If you’ve read my book you know I’m not a fan of special event fundraising in a community college advancement program. I know that special events can play a limited role in four-year college programs that have already mastered the core programs of the collegiate advancement model. Those events serve a variety of niche purposes in the college or university program.
Despite these reservations, I have run many special events in my fundraising career and have formulated a few rules on how to make them successful. So, especially for those readers who do not come from the higher education sector, here are the nine rules for special event success…
1. Make the event FUN! (…or otherwise emotionally compelling.)
2. Know your audience and appeal to their tastes. (Cowboys don’t do opera. Culture vultures don’t do tractor pulls. And nobody likes boring speeches.)
3. Recruit a large event committee (20 or more).
4. Make sure 3 or 4 core volunteers own the event.
5. Have board members make a ticket pledge.
6. Create the widest possible reach for ticket sales. (Call your mother. Ask her to bring friends.)
7. Sponsorships are where the big money is. (Start with your vendors.)
8. If there is even the slightest chance you are going to lose money, forget it. (An event must have a minimum return on investment of 100%. And 500% is optimal.
9. Be very clear about why you are doing the event. If the purpose is largely PR, it’s impeding more lucrative fundraising opportunities.