Hosting a charity event is a noble undertaking. Whether it is effective or not, can be determined by adhering to a few fundamentals. By following these key points, you can ensure success with your local charity fundraisers and galas!
Define the purpose – The first thing to do is decide on the purpose of your event. Who or what is the beneficiary? What is the ultimate purpose of the endeavor? Planning the details for your charity event will depend on the goals you wish to achieve.
Appoint a committee – Charity events typically have a host committee consisting of host committee chairpersons. The chairpersons are responsible for contributing to the event and encouraging other attendees to do likewise. The host committee should consist of wealthy donors, local business leaders, or local celebrities. The host committee and chairpersons are not responsible for running the event, but are vital to ensuring that your goals are met. The host committee assists with peer-to-peer fundraising and follow-up.
Set a goal – In conjunction with the event host committee, organization staff, and key fundraisers, you must decide on the monetary amount you plan to raise from the event. If this is truly a fundraising event, then everything in the event plan will be geared to raising this specific amount of money. The amount you choose should be what you hope to net, that is, the amount you plan to raise after expenses are deducted. You should develop a goal based on the team members and tools available to you. Start with a humble goal and an aggressive plan. It is always better to adjust the goal higher than it is to lower it as the event moves closer.
Pick a strategic date – The event date is one of the most important decisions to ensure success. Choose a date that is less likely to conflict with other known events, such as holidays, political rallies, or large sporting events. Oftentimes, choosing a day in the middle of the week, like Wednesday, is a good decision. Sundays are usually a good choice as well!
Choose an appropriate venue – Picking the right venue is a result of research and early planning. A venue should be chosen with respect to anticipated size of the event, logistics, as well as popularity. For example, if your target audience includes the DFW metroplex, the city of Arlington would be a great location. And if a large number of attendees are expected, a venue such as a convention center or sports facility would be the best choice.
Determine the target audience and get to know them – Who is the target attendee for your event? Is this a general fundraiser where everyone will be invited? Or is this event geared towards a specific group like the local businesses, parents, retirees, or young professionals? In short, you must decide whom you will invite to your event. Question what type of event and elements are a good fit for the target attendees. While a black-tie gala looks nice in our heads, it can be hard to get the numbers you need for this kind of event. Develop a list of fundraising ideas that work well with your audience and your organization. Some popular ideas are holding a virtual event, in-person event, silent auction, raffle, concert, performance, raffle tickets, games, text-a-thon, speakers – the list goes on and on.
Set a budget – Every fundraising event plan should contain a complete budget listing all of the expenses that will be incurred from the event. The cost of an in-person event can increase steadily as the number of attendees goes up. Your budget should include staff, printed materials, space rental, catering, entertainment, transportation, security, utilities, and anything else that will be required to make the event a success. Your budget should take into account your fundraising goal, ensuring that you raise an amount of funds above and beyond all expenses. Be sure to leave a little extra room in your budget for unforeseen expenses.
Practice the event – While you probably won’t need a full run-through of your event, it is essential that everyone who is working the event know, ahead of time, what their responsibilities are, where they should be during the event, and how the event is going to “flow.” If you are having a large or unusual event, the key event staff may want to have a practice run to make sure that your operation is running smoothly.
Sales & Marketing
Laud the effort – A charity event should be aggressively marketed to your target audience. Convince supporters that the endeavor is worthy of their resources. Let them know how the funds will impact the designated cause.
Publicize – Draw up an entire marketing plan for the event. Traditional methods of “getting the word out” include: using your non-profit’s network of friends and supporters, mailed invitations, direct mail, phone banks, word of mouth, and the event host committee.
Social media – Today, most successful event marketing includes a Facebook page and peer-to-peer social media outreach by the host committee, staff, and volunteers in the networks they are active, whether it be Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or simple email. Wherever they put the word out, try to do it multiple times in the lead-up to the event. Get the word out early so and follow up to find out if people plan to attend. It keeps your event efficient and reduces stress.
Tickets – Once you market your event, there must be a procedure in place for making the actual ticket sales, or accepting donations for the event. You must decide whether there will be different contribution levels for the event (such as a flat registration fee, an extra charge to be invited to a V.I.P. reception in addition to the event, etc.). You must decide who will sell the tickets, how they will be shipped or delivered, and who will be responsible for organizing the incoming information.
Set-up for Success
Your event staff should plan the event set-up well in advance. The set-up includes all of the particulars of the actual event: Where will it be? Will food be served? Will there be entertainment? What kind of dress will be required? What is the itinerary for the event?
Table Sponsorship – Have at least one table sponsor for each casino table. They can have their logo displayed or even have small gifts available like stress balls, coupons or pens. The more they can display their businesses name, the more likely they are to donate and do it again the following year. Try to have enough sponsors so that your cost to rent the casino equipment is covered. It will be mutually beneficial for you and the business.
