aspects of event timing and would love to help you increase your impact through one of our signature fundraising events. Contact Kim Perry to learn what’s available in your market! 

Stepping Outside the Box

By Heather Frank, MA, CFRE

If I have learned anything over the years, it would focus on the ever-evolving landscape of social impact and the role non-profit organizations play in addressing societal challenges. To create lasting change, some non-profits have embraced a bold and innovative approach, stepping outside the box, and challenging conventional norms. By daring to be different, these organizations are driving transformative community change, making a significant impact on the lives of those they serve. Let’s explore how non-profits are breaking barriers, embracing innovation, and focusing on community change.

1. Embracing Innovation for Greater Impact

Non-profits that step outside the box are not afraid to embrace innovation in their strategies and initiatives. They understand that sticking to traditional methods might limit their potential impact. By adopting new technologies, creative ideas, and modern approaches, these organizations can tackle age-old problems with fresh perspectives.

2. Fostering Collaborations for Collective Change

Collaboration is a key characteristic of non-profits that focus on community change. Recognizing that they can achieve more together than alone, these organizations actively seek partnerships with other stakeholders, including government bodies, corporations, local community groups, and even for-profit entities. Such collaborations pool resources, expertise, and networks, leading to more holistic and sustainable solutions.

3. Empowering Local Communities

Rather than adopting a top-down approach, innovative non-profits prioritize community empowerment. They involve local residents in the decision-making process, respecting their knowledge and insights as experts on their own challenges. By empowering the community, these organizations ensure that initiatives are more tailored to meet the specific needs and aspirations of those they serve.

4. Measuring Impact and Adapting Strategies

Non-profits that challenge the normal are meticulous about measuring the impact of their projects. They collect data, solicit feedback from beneficiaries, and conduct evaluations to assess the effectiveness of their efforts. Armed with this information, they make data-driven decisions and are not afraid to adapt their strategies if needed, ensuring that they are continually improving their approach to creating change.

5. Risk-Taking and Learning from Failure

Innovative non-profits are unafraid of taking calculated risks. They understand that some initiatives might not yield the desired outcomes, but they view failures as learning opportunities. By acknowledging mistakes and leveraging them as stepping stones to improvement, they refine their approach and become more effective change agents.

6. Advocating for Policy Change

Stepping outside the box also means engaging in advocacy and policy change. These non-profits recognize that policy reform is a critical lever for systemic change. By advocating for policy shifts at the local, national, or international level, they can address root causes and create lasting, widespread impact beyond their immediate projects.

It is not a secret that non-profit organizations that challenge the normal and focus on community change are pioneers in the realm community mission expansion. By embracing innovation, fostering collaborations, empowering local communities, measuring impact, taking risks, and advocating for policy change, they demonstrate a commitment to creating meaningful and sustainable transformations. These trailblazing organizations inspire others in the non-profit sector to step outside their comfort zones, push the boundaries, and find novel solutions to address complex societal issues. Together, they are shaping a future where positive change is not just a distant dream but a tangible reality for communities around the world. 

Back to Basics

Blog Post by: Jennifer Downes

As spring travel is winding down, I sit back and reflect on all the different elements that occurred during the season. Whether it was amazing Shoe Guy fundraising, exploding sponsorship dollars, marvelous Mission Moments, over the top productions, or crazy travel stories, it’s a journey to look at all the pieces.

One of the biggest highlights was experiencing some of our long term partners increasing their overall live auction and cash call revenue lines significantly. To express the joy that occurred with our clients is indescribable. The “secret sauce” to this achievement was that our partners trust us, our coaching, and with that we went “Back to Basics.” 

As we begin the current year’s planning process, we review the prior year’s event and all the different elements. What became apparent with some of our clients was that they had swayed too far from our best practices and needed to reestablish the foundation that was created in year one. And that’s exactly what we did. 

Always keeping our guests’ experience and revenue focus at the forefront, we adjusted and tweaked different areas to ensure our revenue activations occurred in just the right way.

A few examples of elements we adjusted were: narrowing down the revenue activations to only a handful for the entire event, creating the correct flow within the space, and selecting the right individuals to go onstage during the seated program. These are only a few examples of the different pieces we adjusted, but every detail matters as it all adds up when producing high caliber events.

