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The special event fundraiser is not dead

I’ve been fortunate to have had several meetings in the last couple of weeks with clients talking about and planning individual giving strategies. In every conversation, someone brings up their annual event, usually with dread. Everyone around the table seems a bit stunned when my response is one of joy, embracing the special event fundraiser.

I have been thinking of an annual fundraising event from a nonprofit I used to work at, an event that was the largest financial fundraiser of the year. It was a dinner.

I hope I didn’t already lose you. I know. All of the time and personalities and volunteers and endless meetings. It doesn’t have to be like that. And you can create an event that takes your mission to new heights.

It was also a time when we honored an individual, a business and a civic/faith group for all they have done for us as an agency and the youth experiencing homelessness we serve.

I can imagine what you might be thinking: another fundraising chicken dinner.

This particular one was my first time planning the event. With a little over a year there and the experience of being at the dinner the previous year, I wanted to make some changes and take some risks.

Yes, risks.

Taking risks with an event, especially your biggest event, is not always a feel-good task.

All of the risks we took were focused on making the event more about our agency and the youth we serve as well as trying to reduce the expense budget.

Instead of hiring one of those amazing companies that does check-in and check-out and gets all of your guest information, we asked staff to do that.

Big, famous emcee? We asked staff to do that.

Expensive video company? You guessed it. We asked staff to do that.

During our live ask we had staff and volunteers greet each guest as they committed to a donation. The guest was handed an envelope with the amount they had just raised their number for. Over 90% of those who made donations filled out the enclosed information for the donation and handed it back to us.

Our check-in and check-out processes worked. No lines. Just amazing staff greeting those who allow us to do our vital work.

In the end we beat budget while cutting our expenses by 43%. We then could tell our supporters and future sponsors of this event that for every dollar that we spend on this event we raise five.

Take risks. Make your special event about you and your mission. Every single detail goes back to your mission. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Thanks for reading!

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