While in Chicago last week for a Giving Institute board meeting we heard an interesting presentation on fundraising events by Jeff Shuck, President and CEO of Event 360, the Giving Institute’s newest member. Event 360 is a leader in the world of nonprofit event development and production, orchestrating events for some of the country’s largest nonprofit organizations such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Needless to say, Jeff is an expert on successful nonprofit fundraising events.
What we found so interesting was the fact that Jeff’s advice on conducting a successful fundraising event was very similar to the advice that we offer our clients every day on successful major gift fundraising. As with any fundraising effort, Jeff suggested that when planning an event, nonprofits need to ensure that they have a case for support in place (i.e. why you are you holding the event?). We found this to ring so true. So often we see nonprofits putting together events without looking at the event in the whole scheme of their fundraising program. Organizations often spend considerable amounts of staff time and energy that many times are not factored into “cost,” only to raise a few thousand dollars. As Jeff pointed out, so many nonprofit events are in no way tied into to the organization’s fundraising or the mission of the organization itself.
So the question is: in the grand scheme of things are you really moving the needle with your fundraising events? If the answer is no, then take Jeff’s advice (and ours for that matter) and consider a more strategic approach to your next fundraising event. For example, what’s the follow-up and stewardship plan to take event attendees and turn them into long-term donors? Take the time to think more strategically about your next event, make sure there is a solid case for conducting it, that it fits in with your mission, and that you have a follow-up plan in place for stewarding attendees so that your event will not only raise money and awareness, but also enhance your ongoing fundraising.