I’ve always loved animals. I collected stray dogs and cats (and iguanas!) as a kid, fostered adorable pups as an adult, and donated my extra funds to places that cared for them. But I always wanted to do more. After all, puppy cuddles have gotten me through more than a few difficult times, and I knew I wanted to give back in a major way to the animals who’ve always had my back. I figured the best way to take it to the next level was to not only give of my own time and money — but to encourage other people to do the same. The best way? Throwing a fundraiser!
Getting (the party) started
I contacted Rocket Dog Rescue, a place where I’d fostered dogs and donated money, and asked if a fundraiser would be of any help. They said yes, and I was off to the races — but not the dog or horse races, because those are totally bad for animals!
First things first, I had to pick a location. I asked the people at Rocket Dog Rescue if they had any ties to places that might want to host, and they suggested a restaurant where the owner was a volunteer. I contacted the restaurant owner and she was down to donate her lovely eatery as well as food. We picked a date, and I was so pleased with how smoothly everything was going.
Embracing your to-do list
Well, that was until I realized I had to get people to actually attend my fundraiser. That proved a little more difficult than just creating a Facebook event. When I sent out invites to my close friends and family, I just assumed they would come. But, of course, life is busy, and many people already had other commitments for the same time. I knew I had to get creative. I asked for the rescue group’s email list and sent out a blast, made some posters and put them up in high traffic areas, as well as handed them out at adoption events. Yes, I created a Facebook event too, but I also crafted tweets and asked all the volunteers to send them out, and made an Instagram-friendly image for friends, family, and other volunteers to post on social media. Essentially, I learned that getting people to your event takes a village, and I had to explore every single avenue.
While all that was happening, I gathered all the supplies I needed for the actual event. I requested silent auction items and raffle prizes from local businesses, asked musicians to donate their time and skills, solicited extra rental chairs and tables from an events supply company, and enlisted family and friends to help on the day-of. In short, I was a madwoman in the month leading up to the event — juggling all of these responsibilities, plus fretting that nobody would show.
Taking a chill pill
On the day of the event, I was stressed beyond belief. I made a “day of” schedule that was down to the minute — my day started at 5am and didn’t end until 1am the next morning. As I set up, I worried that the whole event would be a bust and that only my mom would come — and that’s because I begged her. I set up chairs, got the musicians in place, and made sure each table looked perfect. Then, at 7pm, the start time for the event, I stood by the door and waited. And waited. And waited. For 15 minutes, nobody showed up. I was in a panic, texting everyone I knew and holding back tears.
Then, at 7:16pm, what felt like a flood of people descended on the restaurant — and they just kept coming. People were laughing, eating, and bidding up a storm on the silent auction items. Now I wanted to cry, but for a very different reason — tears of joy!
Reaping the rewards
At the end of the night, we raised over $4,000, which is way more than I ever could have donated on my own. Not only that, it was a super fun night — filled with old and new friends, human and dog alike! (That’s right, some service pups came to give out cuddles and sneak bites of food that fell on the floor.) When I finally got home, my feet were made of blisters, but I was floating on cloud 9. It was a ton of work, but totally worth it, and I definitely plan to do another one. In a few years. Until then, it’s fostering and donating lunch money — and yes, occasionally collecting the random stray.
Think you want to throw a fundraiser for a non-profit? Here are some easy-peasy steps to success:
1) Figure out the non-profit you want to fundraise for
The first step is to choose a charity, and and then to contact them to make sure it’s OK. They’ll probably be into it, and might even be able to throw some resources your way.
2) Decide where you want to have it
Get creative! Successful fundraiser locations include private homes, banquet spaces, parks, restaurants, bars, backyards, community centers, and cultural centers. Brainstorm locations and then start reaching out to venues to see what works best.
3) Arrange the basics
Only you will know exactly what you need, depending on time and location of the event. You might need food, drinks (find out if it’s okay for you to serve alcoholic drinks if you plan on doing so), things to serve food and drinks in, tables, chairs, auction items, gifts bags, volunteers, and other items. You will also want to check with the city to make sure you don’t need a permit for where you’re throwing your event.
4) Spread the word
You’ll need to make sure people actually attend. Some ideas: Get an email list from the charity and start reaching out immediately. You can also create a Facebook event and Instagram hashtag and invite everyone you’ve ever met and ask them to invite everyone they’ve ever met. Brainstorm a list of groups who might be associated with or interested in your charity (in my case, I reached out to dog Facebook groups and popular Twitter animal accounts). You can also list your event in local weeklies, and even ask radio stations if they’ll donate an ad. You’d be surprised at how much people want to help with spreading the word, so get creative and you’ll easily rally the troops!
5) Keep track of everything
I found that Google Docs — especially the spreadsheets — were a total lifesaver for tracking guests lists, budgets, auction items, volunteers, and lots of other components. And you can print them out, day-of, and have an action list ready to go!
6) Communication is key!
Make sure everyone knows where to be and when — especially the people who are picking up the food and drinks! Assign volunteers to cover shifts and make sure they know their responsibilities — and don’t forget a cleanup crew!
7) Have fun! (Especially during the event!)
You’ve prepared and you’re ready. Now, enjoy the ride, and pat yourself on the back for helping out a worthy cause!