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Nonprofit Power Plays Indianapolis

Fundraise Outside the Box: A Free Nonprofit Workshop in Indianapolis

September 29, 2014 | by Mandy Bray

It’s already planning time for 2015! If you’ve started working on your marketing or fundraising plans for next year, have you noticed that your tactics look eerily similar to 2014 and 2013?

While sticking to what’s worked in the past is good, it’s rarely outstanding. Your audience is changing, and they expect to be impressed with new components to an event that they attend year after year. Better yet, find ways to attract new attendees so that it’s not the same group attending each year—and donating the same amount.

You’re invited to a free workshop to learn practical ways to overhaul your fundraising events, hosted by Bohlsen Group and Menish Auctions. Certified Benefits Auction Specialist Bill Menish joins Bohlsen Group to share out-of-the-box ideas compiled over years of conducting multi-million-dollar fundraising events. Don’t miss Bohlsen Group’s Popcorn Publicity Panel, where media relations experts give publicity tips live for real-world fundraising events.

Date: October 8, 2014, 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Details: Speak Easy, 5255 N. Winthrop Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220. Drinks and light refreshments provided.

Use the link below to register now. Seating is limited.

This workshop is the first in a four-part series for nonprofit organization called Nonprofit Power Plays. Stay tuned for the announcement of the winter, spring, and summer workshops!



Exploring the pros and cons of Facebook advertising

September 25, 2014 | by Jordan Overton

The days of using Facebook as a free marketing tool may be long gone. Organic reach continues to drop and paid reach has become Facebook’s preferred method. Today, marketers are being encouraged to include Facebook advertising costs in their advertising budgets. Naturally, when you begin charging for something that used to be free, people are hesitant to respond.

We can’t cover everything about Facebook in just one post, but hopefully after reading this you’ll be able to make an informed decision on whether or not Facebook advertising is right for you.

Pro: Affordability

Inexperienced marketers may balk at the fact that they now have to pay for something that used to be free. But when compared to more traditional forms of advertising, Facebook ads turn out to be extremely cheap. Keep in mind, Facebook ads amount to only one percent of the average cost of a television ad. Facebook ads also have the lowest cost per 1,000 impressions of any medium in the history of advertising. For as little as a quarter, you can get 1,000 impressions. You may have to pay for your content to be seen, but you won’t have to pay very much.

Pro: Targeting a specific group

Facebook knows a lot about its users. Think of Facebook as the Big Brother of social media. Marketers can leverage its vast amount of information to target ads to a specific group. Facebook’s various targeting options help break down an audience by basic choices such as location and gender, or more advanced options such as workplace and relationship status. For example, if you’re promoting a business book to college students in Indianapolis between the ages of 19 and 22, you’ll be able to create an ad that targets by interest, age, education and location. This will narrow your audience to people who may be interested in purchasing the book. Knowing your audience and understanding what they want will save you both time and money, commodities that are very limited.

Con: Pay for play

Yes. We told you Facebook is cheap. But ads still cost money. That’s money small companies and/or nonprofits may not have. At Bohlsen, we’ve had to implement new strategies to get our Facebook posts seen by the right people. Coming up with compelling content and monitoring analytics will help certain posts reach more viewers. But to guarantee your posts will be seen, you must advertise.

Con: Organic views have plummeted

The average organic reach of a brand page has fallen to nearly 6 percent and it’s becoming more challenging to reach the people who matter. Fact is, people like more pages now than they ever have in the past. This causes an increase in the number of posts a person can see every time they access Facebook. If someone has a large amount of Facebook friends, the number of posts they’re offered increases even more. Facebook took this information and designed its most recent algorithm to show users the most important content. This helped cut through some of the clutter, but since the algorithm isn’t perfect, it sometimes causes posts to be missed altogether. Many Facebook users wish they’d be shown every post in their news feed, but this would actually cause organic reach to decrease dramatically. People want to see everything, but if they were offered everything, they’d miss a lot.

Purchasing Facebook ads seems like a pretty simple solution. Throw a little bit of money at the problem and it goes away, right? It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. What works for one brand, may not work for another. Each marketer must carefully consider Facebook ads on a case-by-case basis.

Have you implemented a Facebook ad campaign? How has it helped your business grow? Or has it negatively impacted your bottom line? We’d love to hear about your experience. Tweet at @jordantoverton and @BohlsenGroup to continue the conversation.

Photo courtesy of

What to know before you try to mimic the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

August 28, 2014 | by Lauren Cascio

From the Harlem Shake craze to the medicated child that stole our hearts, there’s no doubt viral videos have become a cultural phenomenon.

For a long time, organizations have sought to capitalize on viral potential with strategic communications. Ironically, the ALS Association lucked into the most viral fundraising campaign ever with the ongoing Ice Bucket Challenge.

In case you’ve been on a deserted island for the past couple of months, let’s recap. Dumping ice water on your head started as a small-time social media challenge with the intention of encouraging people to donate to their charity of choice. However, when Jeanette Senerchia took her challenge, she selected the ALS Association for a personal reason- her husband was currently battling the disease. Rallied by her special plea, family and friends undertook the challenge and created the foundation of what would soon become a worldwide, viral phenomenon.

And it worked. As of Aug. 27, the ALS Association has received $94.3 million in donations compared to $2.7 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 27).

This unprecedented fundraising success has left many organizations wondering how and if they can craft their own challenges. Before you start a disorganized soil dumping challenge, put down the shovel and remember these important points.

The public expects copycats. Always remember that your audience is savvier than you think. As the challenge starts to wane, social media savants will be quick to find and criticize any seemingly contrived or unoriginal copycat challenges.

This was a perfect set of circumstances. Social media penetration, authentic celebrity participation, a seemingly unique concept and participants’ ability to peer pressure friends are just a few of the elements that made this challenge the perfect fundraising storm.

