Ep 260 | Grow Your Audience Through Collaborations

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Collaborations are a great way to get more visibility for your organization, build trust, and get new donors. There are so many different ways you can collaborate – it's only limited by your imagination. Tune in to discover unexpected partnerships and learn how working with others can strengthen your mission impact.

What you'll learn:

  • → Unconventional collaboration ideas beyond traditional fundraising events
  • → Best practices for guest speaking, social media partnerships and cross-promotion
  • →  An abundant mindset for non-profit partnerships
  • →  Guidelines for evaluating collaborative opportunities
  • →  Strategies for deepening engagement with sponsors

Want to skip ahead? Here are key takeaways:

[5:30] Collaborations like guest podcasting and speaking help organizations position themselves as thought leaders and build trust with new audiences.
[11:04] Adopting an abundant mindset when collaborating sees partnerships as mutually beneficial ways to showcase collective impact, rather than competitive opportunities.
[16:11] Set clear expectations around goals and asks with hosts of small donor events to ensure collaborations are beneficial for all involved.
[19:40] Expanding engagement with sponsors through shared content and brainstorming new ideas can strengthen partnerships over time.

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Is Your Nonprofit Ready for Collaboration?

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Full Transcript

Sami Bedell-Mulhern

I love a good collaboration, it's a great way for you to get in front of other people's audiences for them to in front of yours for you to provide value to the people that are engaged and involved in your organization, to build trust, to do so many things, and you never know what can come out have a good collaboration. So today, I'm going to give you some ideas for collaborating, that maybe you haven't thought of, or maybe just haven't thought of in a while. And we're going to talk about them as it relates to kind of your brand awareness, becoming thought leaders, becoming the experts in your field, educating people on the problem you're solving and why and how you're doing it, as well as some, you know, a couple of other fundraising collaborations.

Now, I kind of love collaborations more on the brand awareness side of things just because, you know, we don't always want to just get in front of a new audience and ask them for money right away. And so this is a great way for you to start to build more relationships, build more partnerships, nurture these people that are coming in, and then engage with them in some of the other fundraising events that you have. But I will give you a couple of ways that we can think about collaborations in a way to help us raise money, but maybe just not necessarily in maybe what we would think of as a traditional fundraising event. So that is what we are going to talk about today as we kick off our month, all about collaborations.

But before we get into it, this episode is brought to you by our June freebie, it has been so much fun this year coming up with new Downloadables and resources for you each month to go alongside the podcast episodes that we've gotten. And this month is no different. So in order to know if you're ready for collaborations, or what you might need to put in place in order to make sure they're streamlined, and they don't just go crazy, and all of a sudden your staff is pulling their hair out because they don't know what to focus on. We created a quiz. Are you ready for collaborations? This quiz asks you a few simple questions. And then you'll get some great results and tips for me on where you're at with collaborations and how to get started and how to move forward. So you can check it out at the first click dotnet slash resources. And take this quiz and find out where you are in the process of getting going with collaborations. For now, let's get into the episode.

You're listening to the digital marketing therapy podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. Each month we dive deep into a digital marketing or fundraising strategy that you can implement in your organization. Each week, you'll hear from guest experts, nonprofits, and myself on best practices, tips and resources to help you raise more money online and reach your organizational goals.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern

So the beauty of collaborations is really the sky is the limit. And your creativity can be your guide, and not just your creativity, but the creativity of other people that are maybe around your organization engaged with your organization. And as they start to see you do more collaborations, more ideas will come up. And this is a great opportunity for you to sit down with your board and think about who do they know what kind of ideas or people can they introduce you to that might kind of fit into some of these different collaborations that we're going to talk about today. Because again, it's not necessarily making a financial ask, which is great. And saying, we want to get in front of more people, we want to meet more people, we want to connect with more people so that we can down the road, turn them into donors, turn them into volunteers, turn them into sponsors, maybe we need to serve that population as well. All of the things are possible. And collaborations just are great. Because when I say hey, would you come speak in front of my audience, my audience is automatically going to trust you a little bit more right off the bat. Because why would I bring you in? If I didn't think that you were trustworthy. I've worked so hard to build the trust of you, my listeners and people that I connect with, I want to bring people on into my circle that I trust because I don't want to lose your trust. I worked hard to build it right and vice versa. So that's where these things can become really, really powerful. So a couple of things right off the bat are kind of the value add thing. So guest podcasting, right, I kind of alluded to that already. We like to go on other people's podcasts, it gives us an opportunity to get in front of other people's audiences. And as you know, if you listen to this podcast, the vast majority of my episodes are with a guest. Now it's for a couple of reasons. Number one, when I record solo episodes, they're not as long. And I just feel like it's a different energy. I like to do them. I love to share my expertise and my ideas. But I also love doing the interviews. It's more natural conversation. And I also often get to learn alongside you on some topics about things that I have maybe not drilled deep enough into myself or that I just kind of want to learn from someone else on what they've got going on and what they're doing in their special specialty. So guest podcasting is great. It can also take a lot of time and effort to figure out how to reach people Which podcast? Should you be on? Outreach, pitching all of that stuff. So really, it's important that if you're going to spend that time and effort that you make sure that you're reaching an audience that makes sense for you. So thinking about as within all of these collaborations, what are the goals that you're trying to achieve? How can we make sure that this is going to not just be effort and make us feel good, but that the audience that we're getting in front of is an audience that is going to help us with one of the goals that we're looking towards. So that's guest podcasting.

