Friday, May 1, 2015

To Do or Not To Do: Fundraising Events

Are you already dreading your next fundraising event? Then it's time to do an honest assessment that addresses profitability, sustainable fundraising, and mission impact. Ask yourself these questions:
  • How much time is dedicated to your fundraising events? Do a quick survey - I'm guessing you'll be flabbergasted at how many hours (staff, Board, volunteers) go into making your event happen.
  • Is this the best use of staff, Board and volunteer time? Consider these statistics: to raise $1, the average nonprofit spends 5-10¢ doing major donor appeals, 25¢ writing grant applications, and $1.33 putting on a fundraiser,.
  • Do you know if you actually make a profit? Take the time to figure out all of your costs, both direct and indirect - including supplies, hall rental, publicity, volunteer and staff time, facility usage, and basic overhead. If you are like the over 5,000 nonprofits surveyed by Charity Navigator you might just discover you are losing money.
  • Is the work involved taking up all the fundraising juice of your Board?  Board members love events - they seem like a fun, easy way to fulfill their obligation to fundraise. Yet their time could be used much more effectively if you train your Board and support them in making personal asks.
  • Does the event raise awareness for your mission? Often nonprofits forget to put their mission at the center of a fundraiser. Designate time for a thoughtful visual presentation about your work (people love short videos or slide shows). And if you can plan an event theme that relates to your mission, even better.
  • Have you attracted new donors and volunteers? Fundraising events provide a great opportunity to introduce new folks to your nonprofit and to get them involved. Schmooze with people, have brochures available to hand out at the door, and get participants to sign on to your mail/email list.
  • Are you using your event to build and sustain relationships with ongoing supporters? Your event is an opportunity to deepen your relationships with existing donors. Make sure they are personally invited to the event, and provide complimentary tickets to significant donors. Be sure to thank and engage with them personally during the event.
  • Is your fundraiser actually fun for your Board and staff? Fundraisers usually start with tremendous enthusiasm. Then, the founding volunteer or Board member leaves, and no one else really steps in. The event becomes a dreaded annual staff responsibility. So ask your Board and staff: is anyone still having fun?
Fundraising events can play an important role if they attract new donors and volunteers, build relationships with existing supporters, generate excitement about your nonprofit work, raise some needed funds, and educate the community about your organization's mission and achievements. Take the time to evaluate your event. Figure out how to use it wisely and effectively. If you can't, take a deep breath and let it go.

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