Friday, February 13, 2009

Non-Profits and the BIG Event

Yesterday we with met with a client to discuss new strategic opportunities when the topic of non-profit events came up.  They are preparing for a very labor intensive and involved event and were wondering if this was the way to go in the future.  Quickly our conversation turned from events to a donor focused discussion.  

Because the economy is forcing donors to become more frugal with their giving and the Internet lends tools to make them more savvy, non-profits might have to rethink the BIG event and change their approach.  Donors want to become personally connected to your mission. 

Instead of the BIG event, why not host a handful of small cultivation events.  They are personal, create a connection and are much more cost effective. Donors will see that more of your dollars are going back into the mission and not the lavish fundraising costs associated with the BIG event.

A few cultivation event ideas are:
  • A summer BBQ for 6 to 8 couples hosted by one of your board members
  • A private suite at a concert or sporting event for a handful of potential donors
  • An intimate luncheon or a dinner with the board chair 
Whatever it is, keep it small and intimate so you can give each guest special attention.  Get your board or long-time volunteers involved, and make sure you include someone who benefits from your mission.  By hosting an event this way, donors will get the full experience of who you are and what you do.  It is more powerful.

Should non-profits give up the walks and galas - absolutely not.  Donors like to attend family events and special dinners.  Maybe those should become more of a celebration of the mission and a reason to create awareness.  Just be careful with the budget and make sure your message is targeted to them with a specific call to action.  

Should non-profits stay away from the BIG event?  If the fundraising expenses are in the hundreds of thousands we say stay away.  Donors wouldn't be happy to find out that the majority of their donation went to foot the catering and venue bill and it might come across like you're being more self-serving than mission focused.

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