When your organization needs to raise funds, a benefit event can be an enjoyable and lucrative option. By offering an afternoon or evening out combined with the opportunity to win prizes from a raffle or bid at a silent auction, your organization can raise money while building goodwill and support toward your cause. Following the rules of proper etiquette can increase that support and maintain it over time.
Be Honest and Upfront
While most people who attend a benefit event do so knowing that they will be asked, and perhaps be expected to, give money, it’s important to add value to the attendees as well. Offer food, drink and entertainment in addition to the auction and raffle, giving your guests a chance to mingle and socialize. When you promote the event, list the different fundraising activities that will occur during the event. An attendee may consider his ticket purchase to be the donation to the cause, and may feel blindsided by additional requests for money through raffle tickets or other donation requests.
Take No for an Answer
Even if your cause is worthwhile and important, there are going to be times when potential donors are unwilling or unable to give money. When someone declines to participate, accept the answer graciously without attempting to use guilt or manipulation to change her mind. Thank her politely for her consideration, and if appropriate, inquire as to whether you may contact her in the future with other opportunities.
Selling Tickets During the Event
At some events, attendees can purchase raffle tickets in one set location, such as the sign-in table, or the organization has roving representatives who approach guests throughout the event. If you are working the room to sell tickets, use proper etiquette when approaching people. Wait for a lull in conversations before you interrupt, and always say, “Excuse me,” or “Pardon me” when entering into a group conversation. Smile, and offer a short sales pitch for your raffle tickets. Carry plenty of change so you can break large bills for purchasers, and always say thank you to donors.
When you’re selling raffle tickets or encouraging donors to participate in an auction, representatives should be as informed as possible. This means they should know as many details as possible about the event and the prizes, what the money will be used for and the tax implications of participating. Prepare talking points for each representative to memorize, so each can provide this information without making potential donors wait. In addition to the in-person sales pitch, provide information about your cause with displays placed around the event. For example, a poster display highlighting your organization's services or a scale model of a proposed building can help clarify the purpose of the fundraiser and build donor support.
Say Thank You
When the benefit is over, take the time to thank the donors who purchased items in the auction and made donations to the fundraiser. While it may be impossible to thank everyone who purchased a raffle ticket, if tickets were purchased anonymously, make an attempt to gather as many names and addresses as possible and send personalized thank-you notes and letters. Acknowledging donors’ support of your organization can help establish a repeat donor base. In addition to individual letters, acknowledge donors on your organization website, with signage at the event and in advertisements in the event program and filed with local media.
An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer on topics including lifestyle, education, and business. She is the author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), and her work has appeared in Lewiston Auburn Magazine, Young Money, USA Today and a variety of online outlets. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.