When Bigger Isn’t Always Better: Why One Non-Profit Opted for a Smaller Fundraiser posted 08/03/16

By Jeanne Kaufmann

When it comes to events, the common mindset is “Go Big or Go Home”.  This is especially true for Non-Profits, since often the number of annual events is limited so you want to make sure every experience for your guests is significant and memorable.  

But what if a large scale event just isn’t right, not just for your organization, but for your guests as well?  We spoke with the Young Friends of the SLU Liver Center to discuss what to do when you realize that bigger is definitely not always better.

Back in 2013, the Young Friends of the SLU Liver Center had the brilliant idea to host an 80s Prom as its signature annual event.  It was fun, it was appealing, and it let us all relive one glorious decade; what was not to love?  In fact, it went so well that in 2014, they did it again! However, after two years of partying like it was 1989, the Young Friends Board decided that rather than just keeping the good times rolling, it might be time to step back, reassess, and make sure the 80s Prom was truly the best event for both their organization and their guests.

What they discovered was truly illuminating. Though the attendance for the 80s Prom was high, they realized that the cost to throw the event was prohibitive given the amount of income it generated and that those funds could be better used to support the mission. Not only that, but after speaking with guests and invitees, they found that the cost of attendance was actually dissuading people from attending! This was because a guest didn’t just have to buy a ticket, but the 80s theme meant most wanted to dress up, and that meant investing in clothes that (we all hope!) were just not wearable outside the event.

With those realizations, they decided to scrap the 80s Prom for 2015 and look for a new theme and venue. That led to the creation of the Unbelieva-BOWL, which, you guessed it, is a super fun night of bowling with all proceeds going to the SLU Liver Center. The event attracted more guests and raised more funds due to more manageable expenses, all in all it was a home run! Or I guess we should say, a strike! And it worked out so well they hosted a second Unbelivea-BOWL in 2016 with wonderful results.

There are valuable lessons to be learned here, and not just that perhaps the fashion of the 80s should remain in the past.  The lessons are:

1)      When planning events, the best thing you can do is learn from previous experiences and use that knowledge to grow and evolve.

2)      Make sure to listen to your attendees and use them as a resource to make sure the event you are planning is truly the right event for them.

3)      Finally, and most importantly, a grand event is great, but the goal should always be first and foremost to raise awareness and funds for your cause. If your event is not doing that, reassess and scale back as needed.

With these new lessons in mind, we say get creative! Try a new venue, a new theme, and make sure your event is one that your guests want to attend, can afford to attend, and will always remember as a great time celebrating a great cause.

Also, please join The Young Friends of the SLU Liver Center at the 2nd Annual Jeff Reinberg Classic golf tournament on September 19th at Missouri Bluffs Golf Club.  A portion of the proceeds will go to support the Young Friends of the SLU Liver Center as they help fight liver disease through the research taking place at the world-renowned Saint Louis University Liver Center. 

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