The other one that I love for value add is being a guest speaker, either virtually or in person in like a webinar format, or a summit. But getting out there and making sure that your face is linked to the cause that you're solving. So not just your organization, but that your unknown thought leader, or a known researcher or a known expert, in the area of which you serve, whether it be homelessness, or food scarcity, or pet adoption, or cancer research or childhood diabetes, whatever it is that your organization is doing, you want to be out there speaking, and it doesn't have to be you, but who's somebody on your team or a board member that you can identify that can really be kind of the face of the organization, and be out there speaking on these things. So that could be conferences that are within your industry, it could be partnering with your local chamber of commerce to, you know, pitch an idea to run a series of educational events to kind of help the community at large understand the bigger problem. It could be, you know, if your economic development, it could be Community Foundation, who are these partners that you can reach out to? And maybe they don't already have a series or something happening, but that's where the collaboration comes in, right? Can you pitch them or talk to them about creating something that's going to support the bigger education, the bigger experience, the bigger piece to what it is that we're trying to get done here and solve the problem. So we're doing a couple of things here, right? We're shedding light on why this is a problem worth solving, or connecting with new audiences, and other people's kind of space. And we're also putting positioning ourselves as the expert in this area and somebody that donors are going to trust with their dollars, because you know, how to really tackle this head on. Building your volunteer base may be attracting some of those board members that you've been trying to get after all of those things, right. So that's why this can be really, really important. In speaking publicly, whether it be on a local or national stage, I'm just depending on the size of your organization. Now, if people aren't doing this, you could also host your own webinar series or your own online series, and invite guests to come and collaborate with you, right? We do this on our podcast also, as we've already talked about, so how can you maybe initiate some of those conversations, bring people in and kind of create that collaborative environment. Another one that I really love, which is really easy lift is going live on somebody else's social media, I've done this where I've been guests on people's LinkedIn lives. So I get streamed to their audience, and I share the video was done to my audience, to do this on Facebook.

Wherever there's a live element, you could do it on Instagram, just pop it you could do a YouTube Live. But these can be casual, conversational, maybe something happened in the news recently, that really relates to the work that you're doing, and it's timely. And so you want to come together with another organization and have just a roundtable or have a conversation about what this means. It could be something like, the month of May was mental health awareness month. And so maybe you have a group of mental health practice, or therapists or whomever and organizations that are working in this space, we have a group of people that are coming together to talk about this and have a conversation that you guys can all share on social media, right? It's a great way to engage a great way to interact. And it's a great way to create content quickly and easily that you can repurpose and reuse for future posts throughout the rest of the year. So it's just a win, win, win all around. And like I said, super easy left, you can all go on Zoom, publish it, and away you go.

Speaking of live on social, you can also do social media takeovers. So again, partnering with like minded or complementary organizations can be really, really cool. I want to just say this. I know as nonprofit organizations, we have a harder time mentally connecting and collaborating with other nonprofit organizations. Because there's this mindset fear of well, if we work with them, then somebody might give them the money instead of give us the money and then we've lost out on a fundraising opportunity. So I really want to challenge you to push that scarcity mindset side, let's go with an abundant mindset. And let's realize that these collaborations are going to get us in front of new potential people. And yes, we want this to be a win win. So the money might be spread a little bit differently amongst our organizations. But if you're doing your job well, and you're nurturing your donors, and you're connecting, and you're really making sure that you're building those strong relationships, when you partner with another organization, if somebody gives, if somebody's been a longtime donor of yours, and then they give to that other organization, if you're doing your job, right, they're not going to do that in lieu of giving money to you. But also, maybe that's not the right fit for them, and they weren't going to give to you anyway, because they just needed to find that better match. And maybe, because of this, you can have better conversations with them about the people that they can refer to you. So instead, let's focus on how can we use these collaborations to really do the best work that we're doing for our community, and really make sure that we're helping to shed light on the problem that we're solving, and that there is a variety of ways to solve that problem. Right?

