The Nonprofit Exchange Podcast

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Stop selling ice to Eskimos! Give sponsors what they really need!

Let me show you how to increase event profits by turning your experiential event photography from an expense to be paid into an asset to be sold! If your EEP (that tired Photo Booth in the back) isn’t a vibrant, vital front-line asset that showcases your guests, highlights your sponsors, and expands your social reach while generating additional income for your non-profit, you are doing it WRONG! Let me expand your ideas concerning EEP’s and how to identify best practices for your events.

Randy Long

Randy Long

is the owner of The Pix Squad, a professional event photography company specializing in corporate gatherings, golf outings, and charity galas. The Pix Squad’s Mobile Pix Cart has turned golf photography upside down and is welcomed by PGA, LPGA, and PGA Canada tournaments as well as hundreds of local tournaments. The Mobile Pix Cart led The Pix Squad to work with 24 pro sports figures such as Von Miller, Ron Jaworski, Patrick Williams, and Darren Waller, further bolstering their fundraising galas and events coast to coast, creating a measurable increase in philanthropic donations through the heightened level of entertainment they provide. With a degree in theatre and extensive event management experience, Randy and his Squad leveraged that experience to produce jaw-dropping photo experiences to increase sponsorship income and extend social reach. Randy was first a small-town newspaper reporter/photographer who translated his experience into opportunity when he took a side gig as a mall Santa to pay for his family’s holiday spending. Frustrated with the experience, Randy created Santa Magic (shopping center Santa/Easter Photo) and later The Pix Squad. Huge corporate clients like Microsoft, United Way, Bell Bank, and Great Clips, have also used The Pix Squad to increase brand awareness, corporate goodwill, or employee engagement at their events. One of Randy’s proudest accomplishments as a business owner is his Squad Members who often get job offers from Pix Squad clients due to their enthusiasm and work ethic.

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The Interview Transcript

0:02 – Hugh Ballou Welcome to the Nonprofit Exchange. This is Hugh Ballou, founder and president of Center Vision Leadership Foundation, where we help leaders create synergy with a powerful vision. You pull your team together like a conductor pulls an orchestra or choir together. I have the co-host with me today, David Dunworth, chair of the board of Center Vision Leadership Foundation. We host a community of nonprofit leaders around the world.

0:29 – Hugh Ballou You can check us out at, We have a great time every Tuesday interviewing an influencer. And today is no exception. We’re going to have fun. We’re going to create some good ideas. There are some paradigms that you might not have thought of before. My guest is Randy Long from North Dakota. And Randy, tell people a little bit about who you are what you do, and your passion for doing that.

0:58 – Randy Long Fantastic. Thanks for having me, first off. Yes, I am from Fargo, North Dakota. Oh, I can sure put on that accent if you want me to. But not many people actually talk like that. Our passion is… We work with primarily about 70% of nonprofits, and really our passion is trying to help them raise more money for their foundations. We go coast to coast.

1:23 – Randy Long Thursday I’ll be in Detroit, Michigan. Just got back from Texas and Arizona.

1:31 – Randy Long Think about us as event photographers utilizing photo booth technology, but in a way that really accentuates and helps to elevate your events and gives you another opportunity to sell a sponsorship rather than just saying, oh, the photo booth is just another expense I have to pay. I might as well just have a phone there. We really create some unique experiences, which elevate the experience for the guest and also provide that additional sponsorship opportunity.

2:02 – Randy Long Our goal for all of our clients is that our nonprofit clients is that they get more money in sponsorship for us than we actually charge them so that we are an asset to be sold and not an expense to be paid.

2:14 – Hugh Ballou That’s a paradigm shift, Randy. We teach non-profits they are in fact a business. You’re not focused on profits, it’s not a for-profit enterprise, it’s a for-purpose enterprise, and the purpose has to be driven by excess revenue. We can call it profit, we can call it proceeds, whatever. But we have to get out of this scarcity mindset. And what you just helped was a paradigm shift from expense to benefit, expense to resource, expense to asset.

