Can You Do a Fundraiser at a Networking Event?
I was recently asked what a Veterans service group could do to raise money at a networking event. This gathering is being put on by a local magazine that is featuring the nonprofit and their great work in the July issue, as well as putting on a customer/advertiser appreciation vendor networking event at a local business. Our Veterans service group is being offered a free table and were given some publicity to coincide with Independence Day.
I spent some time thinking about what would work well for them, and realized that it would be a good plan for any nonprofit to be ready to take advantage of an opportunity like this. Here is the information I shared with them.
Outreach for nonprofits is a vital part of creating a vibrant and growing organization. Participation in trade shows, vendor events, networking groups, community events and such are good ways to:
- Increase awareness of your nonprofit and its programs,
- Share information about upcoming fundraising events, and
- Provide an opportunity to collect donations.
Each trade show or event has its own set up requirements. Some provide tables and chairs – others only give you the space. If it is being held indoors you don’t need to worry about the weather, but if it is outdoors you need to think about wind, rain and sun.
In preparing for the wonderful networking opportunities, here’s a list of items you may need:
- Awning (especially if outside)
- Weights to hold the awning down in wind
- Literature (brochures, rack cards, business cards, flyers, etc.)
- Flyers about upcoming events
Putting together a trade show table is not that difficult, if you haven’t already done it. It seems natural that a patriotic theme would be appropriate given the nature of the charity and the event in July. An 8 foot folding table from Home Depot or Costco is an investment that will pay off over time. It is also a good idea to invest in a clear plastic bin to put all the decorations and supplies in. The clear ones work best because these items can be stored for a while between events and they are easily found because you can see what is inside them.
I have found a great online store to get all kinds of flags and buntings, not just American. Discount Decorative Flags has a large choice of inexpensive flags and bunting to choose from and the table would look nice with one or two of the buntings pictured.
Another inexpensive vendor is Oriental Trading Company. Links are included later in this article. Party supply stores are also another great local resource.
Sales of small items are a natural for any charity. Some items to consider are:
Wrist Band Sales – Silicon wrist bands are a big item among young people and they love stacking them up to show the various causes they are supporting. Most fundraisers only ask for $2-3 minimum donation .
Raffle Basket – gather donations from businesses and dress them up in a pretty basket to raffle off. Make sure to collect email addresses for every entry and add them to your email list to let them know how they can support you at upcoming events.
Logo Products – t-shirts, mugs, anything with the charity’s logo on them help people to share their support for your organization.
Survival bracelets – Para cord survival bracelets are growing in popularity, and when made a little larger make great dog or cat collars. Check out these instructions on Instructables to see how easily they are made. You could even have some of the service men/women and their families make some for sale, returning a portion of the profits directly to them.
Bake Sale – a bake sale is great at most locations and you can learn a lot more about them on my website Bake Sale Central (www.bakesalecentral.com).
Flag Sales – this seems a natural fit for a Veterans organization and could be small flags or flag pins. A good resource is Oriental Trading Company – prices today are:
- Small American Flags – 6” x 4” – $8.50 for 72 pieces = $0.12 ea.
- USA Flag Pins – $14 for 72 pieces = $0.19 ea.
American flags just feels like a good item to have on hand – requesting a minimum donation is a good way to increase income. Because the organization is around military service, the patriotic theme work s for them year around so an investment in the product by quantity is good idea. It’s easy to have a vase or Mason jar on a table with the flags standing up in them, and a paperboard display of the pins is easy to set up. Even after you add in shipping costs the investment is minimal and so easily transported to various events.
The small flags come with a stick which is very easy to personalize. Print a message, logo or tag line on just under half of a shipping label. Fold the label over the stick bringing the two ends together away from the stick so all the sticky is covered with the other half. Instant personalized flag!
The flag pins can be mounted on a business card, or a piece of card stock with a message printed on it. Both methods are great ways to increase awareness for the cause.
Change Collection – Another way to always be collecting money is with a change jar. A clear jar with a little seed money in it is all people need to get the idea to empty their pockets. It always amazes me how quickly all the little donations add up.
A unique way to do this is to take a military boot (I’m picturing a well-worn one) and shellac it – put a sign on top saying something like “Your change will make a difference” with a quarter on it (visuals always help) so people get the idea to drop their change in.
These are just a few ideas and you can start with one or two and add on for future events. Take every opportunity you can to get the word out about the great programs you have and also to collect donations whenever possible.