HELPFUL FUNDRAISING IDEAS
When I decided to participate in my first fundraiser for a friend who had been badly burned 4 years ago I had no idea what to do. I was surprised that I could not find any information pertaining to this subject on the internet that would be helpful.
There were plenty of articles on fundraising for non-profits and education, but nothing for helping out a friend in need.
I would like to share what I have learned in the event that anyone else is struggling as I was and give you some advice on how to make the most of your fundraising event.
My fundraising experience to date and the funds that were raised:
- Burn Victim------------------------------------------over $24,000
- TSC (Tuberous Sclerosis Complex)-----------over $24,000
- Cancer patient--------------------------------------over $13,000
- Cancer patient---------------------------------------over $7,000
- Cancer patient--------------------------------------over $20,000
- Cerebral Aneurysm Patient-------------------------over $7000
- Spinal Cord Injury----------------------------------over $12,000
Before you begin, your idea must fit the criteria for a successful fundraiser:
A WORTHY Cause.
You must also have an excellent support group for this project.
You’ll want to surround yourself with people who are as committed to this benefit as you are or it will disappoint you. Think of it as having one chance to make it big and surround yourself with people who are willing to help you make it happen.
The sky is the limit! Put forth your best efforts and make your fundraiser a huge success. Don’t let the economy trick you into thinking it can’t be done.
As you can see by our first fundraiser, it can be done. His friends were all private contractors who were suffering economically in their businesses. Their love and support made a huge difference in his life.
The Planning stages:
• Worthy Cause
• The Goal
• The Venue
• The date
• Advertising for this event
• The particulars of the event
• The pricing for this event
• The menu for this event
• The support staff who will help you reach your goals
A WORTHY CAUSE:
This is self explanatory. You do not need my help to determine if it is worthy or not. Use your best judgment and the answer will come to you.
What do you hope to achieve by having this fundraiser? Why is it necessary? (IE: To cover medical expenses, To cover living expenses while they are out of work without compensation, etc)
PLEASE CONSIDER TIMING:
Is now really the time to consider having a benefit for this cause? You should never repeat fundraising efforts for the same person as people lose interest. They will also put off attending your benefit if they think there may be another at a later date.
Time is of the essence. Use it wisely.
You’ve got one chance to make it a success!
You will want to pick a suitable venue that will accommodate the number of guests you plan on attending, have ample parking, and offers exactly what you are looking for to suit your needs. Many of these venues will offer a discount or free use of their facility if you purchase your food there. Suggest a cash bar for your event which save you money and will also bring them revenue.
Don’t be afraid to make suggestions, they can say no, but they may surprise you. They are also struggling in these economically challenged times.
SEEK PROPER ACCOMMODATIONS
• Make sure that when you select your venue you take into account that you will need space to display and bid on your auction items.
• A venue that would normally hold 500 people will be reduced if you have to factor in room for auction tables.
• You will also want these items to be easily accessible to your patrons. They won’t bid on what they don’t see!
THE DATE AND TIME OF YOUR EVENT:
I know it sounds crazy, but you really need to check local activities going on in your area before setting a date and time for your event. Here in the Midwest, people take sporting events seriously and nothing will come between them and their games. Be sure to consider reasons that might affect your attendance, anticipate any parking problems, etc.
ADVERTISING FOR THIS EVENT:
• NEVER! I repeat, NEVER! Offer ticket sales at the door. These benefits have a way of spiraling out of control very quickly and you want to make sure that everyone who purchased tickets before the event to be able to enjoy it. We tried this once and it could have been a real disaster had it not been for the understanding, love and support that the patrons had for the person we were having the event for.
• While the delusion of making more money distracts you, the prospect of a comfortable atmosphere and a manageable crowd should bring you back to reality.
• You’ll want your flyer to be direct and to the point. Include a picture of the person along with a brief description of their problem.
• Include the Venue, Price of admission, Food and cash bar, auction events and any other activities you are having.
