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Survey Says...Trends in 2021 Fundraising Event Plans

by Molly O'Connell

Many nonprofits rely on one, or several, keystone fundraising events throughout the year to generate revenue to support their missions. The pandemic caused many organizations to cancel or adapt their fundraising events in 2020.

So, how are Maine nonprofits approaching their fundraising events this year?

Over the past two weeks, MANP conducted a flash poll to get a snapshot of our network’s approaches to–and challenges with–fundraising events over the next 6 months. Thank you to the 80+ organizations that participated!

What are Maine nonprofits planning?

We asked organizations to share their plans for fundraising events that typically take place in the Spring and/or Summer.

  • One in four (25%) are still deciding.
  • About half are moving forward with an event at this time.
  • Of those moving forward with an event, 42% reported they will use a fully virtual format, 34% are planning hybrid events, and 24% are holding a fully in-person event (that is in accordance with public health guidelines).

Nonprofit fundraising events are implemented in a variety of ways and reflect the creativity of their staff and volunteers. A few themes arose in how organizations report they are adapting:

  • Moving outside: many organizations are taking advantage of Maine’s green spaces and bringing their events to the outdoors.
  • Breaking it into smaller pieces: some organizations report they are experimenting with series of smaller events over a period of time rather than one large one.
  • Making it “asynchronous”: Nonprofits report making use of pre-recorded video and audio elements, and/or providing ways for people to pre-order and pick up items rather than holding an event at a scheduled time (such as with library and plant sales).

What are the challenges?

Top challenges included:

  • Coming up with a safe event format that will meet fundraising goals (73%)
  • Staff/volunteer capacity to adapt to new tools and protocols (47%)
  • Internal division on how to proceed (19%)
  • Technology for virtual formats (17%)
  • Lack of clear guidelines from the state (14%)

Other challenges survey respondents named include making decisions in a highly uncertain environment, board/staff fatigue, and marketing challenges related to attracting participants to new formats.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this flash poll!

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