TechSoup developed a nonprofit disaster preparedness course online in 2019, with funding from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. The initial focus was on nonprofits in Hurricane Harvey-impacted regions of Texas. But the knowledge is helpful for any nonprofit, in any location.
On February 13, 2020 the curriculum team – which included me – held an in-person workshop in Houston at Ronin Art Center. These Instagram photos show our workshop in progress.
To take the cutting edge disaster preparation course online, follow this link to sign up. You can take the course at your own pace, and there are recorded and written aspects, including certificates of completion for each module to print and keep. If you have questions, reach out to me or any member of our curriculum team, Shuya Xu (who developed the curriculum for TechSoup), Gray Harriman (educational program coordinator for TechSoup), Dhruv Khattar or Joe Hillis.
Most nonprofit organizations want to raise significant donations, and most all deserve those leadership gifts. But sometimes this requires infrastructure and communications improvements as well as solid research, consistent donor communications, grant writing and more. And many nonprofits do not have the budget nor the staff bandwidth to embark upon a concerted development and communications programs. That is why I was hired.
Below are the activities on which I worked during 2018 and 2019. The Coastal Bend community as a whole was still recuperating from the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Some of my work focused on “doing more with less” (always, smiles), upgrading basic office infrastructure, and preparing the organization to secure major gifts.
I like to call this kind of work, “polishing the diamond.” Basically, this is a very fine nonprofit organization, a “diamond” in the community. What the Port Aransas Art Center needed involved systems modernization, expansion of social media communications and clean-up of existing ones, good old fashioned research and writing/submission of grant proposals, and a series of cost-effective solutions for thanking/recognizing its many loyal donors and partners. This diamond has been polished.
I am “hands on.” Technology helps amplify my work. For larger print projects, Office Depot’s business department does a great job printing, binding and shipping. And happily, I also have a discount there via The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, which I continue to appreciate. Occasional trips to visit the nonprofit and its leadership in person were arranged in advance, about once monthly (or every-other-month). Secure communications via Gmail and secure document storage and sharing via Dropbox make working remotely with this organization convenient long distance.
WordPress | A new website for the Port Aransas Art Center with more modern look and capabilities that is also cost-effective | WordPress free templates and reasonably-priced hosting plans help nonprofits look sharp online, and they are social sharing- and mobile-friendly. Many nonprofits I have encountered have older websites, some dating back to ten or fifteen years, and they keep needlessly patching them together and updating plugins, etc.
As time moves forward, less fuss and greater sophistication are hallmarks of platforms like WordPress. This example is a free template, and a “Personal” hosting plan (however, by year-end 2018, we upgraded our plan a notch, as we worked with TAMUCC on a new branding project – scroll to the bottom of this page to read more about that pro bono donation). Included with the new website are more pages with helpful information, special contact forms for Board members wanting to be easily reached by email (each form is discretely linked to their private email accounts). New pages about the organization and how it operates have been added, donors and partners are receiving well deserved recognition, and the new site has become a “hub” for constituents and a reference point for social activity.
GuideStar | Gold Seal | To flesh-out a nonprofit profile on GuideStar to the Gold Seal level or higher takes time and thought, but no financial investment on the part of the nonprofit. The process is free, but the long-term effect on credibility can be substantial when it comes to encouraging major gifts. Securing a higher level “seal” demonstrates your commitment to transparency and it provides an objective overview of your operations. Nonprofits can also enable donations via GuideStar right from their profiles.
GreatNonprofits | 2019 Top Rated Nonprofit | Testimonials and word-of-mouth endorsements are highly influential when it comes to donors giving with confidence and at greater levels. We attained the “top rated” badge in 2018 and renewed the seal in 2019. This nonprofit is now on schedule to refresh its information on GuideStar and GreatNonprofits in the first few months of each year, in order to secure the latest seals and place the new ones on the website.
MailChimp | E-newsletters produced on a regular basis (once-monthly), keep the drum beating for nonprofit partners and supporters. They keep the organization before its constituents, keep it compliant with the CAN SPAM Act, they are a meaningful way to recognize donors, and more. Consistent communications are key to any successful development program. When you click on the link above, you will see several of my creations during 2018 and 2019, writing and design (though June). The Art Center had been maintaining an email list on MailChimp, but it had not been e-blasting to the entire constituency on a regular basis. We changed that.
Sharing a year-end donation appeal for 2018.
Brochures and Publications | Organizations that welcome the public often need attractive, professional “take away” brochures that provide general information. Board member Laura Griffith and I produced a new “take away” front desk brochure for the Port Aransas Art Center with a Microsoft Office template and printed it locally. I also used Microsoft Word to produce a downloadable membership form (for those who prefer sending check donations in the mail), and a case for support for the debt retirement campaign (viewable via the link on ISSUU).
Facebook | The Port Aransas Art Center had a successful Facebook page dating back several years. Initially in 2018, I stepped-in briefly to reformat the page to a “nonprofit” template. Then I left Facebook to another person for several months, until it was realized there was more work to do! I got back into the “back-end” and updated the background information, touched-up postings (deleting more than 300 old and duplicate photographs and posts), developed photo albums for ease of reference and access, the page security settings were updated, and I requested and received formal verification of the page by Facebook (by sending Facebook our latest IRS letter). Many more “likes” of other public pages have been done in an effort to increase engagement and show support for constituents, and as a result of being verified, our search results have improved. As you may know, Facebook has been under scrutiny for privacy issues on its platform. I urge all nonprofits to double check their Facebook settings and back-ends to be sure they are up to date, and to seek formal verification. Things change!
