A fundraiser is a vastly different event that you will need to spend quite a bit of time thinking and planning as opposed to another type of event where usually a budget is had to spend on the different elements of the event. For a fundraiser you will likely need to obtain sponsorships to fund the event (usually corporate or private donors), donated services from vendors, and an plethora of volunteers that love the cause and support it with their time. It’s difficult to obtain all of this if the cause isn’t something that many people share a passion for, so you will need to cater to the people who are donating money and time rather than your own personal agenda. Also, if you are a brand new fundraiser starting out, and you don’t have a following or an audience yet, you will need to usually start small and build the event each year until you are at the level where your fundraiser can make an impact in a big way. Starting too big too fast is the way that you will fail and not be able to continue year after year. Grow each year little by little until you are at the level you are trying to achieve, after all, you are in this for the cause, right?
Choosing A Venue
You will likely fail at obtaining a venue location that is considered be higher-end and lavish. You will need to make sacrifices on venue name and location in order to spend as little money as possible, or no money at all. Some fundraisers have HUGE budgets and can afford to rent large, nice facilities because they raise so much money and have such a good turnout of donors, but if you are new starting out, you will need to make sacrifices as save as much as possible to ensure the largest majority of the proceeds can go towards the cause your are fundraising for. Also, do your best to choose a venue that will be as close as possible to filling the space to it’s max, to make people believe that the event is more successful than it is. For instance, if you choose a venue space that can accommodate 1,000 people, and you have 100 people who end up attending, the bulk of the space will be unfilled and it will appear as though the event is less successful than it actually is. However, if you find a space that can accommodate only 150 people, and you have 100 guests, it will feel packed and guests will be more likely to return next year because the event seemed as though it got a great turnout. Basically, the more people you can cram into a small space the better to have your event feel like the attendance is huge.
Where will the bulk of the attendees be traveling from? If they need to drive more than 30 minutes to get to your event, it is far less likely they will attend. When choosing an event location be conscious of making it as easy as possible to find, and as easy as possible to get there. Many event venues in rural areas don’t have clear addresses that can be plugged into a GPS and will require some time to figure out how to get there. Be conscious of this and choose a venue that will be easy to find, and will be easy to park. Additionally, if you choose an event location where they have ballrooms that can open up to make the space bigger or smaller, try finding a location that can grow with you, rather than having to find a new location each year that will accommodate the guest count. For instance, the Utah Valley Convention Center has wall dividers that can open up to make the space larger, but when you’re first starting out they can close them off to fit the guest count. As your event grows, people will be familiar with how to get to your event because they’ve been going to the same location, but each year you can use more space at the venue as needed.
Fundraiser Event Flow
The typical fundraising event is business casual, or formal, and has the usual check-in on arrival at a designated table with volunteers staffing the check-in location. Once you’ve checked in, there is usually a silent auction set up where guests can mingle with each other while checking out the donated products and services that are available to bid on. I’ve seen a Chocolate cake be awarded to a winner who paid $800 for it. Remember this is a fundraiser, people are willing to pay more for products to help the cause. After the silent auction you will usually be directed to the ballroom where there will be a dinner served. A buffet is a great option, but plated dinners are also well received. Budget may play a role in determining whether to have a buffet or plated dinner. During dinner a slide-show with additional auction items can be presented so guests have something to listen/watch while they’re eating. Most fundraisers these days have an app that you can view and outbid others during the course of the evening without the need to even leave your table. Also during dinner, you’ll want to have a presentation that outlines what the cause is for that appeals to the sensitive side in people. If your fundraiser is for a hospital, have actual patients for the specific cause interviewed and shown to help support what you are trying to promote. After the auction there is usually some sort of entertainment. I’ve seen entertainment last as little as 20-minutes, and go as long as 3-hours, but that depends on the entertainment. A stage show should probably not exceed 20-40 minutes because guests are tired, they’ve been there for a while and are probably ready to leave. If you have a live band, and you have alcohol, guests will likely stay and dance and you can get away with entertainment lasting longer. Guests that have bid a substantial amount of money on a product or service should be recognized because the more praise you can give a good donor, the more likely they are to return to your event and bid again. Don’t forget to give praise where praise is due.
- Guests check-in
- Silent auction
- Guests meet and greet with one another
- Cocktails or dinner service started
- During dinner have video presentation
- During dinner have live auction
- During dinner, or once dinner has concluded announce the winners of the silent auction
- Entertainment for guests
- Thank everyone for coming and invite them back next year
Capture Contact Info
Make sure to capture the contact information including email addresses, phone numbers, and even mailing addresses if possible. This will help ensure you can reach them to inform them of your event next year and get them signed up on the guest list. Consider when collecting information keeping tabs on who spends the most money so you can do a little something special for them when you reach out regarding next year’s event. Having them on the guest list spending money helps to increase what others will spend and will ultimately benefit the cause. Gathering contact information from all the guests will allow you to scale your event each year and grow. Constantly searching for new attendees will prove to be much more difficult than reaching out to those who have already shown an interest in the cause.