Avoiding Special Event Overload
If you are bombarded with requests from board and volunteers to add yet another special event to your bag of fundraising tricks, take heed! First of all, you are not alone! Many organizations get caught up in "special event fever" when a board member or other well-meaning volunteer hears about a successful event run by some other organization and decides that your organization should run a similar event. The first thing you should do is help the board to understand that each proposed event has to be closely examined to be sure that the benefits outweigh the costs, including lost opportunity costs. Unless you have a staff whose job it is to implement special events, staff who are supposed to be providing programs and services are diverting their energies to events. If you do have development staff, board members and volunteers need to understand that if the development staff is busy with events, it may keep them from visiting major donors, meeting grant deadlines, etc.
Special events are just one way of raising money for the organization, and may not be the most productive or cost effective way of raising money. Board members often opt for events because it relieves them of the burden of being involved in directly asking others to support the organization. You might check out Jim Greenfield's book, Fundraising, Second Edition, for a list of the various types of fundraising and average costs of each method, where you will see that events rank fairly low on the scale of effectiveness.
It is usually recommended that nonprofits hold one signature event each year. Events should, whenever possible, tie into the mission of the organization. For example, a homeless shelter may invite local business people to come in and share breakfast with the shelter guests before asking them to support the shelter financially. The goals of the events must be clear to all involved. Is it a friend raiser, or a fundraiser, or both? And there should always be a careful analysis done before undertaking an event and after the event to see if it has met its goals. Click here to contact Linda to receive a special event analysis form.
Perhaps the best way to avoid the overdependence on special events is to have a well thought out development plan which encompasses all types of fundraising activities. The board of directors should have input into the development of this plan. If they have bought into the plan, they're less likely to want to deviate from it. Having a solid development plan has enabled many organizations to avoid the temptation to add one more event to their list and focus on more productive ways to raise money.
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