• Again, reiterate that tickets must be purchased in advance and who they can see to get them. The bottom of the flyer should read, “THERE WILL NOT BE TICKETS WILL BE SOLD AT THE DOOR. YOU MUST HAVE A PREPAID TICKET TO ATTEND THIS EVENT.” Know how many people that your venue will accommodate and advertise that number of tickets will be sold.
WHERE DO YOU ADVERTISE?
• Facebook (create an event and ask people to share)
• Email blast
• The persons relatives, friends and employment
Decide the particulars of your event:
• In addition to the proceeds you make on tickets sales after you’ve paid for your venue and food, what money making events will you have there?
• What types of donations can you solicit to be sold at auction?
• Do you have contacts who will donate their services to auction at your event?
KEEPING IT SIMPLE:
You obviously will not make 100% of the proceeds from ticket sales and you will want to add a few extras to both boost your income for this event and offer activities for your guests.
PLEASE KEEP IN MIND DURING THE PLANNING STAGES THAT YOU WILL NEED PLENTY OF VOLUNTEERS AT THIS EVENT TO WORK YOUR AUCTIONS, HELP WITH FOOD AND TRASH, ETC.
• This may be the most important element to your benefit.
• We have been very fortunate in that the same DJ not only volunteers her time for every event, she also donates a 4 hour package to be raffled off as well.
• It is very important to have a great sound system that will allow you to inform your guests of upcoming events.
PRICING FOR YOUR EVENT:
• While you want to make money for this event, you must also consider what people will be willing to pay for a ticket. People will generally spend a great deal of money at your event if they don’t feel like they’ve been gouged for the price of admission.
• I like to figure the cost of the venue and food and then add no more than $10 to that figure. If you sell 300 tickets, you start out with $3,000 and plan other money making events to generate more proceeds.
If you are fortunate enough to have some connections to a printing source who will make your tickets for free, by all means do so.
If you are not, ticket templates can easily be made and printed on thick stock paper for the cost of the paper.
I find my templates at microsoft.com (Event tickets template) and remove the numbering system from them. I also use templates to make any raffle tickets for items sold before and during the event.
• First and foremost you want to offer tickets to the family and their friends.
• If you are planning a large gathering and only have a certain number of tickets available and feel that there are influential people who will attend and perhaps donate more to your cause than friends and family would, be honest. Tell them.
• Most people will not be offended when you point out the fact that the recipient is well liked and will likely draw more of a crowd than can be accommodated. It just makes sense that you would want to offer tickets to those who may contribute more financially to the event.
• It is all about the proceeds and many families will do their own thing as well to gather funds for their loved ones.
FOOD FOR YOUR EVENT
• Again, keep it simple. Most generally you will want to offer pasta, salad, bread, beverage and dessert. These are the lowest budget items and will give you greater profits on ticket sales.
• Here are some tips that have worked for us:
LET THE VENUE PREPARE YOUR FOOD:
• If you’re as fortunate as we were on one occasion, you can get a posh venue for free and pay for your food and have a cash bar.
• We live in the Midwest where the cost of living is not so bad, so we were able to get food cost for $5 per person.
• We could have easily made it cheaper, yet the venue and the fact that we didn’t have to supply support staff, bring dishes and clean up items or be bothered with anything other than our itinerary for the function made it worth its weight in gold!
PREPARING YOUR OWN FOOD:
When preparing your own food for your event you will need to consider several things.
• What is my table set up going to be?
The main serving table must be set up in a manner in which people can quickly get their food and return to their tables.
• What am I going to serve my food in?
Do you need chafing dishes, hot boxes to keep the food warm, serving platters, bowls, etc? Do you have ample serving utensils for this project?
• How do I know how much food to make?
Serving amounts can be easily found on the internet. Be sure to make extra for support staff and margin of error.
• What is the timeline dinner?
A two or three hour window is ample time to serve your dinner, let the late arrivals eat and move on to your money making.
• How will your guests be seated?
I would recommend letting them seat themselves.
• What other items are needed in preparation and clean up for this function?
Many venues will let you use their kitchens but frown on “donating” their supplies to you. Make sure that you think of everything you will need such as cleaning rags and solution, dish soap, trash bags, dry towels, to go containers, foil, saran wrap, utensils, etc, and take them with you. It is good to prepare ahead of time by keeping a plastic storage container handy and place things in them as you think of them. You can also ask members of your committee to make a list of items they think are necessary.
