Last week we shared our top five fundraising ideas for traveling with your orchestra, band, or choir. This week, we’re digging a little deeper into one of the ideas we mentioned: fundraising events. For first time fundraisers, hosting an event can be intimidating, but even fundraising veterans can struggle with large-scale functions. With that in mind, read on for our guide to getting the most out of your fundraising events:
Step 1: Planning and Promotion
The best way to set yourself up for success is to have everything planned down to the last detail. Depending on your ensemble, you may have an event space already available to you, but if not, reserve a venue as soon as possible. If your event requires chairs or if you will be serving food, order enough extra so that you can be certain not to run out. Finally, double check everything at least 48 hours before the event. It may seem like extra work, but if there’s a problem, you’ll be glad you gave yourself enough time to correct the mistake.
Aside from the purely functional aspects of event planning, there are a lot of little things you can do to give your event extra polish. For example, you can print out and sell tickets with the group name or logo on it, or have everyone working at the event wear matching outfits. It’s these kinds of details that make people take notice and see how serious you are about your fundraising goal; your willingness to go the extra mile will convince hesitant guests to make a donation, and will inspire previous donors to give even more.
Another important component of planning your event is coming up with a memorable theme. Make sure you take into account the demographic you’re hoping to attract (e.g., young adults or parents with children?) and choose a theme that will appeal to them. Not only will your theme make decorating much easier, it will also help when it comes time to promote the event.
Facebook Events are a great way of advertising your fundraiser and can also give you a better idea of how many people plan on attending.
Planning is important, but it’s only one half of the equation. To ensure your event is a success, you must promote it as well. Word of mouth is an excellent marketing tool that should not be underestimated. Have your ensemble tell their friends and family about the event as soon as details are confirmed; make sure to give them all the pertinent information (time, location, ticket price, attire, etc.) so they can relay it accurately. Another great promotion is to put the event in your local paper — a lot of newspapers have sections for upcoming events, and they’ll appreciate it if you let them know about your fundraiser. If possible, you can also distribute and put up flyers around your community.
In addition to these traditional ways of marketing, you should also make use of the Internet and social media. If your group has its own Facebook page, you can make a Facebook Event for the concert (if not, you can still make one from your personal page). Facebook Events are a great way of advertising your fundraiser and can also give you a better idea of how many people plan on attending. Use compelling images and text when creating the event page to encourage people to “like” and share it. When the event page is ready, have your ensemble share it and say that they are “going” to the fundraiser; when they do this, their friends and family will see the event on Facebook, giving you some free advertising.
Holding multiple fundraising events can significantly improve your fundraising efforts.
There are several other ways you can promote the event on social media, so be creative! For example, you can create a digital flyer and use it for your profile picture or cover photo, or if you have a budget, you might consider advertising the event on Facebook. It is possible to define the geographic location to which the ad will be shown, so you can send the ad to your specific target group or community. However you choose to promote your fundraiser, keep in mind the type of event you’re hosting to get the best results for you efforts (concert, dinner, or silent auction?), the theme, and the desired attendees.
Step 2: Running the Event
On the day of the event you should think of yourself as a professional event planner. Your ensemble is your client and you need to do everything you can to make the event a success and make your client happy. Firstly, have a clipboard with the itinerary of the event, including any deliveries, as well as the phone numbers of any businesses whose services you’re using (e.g., caterers, equipment rental, staffing companies). If performers from the ensemble are the ones who will be working the event or providing food, make sure to have their numbers as well. There are bound to be mishaps (someone is running late, someone has forgotten something), so organization and communication are the keys to avoiding such issues on the day of the fundraiser.
During the event make sure the atmosphere is uplifting and pleasant. This means reminding those working the event to smile and thank the guests, asking attendees if they’re enjoying themselves and if they need anything. Also make sure your staff quickly curbs any inappropriate behavior. Have sign-up sheets where your guests can give you their emails. Place multiple donation boxes or baskets throughout the space, but especially at the entrances/exits. If you have a PayPal account, you can order a Square credit card scanner (which plugs directly into your phone or tablet) and easily take donations via credit card as well. As we mentioned in our previous guide to fundraising, it’s a good idea to combine different types of fundraising events into one. Even if you haven’t planned a combined event, you can still incorporate elements from other types of events like selling snacks and drinks at a fundraising concert, or selling concert tickets or recordings at a benefit dinner. This is another place you can think outside of the box and gear your fundraiser to the expected audience.
If you’re holding another event, use the emails you gathered at the first one in your new promotion efforts.
At the end of the event, be sure to thank everyone for coming and for their donations. Take this opportunity to remind them of any future fundraisers you have planned. Hosting a fundraising event can be stressful and tiring, but be sure to be just as friendly as you were before it started (this also applies to any staff or workers!). Leave your guests feeling great about their experience.
Step 3: Follow Up and Next Event
The next day, send an email to everyone who attended thanking them again and letting them know how much you appreciate their help. Tell them know how close you are to reaching your goal or if the fundraiser pushed you over the top. If you have any non-anonymous big ticket donors, be sure to thank them in a separate, personalized email or letter. Realize the effect of their donation for them by putting it into physical terms (“your donation covered the cost of three performers’ hotel rooms”). These personalized thank yous are an important part of the process as they show the donors that their contributions are appreciated and encourage further donation.
If you’re holding another event, use the emails you gathered at the first one in your new promotion efforts. Thank the attendees again for their previous contribution and let them know that you would appreciate any further help that they could give. Holding multiple fundraising events can significantly improve your fundraising efforts as the success of the first event will compound the success of the second; guests who had a good time at your fundraiser will be more likely to invite their family and friends who may not have attended the previous one, or tell coworkers about it.
We hope this guide has given you some insight into how to get the most out of your fundraising events. If you can make the ideas above work for you, can only help you reach your fundraising goal and travel with your choir, band, or orchestra. If you found this guide helpful, or if you know someone who would, please share it and like us on Facebook and Twitter.
Over the past 34 years, MidAmerica Productions has staged over 1300 concerts in Carnegie Hall and in historic halls all over the world. To have your ensemble perform in Carnegie Hall or internationally, call us at 212-239-0205 or visit us online at www.midamerica-music.com.