Like most nonprofit professionals, you probably can’t remember a time when events—especially fundraising events—were not a mainstay of development programs. Yet surprisingly, this ritual still leaves many directors unable to answer a fundamental question: How much does it actually cost to raise a dollar at every event? The answer might surprise you (generally, it takes about 50 cents to raise $1-$1.50). Some nonprofit consultants such as Neil Edgington advocate ditching events. Or, at least, scaling back to just one, as Gail Perry suggests.
Events, however, serve dual purposes—not only do they raise money but they raise awareness of your mission—thus cultivating new stakeholders. Instead of ditching events, let’s make them better.
Don’t let administrative tasks take away from time that could be better spent cultivating donor relationships.
Events provide an increasingly rare opportunity to spend time with the people who feel closely connected to your cause and are vital in making programs possible. If you are busy attending to the details, you miss out on the socializing. Use your event time, and that of your staff, to strengthen bonds with attendees through quality time spent together. Many organizations use nonprofit temp staffing for planning & execution day-of so that your time is better spent with donors.
Leverage online tools to track activity and provide data that can help you maximize donor engagement all year long. To maximize relationship building at your next event, try implementing some of these tools to help you throughout the event planning cycle.
- Is your registration so 2008? It’s a mobile world. Streamline registrations, check-in and more. Eventbrite has been a leader in the online event registration space for some time now. They offer several tools within their application that can be leveraged throughout the event. Not only can you sell and process payments for your event, but you can set up your seating charts, promote your event online, and accept donations on site. There is a special rate for nonprofit organizations and no charge for free events.
- Out of Print? Check out SimpleBooklet. According to a testimonial on its site, “It’s like Instagram for your brochures, flyers, and docs.” SimpleBooklet not only saves money on printing programs, but adds value for sponsors. The interactive digital booklet allows users to go directly to sponsor websites, as well as yours. You can setup links within the booklet to connect visitors to your social media channels, sign up for emails, volunteer opportunities, or to make a donation. The digital version can also be converted to a .pdf for pre-and-post event promotion.
- Silent Auctions, Not Silent Movies. Silent (and live) auctions can be a fun and exciting element of your event, but are notoriously time-intensive. Make sure you don’t lose time or money by collecting full payment for that lovely auction item before the donor leaves. Square and Gesture provide an easy way to accept payment and create immediate receipts. It’s also an easy way to slide into the question: “Would you like for me to set up a recurring donation for you?”
Amy DeVita is a publisher, entrepreneur, mother, wife, social media enthusiast and fan and avid supporter of the nonprofit/ for-impact sector. She has written for Top Nonprofits and Third Sector Today; she has been quoted on pieces about social media and social impact on The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast. She was named to the Leading Women Entrepreneurs in NJ Monthly and she is a member of Social Media for Nonprofits’ Leadership Council. In her spare time she enjoys kayaking, yoga, hiking, traveling, and playing Scrabble. Amy lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and two dogs. In 1984 she earned the “Most Improved Average” honor on her bowling league.