Sunday, September 16, 2018

The face of Charity Event Fundraising has changed

Many don’t realize that the face of fundraising has drastically changed.  Many charities still continue to host their fundraising events as if it was still in the 1990’s.  However, with society changing as well as the amount of charities rising across the nation to over 104 Million registered U.S. Non Profits, in order to get people’s attention and ultimately, financial donations and support – Charity Fundraising, especially Event Fundraising has had to change and evolve.

In the 90’s, there were fewer charities.  This was the era of the Mortgage Boom with money flowing everywhere.  Many affluent (aka Rich) people used charitable donations for tax breaks.  However, as the Mortgage Bubble exploded which then in turn caused the great recession – many charities closed their doors based on charitable donations decreasing rapidly.

Then society changed, using the famous quote from John F. Kennedy “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” – that message became the direct opposite in regard to charitable fundraising. 
We became a “What can you do for me” society.  Affluent people began to be selective in regard to who they were going to donate to.  In regard to Fundraising Events, a charity now had to truly put on a show in order to get the attention of potential donors.  If you have noticed, there are some incredible productions going on across North America in regard to Gala’s and other charity events.  As
an example, Washington D.C.’s “Fight Night.”  The venue is a black tie Gala based around boxing and UFC.  There is a Ring in the center of the venue and during the night, various fights occur – all in an effort to raise money.
Why do they go to these extremes?  To attract the wealthy and elite from Washington D.C. and throughout the region.  This event raises many millions but the production is incredible. 

The days of hosting a successful fundraiser at the local Fire Department or lesser venue are long gone.  Also, charities need to truly step up their “Fundraising Game.”  They cannot repeat the “Same ole, Same ole” when it comes to raising dollars to fuel their mission.  They cannot use old methods to attract and entertain new supporters and ultimately large scale donors.

Everyone wants to says and asks “We don’t know how to get Financial Sponsors, can you help us?”  Of course I can help, but first you must understand the “Why” you are having the problem. 

I will address all the important facts on why the face of charity fundraising has changed and the remedy as well as the problem with the solution  on how to attract large scale financial sponsors as well as affluent donors:

#1 – Financial Sponsors – As addressed above, the competition has risen
drastically amongst charities.  When someone opens a charity, they truly believe that they are an “Island amongst themselves” and as soon as they open their doors; money is going to flood in.  However, this does not occur.  They assume that everyone they approach will lay out large sums of money to help – again, this does not occur.  They speak to companies who are not interested.

      Reason:  You must understand, that businesses are approached daily by numerous charities wanting donations.  The business must pick and choose who they support and ultimately donate to.  If they gave to everyone, they would soon be out of business.  Charities will use the age old saying “It’s tax deductible” however, with the new tax rulings, only 30% of their donations are now deductible.

     Remedy:  Before going out looking for donations, do you understand the “Reality” of what you are asking and do you understand, respect and know what the sponsors want in return?  Here is the reality, they will use their “Marketing Dollars” to donate to you.  They want to be “Marketed” at your event, they will want to know where your event is occurring and how many guests you will have.  Why do you ask is this important?  Because the larger the crowd, the more people will see their “Brand” or “Business Name.”   They want “Drivers.”  What is a “Driver”?   A “Driver” is something that will drive people into their businesses – advertisement.  They want “Bang for their Buck.”  Are you prepared to give that to them?  The problem is something they all have experienced; most charities take their money or their donated items and don’t care about marketing the individual businesses who donate. They just take the money and they are gone.  Before you start asking for Financial Donations, prepare a flyer or some type of packet which offers Sponsors and Donors a marketing plan at your event.  If you are unaware, go to someone who could possibly donate and ask them what they would want in return.  Just remember, your success hinges on offering the Sponsor something in return for their investment.  Would you invest your hard earned money if you were not guaranteed a return?  Or would you just throw it away – your mission statement no longer is sufficient.