One of the biggest adjustments we made was who would take the stage to conduct the live auction and cash call. Ensuring you have the right person for this piece is incredibly important as this can make the energy in the room either feel awkward if done incorrectly, or it can become a special moment where a community gathers together to support an amazing cause if done right! We worked with our partners to outline the best auction packages, ensure their impact statements were strong, and that our motto remained in the forefront – “Back to Basics”. Guess what?!?! It WORKED!

Whether you’re a Director of Development, CEO, or a volunteer supporting a nonprofit organization with an event, I highly recommend taking the time to evaluate where the event started and where it is now. It is easy to focus on refining and refreshing the guests’ experience, but unfortunately that means that the basics that were created in the beginning years can sometimes get lost. Take some time to compare the growth that has occurred, areas you can adjust, and always keep the guests’ experience and revenue flow at the forefront. Going “Back to Basics” can never steer you wrong. 

Want to learn more about STUDIO 4Forty and how we serve nonprofits across the country? Email me at jennifer@studio4forty.com.


Blog Post by: Allie Duggan

Influencer is no doubt a term you have heard a lot lately, and in my mind it is not something I initially associate with nonprofits or fundraising, but it is an association we should begin to make. With the next generation being the future of fundraising, influencers represent a key aspect of continued philanthropy for your nonprofit. 

The Role of Influencers in Nonprofit Fundraising

Influencers can play a significant role in nonprofit fundraising by leveraging their large social media followings to promote your mission. This is the perfect opportunity to promote your campaigns and events, encouraging their followers to become donors and attendees of your cause.

Working with influencers can also help you to reach a new audience that you may not have been able to reach otherwise. Influencers cast a wide net with their audience and typically have followers from a diverse range of demographics, allowing nonprofits to reach a bigger audience.

Nonprofits can also use influencers to reach younger donors. Many influencers have a significant following among younger audiences, who are often less likely to donate to nonprofits, especially without being introduced to them in some sort of social way. By partnering with influencers, you can reach these younger audiences and encourage them to support your causes and steward them to become life-long donors.

How Nonprofits Can Work with Influencers

Nonprofits can work with influencers in several ways to promote their causes and raise funds for their organizations. Here are a few ways you can collaborate with influencers:

  • Sponsored posts – Nonprofits can partner with influencers to create sponsored posts promoting their cause or event on social media. These posts can include a call-to-action for followers to donate or purchase tickets to attend their event.
  • Social media takeovers – Nonprofits can have influencers take over their social media accounts for a day or a week. The influencer can promote your cause and give their following a closer look into how they can help support your mission and impact their community.
  • Event hosting – Nonprofits can invite influencers to host events promoting their cause. This would be a great opportunity for committee recruitment. Not only are you building your committee, but you would be broadening your donor base as well. 
  • Event personality – Nonprofits can invite an influencer to attend or even emcee their fundraising event. Aligning your organization with a familiar face in the community can bring a fresh new aspect to the event.

Working with an influencer brings a fresh approach to donor procurement and can open a lot of new doors for a nonprofit. Jump on social media and see who is making an impact in your community, they just might be a perfect fit to partner with you!

Know your “Why”

Blog Post by: Jessica Mathews

I am assistant coaching my 12 year old daughter’s volleyball team, and her head coach is big on facilitating a growth mindset and team bonding. We have been talking to our girls about what makes them want to play volleyball and what makes them try hard; their “why.” 

Over the last decade and a half of being in the nonprofit world, speaking at events, and engaging with community members, I was often asked, “what is your ‘why?’” Although a very simple question, I always found it hard to answer, because there are so many answers and they can change.

After reflecting on this simple, yet complex question, I was able to find my “why” varies from day to day, and role to role. My “why” is constantly evolving and changing, sometimes drastically and sometimes minimally, but it all comes down to one thing… making a difference. My “why” in my work life is making a difference in the organizations and clients we serve. My “why” for my daughter is being a role model to my 12 year old and setting a good example for her. My “why” in coaching volleyball is teaching these young girls the skills they need to be successful as a friend, a teammate, and an athlete. My “why” for my family is creating a home where everyone feels loved, supported and valued.

