So you’ve decided to chair a fundraiser for your favorite chairity, cause, school, etc., and you get all of the cheers and hurrahs from the other volunteers, and as you drive home, you think to yourself “Oh Great! Now what do I do?!” Panic sets in, you begin to sweat a bit as golf tournament fundraising ideas you grip the steering wheel tighter and tighter at the thought of trying to organize, what seems to be, such a daunting task. Panic, sweat and grip tightly no more! I’m going to tell you how I’ve organized over a dozen fundraisers, raised over $50,000 for various charities and school projects, and yet, still have kept my sanity!
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Let’s, for sake of organization, say that we’ve decided to chair a fundraiser for a local shelter that houses women and abused children. We will also assume that you have obtained from the Director of that shelter, a copy of their 501(c)(3) letter (for those that don’t understand that terminology, it’s the friendly IRS code for a non-profit organization) and have made plenty of copies of it to send out to various businesses and entities for soliciting donations to your worthy cause. So, let’s begin!
1. Grab a stack of folders, loads of blank paper for notes, and a study supply of pens/pencils
2. Get a few friends, co-workers, relatives, volunteers, etc. to help out with the soliciting of the various items below. You can’t do this alone…well you could, but remember, I said this was FUNdraising and we want to keep it FUN!
3. Decide what type of fundraiser you’d like to hold. Will it be a walk-a-thon, a car wash, a spaghetti dinner to be held at your local firehouse or senior center or community center, a bake-off or cook-off, a golfing event, a fishing event, or a dance or dinner event? These are merely a few of the possible events you can hold. Once you’ve picked the type of even that you’d like to host, WRITE IT DOWN! (This will be key (writing EVERYTHING down) in order to pull off your event).
4. For the ease of following the next steps, let’s go ahead and plan a dance/dinner event for your charity. Now, it’s location, location, location! You’ll want to pick a city/town that’s not too far from where you are (as you’ll need to visit this facility a few times prior to the event and dont want to be driving all over the place), plus your choice of city/town needs to be in an area that’s centrally located to your target audience. Once you’ve picked the city/town, now you need to do a search for banquet facilities that would accommodate such an event. This can either be done via the internet at sites such as search for banquet facilities in your selected city/town, or you can do it the ‘old fashioned’ way by picking up your local Yellow Pages book and begin the search. Pick a few facilities, as your first choice may not be available for the date that you’d like to host the event.
5. Once you’ve decided on the possible function facilities that you’d like to have your fundraiser in, you need to place a phone call to the manager/owner of the facility. Indicate that you are working in conjunction with XYZ Charity and that you have a 501(c)(3) letter that you’d be happy to fax, mail to them. Inquire as to available dates that they may have open to host your event and ask them if they’d be able to either donate the facility or provide it to you at a reduced cost. I have been fortunate enough to have all of the facilities that I’ve used to actually provide the facility to me at no cost! You just have to ask!
6. The next item on your list would be food/drink for your fundraiser. Most of the banquet facilities provide their own catering, which again, you need to ask if they’d be willing to either donate the food, or provide it to you at a reduced cost. Remember, it’s all about fundraising and not spending out to raise the funds! If the facility does not provide their own catering, you need to pick up that phone book again or do another search on the internet to locate a caterer in the area. Again, always remember to ask if the caterer can either donate the food and/or provide it at a reduced cost. A great place to consider as well would be your local grocery store. I know it sounds rather bizarre, but a lot of times the store’s deli can provide subs or hot appetizers and they may even give you a better price than a caterer would give you.
7. Now it’s time for a dj (remember we’re going with a dinner/dance theme for this example). Again, it’s all about asking for handouts for a good cause. Call your local radio stations as a lot of times the dj’s that you hear on the air also have their own business on the side and often times will donate their time to your event. Do a search on the internet for dj’s and pick up that phone and call them. You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to donate their time to a worthy cause.
8. Once the facility, food and dj are in place, it’s time to solicit various products for a silent auction. The silent auction is a fantastic way to raise additional funds for your charity while allowing your guests to mix-n-mingle and win some wonderful prizes. This is where, too, you’ll really need to make a lot of copies of your 501(c)(3) letter. Any company that you solicit for a donated item (this could be gift certificates to spa, salons, limo services, hotels, travel agencies, nursery/garden centers, tickets for a local AA/AAA baseball team, tickets for a concert at a local convention center, certificates for a private chef to come to your home and prepare meals, restaurant certificates, etc. The list is endless!) will need a copy of that letter to keep on file for their tax returns. You’ll also want to type up your own form letter explaining the charity that you are raising funds for and the type of fundraiser that you are hosting. In your letter you’ll also need to explain what type of donation you’d like to receive from them. Once your letter is prepared it’s time to mail, fax and send out to all of the companies! Then, you sit back and wait for the prizes, certificates, etc. to roll in, and roll in they will!