Nonprofit events: in-person or virtual?

Now that the world is coming out of the pandemic, so are nonprofit events. After two years when all events by charity organizations were moved online due to COVID, does it make sense to make them in person again?

While most organizations bemoaned having to cancel their events and doing them on Zoom, many are noticing the advantages they enjoyed as well. Let’s face it. Serving dinner at a fancy hotel is expensive. A good percentage of ticket prices and sponsorship money always went to the venue and the caterer. Then there were the many other costs — decorations, video, programs, flowers, music, staffing, parking. Too many well-meaning nonprofits did annual gala after annual gala only to find that after six months of planning, they were left with much less than they need or want.

This is not to say there isn’t a time and place for real life galas. There is something warm and special about an organization’s supporters, friends and staff getting together, meeting, talking and sharing an evening together. No Zoom event can replace that. But what virtual fundraisers taught us is nonprofits can do a great job putting on a fundraising gala while raising more money. If you knock out all the costs, and extend the reach by going virtual there is a place for an online gala as well.

What is important to remember is supporters don’t attend a gala for the chicken dinner. In fact, many hate it and avoid galas. There are just too many. Instead, focus on your organization’s mission and message. That’s what will being in the money.

And your supporters may surprise you by giving more because they can do it from the comfort of their living room and don’t have to put on a necktie or gown.

Raising your nonprofit’s voice

We hear quite a bit about making your voice heard. But that’s on a personal level. Your nonprofit also has a voice and it can be heard through your public relations (PR) and marketing strategy.

What does this mean? It means not only telling the world what it is your nonprofit does, but how your nonprofit is making life better for the people it serves.

This is especially true if one of your main objectives is fundraising. Donors support nonprofits for many different reasons. One is the mission resonates with them. The other is they see their dollars at work; not in nice office space or lots of staff, but in the community.

Decide what it is you want your nonprofit’s voice to say, and then create a PR plan that says it effectively and loudly.

Nonprofit PR checklist

If your nonprofit wants to win the public relations/marketing game as you compete with other nonprofits that essentially serve the same audiences, there are some must-haves.

Here they are:

  1. Spokesperson — The ideal spokesperson is the CEO of executive director. Assure he/she is trained in media relations and can think quickly.
  2. Visionary — Every nonprofit needs a visionary. They often are those who start the nonprofit. If your nonprofit wants to grow, it needs someone to articulate where it is going.
  3. Engagement — Nonprofits flourish when they engage those whom they serve as well as donors.
  4. Success — Studies have shown that people donate to organizations that are succesful. Craft your image as a nonprofit that is making a change for the better. Donors want their dollars going to make a difference, not getting an organization out of debt.
  5. Relevance — Be relevant. Operating a nonprofit as it did 10 years ago does not attract donors or media attention. Keep up with technology and the rapidly changing world.

Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard trial: A lesson in crisis/litigation management

For those following the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard trial, it is difficult to distinguish whether it is a trial or a circus. Not since the O.J. case has there been so much interest and chatter about a celebrity legal case.

And it’s not an accident.

We know that all “A” list celebrities have PR publicists working the media to spin their side of the story. Now that we live in an age of social media where everybody has a voice, it is even more visible.

When it was Johnny’s turn on the stand, the social media chatter was clearly on his side. Hashtags and nasty comments about Amber were everywhere. People called her crazy. Depp’s PR team had the upper hand.

So what was Heard’s response? She fired her PR firm.

According to online sources, she was furious at the bad headlines she was getting. So she switched publicists. However, she did it right before she took the stand and had a chance to tell her side of the story.

Whether the new PR people have done any better getting her side of the story out is debatable. The anti-Heard damage was deep and widespread.

The lesson to be learned is you don’t get much by killing the messenger. The trial was broadcast live, and people were able to make their own decisions and post their own thoughts without going through the filter of Amber’s PR team.

There is only so much a PR team can do to spin an image when courtroom testimony brights out craziness. But it was a move that Heard should have thought about before dumping the publicists who had been following the trial since its beginning. She never gave them a chance to help tell her side of the story.

And judging from the headlines and social media that continue to favor Depp, her kneejerk reaction to switch publicists before they had a chance, was simply foolish.