How to make your events a success: Lessons learned from local fundraisers

By Jennifer Johnson, JVA Consulting

I recently learned some great tips for making fundraising events a success through my work as a volunteer on the committee for a new event, Totally Tennyson. In my career, I have done a lot of event planning—from a seated dinner with gold-rimmed plates on the stage of Boettcher Concert Hall to showing The Big Lebowski at a bowling alley with wings and beer. Over the past couple of weeks, I also attended the Colorado Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) annual wine tasting event and Clínica Tepeyac’s Tortillas for Tepeyac, both of which were low-cost events promoted through social media.

Totally Tennyson was a first-time event benefitting eight northwest Denver schools, including my daughter’s school, Escuela Tlatelolco. Totally Tennyson was almost exclusively promoted online, mostly through Facebook. People used their own networks to spread the word and with the tickets ranging between $20 and $30, it was affordable. I think people also got excited about the ’80s theme and being able to dress up in their favorite ’80s fashions. The Facebook traffic was driven by the committee I worked on—when someone posted on their own Facebook page, he/she would tag the event, then others would comment and “like” the event. With all the great publicity, we sold 1,000 tickets.

Colorado CASA’s Annual Wine Tasting and Tortillas for Tepeyac were also great events held by organizations doing great work. Colorado CASA had its event at the Oxford Hotel, which is a great venue. There was lots of wine to sample and a silent auction—two things I love. The event included a short program with emotional speeches by two grown-up CASA kids. Their touching stories were key because they ensured that people understood the importance of CASA to kids in Colorado. Tortillas for Tepeyac also had a client and her daughter on hand to share how Clínica Tepeyac changed their lives. The event included local celebrities who were cooking homemade tortillas, lending a little glamour and fun to the event. Like the Totally Tennyson event, tickets were reasonably priced and the events were fun but still had a clear message about the organization’s mission.

So remember, keep events low-cost, promote them through social media and add a personal touch by having current or former clients share what your programs have meant to them. Why? Because it works!

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