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Q: What has been your most successful fundraising event and what factors made it such a success?

February 5, 2009 | By Becky B. | 9 answers | Expired: 2008 days ago

Most animals welfare organizations are alway looking for ways to raise much-needed funds. Some use real events, cyber events, and non-events. I'm interested in getting feedback from folks about how they have ensured the success of their fundraisers and the types of things that seem to work best.

Readers' Answers (9)
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Sandy S.
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Feb 11, 2009

Our humane society's most successful fundraising event is the annual Walk Your Paws. Each year we have a different theme such as Leader of the Pack, Woofstock, Hollywoof, etc. In the past three years, we have collected over $40,000. That's really good for a county that only has a population of 86,000. The key to making it successful is having sponsors to cover all expenses.

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Elizabeth D.
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Feb 08, 2009

My friend and I sponsored a pet photo contest where we work. We raised over 600 dollars. It cast five dollars to submit photo of pet then one dollar per vote. we had local businesses that donated prizes. Nothing too big, free fast food, pet toys, gift certificates... It was a lot of fun, and we were happy with the feedback we got from it.

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Denise E.
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Feb 07, 2009

Yep, I'm long winded!

Anyway, the most successful event I hosted was actually an "unfundraiser". Yes, it's true. In our city, virtually every single fundraising event had both silent and live auctions and I once actually had a very prominent community leader lean over and say, Denise, if I have to sit through one more of these tired, over-used, ridiculous auctions, I'm going to scream. She meant it! So...I just networked and learned more. Not only were her sentiments shared by the majority of "givers" here, they were also sick and tired of being solicited to sponsor tables, donate funds, donate auction items, and then be browbeaten all night to spend more money.

So, I planned an event that was designed solely to celebrate philanthropy. We reviewed families with long histories of business, civic, and philanthropic and selected to who would be inducted into the "Bartlesville Legacy Hall of Fame". I made direct donor calls and here was my message. We live in a very generous town with so very many critically important non profit agencies and so very many fundraisers. I, of course must also raise funds to support those agencies. However, I was wondering if you've noticed that the same 200-300 people consistently give and consistently attend almost every event? "Yes, I have and all of the events are the same!" Well, sir, the BCF event will be different and here is why. We will host a top-notch black tie event during which we will CELEBRATE GIVING and say THANK YOU BARTLESVILLE. I will be visiting with prospective sponsors for funding prior to the event. There will be absolutely no solicitations that evening. The evening is designed to profile two amazing contributing families within our city, thank them, and hopefully inspire others to see their vision. In addition, we are there to say thank you to each and every person for their belief in Bartlesville and for their generous gifts of time, service, and financial resources. There will be NO silent auction and there will be NO live auction. You'll never find a pledge card anywhere. We are there to enjoy one another's company and to acknowledge that we live
in one of the most benevolent communities in the country.

Of course we had dialogue, not just my rambling.

Anyway, I had created a sponsorship sheet to cover expenses and to fund general operations of the organizations. Unrestricted funds are a BEAR to get, so bundling them with a specific gift helps. This gentleman looked at me like I was from another planet, but promptly reached for the sponsorship sheet and said, "Sign me up for Platinum. I think you are WAY out there on this, but I love the approach and your passion for it. Just remember, this is SO different a strategy for a very conservative, change-resistent town, that it may not work." ( I had been cultivating this donor and knew him well.) So, I said, "Well, I've never been afraid at trying new things and I have done enough research to believe that this will work. Heck, it just worked with you and I didn't even ask you for Platinum!" We just had such a great laugh and he said "Touche'. I wish you the absolute best and I'm looking forward to the evening."

Virtually every person I called on said it wouldn't work, but signed up for a sponsorship.

We raised 12 time the amount of money that our Board of Directors had budgeted. The venue was completely sold out in only two weeks and people STILL talk about how different the evening was.

In addition to full page ads leading up to the event that simply highlighted quotes celebrating giving, I ran a full page ad the day after the event (A Sunday, the absolute best day!) and we listed each and every individual who attended, who gave us a gift but did not attend, who volunteered, who gave sponsorships and THANKED THEM ALL. People were calling us to thank us for thanking them because "No one has ever done that before."

Too long winded, but if I can be of any help, please send a messge!

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Denise E.
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Feb 07, 2009

Hello! I have a background as CEO of a small Community Foundation which functioned to provide education, financial services, grants, etc. to other non-profits. Obviously that means fundraising, so here are just a few of my thoughts for whatever they may be worth. We all know how very difficult times are economically and animal welfare groups are competing for fewer dollars with a plethora of other special interest not-for-profit entities.

