The Power of Community Engagement Committees to market your Film Festival

film reel


Holding a film festival? Well, your festival promotion is key to its success.

Word of Mouth (WOM) still rules when engaging people to participate. Through WOM marketing you:

  • Invite community organizations to join you and promote the films to their members.
  • Ask volunteers and members to invite their friends and family.
  • Send messages that your team can forward to their email list.
  • Always include information about and a link to ticket sales.

*       Checkout Promoting a Film Festival in Three Weeks! 

Increase the power of WOM through a Community Engagement Committee. Charge the committee to assist in promoting your film festival to various groups within your greater community.

Your committee’s success depends on having  a good marketing tool kit. My favorite was developed for the 2014 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival Community Engagement Committee. The toolkit is a link on the film festival website that is only accessible by committee members.

Steps to creating a Community Engagement Toolkit:

  • Create PDF files of the movie description in your film festival program. Here are a couple examples:

Brave Miss World

Esther Broner: A Weave of Women

  • Create a Handout of films by subject. Key each film to the page in the program.
  • Post a PDF of the Film Festival Program
  • Create a file that shows where each film is showing and at what time
  • Provide incentives for committee members to use such as discount price codes and group prices
  1. Schedule meetings with Community Engagement committee members.
  2. Provide a list of materials that can be found on Community Engagement Link.
  3. Capture information on outreach possibilities discussed at meetings.
  4. Offer staff support if a committee member needs help putting together visuals for face to face meetings.
  5. Create a tracking tool for committee members.
  6. Create a master spreadsheet of what outreach worked.

Another Community Engagement Toolkit favorite is Reel Power Films Fueling the Energy Revolution. 

Do you have any suggestions for a Community Engagement Toolkit? We’d love to hear from you.

Want a copy of the CS&I Film Festival PR Template? Please contact me at

Enjoy the film festival!!



Don’t forget the video when you plan special events!


“Video is probably the most important way to evoke emotions in the people you’re trying to reach – and that emotion is going to lead to not just initial attention, but then lasting memory of your cause, engagement in your cause, and willingness to take action.” Liz Banse, Resource Media

Video is a very powerful form of communications. A well done video reaches well beyond our physical senses and engages our emotions. Video is the perfect medium for helping you tell your nonprofit story.

Did you know?

But, there’s a lot of ‘noise’ on social networks! How do you cut through the noise to garner attention to your nonprofit’s mission and events?

Think visually! Photos are good and video even better.

YouTube is known as ‘the place’ to post your videos. And, YouTube has a nonprofit program. Benefits of joining include:

  • Adding a Donate button to your channel.
  • Placing call-to-action overlays on your videos so viewers can click to visit your website, register for an upcoming event and learn more about volunteer & sponsorship opportunities.
  • Using live streaming video on your YouTube channel, which is great to engage your virtual event guests who cannot attend in person.

You want to create a video that showcases your mission and is engaging. You can use the video to introduce people to your nonprofit, appeal to donors and show at your events.

When posted on a Facebook event page or your organization’s YouTube site, the same video will make a great promotional piece for your upcoming special event.

I was recently introduced to Reflection Films, a company that specializing in marketing, fundraising and training videos.

I asked co-owner Rachel Jallinek if I could share a web excerpt of a video Reflection Films created for The Food Project, a nonprofit that has built a national model of engaging young people in personal and social change through sustainable agriculture. The video was created for their 20th Anniversary and first gala.

The video clip really spoke to me. So I went to the website and watched the full video!

Don’t forget to take advantage of the new technology and social media sites to use your organization’s video to tell your nonprofit’s story at your events and to promote the event to draw greater audiences to attend.

Happy filming!





A tribute to a great event chair

Event co-Chairs celebrate Eizenstat Lecture with President Clinton

I was saddened to learn that Marshall Solomon had died. Our paths crossed when he chaired two Eizenstat Family Memorial Lectures.

To say that Marshall was the consummate event chair is an understatement.

I learned a lot from working with Marshall, especially on the lecture featuring President Bill Clinton. As the event consultant I came to rely on Marshall’s sage advice and willingness to keep the committee and ultimately the event on point.

