If you’ve seen the Pivot team around town lately looking more dapper than usual, you probably saw us on the way to a fundraiser. Recently, we’ve had the privilege of supporting our clients at a few of their events, and boy, do they know how to put on a great fundraiser.
Great fundraisers are more than just a one-day pledge drive. And they’re not just fun and entertainment, either. They have to strike a difficult balance between exceptional and excessive, unforgettable and unprofitable. Here are a few of the ways we’ve seen the best nonprofits approach their fundraising events.
1. It’s a sharing opportunity.
In the planning stages, a lot of attention is devoted to the attendees of the event, and rightly so. But what often gets overlooked are the channels that open up through the fundraiser to tell non-attendees about your mission. Whether it’s talking to the media leading up to the event or establishing an event hashtag for people to see what they’re missing, fundraisers are one of the best occasions for future donors to find out who you are.
That’s half the reason why people attend events in the first place—to experience something unique and have a story about it to share. Branded photo booth images, event keepsakes, and a dedicated photographer all help make sharing guests’ experiences even easier and let others know what they have to look forward to the next time.
2. It’s an educational opportunity.
Ultimately, the ones who’ll give to a mission are the ones who care about the mission, and the ones who care about it are the ones who understand it. For some guests, the fundraiser may be their first experience with the hosting nonprofit, and there’s no more captive or curious audience than the one that has bought a ticket to spend a few hours with you.
Ideally, the event speaker can tell a personal story about how the nonprofit’s work has impacted his or her life. And the story doesn’t have to stop when the mic is turned off. At the NEAR Annual Luncheon, for example, tables around the room displayed incredible photos of the transformations that had taken place in the area. And Ivy Tech’s Evening in Paris, which was presented by our client Gregory & Appel and featured gorgeous event design by Maribeth Smith, connected guests with the event’s cause in a particularly tangible way: the night’s dinner was prepared and served to guests by the culinary students who would directly benefit from the funds raised.
3. It’s a funding opportunity.
Of course, let’s not forget that the most important measure of success for a fundraiser is whether or not it achieves the nonprofit’s fundraising goals. Volunteers—the ones who are already invested in your mission—are a tremendous asset, and with all their personal experience and enthusiasm, they’re likely to be the best source of ticket sales. So enlist their help, drive some friendly competition, and don’t forget to thank them properly.
Equally as important is thinking beyond the checkbook for ways to make giving more convenient and creative. Bosma’s Dining in the Darkevent invited guests to donate via text. They also broadcasted a real-time update of donor names as well as the total donation amount the event had raised throughout the night. Before it was even over, they had exceeded their goal of $100,000, and it was a great opportunity to celebrate the attendees as a part of the event’s success.
4. It’s a fun opportunity.
That one element that always has us talking about “the next time”? It’s the personal touches that express the nonprofit’s personality. Indy Parks’ IPL Mayor’s Lunch, for example, brought in play structures, park rangers with owls, and the help of a local second grade glass. And rather than the ubiquitous bland, plated chicken breast, they created a picnic-inspired menu and encouraged everyone to interact with family-style dining. Even during the middle of our workday, we were able to be immersed in the kind of interactive fun and energy that Indy Parks works hard to create all year long.
We’re especially looking forward to Indy Parks’s first ever Farmraiser this fall, an annual farm tour and night of dining and dancing in the greenhouse at Indy Urban Acres. Tickets are on sale now, and seats are limited. Hope to see you at an unforgettable fundraiser soon!