There are loads of great causes to contribute to that range from promoting environmental awareness to social responsibility to medical research (and everything in between). Charity benefits are a fantastic way to raise awareness and raise money for your favorite cause because…well, who doesn’t love a good party? The tricky part comes in with making sure you are doing everything by the book and not running your party costs up so high that you walk away with nothing to actually contribute to your charity of choice. Here, we will take a look at what you need to know to know to throw a fantastic charity benefit.
Choose Your Charity
This is really square one when deciding to throw a charity benefit—you need a charity to benefit! There many different types of non-profit foundations and organizations, all with a difference cause and likely, a different set of rules to follow regarding donations. You will want to identify your charity early on for two main reasons. First, to make sure that you are following all of the required protocol for donations. For instance, some foundations cannot accept cash gifts over a certain amount (if you were thinking of getting political and throwing a benefit for a specific candidate, this is particularly important). And some cannot accept perishable items or items over a certain size/weight. You will also want to communication with your chosen charity to find out what their greatest needs are.
Secondly, determining your charity first (and their needs) will help you decide what kind of charity benefit you want to throw. Which leads us to…
Choose Your Benefit Type
Cut-a-thon? Silent Auction? Fun Run? Drink-a-thon/Dance-a-thon? (Those two usually go together pretty nicely). There are almost as many types of benefits to throw as there are charitable initiatives to throw them for. You can combine benefit types, as well. For example, Karen Marie Salon in Chicago combines traditional partying down with a raffle of various products/services.They work with local vendors to keep food and beverage prices low and include products and services that are sold in the salon, along with other donated merchandise.
It can be fun to throw a type of benefit that echoes the spirit of your charity in some way. For example, a cut-a-thon would be a great match for a beauty-based charity, a polar plunge could be great to benefit a local swim team or a dog show to benefit a local animal shelter. If you’re looking to keep things simple, your basic drinks+music+canapes combination is applicable to just about any charitable initiative and will attract a wide variety of guests.
Make a Budget
This is the second most important step in throwing a great charity benefit. As much fun as it is to plan a party, let us keep in mind that we are throwing this benefit for a reason—someone has to benefit and it doesn’t count as charity if it’s your business that is benefitting. The important thing here is to keep your costs as low as possible while still creating an event that people will be excited to attend. There are lots of costs associated with throwing a fun event (as anyone who has planned a wedding can attest to) and sometimes it can be difficult to account for all of them. The best way to cover your costs and to make additional donation money is to work backward. List out and add up all of your expenses, and then add 10-30% (depending on how much money you are looking to raise/what people will realistically spend to attend). Let’s use a basic party with a raffle format as an example:
- Marketing Materials
- Products for Raffles
How To Calculate:
- Set a limit for how many attendees you would like to have.
- Add up your fixed expenses first (marketing materials/product for raffles/decorations/DJ).
- Calculate variable expenses (food/water/drinks)*
*Here is a handy guide.
If you mention to providers that the materials you are purchasing/renting for an event are for a charity benefit, it is likely you will get a small discount, but as you can see, there are a lot of costs associated with something as simple sounding as a party.
Once you determine your “cost per head” you can decide how you want to make money for your chosen charity. Will you sell raffle tickets (like in this example)? Entry tickets? Silent auction? There are lots of ways to generate a donation, provided you create and stick to a detailed budget.
Another thing to mention, that can save you a TON of money, is to look to your vendors for assistance. For example, both Aveda and Wella Professionals (two products lines used at Karen Marie Salon) offer assistance to their salons for hosting charitable initiatives.
Our contact at Aveda assured us that the company offers a full range of support to their salon partners that include:
- Customizable press releases to include details of their events.
- Media alerts to get the word out.
- A toolkit with all things they need logistically to pull off a charity benefit.
Plan Early, Promote Often
Speaking of PR, marketing and promotion are pretty crucial to the success of your charity benefit. Be sure to communicate closely with your charity of choice to reap the benefits of cross-promotion (one of the added bonuses to giving back) and don’t be afraid to be upfront with your communication to your invitees. Be sure that you are clearly communicating the fact that this party is a benefit to raise money for charity (so bring your wallets!). No, really, don’t be shy with getting your point across when it comes down to raising money. It’s expected and you don’t want any misunderstandings.
Also, be sure to utilize free promotional tools like social media, your business email marketing service, and mention your upcoming event to everyone you meet. Word of mouth (both in person and online) is the most cost-effective way to get your message out there. Spread the word to other local business, put your family and friends to work posting on their social media and inviting their networks of friends and co-workers. Chances are, you know more people than you think, and the people that you know, also know people. You could have a sizable crowd before you spend a dime on promotions.
Printed materials and media promotions can really inflate your budget, quickly. You can try to work around this by calling local media outlets and telling them about your event. Who knows, they may be able to work a mention into the piece they are writing or be willing to post on their social media.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that you are doing this for two very important reasons—to do some good and to have some fun!
For a list of charities in your area, visit: http://www.charitynavigator.org