Archive for November, 2013

26
Nov
13

Just two little words

Throughout the last couple weeks, my kids have been making cute turkeys. We made them in my daughter’s Daisy troop with pinecones and feathers. Then she made one at school and wrote for what and for whom she was thankful on each feather. Also at school, my boys wrote thank you poems and sang Thanksgiving songs.

It touches me to hear how thankful they are for simple things like pouring their cereal, or as my daughter wrote, “my brothers and drinks, like pop.”

Granted, as adults, our blessings may not be so black and white. But just think what a difference the words “thank you,” and the simple gestures that go with that phrase, could make in the lives of your customers.

O.K. So you’re not going to make pinecone turkeys or sing songs, but saying “thank you” can be as simple as a coupon, a Christmas card or, on a larger scale, a food drive.

Destination Michigan believes that giving back to the communities in which we hold our events is an integral part of the meeting experience,” said Kim Corcoran, general manager. “If you’ve been in this business long enough, you’ve seen ups and downs in the economy.  You realize that meetings are dependent on the economy surviving, innovating and saving.  So to be able to give back to those in need is a great way to showcase the ways that meeting professionals contribute and persist in today’s world.”

Food drive items

On Nov. 6, Destination Michigan held a food drive at its showcase, donating 425 pounds of food to the Greater Lansing Food Bank.

At its showcase on Nov. 6, Destination Michigan collected 425 pounds of food, which it donated to the Greater Lansing Food Bank. It asked each vendor to bring an item to donate as part of Destination Michigan’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.

According to Wikipedia, CSR is “a process with the aim to embrace responsibility for the company’s actions and encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere who may also be considered as stakeholders.”

In other words, it’s striving for social good. Making a difference. Giving back. Saying “thank you.”

Last week, I wrote about #GivingTuesday, which will occur on Dec. 3. And food drives are some of the most common ways in which companies will participate.

From food drives to volunteer opportunities to sponsorships, CSR is becoming an increasingly important factor when customers decide with whom to spend their money. Not to mention, it’s an incredibly effective way to advertise. One of the most popular places CSR shows up: Relay for Life events.

Each year, more than 4 million people in more than 20 countries participate in Relay for Life events, which has proven to be an incredibly powerful fundraising mechanism for the American Cancer Society. The opportunities for corporate sponsorships are endless: T-shirts, signs, giveaways, food.

What better way for your association or nonprofit to emphasize its commitment to CSR?

On June 7, Event Garde will be participating in the East Lansing Relay for Life event. Our team, Event Garde-ians, is looking for sponsors. Sponsorship amounts run from $100 to $15,000. For $1,000, Relay for Life will place a sign with your company logo on the track and on its corporate sponsorship banner.

Relay for LifeAs your organization budgets for community engagement and explores corporate sponsorship opportunities, I hope you’ll consider contributing to Event Garde-ians’ efforts to fight cancer. As a bonus, I’ll be writing about the companies, organizations and/or nonprofits that sponsor us, so we can help you say “thank you” to those who matter most.

In the meantime, Event Garde would like to thank you as we approach our two-year anniversary. As Thanksgiving approaches, we give thanks for all of you.

From Event Garde to you, Happy Thanksgiving!

19
Nov
13

A Tuesday ‘thank you’

GivingTuesdayEditor’s Note: As Thanksgiving approaches, we all start thinking about our blessings. So it seemed appropriate to dedicate this week’s blog post – and probably next week’s – to the topic of saying “thank you.” For next week, I’d like to write about how you thank your customers and/or give back to your community. So please drop me a quick note at Kristen@eventgarde.com!

But for now, one way to give back and say thanks: #GivingTuesday. This week’s guest blog post is from Kate Olsen, vice president of strategic projects for Network for Good, a technology platform that facilitates online fundraising and giveback opportunities. She tells us how your association/organization can participate in #GivingTuesday.

For more information, check out the #GivingTuesday Facebook page and the Twitter feed and use #GivingTuesday and @GivingTues.

Kate Olsen

Kate Olsen, vice president of strategic projects for Network for Good.

#GivingTuesday occurs on Dec. 3 this year and is an opportunity for companies, nonprofits and individuals alike to get involved for the greater good.

For those not in the know, #GivingTuesday is a campaign to add a national day of giving to the lineup of shopping days Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. It’s a prime opportunity for nonprofits and companies (and individuals) to collaborate for the greater good. Here are four steps to ensure your partnership’s success.

1.  Seek mission and values alignment.

There are many reasons to form cross-sector partnerships: promotion to a bigger audience, inspiration from new ideas and approaches and access to additional skills, more resources and knowledge. And there are also just as many reasons not to partner: Support can come with strings attached, lack of trust, conflicting goals and mission creep.

