When it comes to fundraising, events are a crucial tool for candidates to connect with donors, build support, and raise money. But in this not-quite-post-pandemic environment, planning and executing a successful fundraising event can be a daunting task.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help campaigns plan and execute successful (a.k.a. profitable) fundraising events.
5. Establish a fundraising goal
The first step in planning a successful fundraising event is to establish a clear fundraising goal and work backwards from there. Your fundraising goal should serve as a guidepost for all of your planning and decision-making. Everything you do, from selecting a venue to crafting the speaking program, should reflect your goal of making a profit and raising money for the campaign.
A mistake I often see campaigns make is to skip this step and identify a prospective venue or other logistical details without first setting a clear, realistic fundraising goal and budget. Moreover, it’s critical that you break down your overall fundraising goal into smaller goals for each donation or ticket level. How many donors at each donation level do you need to reach your goal?
4. Work your host committee
Having a dedicated host committee made up of donors who agree to help plan and raise money for the event is key to reaching your fundraising goal. Hosts can be valuable assets to the campaign, as they can prospect their respective networks to expand the candidate’s network for the event. It’s important to set clear expectations early and provide hosts with support to reach event fundraising goals.
If you know your campaign will be planning multiple events, it may be useful for you to develop a fundraising event host guide that outlines your campaign’s event planning process. Providing hosts with a quick reference document that answers frequently asked questions can be a very valuable tool.
3. Keep it simple
While it may be tempting to go all out with fancy caterers and expensive wine, remember that the goal of the event is to raise money. Don’t be afraid to serve cheese and wine from Costco. Instead of going for an elaborate setup, keep it simple. Ask your host committee to donate food or in-kind any other items you need. Additionally, keep the speaking program simple: have the host speak first, followed by the candidate and then a featured guest.
2. Craft an event memo
It’s important to create an event memo for the candidate and any special guests that includes key information about the event itself. This should include names of all registered guests, how far you are from the event goal, and a list of people the candidate should speak with during the event. Also be sure to include logistical information such as the venue location, address, day-of contact information along with the tick-tock of the speaking program. This memo will help the candidate and special guests to be prepared and focused on the event’s goal.
1. Master the details
The smallest details can leave the greatest impression on a prospective donor. Create and update your event checklist, print event name tags, and find other ways to make guests feel special and donors appreciated. Small touches can make a big impact, such as bringing a vase of flowers for the candidate to give to the host — if the event is in someone’s home — or mailing major donor thank-you cards a day prior to the event so they arrive a day or two after the event.
Da’Quan Love is a political and nonprofit fundraising consultant based in Richmond, Virginia. His firm, Reflex Strategy Group LLC, specializes in fundraising and compliance for Democrats in Virginia and North Carolina.