I was at a meeting the other day where a nonprofit was considering what to do with a small special event they’d hosted for a number of years. The event generated roughly $10,000 net profit for the organization. The group kept talking about how much work the event was for staff to put on, but they didn’t want to lose the $10,000 raised at the event.
The cost effectiveness of fundraising initiatives varies greatly. Special events can be a fun way to raise money and build name recognition. They can also be used to attract new supporters, improve staff/volunteer morale and generally inject a dose of energy into your nonprofit.
On the other hand, holding a special event is an expensive way to raise money because it can expend a significant percentage of the funds it generates in addition to a heavy investment of staff time. But remember, volunteer time costs nothing.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, don’t go around in circles. As Simon Sinek would say, “Start with the why.” Ask yourself why you are holding the event. Is it about the money, is it about growing your support base or is it about building name recognition? If it is about the money, what other options are available to help you reach your goal? A few include:
- Asking 10 well-connected supporters to fire up their Rolodexes and call likely contributors
- Forming a partnership with a civic group seeking an opportunity to support a nonprofit. They can plan and hold a fundraising event on your behalf and save significant staff time
- Investing the time and energy you spent on the event in cultivating relationships with supporters who have the capacity to give five-figure gifts. You may wind up with $50,000 instead of $10,000