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Spring Cleaning Your Fundraising Events

Updated: Apr 20

As a fundraiser, there’s one hill I’ll always be willing to die on: I hate fundraising events.

Spring Cleaning

We all have our strengths and areas of growth in the profession, and events are the fundraising activity that I find overwhelming and very hard to pull off effectively.

That said, I love seeing some of the amazing events my friends and clients pull together. It’s so exciting seeing the ways they’re able to bring people together and creatively celebrate their missions while generating revenue.

As we enter the spring event season, it’s as good a time as any to take a step back and consider your fundraising events and the role they play in your development strategy. It’s easy to fall into a rut and keep events alive because they’ve always been done a certain way.

That’s a recipe for events that stagnate, deplete resources, and limit your ability to effectively carry out your mission.

Effective events have to evolve alongside your organization, and spring is a great chance to step back and look at your full event strategy to ensure everything is working the way you intend it.

So let’s do some spring cleaning!

As you look at the rest of this year and next year, here are some important questions to ask yourself:

  • Is my event schedule too full? This is a big stumbling block for a lot of organizations. A couple of events per year turns into a couple of events per quarter, and before you know it, your fundraising team does more event planning than actual fundraising. You drain staff resources and exhaust donors, making it hard to get the kind of deep engagement that leads to lasting donor relationships. Make a schedule, see if your calendar is congested, and figure out which events you can afford to drop in the next year.

  • Are you getting a return on your investment?  This is an obvious one, but it goes beyond the amount of money you raise. Staff time is an invaluable resource - especially when you’re talking about staff members who are responsible for fundraising. If your frontline fundraising staff are laying out seating charts instead of engaging with donors, you’re setting yourself up for long-term fundraising struggles. Look at the revenue of the events, the hard costs, and the staff costs, then determine if that event is an efficient, effective area to allocate resources.

  • Do you have the resources you need? If your staff gets overwhelmed around event time, it may be time to consider bringing in more staff resources. That could just be an event planner or part-time help, but it may be necessary to help your staff maintain their core functions and not burn out.

  • Where do your events shine?  Identify the event (or events) that really resonate with your donors and the broader community. If you have several events that are struggling or not generating the revenue you would like to see, it may be time to shift resources to the places that are hitting their goals. It’s better to have one great event than five mediocre events - especially if that one great event is able to effectively engage donors and inspire them to become long-term supporters.

Finally, don’t forget to look at how annual events are performing from one year to the next. As donor bases and attitudes toward events change following COVID, it’s important to consider whether your events are still compelling and engaging.

It’s easy to stick with events because they’ve worked in the past, but sentimentality shouldn’t get in the way of sound fundraising practice. Be prepared to share data about these events with your Board and stakeholders, carefully spelling out and justifying any decision to cut or change events.

As you spring clean your events, don’t be shy about reaching out for help. Our team of nonprofit fundraising consultants at Team Kat & Mouse is always happy to help you develop a cohesive event strategy - drop us a line for a free consultation today!

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