Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fundraiser Wednesdays

Hi there!

So, if you've checked our twitter in the last couple of weeks, you'd see that Femi Memorial Outreach has been getting ready for a big fundraiser in the next couple of months. We can't say too much about it now. However, all will slowly be revealed! I can't wait to write up the big post in May after it all happens, with loads of pictures and wonderful news.

As a blog, we are mostly targeted towards keeping the general Chicago public informed about what we do as an organization as well as the latest in education news. But, we are also an organization that strives to be a successful non-profit. Part of this job includes helping out other non-profits/ becoming a community of non-profits. (If you want more about becoming a network of non-profits, visit an older post here, or the tutor-mentor connection website). So, in an effort to help out other non-profits-- and generally educate the public and our lovely readers on what it's like to be a non-profit--I'm starting Fundraiser Wednesdays.

Every Wednesday, I'll be working on our fundraiser. After all the hard work, I'll let you, our readers, know step-by-step what I did. Since this is Femi's inaugural fundraiser, hopefully we'll all be learning something together. It goes without saying that I'm a newcomer at this. But, I won't hesitate to share mistakes, mishaps, and great accomplishments.

In our first installment, we'll be working on Picking a Venue.

The first step in planning a fundraiser is thinking about what kind of event you want to have. The second step ( and perhaps the more important step) is thinking about what kind of evemt you should have. What I mean is, Femi really wants to throw a lavish banquet and thank you dinner for all of our lovely donors and tutor mentors. Think jazz band, the South Shore Cultural Center, and big white bows wrapped around chairs lining a dining table the length of a ballroom! That would be thrilling, no?
But, we should be holding a less cost-intensive event where getting money is our main focus, not an extravagant set-up.

This was our first, shaky, scary, BUT firm decision: throwing a dinner, with no illusions about the fundraising aspect of it-- this includes ticket and table sales, as well as auctions and raffles. After all, there's a reason it's called fundraising. Until your organization is a big one, cinematic banquets have to be a pipe dream.

So we started looking for venues. This is a frustrating task. Most people turn to hotels immediately when thinking about an event. However, these are often very expensive. Not only do you have to rent a space, but you have to bring in individuals caterers and wait staff to host the event, as well as decorators to make it look pretty. Sometimes hotels will do two, or even three of these tasks. But, it's going to cost you. So what are other options? Restaurants? Gymnasiums? Auditoriums? Parishes? The options are endless and overwhelming-- to make matters worse, there's no comprehensive list of  " Affordbale Fund Raiser Venues In Chicago" out there. Believe me, I've Googled.

My advice: work your connections. Most likely, your organization is affiliated with some space, somehow. Or someone on your board is, if the organization isn't. When you have a personal connection with someone they are more likely to offer you a deal on the space rental, or some other cost. Think about someone you know with a great space, no matter how far removed the connection. It may be an unlikely space, like a huge warehouse, or a small restaurant. But, it doesn't matter what the space normally is. What matters is how you can tailor it to fit your needs in a cost-efficient manner. If your organization is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3), this is going to be a little easier for you, and you should work that advantage.

 Our main objective when looking for a venue was affordability, as well as streamlining the process (meaning bringing in as few outside parties as possible). Finding a place that does all three things (host a space, cater the food, and decorate) is the optimum venue extraordinaire. When you book a space that offers you the triple threat, they are likewise more easily convinced to give you a deal.

So-- the most wonderful and ideal venue location hosts, dines, and rents; is somehow affiliated with the organization; and will offer you a deal on at least one of your expenses.

If you're still reading I know what you're thinking. How can you find this!? But securing only one part of this ideal venue gives you a great advantage. This is an exercise in innovation, creativity, perception, and diligence.

Sounds a little overwhelming, I know. The first step is the scariest and the hardest. You'll keep worrying if it was the right one to take. The first week will be all phone calls and meetings. You and your Excel Spreadsheet will become best friends. But, don't fret. After this is gets (a little) easier!

Next Wednesday-- Looking for Sponsors!


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