Refresh Your Event

Five Ways to Breath Life into Your Fundraising Event

(for little or no money)

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#1 - Bring in new committee members

Has your committee consisted of the same team members for years?  The easiest way to get fresh ideas is to bring in new people. That’s not to say you push your dedicated team members to the curb.  As long as your veteran committee members are open-minded and willing to embrace new ideas, they have a rightful place on your team.     

#2 - Switch from a silent auction to a raffle

If you have a successful auction, by all means you should continue to host one. However, if you struggle each year to get items and your committee is burning out, try switching to a raffle.  

Depending upon the size of your audience, a raffle of 3-5 high quality items is ideal. Focus on quality over quantity and unique experiences, same as you would for an auction.    

Be sure to check your state’s gambling rules when it comes to raffles as there are typically a few more hoops to jump through compared to an auction but they are often worth it.  When you compare the amount of work and ROI of a raffle to a silent auction, a raffle usually comes out the same as, if not better than, an auction. This of course depends on the items on your raffle and how well your raffle ticket salespeople do.      

For information on Minnesota’s gambling rules for raffles click here.

#3 – Change up the location/venue

One of the easiest ways to refresh your event is to change your event location or venue.  If you’ve consistently hosted the event at the same venue year after year, guests will be excited to check out a new space.  The obvious caveat to this is to make sure the venue is easily accessible to your target audience.  If the majority of your guests come from one area, don’t switch your venue across town. 

The other benefit to changing location is that a new venue will be happy to get your business and may throw in some freebies. Sometimes when a venue knows you’re going to come back year after year, the level of attention and service to the customer (you) decreases.  

#4 – Play with your food

If your event has always served dinner buffet-style, switch it to a plated meal. If you’ve always served chocolate cake for dessert, try a fancy new dessert.  The best way to know what types of changes you should make to your menu is to ask your audience.  Guests will not hesitate to tell you their opinions on food.  Keep in mind that you’ll never make everyone happy so you will just have to use your best judgement when making final menu selections.         

#5 – Add the element of surprise

The most popular fiction novels (from Great Expectations to Gone Girl) have twist endings. The element of surprise is powerful and memorable. 

Don’t advertise absolutely everything that is going to happen at your event.  Keep one or two things under wraps as a surprise for guests.  

If you’re thinking that you should send out teasers about a surprise at your event to increase ticket sales, don’t do it.  Here’s why:  1) It makes no sense to advertise a surprise, by definition a surprise is unexpected and 2) Guests expect big things when you say you have a surprise.  When it’s unexpected, a surprise can be small and still be impactful. 

Bring in a surprise emcee, speaker, entertainer or other element.  This is especially impactful if it can serve a purpose, fulfill a need or tie into your cause, mission or theme.  

A great example of this was during the 2017 Academy Awards show (the Oscars).  Half-way through the show, host Jimmy Kimmel told the audience that watching movies without candy seemed “un-American”.  He asked the audience to close their eyes and wish really hard for candy.  As the audience closed their eyes, little parachutes filled with candy fell from the ceiling.  This unexpected treat delighted audience members, tied into the theme of the evening and served a purpose - to give guests a little snack during a ceremony that lasts more than 3 hours.  

I attended a fundraising event last year where they brought out a surprise singer during the program.  That little unexpected twist to the program was enough to make me want to attend again this year to see what they have planned.  So, while your surprise will not affect ticket sales this year, they certainly can affect them the following year.      

Just make sure that whatever surprise you have planned that your committee is sworn to absolute secrecy.Loose lips, sink ships.