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Will a Special Event Fit for Your Nonprofit?

Special Events can be great ways to mobilize volunteers, engage Facebook followers, build new friends for your nonprofit.  By running an activity that draws in people, is pledge-based and brings significant new net dollars for your mission you can accomplish a number of objectives by producing one event.

How long have you been in business?  If you have a corps of supporters who can be mobilized to raise money for your cause, then a fundraising special event can be just the ticket. Here are some factors to assess to help determine if an event is right or wrong for you:

  • How long have you been in business? If you have a following that will raise money for you: go for it! If you’ve been building momentum with an effective program and a good group of supporters, an event could be right for you.
  • Enough motivated folk for an ad hoc work group? The lead staff person for the event seeks out volunteers from your participant lists who will help shape and organize the event.
  • Yes, but what event exactly?  Convene the ad hoc group (I hesitate establishing a committee) to join you to explore this. Look at two or three nonprofits like you in communities in other States, examine their websites, and see if they do events that seem to fit well.  Also, did you try an event some years back that flopped?  Maybe now that you have more experience and stronger relationships,  it’s time to re-consider what didn’t work a few years back might do well now.
  • How do we plan? Build a time-line, perhaps going six months.  Work backwards from the event. Is it a walk?  A bicycle event?  A breakfast or a gala?  What’s it going to take?  Do we need corporate sponsors to be effective? who has connections to bring this support to us?
  • How do we set a dollar goal? Be realistic. Conservative.  It’s your first time down the chute. How many participants is it realistic to expect?  Will they collect pledges?  Will there be incentives? Who among our vendors do we go to to ask to sponsor this?  What will it cost us to produce this?

Special events can be right for your nonprofit. And, they also can be wrong. Go into this effort in a thoughtful, conservative way. Be sure the board of directors is with you on this. Start the conversation there. Recruit the most enthusiastic to join the work group.  If you have a person with strong marketing and/or communication skills in your neighborhood, recruit her/him. They have skills that can help make this work for you.

As I write this blog, we’re approaching the New Year.  A good time to organize a money-making special event that will take place in summer, 2012. I do recommend at least a six-month time frame to organize then produce a successful event that fits your nonprofit.

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