YouTube | Videos are exceedingly popular way for the public to access information and YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world after Google Search. I created a new YouTube profile and using Adobe Spark Video, created an initial group of videos to start.
Instagram | Visual communications continue to grow in popularity with the public and Instagram is a major player in this realm. I created this platform and I have suggested the Art Center advertise on it in the future. It has become a major player in the advertising arena. I found during my tenure that this platform is a beloved place for liking and chatting. I have also found a few prospective partners who are active there.
Pinterest | Pinterest is a major online traffic “driver,” and it thrives on visual imagery. I created this profile and through my final month, I was pleased some 5,000 visited its posts monthly. This platform is perfect for visual organizations and it provided the opportunity to share media stories and partner links in an attractive format.
Yelp and More | As an institution that welcomes the public, the Art Center needed a Yelp profile and we launched it in 2018. We also established new relationships with Foursquare (an important geolocation platform), and TripAdvisor (which has a strong tie to the local Chamber of Commerce). A member of the Board on her own created a Google My Business profile for the Art Center as well during 2018, and it has also been very helpful. In the case of each of these platforms, more work is being planned. Stay tuned!
Photo Documentation | For social media postings, videos, brochures, slideshows and more, photographs are required. I did some photo documentation for the Art Center (see the PS Express image at the top of this page), and now others onsite are stepping up to the plate to document the Art Center’s activities. The Board now knows that conveying the beauty of the Art Center, and the nature of its many activities makes perfect sense and I believe it will help with securing future sponsorships and major gifts.
Stewardship and Fundraising
The Art Center already had a devoted, core group of supporters, but in order to retire remaining debt on its new facility and to expand its infrastructure in order to offer more programs for youth and adults year-round, more fundraising and a professional development program for the long-term is required.
To read my case for support document on ISSUU, follow the link. To see a digital donor recognition concept developed for the Art Center, please enjoy the video below. This is a PowerPoint presentation converted (“saved”) to a movie/video format. It replaced static wall plaques, allowed the Art Center to thank a larger number of donors past and present in a more attractive yet space-saving fashion (the video is also “sharable” online), and it can run continuously on a flat screen television installed at the Art Center. Be sure to read the description of how the video was created underneath the presentation on YouTube.
Research regarding prospective underwriters was a constant theme, including making use of The Foundation Center online directory at the Austin Public Library. Prospective supporters for programs, capital needs and more have been identified and relationship-building is planned and underway. Grant proposals are being submitted. The Art Center has not had a traditional fundraising program and so, it is still relatively new to researching and submitting grant proposals. Even when turned down for grants, we know we must get back in line and keep “asking.” But happily, new supporters are starting to realize how great a partner the Art Center is and it welcomes them with open arms.
We also investigated ways to enhance the Art Center’s annual membership program with new benefits (new partners have been enlisted on the website), to cultivate and better involve members capable of giving more, and we are reached out to new program partners. By strengthening the membership program and moving capable supporters up to higher levels over time, we know we can increase the size and number of donations.
Some 90% of all online donations come via MasterCard and VISA. A new online processing platform by Qgiv is providing more options for giving to the Art Center online, and a more sophisticated way to track those donations and event registrations. I set up the basic Qgiv system myself, and a volunteer is now also managing it going forward.
I also enabled a DAF | Donor Advised Fund “widget” to the WordPress website. We know from research that donor advised funds are the source of charitable donations across the Coastal Bend. It is our hope to orchestrate introductory meetings with professional advisors to simply let them know about the programs the Art Center provides, and the value of the Art Center to the region’s quality of life.
Looking to the long-term, we established a relationship with Giving Docs for cost-effective, secure Will making. More than half of Americans die without a Will, which can throw their families into chaos, and difficult tax situations often result. By making a Will, one can avoid burdening family, while also supporting charitable organizations like the Port Aransas Art Center. We hope to enlist a sponsor to underwrite future “campaigns” to help promote planned giving with the Art Center in mind.
In 2018, the Port Aransas Art Center embarked upon its first #GivingTuesday year-end giving campaign. To view my slide presentation about our campaign preparation and some of our graphic designs for social posting, see ISSUU. I had hoped this will be a new annual “tradition,” and that it will help the Art Center harness the benefits of the traditional year-end giving season, which is when so many choose to make their charitable donations.
At the outset of 2018, the Art Center’s leadership expressed a need for a new logo. We knew then we needed to upgrade the website, and I did that with WordPress. I suggested they consider the graphic design program at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, and TAMUCC stepped up to the plate in September. By the conclusion of 2018, website visitors saw dramatic changes to the website’s “brand” and overall look, as well as to the Art Center’s social postings. My PowerPoint shares a few of the designs, and we are all grateful to TAMUCC for supporting the Art Center is such a generous, creative way.
Last but not least, core fundraising documents and photographs were being saved in the “cloud,” with access provided by secure link to key players on the Board. In this way, if lost or misplaced they could be retrieved at any time and remotely from any location.
These are some of the projects on which I worked for the Port Aransas Art Center during 2018 and 2019. If you have questions, use the secure contact form on this website to reach me.