In December, we hosted a webinar, Year-Round Giving. Due to so many questions, and so little time, here are our responses to the questions that were submitted throughout the Q+A session:

What are signature events? How do these differ from annual fundraisers?
Annual events can be signature events. At GiveSmart, we refer to larger fundraising events as signature events. These can include galas, golf tournaments, luncheons, dances, 5ks, or other events that organizations deem important to their annual fundraising.

Do you have any tips on getting started hosting a golf tournament? Is there a way to do this without overburdening staff bandwidth?
Like all events, preparation is the key to success. If your staff bandwidth is tight, consider asking volunteers to help form committees to work on the tournament with you. More on golf tournaments here. 

Could we get a little more information about the $25 for 25 years campaign that was done? 
The Associate Committee decided to host a free event for our network, especially those that couldn’t afford gala tickets. We asked for a suggested donation of $25 in honor of Hearts of Gold’s 25th Anniversary, asked for everyone to pre-register online so that we had a headcount, and hosted the event in a donated space (a boutique owned by the founder of Hearts of Gold). We also solicited donations from local businesses and were able to receive wine from a bar and snacks from a deli. A few of our Associate Committee members were able to ask for those donations in person, which helped build that relationship with the business owners. The night of the event, we hosted a tricky tray raffle with three raffle options and sold tickets by marketing it as “for every $5 you donate, you’ll receive one raffle ticket.” Anyone that donated before the event received raffle tickets at the door for the amount they donated, and then everyone could purchase with volunteers. We had a short program (about 30 minutes) with a few speakers, and then sent a donation text at the end, just to encourage any last-minute donations. We’ve never done an event like this, but we were definitely pleased with the fundraising & attendance!

If you are running two events, are they taking into account the time that it takes to run? I feel that’s a large statistic to encourage two events, but not sure I believe that 50% more number.
When we referenced the statistic, “GiveSmart customers two ran two events raised, on average, 50% more than customers who ran one event,” we were only referencing the total amount of funds raised. The time it takes to run an event was not taken into consideration for this statistic.  

Any recommendations for securing donated space, food, drink, etc for a fundraising event? Or other ways to reduce event costs?
Try reaching out to restaurants, boutiques, or bars in your neighborhood or town! It helps if you can tell the business that they’d be supporting a local organization. Sometimes, people don’t realize that they might have a connection to securing in-kind donations, so be sure to go to your network with a specific “ask” (we’re hosting an event, does anyone know a restaurant/bar/boutique owner in the Raleigh area?), and it’ll hopefully start a conversation that leads you to this support. Find regional donation guides here.

As for reducing event costs, try to leverage your volunteer network for event setup. This can help alleviate your staff. Also, reduce event costs in small ways – use a Spotify playlist instead of a DJ or live music, keep decor limited or reuse it from another event, or plan a shorter/later event that requires only drinks & dessert, instead of dinner.

If you have lots of volunteers, what are the best strategies to invite them to give?
Volunteers give their time, their expertise, their skills, their helping hands…it can be awkward to also ask them for donations. If you’d like to encourage volunteers to give, you can raffle off auction items or experiences. These sorts of raffles can be exclusive for volunteers and offered at a lower cost than typical raffles might be for donors.

We are a small working board, so a bit difficult to run events that are super labor-intensive. Which events seem to give the biggest “bang for the buck” i.e., good outcomes but not hugely effort to put on the event?
This year, Hearts of Gold hosted two happy hour events and one workout event, where the organization received a percentage of the day’s proceeds as a donation from the business. For the happy hour events, a few Associate Committee members had an existing relationship with the two bars and were able to talk to the owners about hosting a happy hour for Hearts of Gold. We didn’t rent out the spaces, so the bar was still open to the public, and any profits raised that evening were automatically included in the percentage total. For the workout class, we didn’t have an existing relationship with a workout studio, so one committee member reached out to local studios with an email template, asking for a Hearts of Gold specific class on their schedule, and a percentage of the total signup profit would be given as a donation. While we did have existing relationships for 2 of these events, we are working on scaling this model so that these events are happening every other month. We’ve encouraged Associate Committee members to keep an eye out for new bars, restaurants, and studios that might be trying to drive new business, and we can approach them with the percentage model.

