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3 Reasons to Cut the Golf Tournament

Take a deep breath before reading this next line; it may be shocking: Fundraising events aren't effective.

Or rather, events—the hallowed golf scramble, the dull alumni tea, the brimming-on-chaos dinner dance—can very easily be ineffective, says CASE faculty member Kent Stanley.

"There are lots of ways to raise money. But there are not many ways to raise money well," says Stanley, vice president for university advancement at Minnesota State University, Mankato. In his session, "How to Tell Your Athletics Director You're Killing the Golf Tournament" at the recent CASE Fundraising for Athletics Conference, Stanley explained that he grew up working at his mom's catering events. It was always easy to tell, he says, when people were having a good time and when they weren't.

What's key, he says, is to examine why your team is having an event and your true return on investment. Too many teams host fundraisers because the university has always done it that way. That's a mindset advancement professionals have to get past, he says.

"[Ask yourself] if you were starting today, would you start this event?" says Stanley.

He outlined three major reasons to stop hosting fundraising events.

  1. Fundraising events are often inefficient. Stanley came to the Fundraising for Athletics conference armed with spreadsheets outlining costs and benefits of one of his own events. Take a hard look at your events, he advises, making sure to factor in staff time and salaries. Don't forget volunteer time—the estimated value of volunteer time is $24.14, according to Independent Sector.

    "You have to get down to the true costs," says Stanley. "[Events can be] the least effective yet all of us do them."
  2. Fundraising events exhaust your staff. After pulling off a snazzy gala or a major 5K run, your team—especially a small shop—is likely to be spent. Or, as Stanley puts it, "Your staff is toast for two weeks."
  3. There are more donor-centric approaches to take instead. Hosting events can make it look as if our teams are busy doing things, but it's hard to demonstrate incremental growth, says Stanley. Consider your ROI and, instead of pouring time and resources into events that don't offer value, consider a friendraising approach. Friendraisers are events that drum up goodwill and appreciation.

    "If it's a friendraiser, take out the revenue piece and figure out how to fund it," he says.

This article is from the May 2017 BriefCASE issue of BriefCASE.
Please share your questions and comments with Pam Russell via e-mail at russell@case.org or by telephone at +1-202-478-5680.