Fundraising Event Guide
A. Finding Event Hosts
Your event hosts should be folks who are very supportive of the campaign and have a good network of people who are not yet connected to the campaign. There are three main goals with any fundraising event:
1. Hit your raise goal and bring in money
2. Fill the room so as many people as possible hear from the candidate and get excited
3. Bring in new donors.
People who are big donors or volunteers with the campaign are great hosts. Especially if they are in a well-connected career such as a doctor or attorney. You should aim to have at least two fundraising events a month and ideally closer to four. You will learn who are the well-connected, experienced hosts by talking to other candidates in the area before and should begin to build a relationship with these people immediately. You will be working closely with your event hosts so make sure you have a good relationship with them and pay close attention to their needs.
When first starting out, most event hosts will be personal connections to you, but as you build out a broader donor network through call time, you will have a much larger network to tap into. Always have the candidate make the ask to host an event over the phone during call time, not a staffer. Then, staff (if you have staff) can follow up by email and ask to set up a time to chat with them over the phone to go over host protocol and find a date. For less well connected or less wealthy folks, find two or three other people in the area and have them host together, this way there is a much larger donor base.
B. Setting realistic goals
Each fundraising host should be given a raise goal. This gives them accountability. They are responsible for brining $XX into the campaign. A goal should be a high, but not so high that they feel it is impossible. For a State House race, a minimum goal should be $2,500 at the minimum. When deciding the goal, it is not an exact science and the goal can always be adjusted upwards, a “reach goal”, and should be based heavily on the host and what you think they can bring in from their network.
C. How to coach a host to a successful event
The key to a successful event is organization and communication with the host. The first step should be finding a date, creating a fundraising page in NGP for that specific event to keep track of which contributions have come in specifically for the event, creating an invitation using Canva and the template, and sending the host an event tracker spreadsheet in Google Sheets.
i. Ticket Levels: You and the host will need to discuss ticket levels. I recommend 3-4 levels. Supporter, Sponsor, Co-Host, and Host. The names are arbitrary, for feminist-centric events we have done ticket levels by great feminists of history names. The point is to have people pay more for the same thing (you read that correctly). Make sure these match the options on the invitation and NGP contribution page. I have included example ticket levels below, but keep in mind that it is a lot easier to raise $2500 if two people give $500 and another three give $250. There was a study a few years ago that looked at the bottles of wine for sale in restaurants. It found that most people would buy the second cheapest bottle because they didn’t want to be seen by their fellow diner or server as cheap. So really focus on the second cheapest level, because a lot of people will buy at that level.
ii. Location, food, wine, etc
I cannot stress this enough, as long as the location is fairly central, with access to parking, and can fit 25-50 people, there is no reason at all to sweat the location. I always urge people to host in their homes to save money, but if they insist on a restaurant or bar, find a place you can order some apps, have a cash bar, and get the place for free. People aren’t there for the food and wine, they are there for the politics. Hosts can just pick up some beer, wine, and grocery store app platers. Seriously. There is no reason to worry about this and I strongly suggest you stay away from these details and save yourself the time.
The best time for fundraising events is right after work, it is great to get people before they head home. I like 5:30-7:00 or 6:00-7:30, but if someone really wants to do a weekend event, you can make it work. The rough timeline should be:
5:30-5:45 event begins
5:45-6:00 candidate arrives and mingles
6:00-6:30 candidate speaks and takes questions
6:30-6:45 candidate mingles and leaves
iv: Planning with the host
Hosts should send out an email blast and facebook event 3-4 weeks ahead of the event and then follow up with everyone they invite by phone calls or texts. Blast communication is very ineffective and it is these one-on-one interactions that gets people to events. The ask is also far more powerful coming from the host who the guest has a relationship with than it is coming from us. But, if a big potential donor is on the fence, offer to have the candidate give them a call.
Whenever a contribution comes in for the event, you should enter the guest’s name, email, and amount of the contribution in the tracker so you and the host can be aware of progress and distance to goal. Check in by email or phone calls with your event hosts twice a week. If they are falling short, help them out by doing call time to our donors to get money in the door and people there. Or find them a co-host. Keep a positive, but persistent tone.
D. Staffing a fundraising event
You and whoever is helping you run the event should arrive at the destination 30 or so minutes prior to the start. You should bring a laptop to take credit card contributions, a printed copy of the RSVP list, paper sign in sheets, campaign literature, pens, pins/stickers/other campaign freebies, contribution envelopes, and a basket for contributions. Ask the host to have a table ready by the door for you to set this all up with the WiFi information handy. Everyone who enters, even if they already RSVP’d should sign in-- this way they can indicate if they want to volunteer. Someone should always remain at the sign in table, people generally trickle in and arrive throughout and you never want to leave them wondering how to contribute.
Allow the candidate to mingle. Candidates and staff should not drink at events. Keep things moving and once the room is fairly full, have the host introduce the candidate to speak and take questions. Do not let this part go over 30 minutes or people will be bored. Try to Facebook live this to get some online engagement. As the speaking portion is ending the candidate should make a pitch thanking people for coming and asking them to give again. Then, they should mingle and be out shortly after. Staff should stay until the end to collect any last minute contributions.
F. Event follow up
The day after the event, send out a thank you email from the candidate’s email to all guests with an ask to give again and come out and volunteer. All hosts should get a handwritten thank you note from the candidate.