By Mel and Pearl Shaw

Events are a tried and true fundraising method. They can also be an

expensive trap that derails your fundraising if you neglect to make the “ask”.

Events are at the heart of fundraising. These can be grand in scale, marketed as an annual gala, or they may take the form of a smaller breakfast or luncheon. In all cases they require planning, coordination and a major investment of two valuable resources: money and time.

To help ensure you get the greatest yield on your investment, we encourage you to focus on your fundraising goals from the beginning. Be specific: How much do you need to raise from sponsorships, ticket sales and, more importantly, event-related gifts?

Sponsorships and ticket sales can often cover the costs of an event – and even net revenue. But you are leaving money on the table if you neglect to put in place specific strategies related to securing gifts before, during and after the event. Here are our suggestions:

  • Market your event as a fundraising event: Make the fundraising aspect of the event clear; don’t hide the fact that the purpose of your event is to raise money.
  • Ensure event schedule includes time throughout the event for specific asks. Consider making these at the beginning, middle and end of the event. Schedule the time into the program; don’t “fit it in.”
  • Ensure event materials highlight the organization’s impact. This includes banners, information in the program, videos, PowerPoint presentations, and remarks from the podium.
  • Provide your keynote and master of ceremonies with fundraising scripts to integrate into their remarks.
  • Have easy to read and easy to use pledge forms at each table.
  • Establish a text to give number that can return a link for online giving.
  • If your event has tables, ask each table host to take responsibility for asking each guest at their table to make a gift.
  • Make sure you have contact information for each guest for follow-up purposes, including fundraising.
  • Secure a challenge grant in advance to incentivize event participants to give at the event.
  • Solicit a number of donors in advance so you can “announce” their gifts at the event.
  • With your event invitations, offer a “no-go” option, encouraging individuals to simply make a gift without attending the event.
  • Be sure to follow up with each guest to ask for a one-time or recurring gift.
  • Know who your major gift prospects are. Put in place a strategy for pre-or-post solicitation by an appropriate volunteer, board member or staff person. Determine the appropriate ask amount in advance and ask.

Here’s a key lesson learned with major donors: They often know more about fundraising than you, they are waiting to be asked, and they want to know what you want.

Don’t get blinded by the razzle, dazzle and glitz of an event and forget to make the “ask.”