You have the perfect product, a sweet service, or a catastrophic cause. Now all you need is funds! Car washes, bake sales, blood drives, auctions, raffles, contests – there are countless ways to raise funds for your business. The question is, what’s the best way to get those deep-pocketed donors to come flocking to your door? Well, first you have to ask yourself a few questions to get the ball rolling. For example, what are your fundraising goals and what budget do you have to work with? What demographic do you want to attract with your fundraiser? What is the theme of your event? What mood do you want to create for your donors? Will you sell products or use giveaways as added attraction? A good fundraiser can both get people excited about what you’re doing and about coming out to your next event. Despite the expectations that those who attend fundraisers are generally philanthropic and can’t wait to spend their money on your awesome business or organization, the truth is simply that you’re competing with every other fundraising event they’ve attended recently and it’s all about who can throw a better party. And if you’re going to throw a fundraising party, there are numerous ways it could go wrong – or right. Here are some things to consider for the best possible outcome.
Deciding on your fundraiser’s theme
What you need first to throw a good fundraising party is a theme that can cater to your demographic. I’m not talking about having brunch because it’s starting before lunch time or calling it sports day just because you’ll have the golf game playing in the background. If you’re going to do brunch, DO BRUNCH. Have a “Southern Brunch” theme and stock the space with a full biscuit bar, a southern cocktail table and bacon galore; decorate with southern wild flowers, cowboy hats, rustic signs and lace placemats; have a live guitar player strumming country tunes in the background and your favorite grits recipe compiled in small glass containers and waiting for prospect donors to pick up at the door on their way out. If you plan do something with golf, consider having an indoor putting station, “Caddy” volunteers to direct guests, and a photo area with golf course backdrop and a golf cart. You could even set up a virtual golf competition or give away limited edition customized golf gear to those who donate as added incentive. If you will have an event for women only and decide on a makeover party, bring in makeup professionals (or some friends that could pass as professionals) for makeovers, decorate the space with fashion illustrations, provide a custom hashtag for a nail art contest on Instagram, offer educational information about cosmetic and skincare products, and have a nail polish bar set up in one corner and a blowout bar in another. The point is, when it comes to creating a theme for your fundraiser, the saying really does apply: “Go big or go home.”
Maintaining your fundraiser’s budget
An obvious obstacle in going all out with your party and your chosen theme is going to be the budget. Wherever it’s possible, find volunteers and sponsors to help get your party to a level your guests can appreciate, but if the budget it still tight, I suggest some good DIY projects. Be warned! This route will require a considerable amount of time and effort on your part, as well as on the volunteering end, but because many other low-budget fundraisers are jumping on the DIY bandwagon, it would be well worth your time to consider this option as a way to make your party the best it can be. Think of it as the ultimate customization for your event. Who better to translate your own ideas than you and your team! One suggestion to make things easier in the event you go the DIY route: make it a nighttime event. Where as daytime parties require a lot of attention to detail, when it’s a low-light atmosphere, you can make up for detail with lighting tricks – not to mention, even low-cost materials can look chic and sophisticated in darker environments.
Scheduling your fundraiser
Another factor that’s important to keep in mind is the timing of your event. Will it be held close to any holidays? Will the Olympics, the SuperBowl, the playoffs or the World Cup be going on at the same time? Will it be during a school break to accommodate parents who would like to bring their children? Everything else that’s happening around your event will have a great effect on your turnout. For example, if your business or organization is family-oriented or focuses on a product that would appeal to parents and their children, your best bet is to host your fundraising party on a weekend or during a school holiday or break. Likewise, you may want to avoid holding the event on days with big games during the sporting seasons, unless your event will be closely related to the game and will allow fans to watch while they’re there. On the other hand, if it’s near a holiday – say, Christmas – you’ll have the opportunity to incorporate that holiday into your theme, creating a more easily relatable subject matter for your maybe-donors to enjoy. For instance, an ugly Christmas sweater theme (and yes, there are even ugly Hanukkah sweaters) would be fun for the whole family and could facilitate a contest that would require little effort in terms of getting people to participate.