• Disposable Products:
If you cannot afford the elegance of rented tablecloths and napkins, china and silverware for your event, consider disposables. Coordinating sturdy plates and napkins, salad bowls, coffee cups and utensils along with rolled plastic tablecloths make an excellent choice.
• Spaghetti / Pasta:
Stick with the miniature pasta and it will not get too starchy.
If you have a favorite local sauce and can get it for a discount, use it. If someone makes a spectacular sauce and is willing to make it all ahead and freeze it, go for it.
For a smashing hit at my functions I merely order loaves of bread from Wal-Mart ahead of time and have them sliced. I choose multiple selections of both French and Italian breads and buy different variation. Everything bread, parmesan bread and regular Italian breads are all a hit. Individual pats of butter can be purchased at a bulk store such as GFS or Sam’s Club and provide you the convenience of getting people through lines quicker.
I recommend buying bags of salad at bulk stores and adding extra vegetables as you see fit. Offer two varieties of dressings and buy them in bulk, Italian and Ranch. I also recommend having the salads bowled so that they can grab them and go, again reducing the time that they spend in your line.
• Parmesan/Romano Cheese:
Offer this as an accompaniment to your pasta
Have people donate finger food desserts and serve them at your function. This not only saves your cost, it gives people a good sense of donation to your cause. If you have extras, raffle them off!
Since most events will have a cash bar, offer ice water, lemonade and coffee as an accompaniment to your meal.
• In a perfect world you will pick a venue that allows to use their full service kitchen. Here an assembled crew of trustworthy people can carefully execute your plan for preparing an excellent meal to offer your guests.
• In a not so perfect world you’ll need to improvise. At one event we determined how much pasta would need to be made and split that task between 5 or 6 people. Each had a certain amount that we prepared at home and lightly sauced it to be put in chafing dishes later.
SUPPORT STAFF FOR YOUR PROJECT:
• In addition to the committee chairing this fundraiser which we’ll talk about later, you need a strong foundation of people who are willing to help you at your event.
• Think outside the box. Church Youth Groups, boy scouts and other civic groups are a great choice to help you with your fundraiser. They are more than happy to oblige and will work for food.
• Evaluate your needs and plan accordingly. Gathering trash, serving food, set-up and tear down, watching and shutting down auction tables are just a few ways that can they can be of assistance to you.
• Be sure you have ample staffing to fulfill your needs for this event.
AUCTIONS and Other Events:
• Live auction: Reserve your larger items for these and find someone who would be a great auctioneer to execute them.
• Silent Auction: Items are placed on table with a progressive bidding sheet in front of them for people to bid.
• Chinese Auction: Many small items can draw more money than they would in a regular auction. The items are placed on a table with a bag taped to the edge of the table. Tickets are sold (you determine the price) and your patrons can drop tickets with their contact information into the bag of the items they would like to win. Upon auction close, one ticket is pulled from the bag to determine the winner of that item.
MORE MONEY MAKING IDEAS
• TIP BOARDS are a great way to make money at your auction. Liquor baskets are a huge success. Sweepers, snow blowers, whatever. Determine what you want per ticket sold and be assured to get your money from that item.
If you live in an area that tip boards are illegal and you cannot get them, make your own. Determine the number of tickets to be sold, have them pay and choose a number to put their name beside, and use bingo balls to pull your winner.
• Cancer and Awareness Ribbons: We asked a local craft store to make and donate these for a function. We sold them for $1 each.
• Wine auction: This is perhaps the coolest idea I’ve seen yet. They had a table beautifully displayed with several bottles of wine, some higher quality and some low grade that had been donated. You purchased a numbered cork for $20 and after they were all sold they revealed the bottom of the wine bottles that were numbered. If they called your number, you won that bottle of wine. This could be done with any liquor.
• 50/50 drawings: These are always a winner as most of the people who win them will either donate half or all of the money back to your cause.
