Strategies for a Successful Fundraiser

Strategies for a Successful Fundraiser

Here is how to strategically plan a Fundraiser, from start to finish. Click on a specific strategy you would like help on, or scroll down to see them all! If you have never run a fundraiser before, then you have definitely come to the right place. We are the game rental experts as we have done thousands of these events. Our clients have also passed on their tips and feedback, so we have compiled them all for you here. Take a peak!

Assemble a Committee

You need to start by getting a committee of people together (perhaps the wedding party, family members, or close friends) to help organize the Fundraiser as it is way too much work for one or two people. On this page, we will assume that your Fundraiser is a STAG & DOE. It takes about one month to plan a typical Fundraiser which includes time for ticket sales. Usually the Committee would consist of the Wedding Party and they should understand that it is customary for the Wedding Party to pay for the Stag & Doe. Sometimes the Bride and Groom are invited to these meetings to make plans for the Fundraiser, other times they are not. Either way, pick people who are responsible enough to take the upcoming tasks seriously. Pick an appropriate method of updating other Committee Members - whether it be over email, meeting in person once per week, creating a FACEBOOK GROUP PAGE Assign clear tasks to each Member so that everyone understands their responsibilities.

Pick a Day

Most people choose a Saturday night to hold a Fundraiser, however Friday nights can get you a better deal on some DJ’s and Halls. Midweek Fundraisers are okay, but people have commitments with kids and work so you may not get as good of a response. If this is a Wedding related Fundraiser, the wedding couple usually has their Stag and Doe between one and three months before the wedding. This allows a good lead-time to generate needed funds and does not interfere with bridal showers or preparations for the ceremony and reception.

Devise a Budget

Wow, there are many things to buy here for this event, but not to worry if enough thinking and planning goes into it. You can make it all back and then some. Click here to see our BUDGET WORKSHEET that you can print and work off of.

Decide How Many People to Expect

To come up with a number of people that you can expect to show up to your Stag & Doe, start making a list of family, friends, coworkers, neighbours, etc. Pick anyone who knows the couple, wedding party members, or the bride and groom’s parents or family. Get your committee to review the list because chances are, you forgot a ton of people. Keep in mind that some people will just buy a ticket for support but do not intend to go to the event. Once you have your list, expect that 60% to 70% will show up. You also have to decide if you want the public to know about it too to generate some extra cash. If so, you could post a free ad online with KIJIJI or through FACEBOOK EVENT PAGES. Be weary of Facebook though because people will confirm they are coming but they may not have bought a ticket from you yet, so don't count on their "confirmation."

Decide how much you are going to charge your guests for admission while you are at it. This varies from town to town, and depends on the average age of the people you expect to come. However, you can think about charging around $10 per person or $15 per couple. This number would be higher if you were offering a dinner. Take this final expected number of guests and multiply it by the cost you are thinking of charging for Admission Tickets and this total should cover the cost of the hall, DJ, and food. The rest they say is gravy!

Choose a Location

Now that you have your date and number of guests in mind, it is time to choose a hall. Keep in mind that if you have many out-of-town guests that you expect to come, you will want to pick a location that is easily accessible from highways, and possibly close to a hotel. If you have guests scattered from Toronto to Niagara, pick an in-between location so that you can hopefully maximize your turnout.

Once you know what part of town you are looking at, start Googling for local places! Start making calls or emails, and ensure to ask these questions:

  • Do they have your preferred date available
  • What is the maximum number of people their hall can hold
  • Do they allow gambling and 50/50 draws for a Stag and Doe, do they have a gambling license
  • Do they have catering available, and if so, is it mandatory to use their catering service, and does the hall rental come free if you purchase their food (some halls offer this)
  • Can you bring your own food
  • Is there a kitchen for you to prepare food
  • Can you bring your own alcohol or do they run the bar
  • Are there any restrictions on games
  • Are there any restrictions on decorations
  • Are there any restrictions on music (is a DJ allowed, can I bring a home stereo, do they have hookups, etc)
  • What is the time you can arrive to set up; time you have to leave by
  • And of course, what is the cost, how much is the deposit, and what is included in the cost

