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Step One: Special Events Change Management

Events can be incredibly rewarding and fruitful for our organization—if done well. And by “well,” we mean executed with strategy and fundraising purpose. However, getting to that purpose can be very challenging. Whether balancing organizational history, leadership preferences, or outdated notions regarding donor preferences, we face an uphill battle in implementing significant change in the event landscape of our organizations.

Between staff turnover, debates between in-person vs. virtual, and heightened donor scrutiny (and expectations!), it can feel we are in lose-lose situations where no one wins, and we remain saddled with an outdated, ineffectual event, or no event at all. So, what do we do?

The first step is to evaluate your special events program—assessing the current investment level in special events at your organization. All decisions, business planning, and prioritization stem from a baseline understanding of your current state. This evaluation is not just the number of events and overall budget—it includes the following:

  • Total number of donor dedicated events

  • Total budget dedicated to these events

  • Total number of staff hours spent in planning, execution, and follow-up

  • Total number of donors affected/engaged by events

  • Percentage of donor pyramid represented

  • Total lifetime giving represented by these donors

You can do this assessment for all of your events or just one. The key to this activity is coming away with a deeper understanding of the time, talent, and budget you are dedicating to special events to ensure this aligns with organizational expectations, current resources, strategic goals, and donor expectations. Then ask some key questions:

  • Are you doing events for a very small/the same segment of your donor base year after year?

  • Are you reaching any new audiences or donor pipeline segments through these events?

  • Can you tie the results of these events to any significant fundraising activity?

  • What is the ratio of dollars in vs. dollars out for these events?

  • What percentage of “new/renewed/retained” giving do your attendees represent each year?

Now what? You have this information and better understand the landscape at your organization – how do we apply this to our work? On March 8th, Matthew Helmer and Sarah Sims will host our monthly webinar on evaluating special events, defining and gauging the success and ROI of your events, and ultimately how to “eliminate” those that do not strategically move the fundraising needle for your organization. You've taken the first step, join us to learn how to evaluate and eliminate events that aren't serving your purpose.


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