Are your event volunteer sign up sheets full of names or blank spaces?
Is your budget so dependent on your fundraising events that if you don’t make the goal you must make serious cuts in expenditures?
Most congregations and charitable organizations conduct at least one major fundraising event annually. A good many hold six or more events every year, sometimes running two or more concurrently. Often these events have been happening for several decades and are considered an essential part of the organization’s funding, no matter what and no matter how much money is raised.
“It’s just what we always do. We depend on this event to make our budget.”
For example, when I am visiting a congregation, it is not unusual for me to hear announcements during the service for the youth group’s fundraising luncheon that afternoon, urgent pleas for donations of goods and services to the auction next week, and requests for support of the local soup kitchen. This may be followed by the offering which will be shared with a worthy cause and a dismal update on the annual pledge campaign. After the service, I go to the fellowship hour, where there is a basket out for contributing to defray the costs of coffee, a table for selling tee shirts or fair trade products, and bulletin boards with posters and appeals for all of the above. These may all be worthy requests for support, but a fundraising culture this diffuse can lead to serious “donor fatigue” on the part of the congregants. The people lose a clear sense of the mission and are overwhelmed with the barrage of requests. No wonder many congregations struggle with stewardship and finding energized people to run their annual stewardship campaigns and pledge drives.
What if fundraising events were focused on mission, the needs of the wider community, and for social justice?
My dream is that the culture of giving and fundraising activities will be transformed in congregations:
- A master fundraising plan will be developed annually by the Stewardship Team and key staff leaders and approved by the governing board. All funds raised must be handled and accounted for in accordance with the policies established by the board.
- Each fundraising activity or event will clearly reflects the mission, vision, goals/ends of the organization—or it won’t happen.
- A timeline is created with the activities and events intentionally spread out over the course of the year, allowing ample time for advanced planning and publicity (and recovery time).
- Each fundraising event is planned and conducted by a competent team of volunteers who work in collaboration with the appropriate staff, board, and committees. Avoid volunteer burnout by grooming leaders to take the reins after two or three years.
- A significant portion—if not all—of the funds raised will be used for the ministries and outreach activities of the congregation that will directly benefit the surrounding community and society at large.
- Careful record-keeping should be expected, with timely reports to the financial leaders and administrative staff. All funds should be accounted for and processed through the congregation’s established systems.
- Every fundraising activity will be thoroughly evaluated for its qualitative benefits (strengthening relationships, community-building, awareness-raising) and return on the investment of staff/volunteer time, supply and equipment cost, and amount of money raised. If the benefits and dollar amounts do not produce a significant offset to the investments, consider modifying or eliminating it in the future.
- Spread the affirmations around as much as the work. Thank everyone involved in the event’s success and share the story of making a difference.
- Have fun along the way! Fundraising activities are enjoyable and meaningful at their best.
Let’s use this forum as a way to share your most successful fundraising event experiences and ideas for transforming the fundraising culture in our congregations. You are invited to share your stories as comments here on Giving Speaks, or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Renee Herrell’s Blog. Caution: Men in Heels. Oct. 2009. This post features a fun and creative fundraising event and the pros and cons of charitable events for fundraisers to consider. http://reneeherrell.wordpress.com/2009/10/23/hello-world/