If you are happy with what they told you on the phone, you should now go see it in person. Make sure you get a tour of their kitchen if you are using their catering services. You can tell a lot about the place judging by the cleanliness of the hall's food preparation area. Everything must appear clean and organized, do not be afraid to open a fridge or two. Ask for references from previous events catered by this hall. Also check out their bathrooms, as this speaks volumes. Is there soap and paper towels in both the men's and women's washrooms? Do the washrooms look and smell clean? It seems obvious, but many people forget to look for these things. You want your guests to feel welcome, have some good food, and feel like they are in a clean environment so that they will stay alllllll night and spends lottttts of money!

Some halls have different sized rooms to choose from. The hall has to make sure that they obey all fire codes and their hall will accommodate your party size, so be honest with your number of guests you expect to come. You want your guests to feel comfortable in the room, and when a room of 100 people feels like 20, then your room is too big, and people will be less likely to go play games or dance since they will feel self-conscious. On the other hand, when the room is filled with 20 people but it feels like 100, then the room is too small, and people will feel closed in and will not want to stay and keep spending money. Take the hall’s advice, as they will know by experience what room may be most suitable for you. Remember, if a hall holds 200, you should be okay if your expected number of guests is 250, as many guests will only stay a couple of hours and some may not come at all.

Start Selling Tickets

Find people who are outgoing, good in the field of sales, who are popular and know lots of people, are not afraid to ask people for things, etc. to sell your admission tickets. You should get family members to sell to family members and their friends; friends to sell to their family and friends; coworkers to sell to coworkers and their friends, etc. Do not have just one person selling the tickets - get many people selling them, as it is a lot of work and you will sell more this way. Do not count on people showing up at the door either just because you told them when it would be – always sell tickets in advance. Many people will buy tickets just to show support, but will have no intention of going to the event. You may want to consider using a ticket spreadsheet to keep track of who is selling which numbered tickets. Encourage as many people as possible to pay upfront, which will help prevent you from confirming an inaccurate number of guests with the hall.

Choose Food

You can bring your own food to the hall, use the caterer at the hall, or find your own caterer. Nobody expects you to make everything, so do not be afraid to ask people to help prepare the food. Some great party food suggestions are: pizza, lasagna, cracker and cheese trays, deli sandwiches (although these can be a lot of work and money), vegetable trays, fruit trays, potato salad, etc. Try to get foods that you can prepare before hand; do not have to be heated up when you get there; and that are easy for cleanup too. Whatever you do, do not appear “chintzy.” The days of chips, cheesies, and pop won’t cut it on their own! Buy several different munchies that you can put around on the tables, as you may not serve dinner for a couple of hours, and you want to keep your guests happy while they are there.

Choose Drinks / Alcohol

When you choose a hall, they may have a bartender who manages their own sale of drinks, or they may allow you to bring in your own drinks and serve it. In most cases the hall runs the bar, so make sure they have a good variety of alcohol in stock. Generally, the hall rental will be much cheaper if they supply the alcohol since this will create more income for the hall. If you control the bar there are more risks and possible headaches involved, however, you have the potential to make substantially more money. This will include more work and more initial investment, not to mention liabilities. Make sure that you aware of your city by-laws. Have someone you trust serve the drinks who is Smart Served, or you can train a buddy of yours for about $60 and they will become Smart Served Certified - you can find many places that offer this training online. The AGCO (Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario) offers a TIP SHEET that may answer any of your legality questions. Ensure that this is not out of date however, so do your due diligence. Then be sure to apply for a "SPECIAL OCCASIONS PERMIT" which allows you to sell liquor. After going to the AGCO WEBSITE, you should also check with the hall to make sure you are following all of their rules too. Last time we checked, you can serve alcohol from 11AM to 1AM Monday to Saturday, and 12PM to 1AM on Sundays in Ontario. Although it is obvious, remember that the legal age to drink alcohol is 19 years old. You do not want to get in trouble with the law over this.

