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Positive Messaging for Success: Securing Support for your Organization

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Maine is filled with amazing nonprofit organizations, making a huge positive impact in our communities.  This month, I invited some experts in the field to share their perspectives on effective nonprofit marketing.

Our last guest blogger is Sarah McCarthy, the Director of Development for the Bangor Symphony Orchestra (BSO), also currently serving as Interim Executive Director. This week, she shares some words of wisdom about how nonprofit professionals can optimize their fundraising efforts.

People want to be associated with successful nonprofit endeavors — be it donors, volunteers, or patrons.  So, given all that’s already on your plate in the typical day-to-day bustle, how do you create that lasting energy, that sustained excitement, that constant “buzz” about your organization?

Here are some examples from the Bangor Symphony Orchestra:

1) Consistency: Even in challenging times, do not diminish the quality of your core product or service; stay true to your mission. The BSO maintains a schedule of high-quality performances by featuring stellar soloists from our own roster of musicians and beyond.

2) Passion: Involve people who are committed to your mission. The BSO’s musicians, conductor, staff, and volunteers are excited about our program offerings — and vocal about that excitement. Recently, Music Director & Conductor Lucas Richman appeared on the WABI TV5 Morning Show to promote POPS: Simply Sinatra. His enthusiasm for the next day’s performance was a great way to start the morning.

3) Connection: Tell your story through periodic updates, including press releases, phone calls, mail, email, or meetings in person. The BSO publishes a “year in review” flyer for our current patrons, highlighting one thing that happened each month during the previous year. We also arrange occasional “surprises and delights” (unexpected acts of recognition) for our supporters, and we encourage patrons to invite a friend to a performance – especially someone who has never attended before. Lastly, we include gift certificates for tickets to upcoming performances in congratulatory or welcome letters we send out.

4) Creativity: Think of ways to form partnerships with other organizations that add value to each of your product or service offerings. On March 3, 2013, the BSO and our sponsors hosted an art show in the lobby during our Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concert, with 90% of the proceeds to benefit the artists. Throughout the season, we also distribute Know Your Orchestra! vouchers to schools, local music teachers and studios, the Maine Discovery Museum, the Bangor Public Library, and other institutions, encouraging students and their friends and families to attend concerts for less than a night at the movies. Finally, the BSO and the Kingfield POPS co-commissioned a new work by Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul, and Mary, which is the title song of the BSO’s new CD “The Cabin Fever Waltz.”

When all of the above pieces are solidly in place, you are ready to make the ask. Talk about opportunities ahead, room for improvement, and the plans you have to take those steps. Highlight even what may seem like the smallest successes. Then, make your funding request against that backdrop of great potential. With three successful seasons behind us, and even more successes during this season, the BSO staff feel comfortable asking individual donors, businesses, and foundations for their support. We even ask donors who have not yet increased their annual fund donation to consider a 10% increase for the chance to win a prize unique to the BSO.

Supporters remain loyal to your organization as long as they’re excited about your cause, so make your passion contagious! Reach out and keep your patrons informed and appreciated, and make sure they see the value in their role as contributors.

To learn more about the Bangor Symphony Orchestra and and their positive impact in our community, please visit

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