Written by Tom Jennings
Fundraising events are crucial to any campaign, whether political or charitable.
From landing big donations, to socialising with community leaders and rewarding volunteers, fundraising events build your power base whilst people let their hair down.
Whether a gala dinner or backyard BBQ, success is dependent on one thing; getting engaged and passionate people through the door.
Follow our fool-proof guide to prevent a financial flop and you’ll have fundraising success in twelve short steps.
£1,000, £5,000 £10,000+? Aim high but be realistic.
Review past fundraisers to benchmark your goal or perhaps equate your target to the cost of six months of your organiser’s salary.
Setting a target is imperative to fundraising success as it will push you to be more daring in your fundraising efforts further down the line.
Without a target to work towards, there’s nothing to reach for and thus, you’ll settle too short of the potential you could raise.
No-one wants to part with their money if they don’t have to, and tickets to an event should never feel like a donation, it’s a transaction.
Afterall, you’re selling an experience. It’s networking for your guests, a night out with friends/family, a chance to do something or meet someone exciting.
A high profile speaker and set dinner menu is a safe bet for any event but only because everyone offers this.
Consider setting the bar with a local celebrity, comedian or live band.
A compere is always a worthwhile investment for dinners too, alleviating you/staff from having to host when you can be shaking down donors instead.
Then when invited onto stage, you/candidate looks to attendees like a VIP too.
It elevates the overall prestige of the event, demonstrating an unexpected level of professionalism to the campaign.
Essential to your event is ensuring its accessible for all.
That means checking the location has accessibility for those with disabilities.
Making sure all and any dietary requirements can be catered for.
Is your event during the day? Consider if a creche will be necessary.
Who else does the venue host? Don't book somewhere neo-nazis meet.
Check your chosen date doesn’t conflict with religious or cultural festivals.
These are often mistaken as unimportant factors but they are vital for guests whom these logistics and concerns matter to.
With the world at their finger tips, one disgruntled tweet can have serious repercussions during and after the event.
Once you’ve decided what your event will entail, it’s time to price it up.
Work backwards from your fundraising goal to create your budget.
Add up the approx cost for all the items you’ll need for the event (drinks, food, event and equipment hire, etc) to your net fundraising goal, then add a 15% contingency cost, to get a gross amount of what needs to be raised on the day.
Let’s say you’re hosting a gala dinner, with a guest speaker, live entertainment, with a capacity of 150 people.
You know you need to make £1,500 to cover the cost of the event, with the goal of £7,250 raised.
£7,250 divided by 150 is £48.25, meaning a standard ticket could be priced anywhere between £45-£60.
At either end of that scale, you’re well into profit even if only half of the tickets sell.
But don’t just settle for a standard fee - upgrades are ideal up-selling opportunities.
Offering an exclusive meet & greet and/or professional photo with your guest speaker can bring in easy cash from die-hard fans.
On the condition your guest speaker can arrive early of course, and do buy in a professional photographer too.
Furthermore, some events offer a table discount but it’s actually cheaper to offer additional beverages for a table booking instead.
Consider a table of 10 booking, with a value of £600, being offered at £550 - you’re paying for someone to eat free whilst losing £50?!
It’s cheaper instead to buy wine from the venue at cost or a discounted price, and offer these within the table booking.
Guests are also then spending less at the bar and have more in their back pocket to donate during the event
Lastly, consider asking a local business or organisation to sponsor the event.
In return for a table, roller banners around the room, brochures on tables and a public thank you during the event, a sponsor can not only pay for the night but also springboard you to your target in just one cheque.
An RSVP is not a verbal “sure” or “I’ll pay on the night”.
Useful tools like Eventbrite will automate your ticketing for a small fee or you can keep it in house - eitherway, people must pay.
In either case, setting up a spreadsheet to track payments, reminders and guest numbers, is the smartest step to ensuring a success.
Collecting data this way gives you a real-time understanding of where your event is at and what is next on the to-do list.
One more thing, if someone has put down +1s, make sure they pay in advance in order to prevent empty seats on the night.
