How to Have A Successful Fundraising Event
HERE AT BLACKSTONE PRODUCTIONS, WE ARE OFTEN CHARGED WITH HELPING CLIENTS CREATE AWE-INSPIRING AND PROFITABLE FUNDRAISING EVENTS. OVER TIME, WE HAVE TAKEN NOTE OF WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DEFINITELY DOESN’T. HERE ARE OUR TIME-TESTED STRATEGIES FOR FILLING THE COFFERS AND MAKING IT ALL WORK.
Set your intentions well in advance of your event. Good planning is essential for the success of any event, but for fundraisers, this is especially true. Finding the right date is important but advance preparation gives you the optimal amount of time to do the most networking and to entice the best donors to attend and empty their pockets for your cause.
TELL A STORY
Have a clear vision and compelling theme. When do people really want to give? When they feel bored and uninspired? Not so much. Here's an example: a fundraiser for women's cardiac health research. Sounds a bit dry? Maybe. So make it a "Queen of Hearts" masquerade ball with video stories of women whose lives have been saved by the research you are funding with this event. People will donate the most when they feel part of something meaningful that will add value to their life or the lives of others beyond the money they are offering. Make an emotional connection! Your story and the stories of those you are working to help will be the most important part of your fundraising efforts.
Be clear about your “ask” and do it well. Know precisely what you’re wanting people to do. Do you hope every invited guest will give at least $5? Do you want every table sold out? Hoping to raise a million bucks? Make sure you clearly communicate your goal and give people compelling reasons to help you achieve it. New technologies make it easy to fundraise in new and inventive ways--maybe have a Square reader at each table or use ApplePay One simple credit card swipe or smartphone tap allows people to immediately and effortlessly donate.
Make sure you start planning with a specific number in mind of what you need to raise to make the event worth holding in the first place. Joe Garecht author of The Fundraising Authority, gives this advice: “Use the 80 / 20 rule. Focus 80% of your time on the 20% of activities that will raise the majority of the money for your event.” Then know what you need and want to raise beyond just covering your expenses. Keep your costs low (for great tips on how to do this, get our free cheat sheet on How to Make a Big Impact on a Small Budget) so you don’t spend more than you make. The point of fundraising events, after all is raising actual funds.
Because you have created a compelling story about your event, naturally, people will want to hear about it. Use all of the promotional channels at your disposal for more media attention. Social media, your website, your CRM (customer relationship management) system / email network, print news, and television media to promote your event. Early in the planning stages, make your media strategy a key part of your event blueprint.
HAVE A GREAT TEAM
No one can do anything really extraordinary alone. A stellar support system is key to success on all levels. Hiring a great event production team (like, say, Blackstone Productions) gives you the best chance for optimal success. These are the people who will fix what breaks, do the magic work that makes everything look seamless and buttoned up and help to give your attendees the experience of a lifetime.
TAP YOUR NETWORK
And your network’s network. Mine your address book for the most connected people you know and ask each of them to mine theirs--create a ripple effect of networking. This will help you naturally find the best people who will feel most compelled to attend and give. At the actual event, have one person at each table designated as the host or hostess--a kind of “network leader” who you know can create connections and encourage participation amongst the guests. In addition, for the most connected donors, make sure you reward referrals and great connections with special acts of gratitude.
If your organization is footing the bill for the event in its entirety, chances are you won’t make as much as you hope or expect. Money you save is money that goes to your cause. Find corporate sponsors to underwrite major expenses. Having sponsors, major donors who purchase tables, offer amazing auction items or who help promote your major monetary requests is essential. Find companies whose work dovetails well with your needs (i.e. a footwear company sponsor for a walk-a-thon or a medical supplies company for an overseas medical aid fundraiser) so that the connection feels natural to what you’re trying to accomplish.
HAVE A PURPOSE
The event you hold will be all about the cause you’re trying to support, so everything you do should serve that purpose. Running a fundraiser for an environmental organization? Make it a zero-waste event! Encourage all attendees to wear used clothing, show a short film about garbage gyres in the ocean, have an interactive composting station or have a “which table can produce the least amount of garbage” contest. Get people engaged in the purpose and they will be far more inclined to write you a check at the end.
MAKE IT MEMORABLE
Especially if you’re hoping that your event isn’t just a one-off but becomes an annual event of note for your organization, creating something meaningful and memorable is essential. An original and unique event is sure to create repeat business. But don’t judge the outcome--it may take time to build the relationships that will yield something lasting. Creating a network and building relationships can take time but will pave the way for even more successful events in the future.
Two essential post-fundraiser items:
1. Persevere with attendees that didn’t donate at the event. Maybe they wanted to offer support but for various reasons couldn’t do so at the time of the event. See if they might be more amenable in the event after-glow.
2. Take time to sit down with your team for some feedback. Figure out what worked well (and troubleshoot what didn’t) and repeat the formula again next year with a new theme and fresh ideas. (You can visit our Pinterest boards if you want to see what is inspiring us).
WE HOPE YOU NOW FEEL READY TO HIT THE GROUND RUNNING WITH YOUR FUNDRAISING EVENT. WE ARE HERE TO HELP EVERY STEP OF THE WAY. GET IN TOUCH AND LET US SHOW YOU THAT THE POSSIBILITIES FOR YOUR NEXT EVENT ARE BEYOND YOUR IMAGINATION.