Josh Gregg

“It takes a village,” or so they say. This wise, old proverb is primarily about raising children...but it could apply to needing guidance on which Dairy Queen Blizzard you want to order...or this piece of wisdom could also relate to your nonprofit and how it goes about hosting fundraising events.

Last Friday, we held our annual St. Baldrick’s Head Shaving in Lincoln, NE in the Haymarket at The Railyard. The 2017 version of this event saw more than $16,000 raised for childhood cancer research. This event was supported and made possible by 12 event volunteers and 35 brave, money-raising shavees. And what would any event be without a special shout-out to its sponsors? In our case, that means a big round of applause is in order for Bombshell Salon Suites for volunteering their time and talents to shave 35 people's heads and 106.3 KFRX for helping us get the word out.

Firespring is fortunate enough to serve nonprofits around the globe and we’re proud to say we’re old pros with old souls who have experience doing this kind of thing. So, without further adieu, we wanted to do our best to pay it forward and give you some tips and tricks you can use at your nonprofit’s next event.

1. Plan Ahead

Remember that panic attack feeling in college before an exam? That feeling was being unprepared. Think of your nonprofit’s fundraising event as a “test” of sorts and plan and prepare for it by locking in crucial details early (location, theme, volunteer signups, etc.) and get the word out in plenty of time so your constituents, donors and the general public can attend.

2. Give People a Reason

A reason to attend your event, a reason to donate to your nonprofit, a reason to tell others—give people a reason. You’re the one who can tell your nonprofit’s story like no one else. Do it. Make it emotional. Make it powerful. Make it matter. Sure, things like event emcees (thanks Randy) are important to facilitate a smooth event and keep things lively, and raffles and prizes are great ways to raise money, and music and food don’t hurt, but at the end of the day you have to create an event that is true to your nonprofit and its mission.

3. Let the People You Help Tell Their Story

Our event isn’t about Firespring, and it isn’t really about all the wonderful things St. Baldrick’s does, either; it’s about the families and the kids who have been affected by childhood cancer. Each year we dedicate the event to an Honored Kid fighting cancer. And oftentimes, kids who are in remission or their family members briefly speak about their experience and the importance of St. Baldrick’s and their mission. It’s this kind of genuine and real-world approach to storytelling that brings a nonprofit’s mission and purpose to life like nothing else can.

These three essential steps provide a solid foundation on which any nonprofit can build their next fundraising event. But as with anything, you need to make your event uniquely you. Sure, do a little “R&D” (that’s “ripoff and duplicate”), but also gather those who work closely with your organization during the planning phase so your event will be remembered as a success.