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Special Events Have a Life Cycle

Events are a familiar part of fundraising. When do you know it’s time to retire your event? The obvious answer is when you’re spending more money than you’re making. But do we always pay attention to that obvious fact? No, we do not, especially when the event is popular with donors and constituents.

Recently, a friend, who is the Chief Development Officer for a large nonprofit, shared how she persuaded her CEO and board that their big annual concert event wasn’t working anymore.

1. She pulled a report that tracked the revenue for the last five years, which showed a steady decline.

2. Another report showed the expenses rose each year.

3. The ticket sales were transactional and did not translate into donors.

4. Even though the event created a lot of publicity at the time of the event, the public didn’t relate it to the organization, but rather to the celebrity performer.

She was able to introduce a new smaller event that raised just as much money with fewer expenses. The attendance was smaller, but the people who attended were dedicated supporters. This example illustrates the importance of analyzing the results of your event and sharing that information with leadership.

In addition to analyzing the results of your event, consider this:

  • Can a third party produce the event?

  • Can this event be for special occasions like a significant anniversary for the agency?

  • Is the format of the event out of date?

  • Is the event mission centered?

  • If you’ve always done a gala, consider a less formal event.

Remember, the goal is to raise money and awareness. Yes, retiring a beloved event might be painful or potentially upset people, but having data and a good plan for alternative fundraising is crucial. Post-COVID events are looking different, and this might be the right time to retire one of your organization’s events.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching, grant writing, and fundraising services. We specialize in small to mid-size organizations because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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