For example, with food scarcity, you might be a food bank, who partners with a homeless shelter, or, you know, a soup kitchen type place, right? So that you're talking about maybe here's the types of things that need to be donated to a food kitchen versus things that we want to donate to a shelter, or maybe you're working with domestic abuse. People that are have been subjected to domestic view abuse. And so you want to kind of shed the light on the different areas of people that are working on that within the community, right? Location that houses people that need a safe place, versus the people that are feeding them versus the people that are providing care, like clothing and toiletries versus the people that are providing mental health support, right? All of these things. Not everybody does everything, right. So how can we kind of bring that effort together and show the collective collapse collaborative efforts that are kind of helping to solve and the work that's being done all together. So all of that to say, there's lots of fun things that you could do with social media takeover. So maybe you take over somebody else's account, and you have a series of three to five posts that you put out there that are highlighting the way in which your organization is part of the solution that this organization is also working to solve. And vice versa, right. So we're all here for the greater good. I know, that's very kind of altruistic. And that's not always how the real world works. But I think you might be surprised when you put things out there in that way, but comes back as far as conversations, because the other thing that we know, is that collaborations and connections in that way, also help us be more sustainable, when we know that we are focused laser focused on this is the one way that we're working to solve this problem. But we need X, Y and Z to do their part also, otherwise, our part doesn't always work. Sharing that and showcasing that also just helps us to as donors or partners to feel like okay, yeah, there's a big picture thing happening here. And our dollars aren't going to be wasted with this organization. And we see that trend with grants, right collaborations and grants and foundations, all of that is becoming more and more and more critical. Okay.

Um, the next kind of collaborative idea that I have for you is, again, similar would be an email list share. So if there's other organizations, this could also be corporate sponsorships. This could be businesses, maybe you have somebody who has donated in kind quite a few things to you, and they have a product, a retail store, maybe you can ask them if they would include your information in the email shouting out their gifts. So maybe it's Hey, you know, this store donated 80 pairs of socks to our school this year, so that we could make sure that all the kids had clean socks, you're getting giving, asking them right? Can you put our stuff in your newsletter, they get to highlight something positive that they're doing for the community, it's a win win win, and vice versa, right, you could do the same for them, thanking them a dedicated email thanking them for what they've done for you and your organization. So a super easy thing to do, but I love it. It's a great way to continue that partnership. And some of these things might seem super obvious. But what we want to remember is that we need to ask for these things. They might, they might have never thought to do that. And by you asking it happens, and then it just amplifies the partnership that you've already created. And then again, I've already kind of talked about this, but kind of complementary organizations really reaching out and kind of building that community. How can we work together? Maybe it is like pet adoption, you see them partnering a lot with spay and neuter organizations, but maybe we want to also partner with dog training, right? Maybe one of the pain points that you hear is well, we don't want to adopt dogs because we don't know what kind of behaviors they're going to Come with rate. If you're hearing that quite a bit, then let's have fun with it. Let's do a whole series on how to train a dog or what to know to look for. When you're, you know, adopting, you have kids in the household if you have elderly people in the household, you know, other pets, right? So having another company or partner come in and say, Okay, well, we would love for you to lend your expertise. And we'll have this as a co branded series. That's great. So we really want to think about all of these different complementary organizations. Maybe here in our area, I recently learned there's a bunny sanctuary. So maybe you don't have bunnies at your organization. And so can we do a collaborative event about okay, we're gonna do, we're gonna talk about dogs and cats, you're talking about bunnies, we're gonna talk about somebody else that might have like, small animals, like rats, and guinea pigs, and whatever. So you're bringing together a bunch of nonprofits that all do pet adoption, but you do pet adoption for different things, right. And so you're reaching a wider audience and a wider base of people who might be interested in what you do, but they just don't know that you exist, right? So I love that.

Okay, so those are kind of some of my fun branding, collaboration ideas. Again, hopefully, it kind of got the juices flowing with you, and kind of some creative ideas, but I wanted to talk about a couple of different things around fundraising. Now, there's so many different fundraising collaborations that I've been a part of the problem that I find with partnering, like, let's say, a company comes to you and says, Hey, we want to run a fundraiser.

