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The Grill Cheese Bus log

Grilled Cheese as Community Action

 Recipe for change:
1 Part Converted School Bus 1 Part Locally Sourced Ingredients 1 Part Youth Job Training
 What you end up with is a food truck dream, gourmet grilled cheese and social change. The Grilled Cheese Bus is a Triangle Area nonprofit food truck that  is training youth in entrepreneurship, marketing, financial literacy,  and sustainability.  Profits from the bus will be donated back to other community projects.Soon you will be able to track the bus location via Twitter/Facebook making it even easier to  grab yourself sandwich and make a difference in your community. The Grill Cheese Bus log   

Nonprofit Events – Untapped Marketing for Small Biz

Had lunch with a new small business client this week, and it sparked a great conversation regarding how small businesses can and should be using nonprofit events as marketing opportunities.  During my career in nonprofit, I've seen some businesses make outstanding connections through this type of marketing, but I've also seen many small business who have missed golden opportunities of this untapped resource.  Before I dive in, allow me to debunk a couple of myths for those small business folks out there:
  • Sponsorships & corporate partnerships are not for just large corporations.  Almost all nonprofits (or at least the smart ones) offer partnership packages at all levels of involvement.  You don't have to be able to cough up several thousand dollars to be involved.
  • Partnerships are not only cash in nature.  Some of the best sponsorships are ones in which a business provides a product or service that the organization would otherwise have to pay for.
As a small business owner, we know your resources may be limited.  However, this doesn't mean involvement isn't possible.  Like for-profit events, nonprofit events can provide all of the marketing opportunities you should be looking for:
  • An audience that fits the demographic of your clients
  • Opportunities for product display/distribution
  • Face-to-face networking
  • Inclusion in promotional efforts
Unlike for-profit events, those organized by a nonprofit additionally allow for your business to be connected with a very loyal, hyper-local, community base who value entities that support the same values they support.  (Most times for much less of a cost too.)Here are just a few of examples of partnerships for small businesses:
  • Outdoor Charity events (walks, bike rides, runs) - Consider investing in a booth at their event, perhaps it's a walk and you can host a rest stop and hand out samples of your product or specials for your services. This may require some sort of monetary investment, but many times, a partnership can be crafted out of donated products/services & monetary donation. (EX: A local carpet cleaning company may want to host a rest stop along the route & hand out sample bottles of carpet cleaning solution to walkers. Not only do they get their info & product in the hands of potential clients, but they have the opportunity to talk to them about why their process is better than their competitors.)
  • Formal/Corporate Events (galas, balls, golf tournament) - While on-site attendance may be more difficult, it's not out of the question.  But what might be more feasible is an auction package donation for a product or service your business provides. (EX:  A new floral design firm may want to offer a design package for a personal or corporate event as an auction package. Not only might it get them connected with a potential client, it also helps them build their portfolio of work to show future clients.)
  • Educational Programs (workshops, seminars) - Like outdoor events, many nonprofits offer exhibit opportunities at their in-person educational programs. (EX: A business that installs awnings on homes might get clients from exhibiting at an educational program for individuals who have sensitivity to sun.)

Partnership Tips for Small Businesses:

  • Know what your target demographic(s) is/are (You can't align yourself with an event that fits unless you know this yourself.  Who are your clients and/or who do you want your clients to be?)
  • Do your homework, don't just say yes to every charity that calls you, but chose the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.  Make sure to ask the right questions:
    • What's the demographic makeup of their event? (Are the attendees primarily families?  Men? Income bracket?)
    • How many people are expected? (Make sure there will be enough people in attendance to make it worth your time, energy & resources.)
    • Where are their attendees coming from? (Ask if they can give you a zip code analysis of attendees.)
    • What partnership levels and entitlements  do they offer? (Look for opportunities that offer more than slapping your logo on the back of their event t-shirt. Think about it, how many times has some contacted you and said, I saw your tiny logo on the back of a Diabetes Run T-shirt and thought you might be able to help me.)
    • Ask them about in-kind sponsorships.  (Can you offer a product or service as part or all of your sponsorship donation?  Remember it has to be something the really need though.  While it might be beneficial to you, offering them coupons to put in their goody bags doesn't really help them at all.)
  • Be on the lookout for events to partner with. (Pick up brochures & flyers on events as you are around town.  Jot down the info of PSAs you hear about in the media. Contact them to prospect & find out more about their events.  Make sure to ask the questions above.)
  • Be creative with your partnerships. If the nonprofit is forward thinking, they will be willing to think outside the box about a partnership, beyond what they have printed on their sponsorship levels. (Maybe you are a new children's boutique in town and you can be in charge of staffing & providing supplies for the "ABC Boutique Kids Zone.")
  • Be there in person if at all possible. ( While nonprofits are happy to have quality in-kind/cash donations, no one can tell your business' story like you.  If you simply make a donation, and don't attend, you are leaving prime opportunity on the table.  In addition to your donation, have all your staff & staff's family volunteer at the event.  Brand them from head to toe in your company as ambassadors.  And make sure they know how to engage folks in conversation about your business.)

