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Is 2020 the year Events Fundraising Died?

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Guest blog by Jane Curtis, The Charity Event Specialists

Events Fundraisers are a resilient bunch - if we don’t get enough sign-ups for an event or the weather has its own ideas about our plans, we have a plan B.  The problem with the current situation is that continued, rapid change means having a plan B, C, D & E!  

We also shouldn’t underestimate the public and our supporter’s acceptance of change and adaptability.  We’ve seen huge take-up of virtual events and millions raised by individuals with an idea and a passion for their cause.   

This isn’t the first time we have had to face change and it definitely won’t be the last. Who remembers the Millenium Bug, smoking bans, the introduction of chip and pin, the arrival of the internet even!

"This shake-up to the way we do things did need to happen"

I started working in charity events in 2000 and honestly, in 20 years, there hasn’t been much change to the types of events we work on.  Meanwhile the world has undergone massive change, so this shake-up to the way we do things did need to happen. Wouldn’t it be amazing if, rather than thinking about 2020 as the death of fundraising events, we think of it as the year they were reborn?

I would love to see charities grasp this opportunity with both hands and propel events fundraising into 2021 and beyond.  

Vision for the future

Here is my vision for the future of charity events:

  • Collaboration becomes commonplace and is actively encouraged.  Collaboration with other teams, with other charities, with the for-profit sector.  It happens regularly and is completely ingrained in the way we do our business and the way we plan our events. 

  • Fundraising Teams will bravely pilot event ideas and test out a variety of on and offline activity.  There’s no such thing as failed events, everything is a learning opportunity to hone, tweak and adapt for better results.

  • Charities will support their DIY events participants as they increase in volume and sophistication using digital tools.  It is commonplace for Millennials and Gen Z’s to support causes they feel passionately about in their own way.  Charities are set up to properly support them in doing that.

  • Investing in new activity is just that, an investment, not a cost. Charities will be proud to invest in their products, activities, and staff to ensure the best returns.   

  • Event committees are overhauled and are no longer filled with an unrepresentative panel of people who have been involved for many years. Volunteering with an event committee is considered a valuable, career-building activity, diverse representation is prioritised and recruitment supported internally. 

  • Annual event calendars are abolished in favour of 3 year calendars.  A longer-term calendar would take the pressure off events teams, allowing for more testing, insight and feedback, learning, improving and growing.  A more sustainable programme. 

  • Events are no longer created or treated as fundraisers in their own right.  They are a tool to long term support, they open doors to a wide variety of income and raise awareness of the charity and the beneficiaries it serves.  Fundraising is not the main driver. 

All of these things are achievable and possible.  Will it take an appetite for change and risk? Yes.  Will it take a sector-wide cultural shift?  Yes.  But nothing happens until something moves.  It just takes all of us to be intentional about taking action and moving forwards, no matter how small those steps are. 

Events will come back.  Some will look very different.  But quite honestly that needed to happen.   Fundraising events pre-COVID were not perfect.  Old fashioned concepts that had run year after year with vast time and energy spent organising them, were not sustainable.  Certain stakeholders had too much power in decision making which made change close to impossible.  Events Fundraising Teams often got a bad reputation across the rest of the team as being ‘expensive’ so the true ROI was rarely reported. All this can change - let’s take the opportunity to make it happen. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the change in Events Fundraising right now, you’re not alone!  You may be worried about cancelled and postponed events and feeling uncertain about what the future holds.  I am offering a six-part FREE training experience called Doing Events Differently.  It will leave you feeling calm and confident and with absolute clarity on where to focus your time to ensure you have a robust events programme which is raising more money.  Places are limited so get your name on the waiting list now!