(6 Ways to Dramatically Increase Event Revenue Through Storytelling)
by Talena Barker, Mission Limelight -September 26, 2017
Fundraising events are challenging, and with all of the logistics and details involved, it can be easy to lose sight of the most important thing of all – sharing your mission with your guests!
The most beautifully planned and executed event will fall short of your fundraising goals if you fail to inspire your guests to support your cause. But, with limited time and attention, how do you educate and motivate people to want to give?
Here are 6 key ways to get your mission front and center, from start to finish.
1) Begin Before the Event
Did you know you begin your line of communication with guests before they ever step into your event? From save-the-dates, invitations and posters to develop your guest list, all the way to confirmation emails, receipts, and auction sneak-peeks, you’re touching your donors multiple times in advance of event day. Seize these moments to share your story!
In all pre-event communications, include one or two easy-to-digest nuggets of information about your cause, and how you make a difference. This could be in the form of testimonial quotes, statistics, graphs and more. Keep the tidbits bite-sized and compelling.
Here are a few ideas on what to include in pre-event emails and letters:
How do you get a testimonial? If you’re not already asking people who benefit from or volunteer for your programs to share testimonials with you, this is a great reason to start! You can gather this kind of information through follow up surveys or direct communication. It’s likely you already receive thanks for your work.
Be sure you’re keeping and organizing these “pats on the back,” and asking permission to include them in your communications.
A good testimonial is one to three sentences that describe the benefit of the writer’s experience with your organization. If you’re asking a specific person or business for a testimonial, you might even provide them with a few sample quotes to inspire them.
A few testimonial examples:
“Rainbow Connection made it possible for our daughter to get out and explore the world and add meaning to her life. As a young woman with developmental disabilities, she’s struggled to find a place where she fits in. Since she enrolled in Rainbow Connections’ peer pals program, she has grown more confident, happier and built incredible new friendships.” Bob Raines, Client Parent
“Thank you, Kennedy School PTA! I love my recorder and music book, and my mom and dad like to hear my songs!” Mason Peters, Kennedy School 2nd Grader
“For three years now, I have looked forward to Feed the Hungry Sunday. It is my privilege to spend hours alongside other volunteers, cooking up beautiful meals that we then serve to our most needy families. Over 100 people show up every week, and seeing them able to enjoy a meal in a warm, safe place fills my heart with gratitude and joy.“ Susan Smith, Feed the Hungry Volunteer
Statistics and Factoids
Even numbers and facts can tell a powerful story. Think about all the ways you can use both to demonstrate success and impact in a small amount of space.
In 2018 alone, Pets for All provided spay and neuter services free of charge to 256 pet adoptive families in support of our mission to end pet overpopulation and all of its tragic consequences.
Thanks to generous individual donors, over 1,500 local residents are trained in preventing child abuse, thanks to KIDS Center’s region-wide prevention programs. This programming is possible only because of generous individual donors.
This year, the Mountain River Conservancy celebrates 20 years of successful river restoration work, improving habitats and water quality.
2) Start the Conversation at the Door
Have board members and mission-educated, passionate volunteers greet every guest as they walk in the door. These ambassadors will welcome and share something brief about your cause. Example: “Welcome! Thanks for coming to make sure no child goes hungry in Marion County.”
You can also turn this into an opportunity to have a two-way conversation and glean important information about your crowd. Ask questions, and share the responses with your event committee! Something as simple as “How did you become connected with United Way?” can turn into a valuable back and forth where you engage your guests and learn something key to help you in the future.
Tip: Have a fun gathering of your welcome team sometime in the week before the event to brainstorm ways to spark conversation and glean key feedback in just a short period of time.
3) Take Advantage of Lines
Lines, ugh. Nobody likes a line at an event, but It’s likely that your event will have a few places where people wait. Check in, beverage stations, a buffet line… Don’t lose this powerful chance to share your story and keep guests occupied at the same time! Use signage to communicate your mission and your impact.
One fun approach is to have a series of poster boards on easels that tell one single story. As your guest advances through the line, they engage and follow along with your storytelling and your impactful solution!
4) Where Eyes Go, Your Mission Goes
Silent auction tables, raffle tables, dessert displays… Wherever your attendees will naturally be drawn, you need to create “aha” moments to educate about your mission. We love placing small placards with “Did You Know…” style factoids throughout our events. While they’re perusing the fishing trip on the silent auction table, they’re picking up important reasons to support your cause! The more the impact they’ll have, the more likely they are to bid higher.
This includes your guest tables, if you’re having a seated event. Consider centerpieces that tell your story rather than just flowers. If you’re non-profit is focused on education, use beautiful books as part of your table décor, along with quotations from people who’ve benefitted from your programs. If your mission focus is on environmental conservation, a live tree or succulent plant in the center, with a table tent that discusses the differences you’ve made in the last year will place your donor’s mindset in a place to be ready to give!
