How To: Plan for the Plan

I just got a survey in the mail from a nonprofit I donate to once or twice a year.  It says it’s an annual survey of all it’s close friends. It also specifically says that amid the current pandemic, my input is very important as “we attempt to navigate through some tough challenges.”

To me, this is a very smart move for this small nonprofit. Instead of guessing at what donors/volunteers want from their favorite nonprofit, they took the time to ask. Taking the time to ask and get feedback streamlines programs, fundraising strategies and marketing later on. It is a very efficient exercise to spend time on planning the plan now and then focusing on what the donor/volunteer/member wants throughout the year.

As we all search for the “new normal” it occurred to me that assuming we (the nonprofit leadership and staff) know what the “new normal” looks like for our donors and other stakeholders is dangerous to the recovery of the nonprofit sector. For example, assuming that your nonprofit should “press pause” on your fundraising annual plan or kicking off a new service or program without getting feedback from those who might support it would be detrimental to the staff who would run it, the participants who would use that program or service and the donors who are passionate about impacting their communities.

Create the time to “take the temperature” of your donors/volunteers and participants before forging ahead on a campaign or program that you think fits the current needs of your constituents. Here are some cost effective ways to implement collecting data and feedback:

  1. USPS- Much like the nonprofit mentioned, you can send a letter with a short (no more than 15 questions) survey. For best response, send a stamped envelope for the surveyor to send back and an option to fill out the survey online.
  2. Online Survey- Email an online survey to your constituents to fill out. With some online survey tools you can add a link to your social media platforms as well. Again, keep it short and simple. No more than 5 to 10 questions.
  3. Facebook Group Poll- Facebook give you the opportunity to poll members of your group. So if your nonprofit has a Facebook group set up, you can poll that audience one question at a time. This is an option for questions and answers that can be shared with anyone since there is no confidentiality.
  4. Face to Face Surveys and Focus Groups- With these types of survey environments, confidentiality can be provided and more in-depth and sensitive questions can be asked without the risk of ruffling feathers.

In all these instances it is important to uncover quality quantitative data and anecdotal evidence of the needs and direction the stakeholders would like to steer the nonprofit. Data that can set benchmarks and begin the goal setting process. Ancillary benefits typically bubble up from a survey process; volunteer leadership and support from unknown sources are uncovered. Unknown but perceived issues, strengths and weaknesses are also uncovered through asking for feedback.

So while we all start to open our businesses and nonprofits again we must take a pause to consider our new normal, learn from our supporters and move forward, together.

Have You Asked the Board?

I was sitting in on yet another virtual meeting a few weeks ago with two panelists who are working in nonprofit fundraising. The topic? You guessed it. The impact of fundraising during a pandemic. The panel was going over the shift in programs, communications and administration and the rapid change that’s had to happen. What stuck with me was that one organization was running so quickly to shift and change to abide by guidelines that they almost forgot to involve and do outreach to their Board of Directors.

At the time I remember being snarky in thinking, “What’s new?” But it got me thinking. Any time, but especially in a crisis, local to the organization or world-wide, continuously keeping your board involved and engaged will lead to higher rates of success. Nonprofits of any size have board members who are passionate and willing to support their cause. Other than staff, they represent the closest constituents to your organization so they should be well informed on how the nonprofit is moving forward through these uncertain times. So remember to include them when it seems appropriate.

Fundraising is not just about asking for money but starting and maintaining relationships with those who also care about the same cause. Here are three social distancing ways you can include your Board of Directors in fundraising:

  1. Educate your board of directors on how the organization has been impacted by the pandemic. Has the need for your services increased? Or decreased? Are you an essential nonprofit? Have you started new programs/services because of an increased demand? How has the pandemic impacted your ability to staff your nonprofit? Do you have anecdotes and stories you can share with the board the shows the impact? The answers and others form the new case for support for your organization’s sustainability through 2020.
  2. Once you have educated them on the new case for support ask them to be part of spreading the word. Donors, volunteers and online followers simply need to know that you are still providing services, still building programs for education or animal welfare or arts and culture, etc. The balance is to make it easy to do at home or socially distant. Here are some ideas based on non-profit sectors:
    1. Environmental/Parks: Ask Board Members to create a “how to” video on how to safely use parks in their area with the new CDC rules.
    2. Animals: Create videos of board members with their animals from home playing fetch, with a cat toy or on a horse.
    3. Arts & Culture: Ask a board member to teach dance, or create art in a video to promote any virtual programs.
    4. Health: Ask a board member to create a video of them making personal protective equipment.
  3. Ask board members to send out thank you cards to donors. There is always time to thank someone for their time, talent and/or treasure. So make it more personal by providing your board members with thank you cards, a list of addresses and stamps to send a personalized greeting from a fellow donor/volunteer.

All of these ideas aren’t just for when the world is facing a very contagious virus and we are all quarantined. Try them out now and see how your organization can implement them in other ways.

Do you have other ideas Board of Directors can do to help promote and advocate for their nonprofit? Tell us about it on Facebook.

2007 National Senior Games #FBF

Happy belated 2015! In the new year, we’ve been reflecting about clients, their supporters and those whose mission focuses on healthy lifestyles. One of our best experiences was working with the Louisville Sports Commission and the National Senior Games. The National Senior Games is a sports competition held every two years for seniors from North America. With more than 10,000 competitors and 20,000 spectators, it the largest multi-sports event specifically devoted to adults ages 50 and older.

Louisville Senior Games logo

The custom made Louisville Senior Games logo.

The Louisville Sports Commission was bidding on hosting the competition in 2007. To host an event of this size the entire community has to be a part of supporting it. So the Commission asked for a planning study to be completed. They wanted evidence that organizations, businesses and foundations in the city and region would support an event that would raise the awareness of healthy living.

The planning study, successfully completed by GF&M, reflected community support, and identified volunteer leadership, sporting venues, along with potential sources of financial support to move the project forward.

The Sports Commission contracted with GF&M to conduct a campaign for the Games. With leadership from the Louisville Host Committee, we were successful in generating over $4 million in local and national support for the Louisville Games. In fact, GF&M’s role with the Senior Games extended beyond Louisville. We created a multi-year sponsorship for Humana and Astrazenaca both of which are still supporting the Senior Games today.

#TBT Hands On Tech Workshop


Workshop title pic

Last Thursday Griffin Fundraising and Marketing hosted our first workshop. We focused squarely on how to make your nonprofit website simple and efficient for donors while providing great content in a deliberate way.

The workshop speakers were husband and wife tag team Liz and Scott Hack. Liz is a Senior Consultant with GF&M and has had over 13 years of experience in marketing, sales and public relations. Scott Hack is a Real Estate Broker at Finish Line Realty and self proclaimed geek who was using email before AOL came out with “You’ve Got Mail”. Through out the morning the two covered tips, best practices and How To make your nonprofit website easy to use. Just one of the many ideas for a more efficient site was to prominently display your “Donate Now” button on your website by making it a different color and a bigger button than the others on the page.

We also talked about why GF&M prefers WordPress as a platform for a nonprofit’s website. Worldwide, WordPress based websites account for 20% of all sites on the Internet today. That’s more than 76 million sites. Plus, it’s easy to use and very inexpensive to operate.

We had a lot of great discussion with the group who attended. Thanks to all who attended. If you have more questions on your nonprofit website send us an email or give us a call at 502-671-0680. We’d be happy to help.

Scott and I at workshop

liz at workshop

#TBT 2001 Intel ISEF

In 2001 GF&M had the honor of working with this fabulous group of volunteers during the Intel ISEF hosted in San Jose, California. Our role was to support the fundraising and event management of the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). This host committee worked tirelessly to create one of the best Intel ISEF’s ever.

‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’ – Winston Churchill

Inte ISEF 2001 host committee

Intel ISEF 2001 Host Committee

#TBT FFA National Convention

FFA National Convention

FFA students march into their annual National Convention in Louisville

As a firm, we are very proud of our headquartered city. As a native of Louisville, I have a personal belief that as a community member it is my duty to be an ambassador for the home team. Every new “transplant” I meet, I welcome them to Louisville and try to provide a few new cool things they should discover about the city and the state.

When GF&M partners with Louisville’s Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), we have that same opportunity, but on a whole new level!  Since 1992, GF&M has had the opportunity to partner with the CVB on many different projects like the Intel ISEF, the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial and the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Associate to mention a few.  In the 1990’s, as FFA was just starting to think about moving the National Convention out of Kansas and possibly to Louisville, GF&M was tapped by the CVB to help develop a strategy for sharing this unique opportunity of bringing “65,000 blue coats” to Louisville with our corporate and civic business leaders. The question that needed a response was WHY Louisville would be interested in hosting an essentially Agri Business property of high school students.

GF&M understood the challenge and proposed a strategy that would showcase the value of one of FFA programs, the leadership training. The idea was to take FFA student leaders into  corporate and foundation offices, letting the students tell their stories of what FFA had done for them, and what they now, as student leaders, wanted to do for FFA and the future membership. This strategy gave Louisville leaders a first-hand experience with the quality of the student leaders. The meetings showcased the student’s ability to meet diverse leaders with a variety of interests and backgrounds, and to respond to their questions in a balanced and professional manner. The response of the business leadership was terrific!

These early meetings provided the basis for the development of future relationship with Louisville businesses and foundations. As the students shared their stories, which were  reinforced by convention attendees, Louisville’s respect for the work of FFA and the quality of the student participants was increased. From the early meetings, a host city committee was identified to streamline FFA’s request for the Convention including their need for volunteers, judges and funding. Today, Louisville is on a three year rotation cycle with Indianapolis. While the rotation offers challenges, it also provides the region with an opportunity to recruit these young students and future leaders back to our communities for college and jobs.

As stated in a recent Insider Louisville article, the FFA national convention comes to Louisville. That convention alone generates a $40Million economic impact for the city. We are thrilled to say that GF&M had a part in supporting that effort for the city of Louisville.

#TBT Independence Day

Waterfront Festival

#TBT 2003 Independence Festival

Way back in 2003 the city was really starting to come together. That’s the year the city of Louisville and Jefferson County were merged into a single consolidated city-county government with the official name of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government. The official short form of the name is Louisville Metro.

That was the year the board of Waterfront Development Corporation (WDC) engaged the services of Griffin Fundraising and Marketing to help them define the feasibility of their “big dream” for the park and one of their largest events at the time, the Independence Festival.

The Independence Festival (Festival) began in 1989, ten years before the opening of 55 acres we all know today as the core of the park. By 2003, fourteen years later, the Festival became the seventh largest event in the region with an attendance of over one hundred thousand. It was one day of family fun, recreation, music and fireworks. As a free event, the Festival was a meeting place for the entire community to celebrate our independence.

In 2003, the board had a vision for the Festival to further enhance the quality and appeal of the event to both the diverse local audience and the regional tourists.  To roll out that vision and “big dream” to city and regional leaders, Griffin Fundraising and Marketing was tapped to conduct a Planning Study for the Waterfront Independence Festival. From that planning study major changes and suggestions were given to help make the board’s big dream a reality. It was from that planning study that the two day Independence Festival was created. A corporate sponsorship plan was also identified and rolled out to the community. It was in 2003 that the long time presenting sponsor of the Festival was named. From 2003 to 2013 the Independence Festival was an opportunity for every part of the community and region to celebrate the history, government, and traditions of the United States. It is our hope that community support will again allow the city to do just that on our waterfront in 2015. 