You know, we'll invite all of our people, you do the work. And we'll give you guys the proceeds. Great, it sounds all well and good. But a lot of times, what in my experience, what has ended up happening is that the nonprofit, and putting in a ton of effort and work to put the thing together with really no guarantee of funds raised. And yes, you do get in front of the new audience. But I feel like, you know, it tends to like pull everybody out of the rhythm of what it is that you already have on your plate, and kind of misguides and misdirects you for that period of time. Special Events are a lot of work. And they take a lot of effort. So yes, you can absolutely do that. If that's something that makes sense. I would encourage you to come up with a matrix, or some guidelines for how you say yes or no to some of these situations. So that you can make an easy choice. Because if a board member comes to you who's really important to you and says, you know, I really want to do this. Sometimes it's hard to say no to that, right, because you're kind of thinking about the big picture. But instead if you have kind of some guidelines and guidance, and it makes it a little bit easier to have those conversations, but I digress. What I would love to see more of our little mini intimate donor socials, and I know a lot of you are doing these and I know a lot of you are doing them well. But just having people that are in your organization, invite you to have a dinner, have a lunch and have a picnic, go for a hike, bring people together, I have a client who does pickleball tournaments, I mean, like just something where we can have fun, and it's not so stuffy. And then really fight the urge to maybe make a direct ask unless the hostess or host is like, you know, everybody's prepped and primed. And we've already asked, I mean, really work with them. But there's goals for this, right? We can say yes, we're here to raise money, or we can say we just want to meet people have them get to know us. Again, you're building that trust immediately, because I was invited by my friend, my friend wants to partner with you as an organization. Right? You've got that immediate trust. So really be clear with the person who's hosting this for you. What are the goals? Who are your friends? How do we want to make sure that this comes together? And what's the ask that we're doing at the end, sometimes an ask is not appropriate. Sometimes it's totally appropriate, but set those expectations ahead of time. So nobody feels like they're being taken advantage of, or they're feeling uncomfortable, or they're not really sure why they're being asked for money, they thought they were just going to come play pickleball. XYZ. So clarity is really clear. And then the last kind of fundraising piece that I really, and I've talked about this on previous podcast episodes, but I want to just drive it home, is that we have so much more of an opportunity to really connect with our sponsors. And so how can we increase our sponsor dollars over time, or, and maybe increase our sponsor dollars separate from the event that they've been sponsoring for a long time? So maybe they've been sponsoring your gala for 20 years? We know we can rely on the $50,000 check from them every single year yada yada, yada, but no, no, they're not going to do anything more. We're, we can't get anything else out of them. We're not going to ask we don't want to jeopardize that $50,000 Right.

So I agree with that this language we hear all the time, especially from CEOs and high higher dev directors in larger organizations, but instead, maybe we could think about how we can broaden these collaborations. So how can we say, hey, we'd love to come to to your place of business, we'd love to interview some of the people on your team, we'd love to share and highlight the amazing work that we're doing because of the partnership we have with your organization. We'd love to highlight that on our social media, we'd love to get you content that you can share on your social media, we'd love to do a featured blog post, we'd love to do blab about whatever you are currently doing, how can you ramp that up to the next level, because now it's even more and more and more important for businesses to highlight the way that they're supporting the community and the way the charitable causes that they're participating in. And it's not just enough for it to be sponsored this event. employees want to see community engagement. Purchasers want to purchase from people that are engaged in their local community. And in that cause, right. And so, organizations are looking for ways to highlight those even more, and let's get creative and have fun with it, and collaborate on how we can maybe shine more light on that. Now, again, you're not necessarily making a specific ask, but if you're going above and beyond for some of your sponsors, and the ones especially that are super vision, and missions aligned with you that you know, their employees are really going to care about or that the founders are really bought into, or their leadership team has really bought into the cause that you have having those types of conversations and saying how can we take it to the next step? Putting that time and effort into that and not just oh, yeah, here's the impact, which is important. Here's the impact, here's the event that over time will lead to increased dollars, right? Because at some point, they'll say, hey, you know, these guys are really doing great work. They're really communicating with us. They're really partnering with us, this is a real collaborative environment. And some of the funds from another organization might come to you instead, because you're doing the things that other people aren't doing with the follow up with the care and all of that. And that is true, have some of your larger donors as well. picking the ones that you know, are more collaborative or more excited. And allowing them to come into a way where they can brainstorm with you some fun ideas for participation and engagement is a great way to kind of naturally collaborate and make them feel special and like the amazing humans that they are.

So those are some of my quick ideas for how to start collaborating, this is just scratched the surface, I really just want you to get into a fun creative mode, maybe at your board together just for a fun session, throw a bunch of ideas up on a whiteboard, you know, without worrying about how it's gonna get done, and then go from there and figure out your process. But definitely make sure you check out our quiz at thefirstclick.net/resources So you know if you're ready for collaborations and what types of conversations you should be having for your stage in your organization. I love good collaboration. So if you want to chat and talk through different ways that this could work for your organization, you can always reach out to us at Hello at the first click dotnet for now, I hope that you subscribe wherever you listen so you don't miss an episode and make sure you watch us over on YouTube. So you can see the videos of these episodes. And the show notes for this will be at thefirstclick.net/260 and I thank you so much for listening to these quick solo episodes that I threw out there and I'm so looking forward to our whole month on collaborations. See you in the next one.


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