Fun runs can be a great fundraiser for some ministries.

What type of fundraising works best for your ministry?

There are plenty of ways to fundraise. No matter if you’re requesting online donations, going door to door or organizing galas, you have plenty of options. However, limited resources can sometimes strain a nonprofit’s ability to raise money, and sometimes it’s too big a task for volunteers to take on themselves. Thus, when you’re planning an event, you want to get the biggest bang for your buck. How do you figure out which type of event works for your congregation, budget and free time you can devote to planning? Software Advice, a business software review company, recently conducted a poll of nonprofit event planners that detailed just how worthwhile popular fundraising events are for different ministries.

If your organization is small

When your ministry has few resources, any event can be tough to plan. That’s why you need to minimize time spent organizing a fundraising event while maximizing the dollars raised.

“Event cost per dollar raised is an important metric for ministry events.”

The report from Software Advice showed that while concerts, a-thon events (marathon events such as bowl-a-thons, adopt-a-thons, etc), art exhibits and sporting events all required quite a bit of planning from nonprofits with annual operating budgets of less than $5 million annually, and didn’t bring in a substantial amount of money. Galas actually required slightly less effort and brought in more money for these organizations. Fun runs and non-sporting competitions were even easier to plan and brought in even more money, while auctions led the pack in terms of money raised.

However, when it comes down to event cost compared to dollars raised, ministries with tight operating budgets may want to stick with events that require a little more planning. When asking respondents which events led to the lowest cost per dollar raised, a-thon events, art fairs, nonsporting competitions and auctions came out on top. Sports events and concerts had the highest cost per dollar raised.

If your ministry is mid-sized

Nonprofits with annual operating budgets between $6-50 million found a-thons, nonsporting competitions and auctions the easiest to plan. Art exhibitions and galas ranked in the middle of the difficulty scale, while planning concerts and sporting events was the most difficult. Interestingly, these last two had the lowest return on investment and highest cost per dollar raised. Auctions, while one of the more difficult events to plan, appears to be a strong choice for medium-sized organizations trying to raise a substantial sum. Fun runs, which were counted separately from sporting events, were another strong choice, with a strong ROI and minimal planning.

The most effective fundraiser may depend on the size of your organization.The most effective fundraiser may depend on the size of your organization.

If your nonprofit is large

Organizations with an operating budget that exceeds $50 million unsurprisingly found fun runs the easiest event to organize, and, perhaps surprisingly, the one that had the most significant ROI. A-thon events, art exhibitions, competitions, galas and concerts all fell in the middle, both with regard to planning effort required and funds raised. Auctions were the most difficult events for big nonprofits to plan, yet they brought in the least amount of money.

What about email?

If you’re looking through past initiatives in your fundraising software, you may notice a big source of donations is missing – email campaigns. While these can be incredibly effective for ministries of all sizes, you’ll need to take special precautions to ensure you get the most out of each email. The 2015 Nonprofit Email Deliverability Study shows that a whopping 1 in 8 emails never reaches a recipient’s inbox – it’s sent straight to spam. That’s nearly as high as the number of people who actually open the emails in the first place, meaning you’re missing out on huge donation potential. Even more surprising is that the average nonprofit loses almost $15,000 thanks to emails that hit a member’s spam box instead of their inbox.

“Spam costs a nonprofit an average of almost $15,000 in donations each year.”

To keep your spam rate as low as possible, the report recommends stopping all irrelevant or too-frequent emails, getting an updated send list and making sure your unsubscribe link is single-click.

No matter what your preferred fundraising initiative is, it’s important to make sure it’s manageable for your ministry, gets a decent return on investment and engages your congregation. Happy, active members will be willing to engage in email fundraising drives, fun runs or any other event they see as beneficial to the congregation – it’s just up to your team to determine what your next event will be.