I’m interested in possibly designing a branded piece of merchandise that we sell through local merchants and they give back a % to us to benefit either our Community Grant program or a specific cause. Do you have any experience with this? Any good product ideas that would be popular with the community? 
While everyone has a T-shirt option, it really is a favorite option. You could encourage a T-shirt design contest and post it to your social media accounts – encourage your community to submit options and then the design with the most likes will be made into a T-shirt. You could also do the same with a tote bag. Totes have become more popular, especially when you emphasize the reusable aspect of it. Other merchandise you could consider: pens, external chargers, Pop Sockets, card cases for the back of the phone. Items like a tote or Pop Socket might be the best options for selling through local merchants.

Also, what is the best way to get our organization considered by supporters for employee giving?  
We don’t have too much expertise on employee giving but this article is a great place to start! 

READ  Attracting and Retaining Millennials as Donors and Volunteers

When are the best times of the year to reach out to corporations for sponsorships and in-kind donations?
Around their fiscal year and seasonality. We discuss this further in this webinar. 

Our problem is bringing in new people at our events. What’s a good way to reach out to new people that might not know about us. Any marketing ideas or things you have all done to reach new people?  
For the Associate Committee, we’ve reached new members mostly through word of mouth, but this past year, we asked for a job/fellowship email newsletter to include a blurb about joining the group. We had about 10 inquiries, and 4 turned into new members! This sort of method could work as a low-cost way to reach a new audience – any smaller, local groups that can help to share your messaging or programming. We’ve also seen that posting a public Facebook event will help generate some interest from those people outside of our normal network. 

Please tell us more about online raffles. 
Online raffles offer donors the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets online. Some online raffles are then drawn by random selection at live events, and others are put into online randomizers to select the winning raffle number.

If we don’t yet have a strong volunteer or donor base, how do you recommend promoting/marketing these events? What are the best strategies to build these audiences? 
Personal connections are the strongest connections, so work to encourage current volunteers and donors to recruit friends, family, and colleagues to help. Work with local businesses to share information, connect with local media, create a social media presence, and do research on your demographic to figure out the best way to find them. Additionally, make sure you have a website that is set up with clear ways to connect with your organization (phone, email, etc.) you want it to be as easy as possible for people to get in contact with you.
Additional reading: how to build an effective nonprofit outreach

How would you handle all these events when there is only one person handling all fundraising, donor stewardship/cultivation website & social media management, etc.
There is no doubt that the development department of one is a lot of work! If you’re looking to expand the events you want to run, campaigns you want to start, or initiatives you want to implement, you can always turn to your community. See if volunteers can help with development tasks or refresh your website. Look to your local high school or college to see if students are available to intern for event planning, marketing, or social media management.

We have 1 event per year in Nov. Since that is so close to Giving Tuesday, we do a Thank-You-Thon for that event instead because we don’t want to ask for money so soon after. Do you think that‘s prudent and do you think we should do an end of year annual appeal in December since that is also very close to the annual event?
To start, look at how your thank-you-thon is performing; are you satisfied with the money it’s raising for your organization? If so, then great! If not, then perhaps you want to consider changing the time you host that donation drive. Perhaps you re-name it and host it at another point during the year? If you’ve never hosted an end-of-year appeal in December it doesn’t hurt to try! December is the biggest month for giving, so it’s always worth trying, and see how your donors respond. 

Should your event always be mission-centered or should it be about creating something people want to attend?
It should be both! You want to host events that are compelling and get guests through the door. You also want events to always tie back to your organization’s mission to remind donors of why they support your cause and to inform any potential new supporters who are attending the event.

Where is the “Entertainment Elements”/figure 17 data from?
From our latest research study, found here. 

Kelsey Woodworth