The perennial conversation around non-profit organizations’ board tables is “how can we raise [more] money?” It feels like that question has singularly become the “raison d’être” for many non-profit organizations. However, in some cases, the non-profit organization’s belief that a fundraising event is an effective way to raise money may be misguided at times. This may sound counterintuitive. Let me hasten to clarify: Some non-profits fail to do their homework and factor in the direct (venue rental, food, décor, entertainment, etc.) and indirect (staff, board and volunteer time) costs before they embark on holding a fundraiser. Without due consideration of all the factors involved, it would be folly to take on a time-consuming and intense fundraising event. Engaging a professional event planning company with solid expertise in working with non-profits can lighten the load and ensure success.
Some non-profits shy away from engaging an event planning company on financial grounds: “We can do it ourselves and save the cost”. This couldn’t be further from the fact. Numerous studies have shown that to be successful in holding a fundraising event, using a professional event planning company with proper credentials is paramount. An event planning company can become your catalyst for success in your fundraising effort. It brings to the table a discipline that is often lacking when an organization tries to carry out such an undertaking on its own.
Here are areas that an event planning company can guide you when embarking on a fundraising event:
1. Identify your stakeholders: In an age when so many non-profit organizations are competing for limited funds, knowing the universe of your donors and other stakeholders is a critical first step. Your event planning company should help you identify the pool of possible donors depending on your cause and devise outreach strategies to “recruit” as many as possible. The donor outreach program should also entail educating the prospective donors about the organization, the cause and its relevance to them—directly or indirectly.
2. Engage your donors: Once you have identified and educated your donors, you still have a hurdle to overcome: To get the donors engaged—and keep them engaged. Engaged donors make for life-long donors. Much like everyone else, donors want to make a difference. Your event planning company will help you devise strategies to create fulfillment for your donors. The company should be able to come up with creative ways to make the need for donation a source of personal fulfillment for the donor. In an age of social media frenzy, it’s relatively easy to reach out to a wide range of committed donors/stakeholders and create a lasting—and rewarding—following.
3. “Donors are forever:” There is always the risk that an organization may view their donors only in the context of the event at hand. Your event planning company should help you formulate a long-term strategy for keeping your donors engaged—and how a one-time donor can be converted into a life-long donor. In fact, if your resources allow, you may want to consider to have a dedicated function for “donor relations”—much like many universities have an alumni department.
4. Fundraising with a purpose: Fundraising events are not only about fundraising: This statement may sound oxymoron. However, a sustainable fundraising effort must be based on solid foundations. The organization’s mission, its goals and its cause are critical to the success of your fundraising—not just once, but on a recurring basis. Your stakeholders will need to remain engaged. You need to devise a plan on keeping them engaged. To do so, you need to have a multi-year action plan to “evergreen” your cause. Your event planning company can help you with your “cause marketing.” In the end, fundraising is about more than fine dining at a ritzy venue with top-rated entertainment. It’s about engaging a collection of interested individuals and converting them into a group of committed ambassadors for your cause. Only thus can you have a sustainable roadmap to long-term success.