mythbustersBig events and celebrity galas that make the news may leave the impression that special events are the best way to raise money for charity. While event fundraisers can be quite successful, it’s important to have realistic expectations.

The famous line from the movie Field of Dreams “if you build it, they will come” unfortunately doesn’t always work in real life. If you plan a fundraising event and even advertise heavily, that does not mean that attendees will show up.

Often when considering a type of event or event theme, planners will immediately jump to the obvious choices such as a golf tournament or dinner. But what if there are no avid golfers in your list of current supporters? What if you plan a black tie gala only to realize that your audience is more of the BBQ and bluejeans crowd?

On the other end of the scale, there are groups that they really want to do something different. Offering a unique event is a great way to get publicity, stir interest in your cause, and yes, raise funds.

However if you hear of a “new idea,” remember that carbon copying it to your group may not work. It may be “too out there” for your community and just because you’ve planned something different won’t necessarily translate into event attendance.

Always match the type of event to your audience. Consider the mission of your organization and try to plan a fundraiser that somehow highlights your cause, not just something that raises money.

Talk to your volunteers, current donors, board members and other stakeholders. Ask for their opinions about what type of event they’d enjoy attending. Take note of their level of excitement. If people really jump on board with an idea that could be a good sign that it would be successful.

Continue to survey for feedback during the planning process. Doing so will help ensure that you avoid potential pitfalls such as scheduling on the same day as another big community event.

To summarize, when planning a special event if you “build it” with your audience in mind and based on sound fundraising principles, people will more more like to come out and lend their support.

This article is part of the Mythbusters series.

Here’s a list of each of the articles in this series:

  1. Fundraising Myth: If You Build It They Will Come by Sandra Sims
  2. The Myth of the “Selfless Volunteer” by Tom Welsh
  3. Fundraising Myth: It’s Great to Be Cheap by Marc Pitman
  4. Advertising and Marketing Are Too Expensive by Jim Berigan
  5. The Myth of the Dried Up Well by Sandy Rees
  6. Myths About Foundation Funding by Aaron Atwood
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Posted on 03 April 2008

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2 Comments For This Post

  1. Bill G says:

    Thats a good point, and I feel that websites and people who put fund raising Ideas out there, that that is their point.
    not to get you to carbon copy but mearly to spark the creative juices in you with an event that they plan. there are many differnt type of people in this world.
    some are able to pull something out of nothing and some are able to adapt an Idea to make it work in another or any situation. That is what we need to remember when we
    go to websites or ask people about or for fundraising Ideas, that we should be asking for an idea as a foundation for what we are wanting to build rather than expecting to get
    the whole building.

  2. Sandra Sims says:

    Hi Bill, great points! I like how you said that seeing other fundraising ideas can help “get the creative juices flowing.” I find that’s especially true when you start brainstorming with a group. We usually come up with a lot better ideas as we bounce ideas off one another.


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