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Episode 53: Why Your Fundraising Event ISN’T Generating 6-Figures and 3 things you can do to change that forever!

Nov 28, 2019


Episode 53: Why Your Fundraising Event ISN’T Generating 6-Figures and 3 things you can do to change that forever!

Year after year, you recruit volunteers, plan the party, rent the venue, send the invites, but for some reason you only seem to break even or come slightly under that goal of hosting a 6-figure fundraising event.  What went wrong? Where did you fall short? 

Like me, many of you are members of fundraising groups on Facebook.   I think I’m a member of 5 or 6 for sure. And, I’ve noticed a theme in the kinds of questions being posted inside the groups in regards to fundraising events.  This got me thinking and I decided to create this episode to help YOU hear first hand what it takes to host a 6-figure fundraising event.  

Special Offer First

If your new to hosting events be sure to check out my FREE mini checklist on how to create a pipeline of new donors for your next big fundraising event.   I give you some ideas on where to host mini events. If you haven’t already grabbed it, the link will be provided below.  

Simple NOT Easy

I know you! I know you did everything I just mentioned and likely you did a ton more to make your charity event a special one. 

I want you to know that hosting a 6-figure fundraising event is simpler than you think. Notice I didn’t say "easier" so let’s be clear about that.   And for the next 30 minutes or so, I’m going to dive into three things you need to be doing in order to break that 6-figure ceiling.  

Here’s the good news, these things are economy proof, doesn’t matter what season you’re in, these three things work for getting consistent revenue at your annual fundraising event.

Now, many of you know who I am and that’s why you tune in but for some of you, I’m new.  For the newbies, I’m Lisa Clark and I’ve been raising money through fundraising events for over 20 years.  Not only that, I’ve taught nonprofits how to host their very own 6-figure and high 6-figure fundraising events.  

So, I’m very excited about what I’m about to share with you right now.  I want to help you break that darn ceiling!

Step #1: Fundraising  

This means you need to be focusing on revenue generation.  I mean really focus and have a strategic fundraising plan for your event in order to reach those fundraising goals.  Really, Lisa?!? I know you think that’s obvious but if you’re not reaching that 6-figure goal then you aren’t focused ENOUGH on the fundraising.  You’re likely too busy planning the party.

Now, I’m not sure if you have money blocks or think that simply because you sent out a few emails asking for donations for your event that the funds will appear.  I’m not sure if you think because you’re raising revenue on ticket sales the funds will come in. But, I’m here to tell you that while you are focused on the party, money is changing hands all over the world for those who are doing their part to ask for it beyond just a few email invites, a few underwriting letters. There are 4 reasons the money isn’t coming your way:

1) You’re not asking in ALL the ways you can ask for it.  Not enough revenue generators.

2) You aren’t presenting the right offer to the right people, the right donors.

3) You aren’t asking ENOUGH people. You are making some money cause you are asking some people but not enough people.  If your issue is you don’t have enough people to ask, then stick around cause I’m going to get into how you can change that up.  (pipeline events that lead to larger event)

4) You’re simply not asking for more; hence, leaving money on the table as we like to say in the fundraising world.  

So, if I was to sit with you and if I was working on your event with YOU the first thing I would ask you is “What’s your fundraising plan, your fundraising strategy” for this event and the next question I would ask you is “How many revenue generators do you have for this event?”

Cause here’s the thing, let’s say you charge $50 per person for your event.  That means you would need to sell 2,000 tickets in order to reach your goal of $100K.   That’s ridiculous. If you truly want to reach $100k at your event, you are going to have to ask for more per ticket.  $100 per person. Minimum. And, if you’re relying on a silent auction as a revenue generator it means you need to have a silent and/or live auction that brings in a solid amount as well.  Do you solicit for silent auction items that are worth $50k or $75K in revenue? If this is your only fundraising strategy, it needs work cause with a plan like that you’ll need to have 50 auction items that can easily go for $1,000 each.   That ain’t easy! I say this with love!

