Eleanore Hopper

Eleanore Hopper

Rosie’s Theatre Kids (RTKids) was given a rare opportunity to advertise in Condé Nast publications at no cost to the organization. RTKids had a chance to take full-page, color advertisements in some of the most-read publications in US, but had no marketing team to strategize placement, or copywriter and designer to create the ad. They needed to submit the advertisement within two weeks.

This was the quick, first project I was given as a new participant in the Arts & Business Council of New York’s Business Volunteers for the Arts™ program. As a consultant in the areas of communications and business development for clients in the arts, this was fun and very familiar territory.

Increasingly, donors are more willing and able to give in-kind contributions (non-cash donations of good or services). According to an annual report created by CECP in association with The Conference Board entitled Giving in Numbers: 2013 Edition the “direct cash donations dominated at 47% of total giving in 2012, non-cash contributions have been growing at a faster rate of 10% or more in each year since 2008.” This means that organizations, like RTKids, sometimes receive a donation that does not directly support their bottom line as a monetary contribution would.

In my initial meeting with RTKids, many questions came up about how to maximize this special opportunity. What was the best message for the ad? How could RTKids summarize the organization’s mission in a way that would grab attention and drive home the impact of their work? How could RTKids get the ad in front of potential supporters? And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, would they encourage donations by advertising this way?As a consultant working with organizations that straddle the digital and print marketing divide, I can confirm that it is difficult for non-profits to measure the impact of traditional print methods of advertising, let alone use them to secure donations. In some cases, it can cost an organization more to take advantage of this kind of opportunity than it is demonstrably worth. It might have been costly for RTKids to utilize (strategize, write, design) the donated ad pages without help from the Business Volunteers for the Arts™ program.

However, clear, consistent and persistent reiteration of a non-profit’s brand and mission is valuable to the overall health of the organization. Every little bit helps when it comes to reinforcing the perception of your organization and its core values which are in turn the essential attractor for potential donors.

1)  DO consider potential benefits of a non-cash donation (goods and/or services) in light of the resources required to reap those benefits. DON’T forget to factor in the volunteer help you can get from your passionate community. Consider how a project such as the one described above can become an opportunity to establish a deeper relationship with a member of your constituency that possesses specific expertise.

2)   Seek help from a variety of sources. If you have a project you need help with, get the word out to your supporters, volunteers and community. As they say, you never know who may know someone who can help…

3)  Get the word out early. If you are seeking volunteer help, consider that many skilled helpers will be more likely to contribute if they can balance the project with their other commitments.

4)     If the project is simple and on a short time-line, take advantage of the many online volunteer matching services. Posting your projects to these online platforms can be a great way to reach supporters who are passionate about your cause but may not have heard of your organization.

5)    Sign your organization up to work with volunteers from the Arts & Business Council of New York’s wonderful Business Volunteers for the Arts™ program!

If you have specific questions about how your organization can implement these tips, feel free to contact me!

This post is one in a weekly series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage. Visit our website to find out how both businesses and local arts agencies can get involved!

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The pARTnership Movement


The pARTnership Movement is a new initiative from Americans for the Arts that provides businesses and arts organizations with the resources they need to make meaningful collaborations; partnerships that not only support a healthy, creative and artistic community, but that also give businesses a competitive advantage.
For more information please visit www.partnershipmovement.org.

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