The Mikuska Group  

Why are we doing this event?

“Let’s do an event – we need to raise more money!”

Board members and/or staff come up with this idea often, with the notion that businesses will be on board with sponsorship, friends, family and acquaintances will buy tickets and loads of donated goods will be auctioned off, resulting in a healthy bottom line.

But does it?

There are reasons for holding an event, but typically raising money isn’t one of them. When you stop to examine the actual return on investment, what are you measuring? You need to be clear on your objective for holding an event before you can measure its ROI.

If your objective is to raise awareness, does your event align with your mission and perceived brand? Will people associate the event with your organization and support it because they believe in your mission? Or are they buying a ticket because they want a fun time out and won’t ever think that they’re supporting your good work?

If you are hoping to raise money, take every cost into consideration, including staff time. Many organizations claim to have raised a tidy sum without revealing that it actually raised half or less when the time taken by staff is factored in. You must also consider what is not being done while your fundraising staff is picking out menus and napkin colours and running around begging for donations for the auction table. With all that busy work, there’s no time to talk to your donors!

So ask yourself first, “Why are we doing this event?”

Laura Mikuska


Public spaces and sponsorship

I recently attended the Western Sponsorship Congress, which is an annual event put on by The Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists. Brent Barootes and his team delivered another great congress full of stories and advice to raise the bar on sponsorship in Canada. As part of their work, they partnered with REPUCOM to produce the 2015 Consumer Sponsorship Rankings, an exclusive Canadian research study on sponsorship.

Among the most interesting statistics from the study were with respect to Municipalities and Sponsorship. 85% of respondents said that companies should be able to sponsor public spaces such as hockey rinks, ball parks and recreational facilities. Clearly there’s an appetite for attracting revenue through corporate sponsorship!

Municipalities often complain there’s not enough revenue to do the things they need to do. With all the assets they own, from parks to bridges, from walking trails to arenas, there is lots to offer corporate sponsors to meet their needs. This is an important revenue stream – is your municipality paying attention?

Laura Mikuska


Tis the season

It’s easy at this time of the year to get caught up in the frenzy that is the holiday season, and to become cynical about all the hoopla that surrounds it. Today I remembered there’s an antidote for that.

As co-chair of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Ambassador Program, I get notice of, and have the opportunity to attend, Ribbon-Cutting ceremonies for Chamber members. It’s a great way to invite the wider community to celebrate a grand opening, an open house or other occasions.

Today Chamber member Living Real Estate celebrated two years in business and a grand opening of their new office. We listened to owners Jason Coward and Lynne Heintz talk about how they built community support and philanthropy into their business model. They held some fundraising events, and then invited representatives from three local charities, Agape Table, Children’s Wish and the Cheer Board, to attend the ceremonies today. Each was presented with a generous donation from the proceeds.

I also heard from Agape Table that the entire office had been “angels”, quietly showing up to volunteer one day when there was a shortage of people to help. One agent explained that even though they were helping out, their act of kindness was really for themselves. That is the definition of a joyful gift.

So therein lies the antidote for cynicism and frenzy. Go and help others, generate some “warm and fuzzies” and do some good in your community.

We’ll all be better for it.

Laura Mikuska


Businesses: Beyond gold, silver, bronze sponsorships

Is this scenario familiar to you?

You are approached by a charitable organization for a sponsorship, typically through a package that lists “Gold, Silver, Bronze” type recognition levels and the benefits each one provides. You’re offered a hole, a table, a booth, or some other such “visibility” opportunity. Or you’re asked to donate a prize for a silent auction or raffle in exchange for some recognition (logo soup, anyone?).

How did these types of approaches make you feel?

Most likely you felt obligated to “give back” to the community and help out the cause. That’s not a bad way to feel, but it’s certainly not what sponsorship is meant to be.

Did anyone ask you how they could help you achieve your business goals through sponsorship?

Mikuska Group Inc. is offering a new program for business – helping you define your sponsorship goals and creating a program that leverages your sponsorships to meet those goals.

