Q & A with Linda Kissam, Nonprofit Consultant and Instructor at Ed2Go
I’m excited to present this interview with Linda Kissam, who has over 20 years experience in nonprofit education and consultation, public relations, media outreach and also freelance travel writing. Her clients include nonprofits, wineries, and wine related businesses and online publications.
She serves on numerous nonprofit boards and consults with startup and established nonprofit agencies, as well as finding time to teach three online classes at Ed2Go.com (See links below) and travel the globe in search of fascinating destination stories. She is the current president of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association.
Q 1: Linda, when and how did you get started with nonprofit work? What inspired you?
A: I’ve been involved with nonprofits since my high school years as a result of needing volunteer credits for college applications. That role expanded in my college years. By the time I became a parent, I was fully versed in how to maximize my time, talent and treasure in volunteer activities.
It was a natural process to evolve (be recruited) into working for nonprofits as I entered by late 30’s. My inspiration to work with various types of nonprofits changes as my life changes. I tend to gravitate to those agencies where my skill set can be used to maximum advantage and have meaning for me, my family and my friends.
Q 2: What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing fundraisers today?
A: This is a four part answer:
- Finding the right event for the cause being represented.
- Understanding exactly what success looks like as a result of putting on an event.
- Finding enough volunteers to put on the event; sharing the workload properly to avoid volunteer burnout.
- Deciding if the chair of the fundraiser should be compensated.
Q 3: With new marketing opportunities coming up all the time, how do we pick the ones that are right for our group? How do we avoid getting caught up in chasing trends and remain focused on what is important?
A: Each event means the coordinators will be mixing tried and true marketing techniques with new trendier methods. It is not a matter of being “caught up in chasing trends” but more about evaluating the new tips, tricks, and tools available to the promoters to quickly, efficiently and cost effectively promote a fundraiser. Understanding what success looks like when holding an event is perhaps the most important thing that guides the tools and trends used.
Q 4: You are currently teaching three nonprofit related courses on Ed2Go.com. Which topics do you feel your students are struggling with the most?
A: No doubt about that: Fundraising (in all its forms, not just events), recruiting and maintaining volunteers, keeping the board of directors focused, engaged and productive.
Q 5: How did you get started teaching on Ed2GO.com?
A: I took a travel writing class with them to better understand how I could best support the travel writers coming to the wine district I represented. I loved their format. I missed my teaching years. I thought about what I might be able to teach and nonprofit management came to mind. I taught in a brick and mortar classroom for many years. The idea of teaching adults in a less restrictive environment was extremely appealing.
Q 6: What advice can you give fundraisers who are just starting out?
- Know your mission statement and stay true to it.
- Know what success looks like for any event or project you do.
- Keep your board and committee members in the loop, working with you and paddling to the finish line together.
- Have your budget approved before you start and stick to it as you work through the event.
- Be prepared to use social media.
- Cultivate, educate, appreciate and reward your volunteers.
Q 7: What is the biggest difference in fundraising comparing today to fundraising 10 or 20 years ago? What aspect has changed the most?
A: Social media hands down. Second place goes to lack of volunteers.
Q 8: You consult nonprofits and are an expert on wine events. What exactly makes wine tasting events the fantastic fundraising tools they are?
A: Matching the event to the target audience coupled with the current interest by all generations in exploring wine, complimented by the ongoing generosity of the wineries providing free product.
Q 9: Do you have experience organizing other type of events? Which ones are your favorite ones?
A: I have coordinated most any kind of event you can think of except a circus. On a professional level, my favorites are the ones that produce the results the nonprofit was looking for, engage the audience and don’t burn out the volunteers. On a personal level, I love anything to do with tea, wine or culinary options.
Q 10: Do you have an example of a very successful fundraising event that’s made the news?
A: Harvest Barrel Tasting staged for the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association. We made our monetary goals, received excellent press and introduced a whole lot of people to the world of premium wines.
Linda Kissam lives summers on a 42’ Grand Banks boat in Seattle, Wa. and winters in a condo in Southern California. As a breast cancer survivor she has been a lifelong advocate of breast cancer awareness. She has taught three different nonprofit management online courses at Ed2Go.com to over 17,000 students: Nonprofit Management, Nonprofit Marketing and Starting a Nonprofit. She is a food wine and travel writer exploring both domestic and international destinations for their sense of place and taste. You can contact her through her website at Kissam.net.
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