Fundraising can be a tough activity. The goal is to make as much money as possible while spending as little as possible. Depending on who is doing the fundraiser, resources may be incredibly limited so here are 5 tips to help you in planning a successful fundraising event:
1. Keep Your Expectations in Line with Your Budget
Everyone does it. You see something amazing and you think “I can do that!” But first and foremost you have to assess your budget. I’ve seen fundraisers done on $100 and fundraisers done on $40,000. As you can imagine, these were 2 very different events.
People who don’t have a personal connection to you or your organization are not likely to give you things for free, even if you are raising money for a good cause. So start where you can. First think of all of your connections or those who you know have a personal association with what you are trying to do and go from there.
If you have a small budget, start with cutting back on expenses where you can, including the date, time and location of your event. Don’t pick a club on Saturday evening in downtown Chicago for 300 people and expect to walk away spending $5,000 or less. Do your math. Break down per person costs and figure out what you can spend if your maximum number of guests attends vs the minimum number of guests and work somewhere in the middle for pricing. Then perhaps pick a different day. Lots of events happen between Tuesday and Thursday during the week. Get a sense of your demographic and see who might be open to an off day when venues are looking to fill space. Or perhaps someone has a large home in your network of contacts and would be willing to give you space if you get it catered. Sure, Lady Gaga may not be there and you may not raise $10 million dollars, but if you are able to host a fun event, while raising awareness and money, it is still can be a success!
2. Understand Your Sponsorship Options
I can’t tell you how many times I hear people talk about a fundraiser and assume they will just get beer, wine or liquor donations. The thing about sponsorships and donations from companies is that there is brand awareness and marketing exposure along with good will that these companies want to display. If you are having an event for 20 people in your backyard, it’s not likely they will even return your email. Instead of saying “you will receive exposure for your brand” give specific stats. “Anticipated attendance of 150 guests.” List some of the places you are advertising. If you will be including them in your marketing, offer details on that as well. Take a “show don’t tell” approach as to why it is beneficial for them to be included. Don’t hold back on asking for sponsorships or donations, just know that many places receive lots of requests – some on a daily basis – so providing as much data on the mutual benefits your event will provide is more important that 3 pages of personal stories. Appealing to the heart strings is good for consumers, but for businesses, you usually have to show how this will impact their bottom line.
3. Always Use Social Media to Increase Your Sales & Exposure
Be sure you hit every free thing possible. Create a hashtag for your event, create an event on facebook, encourage photos to be taken on Instagram, even do a snapchat campaign. Check out local calendars on local news sites and free online boards where you can post your event. Don’t lose the chance for free exposure!
4. Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Things
This ties in with understanding your budget and your sponsorship opportunities. Never be afraid to negotiate. The worst is that they say no. Of course you always want to remain polite and ask for a realistic request. Asking for a hotel rooftop for free is not realistic, but asking for a reduced rate for an off date is not.
Not getting anything directly? Ask for connections. “I realize that you are not able to provide this, but would you be willing to put me in touch with anyone who may be interested in helping our cause?” You don’t know unless you ask. You may feel like you get a million “NOs” but it’s so rewarding when someone says yes!
5. Create Opportunities
You can’t always wait for everything to get handed to you. This is your chance to be creative. Part of fundraising is connections, networking and researching. Do your research and create a chance to talk to a potential sponsor, but you don’t have to be a complete salesman about it. Go to networking events and try to go to the places where you potential donors are – including other fundraisers! You never know who you will meet and what they may be able to help with.