Once you’re confident your budget adds up, ticketing system is sorted and the date, location, price and USP is confirmed, it’s time to promote!
First and foremost, design a poster and various social media graphics - do not use the same design for all three.
This is because Facebook limits ads that are text heavy and a poster has far more space than a graphic does.
Not artistically inclined? No worries, we can help (click).
Once you have your materials, you need to get it out there:
- Email your members with the poster attached and how they can book.
- Set up a Facebook event but choose the appropriate privacy setting.
- Post your graphic on your/candidate’s social media
- Send your graphic with a short message to your WhatsApp lists
This part can be even easier by bringing us on board (click).
Once the invites are out, it’s calling time.
Calling supporters is the most effective way to boost attendees.
Emails can get “lost” in spam, a polite call is hard to ignore.
Calling helps you secure commitment, and promotes your candidate.
It’s also the perfect opportunity for a secondary ask;
Perhaps they can’t make the date, or aren’t interested in attending but could make a donation or attend your next canvassing session.
Lower-level asks like these help maximise your campaign and can be crucial for hitting other targets like volunteer recruitment.
People live hectic lives and lots of options, one being to just stay in.
Granted, once people have paid it's money in the bank but you want to ensure a great experience for those who do show.
A half-empty room is never a good look, both in the eyes of guests and guest speakers.
Of course, mithering people to show up is not what I'm suggesting.
Best practice is a weekly 'update' or 'announcement'.
Have your guest speaker film a short video on how excited they are.
Next, send out the dinner menu as a great way to create a buzz.
A week before the event, send out a "this time next week..." bulletin with all the details of how to get to the venue and any parking arrangements, etc.
On the day of course, photos of the venue, room and food, is the perfect morning bulletin to get people excited for the day/night ahead.
The last few days you're no doubt going to be panicking, it's human but there's no need, especially if you organise yourself and your volunteers efficiently.
These simple apps will help you organise your team and the tasks needing to be boxed off before the event.
Then for the night, write a running order and ensure your team know their roles.
As the night arrives, don't lose track of it’s purpose - to make money!
Aside from your guest speaker, who should be encouraging attendees to donate, it’s the job of your candidate to encourage people to dig deep.
Your candidate needs to;
- greet every attendee at the door
- float around the room, not spending too long with each person.
- equate donations to achieving campaign goals, in their speech
- be having dinner with the biggest potential donors (this isn’t a night out with their family or friends).
This all becomes easier when your candidate knows who is attending and who best to spend her/his time with throughout the night.
Running through the RSVP list beforehand therefore is crucial, and clarify any challenging names to avoid introductory embarrassments.
Towards the end of the night, make sure your candidate has the opportunity to thank attendees and does not leave until all attendees have - you never know who is waiting for a quieter moment to hand over a discreet cheque.
Equally, ensure your volunteers don’t cluster up either. There’s nothing more unwelcoming than campaign staff huddled in a corner.
instead they should be assigned to helping guests with their coats and jackets, ensuring everyone has met your candidate or had a photo with your VIP, etc.
Lastly, before volunteers leave, bring them round for the candidate to thank for all their hard work, when appreciated they’re sure to do it again!
After the event, the work doesn’t stop - you have so many people to thank!
They all need to know how much they raised, so email them all.
When you include the sum raised, equate it to campaign materials;
Thousands of leaflets, targeted Facebook ads, direct mails, months of a salaried organiser, etc.
End by including your next canvassing session to boost numbers.
Now, for your serial or big donors - make sure the candidate calls.
After all, you’ll need to ask these people to contribute again.
Making them feel appreciated now will make them more receptive in the future.
But most importantly, thank your volunteers!
Your candidate needs to send cards to everyone who made the event a success. If that’s you, don’t delegate your important thank yous.
Better yet, host a small thank you drinks or a meal out for them.
Volunteers are twice as likely to be so again if they feel appreciated.
Follow this fool-proof guide and you’ll have fundraising success in twelve short steps. But if you want help to implement any of the above for your next fundraising event, we are Civitas are just one click away.