Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Nothing better than Reality instead of fluff

Recently, a member of a charity contacted us and was asking about how we can help them.  But wanted to know what the costs were etc.  Before I began informing her about our cost structure, I asked her about their fundraising events.  Needless to say, they believed they were successful but in reality, they were far from it.  In fact, the reality of it was that they were making very little without an enormous amount of effort.  The problem is, when it comes to charities, they have it all wrong, completely wrong.  In the “For Profit” world, you go after and pay the best in the business to get maximum results for your company.  The price you pay is minimal compared to the result.  However, in the charity world, the belief is exactly opposite – spend very little to make as much as possible.  Does this make sense at all?  And why do charities think like this?  And why?  So here is her question and my response:


QUESTION:  For my event, it would be great to have more info from you regarding fees and such, should the organization decide that they would like “outside” help.

ANSWER:  I would absolutely love to help you.  Can we talk about your event more? 
When we spoke, I remember your Net was low in accordance with the amount of people you had in attendance.  Look at it like this - # of guests divided by your Net.  The absolute beginning of successful fundraising, which is a guide for professional fundraising is $100.00 a head Net.  400 people = $40,000.00 net (after pay alllllllll the bills including us).  We are paid through the event and not from your charity.  The difference between us and doing it alone is this - Baseball Teams go after the best players who they have to pay heavily for to win games and eventually the World Series.  We pay Doctors, Lawyers, Contractors for their expertise - we are the #1 fundraisers in North America. 

Having a volunteer or someone who doesn't truly know, study or even understand fundraising will believe it's all about the charity - the financial success that is.  When in reality, it’s not at all - it's all about the event.  Namely, the Venue/The Menu/The Fundraising platforms such as a Live & Silent Auction & Raffles.  The belief that fully donated items are the way to go in regard to fundraising when in reality, donated items are only profiting 1/8th to 1/4 of retail in any live or silent auction across the United States.  How to attract major financial sponsors, what they are looking for and why they sponsor - its not about the charity, its about the event.  How to successfully get your attendees to willingly donate money to your cause and why they do? 

When you have a major donor of an item - how not to make them mad because their item they donated does not bring top dollar.  Why have a live auction and who are you targeting with it.  What types of items do people pay ridiculous amounts of money for time and time again.  What types of event excite people who do not know about your cause, will want to be a part of as well as successful event marketing trends which bring the spot light on your event.  How to get above the crowd noise of the 104 Million registered U.S. Non Profits out there who are trying to get people to donate like yours is. 

But mainly - think of it like this.  What was the "Net" of last years event?  Now you have to be absolutely honest with yourself when it comes to this because its a real eye opener.  Divide your true "Net" by the amount of people it took to plan the fundraising event.  Then, divide that number by the amount of months (the true amount of months) it took to plan it.  Now, look at that number....does it make sense?  Would you work that long for that low amount of pay in your own life? 

Another common mistake is that charities believe that people want to hear speeches,
watch presentations or people given awards when in reality - no one likes to hear long winded speeches and it slows down the momentum of the event itself.  Speeches need to be kept to a minimum.  The charity should "Work" the room, meeting their guests and sponsors.  To deliver the mission or to tell people about how wonderful your charity is, Video is the absolute best way and is entertaining.

Summary - we are proud to say we hit 1.8 to 2.5 above the national norm for successful fundraising of $100.00 a head net.  We are proud to say that our events normally sell completely out because of the way we build, plan and market it.  At our events, it’s a "Norm" that people will ask to buy tickets for the very next event, which is a year away. 

Our events are extremely fun, entertaining and all about the excitement of the event itself....that is what brings success - excitement and happy people.  Happy people donate heavily.  Bored people do not.

It's all about desire - the desire of your charity - if they truly want to be successful.  Why have a volunteer or someone who does not know how to fundraise or specializes in planning these type of events, planning your event!!!  Would you want your mechanic doing your surgery?  Would you want your housewife friend representing you in court when she has no background in Law?  Would you want your accountant building your house when he has no background in building?  Or - would you want the best in the business cutting into your skin, representing you in court or planning and building your house?

It's all about desire to be better - we are not expensive, but it is expensive when you have someone with no background doing your fundraising - which it seems you already do.  For some reason, people's mind tend to shut completely off when it comes to fundraising.  They plan an excellent event at a fantastic venue but when it comes time to actually fundraise - they think cheap is better when in reality, its not at all.  The most important thing a charity can do is to have a professional helping them. 

In a down economy, when fundraising is tough, wouldn't you want the best in the business helping you with a proven long term track record?  All of our current clients do.  In fact, we go back year after year after year after year. 

Here are some incredible examples:

A small group needed to raise money - they said in their wildest dreams they would love to raise $40,000.00.  They hired us, their 1st event did $161,000.00 Net.  2nd event did $248,000.00 net.

A small, unknown charity needed to raise $90,000.00.  Over 6 years, they had only raised $6,000.00 and couldn't get 50 people to come to a dinner fundraiser.  1st event - 810 guests with $141,000.00 Net.

