Do your special events really work? Are they part of a rational system that reliably produces sustainable income and long-term donors for your nonprofit?
I ask this question because I have experienced my share of those special events where I silently asked, "Why are we doing this?" The answer was sometimes embarrassing. Maybe the event was the brainchild of the organization's leader or board president, something that might have made sense at one time but now was just something to get through and beyond. Perhaps, the event had an origin so far in the past that no one could really remember the "why" any more. Maybe, the event just brought in enough money that we couldn't really do without it, but couldn't see beyond it either to something better.
When I read Terry Axelrod's book, Missionizing Your Special Events: How to Build a System of Events That Engages donors Who Will Stay with You for Life, I was immediately taken with the simple rationality of the Benevon Model that Axelrod has been teaching for years. Thousands of nonprofits have benefited from the Benevon Model, and now Axelrod has put it all down in this brief book that is packed with sound advice and actions that anyone can apply to their own nonprofit.
One of the most wonderful concepts in the book is the idea of "blessing and releasing" your old special events once you put into place the Benevon Model. The other, and similar idea, is converting your events into ones that do fit the new model. You can actually get rid of the events that are more burden than joy, and create a cycle of success with simple, easy-to-do, and rational events that put your organization's mission in the spotlight, and that create supporters who gladly build a sustainable flow of income for your organization for years to come.
It all starts with an evaluation of your current special events. Axelrod's book suggests you ask questions similar to these. You can do this all by yourself, whether you are a staff member or a board leader.
- Why are you having this event? Be honest here.
- Is there really an expectation that this event will actually raise money? Or has your organization gotten into the entertainment event syndrome, where your mission is barely visible?
- What does your nonprofit say to justify not reaching your fundraising goal for this event?
- How attached is your organization to this type of event? Is it the "baby" of a select few?
- If someone just walked in and gave you a check for the event's total goal, would you still have the event?
- Think ahead to your organization's next big event. If you don't make your fundraising goal, what will be the reason? It rained? The volunteers didn't work hard enough to sell the tickets?
- If that event is a fundraiser, do you know how much it actually nets?
- How many volunteers will it take to pull that event off?
- What else could your fundraising staff have been doing with the same amount of time and effort?
- How long in advance has your organization been "obsessing" about the event?
- Do you know what the big, fixed costs are that the event will need to meet?
- Is this type of event really right for your organization?
- Are there predictors for this event that you can use to anticipate the likely outcome?
- Does this event provide the best way to develop the giving potential of your donors?
- What would you think and feel if you were a regular attendee at this event?
- Does this event help your organization build capacity for the future?
- Using a scale of one to ten, how happy/excited are you about being involved in producing this event?
My guess is that the answers to these questions will be enough to make you curious about the Benevon Model. If so, start reading about "Point of Entry Events, "Free One-Hour Ask Events," and "Free Feel-Good Cultivation Events." Learn about the Benevon cycle of events that builds sustainable support for the future.
There is a way out of the "Oh God, when will this be over?" event cycle your organization may well be stuck in. Become inspired to make change by starting with this excellent book.
More information at the Benevon website.