‘Tis the Season: Galas, Dinners, and Fundraisers

Annual fundraising events can be a great asset. They help nonprofits raise awareness and engage people in their cause. But, let’s face it: events are not a one-size-fits-all road to fundraising success.

How do you know if your organization is ready to take the plunge into the annual event limelight?

Ask yourself these four critical questions to evaluate if a signature event is right for you.

  1. How has your organization performed on past fundraising events?  

Before taking the annual event leap, first evaluate how past events have performed.

  • Does your organization consistently struggle to reach its event goals?
  • Does each of your events require one heroic effort after another to pull it off?
  • Is there an expectation that your nonprofit will raise money with every event?
  • Have your events turned into an entertainment channel, hiding away your mission?
  1. Why is your organization considering an annual event?  

It is absolutely critical that everyone in the organization and on the board is aware of your event objectives and willing to contribute time, treasure and resources. A gala always sounds like a good idea; in reality it is a tremendous amount of work. Be clear about why you want to undertake such an endeavor.

In Terry Axelrod’s book, Missionizing Your Special Events, the Benevon founder forces readers to take an honest assessment of their organization’s special events status and shows how to use an organization’s mission to drive a fundraising initiative.

  1. Does your nonprofit have the organizational capacity to host a successful event?

Analyze the budgetary, volunteer, fundraising and marketing commitments your nonprofit will have to make and then map out ways to maximize your fundraising efficiency.

  • If your staff is already working at capacity, does your organization have a volunteer base that can work as your fundraising staff and assist with the event?
  • Will you make the most on your return if you hire an event consultant, or are board members willing to take an active role in the planning and implementation?
  • Does your organization have up-to-date materials for media engagement, event sponsors, and procurement activities, or will you need to dedicate resources for this?

If your resources are currently extended to maximum limits, your annual event is set for disaster before the planning process has begun.

  1. What is your opportunity cost to hosting an annual event?

Finally, like anything in life, when you decide to pursue one activity, you forego the ability to do another. Therefore, it is important to identify what your nonprofit will be giving up in choosing to host a major fundraising event.

In the end, success is all about numbers. You want to provide cold hard data to your board, donors, and members of the community to show that you have not only created an event to remember, but your new happening was also the best use of your time in reaching your overall objectives.

Thanks to Tonya Bulboff/ThirdSectorToday; content edited for space.

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