The Non-Event Event

What if you threw a fundraising event and no one showed up? Well, that might just be the idea. And if you, your team, and donors have worn out the formal wear it might be something to consider.  A creative and fun spin on the traditional event-the No-Show, Non-Event or Silent Night.

The annual gala can be a touchy subject in some organizations. There are those who feel that the cost associated with holding a gala is just too much. Or that the time involved in preparing and running it is counterproductive. In the case of the Non-Event, however, you reach out to your donors and invite them to purchase tickets to not come to your upcoming gala. With the right approach, this “event” can be a hit.

A “Silent Night” event worked for Andrea Frieder of DonorDrive, in her previous “life” where she held executive posts at Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, JDRF, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Wyoming School Foundation. Inspired by a lack of available venues and funds, she remembers thinking “Who wants to get dressed up again, anyway?” and the team-and donors- agreed. It was a successful event, but if she were to do it again she’d “make it more engaging.  Maybe send a video ..” to remind the donors what the group does and how the donations will be used.

Here’s another example of a Non-Event from The Borgen Project.

But like anything else related to fundraising, there is no “One Size Fits All” approach! Consider your donors very carefully before proceeding. In some cases, the donors and board members expect to be thanked and honored at the annual gala. And it’s human nature to want to connect with others.

According to Claire Axelrad, nonprofit fundraising coach and author,  “When you hold a non-event, what message are you really conveying? It’s a bit of “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” You may think it’s donor-centered, but you’re most likely reading your supporters wrong….Don’t make it all about money. Make it about love.”

For further consideration and good reading, see what Seth Godin has to say about what makes events worthwhile, in this interview.