One of our past events benefitted children’s medical services in Ethiopia. Our centerpiece consisted of a display of desserts, placed on the colors of the Ethiopian flag, and a small card for each guest with factoids on one side, and a short, fun quiz on the other. We challenged each table to compete with each other to see who could learn and recall the most about the cause!
5) Using Mixed Media to Your Benefit
Depending on the size and style of your fundraiser, you’re already using different kinds of ways to share information during the event. You may have a program or catalog printed, bidder cards, sponsor signage, bid sheets, receipts, slideshows, announcements and more. Be sure that you’re using all of this media to continue to talk about your cause and the impact donations made that night will have.
Slideshows: Consider running a slideshow in the background for the duration of your event. It’s a great way to spotlight your event sponsors and donors with thank you slides, AND to show off your good work. Alternate your sponsor/donor slides with powerful images and information about your programs.
Banners: Speaking of sponsors, if one of their benefits is a banner hung at the event, perhaps your sponsor would like to include a statement in support of your cause? An example might be a banner that states, “American Banking Corporation – Proudly Supporting Healthy Families and Caleb’s Center Since 1995.”
Program/Catalog: If you have a catalog or program, be sure it features a strong welcome and purpose message, and that key information is sprinkled throughout, so there’s something to learn all the way through. This can be a great place for your annual report, too.
Bidder Cards: The back of bid cards is GREAT real estate for information! Print what different donation amounts will accomplish for your programs on the back of bid cards. Then, every time a bid card goes up, someone behind that bidder is learning how their giving will make a difference.
Announcements: Arm your MC with a list of facts about your non-profit, and encourage them to share one key point with every announcement that’s made. For instance, “Ladies and gentlemen, the silent auction is closing in 15 minutes. Every year, US Friends of Nature is able to conserve over 300,000 acres of wildlife habitat, thanks to your support!”
Tip: Don’t forget to include your logo, mission statement and/or tagline prominently on anything you print!
6) The Program – Your Chance to Shine
It’s likely that your event will include remarks from a speaker, a video, or other ways to communicate in real-time with your audience. This is the most important part of your event, whether it’s a small gathering of 25 in a home, a school carnival or a gala gathering of 500.
Now that you’ve taken the time to educate your guests using the tips above, it’s time to bring it home and ask them to give generously!
If you’re having a live auction, take a break to tell your story in a moving, heartfelt and concise fashion. This could be a live speaker who has benefitted from your work, a partner who sings your praises, or a well-produced video that shines the light on your mission and those you serve. It is important that this part of the program remains tight. It should take between just 5-7 minutes. You want your guests on the edge of their seat, and thinking with their hearts about how much they are ready to support you. At the end of your mission presentation, everyone is ready to give and grateful for your service.
Your ask needs to be specific on what you’ll be able to accomplish with their support. Look at your biggest needs, and define them clearly. You might have an overall goal to accomplish with all of the proceeds of the evening, or a number of smaller goals to be achieved at different giving levels. Either way, work hard to inspire your audience to join you in solving a specific problem or set of problems at a realistic amount to raise in one night. Below are a few examples.
Overall Giving Goals – Examples:
- Raise $10,000 to replace outdated play equipment at the school.
- Raise $100,000 to fund emergency veterinary services for those who could not otherwise afford them.
- Raise $30,000 to serve 15,000 hot meals for the homeless and hungry in our community.
Incremental Giving Goals – Examples:
(Note: At any level, you can add a number of gifts you hope to receive at that level. However, you need to make the goals realistically attainable in the moment. For instance, if you know you’re only likely to have a handful of donations at the $250 level, don’t ask for 20. It’s discouraging to the audience if you set a goal so high that they can’t be successful.)
- $25 will provide a backpack filled with supplies for children in need
- $50 will make sure a child has a warm and sturdy coat for this winter
- $100 will cover the costs for all yearly field trips for one child
- $250 will provide afterschool care for a child for a month
- $500 will outfit a classroom with extra supplies for an entire year.
- $1,000 will purchase 8 keyboards with stands for our music class
- $5,000 will allow us to open our first computer lab for students
Your mission, and your passion for your cause will shine when you consider how to communicate at every level of your event. Inspire your guests to journey with you to achieve great things together!
For more fundraising tips and tricks, be sure you’ve subscribed to the Mission Limelight newsletter. For organizations that hold auction-based fundraising events, joining the Mission Limelight Exchange will help you unlock new revenue for your cause. To learn more, click here.
~The Mission Limelight Team