Are these symptoms sucking the life out of your fundraising events?

Transform your fundraising events by avoiding these pitfalls

What I have been privileged to learn from fundraising events in the last 14 years is that by and large we have incredible project managers running our events across the UK. They can whip Gantt charts out of thin air (even if they don’t love them), manage budgetary spend to within an inch of their lives and comply with huge amounts of the Code of Practice.

But in the midst of all of this skill there are two components that lurk in the wings waiting to suck the life out of our events.

The first is the terrible expectation of charity efficiency. Don’t get me wrong I am not about to advocate for inefficiency, but rather find fault with the expectation of non profit modesty because a direct side affect of this is to veer away from creativity. And sadly, this nervousness around creativity is what leads 200,000 odd charities across the country of every sector, shape and size to deliver very very similar events. We put on fun runs. Dinners. Cake sales. Challenge events. You know the list. And by and large they are fine. (For the record I hate the word fine.) People come along and support, but the event could often belong to any organisation and it is not ‘sticky’ enough to keep the same people desperate enough to come back again and again for more. The challenge for event fundraisers is also how to keep excited about events like this whilst they are not really flexing their muscle and pushing their creative skills to the limit.

The second life sucking element is the brutal truth that most fundraisers and/or their organisations are not all that comfortable with fundraising. And why? Because fundraising implies ‘taking’ and ‘asking’. In the commercial sector there is a clear offer and if the market deems it attractive it happily pays for the reward. We tend to rely on the good nature of people to come along and support instead of really getting under the skin of what people are looking to achieve from coming to our events and making them commercially irresistible. I can’t count how many times I have heard fundraisers say, ‘I hate chasing for the money!’

What is the solution?

The first element is definitely about reframing what we consider to be a fundraising event. The question instead of being, ‘How can we get people to fundraise and donate to us?’ has to become, ‘What can we bring/give supporters?’ I’m a massive advocate for remembering that as fundraisers our beneficiaries are our supporters. If we serve them we will make the connections that in turn raise vital funds for our causes. That is what it means to be supporter orientated. So during my session at the DSC Fundraising Fair on day two I’m going to be talking about the starting point for this which is how well fundraisers know their event participants. I’m usually met with nods and comments of ‘pretty well’. But when I show them an exercise to demonstrate how well they could understand their participants they are shocked as to how poorly they really ‘get’ them. This typically happens because we don’t have clearly defined markets for our events and we don’t ask the most valuable questions when we survey people. In short, we have no idea what to design that would rock their worlds because we don’t understand their worlds.

This approach will then be bolstered with 5 easy to implement steps to convert events from ordinary into extraordinary on tiny budgets to help us get past the fear of creativity. I want to showcase steps from academically tested research on how we can capture audience attention and connect with what is truly important to people, showing exciting examples from charities starting to use these techniques. I will also be showcasing a range of brilliant and efficient ways to generate original ideas and show you how the entertainment industry is using all of these all the time to keep us captivated and coming back for more.

Why is all of this so important in the midst of so much happening in the sector?

Well, because the pressure is on to showcase excellence. We have to demonstrate what we can create on a shoestring and bring individuality to our otherwise homogeneous event sector. Only that way will we prove we belong up there delivering the best experiences with cross industry leaders and do so whilst changing the world for the better.

To learn more about transforming your fundraising events with Kim van Niekerk book your place at our Fundraising Fair on 22-23 November from just £35 per workshop.