Don’t be a special event copycat

Don’t be a special event copycatSpecial events are an integral part of nonprofit life and fundraising. They can be a fun way to build relationships, raise money, and increase awareness. They can also drain resources and divert an organization from its primary purpose. There’s a lot to consider before planning an event:  just because another organization is hosting a gala, walk-a-thon, bike ride, silent auction, golf tournament, or concert doesn’t mean you should do the same. Here are six things to consider.

  1. Do your homework and research. Sit down and talk with the leadership of organizations whose events you admire. Ask about bumps in the road you should be aware of, things that went well, the near disasters, and things they learned in hindsight. The best people to learn from are your peers and partners, locally or in another community.
  2. Don’t be a special event copycatAssess your nonprofit’s infrastructure and capacity as it relates to producing an event. This includes volunteers who can dedicate time to developing and managing the event; staff who can provide guidance and support during event development and production; and underwriters and sponsors who can cover expenses. Do you have enough in-kind resources and services to help offset costs such as advertising and publicity; printing; direct mail; premiums and gifts; facilities; decorations; entertainment; and day-of-event volunteers.
  3. Do you have enough lead time to plan and produce? Are you planning 12 to 18 months out or three months in advance? Have you secured the buy-in needed from your internal and external stakeholders? Have you determined what will set your event apart from those offered by others? What will be your uniqueness? Have you designed and scheduled pre- and post-event activities and marketing to take advantage of the event and help meet short and long term goals?
  4. Don’t be a special event copycatHave you defined the objective of the event and determined anticipated costs and revenue? Will it be a friendraiser, fundraiser, cultivation activity, or an opportunity to enhance your organization’s profile? If it is a fundraiser, do you know your financial goal net of expenses? Can you justify the net results in terms of cost, time, and use of personnel (both paid and volunteer)? Will the event appeal to your target audience? Will you be able to fill the room? Is there a different way you can achieve your organization’s goals without hosting a special event?
  5. If you decide to outsource the development and management of a special event, be sure to check references and have an attorney review the contractual obligations you will be taking on. What are the event planners obligations to you if the event is not successful?
  6. Do you know the risks? Can your organization afford to risk investing money, people, and relationships in a special event? Have you identified the risks and made plans to mitigate these? Can you afford to invest three to four years of time hosting an event before it begins making a meaningful impact on the life of your organization?

Be a copycat only if you can make it work: that takes planning and research.


Don’t forget:


Copyright 2019 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

When you are ready to build a fund development program, grow your fundraising, or increase board engagement we are here to help. (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.

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