• Quilt Raffle: I am very fortunate to have an extremely gifted cousin who donates a quilt to every benefit. I prepare raffle tickets and sell them before and during the event. The winning ticket is chosen at the event.
• TV / large item raffle: Items that are donated or provided at a reduced cost can be huge money makers. TV tickets that were sold for $10 each netted a profit of over $6,000 before the event. The winner of this item graciously offered it back to the committee for resale at live auction and it netted another $600.
• Reverse Raffle: This is where tickets are sold for a dinner and a chance to win money. Tickets are drawn to eliminate people and there are cash prizes awarded for certain tickets drawn. The last five people are given the chance to split the determined amount, but they must all agree. If not, they draw to the last person and they are the winner.
DOES THIS SOUND OVERWHELMING?
It is not intended to.
You do, however, need to commit yourself to following through with it and completing all of these tasks if you take on the responsibility of having your fundraiser.
I promise you it can be done. Sometimes your biggest obstacle is yourself. Turn your “I Can’t” into “I most certainly can!”
KEEPING IT ALL TOGETHER:
If you have made it this far and still think you are interested in hosting and organizing a fundraising event, pay attention to what I am about to say:
I am a list maker who has lists of my lists, so it is very important to me to have everything I need at my fingertips.
As a person in charge, every question will be diverted to you for answers.
Having all of the answers will do wonders for your stress level and allow you to have everything you need for your fundraiser.
SHARE YOUR WORKLOAD:
• A great way to keep your list together is by using googledocs. If you are not familiar with it, it is a place that you can download an excel spreadsheet and invite people to view it and make changes. This comes in handy when you have several people completing tasks for this project. Create your document and upload it through your google email account. It will be useful in many ways.
YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL BY YOURSELF!
Hosting a successful benefit fundraiser is such a detail oriented project that you just can’t do all by yourself.
So many people have different talents, it would be a shame to waste any of them.
Be open to suggestion. Recognize that while you have taken on a great deal of responsibility, it doesn’t have to be entirely your way. Suggestions for the good of the order should be taken graciously and pondered for merit. Sometimes we tend to make more of things than we need to and an “easy way” should be welcomed.
TIMELINE FOR THE EVENT
• It is very important to create a timeline for the length of your event and stay on schedule.
• As the DJ is your commentator, make sure that he/she has a copy of the timeline and keeps the pace.
• Constant announcements are necessary to execute you activities.
• I have included a sample timeline:
• List of contact numbers: Your event will become pretty crazy, so you should give the DJ and all of your key people a copy of the timeline with cell numbers to reach other committee members.
• Time of event: 6 pm – 11 pm
• Dinner: List menu along with drinks for the DJ to announce. Let them know that dinner will be served between the hours of 5 and 8. Also announce what beverages you offer with their meal and there is also a cash bar.
• You will want to have a minister present to say grace before the start of the meal.
Dinner music as determined by the DJ
- Constant announcements on upcoming raffles, silent auction, etc.
- Announce Auction table closing times and final bids being due
- Announcements of when and what you will be selling on the tip boards, 50/50, etc.
- Usually about midpoint and before the live auction, have the person or spokesperson for the benefit give a small speech.
- End your event itinerary with the live auction. You will need the extra time to announce winners on raffle baskets and let people pay for the items they have purchased.
- It also will give people the opportunity to mingle and continue having a great time.
- Be sure that your DJ recognizes all of the donation contributors throughout the evening.
I find it easier and more appropriate to compile a very nice newsletter listing all of individuals and businesses that have supported this cause. These sheets can be placed on each table for people to view and take with them if they like. Most people do not want them, so it is not necessary to make one for everyone in attendance, but make plenty. Be sure to send a copy of this when you are sending your appreciation letters to those who donated.
WHERE DO WE GET OUR DONATIONS?
• It’s simple. LOCAL! Many corporate companies are completely exhausted by donation solicitations and are reluctant to give without it being a nationally recognized cause.
• There are plenty of individuals and businesses within your own community that will offer you more than a chain company would.
• Now I’m not saying not to ask, but don’t be surprised if you get turned down.
