Kyle Penney

Though the leaves on area trees do not appear ready to fall, the weather forecast this week included a few hints that summer may be releasing its grip. As the heat of summer gives way to fall, it is time to look forward to fall rituals such as football and fundraising galas. In the nonprofit world, successful annual fundraising is vital for organizations to achieve their mission. Annual fundraising takes many forms, such as mail appeals, email requests, social media events such as East Texas Giving Day, golf tournaments, skeet shoots, fun runs, luncheons and galas. The fall calendar at visittyler.com is full of opportunities to get out and actively participate in various fundraisers. As a donor considering an invitation to a fundraising event benefiting a local charity, you may ask yourself, “Why should I attend this event?”

In the book “The Seven Faces of Philanthropy,” authors and social scientists Russ Alan Prince and Karen Maru File attempted to categorize donors by their giving style. At a typical fundraising event you may find donors fitting several of the styles identified by Prince and File, including the dynast, the devout and the communitarian. These donors give out of their family tradition, religious convictions or because they want to support their community, respectively. The donor who really is in their element at a gala, however, is the socialite. “Socialites find social functions benefiting nonprofits an especially appealing way to help make a better world and have a good time doing it,” according to the book. Galas and events such as golf tournaments and fun runs are all about doing good and having fun. Socialites, according to the research for the book, make up a little over 10% of donors. The chances are high that you know a donor like this. In fact, knowing this type of donor might be why you received an invitation in the first place.

There are several good reasons to attend fundraising events. One of the primary reasons to attend an event is to honor the person asking you to attend, and to enjoy their company. A socialite, according to Prince and File, recognizes the fundraising challenge of an organization and puts their skills to work to create and support a fun event that will attract others. Socialites can receive criticism from the other 90% of donors who don’t operate from the mindset of doing good while having fun, but this criticism is often unfair when the final fundraising results are tallied. Event fundraising is the most expensive type of fundraising, but fun and interesting events attract donors that might otherwise overlook the accomplishments of an important community organization.

Another important reason to attend a fundraising event is to learn more about a charity. If you attend an event at the request of one of your friends, don’t miss the opportunity to ask them (and other attendees) how they became involved with the nonprofit and why they spend their time and resources to support it. In addition to casual conversations, there is usually a strategic moment in the program at a fundraising event when the music and laughter pause, and the spotlight is focused on the accomplishments of the organization. This is the key moment when all the effort, energy and enthusiasm of the occasion are lined up with the mission. I encourage you to take time to listen and learn.

Finally, we are all very busy people who lead very busy lives, but at the end of the day, many local charities rely on our support to provide the programs and services that are needed in our community. Fundraising events provide the critical resources to allow them to accomplish their mission. For many nonprofits, their primary fundraising event provides a significant portion of their annual income. To these organizations, the primary objective of an event is fundraising success, followed in the distance by enjoyment and entertainment.

As you consider various ways to support local charities this fall, don’t miss the opportunity to show your support by attending an event or gala. It is not against the rules to have fun fundraising. Fun fall philanthropy may be your next best opportunity to give well.

Guest columnist Kyle Penney is president of East Texas Communities Foundation and a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy. Philanthropy builds community and changes lives. ETCF supports philanthropy by providing simple ways for donors to achieve their charitable goals. To learn more about ETCF or to discuss your charitable giving, contact Kyle at 866-533-3823 or email questions or comments to etcf@etcf.org. More information is available at www.etcf.org.

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