Partnership Tips for Nonprofits:

  • Stop asking for things & expecting not to have to give something in return. ( Look at your events as viable marketing opportunities for businesses, and offer enticing entitlements for their involvement.)
  • Reach out to small businesses whose clientele fits your event's demographic. (And tell them that when you approach them.  EX: A local law firm that specializes in construction law should would be very interested to know that your golf tournament is organized by the heavy hitters of the local construction industry.)
  • Know your stats. (How many people to expect? What's the zip code analysis of last year's participants?)
  • Be flexible. Don't just hold out for cash-only sponsors. (An in-kind sponsor should be given the same level of importance as a cash sponsor at the same value level.  EX:  A catering company who provides your event with all the food valued at $2,500 is an equal sponsor level to the cash sponsor who wrote you a $2,500 check.)
  • Don't say yes to every business that wants to get involved. (If a small business wants to donate something that won't provide a real value to your efforts, it is okay to say no.  Don't waste their time or yours.)
In today's market everyone is looking for that elusive diamond in the rough when it comes to marketing opportunities for their business.  Truth is, it doesn't least not on it's own.  We have to be savvy creators of our own opportunities in order to find the experiences that give us the leverage we desire.  And remember, charities are no longer just valid for handouts. So start connecting now.  Who knows, you might actually find yourself a changed person as a result.

Join our latest class – A nonprofits guide to Facebook, Causes, and the Social Graph

March 3rd - Raleigh, NC

1804 Hillsborough St Raleigh, NC 27605

This course offers a conversational approach to moving your nonprofit organization into Facebook and Causes.  We will be covering an array of Facebook/Causes topics specifically for non-profits including:
  • Why Facebook? Why Now? Learn just how big Facebook has become and how it can be leveraged to raise funds, awareness, and launch new events.
  • Difference between the various types of pages. Should you be using personal pages, Organization profile pages, fan pages, groups, etc? What the pages mean and how to use them to your advantage.
  • Accessing your donors/volunteers social graphs. Everyone knows everyone. Leveraging your Donors/Volunteers and events participants to expand your network and find your next top donor.
  • Fundraising with Causes. Setting up your organization to raise funds on Facebook Causes. Using the built in tools to allow you constituents to network fund-raise.
  • Affiliate and 3rd Party Fundraising. Learn why and how affiliate fundraising will be huge for your organization. Give your 3rd parties a platform they can use to raise funds for you directly.
  • Tools to integrating Facebook into your existing fundraising systems. Many of the fundraising systems you currently use can be integrated with Facebook, allowing your participants to actively raise funds and recruit for your organization.
These topics are tied together with not only real world examples, but also the concepts that are at the heart of their success.Tickets are $37.50 and can be purchased at eventbriteTestimonials:
  • I would highly recommend Phoenixfire Solutions' classes for anyone seeking to further understand Facebook and the value it can provide.
  • The content of the class was fantastic! The principles and ideas can be easily implemented to improve our current Facebook strategy!
  • This class was extremely beneficial for our organization. We have known about the importance of social media for a long time and have been using it for awareness and events. However, the seminar gave me an in-depth understanding of how all the pieces fit together. I now feel like I can develop a more effective strategy with social media because I feel confident in my understanding of it.

Job Search In Non-profit Requires Elbow Grease

Earlier this week, a friend of mine asked me to give some job search pointers to a young woman who had recently been laid off from her non-profit position.  I get similar requests from folks on a regular basis due to my position as a non-profit executive, but also because of my early roots in staffing.  Helping out in this area is something I enjoy and that is a nice break from the plate spinning of running a non-profit.  (I know this officially classifies me as a nerd if this is my idea of enjoyment.)  While I was sharing some thoughts on this young woman's resume, as well as some of my general tips, I decided this would be good information to share with everyone.  If in the course of reading you have some additional helpful hints for folks, I encourage you to post a comment & share.  We wouldn't be where we are today if someone hadn't imparted wisdom to us, so why not return the favor.Common knowledge teaches us that there are a few basic areas to concentrate on when it comes to a non-profit job search, regardless of whether you are entering the field or looking for a new opportunity:  Preparing, and Looking & Expanding.PREPARING Before you can nail down that non-profit job, you have to prepare properly.  In my career I've seen my fair share of idiotic submissions for positions.  For a good laugh, read an old post I wrote called, "Friends Don’t Let Friends Submit Crappy Job Applications".  In my opinion, the vast majority of individuals do the bare minimum before releasing their resume into the universe, resulting in less than stellar results.  Here's some of the general tips I share with folks searching for a non-profit job, and to put my money where my mouth is, I'm including a link to my online Career Attributes, which are directly derived from my own resume.
  1. Your resume should only be one page. When I was in college someone once told me that only CEOs should have more than one page to their resume.  An easy way to do this is either to drop the oldest jobs OR drop the small temporary ones that aren't really in the professional area you are looking for.  Additionally, use all available white space if needed.  I never understand when I get a 3-page resume and the margins on the page are 1.5 inches wide.
  2. Consider replacing your "Objective" with a "Professional Profile", which is 3-5 bullets of your overall skill set.  It is hard to stand out from everyone else if you all have an objective that states "I am looking for a position in the non-profit arena."  The prospective employer already knows this or you wouldn't be applying to their position.  Right off the bat, tell them what you have to offer over the other guy.
  3. Include any quantitative numbers you can. Ask yourself some of the following questions, they help give scope to your experience.