Virtual events – Virtual events have things to set up, too. The first decisions involve online services, what fundraising or streaming services do you plan to use. Do some supporters need special privileges on the day of the event? What graphics need to be prepared. Do auction items need to be photographed.
Food & beverages – Provide plenty of food and drinks. Oversee the event with qualified staff to keep an eye on things, such as: people being over-served if alcohol is present, make sure that everything stays within the limit of the law.
Pit Boss – The Pit Boss will need to be informed five minutes before a “Chip Sale/Special” happens so that he can inform all dealers that a deal is happening. This will increase the sales because the dealers are preparing their guests to buy. The Pit Boss will show committee members who are selling how to utilize all casino personnel to increase chip sales. The easier you make the sale of chips or chip vouchers the more profit you will make.
Professional Showgirls – The girls will open the casino event with a CD. The CD announces that the casino is now open. Then the CD will go into Viva Las Vegas by Elvis and the Showgirls will do a two-minute dance number. Showgirls may also be utilized as greeters and as chip sale girls. The Showgirls are extremely effective in this area. We have found that guests actively purchase chips from the Showgirls.
Silent auction – Businesses, vendors, and individuals should donate items for a silent auction. Minimum bids need to start at the actual retail value. There should also be a set amount for increases and this should be listed on each item sheet, such as “Raises must be in increments of two dollars or five dollars.” If the fundraising committee purchases items then the item minimum bid should be adjusted accordingly. Cut-off time, method of payment, and place of delivery should always be planned and displayed for all guests to see. If you have a large number of items, stagger the cut off times. This will create a sense of urgency knowing they must get their bid in before that item is shut down. Remind your guests throughout the evening of items on the auction tables and who donated them.
Live auction – Use big-ticket items that have been donated to increase cash revenue after the casino ends by having a live auction. All items must be paid for immediately using the designated method of payment. Thank your donors even after the event is over. This will form a trusted relationship in years to come.
Tournament action – Tournaments are another means of effective fundraising. A seat at the tournament table should be purchased by each individual donor, for the duration of the tournament. The price of the seat will be determined by the committee beforehand, based on event goals and target audience. The tournament format should be decided by consensus among the committee prior to the event. Blackjack tournaments and VIP Poker Tournaments are equally viable options. It is customary to staff a Pit Boss to run things and keep an eye on the proceedings. Your local charity must be a 501 c-3 (non-profit).
Casino money – Guests may purchase casino money (as a donation) from cashier tables or floorwalkers. Have your committee members sell chips or chip vouchers at the cashier tables. It is also recommended that committee members walk the floor and be available to sell chips at all times. Have the Pit Boss initiate specials at each table throughout the evening to uphold interest. Specials can run every 30 minutes and is where attendees can sell chips at a discounted price with deals such as: two for one, three for one, and four for one. A committee member should accompany the Pit Boss during specials.
Buffet Table – Having a buffet-style dinner available for most of the event is suggested, with the casino games starting approximately 30 minutes after the buffet opens. You will not need to have dinner seats available for every single guest as they will eat and socialize at different times. Some guests will immediately go to the gaming tables upon arrival. Having your event catered and sponsored by local restaurants or restaurant associations is recommended. This will free up your organization members to be utilized in other areas, such as raffle ticket sales, chip sales, general questions, and photo opportunities. Remember to acknowledge them in all aspects of your advertising such as radio spots, newspaper ads, other printed material, etc.
Virtual Events – As a result of the pandemic, virtual events have become a common method of social interaction. If you are hosting a virtual event, you need to do a dry run with the key people on the equipment they will be using. If you’re using any special tools to auction items, count donations as they come in, use a chat feature, you will need to have a few people participate as guests from different types of devices. If you run into any problems, document the solutions ahead of time and post a troubleshooting link for guests.
Prizes – To have a successful fundraiser, you should solicit prizes from businesses and individuals. The bigger the prizes, the better the response and the higher the donations. Ask for sponsorships for table games first, as they may prefer to donate an item for auction instead. If you cannot get items donated, then you will need to purchase them. Be sure to let your guests know that there will be prizes that they can win and how they can win them. Let your donors know that they will receive free advertising during the event where guests will know they donated the items. It is best to display the items in an area specific for viewing and include the approximate value, as well as business name, address, and telephone number.
Raffles – Raffle Items Using Casino Winnings: After the casino closes, your guests should be given a two-part raffle ticket so they can drop half and keep half. There are two ways to raffle specific prizes after the casino closes: a general raffle with one designated bowl for prizes, or individual bowls for individual prizes. You will need a designated person to then pull and announce the winning raffle ticket number for each prize.
Say “Thank you!” – One of the most oft heard complaints from contributors to charitable fundraising events is, “They never even said ‘thank you.’” And that comes from volunteers as well. Make sure that the organization takes the time to send thank-you notes to everyone involved in your event, including contributors, volunteers, staff, and vendors. Keep your friends and donors happy, as you’re probably going to be asking them for another donation sometime down the road.
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