It is easy to overlook the basics when you are in the midst of brainstorming fundraising ideas. However, the one element non-profits cannot afford to look past is how they will ask for donations. You could argue this is the single most important part of a fundraising event, as without it there may not be another one. Asking for money is subtle skill that must be handled with care. Ideally, you want to setup donations to flow with the event and provide a sense of reward to the donor. Let’s examine some of the best ways to do this.
Pre-sale tickets provide the most direct way to balance your budget before the big day. There are two ways to approach ticket sales depending on how you think your audience will respond. If you don’t believe the event will generate any additional revenue, then your ticket price should cover all of your costs and the minimum donation you expect per person. The alternative approach is to sell tickets strictly to cover costs, and then use some of the ideas below to raise your profit margin.
Silent auctions are probably the most popular type of event-based fundraising activities, and for good reason. If you can get items donated to your auction then your organization keeps all of the proceeds. There is a lot of debate as to the best way to run a silent auction. Some people recommend having only a few high ticket items, while other groups swear by a wide range of merchandise. I think the bigger consideration is quality. You want your auction tables to feature new and exciting items that will motivate donors to make a bid.
If you have a celebrity as your keynote speaker then you might want to use their charisma to ask for donations. One way to pull this off is to tape an envelope under each person’s chair. As the speaker closes their presentation, he or she will ask everyone to reach under their chair for an envelope to make a donation. There is some peer pressure involved with this strategy but it can yield good results. For a bigger impact, ask the speaker to donate a portion of their fee back to the organization, and present this donation as an over-sized check during the pledging window.
Grand Prize Raffle
Being a non-profit organization gives you the option to raise money through games of chance. Of course you’ll want to check with your accountant for details, but a cash prize raffle can be an easy way to raise money. The trick is to sell as many raffle tickets as possible before the event, but hold the drawing at the end of your function. You should be able to sell a good amount of tickets at the event itself, especially if you display the cash prize for all to see.
It is important to recognize that your network of supporters can provide more than just money to aid your organization. Take advantage of having everyone together under the same roof to promote opportunities available for volunteers. Use your donation forms to get people to opt-in as helpers or service providers. Remember that some of your guests own their own businesses, so they may be able to provide a service that is more valuable than a cash donation.
Asking for money is never an easy job, but it is a critical part of keeping non-profits up and running. Just keep in mind that soliciting donations doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable process. Treat it as you would any business transaction. Begin by offering value to your donors, and make the transaction process as simple as possible.