The 5 W’s of the Non-Event: Throw an Event Your Alumni Want to Attend

Your alumni love you. That’s the first thing to remember. They don’t love coming to your events, or even talking on the phone while you try to wrangle some money or information out of them.

Institutional advancement departments get funds from a variety of places. You’re asking alumni, foundations, corporations, and other sources.

For some of these groups, big shindigs are going to be the best way to reach them. For these, you plan creative, inspired events that keep them on the edge of the seat waiting for the next one.

Others may need a lighter touch. Maybe even no touch.

But we all have those close but introverted friends who just don’t like to come to parties. It would be unwise to assume all lack of involvement means complete disinterest.

But for easy-peasy alumni outreach fundraising, we’d like to present:

The non-event fundraiser brought to you by the power of marketing automation.

What the Heck Is a Non-Event?

A non-event fundraiser is a way to raise money by promoting an event you’re not having, and by being very clear you’re not having an event.

Donors are thanked for their involvement by not having to attend something.

This is a thing.

Sure, it’s a very silly (and pretty ballsy) way to raise money, but this is how it works:

Start by having fun. Come up with some creative names. Think of fancier, black-tie events as well as more casual affairs.

  • The Stay At Home Non-Gala
  • The Fanciest Shabang You’ve Ever Gone To Without Going To
  • The Hula-At-Home Non-Luau
  • The Have-A-Cocktail-Whenever-You-Want Non-Event
  • The “No, I wasn’t there, because no one was there” Event of The Year!

And your invites elaborate on this event that you’re not throwing, and how you’re so excited to have them not attend.

The Dr. Seuss Medical College of America Alumni Association is thrilled to invite you to its 1st Annual Non-Event. It will not happen on [date the campaign ends]. Cocktail hour will not start at 5:30 and no one is going to give a speech at 7 pm.

In lieu of attending this event that no one else will be attending, we respectfully request you do something else nice for yourself.

Why Should I Use Non-Event Fundraiser For Alumni Outreach?

A non-event impresses those who aren’t interested in real-live events. It also saves your department significant time and money.

Community colleges and other organizations have been encouraged to reconsider event-based fundraising efforts, anyway. Sure, you may raise 50k but may shell out 30K in the effort of throwing it.

How Will a Non-Event Fundraiser Make Me Money?

You’re going to love this.

There are several ways to make money off a non-event fundraiser, all easy.

One way is to sell tickets to the event you’re asking them not to attend. The ticket gives them permission to not go anywhere.

We know you love Dr. Seuss Medical College of America and value the time you spent here. You look back with fondness at the hours spent on the campus. We also know you’re a busy person, and you’d like a night at home once in a while.

Please join us in our non-event, where you celebrate your school by not coming.

Tickets for this event are $50.

You can also ask for donations equal to the amount an attendee would expect to spend coming to such an event. Make the suggestions match the “type” of non-event you’re throwing (i.e. black tie vs. an after-work cocktail hour).

In attending this non-event, you’ll save yourself:

  • The price of the tux or dress you’d have bought or rented
  • Babysitter money and all the pizza you would have paid for
  • Cab rides or parking fees
  • The cost of the ticket itself
  • The hassle of convincing someone to go with you

Or make it simple:

This year, instead of hosting a large formal fundraising event with high-priced tickets, we’re hoping to funnel as much money as possible into our mission. This year we plan to [describe your project or goal]. Please consider making a donation at this time, as all money will go to supporting the mission, rather than planning the event.

When Should I Throw a Non-Event?

You can throw a non-event at any time during the year that fits your schedule. You can also arrange it around televised events throughout the year. Perhaps you can plan a non-event during a big rivalry game or a movie or documentary around someone associated with your school or city.

Where Does Marketing Automation Come into This?

A non-event fundraiser may not work for every situation. Many donors love the events, and may not be impressed by this new way to raise funds.

This is just one of the areas where marketing automation steps up and saves the day.

You could send the same information to everyone on your alumni and donor list. Or you can segment your groups. Send the non-event invites to those alumni who open your emails and visit your site, but show little interest in attending events.

Add these individuals to the campaign in your system that counts down to the event date and sends automated email reminders.

  • One Month Out: Don’t forget to RSVP to this event we’re not throwing!
  • Three Weeks Out: I better not see you trying to sneak into our non-event!
  • Two Weeks Out: Are you still trying to decide if you’re not going to the thing we’re not throwing?
  • Five Days Out: Only 5 days out to get your anti-RSVP in!
  • Day Of: Don’t forget to pick up the popcorn and beer for your night on the couch!

The emails link to a landing page with more information about the event. Describe what you’re using the donations for, and add a “Donate Now” button disguised as an RSVP.

Once they donate, add them to another email campaign for “cheekily-engaged donors only.” Continue to market to them with relevant information on fundraising goals, campus or alumni news, and other events they may (or may not?) want to go to.

Whether you’re finding better ways to engage with those alumni who have gone cold or are promoting a real-live swanky affair, marketing automation can help you keep all your alumni involved.

Still Looking For Inspiring Fundraising Ideas?