I don’t know about you, but when someone mentions to me that we should do a fundraising “special event,” I’m inclined to run the other way. That particular brand of “special” brings to mind Dana Carvey as the church lady on Saturday Night Live, and not in a good way. And, as my boss is wont to point out, we’re a nonprofit theater. Every show we do is a fundraising event…well, ideally.
My admiration for those that can plan, execute, and raise funds from a special event is boundless. Some events that I am familiar with are wildly successful, and are a pleasure to attend. Many events, however, hit the same roadblocks and fall short of their goals, which can be heartbreaking after months of planning and hundreds of hours of work.
Before you jump into the special events ring (especially for the first time), ask yourself these questions:
1. Why are you doing a special event? And please, please, please don’t say “because we do it every year” and leave it at that. To quote Seth Godin, from his book The Dip, “Strategic quitting is the secret of successful organizations.” If an event is an albatross around your organization’s neck, if it is entrenched and more and more people are losing interest in it every year, just stop. STOP. And reassess. You may choose to scrap it altogether. Or you may choose to modify it. Look closely at it. Do a SWOT analysis. Then keep the strengths and leverage the opportunities. Breathing new life into an old event is fine, as long as you are honest about its weaknesses and dedicated to changing it for the better.
If you are thinking of doing an event for the first time, ask yourself why, and answer yourself candidly. Is this the best vehicle for the goals you want to achieve? Read on for more important questions.