Simple Fundraising Success: Give Them Something they Need

Every year the youth in my local church raise money for a service trip. Over the past 50 years the leadership has determined, through trial-and-error what events and services raise the most money. I thought I’d share their findings with you, and include a principle that you could employ for some simple fundraising success.

Here’s the principle: make it easy, and give them something they need.

What are the two most popular and successful youth service fundraisers at my church? The after church potato and soup lunch and the group housework service. Here’s a quick description of each.

Potato and Soup Lunch: Once or twice a year the youth schedule an after church luncheon. They hire a caterer at a discounted price, advertise for at least four weeks and set up tables with table cloths and candles. Then, at 12:30 on the date advertised  the fellowship hall is opened up and guests make their way through a potato, soup and salad bar. The food is hot, and delicious. Guests can choose their own potato and salad toppings. Someone is playing piano and guitar music softly in the background, and  diners enjoy chatting with their immediate, and church family. A basket at the front holds donations. A small note next to it supplies guests with a base cost per person, so that guests understand what the meal cost the youth and that money given over that amount will help fund the service trip.  These luncheons are always very well attended. The convenience of participating cannot be understated in this case. People are already hungry, a delicious meal is ready on-site, and four hundred people stop in ready to eat and donate.

Group Housework Service: The second successful fundraiser involves a team of anywhere from two to thirty youth working together. In the fall and in the spring, times when people are looking outside at their yards and thinking “I really need to get out and rake (spread mulch, weed, mow) but when am I going to find the time?” the youth group advertises willing workers and a coordinator’s cell phone number and email address. Church members contact the coordinator with a weekend date that works for their schedule, a description of the project, and a ballpark number of workers needed. The youth and a supervisor show up on the agreed upon date, do the job, and then accept a donation for their work that will be divided by the number of people in the group. This fundraiser also has the convenience factor, allowing people to choose the time, date and project type.

If you are helping brainstorm for a fundraising event, think about what people will be doing around the scheduled date. Buying Christmas gifts? Getting ready for back to school? Spring cleaning? Putting on snow chains? Consider tapping in to these tasks, and you might find a unique and lucrative fundraising idea. What do people need and how can you provide it to them in a convenient way?

How To Hook More MidWeek Savings

Any event planner knows about mid-week and off-season savings. It’s the reason I book my beach house for the day after the fall season begins and save 40% off the price charged just 7 days before. Sweet!

Financial Security Ahead SignSometimes I think we go down a quick checklist in our minds and decide that it’s worth paying more to get the weekend time slot. Here are a few new things to consider before committing to pay the extra buck for your next event.

Do some research. Look for venues or caterers whose business is mostly from weekend guests. If a convention center caters mostly to business clients, you probably won’t find deep discounts for week day events. But, if you find a beautiful venue that hosts mostly weddings and weekend travelers, they might offer much more appealing rates to drum up mid week business.

Consider Travel Costs. Friday, Saturday and Sunday airline tickets are by far the priciest. Do a quick comparison of the same tickets for the weekend and then midweek dates during the same week. Do the same for guest rooms. If you decide to go midweek, total these savings and be sure to let your guests know about them. This might be a tipping point for your more thrifty businesses and individual attendees.

Prepare to Haggle. If your caterer has a line of customers standing behind you, don’t expect much wiggle room- but if it’s just you-you might get the same sit down dinner on Wednesday for 20% less than another group that Saturday. Businesses want clients, and they’re willing to negotiate to get them if you don’t have competition.

Cost is often a big factor for your potential event attendees, hopefully these three tips will help you scout out some major deals to pass along to your clients.

Renting Furniture for Your Next Event

Poppy red sofas, suede lounge chairs with bright green pillows, a leather living room set with a beautiful hickory coffee table. What did the furniture at your last event look like?

If you dream of furnishings that perfectly match the style of your event, it might be time to consider furniture rental.

Event furniture rental companies can provide things like:

  • sofas
  • chairs
  • tables
  • pillows
  • rugs
  • lighting
  • backdrops
  • beverage stations
  • household items

These companies will also deliver and pick up the items you rent. Some offer packages sorted by color or style, and might even offer design services as well.

