There are so many firsts in life. Your first steps. Your first day of school. Your first true love. Your first job. I could go on and on and on.
The truth is – you’ll always remember your firsts. That’s because they were always the start of something very important.
The same holds true for a charity’s first fundraising event. During the course of the past 20-plus years, I’ve been privileged to participate in many of these milestones and I’ve come to a conclusion about what makes them truly successful.
This may come as a shock to some long-time readers of my Blogs – but the amount of money raised by a charity during their first years’ event is not the major deciding factor as to what made it successful. It’s the strength of the event’s foundation.
It is critical that the first year of an event is built on solid ground and solid principles. All too often charities host their first auction and its main focus is generating cash.
However, the first and main focus of the charity should be developing what will become a long-lasting event – one that will raise money for those in need – year after year.
Don’t get me wrong – a first year event should, and more than likely, will make money. But you must remember the event is bigger than the first year profit. Your fundraising event needs to become a source of profit years down the road and the best way to do that is to build a strong foundation out of the gate.
Often times I hear, “When our event grows we will want to hire you then.” Well, that’s great to hear. It gives me job security. Unfortunately, it’s not good for the charity.
That’s because the first year is the most crucial year. I know what goes into building a strong foundation and it takes a hands-on approach to do it correctly the first time. The work on the foundation, the architectural drawings if you will, could begin to take shape up to a year prior to the event actually taking place.
As the planning for the second annual event begins it’s also important to review what took place during the first event.
The mistakes made and the successes achieved all need to be analyzed. This includes components such as marketing techniques, audience development, sponsorships and ticket sales – to name a few.
As I often say “ideas are something you try once”. “Traditions are when you utilize an idea the second time”. Be careful in establishing traditions at your event as they are most challenging to change.
Like I said in the second paragraph, “You’ll always remember your first.” That’s because it’s the start of something very important – and should be built for longevity.