Which fundraising idea is right for you?

So you’ve signed up for that charity challenge and committed to raise funds for a cause you’re passionate about – that’s great! Now what? It’s time to choose your method of fundraising. From head shaves to high teas, there are so many fundraising ideas, so how do you pick the one that’s right for you?

I have run a few fundraising events in my time, both personally and professionally, and with varying degrees of success. I’m going to share with you one of my biggest wins and my biggest failure to give you a reminder of something that should be fairly obvious.

A good fundraising idea

I love live comedy. I mean, I really love it. In 2006 I entered a competition run by the Melbourne International Comedy Festival called the Funny Tonne. It’s the Amazing Race of comedy where three people compete to see as many shows as possible during the three and a half week festival, writing a mini review for each one. I saw 123 shows and have a second-hand netball trophy to show for my winning efforts.

After seeing an average of four to five shows a night, I understood what made a show work and what made it fail. Following that, I became a reviewer for a comedy website. I made contacts within the industry, I knew most venues around town and learnt about the best methods and places for promoting a comedy show.

I eventually got the guts to produce a show. Unspeakable featured a line-up of visual and physical comedy performers, while raising funds for a Deaf organisation. My debut production sold out and ran for a further three years. This, readers, is what you call a successful fundraising event.

Hand drawn illustration of a coin going into a fundraising can with love heart on it

My bad fundraising idea

Now let me tell you about my biggest fundraising flop. I needed to raise funds for a safe home for abused children in Kenya called Rafiki Mwema as part of my trek to Mt Kilimanjaro. After a fairly successful movie night at a local cinema, and individual online donations, I still hadn’t reached my fundraising target.

A cousin had run a really successful charity poker night a few years earlier so I thought I could simply follow his formula of success. I locked in the same supplier of tables and chips, I followed the advice I was given and found a venue that had a partnership with a local footy club, and I had my beautiful posters designed and ready to go.

What went wrong

You see, I have played one game of poker in my life. I think I even won – talk about beginner’s luck! However, it seems that beginner’s luck doesn’t translate to running your own poker night.

I used the same methods of promotion as the movie night, which involved a lot of local Facebook pages but received no interest in the poker night. So I moved on to paid Facebook ads. Nada. I tried paid Gumtree ads. Zip. I created events in poker interest groups on Meet Up. *Crickets*. I resorted to desperately pleading with friends and family to attend or spread the word through their networks. Zilch.

As it turns out, I don’t have many poker fans in my circle of friends. Who knew? Obviously not me, because I didn’t bother to ask before planning the event. I had to cancel the booking at the venue and made a loss because of the paid ads.

How to avoid the same mistake

I wanted to share this valuable lesson to save you time and heartache if you’re planning on running an event or activity to raise funds for a cause you care about. When deciding on the best fundraising idea for you, ask yourself these questions:

Is there a good link between the activity and the cause?

E.g. Physical comedy night and the Deaf community = great link!
Gambling and abused children = *forehead slap*

Are you involved in a network of like-minded people?

Part of a book club? Organise a book swap for gold coin donations.
Member of a football team? Plan a fancy dress match or a legends game.

What are you known for among friends?

Are people always complimenting your baking? A cake stall is a safe bet.
Copping a lot of flack for your mullet? A head shave might be for you!

And never forget this golden rule of fundraising – Stick to what you know!

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