Raise Money for Charity in Style
Mix goodwill and pleasure
There are several ways to raise money for charity: bake sales, car washes, and eBay auctions, to name a few. But charity events garner the most success and not only raise much-needed funds, but also raise awareness for a cause. And, as any Slice girl knows, parties are a lot more fun than car washes. Chris de Eyre, president of Tempus International, a charity that helps to develop literacy programs for underprivileged youth around the world, says, “Unfortunately, people don’t go to fundraisers for the cause, they go for a good time.” As unfortunate as that may be, planning an event for your cause celebre is a great way to build a team and help out an organization that you really believe in.
“I was one of those people who said, ‘Why go to an event? Why not just use all of that money towards the charity?’” says Tralee Pearce, co-chair of Buy Design, an event that raises money for Windfall Clothing Service, a charity in Toronto that helps shelters acquire new clothing for their clients. “An event connects the charity with the community and potential donors can come out and meet everyone.”
Now that we’ve established that it’s always best to throw a party, here are the expert’s tips on making your event a success.
Gather a great group of people
The people that help you plan the event are an integral part of having a successful fundraiser. Most importantly, you need to gather people who aren’t going to bail. Make sure the people that offer their help will be able to commit their time and help when they say they will. But, just like a business, everyone should have varied skills to make the event a success.
“We have a lot of media people that help us out,” says Pearce, “and fashion people who understand good aesthetics and are able to make sure that people have a good time.”
Other great team members: some people who are good with money, some who are great organizers, and those who are stars at dealing with people and delegating.
Pick a good time and venue
Timing is everything, so hold your party when you know people are likely to attend. De Eyre strategically planned his latest event, Can I Kick It?, in mid-November. “Not much happens in November,” de Eyre says, “Summer’s over but Christmas parties haven’t started yet. People are looking for something to do.”
Also, finding a great venue is important. Make sure it’s easy to get to, it allows for lots of space for milling, chatting, and dancing. Also, if you’re going to need kitchen facilities and a back room for caterers and servers, keep that in mind. A great venue might also help you decide on a theme.
Establish a theme
Most great charity events establish a theme early on – it makes planning the event, the invites, and the food much easier. Both de Eyre and Pearce agree that everyone (men and women) loves to dress up and don’t often get the chance, so that’s a start. Can I Kick It? was held at the Bata Shoe Museum and featured a prize for best shoes.
“A theme lends itself to cute details,” says Pearce, whose annual Buy Design event is known for its yearly period themes. This April, the party will be based on Studio 54 and feature a disco theme. “Last year, we did a 20s theme, so we had charity gambling, flappers, and bottles with Xs on them.” A theme allows people to dress up and who doesn’t love posting costume-y pictures on Facebook?
The guest list
Not that you don’t love your broke friends, but you don’t want everyone attending the party to be penniless. That’s why your guest list is integral. “I made sure that the committee was made up of people that could pull in a great crowd,” de Eyre admits. He had social butterflies help out and got people like doctors and lawyers inviting their friends so that the attendees would be more likely to bid on auction items.
Remember to market yourself properly. If you have a cousin that works at a newspaper or website, make sure that she’s working every angle to get your event coverage. If your mom has a well-to-do acquaintance who loves to attend charity functions, remember to send a well-timed email to him. Send out invites and place flyers and posters where they’ll be noticed by the right people.
The truth is in the details
Paying attention to music and décor is very important if you want people to hang around and buy drinks. Pearce has a great group of crafty friends who help to make every Buy Design event look like a million bucks – even though they can only spend a couple hundred. “It’s kind of like home décor,” Pearce says, “if someone has style, he can make things look professional instead of like a school project.” Last year’s Buy Design featured Bristol Board and other dollar store finds, but no one noticed because everything was done so well. Every detail counts.
Also, when you’re booking a caterer or renting glassware and tablecloths, make sure to ask the company you’re dealing with if they give discounts to charity organizations. It helps if you can show that most of the money you raise will be going directly back into the charity.
The silent auction
A great way to get more cash after people are in the door is to hold a silent auction – usually a table featuring items that people can bid on to take home. These are items that companies donate, so all the proceeds go directly to your cause. “Most people are really generous,” says Pearce, “Sometimes you feel like you’re going around with your hand out, but it’s a great way to get the entire community involved.” Always remember to go back to the people who made donations and let them know how much money you raised and how much you appreciate their contribution.
Another thing to consider is the styling of your silent auction table. Try to get away from the boring white tablecloth with piles of items stacked up and merchandise your items like a store would. It makes attendees feel like they’re attending a professional event and it makes your items more saleable.
Written by: Nicolle Weeks