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We look forward to making our newsletter the one e-mail you look forward to opening each week because it is filled with helpful tips to make you more successful.

Secret # 1 to doubling your volunteers, your business sponsors and your donors - Hosting an open house at your facility each month:

Last week, we talked about the rule of 10’s.  The recognition that every good idea has at least 10 positive ripple-effect bonuses that go with it and if you can’t think of at least 10, you are missing the boat. In this week’s newsletter, I want to talk about the power of doing a monthly open house at your facility and show you ways that you can not only eliminate your costs but increase your volunteer numbers, donor numbers and business sponsor numbers in the process.
First, let’s talk about why you should do an open house in the first place:

1. Hosting an open house gets new people into your facility and gives you the chance to introduce yourself. Remember that before people will volunteer, donate money or give of their goods and services, they need know AND like the beneficiary or they need to know someone who does. In other words, we all give more of ourselves to our friends than we do to strangers. That is normal human behavior.  As long as your organization falls into the “stranger” column, you limit your ability to attract volunteers and donors.  The trick is to get you out of the “stranger” column and into the “friend” column as quickly as possible, and a monthly open house is a great way to accomplish that.

2. Hosting an open house each month gives you a legit excuse to send out 5 press releases to your local media, over the course of a 5-week period (4 ahead of the event and one after the event) and to update your website similarly. Marketing 101 states that consumer won’t purchase a new product until they have seen it, heard about it or sampled it a minimum of 3 - 5 times. In business, we call that “knocking on the consumer’s door”. Each time your organization’s name is in the press (for positive reasons, of course); it represents one more knock at the door of new volunteers, donors, and business partners. 3 - 5 knocks and you will start to see that you have converted your stranger into a friend and it is your friends who become your donors, volunteers and sponsors. Be sure to mention in each of those 4 press releases that you will be serving free refreshments, raffling off free door prizes during the open house and doing two demonstrations – the first at 1:30p.m. and the second at 3:30pm. This will help people plan when they are going to come.

3. Hosting an open house each month is a great opportunity to start building mutually beneficial relationships with business owners in your area.  For example, if you offered to hang a custom-made vinyl banner at all of your open house events for a full year, as a thank you gift to any sponsor who provided $500.00 or more in goods/services or money to six of your monthly open houses, you win, the business sponsor wins, the public wins and the cost of a custom made vinyl banner is under $50.00, providing
you with a great return on your investment and it will last for a long time so you can use it year after year.

4. Note that the fifth press release I mentioned earlier, that you will send out after the open house will include photographs you will take at the event and if you make sure your sponsor banners are in the shot, they win, you win and it is a great way to send a message to all other business owners in town that you respect and are grateful to all business owners who help you and you will go the extra mile to get them as much recognition as possible.

5. Never underestimate the power of getting your name in the press on a weekly basis. I promise you, if people in your community see your organization in the paper every week doing positive, good things, you will see an increase in the level of your success in all areas. It may take them a month or two or even three before you get to the top of their list, but you will get there and when you do, you will see your turnout increase at each event you host, you will see the press expressing more interest in doing feature
profiles on your organization, local business owners will start coming to you to see how they can help and you will start to see more and more people wanting to volunteer. The trick to success here is the same trick to gardening successfully, you have to plant seeds KNOWING that if you care for those seeds every day, they WILL grow into something amazing, even though it may take weeks before you see any signs
of life.
Here are some tips that will help make all of your open house’s a big success:
1. Pick a 4 hour block of time on a Saturday or Sunday for your open house (more individuals and families have free time on the weekends and in these challenging economic times, imagine what a treat it will be for mom and dad to have a fun place to take their kids for a few hours – free of charge, get to eat free goodies while they are there and possibly win a door prize or two).  I suggest 1pm – 5pm as that gets
you between the traditional lunch and dinner hours, you have daylight, most people are done with their chores by then and anyone who wanted to sleep in on the weekend can do so.

2. Plan ahead so you allow yourself plenty of time to succeed. For example, On May 1, you should be planning for your open house in mid-June. In other words, allow yourself 6 weeks lead time. In a perfect world, I want you planning all of your open houses for next year, in October of THIS YEAR. The advantage of that is that you can list them all on your event's calendar on your website, you can mention them in your press releases for this month's event, you can promote them on social media more effectively and it is much easier to attract sponsors when they can see you are organized. Of course, this means that while you are talking with business sponsors about participating in the June open house, you can also ask them to partner with you on all the other monthly open houses for the rest of the year. This is a great way to consolidate your work, offer your business partners additional opportunities to help you, help THEM, and make life easier for everyone.

3. Partner with at least four businesses at each open house, to help you provide food/drinks and raffle items during the event. This is the first thing you need to focus your attention on because the sooner you get your sponsors lined up, the sooner you can start sending out press releases announcing not only the upcoming open house but all of the business sponsors who are helping you. Remember that you will be sending out weekly press releases to the local media each week for a month ahead of the event so if you are planning six weeks ahead, you will have 2 weeks to line up your business sponsors before you start sending out press. As I mentioned in #2, I would like you to be planning these events a year ahead, but six weeks is the minimum lead time that will still work.

