Is there a silver lining?


Is there a silver lining?

One silver lining of these challenging times might be the creativity, adaptability and resilience nonprofits are displaying. My client, like many nonprofits, had been saying for years “we’ve got to reimagine our special events.” Yet, despite numerous conversations, they kept hosting the same events year-in and year-out. Having to abruptly shut down and move into shelter-in-place hastened the needed change.

My client quickly pivoted and for its first new event, hosted a Night at the Movies – something that never would have crossed anyone’s mind prior to these new circumstances. For this particular event, the primary goal was not about raising funds. My client simply wanted to break even financially while bringing people of all ages together in a fun, safe way.

Despite some stumbles (we forgot to ask the parking lot manager to turn off the lights after dark!) it worked beautifully. We sold out, had fun and even made a small profit. We had people asking if we’d do it again – one couple even asked us to host a movie every week! It had the added benefit of drawing new people to the organization: we were in a public parking lot in the West Loop and several pedestrians walking by stopped to ask about the event, and the organization.

Thinking of hosting your own drive-movie? Here are some tips to help you get started planning:

  1. Pick a fun, feel-good movie that audiences of all ages will enjoy. We showed The Incredibles and drew families with young children, as well as young adults all the way up to senior citizens.
  2. Secure a public parking lot, large enough to allow for spacing in between cars and a section for safe spacing of walk-up attendees. We allowed cars to park in every other parking space at the direction of a cadre of volunteers. We also cordoned off a section where individuals who walked in could space themselves at least six-feet apart.
  3. Ensure the lights are turned off when the movie begins!
  4. Invite some food trucks to park on-site – you’ll offer great food to guests and support local businesses.
  5. Stock up on movie theater boxes of candy, individual bags of popcorn, water bottles and Gatorade to sell at concessions. Glow necklaces are fun, too.
  6. Don’t forget the Porta-johns! We hired an attendant to clean each unit in between use.
  7. Have lots of hand sanitizer around.
  8. Of course, masks are a must! We were clear that people wouldn’t be admitted without one. And we had some for sale, branded with the organization’s logo of course.

Based on the success of its first drive-in movie night, my client is planning to host another later this summer. Maybe even two. And they’ll continue to reimagine their events in fun, safe, positive ways.

by: Molly Galo, Senior Consultant HPS Chicago

Coming up for air

sunrise in the sea

Summer is here.  The days are long, the weather is finally hot.  Businesses are beginning to cautiously reopen.  It feels as though we are emerging from a long period of hibernation.  Given that we have been relegated to one location and limited in our personal interactions, it may seem as though we have been on an extended break.  My guess, however, is that this period of time has felt nothing like a “break”.  It has been filled with uncertainty, anxiety, worry, stress.  We have been required to reinvent the way in which we meet, communicate, connect.  We have had to reimagine events.  Carefully consider our words.

Summer is a time when things slow down a bit, we catch our breath.  Families take vacation.  What plans do you have in the coming months?  It may seem fruitless to plan a vacation this year, but I encourage you to reconsider and reimagine this idea.  Vacation comes from the Latin word vacātiō, which means “exemption from service, respite from work”.  Consider that definition.

Exemption from service.  Respite from work.

Although a European vacation would be wonderful, there are other ways in which we can take a holiday.  One of my clients rented an RV and is driving with her husband and two small children to Florida.  Another is planning to visit several local state parks.  Perhaps it means staying home and reading novels or spending time planting a vegetable garden.   Or volunteering (which I realize sounds like work, but for many, it feeds the soul).

So, while you may be thinking, “ why bother to take time off?”, do what you have had to do every day these past few months: recreate.  Walk away from your computer, your phone, your daily responsibilities.  Think about simple ways to find joy.  Reconnect with your family.  Recharge your spirit.

by: Susan Matejka, Managing Director, HPS Chicago

The Benefit of Uncertainty


The Benefit of Uncertainty

Undoubtedly, these are uncertain and scary times.

While everyone is dealing with and adapting to new realities, those of us involved with non-profits are wired to see the positives.  We do that on a daily basis.  Whether bringing food to the hungry, sheltering the homeless, mentoring those that are hungry for direction, offering art and music to the underserved, jobs to the disenfranchised or education to the those thirsting for a brighter future, YOU all bring HOPE to those experiencing despair and CLARITY to those that strive to better themselves.

That’s what YOU do.

Pre-Covid, many of us were reliant on events to raise money.  Hours upon hours were spent on gala’s, golf outings and creative ways to build community, foster cultivation of constituents and ultimately, raise money to advance your mission.

Now, in the absence of in-person events, we are forced to focus on the last point, advancing the mission of your non-profit, simply for advancement sake.