A very well-known national charity was reporting to their board that they made $360,000.00 however; the money in the bank did not equal what they were reporting.  Their chairman of the board asked that I look over the financial reporting quietly.  I determined that 95% of the money raised came from pre-event sponsors but when they had their event, the actual event was in the negative forcing them to spend money which the pre-event sponsors donated.  They shouldn't have even had the event.  We took over, the event made $458,000.00 with the pre-event sponsors. 

The list goes on and on and on and on....

Successful fundraising is strategy...it’s not a wish or a hope.  Rarely do charities go back and examine what their event did or what made money or what their losses were.  They take the money, accept it and make themselves believe that they were successful.  They never try to improve by learning by their mistakes.  We do...

So - all in all, we are the best in the business with a proven track record and resume.  We would love to help you.

We can provide a management team which includes everything from graphic design, to event set up, paperwork, planning, managing and hosting – directing the committee
and being onsite to manage the event...to even providing an entire event staff that our clients don't even have to do anything other than check people in and do your program (Awards, speeches etc.).

In summary – does it make sense to put the most valuable tool in a charities arsenal (their fundraising) in the hands of someone who has no background in it when it’s absolutely crucial to the funding of their mission?  No it does not but charities do it day in and day out all across North America every single day.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Fundraising 101: Successful Fundraising is like Chess, not Checkers.

Yesterday, I was on the phone with a client who is now more of a friend.  We were discussing his problems with his charity coming to decision about their fundraising efforts.  During the conversation, I told him that people just don’t understand it.  They come and experience one of the events which we produce and say to themselves “Oh I can do what they do” and the following year they start off on their own trying to duplicate what we do.  They have no idea what they have got themselves into.

You see, people come to our fundraising events all across the country and they see it and think “hmmm, so they put items out on tables and people bid on them or buy raffle tickets, that’s easy.”  Then, they think they have it figured out and start thinking well, we really don’t need a Live Auction because that takes too long and not many people in the crowd bid on the items.  Then, they think about raffles…well we really don’t need all those raffles that they do in fact, I know, we should do a 50/50 raffle and just a couple of other ones.”   Then, here is when it really goes off the tracks “We shouldn’t hold it in a high end, expensive place.   We need to find a place that is cheaper and maybe we could get the food donated.”  As the train starts plummeting off the bridge down to the river below, they say this “Well, they put all of that consignment stuff in the silent auction that we have to pay for, donations are free and we keep 100% of the profit especially because the retail value of the items which he used in raffles is a lot.  They don’t know what they’re doing….we can do it better, cheaper and make much more money doing it our way.”  Just before the train hits the water in an explosive fire ball, they say “We need more entertainment, a band possibly and give people more time to dance.”  Then as the train is burning up, they decide “Lets save money and have a Cash Bar so we don’t have to pay for the alcohol too” and that’s when Taps starts playing.

Seriously that’s what happens….How do I know, because I see it time and time again.  So while I was talking to my friend, he said “the way you do your fundraising events is more like Chess instead of checkers” and he’s absolutely right!!!  Successful fundraising is EXTREMELY strategic.  There are reasons why we do what we do.  There are reasons why we promote having our events at higher end venues with great food.  There are reasons why we have a Live Auction, a silent auction and tons of raffles.  And there is definitely a reason why we promote the use of a DJ and not a band and definitely not a lot of “Dancing” time.  There are reasons why we don’t do 50/50 raffles and there are also HUGE reasons why we use consignment items over donated items all day and all night in Silent and Live Auctions and utilize the donations in raffles.

A very long time ago, we did several events which were in competition with other charities in the area which did something similar.  Those charities actually sent people to our events and they took video of our entire Silent Auction, Live Auction and Raffles.  They wrote down each and every item and where it was in the event.   Why?  Because they believed they could duplicate it – nope.  They tried and their events were disasters.

So….he’s 100% right!!!  Highly successful fundraising is exactly like Chess – it’s extremely strategic. You have to study it, study people and how they respond.  Talk to businesses and try different things year after year, time after time to figure out what works and what don’t.  There are reasons for everything – from the biggest things down to the tiny details that no one notices.  The logistics of our events are ridiculous.  You really have no idea what goes into something like what we do – but then again, that’s why we are a North American Charity Fundraising Leader. 

So before you launch off into what you think is going to be a highly successful fundraising event, stop and think – should I call them or not?  Then there are those charities out there who will hire a “FREE” Auctioneer or go after a “FREE” venue with “FREE” food and so on.

Then the stress, oh my god, the stress of putting something like this together is daunting.  Do you know how to promote your event?  Do you know what to tell your committee?  Do you have a committee?  Do you know all the equipment and paperwork needed for your “FREE” Event?

Your FREE event is going to cost you more than you could possibly imagine and then, you will lose more money than you could dream of, hoping to just break even. 
That is what playing fundraising checkers is all about – but we are the champions at fundraising chess.  If you would like our help, contact us at www.BWUnlimited.com, we would love to help.

BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising is a North American Charity Fundraising leader in a convenient “One Stop Shop” setting.  We can help guide you, your committee and your charity around the myriad of fundraising event pitfalls toward an incredibly successful fundraising event that will make a huge impression on your guests and raise you more money than you could ever dream of.  Many of our clients started out nervous, scared and skeptical but when it was all over, they couldn’t wait to start planning their next event.  Contact us at www.BWUnlimited.com.