Many charitable organizations host one or more fundraising events during the year. If your organization intends to do so, there are many things to keep in mind as you begin to plan. Here are ten things you can do to ensure your next event is a smashing success:
1. Decide if your event will be a fundraiser or a “friendraiser”. If you are going to go to all the trouble of bringing people together, you must be clear if your goal is to raise a substantial amount of moneyor if you are more interested in engaging new contacts who you may approach at some point in the future for a financial contribution. There is a big difference between the amount of resources involved in hosting a fundraiser and a friend raiser so decide what your overall goal is before you go any further.
2. Weather Dependency. Let’s face it, for any event you are hosting outdoors, weather can be a make or break factor. Even events that take place in the warmer weather are subject to rain or storms. If you are going to host an outdoor event, explore the idea of an alternative indoor space where the event can take place should the weather not cooperate, or at least plan on putting up some tents. Alternatively, you can schedule a rain date if you are unable to move indoors or provide cover.
3. Insurance. Further to the weather concern, if your event must take place rain or shine, make sure you consider having the proper insurance coverage. Our local tall ship event last year was very much affected by the weather but the organizers carried substantial insurance coverage that reimbursed them for lost revenue, allowing the event to still be successful.
Your organization also may be able to take out a rider on your current coverage to cover any incidents where the event is being hosted. If someone is injured at your event, it is critical to have the right coverage.
4. Possibilities for growth. Many (if not all) events have the possibility of growth and for becoming signature events that people look forward to attending year after year. Make sure your event is something that can accommodate more people each year and plan for ways to gain more sponsorship and/or revenue each subsequent year. The London United Way started a stair climb in 1995 which raised $14,000 the first year. It now raises more than $100,000 because there are almost limitless sources of participants for this type of event and, over the years, sponsorship has grown immensely for this event.
5. Auctions. Many events have a silent and/or live auction component. If you are going to do a live auction, find an effective auctioneer who is either a volunteer or a professional auctioneer. Professional auctioneers can cost you a bit, but generally are a great investment as they can obtain higher amounts for auction items. I personally know of an auctioneer who obtained $3,000 in bids for just one purse! For the silent auction, it is generally better to have several big items that are each valued at approximately $200. Try having different themes like a weekend getaway, a celebrity cooked backyard bbq, hair products, men’s themed products and book packages. For the live auction, one of the items that I have seen get great bids is Date Night for a Year, which involves gift cards for local restaurants, theatre passes and activities. Wine baskets also often do very well. Consider including the services of a wine sommelier as part of the package and bidding can soar.
6. Track the Success of Auction Items. When you are preparing for your event, a great idea is to create a simple spreadsheet where you list all silent and live auctions. Be sure to include the market value of each item and after the event, write down how much each item sold for. A third column can be created to list what percentage of the item’s value it sold for. Once you have this information, it can be used in deciding which items sold for their full value and in some cases, which items sold for more than their market value. You might be surprised at which items sell for less or more than their value.
7. Timing of Events. Before deciding on your next event, give some serious consideration to its. If you host the event on a weeknight, guests may like the fact that they are not giving up their weekend to attend but they may also want to leave as early as possible if they have to work the next day. Stay away from holiday weekends and statutory holidays. If you are planning multiple events, space them apart so that people don’t get burned out from attending back-to-back events. Events scheduled too close together are bad for everyone, including any volunteers who are helping out. It is unreasonable to ask people to give up multiple weekends if the events are scheduled too close together and your events may suffer financially after the first event has taken place.
8. Social Media. In today's world, all events need to be promoted on social media. If you aren’t up to date on social media, take a one day course or consider recruiting a volunteer who is familiar with a variety of networks. A separate Facebook event page is a great way to get people to share information about your event and to provide teasers as to what auction items guest can expect to see. On Twitter, create a hashtag so you followers can let their contacts know what is happening and when. Hashtags are also great for live tweeting during the event itself. Many online ticketing companies such as Eventbrite link very nicely to Facebook and Twitter.
9. Sponsorship. Sponsorship packages are a great way to engage corporate partners in your event and to help you maximize revenue. Consider how each sponsorship level will be recognized and start by asking your business suppliers for support. Who provides your group benefits, your insurance, your photocopier, and your investments? Who does your audit and where do you purchase your office supplies? If your suppliers turn you down as sponsors, ask if they would consider donating something for your auction instead. Perhaps suppliers can provide something to enhance some of your auction items and make them even more enticing.
10. Thanking everyone involved in your event is paramount. Sponsors should be recognized on all promotional materials and at the event. It’s a good idea to have a list of auction donors at the auction table or thank them in your program. After the event, be sure to send a note to everyone involved to let them know how much money your event raised and to thank them for being a part of your success. If your budget allows, thank your sponsors and donors in print media.
Don't let your next event be the victim of poor planning. Use the above tips to run a successful event that not only engages people with and builds excitement about your mission, but also raises much needed revenue for your organization.
Looking for more help with planning your next event? The CharityVillage Event Planning online eLearning course is an excellent, self-paced way to learn more about event planning. Or, for a more comprehensive understanding of event planning, consider our Special Events Bundle.
Sharon Lechner is an event planner and fundraising consultant. Her first event was the United Way Stair Climb in London, Ontario which currently raises over $100,000. Find out more about Sharon and her services at: www.reachforthestarsempowerment.com.