Traveling War Memorial

AVTT replica of Vietnam War Memorial

For 2014, a national group has provided a gift to celebrate the history, government and traditions of the United States this Independence Day. The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, a client of GF&M’s, is holding its national reunion in downtown Louisville this weekend. As part of their programming, they have brought the American Veteran Traveling Tribute’s 80% replica of the famous Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. from July 2nd to July 6th on the South Great Lawn in Waterfront Park. Additionally, the Reunion is setting up a static display of helicopters used in the Vietnam War near the river on part of the North Great Lawn in Waterfront Park that is open to the public on the 3rd and 4th. A Combat Assault Re-enactment starts at 4 pm on the 4th. This promises to be a very special 4th of July evening indeed!


#TBT Spalding University

Spalding University

Spalding University

As graduation season comes to an end for secondary and post secondary schools in Kentucky, we thought we would take a look back at one of our education clients. JoAnn Rooney, then president of Spalding, invited GF&M to provide additional leadership for an endowment campaign. The campaign was to directly support the students through their scholarship fund. Since Susan Griffin is a proud graduate of the university and it’s one of the oldest educational institutions in the city of Louisville, we were thrilled to be a part of the effort. In a limited time frame, we were able to complete the goal of one million dollars and secured a matching grant from the Brown Foundation. The campaign was supported by fabulous community volunteers, like  Mac and Tori McClure and through their leadership the campaign was a complete success.

The campaign in 2008 was a great experience for GF&M and personally for Susan to be back on campus. It is always exciting to work with such dedicated educators like those at Spalding.

Since 2008 went so well, in April 2013 GF&M was again invited to facilitate a strategic planning retreat with the Advancement Team. Under the new leadership of president Tori McClure, we spent 2 days in closed door sessions reviewing and updating the goals for Spalding’s  future. The pennant pictured above was a thank you gift from the entire Advancement Team to Susan Griffin, who acted as the facilitator for the retreat. Each member of the team signed the pennant. Honored and flattered by the gift, she keeps that pennant in her office.

GF&M’s #TBT To Intel ISEF

This week we are headed back to ’97. It’s the year Kentucky first hosted the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

1997 Intel ISEF poster

1997 Intel ISEF poster

GF&M helped two Kentucky Governors and the Mayor of Louisville in bringing the world’s largest competition for high school students in math, science and engineering to Louisville not once but twice. I personally believe that this week long event helped strengthen the perception that Kentucky is a state of innovation and technology. At the time, some 1200 student competitors from 35 foreign countries came to Louisville. There were over 1000 judges and some 1500 volunteers. Now, the competition has well over 80 countries involved with many more judges and volunteers.

The Opening Ceremonies for the event were held at night on the Churchill Downs track. It was the first time Churchill had ever hosted an evening event and the first time the general public were allowed to walk on the same track used for horse racing at the Kentucky Derby.

Susan Griffin with six Nobel Laureates who were invited to Kentucky as part of the Intel ISEF in 1997.

Susan Griffin with six Nobel Laureates who were invited to Kentucky as part of the Intel ISEF in 1997.

As a part of the Intel ISEF 1997, GF&M helped to invite six Nobel Laureates. They visited Jefferson County Public School classrooms to interact with middle and high school students. This marked the largest gathering of Nobels in the state of Kentucky and the first time Nobels were involved with secondary school students. What a first that was for the state of KY. I bet the guys from “The Big Bang Theory” can’t say they’ve met so many Nobels.

The 1997 Intel ISEF really held the bar high for future fairs. With the support of Kentucky’s Govenor, we increased the number of scholarships awarded to the student finalist. That had never been done before. The result provided Kentucky Higher Education with the opportunity of awarding ISEF finalist to come to Kentucky for their bachelors degree. Talk about injecting international award winning innovators directly into our higher education systems and ultimately our economy.

Because of GF&M’s leadership during the 1997 Intel ISEF the Host Committee for the 2001 Intel ISEF requested our services in support of their fair in San Jose, California.

Services Provided By GF&M

  • Developed all sponsorships for the 1997 Intel ISEF.
  • Managed staff Kentucky’s Govenor provided for the identification and solicitation of Kentucky scholarships
  • Supported Kentucky Host Committee in the identification and solicitation of cash and budget relieving items.