By Mindy Wolfle
June 1, 2017
Over the past 25 years, I’ve attended countless fundraising events and served as chair or committee member of dozens of others. I’ve even been fortunate enough to receive commendations at several events.
What do all not-for-profit events have in common? The simple answer is ‘fundraising.’ Why do business people attend these events? That answer is more complex. Ask any attendee at any function and you’ll hear an array of answers: networking opportunities, supporting the organization, cheering on an honoree, getting away from the office, golfing with clients, volunteering on a committee, reconnecting with contacts…and the list goes on.
I recently attended a sold-out event that was seriously flawed, which prompted me to consider, ‘It’s time for better fundraising events.’ Among the shortcomings of the event:
Too many honorees. Yes, honorees bring in ticket sales, journal ads and sponsorships. However, an excess of honorees diminishes the impact of each one’s accomplishments.
Too many speeches. Keynote speech, honoree presentation speeches (read verbatim from the program), honoree acceptance speeches…and much blah, blah, blah from the host of the event. Add to this, video presentations and you have a room full of people checking their smartphones and talking among themselves. How sad for the honorees who looked forward to their moment in the sun.
Too crowded. The ‘cocktail hour’ was crammed into a space at least 50 percent too small for the number of people in the room. The event was scheduled to begin a good 1 and a half hours before the sit-down meal and award presentations were made. As a result, attendees were trapped in a too-small space for far too long.
Where was the organization’s mission? Throughout the event, I heard nothing about the mission of the organization, what the funds raised from the event were targeted to support, nor how the honorees achievements were related to the organization’s mission.
During my recent not-for-profit Integrated Marketing, Communications and Public Relations class, part of Hofstra University’s Nonprofit Certificate program, the students did an exercise which involved preparing an outline for a hypothetical not-for-profit fundraiser. As always, I learned as much from my students as they learned from me, the instructor. Among the excellent points made:
Create a timeline of tasks, committees, members and every other imaginable component of an event with eight to nine months of lead-up activities.
Just because an event was never held previously doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be introduced into an organization’s annual plan. Conversely, it’s often time to rethink annual events that no longer can be justified in terms of revenue versus expenditures, or public interest.
Less is more. One event cannot satisfy everything for everyone
Conduct an open and honest post-event meeting with board members, staff, volunteers and other stakeholders to assess its success, and failures. Move on and make next year’s event an even better one for all involved.
Mindy Wolfle is the president of Neptune Marketing LLC, chief marketing officer of Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP, and instructor of business writing and not-for-profit marketing in Hofstra University’s continuing education program. She is a member of Women Economic Developers of Long Island, Public Relations Professionals of Long Island, the Social Media Association and Direct Marketing Association of Long Island. Her LinkedIn profile describes her as a marketing/public relations/social media executive, writer, editor, educator, connection maker, semiotician and do-gooder.