In honor of Marshall I share some of the lessons I learned:

  • A committed event Chair is key to success.
  • Work with the Chair to hold a brainstorming session when you begin the planning.
  • A personal invitation from the event chair to serve on and/or chair a committee goes a long way.
  • A Chair cannot oversee the event- at- large if not updated in ‘real time’.
  • If you make a mistake be sure your Chair is informed so he/she can be part of the solution.
  • Know what personal mark the Chair wants to make and help him/her achieve it.
  • The Chair means having to make big decisions. Respect the decision.
  • Never forget that being Chair is a volunteer position & most have other responsibilities to family & work.
  • The only compensation is acknowledgement of a job well done and a thank you.
  • You can’t recognize and thank your event Chair enough.
  • No matter how organized and experienced the Chair and committee Chairs are, something will go wrong. So be prepared to deal with it.
  • An event Chair with an understanding of budgets and the backbone to keep the event on-budget is worth his/her weight in gold.
  • An event is a team effort. An event Chair is the quarterback and cheerleader.

Marshall and I had different interests. But, when it came to working together on an event we had a single focus.

Thank you Marshall.


Keeping your story alive after your event



My friend Stacy sent me a link to a press release about an upcoming event – Dawgs for Mito presents Carson’s ClassicStacy’s son Carson has mitochondrial disease, which causes developmental issues.

A family babysitter, Hannah Bossie, was so taken by Carson, that she decided to hold an inaugural golf tournament to raise awareness about Carson’s condition. Hannah and a team of students at UGA launched the first collegiate chapter of UMDF, a nonprofit dedicated to finding a cure for mitochondrial disorders and to provide support to affected individuals and families.

Now the chapter is holding its first event, a golf classic named in Carson’s honor.

Stacy asked if I could make some suggestions on how to get the word out about Carson’s Classic and help keep Carson’s story alive.

No question that events are a great way to create and engage a community to support your cause.  I set the stage for converting event donors to program donors in my last blog post.

Social media is key for making your event a success and keeping your story alive.

Here are some details on using social media to keep the conversation going:

Event website

  • Your event website serves as the hub for your event and after-event activities
  • Post awards
  • Post photographs and a link to download and/or purchase
  • Embed YouTube presentations
  • Provide easy to find links to your social media sites.


  • Launch a Facebook page for your event.
  • Start building your community by inviting people to Like your page
  • Feature your sponsors & post their comments on their event participation
  • Provide event recaps in photos and videos
  • Thank participants, sponsors, volunteers
  • Quote participants about their experiences on your event page
  • Post a recap e-newsletter
  • After the event turn your friends into activists for your cause. Make sure you focus on opportunities to be engaged.
  • Link to YouTube presentations from the event
  • Share your successes


  • Create a Twitter hashtag for your event
  • Share relevant information/content about your organization
  • Put links to your event in your tweets
  • Build engaged community before and during your event
  • Invite people to retweet information on your cause
  • Say thank you to people who retweet your post
  • Set up twitter to post tweets directly onto your Facebook page
  • Tweet links to event videos, & testimonials
  • Keep up your presence with meaningful information on your cause
  • Continue to build an interested community
  • Link to YouTube presentations from the event


  • Create a group for your organization.
  • Post information about your events in your group.
  • At the same time, foster robust discussion groups and encourage members of your group to join the discussion
  • Link to YouTube presentations from the event
  • Share your successes

Your  social media initiatives should live on, extending the life of your events. Social media makes it easier for you to reach out to attendees, volunteers and sponsors and keep them engaged.

Need help with your social media initiatives for your next event? Please contact me at





Are you converting your event donors to program donors?

Your nonprofit just completed a successful event. Whether it was a black-tie dinner or fun run, you now have a great opportunity to engage the participants and acquire new donors and/or sponsors.

Create a conversion campaign. Add post-event action steps into your event planning. Here are some simple, but powerful ideas:

  • Post-event surveys
  • Invitations to sign up for e-newsletter
  • Updates on programs
  • Announcements of volunteer opportunities at future events and programs
  • Invitation to hold a third party event (see earlier post The Lure of Independent Fundraising Events)
  • Other ways to stay in touch
  • Add information about your programs and the people you touch in your auto-responder
  • Use Social Media to encourage and sustain conversations
  • Add information to your website and e-newsletter on what you are doing as a result of the fundraising event.
  • Schedule ways to stay in contact
  • Hold a brain storming session with your leadership to identify prospects.
  • Develop an email conversion strategy to educate and encourage a lasting relationship.