• Sporting Events: Most sports teams are over extended in donations, so think outside the box. Do you know anyone willing to donate any of their season tickets to your cause?
• Blimp Rides: Being close to Akron, OH we are able to get complimentary Blimp rides to auction.
• Vacations / Rentals: Know anyone that would be willing to donate a timeshare or rental, bed and breakfast, etc? These are very nice to offer for bid.
• You don’t know unless you ask. Just about everyone has a core group of at least 5 people that they could solicit donations from. Whether it is a good or service, big or small, it’s something. Small items can be combined with larger items to make a very decent basket for raffle.
• Golf Packages: For a community smack dab in the middle of EVERY weather condition I am amazed at the number of golf courses we have locally and the fact that there are enough golfers to support them, regardless of the conditions. We collect packages and Pro Shop items from them and make a collective Golf Basket which usually does pretty well.
• Alcohol and wine baskets are a huge success on tip boards. 5ths of Jim Beam, Johnny Walker and Jack Daniels along with a shot glass and recipe for “The Three Wisemen” will sell for $3 per tip. Sell 50 tips and you’ve got $150.
• Get local wineries to donate bottles of wine and you have nothing invested. Add cheese and crackers and you’ve got a great looking basket!
• Do you have a friend who frequents thrift and consignment shops? Use it to your advantage. Many items are in brand new condition and can be used to make a very nice basket for auction. Wine and drink glasses can be purchased to add to your drink baskets.
• Give your friend a list and see what they come up with. You’ll be surprised and you won’t be disappointed.
• Do you always eat at certain restaurants? Ask them to donate a gift certificate. If they are reluctant, ask them if they would match one if you would buy one as well. You’re going to eat there anyway, right?
• AWESOME IDEA: We compiled gift cards and restaurant certificates totaling over $500 and sold 100 - $5 tip chances to win. We made the $500 value, and the person who won was very happy.
WHO WILL GET OUR DONATIONS?
• Everyone. Leave no stone unturned. Again, everyone knows someone they can solicit. If everyone involved picked up 5 items for auction, imagine how many items you could have. Even if they are not on your committee and have networking connections, ask them to get you some donations.
• While I am forceful and have no problem soliciting everyone I know for support, I’m not good at asking someone I do not know for support. Be sure to have someone who is comfortable cold calling on your team and watch the donations roll in!
KICK IT UP A NOTCH!
If the person receiving the benefit is a co-worker, challenge your company by department to donate a basket. Tell them it doesn’t matter if it is solicited or bought by them, you’d just like to have a basket representing their division. We got some really nice donations that otherwise would not have happened. Many of them picked a theme and went with it.
THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS! IF YOU CAN IMAGINE IT, IT CAN HAPPEN!
MY FIRST LEARNING EXPERIENCE:
Here is the reason you do not sell tickets at the door:
Our first fundraiser was for a friend who was burned badly and unable to work. He had his own remodeling company and of course no other compensation while he was off of work. He was hospitalized for some time and underwent many skin grafts and is still not completely well, but at least he is back to work with restrictions. A committee was formed with about 20 people who had no idea what to do, but we knew it had to be something.
BIG SUCCESS FACTOR:
Danny was so liked in the community and everyone wanted to help. We made up Danny Dollars (Copied dollar bill template with his photo on them) and sold them for $1 each at three local taverns that he frequented. When you bought them your name was put on them and they were hung in the bar. Not only did his friends buy them, complete strangers did too!
We rented a facility that held 300 and did our best to contain this party. Amongst other things, there were so many items to raffle that we lost space that would have been normally used for seating.
YOU KNOW WHERE THIS IS GOING, RIGHT?
OVER 500 PEOPLE SHOWED UP FOR THIS EVENT!
Thankfully they were mostly all contractors who didn’t mind standing outside by a bonfire on a cold March Ohio night. $24,000 later, we appreciated their understanding and vowed to never do it again.
SHOW ME THE MONEY
If you have friends with banking experience you will most definitely want them involved in your benefit. You will be dealing with a lot of cash and you will want a reliable source handling it.
