So you’re planning a special fundraising event, like a gala or an awards dinner. You’ve picked the date, the venue and even the hors devours.
But did you really put enough thought into the most important aspects of the event?
Here are the key questions you will need to answer for each of your upcoming special fundraising events:
Why are you really having this event anyway? How does this event educate people and connect or reconnect them to your mission? Does it have a place in your System of Events plan?
Is the type of event or theme of the event consistent with your mission? How could it showcase your mission even more?
Is it the best way to tell your organization’s story?
When you include all the soft costs, how much will the event really net? Does it feel like too much invested for the return?
What else could your staff and volunteers have been doing with the same amount of time and energy to generate more money and goodwill than the event nets? If one individual just walked in and wrote you a check for the total dollar goal for the event, would you still have the event?
What exactly is the break-even number for this event? Do you know from the get-go that you have a big “nut” to meet: fixed costs like theater ticket sales, pricey food, audio/visual, room rental costs, i.e., all the things that you couldn’t get donated?
Does this type of event give you enough control over the results? Are there enough benchmarks along the way to let you adjust accordingly in advance?
What would you think if you had to sit through that program? Do people really care about that speaker? Is the speaker’s message even relevant to your organization or is the speaker just there to draw in more guests? If yes, how many more people will that speaker attract? How much more in bottom-line results? Will that extra revenue more than cover the speaker’s fees? Will you have permission to follow up with those guests individually after the event or would that be awkward?
What’s your plan for follow-up after the event? Do all the key players know their follow-up assignments and the timeline? What are you building for future years by having this event?
If you can’t answer any one of these questions, you still have some work to do before you launch the event.
Terry Axelrod, founder and CEO of Benevon, has more than 30 years’ experience in the nonprofit field. She created the Benevon Model after serving as the first development director at a private inner-city school, where she designed and implemented the fundraising programs that yielded $7.2 million in two years and a significant endowment. Over the past 20 years, Benevon has trained more than 5,000 nonprofit teams to customize this systematic process for building sustainable funding.