"I know! Let's throw a fundraising gala!"
It's a great idea, right? Throw an epic party, invite lots of rich people, have a silent auction and raffle, and rake in thousands of dollars for your nonprofit.
In many shops, special events can work like a charm. But if you're just building your fundraising practice and want to get the most bang for your buck, you may want to consider taking another avenue first.
Events are expensive. There's a saying in fundraising that you have to spend money to make money. This couldn't be truer with splashy events. An outlay of cash is required, sometimes for marginal return.
Events are time-consuming. If you're a one person shop, or you don't yet have a robust prospect pool, the challenge of executing an event becomes even greater.
If you've ever planned a wedding, you can relate. From the invitations, to who will sit next to whom, to the food choices, the entertainment choices, the linen choices and the venue decision -- the devil is truly in the details when it comes to fundraising events.
Okay, then, what should I do to raise money?
Approach your board. A significant responsibility of many boards is fundraising, either personally donating or approaching their business and personal connections with a gift request. Seeking board philanthropy is often a great way to begin to build your funding base.
Check out KickStarter or WePay. Crowd-sourcing has proven to be quite effective in fundraising for any variety of projects. A few dollars each from a lot of people can make a good initial impact on your bottom line.
Submit a couple of grant proposals. You or a grants/proposal professional can identify sources of government and private foundation funding, and then help you to submit a competitive application. Often, there are at least 3 to 4 months from the time of grant submission until a decision is made. So, if you're looking for a quick influx of charitable dollars, grants may not be the way to go. However, they're great for building your pipeline, possibly leading to potential funding as you move your nonprofit's mission forward.
Fancy gala or no, I'll be there with bells on to help!