fundraising: event planning

Many charities host annual event fundraisers — dinners, auctions, desserts, breakfasts, even a few murder mystery events (don’t even get me started about the murder mystery dinner I attended to benefit a domestic violence shelter). Before you go very far ask yourself a few questions:

1. What’s the goal? No fair having some vague goal like: raising awareness. Come on, step up and pick a goal. Is it income? Is it finding new donors? Is it because you’ve always done a breakfast and having a breakfast is really your big goal? Oh, and if your goal is income, NET income is the only income that counts, right?

2. Why would people attend? Again, have you always done it? Do they want to see the PowerPoint presentation you could host on your website or YouTube? Is it the food? Do you want them to come because they need to see that they are not alone in supporting you?

3. What’s your competition? Not for their dollars, but for their time and attention. What do you deliver that will “beat out” the other options like the Olympics or sitting in their comfy recliner? How are you going to make it worth it to them to show up? Will what happens at your gig be better, more interesting, more engaging, more fun, more life-changing, more fascinating, more provocative than anything else happening in their life that day?

4. What’s your age target? Is your event designed to reach your target demographic? As my young colleagues continue to remind me, 30 year-olds could care less about what we whiny baby boomers want. Is your event age appropriate? Try launching into anything that looks like a boring speech in front of a group of busy, successful 35 year-olds and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The great Seth Godin put it this way recently:

“If you’re going to have an event, better make it big. Or even bigger than that. It needs to be awe-inspiring, frightening, on deadline and worth losing sleep over.”

Read his post on the topic here.

And remember, you (and everyone inside your organization) will not be good judges of “big.” Pitch an outsider and watch for their eyes to light up. If they don’t light up, don’t hold the event. Do something else.

In the category of “do something else,” Oneicity is beta testing a new kind of event for charities and ministries. We’re looking for a few daring organizations who want to hold events that engage and excite. If you’d like to talk about being a beta test (it isn’t free but nearly free) email us and put Experience120 in the subject line.

What about you, what was the best event you ever attended? What events are you holding this year? What are your goals for your events? Love to hear your thoughts.


Oh, and it’s Monday, which means it’s time for a Good Job Monday. Today we’re shouting out, Josh Henderson at Skillet Street Food the home of Bacon Jam. Josh harnesses the power of great food (plus bacon) and social media to connect with people. The food is amazing and the way Josh and his team work the social media connections is inspiring. Great job, Josh.

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: littledan77)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

2 thoughts on “fundraising: event planning”

  1. Breakfast, lunch and dinner season has begun. I’m fearful that as long as nonprofits make decisions by consensus, that means every staff member and every single member of the board of directors and the stranger who happens to wander in from the street must all be consulted and all agree that doing something else is a good idea, that most nonprofits are going to do what they have always done. Less thinking that way you see, and, as I actually once heard, “Its what everyone expects.”

    But this is good news, even GREAT news, for the intrepid nonprofit organization, in a field of beige, even a little color stands out. Come on all you plucky nonprofits! Rise to the opportunity. How’d you like your organization to be referred to as “audacious”?

    “Fortune Favors the Bold.” Virgil

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