In case you are not familiar, a friendraiser is a great way to generate potential supporters by having current donors bring a friend to a special closed event just for them. The event is basically a private party for these folks with good drink, good food, entertainment, and even speeches that give an overview of your organization.
Its important to make sure the main people invited are donors and that they get to bring along a few friends (and their significant other), because it helps in two ways:
- It acts as a way of saying thank you to donors (usually only invite big ones or big supporters who volunteer a lot). Give them booze, good food, conversation, and something to show off to their friends. Treat them like royalty in front of their friends and they’ll love you for years.
- It eases any possible anxiety that the donors friends might have about going to the event, essentially they already know someone and it makes it much more comfortable.
Now some key pointers about friendraisers that you should keep in mind when planning:
- Have it during the summer and outdoors with a backup plain if it rains. Nothing is more powerful for making a romantic connection between a cause and its donors than a beautiful outside evening event in the summer. We say romantic because it should be. After all, you want them to fall in love with your cause.
- Keep the complete list under 100 total if possible (not including staff and volunteers for the event) because if it goes over, the setting cannot be as intimate. We’d say 150 max. And make the event 2 – 3 hours and on a weeknight, probably 7-10pm. Weekends seem to be sacred times for relaxing and most of the influential folks you’d want to attend will be leaving on weekends during the summer for the beach, hiking, road trips, and in the winter for skiing or just staying in because of weather. etc…. Thursday night is always good.
- Every primary staff member of your organization should attend the event and mingle with folks. Name tags with your job title is essential. I know, i know, it sucks to have to mingle. If your organization is usually a dress down type of atmosphere than make sure everyone dresses up. You want to feel like you belong in the same room as these donors and they’ll all be dressed to the nines. But the truth is that these folks really want to learn about you and they WANT to fall in love with you guys. This is the best way to ensure that happens.
- Do a slide show or something like that. Use a slide show of pictures and a small presentation to give attendees an understanding of what you do. You could also do a video montage or even a clip from a documentary or something if you have it. No matter what multimedia you use, you should have your Director/CEO speak and you should also have your Director of Development or Director of Outreach speak – you want the attendees to know their faces. Overall, we’ve found at past friendraisers that you really only want the total time for speeches to be less than 15 minutes. Any longer than that and people get anxious, want a refill on drinks, need more food, and so on, so keep them short!
- Designate a host. Ideally, you should have a major donor as the host, but a celeb would work as well. If you opt for a celebrity, get a local one because they’ll have a closer connection with your org and the region, rather than paying for one to travel in from somewhere else. This person should either open their home (apartment, house) to everyone to throw the event there, or should offer to help invite all of their influential and supporter-ready friends to the event. Its really so much easier if they invite a substantial portion of the folks because the attendees will already be interested in coming because they know the hosts.
- Be liberal on the booze. Make sure their is plenty of wine and drinks. You should think about approaching organic beer and liquor makers once you know whom the host will be. Often they’ll send out their own bartenders to cater the event and supply alcohol for free because they want the exposure to the influentials. Don’t take advantage of the distributors though. Tip the bartenders and also introduce the distributor management to any donors you have that run restaurants, sports facilities, etc.
- Give goodie bags. Really, people will not necessarily expect it at an event like this and you can fill them with memorable items that can keep them thinking about your cause long after the event is over. Also, it will help to entice any sponsors for the event (like mentioned above). Make sure the gifts are appropriate though. Pens are good, drink coasters are good, wine is good candy is not. Also make sure their is a postcard or brochure in the bag that reminds people of the goals and mission of your cause.
- Don’t do any actual fundraising at the event. What we’ve found is that if you try to “sell” something at a friendraiser or actively ask for donations, it doesn’t come across that great. Its much more advantageous to just show them what your organization is all about and make them fall in love with you. Then in the follow up you can mention ways to donate and get involved (in-kind donations should be mentioned too). But obviously if someone wants to open their checkbook and give you $10,000 on the spot, don’t turn it down!
- Follow up is really important. Make sure that you get everyone’s contact info before the event so its easiest to follow up after. If you use something like http://eventbrite.com for everyone to RSVP then you can require them to give their email and phone numbers. The host should also have much of this contact info. For extra brownie points make sure the host sends a personal letter to each attendee. This could be done over email but its so much more awesome if its handwritten and on actual paper. It doesn’t need to be a huge letter, just enough to thank them, mention how great the cause is, and wrap it up with a personal closing like “See you at the little league game” or “lets get together for lunch next week”.CAS
Those are all the things we’ve found to be great ingredients to a successful friendraiser. If you have more feel free to comment or reach out to us at the contact form in the footer.
Featured image from James Vaughn on Flickr.