Opportunistic organizations aren’t appealing.Trying to capitalize on the public’s enthusiasm with your own copycat challenge may be perceived as a desperate ploy. Instead, consider tastefully plugging into the current challenge by encouraging your constituents to participate while contributing to your cause as well.

Don’t miss the forest for the trees.While it’s too early to predict replication potential, the challenge teaches us several lessons about developing shareable and exciting content. From incorporating good-natured peer pressure to using video as a storytelling medium, there are many components you should use to enhance your content creation and organizational communication initiatives.

For public relations practitioners like me, The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a fascinating case study on viral trends that we will analyze for years to come. In the meantime, ignore your inclination to haphazardly grab at a piece of the pie.

6 reasons to be a Bohlsen intern

August 15, 2014 | by Bohlsen Group

The summer is drawing to a close, which means our current group of amazing interns will be heading off to new adventures soon. Throughout the summer, the Bohlsen interns have worked on a number of projects – promoting concerts, raising awareness for local nonprofits, drafting strategic materials for independent authors and managing social media presences for a variety of organizations.

Learn more about the internship experience from six of our most recent interns to see what valuable information they will take with them as they advance their respective careers.

“Working at Bohlsen this summer has taught me that coffee and Diet Coke fuel great work. And that great work can be made greater through collaboration with others who have consumed coffee and/or Diet Coke.” - Jade Schwarting

“I’ve received major insight into the world of PR. Through that, I have learned to put on my thinking hat, create some tough skin and persevere until the client is satisfied.” - Katie Wenclewicz

“I have valued the agency atmosphere and the collaborative culture that comes with it. It has taught me that your first draft isn’t always your best draft and it’s okay to go back to the drawing board.” - Megan Hardesty

“I found that working with a group of dedicated people who have fun, are not afraid to try new things and enjoy living off of coffee and popcorn makes all the difference when completing day-to-day tasks.” - Sarah Davis

“It has been great to actually take what you learn in a classroom and implement those lessons into work and real projects that you can be proud of.” - Katjana Godshalk

“Having a better understanding of the promotional work we do for our clients has really opened my eyes to see the impact it makes on the events, concerts and other special programs in our community.” - Matt Pilipovich

Want to be a part of the Bohlsen Group team? You’re in luck! We are now taking applications our spring internships in the following areas: Marketing, PR, Events & Entertainment and Nonprofit.

Apply today!


10 years of IndyFringe – and it keeps getting better

August 7, 2014 | by Andrea Hawman

If you have ventured to the East end of Mass Ave, you may have noticed the white “church” that sits across from 45 Degrees on the other side of College. This is the IndyFringe Basile Theatre, home to an eclectic mix of emerging acts and community events year-round. One week from today, IndyFringe kicks off their 10th-Annual IndyFringe Festival, which will bring 384 performances to eight venues on Mass Ave over 11 days, from August 14 to 24. With all genres of shows represented- comedy, drama, dance, storytelling, performance art, magic, music- there is something for everyone.

I recently visited with Pauline Moffat, the executive director at IndyFringe (and my former intern coordinator), to chat about IndyFringe’s journey these past 10 years. Since 2005, IndyFringe has grown from 28 performances and 5,000 patrons to 400 performances and 18, 000 patrons in 2013. This year’s festival will draw at least 20,000 attendees, Pauline estimates. What has been the key to IndyFringe’s success? Grassroots efforts executed with time, thought and care.

Word of mouth is the foundation of any strong grassroots campaign. At the IndyFringe Festival, the most popular shows aren’t always apparent in the beginning, but rather as the 11 days unfold. Crowd favorites begin to reveal themselves, whether it comes from waiting in line for shows, Nuvo’s reviews that come out mid-festival or patron comments on social media. IndyFringe counts on this indirect tactic to sell out shows year after year without fail.

Quality content always rises to the top. At IndyFringe, returning performers quickly learned that the “wow” factor isn’t as lasting as quality, innovative material. With just one hour to perform, these shows need to stand out against the competition. What’s more, for a show to sustain the buzz across its recurring performances during the 11-day festival, material has to draw an interest beyond a flashy title or alluring cover photo. Superior content outlasts surprising content every time.

Connecting with brand advocates and the community – perhaps the most important component of grassroots efforts. IndyFringe definitely has this down. Mass Ave and the Cultural District buzz with excitement leading up to the festival and for the weeks following. Strong bonds are made among performers and their host families, Fringe staff and volunteers, and patrons and Mass Ave business owners. Beyond the immediate downtown Indianapolis community, IndyFringe draws diverse crowds from out of town as well. Each year patrons visit IndyFringe from the Midwest Fringe circuit, which includes Chicago, Kansas City and Minneapolis. And there are always a few acts that travel abroad to participate in IndyFringe.

Where does IndyFringe see itself in the next 10 years?

“In the hands of young professionals who had the vision to embrace it 10 years ago,” Pauline says. “My hope is that IndyFringe will remain a huge part of the cultural fabric of the city of Indianapolis.”

Interns, young professionals and performers involved with IndyFringe over the past 10 years have all grown professionally and will undoubtedly be part of IndyFringe’s future. In turn, these talented and enthusiastic people attract others to live, work and play in downtown Indianapolis.

IndyFringe’s immediate plans include the addition of a black box theatre (a simple, somewhat unadorned theatre space) and a public restroom on the Cultural Trail, to be completed in 2015. Indy Eleven recently sponsored this “Trailhead” initiative as a joint effort to strengthen the community and quality of life in Indianapolis.

Whether you are a theatre-goer or not, IndyFringe is a unique experience that should not be missed. Be sure to check out the official IndyFringe schedule ahead of time in case shows sell out, and don’t be afraid to get a little Fringey!