Making Fundraising Events Pay and Pay and Pay …
A dependable revenue stream that grows — ah, paradise!
Have a fundraising challenge you want to crack? Weary of doing the same old, same old yet hoping for different outcomes? Do you want the over-the-top results that come from superior strategy?
Email me with your particular problem, and I'll arrange a quick consultation offering you a practical solution you can implement. I may even use your situation to share with my readers. Names are changed, of course!
I spoke with Elizabeth recently, who was very forthright about her need. How do you make events "pay"?
Liz is the executive director of a youth charity in the Southwest. She has an events coordinator that works with her. Outside of a low-key annual appeal, events have been the fundraising mainstay of Liz's organization for as long as anyone can remember.
Over the years, she and her team have learned what "works" and what doesn't. They've had their ups and downs. Strong volunteers, weak ones. Good economic times and the not-so-good.
When Liz asked me what made these gatherings "pay," I was curious what she meant. Yes, the immediate money raised is important. They seem to have arrived at a steady level where that is concerned. Growth in dollars raised wasn't where Liz's eye was focused, however.
Liz wanted to know how you turn participation in a fundraising event into a lasting donor relationship built upon common goals. How do you take responders and turn them into investors?
My answer? It ain't easy. It can be done, however.
How do you start?
All of you event veterans already know what you're up against. Rational arguments such as high cost, low return and non-scalable cut no ice with those who are emotionally committed to event euphoria and "the way we've always done it."
Sure, you can do away with the event altogether and replace it with a direct solicitation program that "makes sense." Try that and you'll probably be looking for another job.
My recommendation to Liz was to take a series of half steps.
Keep the event.
Eliminate the most distracting parts such as the mediocre silent auction. Beef up the mission-based portions such as a heartfelt presentation of a success story and having real-life beneficiaries present and mingling with the guests.
Take the live auction piece and make it an "reverse auction." You may already know what this is.
It's simple. Instead of having premiums that are auctioned under the premise of the buyer getting something for less, make the auction a direct giving competition. To raise $10K, for example, have the auctioneer start the "bidding" for someone to make a direct gift of $2K to the cause.
Go down the gift chart (prepared in advance) from there. The key to success here — especially if this is the first time you've done it — is to have a "straight man" in your audience. This is someone who can make the top gift and has been prepared in advance to make it when the call is made.
In a single stroke you turn an exercise in bargain shopping into a celebration of a worthy cause and a competition to support it.
Such an approach raises sights and places the focus on the mission and away from the stuff.
Once your reverse auction becomes part of your culture, you'll see many, many more responders — those who show up for the party — becoming investors to your cause.
If you want money that grows and lasts, you must think ROI — return on investment. Cutting costs to drive up immediate cash is fine. It's the return over the long term that you're looking for, however.
The last time I gave this advice, the organization beat its 25-year top goal by more than sixfold, and it didn't have to sell a thing!
Liz is off and running to organize her first reverse auction, which happens at her signature event in a month or so.
She'll have some naysayers but will knock 'em dead if she follows through. I'm looking forward to hearing back.
I extend my heartfelt thanks to Liz for reaching out.
Let me hear from you. Please share your situation and the challenges you face in developing sustainable revenue streams. Email me (info@TheEightPrinciples.com), and I'll arrange a brief consult providing you with practical guidance. I'll choose some of these thorny obstacles to share, along with my insights, in upcoming columns.
Success is waiting. Go out and achieve it.
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
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