January 26, 2011

Understanding the return on fundraising events

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Memorabilia at a silent auction fundraising event.

Live events offer the chance to create & maintain relationships

Guest post by Lindsey J. Rosenthal, MTA
Events For Good

Lindsey-RosenthalFrom time to time, executives of nonprofits and cause organizations wrestle with the question of whether putting on a fundraising event is worth the commitment of precious time and resources.

Trust me, it’s more than just calculating potential revenue and subtracting expenses. The real value of holding a live event — rather than pursuing other fundraising activities — takes into account a number of factors. Let’s begin with this formula:

ROFE = (Revenue – Expenses) + Public Awareness + Relationship Enhancement

  • Profit: This is easy to define. The dollar amount that an event can raise is often significant; however, that can be offset by the costs associated with staff time and planning. Not every event is going to be a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. However, a very high return can come from sponsorships, on-site donations and/or auctions.
  • Public Awareness: Unlike a direct mail campaign, there’s nothing like the visibility that a live event can provide. Live events give your cause or organization access to media channels, positive publicity, greater understanding of your mission and the ability to educate the public. You can reinforce and expand your brand identity. You can broaden the scope of your outreach. You can entice the public to become attendees and donors in the future.
  • Relationship Enhancement: Events produce opportunities for volunteers to take on active roles, development officers to care for donor relationships, and introductions to be made for new prospects. An event can be a reward for members or a way to create, find and nurture affiliations. Some are more likely to give to a charity through buying an event ticket than giving an outright cash donation – a social benefit that alters behaviors. It is much easier to convert a ticket buyer into a donor than to entice someone with no existing affiliation.

In the end, your return lies in your attendees having a memorable experience and making a lasting connection with your brand or cause. Events often spur people to connect with an organization in a deep way that goes beyond a particular night’s purpose. They provide an outlet for social interactions and unlock benefits — revenue streams, volunteer opportunities — that other fundraising methods cannot.

Revenue should be one factor in your event fundraisers — but not the sole reason for holding an event. Look at the bigger picture and see how a current solution can provide a future benefit. Events offer the chance to create and maintain relationships. In the nonprofit sector especially, there’s nothing more important.

Lindsey J. Rosenthal, MTA, is the founder of Events For Good, a social enterprise that assists nonprofits, associations and other organizations in the creation, revitalization and strategy of fundraising, charitable and other special events. Lindsey has a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and a master’s degree in event and meeting management and nonprofit administration. Follow her on Twitter at @eventsforgood. This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial No Derivatives license.

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