To ensure you create a winning partnership, take the time to make sure there’s a good fit between your mission and the corporate partner’s brand identity and goals.

Luna’s Pure Prevention campaign provides a great example of nonprofit-corporate alignment. As a provider of nutrition for active women, Luna teamed up with the Breast Cancer Fund to find and eliminate environmental and preventable causes of breast cancer—a major health issue for women. It just makes sense.

2. Leverage complementary assets.

Assets are any resources that you and your corporate partner bring to the table. In addition to funding, assets can include people, skills, audience reach, relationships and technology.

A partnership is not just about getting access to corporate philanthropic dollars: It’s about true collaboration. Think about what assets your nonprofit has that will be of value to a corporate partner, and vice versa.

You have invested in a brand, program portfolio, supporter base and other resources that will help make the partnership a success. Never discount what you bring to the table.

3. Design the right partnership architecture.

Thinking through the goals of the partnership and designing a measurable campaign will help ensure transparency and focus, especially if you use those measurements to tell stories with impact. How can you engage supporters in relevant and meaningful ways? How will you measure their participation and communicate results?

One framework to help structure the partnership is the ladder of engagement. Offer your audience multiple ways to participate with your partnership based on their level of passion and commitment to the cause.

The No Kid Hungry campaign, led by Share Our Strength, does a great job of offering multiple ways to take action: donate, advocate, sign a pledge, spread the word and raise money for your cause.

How can you offer a ladder of engagement for #GivingTuesday? First, understand where your supporters congregate online; then design calls to action that leverage those channels. Here are a few ideas:

  • #GivingTuesday Twitter chat (Encourage corporate sponsors to pledge $1 per tweet.)
  • Random Acts of Kindness Facebook campaign (Have supporters share acts they performed or  witnessed.)
  • Inspirational generosity pins on Pinterest (Have supporters share what generosity means to them.)
  • Kind deeds caught in the act on Instagram (Feature photos of generous acts and giving.)
  • Messages of hope and generosity on YouTube (Feature testimonials about how giving affected their lives.)

Network for Good 4. Measure and communicate accomplishments.

Evolving a partnership requires taking the time to understand where you’ve been, what you’ve accomplished and how you can keep improving. Communicating impact to partnership stakeholders is a vital piece of that process. It’s also important to communicate that to your donors, and never forget to say thank you!

If you need inspiration, just check out the A Day Made Better thank you video for a refresher on powerful storytelling and expressing gratitude. You can also see how Phoenix House recapped its 2012 #GivingTuesday campaign and closed the loop for campaign participants with a heartfelt response from program beneficiaries.

Remember: Corporate-cause partnerships are all about relationships, collaboration, execution and impact (and fun!).

12
Nov
13

Move over Fred Flintstone

George Jetson

George Jetson works in a futuristic office.

Remember the TV show, “The Jetsons?”  The funny robot housekeeper who talked back and the fancy buttons that made everything fly?

I loved it.

O.K. So maybe life won’t be that exciting 17 years from now. But I think George Jetson – or Hanna-Barbera I guess – was on to something.

Think about it. Seventeen years ago, I was in college, using dialup Internet to do research. There wasn’t Facebook or Twitter.  And I used the phone to talk, not text.

It’s amazing how far technology has come. So imagine what’s in store for the year 2030!

“Technology will specifically shape and challenge the meetings industry by 2030,” according to the German Convention Bureau. “The Internet, social media and mobile devices are the sources of this transformation.”

Recently, the bureau published, “Meetings and Conventions in 2020: A study of megatrends shaping our industry.” The study examines eight megatrends – globalization, demographic change, shortage of resources, urbanization, feminization and diversity, technology in work and life, sustainable development, mobility of the future and safety and security – to paint a picture of what the industry might look like in 2030.

I know what you’re thinking – it’s Germany, so why should I care? But Germany is second only to the U.S. as a meetings and conventions location, according to the bureau. And while it’s true that demographic trends may be different in Germany, issues such as technology and knowledge transfer apply globally.Techology

Obviously, I can’t write about all the trends here. But there are some key points of the study that are worth highlighting.

First, technology is a blessing and a curse. Infrastructure – meaning the venues that host conventions and meetings – will most likely change to accommodate more complex technology needs. As people become increasingly dependent on mobile news and social networking platforms, conference and event planners will look for facilities that are keeping pace. For instance, conference rooms will be better prepared for virtual speakers (i.e. webinars) and digital white boards. Of course, by 2030, who knows what fancy tools we’ll have? But one thing is for sure: Venues must follow the trends or they’ll lose business.

As we become an increasingly interconnected world, knowledge of other languages and cultures will be crucial, the study found. This means conference and event planners, caterers and wait staff may be expected to expand their global prowess. They may have to travel more. Learn a language. And adopt a love of lifelong learning. By 2030, these could be employer expectations,  rather than suggestions.

