What’s new in fundraising events

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At Marketing Works, we’ve noticed a definite trend away from traditional golf outings and gala fundraising events and toward extended cocktail parties or more innovative events with themes like casino night.

Last year we helped manage 28 events for nonprofit organizations throughout New York City and Long Island. Recent examples include a comedy night, a Day at the Races at Belmont Park, a Shamrock Shindig and Shark Tank Showdown at the Long Island Aquarium (where a contest winner was lowered into the aquarium’s shark tank for a swim), a St. Patrick’s Day party, and an evening of fine foods featuring gourmet delicacies donated by local restaurants and chefs.

We have held golf events, but with a nine-hole tournament that required less of attendees’ time. We’ve also done a helicopter ball drop where numbered golf balls were thrown from a helicopter and prizes were awarded based on each ball’s distance from designated targets. Both events were a huge success.

A typical golf fundraiser or gala can be a huge commitment of time and effort for a nonprofit’s staff and is especially difficult for organizations without an internal development team or event consultants. They require a group effort and months of planning and grunt work to pull off successfully.

“Friend-raiser” events where nonprofit board members, executives, staff and vendors bring personal and business acquaintances to learn more about the organization without being solicited are becoming more popular. These events are an effective supplement to a signature fundraising event. They usually require less advance planning and time commitment. Examples include cocktail hours, charity run/walk races, comedy nights, casino nights and bowl-a-thons. Friend-raiser events are also a great way to spread the word about your organization and to develop relationships with potential donors – provided you follow up with attendees properly. The goal is to communicate regularly with attendees and not just hit them up once a year for a donation.

Remember, every guest who attends an event – whether it’s a fundraiser or a friend-raiser – has the potential to become a donor, sponsor, committee member or even a board member. So consider innovative themed events with a fun and relaxed atmosphere to promote what you do, encourage guests to learn more about your mission and recruit attendees to become more involved with your agency.

Ron Gold is the president and CEO of Marketing Works PR, which offers an extensive range of branding, public relations, event management, marketing and community relations services to nonprofits, especially those that lack the resources to perform these functions internally. He also founded The Nonprofit Voice weekly radio show that is broadcast live on Saturday morning on Long Island News Radio 103.9 FM. It discusses issues affecting the special needs and behavioral communities of Long Island.

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