When you first start a position in fundraising, whether it’s a paid or volunteer position, you are full of ideas, spirit, and energy. Sometimes these fresh, spirited qualities lead you to pulling off the biggest fundraising year or event your organization has ever seen. Then what happens? LEADERSHIP WANTS MORE!
“Bigger, better, keep going!” you hear. You are faced with wondering how you can ever pull off more. This was the challenge my business partner, Marc, was faced with as a fundraising volunteer over the past year.
In the 2010-2011 year of a local organization in which Marc participates, he was named Chair of a music festival benefiting local children’s charities. While running the entire event as Chair, he gravitated toward the sponsorship committee and implemented several ideas to bring in presenting sponsors.
Presenting sponsors for this music festival were crucial to its success, and he wanted to make sure those were secured, so he dedicated a good amount of time to finding these sponsors. The event netted 50 percent more for the charity beneficiaries than the previous year. Marc’s hard work paid off and people took notice.
Next Year’s Fundraising Volunteer Chair?
When it came time to name new festival positions for the 2011-2012 year, guess who was named as Sponsorship Chair? And guess who had to come up with an even bigger and better idea to raise funds for the new year?
Marc accepted the position as Sponsorship Chair and put what he had learned over the last year into action. He realized his first adventure in fundraising taught him that fundraising is not about creating something new every year. It was more about letting go of ideas that didn’t work, and building upon the things that did. So, what did he do? Here are three things that increased fundraising results for Marc’s cause.
1) Build the team and internal communications
Create a committee to gain exposure
Marc utilized parents in different school networks, young adults in various industries, and older adults in other established groups throughout the community. As a result, his committee achieved a greater reach for their “word of mouth” efforts. They also reached different contacts for potential sponsors and media contacts due to diversity.
The key here is to invite people from different backgrounds and ages so that the “message” of event promotion goes out into different avenues and channels throughout the community.
When you build upon the diversity of an organization it helps create that diversity in your audience. You reach more potential attendees, donors, or sponsors.
Create a Message Board or Facebook Page to share ideas
To get his committee in a creative mood to feed off each other even when face-to-face meetings weren’t an option, Marc created a message board for ideas. He realized some of the best ideas came from an original thought that was expanded upon through feedback. When this happened, it led to open communication, honesty, great input and awesome ideas from several group members.
2) Get prospective sponsors involved before they committed to sponsoring
Make the cause desirable
When prospective sponsors were invited to participate in events before deciding to sponsor the music festival, they got to personally experience the enthusiasm of a large group. Prospects saw how well events ran and got a first-hand view on how their sponsorship would benefit them AND the cause.
Host a Luncheon or Dinner for Prospects and Past Sponsors
Marc had prospective sponsors mingle with past sponsors. He found that previous sponsors shared stories about their great experience, the benefits of sponsoring the cause, and other information prospective sponsors wanted to know.
When your prospects hear these stories from past sponsors versus a marketing or selling committee, the messages come across more clear and true.
3) Carry the relationship with sponsors through to the end
Invite Sponsors to Host a Volunteer Recognition Event
After the festival was finished, the sponsors were able to say thank you to the volunteers by hosting an event to celebrate their efforts. This gave lasting recognition to the sponsor, created goodwill with the volunteers, and also let the volunteers thank the sponsors for their generosity. These events are win-win.
Invite Sponsors to the Check Presentation for the Charities
When sponsors attend the check presentations, they see first-hand what their contributions support. This is a key point because many times sponsors do not get to FEEL the love and accomplishments that their money makes possible. Sponsors need the emotional connection to the event and its named charities to keep coming back year after year!
The 2012 year was also a success for Marc as Sponsorship Chair, and he continues to serve on the sponsorship committee for the 2013 festival. He’s still making improvements because this year the festival has already raised $20,000 more than the previous year in sponsorships, with three more months to go before the event.
They wouldn’t let him go, and he doesn’t mind. He believes in the process he helped define and understands that if their organization keeps building upon what works and not wasting time on what doesn’t work, they can pass these guidelines on and continue to have a successful festival. This is one adventure he’ll have year after year!
Sarah, Thank you for the kind comment! Such a great opportunity we have to give back as an office and as individuals in our various organizations.
Thanks for the great post Michael. A fundraiser is never THE main thing, it's what comes before and what comes after that will determine whether the event will create momentum or if it was just a flash-in-the pan thing.
I'm soo very proud of you and all your staff. You guys are a great example of how few can change the lives of many. If only more companies gave their time and effort to help others like you guys do. Keep up the great work. It never goes unappreciated. I'm proud of all of you and a big shout out to Marc way to go.
Denise, thank you for your comment! I've also noticed that sometimes there can be a member or volunteer who would be great in a certain committee but they don't speak up or ask to join. We have to reach out and ask for change if we want new results!
Loved this post. Creating a committee of diverse individuals from a variety of backgrounds hit home with me. So often, we gravitate toward the same homogenous groups to get things done, which produce the same results! Thanks for some great reminders as well as new input, Michael!