How can you better target your fundraising event? How can you attract more participants? And how can you save yourself precious time? Ewan Hastings shares his best tips for event fundraising
If there’s one thing I think I’ve done right throughout my fundraising career, it’s organising fundraising events. From two formal balls, five megalithic Relay for Life events, ceilidhs, craft fairs, white water raft races and ski challenge events among many, many other events – I've pretty much organised it all. Of course, some of the best lessons that I have learned over my 22 year fundraising career have not always come from my successes, but from occasional failures. Here are my 10 top tips for organising successful events:
1. Be specific in your targeting
Really, really think who exactly the target market is for your event. Is it companies? Wealthy people? General members of the public? People getting married? Couples? People who have been affected by a particular medical condition? Then promote exactly to that sector. For example if it is runners for a local running event, think where they go and what they look at: running event websites, local lifestyle magazines, specialist running shoe shops, local gyms etc.
2. Persevere – and then reward yourself
It’s tough getting corporate teams for events. A lot of the time it just takes hard graft. Getting on the phone and calling companies takes guts and perseverance to get to the right person to speak to. Getting two meetings might take you 30 calls. You can do these calls in two hours if you stick at it. Give yourself a treat at the end of making the calls.
3. Create an event committee
Get an event committee together by contacting donors who have fundraised for you over the past few years. Also send out a short press release to your local media promoting the fact you are putting together a committee “for people who like to organise events for family and friends and who want to take it to the next level”. You’ll be amazed how many people like that are out there!
4. Pick up the phone
I have found over the years that often emails do not work. Actually speaking with people over the phone is far more effective in getting people and teams signed up or in helping you with your event. Do not rely on an email. The maxim here is: do it now, don’t delay.
5. Get smaller tasks out of the way
Does a big event look daunting at the start? Take yourself miles forward in its organisation by doing lots of the smaller tasks that need done over the course of a single day or couple of days.
6. Use Facebook ads
Facebook advertising on team events allows you to directly focus events adverts to people interested in doing your charity’s events. If you don’t already do it, do it!
7. Make it time-sensitive
To encourage people or a team to do an event, give them just two weeks to sign up. This tends to focus their minds. Get immediately on with contacting and signing up other groups. There should always be a constant moving forward with an event. If a group you have previously contacted signs up to do an event a few days or weeks later, then great. If not, you haven’t wasted valuable time wondering when and if they’ll participate.
8. Save yourself time with FAQs
A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) sheet, given to event participants when they register for an event, can save you a huge amount of time in fielding phone calls, answering emails and social media messages from teams and individuals.
9. Offer something that really attracts people
For example, if you want your formal ball to become an annual event I would strongly recommend getting a good live band to play at your first ball. This will make the ball much more appealing to prospective guests. Get recommendations from local people for the best bands. People will often buy a table on the strength of who the band are, and you have increased your chances of them coming back again to the second year of the ball.
10. A final tip for speedy stewarding
Want to get people sat down quickly prior to dinner at your formal ball? Place a bagpiper (or player of another loud musical instrument) at the back of the drinks reception to start playing as soon as dinner is announced. Get them to play loudly while stepping forward every few bars of music to usher guests into your main venue very quickly!
So there you go. If you learn the lessons of being organised in your events early on, you too can reap their success and enjoy many years of amazing experiences, like I have had in my long events fundraising life.
Ewan Hastings MInstF(Dip) is a fundraiser with over 22 years' experience. He has worked as a full-time fundraiser for nine UK charities and has spent all these years organising successful fundraising events. For tips covering all aspects of running fundraising events see Ewan’s new book, Events Fundraising Success Top Tips: Lessons from an Old-Dog Fundraiser available now on Amazon.