The average event that Perception Funding is involved in with our Ministry Partners raises $20,000 in one-time gifts the night of the event! But what's more, is that an average of $27,000 in new donations is raised over the course of the next year from people who fell in love with the mission at the fundraiser.
The purpose of this post is to help you learn how to plan and throw an event that focuses on developing lasting relationships with new donors and not on the one-time funds for the evening. We'll also cover other organizational aspects of putting on a successful event.
No matter what event you are putting on, the method of getting people to show up is always the same. If you're putting on a golf tournament you'll need team captains to commit to filling their foursome. If you're throwing a banquet you'll need to assign table hosts to commit to filling their table. The idea here is that you get a lot of people who know and love you and your organization to commit to bringing 8-10 people that aren't supporting the organization (yet!). This is how every successful event anywhere gets so many people to show up and this is how your organization will grow financially from an event.
Let's take a look at some numbers: to get 200 guests you'll need to have 30 hosts who commit to getting 8-10 guests. I know the math doesn't add up, but let's be realistic - you're going to have a few host who don't pull their weight. The majority will do a decent job and hopefully you'll have one stay-at-home mom or a retired old man that brings 30-50 friends.
Repetition is KEY!
1. Guests get invited with a personal phone call. DO NOT send a group email or mass email, no one responds to those.
2. After they've committed to coming, guests get an invitation or save-the-date in the mail.
3. Guests get a personal email reminder from the Host Coordinator 5 days before the event.
4. Guests get a reminder call or text from their host, not just reminding them but saying, "I'm so excited for this event and to spend my evening with you! See you Saturday!"
*Note, the repetition in the process but also each form of contact is also different.
Your table hosts or team captains, etc., will need a leader, so you'll want to find a Host Coordinator.
Here's what the Host Coordinator's role entails:
- Keeping the master host list up-to-date. At first it’s just adding hosts and making sure all their contact info is up to date: phone, address, email is input into a spreadsheet.
- Make sure all the hosts have their host packets and understand their roles. Having a host meeting 8-12 weeks prior to the event will help get things moving. This will build momentum as people brainstorm who to invite and as they see they are not alone in this event. There will be hosts that can’t make it to the meeting so you’ll have to catch up with them and make sure they know what to do.
- After the host meeting you’ll need to send out an email to all the hosts every two weeks, encouraging them, reminding them to invite guests and of deadlines. This can just be a done through a quick email.
- When the due date arrives for the hosts to turn in their guest info you’ll have to add all the guest info under each hosts name in the spreadsheet.
- Then you’ll mail the invitation. You need to know how to print labels from the spreadsheet and don't forget stamps too.
- The week of the event you’ll send an email to all the guest reminding them. You’ll also send a separate email to the hosts reminding them to call or text their guests sometime during the week.
Whether you're just having hosts and other volunteer bring food or you're getting it donated you need a Food Finder. Our hope is to never pay for food. The hard part is that a restaurant typically won't donate a whole meal. Here's a few ideas to work around that challenge:
Hosts Bring Food items
As part of their responsibilities have every host bring an appetizer or dessert. Be sure to assign host specific things to bring so you don't end up with to much of one thing. Also, the Food Finder will need to organize nice serving platers, plates and other dishes. You want this to look fancy and elegant, you don't want this to look like an old church pot-luck.
Ask restaurants or catering companies to donate one specific item. Examples, the Olive Garden has always been generous about donating salad, it's cheap for them to do and they have a ton of it. Chipotle has always been generous about donating chips, salsa and guacamole. Think of restaurants that you frequent, enjoy, are locally owned or maybe a friend that does catering.
Most often we can get all of the meal donated except for the meat, which we can usually find someone to cater, grill or smoke it at cost.
If you're doing a silent auction you'll need an Item Organizer which is a key role in pulling off this event, you'll learn more about this role in the downloadable timelines below.
The 3 key roles (Host Coordinator, Food Finder, Item Organizer) we've discussed in this post all have to be lead by 3 different people for your event to truly be a success. At the same time these three people need to work together and be a team. They are the lead team for the event.
The timeline for the event itself is very important to get nailed down, but it is not the first thing to do. One of the biggest mistakes I see Organizations making is spending hours and hours planning the evening it self instead of inviting guest. We've seen so many well done fudraising events fall flat. They had an amazing program all lined up, and you could easily tell they spent a lot of time preparing, but the problem was they didn't have anyone there to see it. A good rule of thumb is that in the first 4 weeks of planning a fundraiser event you shouldn't spend more than 30 minutest planning the evening itself. Trust us on this and everything will come together, it will look amazing, and you'll actually have people there to enjoy it and to give!
Here you can download the event timeline and host packet. Please let us know if you'd like more resources as we have so many things that we can share depending on your event.
The event timeline is only for the Host Coordinator, Food Finder and other people leading the event. The one attached is for a silent auction as it's the longest and most detailed event to pull off. So if you're doing a banquet, 5k, golf tourney, benefit concert, etc. just delete the silent auction pieces.
The Host packet has a small timeline that won't scare hosts away. It includes their responsibilities as host, who and how to invite people and a form to turn in their guest list.