Fundraising events are hard work and require significant staff time. Many of these events do not achieve significant fundraising success -- but why? In short, you might be throwing a party rather than a fundraising event.
Even as a guest of these events, you can spot the difference between a nonprofit ‘party’ and a fundraising event. Most simply, when we evaluate the value of the experience as an exchange for the value of the ticket -- it’s entertainment. For example, in our community we will spend several Saturdays in March and April attending outdoor festivals and events to entertain our family and have fun. What will my attendance accomplish for these nonprofits?
Nonprofits host events for several reasons: (1) Fundraising; (2) Awareness Raising and (3) Donor Cultivation / Retention. Providing entertainment opportunities is seldom on the list.
Here are 5 Signs you might be throwing a party rather than a fundraiser.
- You are not focused on data collection: A large entertainment-focused event can serve as a prime donor acquisition opportunity for a nonprofit but only if you actually collect the names of all guests. Do you have the name of every single person who attends your event? Do you make a strong attempt to capture ALL names including complimentary tickets, guests at a table or on a team, names from multi-ticket purchases and tickets sold at-the-door. Is there more you can learn during the ticketing process? For example, is the guest interested in volunteer opportunities or additional program information. If you do not gather information, you might be throwing a party.
- Your communication equates ticket price to a value of goods provided: Often nonprofits encourage ticket purchase by talking about the eating, drinking, and entertainment value exchange. Does this sound familiar? “Come join us for The Best Event Ever. Tickets are just $25 and include 2 drink tickets, food provided by The Best Chef in the City and music by The Biggest Star.” This type of communication is especially true with Junior Board events. However, your guests attend your event because of the people that invited them and the intangibles offered by a nonprofit fundraising event. If you have guests at your event because it is a good value or a ‘cheap’ way to entertain the family for the day (and aren’t collecting data or measuring awareness), you may be throwing a party.
- You do not measure cause awareness created by the event: OK, we hear you. You are saying… but my event creates awareness for my cause. Fair point. BUT - are you sure and do you measure the awareness generated by the event? If awareness creation is the goal, then it must be measured and compared from year to year in order to know if your event is a success. If you host an awareness event without measuring awareness, you might be throwing a party.
- You treat your guests as consumers (i.e. by charging ticketing fees): As more nonprofits move to online ticketing platforms (we applaud this!), the decision about where to place the cost is worth considering. As consumers of entertainment, we often pay convenience fees to purchase tickets online from groups like Ticketmaster or StubHub. Fundraising guests are not consumers. Should we charge guests of a fundraising event ticketing fees? Ticketing fees suggest entertainment and align the event with the payment structure we use to purchase concert tickets. When we look at the most successful fundraising events, those organizations do not pass along costs for ticketing or online donations. If you are charging your guests ticketing fees, you might be throwing a party rather than a fundraiser.
- Donating to the cause is sidelined: Is it easy to donate to your event in the month leading up to your event and during the event? Is there a donation button or an easy way to support your event/cause without attending? If you spend more time thinking about how to sell tickets and not creating easy paths for visitors to your site to donate or for guests to donate during the event -- You are throwing a party.
Events are time consuming and parties are fun, but why spend precious staff time and energy creating an event that’s not designed to give you the return you really want: more donations.