Meghan DankovichIt seems so simple. Need money? Want to build awareness? Would like more constituents? Hold a fundraising event. But before making that commitment — and risk spreading your already thin resources even thinner — give careful thought to these key considerations.

  • Ask whether your organization is institutionally prepared for the event. This goes beyond finances. You must have the necessary development, cultivation and operational tools in place, as well as a degree of financial tolerance. Take an honest look at past fundraising events you’ve held and consider: 
    • How did they go?
    • How well did your organization and volunteer community perform?
    • Were you able to leverage internal and external strengths, resources and relationships to support your event?
    • Did you define a strategy for reaching your goals?
    • Did you have the time to execute successfully?
  • Be clear about what need you’re trying to fulfill with the event. If you have multiple goals, prioritize them and be ready to collect data required to appropriately measure your success relative to those goals. If you need guidance, speak with industry experts or peers at like-minded organizations, or explore industry gatherings or nonprofit groups on LinkedIn to learn from experienced event holders.
  • Identify your audience, including what level of the giving pyramid you’re trying to reach (here’s a great example of a giving pyramid from the National Park Service). Is there a segment of your constituent base you could better engage with a new activity offering? Considering this factor, along with the demographics of your audience, will help you answer important questions that impact your event planning, such as:
    • What kind of event would be most attractive to the target audience (e.g. party vs. walk/run/ride)?
    • What kind of event would be most appropriate for the goals you’re trying to reach?
    • Would that type of event also be an appropriate vehicle for promoting your mission?
    • Where should you hold the event (i.e. both the type of venue and geographical location)?
    • Which competitors are you up against for this audience’s attention in that location?
  • Keep in mind that an event is a means to an end. How would this new event help further your mission? Would the experience you’re creating with the event compel your audience to support your cause?  Would it feel meaningful to them? Remember your mission and your strategy for accomplishing it.
  • If you decide you aren’t quite ready to take on hosting a new event, consider looking into independent fundraising events. You may already have evangelists supporting your organization is this way. These super volunteers are in essence doing the work for you! How could your organization better support them to maximize their efforts while minimizing additional work internally?

Having honest answers to questions like these can be the difference between fundraising success and failure. Take the time to assess your readiness, formulate a strategy and think about ways to integrate your cause into the event in a clear, emotive and memorable manner. You’ll be in good shape!

Thinking about adding an event to your fundraising portfolio? Not sure? Email Meghan to discuss the possibilities.

“Meghan’s Strategy Lab” blog posts are featured monthly. Vice President, Fundraising Strategy Meghan Dankovich serves as the lead for many of Event 360’s consulting engagements, striving to help nonprofits exceed their event fundraising goals. Her expertise includes strategic planning, implementation of qualitative fundraising work and developing successful quantitative approaches for collecting and analyzing event-related data.

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