  4. How many people & how much $ did the walk bring in? How many volunteers did you manage? How many Educational Seminars did you assist with? What was the total amount you helped secure in grants? What growth did the organization see under your supervision? 
    So instead of saying "Organized our annual charity walk," you say "Organized ABC Walk with more than X number of participants and raised more than $X."  It allows your perspective employer to get a better picture of your experience level. 
  5. Be creative & descriptive in your bullets. They don't need to be long, just give them punch.  Every bullet and job should highlight a unique skills.  Don't be afraid to brag on yourself.  This is what resumes are all about.
  6. If you have worked with any other industry specific software, include that. Did your former organization use an online fundraising tool like Convio or a donor management tool like Raiser's Edge?  Did you use it in your position?  If so, add it.  If I see that someone has worked in a particular program that we use or that is similar to what we use, that is always a plus.
  7. How developed is your cover letter? A cover letter can tell a lot about a person.  I tailor my cover letter for every single job I apply for.  It's an added effort, but it helps out in the long run.  I'm sure to highlight skills that would be of particular interest to that specific position, and I make sure to triple check my letter so I'm haven't referred to another position I've just applied for.  I can't tell you how many cover letters I see like this.
  8. Ask a non-profit professional to review your resume & cover letter for you. That doesn't mean ask your friend who just graduated from college & landed her first job in non-profit.  Instead see if one of her supervisors or ideally her own executive would look over it for you.  That way you get a perspective from someone who not only has already been in your shoes, but who also thinks like those who would be potentially hiring you.
LOOKING & EXPANDING Just like preparing before you begin the job search, it’s important to go the extra mile when looking for a job in non-profit.  Here’s some ideas you should take into consideration:
  1. Where to look? There are a million job sites out there claiming that they are the best way for you to land a job, but let's face it, right now, the market is saturated, and the truth is most job sites suck.  My overall recommendation is to try multiple avenues, job sites, organization's sites, blogs on non-profit jobs.  If you you seem to be getting positive results with certain ones, focus on them.  Everyone has their favorites, but here's some that I recommend: - A national online job site focused exclusively on the nonprofit community.  I personally have both found excellent candidates and found my own positions through this site.  However, I will note, it can be of greater use in certain cities.  It was very useful when I was in Atlanta, but they don't have a large base in Charlotte where I currently am located. -An interactive site where people and organizations can exchange resources and ideas, locate opportunities and supporters, and take steps toward building a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives. Jobs For a Change - The non-profit job section of

  2. Send your resume to organizations you'd like to work for. Not everyone would agree with me on this, but I've seen it in action.  A really great resume came across my desk of someone from someone who had a connection to our cause and wanted to see if we had any openings.  At the time we didn't, but not soon after a position did come available, and she was first on my list to call for an interview.
  3. Volunteer to work at non-profits you'd like to work for or in industries you'd like to gain experience in. VolunteerMatch & HandsOn Network.  I currently have nearly a half dozen volunteers that are either looking for work/experience or new to the area and looking to network.  Some are volunteer in our office several hours a week and some are on our steering committees.  It is an excellent way to see what areas of  nonprofit you like, get your foot in the door somewhere you'd like to work, and it can be a great resume booster.You can find some really great opportunities through places like
  4. Take time to increase your knowledge base. Make yourself more marketable by expanding your non-profit training.  If you are currently unemployed, take advantage of the extra time to expand your horizons.  Online seminars are a great way to do this, and the beauty if most are free or very inexpensive.  Places like Wild Apricot Blog even post a monthly list of webinars that various entities are conducting.
Anyone who has worked in non-profit for more than 48 hours can tell you, the competition is tough and the expectations are high.  I used to laugh when people found out I worked in non-profit and immediately asked, "Is that a full-time job?"  To which I'd always reply, "More like 3 full-time jobs all at once."  But year by year, non-profit careers are garnering greater attention, understanding and appreciation, which means everyone wanting to get in & stay in better roll up their sleeves & get to work.