In the past year I have read about several different non-profit groups making changes to their annual event. Some groups have a huge Gala annually, others a breakfast, luncheon, or sports event. Across the board, it seems like groups are making changes from completely cancelling their event to reducing costs, changing the date, or changing the event itself (eg: from a full-out Gala to a luncheon). Meanwhile, others wonder if it's all worth it.
My first thought is YES! My immediate second thought is that is also depends.
For me, like any event, the BIG event of the year and it's success depends on the overall relevance of the event, your expectations around the event, and what the main purpose of the event is.
For me, our annual event is about building donor relations and introducing potential new donors (friends of current donors) to an amazing show of who we are and what we do.
It's not about raising money, although that is an incredible side-benefit if done well. When I look across the room at a Gala and see all of the happy people, not only engaged with the mission but with their friends and other donors, I can help to think how much of a success that is. How many of these guests are at the Gala for the first time? And for the first-timers, will they be more likely to financially support the mission after the Gala?
Our Gala is coming up in September and we are very much focused on creating an amazing event for our donors and potential donors. We have pressed the message to the committee and board that we want people to bring friends that have never been to one of our events. We want guests to look around the room and NOT know every person they see! This is another of the huge benefits of your annual event as you get long-time supporters with people considering support and magic can happen!
Consider all of this before making a decision to cancel your annual event. In some cases it might be best to cancel it and move on, yet if donor cultivation is important to your overall mission you may want to look at how you can make the event better on all levels before getting rid of it.
As always, I would love your feedback. I continue to be so grateful for all of your support!