Read the Interview
Hugh Ballou: It’s Hugh Ballou and Russell. Welcome. Welcome, Russell.
Russell Dennis: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to another edition of The Nonprofit Exchange, a program where we can bring in thought leaders to talk with you about ways that you can get more done with less effort and better results by putting systems into place. That is what SynerVision Leadership Foundation is here to help you do. We have a remarkable guest on today who will talk with us about cause-based marketing for businesses and how partnering with nonprofits is good for your bottom line.
Hugh: Yes, sir. The people watching can see this, but the people listening can’t. Russell doesn’t have hair on top of his head, but he seems to have some on the front of his face. You’re growing a new beard, are you?
Russell: I think I lost my razor. That’s okay. All of the gray I’m told makes me distinguished, but I think that’s just from people who want to make me feel better.
Hugh: That’s right. You’ve earned every gray one. We have a gentleman from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with us today who I met a couple months ago and was immediately impressed with his passion.
Focus on bringing value to nonprofits while bringing value to your business. Andrew Felix, welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange.
Andrew Felix: Thanks, Hugh. I appreciate that warm welcome. I guess I could say I do do a few different things. You are right with the nonprofit side of things. I learned a lot of things over the past 15 years of being in different ones and understanding that each nonprofit is different. There is a lot of people out there who believe all nonprofits are the same. That’s not true. They all have different missions, they all have different goals, they all have different ways of using their dollars. Everyone should make sure they understand exactly the nonprofit and why you’re supporting it, making sure it’s what you want to support.
Hugh: One of our guests recently gave us a new term. Instead of a for-profit business, it’s a for-profit enterprise. We here like that. So tell people about Andrew Felix. Give people some background on who you are and how you ended up doing what you do today. You work with nonprofits, but you also have a business application.
Andrew: I worked in nonprofits. I worked for Junior Achievement and also the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for many years. I was in the PR/marketing realm with Consumer Electronics. I jumped out of that to get into the medical cannabis or medical marijuana field industry in Florida, which is growing more rapidly than any other state did when they started their medical realm of things. You and I have met. A few nonprofits in this space right now, one of them being Mission Zero, who we are both working with in the cannabis industry and the veterans industry. Really took everything I learned from nonprofits to the cannabis industry and doing my business, but also joining with nonprofits because I had such a passion to want to see nonprofits grow and raise money.
Hugh: So you have had- Just talking to you for about 30 minutes at a Starbucks in Fort Lauderdale, I determined quickly you had a depth of experience. We are going to focus today on marketing dollars that businesses use. There are a lot of reasons businesses write a check for nonprofits. Some are good, some are not. Part A of this is what is the motivation for a business to write a check? Then part B is what kind of results should we help them create? I’m sure a nonprofit as well as the business doesn’t really have a model for how they can get an ROI on an investment. Let’s do the first part. What are the motivations, good and bad, for a business to fund a nonprofit?
Andrew: I think the big thing with nonprofits and corporations is the idea of an event is just like somebody going to a networking event. But they need to use those events as that networking event. It isn’t just party, fun time, so forth. You’re paying the money, and it should be used for not only giving back to the charity of course, and there is a tax deduction, but if you are already giving them money, utilize that in the nonprofit way of saying, “Hey, it’s a golf tournament or a gala or a walk. Work as a networking event, too. Don’t just give them money and not use it in the realm of things.
Hugh: What do businesses not know about how to get mileage out of those dollars? What is missing from their knowledge bank?
Andrew: I think there are a lot of companies out there- A lot of people ask them to give them money for their nonprofit or for that event. Right away, they look at the idea of what the charity is and what the charity is about, which is a very big decision. But they also should look at who is going to be at that event. Are we spending money for the charity to raise money? Great. How can we make the best out of the event? Example. If it’s a golf tournament, we have a foursome. Do we make sure our top CEO and our marketing and our VPs are on that foursome? Yes. They are the ones who are going to speak to your company the best. Don’t just send your sales guys to sell your product. Put your top people in the limelight of these nonprofits. Nonprofits want to talk to CEOs because they want a longer term relationship. The goal on that is not just to say, “I want that $20,000 check for the golf tournament.” That executive director of the nonprofit wants to meet the CEO, build the relationship, have them come to the golf tournament, but also the gala six months later, and have a team at the walkathon. These smaller events, the walkathons, the bartending events, are then going to be the ones you get your whole company involved in. But if you are spending $20,000 on title sponsorships, you should make sure that that CEO has that day blocked off to be at that event to make sure he is representing that company.
