Most of you have probably heard of the Fundraising Pyramid of how prospects might be developed into initial donors, who then becomes annual donors, then major gift donors, capital campaign contributors and at the top of the pyramid, donors of a planned gift. The Events Pyramid shows how different types of events can help you migrate prospects and donors from one giving level to the next?
Special Interest Events, like a golf or walk/run event is at the base of the pyramid because it gets prospects that are not involved or committed to your nonprofit to be involved because they have a special interest (like golf or walk/runs). The Special Event attracts new volunteers, initial donors (entry fees) and corporate sponsors who are not yet attracted by the mission of your nonprofit, but might be if developed by some sort of follow up activity. A special interest event should, of course, also be like any other social enterprise that makes money by charging entry fees that at least cover the cost of running the event.
Friend Raising Events are intended to get prospects that have a loose affiliation with your nonprofit (via E-newsletters and special events) to become more involved with your nonprofit and other donors and volunteers, encouraging them to join your group of regular donors. A Friend Raising event might be a speaker preceded or followed by light refreshments where staff, board and committee members can “work the room” to build relationships with prospective donors of time or money. Work projects to improve a property can work as friend raisers, creating a bond among people that accomplish something together. And small get-togethers over lunch or dinner are a great way to develop the relationship that lead a person towards becoming a regular supporter of your nonprofit. A nonprofit typically pays for the cost of a friend raising event as one of its fundraising expenses.
Celebrations Events are intended to strengthen the commitment and good feelings that existing donors, volunteers, staff, board members and collaborating partners have to the nonprofit. They encourage those who have the wherewithal to become major donors of time and/or money. They are frequently held annually as a large luncheon or dinner to celebrate a successful year or some other milestone for the nonprofit. Celebration Events typically have lots of awards for people they want to honor and thank. The revenue from ticket sales for a Celebration Event typically covers the cost of putting on the event.
Gala Events are typically held for major donors and prospective major donors to give even more to their nonprofit. The event is typically a semi-formal or formal cocktail party and dinner at an upscale resort, hotel or club. Attendees are expected to bid on the donated items at silent and live auctions, plus make additional pledges at one of the giving levels proposed by the auctioneer (from $10,000 down to $100?). The cost of the event is typically covered by the price of a ticket ($200-$500) with the auctions and pledges generating revenues much larger than the revenues from ticket sales.
The key to having a successful event is to first define what you want to try to accomplish, and then decide if an event, rather than other strategies, is the best way to accomplish that purpose.