Editors Note: A couple of months ago, we shared a series of retrospective posts chronicling the development of Laugh for Lives, one of the Asian American Donor Program’s (AADP) top fundraisers which also serves to increase awareness of the need for bone marrow donors. Did you ever wonder how the whole thing was pulled off? AADP’s Ruby Law shares her simple step-by-step guide to spearheading the highly successful event. Hopefully you’ll find some of these tips useful in your own fundraising and donor drive endeavors.
Planning a fundraiser might sound intimidating if you have never hosted an event before. It can be time and labor intensive to plan a fundraiser. But it can also be FUN when everything comes together and your supporters had a great time. We are going to share our experience in hosting AADP’s Annual Laugh for Lives Comedy Show Fundraiser.
1. Define your goal
When you start planning, sometimes you can get overly excited and forget the purpose of your event. Defining the goal should be number one on your list. Never throw an event for its own sake. Is your event mainly for fundraising, education, bone marrow donor recruitment (applies to AADP), outreach, or networking? These key purposes are something we consider during the planning stages. Events that encompass all of these things are often very effective for reaching a broad audience. AADP’s Annual Laugh for Lives Comedy Show Fundraiser (LFL) is the perfect example.
LFL started in 2008 inspired by a patient family member Alan Maravilla. Alan wanted to honor the memory of his cousin who had passed away from leukemia. Since ethnicity is crucial to a matching patient with donors, Alan decided to help set up a comedy show with Asian comedians that would attract primarily an Asian American audience to raise the awareness of our cause. Tickets ran about $15 to $25. We included an educational presentation during the show and had a donor registration drive at the event. It is a good mixture of fundraising, education and donor recruitment. Since this initial success we have continued to hold the event and are able to streamline the production by following various important steps.
2. Define your target audience
Our target audience is between the ages of 18 to 44. People between the ages of 18 and 44 are especially needed to save more lives. In fact, registry members in this age group are 10 times more likely to be called as a potential donor than other members of the registry. Young professionals in the Bay Area are always looking for fun networking events to attend. Having fun while supporting a great cause is the perfect option on a Friday night.
It is crucial to list all expenses in the beginning of your planning processes. Little things add up: venue, catering, booking artists, transportation and accommodations for artists, technicians, marketing materials etc. Remember to negotiate for non-profit discounts! Costs can be covered if you have a strong sponsorship package. You can look for companies or sponsors that share the same target audience as you do. Those companies are more motivated to sponsors and it gives them a good PR opportunity.
4. Value adding
It can take years to build reputation for your annual fundraiser. If you are hosting your event for the first time, think of ways to add value to the ticket can help you bring in more customers:
a. event ticket comes with a raffle ticket
b. event ticket comes with free or discounted drinks
c. free or discounted ticket for after party
d. DJ or music in the lobby
e. free photo booth with organization logo backdrop (another great way to market your organization)
a. Book the venue 6 months to 1 year ahead of time.
b. Book artists/ performers 3 to 6 months prior your event.
c. Look for sponsors once you confirm venue and performers.
d. Send out save the date message 1 to 2 months prior.
e. Heavy marketing during that month and especially on the week of the event.
Delegate work to your committee members. Define expertise and delegate tasks accordingly. It can be hectic on the day of the event. If you can, get a group of energetic volunteers to help out.
6. Balance fundraising and education
Be judicious in talking about your cause rather than risk looking tactless by constantly repeating it. At AADP’s Laugh for Lives, we include important information in the program booklet. We also play a video featuring patient stories, donor stories, donor drives, and acknowledging sponsors. It is also a nice way to entertain early birds. Before intermission, a patient, survivor or a marrow donor gives a speech to share their experience. This works really well to encourage people to sign up as donors during intermission. We’ve been able to get the message across, but not at the expense of entertainment value.
We found it helpful to partner with college student groups to sell tickets. We give them a small incentive per ticket sold. It is a win-win situation since they help AADP promote our cause and help their group to fundraise at the same time. Another idea is to partner with young professional groups. They can help promote within their network. You can even give them discounted tickets for their members. It is crucial to make use of social media to promote your event.
8. Follow up
Send a Thank You email to attendees with a link to the event photo album. Encourage people to like your organization’s Facebook page and tag people in the picture. It will show up on their feeds and will ripple out to their friends. Keep the relationship and invite them again for future events.
Stay tuned for AADP’s 6th Annual Laugh for Lives 2013 in San Francisco. To learn more visit www.aadp.org
Ruby Law is the Recruitment Director for the Asian American Donor Program.