I see a lot of nonprofits that go, “Yeah, we sponsored it. We gave $25,000. We’ll try to make it. Use the money right.” Which is fine. But if you want in six months when the CEO says, “Here is the marketing budget. You spent $100,000. What was the ROI on that? You placed some ads, you donated to charity, you went to this event, you went to that event. What did you get out of it? What was the largest event? We spent $25,000 in sponsorship of this golf tournament. Wonderful. Who did we meet?” A lot of people don’t know that, and they should. If you are spending that much money, the CEO should ask you when he sees your marketing budget at the end of the year, “Wow, you spent this much money. I remember that sponsorship, that title. That was the best event I’ve been to all year. I want to make sure we sponsor that next year.” That’s what the nonprofit wants to hear later on when the director of marketing calls them and goes, “Just went over the budget. By the way, our director loved your golf tournament. He wants to make sure we sponsor it next year.” That is the end goal of it all. If he doesn’t, and you have to remind him, I don’t think personally it was worth your money then.
I think the other big thing is you have to differentiate the idea of personal and business when you spend those dollars. If the charity is a personal effect to yourself or your CEO, that’s fine, but also look at how you are spending the money through the company. Utilize those dollars because they are marketing dollars.
Hugh: To your point, there are different pockets that the companies dip into for writing checks. You just talked about marketing money. It’s a carefully defined ROI. We are going to spend these dollars. We want eyeballs. We want relationships. We want leads. Something like that. The nonprofit has to be careful that there is not a call to action. A good example is looking at PBS listening to NPR. For more information, go here. Really good information about the brand. We have sponsors. Sometimes companies write a sponsored check, and it’s really a donation because it comes out of their philanthropic/giving budget. It’s a different thing. They may call it a sponsorship, but it’s really a donation. A true sponsorship is what you were talking about. The company wants their brand associated with your nonprofit, which is a good brand. The synergy of those brands brings value to both sides. The nonprofit gets the money so they can do a successful event and impact people’s lives. The business gets name recognition. If the right people are there, you build relationships. Organizations like my foundation, then there is a pocket of training money people use to spend on top leaders to attend events.
It would seem to me, Andrew, there is a sales side of this, but there is also a management side to manage the event for the sponsor to make sure they get what they want. The sponsor documents, there are different kinds. Do they articulate signage, how many impressions, are there emails? Should a good sponsor agreement have some rubrics to measure?
Andrew: In your galas, your golf tournaments, and so forth, because those are your top events, if you are taking the title sponsor, you have the paragraph inside of there that says you are getting one foursome or four dinner tickets or a full-page program ad. It lines out everything you’re getting. Does it say you will get this many impressions, this such and such? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a nonprofit do that, but that doesn’t mean somebody is not saying in their thing that you will be put on our website that gets this much traffic. You will be in our newsletter that goes out to this many emails. There will be TV coverage of the event. I think that will be an after effect. If when there is a recap of the event sent.
Like you said, it goes back to the company saying what they spent those dollars from. Like you said, there is different pockets. There is marketing dollars. There is philanthropy dollars. There is leadership dollars. If the money comes out of that charity dollars, do they care? Then again, there is the marketing dollars. The answer is yes there. Some companies, the marketing and charity dollars are together. Some are together, and they go, “We will divide them out at the end of the year and figure out where exactly we spent the money.” But my whole opinion is if you do still spend that money as a sponsorship or a donation, if you donate that money to charity and you say to them, this is going to research, this is going to care, and it’s not going for any event, that check should be written, given to the charity, and so forth. If you give a donation to an event, and out of that donation you become a title sponsor, even though it comes out of the charity account, you still as a company should take advantage of that and use it for an ROI purpose. There is still parts of that that you get a tax write-off for. But the things you get a use out of, so if it’s a golf tournament, the golf cart cost, the dinner cost, the golf shirt cost, the golf hat, anything that you get is taken off, but anything else is still a tax write-off for the company.
