We use the term "bless and release" endearingly, to signify truly saying goodbye and letting go. In keeping with my last two blog posts, I thought I'd share with you a wonderful example of the power of finally eliminating the traditional fundraising event, taken from my book Missionizing Your Special Events.
Special thanks to Kathleen Reynolds and Roseanne Brown at Generations Group Homes in Simpsonville, South Carolina for sharing this excellent example of what can happen when an organization makes the decision to eliminate an event—in this case, a golf tournament.
After becoming part of the Benevon Curriculum for Sustainable Funding, we realized it was time to give up our seven-year-old golf tournament. Rather than eliminate it outright, we tried first to convert it to a Point of Entry Conversion Event, by inserting a Visionary Leader Talk and Testimonial Speaker at the dinner banquet following the day of golf to see if we would get Point of Entry referrals from the golfers. We were prepared to track all the referrals, but we didn't get a single one! We decided that if we couldn't make the golf day productive by getting anyone interested in coming to our Point of Entry Events or referring others, that we didn't have time for it, so we dropped it in order to be able to focus on the other aspects of the model.
Initially, we sent out an e-mail update telling the golfers and sponsors that we had to drop the event and asking if anyone would like to pick it up for us. People started asking us more questions about what that would entail. We talked about the time and expense it took for us to put it on versus the payback we received. We stressed how much we loved the event, how much we loved the people who came to the event (who came only to play golf), and how we wished we could continue the event.
What little resistance we got came from the handful of people whose only financial support to Generations Group Homes came from buying a ticket for the golf day.
The more we talked with our volunteers and golfers, the more people realized that, as a nonprofit organization, we just couldn't be spending so much time putting on a nice day of golf for everyone. We also realized that we had a strong group of volunteers who were a great help on the day of the event, but they did not have the time or energy to put into the planning and execution of the event.
A few months into this process, we were doing a Point of Entry at our children's home for a group of Rotarians. We got to talking about their annual charity golf tournament, the proceeds of which had been given to another organization that had only wanted to show up and take the check. The Rotarians heard us talking about our support system of great volunteers for the day of the event, and, of course, the passion for our mission. A week later, we received a call from the Rotary Club saying they were naming us full recipient of their tournament's proceeds. We said a big thank you, sent out information about this new tournament to all of our past golfers, signed up our volunteers to help work the day of their tournament, and even had our executive director and board chair there at the awards dinner to say a few words about Generations Group Homes and to pick up the check. What a win-win!