You need to be realistic. You need to analyze the reasons people came to your event. Then tailor your outreach to your prospects:

  • Were they asked by a friend? If so, you might be able to engage them to hold an independent fundraising event.
  • Do they support your mission? Invitations to on-site visits and lectures with leading authorities in your field will be appealing.
  • Are family members touched by the issues you tackle? In this case a compelling  appeal focused on a specific program that will help ensure quality of life might lead to a new donation.

Regardless of the pathway, be sure to say thank you and stay in touch. In today’s world, you can launch a conversion campaign through your electronic fundraising provider. Speak with your website designer to ensure that your landing page is up-to-date and makes it easy to contact you and make a donation.

Do you have any examples of successful conversion programs? Need any help?

Please contact me at



The lure of independent fundraising events

In a recent blog post Fundraising without special events? No Way! I review the importance of integrating special events into development, which I learned in 2007 from Jeff Shuck, President & CEO Event360.

Giving hierarchy integrated with special events

Today’s post focuses on Independent Fundraising Events (IFE). These are activities designed and run by non-staff volunteers to raise money on behalf of a specific nonprofit. They are conducted locally with minimal support from the beneficiary.

The types of activities that these local supporters conduct are quite literally endless. They can range from a bake or garage sale to a wine tasting or gallery opening.

One of the major advantages of IFE is that the costs are covered by the independent event organizers.

Other benefits of IFE –

  • An effective addition to any organization’s development portfolio.
  • Independent fundraisers are more likely to have a much stronger and direct emotional connection to the organization.
  • Great way to give these highly dedicated individuals the opportunity to match their passion without the limitations of traditional fundraising events.

How can your nonprofit support Independent Fundraisers?

Develop a secure website with useable tools:

  • Media Kit and publicity guide
  • Approved logos, graphics, banners, stickers
  • Informational pieces
  • Personal fundraising page for online donations
  • Printable donation forms
  • Registration materials
  • Staff support

Of course, there are IFE Challenges. As described by Zach Anderson, at the Canadian Internet Summit, these include:

  • Budgeting Revenue from events
  • Justification of Costs
  • Connecting with IFE donors
  • Providing supplies and giveaways
  • Reputation/Brand Risk
  • Shortage of staff support
  • Unavailability of board members to participate

Two organizations standout to me as providing great support to independent fundraising events. These are:

Alex’s Lemonade Stand – Fighting Childhood Cancer One Cup at a Time


Team Fox – Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

What better way to augment your special events than with independent fundraising events?

Fundraising without special events? No Way!

Do special events really make sense throughout the classic giving hierarchy?

You bet!

That was the message of my recent teleseminar Fundraising without special events? No Way!

Actually I can’t imagine a development plan that does not integrate special events at every level.

I first learned about integrating special events into development in 2007 from Jeff Shuck, President & CEO Event360.

This is a different way to focus on events. Seen this way events are part of a holistic development effort that integrates into everything you do as an organization to raise money. And, it is strategic – the events are focused on the mission. At each level of your giving paradigm you will find distinct events for distinct goals.

Giving hierarchy integrated with special events


  • Annual campaigns have three key elements: direct mail, special events & personal solicitations. Be sure and use all three! These volume events can cultivate annual and major gift prospects. Sample volume events include charity walks, runs & bike-a-thons.
  • Major gifts come from individuals, corporations & foundations. Successful major gifts campaigns are all about stewardship and cultivating relationships with current donors and prospects. Targeted events should be part of your cultivation toolkit. Targeted events include a variety of specialty parties from black-tie galas & tribute dinners, to wine tastings, private museum events and themed parties. Guests who attend these events often engage in live and/or silent auctions, and enjoy entertainment and/or dancing. The common denominator is that most honor a member of the community who supports your cause.
  • Capital campaigns are generally considered to be fundraising efforts for major capital purposes. The goal is usually millions of dollars and at times more. 60 -80% of money is raised during the quiet phase. This phase ends with the launch, the public rollout of the campaign. Launch events are a great way to create enthusiasm about your campaign and to get media attention.
  • Until recently no one did events to recognize people who had made bequests to their organization. But, it is so meaningful to hold smaller more intimate events to thank and recognize these donors and to reaffirm the impact their testamentary donations will make. It brings these donors closer to the organization and helps ensure their commitments.