Hugh: We want to go after advertising dollars because there is a limit on how many philanthropic dollars a company can spend. There is no limit on marketing dollars. The bottom line is they are both deductible because you are deducting the expenses of advertising from your profit. It’s purposeful expenditures. If I accept sponsor dollars, I want to interview and toss it to Russell. He is good about asking people what they expect. There is a conversation around what would the benefactor of the sponsor like to see happen? A donor wants to see impact in people’s lives. A sponsor is interested in what we are doing, but they are also interested in furthering their impressions and brand recognition in the community.
Russell, you work with nonprofits on funding. Why don’t you pipe in and give us some illumination? If you have some questions for our guest.
Russell: What we are talking about here is a value for value exchange. It’s up to nonprofits to communicate the value they provide. That’s part of what I offer: to try to talk about how you do that. It’s a conversation, but on both sides of that conversation, you have to look at what it is that you want to get out of the relationship. It needs to be something that’s win-win. Sponsorship is a value for value exchange. A lot of it is confused with donations. Nonprofits have to understand what value they offer. Does the business want to connect with their audience? Do they want to create goodwill? What sort of returns are you looking for? That involves a conversation right up front. It starts with nonprofits going out and seeking businesses that align with some of their values. It starts the same way for businesses. They have to understand what a good project for them looks like. It’s about finding that alignment and reaching out to people who are more aligned with you and then starting a conversation. I don’t think it serves to throw up a proposal out in front of a potential sponsor in the blind. It’s looking for somebody who may align with you, and maybe writing a letter asking if they would be open to a conversation. After you have that first conversation and everybody is on the same page with the goals they want to get out of a potential match, the nonprofit requests an opportunity to send a proposal. From there you look at what’s measured. It’s all about relationship building and doing good and getting out there. We have a lot of marijuana businesses here in Colorado because we moved beyond the medical realm and into the recreational realm. These folks have a lot of dollars that are sitting around, and there are some nonprofits who are afraid to take this money because they think there is a stigma attached to it. What would you say to those businesses in particular about finding ways to connect with nonprofits to assuage some of these fears and to work around that stigma so they can contribute to the community in effective ways?
Andrew: I would say that the big thing is- I understand the stigma thing because we have the stigma thing here in Florida where everybody thinks a dollar that goes through a dispensary is drug money in a way. That’s the way people look at it. But you have to remember that even dollars in Colorado, California, where adults use recreationally, they still pay taxes on it. For a nonprofit to go, “Well, I’m not sure that’s the money I want to touch,” they are still giving money to the government, so why is it not good for yourself? They want to give the money. Is it going to be handed to you in cash? I don’t know. Is that the stigma where everyone thinks it’s going to be a stack of hundreds handed to you for a sponsorship? It could be. I think a nonprofit should look at it like money is money as long as the paperwork is done correctly, the classifications of it are done correctly to the nonprofit and the corporation, and the I’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed. As long as that is done, I don’t see why nonprofits should be worried about it. It’s money.
Russell: A lot of the tax revenue particularly here in the city of Aurora, some of that tax revenue has been deployed toward helping the homeless. We have a big problem with homeless out here. It’s spreading that message that it’s okay. It takes a while to change people’s minds. As long as a business has those goals in mind of the nonprofit thinks about how businesses measure that value, what would motivate a business, what type of business, who are the people that you should reach out to? There are different people within an organization. It may be a marketing person, it may be a person in the philanthropy office. It’s identifying the right person to contact to start that conversation that can be a little bit of a challenge.
Andrew: It can be. Some of the growers, dispensaries in the cannabis space are small companies right now. But some are big. The rest are small, less than ten employees. What I say your first email should be to the CEO depends on your relationship. If you have met them at an event, of course. If you have never met them and they have a vice president of marketing or branding, then reach out to them. If you don’t get a response from them, then go higher up. But give them the opportunity because these marketing people have a hard job. It sounds weird to say, but these marketing people and advertising people have this budget, this money that they have to spend. But they don’t know where to spend it or how to spend it. It’s nothing against them. It’s the laws that are limiting them on spending this money or knowing where they can give the money. If the nonprofit can help them by going, “I know you have to spend so much money on education or learning,” or whatever it is, and you can say, “We’re doing these events that can help you, and this is the way we can do it. You don’t need to worry about the government,” then they are more open to it. But if you reach out blindly and say, “Hey, we’re doing a golf tournament. I’d love for you to be a golf cart sponsor,” they’ll go, “How does that help?” They will be confused. We were talking about if you talk to them first, figure out what they want, and then create a sponsorship level or proposal based on that, because the one thing you don’t want to do is give them a proposal that says your ROI is you will get coverage on TV. You find out by talking to them that they could care less about TV; they want a feature picture of their CEO in the newspaper. If you don’t offer that to them, they won’t do anything.
