are you fundraising or friendraising?

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about special events as a way of building nonprofit databases and as the key to growing the bottom line. In the past week alone, I attended a seminar on the ROI of special events. I also participated in a LinkedIn group discussion on this topic, where the term “friendraising” caught my eye. I was struck by how appropriate it is as a way to categorize your event planning efforts. Fundraising and friendraising are two key reasons to hold events, but they are two separate things. Fundraising is focused on creating profit beyond the cost and resources used to host the event. Friendraising is a longer-term investment, focused on developing relationships that will contribute to the organization over time. Both of these are important, but there are actually several objectives for any event, including

  • To raise awareness about your cause,
  • To clarify your mission,
  • To educate audiences about your brand (donors, potential donors, clients, potential clients, the media, etc.)
  • To recruit new volunteers and potential future board members,
  • To thank people who have provided support for your cause, and, of course,
  • To raise money $$$!

314147 405443479489865_1908154646_nThe problem is, however, no event can do all of these things equally well.  That’s why the best events have a laser clear focus on which of these is primary and a clear understanding and agreement on a limited number of secondary goals.  The event has to be a clear and compelling fit for your organization.  And that’s why some events simply should not go on your calendar.

A lot of the nonprofit development people I talk to are overwhelmed by event planning today.  Board members see events as the cure to an organization’s financial woes, business partners see them as a way to enhance their own reputation and build their customer base, and other nonprofits--schools, parks and community groups—are anxious to team up for mutual benefit.  As a result, some of my clients feel overwhelmed.  Events can consume an organization's resources—gobbling up staff time, straining resources like phone coverage and office services, and crowding the communication channels so other important messages and initiatives get lost in the noise.

Consider a client I worked with that recently who made a significant investment of time and money to understand how they were perceived by various audiences and to fine-tune their brand to counter some misunderstandings the research revealed. With new sub-brand icons and a more formal and proactive communication plan, they felt they were on the right track, but an endless stream of “opportunities” kept arising to derail their efforts.  Some potential events simply required too much from their stretched resources, others were a bad fit and would send messages that conflict with what their brand stands for. Still, saying “no” isn’t easy. 

To help them evaluate opportunities and provide them with the information they need to say “no” gracefully, I developed a quick checklist that you can download using the link below.  Completing this checklist will help you determine if an opportunity is a good fit—and if not, it will provide the data you need to share with your board and/ or communicate your “no-go” decision without alienating a potential partner for future events.

Click here for a copy of the Event Planning Checklist.