Why you should fundraise outside the box.
For what seems like an eternity, nonprofit organizations have typically turned to hosting one big annual event as a primary source of fundraising.
Sure you’ve got your day-to-day, monthly, and year-round fundraising campaigns (as you should), but this is the big whale in a sea of minnows. One huge publicity blast over a couple months for your organization and then it’s one central event to plan and execute. I don’t have to tell you that there’s a lot that goes into it: A million moving parts, sleepless nights, and the tireless efforts of a handful of people. But it’s just one day or one evening and a blitz to raise money and spread awareness. It’s frantic, it’s cumbersome, but it’s centralized.
But have you ever considered that a lot of other nonprofits within your own community are putting on events just like yours? Because they are. It’s easy to just say that you’re going to put on a gala, or an auction, or a golf tournament, but that’s exactly what every other NPO is doing! Why? Because thousands of organizations have already done these. There are even websites that give you step-by-step instructions and blueprints for executing a cookie-cutter fundraiser. Like I said before, by no means is pulling off a gala simple, but once you’ve got an outline for doing so, at least you can keep your team on task and check off the boxes. Plus, you can have faith that it will work because it’s work for others again and again.
I know “do something different” is it a trite, easier-said-than-done piece of advice, but the impact of doing a completely unique [and maybe even strange] annual event will separate your organization from the others by being unforgettable. Professional movers and shakers might go to 10 fundraising/charitable events in a year, and after a while, they all start to blend together. In your memory, it’s hard to distinguish one gala from another. And that’s pretty awful news for an organization that’s dependent on members of the community writing checks. Speaking of which, if your organization cannot fully rely on the generous supper of your immediate supporters and stakeholders, then you need to go out into the community and appeal for their attention, and more importantly, money. And the only way to do that is by not blending in.
Plus, at the end of the day, you’ve got to offer something fun and exciting for people to attend. Galas and auctions, by nature, can be stuffy and intimidating so you’ve got to give people a reason to put on semi-formal attire and buy a ticket. And that reason has to be: “Come have a blast.”
Here are two case studies of unique fundraisers with which we helped brand and execute:
Ochsner: King Cake Festival
Ochsner, a regional healthcare institution based in New Orleans, needed help developing and branding their King Cake Festival – an inaugural event created to bring awareness and raise money for their new NICU at their Ochsner Baptist locations. With a mix of print, TV, radio, and online, RUSSO helped build awareness for the festival in an already crowded Crescent City event season.
The Results: Ochsner hoped to have 3,000 people attend the inaugural event but more than 12,000 participated – exceeding expectations by more than 400%. The success of this initial fundraising event, led to the development of several other major branding initiatives surrounding their fundraising efforts. The event raised over $2.5 Million in 2014 alone.
Healing House: Family Adventure Day
In an area with more than 300 Nonprofit Organizations, each holding multiple fundraisers, Healing House of Acadiana wanted to stand out from the crowd. Although their fundraiser, Family Adventure Day, is a unique experience, the event was not meeting projected growth by its third year. After gaining more insight, RUSSO asked more area businesses to participate and encouraged them to tell their customers and clients about the event handing out fliers and posters, which introduced their clientele to businesses that they either had not been aware of or did not frequent in the past. The event’s collateral materials were updated to have a more eye-catching and family friendly look in addition to giving a full [yet brief] explanation of the event.
The Results: Increased attendance over the past three years and selling-out/capping the number of families participating this past year. More than 300 families/approximately 1,300 people participated in activities located in 30 local businesses.
If you truly want to do something that will make you stand out among the countless other annual benefits, you’ve got to establish an event that speaks directly to who you are and your mission. It starts with doing something different.
New and Upcoming Pinpoint Projects: