When I am interviewing a new client I like to hear about past fundraising events. It’s important to understand their history so we can figure out their future. After they explain how grand the previous years gala was decorated, or how awesome the band was or how they broke all attendance records, time and time [...]
When I am interviewing a new client I like to hear about past fundraising events. It’s important to understand their history so we can figure out their future. After they explain how grand the previous years gala was decorated, or how awesome the band was or how they broke all attendance records, time and time again they always end their recap in frustration by asking, “with all these things in place, why didn’t we make more money?”
After I dig for details it always seems to come down to one thing. They failed to ask themselves:
Are we planning a fundraiser or a “friendraiser”?
The answer to this incredibly important question guides every single planning decision they make leading up to their event.
What’s the difference?
It’s actually very simple. With a fundraiser your primarily goal is to make as much money as you can in one night. With a friendraiser your primarily goal is to have a party and raise awareness about your cause. One of these must always take precedence over the other. But you say, can’t we do both? Yes, but to make the most money possible you must be a fundraiser and not a friendraiser.
It’s easy to see where committees get off track. Most committee members have had experience sometime in their lives planning a party so understandably they begin the process the only way they know how. They begin with the guests in mind first and decide on elements that those guest will be wowed by – choosing a new, hip venue, coming up with a never-been-done-before theme, booking the cover band de jour and so on. Because they put these elements first they unknowingly are planning a friendraiser.
Planning a fundraiser, however, has a very different approach. You must treat the event as if it were a business that is only open for one night a year and not a party.
Casino for a day
Think of your event as a casino for an evening. Upon first look a casino seems like one big party. The room is open, festive, bright and exciting. Upbeat music plays while drinks are dulled out in mass. Sounds of winners celebrating can be heard at various times in various parts of the room.
But if you really look closer you realize every detail in that room was designed to make as much money as possible. There are no clocks so you can forget about time. The room is laid out in just a certain way to move guests towards certain activities. Cashiers are everywhere to take your credit card so you don’t have to worry about having cash. The games have been carefully designed to be fun but also make max profit. The music does not overpower the guests yet keeps them awake. Even the smells have been carefully planned to make gamers feel warm and fuzzy.
To make the most amount of money you can in one night for your organization you must think like fundraisers.
How Fundraisers Plan
Here’s an example of how fundraisers plan versus how a friendraiser plans.
• The Guests – If your first instinct is to invite the whole world to your event, you are planning a friendraiser. Fundraisers, however, know that more bodies in the room does not translate into more profits. They only invite those who love the cause AND also have the money to spend. This combination is crucial.
• The Room – Fundraisers want the room to be self-contained. The stage, silent auction, guest tables, bar, etc are all in the same room. They don’t want to give any reason for guest to venture off. Friendraisers want the venue to be cool and unique so keeping it all contained is not the main priority.
• An Auctioneer – Fundraisers know to book a great auctioneer first. A professional benefit auctioneer helming the live auction typically brings in double the money than a non-professional. Friendraisers usually don’t even think of this aspect. By doing that they leave real money on the table.
• Auction Items – A friendraiser goes for whatever donations they can get and as much as they can get. A fundraiser holds an “acquisitions party” with her committee to brainstorm what items and experiences their guest will most likely be interested in. They want to match the items with their guest for max profit.
• Event Timeline – Friendraisers think of the event as a party so they want things to go late. This means starting the live auction much later. A fundraiser knows that starting the live auction about two hours from the time the doors open brings in more money because that is about the time that guests are relaxed but excited and ready to bid. Holding the auction much later means bidders have left because they are bored, tired, or have a babysitter that is on the clock back home. Or worst – all three!
No Wrong Way
I want to make it clear that there is no wrong road here. If your goal is to have more of a party than make money there is nothing wrong with that and being a friendraiser is fine. Some of my clients tell me that is all they want. Making maximum profit is not their main objective. By having a friendraiser the organization still makes some funds and are happy.
Most of my clients, however, want the most profit they can get that night. If this is your goal start thinking like a fundraiser and your event will thrive!
© Dean Crownover – MyBenefitAuctioneer.com 2011
My Benefit Auctioneer
Dean Crownover is an Atlanta-based benefit auctioneer with over 20 years of professional entertainment experience. His love of good causes and non-profit organizations shows in his attitude and performance at every event. Dean delivers sidesplitting comedy that turns his auction into a real show – one that leaves his audiences rolling in the aisles – after placing their bids, of course.