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Time to KonMari Fundraising Events

Spring is here. And what a tumultuous Spring it has turned out to be! None of us has experienced a time like this before.

For many nonprofit organizations events are the major source, sometimes the only source, of fundraising revenue. And right now nonprofits are scrambling to reschedule, reconfigure or cancel their fundraising events at least through June, potentially through the summer and possibly beyond that. From golf tournaments and galas to bake sales and raffles, everything is going to change this year. This comes with a significant amount of pain because those events provide much needed dollars to support the missions of the organizations; dollars that are needed right now, not six months from now.

So what is KonMari, and what does it have to do with fundraising? KonMari is Marie Kondo’s brand; and if you’ve never hear of her, Marie Kondo has branded herself as the queen of tidying up. So what’s that got to do with fundraising events?

The current Corona virus pandemic has shaken many nonprofits to their core. Due to COVID-19, nonprofits are going to have to very seriously rethink how they are going to raise the money they need to achieve their goals this year. With these challenges there are also opportunities.

Nonprofits are facing a KonMari moment. This is the perfect opportunity to tidy up every nonprofit organization’s annual fundraising event program and question what is worth the time and effort and cost of each part of each event.

Many organizations have done the same events year after year after year. These events are comfortable in that everyone knows their role and what’s expected, and they are easy in that everyone follows the same playbook as the year before. They are predictable.

However, doing the same thing year after year after year is how events become tired, ticket sales become sluggish, attendance starts to wane. Ticket prices are held steady to retain existing audience despite increasing costs of food, entertainment, printing, postage and other event costs, and enhancements get added to generate more interest. Over time income stagnates, expenses rise and net revenue suffers.

Whether we want them to or not, things are going to be different this year. Fundraising events have to change. So this is the perfect time to KonMari your events.

One huge struggle this year is going to be fitting the events you need to do into the time available. So this is a great opportunity to look at all of your events. It is an excellent time to evaluate every aspect of your event program. For each event, where are your financial, volunteer, staff and physical space resources being utilized? Which events are making the best, most profitable use of those resources?

Are all of your events necessary? Are some struggling to survive already and if so, how much effort are you willing to put in to keep them going on life support, when maybe it would be better all the way around to cut your losses and reallocate the resources required for those events to other events that you know will perform better.

Are there events which are particularly time consuming for staff or high cost events that have an excessive cost per dollar raised? If so, can you ask volunteers or a service club that has offered to help to take over the event (to do all the work and pay all the costs up front) and simply donate any proceeds at the end of the event to your organization?

This is an opportunity to look at each event and see if you should raise the price. And if you did, what would be the impact? If you already sell out the event, the answer is an easy yes. Maybe your event committee is worried that you’ll lose ticket buyers if you raise the price – so do the math. If you normally sell 200 tickets at $50 and you want to raise the price to $75, but your committee thinks that ticket sales will drop by 25%, show them that the increased ticket price will still improve net revenue by 11%, at no additional cost. Fewer attendees may mean lower cost, increasing net revenue even more.

There has never been a better time to look at each event and see what costs you can cut. Do you really need an after dinner band at the gala? Would a DJ work instead? Did more than half of your attendees stay for dancing after dinner last year? I’m not trying to knock live music or dancing, I’m just using it as an example to show that you need to seriously consider what aspects are the essence of an event and what parts are costly “extras” maintained to appease a few.

If you have ever tried to change an event and heard:

  • But that’s the way we’ve always done it.

  • But it’s tradition.

  • But people expect that.

You will never have a better opportunity to make those changes than now. Change is not an option, this year it is a requirement. So take advantage of this opportunity to its fullest and go KonMari on your fundraising events.

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Note: If you found value in this post, please 1) forward it to any other non-profit volunteers or staff for whom you think it would be appropriate, 2) share it on your LinkedIn or Facebook or Instagram, 3) signup for my mailing list, 4) contact me with any feedback or questions you may have.

Thank you for taking the time to read this far!

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