Your drink charges for your guests generally range from $2.50 a drink to $3.50, but this may vary depending on the crowd you are inviting, the kind of drinks you are serving, and the area in which they are from. Jell-O shooters are very popular and generally sell for $1 to $2 a piece and can be sold to people at their tables, rather than waiting for them to come to the bar to buy them. We suggest that you have 3-4 types of beer, 3-4 types of liquor, 3 types of pop, and consider the possibility of coffee, tea, bottled water, and milk as other options for your guests.

On average, each person that shows up may drink 3 to 4 drinks, so you can use this number to judge how many drinks to buy. If you buy too much, the LCBO and Beer Store will allow returns under these conditions. Typically, The Beer Store will allow up to 20% of the beer you purchased to be returned, as long as it is a perforated case (not glued), you have your Special Occasions Permit with you, the seals of the case are not broken, and it is a full case that is unopened. The LCBO will allow returns as long as you have your receipt and it can be a saleable item again (not used).

Figure out Music

Music relaxes people and it encourages them to stay longer and spend more money. A home stereo or I-Pod will work if you are under a tight budget, but that can be a lot of work to prepare the songs in advance or have a buddy look after the music selection throughout the night. If you hire a professional DJ, they can help keep your guests happy as well as keep them at the hall longer, which is key. DJ’s are trained to entertain their guests, and they can actually help you earn more money by making announcements throughout the night informing your guests of a new raffle or game that is about to start. They can also get people to participate in games, or they can announce the Door Prize winner’s name. But... they do come with a price.

If you have chosen a DJ, he/she should have a very large selection of music that will work for all age groups. Look at the possibility of hiring the DJ for the wedding as well, as there may be a combo discount. Decide whether you want dancing at this event or if you want your guests to concentrate on games only. If the hall is small and congested with a lot of games and activities going on, there is a good chance that less dancing will take place. However, a good selection of background music to please the guests creates an exciting ambiance. Hire the D.J. from 9pm to 1am - any earlier and you are wasting your money. The majority of guests tend to show up between 9pm and 10pm anyway. For a good D.J. you should pay between $350 and $500 for four hours. We highly recommend checking out SPIRIT OF SOUND.

Choose Games

Choosing the right type of games is tricky, however here are four great pages to visit that may help you decide:

When you are choosing your games, keep in mind that you may want to introduce different games throughout the night to keep it interesting, rather than doing them all at the same time all night. As an example, when guests arrive they may do one round of each game and then sit at a table for the night. But if you keep bringing out new games and get people excited about new tournaments or prizes to win, they will be more likely to keep getting back off their comfortable chair! Pick enough games that will keep your guests entertained all night, not just for half an hour. This is hard to remember because the idea of making lots of money may keep getting in the way, but the real purpose of the night is to entertain your guests and celebrate the whole reason you are throwing a Fundraiser. If you remember this and provide your guests with great entertainment all night long, the profits will just come.

Create a Volunteer / Game Schedule

Now that you have chosen your games, you will need dealers and volunteers to run the games. These volunteers should be people you can trust (probably family, coworkers, or close friends), as they will be handling a lot of cash. You should give them free entrance to the event and a couple of free drinks. Ask them not to indulge in alcohol until they are off the clock especially if they are handling money. We offer DEALERS to run the games for you - just ask us for a quote.

You will need to make up a schedule, stating when certain games are going to start and finish and who is running them, etc. Click here to see our VOLUNTEER SCHEDULE EXAMPLE. You may want to post this schedule the night of the event for the volunteers so that everyone can stick to it. Keep in mind that these volunteers will want to have fun as well so give them some free time to enjoy the party, as you see from this example. You will also need a relief person for bathroom breaks and for the smokers. Notice that in the example, all games ended at midnight. This usually works well, as your guests by this point just want to dance or chat and the volunteers want a chance to mingle and party.

Locate Raffle Prizes & Get Donations

This is a tricky task – it can be hard to ask for free stuff sometimes, but you have to do it! A party is not a party without prizes! Think about what kind of donations would best suit your event’s needs. If this party is for a couple in their 40’s, prizes like a Nintendo Wii or a gift certificate to West 49 is probably not the best idea since the guests are also probably in their 40s. Create a list of friends, family, and co-workers who may be able to provide donations for your event. Do not be afraid to ask people, and probably the best way to do it is face to face rather than on the phone or email. It puts people on the spot a little more and they are more likely to say yes. Make it a team effort and get all of your committee members to help.

