Curing Event Fever

Tari Marshall

Is your board’s only idea of fundraising to hold an event? You aren’t alone, but sometimes the cost in both money and manpower make big galas and parties a wash. Tari Marshall shares some food for thought if your board has “Event Fever.” ~Kivi

Guest Post by Tari Marshall of So Write Communications, Inc

It’s great to have a board of directors that is excited about fundraising. It’s also easy for them to succumb to Event Fever – that “let’s put on a show” enthusiasm that snowballs but never gets you to your end goal.

First, let me say that there are other benefits for having a gala or other events besides money. They are a good way to raise awareness and cultivate new funders and individual donors. However, the time and expense can often be overlooked, resulting in less net revenue than needed.

One way to cool Event Fever is to provide your board with information about best practices in fundraising. They will have a better understanding of the planning process that needs to happen before jumping into a splashy event just because it’s a fun idea. Here are some key points to get you started.

The first consideration should be WHAT you are raising funds for and HOW MUCH you need. There must be a clear goal before you start asking people for money. Develop a Case for Support for your organization as a basis for all fundraising efforts. It explains to your constituents why you need their support. Also, by setting a specific dollar amount you need, it gives donors and volunteers something to work toward.

One hundred percent of your board must be donating.  I am amazed at how many organizations have board members who don’t donate, even a small amount. While some board members may feel they are giving their time instead, it speaks volumes to others if the board doesn’t think the organization is worth including among their financial donations.

Determine the best Return on Investment (ROI). I worked with an organization that had a gala that was popular with sponsors and the board. The problem was that they didn’t attract individual donors to grow the event, and the net revenue was minimal. When they added a simple night at a baseball game to try to make up the difference, they discovered that for a minimal amount of time they netted more and attracted more than twice the number of individual donors.  It wasn’t as glamorous, but by moving their sponsors over to the baseball game, they made more with one event than with two. For some organizations, developing a steady individual donor base may out-perform events.  Courting individual donors isn’t as fun, but it’s also no fun not to have enough funding to help your cause.

Diversify your funding stream. Some organizations put all their efforts into events, while neglecting other funding sources such as grants and individual donors. More than 70 percent of donor giving is from individuals, even in hard economic times.

Find grants that fit your needs, not the other way around.  If you revise your plans to fit grant requirements, the time investment is seldom rewarded. Even if you win the grant, you may not achieve what you really need.

Tari Marshall is a marketing consultant with So Write Communications, Inc., specializing in nonprofit organizations. She is also the founder of the Library Marketing Collaborative. She is former Director of Communications for the National PTA and consultant to the American Library Association. 

Author: Kristina Leroux, Community Engagement Manager

I am the Community Engagement Manager at Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com.

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  • Teresa

    Do you recommend any resources for developing a Case for Support for my organization?

    • Tari

       Hi Teresa,
      Some of the fundraising database services include templates for developing a Case, so if you use one you might check there. That is what I’ve used, so they aren’t available on the Internet or book store for me to pass along. There are books that provide that guidance, too, but I haven’t used any of them, so I can’t recommend one in particular. I did find this website (http://www.cvfundraising.com/resources/tip_sheets/case-for-support-tips) that has some good basic guidelines that match what I’ve used. Some other sites, I think, don’t offer enough detail and are intended to sell services or materials. This list covers most of what you need to build a good basic Case. I hope this helps.

      Tari

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