#2 – Guest Count at your Event – In a space such as the charity world, you must understand that competition is stiff.  Let’s take for example these states and large cities:

a.     Massachusetts - 41,686 results found
-         Boston - 6,952 results found
b.     New York - 94,882 results found
-         New York City - 22,995 results found
c.      Maryland - 39,008 results found
-         Baltimore - 6,868 results found
-         Washington DC - 14,172 results found
d.     Florida - 97,472 results found
-         8,805 results found
e.     Texas - 125,856 results found

As you can see from the results, taken directly from the website, the competition is incredible.  Each weekend, charities in these areas are hosting fundraising events.  The demand is intense prompting the citizens to ask “Which one should we go to?” 

Unfortunately, this is a “What can you do for me?” society.  They will ultimately pick the event which has the highest appeal. 

            Reason:  Many charities use the approach “If we make our event as cheap as possible, saving us as much money as possible, while keeping our ticket prices as low as possible, we will get a much higher guest count and we can charge a fairly good ticket price putting more money in our pockets.”  They look for cheap venues, donated food and drinks, utilize donated items only and their fundraising platforms are old and tired.  Since their tickets are cheap, they only attract people who can afford a lesser priced ticket cost.  Since they are having their event at a “Lesser Venue,” again they attract people who feel comfortable there and not affluent guests.  Since they are having a cheap ticket, at a “Lesser Venue”, Sponsors will not be interested.  Filling a room with people who can only afford a cheap ticket – OR – selling your tickets cheap does NOT equal a higher profit return, in fact, it does the exact opposite.  Charities raise less money because they are not attracting the right crowd. 

            Remedy:  Charities must ask themselves this question – is their event a “Friend-Raiser” or a “Fundraiser”?  If it’s a “Friend-Raiser” then by all means, have an event at a lesser venue with a cheap ticket to gain support from your community.  However, if it’s a “Fundraiser”, there are two (2) keys to attract the right guests, donors and sponsors. 

a.     Venue – The venue is vital in attracting the right crowd.  People who can afford to donate, will only want to come to a nice place.  They will be not attracted to a lesser venue.  Furthermore, affluent people will be attracted to the venue based on how nice it is.  It’s the exact same reason why affluent people prefer Ruth Chris Steakhouse over McDonalds.

b.     Menu – The menu is secondary to the Venue however, because of the mentality of “What can you do for me?”, people will want to know what does my ticket price include?  The ticket price also includes the venue.  They want good food and enough of it.  They do not want Ladies Auxiliary Food or a “Donated Pot Luck” buffet.  People do not want a small piece of chicken, with a scoop of mashed potatoes and a few green beans. 

Now, do you want to know what guarantees your event will be a success?  This will probably be a hard pill to swallow, but it’s the “Cornerstone” guaranteeing success.  Any guesses?

a.     Ticket Price Guarantees Success – Putting it bluntly and using a common statement I make “A Cheap Ticket gets your Cheap People.”   The price of the ticket guarantees success and here is why.  The ticket price has to be high enough to push away people who cannot afford to donate to you.  Now as “Crass” as the seems, it’s reality.  Think about it, if someone buys a ticket, comes to your event, eats the food, has several drinks but does not donate through any of your fundraising platforms, does this benefit you?  No not at all.  I call this type of person a “Grazer.”  They are only coming to eat and drink and that’s it.

b.     The ticket price must be a “Financial Hurdle” – Did you know that on many online ticketing sales platforms, there is a prompt that says “Tickets under $150.00.”  Now why is that?  Because affluent people do not want to go to events under $150.00…they want to hang out with like-minded people.  Your ticket price must be high enough to push away people who can afford to donate while “Pre-Qualifying” your guests to see if they can donate to you.  If they can afford your ticket, they can donate.  But, don’t skimp on the meal just to put more money in your charities pocket – give them something they will love.  Take care of them and they will take care of you.

