Fundraising events are a staple of most school fundraising plans. Each year, K-12 schools hold hundreds of thousands of galas, dinners, silent auctions, and other special events.
Events can be extremely profitable for schools, but they can also take a lot of time and effort to succeed. For that reason, schools need to make sure that each event they hold raises as much money as possible, to leverage the hard work of the school community in running the event.
Here are four great ideas for making sure your next school fundraising event is as profitable as possible:
Idea #1: Spend More of Your Time for Each Event Focused on Finding Sponsors
Most schools focus their event fundraising efforts on selling tickets. Filling the room by selling lots of tickets is a good thing, and will help raise money for your school… but when it comes to events, schools should take a page from other types of non-profits and spend much more time focused on finding businesses, families and individuals to serve as event sponsors by writing large checks.
Every event has room for sponsors, no matter how low key or low dollar. Generally speaking, event sponsors should make up more than half of the revenue from most fundraising events, and the more money an event raises, the higher the percentage that comes through sponsorships. Your fundraising team should be spending lots of time finding and cultivating sponsors for your event.
Idea #2: Tier Your Large Events to Appeal to More Donors
One great way to maximize the revenue at your fundraising events is to make sure that every large event you hold offers multiple tiers or giving levels. This is important because it expands the reach of your event to include more donors at different wealth levels.
For example, let’s say that every year your school holds a sit down dinner event. The event costs $100 per person. This year, why not add a pre-event at a higher cost? Perhaps you could have a $500 VIP cocktail reception before the event. Be creative when adding levels.
Of course, giving levels can also go the other way… depending on the size of your school, you could have a $25 per person cash-bar event prior to the dinner, to hit lower level and grassroots donors, followed by the $100 dinner. Or do all three: a $25 party, a $500 VIP cocktail reception, and a $100 dinner. Offering different tiers in this way ensures that your event is accessible to smaller level donors, mid-level donors, and high-level donors.
Idea #3: Follow-Up on Your Event Invitations with a Phone Call
Every school sends out invitations to its fundraising events, but very few follow up those invitations with a phone call. Having your staff, board, or well-trained volunteers call each invitee in the 2 weeks following your invitation mailing can significantly increase your response rate. The call doesn’t have to be a hard sell. I usually use something like this:
Hi Jim, this is Seth from the Biddle School. I’m calling to make sure that you received the invitation to our 30th Annual Gala. Did you get your copy in the mail?
[If No] I’m sorry to hear that. I’d love to send you another copy by e-mail. What is the best e-mail address to send it to?
[If Yes] Great! Do you know if you will be able to attend?
It’s that simple, and it works wonders – I have seen schools increase ticket sales and attendance by 10% or more simply by making follow up calls after mailing out their event invitations.
Idea #4: Keep Your Events Up-Tempo… People Get Bored Fast… and When People Get Bored, they Stop Coming to Your Events
People get bored fast. When they get bored, they lose focus. Did you ever notice that when an event drags on, people start to hold conversations with each other, and the din starts to drown out the speakers? People leave events early, play on their smartphones or tablets, or just generally zone out and miss all of the important things you are telling them…
Plan your event flow with this in mind. Keep your speeches and event program short. Provide lots to do and see. Know that after 10-15 minutes of doing the same thing, people will start to lose focus.
Keeping your events fun, up-tempo, and relatively short will help people enjoy your school’s events more, and make them want to come to your next fundraiser as well.
If your school is using events to raise money, use these four ideas to leverage your investment of time and resources to raise as much money as possible to support your mission.
Read more from Joe Garecht, The Fundraising Authority
Joe created a fundraising eBook for K–12 schools where he shares his simple, six–step plan for increasing your school’s fundraising by 20% or more.
Dive in and discover how to:
- Motivate donors with a solid case for support
- Bulletproof your asks
- Tap into the true potential of your board or fundraising committee
- Create a successful stewardship strategy
- Communicate with authenticity and urgency
You’ll also find worksheets, checklists, and templates to help you implement each step at your school.
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