As important as great headliners, nice venues and strong ticket sales are to events, the number one mistake that non-profits make when planning a fundraising event is the failure to form a strong event committee (sometimes called the “host committee”). Event committees can make or break an event.
What Does an Event Committee Do?
First, understand that when I talk about an event committee, I am not necessarily talking about a committee that does the actual work of planning, setting up, breaking down, and working the event. You may decide to have a committee like that, or to make the people that handle the logistics part of your overall event committee, but that is not what I mean when I say that a great event committee can make or break an event.
What I am talking about, instead, is a committee whose primary responsibility is to raise money for the event by selling sponsorships and tickets (as well as doing things like finding items to sell if this is a silent auction event, etc.). The event committee is a fundraising committee, and putting the right one in place is extremely important.
Why is an Event Committee Important?
Let’s face it, events are hard work. If you want to raise a ton of money at your next event, you’re going to need help, even if you have a large staff or dedicated group of volunteers. You’re going to need people who feel like they are part of your team, who commit to helping you raise money for the event, and who get their friends, neighbors, colleagues, vendors, clients, and associates involved in your event.
Your event committee is at the center of an event fundraising network… the members of the committee should be expected to open up their own networks and Rolodexes to the non-profit for the purposes of the event.
Who Should Be On Your Event Committee?
Anyone who supports your mission, is willing to fundraise, and has a good-sized network that they are willing to open up to your organization. Ideally, your event committee will include a chairperson who is super-supportive of your organization and who has a massive network, as well as 5-25 (or more) of your donors and supporters who are ready to raise money for the event.
How Do You Get People to Join Your Event Committee?
You ask! Seriously, in order to get people on your committee, you’ll need to treat this like any other fundraising ask… look at your donor list to see who might be a good candidate. Call or meet with each of these people to tell them about the event, why the event is important, and what is expected of event committee members. Then ask them to join.
What Should Your Event Committee Do?
Fundraise! Make sure that everyone on your event committee knows that their primary goal is to fundraise for the event. Sure, you want their advice on the event itself, and welcome their good ideas, but you also need help raising money.
Be sure to tell your committee what the ultimate fundraising goal is for your event, and how you expect that goal to be met. For example, you may say that the goal for your fundraising barbeque is to raise $5,000 for your organization. Of that, you expect $1,500 to come from sponsorships, $1,500 to come from ticket sales for the event, and $2,000 to come from the silent auction at the event.
Once you tell your committee what your goal is, be sure to give them the tools that they need to reach that goal. They should have all of the collateral materials, tickets, event invitations, sample scripts, and everything they need to help you raise money.
You should also track the work of the committee, whenever possible. Ask who they are approaching, track how many tickets each member sells, etc. I also suggest you hold regular meetings of the whole committee to talk strategy, check on progress, and offer thanks, praise, and advice. If your committee is a particularly large one, you can also consider breaking the committee down into smaller sub-committees, with each holding its own meetings and focusing on different areas of the event.
How Should You Recognize Your Event Committee?
It’s very important to recognize the hard work of your event committee, and to let them know just how crucial their role is in your event’s overall success. In addition to your written and spoken words of thanks, you can consider doing things like putting their names on the event invitations, thanking them as part of the event program, offering them special lapel pins or a number of free tickets for the event, etc.
An Important Note about Event Committees
No matter how great your event committee is, never rely on them 100%. Once, I watched as a non-profit (against my advice) relied entirely on its event committee to fundraise for an event. The staff handled the event hall, catering, and invitation printing, but the event committee, led by the event chair, was supposedly handling all of the sponsorship and ticket sales. Three weeks before the event, the Executive Director of the organization finally realized his mistake, when he found out that only $1,500 in sponsorships had been sold (against a $10,000 sponsorship goal). Thankfully, the staff took over ticket sales, and by working the phones and holding a coordinated series of meetings with large corporate donors, the team was able to sell out the event and beat the ticket sales goal, which partially made up for the sponsorship debacle.
You want (and need) to put together a phenomenal event committee for your next affair. You want them to set big goals and raise a lot of money. But your staff should also be working on the event by contacting your donors and selling sponsorships, as well as tracking the progress of the committee.
Photo Credit: MDGovPics