Russell: With an event, you have different properties or things that can be sponsored. It could be a meet and greet. Do they want naming rights on a tournament? Do they want to be on your website when it comes to social media? How big is your following? What kind of goodwill do you need to create? It’s a question of both sides of the equation, both figuring out what is important to them and what they want to try to accomplish and see if there is some synergy between them, if they will get some value from one another, basing the conversation on that. There are some businesses that are into cause-based marketing, and some are figuring out. When you approach the profit-making businesses who haven’t worked with nonprofits, what are some of the markers you recommend they look to to determine what type of ROI they get?
Andrew: I would say the first thing that this person should do approaching a for-profit company is do your research on the company. If you take a nonprofit that involves the lungs, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, if you are a vapor smoke shop, the CF person shouldn’t target that company, even if they have millions of dollars and have said, “I want to sponsor your event.” Your sponsorship is 20 grand, and they are telling you they want the title and want to give you 40 grand, 20 for the event and 20 as a donation. Trust me, the event people and the business development people at nonprofits, a lot of them get excited when that happens. Wow, we will get $20,000. They don’t think about the company it’s coming from. Then they have to backtrack. That’s the first thing.
Understand when you get a lead who that company is. That person might be a smoke shop, but they might go, “We’re thinking about the CBD side of things.” They need to say, “We want to work with you. This is how we’re going to work.” Have a plan. If I am a nonprofit going to a for-profit company, when I go to that meeting, I am going in with my vision for that event and them involved. If it’s a restaurant, I am going with the vision of, “On the ninth hole and the eighteenth hole, we are going to have a table with food set up for you. We will have breakfast.” I am not going to walk in and say, “I would love for you to be the food sponsor.” “How do you see it?” “I’m not sure yet. I’ll figure that out and let you know.” Sometimes you only get one chance with these guys. When I say one chance, you should walk in with a proposal based on your idea ready to be signed because if they love your idea, you have it in front of them, “You love that idea. I’d love for you to sign it and get started.” If you go, “I’ll put that in writing and send it to you,” you have lost them. You have lost them for a good two or three weeks of getting that commitment.
Hugh: These are universal principles. We have honed in on the cannabis/marijuana market. You mentioned CBD oil and hemp products. That is legal everywhere.
Andrew: All 50 states, yep.
Hugh: Right. That does not have the chemical that is the hallucinogen?
Andrew: It has .03% of THC. As long as it has less than that, it is considered legal in the States.
Hugh: Okay. There are a lot of medicinal benefits, and there has been a lot of research on CBD oil especially. There are different formulations of medical marijuana. Russell and I have some ladies we know in Denver who have 50-60 formulations of healthy supplements that help people heal.
The particular project we connected on is this Mission Zero, where they are addressing veteran suicide. Russell and I are both veterans, and every 72 minutes, a veteran commits suicide in this country, 20-something a day. It’s a crisis. They are creating a program around that. Alex, Andrew, sorry, I did a combination of Andrew and Felix. That’s my age and mental condition. Sorry, Russ. So we got connected on an event. You have some experience on. You have worked with rotary clubs and nonprofits. The particular event you are helping with is a golf tournament. You know your stuff here. It’s not about a bunch of people playing golf; it’s about relationships. I see this as a strategic move for them because they will create relationships with high rollers and people of influence. Back up and talk about the value of a charity doing an event like this. What is the value for businesses to support an event like this? And social clubs like rotaries.
Andrew: I think the big thing is when a nonprofit does an event, and we talk about a golf event, if anybody plays golf, they know it’s a foursome. There are four players on a team, or they are playing on a team, and they are playing best ball in the tournament. Everybody hits the ball off the tee, and everybody plays their ball from there until it gets in the green. The point is, and I have said this for many years with golf tournaments, there are some companies that agree with this and want to do it, and there are some companies that don’t. When you get on a foursome and you get out on the course, and you are with your three buddies for eighteen holes, you are talking to the same guys, the same company throughout the whole day. You are not marketing or networking during that day. You may be networking at the breakfast before and the lunch after.
