People Don’t Come for the Chicken

Jenny Vance
Written by :

Jenny Vance

Categories: Event Tech

This isn’t going to be another article telling you to wash your hands and keep your fingers out of your mouth. By now, you know those things.

The CDC is recommending people hold off on events with more than 50 people for the next 8 weeks.

That’s scary stuff for anyone, but especially for folks in nonprofits who depend on their spring events to generate a third or more of their budgets.

We get it and we’ve got you.


Take a few deep breaths (six feet away from anyone else, of course), and then read on…


Have you ever been driving down the road when all of a sudden, the person to the right and in front of you decides they need to get over all four lanes of traffic so they can turn left? Suddenly, there’s a car in your lane perpendicular to the flow of traffic and there’s nothing anyone else can do, but stop. 

Here’s the thing, going around the block would get this person the same result, but all the driver can think is “I need to be over there and I need to be there RIGHT NOW.”

We’re like that with our events aren’t we? It’s hard because we get trapped in the pattern of doing things the same way we've always done them. The question is, can we go around the block instead?


Canceling your spring event doesn't have to wreck your budget. Here's what you can do right now to make sure it doesn't.


Take a Step Back


First, try to back up from the event for just a few minutes and really think about why you have it. What is it really about? Hint: It’s not about the chicken dinner. More than likely it’s about what you do, who you serve, and the community of guests who attend. How can you replicate that?

Many organizations are postponing their events until the fall. While that is definitely a possibility, keep in mind that an increase in events in the fall could lead to fewer attendees and fewer donations.

Donors usually have philanthropic hearts which means they support more than one cause and go to more than one event. The fall is already a crowded fundraising season and one can only attend and give so many times. How will your donors know to choose your event?

If you're moving your event to the fall, start thinking now about what sets your event and your cause apart so that when the time comes, you can communicate that difference to your donors well.

Better yet, take the knowledge of what sets your cause apart from the rest and move your event online!


Go Back to Basics by Remembering This….


Software doesn’t raise money. Events don’t raise money (not on their own). People Raise Money! That’s the simple truth. 




In normal times, you put on one epic event (maybe two) every year. Everything is perfect.

The centerpieces are on point. Guests arrive dressed to the nines, ready to have a good time, with open hearts, and open wallets. The food is excellent and your MC delivers every ask at the exact right time. Boom! You raise several thousand dollars in one night!

But, did you really do it all in one night?

No, of course not!. That's Santa's job.

If you’re having a spring event, you actually started fundraising months ago. You can still do that. 

Thanks to your history of throwing fabulous, must-attend events, like Santa, you’ve got a list. That’s how you’re going to get through this current crisis.

Long-term fundraising success is about building and cultivating relationships. Tell your story. Talk about why you do what you do, how you help those you help, and why you do it.

This is Fundraising 101. We know you know this already.

We just want to remind you that now is not the time to panic. Instead, it’s time to go back to basics, rely on those relationships you’ve been building throughout the years, and get your donors to help you start building new new relationships with their friends.

Now, take your list, your knowledge of why people come to your events, why you help who you help, and go online.


If They Can’t Come to You, Go to Them


You can’t go to your donors in person right now. So, how do you peel back their shuttered curtains when everyone’s at home surrounded by stacks of toilet paper and hand sanitizer?  The same way Netflix does, through their internet connection.

One great solution is to turn your campaign into an online peer-to-peer campaign. Want to know how to do that, start here.

Even better? Make your event virtual. There are several ways to do that. Here's one.

Create small videos to post on your website at predetermined times to keep people engaged, Get your MC to create short introductions for each one. If you have guest speakers, get them to record what they would have said in their addresses.

If you’re looking for inspiration, here's a great article about an organization in Seattle that did just that when they had to replace their gala because of COVID-19. SPOILER ALERT: They raised more than than their goal, making their non-event event their best fundraiser to date!

Don’t know how to post videos to your website? It's super easy to add video to your Swell site Just, click insert media from the drop-down in the content editor. Need help? Ask us!

All Swell events also have the ability to "go live." You can stream your live video from YouTube directly onto the event site you've already created!

We're also working on a more interactive video feature that gives virtual guests a way to interact online during your event.

People come to your in-person event because they care about your cause and because someone they know, like, and trust invited them to come. Here's a sneak peak:

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This new feature will make it possible for attendees to connect during a time when we are all potentially more physically isolated than ever. 

In summary, hope is not lost. Change isn't always easy, but with Swell, you have tools to make it easier. The key to success is planning.

By the way, Swell has always been and will always be so much more than software.

We’ve been helping organizations just like yours successfully raise money online for almost 10 years… way before this latest viral threat.

We’ve put some of our best tips in this post, but if you want to talk directly about how Swell can help your organization meet its specific needs, let’s schedule a time to do that.