We can help you:

  • understand the principles of sponsorship
  • define your business goals
  • create your program for maximum ROI

 If you want to support community causes and achieve your business goals, contact us to find out how.

Laura Mikuska.


Overhead vs. investment

The charitable sector is often critiqued on a scale that measures how much of their budget goes to “overhead” as opposed to the “cause.” The reasoning is that those who direct the most money to the cause are benefiting the most people. Low overhead = good charity. High overhead = bad charity.

Charities and other not-for-profit organizations are especially criticized for spending money to raise funds, including hiring professional fundraisers and support staff, developing the infrastructure to support philanthropy and engagement, and communications. The spending is seen as an expense, rather than an investment. And as a result, organizations find it hard to grow, which makes it hard to achieve their missions.

In his recent book, Charity Case, and  TED Talk, Dan Pallotta makes the case for a new way of thinking about charities, one that makes it possible for the whole sector to grow.

He says in the talk that nonprofit organizations labour under a belief system that keeps them from increasing their value, and therefore “keeps them tiny.” There are two sets of rules, he says, that discriminate against the nonprofit sector in five ways:

  • Compensation – the idea of paying people well to help others is abhorrent
  • Advertising and marketing – donors don’t want their funds to go to advertising even if advertising can bring in more money
  • Risk-taking to pursue new ideas for generating revenue – society expects instant profit to the nonprofit, and there’s low tolerance for new ideas that may fail
  • Time – there’s no appetite for nonprofits to take time to build
  • Profit – nonprofits can’t pay people profit to access their capital, so they are shut out of the capital markets

Pallotta argues that rather than overhead taking away from the cause, it actually is part of it, especially if it’s used for growth. He says that rather than looking at what portion of the pie is overhead and the rest for the cause, why not look at increasing the size of the pie?

What does it matter that a cancer charity has a 40 per cent overhead if is raises multi-million dollars for research? Pallotta says don’t confuse morality with frugality. He likens it to a bake sale that has 5 per cent overhead but only raises $71 for charity.

Watch the TED talk and share it with others in your organization. Start thinking about investing and not about “overhead.”

Julie Mikuska


What the statistics are telling you

Normally people’s eyes glaze over when we throw statistics at them, but this time, you should pay attention. It can affect your bottom line if you apply them to your nonprofit.

First, a few parameters. I’m talking about Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Territories, with results gleaned from the National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations*.

Second, I’m giving you results excluding hospitals, universities and colleges, because although they constitute only 1% of the organizations in the survey, they account for almost half of the revenue (48%). Since this evidence will skew the results for the rest of the categories, we’ll leave it out.

When we talk to our clients and others in the nonprofit sector, there are some assumptions made about where the money comes from to fund their organizations. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Government funding: 32%
  • Earned income: 46%
  • Gifts and donations: 18%
  • Other income: 4%

A further breakdown of the gifts and donations reveals that 13% are from individuals and only 2% come from corporate sponsorships, donations or grants.

If this surprises you, you’re not alone. Many nonprofits think they should be going after the big corporate dollars, but in reality, it’s individuals that are most generous. Where do you spend your time? On chasing corporate sponsorships for your gala or golf tournament? Or on connecting with and engaging individual donors?

The statistics don’t lie. Change your focus and you’ll improve your bottom line.

Laura Mikuska


*This was a four-year research project that built our understanding of the charitable and nonprofit sector in Canada and its needs for capacity building. Research for the NSNVO was conducted by a consortium of organizations with Imagine Canada serving as the project lead. All of the reports based on the survey can be found here.


Nuggets from the Western Sponsorship Congress

I recently attended the SMCC Western Sponsorship Congress, founded by Brent Barootes of The Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists. It was a great way to hear directly from sponsors and properties about their challenges and successes.

