3 Keys to Pulling Off a Successful Fundraiser With Zero Dollars to Pay Anyone
Fundraising events are excellent ways to raise money and awareness for your organization. But if you work at a small nonprofit, it can be hard to find the staff (and time!) to actually plan such events.
That’s where a host committee comes in.
Simply put, a host committee is a group of volunteers who take responsibility for planning an event. The actual scope of responsibilities may change from organization to organization (or even event to event), but generally, you can expect them to invite guests, promote the event, and purchase a ticket to attend.
As with all volunteers, however, a host committee typically needs some direction to best serve your organizational goals. Here are a few tips for managing a host committee in order to make your next bash a smash.
1. Choose Wisely
Good host committee members should have two key attributes: They should have a large, influential circle of contacts, and they shouldn’t be scared to reach out to them.
To do that most effectively, however, those committee members should already have some experience with your organization and be familiar with the work you do. That will allow them to talk to potential donors with more authority and speak from their own experience, which is always more effective. With that in mind, review your donor lists and volunteer rosters to see who might be a good fit.
If you need help beyond that—for example, with planning the logistics of the event—choose committee members who have a track record of showing up and getting work done effectively at other events your organization has hosted.
Because I am the only dedicated fundraiser on staff at my current organization, I only pull host committee members from my major donor and prospects list. By doing that, I’m able to plan the event and cultivate donors at the same time.
When I was at a larger organization that did more press outreach on our events, however, we tried to get celebrity names on our host committee. They usually weren’t able to help (and sometimes didn’t even attend!), but it got the attention of the society and entertainment writers, who would then cover the event.
2. Be Clear About Duties
The challenge with many volunteer jobs is that there are few concrete expectations or ways to hold people accountable.
While you certainly need to remember that volunteers are performing their duties out of the goodness of their own hearts, most volunteers I know prefer clear instructions and guidelines about what will be most helpful to the execution of the event. I like to draft a “job description” for each event I do, outlining the responsibilities of the host committee members—so they know what to expect, I can keep them on track, and we all stay on the same page.
As far as those responsibilities go, host committees can do everything from picking up food and supplies to designing invitations to making big donations. Simply figure out what you need and ask for it in your volunteer description.
The best description I’ve seen to date is from Equality Hawaii, which not only lays out duties of the host committee, but also includes a donation form, which makes it easy for volunteers to contribute the gift that’s required for host committee membership. This kind of agreement isn’t appropriate for every organization, but it’s great inspiration for a growing nonprofit.
3. Say Thank You
The first people you call, email, or write to the day after your event should be your host committee. In fact, as soon as I confirm my host committee, I address thank you cards, so I have one less thing to do the morning after the soiree.
You’ll also want to get their perspective on how the event went—if there’s anything you can do better next time, if any of their guests were interested in getting more involved with the organization, and if they enjoyed themselves overall. This valuable information can ensure that your events are more effective in the future, and that your organization can take advantage of new opportunities.
Most importantly, you want to assure your volunteers that when they make such a big time and financial commitment to you, you sincerely appreciate it.
Happy volunteers—especially well-connected and potentially wealthy happy volunteers—are perhaps the best resource you can have as a small nonprofit organization. If you treat them wisely and well, you will not only have the help you need to plan and execute a great event, but you’ll also be able to boost your fundraising to the next level.
Photo of fundraiser courtesy of Shutterstock.
Rebecca Andruszka is an activist and non-profit professional who has focused on social justice issues. She has extensive experience in the non-profit sector, doing everything from research and communications, to fundraising and project development. She is currently in a senior development position at a national advocacy organization, and is an active board member and volunteer with a number of local organizations. When Rebecca is not in committee meetings, she is probably playing with her dog in Brooklyn.More from this Author