The Five “W’s” of Planning a Fundraiser
By: Teri Leiter
It’s that of year when the summer fades away and the school year sparks a flurry of activity. This is a great time to gather your community in the spirit of raising funds for schools and charitable organizations. Whether you’re a fundraising professional or a first-time organizer, I hope these tips will help you along the way!
WHO: The most important step of a successful fundraiser is to first gather the support of engaged, energetic people who share in your mission. Think of the many different aspects of the planning process and identify people who would excel in those roles, such as selling sponsorship, coordinating logistics, and wrangling volunteers. Consider non-profit organizations in your community that may already be invested in your cause and gather their support. Not only will they be able to provide invaluable guidance and credibility but also operating with a 501(c)3 tax-exempt status will help you hurdle significant barriers along the way. For example, if you plan to sell alcohol or tip jars, local Liquor Board and Gaming Commissions typically require tax-exempt status to get the proper permit. Identifying these key players in the preliminary stages of planning will prove the adage, “Many hands make light work!”
WHAT: If you’re creating a brand new event from scratch, the number of decisions you’ll need to make may feel overwhelming. A successful fundraiser can be based on the tradition of breaking bread as you gather excitement based on a particular type of food or meal. Common in this area are Fried Chicken “Picnic” Packages, Steak and Shrimp Feeds, Bull & Oyster Roasts, Crab Feeds, Spaghetti Feeds and Pancake Breakfasts. Do you have a favorite meal or tradition that may capture the interest of others?
Another direction to consider is to plan your event around an exciting activity. Do you want your event to be family-friendly or would you prefer to host a grown-up’s night out? What activities do you like to do over the weekends that could be tied in to the mission of your charity? After you pick your theme, there may be moments of panic that leave you wondering, “What if no one comes?” and other moments when you’ll worry, “What if everyone comes?” Have faith that your fabulous team will prosper regardless of the unpredictable outcomes!
Use this as an opportunity to establish fundraising goals for your event. Predict expenses by getting quotes from local vendors; be realistic in terms of what your team can get donated versus what will likely need to be purchased. Set a goal for tickets sold and sponsorships accordingly and reevaluate every few weeks as the planning comes together. Remember, sponsorships should be an additional bonus to funds raised and not relied upon to cover expenses!
WHEN: After you’ve chosen the best theme ever, be sure the timing is right. Now, there will always be competing events and key people on vacation, so, there’s no such thing as the perfect date. However, it is wise to research community calendars available through your local Chamber of Commerce or Convention and Visitors Bureau to be sure you’re not conflicting with a well-established activity in your town.
It likely goes without saying to consider the weather patterns common to your area if you are planning an outdoor event. It’s not always possible to have a separate location for poor/bad weather so consider a rain date. If you’re an East Coaster like me, you may want to consider a fun event to relieve cabin fever when the crippling winter hits. Your event will be easy to remember each year if you combine it with a non-traveling holiday like St. Patrick’s Day or Valentine’s Day. Weather is another unpredictable piece of the event planning puzzle but, as they say, “Plan for the worst and hope for the best!”
WHERE: Similarly, there are pros and cons to every event location. When deciding where to host your event, the decision may depend on planning committee resources. Finding a discounted or donated venue is a great way to keep expenses low. Consider your audience, how far they may be willing to travel, and if they are likely to be attracted to a new or a familiar venue. Space is a big factor for guest comfort so be sure to identify a maximum amount of tickets to be sold before you get started!
WHY: Now, the easy answer to this question is obvious. You’re hosting this event because you are dedicated to raising funds for a worthy cause! I highly recommend having a specific recipient of funds identified early in the processes in order to gain momentum behind your cause and establish credibility. In another vein, it’s also important to consider why attendees are motivated to come to your event, whether it’s to spend time with family or make new business connections. Understanding these motivations will help you make important decisions when it comes to marketing.
For specific guidance on How to Host a Bonanza Fundraiser keep an eye out for the next edition of Teri’s Tips! Thanks for reading and best of luck with your planning.
8 Final Touches for a Polished Event
By: Teri Leiter
You’ve been working hard for months to plan the perfect event and the big day has finally arrived. I have learned so much over my career in catering and event planning about the crucial time crunch just before an event. I’d love to share a few of my best practices to be sure all of your hard work shines!
- Bring a little extra. There’s a fine line between being prepared and going overboard so listen to your gut. I always bring a few extra linens, especially if they are a specific color, to accommodate an extra last-minute table request, an accidental spill during set-up, or even an unfortunately aimed bird poop (yes, this has happened!). I also bring extra décor and plants to add to empty spaces or unappealing edges.
- Send clear directions and maps to your vendors and guests. It’s not a party until your guests arrive so don’t sacrifice the start of your event to poorly-given directions. Most people these days will use Google Maps or GPS to find you so be sure to use these Apps in a test run. I still recommend providing turn-by-turn directions for the party-goer who may have a dead cell phone battery or poor reception. Put noticeable décor at the entrance so guests know when they’ve found the right place!
