It is necessary to think far ahead to plan a successful fundraising event. Ideally, you’ll have as much as six months to make your plans, determine your goals, secure a location, secure the budget for hosting the event, and advertise or market your event.
Yes, the goal of a fundraising event is to raise money for your organization or for a specific project within your organization. However, there is always the “hidden” goal of spreading the word about your organization or its project—no matter what your organization. For example, a silent auction, or even a raffle, is not going to be very successful at raising funds if your group is known only to the people already associated with your group.
Consider your image, too. Does your fundraising event align with the image you want your organization to have? Do you want your organization associated with bake sales and rummage sales? In the past, firemen’s groups had great success with asking for donations from drivers at busy intersections, but that action runs a risk of being associated with either firemen or panhandlers. Keep this in mind when you plan your fundraiser.
Choose your Venue
Location matters. If your organization does not have an on-site location at which to host your fundraising event, it is essential that you locate a venue that is a) accessible, b) reputable, and c) within your budget. (Yes, you need a budget for a fundraising event.) Some venues will donate space for a non-profit fundraising event; check out local fire departments, high schools, and community centers. Other venues may be costly, but may offer discounted rates for a fundraiser; check out larger hotels with conference rooms, resorts, and banquet halls.
In order to have any of these locations host your event, you’ll need to contact them early. Be prepared to be negotiable about your date. You are more likely to get a discounted or donated space if you are able to work within the venue’s date book.
Ahh, the Budget
Yes, you’ll need to have a budget for your fund-raiser. Venues, advertising, entertainment, door prizes, and food—all of these cost money, even when you get discounts and donations. Determine a budget amount. Determine your expected return on investment. Use these determinations to help you plan your fundraising event.
In order for your fundraiser to be successful, you’ll need to advertise it. Send emails to everyone on your contact lists. Create posters—you might find a printer willing to donate prints of your posters. Post on community bulletin boards, virtual ones, and physical ones. Call local radio and TV stations.
Get the word out to your community and beyond your community. The wider your marketing, the bigger your market, the more money for your organization.
Keep the FUN in fundraising
Above all, your event has to be fun. If there is no fun involved, you will be less likely to get responses from people not already associated with your organization. Be sure your event is centered on a fun activity. The only limit to the fun is your imagination. If you can make the fun activity relevant to your cause, that is even better.
Some successful fundraising activities that I have participated in have been spelling bees (for a literacy group), no-cash-involved casino nights (at lodge event), dance contests (at a middle school), bounce-houses with a bounce-a-thon (at an elementary school).