Does a larger gala audience equal higher fundraising results?

Does a larger gala audience equal higher fundraising results?

We need more guests!!! We had 350 last year, let’s get 500 this year…we’ll raise more money! Let’s get 1000 this year and we’ll truly break fundraising records. 
Have you ever thought or spoke these words? If you have, I’m sure you may or may not have realized your dream ROI of your latest gala. Serving over 100 nonprofits a year, we are seeing a trend that higher attendance does not equal higher dollars raised. In fact, in a few instances it’s actually been the same or less than previous years. Yes, we are in a changing economic time as well as a highly competitive time for attention and attendance at your gala.  I’d like to ask you these few questions: What is your cost per guest? What is your donation average per guest? Average gift per engaged donor? What is your participation rate? What is your guest to donor transition rate? When you look at these different numbers you can look at your true fundraising ROI. 

  1. Cost per guest: How much is each seat cost? Food, marketing, decorating, entertainment, etc. Is it $50 per or $500 per? Are sponsorship and ticket sales covering this cost 100% or more? If not, you are negative profit per guest before you do any at event fundraising that you need to make up. 
  2. Donation average per guest: How much is each guest giving per fundraising activity? Paddle raise, auctions, raffles, games? If you raised $50,000 last year with 350 guests and $65,000 this year with 500 guests, which event actually raised more?  $142 per guest vs $130. Yes you raised more money, but you spent more on guest cost and staff time to handle the extra 150 guests who gave less per. What event is more efficient? 
  3. Average gift per engaged donor: There is a different between a guest and a donor. A guest eats your food, drinks your drinks and take up space. Yes, they might be a donor later and every guest needs to be treated as if they are a big donor the engaged donor is our goal with these events. A guest that participates in the fundraising activities. $50,000 with 85 donors is a $588 average. $65,000 with 125 donors is $520. In this instance yes more donors, but smaller average per donor. The good news is you get to write 40 more Thank You notes and follow up calls. The upside for future fundraising is much bigger, which we love. Let’s get more engaged donors giving! We’d love more engaged donors giving at a higher rate. How do you do that? We’ll talk about that in a future article. 
  4. Participation Rate: How many of your guests were actually donors? 85 out of 350 is 24%. 125 out of 500 is 25% Almost the same. More work same rate of participation. How do you get more donors engaged? This is everyone’s question. Stay tuned! 

I want to invite you to look at your ROI of having a larger number of guests and do a cost benefit analysis with the above calculations. When you look at this logically, you will see where your shortfalls are and where your opportunities lie. If you ever need help breaking this down, please don’t hesitate to connect with me and we’ll discuss your findings and how we can work together to improve your fundraising event. We’ll talk about how to get more engaged donors giving at higher levels and maximizing your time and dollar budget. 
Thank  you for investing a few moments to see a huge ROI at your next fundraising event.
Now get back to work and keep changing the world! 
Bobby D. 

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