#3 – Donated Items vs. Consignment items – Many smaller charities feel that if they get all the items donated for their event, they will keep 100% of the profit.  But, what the charity does not realize or take into account is that the business had been approached 10 times that day asking for the same thing by other charities in the area.  Each charity feels they are the most important and gives them the same line “It’s Tax Deductible.”  As business owners, they don’t want to be rude but they have to pay the bills and keep their lights on.  They cannot possibly donate to everyone.  So if they do donate, its something which has not been selling in their stores or a “Gift Card” which draws people into their business which allows them to “Upsell” them on other products.  However, here is reality so gear up.   

Reason:  You may not agree with this, but it’s reality.

a.     Donated Items - When you approach a business and ask for a donation, they have a decision to make – Yes or No, its honestly that simple.  If you send out letters, its easy for them to just throw it away.  If you send out emails, it’s easy to hit Delete.  If they donate, charities believe that their guests will pay full retail for the item or items.  The reality is – donated items are only bringing 1/8th to 1/4 of retail.  People are looking for a “Deal.”  Charities often receive Gift Cards as a donation but ask yourself this “Have you ever bought a Gift Card for yourself?”  No.  Another common item we see at all fundraising events are “Gift Baskets.”  However, again, ask yourself this “How many Gift Baskets did you give to your family or friends for the holidays?”  None.  Everyone is looking for a “Deal” – they will buy your items but for pennies on the dollar.  Furthermore, your event will look like a “Yard Sale.” 

Remember this saying – “It’s local people, attending your local event, with items donated by Local Businesses – if they wanted that stuff, they would have went and bought it themselves.”  They will buy it, but will want to pay minimal for it.

Does this truly benefit your charity?  Does it hurt the donor if the item they donated sells for next to nothing?  If the donor finds out, do you think they will donate again?

b.     Consignment Items – Many people think “Why should I pay for something when we can use donations which we keep 100% of?” Go back and read the paragraphs above for the answer.  Do you think if there is a $50.00 Gift Card that people will pay anything near that – OR – full retail…or above it?  Hell No!!!  You need items that will attract people to your event and that are extremely hard to find, exciting and that everyone wants but never sees.  This creates excitement and prompts high bidding.   Here is a question “Who is really paying for the items – You or the Winning Bidder?”  The Winning Bidder and you are getting FREE MONEY from the profit.

Remedy:  First understand the reality of donated items and how they perform in charity auctions.  Then understand the need for consignment items while also understanding how to correctly use them.  Think about this – what event will people want to attend – the one with gift baskets and gift certificates or the one with Travel Packages to far off Beach Destinations, autographed items and Jewelry?  Donated items certainly have a place in your fundraising event but they must be used in a way that absolutely GUARANTEES success.  Secondly, understand that when you use consignment items, you are getting “FREE MONEY.”  Plus people will be excited about your offerings. 


Ladies and Gentlemen – the face of fundraising has changed.  You have to have a fresh new approach while keeping an open mind on what are the current trends.  People like “Exciting”, they love a nice place to go to with good food.  They like great items to bid on, they like a well-produced event.  No one likes “Boring.”  Financial Sponsors are drawn to these types of events due to the marketing potential.  There are ways to absolutely ensure that your event will be successful BUT you have to be open minded enough to allow for these changes or you will be caught on the fundraising Hamster Wheel with little return.

BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising can and will absolutely ensure that you and your event is incredibly successful both financially and also through your guests experience.  BW Unlimited understands how to best utilize donated items to ensure that you receive 10 times the retail price instead of 1/8th to 1/4 through various means in your fundraising event.  Remember, you live a full time life with a full time job and full time commitments and a full time family – are you up on all the current fundraising trends and successful tactics?  Call in the Big Guns – BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising will knock it out of the ballpark for you. 

BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising is a North American Charity Fundraising Leader in a convenient “One Stop Shop” setting.  We can help you and your charity with everything from beginning to end – check out our website at to find out more.

Contact us at, email George at or call at 443.206.6121, we would love to help you.

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