Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Down with fundraisers! They are NOT fundraising.

by Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein

In most cases, it's a no-brainer: "Fundraisers" aren't worth the effort. After you read this entry, contact Dr. Goldstein through his "Fundraisers Hotline," and he'll personally help you increase the success of your "fundraisers."

On any given day, all across America, well-meaning people attend what are popularly called "fundraisers"--golf tournaments, car washes, runs, black-tie affairs, for example--put on for the benefit of nonprofits. They cost organizers tremendous amounts of time, energy, and money. They cost sponsors and participants varying amounts of dollars.

Year after year, event-oriented nonprofits get caught in a vicious cycle: They compete with themselves and with other organizations to put on the next-best event or lose potential supporters--and revenue. If they don't find something to surpass the novelty of last year's "Casino Night in Casablanca," they're afraid that they'll fall into charitable oblivion.

Caught in a trap of their own making, few, if any, nonprofits are honest enough with themselves to break out of the pattern, however. Grateful whatever for money they make and afraid of alienating volunteers who typically orchestrate "fundraisers," they rarely do real cost-benefit analyses of the profitability of events, including the cost/value of volunteer hours spent on managing them that could have been spent more productively. If they did, they'd come to the inescapable conclusion that "fundraisers" are really shills for businesses: The worthy purpose for which events are held gets what's left over AFTER greens fees, meals, flowers, printing, and other logistical necessities have been paid. Too often, that's relatively little; sometimes, it's little or nothing.

Worst of all, most "fundraisers" typically fail because they violate the first principle of REAL fundraising: relationship-building. Truly successful nonprofits know that the ONLY way to raise substantial amounts of money is to establish a meaningful connection between donors and themselves. But event-oriented "fundraisers" too often attract people who come for the night out, not for the worthy purpose. Perhaps someone they knew enticed them to come to "join my table" and they felt obligated--for that one time. In other words, they experienced good (or bad) food, a good (or boring) group of dinner or golf partners, but little else. They might just as well have gone to a restaurant.

I'm not suggesting that nonprofits simply pull the plug on their "fundraisers." You NEVER want to throw the baby out with the proverbial bath water. Held with care and serious, strategic forethought, they have a LIMITED, PROPER place in organizations' overall development plan.

So contact Dr. Goldstein through and he'll personally give you some tips on how too make any "fundraiser" into a REALLY successful event.

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