Sunday, October 23, 2011

Maximize profits from your special event

A Sad Tale

On a recent visit to Massachusetts, I read a very up-beat story in the local paper about a fund raising event that attracted 400 people, garnered excellent attention to the sponsor and the issue, and raised $3,000.  That made me very sad.  Here’s why.
Over the years I have worked on many fund raising events – some more successful than others.  But to work as hard as this group had to work, and to have as successful an event as they had – gee, 400 participants – and earn only $3,000, is not a worthwhile use of people’s time and efforts.  Especially when they knew in advance how much they needed to raise – only $12,000 – and did not plan how to do that.
Too many willing workers and dedicated volunteers participate in fund raising events where the only goal is to “…raise as much as we can.”  So what do they need to do differently?  Here are a few tips:
·         Set goals.  You can’t measure your success if you don’t know what you were trying to achieve.  In the case cited above, the group was trying to cover a funding shortfall of $12,000.  I know of many smaller that raise that amount and more.
·         Solicit corporate sponsors.  Start with the businesses with whom you do business.  They will consider it a way of saying, “thank you” for the business you give them.  Price the sponsorship in proportion to the amount you are trying to raise – another reason setting goals is so important. – and create levels of sponsorship.  Each level will receive a different level of recognition at the event.  After your vendors, ask businesses that are interested in doing business with the people who will attend your event.  For example, the women’s golf outing attracts sponsors who want to do business with women.
·         Get services donated.  Reduce your expenses by asking for donated or reduced price services, such as printing, food, door prizes, etc.  Recognize donors like sponsors – in proportion to the value of the gift.  Remember, any service that is donated reduces expenses, and increases revenue.
·         Add other revenue generating activities to the event.  Don’t rely on ticket sales alone.  Have silent auctions with donated items, sell chances (if you are allowed) for drawings – again on donated merchandise. 
·         Make sure ticket prices cover expenses.  Once you’ve calculated how much your expenses will be, calculate the cost per attendee, then price tickets accordingly or reduce expenses via donated goods and services.  Sometimes a higher ticket price will add a touch of glamour to an event and attract even more people.  I have seen people in a relatively small, slightly rural community pay $75 per person to attend a black tie auction where they would be expected to spend even more during the course of the evening.  The price per ticket just about covered per person expenses, and the profits were made from the auction.  (By the way, this event in Missouri in 1985 netted almost $100,000 from a single event.  I was there!)

Remember, fund raising events require a lot of work.  Be sure the end results are worth the extra effort.
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Kathryn Lima, founder of Faro Enterprises, is a consultant with over 30 years experience in marketing, public relations, and fundraising.  Send your questions about fundraising to her via email to  

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