Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 28 2016

This Is The Most Important Piece Of Fundraising

Stacey Schafer


Every not-for-profit recognizes the importance of creating a compelling fundraising program. It’s not just about the ability to “give back”; fundraising creates the opportunities to move forward. Scholarships to help promising young members of the industry, grants to support new education initiatives and groundbreaking research to predict the next wave of change — these funds fuel the future.

Let’s face it: much of fundraising is built on corporate dollars. Think about the some of the headlines you’ve read from the political landscape of the millions spent on advertising. Much of the future of the meetings industry rests on the shoulders of a similar, checks-cut-from-a-company model. But unlike the political realm, I don’t find any problem with this approach in the convention industry. Our industry has plenty of committed destinations, hoteliers and for-profit suppliers, and the only thing they’re lobbying for is the chance to see meetings continue to thrive. Consider the 2015 Impact Report from the PCMA Education Foundation. Last year, the Education Foundation’s total fundraising revenue clocked in at a very impressive $1.4 million, and corporate giving played a major role in this. From sponsoring events like Party With A Purpose to buying tables at the Visionary Awards and more, this number wouldn’t be possible without support from big companies.

However, it doesn’t take a big check to play a big part in shaping the future. After I had a chance to dig into the report, one fact emerged from the findings: connecting with individuals is one of the most important pieces of fundraising. Last year, more than 400 individual donors collectively donated nearly $100,000 to the Education Foundation. Those dollars add up to make a real difference.

“We are so grateful for our corporate partners who have demonstrated a commitment to the future of meetings and events,” Meredith Rollins, Executive Director, PCMA Education Foundation, says. “At the same, though, we know that the future of the Foundation also relies on support at the individual level. Our fundraising numbers show that personal giving is a critical engine behind our success.”

And the “individual” piece goes both ways in the fundraising game. When you take a look at the Impact Report, you’ll find a lengthy list of the names who have contributed to the cause (not-so-subtle hint: you can add yours here), but you’ll also see an equally lengthy list of names who have benefited from those contributions. Students who received financial support for college tuition, students who received funds to attend Convening Leaders, students who were able to participate in Education Conference and more — the Impact Report may highlight what funds did in 2015, but it’s clear that the value of the $337,000 in outreach will extend well beyond the confines of a calendar year.

Tell Your Story

As you outline your own organization’s fundraising strategy, it’s important to focus on individuals, too. Think about how you can make the campaign feel more personal and more authentic. If you reward scholarships to students, invite a past recipient to write a blog post about how those funds made a difference in his or her ability to reduce financial stress during college. If you fund research, ask one of the academics who have led one of the studies to speak to your group about the findings. And no matter how you distribute your funds, offer your donors a chance to explain why they feel so powerful about the need to give.

Looking for more ideas? Click here to check out how the Education Foundation used one simple ingredient to inspire on-site donations.

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