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

Posted on 03 April 2008

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