Skip to main content

Tag: development

AFP and MBS tips on Galas & Special Events!

Special event mania!  This article below from the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) is a good read about galas and some tips for success.  Seems today that a majority of nonprofits rely heavily on the success of special events as a primary fundraising vehicle – hoping to bring in enough funds for programs and services, investment in technology, organizational growth, capacity building, expansion or simply establishing a reserve.  First and foremost, these events should be viewed at a minimum as an entry point into your organization for prospects, donors, collaborators, volunteers, etc., and at a maximum one of the productive spokes on your organization’s fundraising wheel.

While these AFP “must-haves” are relevant and can be difference makers for your gala/event, my experience with special events makes me want to share a few of my own and to caution you on a few as well.

  1. Purpose – Sounds pretty obvious, right?  Raise money? Nope. Too often nonprofits go right by a couple of questions around purpose.  Is the event aligned with the mission or not? Is the goal public awareness or raising money?  The first question determines potential of mission creep and if it’s worthy of our time, energy and resources.  The second question will help guide the budget discussion and the expected return on investment. If it’s primarily a PR event, it should at least be budget neutral or don’t do it.  If it’s primarily a fundraising event, then a budget should be produced before committing to it and it should display an appropriate ROI – e.g. for every $1 spent, you should raise $1.50.  Too often, a board member, a caring donor or a creative staff person will idea dump a special event that they love out of the gate and totally skip these important considerations – mostly because they expect everyone to love as much as they do regardless of mission and budget.  Third party fundraisers are another story!
  2. Budget – So black and white a budget is, but extremely important and, surprisingly, too often neglected in the gala/special event world.  Not going to spend much time here, mostly to strongly encourage you to always utilize this foundational principle with events. With competition for donor attention and dollars and seemingly a fundraising event every week – virtual and literal – make sure activities and numbers are meeting the expectations!  If they are not, then adjustments in planning and execution need to be made – up to, and including, canceling the beloved event or not even doing it the first time. I have seen too many events go financially awry because of unguided spending and and unrealistic sponsorship levels. Put it on paper!
  3.  Pledges – Imagine locking in a majority of your event revenue for multiple years?  Create and solicit unique opportunities for donors to sponsor all or parts of your special event, and then lock them in with a multi-year commitment, or pledge.  It is necessary to show them the value and to connect them to your cause, of course, and you will need to cultivate and steward the relationship to ensure the pledge comes to fruition.  Engage them in the planning even! The more integral to the event they feel, the higher the likelihood they will renew. Additionally, this will allow you to turn more time and energy into bringing new donors, attendees, sponsors to the event as well – not to mention the peace of mind.             
  4.  Auctions, Raffles – Fundraising is hard work, period.  Special events are challenging, period.  So, strongly consider the additional time, energy and resources required before you add an auction (live or silent) or raffle to the event.  Admittedly, they can bring in additional revenue, but there are expenses to consider as well – e.g. those vacation packages cost money and there is no guarantee someone will buy it at your desired amount (i.e. ROI).  For me though, the primary caution is the overwhelming nature of being asked again and again during an event. First consider what your donors (sponsors and attendees of the special event) have already invested in your event or organization.  If you are hosting a high dollar event with tickets in the hundreds of dollars range or table sponsorships that are thousands of dollars, your attendees may not take kindly to being hit up again and again during the event. I have been to events where an emcee did a live auction starting with vacation packages and went all the way down to $100 asks via a show of hands in the audience and at tables – it took an hour!  
  5. Unique – In business today, separating yourself from your competition is paramount.  In this case, what makes your special event or gala different from all the others?  Hopefully your cause is out front and is a leading the interest in your community, but donors today typically have more than one charitable interest.  Making your event unique – from promotion to post-event follow up – is key! Is it event entertainment? Is it video content with compelling stories and testimonials?  Is it your pre/post event survey? For example – I recently attended 1500 person Gala where the organization handed out comfortable slippers for attendees, with the event logo on them. Why? The event lasts 5+ hours, includes multiple transitions from reception to dinner to concert and everyone is dressed to the nines (heels especially) – attention to detail for the comfort of their guests!  Budget certainly drives your capacity for uniqueness (unique may come at a price!), but if yours is just like all the other events… how is it memorable and how does it entice attendance for next year?

Best of luck in your Gala/Event fundraising!  For more blog entries from Moore Business Strategies, visit!

Moore to do with leftover Campaign contributions?

Election Day 2018 has come and gone – it was both exciting and exhausting.  Congrats to the winners and thank you to all that braved the challenging path of running for office.

This morning my thoughts lingered on the massive amount of money spent over the previous months to reach this point.  $50 million here, $10 million here, thousands here and there, and so on.  In one Senate race alone, almost $70 million was spent!  I can’t help but to think of the lengths nonprofits go to for a fraction of these sums and the changes to our communities nonprofits could affect with  figures such as these. Of course running for office is not an inexpensive endeavor, whether local or statewide.  But there are almost always a few candidates with monies still sitting in campaign war chests after the election.  Is there more that could be done with those contributions?