2:47 – Hugh Ballou You put a little money up but will you leverage that money in creating another stream of revenue? And so, that’s tempting us to think in a very different way. Now, you and I got to visit a minute before we started and I have a background of photography way back when we used that thing called film. Way back. And you had to hold your fingers crossed to see how that came out when you developed it. But I’ve been to events where there’s been this kind of thing.

3:14 – Hugh Ballou And I’ve said, you know, they could do, they could do, they could do. And I’m just surmising there’s a whole lot of other functionality to this. So if you want to create a, let’s call it a vibrant activation. I think you said that word. If you want to create that at your event, what’s the first step?

3:34 – Randy Long Really look at what their event is, what is the theme to the event. We don’t want to come in with a Hawaiian event.

3:46 – Randy Long you know, to something that’s not a Hawaiian event. It’s been a long couple of days here. But so we match their themes so that it’s cohesive. We work with their graphics people to make sure that our product matches their event. And so we don’t have any templates or anything like that. And so it’s a cohesive look between what they see on their program and up on signage to everything that we produce. And then we really try and just create a fun atmosphere, whether it be – like last week we did an event for Rebuilding Together here in Fargo-Moorhead.

4:25 – Randy Long And they had a surf kind of a hang ten vibe to it. And so we put everybody on a surfboard digitally. People had a blast with it. We had a 360 overhead experience and we gave them a surfboard to kind of play around with there. And once people have fun. At their event, they’re more likely to raise more money. So not only do they have the opportunity to sell that as a sponsorship, but it’s also kind of a social lubricant without getting them too drunk where they don’t know what they’re doing.

5:04 – Randy Long But as soon as they have a really great time, what’s an extra hundred bucks? I had a great time. I’m going to throw an extra hundred bucks in the kitty, whether it be for the silent auction item or the live auction item or just, you know, hey, we’ll fund a need and sure, I’ll give $500.

5:21 – Hugh Ballou So Randy, since our board chair is here, David, I need to make sure that I state publicly that we’re in compliance. This is not an editorial. We don’t get anything out of this. We’re not promoting a product or service. But you are an expert in your field, and you know some stuff that we need to know. So we can’t talk about this without talking about your business. So I just want to be clear that we’re not selling anything, but we’re interviewing an expert who does stuff that most of us never thought about doing.

5:47 – Hugh Ballou What do you think about that, David?

5:48 – David Dunworth Well, you know, you’re right. And I’ve been to a lot of events. I’ve hosted a lot of events. And, you know, oftentimes the people putting it together are in that mindset of, another expense as opposed to an activity that might add to it. What does PICSquad really bring to an event beyond what you’ve just described? Do you have any more words that can share what sparks the activity within that organization’s event?

6:23 – Randy Long First off, professionalism. Right now I’m kind of in my work mode right now. But all of our companies that I like working with, whether I white label them out, which is like if I get quadruple books or something like that, I have no other units. I’ll call up another photo booth company. I’ll say, hey, I need you to be here, and I’m going to white label it to you. But one thing we require is that they wear the pick squad shirts and that people wear nice things, that they look professional at your event, number one.

6:58 – Randy Long Number two, we hire creative people that are outgoing. You’re not going to have someone sitting there going, step right up there, push the button. You know, we’re coming up. Come on. Hey, come on, guys. You can step right up. It’s picture time. Come on. Stand right over there. OK, looking right up here. Big smile. Oh, come on. Don’t put the baby in a corner. Come on. Step right up here. Have a great time.

7:21 – Randy Long Dance a little bit if you’re doing a video or gift or things like that. So we really kind of

7:29 – Randy Long help along the fun, fun facilitators is what I was trying to come out with. And in doing that, then people, like I said, people have more fun. So process for us is also paramount. If we can We do a lot of VIP meet and greets where if we’re at an event with a VIP, we’ve got 31 pro sports figures as clients and a lot of times we’ll do VIP meet and greets. We actually did a couple of political ones this last month.

