When to call it quits

Today I’m writing on something near and dear to my heart. As you must know, I love fundraising events. I think that they are not only a great way to benefit your cause, but a wonderful way to engage your community at a time when person-to-person connections have been lost, minimized, and almost entirely forgotten. But I am also a realist, and I know that there are times when fundraising events just don’t work, and I want to help you to understand how to figure that out.

As I mentioned, fundraising events are two-fold… actually, three-fold. A successful fundraising event must:

  1. Raise funds… substantial fundswww.UltimateDonations.org: when it's time to call it quits
  2. Promote awareness
  3. Engage your community

If your event is not doing ALL three of these things, it might be time to call it quits. Think of it like a three-legged stool. If all three legs are not doing their jobs then the stool is essentially useless. Let’s break it down a little further.

First and foremost, your event must raise funds… and here’s really where it gets tricky. You really need to do a cost-benefit analysis. Not only should you be figuring in your expenses but you also need to figure in the time of any paid employees and volunteers, because often times this is overlooked. Additionally, if your expenses are costing over 50% of your gross, that is usually a bad plan. While the saying “it takes money to make money” does ring true in this case, you need to make sure that you are not sacrificing too much to the point that it doesn’t make sense.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you have an event that grosses $10,000 through ticket sales, sponsorships, and food sales. Assuming you could keep your expenses down to around $3,000, this would be a great event. Your organization would have raised $7,000– yielding you over 200% on your investment (your expenses). But what if your event cost you $7,000 to put on and it grossed you $3,000? The question you have to ask yourself is whether all that planning was worth $3000, or whether the time (and money you put out) could have been better spent on something else?

The second thing your event must do is promote awareness for your cause. The worst scenario for a fundraising event is to have a successful, but unbranded event. While raising money is key, you also have to make sure that people understand why the money is being raised. If they don’t understand the cause, you will lose them for future events and have to rebuild your event every year, instead of capitalizing on that momentum. Additionally, you lose the potential exposure from your participants after the event. They need to make a connection to your organization, both before and while at the event. Your organization name, logo, and colors should be a part of the marketing and should be woven into the event through signage, presentations, programs… whatever works for your event.

The third thing your event must do is engage your community, and by community I don’t necessarily mean the town you are located in. If you are hosting a small event, it might just be the community within your organization– perhaps your school or church community. It could be your town or state. If your organization isn’t tied to a particular location, it might be a community of people like cancer survivors. Whatever it is, your event needs to speak to them, because if they aren’t interested in your event, it is extremely likely that your event will fail, your mission will not be spread, and your organization will ultimately suffer.

So I challenge you to evaluate your event. Really evaluate it.  And make sure it is working for you, and you aren’t just working for it. Because if you’re missing one of these legs, it might be time to call it quits, and find something else instead. www.UltimateDonations.org: when it's time to call it quits


Media and Marketing at Ultimate Donations
Jaime is the conceptual mastermind behind UltimateDonations.org, a website that helps nonprofits find and request product donations for fundraising events. When she is not helping nonprofit events to reach their fullest potential, she's spending time with her two adorable girls, volunteering within her local community, and sneaking leftover Halloween candy when no one is looking.