I had a grand and exhausting time yesterday at Fundraising Day, a conference held by the Golden Gate Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. You thought it was a churchy thing, didn't you? No sirree. It was a big-ass conference held at the Marriott ("with thanks to our corporate sponsors"). That kind of conference.
Which is fun every once in a while. Especially when it is well-run as this one was. How well-run? They approproated one of the men's restrooms and labeled it for women because the women outnumbered the men at the conference by I don't know how much. Now, that's a well-run conference.
Although some of it went over my head ("How many of you here know the difference between a theory of change and a logic model?") and my background is very small beer (woman asking question: "I come from a very small non-profit. We only have four paid staff and have a budget of less than $1 million"), I learned a ton.
One of the workshops I went to was on "Events and Big Picture Fundraising." The panellists pointed out that of all the fundraising an organization does, an event has the lowest return on investment. An event is useful if it moves your organization's mission forward. Over and over they said, "Don't do an event for the sake of an event."
Which reminded me so much of church. I'm thinking of the crab feed. You know what I'm talking about. How many hours are spent planning for the crab feed? Doing the set-up, procuring the material? And it's a huge fundraiser, yes. BUT THE MONEY COMES FROM THE SAME PEOPLE WHO GIVE MONEY TO THE CHURCH ANYWAY!
That's the thing I think is crazy. How many hours could we be spending doing other things, more mission-minded things, if we weren't spending our time trying to get more money from the same group of people that's already deeply involved in the parish? What's the return on investment? They're fun, they're social, they're fellowship...but aren't there other ways to do that?
The presenters made it clear that there's a time and a place for events and that events can be very effective. But they also made me wonder how much of our efforts in the church are spent on in-house fundraising through elaborately staged events. And what does that say about our priorities.