Setting your fundraiser’s atmosphere
On to the next question you’ll want to ask yourself as you plan your fundraising event. What kind of atmosphere do you want to create? Whether you’re creating a new kid’s play product or helping the homeless, it’s essential that attendees feel your excitement about what you are trying to accomplish and that the positive energy you have is contagious. The right atmosphere can be created with a few key ingredients: space, music, and lighting, lighting, lighting. Unless you’re hosting a gala or an art show, you should make sure your space is big enough for everyone you’ve invited, but not so big that there’s too much distance between your guests. You want people to have the freedom to mingle and have a good time rather than feeling that it’s an anti-social event. If you can afford a good DJ, look for one that has experience in your type of party. Otherwise, opt for a cheaper alternative by making a playlist or creating a Pandora station that will capture the mood you’re going for. As for lighting, whether your event will be held indoors, outdoors or a mixture of the two, good lighting will be key. Daytime events can utilize natural light; however, many event organizers stray from this due to the unpredictable factor of the weather. Even if it’s held indoors, a gloomy sky can suck away an otherwise-fantastic party atmosphere – the main reason why night events are preferable over day. If you have the budget for it, you can do rental lighting, but there are much cheaper options, such as candles or glow sticks. While candles provide an intimate space for each table, you may find that glow sticks provide a much wider range of options that can help you achieve just the atmosphere you’re looking for.
Adding some fun to your fundraiser with glow sticks
When you think of glow sticks, your mind may automatically go to children and family events. However, while glow sticks are certainly family friendly, more and more they are being used as modern lighting for any kind of event – even weddings! And the best part is you don’t have to break the bank to achieve a perfect-lit environment. Glow sticks come in many colors, shapes and sizes, which allows them to cater to the needs of any party. For an adult event, you may want to choose just one or two colors to keep it classy and contemporary. Glow sticks can be used in many ways that take advantage of the light they provide, but don’t necessarily give away that they’re glow sticks. For example, they can be used as under-lighting when placed under table ledges. You can place them at the bottom of a bowl or bucket of ice to make the ice glow. Similarly, you can stack two clear cups with a glow stick layered in between to create “glowing” drinks for your guests. Glow sticks can also be inserted into balloons or other semi-transparent items to bring a muted pop of light throughout the space. Pool parties can achieve unique lighting by throwing glow sticks to the bottom of the pool or floating them on top inside of water balloons. You can even achieve fantastic lighting effects by using the contents of glow sticks as glow-in-the-dark paint. Just check out Pinterest, along with some DIY blogs, and you’ll instantly see the growing interest that the world has shown in using glow sticks for decorations, lighting and more.
Decorating your fundraiser
Aside from decorations, you’ll need to attract interest to your fundraiser with some fun activities. This is yet another place where glow sticks shine – well, glow. You know what I mean. Glow-in-the-dark golf has been a popular activity for several years, now, and the experience can be recreated at your event using glow sticks and other materials to make your own mini-golf course. Another relatively new activity that’s even easier to put together on your own is glow-in-the-dark bowling. Just place glow sticks inside of clear liter sized bottles recycled from soda and set them up as your bowling pins, and a glow-in-the-dark ball can be used for bowling with. Glow stick bracelets can be used for glow-in-the-dark ring toss, or they can be linked around a hula-hoop – a popular one with the kids. Adding glow products to games is an instant way to spice up your activities, and the possibilities are endless!
If you want to keep your activities more open-forum as opposed to spending time putting together games, there are plenty of options that will keep your guests just as entertained. If you have a dance floor, turn the lights off and enlist some volunteers to stand by with glow sticks to tape them onto guests before they go out to dance. Even for those who don’t normally dance, seeing a bunch of glowing stick figures dancing will be fun and entertaining, and will encourage participation. You can also have wall space open for “glow stick art,” inviting guests to use glow sticks to make shapes or words on the wall.
Great lighting is an essential element to creating the perfect mood for a fundraising event, and as you can see, with all the creative ideas going around, glow sticks may be just the right way to light your party. If you purchase in bulk, you can save on cost, but the best part is that you can use these products as extra fundraising within your fundraiser. Just like at 4th of July fireworks shows where people buy glow stick products to add that extra element of fun to the event, your attendees will likely be happy to spend a few extra dollars in the name of fun – and fundraising for a good cause!
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