Finding a company:
If you live in or near a metro area, it is very likely that there is more than one event rental company in the yellow pages or just a google search away. Cort Events serves many of the lower 48 states, and they have a beautiful website that you should browse for inspiration!

What if I’m planning a smaller event, or one that is  quite far from a professional rental company? Then it’s time to get creative and contact some local stores that carry the type of inventory you are looking for. I know for a fact that some furniture stores will rent out their stock. You’ll need to call and find out what the price and delivery arrangements would be.

A quick aside — you can find stores that will rent more than furniture! We have a wonderful garden shop here in Asheville, NC that rents out beautiful plants and floral arrangements for weddings, graduations, corporate events etc. for a much lower price than purchasing them would run! You might be surprised what a store would be willing to “rent” you for your event.

Now, back to our original topic. Before you contact anyone about furniture rental you need to answer the following questions. What type of seating are you looking for, and for how many people? What colors or style are you interested in? What is your budget? What time would the furniture need to be in place? When would it need to be picked up?

Once you’ve got those basic questions answered, begin your phone calls or emails. Don’t forget to ask about insurance, or what will happen if a piece is damaged or stained.

Send us photos of your favorite furniture rental set ups that you’ve put together, we love seeing your creativity.

Lend a Helping Hand

Volunteer PostWhen you sit down to plan a retreat, thoughts typically turn to how your group will be served.  Main sessions.  Breakout topics.  Meals.  Schedules.  Free time.  The to-do list can seem endless.  For your next event, why not consider planning an afternoon for your guests to serve others?  Volunteering in the community is a great way to get retreat attendees moving and provides an avenue for team building, all while doing something to help in a tangible way.  Not all retreats lend themselves to this type of activity; however, if there is availability and you are looking for a different way to spend an afternoon, think about these things as you plan for your community service time.

Think variety.  Not all of your attendees will want to do yard work, paint a room or help serve a meal.  Some might prefer visiting a nursing home, talking with a homeless person or picking up litter.  Offer a few different options appealing to a variety of people.  An Internet search of “volunteer opportunities” and the area of your retreat can often open up an array of outlets for your group to serve.  If your event location is more remote, talk with area churches or the retreat center to find possible service projects.

Think supplies.  If you are hosting your event in an out-of-town location, keep in mind supplies you will need to complete your projects.  Construction and maintenance type tasks can be easy to find, but they require very specific tools.  Do you have a way to bring these?  Are they available to borrow?  If you are not in your hometown, consider partnering with established organizations that can provide the equipment you need.  It is also important to prepare your attendees for these projects.  Do they need to bring work clothes?   Painting can be fun, until it gets on your favorite outfit!

Think time.  Retreat schedules are usually busy.  Considering there might be just a few hours allotted for service projects, look for tasks that can be accomplished fully in the given time frame.  Also, make sure there is adequate transportation and allow for travel time as you plan.

If the resources are available, take pictures and video while retreat attendees are participating in different projects.  Share these before large group sessions or in a closing video.

At the end of the day, leave time for those who participate to share about their experiences either in a large or small group setting.  Often some of the best memories of a retreat are the ones we least expect!

2 Ways To Add Revenue To Your Events Bottom Line

Your event is probably like anything right now.  You’re trying to max out every opportunity you can find adding revenue to your bottom line.

I’m in the middle of two big projects.  As part of that, I’m looking for help to spread the word on these two pieces.  In addition, I’m also looking to create additional revenue from products that I recommend that tie to my bigger product.

How I am looking to spread the word on my projects?  Well first I’m signing up affiliates.

Let’s say your event is a conference for writers. Research people who blog about writing by doing a simple Google search, and then work with them to promote your event to their community. You could ask the blogger for promotion help, you could give the readers of the blog a 10% discount to your event or some similar promotion.

I’m looking to pay my affiliates 25% of the cost of my product, and you can negotiate something similar with your affiliates.  In my book, this is “found money”, and what I mean by that is odds are these people may not be familiar with your event till reading about it on the blog.  Hence they “found” you.

I’ll setup a page in the backend of my website that will be an affiliate center for great resources for affiliates to use.  This will include banner ads, sample tweets and more.

