Special events are important to many nonprofit organizations because they help raise awareness of a cause and help cultivate relationships with donors and potential donors. Events tend to be more costly than other fundraising strategies in terms of return on investment, but they are often incorporated into overall fundraising strategy because they provide visibility for the organization and opportunities to involve people in its activities.
The literature on special events is largely focused on anecdotal descriptions of how-to's for producing events -- budgets, checklists, timelines, descriptions of types of events, formats, use of media for events, managing volunteer involvement, securing in-kind support, and evaluation of the event. What is missing from the literature is benchmarking research that would help a nonprofit determine whether an event is appropriate considering its circumstances, how its event results compare with those of other like organizations, and effective ways to follow up with constituents, media and potential donors after the event.
In this study, the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy collected information on event planning and management to enable nonprofit managers to compare their events with those of other organizations by type, size, region, metropolitan area size, and number and types of events per year. The study results provide a tool to help nonprofits make informed decisions about whether to invest in an event, how to plan a successful event(s), steps to maximize return on investment, and follow-up activities to help turn event attendees into donors. Study results will also be used by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) to plan formats for presenting event planning information to its members.