8:04 – Randy Long And I think we did 120 people in about 20 minutes. In doing that, we brought extra staff, and extra equipment, so that everybody stepped up, took their picture, and moved on with it. And that process really helps to make sure that it doesn’t bog down, the people aren’t waiting too long, and they get everything that they need in a timely manner.

8:30 – David Dunworth Okay, so sort of like the experiences that I’ve seen on cruise ships where there’s a might be a set place for a picture, but they’re also around doing candid shots and all that kind of stuff. Is that getting involved with the crowd?

8:46 – Randy Long Yes. Yeah. We, we also provide a can of photography and, uh, uh, AI, uh, we’ve got some candid photography and then we have AI, uh, power-driven photography where, um, we can actually have the people, uh, sign up and ahead of time. And whenever we take a picture of AI, we’ll deliver it right to their phones. It’ll basically recognize them. And, um, and those pictures are branded. Um, it gets delivered on a microsite, which is, uh, um, a microsite is another probably Everybody gets confused.

9:18 – Randy Long I say it’s a pre-programmed communication that delivers the digital assets to your guests. And it’s another opportunity for you to give more value to your sponsorship. So not only are they getting the logo on the picture and the printed picture, but we’re big about printed pictures. Everybody says that prints are dead, but they’re not. Whether we’re in California, New York, Texas, Florida, you name it, people love having that physical printed picture.

9:45 – Randy Long They put it up on their wall and they remember that. But then it also gets delivered to their phones via text message, most likely. And then they spread that out. But that microsite makes it look pretty, number one. And also, you can communicate the cause of it. We do about, I think this year we’ll do about 168 golf tournaments. And a lot of- We’ve got the world’s only photo booth on a golf cart. And a lot of times, in golf tournaments, one or two people may have paid for the foursome, or the company did, and the other people in the group really haven’t paid anything.

10:25 – Randy Long We come along. We take their picture. It gets handed to them in print form and then gets sent to their phone. They may have not paid anything. Maybe they bought some fruit by foot to decrease the number of putts that they have, or they bought a mulligan. They get home and they look at that picture and they go, oh, we’re helping to raise money for a canine dog for veterans. And I had a day off of fun and drinking and food and I didn’t pay anything.

10:55 – Randy Long Well, I guess I better use this Donate Now button to donate some money so we can increase revenue that way. And then also then that logo on the bottom side of that. There are three elements to our microsites, the header, the foot, the top portion, and the bottom portion. So what do you think about that, Hugh?

11:15 – Hugh Ballou That’s brilliant.

11:18 – Hugh Ballou This fundraising stuff, we suck at it. Suck is halfway to success. We get stuck on the first part of that. We need to go to the rest of it. So, what you’re defining is what we talk about a lot is multiple streams of revenue. And this is earned income. And also, this is two of them. Well, it’s actually three. It’s enhancing and encouraging more donations, which is the backbone of our nonprofit. It’s giving leverage for a sponsor, which isn’t donation money.

11:50 – Hugh Ballou It’s not philanthropy. It’s marketing money. They want to see their image, and their logo in people’s hands. They want to see it places. So that’s an incentive for a sponsor. And then it’s just, it’s just a, so the donate button, the sponsorship, and then the pay per picture they buy the, so there’s earned revenue there. So talk about this whole sponsorship thing. How do you approach a sponsor? How do you present it?

12:15 – Hugh Ballou And what’s the win-win for, both the organization and the company that’s sponsoring?

12:22 – Randy Long I think they want their logo in people’s hands in front of their eyeballs. Let’s take golf for instance. Even the biggest, you’ve heard of Joe Burrow, correct?

12:34 – Randy Long Cincinnati quarterback, we’re going to be doing his golf tournament coming up at the end of the month. And it’s a larger tournament. There’s a reason why he brought that guy up. And so he’ll have one of the bigger tournaments that we do, and they’ll have maybe 400 or 500 people that will get to see a whole sponsorship, which is a very traditional sponsorship opportunity for golf tournaments. Well, our golf photos, we keep track of it.

13:03 – Randy Long We keep track of the online activity. And then we kind of estimate that every print is going to be seen by about, I think, four or five people. So we all estimate that in there. And our average estimated social reach of our golf tournaments is 58,000 people. And so that goes well beyond the 19th hole.

13:25 – Randy Long So when you approach a sponsor, you’re going to say, okay, what do you want? Do you just want to give us money? Great. Love you. Love you to death. Do you want your logo seen by more than your competitor’s logo? Of course, I do. That’s one of the reasons why I’m doing it. I want you guys to succeed, but I want to succeed in the end. That’s what they all want. Well, let’s have you sponsor the photo part of it.

13:49 – Randy Long Because we’ve got this great service, and we’re going to get you in front of it, on average, between 58,000 eyeballs. So we just did one in Texas about a month ago, and on day four, they had 128,000 people view their photos.

14:10 – David Dunworth That’s pretty impressive.

14:11 – Randy Long Yeah.

14:12 – David Dunworth That’s pretty impressive.

14:14 – Hugh Ballou Let me do a tag-on to that question.

14:19 – Hugh Ballou Another thing we don’t do well is toot our own horn about what we’re doing. So you’re creating publicity for the sponsor, but you know what? We don’t create enough publicity for all the good we’re doing, the good time people had, and all of that stuff. So what you’re actually doing with that social media reach, which is pretty substantial, That’s getting a lot of eyeballs on what you’re doing. So, there’s an inherent piece there that you help people and they can put the pictures on their website too, can’t they?

14:50 – Randy Long Yes, yes, we deliver the content to the client afterward. And I’m glad you brought that up. I didn’t, I meant to bring it up and then just went off on a tangent like I do sometimes. But yeah, it helps you control what gets out there and the quality of what gets out there. We had one client last year, they do a fashion show and every year I think we donate, last year I think we donated about $140,000 worth of our services.

15:18 – Randy Long And so we help nonprofits all the time. And this was about our fourth time doing it. And they said, yeah, you know, we’ve got someone who, they had a wedding and so they kind of have their own kind of little photo booth and we’re just going to bypass the expense. And oh my Lanta, it was, I talked to him afterward. I said, is this really how you want your event to look? You’re a billion-dollar bank that sponsors this, and your name is on pictures that, quite frankly, look horrible.

15:48 – Randy Long They’re horrible. And so if that’s the way you want to be presented, that’s fine. But just know that you can do something. And it’s going to cost you, but you do more with marketing than most people. And the couple thousand dollars that we were going to charge you for this pales in comparison to having your name associated with these pictures.

16:08 – Hugh Ballou It was a quality thing there, David, isn’t it?

16:11 – David Dunworth Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’ve touched on a really good point there. You know what, let’s just say I’m holding an event and it’s a first-time event for me and we’re a burgeoning little organization and I want to get out and ask for sponsors and that sort of thing. What should I be telling them? What should I be talking about? How do I approach them with sponsorship for your particular service or services like yours?

16:46 – Randy Long Number One is the way to help the nonprofit, bar and above. You can’t promise anything beyond that for them. Because if all they want is advertising, they’re never going to be happy. So you want someone who is mission positive with you, they’re lockstep with you, but then really present them with the idea that this is going to give you a lot of visibility. You know, and we’ve hired professionals. Your logo is going to be well-represented.

17:16 – Randy Long Our brand is going to be well represented. And we’re going to get you out in front of as many people as we can. And a table, you know, your name on a table is going to be at the end of the night. You know, the work crew is going to take it down. They’re going to throw away the sign and you might take pictures with it. You might not. But for the most part, it goes away. You know, having up on our video screens, that’s going to go away.

17:43 – Randy Long But these things are going to be brought back, they’re going to be shown at Family, if it’s a fun enough activation, they’re going to show them in the 360 you know, having fun. And that is really where the value proposition goes for your sponsorships.