Here are some tips from sponsors to properties:

  • While corporations often outline their “Pillars” of community support, if you have a proposal outside these guidelines that may interest a sponsor, have a conversation.
  • Sponsorship is not Philanthropy.
  • Be realistic in the value of your inventory. Don’t inflate your proposal to meet budget.
  • Don’t be shy about proposing activation – we like new ideas. Experiential is important.
  • “No” doesn’t mean “No, not ever.” Take the small sponsorships – they could lead to bigger ones down the road.
  • Make sure you know what is important to the sponsor. Some are interested in increased sales, others value employee engagement.
  • Hold a Sponsor Summit and have all your partners participate. The value in this is that partners may wish to be in the room with other partners as a prelude to potential business relationships. Also, say thanks!

Some tips from properties about keeping sponsors engaged:

  • You and your sponsors are partners in a trusting, collaborative relationship. It’s not us vs. them.
  • Invest in your event or program. You don’t want to appear “cheap” – this is not appealing to partners.
  • Keep in touch year-round, not just around your event.
  • Promote your partners through Twitter, in your newsletters and on site all year.
  • Have exclusive opportunities for sponsors – meet the celebrities, back stage tours, etc.
  • Propose new sponsorship opportunities to your current partners – you may not be aware of new plans or programs that these fit into.
  • Offer exclusive opportunities for your partners’ employees/friends and families.

Sponsorship is becoming an increasingly important source of revenue for non profit organizations. Crafting a successful sponsorship program (not Gold/Silver/Bronze packages!) requires you to understand the nature of the beast. Invest in your sponsorship education. Your partners will appreciate it.

Laura Mikuska



Moving from a one-time experience to a relationship

Many organizations run events to raise awareness of their mission and funds to support it. Many of you will have participated in the latest walk, run or golf tournament because someone asked you to join them or sponsor them in the event. You might even have participated because you wanted to have fun! But what happened after the event?

Did the organization stay in touch beyond issuing your tax receipt? Did they offer to send you news of the impact of your participation? Or did they file your name away, and either contact you when it’s time for next year’s event, or worse – completely ignore you?

Organizations are missing the mark if they don’t engage their donors beyond the event. Participants have already had a positive experience, which makes them more likely to want to accept an invitation for further engagement. Ask permission to remain in contact when they register, and make sure you follow up.

Caring about your donors means moving towards a real relationship.

Laura Mikuska


What Bell contributes to the conversation

It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day, the second annual where Canadians are urged to tweet, text, talk and share on Facebook their thoughts on mental health.

I want to stand up and applaud Bell for getting involved in raising awareness about mental health, not just today, but through a multi-year $50 million funding initiative. I applaud them for taking an issue that touches all Canadians at some time in their lives, and opening dialogue about something that has for so long been hidden and shameful. I applaud them for giving their 60,000 employees the opportunity to make a difference in their communities.

I’ve seen some of the chat on twitter that’s critical of Bell, saying this day is crass and commercial. The point the critics are missing is that Bell has actually taken a courageous stand, and put their network behind a difficult issue.

With one in five people experiencing mental health issues every day, it’s critical for more people to understand and support their family, friends and co-workers. It’s important, too, to advocate on their behalf and get governments to put more resources into mental health supports, especially for young people.

So Bravo, Bell, for keeping the conversation going. Thanks for doing your part.

Julie Mikuska


The real cost of events

“Let’s hold an event – we can make lots of money for our non profit!” Are you sure?

If you’re considering an event, make sure you are clear on all of the reasons and costs of doing so. Events can be part of your fund development program, but they shouldn’t be seen as the be-all and end-all of your fundraising. Events can be used to raise awareness, engage with your donors and friends, and sometimes they even make money.

When you’re calculating your net profit, do you count your staff time? If not, you’re missing the true picture. If you have two or three people working many hours on the event, they are missing other fund development opportunities. They could be meeting with your major donors and sponsors to engage them further in the organization, which could ultimately lead to larger gifts and sponsorships. They could be researching prospective donors. They could be working on your direct mail program. In other words, you should be reviewing your entire fund development program, and taking stock of the real cost of your events.

Laura Mikuska



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