Making the Most of Community and Events Fundraising
Fundraising has become more challenging as sources of funding have been squeezed, resulting in greater competition, with small and local charities having to work harder to ensure funding streams remain stable. A mixed income economy is the best way for a charity to support its sustainability, being better protected when income streams are reduced or removed unexpectedly.
Community and Events fundraising has long been a staple for charities of all sizes. It’s a great way to raise income, awareness of your cause, attract new supporters and involve the wider community. But remember that it can also be resource intensive – as a result the return on investment can be low, when compared to other types of fundraising.
Here, The Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) share our six top tips for small charities for getting the most out of your Community and Events programme.
- Be clear on your objectives. Be very specific about your goals for your community and events programme and how you will measure this. If generating income is your aim make sure that that is what you do. If it is about increasing your donor base, ensure that you measuring this. We often hear “we didn’t raise what we planned to but that’s OK, we increased awareness for our cause”. That might not be good enough when you’re thinking about the resources you put into the event. Be honest with yourself about what you truly want to get from your community and events programme and assess whether your current activities are the best way to achieve your objective.
- Piggy back where you can. Get involved in local community activities or make the most of national campaigns that have a high profile. Fundraising ideas can include garden parties, challenge and run events, quiz nights and local collections. Community fundraising is a brilliant way to raise money, build your presence locally, create trust and raise awareness to a wider audience.
- Get the marketing right. Identify your audience and make sure your marketing and PR are focussed to that audience. Social media is a great and simple way to communicate your event and create a real buzz. But if your audience doesn’t use social media it won’t work for you. Just ‘getting your message out there’ isn’t enough. If your purpose is not clear at the beginning you will get your message wrong. A music festival will have a very different marketing plan and materials to a black tie gala dinner. Throughout all of this don’t undervalue the importance of telling your charity’s story.
- Be creative with your resources. Identify roles for supporters and volunteers. The formation of an organising committee for a major event reduces the paid resource which in turn pushes up the return on investment. Also identify other key resources that you need to make your event a success, and shop around for the best value. Is there anything on your list that you can get donated as a gift in kind? Think about what you can offer in return, for example marketing, logo placement or free tickets.
- Thank and steward your supporters, sponsors, donors and volunteers. Stewardship is vital to maximising the impact of your event. If you have ever organised an event where people supported and you didn’t thank them, or you had a gift from someone and didn’t follow up afterwards to continue the engagement, then you are guilty of having missed huge opportunities! Research shows 87% of donors would give again on the back of good stewardship. Make a list of all those who have been involved, and find an appropriate way to thank and recognise every one of them.
- Evaluate, Review and Debrief. This is a vital step that many charities often miss out. Review the success of each and every event or initiative you undertake against your planned objectives. How could you improve it next time – what would have made it even better? A debrief with all staff, volunteers and selected stakeholders should take place as soon as possible after the event to capture key success factors and learning points. This should be recorded so it can be easily found for when the next planning cycle begins.
Interested in finding out more? Come along to one of our heavily subsidised Developing Community Fundraising courses in Leeds or Sheffield . If that doesn’t work for you, check out the full details of all of our upcoming face-to-face training http://www.thefsi.org/services/training/
Janine Edwards is the Head of Learning & Business Development at the FSI.