Raising Money through Hosted Events

by Joe Garecht

In a recent article, Four Low Cost Fundraising Ideas, I suggested that non-profits of all sizes could benefit from a hosted event program.  I received lots of questions asking for more detail about what hosted events are and how you can use them to raise more money.  Today, we’ll delve into hosted events and how you can use them…

What is a Hosted Event?

Simply put, a hosted event is an event that a supporter hosts on your behalf.  Generally, when I look at non-profit events, I place them into three major categories:

  • Self-Managed Events: Events that an organization organizes and manages on its own behalf to raise money, such as galas, silent auctions, cocktail events, etc.
  • Participatory Events: Things like walk-a-thons, dance-a-thons, and loose change drives that organizations manage but that require the participation of dozens (or hundreds… or thousands…) of your supporters, each raising small amounts of money that adds up to a larger goal.
  • Hosted Events: Events that a non-profit’s supporters hold in order to raise money for the organization, such as small dinner parties, happy hours, and fundraising picnics.

(For general tips on raising more money at your events, read The 10 Steps to a Successful Fundraising Event)

Hosted events, then, are events that supporters manage and organize on your behalf – and (this is key) they invite and fundraise for the event from among their own networks, and not from your organization’s master donor file. 

Why Hosted Events Matter

There are two main reasons why hosted events matter – and why you should work to start or increase your non-profit’s hosted event program:

First, hosted events expand your organization’s network and fundraising reach.  Remember, for an event to truly be a “hosted” event, the event’s organizers need to handle the invite list… they should reach out to their own friends and colleagues to invite people to come, have a good time, hear about your organization, and donate money to your charity.  Because these events include people who you are most likely not already raising funds from, hosted events can greatly expand your donor universe.

Second, hosted events should be risk-free.  The event’s organizers generally pay the event expenses, thus increasing the potential profit and reducing your organization’s upfront outlay.  If your supporters try to host an event but can’t pull it together, the only downside for your school, church, or charity would be the (small) amount of time your staff spent interfacing with the event hosts.

How to Set Up Your Program

As you can imagine, most (but not all) hosted events raise a relatively small amount of money.  Unless your non-profit already has a strong hosted event program in place, it is likely that your average hosted event will raise less than $10,000 per event.  Of course, if you have some major donors with great networks, you could beat this average.

To truly benefit from hosted events, your organization should start a hosted event program that allows you to quickly and efficiently set up a number of hosted events throughout the year while spending minimal staff time on the effort.  For this reason, you should have a system in place that includes an informational packet for event hosts detailing how to set up the event, and a staff person that is in charge of assisting event hosts as necessary.

You Have to Ask

Of course, the only way to get your supporters to host events on your behalf is to ask them to do so.  Prepare your materials in advance, then announce the program to your board and other key donors.  Ask them to consider hosting an event on your behalf.  Let them know that they don’t need to raise six figures in order to host an event… that raising $1,000, $2,000, or whatever they can do would be a great start, and explain that this is a fun and easy way to raise money for your charity.  (For more advice on making asks, read How to Ask Anyone for Anything).

By staying focused on this program and working with your supporters on these events, your non-profit can quickly build up a stable of small, annual hosted events that add up to provide a significant boost to your bottom line.

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