As a co-founder of GroupRaise and the head of marketing, I have supported hundreds of charities in their fundraising efforts throughout the last five years. I’ve seen swells of charities host successful and unique fundraiser dinners, but I’ve also seen an abundance of not-so-successful charity fundraisers. Here is what I have learned throughout the years of why charities succeed or fail when hosting fundraising dinners.
Why Fundraisers Succeed
People tend to support other people more than they support an organization or a cause. This means that the best friend, the cousin, and the sister of a charity volunteer will be much more likely to attend an event when invited by the person they know, rather than receiving an email announcement from the charity itself. People are much more likely to support someone rather than something.
And then, when that someone shows their passion and shares their own experience and reason for joining the charity, it will stir inspiration in their supporters and inherently generate advocacy for the cause. Voila, just like that you’ve given each volunteer the opportunity to turn the dozens of friends and family members into potential supporters, donors, and members of your organization.
The long and the short of it is to think beyond the staff when planning a restaurant fundraiser. Empower volunteers to host their own unique fundraiser on behalf of your organization, because they bring an invaluable personability to the table that will inspire their loved ones to attend.
Why Fundraisers Don’t Succeed
We saw big charities fail when it was on staff to host events. It also came at a huge cost including the time/effort spent orchestrating and promoting. Part of the reason they tend to be less successful at hosting fundraising meals is because brainstorming and executing methods of funding their organization is what they do all the time. They have difficulty inviting their friends and family to event after event, but friends and family are the type of crowd that you need to turn out for a fundraising dinner.
You can’t expect the same range and variance of people who would show up for a marathon show up to a fundraiser meal, it just doesn’t work like that. As we’ve stressed before, people support other people, which is why it is so important to encourage action from volunteers when hosting smaller events for big charities. And always remember that thinking small can have huge impacts; if 10 of your supporters host 50 people at fundraising dinners, that is 500 people physically getting together to support your charity.
GroupRaise’s Best Practices for Charity Fundraisers
We recognize that not all charities are the same and that there is not one success-guaranteed strategy. Size, audience, the amount and type of volunteers and how they participate are all factors to take into consideration when planning a fundraiser. Here are our best practices for different types of charities.
For bigger charities with larger networks of supporters, we strongly recommend empowering volunteers to take charge and host smaller events like charitable dinners. Volunteers often have their own personal fundraising goals that they can achieve through hosting events. They can invite their friends and family who will support and celebrate the hard work and the noble cause that their volunteer is involved with, raising money, awareness, and inspiration all at the same time.
The Volunteer Dinner
If it is a realistic endeavor, invite all of the volunteers of your organization or a chapter of your organization to an initial fundraiser dinner. Have the staff organize the very first event to demonstrate to the volunteers how easy it is to host a fundraising dinner (as well as show them your appreciation). After all, it takes just one minute to organize a fundraiser through GroupRaise. Then you will be able to easily delegate volunteers to host subsequent fundraisers in the future, spreading awareness exponentially.
The CEO Dinner
Remember the personability that we keep talking about the volunteers bringing? Well often times for smaller charities, the founder himself/herself can bring that personability to the table, which is extremely meaningful for patrons. If the founder of the charity is present, along with his/her family, the staff, and the volunteers, everyone feels like an integral part of the organization, and will be inspired to spread the word. This is a good time for the founder to make a toast, explain the importance of the cause, and thank everyone for coming. This gesture speaks volumes to attendees.
Whether you are an international charity, local run, or a church group, the following three principles don’t change:
- Empower individuals to host
- Support by highlighting their efforts on social media
- Regularly encourage your network (make sure your communication stays personal, people want to feel special)
A Final Word
Most importantly, GroupRaise is simply a tool that allows you to bring people together. The fact that we all have a group of people who love and support what we care about is truly worth celebrating, and I hope you and your supporters get to share the joy over the dinner table in the coming days.
Sean Park, Co-founder