18:00 – Hugh Ballou So give us some examples. You talk about there’s an alignment with the mission. There are some companies we don’t want to be associated with their brand. And then I do believe that most companies don’t know how to maximize their nonprofit sponsorships to their benefit. So I think before we start selling, maybe we ought to ask some questions about, you know, what are their values? What’s their mission? What’s their audience?

18:29 – Hugh Ballou What are some questions that we need for these local potential sponsors? What are some of the probing questions that we can ask so we can see if it’s a good match for us?

18:41 – Randy Long Ask them what their corporate values are. Are you family-centered? Are you centered around, do you have a strong relationship with the military? Do you have a strong relationship with the homeless?

18:56 – Randy Long Do you, you know, of all, you know, one of the nonprofits that we work with is Von Miller’s, Von’s Vision. And he’s all about eyeglasses. Do you guys follow the sports at all? Oh, many times. Many times. Okay. Von Miller’s a Super Bowl MVP and a genuinely great human being. And, um, uh, when he was young, um, he couldn’t see. And so they thought that he was a, um, a child who was not very bright. Uh, the lions came along, gave him glasses and Vaughn is a brilliant human being.

19:33 – Randy Long Um, and, uh, he has eye problems. And so what he does now is he raises money for, um, for vision. So anybody who’s along that, if you want to help people succeed in education if you want to help people just improve their life and the fact that they can read without stressing themselves out because their eyesight is poor and they can’t afford that vision. Whether it be the medical exam or the eyeglasses, that would be a good fit for them.

20:07 – Randy Long We worked with Darren Waller, who is an NFL tight end for the New York Giants. And he is an addict. He admits that he’s an addict. He works at it every day. And he raises money to, uh, and he’s, he’s been clean for many, many years now. And, um, and so he raises money to help people, um, pay for in-house counseling. Um, cause it’s a huge expense. So he gives away $15,000 at a time. And, uh, and so anybody who’s involved with that, whether it be, uh, lowering crime, uh, lowering poverty, uh, levels, because they’re too strung out and they can’t get a job.

20:48 – Randy Long You need to help elevate those people, get rid of their addiction. It is a disease, it’s not a social thing, it’s not a conscious thing, it’s a disease that people have, whether it be alcohol or drugs or anything like that, and he helps them out there. So you might want to ask, you know, where’s your, where’s a focus for you on that? You know, uh, if, are you aligned with that? If not, we’ve got other places for you, you know, thank you very much.

21:13 – Randy Long We’d love to have you, but just know that this is, you know, because if, if you’ve got disjointed sponsors, you know, if you’ve got, you know, he’s out in Vegas a lot, you know, we don’t want the, the local dispensary coming in. Hey, we support the Darren Waller foundation.

21:30 – David Dunworth No, Yeah, sure, sure, sure.

21:35 – Hugh Ballou That’s a lot of things that sometimes we don’t think about the laughter effect. So, David, I want to show something really impressive here. It’s his website. What do you think of that?

21:44 – David Dunworth Well, it certainly jumps right out at you, doesn’t it? Join our party. Tell us all about it. You know what? What does it take? Let’s go back to my fictional event. Um, at what point do we say, hey, you know what, we’d like to see, um, the pick squad at our event. What would it, you know, what do we, we need, what kind of hurdles do we need to jump?

22:11 – Randy Long You know, first off, hop on the website. I believe I’ve got some contact information. Our website, I love that you’re there. We are working on it. We don’t do much for weddings. Most of ours is golf galas and gatherings. And contact us. We’ll send you out a questionnaire that will really ask what is the purpose of your event. When is the event? What are your goals for the event? And if we feel that we can add to that, We’ll send you out a quote.

22:41 – Randy Long If you come back and say, hey, I’ve got work with, $500 and you’re asking for $5,000, might suggest something different.

