5 Reasons You Should Ditch Your Fundraising Events
We know. You’re a wise fundraiser. You already know that you should quit planning events for your charity.
But maybe it’s not up to you.
Maybe you have an event-happy Executive Director, or a Board who loves the annual money-losing gala. This Cheat Sheet is for you. Print this out. Take it to them. Show them the way of multi-channel fundraising.
Don’t get us wrong, events definitely have their place. They can introduce new donors to your organization, get media attention, and if done right they can raise a lot of money. But a fundraising strategy they are not. Events are a fundraising tactic that should fall under your overarching development strategy, but all too often that’s not the case.
One to two well-executed events can bolster a charity’s fundraising efforts. But when your organization’s go-to fundraising plan is to hold yet another event, it’s time to find a better way. Here are 5 reasons you can use to convince your boss to scale back those events.
1. Events are time consuming
Anyone who has planned an event of any kind – a gala, a golf tournament, a wedding – knows that planning can feel like a full time job. Coordinating vendors, deciding on catering and decor, managing invitations and guest lists. All of these activities eat up staff and volunteer hours, and can easily lead to burnout – especially if event planning is not a full-time position at your charity.
2. Other fundraising channels have a higher ROI
Of all the fundraising channels you could choose, events typically have the lowest return on investment. Yes, you may have raised $250,000 at your last golf tournament, but once you factor in all the costs the net revenue might not look so great. Remember, when accounting for event costs you need to account for staff time. This could include time spent planning and working the event, time spent recruiting and training volunteers, and staff time dedicated to securing sponsorships and in-kind donations.
3. Awareness is great, but money is even better
Many folks will argue that events raise awareness and build your brand. While awareness can be a byproduct of your events, it is too vague to be the goal. Dollars raised, on the other hand, is much more concrete! In addition, with an increasingly crowded field in the charitable sector, it’s difficult to get noticed – by media, by social media, by the public in general. Instead of using events as a brand-building tactic, put together a multi-faceted marketing plan that will get you in front of your target audience with a strong call to action.
4. Sponsors are looking for more creative partnerships
Corporate sponsors are looking for ways to engage with nonprofits in ways that stand out from the crowd. Charities offer many of the same sponsorship possibilities for events: platinum sponsors, wine sponsors, golf cart sponsors. It all gets a little stale. These days companies are thinking of themselves more as partners in philanthropy, and are looking for deeper, more creative partnerships. When all you have to offer is an event sponsorship, you’re missing a huge opportunity to engage in a meaningful relationship.
5. What happens after the event is more important than the event itself
If you don’t have enough staff resources to follow up with event attendees, stop right now. Events are an important prospecting tool, but if you spend all your energy planning the event, and no energy on following up on the fledgling relationships you’ve built, you’re dooming your charity to unsustainable funding. Make sure you’re collecting contact information at your event, and dedicate staff time to building relationships with attendees – especially those who have capacity and inclination to give again.
So we’ve convinced you to reconsider your charity’s events. But what should you do now?
- Complete an honest cost-benefit analysis of your current events. Decide on the ROI you can live with, and pare down any events that don’t meet that threshold. Keep in mind that new events tend to break even or lose money, so you’ll also want to decide whether you’re willing to make a long-term investment for a signature event.
- If you want to keep some events, consider outsourcing event planning to a professional. This might increase your hard costs, but it will also save your staff from burnout.
- If events are important to your awareness raising activities, consider creating a community event guide so your charity’s supporters can run successful third-party events. You can then focus your attention on getting media coverage for these events. Media tend to prefer interesting community events over charity-run galas, runs, and tournaments, so you might have more success with this strategy.
Cheat Sheets are Charity Savant’s free guides to help you do more with less. They are quick-fix one pagers with easy to digest top-five tips to help you solve almost any problem. Check out our growing list of free Cheat Sheets.