Before You Decide to Host a Special Event

Four Things to Think About

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Non-profit organizations and their leadership look to special events to add to their financial bottom line. But special events can take up valuable staff and volunteer time like no other fund development activity. Here are items to review before you decide to have a special event. In the next post, how to decide if you should continue a special event that nets less than $25,000.

  1. mmj028324300001Donor base review: Don’t set a ticket price for a special based on the per person cost of the event or on what the market will bear in the community. Look at the donor base to see what the average individual gift is. Bottom line if the donors are giving an average of $135 they may or may not be able to support an event for $250 or $500 per person.
  2. Recruiting leadership: Don’t underestimate the importance of strong leadership who are able and willing to raise money. Start with the Board of Directors. Supporting an organization’s programs and events is one of their roles as Board member. After the Board, recruit Chairpeople who can recruit committee members. Set expectations for committee service, a set number of tickets or tables bought or sold and corporate sponsorship expectations…don’t back down. Once the committee is in place with proper expectations, success of the event can be assured. You can do the math. How many committee people selling what number of tickets/tables will you need to meet your goals?
  3. Corporate partnership: Events need sponsorship to raise significant money. In this economy or at any time, review potential corporate partnership opportunities carefully. Are corporate partners able and willing to support this event? What levels are appropriate for the organization, event and community?
  4. Staff support: Be sure the staff has the time, talent and ability to manage the people and details of the event. A committee needs support, some more than others. Follow up on all event details is essential for success on many levels. Staff can positively or negatively impact the bottom line, volunteer experience, and ultimately how the event is executed.

And if hosting an event with an honoree, check out this New York Times article.

These four items can make or break a special event. Be realistic when planning an event. Great events raise money and awareness. They are covered in the papers and dollars are in the bank before the event is held. It is important to plan ahead to determine if the event is right for the organization and will raise the money needed given the time and effort expended.

In future posts, what is the alternative to a special event that doesn’t raise more than $25,000 and how to raise awareness without holding an event.

Tell me how your event planning is going. Share your ideas and thoughts.

2 thoughts on “Before You Decide to Host a Special Event

  1. This is spot on. The challenge I often find is convincing lay leadership that the event is not truly worth the effort in terms of bottom line. Egos are caught up in these galas. Also, events are perceived as easier than direct asks no matter how much work is involved. Nice summation.

    1. Gail,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I agree volunteer leadership is often more tied to an event than staff. I have found it useful to break it down by dollars raised, money raised and spent. And you are also spot on that events deflect from the work of really asking people for money. However, if the push and requirement is that each board member must buy or sell tables or tickets, they quickly realize it is all the same. They need to step up.

      My upcoming post talks about ways to raise awareness without hosting a special event. Will be post on Friday, but is available on my website now.

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