In the world of nonprofits, there are seasons of heavier fundraising. As a company of nonprofit fundraising consultants, graphic designers, and sales professionals, we work with nonprofits all over North America to support their annual fundraising efforts, specifically in special events. With our two event brands, Wine Women & Shoes and Farm to Table(aux), we are able to create unique experiences that entice the senses and provide an opportunity for nonprofits to showcase their missions. These fundraising events typically fall between February-May and September-November, the spring and fall seasons of success.
There’s a reason for the seasons. It’s all about timing. In the winter months, there are major holidays, parties, school breaks, and year-end fundraising campaigns that are prioritized. In the summer months, vacations and school breaks monopolize calendars. So, while spring and fall may be filled with nonprofit events in each community, this timing is strategic and wise. There is more predictability in schedules during these periods, as school is still in session, holidays are less frequent, and vacations are not as likely. Major holidays to avoid when scheduling an event include Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving, amongst the spring and fall. So, while there may be a weekend here or there to avoid, the calendar is otherwise relatively more open to accommodate a well attended fundraising event.
Events that fall outside of these regular fundraising seasons typically have lower attendance rates, lower revenue, and lower community investment overall. There are always exceptions to the rule, of course, but overall, our recommendations to our nonprofit partners encourage each of them to consider the spring or fall season as the time they will most likely succeed in reaching their fundraising goals.
If you want to dive even deeper into fundraising event timing, you’ll also want to consider what day of the week works best. Most fundraising events fall between Thursday-Sunday. Actually, more and more often, we are seeing the highest attendee numbers and individual spending per guest on Thursday nights. Events from 6-10pm on a Thursday evening, for example, are often outperforming events on Friday or Saturday nights. Weekend evenings are jam-packed with concerts, sporting events, and family parties. A Thursday night is typically less busy, is easier for many households to find childcare, which allows adults to attend your fundraiser, and is often more cost-effective in facility rentals and catering. In this example, I’m referring more to an adults-only fundraiser, like a gala or alcohol-featured event. Always consider your audience to help determine the time of day and day of the week. Obviously, a family fun fair type of event would be better during the day on the weekend, rather than a late night soiree.
As you consider your event timing, be sure to pick a season that makes sense in your community and in your fiscal calendar. Other potential challenges to consider include typical weather patterns, community travel patterns (do you have “snowbirds” traveling to or from your area annually?), school calendars, local traditions (does your community have a snow week or annual festivals that shut down the town?), and your nonprofit’s other events. Be gracious with your timing when considering other events in your own organization’s calendar. Scheduling events too closely together can impact your request for donations, sponsorships, and attendees, as well as overwhelm your development team.
As one of our STUDIO 4Forty clients, we are happy to advise and discuss the timing of your fundraising event. If you are not a current client of ours, but would like to discuss fundraising strategies and timing, we’re happy to set up a call. You can outreach directly to our Director of Business Development to schedule a (well timed) time.