Everybody loves a party, or a golf tournament, or a clay shoot, or any of many other fundraising events your organization could host. For the guest or patron, this seems like an easy way to raise money for a worthy cause, but as experienced fundraisers, we understand the reality.
Events are expensive and require an outlay of cash several months prior to your event for deposits to reserve the venue, entertainment, photographers, videographers, and other professional services. A good rule to keep in mind is, your expenses should not be more than one-third of your gross revenue. So if your total revenue for your event is $15,000, then your expenses should be under $5,000.
Events are time consuming. Too often, the heavy lifting is done by staff, along with their day-to-day responsibilities. Even if you have an army of volunteers, you still need staff to supervise. When calculating the cost of an event, staff time is usually not included.
Yes, events can be an effective part of your overall fundraising plan that includes personal solicitations, direct mail, social media and grants. The best strategy includes time to plan your fundraising 12 to 18 months into the future. If events have not been part of your strategy, the plan will help you see where events fit into your big picture.
Give yourself enough time to plan and budget your event(s). Depending on the scale of the event, you could need a 12-month lead time. If events are new to your organization, start small. Not all events need to be fundraisers. Nonprofits need to always build their pipeline of potential donors. So, an intimate event at a donor’s or patron’s home is a great place to start cultivating new relationships with perspective donors. Even with large galas, remember that events are also about relationship building. Events can be an opportunity to meet your donors and potential donors in a neutral setting.
Lastly, keep in mind that events have life cycles. Evaluate your events and keep a comparison to the same event in prior years. Is the event growing and making more money or is it shrinking? Is it out-of-date? Unless you have a well-established gala, consider a less formal event. Remember, the goal is to raise money and awareness.
Michelle Crim, CFRE
Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in start-up and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.