Along the same lines, the meetings and convention industry will gradually become more diverse, according to the study. And this means accommodating a variety of physical and social needs. An extreme example cited in the study: service robots in buildings. They may clean buildings, work security and help older guests get around.  Sort of like Rosie from the Jetsons.

The German study predicts by 2030 more older adults will attend meetings and conferences. People may work into their 70s by then, since retirement may one day become a financial luxury. So, the German Convention Bureau said the industry has to consider the needs of the older generation.

Fred Flintstone

Fred Flintstone

Another finding: Sustainability will become increasingly important. By 2030, environmental responsibility will soon be a top factor when businesses are choosing venues. In other words, certification systems (i.e. LEED certification) will be valuable, as will barrier-free accommodations.

The year 2030 may seem far away – as it did when we were kids watching “The Jetsons.” But as we parents know, time flies. So if you’re more like Fred Flintstone than George Jetson, get ready.

05
Nov
13

Stop spamming your members

internet_abuse_spamI’ve had the good fortune to work for and with associations my entire professional career. So it’s fair to say I understand and value association membership. That’s why I’m a card-carrying member of several professional societies. And while I join these organizations for very specific reasons (with very specific goals and outcomes in mind), it’s clear to me that at least one of them has no idea who I am.

Most of us have at least two email accounts that we check on a fairly regular basis, each receiving dozens (if not hundreds) of emails a day. That’s a lot to read and process. Recently, among a flurry of other emails (some important and some not) I received a communication inviting me to sponsor an upcoming event. There were a number of issues, however, with this specific ask:

  1. My consulting practice doesn’t align with the vendor categories they’re seeking for this event.
  2. The language that was used to describe sponsor ROI was both vague and unremarkable.
  3. The event topic is not relevant to my company’s mission.
  4. The list of sponsorship opportunities were presented as a menu rather than as a customized recommendation within my budget capabilities.
  5. Some of the benefits (e.g., complimentary registrations) were unusable given my company’s size limitations.

What it comes down to is this: the opportunity was not vetted for me. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon for this particular association. But I believe that similar practices occur in our organizations on a daily basis, as well. While we don’t intend to spam our members, these emails—poorly disguised as member outreach and relationship-building—are nothing more than disruptive commercial messages.

Every couple of days I receive similarly ineffective communications that do not align with my company’s goals and objectives. Is this because two years ago I crossed the aisle from association staff to industry partner?  Is the assumption that I’m hoarding bags of money like Ebenezer Scrooge? More importantly, is this the way we treat our suppliers – like bottomless piggy banks?

Or do association staff have a similar experience, replacing sponsorship inquiries with countless invitations to attend the latest and greatest professional development conferences that don’t align with their interest areas?

Assuming we can all agree this is a problem, let’s reflect for a moment on the solution. What can you do today to ensure you’re not spamming your members? Following are just a sampling of ideas:

  • Have a volunteer read and comment on major solicitation communications before they’re distributed.
  • Slow down and don’t just get something out for the sake of checking an item off your to-do list.
  • Mass customize your emails and other communications – gather more data about your members either in person or by survey and ensure they’re receiving opportunities that align with their individual needs and interests.
  • Deliberately schedule emails internally to ensure members are receiving only a certain number of communications a day/week/month.
  • Always include an opt-out option when sending mass emails.
  • Add a staff person to the distribution list to ensure quality control; this person should monitor communications with the member experience in mind and raise any concerns to improve future practice.
  • Know the preferred delivery methods of your members and send communications in that way, even if this means sending fewer pieces in several different formats.
  • Write compelling communications that clearly spell out your value proposition and give both members and sponsors the information they need to make informed decisions.
  • Strike a careful balance when crafting communications between professional and playful; use a voice that appeals to your target audience and fits the intended goals and objectives of the message.
  • Avoid faux personalization (e.g., masquerading an email with a mail merged name block as a personalized email). If the body of the email is too generic it will only undermine your message and the organization’s integrity.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of brevity.
  • Demonstrate ROI with post-event surveys, satisfaction/reach statistics and personal testimonials.

The bottom line is this: stop spamming your members. They’ll thank you for it. They only have so much time, money and patience – and would rather receive a few, hand-selected opportunities than every single communication your organization writes. It demonstrates you understand the uniqueness of each organization and increases your likelihood of a sale.

And, for the record, this goes for just about everything. My example specifically references sponsorship opportunities; however, we could just as easily have been talking about conference registrations. So, my question to you is this: Are you spamming your members? What policies have you instituted to stop or curtail this practice? What other effective marketing techniques might you add to this list?




meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, hot yoga, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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