Whether you're a donor or a charity, you'll be interested in the latest report from Charity Navigator, a leading independent evaluator of charities. While this report focuses on how much and how charities invest and make from special events, it doesn't cover the payback for the sponsors, both individuals and companies.
Having written more than a few sponsorship packages for non-profit special events, I know how difficult it can be to persuade major donors to write a check. Thinking back to my "brilliant" suggestion of giving naming rights to the $50,000 sponsor for a first-time local event, I rationed that the exposure alone would be worth the investment.
We had no takers. And, at the outset I had no idea how much publicity and exposure the major sponsor would get - how does 4,000,000 impressions sound? That's .0125/impression. Where can you buy that kind of exposure that ties you to a cause you support - and probably be able to write it off?
In reading this report, I agree that charities often invest too much in special events. One way to make the event self-funding is to dazzle a snazzy PR/marketing campaign in front of major sponsors that integrates online, offline, media, radio and TV exposure.
Although we don't guarantee results, we can estimate the amount of coverage we'll get. When we hit obstacles, we ramp up on other fronts by building a blog or online news center to drive interest. But, not every charity has that option. You have to fund the promotions before you can make them happen.
One of our clients is a four-star charity on Charity Navigator. We use this reference in all press releases for two reasons: first, to position our client as being a valued charity [almost 95% of every donation goes directly into programming] and second to promote the opportunity to widen giving horizons by researching charities online.
Introduction . . .
During the spring and summer months, it seems as though charities hold special fundraising events almost every weekend. We all receive requests to attend and support charity-sponsored events, ranging from the American Cancer Society's "Relay for Life" to the Cleveland Animal Protective League's "Fur Ball", from spring galas to bowl-a-thons to (insert mildly strenuous physical activity here)-a-thons. But, as a donor, does it make sense to support these special events? Or would the organization be better served by you skipping the 5K and making a direct contribution? Our users have repeatedly asked us these questions, so we decided to do what we do best, compile and analyze the data, and give you some answers.
Conclusion . . .
Without question, special events seem to be an extremely inefficient way of raising money. The majority of charities are more efficient in their overall fundraising than when they fundraise through special events. So why do they continue to use these special events as fundraisers? And should donors support these special events, or instead give money to the charity as a strict contribution?
Keep in mind that there are advantages to special events that cannot be measured: raising awareness, rewarding members, cultivating prospective donors, PR exposure, and brand building to name a few. These benefits are impossible to measure, and vary greatly from organization to organization.