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Run-Walk-Ride

Let's do it together.

Let's do it together.

The first three months of Plenty have been a whirlwind. It is hard for me to believe that we've only been around since the end of November, because in only a few short months I've learned so much from the fantastic team here.

It wasn't easy leaving Event 360, the company I helped found eleven years ago. Event 360 specializes in event fundraising. Through our work we raised nearly a billion dollars for charity. As the CEO, I was responsible for strategy, for presenting a great deal of our client-facing work, and more than anything, for helping drive the values of the company. Event 360 was (and will always be) my baby, and I'm tremendously proud of what I helped accomplish there.

And yet over the last few years I found my goals and aspirations changing. In particular I became increasingly interested in the philanthropic mechanics behind events -- a mechanic we call peer-to-peer fundraising. As my time and attention steadily turned towards constituent analytics. multi-channel approaches, and overall nonprofit strategy, it was harder for me to devote time to large-scale events.

When I finally talked to my partners at Event 360 about leaving, I found willing friends. They saw my evolving interests and supported my desire to do something new.

To say that I started Plenty from the ground-up would be a complete fabrication, because of course no one does anything worth doing by themselves. And in my case I was very fortunate to have six compatriots join me in the launch. From the beginning, we have tried to put as much emphasis on the foundations of our young firm as we have on the compelling work we do with our clients. We wrote Plenty's values together; we picked the brand together; we assess our performance together. 

I was reflecting on all of this while I was at the Run-Walk-Ride Conference in Atlanta last week. In a lot of ways, RWR was our coming-out party. Run-Walk-Ride is a tremendously important conference for the peer-to-peer space, and I've been lucky enough to present there for many years. But this year was the first time I attended with a business card that said, "Plenty."

It was fantastic to see the Plenty team share their expertise and energy throughout the sessions. Our group contributed in so many ways, and it was hard not to be struck by the sheer amount of competence and commitment the team brings to the table. But they bring something else, too. They bring a spirit of inclusiveness -- an eagerness to enlist others to create something bigger than themselves.

In the lead-up to the conference, our team was talking about something we could do at our conference booth. If you've ever staffed a sales conference, you know that "the booth" can fill even the most hard-core salespeople with dread. Working at the booth can be tiring; it can be nerve-wracking; it can be mind-numbingly boring. And so coming up with "something for the booth" is the trap of every trade show. It is easy to talk so much about SWAG and tchotchkes that you miss the core purpose of the booth, which of course is to engage with others.

In any case, we were kicking around ideas and a steadily escalating array of giveaways. Finally, someone on the team suggested we do something very basic: Hand out Post-It notes and ask passersby to write down what they are "Happy to have plenty of." It seemed like a corny idea, but no one had a better one, so we went with it.

You know what happened? People walking by the booth were interested to be asked to contribute. They stopped what they were doing and turned towards us. They would laugh and write a silly thought, then pick up another slip of paper and write something more meaningful. It's funny -- often in our desire to connect with others we forget to ask them to engage with us. We forget that they are the most important part of the conversation.

By the end of the conference, our board was covered with notes about abundance and reflections of gratitude.

I can't think of a better metaphor for my first three months at Plenty. We decided, "let's do something meaningful, together," and that was the most important step. 

 

 

Averages and outliers

Averages and outliers

My head is still bursting from last week's excellent Run-Walk-Ride Fundraising Council Conference. This year the conference was more vibrant than ever.

One reason was that this year's gathering was the largest ever; more people mean more opinions, more interaction, and more overall passion. I think there was something else, though -- as economic conditions slowly improve, I get the sense that nonprofits are ready to get moving again. It has been a slow few years, and there's a healthy impatience in the air. 

Event 360's Suzanne Mooney has written a nice recap of the conference on our blog. And as usual, we've published a fantastic infographic of this year's results; the astute reader will note some interesting trends as compared to last year. 

For my part, I was grateful for my annual opportunity to address the entire conference. This year I pulled back from my usual tactical advice and outlined a larger imperative I see: The imperative to start swinging for the fences again. After five years of playing it safe, it is hard to see the continued benefit of conservatism. Our most powerful advocates, like the most powerful ideas, are on the fringes -- and so playing to the averages isn't going to get it done.

I have a chance at this year's NTEN Conference to expand on this theme in a lot more detail, and I'm looking forward to doing just that at the somewhat-awkward time slot of 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 13. I hope to see you there.

Back and better than ever...

Back and better than ever...

Well, without meaning to I've let over three weeks slip by without a single post. I figured it was high time I posted an update lest you all think I was trapped under something heavy (When Harry Met Sally reference, yes you're welcome).

2013 is off to a great start for me, and I hope for you. Lots of more detailed posts to come but here are a few tidbits of what has me thinking and wondering:

  • First meeting of the Invisible Children board last week. What this group has done and continues to do is nothing short of amazing to me; more to come in the next weeks and months. I couldn't be more honored to be a board member.
  • Spending time applying non-linear regression models to fundraising data -- oh dear, this is really more interesting than it sounds. Hopefully I'll have some way to illustrate that in coming weeks! Stay with me people...
  • Speaking of fundraising data, I'm presenting at the annual Run-Walk-Ride Conference again this year. It's become an annual ritual I very much look forward to. If you're going to be down in Atlanta March 13-14, drop me a line so we can connect.
  • Speaking of fundraising data again, Chuck Longfield of Target Analytics/Blackbaud presented some helpfully alarming statistics about donor retention last week at the Nonprofit DMA conference that are worth your review. I say "helpfully alarming" because there have been people in the industry (like myself, ahem) trying to highlight the need for better engagement for years. Seems like no one wants to listen to the idea that engagement is hard work. Twitter is great for communicating but it ain't gonna magically create more donors for ya! Trust me on this. I'm hoping Chuck's presentation will rattle some cages. More here.
  • Switching the subject before I fall off my high horse, we've recently launched the 2013 Muckfest MS, a series of 18 obstacle races. Think Wipeout. With mud. And beer. You need it. Give it a look here.
  • Ulrich Schnauss, who has the best name in music, released his new album A Long Way To Fall today. I love everything he does and would recommend it without question.
  • Speaking of music, am I the only one who thinks the new version of iTunes is atrocious?

See, I'm back. :-) More soon.