Taking Fried Cod Seriously

A Fundraiser’s Journey Kelly Updike for PCNRC

Kelly picMy first job out of college was working for a nonprofit that relied on countywide volunteer groups to raise funds and awareness about a chronic disease. As the only paid staffer for an 11-county region in the middle of Indiana – and my job was directly tied to fundraising goals, mind you – I quickly learned the importance of resources and time.

So, with chapters of passionate volunteers from Union City to West Lafayette, we tested every fundraiser, new and old, against these questions:

  • How much money did we raise with this event each of the last three to five years?
  • How much money did we spend to raise that money each year?
  • How many people participated in the event? How many were new each year?
  • How much money do we need to raise, with this event and in total, in the city/area?
  • How many volunteers do we have?
  • How many volunteers does it take to do this event?
  • How many hours of work were or will be spent, start to finish, to complete this fundraiser?

Answering these questions gave us data on trends, growth, goals, profit and loss, resources.

First thing we did: We stopped doing fish fries. As fundraisers. That last statement is important. For the amount of time and volunteers required to successfully sponsor a fish fry, the net profit – the amount of money raised minus costs – was not worthwhile. Frankly, it was not worth our time. As a fundraiser. For our organization. At that time.

As a community, mission-minded event, sure, yes, some chapters still did it. But we were very aware, as we planned a year of events, what role the fish fry played in our programming, fundraising and awareness efforts.

Please note that I am not personally a fish-fry hater, although I was often accused of being one during this turbulent time in my fundraising career.

Be careful, special events can drain your time, exhaust your volunteers and not bring in budgeted funds. Some events are friend-raisers; hey, that’s okay. But every event you do can’t be a friend-raiser. And your signature fundraiser better not really be a friend-raiser. You, your board and other core volunteer workers need to take a hard, cold look at the numbers. Give ‘em the fish eye.

The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Embassy or the PCNRC.

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