The End of Big Event-Laden Fundraising?

Fundraisers hate 'em.

Increasingly, so do donors who would rather see their dollar go directly to a charitable cause rather than stopping to buy a floral centerpiece and chicken dinner on the way.

Big gala events are often the bane of a fundraiser's existence. They are a staff-intensive pain to put on, have giant overhead costs, and generally rely on sponsors to be profitable. None of these are good in a down economy.

(I would argue that big events are rarely good in an up economy. They can be used to advantage, but they must include a payoff in constituent engagement and donated dollars that outlasts the night of the event. Often, the thorough planning required to accomplish this is wasted on the centerpieces.)

Check out Susan Nielsen's piece in this Sunday's Oregonian: "Hauling out the checkbook, not the ball gown," which recounts Mercy Corps' decision to sidestep an overhead-heavy gala.

Could this be the beginning of a longer-term trend eschewing big gala events for more meaningful hands-on engagement with non-profits? Given the style of Generation X and the Millennials, coupled with an increased focus on effectiveness and efficiency in the non-profit sector, it seems the recession may be jump-starting the inevitable.