Lotteries and galas and radiothons - oh my!

publication date: Apr 20, 2016
author/source: Lisa MacDonald
Fact: a special event can be one of the least cost-effective methods to raise funds, with as much as 50% or more of gross revenue of the event going toward expenses. However, says Hala Bissada, events are very useful to achieve specific goals and objectives and are often an integral part of an organization's overall annual fundraising plan. At the very least, an event always provides an opportunity to raise awareness for the charity and its cause.

Before creating a new event, or to evaluate the growth potential of existing special events; Bissada recommends starting with an audit of your organization. 

  • Review your mission and your organization's goals. The event should complement and further these objectives.
  • Assess your organization's capacity - which could dictate the size and scope of your event. Be sure to consider the size of the existing donor base, the board, (do you have a fundraising board or dedicated committee?) volunteer base, and internal resources in your analysis.
  • Determine the audience that you want to access. If you already have a high-end gala in your annual mix, you may want to think about a sporting event to reach and engage new supporters.
  • What is your annual budget? Many events have up-front costs - do you have the financial resources?
  • Do you have a strong case for support? Can you create a case for support that would marry well with an event?
  • Does your charitable organization have high visibility in the marketplace?

After completing an organizational audit, Bassada checklists seven more steps in the process of creating a fully developed event concept. These include:

  1. Researching the event landscape
  2. Determining the event parameters
  3. Identifying event considerations
  4. Conducting a brainstorming session
  5. Analysis
  6. Developing a concept
  7. Conducting a feasibility study

Hala Bissada is an international award-winning event-producer who has managed many complex and high profile events. You can read her full chapter on special events in Excellence in Fundraising in Canada Volume One, published by Civil Sector Press.



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