Special Events Make for Special Challenges
September 13, 2005
By Abny Santicola
Associate editor, FundRaising Success
Special-event fundraising is challenging when it accounts for a large percentage of an organization's fundraising dollars. Keeping things interesting and attendance up year in and year out is no easy feat.
MANNA, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that delivers nourishment to people living with HIV/AIDS with an annual operating budget of $3 million, relies on special events such as ChefAID (a black-tie gala at the Ritz-Carlton), Shut Up & Dance (a one-night dance performance by dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet) and Pie in the Sky (a pie sale in the Philadelphia region that provides MANNA clients with a Thanksgiving dinner for four to share with their families) for 30 percent of its income.
Meg Rider, events manager at MANNA, discussed with me recently some of the challenges of special-event fundraising and tips for fundraisers who lean heavily on this method:
- "It's always challenging to keep the events 'fresh' for guests and patrons so they have a new experience each time they attend. Though we always strive to attract more donors, we also count on a core group of very loyal patronage each year."
- "It can also be challenging to reduce costs by seeking out donations from outside vendors, companies that are able to donate food, beverages and other materials. We have many successful relationships with these types of sponsors. But in addition to planning and managing these events, seeking out more partners is always something necessary to consider for the future."
- "Partnering with other entities, such as magazines or newspapers, to help promote your events is one way of securing publicity for the organization. It also lets the organization reach a whole new, potentially generous pool of people, whether this means more fundraising opportunities or also attracting more volunteers."
- "Nonprofits are also often eligible for free or reduced-rate advertising in media outlets, which is important in getting the word out about your events."
- "My advice would be to ask. Ask people for donations, help, advice. Most people are incredibly supportive and are willing to pitch in. The hardest part is reaching out to them first."
Meg Rider can be reached via phone at 215.496.2662 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.