One of the main reasons is that your recipient is obligated to claim / pay taxes on the money received and you want someone who is going to keep adequate records so that they can do so.
This person should be selected before you start your benefit and all monies collected before the event should be turned over to that person.
They will also be responsible for keeping all financial records for this event to include expenses, donations, etc.
This person may also want to open an account at a local bank for deposit of the proceeds from this event. Be sure to include more than one name on this account so that it can be accessed if there are any unforeseen circumstances and someone else will be taking over their duties.
Your money person should will be responsible for arranging the start up money for your event (change, money pouches for tip board and raffle sales, etc) and also will work at your event collecting payment for items purchased.
This person is familiar with banking and will have knowledge of all that is needed to conduct the event and activities you have planned.
WHAT PAYMENT WILL WE ACCEPT?
• Personal Check
• Charge Payments
• Paypal Payments
Obviously you want to offer as many options as you can. If it is in your best interest to accept credit cards, look into renting a credit card machine or methods of accepting payment via a laptop computer. There are fees involved with this, however, it may be worth your while to pay them.
Be sure to advertise your payment methods accepted at your event.
THINGS YOU SHOULDN’T FORGET:
• Tools of the trade such as pens for all of the silent auction item, money boxes, money pouches, etc.
• You will also want nametags or some other indicator for your workers in case someone wants assistance.
• Bid sheets with descriptions of your items along with the name of the person who donated it.
• THANK YOU postings / newsletter to acknowledge all of the people who made the event possible.
• A digital photographer who is willing to take pictures of your event. This is a nice keepsake for the recipient and the pictures can also be uploaded online and offered to the patrons.
• A prepared speech from one of the committee members stating facts about the person along with reasons you decided to have this benefit. This should include thanking your sponsors, your venue, the patrons and the clergy that has joined you for this event.
I’VE SAVED THE BEST FOR LAST:
Recently a co-worker (Sheriff’s Office) had surgery and suffered an injury that left him paralyzed in both legs and unable to walk. It is not certain that he will fully recover from this injury and be able to return to work.
• THE PROBLEM:
• He’s a great guy and well liked by other police departments. One of his friends from another department immediately arranged for a reverse raffle benefit for him. This was a grand gesture and was greatly appreciated, but he was one of our own and many felt as if we slighted him in some way by not hosting this benefit ourselves.
• Another disadvantage was that the tickets were $50 per person and there were only 200 tickets available for this function. Needless to say these tickets were quickly claimed by outside friends and family which meant that there would not be much show of support from his own workplace.
• There was indeed a solution that proved to be both a great idea and allow us to show him our support!
• ENTER THE FANTASY FUNDRAISER!
• A completely non-happening event that gave people the ability to donate to his cause and feel that they had contributed to his fundraiser.
• It was such a huge success that people who would not normally participate in any of these functions donated.
• A small thought produced big results!
Fantasy Fundraiser Flyer
HERE’S HOW IT WORKS:
Find someone crafty who is willing to put some ideas into motion and on paper to create the illusion of a fundraiser that will never happen.
At the cost of $10 per person they are entitled to sign the guest book for this non-event and contribute a photo of themselves (spouses are extra, pics can be formal, humorous, whatever!) that will be made into a pictorial memory album for the recipient.
If they contribute more, they will be put on the VIP guest list and sign at the front of the guestbook.
People loved this idea. I pointed out the fact that they would not have to purchase new attire, rent limos, or buy meal and drinks at the unevent.
You will need to find someone crafty for designing your flyer and guestbook, and someone with greater imagination to design the photo album of the event that did not happen. Be sure to add your own props to the album to make it humorous and enjoyable for the recipient. You could have someone scrapbook it or even upload it and make a printable hardbound book at Wal-Mart for under $20.
Make it your own! The sky is the limit.
I hope that my ideas will prove helpful in your fundraising experiences. I’m sure there are several things that I have missed, but this should give you some indication of what needs to be done to make your event a success.
The fact that you are reading this ensures me that you are a very giving person who benefits richly from helping others. For that I thank you.
I will have a PDF file available of this tutorial. Contact me via email if you would like a copy. (firstname.lastname@example.org)