Fund Times

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Party For a Purpose March 7, 2011

When was the last time you partied for a purpose?  And by purpose, I don’t mean “I-wish-I-could-play-in-the-sandbox-but-I’m-too-old-so-the-bar-will-do.”  I mean, when was the last time you attended an event that was mutually beneficial for you AND someone else?  I hope that it is with this frame of mind that you and your colleagues will consider hosting a fundraising event for your nonprofit this year!

Fundraising events are an effective strategy for both cultivating existing and prospective donors.  Not only are attendees able to learn more about your organization, but the event allows you to personally interact with individuals who share your organization’s worldview.  And this is not just a great strategy to schmooze individual donors.  Local businesses can also get in on the action as a supporter of your cause.

So if you’re ready to throw your hands in the air and have others wave them around like they just don’t care, the following tips will guide you in implementing a successful fundraising event:

  • Plan Ahead. It is absolutely essential that you allow plenty of time to plan for a fundraiser.  The rule of thumb is to start planning at least six months in advance.  This allows ample time to develop a theme, secure a venue, and contact a guest speaker or honoree (if applicable).
  • Think Outside the Box. I’m a firm believer that fundraisers do not need to be overly formal.  Should the event be held at a hotel? Probably not.  Must there be a three-course dinner included? Not really.  When thinking about how your event would run, don’t be afraid to pick nontraditional venues like a vineyard or conservatory.  The most unique location I have ever heard for a fundraiser was the lower level of a mall.  Move the kiosks out of the way and voilà, let the mix and mingling begin :).

  • Delegate Tasks. Given the complexity of fundraising events, you or your staff may be tempted to execute it all on your own to ensure its success.  This makes sense if you have a large staff, but if your nonprofit is like pantyhose (overstretched), you may want to consider delegating tasks to your board or advisory committee.  For example, if you have a board member that has a spacious house, they might be the perfect person to ask to host the event and provide food and refreshments.
  • Consider the Source. When considering revenue sources for the event, don’t rely on ticket sales alone.  Consider raising the big bucks through sponsorships and the formation of a host committee.  Creating sponsorship opportunities is great for two reasons: (1) it allows your nonprofit to raise significant amounts of money in advance of the event and (2) it provides local businesses the opportunity to emphasize their commitment to community improvement.  Host committees are also a great funding source.  This committee is usually responsible for donating a certain amount to the event (e.g., $250-$500) and encouraging their friends/family/colleagues to attend.

What do you think about these strategies?  Do you have any additional ideas on how to make fundraising events a success?

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