Holding a benefit event? Don’t skimp on publicity
The Monroe on a Budget column runs Tuesdays in The Monroe News. Here is this week’s installment:
Oftentimes, friends or relatives host a benefit dinner when a family faces emergency financial circumstances, such as the costs relating to a serious illness or injury, or an unexpected death.
But based on the stories I’ve heard from volunteers who place fundraiser notices in The Monroe News, these events take a lot more effort and time than some people expect.
To be fair, people who wish to assist an individual or family face challenges from the start. Those who try to schedule an event on short notice often find that popular sites are already booked and charity budgets already spoken for among potential sponsors.
Committees who are working on inaugural or one-time events must take much more time and effort explaining the reason for the fundraiser as compared to those hosting benefits for well-known causes.
An additional complication for those hosting benefits is that many foundations and businesses contribute only to 501(c) organizations.
Beyond that, the committees take the same risks as any other event committee. Sometimes, events reach their financial goal or go beyond. Sometimes, not enough tickets are sold or cash raised to cover expenses relating to the event.
Here is a story about one such scenario: A fundraiser garage sale notice was sent to my attention during summer 2011 on behalf of a family of a young woman who had a lot of medical expenses. The email related this story: “Her family did host a fundraiser dinner for her on … but it proved to be fairly unsuccessful in raising funds to help her family.”
To be fair, even established non-profits notice modest results from events similar to what the ad hoc committees typically host. For example, one charity was pleased to report this spring that its spaghetti dinner and raffle resulted in 164 tickets sold and $1,388 earned for their cause. That’s a good amount for a scholarship award or an equipment purchase, but a drop in the bucket for a family who faces a pile of out-of-pocket medical bills.
If you still wish to host a fundraiser for someone, the most important detail is to start the publicity blitz early and direct it in as many directions as possible. That is how you build up awareness among potential donors and attendees.
Based on what I have noticed while handling the event listings for The Monroe News and talking to colleagues at other media outlets, local committees need to start their fundraiser publicity campaigns at least two to three weeks in advance of the event or reservation deadline. That’s when to send fliers to the news media, arrange for paid advertising if that will be part of the campaign, and announce the details on social media.
In fact, if you want to reach the widest possible audience, reach the most targeted audience, or maximize the number of times someone might see or hear your message, you really should start that publicity blitz four to six weeks in advance.
Readers may contact Paula Wethington at firstname.lastname@example.org or (734) 240-5745.
P.S. Here’s a link to The Monroe News‘ submit event form for non-profit and charity events.
Also, I cannot stress the long lead time enough. You will have more options for free public service announcement scheduling, a longer reach time for paid advertising and social media to work, and a better turnout from the public, when fliers and event notices are sent to the news media and posted on your social media or web sites as four to six weeks in advance of the event.