February 20, 2009
If planned thoughtfully and according to the advice below from Habitat supporters, events can be a tremendous way to spread the word about a cause while at the same time to mobilize the funds that move its mission forward.
Step one: Aim for a broader strategy
If we think beyond the event itself and develop strategy that promotes long term advocacy, participation and giving, then events can be fantastically successful. Face to face, community-level participation gives passion, force and unity to our mission. Even the host experiences a renewed sense of motivation that lasts long after the guests have departed. Whether we are Habitat advocates, volunteers, donors or staff, events that fit into a longer-term objective can serve to catalyze our cause.
Special events might serve to publicly express gratitude to donors, spark new waves of participation, or kick-off an advocacy or fundraising campaign. Or maybe our event’s long-term goal is to simply pull our friends away from the television and introduce a more meaningful way for them to spend their time.
The key is to be strategic—not just about what happens during the event, but about the before and after as well. It is important that we fit our events into a larger picture. What, in the long term, do we hope to accomplish?
Step two: Don’t be afraid to invite help in times of crisis
Some studies show that donations to humanitarian causes actually increase during times of financial recession. A study by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University demonstrates that when economies show stress, giving still grows. In fact, the same study indicates that contributions to humanitarian and public-benefit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity often show an even higher rate of growth during longer recessions. (Giving USA Foundation, Spotlight Issue 3, 2008)
Maybe it’s due to the sense of solidarity that we feel when struck with tougher times. As we watch the housing deficit numbers rise and the global economy in turmoil, we are reminded that we cannot resolve this problem alone. Now more than ever, Habitat needs its most loyal advocates, donors and volunteers to be part of the solution. Even though these Habitat supporters may be experiencing tough times as well, remember that we are in this together. While we can use events as an opportunity to thank loyal supporters, we also need to involve new audiences in spreading our message and our mission of hope to more and more ears.
Step three: Ask people to ‘come on out’, and you’ve gained their attention
A study published in the October 2008 edition of the Journal of Consumer Research confirms that “asking for people’s time connects them with the deep mission of the organization, which makes them more inspired to be involved in that endeavor in every way.” Asking for people’s time need not rest solely on the shoulders of Habitat staff, nor should it be confined to the construction site. Events, such as concerts and benefits, are a great way for supporters, readers and Habitat staff to call out to their communities.
There are myriad ways for people to donate their time and energy—to act on behalf of housing. At Habitat, we break the verb “act” into three categories. Your event should do its best to promote all of them:
By strategically raising awareness, participation and funding in both abundant and challenging financial times, Habitat advocates keep resources and community support in motion; so that we can continue to raise more walls, helping more families achieve their dream of adequate shelter.