Special Events – Are They an Addiction?

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May 3, 2012; Source: Greencastle Banner-Graphic

NPQ generally does not use promotional material as a basis for a newswire but we thought that we would use this one as a basis for asking our readers a few questions. This piece in the Greencastle Banner-Graphic was well titled “Special events bug hits area nonprofits, cure sought.”

We’d love to know what you observe in your region or field as regards special events. What has your organization been thinking and doing with regard to them?

The article on which the workshop being advertised is based is entitled  “Avoiding the Highly Contagious Special Events Bug” and was published by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. It asserts that events are a major cause of burnout among development staff and board members and are “one of the most abused, misused and addictive forms of fundraising.” Two types of events are singled out—the golf outing and the gala dinner—mainstays among many nonprofit fundraisers.

Is the seemingly full golf outing a success, they ask, if one overhears “junior professionals from the local bank yakking on their cell phones…bragging that they are playing golf on the bank’s dime for some charity, they’re not even sure which one?” Or are a slew of full tables at the gala dinner really a good sign if they’re filled by “guests of the company” as opposed to “individuals in the company who are interested in your organization or able to influence future support?”

These examples, the authors say, point to the need for some nonprofit fundraisers to consider “smarter events.” This could mean more small, targeted events as opposed to that “one colossal activity.” A challenge in communities with a wide array of nonprofits is that even if your organization isn’t abusing the special event, if other organizations around yours are doing so, it could have an impact in building up special event fatigue. Earlier this year, Sheldon Wolf wrote a great piece for NPQ about how to realize the full potential of your special events.  How have yours been faring in this economy? Have you changed their size, shape or type? –Mike Keefe-Feldman

  • Pamela Grow

    Events remain popular because everyone [I]feels[/I] busy, and it feels like they’re accomplishing something.

    That golf outing? When you’re factoring your event ROI, are you factoring in staff salaries as well? Are you factoring in the rate you’re paying your grant writer, who is being pulled off-task to tie goody bags? What about the time that your development director is spending running around town picking up donated items for the silent auction?

    Lastly, how does your event factor into a truly donor-centric organization? How is your event about the donor?