4 Keys to the Future of Nonprofit Events
by Mike Montalto
August 27, 2020

Nonprofits have had many questions about the future of nonprofit events since the pandemic began back in March. Organizations everywhere, of all sizes, were forced to pivot and cancel their big spring fundraising event or go digital only.

But nonprofits still have many questions about how to approach their next big fundraising event as the fall gets closer. 

Gregory Boroff, the Chief External Relations Officer at City Harvest, joined Action’s Development Strategist, Amy Boroff, to answer some of those questions during this months webinar.

“It was really heartening to see that people, while they love coming to our events, it’s the mission and knowing what City Harvest does for the city that keeps them coming to support us.”

Don’t forget to ask!

Like many organizations, City Harvest wanted to build on the momentum from last year’s gala. But like countless others, they were forced to pivot as it became apparent the pandemic would not end soon.

“We decided to cancel it in May,” Gregory Boroff said. “We asked all of our gala supporters, the ones who had already pledged their commitment, if they would still support City Harvest in the same way, knowing how much we needed their support.”

City Harvest also reached out to individuals and corporations who had attended past galas but had not yet pledged support this year.

And what was the result of reaching out to ask?

“Just about every single person did. Every company,” Gregory said. “It was really heartening to see that people, while they love coming to our events, it’s the mission and knowing what City Harvest does for the city that keeps them coming to support us.”

So, if you need to cancel an event, make sure you reach out to your individual supporters, corporate sponsors, and partners and ask them to keep making a difference.

“If we didn’t have the infrastructure and the culture, we wouldn’t have been able to pivot that quickly.”

Quick Pivot to Digital

During the webinar, Gregory talked about how City Harvest adjusted their Skip Lunch, Fight Hunger campaign to a digital format.

The campaign pits corporate teams against one another in a fun challenge to help raise money. It’s an initiative that has become an important source of fundraising revenue for City Harvest over the past several years.

Moving intitiatives like this to a digital format will be key for the future of nonprofit events.

“The people that work on this campaign, they made it virtual overnight. It was spectacular to see. The integration at City Harvest, which we’ve built over the past few years, is so strong. It has enabled us to really excel during this time,” Gregory explained. “If we didn’t have the infrastructure and the culture, we wouldn’t be able to pivot that quickly.”

City Harvest is a large organization with the resources to pull something like this off overnight. But organizations of all sizes can adjust much easier if they follow City Harvest’s model.

So, take the time to build the infrastructure to support your digital fundraising initiatives and make sure departments are working together to achieve your goals!

Partnerships, Collaboration, and Community

“Our philosophy is that partnership is a two-way street,” Gregory said. “Our Food Council members are a great example.”

The Food Council is made up of chefs and restaurateurs that assist City Harvest in an astounding number of ways. And while City Harvest’s core mission never changed, they realized they needed to do something to help their partners as restaurants struggle through the pandemic.

“We made it an effort to give space in our e-newsletter, to make space on social media, and in our outreach to let people know when our partner restaurants are re-opening, or to let them know when they’ve got a fund to raise money for their staff,” Gregory said.

Don’t forget, the people who help put your mission to work may be struggling themselves. It’s important to find ways to give back to your sponsors and partners.

We’re all in this together. And making a difference during these difficult times shows how much you care. It will help you build stronger partnerships as you think about the future of nonprofit events. 

“Those are the special things that partners remember. The sincerity and the genuineness of wanting to embrace them and working in that way has so many rewards to it.”

Express Gratitude

It’s important to let your donors and partners know how thankful you are for their continued support. But unlike an appeal, a thank you letter is not enough. Part of the reason your donors love your event is because of the sense of community they feel among like-minded donors.

An online stewardship event like City Harvest’s virtual wine tasting can help bring donors together to celebrate their impact on your nonprofit’s work.

City Harvest sent a bottle of wine to each of the team captains of their Skip Lunch, Fight Hunger campaign. Then, everyone joined a video call for a toast to celebrate that many families did not have to worry about their next meal, thanks to everyone who supported the initiative.

“Those are the special things that partners remember,” Gregory said. “The sincerity and the genuineness of wanting to embrace them and working in that way has so many rewards to it.”

Scale to Size

It’s impressive how much City Harvest is able to achieve during these uncertain times. The organization’s vast resources certainly help. But the core of what they do can be duplicated by organizations large and small.

That’s why we chose these four points as our main takeaways. No matter what your work involves, how much you raise, or how big your staff is, asking for support, two-way partnerships, thanking donors, and pivoting to digital are key to the future of nonprofit events.

You can watch the full recorded video of our August 19 webinar, “At Home with the Boroffs: The future of Nonprofit Events, Sponsorships, and Collaborations” below to learn more specifics about City Harvest’s initiatives from Gregory Boroff himself.

As you watch, think of ways you can scale and apply these strategies for your organization, so you are prepared for the future of nonprofit events!

 

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