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Three Ways to Raise More Money at Your Benefit Dinner

Three Ways to Raise More Money at Your Benefit Dinner

Author Aleena Khan by

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Illustration by Aleena Khan

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Let me start by saying that I’ve attended a lot of fundraising dinners. Like, a lot. I seek them out and attend whenever I can, not because I have buckets of cash to hand out, but because I work in advertising. In other words, I’m in the business of selling a story and a vision, which is exactly what a non-profit should do.

Here are three tips to hosting a better benefit dinner.

1. Set a Non-monetary Goal

People need to know that they can help accomplish a real goal. If your nonprofit is a school, you should not raise $200,000 to offset your deficit; you should raise $200,000 to implement an award-winning curriculum, build a state of the art of chemistry lab, construct a new playground or implement a health program. Use a benefit dinner to rally support for making a real change in the community. Use other year-round donations to offset costs.

How it helps donors: Donors want to feel like they contributed to making something real and tangible happen. It’s hard to justify donating to a general operations budget. For one thing, doing so feels like bailing out an organization, not helping it grow. Secondly, how will we ever know that our donation made a difference? Setting a goal helps donors understand their role in the community.

How it helps you: Setting a goal means there is something exciting for your volunteers to look towards. It also helps determine an exact amount of money you’ll need to raise. There’s another side benefit: it will force your organization to be honest about expenses and how money is being spent. If you meet your goal, you then earn the right to say, “Look at this, we made it happen together,” which will likely translate into higher donor retention rates.

2. Break Down Costs

And do so very clearly and honestly. Once you set a goal, it’s much easier to break down costs. This helps with donations as well, since most people come with an amount in their minds to donate. You probably won’t triple that preset amount, but a 25% increase is very doable. For example, if your school is building a chemistry lab, and a single chemistry set costs $1250, you’re no longer asking people to donate money. You’re asking them to purchase a single set on behalf of the school. If someone walked in knowing they’d be donating $1000, you’ll likely convince them to donate an additional $250. If you can convince even half of your audience to up their donation by 25%, you’ve already benefited in the thousands.

How it helps donors: It can be hard to swallow a large number, but a small donation suddenly seems insignificant. Help your donor understand that no donation is too small by telling them exactly what different dollar amounts can accomplish.

How it helps you: There are two main benefits. First: by breaking down costs, you’ll likely amaze yourself with how reachable your goal is, thereby encouraging yourself and your team. Secondly, you’ll encourage donors to increase their donation amount by just a little bit more than they would have.

3. Thank Your Donors, and Thank Them Profusely.

Donor retention is the top way organizations raise money, so it’s where 70% of your efforts should go. One thing I really appreciated at the recent Global Deaf Muslim benefit dinner in Atlanta: the founders of the organization came around to every table to thank attendees for coming out and supporting them. If you cannot manage that feat, at least make sure the correspondence you send does a halfway decent job. I receive about 10 letters in the mail every year from non-profits thanking me for my donation, and then a number for my tax receipts. Someone out there sacrificed a lobster roll dinner or a vacation or new shoes for you, so get personal and write a thank you letter from the heart.

Here are two examples. First:

“Dear Mr. Smith: Thank you for your donation of $100.00 to help educate school girls in India. We appreciate it. Please keep this for your tax records.”

Compare that with this:

“Dear Mr. Smith: I cannot thank you enough for what you’ve done to help girls like Sonia get an education and make Kanpur, India a better place. Together, we can increase literacy rates and open doors for these women. Once again, thank you for what you’ve done. We truly appreciate it. P.S. Here’s some tax info you should keep for your records.”

Which organization do you love more? Remember to both thank them and mention what the donation has done or will do. If someone donates to build a new chemistry lab at your school but you thank them for helping fund a foreign language program, that’s not good. You risk losing them as a continuing supporter. Thank them for what they actually donated to support.

Do you know any great examples of Muslim organizations that implement smart fundraising techniques? We’d love to hear!

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