Hosting a Fundraiser? Think Twice.
You may not know it, but the fundraising event season is upon us (and you thought all you had to do was get through Lent – ha!). Yes, awards season may be over (congrats, Leo on your Oscar for “The Nine Lives of Leonardo DiCaprio”) but spring is in the air and that means…time for fundraisers! Yes, everyone’s doing them: car washes, dinners, desserts, auctions, golf tournaments, singers, speakers – you name it, apparently every organization in town – including many churches – thinks it’s time to hold a fundraising event.
Don’t get me wrong. I am, generally, a fan of the fundraiser. I have been to ones that have netted a ton of money (in the $350k realm). I have been to ones that are fabulously fun. I have been to ones that make me feel great about the mission of the church or organization I am supporting. But I’ve also been to (and sadly helped organize) some that have bombed. So let’s get right to it. Here are fundraising event pros and cons:
You can raise a lot of money
It can be a great way to have fun
You can introduce donors to your cause
It can build community during the event and through planning the event
You can put in tons of volunteer and staff time with little return
If you amortize all your costs, both time and expense, you may actually be losing money
Volunteers and staff get burned out because of the time and effort that goes into the event
You only receive one-time gifts because people don’t buy into your mission for the long haul
So now you know – think carefully before committing to doing a fundraiser.
If you choose to accept the fundraiser challenge, here are some ways to be successful*:
Start planning early. Depending on the event, six to eight months in advance (maybe even more).
Pick the right chairperson. Is this a person or persons others want to be around? How are their organizing skills?
Pick the right event. It should be consistent with your mission and for the number of people who can help execute it.
Determine your budget. Will the benefits outweigh the costs?
Follow-up with attendees. How will you report on how their donations were used and encourage them to be repeat donors?
You and I know there are many more things to consider in planning any kind of event – but this should get your juices flowing. Truth be told, I love a good fundraiser – especially if it involves a party and food. But fundraisers cannot be the end all and be all for your church or organization. You must steward people in your congregation or organization to be long-term versus once-a-year event givers because what you stand for deserves consistent, faithful, and faith-filled support.
*Some of these ideas come from How to Produce Fabulous Fundraising Events by Stalling and McMillion. Great practical suggestions – but it hasn’t been updated since 1999.
P.S. Some of my eagle-eyed readers noticed that last week I suggested that it would be a good (nay, an excellent) idea to give kids a photograph of Jesus. These inquiring folk wanted to know where they could find such a photo. So, just check out these photos from zero A.D. – I’m sure the kids’ll love ‘em and I’m convinced they’re authentic.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She’s waiting to bid on that perfect auction item - lunch with Bono. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.