It’s the end of the year so it’s time to reflect on 2022. Here are some trends, changes and challenges that stood out for us in the fundraising world. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!
2022 – The Return to the Ballroom
Out of all of the fundraising events we helped produce over the year, the vast majority (82%) were completely in-person. 10% of our events had a hybrid element, meaning a combination of in-person and virtual. The remaining 8% of our events were virtual only. It’s safe to say that after two+ years of mostly staying home, folks were ready to trade the couch and laptop for suits and heels! We did notice some key changes with in-person events, post pandemic.
Perhaps the most notable change is that events are shorter now than they were before the pandemic. They used to be four to five hours, from the time the doors opened to the after-party. In 2022, pretty much everything at events was just a little bit shorter – from the cocktail hour, to the revenue stream activities, to the live program and auction. That is, if there even was a live auction. Another 2022 trend was an increase in appeal-only events.
Longer Appeals or Appeal-Only Formats
While events overall were shorter, special appeals didn’t follow this pattern. Many of the events we were involved in actually saw longer appeals. Special appeals will always be the beating hearts of your fundraisers, so we’re thrilled to see more attention AND intention lavished on them!
About 60% of the time, live auctions came after appeals, if they were featured at all. You know what we didn’t see much at all in 2022? Onsite traditional silent auctions. Silent auctions are mostly online now, which makes sense. Online auctions have been outperforming traditional silent auctions for years, even pre-pandemic. Onsite silent auctions are incredibly (and often prohibitively) labor-intensive. From procurement, to set-up, to getting the items in the hands of the winners, they’re a ton of work! Not to mention, the only people who participate in your onsite silent auction are the folks in the room. On the other hand, online auctions are available to anyone with a wi-fi connection and a credit card. Never say never, but we don’t predict onsite silent auctions will ever make much of a comeback. The world is just too digital now!
A return to in-person events included some challenges for all of us, particularly venues and onsite vendors. Staffing issues, being out of practice and new donor expectations caused slower service and a few more hiccups with regard to registration, catering and AV tech, than we saw pre-pandemic. Perhaps we’re all a little rusty with live events, after an extended quarantine! It won’t last. And guests are just way too excited to be in-person again, to allow some minor frustrations at events to spoil their fun. In fact, some guests have been maybe just a little TOO excited to socialize, leading to other hiccups (pun intended).
Being in person again is joyous, no doubt about it. So much so, we’re noticing more guests have forgotten their limits! Guests are drinking more, faster, despite shortened cocktail hours. Once the novelty of being in-person wears off a bit in 2023, it’s likely a situation that’ll resolve itself (we hope). Meanwhile, take some extra steps to ensure this doesn’t become what everyone is talking about at your event, in lieu of talking about the great work you’re doing. One idea? Pass heavier hors d’oeuvres during a shorter cocktail hour and limit hard liquor.
What were the big sellers in 2022? Much like during the pandemic, home improvement packages sold very well in this market. And people continue to favor Experiences over Effects. That’s actually a trend that started a couple of years before the pandemic, much like online auctions eclipsing onsite silent auctions. People have more of a desire for trips and activities, than tangible things. Capitalize on your supporters’ wanderlust by considering consignment companies, if you aren’t already doing so. Need a referral? We work with some fantastic ones – reach out!
A quick caveat – be super clear with terms of travel. We’ve had some feedback about guests not knowing exactly what they were purchasing. And everyone wants to know HOW LONG they have to make plans to travel. Extended travel dates are all the rage these days.
MAA Memorable Moments
It’s always fun to wrap up a year by looking back upon some of its memorable moments. Here are some of our favorite highlights from 2022:
*Raising nearly a million dollars ($900K) from the stage at GoWest Credit Union Association
*Selling Two Rounds of Specialty Cocktails from the stage
*RMHC Multi-City Gala (Portland, Bend, Springfield and virtual events) raising a record-setting $1.2 million.
A Few We’d Like to Forget
*Disappearing emcees, volunteers or other key staff members mid-event
*Catching Covid from a shared microphone
*Two Separate Drawings Placed in the SAME Bowl (ha!)