Re-Evaluating Special Events – Four Ideas

People DancingLet me just say right off the bat – if an event raises less than $25,000 – why have the event? I get it, we host events to raise money AND awareness – I know that! But there are so many events never covered in the press – how much awareness did the event really raise? OK for the 100-400 people in the room? But then we need to turn diners into donors (see the next post!) to really leverage the event – and if we don’t leverage it – then again I ask, why are we spending time on an event that raises $25,000 or less?

It takes a lot of staff and volunteer time to organize and implement a special event. If the same time was focused on individual giving, major gifts, our organizations would be in a much better place to raise significant money. Instead of worrying about if the event will raise enough money or people will come – let’s concentrate on raising our individual giving game!

So let me give you some ideas and reasons that will help you convince your management, leadership, committee, volunteers and others that there are other ways to raise $25,000. Sound like a plan? We can replace the $25,000 in the following ways:

  1. Build the bottom of the pyramid
    1. Do the math – $25 x 1000 donors/$50 x 500 donors
    2. Smaller amounts work in this economy
    3. This can be part of the campaign above
  2. Launch a major gift program – $1,000+
    1. Work on identifying, cultivating and soliciting 40 donors who can give $1,000-$10,000
    2. We NEED to do this so the organization can grow
    3. It will engage your donors with your organization
    4. It will cost less than hosting the event (may not take less time, but time better spent)
  3. Launch a special campaign – challenge gift, match campaign, focused program support, urgency
    1. Give the campaign focus – mission, vision, case
    2. Engage the event committee, board and others in solicitation
    3. Get some press around it to raise awareness
  4. Last but not least –
    1. Involve your Board
    2. Involve your Board
    3. Involve your Board

Think about it….let’s spend our time more effectively and raise more money for our organizations.

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3 thoughts on “Re-Evaluating Special Events – Four Ideas

  1. I think if we’re going to change how things work, we need to start with the schools. In school, we teach kids that “good” fundraising includes car washes, bake sales, and selling products like gift wrap and pizza dough. Then we’re shocked! Shocked! that the only fundraising people know how to do includes labor-intensive events and product sales. School fundraising has been taken over by shlocky product companies with over-priced goods — we need to seize it back. If schools need to fundraise, we need to show them how to teach students and parents how to make the case for support and how to ask for money. Frankly, I think the parents might even appreciate it.

    Katherine Wertheim, CFRE

  2. I’ve been blogging about this, too. I’m tired of events that are being done because “we’ve always done this.” I think a lot of volunteers for black-tie events are less concerned with the bottom line and more concerned with putting on a “fun” event. And too many events put huge amounts of pressure on the staff — perhaps at one time, the volunteers did them, but when they drop out, they weren’t replaced, and now it’s up to staff.

    I think donors are going to catch on that they can go to, look up the 990’s, and see if the events raise much money. When they see that 67% or more goes to the caterers, how will they react?

    I’ve also seen some nonprofits that finally said they weren’t willing to have volunteers making commitments to caterers for funds that might or might not be raised — they weren’t looking at their cause as a piggy-bank for parties.

    Great blog — glad you posted the link on twitter!

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