The second thing I am looking to sign up is affiliate partners. I consider an affiliate partner a company with a product that aligns with your event and that you would want attendees to use.

Back to our writers event example. Maybe a desk is a product you would recommend to your community. Research a desk company, contact them telling them about your event and negotiate being an affiliate partner for their product.  You would then be paid a commission by the company adding revenue to your bottom line.

There are probably several items you can think of that your attendees would love to get their hands on. You can get as get creative on this one as you want as long as it aligns with your event.

Amazon is an easy way to setup an affiliate program.  They offer great tools for their affiliates, and signing up is easy.

I hope this gives you some ideas on how to find ways to add revenue to your events bottom line.

How To Thrill Your Guests With Fewer Choices

I hate ordering coffee at Starbucks. Grande, venti, foam, blended, iced . . . Too many choices for a tea-drinker like myself.  Do you think an event planner can ever offer too many choices to their guests? I do.

Back to me in line at Starbucks. I envy the people placing their order with certainty, “tall, iced hazelnut macchiato.” I stare up at the menu board and wonder what combination of words I need to say to get something small, sweet and without loads of caffeine that will make me shake all morning.  Sometimes I choose something I like, other times I’m disappointed with my order. Now when my coffee-loving husband brings me something from Starbucks, I always enjoy it.  He knows the “language” and what I like, and I accept his gift, and drink appreciatively.

It’s appropriate for event organizers to know when their guests need to be directed towards a better experience by fewer choices. Are you offering training or introducing a new subject to your guests? This might be the perfect opportunity to use your expertise, and/or the knowledge of your experts to craft the best event schedule for your attendees.

For example, you might replace fifteen breakout session options with five.  Focus on the five sessions that your guests most need to attend to get a good grasp of the topic.  If the five break out sessions were taught by the most sought after experts in the field, on the top questions that everyone was wrestling with, I don’t think you’d get complaints!

Slimming down the choices can be especially helpful during shorter events; a one day conference with limited options can direct people through the exact set of experiences you, the planner, have promised.

What choices might you trim from your next event? What more helpful experience could you put in its place?

Event Planners: Pass Along Winter Savings

The winter months of January, February and March typically see lower registrations at conference and retreat centers (unless they are in a temperate region). To combat this, many venues offer discounted pricing on their rooms and packages.  Here are a few events you could plan to pass these savings on to your guests.

Weekend Family Retreat: Friday evening through Sunday afternoon invite families to come relax and enjoy some time “away”–together. Choose a venue with nice facilities that would appeal to parents and children; think indoor pool, on-site restaurants, big screen televisions, and exercise facilities. Host a movie night with free popcorn, plan a scavenger hunt, or include a trail ride and chili dinner.  You don’t want to pack every minute with required events, but families with children will want lots of available activities and choices.

Small Business or Non Profit Retreats.  Smaller companies and non profits usually have limited budgets for off-site company activities and may have mentally eliminated the idea all together.  Show them the savings with a well-done mailer or email, and they may jump at the chance to do some planning and bonding somewhere other than their own conference room.  This group will need meeting and recreational space.

Women’s or Men’s Getaways.  Post-holidays can find people with a little breathing room in their schedule.  Capitalize on that by giving men or women a chance to get away and recharge.  I’ve seen everything from a Women’s Scrap Booking Retreat to a Men’s Long Distance Running Retreat.  Other popular topics include: Yoga, Spiritual Growth, Marriage and a Girlfriend Getaway.  Think about your target audience, their likes, budget and available time, and offer a great event, at a discounted price.

Use the discounts available during January, February and March to offer your event attendees something amazing, at just the right price.

Capitalize on Fall Traditions

For twenty years I have attended my church’s annual retreat.  We learn, sing, pray and visit together at a small mountain retreat center about an hour from our church home.  We go in September, a date that corresponds with the harvesting of the local apple crop. Free time on Saturday sees 90% of the retreat go-ers headed to a local apple orchard where they inhale cool air, taste apples, let their children run, and enjoy the beauty of the mountain scenery.

Fall Celebrations

Everyone looks forward to this part of the retreat  year after year.  And it is accomplished at no cost, and with no planning by the retreat team, except to schedule the necessary free hours.

