Full disclosure: I love a good event. I like the whole process of getting ready for them. I like picking out an outfit and I like getting my hair done and I like figuring out where to eat before the event and I like knowing who all is going. I like imagining what could happen at the event itself. Maybe the DJ will be on point and I’ll have an incredible time dancing the night away. Maybe I’ll meet a tall, dark stranger who will be the man of my dreams. Maybe maybe maybe.
Have I struck a chord? I feel your nods of recognition. Events are fun. The prospect of them is titillating, and by the time you reassure yourself that the $100+ ticket was going toward a worthy cause, you’ve gotten too drunk off the open bar that was promised to you to worry about how much you spent to be there for two and a half hours (because, truth time, between Drybar running behind for your blow-out appointment, and trying to coordinate how to get 20 people into Ubers from the pre-game your friend hosted at their apartment, you got there at least an hour late). They provide you with something different to do on a weekend night, a surefire way to mix things up, and they make you feel fancy. All this liking and snapping and gramming is making us crave contact – so why not dress up to do so?
And yet, nothing I mentioned about the appeal of an event had anything to do with the reason for the event itself. Events have become the answer to the question: how do we engage people in our cause in an exciting way? As a young fundraiser who is often saddled with the responsibility of coordinating events for donors, I totally get this logic. By bringing folks together in a social environment where the liquor flows and the good times roll, a whole group of people then will have positive associations with and memories of your organization. There’s a lot to be said for being able to build a lot of good will in a very short span of time.
The other side of that coin is that events are a lot of work, a lot of “much ado.” And depending on the bandwidth the organization’s staff has, the harder events are to implement. Plus, events are expensive! Seriously, they are no joke, especially the idea of an “open bar” (just ask anyone trying to find a venue for their wedding). In some cases, non-profits that have the ability to leverage discounts may have an easier time at keeping down costs, and therefore netting higher profits from the event. Even still, the costs of putting on a great event are high.
Then there’s the night itself. The guests show up an hour after the allotted start time (blaming Drybar and Uber for their tardiness, as aforementioned). They drink a ton, and maybe they pay attention to the speeches that are made. It all goes by in a blur, whether you planned the thing or you’re just attending it. And the chances of everyone who came truly understanding what it was all really for when they wake up the next morning, heads pounding from the buckets of champagne and jonesing for brunch? Let’s be real, they’re pretty slim.
It’s safe to say that fundraising events are often some of the first experiences Millennials have with giving, and therefore, it’s important to talk about them. There’s just simply too much to say in only one post, so I’ll be starting a series of posts that address various issues around fundraising events, including what to think about when you’re buying tickets to events, tales from the trenches of event fundraising, and advice on how to make your fundraising events more successful (if you’re planning them). Check back!