Running a successful fundraising event takes a lot of work. While things like the event venue, the invitations, and the decorations are all important, the most essential outcome for any non-profit event is revenue… after all, the reason you are holding an event is to raise money to support your work.
When it comes to revenue, there are three primary ways that non-profits raise money through events: sponsorships, ticket sales, and “add-on revenue” from things like auctions and raffles. Today, I want to focus on ticket sales. Here are 5 strategies your non-profit can use to sell more tickets to your next fundraising event:
#1: Start Early
Many non-profits think that they have to wait until the invitations get mailed in order to start selling tickets. This is simply not true, and thinking like this forces organizations to leave lots of money on the table.
Start your ticket selling process early. Get your host committee to start selling to their network early. Get your online ticket-selling platform launched as early as you can. When you send out your save the date cards, allow people to purchase tickets at an early-bird discount on your event webpage. The more tickets you sell early to your “regulars”, the more you’ll be able to focus on bringing new supporters in to the event as it nears.
#2: Utilize Your Supporters’ Networks
This is crucial to maximizing your event revenue. For every event you hold (and particularly annual dinners or galas) you should be utilizing your supporters’ networks to sell tickets. This means getting your supporters, donors, and friends to go out and sell tickets to their friends, colleagues, partners and associates on your behalf.
Start by getting everyone on your board and your event host committee to commit to sell a certain number of tickets for the event. This can start early, well in advance of the invitations being mailed. Create a flyer or other handout that they can use to take ticket orders.
Then, approach some of your key volunteers and donors and ask them to take a leadership role in the event’s success by selling tickets within their networks. The more networks you can reach in to, the more tickets your organization will sell.
#3: Follow-Up on Invitations
Every non-profit sends out invitations to its fundraising events, but very few follow up those invitations with a phone call. Having your staff, board, or well-trained volunteers call each invitee in the 2 weeks following your invitation mailing can significantly increase your response rate. The call doesn’t have to be a hard sell. I usually use something like this:
Hi Jim, this is Steve from the 5th Street Women’s Shelter. I’m calling to make sure that you received the invitation to our 30th Annual White Tie Gala. Did you get your copy in the mail?
[If No] I’m sorry to hear that. I’d love to send you another copy by e-mail. What is the best e-mail address to send it to?
[If Yes] Great! Do you know if you will be able to attend?
It’s that simple, and it works wonders.
#4: Sell to Groups
Your organization is likely already making group ticket sales through sponsorships – offering sponsors whole tables (or more) of tickets in return for major donations. Carry this one step further by offering discounted tickets for bulk purchases by supportive organizations or groups.
For example, you may be running an event that is $50 per person. Why not approach your big sponsors (who are already getting some free tickets with their sponsorships) and ask if they’d like to bring their whole company to the event, at a rate of $500 for 15 additional tickets? Or, approach local fraternal or religious organizations and ask if they’d like to support the event by buying 10 tickets for their members at $40/ticket.
This strategy won’t work for every event, but it’s a great strategy for some events, particularly mid-level events.
#5: Add Pizzazz
The more excited people are about an event, the more likely they are to attend and to encourage their friends and colleagues to do the same. There are any number of ways you can add pizazz and get people excited about the event, including:
- Find a local celebrity to serve as the headliner for the event
- Partner with a local professional or well-known college sports team to have the coaches and players attend the event
- Feature a well-known local band
- Find amazing items for your live or silent auction or raffle
- Have a fun theme, like “Taste of San Diego” featuring popular local chefs
Photo Credit: NWABR