Whether you're trying to raise money for charity, sports equipment, member dues or Greek house debt, here's our guide to pulling off a fundraiser -- and getting people to actually show up.
Pull It Together
Tap your inner event planner! The most off-the-hook fundraisers are born from meticulous planning and strategic timing, according to Liora Friedman, junior at Ohio State University and president of philanthropy for Alpha Epsilon Phi's Rho Chapter. Friedman says unorganized events tend to be unsuccessful. Organizing can be daunting, so break it down into smaller tasks:
Make it unique. Friedman advises coming up with a set theme or agenda to draw an audience. Instead of just another car wash or bake sale, put a new spin on it. PB&Jam is an event held at OSU that involves the whole student body making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for homeless shelters. On their way to class, students stop at tables headed by university organizations to make sandwiches from ingredients donated by local grocers. Put your heads together and brainstorm an idea that's a standout.
Have a game plan. Figure out the best day and time for your event. (Don't schedule it on the same day as the campus restaurant crawl everybody's been buzzing about). Decide on a venue, set deadlines, write to-do lists and form committees. (Don't forget publicity -- more on this later.)
Set a budget. Get the accounting and finance majors to work out a budget. Know how much you're able to spend, and plan accordingly. Breaking the bank is not an option.
Find partners. Local businesses often will provide extra funds, supplies, sponsorship -- and a larger draw. "Research organizations you can partner with will supply more participants or bigger audiences," says Sarah Grinstein, senior fellow, OSU Hillel. Having a dance-a-thon? Attempt to partner with the local dance studio. A sports event? Approach the manager of your nearest sporting goods store. You'll attract their customers and clients outside your school's population.
Stay on track. Make a calendar for your group with meeting dates, times, topics and goals. Two weeks before the event, check in with sponsors, venues, equipment rentals, merchandise orders and DJs to make sure costs, dates and times are lining up correctly.
Call for backup. "Have a backup plan and a backup plan for that plan, as well as a backup venue so events can happen rain or shine," says Friedman.
Attracting people to your fundraiser is crucial. Without attendants, your event will be a total bust. Says PR representative Sara Ferne of BWR Public Relations in Los Angeles: "Advertising is an extraordinary long-term faucet, but word of mouth, especially for campus events, will be the real moneymaker." So spread the word …
Form a publicity team. Recruit students who have artistic skills, writing talent and natural-born promotional moxie to create a campaign that'll get the word on the street.
Start with the basics. Publicity tactics can include hanging posters and handing out fliers in high-traffic areas, such as the quad, dorms and Greek row.
Use school resources. Most universities provide all student organizations a budget and access to advertising, printing and design tools, usually through the student union. Take full advantage.
Shout it out online. Word spreads rapidly on Facebook, so create an event page. If you have access to student and faculty email addresses, you could also use Evite.
Chalk it up. Chalking is a tried-and-true way to gain publicity. It's good, clean fun, so hand out pieces of neon-colored chalk to all your committee members, and have them tag sidewalks, buildings and corridors with the event's name, date, time and place.
Give out free stuff. If it won't gnaw away at your budget, hand out freebies imprinted with event details. Hosting a kissing booth? Try lip balm. Music festival? Guitar picks. Ultimate flying disc? Hey, it's tough to turn down a free plastic disc in spring. These items can be purchased in bulk at sites such as ImprintedLogo.com.
Get press Draft a press release and send to your college's news editor, campus bloggers, local newspapers, community newsletters and calendars of events. Make it catchy so editors will want to run your story, and get it out early so they'll have time to fit it into the editorial schedule. Have one person listed on the press release with contact info and be sure that person is prepared to answer questions about the event should a reporter want to conduct an interview. Oh, and those aforementioned freebies? Send one with each press release you snail-mail so your package rolls off the editor's mail pile.
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Katie Einzig is specializing in Operations Management at the Fisher College of Business. She has written for Fisher Ink, the school's business magazine and is in the Mass Media and Communications Scholars Program. This summer, she's interning at American Eagle Outfitters' corporate home office in Pittsburgh.
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