Event Management

Fundraising for success. Interview with Sandra Sims

Skift Take

- Three attributes of the successful fundraising organizer

I am aware that a lot of you reading out there are involved with no-profit and fundraising. I am amazed by the dynamics of such events and I am even more amazed when I see huge participation and donations. I have found myself involved with managing volunteers and that is a big chunk of running successful fundraising events.

Now as I can just speculate on the subject and I am sure you seek real experience and down to earth suggestions I decided to interview Sandra Sims.

Sandra first started fundraising when she was in college at the University of North Texas. She was active in a school spirit club and served as chair of the fundraising committee, planning a variety of fundraisers for her club.

After graduating in 1997 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts she went to work in a variety of industries primarily working in marketing and database management.

The turning point was a volunteer experience with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

At that point she realized that not only did she enjoy fundraising, but had a knack for it too. She continued to volunteer for a variety of charitable organizations. In the fall of 2003 StepbyStepFundraising.com began as a way to share her experience with others.

She is author of a blog and several ebooks (some available for free if you subscribe) on the subject

Here are the tips that Sandra shared

Organization, Enthusiasm, Empowering (the ability to recruit volunteers and empower them to fulfill their duties)

– The day of the event your survival kit includes…

Event Binder:

– Contact information for key volunteers and service providers (catering, entertainment, etc.) including cell phones!

– Contracts with service providers

– Exact schedule of events

– Forms related to the event and blank forms. For example, if you are having a silent auction always have blank auction donation forms. Inevitability someone will bring a donation to the event itself rather than turn it in beforehand.

– scissors, tape, pens, paper, mini-first aid kit (something always comes up where you need these!)

– Bags for each person who will be taking money (tickets, raffles, etc.) with printed instructions

– Brochures about the organization that can be distributed

– A way to record attendance and capture contact information – such as a free drawing

– Nametags

– Business cards

And for personal survival: Bottled water & Tylenol!

– Tell us the most critical objective of a fundraising event and what practices do you adopt to achieve it.There are three absolute essentials:

1. First choose an event that your audience will truly enjoy. They must have a compelling reason to want to come other than “it’s for charity.” The social objective of most events is something that’s fun and entertaining. Consider the tastes of your audience, are they more likely to enjoy something formal or casual?

What events have worked with this group in the past? Talk to key supporters and see if they are involved with any interest groups that would be enthusiastic about a certain type of event. If they would enjoy doing a lot of the planning, even better!

2. If you have done well with matching the event to your audience, the second objective, getting attendees, will be much easier. You will still need to do advertising and publicity to get more attendees to the event. Remember that announcing the event once or twice is not enough.

Promote the event to the most people possible so each person is reminded of it 5 to 10 times. You do with by using multiple media: email, mailed invitations, telephone calls, newsletters, newspaper articles, and free Radio/TV spots.

3. The final and most important aspect of a charity benefit is that it raises money! Plan the budget (projected costs and revenues) well in advance. This will help you to know how much gross revenue needs to be in order to make a good profit. Having sponsorships, donations by individuals and businesses, helps to underwrite costs and can be a big revenue generator.

Thank your sponsors by including their names in your programs and publicity. Most events that I have been involved with raise the most funds through multiple fundraisers held at the event, not the entry tickets. Silent auctions, live auctions, raffles, sales of mementos are great ways to raise funds.

– Volunteers are a critical part of the no-profit event. How do you motivate them?

People are often more willing to help than we give them credit for. The trick is discovering what they would enjoy doing, given the amount of time they have to commit. Divide the tasks of the event into a number different areas. For example, a dinner and auction would have several main areas of responsibility: food, decorations, auctions, publicity, etc.

You can recruit lead volunteers, or what I like to call “Captains” for each area. They will then be in charge of recruiting additional volunteers and planning that area.

These are the volunteers that do have more time to commit for several weeks or months leading up to the event. Each of the areas would then be divided into tasks and blocks of time that other volunteers can help with that don’t take as much time. For instance, if there’s someone who’s very social and knows a lot of people that will be there, they might be willing to be a greeter or ticket taker for 30 minutes or an hour.

When the event planner or lead staff person has confidence in the volunteers and empowers them to take charge of their area, that can be very motivating to them. Show your thanks to anyone who helps, attends or makes donations. On the flip side, if the event planner tries to control everything and be the “gatekeeper” for every minor decision, that is very de-motivating for volunteers.