Ring It In Right
Thinking of doing a dinner? You should be. Here’s why you should:
Most funds are designated – they have to be used for the purpose specified in your proposal and approved by the donor. This means reporting, follow-up, and a lot of constant work to justify those funds. A dinner, however, raises unrestricted funds.
Major donors writing a check for a $25,000 table at your dinner do so without batting an eye. Ask them for the same amount to purchase supplies or provide a service, and you’ll be back-and-forth with them over reports and budgets.
So if you’re not planning a dinner, you might want to reconsider that decision. Here are some ways to get a head start with fundraising events.
Who do you invite?
The ideal mailing list encompasses a number of separate lists. If you’ve planned your event well you’ll have picked an event committee and chosen your honorees at the start. Your event chairperson, each committee member and the honoree(s) should each bring to the event their own “Rolodex” – emails and/or addresses of folks in their networks who they would invite to join them for an event.
Your organization should have its own mailing list, with a subset of valued supporters – those who have donated consistently and donated substantially. Your organization should also create a prospect list through research of donors to organizations similar to yours, Board affiliations and business relationships of your events key players and any new large supporters within the philanthropy sector.
Save the date?
An increasing number of organizations are scrapping the “Save The Date” mailing. With the predominance of email communication, sending out paper postcards as a notifier is going the way of the dodo. Paper invitations do still carry meaning, and serve the function of personalized outreach. But there is another possibility: a combination of solicitation letter with a Save The Date note enclosed. This outreach and response device is a way to inform your network, do a seasonal ask and get an initial sense of attendance numbers.
When do you send the invitations?
As soon as you can! Of course, that might not be as soon as you’d like. But a really good event does take time to plan. A few months is typical for annual galas unless you have a lot of moving parts, in which case you’ll want to start sooner. Remember: the more time you give yourself, the more time you’ll have to overcome problems that will inevitably arise. We recommend starting the planning about 4 months out, and to prepare the lists early. Send the invitations 2 months in advance, to give people time to RSVP and plan accordingly.
Who sends the invitations?
Technically, you do. But you’ll be putting the names of your event chairperson and your honoree(s) on the invitation, too. We like to add a quick and easy personalized note to invitations being sent to each event leader’s list.
For instance, if Jane Smith is your honoree this year, ask her to write out:
This cause means a lot to me and I hope you’ll join me in supporting it. See you there! – Jane
Have this on her personal stationery, or at the bottom of each invitation. The folks receiving invitations from Jane will know her personally because they’re names she has in her network. Just that little touch from Jane makes their invitation feel all the more special and the event more significant. Never underestimate the personal touch.
Most people like to RSVP online – does your website have an online reservation or donation page? Make sure you link to it on your homepage and include the URL in your paper invitations. Also, ensure that you have a clear way to gather those online reservations into the same database as your mail RSVP cards.
There are several ways to drive your paper mail traffic to your website for RSVPs, but most important is ease of access. No one wants to input a long http: // www. yourorganization.org /events/2015/gala/rsvp into their browser, while reading it off a letter. Try a QR code or a URL shortener to make it easier for readers to visit your online registration page.
Tips: Where to Start
What better time to think about summer than in the middle of winter? (Unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere.) But if you want a successful event in May, June or July, you’ll have to start planning now.
It can be beneficial to pick your caterer before your event space, as many catering companies have strong relationships with venues they often work at, which could result in a better price for you. They also have the best firsthand experience pertaining to guest experience, how the kitchen works for catering staff, hidden fees, and event flow.
Pick The Date
The date is the linchpin for any event. You can’t book a venue or hire a caterer or send invitations until that’s done. Pick a date that is not in the middle of a holiday and give everyone time to mark their calendars – especially the VIPs.
Your event committee makes decisions, approves strategy and works with you to execute the event according to plan. Gathering a committee should be your very first step. Members should be willing to pick up the phone, invite their networks and really push the event forward.
Who’s the Draw
Put together a shortlist and choose your honoree as soon as possible. That person or group of people will be the main reason guests decide to attend this year’s event. Choose an honoree who hasn’t been awarded anything recently as their friends will be more willing to attend and give.
Location, Location, Location.
Consider how many guests you’ll be expecting, whether parking is an issue if you can hire an outside caterer or must use the venue’s food services. Are there dietary restrictions to consider? Does your venue have a current liquor license? Is there room for check-in and reception? Know your needs first, then pick the venue that suits you.
What’s a QR Code?
This is! A “Quick Response” code is a visual hyperlink to a web-based destination.
How do I use it?
Your smart-phone will have an app that is a “Code Reader” built-in. The app will use your phone’s camera to “look” at the code just like a vertical bar-code you see at the grocery store. Like any bar-code, the information is just a numerical computation based on spatial relation between lines or pixels.
You can print this like a picture or a barcode onto anything – a business card, an invitation, an airplane banner – it’ll even work from a screen like this one. Try it out with the above QR code, which takes you to perrydavis.com.