Your fundraising approach may be excluding valuable donors.
If you aren’t making fundraising diversity a priority in your strategy, you are leaving dollars—and support—on the table.
Virtual events are successful because they are easily accessible.
Over and over, we saw nonprofits hold massively successful virtual events at the height of the pandemic. The Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-County Area raised as much money at their virtual event as previous in-person events had—at a fraction of the cost. The Dougy Center reached nearly 600 individuals across North America, and even donors from Asia. And The Woodland Park Zoo raised nearly $1.2 million at their 2020 virtual event, despite absorbing the cost of unused vendor services.
Sometimes the traditional fundraising event model can be seen as stuffy and exclusive, an experience reserved only for the wealthy. Your organization can raise big money by being more inclusive and accessible. If the success of these online-only events can teach us anything, it’s that nonprofits are meeting and exceeding their revenue goals by engaging and welcoming all people—near and far.
You are leaving dollars on the table by making your fundraising event only available to in-person guests. The high ticket price may be leaving out supporters who might otherwise jump at the chance to attend and give.
The technology is there to allow remote guests to bid on the same auction items as those attending in person, and give in the same Fund-A-Need. While streaming your live event to a virtual audience isn’t free, remote guests have proven time and again in the last two years that including them pays off. Many nonprofits returning to in-person events are experimenting with bringing guests watching from home into the fun. Doing so, is driving up giving and increasing visibility about the cause.
Is your fundraising event welcoming to everyone?
Creating a welcoming atmosphere at your event goes beyond great décor and cheerful volunteers—it’s an understanding of what different guests might face while attending your event, and providing a truly safe environment for people from all walks of life.
Is your event handicap accessible? Accessibility is about more than just offering ramps, but also wide passageways, elevators, and mobile options to avoid traveling back and forth between spaces. Does your video presentation offer subtitles? Are there other options for the hearing or visually impaired?
What about guests who don’t drink? Offering beverages or mocktails besides beer and wine can help your non-drinking attendees still feel like part of the fun.
Do you offer a range of ways to participate? Not everyone can bid on an expensive live auction item. Including a wide range of items in your silent auction at different price points ensures that all guests have a great time and feel valued.
Do all guests feel seen and heard? You may not know it, but many gala staples rely on traditional expectations that can make some of your guests feel excluded from the night’s exciting activities. Here are just a few common assumptions that may not accurately represent your audience:
- Husband-and-wife couples attending together
- Certain levels of wealth, income, and lifestyle
- Gender norms and family roles
Consider discussing in advance with your host, emcee, or auctioneer how to avoid hurtful expectations of your audience and create a fun and inclusive atmosphere that everyone in can enjoy.
How to democratize your cause work beyond events
Fundraising isn’t everything in nonprofit work. There are many ways for people who want to support your mission to get involved outside of monetary contributions, and these opportunities give those who can’t attend a fundraising event or make a generous donation a way to contribute to the mission and help accomplish your important cause work.
What other needs does your organization have? How can people from all walks of life help further the cause? Here are just a few suggestions for volunteer opportunities you can offer those who may not be in a financial position to give.
- Writing and mailing invitations, postcards, or thank-you notes
- Going door-to-door to bring awareness to the cause
- Volunteering at events
- Canvassing for donations
- Participating directly in the cause work
- Supporting staff in day-to-day tasks
- Soliciting auction items
- Giving in-kind services such as professional design, sound or audio, technology, etc.
Every supporter matters! Making your nonprofit a welcoming, inclusive, and safe environment for all people ensures that volunteers and donors come back year after year, and everyone has an enjoyable experience helping to serve the mission along with you.