I take the opportunity to reflect on each of these “whys” when I can, but especially in times of stress. Burnout can come rapidly when planning events and in seasons of constantly being busy, but it’s how we overcome the burnout that makes a difference. Finding your “why” can encourage you in times of stress, tiredness, and despair to continue to push on towards your true reason for doing what you do. 

What is your “why?” What are you striving for? These are more than just goals. These single or multiple reasons are what motivates us to do better and be better. If you are feeling burnt out or unmotivated, take a few moments to dig deep and think about your “why.” And then share with a family member, friend or coworker. With support, encouragement, and frequent self-reflections, you can be successful in fulfilling your “why.”

We teach our children about learning their “why,” but we need to remind ourselves. So, what is your “why?”

Bite Sized Impact

Blog Post by: Ashlee Meier

More than ever, donors want to know EXACTLY how you plan to use their gifts, how far that generosity will go, and what kind of impact it makes towards furthering your mission. Sound like a lot of information? That’s exactly what they want! 

While younger generations step into their own as supporters, they see themselves as philanthropists, activists, and all-around changemakers. As donors, they don’t (and won’t) blindly give. They want to feel included as participants in your organization’s impact, whether that is through hands-on volunteerism or how and when they give. 

As you consider fostering your next generation of supporters, there should be a strategic approach to appeal to these desires in multi faceted ways, but for today’s purpose, let’s dive into a narrow focus: how to best position a live appeal at your fundraising event. 

At STUDIO 4Forty, our team of Project Managers get to frequently take the stage and conduct the ask for donations at many of our signature events, in partnership with the driving nonprofit.  While there are many components to consider when planning (to dive further into that, check out my previous blog post on how to create an Atmosphere of Giving), there is one easy fix that is far too frequently overlooked, and which can make or break the success of your live ask. 

So, what’s the secret? Simple. Give your donors what they want. Tie every giving level to an impact statement: a clear, easily digestible view of how their gift, in that moment, makes a difference.  

I know, I know – you have loads of amazing programs, data that will blow their minds, and you want to use this opportunity to tell your guests all about everything you are doing while you have their focused attention. And you should do that, just with a maximum chunk of 10 minutes built into the first part of your seated program, not with a meandering 5 minute spiel for each level of the fund-a-need. I promise you, no matter how heart tugging your mission moment is, if the process of getting the ask going takes too long, you will lose their attention and therefore, their dollars. Don’t risk that! 

Example, please? 

As the former Director of Development at the YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee, I’ve had the pleasure of facilitating their fund-a-need at Wine Women & Shoes for several years. Although they provide a wide variety of services to the community, funds raised through Wine Women & Shoes specifically support their Weaver Domestic Violence Shelter, and they do an excellent job making that very clear. As with every good live appeal, they begin at the highest dollar amount and work their way down, building the amount of bid cards raised along with the momentum of giving. 

Here is what it could look like:

  $5,000 – For 125 years, YWCA has helped women, children and families in Nashville and Middle Tennessee build safer, more self-sufficient lives. We do this by operating the largest domestic violence shelter in Tennessee so women, children, and their pets fleeing abuse can heal. We empower youth to break down negative gender stereotypes through Girls Inc. and AMEND Together. We provide the tools needed to become successful in work and life through Dress for Success and the Family Learning Center. Our programs are FREE to the thousands of people we serve each year and are offered to everyone. So please consider giving at $5,000.

Too much information! When did you stop reading? That’s about when guests would stop listening! Is this amazing work that deserves to be talked about? Absolutely! Is this the right time for it? Nope! 

$5,000 – Who can give at this level. It really helps. Who can give $5,000?

Not enough information! Even with a phenomenal mission moment, this is too vague and general to help your guests feel confident in their giving. Remember, they want to participate in the impact, not just give dollars. 

$5,000 – Supports a month-long stay for a survivor at the Weaver Domestic Violence Shelter. 

Just right! This is a succinct, focused impact statement that, with only a sentence, helps donors envision exactly how their gift will help make their world, or at least their city, a better place, and effectively motivates them to give (if their interest and ability align). And in this instance, for the YWCA, give they did – totaling $125,000 in just over 15 minutes!

As you begin scripting for your next live appeal, remember this giving Goldilocks situation and the key to success with bite-sized, just right impact statements. 

Still stuck? Our fundraising gurus at STUDIO 4Forty would love to help.