Why You Should Ditch Your Next Fundraising Event

Fundraising events are a foundation for many nonprofit fundraising programs.

But they are the most inefficient way of raising money.

Here’s a well-known chart of “cost per dollar raised” for various fundraising strategies:

Cost Per Dollar Raised

(Data comes from James Greenfield.) And what does it show you?

To raise one dollar in a fundraising event, it will cost you $.50 to raise it.

But your board members and volunteers don’t know this statistic.

Many volunteers aren’t familiar with annual or major gift fundraising – especially their costs vs. their benefits.

That’s why they zero in on EVENTS as the life-saving panacea for fundraising. That’s the only thing in their sphere of reference.

Here are 3 reasons you should ditch your next event:

1. Events are not very efficient fundraising strategies.

You can raise more money with other fundraising strategies.  The ROI you get from an event is far less than other fundraising options.

Looking at the chart, compare the costs of raising money with an event that to a mailing campaign like the annual fund – the cost per dollar raised is only $.25-.30 cents on the dollar.

And the most efficient way to raise money of all is face-to-face solicitations focusing on major gift donors – that’s only $.05 -.10 on the dollar.

2. Too many fundraising events KILL your volunteers and your staff.

The last thing your hard-working staff needs is another event. They are generally overworked, underpaid and certainly not appreciated enough.

WHY would you ask them to spend so much energy on something with such a low return?

And you won’t have a lot of volunteers left if you work them too hard.

Will you?

There are easier ways to “raise friends” for your cause.

3. You can raise more money with one annual fundraising event than with 3, 4 or 5 events.

Why? The real money from an event is raised from sponsorships.

Was it really worth it?

And it takes a decent lead time to develop sponsorship materials, target the right prospects, organize a committee and make the asks. Then you need the lead time to get their names on the invitation.

If you focus all your energy on one major event each year, you can raise bigger sponsorships because the single event has the visibility and the pizazz.

Why would you want to spread yourself too thin, wear yourself out, exhaust your volunteers – all for such a small return?

Got me!

Don’t get me wrong – fundraising events are fine.

They can be a very important part of a full-scale fundraising program.

But just don’t overemphasize them.

Try more sophisticated approaches, such as one-on-one asks.  Or try a carefully planned series of letters, postcards and emails designed into a campaign.

Five benefits of only staging one major event a year:

1.  Your volunteers can go all out in spreading the word and generating attendance, because they are only going to focus on one a year.

Have only one event a year and make it fabulous!

2. You can have the lead time you need to identify, cultivate, and ask sponsors. And that’s where the money is.

3. You’ll have greater attendance and attention from your supporters.

4. You’ll be able to raise more money overall because the staff now has time to focus on other, more productive and more efficient fundraising strategies.

5. You’ll have a happier and more productive staff.

Yes! My motto IS “when in doubt, throw a party!”

What I mean is that you need to turn everything you do into a party- and have some fun. You’ll be more successful if you do.

I don’t mean that you should stage event after event.

Just be smart about where you focus your time and energy.

You’re welcome to forward this to your volunteers who are overly event-oriented.

Just let me know!