Focus On: Special Events: Well, Isn't That Special?
Arney Rosenblat is the director of public affairs at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Here, she offers some insights into the sometimes tricky world of special-events fundraising.
FundRaising Success: What place do special events have in the fundraising sector?
Arney Rosenblat: Although it is important to diversify, for the National MS Society,approximately half our income is received through special events.
FS: Do you have to be a big organization to hold a special event?
AR: The larger the organization the greater is the possible scope of the special event, but there is no reason why any organization cannot undertake a special event if they so choose.
FS: Are there any types of special events that are better suited for certain missions?
AR: The National MS Society undertook a national Walk as one of our special events, as it permitted our own constituency to take an active role in that event and in the fight against multiple sclerosis.
FS: How easy/difficult is it to retain donors who first gave as the result of a special event?
AR:Often donors first come to an event just because they enjoy doing the event and enjoy the fact that they can “do good” at the same time. To retain donors, we make a special effort to help them appreciate and understand the importance of what they are doing to help people with MS. Often this involves establishing a “partnership” role with someone with the disease if the event participant does not already have a tie to the cause.
FS: Are special events better for producing donors or non-donor supporters?
AR: Special events allow for the opportunity to establish relationships with both donors and non-donor supporters. However, when individuals give of their time or provide their products or services, they also serve a very important role in supporting the MS cause and work of the organization.
FS: How is the Internet changing special-events fundraising?
AR: The internet is providing a whole new avenue to garner contributions. The easier an organization makes on-line contributing, the more likely a prospective donor will take advantage of that vehicle.
FS: If an organization has never held a special event before, where does it start?
AR: A Google search is a good way to begin after an organization pulls together a core team of “doers.”
FS Tell us a little about MS Society events.
AR: Society events are very well organized, and planning starts more than a year out. Our events are successful because we combine both mission and fun. To keep costs at less than 16 cents to raise a dollar, however, we have a network of nearly a half million volunteers working at our events across the country.
FS: What are the top things an organization needs to have/know to make its events successful?
AR: Planning — and leave as little to chance as possible.
FS: What surefire ways to produce a flop?
AR: Forget to do the above.
FS: What are some of the unexpected things that can happen?
AR: Weather, and people or equipment not showing up.
FS: The event is over, now what?
AR: Keep the ties with participants so they return the following year.