In prior posts, we have talked about the more personal forms of fundraising such as in-person and call time. But now it is time to start exploring fundraising efforts that cast a wider net. Here we will explore events and internet based fundraising, and in our final post of this series, we explore fundraising by mail.
Fundraising events come in many different forms: burgers in the park while passing the hat, a Zoom fundraising over the internet, a backyard affair at a donor’s house, a competitive bowling game, buying out a small theater for a movie, or a formal black-tie affair. The possibilities really are endless. Ultimately, however, there is only one rule of a fundraising event: make more money than you spend.
And that rule often scares people off - but there is no reason that, with good planning, you can throw a successful fundraising event.
At some point, a fundraising event grows so large that a formal event coordinator is required to pull off a successful event, so we will be putting the large fundraisers aside and only be focusing on those smaller fundraising events that require a solid day of planning and a few phone calls to pull off.
Though nothing is guaranteed, the route to a more successful fundraising event is to start with a total budget and then work backward. To keep the math simple and small, let's suppose your event is burgers in the park. Take the time to figure out how much the pavilion rental is, how much food will cost per person, cooking supplies such as utensils, charcoal, napkins, and plates, and if you will need to buy things like tents and sunscreen.
Suppose that the food costs $2.00 per person and all of the other things total $500. This means that you need to make $502 if only one person arrives, $504 if two people show (average donation of $252 per person needed to break even), if 10 people arrive you need to make $520 (average donation of $52.00 per person needed to break even), and if 50 people arrive you need to make $600 (an average donation of $12 per person to break even). With this in mind, you now know that you have a relatively low-dollar event that a wide range of supporters would want to attend. Depending on the nature of the event it can be appropriate to ask for payment upfront (renting a theater, for example) while simply asking for a suggested donation while advertising the event is more acceptable.
And a small, but important, tip on suggested donations is to realize that there will be people who attend your event that won’t make a donation, or only make a small donation. So, for example, if you know your average donation needs to be $12, ask for $25. This way you can ensure that, on the whole, you are able to cover your costs.
Another way to help keep your costs down is to find people to donate to the event by subsidizing costs and/or see if people are willing to donate supplies at no or low cost. Remember, the less you have to spend, the better.
Though you want every event to be successful, be willing to lose every dollar you put in. Remember that there is no guarantee that your fundraiser will make one thin dime. For this reason, don’t view fundraising events as Hail Mary to save you, but rather a solid way to take your donations to another level by shaking things up a little bit and energizing supporters.
Internet Based Fundraising
Internet based fundraising has become more and more common over the past ten years as it offers convenience for the donor and low to no costs for those with their hats out.
That being said, there are definitely things you can do to help or hurt your fundraising efforts online - through internet etiquette is always shifting, there are certain unspoken rules you should keep in mind when asking for donations online.
Similar to traditional mail, email solicitations come in two forms: prospective and re-solicits. Many of the rules remain the same in regards to building your list and crafting a message.
The biggest difference between email solicitations and traditional letters is that emails are quick and affordable - and a good tracking system makes writing and distributing a fundraising email extremely easy.
And this ease in use is the biggest strength and weakness of an email fundraising campaign.
This may come as a shock, but you are not going to be the first person to think of using email to ask for money (we’re kidding of course). As you might guess, your email will be just one of many that will show up in a person’s inbox. Snappy subject lines can help, but the reality is that a small percentage of people will open your email and even fewer will donate.
This means that you have to grab people quickly. Have your donation button and text link be easily identified in the message and on the template. Make it clear that you are asking for a donation, and be brief in explaining what the donation will go towards. Given the fact that emails are basically instant, you should also add an extra level of urgency to your message.
In this same breath, however, a caution: don’t abuse your email solicitations. Space out your donation email requests between general update emails and donation-specific messages (that being said, it is acceptable in your general updates to add a quick blurb and donate button at the end of the message).
Similar to email, donation posts on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) are quick and easy. The biggest advantage of using social media is that you can generally control how long the donation request remains on a page by “pinning” the post to the top of your follower page.
Keep in mind that having something pinned to a page you are controlling is not the same as having people constantly seeing your donation request. Yes, a supporter may see your donation request when it is fresh, but it will be lost within just a few minutes of scrolling. Therefore, the most important thing about social media fundraising drives is that you need to constantly post general content in hopes that people come to your page and see the specific post asking for a donation.
Another thing to keep in mind is that different social media platforms have different technical requirements and expectations. Facebook is a good, generic place where just about anything can be posted and it is acceptable to have posts that are days old at the top of your page. Twitter, on the other hand, is extremely fast-paced, has a 280 character limit, and what you post will be off the screen almost immediately - so frequent updates are necessary. Instagram is built around photos, so simple text asking for a donation is going to be ignored by its users.
If you are unfamiliar with any particular social media format, take the time to learn and follow its trends before diving in. If you just can’t figure it out, ask someone who does.
We have talked about the importance of websites before so we won’t spend too much time on them here. What we will say is that websites are the backbone of any modern campaign - and fundraising goes part and parcel with that.
Make your donation buttons large and easy to find, include your website on all fundraising literature, and ensure that the donation process itself is as quick and painless as possible for your donor.
If you are looking for a way to accept donations online, FundHero has got you covered. Just head on over to our sign up page.