banquet dinner table

Fundraising: How Not to Shoot Yourself in the Foot

By Crystal Rockwood

Serial donors offer tips on avoiding common pitfalls which affect donations. At a recent meeting on fundraising tips for non-profits in Orange County, several veteran donors offered tips for making fundraising efforts a great success.

You’ve put in countless hours to prepare for your company’s big fundraising event and when the day comes, you find yourself dealing with one major problem after another. The good news is that many of these fundraising fails are actually easy to avoid. Special thanks to W. Bailey Smith, Of Counsel, TLD Law, Glenn A. Howard of the Law Office of Glenn A. Howard, and David A Jacobs, J.D. of Grant Hinkle & Jacobs for sharing their thoughts.

Avoid Buffet Dinners

If you are organizing a black tie event, especially one where people are paying $500 a plate, they don’t expect to be serving themselves. Providing a sit down dinner is more professional and represents a higher level of hospitality and customer service than a buffet style dinner.

Provide Important Prize Information

Imagine your $5,000 bid won an all expenses paid trip but you find out only months later that the company offering the prize has gone out of business. Make sure those donating prizes or services are legitimate organizations and get the details in writing.

Stay Consistent

If you tell guests in advance that an event will be free, don’t change the rules by having the emcee start an impromptu bidding war and goading guests to give money on the spot. This is a surefire way to dissuade guests from returning to support your cause.

Plan Parking Accommodations

Many donors have turned away before reaching valets because of inordinate wait times. “After waiting in line for 45 minutes I left,” says one table sponsor. Coordinating enough valets and parking spaces are critical for starting off your event on a good note.

Diversify the People Being Asked to Participate

Big names associated with an event can draw more community interest towards your fundraiser. However, try to avoid inviting the same pool of community leaders to your event year after year. To expand your event’s reach, invite “outside the box” individuals like authors, professional athletes, scientists and academic leaders.

Issue Challenges

Don’t be afraid to issue challenges to inspire businesses in your community to participate in the mission of your non-profit. Consider challenging your competitors to a pallet competition, such as raising food donations for local food banks. Some law firms gathered so much food the media became interested in and covered the event making it a win-win for everyone.

Customer Service and Quality Matter

No matter what pricey venue you choose, if the food quality and customer service is low, guests will leave with a bad taste in their mouth (literally and figuratively).

Tangible Experience

Provide a tangible experience for attendees to be a part of the process to see firsthand how their donations are put to work. Try hosting your event at the location where your charity’s work takes place and offer attendees the opportunity to help prepare and serve a meal.

Select Speakers Carefully

Stellar presenters with excellent graphics engages and inspires the audience to continue donating to your non-profit.
From the event management perspective, each event will not be perfect, but there are steps that you can take to avoid big fundraising mistakes. With hard work, coordination, attention to detail, and following these tips, you’re well on your way to creating a successful and memorable event that will benefit your company, the attendees, the community, and beyond.

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