I come from a background of planning. Planners, among many other writing devices, are an essential part of my day. I have spent a fair share of my time planning events, theatrical productions, even Excel layouts.
Currently, I spend my time planning fundraisers. Big fundraisers. Fundraisers that raise over $70,000 to help children and families in need.
Our most recent task: Denim and Diamonds
I came into this not knowing what to expect. Like I said, I have had experience in college but nothing on such a large scale. I was in for a whirlwind.
So what advice do I have for you? Dive head first, don’t be afraid, ask TONS of questions, and pray…I prayed a lot.
Here is a breakdown of 10 top tasks for creating a successful fundraiser.
- Fill your sponsorship’s. This is the number one thing you need to tackle in order to have a successful fundraiser. Reach out to those who sponsored the event in the past. I start with an email, then a follow up call, then another email if I still have not heard from them. Create the relationship and build the grounds to have them sponsor year after year. Also, make sure to keep track of who the sponsor is, contact information, and when you send out thank you’s!
- Book vendors early. Just like planning a wedding, the planning and placements of vendors is EXTREMELY important for fundraisers. For instance, at our Denim and Diamonds event we wanted a photo booth. To my luck, I had a personal connection and was easily able to secure one with only three months until the event. However, when it came to the Emcee’s for our event, I was not as lucky. I reached out to three different people we were hoping to have at our event about a month before and two were not available. Timing is everything when it comes to fundraisers.
- Make to do lists. Lists are my best friend. Seriously, I use excel like it’s going out of style. In theatre, I would make a preshow list, production list, and a postshow list. On top of that, I would have side lists of what I needed to get done. For fundraisers, it goes the same way. Categorize what you need done, locations for every aspect of the event, what goes in those locations, Etc. And use excel constantly.
- Have a committee and utilize them. Luckily, I work for an organization that has premade committee’s for each event. I recommend this for any event you are planning. Our committee’s consist of community members as well as staff. This creates a wonderful mix of personalities and ideas for each event. It’s like a team!
- Visit your venue frequently. Our venue was fantastic. I could have not asked for a better location to have Denim and Diamonds. The Cross W Ranch located on Pinckney Rd. in Howell is by far one of the prettiest barns I have ever seen. And the ranch owners are awesome. Anyways, visit your venue as much as you can so you can get familiar with the space, know the ins and outs and where to find things, and so you can direct more easily the day of the event. In one month I went to the venue five times before the event to either meet vendors, talk about the floor plan, or to meet with the committee. Do this. Frequently.
- Buy clear plastic totes and organize everything. This was one of the best decision of my life. I will be buying these clear totes from Walmart again. I bought four for our event and it was the perfect amount. Having these totes not only eliminate the amount of trips you will take to the car by putting them in but also help the organization process. My four totes were used for centerpieces, sales at the event, gambling needs, and raffle items. Organize, Relax, Repeat.
- Get good raffle items. I learned this the hard way. No one wants to bid on cheap items at a fundraiser. They are there to spent money, so let them get their money’s worth. At Denim and Diamonds we had a donation of a 55” TV for our raffle. This was fantastic and drew in the most tickets. Then we had some lesser items such as a wine basket—not so many tickets. The earlier you scout for raffle items and the bigger the items, the better shape your fundraiser will be in.
- Call all vendors a week prior. Checking in with your vendors prior to the event is very essential. Make sure you find out what time they plan to arrive, if there is anything else they may require, and make sure you have their checks ready. Pay your people!
- Don’t skimp on the little details. Little details are like guitar strings. If you don’t tune them appropriately, the whole sound is off. For example, trash bags. This was an error on my part at our most recently event. I mean, who thinks of trash bags before the event? They may be on your list or you may just assume they are available. Not in my case unfortunately. Make sure to double check everything and to prepare for the mishaps. There will be errors but what is a fundraiser without a couple mishaps…
- Do your research. Research prior to event is key. I love to research and read articles on how to get donations, theme ideas, décor ideas, and vendors. Check out some of these Pinterest ideas!
There are many more aspects that contribute to planning a successful fundraiser but these are the essentials. Additionally, keeping a master tracking excel file of your event will help keep your organization of each aspect of the event in order. I hope to later provide you with a sample of what I do and how Excel has seriously made planning events smooth like butter.
Need ideas for your next fundraiser? Check out my fundraising board on Pinterest!