What I have said to a lot of companies is if you buy a foursome, your CEO or your VP comes and plays, and you invite three clients or three people who work with your company. Or what I have said to some companies, and I have done it a handful of times, is you buy a foursome, but you really only have two spots in that foursome. The same thing with somebody else. You have two spots in one foursome. You co-mingle the foursomes throughout everybody so that way the whole 18 holes, you might be talking to a potential client, and you are getting to spend four hours with these people and getting to know them. That is how I believe you get the best value out of a golf tournament. Instead of saying, “Hey guys, I bought two foursomes, and you guys are 1A and 1B. You tee off right after each other and you follow each other all day and you talk and drink beer and have a great time.” Great. If you are talking about the same company. But you are not networking at that point. If you want to network at a golf tournament, you split up all the foursomes and go, “Put all eight of my guys on separate teams.” That’s the best way to do it. Then you are getting an ROI. Each one of my sales guys, the CEO and seven sales guys, played golf for eight hours with four people the whole time. They create friendships, leads, and network. I wish more golf tournaments and events would do that.
I believe the same thing with a gala. If you are having a gala or a sit-down dinner, you have a whole table, don’t fill your whole table with your company. Fill it with customers. Or say, “Put one person at each table and use that kind of idea.” It’s the best way to get the ROI out of the money you’re spending.
Hugh: That’s an addition to the signage and messaging or scripts or verbal presentations. Sometimes a sponsor plays a video at a gala. I wonder how many people don’t think through that one.
Andrew: I don’t think a lot of people- Like I said, I was in a nonprofit for years. The way it worked was I had a title sponsor and they said, “The only thing you need from me is I need a foursome, and I need your logo. Thank you. We’ll see you at the tournament.” The company goes, “Great, I have sent you my four people and my logo. I’ll see you at the event.” They don’t go, “So are you guys doing a speech at the lunch? If so, are you mentioning our company? What are the signages? Do we get a sign? Is there a sign or banner with our logo?” They don’t ask those questions. “If you’re doing a goody bag, can I put a pamphlet in there?” They don’t ask all the questions because they expect the nonprofit to ask them those questions. But I believe if you are getting involved in nonprofits, you should understand how busy they are in their business and go, “Hey, I know we’re a title sponsor. Here’s our logo. Here’s our foursome. I have a pamphlet ready to go for your goody bag. Anything else you need from me?” That’s what you should ask. It saves the nonprofit, and it helps you get more exposure because you are willing to help the nonprofit get it done.
Hugh: It would seem to me that there would be responsibility on both sides for creating that process. If a nonprofit wants to have a steady stream of sponsors that are continuous, they want to make sure the sponsor gets good mileage from their dollars. Having a checklist of the things we need to make sure we talk about with the sponsor. I think businesses have somebody in marketing that should know this, but I find a lot of people don’t.
Andrew: The marketing people in a lot of these companies are overworked and underpaid. They have five or six events a week. They have galas and ads in papers and on TV. They are pulled in so many directions that they don’t think about the golf tournament until they look on their calendar and realize it’s a week away. I have to get my foursome together, and hopefully they have my logo. That’s exactly what happens the last week before a tournament: you get all the names, you get the logos, you’re printing signs, and you’re going from there. I believe that with a nonprofit, just making sure you stay in communication with that marketing person because in the end, you have to remember a lot of times that marketing person is your gatekeeper for future events. If you make their job easier at your event, the next time you come around, they will go, “Working with them is so easy. They help us take care of everything. They create our ad in the program. We don’t have to worry about anything.”
Hugh: Where do nonprofits go to learn- That is a huge value proposition that is insurance money that that business will want to come back again. Where do nonprofits learn how to do that?
Andrew: When you sign onto a nonprofit, a lot of them will bring you up to their head office for two or three days and spend the money on training you. Do they train you that deep into something? I don’t know. I know they have always said, “We will spend the hour in this training session on nonprofit events.” This is how our checklist goes for these types of events. Sometimes the checklists are, “Make sure you have all the tee signs, food donated, beverages donated, golf shirts done.” But it doesn’t dive into sponsors, making sure you have logos, pin flags. Did somebody order the pin flags? Sometimes with those title sponsors, you put so much in it to sell it, but you have to make sure that you have it all. If you miss that one thing, that one thing, and it could be the flower arrangements on the table with a logo on a band wrapped around it, if you don’t have it, they will call you out on it.
