By: Dan Campbell, Fundraising Auctioneer 

In the past 12 months, our team has completed 81 virtual events. The grace of your donors has been incredible, as in all but a couple of those events, we saw an increase of NET revenue compared to the previous year Pre-Covid. Dissecting this result shows that this NET increase stems from three factors:

  1. Lower expense compared to the cost of hosting an in-person event, venue, catering, bar bill, band, etc, so even a lower gross revenue results in a better NET result.
  2. The grace of donors, who have responded generously as they fought to maintain the survival of their favorite charities. What a blessing!
  3. The potential of a larger audience, as we were no longer confined by the limits of the venue capacity. In some cases, we had over 5,000 people online watching an event.

As we move forward, there seems to be a fairly quick pivot back to in-person events as people are looking forward to re-connecting. We have had 8 in-person events this late spring, and with 58 events scheduled this fall, all but 4 are in-person events. 

The noticeable trend as we see this pivot to in-person events is a logical mitigation of crowd size. In a lot of cases, nonprofits are hosting their in-person galas with a limit on headcount, as we navigate the nuances of returning to normal and following guidelines that seem to be changing daily.

Here is the interesting dynamic to this pivot: smaller crowds are resulting in larger dollars raised. How can this be? 

As it turns out, nonprofits are doing an excellent job of hosting events designed specifically with their key donors in mind. You have probably witnessed larger galas (Pre-Covid) where the noise and distractions of a larger crowd can have a negative impact on fundraising. By choosing to focus your event specifically on your key donors, you are able to invest more into the experience for each attendee, and the result is they will give more. 

The truth is, we all know that there are some folks who come to our galas just for the party. They buy a ticket, buy a raffle ticket or play a game, but aren’t truly invested in the mission, at least with their pocketbooks. The pervasive thought has always been that if they come, we might be able to motivate this group of attendees to become supporters. As you self-assess, how are you doing with that mission? Are we targeting this group at the expense of the experience of those key donors who already are vested in our mission? Is it worth the extra effort and risk to our VIP donor base?

This past month, we served an in-person gala that normally has 400+ guests who have in the past raised $350,000. This year, we had a limited crowd of 100 guests attending a higher end experience, and raised over $500,000! Wow! It is important to note that there wasn’t anything special that occurred that evening; no larger donor that would create a one-off explanation. It was simply a motivated donor base that was tuned into the mission, and the experience for them was intimate and special. 

Where do we take this from here? Many of you are already planning a smaller event. Make sure your event is focused on your top donors, and let’s see what the outcome might be. We can assist you with strategies to engage your top donors!