Why You Should Ditch Your Next Fundraising Event
Fundraising events are a foundation for many nonprofit fundraising programs. But they are the most inefficient way of raising money.
Data from fundraising consultant James Greenfield shows that it costs 50 cents to raise $1 in a fundraising event. But your board members and volunteers don't know this statistic. Many volunteers aren't familiar with annual or major-gift fundraising — especially the costs vs. the benefits. That's why they zero in on events as the life-saving panacea for fundraising. That's the only thing in their sphere of reference.
Here are three reasons why you should ditch your next event.
1. Events are not very efficient fundraising strategies.
You can raise more money with other fundraising strategies. The ROI you get from an event is far less than other fundraising options.
Greenfield's data shows that the cost per dollar raised of a mail campaign like the annual fund is only 25 cents to 30 cents on the dollar, and the most efficient way to raise money is face-to-face solicitations focusing on major-gift donors — only 5 cents to 10 cents on the dollar.
2. Too many events kill your volunteers and staff.
The last thing your hard-working staff needs is another event. Staffers are generally overworked, underpaid and certainly not appreciated enough. Why would you ask them to spend so much energy on something with such a low return?
And you won't have a lot of volunteers left if you work them too hard. There are easier ways to "raise friends" for your cause.
3. You can raise more money with one annual event than with three, four or five events.
Why? The real money from an event is raised from sponsorships. And it takes a decent lead time to develop sponsorship materials, target the right prospects, organize a committee and make the asks. Then you need the lead time to get their names on the invitations.
If you focus all your energy on one major event each year, you can raise bigger sponsorships because the single event has the visibility and pizazz. Why would you want to spread yourself too thin, wear yourself out, exhaust your volunteers — all for such a small return? Got me!
Don't get me wrong — events are fine. They can be a very important part of a full-scale fundraising program. Just don't overemphasize them. Try more sophisticated approaches, such as one-on-one asks. Or try a carefully planned series of letters, postcards and e-mails designed into a campaign.
Five benefits of only staging one major event a year
- Your volunteers can go all out in spreading the word and generating attendance, because they are only focusing on one a year. Have only one event a year, and make it fabulous!
- You have the lead time you need to identify, cultivate and ask sponsors. And that's where the money is.
- You'll have greater attendance and attention from your supporters.
- You'll be able to raise more money overall because the staff now has time to focus on other, more productive and more efficient fundraising strategies.
- You'll have a happier and more productive staff.
Yes! My motto is 'When in doubt, throw a party!'
What I mean is that you need to turn everything you do into a party — and have some fun. You'll be more successful if you do. I don't mean that you should stage event after event. Just be smart about where you focus your time and energy.
Gail Perry is a fundraising consultant, owner of Gail Perry Associates and author of "Fired-Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action." Reach her at GP@GailPerry.com. This article first appeared on Gail's Fired-Up Fundraising website.