Maximizing Special Events

Spring has finally come – at least in the Midwest – and with it, event season has sprung into full swing. Between now and Labor Day – maybe Thanksgiving – hardly a weekend goes by without a gala, golf outing, and  charity run, all sponsored by a different local nonprofit organization.

With all of these organizations using events to raise money, you would think they raise lots of money. In my experience, when taking all of the costs and time into consideration, most events make very little money. A well-designed annual fund campaign or major donor solicitation can yield many times an event’s net revenue and require much less staff time.

Organizations can plan events to maximize enjoyment while meeting their own needs. How can an organization best use special events? Regardless of the purpose of your event, a few tips can help you make the most of your event.


Know your purpose

My clients who want to host a special event have heard me say that events have their purpose, but not always raising money. Events do a wonderful job getting your message out, broadening your base of support, garnering publicity and, at times, raising money. Identify your specific purpose before you plan the event. 

Plan specific activities that support your purpose

Trying to broaden your base of support? Collect names and contact information of attendees (can you say, “door prize” or “free raffle”?) Trying to inform people of your organization? Have a short presentation and/or information throughout your venue that describes how you impact lives. Better yet, have a few clients tell their story. Raising money? Ask for donations at the event, show how their gifts make a difference for your clients, and have lots of easy opportunities to give. 

Keep guests involved after the event.

You had their attention and stoked their passion; channel those toward your mission. Do not just add them to your donor list. Send a personalized thank you to attendees right after the event; call people new to your organization and invite them to continue their relationship as a volunteer or donor. This way, you may have accomplished multiple goals: broadened your base of support, added new donors, and garnered some publicity.

How will you assure that your event best meets its goals?

Adapted with permission from the Moline Dispatch Argus © 2013