Saturday, June 29, 2019

The “FREE TICKET” Charity Myth – “BUSTED”

A common myth with charities across North America is in regard to either "Comping" people or giving guests "FREE TICKETS." 

Many believe that "Comping" people a ticket, they will attend your event and spend the money they would have paid for the ticket and more.  It’s also believed that by “Comping” them tickets, they will have the understanding that they need to spend or donate money because they know they were provided the ticket for free.

Many times, charities will give influential or affluent people “FREE TICKETS” thinking they will make large donations.

The next part of the charity myth is that it’s a great practice when a company, group or individual purchases tickets to give away to others, most likely to those who can not afford to attend or purchase the event ticket.

Another part of the myth is called an “In Kind” donation.  Now my definition may be different than yours but what I believe it is, is when someone donates an item in exchange for event tickets of the same value.

MYTH “BUSTED”:  Why is this a bad practice?

First, when you give away “Free Tickets”, you must understand that you are still paying for the cost of their meal and drinks.  In reality, the ticket is not free, you are paying their way ultimately.

Second, when you give someone a “Free Ticket”, there is no clear expectation to spend or donate money.  In fact, over 12 years of professional fundraising, I have never seen this to be true. 

Part (2) of the above is even worse, when people are provided “Free Tickets”, they made no investment and may decide not to attend.  They may want to stay at home, do yardwork or whatever – they spent nothing, so not attending is a clear option.  Think about this point – is it sufficient to have someone buy a table and the seats are empty at your event?  No, it’s not at all.

Third, if someone needs a “Free Ticket” to attend, most likely they can not afford to come.  Do you want someone to attend your “Fundraising” event who can not even afford your event ticket?  No, because they also will not be able to afford to donate or bid on anything at your event.  A mid to high priced ticket is what I refer to as a “Financial” hurdle – if they can afford to buy the ticket, they can afford to donate.  It’s a fundraiser, right?

Fourth, it sounds like a really nice thing to do when an individual or company purchases a ticket to give away to people.  At it’s face, that sounds like such a nice thing to do.  But, if those same people could not afford to come – Refer back to #1, #2 and #3.  You need people to jump over your financial hurdle. 

Fifth, if someone ever says “I’ll donate this item to you that retails for $150.00 if you give me the same amount back in tickets (you are selling tickets for $75.00 a piece.”  The one aspect of fundraising is that donated items historically across North America bring 1/8 to 1/4 of retail in any Live or Silent Auction.  You take the offer and place the item on your Silent or Live Auction and it only sells for $30.00 or less, possibly no one bids.  Let’s say your paying $50.00 a person to the Caterer, you just lost either $120.00 retail in your ticket prices or $70.00 in the true cost.  Do not ever do this.

In closing, remember, you are hosting a fundraiser.  By giving away tickets, you are literally taking money out of your own pocket to pay for that “FREE TICKET” which truly does not exist.  Someone has to pay for it.  Where are you going to take the money from to pay for the “FREE TICKET”?  Are you going to take it away from the mission of the charity?  There is no such thing as a “FREE TICKET” and it is a horrible practice to give anyone free tickets.

Secondarily, even though it sounds nice when someone buys a table or tickets to give them away to the less fortunate, but then the same rules apply.  They may not even come, leaving you with empty seats.  Then, they could not afford to come and won’t be able to donate to your charity.  They will come eat, drink and have fun and that’s it.  Before you give away tickets or “Comp” anyone, think about what we just discussed first prior to agreeing to it.  If you decide to do it, remember I warned you!!!

These strategies and many others are a part of fully understanding successful charity fundraising.  BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising is the #1 source of incredibly successful fundraising in a “One Stop Shop” setting.  There are a myriad of mistakes and pitfalls inexperienced fundraisers make, BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising will steer your charity around them to a successful result.  Contact us today at

Friday, June 28, 2019

Think of your Charity as a Business: Charity vs. "For Profit" companies

Recently, I had been thinking about a better way to explain to charities and those fundraising on how to understand who Sponsors are and why they sponsor, who the guests are and how to attract them and last but not least, who their volunteers are and their role.

Suddenly, I realized (based on a book and video by Dan Pallotta) that the best way would be in terms of a business but more importantly a store.  As soon as I could, I used this at a meeting with a client planning their fundraising event and it’s as if everyone there exactly understood much better.  In order to be successful, as Dan says, charities must think like a business in order to be competitive. 

In reality, a charity is a business and in fact, many of the tasks it does as a whole is business related.  So with that, here we go.

First, we are going to use these terms as if you were opening a business or a store:
  • -         Event Planners are now known as “Business Consultants
  • -         Sponsors and Donors are now known as “Investors and Vendors.”
  • -         Guests are now known as “Customers.”
  • -         Volunteers and the charity staff are now known as “Salesmen.”

