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How to Throw a Fundraiser on a Budget

Posted by Ashley Shaw on 4/13/17 11:00 AM


You want to throw a fundraiser for your great cause, but you aren't sure how you can afford it. Well, I've got news for you: this post contains money saving tips that will help you learn how to throw a fundraiser on a budget.

Step 1: Make, Understand, and Follow a Budget

giphy-downsized.gifCurtesy of Giphy.

Don't just start planning with no vision or foresight. You'll end up blowing your entire budget on something flashy and cool looking that doesn't add much to the success of your event.

Instead, sit down and do some planning. You'll thank yourself for it later.

To help, we have this free white paper: "Justify the Cost of Nonprofit Technology." Despite its name, this book can help you justify the cost of anything at your event. So while you are planning, read it. And before you put something on your budget, make sure you could justify it to a board (or to yourself at the end of the night.)

Download Our Free "Justify Tech" Paper

To help with this, I have racked up some budgeting tips from some of the great budgeting experts of all time (or at least some pro financial advisors):

One important lesson for anyone planning a fundraiser is this:

Know how much you realistically expect to raise. That number should always be higher than what you spend. Otherwise, what's the point?

SPECIAL NOTE: You've heard that sometimes it takes money to make money, right? Well. In some cases, it is actually true advice. When possible, think about making room in your budget for things that might cost money up from but have a good chance of returning your investment plus a lot more at the end of the event.
For example, nonprofit technology - like GiveSmart (sorry, but it was too hard to resist. This point is valid, though. So please don't think it's just a cheap sales tactic) - that is designed to help you reach more people and has been proven to help you increase your raised funds by significant percentages.

Step 2: Pick the Right Type of Event

Types of Events.jpg

When it comes to budgeting, all events are not equal. Some of them just cost a whole lot more than others.

Yes. A big, fancy gala filled with stars and champagne and lobster dinners is super swag. But it's also super expensive.

When deciding what kind of event you want to throw, keep your budget in mind. A gala may not be something realistic for you this year, but an outdoor barbecue might be just the thing.

Take a look at my post from Tuesday for some ideas on different types of fundraisers.

Step 3: Get Sponsors and Volunteers

get sponsors.jpg

Still set on getting a celeb to your event?

Then work on finding one who will volunteer his or her time. That goes for everyone and everything.

The more volunteers you get to donate their time (whether that's your guest speaker or the coat check helper), the less you'll need to spend.

Of course, you don't just have to get volunteers to donate their time:

They can donate anything you need.

Having an auction? Get people to donate items or services to auction off.

Want to have a raffle? See "Having an Auction?"

And you can also get sponsors. The more sponsors you get, the more you can expand your budget.

(Step 6 will talk a little bit more about how to do this.)

Step 4: Pick a Non-Peak Time/Date/Season

venue location.jpgCourtesy of ImgFlip.

When it comes to securing a venue, supply and demand economics are definitely in place.

If you pick a popular venue on New Year's Eve, you can expect to either pay astronomical prices or just be out of luck.

Now, if no one is going to go to your event in the boondocks on a working Tuesday at 10am, then there is really no point in hosting it then and there.

However, there are compromises between these two extremes.

Work with venues to find out when there slow season is. Find a venue that is nice, but not Four Seasons priced. Then, check into dates at times when they are less busy. You'll probably start seeing much better rates.

Step 5: Learn the Art of Negotiation

Charity Event Negotiations.gifCourtesy of GIPHY.

Of course, even when you are looking at off-season times, things can still get expensive. But that's where negotiations come in.

EventStant has some tips on how to negotiate venues:

  1. Ask for a proposal without giving them your budget.
  2. Don't let them intimidate you.
  3. Have multiple proposals and venues in mind.
  4. Use the internet to your advantage.

In fact, if you are willing to make certain concessions (for example, literal concessions: guaranteeing a food and beverage minimum sale the night of the event), then you could even negotiate your way to a free venue.

You can do the same with anything on your list once you learn to negotiate.

In fact, help yourself out and find a free online negotiation class to really start honing your skills.

Step 6: Know Your Supporters

Know Your Donors.jpg

I've talked before about creating and using donor personas. But it is really helpful in keeping things cheap too.


I'll give you two reasons.

Reason 1:

The better you know your potential guests, the more you can create a budget around things they will actually like and want to be a part of.

Without doing this, then you risk spending your precious budget on expenses that will ultimately be a waste. But with targeting, you know every dollar spent is worth it.

Reason 2:

The better you know potential donors, the better you will do at soliciting volunteers, sponsors, and negotiated terms.

Say you want to have your event at a specific event, but it can be expensive there. However, you happen to know that the owner is a huge supporter of your cause.

Use this information. They may be willing to give you a great deal to help out your cause.

Similarly, if you are looking for artists to donate their time for a live art auction, then it is helpful to know some artists who are true believers in your cause. (Or to know that one of your big supporters happens to manage an art gallery featuring local artists who may be able to use their connections.)

Then too, this may be the way to get that star to your event:

Find some celeb who really wants to help whatever it is you are helping through your fundraising. They may be willing to waive (or at least lower) that high appearance fee.

By knowing your donor base, you can do a lot more to keep your fundraiser costs low.

And That's How You Throw a Fundraiser on a Budget

It's easy, right?

Maybe not, but it is doable. All it takes is a little bit of effort and honesty, and you are there.

What about you? Do you have more tips? Let me know in the comments below or on social media.


Topics: Tips and How To's

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