American comedian and actress, Whoopi Goldberg, recently vented about rubber chicken dinners hosted by charities to raise money for philanthropic causes. In her characteristic humor, Goldberg scolded fundraisers and felt hosting charity events was a waste of time and must end. As more groups worldwide rely on affinity building through social media, congregations are designed online. People with similar interests converge in small settings and have started bidding goodbye to large-scale rubber chicken dinners. The tendency among small and medium non-profits to invest in events will soon come to an end. Small nonprofits in the U.S. rely on a single fundraising event or a few events to raise dollars for operational costs. Some rely on an annual event or a gala to pay for the nonprofit CEO’s salary for the next 12 months. I find this a cardinal sin against the people you are serving, those shivering in the cold, the family seeking shelter or the disabled seeking access to care. According to a study done by LiveAnalytics, attendance by Americans at arts events fell by at least 3% year on year. Only 17% of Americans attended a live arts event in 2013, compared to a year ago. In 2014, people in the ages of 45 to 54 were 25% less likely to attend an arts event or concert. Lots of money is wasted in inviting prospective donors to attend events. University-based fundraising shops are major culprits hosting games for prospective donors. I’ve had first hand experience in University settings, hosting events for prospective donors. Sadly, people seldom want to hear about your University’s advances in nano technology or meet your colorful dean at a sporting event. Those days are over. According to global marketing expert, Seth Godin, people are seeking niche markets. They love stuff like the Jim Beam Fans Club or the Red Hat Lady’s Club and want to talk about stuff that matters in is smaller, intimate settings. The Internet has added meaning to purposeful events in smaller groups. People want to engage in a robust conversation to bring change that matters. They do not want to attend events that raise funds to keep a job for a nonprofit CEO or pay the charities utility bill for the next 12 months. Giving from the heart does not need us to feast on chickens and drink wine. Those days are gone and if you are a nonprofit CEO thinking of your next event, kill the chicken. Take a few prospective donors on a journey to explain your unique cause. What you do is worth more than a million dollars compared to hosting another event. Remember that, and the dollars will keep coming.
Founder of Lettersnatcher.com, Sarat Pratapchandran’s career spans philanthropy, corporate social responsibility & content management. A graduate from Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, he worked as a journalist in India, the Middle East and the United States and now advises and mentors individuals at kanthari, an international organization focused on creating social visionaries around the world. Sarat is also on a personal mission to help 50 orphans by age 50.