Hugh: That casts the negative cloud over the value they have received. I didn’t get that. It supersedes other values sometimes, doesn’t it?
Andrew: The small, little thing can ruin the rest of the year of getting money from them. The smallest detail. For example, if you print a sign, I know it’s hard to do, but making sure that you have that email approval from the marketing person, “This is the correct logo for the sign. We don’t like to use a vertical logo. We like to use a horizontal logo on print. The vertical is more for social and TV.” If you put the vertical logo on print in the program, on a banner sign, on the stockboard sign, and the tee sign, and their CEO sees it, the CEO will go to the brand manager and go, “Why are they using that logo?” They will go, “Uh…” You are causing problems for them. They will remember that when you come back and ask them for more money.
Hugh: Russell, what is bubbling up there?
Russell: This conversation is around a value for value exchange and who wants what. That is going to take some education on both sides of the equation. To have an idea of what we want out of our cause-based marketing dollars for the company, and how can we provide value to the business on the nonprofit side. Those conversations are crucial. Sometimes it takes more than one. Certainly if you have somebody who is ready to go and that’s clear. That happens by homework. I think a business, like a nonprofit, has to think about what would be a good fit, and how they want to capture value so that when they have this conversation, when they sit down, everybody’s clear on what they want. This is how you determine if it’s a good fit. Then you can cross all the t’s and dot all the I’s.
Hugh: Andrew, is there a source where people can- You said the marketing person is typically an underpaid, overworked person. That is also true of the nonprofit executive director.
Andrew: That’s true in all nonprofit levels from bookkeeper to development directors to event people to vice presidents to executive directors. All of them. Even the presidents of nonprofits, some of them, too. Sometimes, streamlining your communications. I always believe nonprofits using templates that were easy to fill in, easy for people to check off, to forms. If you had a sponsor sign up for an event, you would send them back a form: “Here are the 10 things I need from you. Please send them to me when you can. You can send them back to me in this email. I don’t care if you overload my email. Just send them to me so that we have them.” That can be their logo, their half-page ad, their foursome, and so forth. Getting all that information in one shot instead of saying, “I will send you an email tomorrow asking for your logo.” Two days later: “I need to get your program ad.” Now I need to get this. It becomes a lot of work because now you have all these emails coming back and forth, logos coming back and forth. There is more chance of a mess-up. You don’t want that. From the logo being wrong at an event, to you don’t want your CEO checking in at an event and them going, “You’re not on our list.” They are the guy who gave you $50,000 and owns this company. The person at the check-in is usually a volunteer who doesn’t know what you have gone through and what you deal with. They are the first line of defense to get a fight from the CEO who is going, “My name is Bob Smith. This is the Smith Brothers Gala. I am Smith.” The person goes, “Okay. Hold on. You’re still not on my list.” They are radioing someone. Not only the marketing person from the Smith Company, but the marketing person from the nonprofit is sorry. Now you have the CEO upset as soon as you walk in the door. Just making sure you have crossed your t’s and dotted your I’s for every little thing. I’m talking from nametags and name spellings to the logo not being right to the CEO’s name not being on the list.
Hugh: Those are dealbreakers, aren’t they?
Andrew: Everybody doesn’t think about them. If you don’t have a nametag with the CEO’s name on it because maybe you didn’t think he was coming? Print it anyway. When he shows up and goes, “I didn’t tell anybody I was coming. Do you have a nametag for me?” That’s pretty impressive. Those little things matter. If you’re at a golf tournament and the CEO says, “Hey, I can’t make it,” but then at the twelfth hour, somebody calls you and says, “Hey, the CEO is in town. Any chance he can get out there and play golf or go to the gala?” You find a way to get a table out there or put a golf foursome together, and you find four people to play with him. Or you say, “I don’t have a foursome. Invite three people.” No problem. We will fill it with good people to play with. He will remember that more than he will remember if he was on the list, already there, at meetings, and so forth. He’ll know you bent over backwards. He’ll thank you at the end. As soon as you get that thank you, “I really appreciate all your support. Would love the idea of you being a part of this next year.” “You know what, Andrew? We’ll be a part of it.”
Hugh: I guess you could summarize that as building goodwill.
Andrew: It is.
