Many, many nonprofits rely on big events for much of their fundraising. For several months of the year, their staff is engaged in seeking out sponsors, securing locations and donations of food, decorations and other necessities, publicizing the event and working tirelessly to make sure it goes off without a hitch. But from a purely fundraising standpoint, is all this energy well spent?
I've been reading Situations Matter by Sam Sommers, and one of the studies he cited jumped out at me:
In one creative set of studies, researchers instructed participants to visualize themselves in a crowded theater or out to dinner with thirty friends. After answering several unimportant questions...participants moved on to an ostensibly unrelated charity survey.
Having just pictured themselves in a crowd, respondents pledged smaller donations compared to participants who had earlier been instructed to visualize an empty theater or more intimate dinner for two.
The emphasis is, of course, mine. But it seemed important enough to call out on my blog.
Big events can be fun. The wining and dining, the camaraderie and kinship, the fancy clothes and entertaining speeches by luminaries -- all of that can be an intense and excellent bonding experience for your donors. They can also call attention to your cause and engage the public.
But are they really good fundraising?
If the results of that study cited in Sommers' book hold true for your donors, events might actually reduce the amount of money your supporters are willing to give. You know that you'll get more from a one-on-one conversation. But might you also raise more money simply by catching your donors alone at home?
It's definitely worth considering.