Out of 365 days a year, only about 75 nights are ideal for fundraising. With as many as 21 thousand nonprofits in the country, all vying for those ideal dates; there’s a lot of competition for donors’ attention. That’s why savvy organizations first check their local calendars to make sure the special event date they’re eye-balling, doesn’t compete with other local nonprofits’ fundraising events. You never want to schedule your “Black and White Ball” on the same weekend another local charity (competing for your donors) is holding its annual “Paws for a Cause Gala.”
But that’s’ just “step 1” in choosing the right date.
There’s a lot to consider. What about weather? In the Snow Belt, those first early winter flurries can keep more people home than bigger snowfalls later in the season. By then, everyone is re-accustomed to driving in less-than-optimum conditions. If you are in the Snow Belt, consider the fact that people may prefer to drive to a daytime event rather than risk navigating slippery roads after dark, especially if they have miles to travel to your gala.
National holidays compete for everyone’s attention. During Christmas and New Years, people go to office parties, family parties, friends gatherings, and they have oh so many opportunities to over- indulge. Some organizations succeed with long established New Year’s Eve Balls, but in general, you are clawing for attendance when competing with parties galore, and your 50+ age supporters (the ones who tend to have the most potential for at-event fundraising) simply don’t want to venture out when “the big partiers” are driving tipsy.
Sports can prevent real challenges. The World Series (a particularly gripping series this year), Super Bowl, Final Four, March Madness, along with various championships and more, can grab the attention of potential attendees who would prefer vegetating in front of their TVs, watching the action; rather than venturing out in uncomfortable gowns and tuxedos.
Once you clear away competing clutter, which night of the week is best? There’s a good reason most donors prefer Saturday night events. People are rested. They have time to “gussy up” and will probably be going out for dinner anyway on a Saturday night. So why not give them a great dinner, some entertainment and the chance to support your cause! And, if they would ordinarily have spent the night with friends… so much the better! Have them invite their friends and buy an entire table! (That’s so much better than inviting the office staff… but that’s a topic for another newsletter!)
Friday nights are the next best, followed by Tuesday and Wednesday nights. But your event timing is squeezed between a long work day causing tiredness and burnout by 9 PM. So if you have an event on a Friday night, move it along quickly and complete your fundraising before 9 PM. After helping to sponsor thousands of silent auctions at events nationwide, the professionals at the 501(c)(3) American Fundraising Foundation (AmFund) always close the bidding before dinner while attendees still have energy and excitement to bid! After their meal, and speeches, they mentally shut down and wonder think “how soon can I get out of here?” Wade West, the founder of AmFund says especially on a work night; never make the mistake of asking for donor support after 9 PM. By then, the best intentions have faded, and wallets slam shut.
Finally, Thursday nights are in a league of their own. If you are seeking to cultivate younger twenty-to-thirty-something supporters, they might be fine. But you may be putting in a lot of work for a limited result. Often Thursday night events attract more singles, rather than couples, and their primary focus is meeting people and finding a date for the weekend! For organizations who want to grab the full attention of your guests to share your mission and inspire as much support as possible, Thursday nights can be hit or miss at the most.