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Top Fundraising Events Fails

Special events are an effective fundraising tool. They can be a great way to increase awareness, attract new donors and volunteers, and raise unrestricted money. At the same time, there are numerous ways to be unsuccessful with your efforts.

If you remember just one thing from reading this article, it should be this: Plan, Plan, Plan.

The best time to start planning next year’s fundraising event is after you wrap-up this year’s event. A reasonable timeline is 12 months.

Starting to plan too late

Raise your hand if a well-meaning volunteer or board member has suggested a new event to be held in a few months’ time. It’s their idea, but yours to implement. Be strong. Talk with them about what’s needed to have a successful event.

Not defining goals

However much we can raise, is not a goal. What is your organization’s track record for event fundraising? If it’s a new event, set a conservative goal. Other organizations may have been successful with the new event you’re considering, but you probably don’t know their whole story. Beware of Event Envy.

Mispricing your event levels/tickets

Do you have a title or top sponsorship level at $50,000? Do you have donors with the capacity to support this level? You want to have a stretch goal, but be realistic when defining your sponsorship levels and be sure to include price points for all donors.

Failing to build in enough time to promote your event

This goes along with the first mistake of starting to plan too late. Be sure to allow months and months to promote your event. People are busy and their schedules fill up. For example, one nonprofit in town has been promoting their November event since May with Save the Date postcards and social media posts.

Not having enough staff/volunteers to plan and implement event

One development person is not enough; especially if they are expected to be responsible for all aspects of fundraising as well as planning and executing a large-scale event. The high stress level can quickly devolve to burnout and mistakes.

Having too many events each year

Many folks think fundraising is all about the events. But special events are one of the most expensive ways to raise a dollar. According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the cost to raise a dollar through special events is fifty cents or half of your expected revenues. Events are also very time intensive. You do not want to run from one event to another without time to properly follow up with guests, donors and sponsors.

A well-planned special event can be an excellent way to raise funds and friends as long as this is part of your integrated development plan.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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