Fundraising Events – Part 1

Among the fundraising event questions that I hear constantly are:

“Which fundraising events don’t cost a lot?”
“What ones are easy to do?”
“Which ones make the most money?”

And what’s the answer to those three questions?

It depends!

That’s right. There is no one answer, no “one size fits all” solution.

Fundraising events vary tremendously

These type of fundraisers will vary greatly in cost, complexity, and results – based on a host of factors that are often not easy to control.

Events that don’t cost a lot will often require more volunteer time to put them together.

Ones that are easy to do are often not the biggest money makers.

And, sometimes you need a crystal ball to figure out which ones would produce the biggest net return.

So, where does that leave us in our search for answers to our three questions?

It leaves us with a set of options or choices for event-based fundraisers.

What fundraising events don’t cost a lot?

Generally, the fundraisers with the lowest cost are those that involve direct labor in exchange for a donation or contribution.

Low-cost examples include the volunteer car wash or the charity bike ride.

Here, you want to use the “sweat equity” approach – volunteers sweat in return for equity for your nonprofit organization.

The key is to get a large number of volunteers who, in turn, bring along multiple donations.

Revenue is generated in proportion to the publicity effort for the event, done either in advance — as in the case of the bike-a-thon — or done at the same time (street-side signs, etc.) — for the car wash.

Which fundraising events are easy to do?

The events that are easiest to conduct are the ones that are fun and of short duration. Examples include a group dinner, a “make believe” beauty pageant, or a mystery dinner theater.

Often, the largest part of the job is generating a good turnout. Communicating your need is central to all fundraising efforts, but for an event, it’s critical.

By making your event fun to attend and short in duration, you make it more attractive to potential supporters.

The three types mentioned above are easy to put together:

Group Dinner
A group dinner involves organizing a group meal, usually at a restaurant although it can be potluck/buffet style as well.

Many restaurants are glad to host your get together and provide standard meal service while “rebating” back to your nonprofit organization roughly 15% of the total tab for your group’s meals.

Beauty Pageant
A “make believe” beauty pageant, such as that offered in the “Queen Almost for a Day” package, is another way to have fun and raise funds.

Your group needs only a location, some volunteer contestants (including men), and a paying crowd to cheer on their laughable favorites.

Mystery Dinner Theater
Inviting everyone to a Mystery Dinner Theater creates another fun evening that produces a nice amount of revenue for your group.

Line up a large meeting room at a local restaurant, recruit your thespians from among the gregarious types in your community and you’re ready to go.

Pre-packaged scripts are available from several suppliers. See our listings for fundraising event suppliers for details.

Which fundraising events make the most money?

Your fundraisers will be at their most profitable when you generate a massive turnout combined with a willingness of your patrons to open their pocketbooks.

Examples include school-based Athlet-a-thons and exclusive black tie charity auctions.

These types of special events require a lot of effort to promote, coordinate, and conduct. Many layers of volunteers are needed to staff all the positions for these two types of fundraisers.

A key aspect to the revenue generating power of special events like auctions and Athlet-a-thons is a strong personal tie-in.

With an auction, people will spend more money than they ordinarily would because there are both bargains and tax deductions involved.

With a school-based Athlet-a-thon, the personal tie-in is a direct sponsorship of a child’s achievements.

The personal connection is the strongest motivator for opening the pocketbook to its fullest extent. Always make sure to include that aspect when putting your plan in place.

In the next article in this series, I’ll offer some specific advice on suppliers that have pre-packaged offerings for event-style fundraisers.