A few weeks ago, when I was in a jovial mood, I thought it would be funny to start a conversation on Twitter about bad fundraising ideas. I was trying to see how creative my cohort of nonprofit fundraisers could be, so I sent out a request to my friends asking them to suggest fictional bad ideas, and I used the PETA Foie Gras Festival as an example. Obviously, if you know anything about the organization, they would never have such an event because they think that overfeeding a duck or goose to fatten its liver for the enjoyment of epicurean experience is wrong and unethical.
At first, I didn’t get many responses, but eventually I started getting some submissions. I got suggestions for Tanning Day to raise money for Skin Cancer Prevention, a pub crawl to benefit Alcoholics Anonymous, a cigar sale to benefit a children’s hospital, a smoke-a-thon to end lung cancer, a casino night to benefit Gambler’s Anonymous, and a cause marketing campaign where 10% of the sales of deep fried food went to battling childhood obesity. There were several other fictional events and ideas, but for some reason, Twitter has lost them.
Then, surprisingly, I got suggestions from people about fundraising efforts that actually took place. One contributor mentioned a fundraising dinner for the American Heart Association that had prime rib, smothered potatoes, and cheesecake on the menu. All of those items will clog your arteries in a New York minute. Another mentioned a door knocking event in the middle of winter. Someone else mentioned a concert event where the cost of the event nearly matched the money brought in. Talk about a bad return on investment. And then another mentioned Komen’s questionable cause marketing partnerships like the KFC pink buckets of greasy fried chicken or a gun maker that made a special edition pink handgun.
Last spring, my friend and fellow blogger, Michael Rosen, posted this blog about another case where a group held an annual fundraising event that was at odds with its mission. Many of his polled readers thought this was an inappropriate way to raise money for the organization’s cause.
When you are planning a fundraising event or partnering with a business for a cause marketing effort, spend some time thinking about what you are doing. Will your event be something that fits with the mission of your organization or will it be counter productive to what your organization is trying to do? Is the business partner someone whose product is or is not something in line with your mission?
Be creative with your fundraising efforts, but don’t end up as the butt of some fundraiser’s snarky attempt at humor.