Next make a list of local businesses that you hope can provide you with gift certificates or free stuff, and that you think your guests would like to bet on. You can always try some free online ads begging for help! KIJIJI is our favourite to work with. One of the best ways to get donations is either by asking for it in person at their place of business or by writing a professional letter. Any mid-sized to large company may have to clear their donations through their head office with the use of your letter anyhow, so this is probably the best avenue. Your letter should say things like:

  • Who you are, the event you are planning, when the event is, why you thought of this particular company
  • Do not make your letter sound vague, be straight to the point and clearly state what you want ie) I am requesting a gift certificate for $25
  • Sign the letter and include your contact information
  • Then make sure to follow up within 3 days of them receiving the letter

Do not rely solely on donations; you may have to spend some money to make money, so look for the sales. BBQ's, TV's, iPod's, concert tickets, sporting event tickets, gift cards, or even gift baskets are great prizes and they are things that you can usually find on sale. Never pay full price for prizes... there are deals everywhere.

Our RAFFLE CONTAINERS contain your RAFFLE TICKETS securely and they look great on the Prize Table. Be weary of one thing – sometimes people think the more prizes, the better. It always looks impressive when the prize tables are absolutely loaded with loot. Consider that it takes time to draw a ticket for a prize, so more prizes mean more time drawing, and guests can become agitated. If you have a lot of smaller prizes, consider consolidating them into "Prize Packs" or letting the DJ give some away for spot dances - a great way to get your guests up dancing and enjoying themselves.

Plan to Sell Raffle Tickets

For Raffle Ticket volunteers, ask your good looking friends to sell tickets to your guests! It does sound awful to say this, but we all know that it works. Make sure they charm, smile, and hustle for best results. It is good to have a few different colours of RAFFLE TICKETS too, because one girl can have the red tickets, and one girl can have the blue tickets. When the red ticket girl sells tickets to a group of people, the blue ticket girl can come around and ask them to buy tickets from her. When your guests say that they already have some, the blue ticket girl can say, “but you do not have my colour,” with a pouty look on her - works every time! Typical pricing would be three tickets for $5 or an arms length for $10. Another good option is to also offer $15 for a hug, which means that a pretty girl will hold the tickets in her hands and will hug your guest. When her hands meet around their waist, then that is how many tickets they get. Guys are a sucker for this!

Create a Schedule for the Evening

Now you need to make a schedule for the evening to make sure that everything runs smoothly and that you stay on time to get everything done that you want to get done. Click here to see our EVENT SCHEDULE EXAMPLE. You will notice from this example, that there are many times when raffle prizes are drawn. One big mistake people make when they have lots of raffle prizes is that they use a microphone to draw the raffle prizes all at once, which stops your party dead. It is a good idea to draw a couple of prizes publicly and either have the DJ announce the other winners in between songs or rent our DRY ERASE BOARD to post the winning numbers. This is a good way to keep the sale of RAFFLE TICKETS going, as your guests will be constantly reminded about the prizes people keep winning. As the night goes on, the prizes get more expensive and more appealing, thus encouraging people to stay longer and spend more money. Another idea is to have people write their names on the Raffle Tickets before they put them in a RAFFLE CONTAINER. This way, the announcer does not have to read the numbers eight times before people hear him correctly, they will understand a person’s name much easier and it will go faster.

And finally, to make this schedule work, you will need change to break your guests’ twenties. You will need a cash float of quarters, loonies, toonies, $5’s and $10’s, and the more the better – it won’t go to waste. Have a reasonable "float" at each game table as well. There's nothing more annoying than having a great run stopped because the dealer needs to break some change! Each person volunteering that night will need to carry around a MONEY APRON to keep it secure and in one spot. The people running the front door will need to keep the admission ticket money and raffle prize money in a CASH BOX, which we can also provide.