“That was a great awareness event.” “We really reached a lot of people.” “We broke even on expenses.” Are these the outcomes of your most recent special event? What about “We exceeded our fundraising goal!”
Creating an engaging and exciting event is hard enough for professional event producers. For nonprofits the challenge is even greater. Your priority is not event production, BUT you must create a successful event that raises the money your organization needs. You want to create a memorable experience and reach your revenue goal.
If you want to raise meaningful money from your event consider these two suggestions.
- Make fundraising the number one priority for your event. Spend as much – or more – time on fundraising as you do on event production. Define your strategies for raising funds before, during and after the event. Make sure your press releases and advertising clearly communicate that the event is a fundraiser. Reinforce the message at the event. Invest in, test and use your data management or customer relationship management (CRM) system. Track past, present and prospective attendees. Track your solicitations and which ones attendees respond to. Orient volunteers, hosts, speakers and performers to their fundraising roles. If an individual is to “make an ask” make sure they know exactly what to say and do. Integrate fundraising messages into the event in the beginning, middle and end. When you tell the audience that an event is a fundraiser they expect you to ask. Don’t be timid.
- Carefully track costs and projected revenue. What are the costs associated with the event? What is your ticket price? How much staff time are you dedicating to the event? Make sure your net fundraising goal is realistic and achievable. The cost ratio for an established event and related fundraising should not exceed 25% – 30% of funds raised. If this is a new event, the costs may be higher. Take the time to accurately calculate your projected expenses and revenue. Reduce expenses by securing in-kind goods and services that offset identified costs. Set goals for revenue from ticket sales, sponsorships, and funds raised at the event. You want guests to make a gift in addition to purchasing a ticket. Make it easy to give with a credit card, online, or with a pledge. Follow up with a series of thank you notes, event photos and solicitations using email, text, or social media.
- Is your event current, or more of the same? Special events play a critical role in the life of nonprofits. This is a competitive market and your event should remain special. It should also meet a “need” in the marketplace. For example, do you know who exactly you are targeting to attend? Have you done the necessary research to learn whether or not your event resonates with this constituency? Related to this, is there a tie between your anticipated audience and your prospective sponsors? You need attendance and sponsorship to reach your revenue goals.
If you want people to give, be sure to ask.
Copyright 2017 – Mel Shaw and Pearl Shaw, CFRE
Mel and Pearl Shaw are authors of four books on fundraising available on Amazon.com. For help growing your fundraising visit https://www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.