- Take a final look at your event as if you were a guest. Where do you put your coat and purse? Is it easy to get your bearings or do you need signage? Looking for these unfinished edges will improve guest experience and make your life as a host much easier.
- Gather the troops. Giving staff, vendors, and volunteers a “big picture” overview before the event starts creates a sense of ownership and purpose. Review the timeline, key points of contact, and goal of the event. For example, if you’re hosting a fundraiser for a particular cause, sharing the meaning behind the event may inspire your helpers to go the extra mile.
- Set the temperature and lighting to appropriate levels. Keep in mind that bodies create heat, so consider leaving the room a few degrees cooler than comfortable when empty. If you need to change lighting during the event, be sure to set a reminder or delegate to a responsible staff member.
- Be ready earlier than the official start time of your event. You probably won’t notice a few late arrivals but the guest that shows up 20 minutes early can really throw you off if you’re not prepared. Be sure to take some time prior to guest arrival to change out of your “set-up” clothes, take a breather, and relax. I always recommend building in a time buffer before the start of your soiree so you feel excited (not annoyed!) when your guests arrive.
- Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Be sure you have contact information for someone who can fix a blown power breaker or solve a plumbing issue. Establish a form of communication (cell phones or walkie talkies work great) for the main points of contact for the event. Have a plan to safety and effectively evacuate guests in case of an emergency.
- Have a cleanup plan. Many people planning an event make the mistake of stopping their efforts at the conclusion of the event. Be sure it is clear as to who removes what and by when. For example, who is responsible for trash? When does the facility expect all vendors and equipment to be off site? This extra attention to the end of the day will save tons of frustration and make clean up a breeze!
Thanks for reading! Best of luck with your events and please post feedback or your special tips to our Facebook Page!
Until next time,
“No Sweat” Planning for your Summer Event
by: Teri Leiter
Summer is one of my favorite times of year to invite family and friends to the house for a laid-back, outdoor celebration. When the Leiter family gathers, there is no shortage of great food, hearty laughter, and fantastic stories. When the Leiter family gathers, there is also no shortage of hungry mouths to feed! How do you handle getting organized for your summer gatherings? I have gained some helpful insights from my career in catering and would love for you to share your ideas on our Facebook page!
First and foremost, food safety is the priority. High temperatures and outdoor seating require careful attention to the safety of your guests. Try to avoid dishes that contain ingredients that spoil easily. Can’t imagine a picnic without your signature macaroni salad? Place bowls or cookie sheets filled with ice under dishes that contain dairy or shellfish to keep them chilled throughout the evening. If there’s ever any doubt that something has been out too long, throw it away.
Keep the bugs at bay. Make sure you have lids and covers in place to keep pests away while your guests enjoy your summer fare. If you live in a particularly buggy area, you may consider treating your lawn with a repellent the day prior to your event. Citronella candles and torches are a visually appealing and effective way to repel bugs. Try to avoid scented candles, which can become overpowering!
We all know the summer weather is predictably unpredictable. There are several precautions that I recommend but none as important as to always have a Plan B. If space doesn't allow you to move your event indoors, be sure to rent or purchase a tent with sides. You’ll need a tent that allows for about 10 square feet per person for guest seating and more if additional room is needed for food service, a dance floor, etc. If rain or wind requires you to attach the sides, I recommend leaving two sides open a bit to allow air to flow. That reminds me…
Wind is not your friend. A summer breeze is perfect to cool off a warm evening but wind can turn your decor into a mess without a bit of precaution. Fasten tablecloths to the table with clips, ties, or even tape. Roll napkins around utensils, tie with a bow of ribbon, and place in a basket on your buffet table. Weigh down centerpieces with glass stones or other heavy but appealing decor. Take a peek around before your event begins and think, "What would happen if a big gust of wind came through right now?" Taking this moment to identify potential hazards may save a big headache later in the evening!
Is it your first time using a tent? Don’t worry! Having a tent is a way to ensure your guests stay cool and dry during your event. After using tents at numerous catering jobs, I have learned a few great tips to keep your guests safe. Most importantly, be sure the tent is properly staked into the ground and secure. If possible, pay the fee to have your rental company install the tent for you. At my events, I am always sure to put something in place to keep guests from tripping over tent stakes. Save their shins by placing trash cans, large potted plants, or even tennis balls over the stakes. Consider air flow and lighting when using a tent; many rental companies have easily installed fans and LED lighting readily available. Candles on guest tables create a lovely centerpiece and provide ambient lighting. Lastly, be sure to consider the time of day for your event when placing your tent to ensure the shade falls where you want it!
Have fun with seasonal fruits and vegetables. The summer is so exciting because almost everything is in season. Pay tribute to this bountiful time of year by serving salads out of hollowed melons, floating peaches in iced tea dispensers, or whipping up delicious apple-filled sangria.
However you choose to celebrate the season, don’t forget to take some time to pause and enjoy your surroundings. There are few things that I love more than watching my grandsons splash around while I relax poolside with a glass of wine. Cheers to you and your summer adventures!