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PROTIP: 5 Secrets to Keep Your Fundraiser From Losing Money

The following is a guest post by Lance Trebesch, CEO of & Ticket River.

Lance Trebesch Lance Trebesch

A 2007 study by Charity Navigator revealed that for many non-profit groups, fundraisers are actually fund-losers: the average organization spends $1.33 on an event for every $1.00 the event raises. Efficient events, however, spent as little as $0.71 for every $1.00 raised, making the event a financial as well as a social success.

Here are five ways to keep your non-profit fundraising event in the black:

1. Plan a repeat event. The 7th Annual BBB Festival for Cancer Research brought in over $10,000 with its one-day music festival fundraiser for breast cancer research and treatment. “This year’s event isn’t even fully finished and already we are planning what we can do next year,” said event planner Alanna Foell.

Benefits of a repeat event include:

  • Easier planning - many of the previous year’s ideas, systems, and even equipment can be reused.
  • Organization branding - establish your non-profit as the “go-to” source for a yearly festival, walk-a-thon, or community dinner.
  • Contact-building - businesses and individuals who donate in one year are more likely to repeat or increase donations in following years.

2. Promote, promote, promote. Event tickets sell best when you have plenty of volunteers offering them to family, friends, and community members. “Look for volunteers who have the same passion for the type of event” you’re holding, recommends Coral Auger, a volunteer for the Spirit of the Peace Powwow Event. Word of mouth isn’t the only way to get the news out: consider press releases, custom stickers, and posters or flyers that communicate the feel of your event as well as the date, time, and place. And don’t forget the power of social media sharing over Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and similar sites.

3. Personalize. For smaller events like sit-down dinners, consider printed place or seating cards for each guest that coordinate with your event tickets or flyers. Larger events may call for Tyvek wristbands to help you keep track of attendees.

Even a small printed item can make attendees feel welcomed and included in your fundraising event. When choosing what to print, “Be organized, give yourself proper time to complete tasks and you should be fine,” recommend chefs Tyrone Sillito and Keith Taniyama.

4. Use “ancillary” fundraising. “Ancillary” fundraising diversifies the ways in which one event raises funds. Some common ancillary fundraising tactics that also make events more fun and informative for participants include:

  • In-kind donations. Donations of food, equipment, event space, door prizes, and other items are often easier to find than cash donations, especially from first-time donors. Try seeking in-kind donations of items you need for your organization’s event.
  • Raffles or “silent” auctions. In-kind donations of goods or services can be raffled off or placed in a silent auction. Raffles, which are popular in education fundraising, sell tickets to participants who hope their ticket number will be drawn for a prize. In a silent auction, participants bid on an item by writing down their names and bids; the highest bidder wins the prize.
  • Sponsorships. Larger donors may be willing to sponsor an event in exchange for recognition. Sponsors may support an entire event or part of it.
  • Ad books. Selling advertising space in an event program is one way to help offset the event’s costs. Another method is to print special “ad books” that collect advertisements from local sponsors and donors. Give ad books to participants as a memento of the event and to recognize the donors who made it possible.

5. Spend “face time” with your participants. Fundraising events can be a blast, and offering a good time is one way to guarantee positive word-of-mouth support for your event and your cause. However, it’s also important to spend a few minutes talking to participants about the reason for the event and the mission of your organization.

A few ways to make “face time” work:

  • Say a few words. Before introducing the main event, say something about the event’s purpose and the organization’s mission. Keep these remarks short and to the point - a few sentences will do it.
  • Talk amongst yourselves. The volunteers who planned, organized, and run the event are often deeply proud of their work as well as passionately interested in the cause. Encourage them to talk about the event with participants. Their enthusiasm will quickly catch on.
  • “For more information….” Give participants a simple way to find out more about your non-profit and its cause. Provide a website URL, or print tickets or programs with a scannable QR code participants can use to look up more info on the spot.

Lance Trebesch is the CEO of & Ticket River which offers a variety of event products and ticketing services. After nineteen years of Silicon Valley experience, Lance found the key to happiness is helping customers worldwide beautify and monetize their events with brilliant print products and event services. Listening to his customers and learning about how they plan their events – ranging from concerts to fundraisers has helped him gain insight and expertise on how to host a successful event that he is always eager to share.

Topics: Fundraising