What your nonprofit can learn from bacon

Misleading title? Only slightly!

Last weekend I was unbelievably lucky to be picked as one of the judges for the Leslieville Farmer’s Market‘s Baconfest.

I joined three other judges as we were treated to six different bacon-based plates. Nutmeg waffles stuffed with bacon topped with maple syrup, cheese, bacon, and a fried egg. Buckwheat crepes filled with bacon, apple, cheese, and topped with maple sugar. A brioche sandwich of pulled pork, bacon, kale, blue cheese, and grape vinaigrette…

And as I nommed on the crispy salty sweet gooey deliciousness of it all, I got to thinking of the parallels of the day and my work with nonprofits.

Get the word out but KISS*
I found out about the Baconfest through Leslieville Farmer’s Market’s simple yet effective e-newsletter. As someone who regularly deletes e-newsletters because I just do not have the time I always read two: Leslieville Farmer’s Market‘s and David’s Tea. Because I know they are short, to the point, and have interesting information. And if the information isn’t interesting to me, at least it’s brief. And they’re nicely laid out. As someone with a flair for design, I appreciate how multiple columns helps you cram more info “above the fold” in to your e-newsletter.

*Keep it simple, stupid – a message I love but I prefer my advice without the condescension.

Get your volunteers and supporters involved
The four judges consisted of a volunteer, a member of the Board, and two market patrons. I loved that half the judges were from within the organization. You know these people support your organization. They believe in your cause so much they give up their time to help you, and to help your patrons. Oh, they don’t donate cash? Well, time is money. So really, they do. So if you’re not loving your volunteers, you’re doing it wrong. On that note…

Treat your volunteers well
I have volunteered a heck of a lot and I have had mostly great experiences. A little while back there was a volunteer manager who left much to be desired, left me unloved and bitter, and yet continues to ask me to volunteer for events. At the Leslieville Farmer’s Market there was a serious for-volunteers-by-volunteers vibe, and it was terrific. The organization and planning was clear, and the day flowed well. While I’m already a regular Leslieville Farmer’s Market-goer, this experience made me feel closer to the organization behind it (awwww) and I’m more likely to be an even more frequent visitor. They even gave me a shout-out in their latest newsletter (and linked to my website!) That’s some mutual love right there.

Cover your own events
The¬†Leslieville Farmer’s Market pre-Baconfest blog was an added means of promoting the event, but it was their wrap-up post that really introduced readers to the farmers, the cooks, and the volunteers. You may not always get media out to your events, but if you’ve got space – Facebook, twitter, a blog, wherever, put something up as a record, and promptly. Build the internal and external post-mortem in to your project management timeline. The more you can promote your mission and vibe, the better. And if you manage to promote your organization and your products at the same time, good on you (e.g. in reading the wrap-up post I was delighted to learn Mr. Spinner’s & Waffle Bar will be making their epic bacon-egg-maple-nutmeg-waffle every Sunday from now on. So get thee to the LFM and experience it for yourself).

Give the people a reason to visit (donate?) that day
Like bacon.
I had never seen the market so packed. And maybe it didn’t have to be bacon, it could have been anything else delicious. But with the success of Toronto Underground Market and pop-up foodtrucks, folks dig their one-off and rare food experiences. Or competitions. There’s always a reason to attend the Leslieville Farmer’s Market, but there was a specific reason to visit it that day. If you’ve got regular events, what can you do to make one stand out, to inspire newcomers to attend for the first time?

ASIDE We all know food is awesome and draws people out. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but in a Food Network world wouldn’t we all like to be food judges? After an 86d event I thought how awesome would a popcorn-tasting mini-fundraiser be? Low cost, high fun.

And there you have it folks. Just a little bit of musing on bacon and nonprofits. In closing, I strongly recommend you visit the Leslieville Farmer’s Market (yes, it’s allll the way out past Queen & Greenwood – but you can follow up with a walk along the beach afterward!) And of course, what would a post about bacon be without some Instagrammed pictures of food?

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