Hosting Exhibitors: "The Ten Commandments"

If you’ve been producing events for a few years (conferences, conventions, annual meetings, colloquies, etc.) and you’ve started thinking about adding exhibitors to your event as a new revenue stream, may I share a little of my experience with you? As you might know, I’ve been working in the fund development space for a number of years now, helping nonprofits secure sponsors and exhibitors, teaching them how to nurture those relationships into long-term support. But my business, Tamarack Communication, works “across the aisle” as they say (but apparently don’t do) in our nation’s capital. By that I mean that I also represent for-profit corporations and companies that sell products and services to my nonprofit clients! Now, if that sounds a little like playing both ends against the middle, rest assured: It’s just the opposite.

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No Goals - No Glory

... to paraphrase the U.S. Air Force 

I didn’t mean to misquote the Air Force, but perhaps simply to get your attention. And this is a topic that cries for attention. Nobody wants to do it. Most organizations don’t want to stop their forward momentum to figure out where the heck they’re going. 

Maybe repeating that last phrase would be a good idea: “…stop their forward momentum to figure out where the heck they’re going.” So often small businesses and nonprofits simply continue to move forward, to keep on keeping on, turning the wheels and taking care of business, without taking the time to regroup and reconsider the destination and the resources needed to get there. And, most important, how they’ll measure their progress to the goal.

One of the most common problems I see every week with nonprofits and small businesses is inability to measure performance because no one ever articulated the desired results. How can you measure your “success” when you never described “success”? It’s easy to skip that step, maybe even just “human nature.” I submit, however, that your “organizational nature” will be much improved – and its success measurable – if you will pause to set goals. Specific goals allow for measurement of success, which allows for course correction leading to greater success.

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Planning: Strategic or Tactical?

Are you putting the cart before the horse?

Whether your ultimate goal is a solid marketing plan, a sound fund development plan, or, even more broadly, an overall direction for your organization for the next three years, it’s important to consider the significant differences between strategic planning and tactical planning. Both have a place, but one comes before the other – that is, if you hope to continue moving forward on a clear path toward a meaningful goal without a lot of costly side trips and unforeseen rerouting.

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The Authentic Fund Support Partnership

Partners or Vendors?

Do you ever walk down the street when you’re visiting an unfamiliar city and catch sight of some forlorn looking vendor with a mobile display of goods that are of mild curiosity but not of real interest? The poor fellow makes eye contact, and you easily see that he’s trying to hide his desperation for a sale behind a sad smile. He’s just a “vendor” – doesn’t really belong here, has no right to consider you his target market. That's a vendor, not a partner.

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Seeking $$ Support? Listen to your Prospect!

More about creating win-win relationships

Once you have a well crafted message about your organization and the specific marketing opportunity you’re promoting, the real fun begins: As you pitch the opportunity to your prospects, you will have a chance to learn about their business, including their strategic marketing goals.

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The Win-Win Solution - Fund Development

It's not begging; you're offering opportunities.

Successful fund development begins with the right attitude, based on a key principle: You, as the development representative, are not begging; you are offering opportunities. Making that philosophical leap involves no magic, no mystery, no proprietary secrets. Believe it or not, once you’ve seen the job done successfully by one who embraces the challenge and enjoys the exchange, you will want to play an active role in fund development for your organization. My own introduction into the art of fund development might illustrate that.

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