Fundraisers can succeed or fail because of many factors. Having helped shaped many fundraisers over the years I have seen tried and true approaches go down in flames while new approaches have been surprise hits to be brought back the following year. Here are a few tips to help your next fundraiser succeed and bring in the support that you need:
Set Your Goal
As with any allocation of resources, clearly define your goal before entering the planning stages. Are you throwing a traditional fundraiser to seek donations? Are you working to increase your database of supporters or gain a new batch of volunteers? Are you primarily trying to educate your guests or spread the word among select groups of individuals? Whatever your goal or goals, it is important that you always intertwine them with the activities at your event.
Once you have your goal, you should invite your guests accordingly. I have been to too many events that did not seem to align their guest list with their anticipated outcome. If it is appropriate, is your event listed online for ticket sales and further information? Are you trying to bring in a new group of supporters or the same donors year after year? Will your event only be successful if the guests are energetic and open to non-traditional formats? Which is more important, the checkbook or the influence? Events can fall flat if the sit down dinner crowd is invited to a night of sensory overload and many of today’s hands-on supporters do not want to sit through lecture after lecture.
Entertain While You Educate
Are you seriously going to turn down the lights and show another film this year? Is that your centerpiece? Couldn’t you have just posted it on YouTube and sent it out to your supporters? Your job is to make the roomful of guests want to help you reach your goal. Whether you need their funds, energy, or contacts, you must make them care. The better fundraisers breathe life into their mission by bringing supporters to the field. Some events are literally thrown at facilities, bands or DJs play relevant, themed music, decorations and cocktails playfully highlight stories from throughout the year. It is important to have your mission permeate every aspect of the event but never let it seem overwhelming. The best aspects of any event have a sense of self-discovery on behalf of the guests.
Go Off Script
Too many fundraisers try to cram four hours into two. While you need your script, leave room for the unexpected. If you are throwing the same fundraiser every year, don’t you think the same guests will find it boring? One of the best solutions to this problem is to have something in your script that is not in the program. Guests love to be surprised with a unique idea, an extra auction item, or a special guest however you have to ensure that you have room in your program for this. If your guests are looking at the clock and you add another item to the program then you may lose them forever.
Cover All the Bases
It is easy to get caught up in new ideas and throw them all into your event. New ideas are fine but you need to always provide the essentials. Do you have appropriate food? Will you be able to meet the dietary requirements of your guests? Never have your attendees go away on an empty stomach. Is your location easily accessible? Will guests be caught in grid lock trying to get to your event? Can attendees use public transportation or easily arrive by taxi if need be? Guests are also accustomed to a takeaway. I realize that gift bags may not be for everyone however leaving empty handed is a sure way to end your conversation with your supporters at the end of the fundraiser. Provide information for social media use as well. This past weekend I was at an event where the venue, event, and charity did not have Twitter handles. I was also not provided with a hashtag to follow the event online. This is a basic misstep among organizations that are failing to keep conversations going after the event.
Did you hire a photographer? Will the event be covered in the local press? Will there be more opportunities for your guests to help? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you need to gather contact information and keep your guests informed after the event. Send a photo, add them to your newsletter (I really hope that you have one), or keep them on file for your next ask. It’s up to you to stay on top of the conversation that is crucial to your mission.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of how to throw a successful fundraiser, however too many events miss some of these basic points.
I would love to hear your advice for putting on a successful fundraiser. Be sure to share your tips in the comments section below so that we can all hopefully take steps closer to accomplishing our missions.