Hugh: There is so many little things. You have these people, the marketing person and the person who is handling the sponsorship at the nonprofit. They are both stressed and overworked and maybe they are wearing too many hats. The development person might be running the golf tournament, so they are spread thin. There really needs to be some way to pay attention to these details on the nonprofit side. Russell, what do you think? You worked on the inside of a reservation for years doing funding. Did you work out some systems that were helpful?
Russell: It is. What Andrew is talking about is it’s easy to access and understand how to use tools that keep everybody on track. What I find if a system is complicated, people aren’t going to use it. A confused mind always says no. It’s important to have that understanding of what you want out of that type of thing and deciding what does a good value exchange look like on the side of the business? What are the things that we want? Nonprofits have to understand the types of ways they can provide value that are in line with the company’s wants. It can be a learning process. It’s every bit as difficult, if not more so, to figure out how you will deploy that money when you are writing a check as it is to get a check, or some other type of service. Is it a media sponsorship? What type of arrangement is it? Many things to think through. Having good customer service is something that needs to be thought through all the way around. That’s been the experience I’ve had. Sometimes they work, and other times they don’t. It’s critical to look at all of these relationships.
Andrew: I think going back with Russell on relationships, it’s true. Your big thing is your executive director is the face of your nonprofit. They are the person that everybody knows. When your executive director gets to your event, she might not know all the people you have been dealing with, all the bigwigs. The best thing you can do for them, and I have done this for a few events, is you create a lookbook, which has the CEO’s picture, and other people that you know are going to be there, their name, their title, and maybe a blurb about them, “has two kids, big Florida State fan, or big Miami Hurricanes fan,” so that the director has that in her back pocket. Oh, that’s Bob Smith. She walks up, “Bob, hi, I’m Andrew. Pleasure to meet you. We both went to Miami.” That is better than them walking around going, “Hey, can you introduce me to this person? I don’t know who that is. Who is the big sponsor?” They know going into the event who they need to sit and talk to.
Hugh: That’s brilliant. I’m thinking through this. What do you call that book? A flip book?
Andrew: A flipbook or a lookbook. A thing that has a headshot. Everybody can get their headshots and information online. Create a Word document, put them all there, and print it out.
Hugh: Who makes it? Who is it for?
Andrew: The nonprofit development director or an intern with the nonprofit spends two to three hours to make that lookbook, and that will in turn make you more money in the end. Even if you give it to the people at the front, who are standing there greeting people. Can you imagine being the CEO of a company and you have a volunteer at the front door welcoming people, and he sees someone get out of the car, goes, “Oh, that’s Bob Smith. He’s the CEO. He’s a good guy.” Closes the book, puts it away. “Hi, Mr. Smith. Thank you so much for being a big part of this event. We really appreciate it.” One, he will be caught off guard, and two, he’ll be like, Wow. They did their work. This is an organization that we should be a part of.
Hugh: That tip is worth its weight in gold. That happened to me recently at an event. I said, “Hi, I’m Hugh.” They said, “I know who you are. Thank you for being here. This is where you need to be. Here’s your nametag. Let me take you over. They’re waiting for you.”
Andrew: Hugh, sorry to interrupt you. You’ll never forget that.
Hugh: You got it. That made me feel like I was important. They thought I was important, so I was important. You might be the president of a company, and you don’t want to go somewhere where you signed a check and authorized a check that was substantial and people don’t have a clue who you are. That’s bad leadership on the side of the nonprofit.
We’re talking about installing good business principles into the nonprofit that you run. It is a tax-exempt business. We got to generate more money than we spend. It’s cash that we then repurpose for the work of giving impact that we want to do for humanity. You made these books. The word we haven’t said yet is for volunteers, staff and volunteers. We are working together on this golf tournament in Florida. I say working together; you’re the one carrying the weight. I’m helping them figure out their leadership. This is helpful for me to figure out how to support them in the things they need to think about. We also connected with a university in the area who has college golf and volunteers. One of the big success factors, and you work with rotaries, too. I am a Rotarian; here is my rotary thing. Russell is an optimist. There is real value in people that are anchored with common values and common purpose and common passion coming together. Talk about the empowerment/engagement of volunteers if you will for a minute.
