I am bound to upset a few board members and directors with this article. For some reason, the majority of board members and directors of Catholic nonprofits think that an event is a great idea to raise funds. In fact, it’s the hallmark on their calendar, as if all roads lead to the big gala or dinner.
While big events may be fun, they’re also big mistakes and a terrible way to fundraise. In fact, you dig yourself deeper into a hole with every event that you organize.
I want you to know that I’m not the only fundraiser who thinks like this: Every fundraiser with a successful track record agrees that events aren’t good for fundraising. Check out this fantastic book, The Perfect Campaign by Schuyler Lehman. He is a veteran fundraiser with years of experience, and Schuyler shares my viewpoint because he and his team have found this to be true.
The myth you’ve been told: “Events are great fundraisers”
Before I outline my reasons – and offer an alternative solution that can immediately help you – let me explain why every Catholic nonprofit, school, parish, diocese, and apostolate is mistakenly passionate about running fundraising events.
When you hear about an event that has raised $500,000 it’s natural for you to want the same success. You assume that, if you too host a bunch of people in a fancy room that you can raise the same amount.
This is a myth. First of all, you are assuming that $500,000 is the target the organization wanted to reach. It may well have been below their expectations. Secondly, you assume that you will get the same results with your network and invitees.
Once events work their way into a cultural calendar it is next to impossible to stop hosting them. They become sacred cows to the board and its volunteers – but left to the fundraiser to organize. And we all know what the Bible has said about ‘sacred cows.’
I admit, there is some good to be accomplished by such events, but it’s much less than the pedestal so many people place it upon.
Fundraising events have myths — and realities — that I want you to consider.
I am bound to upset ? a few board members and directors with this article. For some reason, the majority of board members and directors of Catholic nonprofits think that an event ? is a great idea to raise funds. In fact, it’s the hallmark on their calendar, as if all roads lead to the big gala or dinner. While big events may be fun, they’re also big mistakes ? and a terrible way to fundraise. In fact, you dig yourself deeper into a hole ? with every event that you organize. #Catholic #catholics #catholichurch #vatican #doorway #saint #catholicyouth #pope #popefrancis #catholicmemes #catholicmom #sacredscripture #tridentinemass #holytrinity #lifeofacatholic #Catholicfaith #catholicfamily #jesus #FaithfulRomanCatholic #mothermary #catholicrosary #holyfamily #cathechismofthecatholicchurch #catholicfaith #catholiclife #brice #saint #saints #saintbrice
The 4 myths and realities about event fundraising
Myth #1: Events are a fun opportunity to bring donors together, blow off some steam, and build relationships. They’re also a great opportunity to secure new donors as they get to learn about your mission.
Reality: Yes, it’s true that every event can be an opportunity to bring new friends and donors into your organization. But most events, however, are not mission-focused because all their planning, messaging, and actions are focused on raising money. They entice people to give to something (a ticket, auction item, etc.) other than the mission. Therefore, people don’t really learn what your mission is about. If anything, they get a brief buzz from attending but don’t really walk away with a deep understanding of what your organization is doing and hoping to accomplish
For example, how can you connect a charity’s five-course gala dinner, replete with auction prizes for luxury holidays, with its core mission to care for the poor and hungry?
It just doesn’t connect.
Before I start organizing a fundraising event, I always ask myself, “Would Jesus accept my invitation?”
Myth #2: Events deepen relationships with existing donors and new donors, thereby raising more funds for your mission.
Reality: The premise of most fundraising events is the passive raising of money by not really asking. Events do not challenge donors to give their capacity. Additionally, because most gala events are focused on raising funds, organizers rarely capture everyone’s information for future appeals, thereby limiting their chances to ask again of those who attended and did not choose to give at all.
An event can build mid-level donorship but only if you design and execute it properly.
Myth #3: Galas give development staff and board members a sense of accomplishment because everyone leaves the event feeling energized and excited about the mission. Momentum will pick up because these people will tell family and friends what happened, thereby getting more people involved.
Reality: Events give a false sense of accomplishment, that only rides off the emotional charge of the moment. If you review how much money was really raised and compare it to all the work that was required to run it, you’ll realize that such events actually monopolize more resources than they support.
Events require an enormous amount of time, energy and attention from your staff and volunteers. It’s easy to mistake being busy for being effective. Event planning eats up significant chunks of staff time that can otherwise be utilized toward more efficient and effective fundraising activities.
Myth #4: Events are a great way to boost fundraising by getting people excited about your mission and inspiring them to donate.
Reality: Most events are highly inefficient when it comes to reaching goals and recouping the time, energy, and resources that were needed to set it up. The real truth is that they rarely raise enough money to justify their cost. When your actual staff costs are factored in, many actually lose money.
What should you do instead?
Getting people together is a great idea, and therefore you should focus your efforts on organizing events that build community without adding a ‘fundraising element.’
This one adjustment in your approach will dramatically reduce the level of planning and costs associated with such an event, and allow you and your organization to focus on what really matters most: sharing your mission with people.
When you combine this strategy – sharing your mission with people – with a plan to capture their contact information so you can stay connected, you can actually boost your fundraising success.
The two most important factors in getting anyone to donate is to first get their attention and then earn their trust.
You’ve got their attention by getting them to the event. Now your objective is to earn their trust and that takes more than just one event. That’s why you must get their contact information in order to build and sustain a relationship.
If you operate this way, you will give people what they actually want: a good time and a chance to learn about what you do.
By implementing this strategy with all your events, you will notice two important changes: First, more people will stay more connected with you. Second, they will become more inspired by what you do.
Then, when you do ask for their financial support, they understand why you’re asking because they know what wonderful things you will achieve with their donation.
Question: Do you think applying this approach to events can benefit your fundraising? You can leave a comment by clicking here.