On November 18, we had the pleasure of hosting a panel of experts for a program entitled, "Successful Strategies for Nonprofit Fundraising Events."

The conversation was moderated by Barbara O 'Reilly (Windmill Hill Consulting, LLC) and the panel included:

  • Danielle Altenburg, Animal Welfare League of Arlington
  • Arielle Blinick, RELevent Events
  • Michelle Keegan, CSIS
  • Christina Taylor, TaylorMade Experience

The discussion included many wonderful insights, but here are my top 10 takeaways from the session:

Top 10 Takeaways for Successful Nonprofit Fundraising Events

1. Strategize and plan from the start. Determine your fundraising strategy for the year and where events fit into your plan. Be realistic and give yourself time to plan.

2. Know your budget. Accurately project your anticipated expenses and intended income. Be sure to leave room for unforeseen costs.

3. Mission fit. Determine what type of event is best for your organization and your audience.

4. Know your audience. There is no such thing as the "golden rolodex."

5. Know the market. Set ticket prices appropriately - it will set a precedent for the future.

6. Spice it up! If your organization hosts an annual event, keep it fresh by adding new elements. Think outside the box.

7. Define leadership roles. Establish an event committee that is appropriate to the size and scope of your event. Beware of staff burnout and know when to outsource event support.

8. Set and manage expectations. First-time events are the hardest. Don't be disappointed if something doesn't work the first year.

9. Follow-up is key. Convert your attendees into donors by capturing the people who are engaged. Offer folks an opportunity to give but don't bombard your attendees with solicitations.

10. Send a thank-you note. Don't forget to thank your donors and volunteers.

And most importantly have fun!


JEANETTE NORTON is the Community Outreach Manager at Foundation Center in Washington, DC.

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