Transitioning Away From Events for Nonprofit Fundraising

Transitioning Away From Events for Nonprofit Fundraising

Fundraising events have unquestionably played a significant role in supporting organizations across the nonprofit sector. In addition to the funds raised, many people also commend these events for their perks, including brand awareness, prestige, and the engagement they foster in the community. However, in the midst of the excitement, it can be easy to lose sight of your ultimate purpose: fundraising. Effective fundraising means bringing in as much money as possible while spending as little as possible. In terms of return on investment (ROI), the events we love often hold among the lowest fundraising value for nonprofits.

Now is an especially good time to take a closer look at your fundraising strategy if it centers around events. With COVID-19 protocols forcing the cancellation or virtualization of nonprofit events, many executives are realizing that the time, effort, and staffing investments necessary for successful event preparation and execution are not worth the return received.

Events sacrifice an additional tradeoff in their monetary results. Unlike other fundraising approaches, they often leave nonprofits with small, one-time donations rather than ongoing, meaningful investments. 

For these reasons, many organizations are now transitioning away from events and turning instead to sustainable campaign-based fundraising strategies.

Fundraising Campaigns vs. Events

The limitations of fundraising events

While it can be hard to conceptualize just how much events cost nonprofit organizations, it is unmistakable in the numbers. According to AFP data, overhead costs from events consume 50% of the fundraising gross proceeds. This takes half of all raised money away from the communities you serve. Wasteful spending may also take a toll on your organization’s credibility as you work to communicate your outcomes. Conversely, capital campaign overhead costs tend to comprise just 5-10% of each dollar raised. 

Chart detailing the nonprofit overhead costs for each dollar raised
Beyond their cost inefficiencies, events also lack adaptability. They are confined in their conventions, which makes it harder for organizations to overcome unexpected challenges. As such, our industry’s reliance on this fundraising method has become problematic during this pandemic. It is clear that nonprofits need access to a more sustainable, adaptive, and reliable toolbox of fundraising methods. 

Why Campaigns are Different 

When done properly, campaign-based fundraising strategies are the most cost-effective funding methods. They also provide unique benefits, such as ongoing feedback and the opportunity to thoroughly communicate your credibility and outcomes

Especially important during this time, campaign-based fundraising methods are also flexible; they can be tailored and continuously updated to accommodate your nonprofit, your fundraising needs, and the current social and economic context. 

Perhaps the most significant difference between events and campaigns is the chance to raise more money and get sustainable, long-term investments vs. small, one-time donations. Now is the time if your nonprofit is considering this shift in strategy. In fact, according to October 2020 data from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, investments from major donors ($1,000+) were actually up by 6.4% in the second quarter of 2020. 

Chart detailing data from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project

By reaching those eager to “invest” in your organization and your mission, you can build a strong foundation of investors and set your nonprofit up for long-term, reliable success.

What Do Fundraising Campaigns Entail? 

The exact nature of your fundraising campaign will depend on your campaign type and your organization’s needs. 

  • Do you need to fund ongoing operational expenses? An annual campaign is a concentrated, short burst of fundraising efforts designed to attract meaningful investors and raise sufficient funds. 
  • For a larger project, such as introducing and implementing significant programmatic changes, a multi-year capital campaign may be better suited to help you meet your financial goals. 

Between these two extremes on the campaign strategy spectrum, you can tailor the conventions and timeline of your approach to better fit your nonprofit. However, every campaign takes time, work, and organization-wide commitment. Here is a look at what it takes to transition to a campaign-based fundraising strategy. 

How Do I Transition to a Campaign-Based Strategy?

While every organization is different, here are some of the steps you can take to transition away from fundraising events:

  • Ensure that you are ready: Are you equipped with the staff and resources needed to give your campaign the effort it needs to succeed? Do you have the Asking Rights™ to conduct an effective campaign? If not (yet), how can you improve your credibility, build your fundraising skills, and demonstrate your outcomes? 
  • Partner with an expert: Having professional fundraising services on your side can make all of the difference in everything from campaign strategizing to execution. Knowledgeable fundraising experts—like those at Convergent—will be able to guide your organization to success through every stage of the campaign process. 
  • Conduct a Feasibility Study: A feasibility study is an essential step in preparing for large capital campaigns. They will help you learn what works and what doesn’t when it comes to funding your nonprofit. What motivates your potential investors?
  • Use Your Feasibility Study: How can you use what you learned in your feasibility study to inform your program, campaign communication, and approach? 

While the transition away from events is not always an easy one, this initial effort will set your nonprofit up for long-term success. Once you have done the groundwork needed to launch a successful campaign, you will be ready to embark on this new fundraising journey.

Convergent Nonprofit Fundraising Campaign Support

Are you ready to transition away from events? Contact the campaign consultants at Convergent Nonprofit Solutions for support. Our experienced nonprofit consulting professionals can help you migrate to a campaign-based fundraising approach. Connect with us today for more insight on how we can help support your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts today!

About the author

Rod Brooks

Rod is a humanitarian, business leader, growth strategist, and passionate influencer. He currently leads a talented team of professional fundraisers. After spending more than 25 years in the nonprofit sector including 15 years as CEO of Rise Against Hunger, Rod's passion is in leveraging vision, mission, technical knowledge, and networks to help solve pressing social issues. He believes that scaling social impact drives revenue and organizational growth.