Proven Revenue Generators for an Event Fundraiser
Proven revenue generators to optimize revenue before, during and after the event fundraiser. If you focus solely on the day or night of the event for income then your job is incomplete. Prior to the event you are building momentum and attracting attention for participation. Post event is an opportunity to continue the relationship with sponsors, bidders & donors. You may even pick up some new volunteers along the way.
During the event is a special time so we will share proven activities that repeatedly generate energy, engagement and most importantly, large income at the in-person event:
- Grab bag
- Balloon pop
- Heads or tails
- Signature drink
- Wall of wine or bourbon
- Live auction
- Champion call or Paddle Raise
- Last Man Standing or Run Around
Prior to the event
The most important time from a financial aspect should be the work you put in prior to the event happening. This is where your focus should be on cultivating sponsors to fund the event. Sponsorship dollars are critical! When looking at successful fundraising events, it is proven that the majority of your funds will be generated from your sponsorships. An organization’s development director can lead this effort, but sponsorship sales should not fall solely on the weight of your director. They should guide the process and provide assistance to others who will be selling the sponsorships, like your board and event committee, but ultimately provide the path for successful sponsorship sales. A great way to free up some time to allow you to focus on sponsorship development is by partnering with an event company to handle the event logistics. Even though there is a cost in working with event management companies you will allow yourself the ability to work with your bigger donors on sponsorships.
In addition to sponsorships, many events will sell tickets. The ticket sales are a very small portion of revenue when you look at the entire event however it is still revenue for your organization. A benefit to making your event ticketed is that guests and sponsors that have secured tickets will want to come to your event! More people at your event means more folks bidding on items, spending money on sales, and more donations. Determining the price for the ticket will depend on the style event and the cost per person you incur to hold the event. With the consideration of COVID-19, one thing you may want to consider is a virtual attendee ticket. This would be a reduced price that will allow folks access to your online silent auction, watch the program from a remote location, and participate in live auction bidding as well as donations.
The day of your event has arrived and your stress level is through the roof and you are running on little sleep. If you have an event management partner it should be on them to make sure things are in order for you. That will allow you the ability to not run the event but engage with the attendees. Even a ticketed guest who is there for the first time hearing about your organization is important, as they could become your next big advocate or donor.
What makes a successful event? As a case study, we’ll be using a gala style event that will include a cocktail hour and a seated portion of the evening. The first step to help is by pre-registering credit cards. This can be accomplished upon entry to the event or when folks are registering themselves online. The more that can be accomplished prior to the event the quicker the guests get in the door and start spending money. Registering credit cards accomplishes a couple of things, but more importantly, it helps the attendee spend money at your event without pulling out their wallet or purse to think about how much they are spending. The guest can then use their name or bidder number throughout the event for bidding, donations, and sales.
Here are some activities to fundraise during the event in addition to a silent auction.
A set price in which a guest chooses a bag in which they are not able to see the content of the bag. i.e. $20 per bag and the content could be a $25 gift card or more.
This is great if you have items that don’t pair well with other silent auction packages or are below a certain value.
Similar to the Grab Bag you assign the items a number which corresponds to a number inside each balloon. The guest will pay per balloon they pop. The noise of the popping gets other guests curious and interested.
Heads or Tails
Throughout the evening you will sell a chance for guests to will the heads or tails prize. The purchaser will receive a necklace or blinking ring to designate they are going to be part of the game. Something similar to the blinking ring gains attention and gets people asking where and how they got that. The MC or auctioneer gets everyone focused on the stage later in the evening and uses a coin for heads and tails. You can either have guests place their hands on their head or their hips. The other way would be to face the stage for heads or face away from the stage for tails. The guests who are doing the opposite are out and the game continues until there is only one guest left. All sorts of raffles can be prolific fundraising tools. Be sure you are aware of the regulations to be safe!
You can or your caterer can create a signature drink which can be tied into the event theme. To do this you can sell a cup which allows you refills of the signature drink throughout the night.
Wall of Wine or Bourbon
Another great activity that guests really enjoy. Place a number on every bottle of wine, bourbon or other alcohol. Have a jar of corks with the corresponding numbers. Each pull is a set price for example $40 or $50. The guest wins the bottle that is numbered the same as the cork they pulled out. You may need to be prepared to mark the bottles with the winners name and bid number for pick up at the end of the event depending on your ABC laws.
As the evening transitions to the main program and focus turns to the front of the room or stage. Oftentimes this is when the guests are seated for dinner. Several fundraising elements are very common but we will include ideas to increase that return.
Depending on your event’s size and scale it may make sense to bring in a trained auctioneer. A good auctioneer should have the connection to consignment packages that will bring added value to the live auction to help increase the overall return from a live auction. Live auction success is reliant upon bidders bidding against each other pushing up the final sale price. A good auctioneer can feel the vibe of the guests and knows the ways to best draw out every dollar possible.
Champion Cal or Paddle Raise
This has many different names but the gist is that you are asking for a straight donation. This is generally one of the larger portions of your revenue for an event. It is always more impactful when you have this part of the night after you play an impactful video or have a speaker tug on the heart strings of the guests. When you are determining the levels you plan on asking for, consider adding a level above what you're comfortable with. You will be pleasantly surprised. Also, if you have a donor that already pledged a large donation prior to the event, you can ask them to “donate” that amount during this time. That gets the ball rolling, and guests see others who support at that level and feel more willing to match what others are supporting at.
Last Man Standing or Run Around
This is a unique way to get the guests to reach in their pockets one last time at the end of your Champion Call. You reserve an item or package as a give away i.e. YETI cooler with something inside. The way it works is that you go back to a $50 or $100 donation level. Each time a guest raises their bid number they are making a donation. The last donation will win the cooler and its contents, in this example. Quickly you will see guests raising their bid numbers and your MC or Auctioneer is reading them as they would during the Champion Call. Guests will raise their bid numbers more than once. As it stalls out the MC or Auctioneer does the tradition “Last call Going once going twice, Fair and final warning…” Another guest or several raise their bid numbers for an additional donation at the determined dollar amount. It is up to the MC or auctioneer and their spotters to determine in what order they saw the bid numbers raised. This will continue for several more rounds before it closes and the results will surprise you. The key thing here is to post the rules on a powerpoint slide as well as announce multiple times that every time the guest raises their bid number they are making an additional donation. The key word being “Donation”.
When the event ends you do not need to consider the fundraising for that event over. Funds raised after the event can still be allocated to that event's fundraising efforts. You also can send out a follow up email thanking the guests and supporters for being a part of the event. In addition you can leave them with a way to continue the support or make an additional contribution. Another quick way to gather final donations is via a text from the auction system. This can be accomplished by providing a text-to-donate option that can be sent out to all your attendees, you never know if someone was shy to raise a paddle during champion call but is happy to donate via text!
We hope all these tips help you maximize your profits during your auction, and most of them can be incorporated into virtual events. Good luck and happy fundraising!
Special thanks to John Fuse of Eventfull for sharing his expert advice on how to maximize income at an event fundraiser. John is an event planner located in Virginia specializing in not-for-profit events.