Remember, special events at every phase of your campaign provide that experiential experience in which an emotional connection can be made.

Please let me hear from you with questions about special events and fundraising. You can reach me at

Promoting a Film Festival in 3 weeks!

ReelAbilities ATL Film Festival

“Hi,” my friend said. “Do you have any extra time? I could really use some PR help promoting our upcoming film festival, ReelAbilities ATL. The only problem is that the film festival is in three weeks!”

Well, believe it or not, we met the challenge. A small but dedicated staff and a real commitment to get the message out lead to a successful launch.

Although I would never advocate waiting so late to promote an event, it happens. So, here’s my suggestion on how to proceed:

Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm

  • Bring new voices to the table.
  • Explore new ways to engage partners.
  • Identify possible ways to distribute the message and outlets to approach.
  • Look for the story within the story. 

Make sure that the event website is functioning properly.

  • Ask someone who doesn’t know how it is supposed to function to navigate the site.
  • Is it easy to navigate?
  •  Do all the links work?
  •  Are the messages clear?
  •  Do the links make it easy to buy tickets to the film festival and/or make a donation?
  •  Is it easy to find contact information?

Launch a Facebook page.

  • Send messages to all your personal friends to “Like” the page.
  • Invite your organizational partners to Like and share the site.
  • Keep the posts fresh with photos from films, updated press releases, new volunteer opportunities, etc.

Use a news distribution service with social media capabilities.

  • Send a link of your html press release to all your partners and ask that they in turn distribute to their media contacts.
  •  Be sure to send a link, not a PDF copy of the release.
  • Make sure that your news distribution has the capability to add Social Media Links such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to your release.
  • Confirm that the service enhances your release by Tweeting and/or blogging about your festival.

Send personalized email to your media contacts

  • Paste the release to the body of the email.
  • Send a link to PDF and JPEG files housed on your website instead of sending attachments.
  • Make personal phone calls to media contacts.

Monitor Your Progress

It is never too late to promote your events. If you would like a copy of my film festival PR template, please contact me at

Cheers! Now enjoy the film festival.

Increasing Attendance with Social Media

Your special event is planned. Now, the critical question is – how do you  increase your attendance?

Everyone points to the benefits of social media to drive your attendance. Social media is a vehicleyou use to enact your strategy. You can increase the value of your special event by integrating social media into your marketing strategy.

But, before you develop your strategy, ask yourself these questions developed by Stacey Ruth, a marketing consultant with Atlanta-based Actio Marketing :

  1. Are your attendees active in any of the social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube or blogs/forums)?
  2. Do you have an awareness problem, and are you trying to reach large number of attendees quickly (and perhaps inexpensively)?
  3. Do you have someone on your team with enough time on their hands to populate a social media site effectively? (That means building content that can be pushed out every day in most cases.)
  4. Do you have knowledge (or access to someone with knowledge) of best practices for the social media platform you want to apply? Social media is not an “if you build it, they will come” scenario. There is a definite approach to each social network that is uniquely effective — and any number of approaches that are equally ineffective!
  5. Would you like to build an extended life to your event and create a community around it? 

If you answered yes to more than one of the above questions, social media including Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter, is worth integrating into your event marketing strategy. However, don’t overlook the value of tried-and-true ‘social media’ platforms including Word Of Mouth marketing or WOMM.

Word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM), is an unpaid form of oral or written promotion—in which satisfied “customers” or your organization’s ambassadors tell other people how much they like your nonprofit and invite them to participate in your event. Word-of-mouth is one of the most credible forms of advertising because people who don’t stand to gain personally by promoting something put their reputations on the line every time they make a recommendation, according to Entrepreneur.

Bottom line – know your audiences before you invest the time and energy as part of your event marketing strategy. Use your social media strategy as a way to involve your board and volunteers.

Any questions about specific social media vehicles to use for your event? Be sure and contact me at