Special Events Super Star Strategies

How to raise the fund factor at your next event

I work with a lot of amazing charities of various sizes and sectors. They are all creative and resourceful. Several use special fundraising events as a springboard to greater or deeper donor engagement. This past year, three organizations leveraged special event super start strategies for mega-success. Their strategies and tactics are too good not to share.

From bake sales to handbags
How one charity increased their donor base and exceeded their revenue goal

Heart of Hastings Hospice is located in Madoc Ontario, population just under 2,200. The hospice is a community-based, volunteer support service, dedicated to improving the quality of life for those diagnosed with life-limiting illness. Heart of Hastings Hospice has four admin staff; none of which are dedicated full time fundraisers. Prior to the inaugural Handbags for Hospice event, donations were secured through bake sales, third party events and a modest direct mail campaign.

Looking to increase their fundraising efforts and raise greater awareness, they took the risk of hosting a Handbags for Hospice event. Handbags for Hospice is essentially a silent and live auction of high end purses. Think Hermes, Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton.

They had never done an event of this scope or magnitude before. So why was is a sold-out success? They had the right mix of fun, fundraising and entertainment leading to greater guest engagement. They also put their trust in tried and true methods of auction strategy, event flow, sponsorship acquisition and on-site fundraising. By trusting the special event formula, they exceeded their revenue targets and generated many new donors and sponsors.

Cause connect over cocktails
How a strategic Fund-A-Need garnered new donors

The Rainbow Railroad helps LGBTQ people escape state-sponsored violence. At their 2017 annual Rainbow Railroad Freedom Party, the organization held a Fund-a-Need to raise $20,000 to help LGBTQ people seek safe haven from state enabled violence, murder or persecution. During the Fund-a-Need, two new donors to the organization came forward each pledging $5,000 gifts to the cause.

Traditionally, the Rainbow Railroad Freedom Party has been more party than fundraiser. The event is structured as a mix and mingle with food stations and a couple of bars. This means that people wander in and out of the room, in addition to moving from one conversation to the next. Think about your last networking event or cocktail party – what is the likelihood of grabbing and keeping everyone’s attention in such a space? Not easy for sure.

The event hosts no more than 100 people and yet – in a mere 11 minutes, they were able to raise the needed funds with half of it coming from two new donors.

So how were they so successful? Cause connect. They focused on being strategic with their guest list, ensuring that the right people for the right ask were in the room. They also worked with a client of Rainbow Railroad who willingly shared their story. The event fundraisers ensured there was great cause connect between the audience and the story that was shared. This cause-connect created an opportunity to engage new audiences, along with strengthening the purpose of the organization.

Chief Thank You Officer
How great stewardship sows the seeds for future success

Cathy Barrick’s formal title at the Alzheimer Society of Toronto is CEO, but she calls herself the Chief Thank You Officer.

Cathy makes sure to meet, greet and connect with just about every guest at a fundraising event. And it is obvious that she has met, in some capacity, just about every guest.

She also isn’t afraid to pick up the phone to steward, cultivate and solicit prospective and current donors. She is a much of a fundraiser as she is an executive.

So, what is the result of her focused engagement and connection? For a recent event The Alzheimer Society of Toronto was able to raise $100,000 through a fund a need appeal. That was $70,000 more than their goal of $30,000. When your CEO is active in stewardship and in solicitations, it can have these kinds of dramatic successes.

You too can have a super star special event. The key is great guest engagement: before, during and after your fundraiser. That means being strategic and having the right mix of fun, entertainment and fundraising. And most importantly, it means stewardship that moves folks from event guests to dedicated donors.