4. Just a note of reminder, most businesses keystone their products which means they double their “cost” for the item and that is what they charge the public. This means that if you ask a business owner to provide a $100.00 item for your raffle or door prize, remember that his cost was probably $50.00. When you recognize that reality of business, it is easier for you to decide how much added value you can provide to that partner as a thank you for his generosity to your organization. Using the example I listed above, if a sponsor donates $100.00 per month in goods or services to your organization over a 6-month period, they have actually invested $300.00 in your organization and if your thank you gift to them includes hanging a custom made banner with their name on it, photographing that banner and getting that photo in
the paper after each of the six events and posting them on your website, the added value you are offering to them far exceeds the $300.00 investment they have made in your organization. Your goal is to ALWAYS exceed the expectations of your business partners. If you consistently do this, you will have a waiting list of sponsors who want to be a part of every event you host.

5. The goal of the open house is to introduce yourself, your organization and your work to members of your community who may not already know you.  I suggest that you host the event indoors with finger food and soft drinks (unless you can also arrange to have a local winery do a wine tasting during your open house).  For example, if you have an indoor riding arena or an indoor basketball court or indoor community room, that is a perfect place to host the open house because if it should rain or if it is 100’ outside, you are in the shade and sheltered from the weather. Additionally, hosting in an indoor riding arena or basketball court, provides you with a great opportunity to section off half of the area for demonstrations of the work that you do while the other half is filled with chairs and food for your guests.

6. I suggest having clipboards and/or guest books in several locations around the event area so you can invite people to sign-up for your newsletter or get on your advanced invitation list for upcoming events.  The point of this exercise is to build your e-mail list FIRST and secondly to build your postal mailing list (frankly, I would prefer you focus on building your e-mail list because it costs you nothing to stay in touch this way and you have more flexibility).  Remember we spoke in a previous newsletter that if you can approach possible business partners with a deep e-mail list, you are able to offer them more added value for their donation to your organization.  The deeper that list is, the better, so be sure to take the clip board and/or guest books to every event you do and be sure to have those lists updated the week
after every event so you stay current! Rule # 2 in marketing 101 is about follow-up.  Once your customer opens the door you knocked on, it is most important that you follow-up with them in order to maintain their interest in your organization.

7. I suggest hosting at least 3 raffles during the 4-hour long open house and spread them out during the 4 hours so people have something to look forward to. Recognize that you can sell raffle tickets for weeks ahead of your open house for special items and tell people they do NOT have to be there to win, however, you will also have special free drawings that are only available to those folks who are present. The whole point is to encourage people to attend and by offering them food, entertainment and raffle items,
you are doing your best to honor the fact that they are giving up part of their weekend to
share in your dream.

8. As you are awarding the door prizes at your event, be sure to photograph the winners with their prizes and post those photos on your website and send them to the local paper with a caption that reads, Joe Johnson shown here holding the grill he won at our open house that was generously donated by Bob’s feed store. Thispromotes Joe for winning, shows the great products that Bob’s feed store sells and mentions how grateful you are to Bob’s feed store for their support. Win/win/win for everyone and it sends a message to all business owners that you will take good care of your sponsors and P.S. they should become one too!

9. I suggest you have fliers for your organization at the food table, and on every chair in the arena so you do your best to get the word out about your organization. On your flier, be sure to include your website info, phone number, mention that you are always looking for volunteers and donors and a contact person they can call for more information.

10. Open your event with food and drinks in a casual meet & greet environment.  Follow that by inviting everyone to take a seat for a short 5 – 10 minute talk about your organization, followed by a 15 minute long demonstration of the work that you do. This can be done while people are seated and they will have their fliers waiting for them on their seats so they can follow along while you speak. When that demo
is done, finish that with a short 5 minute talk about how you welcome volunteers, sponsors and donors.  When that is done, invite your guests to go on a tour of your facility with you (10 – 15 minutes in length). This entire process can be done in 1.5 hours and you will do this twice during the 4 hour open house. Like a restaurant that plans on two seatings each evening, you should plan on doing this twice because
you will have new guests rolling in throughout the four hour time period. Note that above I mentioned you will state in your press releases that you are doing demos at 1:30 and 3:30.  These are the two times you will be conducting the presentations and by telling people ahead of time, they will know to be there in time.

11. Be sure to have plenty of people on hand to help keep your food/drink table stocked at all times, plenty of volunteers to help with the demonstrations and the tours of the facility as well as people to keep refilling the piles of fliers that you will have on the food/drink table and on each chairs.

12. Assign two people the responsibility to take lots of photos during the event of your guests, your demo’s and the winners of all the door prizes. Do your best to set up an area that has your sponsor’s banners proudly displayed and take as many photographs in that area as possible so you can honor your sponsors in each shot. Use these photos on your website and in your follow-up press releases that will go
out after your event is over.  Be sure to ask people to spell their names for you and keep track of who is in each photograph (nothing more embarrassing than getting the names wrong when you print a photo in the paper).

13. Final tip for success, ask to have 3 – 4 volunteers come JUST to handle the clean-up AFTER the open house. So often, everyone focuses on getting enough people to help set-up and run an event but rarely does anyone think about arranging to have a crew who does nothing but clean-up after the event. Knowing that this fresh crew is coming, will ease the burden on your set-up crew and on those who are helping you orchestrate the actual event.

Have a wildly successful week,
Bonnie Marlewski-Probert
Po Box 548
Yellville,  AR  72687

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