A few months ago, I asked some groups on Facebook about good ideas for online fundraising events, and Heather Dimitt-Fletcher, Co-Founder and Principal Consultant at Kolibri Associates, replied immediately with, "Events are not a marketing plan." and I thought, "Well, of course not!" After hearing the same sentiment again and again from nonprofit consultants, I felt like maybe, just maybe, some nonprofits do think events are their marketing & development plan. So Heather is going to debunk this myth for us and give us her take on why we need a marketing plan to back up our events and fundraising efforts!

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Monica Maye Pitts
Monica Maye Pitts Chief Creative Officer

Myth Busted: Why Fundraising Events are Not a Marketing (or a Development) Plan

A few months ago, I asked some groups on Facebook about good ideas for online fundraising events, and Heather Dimitt-Fletcher, Co-Founder and Principal Consultant at Kolibri Associates, replied immediately with, "Events are not a marketing plan." and I thought, "Well, of course not!" After hearing the same sentiment again and again from nonprofit consultants, I felt like maybe, just maybe, some nonprofits do think events are their marketing & development plan. So Heather is going to debunk this myth for us and give us her take on why we need a marketing plan to back up our events and fundraising efforts!

Interview Outline & Takeaways

Events have a time and purpose, but they shouldn’t be your only source of development and marketing.

Events are very time intensive for staff and volunteers - they cost $35-50 for every $1 you raise, and that doesn’t always include the staff and volunteer time.

Annual campaigns are often $35 or less and major gifts or capital campaigns can be even less.

Events are a great public facing piece — they may need to be part of your marketing plan, but they can’t be the only way your org is seen by the public.

All your plans should intercoordinate.

Others ways to raise money are:

  • Grant writing
  • Contract for services
  • Annual campaigns
  • Letter writing campaigns (end and mid year) research is showing a good time to sent out letters may actually be April or May right after people send out their taxes
  • Capitol campaigns
  • Major gifts 

Choosing the right one for you depends on many factors:

  • If you’re a good writer
  • Who your board is connected with
  • How well your marketing is working
  • Your board, volunteers and other people in your community are all advocates and part of your marketing and will help you meet people who are willing to make an investment in your organization

You need to determine which events are for fundraising and which are there for marketing. Marketing events are more like “Friend raising events” and they’re all about communicating with people.  5Ks are often an example of this type events, some make good money but some don’t.   

The difference between a fundraising plan and development plan:

Your development plan outlines where your funding will come from. It has a strategy for how you’ll do it and who will do it. 

Your marketing plan outlines who you communicate with and why. How will you continue to do so and who’s missing that we need to communicate with.

Do you have to do the same events year after year? 

Feedback:

  • What are your metrics?
  • Talk to key volunteers, family and friends who were involved.
  • Don’t get hung up on the one or two people who complain
  • Ask yourself: was it a valid complaint? Use the law of three - if three people compain about the same thing, it’s a valid complaint.
  • Listen to the feedback non-passively! 

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