Thus, they key in my mind is to first review your prior donor list. Those who have given previously are far more likely to give again, and more quickly, than a donor that you are just beginning to cultivate. Be sure that every donor is profiled. There is absolutely nothing more embarressing that walking into a CEO's office to request financial support only to find out that he cares about Childcare Services and The Arts only. Bad target. Profile your prospective donors by networking to learn more about them. Ask current/prior donors if they would be willing to call associates with a common interest, introduce your fundraising executive, and ask if you may contact him/her for a visit. This has always worked very well for me, and it's no-cost, just time invested. Googling individuals will provide a whole host of information about new prospects as well.

If you are a 501C3, it's critical to review grant opportunities through regional/national sources as well as corporations. The money being allocated has dwindled somewhat, but the concept of "Good Corporate Citizenship" is still very popular and local businesses, with the right preparation for building the relationship and making the ask, still WANT to give. Government and Private Grant Foundations are excellent choices, but the process is lengthy, stringent, and generally a highly specific project must be named with a full "business plan" that emphasizes quantifiable outcomes. Every source of funding cares about the big WIFM. What's in it for me? That's why profiling is so important. In front of a good prospect, you just have to be prepared to ask the right questions. The ones that your research has already revealed are "hot buttons". Example: Mr. Smith, we are passionate about reducing and dream of eliminating homeless pets here in our home town. So, we are sponsoring a spay/neuter clinic and expect to be able to alter xxxxx dogs and cats. Is this something that is important to you? (If we're researched, the answer should be yes.) Fantastic! May I share a proposal with you? (Hopefully, "yes".) We are asking for donations to both fund the cost of the spay/neuter initiative and to allow us to utilize generous gifts for operations cost to move forward fast and forcefully so that others will join indiduals like you, who really care. (Profiling is important before the $$ ask, but I'll fiddle around.) Sir/Madam, do you believe this is a long term problem? (Yes) Well, we have a plan to manage this. We are asking for a pledge of XX dollars per year over a three year period. Your three year commitment will help our community TODAY, and your gifts in years two and three will see that we can budget in a way that will enable us to serve the animals, the community, and YOU, our donor. Would you be willing to make a gift of $XXX now and also pledge your gift amounts for 2009 and 2010?

Whew, too lengthy and oversimplified but, in a nutshell, if you know the donor prospect well enough, ask the right questions, respond to his/her affirmative responses, they'll "sell" themselves!

I've mentioned the simple, quick techniques I'm sure you utilize and TODAY, I believe creativity is absolutely critical to survival. Research every fundraising activity in your community, regardless of the area of interest. Network, network, network, and find out which ones really delivered! Then blend all of those "winning" techniques to create a highly unique event that will get people's attention.

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Tammy  K.
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Feb 07, 2009

My daughters elementary school had one week where the kids brought in food, bedding and toys for the local animal shelter. The class with the most donations got a build your own ice cream sunday party. It was a huge success!

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Debo2
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Feb 05, 2009

According to Joan who handles a lot of the fund raising for Paws and Whisker, book wrapping at Christmas and the garage sale held at the Old West End Festival are pretty good for generating funds.

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kaye m.
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Feb 05, 2009

A silent/live auction is a great fundraiser.

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Lana  H.
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Feb 05, 2009

Here in Columbia Missouri we have "Triva Night" it is always a Huge success, it's kind of like karaoke but it's traveling trivia guy. You should try it. It's always packed! And it's so much fun. I've never organized it, but have participated many times. They hold one about every 3 or 4 months.

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Angie D.
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Feb 05, 2009

At Safe Haven we have a couple fundraisers that are our big annual events...the Walkin Fur all Fours is a dog walk and carnival in the late summer. In the spring we have the Fur Ball which is a catered dinner, dance and silent auction. Both of these bring in good money but take some funds up front to put on. One event which is relatively cheap to put on is our garage sale. The town of Williamsburg has a city wide garage sale every spring. I don't know about your area but people are nuts for garage sales around here. One of the volunteers in town lets us set up at her house. Volunteers start cleaning out their closets and donate items to sell. It is a free will offering for items unless they are bigger like furniture, lawn mower, etc, then we put a price on them...a negotiable price though. We have a 2 day sale...adding baked items is a good seller too....and can easily bring in a couple thousand. The only cost is advertising which is around 20 and any supplies you might need for making signs. I was amazed how well we did with a free will offering sale...I have always done garage sales with priced items.

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