Ask yourselves……

Do golf sponsors really need to golf to feel good about bringing hope and clarity to your clients?

Do award dinner sponsors really sign up only to see their names on a big screen while guests eat their dinner and enjoy time visiting with each other?

Of course not,

But we have become so reliant on events, that we have forgotten what donors want most, to make a difference in someone’s life.  This might actually be a silver lining of sorts. This might be an opportunity to recalibrate and get to the heart of why we conduct events – simply to advance the mission of the organization through philanthropy.

As you scramble to reschedule your outing, event, or award dinner, take a breath and use this opportunity to creatively cultivate philanthropic investments that bring impact to those you serve.  After all, that’s why individuals are drawn to you.  They believe in you and your organization’s ability to transform lives and make this a better world.

Be less reliant on the event planning that brings people to you and more strategic on WHAT IMPACT is experienced when they invest in your organization.

by: Michael Bruni, Managing Director, HPS Chicago

Happy Memorial Day!


Happy Memorial Day!

On Memorial Day weekend, we remember and honor the women and men who lost their lives while serving in the US military. Memorial Day, for many, also marks the start of summer. While we typically attend parades and host backyard BBQ’s with friends and family, the holiday this year looks quite different.  Pools are closed, baseball games are cancelled, and families are working through the “new normal” of shelter is place until restrictions are lightened.

Over the past few months, we have all been busy adapting and pivoting our fundraising plans to do our very best to stay connected with our donors and provide them with up to date information about how we are serving our clients. For many of us, the close of our fiscal year is just around the corner on June 30. We have about one month left before we close the books on this year. So, what does the year ahead look like for you at your organization? Do you have a fall gala or a summer kick-off that needs to be tweaked and redesigned? Do you have a major gift program that you planned to launch? A junior board that you had hoped to develop?

While we would all love to have a crystal ball that shows us the future, we need to be brave and creative to not only learn new ways of doing things but also flexible and nimble as information unfolds so that we can make the best decisions for our organizations. Your development plan for FY 21 might look different than any other plans you have created. Maybe you have Plan A and Plan B for that fall event. Or, a few new ways that you want to connect with your major donors that you never imagined until now. With this uncertainty about the future, it isn’t just business as usual. For many, the unknown isn’t easy and feels stressful because the plan isn’t written in stone. It’s hard to imagine closing that major gift over a Zoom meeting. It feels odd to plan for a fall event that looks nothing like one you’ve ever orchestrated before.

My thoughts for you for this Memorial Day are to first, take a deep breath. Enjoy something you love to do. Maybe it’s going for a walk, a bike ride, reading a book or cooking up a feast. As you start to look at your FY21 plan and begin to adjust it for next year, do the same. Take a deep breath. Think outside the box. Talk to your colleagues. Check out what others are doing. Learn some new things. And know that your revised plan for next year, which most likely will continue to be tweaked and refined as you go along, will be a great roadmap in helping you achieve your goals.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HPS Chicago

Necessity Is the Mother of Invention

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Necessity Is the Mother of Invention

This past Mother’s Day was the first time I hadn’t seen my mother in years. This was disappointing because our annual “girl’s weekends” with my daughter and me to visit her had become a tradition I looked forward to. We reinvented our celebration and visited using Facetime.  I guess it was better than nothing, right?

Then, I saw an interview with Eric Schmidt, the past president of Google. He discussed how positions are changing and said, “One way to think about this is that this one to two-month period has brought forth 10 years of forward change. So all of a sudden, the Internet is no longer optional. It’s fundamental …… Another example will be tele-health. 80 percent of the visits to doctors are right now in tele-health.” (Eric Schmidt transcript)

It made me wonder how we, as nonprofit professionals, will need to adapt in the future. For example, last week in a meeting with clients (on a Zoom call, no less!) we agreed we needed a video that we could create inhouse. I found myself saying than I am not an expert on making videos. I feel like I’ve grown and adapted a lot in my career, but not in that area – at least not yet.  One of the members said his high school kids could probably do it.


High School kids?

Nooooo! I refuse to go the way of the dinosaurs stuck in a proverbial tar pit! So I quickly watched a YouTube tutorial about Apple iMovie software and was kind of impressed at how easy this could be. Yes, even me, a lumbering Sauropod, could probably master this software!

I share this with you only to help us all stay encouraged to embrace new things and new technology. Let’s look forward and anticipate what will be needed in the future months and years, in order to stay relevant with our donors and keep our nonprofits strong.

As Bob Dylan wrote way back in 1963, before many of us were born, “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and he was right.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HPS Chicago