22:54 – Randy Long But we just have to really, like you were talking about, making sure that the sponsors fit the event, we have to fit our our events as well. We do small events. We do large events. We just have to make sure that everybody is in alignment and in agreeance with fees and everything else like that. That being said, we do work with lots of nonprofits and we put them kind of on a step program. We tell our clients, Do not, when we send you a quote, we’re going to send you the full boat, okay?

23:26 – Randy Long And let us be the determiner of how much money we want to discount you, okay? We eventually want you to be at full price because we’ve got bills to pay and bread to pay and wages and everything else like that.

23:40 – Randy Long But for instance, the one at the upper left-hand corner, that one right there, It was part of a simple activation. That was a local nonprofit and they first started off and they had about $750 to work with. And so we gave them about $5,000 worth.

24:05 – Randy Long the first couple of years. And now they actually make more money off of us than we charge them. And I think that’s about a $10,000 bill. It’s a huge event. They raise almost half a million dollars in one night to help people get through. It’s the Great North Pole in Fargo.

24:26 – Randy Long But that was one that we really kind of stepped with them. They said, you know, Hey, we’ve got, we’ve got 750 bucks. It’s all we can do Randy. And I didn’t have anything on that night that year. And so we just kept on, they loved it. And then the next year they got a bigger sponsor. And then the next year, we kept on keeping track of everything. And eventually got to the point when we walked in and we said, you know, Hey, your bill is $10,000 in, uh, I can still donate about two, you know, and they said, nope, no problem.

24:57 – Randy Long No problem. We got sponsorship for you. We’re covered and we’ve made money on you and away we go.

25:02 – Hugh Ballou Well, and you’re actually teaching people how to do this. And typically, we don’t like to talk about money with people. And typically, we aren’t really sure what the value proposition is. So those you’re actually teaching us what to do. I’ll just point out for people listening on the podcast, you can’t see what we’re talking about, but we’re at V-T-H-E PIX, P-I-X.

25:24 – Unidentified Speaker You can see it there. If you listen to, you can go to anywhere that has podcasts and get it. You can watch it at You can find us there. Now, Randy’s bold. He puts his email and his phone number on his website, so you know how to contact him. So, Randy, what’s a closing thought you’d like to leave people with? Well, I started with the question about stop selling ice to Eskimos and give the sponsors what they really need, and they need exposure.

26:02 – Unidentified Speaker The non-profits need sponsorship to help monetize their events, to spread the good work that they do, and whether you use the pick squad or whatever local photo booth company that you may work with, make sure a couple of things. Number one, that you’re dealing with professionals, that they know what they’re doing. There are a lot of photo booth companies out there, a lot of great ones, but you’re gonna want them to show up and be specific with it.

26:32 – Unidentified Speaker Say, hey, this is a black tie event. We want you guys in nice pants, at the very least polo shirts, and nice shoes and well-groomed and everything like that. And this is the kind of quality we want. If you don’t really care about quality, iPad photo booths are just fine, but DSLR photo booths are much better quality. And I feel they do a better job of capturing things. And just align yourself, your event, with the company that you choose.

27:12 – Unidentified Speaker And it may not be the cheapest one, and more than likely it’s not going to be. The cheapest one’s going to be the one that you call back and go, Why did I do this? We want you to be able to pay that, put some money in your coffers, and say, I can’t wait for next year, and can’t wait for what you do. We’ve got one that we’ve done for five years. It’s a fix-it-forward. They fix up cars for people who can’t afford cars, and then gift them to them, which is a huge thing, especially in Fargo-Moorhead.

27:45 – Unidentified Speaker We’ve got public transportation, but it’s not everywhere. And so cars are very vital. And this last year, this year, they decided not to have us at another event. One of the people involved with it said, Oh, can’t wait to see you next week. I’m like, we’re not going to be there. Well, why not? Well, they chose to do something else and they didn’t know about it. So I imagine we’ll be back next year.

28:09 – Unidentified Speaker Love it, love it. So anticipation, excitement, and value. Look for value. Randy Long, you’ve certainly given us value today on the Nonprofit Exchange. Thank you for being our guest. Thank you very much for having me. Have a great day. You too.

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