Event Fundraising Using Social Media Part I

15 May

It’s all over the news that President Obama held a huge fundraising gala at George Clooney’s house and raised over $14 million dollars. While this is the most any president has raised in one night, I hardly expect the average nonprofit to charge $40,000 per ticket and reap the same results. However, fundraising events are a major part of many charities’ strategy to earn dollars and this week we will focus on making the most of your efforts to host a successful event.

As a former special events coordinator for several nonprofits, I’ve been able to be a part of many different types of fundraisers including dinners at elite country clubs, crab feeds, golf tournaments, corporate receptions, and intimate concerts. Although I’ve shared some tips in past blogs, I thought I’d expand on some of them for this week’s theme.

1)      Host a mix of high and low-end events – Of course we’d all like to host a celebrity endorsed and attended event where you put all of your energy into one evening of grandeur with stellar results, but the chances of that happening can be compared to winning the Mega Millions lottery. In all likelihood, your donor list is probably made up of a variety of givers from those who give 20 dollars a month to high-end bequest and planned giving supporters. With this in mind, one organization I worked for had an elegant banquet once a year for top donors and a Fourth of July picnic for volunteers and lower end donors. Yes, we need to court those with heavy pocket books, but the amount from lesser givers certainly adds up, too.

2)      Give incentive to attend – When we were in the planning stages of one of these higher end banquets, we were researching different speakers who were well-known and had a passion for our cause. Of course many cost a pretty penny and so the question came up whether the draw to our event was the entertainment or the compassion to support our mission. The answer was both. Some guests need a hook to entice them to come (especially the newer supporters) and longtime donors feel a dedication to the organization and will likely attend regardless of the speaker. I’m sure many guests would have donated money to the candidate anyway, but most attended the Obama affair to check out Clooney’s home and the other famous guests in attendance.

3)      Get the word out – Just as in high school, many people will only attend an event if they know what to expect and who will be attending. For non-formal events, advertise and promote on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks your organization participates in. Direct people to your website and show pictures of past years’ events. Post updates on prizes, auction items, menu selections, or entertainment that will be featured. Also, if someone is unable to attend, give the option of a donation button so that they can still contribute to your cause online.

Online fundraising is a great way to get donors to give, but event fundraising is also a must for many organizations to create a stronger bond of partnership and dedication between the supporter and charity. More tips to come this week to help you create a profitable event to benefit your organization.

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