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When it comes to surviving and thriving in the nonprofit world, doing the same thing year after year can get a bit stale. After all, if you’re hosting an event for your closest supporters on a yearly basis, it can be hard to come up with new ideas to keep supporters engaged.
After hosting a Gala for 23 years, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Wake County wanted to rethink its fundraising strategy. Luckily, the SPCA of Wake County management team quickly realized that change, although scary, was needed to continue the trend of success.
Throughout the last two decades hosting an annual gala, the SPCA of Wake County has gone through changes. From its origins in a small ballroom of a local country club to an elegant and large event space on a college campus, the SPCA of Wake County’s annual gala has seen it all.
In 2014, the event saw an incredible crowd of over 600 people. Guests included major donors and sponsors who paid over $400 per person for a reserved seat or table, to individual supporters that paid $125 for a general admission/standing room only ticket. While the attendance numbers and excitement around the event created a buzz, the SPCA of Wake County wasn’t celebrating. The fundraising team was at a loss as to why such a large crowd wasn’t helping them hit financial goals and maximize ROI. So the team quickly agreed something had to change.
After below goal fundraising years in 2014 and 2015, the SPCA of Wake County left their fundraising platform for a new option. They returned to OneCause (formerly BidPal) in 2016 because of the back-end event fundraising software. Easy access to data, reporting and analytics and robust event management functionality were critical needs they had to revisit, to power new growth.
“The mobile bidding interface was pretty similar for the users and attendees,” said Amy Crum, Director of Events at SPCA of Wake County. “On the backend, however, the simplicity of OneCause was a no-brainer. OneCause simply makes our jobs easier; so we have more time to focus on fundraising and trying new ideas.”
So, the SPCA of Wake County team came back to OneCause. 2016 also marked the year where the SPCA of Wake County decided to take their event in a different direction entirely.
In prior years, the SPCA of Wake County team relied on quantity of attendees, their new model flipped that thinking on its head.
“It’s common knowledge that if a supporter can give you $500, they typically have the capacity to give you more,” said Crum. “So, we made our tickets $500 a piece, our tables $5,000 a piece, and set an event limit of 350 people. The goal was to create an exclusive, competitive environment for our attendees and sponsors.”
With the help of deliberate messaging to smooth down any ruffled feathers, the SPCA of Wake County team successfully reinvented a decades-long event. After implementing these changes they exceeded their 2016 fundraising goal.
But the team wasn’t done! They decided to double down on more changes over the next two years to drive more growth and bigger results. They focused on higher end auction items, a new auctioneer that was able to connect donors to the mission, message and impact, plus a variety of new live fundraising tactics. In the end, their 2018 auction was nearly $60,000 over goal. The SPCA of Wake County team realized they had made the right decision to revamp a beloved local charity event for the better.
“It’s a hard decision to make, but we realized that this event needed to be more than volunteer appreciation and a great party,” said Crum. “We’re here to get support for a real mission with real operations to fund, and to do that we had to focus on raising as much as possible.”
While pivoting focus can be daunting, the SPCA of Wake County success story shows how taking a hard look at events and making necessary changes, helps keep your fundraising relevant.
“Sometimes you need to make that big scary leap,” said Crum. “You need to be able to trust that you have the right people in the seats to be able to hit your goals. You need to trust that your platform will work as hard as you do. And, you need to trust that no matter what, you’ll be able to top your latest success. It’s all about sustainable growth!”
For more information or to make a donation to the SPCA of Wake County, please visit their https://spcawake.org/.
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