There are many fall traditions that could sweeten up your upcoming event. September, October and November are the perfect times to incorporate fall activities — to the delight of your guests.

Fun Fall Activities:

  • Corn Maze
  • Cookie/Pie Baking Contest
  • Bonfire
  • Leaf gazing/hike
  • Tag football
  • Apple picking
  • Hay ride
  • Chili Cook-Off
  • Hot spiced cider

Do some research around the location of your event, and see if you can discover an orchard, fall festival, corn maze, scenic drive/hike/walk etc. Schedule free time to correspond and let guests know about the opportunity and how to get there.
Or organize something on the event grounds. Schedule a hayride and a fun outdoor movie; set up an outdoor tag football game and serve hot cider; invite a biology expert to lead a hike.

Cooking or baking contests are best done soon after guests arrive so that they can bring their items from home. Choose a panel of judges and number entries so that they can easily mark their observations for each one.  Once judging is complete allow event guests to have a taste of the entries.  Who doesn’t enjoy fall food!? Yum.

The fall season offers some wonderful entertainment and gastric options that can add fun and variety to your upcoming event.  With a little research and planning you can capitalize on area offerings or supply the autumn spice yourself.  Enjoy!

3 Things I Learned While Buying A Car For Your Next Event

My mom recently purchased a car.  Being the great son that I am, I went with her to purchase and negotiate the final sales price.  I have to say overall it was a fun experience that taught me a lot for the next time I purchase myself a car.

I learned three things in particular that I will for sure remember.

  1. Research.  I made a big mistake going in, and that was not to have researched the invoice price of the car.  Thankfully, with modern technology, I was able to search for that while sitting at the desk.  Once I knew that number, I used that as our base price to negotiate.  Had I been better prepared going in, I might have been able to get the price of the car down even lower.
  2. Know your budget.  Mom knew how much she wanted to spend for the car, so it was important for us to keep that number in mind.  We had the typical car salesman experience where he asked what she wanted for payments, wrote it down and made her sign.  But that wasn’t what we were going for.  We were looking for the lowest price that would fit in her budget.
  3. Be willing to walk out.  This is the toughest point.  We all fall in love with that something we want, and this car was no exception.  I loved it.  She loved it.  I think we both would have been disappointed to have to walk out, but if the dealership wasn’t willing to meet our price in our budget, we were leaving.  Matter of fact at one point, I had to tell the salesman that we were ready to leave.

I tell you this little story because I believe all of these points work for planning your event.  You have to do your research on all the various supplies you need.  Maybe you want X, but Y will work just as fine.

Even more important you have to keep your budget in mind when doing your research.  The last thing you want is to fall in love with something and learn you can’t afford it.  And lastly if it’s just not working out, be ready to hit the exits.

Negotiating can be fun.  Matter of fact, this was the most fun I’ve had in buying a car.  Knowing these now, I’ll be much better prepared for the future.

Using Volunteers And Interns At Your Event

As you get closer to your event’s date, stress for your whole team goes up. Lots of last minute tasks get put on your to-do list. What’s a great way to help get you and your team’s last minute tasks completed? Add volunteers and/or interns to help.

Let’s start with volunteers.

Volunteers can be a great way to utilize free help.  How do you find these people?  Put out a call on your event’s website, through social media or at your event for help.  Fans will typically be willing to step up and help wherever and however needed.

How do you pay these people?  Most will be happy to work for free, but one way you could pay them is with free swag.  A t-shirt, hat or free piece of product can go a long way.  If you really wanted to go out, you could offer free or half off admittance to your event.

Volunteers can have a wide age range.

Now let’s take a look at interns.  Interns are another great way to utilize free help.  This group is probably working towards college credit, and is in that age range.  View this group as your Timothy’s.  They probably want to be like you when they “grow up.”  The interns that I’ve worked with I’ve always tried to include in every day-to-day meeting and have made them be a part of the company.

The great thing about interns is they’re not looking for pay because the college credit is enough.  But again treat them right, give them some swag and make them apart of your event.

One thing to remember: our goal here is to help alleviate stress.  As you add volunteers and interns, you’ll want to look for self-starters that can dive in and take the bull by the horns.

Have you used volunteers or interns for your event?  How have they helped with your last minute tasks?