There are options.

It is fully expected, and understood, that politicians need capital to fund their campaigns.  While this post’s focus is on the post-election options for remaining funds, we will say that it is our hope that those generous companies and individuals that gave the hundreds of millions to campaigns also already give to charitable causes of their interests.

Depending on a politician’s next step and on the structure of their fundraising machine, their leftover contributions can be used in various ways.  Nonprofits take note – they can donate these contributions to you!  The caveat is the candidate cannot receive any compensation from the charity receiving the donation and the charity can not utilize the gift to benefit the candidate in any way.  Nonprofits and development officers should consider an approach to obtain these leftover contributions.  How can you create a connection with those running for office?

Of course, the answer lies in your development plan and the proactive and consistent relationship building activities therein.  You would not be as successful by just cold calling a politician right after the election.  Time and energy spent in cultivation and stewardship is a must; after all, elections only happen every two years.  In concert with a communication/marketing plan to educate your community of the option, your organization can be top of mind IF a candidate chooses to make a charitable gift with any of the leftover campaign contributions.  A candidate may even consider telling potential donors what they plan to do with any excess funds as a way to win more donations.

As mentioned, other options exist and there are additional rules in play.  For more information, here is an article we found beneficial from Investopedia.  Before undertaking any new plan, you should consult with a CPA or lawyer well versed in the topic of elections.

Dear candidates- would you consider making a charitable gift to a local nonprofit from your war chests this year?  Commensurate to your interests and your remaining funds, make a difference today by investing in your community that invested in you during your election run – win or loss.  Maybe Hurricane Michael recovery? Education? Human services? Mental health? Elder Care?

Yes, there are options!

No Moore “Trick or Treat” in development!

It’s Halloween, of course, and we just couldn’t let an analogy with development work pass us by without a discussion about one of the worst things a fundraiser (development person in any industry really) can do when it comes to donor relations – “Trick or Treat” a donor/client in order to get initial cultivation appointments.

Sure, we have heard the issue commonly expressed as the a “Bait & Switch” tactic as well.  For those us of that avoid the tactic, cheers to you!  There are still way too many that use it every day and it impacts many aspects of relationship building beyond your individual organizations.  For example, more and more donors have grown weary of it and are likely to say “no” to a meeting request from the get-go.  Let’s break down the Trick and the Treat scenarios separately.


When donors/clients receive that call or email requesting a meeting, we know they are considering whether or not it warrants their time and resources to meet with us.  What’s in it for them, right?  After all, time is our most limited and most valuable resource.  Unfortunately over the years, many people in the development profession took that to mean that we should avoid the “no” by being vague as to the real reason we want to meet.  Heard this one before, “Hey, just want to drop by to catch up, see how you are doing.”  Or, “I am going to be in the neighborhood tomorrow – mind if I swing by for a few minutes?”  And the worst, visiting someone cold – the unannounced drop by!

IF you avoided an objection and were actually able to get the appointment, the conversation quickly transitioned from light rapport building to an out-of-left-field ask for a gift or a product dump for them to consider.  You can imagine the shock on the donor’s or client’s face!

It has probably happened to you as a donor or consumer.

Nothing diminishes trust and tarnishes our efforts more that someone taking this “tricky” shortcut to building lasting relationships.  Sometimes this is a result of coaching results versus behaviors due to a lack of structure and process within the organizations or business.  We don’t like to hear “no” either, I get it.  That should not keep us from being totally up front as to why we want their time and it should not allow for shortcuts.

If you can not identify a value proposition – or a case for support – in order to get appointments, then don’t pick up the phone until you do.  You have to convey what’s in it for them.  Lastly, we should be actively listening and learning about donors and clients by using a question sequence that allows us to identify their needs and interests – not by trying to sell something (cause or product) because we have goals to meet/exceed.


Bankers were known for this for years – open a checking account with us and we will give you a toaster! Remember that?  The relationship lasted about as long as it took a competing bank to offer something better – maybe a microwave!  Now that’s building lasting relationships. (sarcasm)

These days fundraisers and the like think delivering cookies, flowers, free tickets, cards, etc. gives them a pass to make an ask following the donor’s or client’s euphoric response to said gift.  Soften them up and surprise ask!  No.  Not cool.  Again, we are talking about the initial cultivation meetings with folks that may/may not have given to your organization or done business with your company yet.  How you bring them into the fold may be the same reason they leave.  Think about it.  The next person may offer something a little better to get their business or donation – why base your relationship on that?  Instead, use your experience and expertise as a relationship builder to become known, trusted and liked.

As you consider your calling activities and your approach to getting appointments, be willing to do it differently than most.  Separate yourself from the competition.  You can use a relationship building philosophy (i.e. sales process) that incorporates authentic communication and inquisitive question sequences versus a “Trick or Treat” maneuver.  Yes, it requires time, space, and a focus on coaching behaviors, not results.  And it will also build trust and make lasting connections – tricks and treats are temporary.  Your donors and clients will tire of our fooling.

Happy Halloween all!