Avoid Over-Reliance on Special Events

christian dating questions to ask a girl facebook rencontre femme mariee dj phono la rencontre more information read buy Viagra 130 mg in Davenport Iowa buffalo ny free dating rencontre ludique de bretagne weblink http://vagnvagensbygg.se/firmenit/2928 One of the premises of my book is that a community college advancement program that is heavily dependent on special event revenue will yield a lower return on investment than one that uses what I call the collegiate model of advancement. This advancement model focuses on direct, person-to-person cultivation of major gifts and a varied Annual Fund program featuring five to seven product lines.

That said, I know that most community colleges are dependent on special events for a significant portion of their annual revenues. That worries me when I look at areas like major gift development and even employee annual giving.

Some community colleges make almost nothing on employee annual giving, while top performers raise more than $40,000 a year. What makes for the difference? Sometimes it’s little more than culture and tradition. Sometimes it’s the special event, especially when there are many staff and faculty attendees paying for premium tickets to attend the event.

Mark Drozdowski, former executive director of the Fitchburg State College Foundation, a four-year college located in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, referred to this dynamic in analyzing a golf tournament for The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“…When all the dust settles, we net anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000…That irks me for two reasons. First, we dedicate an inordinate amount of time to raising 10 grand. If you calculate the number of work hours involved, we barely break even. Staff members running the tournament spend months planning every detail, gathering auction items, selling sponsorships, producing brochures, and managing logistics…

Second, we cannibalize our own donors. Instead of asking a small company to contribute $750 for a day of golf, of which only $100 will be added to a scholarship pool, why not just ask them for the $750 outright?”[i]

So why not just ask our employees for stretch gifts outright, and not rely on them too much for the special event? I think it is a useful goal to target a 60 percent participation rate with a yield of over $30,000 in an employee giving program. Let the event budget recalibrate itself. I like to see 100 percent of the employee gift going to support the mission of the foundation, rather than perhaps up to 50 percent of it going to support dinner and event décor.

The same dynamic is at work in a community college major gifts program when an event, or multiple events, dominate the calendar. The ability to focus on major gifts cultivation and solicitation works better when the prospect is not being hit up for repeat, relatively low-value sponsorship gifts.

Kathy Breslin, executive director of Delaware County Community College Foundation, has come up with what I consider to be a best-in-class solution, one that I recommend in my book. She has formatted her special event function as that of a high-end donor recognition event. While she has a few sponsors, invitees are invited because of their record of support to the college, or because they are under cultivation as donors of potentially significant gifts. They don’t pay for dinner. Kathy can offer a number of stories about guests who make significant gifts after being exposed to this level of cultivation.

Cultivation events offer the college a venue to tell its story. Students, the president, donors, and other leaders can all offer unique, inspiring stories that motivate donors to give outright gifts, which produce return-on-investment yields far higher than those seen in special event-dominated advancement programs.

I’m not saying ditch your event without a plan. I’m saying that there are more avenues available to you than we might think to simply—as Mark Drozdowski puts it—ask for the gift outright.

It takes time and cultivation to accomplish that, but major gifts, based on direct, face-to-face asks, can equal the net of a special event by way of a single gift.

 

[i] Drozdowski, Mark J. “Teed Off.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 53(10), October 27, 2006, C3.

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