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to make the most of your special events
June 04, 2007
A recent study
by Charity Navigator suggested that special events are not good
sources of funds. In fact, according to the study, the average charity
spends $1.33 to raise $1 in special events contributions.
But most development
directors know that special events can serve a number of purposes,
and perhaps actual fundraising is the least of these.
editor of the Grassroots Fundraising Journal, writes that since
special events don't raise a lot of immediate money, but do take
a lot of people-power and time, it's crucial that fundraisers plan
to accomplish other important tasks through their events. Roth suggests
that special events might prove helpful in the following ways:
events create other fundraising possibilities through "ancillary"
methods of raising funds. Among these methods are:
contributions such as donations of food, the venue, or entertainment.
Why is this useful? In-kind contributions are easier to get
from a business without a prior relationship. But, it might
be a foot in the door to other contributions.
are commonly used to increase the income from events. Sponsors
pay for various benefits such as publicity through the event,
an ad in the program or a company logo displayed prominently.
auctions allow you to charge for an event that many people
can afford but then bring in more funds through the auction.
books can be given to event guests. The ad book is made up
of paid advertisements and also includes information about
the nonprofit. Prospects for ad buyers include local businesses,
vendors, entrepreneurs and even donors who want to advertise
events can also build relationships, helping potential donors
to feel a connection with your cause. An event provides great
"face time" with your supporters, sometimes setting
the stage for large gifts.
- Events are
an opportunity to bring in new donors and introduce them to your
organization. To do this, plan an event that will have broad community
appeal and charge reasonable entrance fees.
events can also generate a lot of publicity. Your PR staff will
find a myriad of methods for getting the word out, from fliers
to interviews with local media. Building visibility in the community
is crucial to successful fundraising.
- Use special
events as a way to provide fundraising experience to your volunteers,
including your board members. Selling tickets to an event is less
anxiety producing than making a personal call on a donor. Help
volunteers build confidence through your event activities.
volunteer leaders can be developed through serving on event committees
and engaging in the planning that is required. Your volunteers should
lead the way when it comes to planning the event...not staff.
a really large event, consider establishing several committees with
specific tasks. Each committee should be led by a volunteer, and
most of the committee members should be volunteers. A couple of
staff people can be assigned to each committee to serve as consultants
and to accomplish logistical tasks as needed.
There are as
many kinds of special events as types of nonprofits and causes,
but plan for success by finding out what has worked for other organizations.
Don't hesitate to ask peers in other nonprofits to share their tips
for success. Remember that success is in the details. Betsy Clardy
in her book Making the Most of Your Special Event, provides a few
hints for doing an event right:
- Take pictures
of each guest at the event and later send the picture with a thank-you
note. This serves as a special reminder of the event.
- Inquire if
guests have special needs such as dietary requirements prior to
official greeters at the doorway to the event (e.g., if the event
is being put on by a school, have students be greeters).
efficient event check-in.
- Give each
guest a card stating, "You are seated at Table # ___."
a diagram of table locations.
- Give table
favors that are tied to your mission.
individual printed menus listing each course that will be served.
- In your
printed program, communicate your mission and the purpose for
- Your program
should include a special thank you from someone that will benefit
from the event such as the people you serve.
- When planning
your event, write an event plan, create a time line, and recruit
In his Guide
to Special Events Fundraising, CFRE Ken Wyman cautions that:
- No matter
how elegant or fun your event is, if you don't get people to attend,
your efforts are wasted. Attendance is not spurred so much by
publicity as by selling tickets. You need a lot of boots on the
ground selling tickets. Although this is the least glamorous task,
it is essential. Recruit a lot of volunteers since, on average,
most volunteer ticket sellers will sell about five tickets each.
- Try out
different price points for your tickets. Have the majority of
tickets priced for everyone, but offer higher priced tickets that
provide an extra benefit.
- Think of
your event as a long-term commitment. Organize one that you can
repeat at least once a year and perhaps more. Also, invest in
reporting and analysis tools that will provide the feedback you
need to improve the event each time.
are not a way to raise a lot of money immediately, but they can
be a part of your strategic plan to cultivate future donations,
and to boost your profile in the community. Use them wisely and
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