I wanted to share with other small organizations lessons learned from CleanBirth.org’s first live fundraiser. We raised $4400 and spent $500. In the end we have $3,900 to make birth safer for moms and babies!
Nutshell. It was hard, stressful work that more than anything required organization and the support of a core group of volunteers. We would never have raised so much if we had to pay for the space. The silent auction raised 2/3 of the funds.
Here’s the details:
Place. We were lucky enough to get a space that was beautiful, free and could accommodate 100+. I had a friend who arranged this. Critical. Arrange it early.
Press. Our local newspaper, The New Haven Register, gave great press surrounding the event. Not sure how many attendees we got from the press but we received $700 or so in donations and Mother’s Day card orders.
Publicity. I talked about the event non-stop and printed Vistaprint postcards 2 months in advance and handed them out. I gave 3 local talks the month before and pitched the event. I asked them local moms on the playground personally to be there. Facebook was probably less of a help getting people to the event but it was a great way to generate interest and legitimize the organization.
Music. We decided to have pre-recorded music, though next year having live music may be a way to get more attendees.
Silent Auction. We had a very successful silent auction with 50 items like gift cards from local businesses and, most popularly, local artists. For next year we will work to get even more artists. The auction is a lot of work: asking for donation, collecting them, making bid sheets with descriptions of each item, displaying the items at the event, and finally closing out the sales. It is well worth it: ours brought in upwards of $3,000!
Volunteers I planned the event and gave specific jobs to helpers. I met with 2 people to review the plans in advance. The day before, I had 2 people help set up space. The day of, I had 3 people helping most of the day. I then had 2 friends at the registration table, 1 the info table, 1 at the food area, 1 the auction area, and 1 to make announcements/intro me. This system meant that I was in control because people had specific tasks. Next year maybe a committee and delegate more? The night of the event I was kind of useless and mingling so it was great that the event jobs, besides presenting, were not mine.
Menu. We planned for 100 and had 65. We had ½ food left. We went with water and wine: 2 cases red and 2 white. We had 1000 pieces of food or 10 per person for a 3 hour event. There were 5 main items:
1. Crackers and two cheese and grape; Crudite (peppers, carrots, cukes, celery, tomatoes), chips, Pretzels and salsa + 3 dips
2. 250 sandwiches
3. 150 mini quiches
4. 250 meatballs
5. 200 desserts.
Too much food and next year we will do less.
Presentation. I planned to give a short talk and show a 2.5 minute video that shows life in Laos. This was the one glitch. The audio didn’t work, so I had to narrate on the fly. Having given 3 talks in a month, and practiced a lot for those, it was fine. But that is another area to check.