This is an excerpt from How to Maximize Your Non-Profit Fundraising Events.
Host committees (sometimes called “event committees) are vitally important for successful fundraising events because they allow you to scale your fundraising efforts using the most effective fundraising technique available: leveraging personal networks.
It’s hard to raise amazing amounts of money around a fundraising event by relying simply on your staff, board, and mailed invitations. Yet, that’s the event game plan at most non-profits: mail out invitations, have the development staff make a couple of calls to last year’s sponsors to ask them to donate again this year, and ask the board to come up with new names for sponsors and invitations. Then, the organization waits to see what shakes out. Non-profits that use this game plan are leaving a significant amount of money on the table.
Don’t Do It Alone – Use a Host Committee
Putting together a host committee – a real, fundraising-focused host committee – is one of the few ways you can exponentially raise more money at your events, and will allow you to keep dramatically increasing your event goals for years to come. Notice that I said it has to be a fundraising-focused host committee. If you simply put together an event-planning host committee that talks about entertainment options and menu tastings, but only spends 10 minutes per meeting on fundraising, then you will not see this type of revenue growth.
Host committees are so powerful because they leverage the fundraising networks of the committee members. Instead of your organization simply reaching out to its own donor base for the event, your host committee members are reaching into their own networks as well – contacting their friends, family, vendors, clients, colleagues, etc. to invite people to the event, find new sponsors, locate auction items, and increase your overall revenue from the event… all through connections that your non-profit would not have been able to make otherwise.
How to Motivate Your Host Committee
Once you put together your host committee, one of your primary tasks as an organization is to keep your committee motivated and working together for the good of the event. Remember – your committee should be introducing your organization and event to their personal contacts, with the goal of getting those contacts to either sponsor the event or purchase tickets and attend the affair. There are several things you can do to motivate your committee and help them accomplish these goals:
Hold Regular Meetings
Holding regular host committee meetings will provide accountability and motivation for the group. Aim to hold meetings at least every other month, if not monthly. At these meetings, you can provide social time along with updates on the event, recognition of significant member accomplishments, reports from sub-committees, pep talks, etc.
Hold Non-Ask Events
Because your host committee members will likely be approaching contacts that have never heard of your organization and asking them to consider sponsoring or attending the event, I recommend that your organization hold at least one, if not more “non-ask” events for your host committee members.
These non-ask events are simply open houses at your facility or receptions at a board member’s office that provide an opportunity for people to learn about your mission, meet your staff and perhaps hear from someone you have helped, if appropriate. Put out hors devours and drinks, limit the events to 60-90 minutes in length, make them free to attend, and ask host committee members to each bring 2 or 3 people to the function who they think might be good prospects for your fundraising event.
Provide Appropriate Materials
Make sure that your host committee members have all of the materials they need to successfully raise money on your behalf, including event invitations, raffle tickets, call scripts, brochures, sponsorship letters, etc.
It is important that you track the results of individual committee members so you can offer additional support and help to those who need it, recognize those who are putting in lots of effort, and know who to retain for the following year’s host committee.
You should track individual progress with “light touch,” meaning you don’t want to call people out or embarrass them. Instead, call members who aren’t meeting their goals to ask if they need help, and figure out a way to let them graciously drop off of the committee if it turns out that fundraising just isn’t their thing (perhaps they can be part of the set-up and tear-down committee for the event, or work the registration table instead of being on the host committee).
Set Up Mini Goals
Establishing short-term mini goals for your host committee is an effective way to get everyone moving in the same direction and ensure that everything seems “doable.” Telling your committee that the goal for your annual event is $500,000 may be intimidating for them. Instead, tell them the overall goal, but also tell them that the goal for the host committee is to help raise $100,000 through sponsorships and $50,000 through ticket sales, and that the current goal is to sell $15,000 in sponsorships before the next meeting. This is a much more seemingly “doable” goal.
It is important to note that even if your host committee has a leadership structure in place (chairs, sub-committee chairs, etc.) it is up to your staff members to drive the committee forward, run the meetings, track progress, gather materials, etc. Don’t rely on your volunteer members to lead the committee, no matter how committed they are. Be sure that a staff member is always available to lead and motivate.
Photo Credit: Dom Walster