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Want to Sell Out Your Charity Event This Spring? Take the Word “Charity” Out of Your Vocabulary

Resource Center - Foundation

By Justin Baer

(Feb. 22, 2011) The rules of the fundraising game have changed. The days of being able to run a successful charitable event like it's a charity are over. In 2011, you've got to run your event as if you're managing a for-profit corporation, selling both your prospective attendees and your host committee on what's in it for them. With this in mind, here are three strategies taken from the corporate playbook to help you sell out your spring charity event.

Offer incentives and recognition to motivate your host committee.

It's a given that a charity event must have committee members with contacts. But all the relationships in the world won't do any good if your committee members won't use them. To motivate them to make calls, send emails and post the event on their Facebook and Twitter walls, take a cue from how corporate sales managers manage their salespeople: offer incentives and recognition. These are prime factors in human behavior.

Consider offering a prize such as a free iPod, or offering them to be the next host committee chair if they reach their goal for this event.  Whatever you use to motivate your host committee, make sure to reward them immediately. Studies show, the faster the bonus is delivered, the greater the enthusiasm for the incentive program. Also don't leave out recognition. As Catherine the Great once said, "Praise loudly."

Add urgency to your ticket sales.

It's human nature for people to procrastinate; when it comes to making a purchase, we all like to "think about it." Retailers get around this behavior by setting sharp limits on their sales events. Think "Limited Time Offer," or "Summer Sale Days Ending Soon." Charity events need to use the same tactics. Ticket sales at discounts prices should be limited, or they can increase in price as the event date gets closer. The key is to create a Groupon-type excitement around buying tickets early.  People need an incentive to make a certain decision or especially buy something if it's out of the ordinary. Meaning, why should someone buy a ticket to your event two months out if they can buy it for the same price two days before the event. Some exciting tools that I have seen being used to spread the word about your "hot deal" are mass text messaging to your donors, automatic mass voicemail messaging and Twitter.

Create a website that sends the correct message about your event.

In my experience, the best way to sell event tickets is to have a "charged up" host committee reach out and phone their friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances.  The problem is, this never happens. Yes, you will get one or two superstars that make a bunch of calls, but getting the average host committee member to make 30 eight-minute phone calls about your event is wishful thinking.  They will however, be happy to send out an email to their address book. When this happens a link should be included to your event's online ticketing page.  The key is this page must sell the event itself. Those generic donation web pages that come with clunky donor management software simply won't cut it in 2011. Attendees, and especially those who are new to the event, want to see a web page that is elegant, easy to use, and shows them what the event will look like and who will be there. Your site should give them a good feel for whether your organization is "with it" or not. This event page not only reflects your organization, and it's programming, but you as an event planner.

Here are a few tips for building a strong online ticketing page for your event:

  • Include photos from past events, so potential buyers can get a sense for the atmosphere and attendants.
  • Put the organization's mission right on the ticketing page so visitors don't have to leave the sales page to learn about your organization.
  • Sponsors' logos lend credibility to your event-feature them prominently on your homepage.
  • Finally, equip your page with a message board, social media share buttons, and an easy way to check out.

Utilizing these corporate sales tactics will help you maintain a competitive edge in the modern world of fundraising. By putting them into practice, you'll prove to your donors and committee members that when it comes to successful charity events, your organization means business.

Justin Baer is the president of Ticketing, a free online ticketing solution for nonprofit events as well as the publisher of the Charity Event Research Report.

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