The Financial Industries Dinner that benefits National Jewish Health (NJH) - the leading respiratory medical & research center in the country - continues to draw a great crowd and raise critical funds for NJH.
The 2015 Financial Industries Dinner was once again a stellar affair. While many events struggle and even disappear this dinner marked its 36th year in 2015; had 700 in attendance and raised more than $500,000.
It was a privilege to be invited to attend this year!
What do you think is the key to longevity for annual fundraisers?
I know one organization that had been hosting a food industry golf tournament for 26 years. A few industry changes in 2013 made for a smaller tournament in 2014 and that was it! After 26 years - Poof! - It was gone!
I managed the National Jewish Health Financial Industries Dinner for five years from 2002 to 2007 then passed the baton in 2008 when I hired Mattie Shepheard. I went on to work for them for another 4 1/2 years, running the East Coast Regional office. All total I worked for them for nearly a decade.
Not only does NJH still has a special place in my heart but they imprinted me with a great event formula! One that I encourage organizations to emulate if possible.
Here are two things NJH does that keeps this dinner going - along with others dinners and events that they host across the country:
1. Strategic recruitment of the Honorees & Chairs
First they identify the REAL movers and shakers in the commercial finance industry to serve as honoree. Often the REAL influencers in an industry are not in the spotlight. Keeping in touch with the industry is important. Second the Dinner Chair is recruited with the thought that he/she will likely be an honoree two years in the future. Third Honorees are asked to become Trustees 2 years after they've been honored. Do you see the trend? It's a great pipeline, that also creates a group of industry experts that will help keep staff connected to the industry. It's BRILLIANT!!!!
2. Sticking with a tried & true annual campaign timeline and dinner format
Year after year, it's the same formula. ID the next year's honoree & the Chair at the current year's dinner. Plan the Kick-off with a fundraising goal of about 30%. Recruit the remaining committee based on their commitment level. Look to the honoree and the Chair to call on their industry colleagues. Retain previous donors and participants. (Their retention rate from year-to-year is incredible.) And the dinner format has been the same for so many years.... a long cocktail hour to maximize networking and a very short speaking program during dinner.
With so many successful years under their belt, NJH's Financial Industries Dinner is considered a "must-attend" industry event. I know most nonprofits wish they could boast about their annual gala or awards dinner that way.
What are your thoughts regarding event longevity?