• David J. Fry, MPS, CDT

Are Special Events Worth It?

Updated: Apr 5, 2018

Soon it will be time for your 5K, golf outing, gala, run, walk, chili supper, festival or any one of a dozen other events. Does anyone ever wonder if it is really worth it? Quite often, the amount of time and money spent on staging these special events is staggering.


Oh sure, there are those who will say, "but we made "x" dollars on it." Did you really? It's not unusual, when making those net profit calculations, for the organization to ignore the true cost of staff and volunteer time. Why? Often, because these fixed costs are somewhat hidden in the regular operations but that is no reason to ignore them. It is common for groups to have difficulty quantifying operational costs. However, at the very least, discussion surrounding that fact can generate momentum to do so for the next event. These costs should without a doubt be part of a bigger picture review. An astute Board of Directors knows to prioritize special event analysis on their annual calendar, well in advance of the next proposed staging. It's a good time to revisit the goals of the event, the past performance and its impact. Hold nothing back and put everything on the table, even it happens to be a member's pet project. The Board serves on behalf of the organization, not each other!


Sure, special events can have a purpose, but their staging shouldn't be sustained by "everyone had a good time," especially if the primary goal is to raise funds. Now, if there's a desperate need to raise awareness or build a database, that's another story. I advise organizations to consider this target. If your group's event is raising less than $10,000 then there is even more reason to scrutinize the commitment and investment of time and effort in the staging process. Raising more might not even be justified if it consumes all of the staff's time and energy. Chances are there are donors who support your cause who could be approached individually and more efficiently to fund the project. In reality, you could raise the same amount, or more money, in less time and with less burden on the organization. This is where a structured and well thought development program can pay off. Let's face it, when staff and volunteers are focused on an event, there are a dozen or more other needs that are being ignored, like donor development, membership growth, marketing, volunteer recruitment, database work, etc, etc.


Special events can have their place but the problem is many times they languish on for years before someone asks that all important question...."Why are we doing this?" Maybe it's time for you to be the one to do the asking!

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