This past Saturday, I had a wonderful experience at a nonprofit’s fundraising walk. The kickoff was a great opportunity to learn about the nonprofit. We were introduced to the leadership team when they provided their background and told us what role they played at the organization. Then we heard from the Executive Director who shared a bit of history and clearly articulated the mission and vision of the nonprofit. Once the intro was done, we learned about the details of the walk, the day’s activities and options available. Finally, one of the children who has participated in the nonprofit’s programs led us in a warm-up including jumping jacks, mountain climbers and sit ups (it was tough!). And then we were off
Does the above sound like the beginning of the typical charity walk that’s become the anchor event of so many nonprofits? Having spent much of this past decade doing these walks, as well as bike and run events for charities, I would say so. In fact, I’ve just described what went on at Walk For Their Future, the 10th Anniversary of the fundraiser done in support of Today’s Youth Matter (www.tymkids.org) This year’s very appropriate theme was Moving Forward and like most of the fundraising events taking place, it was moved from a live to a virtual event. Yet despite the miles and distance, I truly felt a part of something very special.
As a very committed runner, I’ve done several virtual 5K’s and half marathons as substitutes for the live races on my spring schedule due to the coronavirus. It’s been a nice way to support charities I care about and add extra incentive as I do my solo runs. Yet, I have to admit that I’ve been quietly skeptical about the ability for nonprofits to create an impactful experience that provide participants with a sense of community when moving their events from live to a virtual platform. This past Saturday, I was pleasantly pleased to see how wrong I was!
I wanted to share several best practices based on my experience with Today’s Youth Matter (TYM). And in the interest of full disclosure, I am a fan of TYM as I provide grant writing services for them. If you’re in the process of moving your event from live to virtual, I hope the following can help you create the best possible experience for your volunteers, fundraisers and donors:
And most importantly….
While there are other key components to crafting an engaging virtual experience, these are some building blocks that will create a strong foundation for success.
It started when the same ad kept coming up in my Facebook feed after I became a certified coach. A self-described master coach continuously invited me (and many others I’m sure) to her free seminar. She offered participants the “secrets to client acquisition success using sales techniques she learned closing customers while selling mops at a big box retailer.” And no, I’m not kidding! This was the culmination of my fascination - or perhaps call it what it is - my Love to Hate relationship with the myriad of gimmicks and tools aimed at professional coaches. They dangle magical and oh so top-secret shortcuts as an alternative to offering real service as the key to creating value as a coach.
But I don’t want to single out this individual coach. The truth is you could spend endless hours (and $$) plowing through get rich quick books, seminars, and workshops geared towards making success seem like something you can grab for three installments of $39.99 (or fill in some ridiculous price). As long as you ACT NOW!!
Don’t get me wrong. There are many fantastic individuals out there offering very real support in helping individuals like me develop their coaching and consulting practices. In fact, I’m incredibly grateful to be working with several of them such as my wonderful mentor-coach Angela Cusack of Igniting Success. I’m also thrilled to be joining Melissa Ford for her Game-Film group coaching program. Melissa’s book Living Service: The Journey Of A Prosperous Coach has been an absolute game-changer for me in the way I approach creating clients.
As an aside, this experience takes me back to my early days in the nonprofit industry when I was getting my start in fundraising. I was bombarded with invitations to programs that would teach me how to be a better fundraiser, craft the perfect ask and opportunities to mingle with other fundraisers. I have absolutely nothing against learning and networking. Yet, I wasn’t quite clear how I was going to become a better fundraiser without spending the bulk of my time well, fundraising!
Here’s my point: Whether you’re a coach, consultant or fundraiser - or pretty much anything else, You’ve Got To Do The Work. Yes, it’s worth capitalizing. No matter what you do, there will always be someone - or several someones - telling you there’s an easy way to do it. There will always be distractions from the real essence of what you do. But remember: reading and talking about coaching isn’t coaching. You become a better coach by coaching. Similarly, learning about and networking with those who fundraise isn’t fundraising.
As for me, the only way I know how to do this is the following (spoiler alert: a lot of this is crazy obvious but still worth staying)
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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