Covid-19 Week 8: Time to Reverse Engineer the Special Event

Demonstrating our own advice to be nimble and adapt to the circumstances, we are sending our Tuesday blog on Wednesday of week 8.  We thought it was best to steer clear of #GivingTuesdayNow.

Let's deconstruct the beneficial elements of the special event so we can devise a plan to replace lost revenue.
Time to Reverse Engineer the Special Event

We hope you had great success with Giving Tuesday in May and tested some new strategies and tactics, because it is looking more likely that in-person special events will have to take a very different form.  At the very least, you should be making a fundraising plan B if all social gatherings are postponed until 2021!

How are organizations going to replace that lost revenue?  We all know that special event fundraisers are labor intensive and costly, yet most all of us do them.  To be true, there are many aspects of these dreaded events that are quite beneficial.  So, let’s take a moment to deconstruct the beneficial fundraising elements of the special event so that we can begin to devise something new, and create a plan to replace that lost revenue and lost donor engagement.

A special event will:

Create a specific deadline for action.

  • The Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon didn’t raise all that money in a day, but it created a date certain that all the planning would culminate and the donor would be recognized for presenting their gift. Without a specific date, we are at the mercy of the donor’s time which may not ever result in a gift.

Construct the environment and parameters for the “ask.” 

  • Like it or not, our volunteers and constituents understand events and table sponsorships and silent auctions.While we hope they articulate the mission of the organization along the way, they will go out and “sell” those gold-ring tables.

Provide the “reason” for PR, advertising and promotions. 

  • Buying advertisements to promote the event and to recognize sponsors is universally accepted and more common than buying air time to promote the organization’s mission.

Provide the tools for greater mission/organizational “awareness.” 

  • If we don’t have the event will we still produce the short video that describes the organization’s mission in a deeply personal and emotional way?

Engage volunteers in a significant way. 

  • All of our organization’s need volunteers (volunteers give more than non-volunteers) and we welcome any opportunity to engage constituents in our events, and in a way that reinforces their commitment and relationship to our organizations.

Create the venue to thank and acknowledge donors. 

  • Many events are based primarily on the premise of acknowledgement ­what will happen to our Philanthropy Day events?Are there other meaningful ways to acknowledge and appreciate our donors in a public manner, and in plain view of their cohorts and peers?

Promote the Social Interaction of Peers.  Events create the venue where individuals are able to publicly acknowledge and promote their association with your organization and its mission. 

  • Peer to peer solicitation is immensely effective, can we find new ways to foster and promote the interaction of cohorts and peers around the advancement of our organizational mission?

Special events can also serve as the entry point for new constituents, or the first engagement that our organization has with new donors, which is then fostered and grows into a long-term relationship.  Can we create new on-ramps and new pathways for individuals to join the mission of your organization as donors?

Replacing the special event fundraiser will require some creativity and trying some new things.  Perhaps a virtual event is your best course, or perhaps there is a better method.  In our estimation, raising money this year without the inherent and beneficial structure of the in-person special event will be dependent upon the ability to clearly and concisely articulate your case . . . and your mission.  If you think you might need some help re-engineering your special events and replacing lost revenue while maintaining a safe social distance, give us a call.

Stay positive and focused, and rest assured that our work as professional fundraisers is essential.  Be smart, act smart, and stay healthy. Together, we will overcome these challenges.

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