This blog post is by CharityHowTo Expert AJ Steinberg
The holiday season is upon us! A crazy, hectic time for nonprofits whose intentions are firmly glued on year-end giving. But soon this old year will fade away, replaced with a new year filled with great possibilities.
For this new year, give your organization the gift of successful fundraising events. This is the time to bid farewell to bad event planning habits that have scuttled your fundraising events’ effectiveness, and to make a commitment to a new disciplined regime that will transform your bloated, boring events into sleek and engaging money-making machines.
Here are five game-changing New Year’s resolutions you can make to get your fundraising events to their peak performance.
Resolution 1 – Build your fundraising event right
Before jumping into your event production, it is crucial to pinpoint your target demographic, meaning who you want to see attending your fundraising event. To ensure that your event will appeal to this specific group, you must consider their interests and abilities, both physical and financial.
For example, if you are an environmental organization, you most likely have an active support base who prefers to be outdoors rather than at a sit-down black-tie event. Younger demographics usually don’t have the financial resources for higher ticket prices, and older crowds need to be seated with easy access for walkers and wheelchairs.
TIP: Include your board members in the pre-planning conversation. Listen carefully to what they liked, and didn’t like about your prior events. By listening to their concerns, you will be able to build an event which appeals to them. A fundraising event that appeals to board members means that they will be far more likely to be engaged in helping to procure sponsors, donations, and selling tickets.
Resolution 2 – Choose an amazing honoree for your fundraising event
Your honoree should be a cash cow for your event. If you choose the right person, their participation can rev up sales of sponsorships, tribute ads and tickets.
The best honorees are strong supporters who have contributed to your organization in a meaningful way and who have not been honored previously by other organizations. Avoid choosing politicians or individuals affiliated with other charitable organizations as honorees, as they have tapped out their fundraising capabilities for their own causes.
Tip: To effectively engage honorees to help with ticket sales and solicitation of sponsorships, make them feel special. Keep them in the loop as the planning progresses to help build their excitement and enthusiasm. Ask their opinion on certain elements. Such as sequencing of the stage program or duration of honoree speeches. Most importantly, don’t make them feel they are just one honoree among a large crowd! Best practice is to have maximum two honorees, which makes each person feel truly honored. This also keeps the length of your stage program down to a manageable length. Nothing bores fundraising event guests more than sitting through a multitude of long honoree speeches!
Resolution 3 – Recruit a superstar event committee
Your event committee is key to your fundraising event’s success. Not only will they help with planning and procurement of auction items, but they are also your best marketing tool.
Choose your committee chairs carefully with eyes on their influence and reach in their social and business circles. I prefer two event chairs as it doubles the impact of having their names listed on invitations and event materials.
When committee members are engaged and appreciated, they help solicit sponsorships and auction items, and their enthusiastic word-of-mouth promotion for your event is key to helping you maximize your fundraising events’ ticket sales.
Tip: I always aim to have twelve people sit on my committees. This is ideal for bonding as a group and gives us plenty of person-power for soliciting auction items and setting up. Too many people serving on a committee can diminish the feeling of working as a team which is so beneficial to a fundraising event’s success. Also, I avoid having board members as committee members as their friends and colleagues are already on the event mailing list and have been asked, many times over, for donations and support. The idea of a committee is to bring in new assets to your fundraising event!
CLICK HERE for a free webinar I presented with CharityHowTo.com on how to recruit and manage amazing event committees!
Resolution 4 – Craft your fundraising event’s stage program to inspire
Research shows that fundraising event guests are often bored and don’t fully understand the scope of the nonprofit’s mission. This happens because too little time is spent sequencing and scripting the event’s stage program. A stage program may not be on a stage – it could be in a living room or on a golf course – but it is the portion of the event when you speak to your guests and make the case for support.
My advice is to spend far less time on the silent auction and far more time crafting a stage program that opens hearts and wallets.
Tip: There are some rules that I follow when sequencing a stage program that help keep the audience engaged. CLICK HERE for a sample of stage sequencing that works to keep audience members from falling asleep.
CLICK HERE for a free webinar I presented with CharityHowTo.com that details how to create stage programs that open hearts and wallets.
Resolution 5 – Be ready with a post-event cultivation plan
You did it! Your fundraising event was a huge hit, and you have succeeded in convincing guests that your organization is worthy of their support. Now, post-event is the crucial time for starting the cultivation process to turn those attendees into supporters.
Have a well-conceived post event communication plan ready in advance to parlay your success into new supporters. The sweet spot for starting post-event communication is usually one to two days after the event’s completion.
Tip: Just as with donors, you need a cultivation plan and a communication plan for transforming attendees into supporters. It is important that the post-event communications include sequencing for all attendees and those who donated at higher levels during the event.
For a sample of a post-communication plan, CLICK HERE. Remember, to be most effective with post-even engagement you need to be timely with your outreach to attendees. This means your first email in the sequence, or phone call for large donors, must be done within 48-hours of the event.
CLICK HERE for a free webinar I presented with CharityHowTo.com about turning fundraising event attendees into donors?
But wait, there’s more!
Immediately following the fundraising event, while the details are still fresh in everyone’s mind, send out a post-event survey to collect committee and board members’ impressions of both the planning and the event itself.
Plan a wrap up meeting where you can do some well-deserved victory laps around the meeting room, and then discuss the results of the surveys with your team. This is the time to focus on what did and did not work with this event, and do some brainstorming on how to make next year’s fundraising event even better.
Want an example of a post-event survey? CLICK HERE for a sample gala survey.
And here’s even a little more!
For those of you feeling energetic after purging yourself of unproductive event planning habits, consider spending a little time on a year-end fundraising event audit to assess how last year’s fundraisers performed. Similar to a year-end review for your fundraising program, this audit would list all your events and rate each one’s Return on Investment (ROI), the amount of staff hours spent producing the event, number of volunteers engaged, board member participation, overall funds raised, and attendee cultivation success.
The most important resolution of all…GRATITUDE
As you look forward to the year ahead, take a moment to appreciate all that you have accomplished with your fundraising events over the past twelve months.
Think of all the wonderful volunteers who have stepped in to help with planning and running your events.
Think of the generous guests who raised their paddles and bid on auction items.
Think of your dedicated, hard-working staff who pulled together all the loose ends at the last minute of event planning.
And, most importantly, think of the amazing and positive impact you and your nonprofit colleagues are making in the world, both through your day-to-day hard work as well as through all your efforts planning fundraising events.
Thank you for all you do, and happy new year to you all.
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About The Author:
A.J. Steinberg CFRE, has created outstanding fundraising events since 1999 with her Los Angeles-based event planning company. She has produced over 100 events and raised millions of dollars for organizations Cystic Fibrosis, Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots and Union Rescue Mission.
In 2015, A.J. launched Queen Bee Fundraising to share the art of nonprofit event planning with organizations worldwide. Through consulting, webinars, workshops and speaking engagements, A.J.’s goal is to make her successful event planning strategies and resources available to all nonprofits, no matter their size or location.
A.J. has earned the reputation as a leader in event-based fundraising and is a recognized topic expert and contributor to respected nonprofit resources such as CharityHowTo.Com.