Bottom line is you’re going to need a plan that has several revenue generators AND you’re going to need to carve out time to reach out to people to get people in the door aka sell tickets.  This means you need to reverse engineer your fundraising plan. Work backwards from the goal. If your goal is 150K, then start thinking about all the revenue generators you are going to need to get there and how much each revenue generator can generate. 

This may cause some of you anxiety.  It’s difficult to ask people to support you financially but as a fundraiser I want you to get comfortable with asking!

For many years, I hid behind securing auction items and sending out invites to the event and crossed my fingers people would attend.  I crossed my fingers that the silent auction items would come in with just sending out a few solicitation letters. Bad plan.  

It wasn’t until I started doing the work to get people in the door, picking up the phone to ask for donations, or underwriting or the corporate sponsorships that I began to see real results in moving the needle on reaching a six figure event. 

I want to say that it may seem like I am encouraging you to focus all your efforts on fundraising but it’s not.  I actually need you to focus on two other important items with equal energy, passion, and focus. Let’s dive into the second thing you need to focus on. 

Step #2 Marketing

The next thing you need to focus on is getting people in the door.  And if you secure sponsorships, you will need to create marketing incentives that entice corporations to donate at various giving levels based on those incentives.  But let’s dive into what marketing activities you need to focus on:

  1. Attract folks to attend the event.  This is done by marketing to your donors via email, newsletter write-up, save the date, hardcopy invites, email invites, press release, local online paper, social media marketing.  Let’s do a little math again. If you want 250 people at your event, this might mean you need to invite 500 people. This means if you do the work to get in front of 500 people, you’ll need a conversion rate of 50%.  There is no guarantee your conversion rate is 50%, it may be 20% so this means you will need to increase your invites. Does this make sense? In order for this to happen you need an active donor base. Do you have one? Are you engaging your donors and volunteers on a regular basis? 
  2. Corporate Sponsorship marketing - you want to offer as an incentive to corporations, proper marketing on all your event collateral (invites, website, onsite banners, video, etc.) You want your corporate sponsors to see the value in all the ways they will be marketed by funding your event.  They want to make sure their company is being highlighted and promoted properly in exchange for supporting your event. They want to be seen as a company that supports the community they are in. 
  3. Program Onsite Expo - highlight and market your programs and services.  This is an absolute must. Why? Well, this is the way in which you will educate your guests on the good work you’re organization is doing.  Don’t miss this opportunity to shine. Share impact stories. Stats. This also allows your staff a way to support the fundraising and marketing efforts of the organization. The one time of year they are called upon in this regard.
  4. As I mentioned above, if you don’t have a donor base here’s what you need to do.  You need to host small events leading up to the big event. I was able to host 8 small events between the months of September - November and was able to add over 400 people to my donor database.  These small events cost us practically nothing and required very little staff time. I do an entire masterclass on how to host mini events. I’ll drop the link in the comments as this is an entirely different strategy. But in a nutshell you are creating a pipeline of new donors via small awareness building events that are free and inexpensive.  This is done so you can funnel these folks right into attending your major marquee fundraising event. This is especially important for those who have a small donor list or no donor list. This is where you start

Overall, value is what you are offering and not trading ticket sales for time spent on planning the event.   Which leads me to the third thing you need to be focusing on in order to reach your 6-figure event

#3 Event Production

This means you need to plan a party that puts the “FUN” in fundraising.  This means you need to plan a value packed event. An event that equals the value of the ticket price.  Good food. Possibly a band. Meaningful program. Lovely venue. Lovely decor. 

Don’t try to host a fundraising event and under deliver in this area.  You will not get repeat attendees. Not to mention, you can’t charge $100 per ticket and serve food on paper plates.  

My final tip is to work the plan.  Period. Do the things I said above. All of it.  Create the Fundraising plan of having enough revenue generators.  Work the Marketing Plan and work the event production plan. Simple.  Don’t try to re-invent the wheel. Take it from me, I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. 

And to make this really happen you need to focus on one more thing:  YOU! Focus on YOU executing the plan.  

Free Checklist

Ok. As I mentioned earlier, here’s my FREE Checklist on How to Create A Pipeline of New Donors for Your Next Big Fundraiser? Click the link to get the instantly downloadable checklist that's easily implementable (is that a word?)!



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