Special events are a great deal of work. They involve sponsors, auction donations, prizes and filling tables with the right audience. It can be exhaustive and take many hours particularly where volunteers are involved.
First and foremost the event needs to be enjoyable; the right venue, the right food, the right environment and the right price. Consider your goals when approaching each of these and a good rule of thumb is based on whether you would enjoy what is being offered and better yet, if you would go back to experience it again!
What is the objective?
Next consider what the event wants to achieve. There are many events competing for attendees and dollars these days. Consider carefully how to ensure that event guests understand the charity’s needs and enable them to contribute financially.
I recently attended two similar fundraising events with slightly different outcomes. Let’s take a closer look at what made one of them far more successful than the other.
The first event was to fund activities in central Africa. I arrived to a room teaming with guests. The event featured silent auction tables and a bountiful buffet. The key to this event and its outcome was the auctioneer, a city media celebrity, with a great knack for entertaining people and making sure the auction was a success.
Connect your guests to the mission
Rather than building complacence after a heavy meal, the auctioneer stepped up to the microphone and announced the live auction. Attendees could “purchase” beds for a hospital, goats and chickens, and a rather large donation for a health related area was also on the table. The Beds were about $100.00 each so he started with a request for 40 beds … as one hand went up after another, he counted … 40 Beds done. Next, came the request for a goat, kid and chicken, 50 sets for families. The price $65.00 … so let’s see those hands once more. As the hands went up volunteers gave each consenting person a form to complete that they would pay on the way out.
This approach was very successful. Rather than wasting dollars on frippery at the silent auction table, people could see that what they were purchasing was directly assisting the charity’s goal to give this community what it needed.
The second event was for a charity working in North Africa. This event was less successful but had just as much potential. The charity was looking for money to help support children to attend one full school year. Desks, books, a uniform and medical help were required. At no time, were these items offered through a live auction. The event, although nice to attend, forgot the time old truth - you need to ask!
Investing in a personality who will make ‘the ask’, works. Depending on the age of the audience you may find people who no longer want to collect unessential things through auction purchases but rather have discretionary income to purchase an item of value to the charity in question. Forty dollars for a desk is an easy ask, or a full package for one child for a mere $275.00.
When hosting your next event be sure to consider your goals. Look at what you hope to achieve and how you can frame your ‘ask’ to encourage guests can give. Purchasing something of value give donors the feeling they have made a difference.
And one last point, be sure you record what guests have spent and follow up with them. It’s always nice to be informed about those who have been generous at an event. Having the full giving history is definitely an advantage when engaging with your charity’s supporters.
Sharron Batsch is a partner at Batsch Group Inc., the developer of @EASE Fund Development Software. Sharron has 35 years of experience in information management, teaching software design for the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. She has worked with nonprofit organizations for 25 years and brings a pragmatic business approach to fund development.