Fundraising Irony: Small Nonprofits Rely on Low-ROI Events for Fundraising

Processed by: Helicon Filter;Small or volunteer-led nonprofits can’t, in most cases, go after large grants or major donors. Lacking such resources as a well-staffed development department and influential board members, they have good reason to turn to fundraising events.

Bake sales, walk-a-thons, auctions, gala dinners, and concerts all offer opportunities to mobilize a lot of volunteers, in some cases on short notice. Hey, events are practically parties, and might raise money, too!

But not much money. According to the research group Software Advice, events-based fundraising can be harder for small nonprofits than large ones. They “are at a disadvantage,” because “the upfront investment for an event is a strain on resources.”

As explained in the report, this strain is caused by the groups’ tight budgets, as well as the fact that their largely volunteer-based staff may not have significant event planning experience.

That doesn’t mean smaller groups should despair with regard to events-based fundraising, however. Software Advice’s Report helpfully analyzed which events are most and least efficient in producing profits.

And now for the spoiler. The report’s major findings included that:

  • fun runs and walks are the easiest events to plan, producing moderate to high financial reward for nonprofits of all sizes
  • on average, a-thon events have the lowest cost per dollar raised (CPDR), and thus are suitable for all nonprofits, and
  • concerts have the highest CPDR, best taken on by groups with a larger budget.

No matter what type of event your group takes on, learning from other groups that have done them before can be enormously helpful. For tips, stories, checklists and more, see The Volunteers’ Guide to Fundraising: Raise Money for Your School, Team, Library or Community Group, by Ilona Bray, J.D. (Nolo).