In the world of fundraising, whether it’s for charity, your…
Putting aside important aspects to a successful fundraising campaign like fun, meaning and connection to cause, the most fundamental goal is to raise money, right?
After all, it’s in the term itself: The point is to raise funds. Otherwise you’re running an awareness campaign which is totally fine, but it’s not fundraising.
There are ways to fundraise without wasting money. Sometimes it’s a matter of trial and error to get the formula right. But let’s instead take a look at how we can knock that wastage on the head before it gets out of hand.
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Waste #1: Advertising and Awareness
You might hear something about how awareness is the most important aspect of raising funds, but it’s not.
In fact, the biggest waste of money is often attempts at promoting a fundraiser using traditional methods like TV, radio and newspaper advertising.
The fact is, awareness doesn’t accomplish much – the people who are totally unaware of your fundraiser are likely not interested in the first place, and thus unlikely to participate no matter how aware you make them.
Go for the low hanging fruit first – your existing supporters. Once you’ve gained their interest, ask them to further promote your fundraiser.
Advertising can be effective, but to expand your reach you should concentrate on free or cheaper forms of marketing and public relations, like posters in shop windows, articles, interviews and social media campaigns.
Waste #2: Prizes
Every year organisations get the crazy idea that in order to inspire participation in their fundraisers, they have to offer ‘real’ prizes with ‘real’ value.
Now, an expensive item or a cool gadget will certainly generate a bit of buzz, but unless you know for certain how many tickets you’ll sell, buying the prize before the event is a risk you shouldn’t take.
Donated prizes or fifty-fifty style prizes are a better choice, as they cost nothing yet still guarantee a prize to generate a little excitement.
Spending a lot on a prize can be a disaster if the event doesn’t raise as much as you’d have hoped.
Reward prize sponsors with plenty of opportunities for thank yous – on the day of the fundraiser, throughout the campaign and via social media.
Waste #3: Catering
As with prizes, paying for a catered event when the goal is to raise money is a mistake.
Many people see fundraising dinners in the political or high-end charity world and think they should do something like that, but the difference is simple: At a big time political or charity event attended by society’s elite, a single donation likely pays for the whole evening.
If you must have your event catered, follow the same rule: Price your tickets so that a very small number of them pay for the catering service. Otherwise you run the risk of collecting just enough money to pay the food bill, or worse, not even enough for that.
Asking people to ‘bring a dish’ for a pot luck dinner may not be as glamorous, but it’s cheaper and arguably more enjoyable for everyone.
Waste #4: Weatherproofing
You can control a lot of things in this world, but the weather still isn’t one of them.
We can put a man on the moon and cure terrible diseases, but it remains one of the few major risks in this world that if you plan an event for a Saturday, that weekend will bring clouds, rain, hail, strong winds – maybe all of the above.
If you don’t make weather-proofing part of your event planning, the odds are you’re going to regret it. Even if you’ve gotten away with it in the past, chances are you’ll feel the sting of the weather at some point as you plan future events.
It’s not always a complete washout that happens either. You might think you’re safe indoors, but bad weather that keeps people home can ruin your event too.
Here are some tips on how to weatherproof your big day and ensure it’s never a waste of time and money, no matter what the weather does.
Have an indoor option:
If your event is going to be held outdoors, always have an indoor alternative or, at the very least, an alternative with a roof. This could be someone’s house or a gazebo in the park where you’re set up.
It doesn’t matter what the alternative is, as long as people have a way of getting out of the rain – or sun – if it’s too oppressive.
Alternatively, you can rent tents for your outdoor event, though this of course adds to your overhead costs. Many tent rental places offer special charity rates which might take the sting out of it.
Charge for rain checks:
If you’re working on behalf of a charity, you can insure your event against the weather by charging attendees for a rain check.
The way this works is that if the weather prevents them from attending your event, they promise to donate a set amount in order to ‘purchase’ their non-attendance.
It’s like selling tickets in reverse: Instead of offering attendance for sale, you’re offering non-attendance for sale, allowing everyone to stay home, warm and dry, while you still collect funds for your group or cause.
Sometimes bad weather requires a bit more effort: If a storm threatens to dampen attendance at your next event, consider getting your volunteers to act as taxi drivers, picking up attendees and ferrying them back home again when they’re ready to leave.
Entice some of the kids to work as umbrella ushers, meeting people at their cars with umbrellas and walking them to the entrance.
Announcing these sorts of services might just be the final push reluctant people need to get out of their warm, dry houses and head out to your event for a good cause.
Weather happens. The only time it has the power to ruin everything is when you don’t plan ahead for it. Even the simplest fallback position is often all you need to keep an event going despite the weather.
While it’s often true in other aspects of business that you sometimes have to spend money to make money, some fundraisers take this entirely too far and wind up spending more money than they actually raise – or nearly so.
Don’t waste money to raise money – fundraising is a lot of work, and the real key to success is being smart about how much you spend up front.