In this guest post, Tess Timothy, one half of FoodCycle’s dynamic fundraising duo, reflects on the lessons she has learnt from masterminding the charity’s 2016 gala dinner. Tess gives some pearls of wisdom for the budding events organiser, and gives some key insights into what its like to put on a high profile event.
I’m glad I didn’t reflect too much on the prospect of organising a big event, or else I might’ve been quaking in my boots – but whilst a little ignorance is bliss, detailed planning is an absolute must. Along with that, seeking expertise from people who’ve done it all before is highly recommended.
The Green & Pleasant Land Gala Dinner in April was a great event to work on. I enjoyed a creative input, I threw myself into the budget, quotes and proposals, I loved meeting people who love FoodCycle, I cheered at the help people offered me and I marvelled at the power of the team.
Here are just a few of my tips for running a successful fundraiser:
Before the event
- Start at the end: and take little steps towards it. What do you want to achieve? Fundraising – how much? Telling people about our work – what’s the story?
- Who do you want there? Get some buy-in before from FoodCycle supporters. Even better if they’ll tell you what they are willing to pay and who they can bring. What’s your sales strategy? Are you telling people via social media, flyers or local radio?
- What will the event be? A dinner, a quiz, a ceilidh – something you yourself would love to attend. Figure out your usp and why people should go. Is there a chance to win something or is it special in another way? A Green & Pleasant Land was a chance to celebrate FoodCycle’s 7th birthday by building on a 2014 fundraiser. The charity dinner scene is so crowded, so really wanted to stand out with a seven-course extravaganza from seven renowned chefs – we added a green food theme to entice people in. We were massively chuffed to hear from these super-talented chefs who love FoodCycle, and were really into the idea.
- Get your team together and plan the event in a Gantt or online planner with timelines and task assignments. Some things such as dietary requirements are usually last minute, but it’s never too early to start looking for the right venue.
- About that venue: does it fulfill your needs? Cost, health and safety, logistics. Find out what’s included. If there’s an in-house PA and you’d like to use it – this may be more cost effective than hiring it in.
- Get donations – it’s amazing how many local businesses, shops and restaurants will help out with prizes, printing and support especially if they like FoodCycle. We were bowled over by some of the donations made to our auction. Top tip: dinner for 4 or more at a local restaurant or a group private dining experience is a great prize. Remember to tweet a thank you to people who donate. That definitely spreads the love.
- Marketing and PR – we were pleasantly surprised to be approached by some PR pros to market our event for free. The world of bloggers, foodies and our very own Hub volunteers is also a treasure trove of support. If you can get a journalist or blogger to attend, it might raise awareness or increase sales.
On the night and the next day
- Have a running order and task the team with responsibilities; that way the evening continues to run, even while you look for the missing baby grand piano (don’t ask). It’s also good to have supplier mobile numbers in your phone to get real time support.
- Plan a next day thank you in advance: to let people know how much you raised and how much fun everyone had! A good picture really tells the story – so get someone to capture some really good shots on the night. Depending on how formal the event, it’s always nice to ask people what they think – social media or survey monkey, but be mindful of too much comms. We did a one minute SurveyMonkey and got some useful feedback. We also got a few nice tweets the next day. And if possible take the feedback on board for the next time!
Share your thoughts
I’ve seen your regular pop ups, pub quizzes and mega events on social media and I’d love to hear your advice, experiences, top tips, dos and don’ts. Good Luck!