16 Sep Plan a Successful Fundraiser with Perfect Timing
Have you ever planned a party? If so, you likely learned the importance of timing. You probably checked in advance with potential attendees and helpers. If you got a tentative RSVP from this core group, you greatly increased your chances for a successful party.
Now apply those ideas to planning a fundraiser. But now the stakes are much higher. When timing is not properly planned, the results could cause those in need to lose out on getting help. your company could lose money. But how do you time your fundraiser perfectly?
Determine the Audience
You need to know who you want to reach before you can figure out when to reach them. Your desired audience will have a substantial impact on the timing of your fundraiser. Is your audience mostly families? Then school days would be off-limits. Do most people work 9-to-5 jobs? Then they may not wish to stay out late on a weeknight. Are you targeting fans of a celebrity? Then your celebrity guest’s schedule is crucial. Will your fundraiser include outdoor activities? Then appropriate weather is key.
Pick a Date for Your Live Event
If you’re fundraising live and in-person, rather than online, you have a limited number of hours to succeed, so make them count. Choose your date well in advance and, if it’s something guests will need to block off significant time for, like a gala, send out save-the-dates. If it’s more casual, send your invitations closer to the event date, but send reminders. For example, you might send the first one a month in advance, then another a week out, and a final one the day before.
If you are planning an annual event, and as long as it succeeds once, aim for the same date, or same day (e.g., the third Saturday of September) every year. As fundraisers become routine for attendees, they are more likely to attend.
Find the Best Launch Date
For a multi-day or multi-week fundraiser, pay attention to your launch date. Don’t assume that the schedule that works best for you works for everybody else. The more your fundraiser schedule agrees with the schedules of others, the more likely they will be able to help.
Some areas to consider when picking the best launch date:
- Midweek launches are peak donation days (and therefore good launch days).
- Holidays could help or hinder fundraising (depending on the holiday).
- Nationally observed days may be a good match your fundraising theme (e.g., Breast Cancer Awareness Day).
- Other fundraisers could pose conflicts.
- Vacation schedules affect people’s availability.
- Potential contributors may already have time, energy, and funds designated for other things.
Don’t quickly pick or dismiss dates. For example, some may assume the Christmas shopping season is a good time for fundraisers. And it can be, but it depends on your fundraiser.
Weigh the pros and cons. Well-established fundraisers (like the Salvation Army) generally do better during Christmas time while newly initiated efforts tend to find less success.
A day that may get overlooked is September 11th. But recent statistics are showing a more charitable spirit around this time.
So, you need to put some time into finding the best launch date for your fundraiser.
Establish a Duration
How long is your fundraiser going to last? For ease of consideration, let’s compare two options: (1) one month and (2) more than one month.
A short period can create a sense of urgency among patrons. In this case, contributions would accumulate inside of a month, so there would be less waiting for results. And with such a shorter timeframe, you could hold more than one fundraising event each year.
But contributors aren’t the only ones that will feel the pinch of a fundraising effort lasting a month or less. Your team will need to dedicate greater attention to the fundraiser during this limited timeframe.
Another drawback is a lack of flexibility to adjust the campaign as the month progresses. But careful planning can alleviate some of those concerns.
More than One Month
When fundraisers extend beyond a month, their sights are usually set on more of an ongoing format. Team efforts can be sprinkled over a longer span of time, so they can keep other responsibilities in proper balance.
A long duration might potentially dampen activity, though. Contributors, partners, and givers would all need to be cautious of the tendency to procrastinate.
Time Your Communication
It is crucial to get the word out about your fundraiser. Make sure you use some (or all) of the methods below. Again, consider timing for each one.
A newsletter can effectively communicate information about your fundraiser to a large group of people. This is especially valid when updates are sent via email. Include important action items such as instructions for donating or getting others to donate. With snail mail, you probably want to avoid times when much of your audience is receiving a lot of mail, like around the holidays. Also, if there are heavy travel season for your audience (e.g. spring break), avoid those times as well.
Despite showing some wrinkles, email continues to be a tried-and-true means of communication. It is still essential for so many things (i.e. bank accounts, billing, etc.) that you can be sure people check it regularly. Test to learn what days and times your audience prefers to read and respond to email.
While the age range of Facebook users continues to rise, subscribers are also accumulating. This mainstay of social media likewise gives much attention to ways to improve and connect users with each other and with appropriate companies. During major current events, like an election or Super Bowl, many users take to Facebook. However, they could be distracted by the hot topic and ignore your posts. Weigh the pros and cons.
If you have a large following, Twitter is a great way to get quick updates out to a lot of people. Invest time in building your Twitter community so that, when it’s time to promote your fundraiser, your audience knows you. Many companies use it successfully for fundraising. However, Twitter is more conversational in nature, so be sure to avoid blasting people with one-way messages. You could easily alienate and lose followers. A big “no-no” on Twitter is tweeting solicitations during tragic events. Check to see what hashtags are trending. If everyone is focused on a breaking or recent tragedy, you will appear insensitive if you ask for money for an unrelated cause.
A website banner or news section often give a company a home base for its social media efforts. While Facebook, Twitter, and other social media resources prove efficient for sharing updates, they should always link back to a website. Keep timing in mind for your website, too! You don’t want to send a lot of people there if, for example, parts of it are under maintenance, or it’s not up to date.
Frequency of Updates
The frequency of your updates, regardless of the method, will depend on your audience. Key contributors may want updates as often as every day (probably using email) while donation givers might be satisfied with a less frequent interval. If you aren’t sure, err on the side of sending updates less often rather than more often.
Some developments that merit an update are:
- A goal dollar amount being reached
- The passing of a timeline marker
- A message of gratitude to partners, contributors, and others
- A testimonial or story illustrating the impact of your fundraiser
Your job doesn’t end when the fundraiser does. Your audience is now invested – literally – in your work. Thank them in a timely manner, then keep them in the loop. Send updates via your chosen communication method. Let them know how you’re using their contributions and how much you appreciate them. Your follow-up communication will further educate you about your audience’s preferred timing of communication.
Remember, timing is crucial to a successful fundraiser. Once you host one fundraiser, you will learn more about how to time them in the future. And a successful fundraiser means you’ll have to plan another event — a celebration party.
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