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Great Events

A great fundraising event would motivate every attendee to become a supporter or significantly increase their support.  To achieve that goal: First, ensure the right people attend.  Second, cultivate all of the attendees after the event.

The right people are those who care about what your mission promises to do for your clients and by extension your community.  When you scan your support base (donors, volunteers, referral sources, and advocates), you see a diverse group of people.  Their diversity extends beyond demographics  to how they think about issues.  For example, some may want less unemployment while others want more economic activity.  In reality, both want more economic activity.  One wants to know that a specific group will benefit.  The other is less particular about the beneficiaries.

Promoting your event must be as multifaceted as your support base.  You must have multiple events with each targeted at a separate segment of your support base.  Having multiple events is more expensive and more work.  However, it lays a better foundation for cultivation because each event can narrowly focused on the interests of every attendee.

Cultivation is easier but more time consuming than holding events.  Multiple events make cultivation easier.  The targeted event has started the process by addressing the points of primary interest to the hearts of the group being cultivated.  When you have a single event, the cultivation process must start by determining what is important to the person being cultivated.

On the surface, a single event for everyone is cost efficient.  However, a single event makes the cultivation process less efficient.  There is the potential that attendees will lose interest between the event and the first cultivation meeting.  As a result, donors attracted to targeted event are more likely to be retained and give more over the subsequent three years than those from a single, broadly focused event.  Targeted events are more likely to expand your income and create a more sustainable funding stream.

Next Step:

Divide your support base into groups based upon their interests and priorities

Organize events around the interests of each support group

Use the percentage of attendees who become supporters or increase their support as a success measure for the event and the follow-on cultivation

Each support group might want to attend a different type of event.  For example, those who care about economic development might prefer to hear from an economic development expert and learn about how lowering unemployment increases economic activity.  Those who care about helping clients find jobs in a tight employment market may want to meet clients, hear anecdotes, and see evidence that demonstrates the broad reach of the mission.  Neither would be very interested in the other’s event and it would be very hard to have a joint event.

The sustainability of your nonprofit depends on having a diverse support base.  This implies that your board must be equally diverse.  If everyone on the board cares about helping the unemployed, there will be very little attention paid to those who care about increased economic activity.  Without increased economic activity, it is hard for even the highly qualified to find a job.

The sustainability of your nonprofit depends on a growing donor base.  The fundraising events must attract donors with diverse perspectives. Therefore, there must be diverse fundraisers.  By having diverse fundraisers you will attract a diverse audience with a common interest (your mission) and a common perspective on how to address the challenges your mission, clients, and community face.

Take It Further:

Remind your events committee that a broad event for every season is less effective and efficient than one event annually for every supporter segment

Remind your board development committee that diversity of thought and interests are as important as demographic diversity when selecting board members

Remind your board finance committee that the end results of a fundraising event (number of new donor and increase in current donors’ generosity) are more important than the income and expenses associated with the event

Ensure each event is mission centric even if its message is tailored for a different donor interest or perspective

Remember, events are about what engages the attendee

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