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Quick – think about something you do every year. Maybe it’s a vacation you take every summer, celebrating a friend’s birthday, or even carving Halloween pumpkins with your family. Regardless of the activity, we all have traditions that transcend time and age. For me, the tradition I look forward to most is the long car ride my family takes every summer to Maine – that feeling of freedom when we have everyone and everything we need packed up and ready for adventure is incomparable.
Now, think about why you keep doing it. You do things every year that could evolve into a tradition, but we choose to move on, to try something new. Only a few things stick and become part of our yearly rituals. What sets those things apart from the pack?
Hopefully, your answer didn’t involve the words “Because I’ve done it for 20 years.”
I recently met with a client to discuss a big fundraising event that is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The room was filled with people who worked closely on the event and were instrumental to much of its success. We were discussing why the event is important and what purpose it serves for the organization. The room became quiet. After a lengthy silence, someone answered “because we’ve done it for 20 years.”
As important as traditions can be to our lives, they shouldn’t continue purely for the sake of longevity. We keep traditions because they have meaning and still serve an important purpose. I’m not excited about our trip to Maine because we are traveling different roads or seeing new things along the way – we’ve memorized almost every rest stop on I95. I am excited about our trip to Maine because I know it’s a time when our family will connect and create more memories.
The same is true for fundraising events – we shouldn’t keep events going for the sake of tradition. Instead, your fundraising events should become a tradition because they can evoke the same level of meaning in year 20 that they did in year 1. And this meaning doesn’t come from walking or cycling or running through mud. The meaning comes from how you connect your participants to your mission and to each other, and help them create new memories.
As you plan and expand, or condense, your portfolio of programs for 2016 ask yourself and your team “why are we having this event?” Is it because it is the best channel to connect with your supporters and raise revenue? Or is it because it’s what you’ve always done?
What you’ve always done has gotten you this far, but what you have yet to explore is what will ignite your future success.
Evolve and design your fundraising programs with your constituents in mind. Download our free e-book "The Participant Gears" and explore the three reasons people participate in your peer-to-peer events.