Andrew: I think volunteers, if you run a nonprofit or you’re part of a nonprofit or are doing an event for a nonprofit, and you think you can do this event without volunteers, find a new line of work. If you think you can run an event by yourself, I don’t care if it’s a restaurant networking thing, have two or three volunteers there. Most of the time, those volunteers know your nonprofit, are effected by what your research is, sell your nonprofit. If you’re with the American Cancer Society, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, having a patient there who lives and breathes it. You live and breathe it. But you might not be affected by it. If you had a family member affected by it, great. Having someone there as a volunteer means more in gold to anybody than anything else in the world. They will work harder than anybody else. If you have ever been to an event, you have your five employees from the nonprofit and 25 volunteers. Those 25 volunteers are running laps around your five employees because your five employees need to spend the time talking to the donors. They need to be out there schmoozing, talking. They don’t have time to sit at the registration table, welcoming them. They don’t have the time to sit there. They need to be worried about the event being amazing and not the stuff that is the face-to-face communication of checking somebody in, to getting a goody bag, to making sure they have water in their golf cart, to making sure they have their nametag on. It’s not their job at an event. That’s why you have volunteers. If you think you can do an event without volunteers, you’re wrong.
Hugh: We call them servant leaders in our work. We give them an assignment. I like to point out that we are talking about golf tournaments, but I ran a road race two weeks ago and one a month ago in San Diego and Lynchburg. We had one of the highest concentrations of elite runners because it was such a tough course. It was a mile downhill and then some uphill. There was one volunteer for every four runners. There were 1,000 volunteers. Having people lined up every four or five feet along the median, because we were running along the four-mile race, and the 10-milers had been out and were coming back. They were between us. They had these signs and were giving us high fives. I was really impressed at the engagement level of every volunteer. When you are talking about empowering the volunteers, there is a whole program there to nurture and to train. Russ was nodding his head, and I think I cut you off, Russ.
Russell: Our good friend Danna Olivo works with donors. One thing she talks about that is critical across the spectrum, and the sacred thing business owners and nonprofits want to do, is we want to create an experience for all the people involved with us. When you create an experience for people, they want to stick with you. What is that experience built upon? It depends on what the individual volunteers and donors and supporters want out of it. The more that you can understand these things, the more value you can provide on all sides.
Andrew: The volunteers who have come out, I was just part of an event with the Special Olympics. Some people don’t know what the nonprofit is. Some people know what Special Olympics is, but some people might not have a clue what cystic fibrosis is. To talk to somebody, a volunteer who either has a family member with it or who has it, is what needs to happen. I don’t have it. I don’t have a family member who has it. But I was able to tell you what cystic fibrosis is. Me telling you from what it is, but hearing it from a nine-year-old who has it who is volunteering is more impactful to a donor. That is where your volunteers are.
In high schools and colleges, and maybe even middle schools, students need volunteer hours to graduate. If you get along with the sororities and fraternities inside of colleges, I can’t remember the sorority for cystic fibrosis, but you call up that local chapter in that city and say, “We’re doing an event. Anyone who can come up?” “Oh yeah, we’ll send you 25. What day is the event?” They dedicated their sorority to that charity, and they need the volunteer hours. It’s doing the research. We have the ability now with social media that you can put an ask out. “Need volunteers for this event. Who is willing to help?” And then people share it. You have the capabilities now more than we had 15 years ago. Finding volunteers 15 years ago was dialing on the phone and sending mail letters. Now it’s a lot easier.
Hugh: That’s neat. There has been lots of helpful information here. When I met you, I knew you were smart, but you have gone to a different level of usefulness and helpfulness in this conversation.
*Sponsor message from Rock Paper Simple*
Andrew, what is a thought you’d like to leave people with as we wrap up this really great interview?
Andrew: I think if you are on the nonprofit side of things, you get excitement when you get that sponsor. Step back, take your time, understand the event that you want, envision the event that you want in the end. Know that if you have a perfect event what it looks like, and find those people from volunteers to donors to sponsors to people in your office who will make sure that event is what you want. On the side of corporations, same concept. Find the events you believe will give you the biggest ROI, no matter what dollar amount you’re spending or where it’s coming from.
Russell: Great stuff. It’s all about relationship building and creating an experience. Andrew, you’re brilliant. I’d like to have a conversation with you again sometime in the future. There are dollars floating around. You might be the person for folks to talk to to figure out how to deploy them so they create more impact and do more good. I’d like to thank all of our listeners wherever they are. Thanks to Rock Paper Simple for helping us get the message out.