Dear Development Team Members

Your typical job description includes maintaining and cultivating relationships with donors, developing new funding pipelines, securing monthly donors, writing grants, creating annual campaigns, strategizing for year-end giving, managing Giving Tuesday, providing data for the annual report, and securing sponsorships for your event portfolio- and this is just a taste of the responsibilities on your plate. Development professionals, we see you!

Oh wait, would you mind strategizing, planning, and executing all of our events while you’re at it….? While your answer is rarely “no,” you’re probably thinking “you’ve got to be kidding me?!?”

For most of you, planning events is the bane of your existence, even if you LIKE planning events; you simply don’t have the time to do it all (at least not well).

We’ve also found that it’s one of the fastest ways to send great team members back on the job hunt, or worse, into the depths of insanity. We know the response: “budgets are tight,” or “we can’t afford an event planner” but my question to nonprofit leaders is: “can you afford not to?”

While many nonprofit leaders make decisions from a place of scarcity, we’re seeing a rise in leaders who understand that to attract and retain good fundraising talent, you need to keep your Development Team doing what they do best: securing funding for the organization and not trapped in the weeds of planning an event.

Planning a successful fundraising event is a much bigger task than many people realize. It’s not just picking out napkin linens and making entrée selections (we recently had a clueless person say this EXACT thing to us). Planning a fundraising event is a highly involved and very strategic process- at least if you want it to be successful. With the amount of money and resources that are poured into any gathering, it only makes sense to invest in an event fundraising team who can support the Development Team in reaching revenue goals, but also create a cohesive experience for your donors to solidify their support. Oh, and don’t forget keeping your team from toeing the edge of a cliff.

Alright, you get my point, but your boss is still worried about the budget. These are the 3 questions you need to ask your senior leadership team when they’re ready to add an event on your {already very full} plate:

1. Is this the best time for an event?

I ask my clients this all.the.time. (even at the risk of losing their business). If we look at fundraising events as a vehicle to help showcase your mission to a pipeline of new donors, then that event needs to be SPECTACULAR. You are up against hundreds, if not thousands, of other organizations competing for philanthropic donations so your event needs to stand out and that takes a fully dedicated person (or team) to accomplish.

2. Are we SURE the Organization doesn’t have the resources?

When you step back and look at the highest and best use of your role as the Development Director, is planning an event how they’d like you to spend your time (and the company's dollars)? If they trust you, they should have faith that by freeing you up from the tedious tasks of event planning, you will be able to secure a few sponsorships that would cover the cost of an outside planner and still ensure your fundraising goals can be met.

3. Can you secure an underwriter to hire an outside planner in exchange for sponsorship benefits?

The right conversation can go a long way and transparency is typically the best approach here. We’ve had plenty of corporate sponsors assist our clients in paying for our services. Why? Because they want to sponsor an event that’s well planned and executed, even if it’s for their own brand image, so start setting up some coffee dates and see what happens!

The primary takeaway here is to remind our nonprofit leaders why they hired you in the first place, and I’m willing to bet it wasn’t to be an event planner. With an ever challenging economic time, it’s best to hold on to good team members by understanding bandwidth and alleviating tasks from your plate that don’t serve the highest and best use of the organization (or your skillset).

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