Traditional fund-raising events like galas are expensive and labor-intensive for small groups to organize. Plus, every nonprofit group in town has one. In these belt-tightening times, it’s even more important to look for novel special-events ideas that make fund-raising dollars go further, said Tracey Gainforth, executive director of Planned Parenthood Ottawa, in Canada.
At a session of the Association of Fundraising Professionals conference in New Orleans Ms. Gainforth offered some pointers for putting together a special event on a shoestring budget: Plan the event far ahead to increase your likelihood of securing donated space. Always ask for donations of everything needed to run the event. And when appealing to corporate sponsors to underwrite events or donate products or services, always give them a written statement showing what you will do with the money you raise.
Ideally, said Ms. Gainforth, an organization should spend only 15 to 25 cents for each dollar it hopes to raise through a special event.
But some organizations are able to plan a memorable special event on even less.
MexFam, a family-planning group in Mexico City, for example, recently hosted an event in which it sold 200 boxes painted by well-known Mexican artists. Because the artists donated their work and the organization was able to secure donated space from Marriott Hotels, as well as donated food and champagne from Moet & Chandon, MexFam’s only outlay for the event was $2.50 for each box, said Ms Gainforth. The evening raised $80,000 from 500 people.
Ms. Gainforth’s organization plans to run a similar event in Ottawa in November. Her goal, she says, is to raise $20,000 on a fund-raising budget of $1,000.
One local children’s aid society had another good idea for raising money on the cheap, she said. The organization created a “martini madness” event at which it sold three kinds of drinks (including a non-alcoholic option) for $15 apiece. The event raised $7,000 through the martinis alone.
Adding a special new element to an existing fund-raising event can also be an effective way to freshen up an event and bring in new revenue, said Ms. Gainforth. If hosting a spring event, consider adding a garden tour to the event, or a house tour to a winter event, Ms. Gainforth suggested. “Adding a component saves a lot of special events,” she said.