26 Apr

What’s Next? Beyond Annual Dinners

Earlier this week I wrote a blog post entitled The Courage to Kill It that asked if organizations really are getting the ROI on their annual events to warrant continuing to host them yearly. Annual dinners are notoriously draining of organizational time and transactional, rather than relational, in nature.  I think that I touched on a nerve. Many wrote back, commented or messaged me something to the equivalent of “amen” and others lamented that they feel they have to keep having their gala because there is no other option.

I want to suggest some ideas about what a post-annual dinner world may look like for your organization. You could . . .

  1. Organize a series of smaller events that allow for substantive conversation to be held at board members’ or donors’ homes or offices. Consider hot topic panels and discussions, Jeffersonian dinners or special briefings by experts.
  2. Have a listening tour that brings an important question to your stakeholders and donors and report back to your entire community on the findings at a gathering.
  3. Organize a day of volunteering for your donors and their guests across your organization with a celebration with your staff at the end.
  4. Mix it up and have smaller experiential outings instead of a dinner.  Do something together whether it is golfing, bowling, cooking, seeing a play, or going to a concert or a comedy show. Shared experiences build relationships more than sitting in seats and listening to speeches.  They are also often – not always – more fun!
  5. Organize a participatory “Your Organization’s Got Talent”, art exhibit or fashion show depending on your crowd.
  6. Get creative! You know your people and you know your organization. How can you create less stressful (for all those involved), more meaningful opportunities for people to get to know each other better, learn more about your organization and raise money?  I would love to hear your ideas.

Nanette Fridman, MPP, JD, is President of Fridman Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, financial resource development, governance and leadership coaching for nonprofits. She is the author of On Board: What Current and Aspiring Board Members Must Know About Nonprofits & Board Service. She can be reached at


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There are 1 comments on this post.

  1. David Chivo

    April 26, 2017

    100 percent in target. Focus on building immersive relationships with prospective supporters, not recreating the fundraising cycle each year. Well said, Nanette!

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