Five Tips for Boosting Communications
With potential donors steadily bombarded by messages online, over the telephone, through the mail, and on television, high school athletic boosters need something special to make their pitches stand out.
By Ray Merenstein
President, RDM Communications
Do you ever worry that key boosters didn't see an important announcement, fundraising pitch, or call for entries in a contest? Do you wonder if they glanced over an award, order form, or donor acknowledgement?
The trick to booster communications is typified by the old adage, "It's a marathon, not a sprint." Marathon runners are taught to pace themselves, know how fast they're running, and ensure they're maximizing performance. It's the same story with communications.
In making the most of your message, it's important to:
1. Set an "editorial calendar." If you tie communications into actual events, you'll increase awareness and recognition for your cause. For example, October is homecoming, so people expect to hear pitches about alumni and community. Springtime brings March Madness, an ideal time to tout the growth, accomplishments, or needs of your basketball team.
2. Hold virtual meetings, conference calls, and at-home gatherings to break up the repetitiveness of group meetings in a board room, office building, or athletic conference. That way, you begin to learn the preferences of your key boosters and what kind of setting is most likely to attract them. Do any of your boosters own a restaurant, a clothing store, or an equipment company? How fun and practical to showcase their place of business for one of your booster meetings!
3. Use social media, e-mail, and beyond. Many booster clubs have Facebook pages or constant contact newsletters, but the real key is to take those sites to the next level. Challenge every one of your boosters to not only become a fan of your Facebook page, but actually put the links on their page. Have them list it in the personal signature of their e-mails. Suggest they forward friend requests to at least 10 people. Viral marketing is great, but you have to encourage folks to participate. Offer an incentive of tickets to an event, dinner with a team captain, or breakfast with a coach. People who get the most postings win a prize, and your traffic will increase.
4. Challenge, challenge, challenge. Every message should challenge people to fulfill a call to action--double their donation, ask a friend to match their donation, make a gift in honor of a birthday or anniversary, bring a new neighbor to an event, purchase some school gear for the team, buy something from the school shop for gifts. I just bought a Gator wine cup for a 13-year old's bar mitzvah gift. He may be the only Denver young adult with a Gator kiddush cup, but it supported the school and made him happy. It's that easy.
5. Don't fly solo. Have you asked alumni to write articles? Have you held an interview with a coach or player and featured it as a communiqué? Have you invited community leaders to submit stories about why they support the school? Use your media outlets--newsletters, emails, flyers, websites and more--to feature these folks.
Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint. Don't tackle all these ideas at once. Choose one, practice it, improve it, and make it habit for you and for your target audience. Before you know it, you'll have more responses, more interest, and of course, more support!
Ray Merenstein is the President of RDM Communications, a Denver-based firm that focuses on public relations, fundraising, and grassroots advocacy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.