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5 Scary Things That Could Happen at Your Fundraiser

Posted by Ashley Shaw on 10/26/17 11:00 AM

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It's that time of year again...where frights come out to haunt your every moment. Last year, I talked about the tricks or treats that you can use during your fundraising season. This year, I'm going to tell you how to avoid the scariest things that can happen to you....at your fundraiser!

5 Scary Fundraiser Problems (And Some Tips on Avoiding Them)

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I came up with a list of five things many of the leaders of the organizations we get to help here at GiveSmart are afraid of, and then I came up with some ways to make sure that they don't happen to you.

Scary Thing 1: You Could Lose Donations That People Were Trying to Make!

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What a frightening idea! Someone is trying to make a donation to your cause, and it doesn't go through or it is overlooked!

And I have to admit, I've almost seen it happen a couple of times, so it is a realistic fear. However, it doesn't need to keep you up at night. Let's look at some ways to avoid this:

  1. Invest in some technology...I mean, I know I'm sitting here writing for a fundraising technology company, so I'm clearly a little biased, but it is still a good idea. Make sure you have ways to collect and accept donations that are user-friendly and bug-free. If you do, then you are a lot less likely to lose donors because of a system that doesn't work or because your donors don't know how to get the donation to you.
  2. Double and triple check....If you are going to be using paddles to allow guests at your charity event to raise their number at a level they want to donate, then you need to make sure you have multiple people checking to see who is raising their hand. And maybe ask your auctioneer to slow it down some. Have people walk around and write down the bids as they come in. Then, make sure you get everybody by crosschecking everyone's lists. You don't want to miss money because nobody was looking at Table 35 to see Bidder Number 786 say he wanted to give $5000.

Scary Thing 2: Long, Frustrating Lines at Check-in and Check-Out

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This one gives both fundraisers and their guests nightmares! Nobody likes having to wait in long lines, and you certainly don't want your guests' first impression or last memory of your event being that ridiculously long wait they had to get into the event or to get the items they bought at your auction at the end of the night.

Make sure this doesn't happen by trying some or all of these ideas:

  1. Invest in technology...yes. This again. But it really makes things a lot faster and easier to manage.
  2. Practice...do a dry run to make sure all of your workers, vendors, and volunteers who will be helping at these key times know what they are doing and how to get people through the line quickly without losing that friendly touch.
  3. Do as much as you can early...Allow people to register and buy tickets ahead of time. That way, on the night off, you can just check off their name, welcome them, and move on to the next person.

Scary Thing 3: The Totals at the End of Your Event Are Low

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You work so hard, losing sleep, friends, blood, sweat, and tears, etc., along the way. Then, it is finally there: the big night! You're expecting big numbers to match the big effort you put into this, but....you don't make your goal! [Cue: organ music, witch laugh, and scary scream soundtrack here.]

So let's look at some possible solutions to make sure that doesn't happen:

  1. Spread the word...get some better marketing and communication plans in place. If people don't know about your event, then they probably won't show up. Common sense, right? So make sure you send out email blasts, put it on your website, use social media, hang flyers around town, whatever it is you need to do to get people aware and anxious to attend. And then, send out reminders closer to the event date so that they don't forget.
  2. Show a need...in my post a couple of weeks ago on why donors' give, I mentioned that they want to see a real need that should be addressed. So make sure that you do some awareness efforts at your event (focusing on stories, not stats) that help your guests see just why your organization matters.
  3. Show how they can help...in that same 'why donors' give' post, I also mentioned that not only do guests want to see that there is a need, they want to know that they can actually help solve that need. Talk a bit about what your organization has already done to address the need you are created to help. Then talk about what specifically you will be using the funds that you raised at your event for. Let them know that their donation is actually going to helpful.

Scary Thing 4: You Have a Bunch of Upset Donors

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It's the end of the night, and your guests are frustrated and unhappy. Ahhhhh!!!!! Alright, alright, let's all stop screaming. We can fix this. It doesn't have to be so scary.

  1. Make it easy...the easier things are, the less frustrated people will become. You ever hear someone talk about the KISS system (Keep it simple, stupid)? Well, take out the stupid part because I think that is mean, but follow everything else. Keep things simple for your guests. Pick methods and technologies that are intuitive. Have people there that can help answer questions. Keep the lines short (see Scary Thing 2).
  2. Listen...listen to what your donors are telling you. And by listen, I mean actively listen: don't just hear. Take their thoughts and opinions and really consider them when you are planning your event. You don't have to just do everything they ask you to do, of course. But if you really take into account what your usual guests are saying, then you are more likely to keep them happy.
  3. Know your donors...I've talked a lot about this, but it really is important: you should design your fundraiser around the wants and needs of your donors and guests. You can do that by knowing who they are and what they like. You can do that by doing things like creating donor personas.

Scary Thing 5: Items Don't Sell at Your Auction

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If part of your event includes a live, silent, or online auction (or some combination thereof), then it is pretty much guaranteed that you hope your guests actually bid on the items you got. Otherwise, what was the point?

So let's talk about how to avoid this terror.

  1. Get a good auctioneer...if your auction is live, then make sure you invest in a good auctioneer. They will be able to get the crowd going and get even the most reluctant bidders bidding the big bucks.
  2. Open it up online...maybe you have a lot of guests out sick that night. But they'd still love to bid on some of your great items. Think about opening up your auction so that bidders can bid from anywhere...even the other side of the world. This will open up your shoppers from a small group to a much larger potential crowd. (And if you aren't sure if an online auction is right for your guests, check out my post on that exact topic!)
  3. Do your research...Make sure you get items that are likely to sell. Look at big sellers from your past auctions, look at other auctions and see what does well at theirs, and follow that tip from Scary Thing 4: know your donors and what they are likely to want.

The Fright-less Finale

Halloween is supposed to be scary, and you probably wouldn't want me to change that. But if you follow some of the tips that I have listed here, then hopefully all you will need to be scared of on Halloween is ghosts and goblins, witches and monsters, zombies and...well, you get it.

And for more fundraising tips that will keep you from fearing for the worst at your next event, remember, as always, sign up for our newsletter!

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Topics: Tips and How To's

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