5 Reasons to Cancel Your Next Event

Cost to Raise One Dollar (data from james greenfield)

Cost to Raise One Dollar (data from james greenfield)

Does your nonprofit have fundraising events on its calendar for 2015? Do you wonder if special events are the best place to put your time, energy and resources? Here are 5 reasons to consider nixing your next event. 

1. Events Burn Out Your Staff and Volunteers

Successful events take time. Whatever success looks like for your organization’s event (money raised, attendance, over-the-top experience, etc.) it will take staff and volunteer time to get there. Event logistics are labor-intensive – from tracking ticket sales and event sponsorships to working with venues and caterers to planning party favors or goodie bags – it all takes work. 

Your staff (you?) are already overworked and (likely) underpaid. It may not make sense to add another event. Your volunteers (including board members) can also be overtaxed from multiple events on the calendar each year. Continually asking of your volunteers may net your organization some former volunteers!

2. Events are Inefficient

When you look at the cost to raise a dollar, special events are near the bottom of the list. It’s generally accepted that it costs 50 cents to raise a dollar through special events. Most other fundraising activities—including grant writing, direct mail renewals and major gifts— can be more efficient, costing between 5 and 20 cents to raise a dollar. [Data from James Greenfield.]

3. Events Can Burn Out Your Donors

Not only do events take a toll on staff and volunteers, if you ask the same donors to support 3, 4, even 5 or more events a year, you risk burning out your donors. We call this “donor fatigue.” Most of your donors don’t have the time, money or interest to attend and support a long list of events hosted by your organization each year. 

The same goes for sponsors. When we’re talking about special events, sponsorships are where the real fundraising potential lies. Most organizations have a limited sponsor pool – why risk over-tapping these key supporters?

4. Events Don’t Build Donor Relationships 

Sure, you see your donors at events. You say hello and share a quick hug, but do you really connect and build relationships? Most events are busy, high-energy affairs and it’s tough to carve out time and space for a quality get-to-know-you conversation. I’m not saying you can’t use your events as cultivation tools, but it’s cultivation en masse rather than the tailored and personal touch points that really move the needle on your donor relationships.

5. Event Revenue is Unpredictable

There are many variables impacting event revenue, including budget, event attendance, marketing and promotion, volunteer committee, staff leadership and more. It can take years to build support for an annual event and this support can vary year to year. One organization I know had a dynamic volunteer event committee chairperson. When this volunteer took a year off the committee, event revenue plummeted by $20,000. 

The bottom line is that events are not the cure-all they’re often billed as. How many times has your board suggested you hold an event to fill a gap in your budget? Boards offer this suggestion in part because they aren’t aware of the downsides and risks of special events. Feel free to forward this post to your board members who seem overly event-centric!

On the flip side, events do serve a purpose in a well-rounded and comprehensive fundraising program. If you’re holding one event, maybe two, annually, you’re probably in good shape. You can use these events to build your annual fund and provide prospects for your major gifts pipeline. But if you’re holding 3 or more events annually, consider dumping one (or more!) to free up your time, energy and resources for more efficient and effective fundraising methods. 

What are your thoughts on special events? Have you ever tried to pare down your event calendar and, if so, was it helpful? Please share in the comments box below. 

Special gift for you:  My step-by-step guide, Conquer Your Fear of Asking for Moneyis available here (click).