When planning a fundraiser, every penny counts. Because you are raising money for a good cause, you don’t want to spend money or resources that could be funneled back into doing good work. The best fundraisers offer a high return in exchange for a low investment.
A recent survey of event planners found that the return on investment (ROI) on events depends not only on the resources and budget needed for planning but also on the size of the organization planning the event. In other words, smaller organizations are at a disadvantage compared to larger nonprofits because the investment of planning a fundraiser can be a strain on their resources.
But in most cases, the study found that runs and walks are the easiest events to plan and can generate an excellent return for most charities. The study also showed that a-thon events have the lowest cost per dollar raised on average and that concerts have the highest cost per dollar raised.
Let’s talk a little more about each of these types of fundraisers
These events are defined as fun events for families or communities. They do not include marathons, half-marathons, 5Ks, or other high-profile races. Fun runs or walks are not competitions. They usually do not require expensive and time-consuming city permits or road closures. Nor do they require special training for participants. Fun runs and walks can also include novelty categories, such as costumes or themes, and designated age categories for children, teens, and adults. Fun runs and walks are great schools or church fundraisers because they bring families together for an enjoyable experience.
Fun runs and walks typically raise money by offering sponsorships to local companies looking to promote their business to the community. Planners can also deploy secondary fundraising tactics with raffles and merchandise sales. Fun runs and walks can be easy to plan and can deliver a high ROI for nonprofits of all sizes with strategic fundraising.
A-thon events are very popular because they are relatively inexpensive and easy to plan. Planners can leverage almost any activity for this type of event. The common factor is that the event is “drawn out to unusual length, often until a prearranged goal, as the contribution of a certain amount of money, is reached”, according to Dictionary.com. The most common type of a-thon event is a walk-a-thon, but you could also plan a read-a-thon, a hike-a-thon, a bowl-a-thon, or a dance-a-thon. The possibilities are endless.
With a fun activity and strategic marketing, these types of fundraisers are a great way to increase awareness for a nonprofit’s mission as well as raise money. The participants pay an entrance fee and then ask for pledges to be donated if they finish the event. While doing this, participants raise the charity’s profile among their family and friends. Planners can also earn revenue by offering sponsorship.
Benefit concerts don’t have to be huge productions with celebrity performers. They also do not have to be expensive to plan. They can also be small and local featuring local children’s choirs, teen bands, or singer/songwriters. The benefit of planning a fundraiser like this is that the performers may have access to venues and marketing vehicles that planners can leverage for the fundraiser. For example, a school choir may let you use their auditorium and promote the concert via their family newsletter or email list. These performers are also very likely to bring their family and circle of friends to the event. A savvy planner can save a lot of event budget by keeping their scope narrow and tight when planning a concert fundraiser.
There are other types of fundraising events that can be lucrative with careful planning. Let’s look at some other options.
A live or silent auction is a very popular fundraising strategy. These events offer a social aspect that is very appealing to attendees. The social setting makes it easier for guests to open their wallets and donate. By bidding on an auction item, attendees feel like they are receiving more value for their donation. Silent auctions are simpler to plan and execute since the attendees can peruse, discuss, and bid on the items at their leisure but a live auction can be more exciting and fun. Music or entertainment enhances the social experience.
The easiest way to keep auction fundraiser costs low is to source all auction items through donations and sponsorships. With the right sponsors and auction items, an auction can also raise the profile of your nonprofit and increase your donor list. A profitable ROI depends on low expenses, high attendance, and lucrative bids.
Most large charities host a gala event annually. Galas are large-scale fundraising parties that usually includes dinner, music or entertainment, dancing, and possibly silent auctions or raffles. Galas require a significant investment in time, resources, and money to plan effectively. They can be expensive given the cost of food, drinks, venue, staff, entertainment and more. Because of this, it may be difficult for small nonprofits to host a gala successfully.
Depending on the type of gala planned, ticket prices can and should cover expenses and sponsorships and other revenues go toward fundraising efforts. Alternatively, some planners get event elements donated like food and entertainment donated so that ticket sales can be added to the donation amount. If you are planning a gala, staying flexible and creative will help you build the ROI for your event.
Sporting Event or Tournament
Golf tournaments are tried-and-true charity fundraisers for many organizations. Greater Giving reports that over 800,000 golf tournaments are held in the United States each year and the average golf event raises approximately $5,000. Large events can raise as much as $300,000. However, costs can be high. The most successful golf tournaments are accomplished due to strategic partnerships with local golf clubs and media sources.
Other sporting events or tournaments are somewhat easier to plan. These include soccer, softball, basketball or volleyball events. Many local sports teams work with nonprofits to assist with charity sporting events. They may offer their venue or marketing vehicles to help you promote the event. Revenue comes from ticket sales and/or sponsorships. The team may also allow the nonprofit to collect a percentage of merchandise sales during the event.
Fundraisers are a necessary part of any nonprofit’s existence. They keep the doors open and the mission intact. For these reasons, it may feel like extra pressure for any fundraising event planner. But planning a fundraiser can be fun. And when done right, very rewarding.