Fundraising Events: A Kit of Parts

What I am thinking of here when I say kit of parts, are the component elements of any fundraising event, that, when knitted together, become the net profits after the volunteers kill themselves on the event.

Let me tell you about one of the most successful fundraising events I have ever attended.  The Jacobus Vanderveer House is located in Bedminster NJ.  My client, the Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House have beautifully restored a 1777 structure over the last ten years.  Their annual event Colonial Christmas takes place in early December, and has a multitude of component parts that bring in a staggering amount of money over four days.  I attended the 2011 event and comments here flow from that event. Area designers decorate the house itself for Christmas and admission is charged to enter over four days.  Antique dealers sell items in several of the unfurnished rooms and a percentage of the sale goes to the Friends. There is a small boutique of items for sale upstairs in one of the bedrooms. Raffle tickets are sold at the house.

There is also a cocktail party held at the house in the evening. This event has a silent auction of wines, a raffle, the small designer boutique and many sponsorship opportunities.

Finally, there is the formal luncheon held at a famous country club nearby.  The luncheon, which for the last two years has had a $100 or $150 admission price, is only one of many fundraising components of the afternoon.  There is a $25 or 5 for $100 raffle of five substantial prizes including some really handsome designer name jewelry; a silent auction for several large, stuffed Christmas stockings filled with high end toys, sports tickets, and gadgets for a Mom, kids, grandparents and Dad; two dozen designer boutiques selling personalized items, jewelry, scarfs, belts, designer bags, leather goods etc. (These vendors donate a percentage of sales to the Friends.)  There are plenty of sponsorships: of the wine at lunch, the luncheon food itself, the program book, publicity, and the swag/goody bag to take home.

No doubt about it, this event takes the whole year to pull off, and has a highly dedicated, large group of volunteers who want to make each year’s Colonial Christmas better than the last.  In addition, they have been spectacularly successful.  The volunteers make Colonial Christmas a fundraising machine.  The committee really knows its audience and each component part is carefully considered.  Each one of the many component parts adds to their fundraising prowess.  No one component dominates, but all have a role to play in making the four-day event successful.

Any nonprofit that pursues fundraising events, should consider what kind of components make the best sense for their event. Ticket sales are but one part of your profit.

For the last three years, I have been lecturing nonstop about fundraising in general and collecting ideas about fundraising events—the kind just devised to raise money.  Here is a list, not complete, but extensive, of the component parts that I have seen used in Main Street fundraising events.  Do not use all of these components in your next fundraising event, but pick and choose a few that align with your goal and audience preference.  Let us know if you use any of these ideas, or need more information.