In order to open a business and in this instance, we will think of it as a Store, let’s call it the “Charity Store.”  We first must understand our store opens only once a year (we only host one major fundraiser each year) and is only open (4) hours (the length of your event).  We only have (4) hours to make enough money to maintain our business throughout an entire year.

Many businesses owners understand that they must spend money to make money – however, in the charity sector, charities think exactly opposite to their detriment.  Do you understand and agree with this?  Or do you think getting everything for free is the successful way to operate?  Do you think the highly successful businesses in your area do the same as a charity?  Many Businesses owners understand that even though they want to open a business and be successful, they don’t understand as much as they should.  Retailers and Restaurant Owners often hire professional consultants who will come to their store and design it, train their staff on how to be successful sales people as well as develop a business plan.  They stay with the business as it ages to continue to improve it.  

Have you ever seen TV Shows such as “The Profit” or “Restaurant Takeover” or “Bar Takeover”?  The stars are consultants helping the businesses improve and often thrive.  Do you know how to properly plan a fundraiser?  Are you a highly successful fundraiser and are highly educated on the current trends of fundraising?  Do you know what makes Sponsors…sponsor at high levels?  Do you know how to entice your guests to make large donations and what makes them place high bids?  Do you understand all the aspects that go into a highly successful fundraiser?  Do you think you should higher an expert charity fundraiser or a Charity Fundraising Event Planner who is also an expert Charity Fundraiser?

If we are just starting our business or taking it to the next level, you will need Investors and Vendors.  In order to attract Investors, we first have to learn what the investor wants out of their investment.  What’s the best way to learn this?  By simply asking them.  Your “Investors (Sponsors)” will want Marketing as their primary concern.  Come up with a Marketing Plan for your Sponsors before you even approach them.  If you are already a well-established charity, your potential “Investors” is already right in front of you – your Vendor list.  What’s a Vendor you ask?  Open your business checkbook and see who you pay on a monthly basis.  Those vendors have been reaping the benefits of doing business with you for as long as you have been in business, approach them while reminding them how long you have been paying them and then tell them about your event and you would like them be a sponsor. 

In regard to your “Investors” being Donors, businesses which donate items, present them with your Marketing Plan for your Sponsors and Donors.  As with most charities, they simply take the items and whatever they make on selling them, that’s enough.  However, what will set you apart from the rest is that you truly “Care” about their business. 

If both your “Investors (Sponsors) & Vendors (Donated Items)” voice their opinion about when they donated to another charity and how it did not help them, ask them why?  What were they not happy with when they did?  Then ask them how you can best drive business to them and even further, how you can get them closer to purchasing items from their businesses.

Let’s talk about your business “Customers.”  Whenever a new business opens up in town, people automatically flock to it to check it out.  But we first must understand how they found out about the “Grand Opening.”  They found out through Marketing and Advertisement.  Do you think the business owner who wants to truly be financially successful only does a small amount of Marketing or Advertisement?  Absolutely not.  They hire top rated marketing companies who develop and advertising strategy.  They then develop commercials as well as beautifully designed signs, print ads and billboards.  They run their ads over and over and over again, nearly bombarding you their potential customers with the advertisement.  They feature all the great items they will have in their store and tell you how there are limited quantities available.  They spare no expense when it comes to advertisement and they don’t just advertise every once in a while, they repeat it over and over and over again until their store opens. 

As a charity planning a fundraiser, you must do exactly the same as a business hosting a Grand Opening.  You must develop a marketing strategy along with planning on how to best gain the attention of everyone in the area in which you reside or are located.  If done correctly, you will gather the attention of everyone in the entire country…but do you know how?  You also must have the correct marketing materials as well as made the correct decisions on what you need to have at your event in regard to the venue, menu and the items there for sale (to bid on).
Then, lets talk about your “Sales People” in your business – your volunteers.  If you sales people are not trained properly on how to be friendly and the art of the “Up Sell”, then your business will most likely flounder.  You have to find “Sales People” who are Rockstar’s !!!  The better sales people you have, the better you will ultimately perform.  They must be trained and also involved in your marketing strategy.  Switching over, are you volunteers Rockstar’s?  Are they trained Salesmen and Saleswomen?  Many times, charities just go after “People” without ever interviewing them about their sales skills.  You must have vibrant, friendly volunteers who are not afraid to talk, joke around and Sell Sell Sell. 
If you do it correctly, your business will thrive and you will make an enormous amount of profit.  However, if you do it incorrectly, doing things that contradict successful business practices, you will be closing your doors quickly. 

Charities MUST, absolutely MUST, adopt the same business practices as the “For Profit” sector in order to survive, be relevant and prosper.  They will never be able to fund their missions without successful fundraising.

If you would like help from the most well known charity fundraising Experts in North America, contact BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising at or by calling 443.206.6121.  BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising is the only full scale charity fundraising event planning company in North America with a proven, successful track record and in business with 12 years.  Call us today.