Guest post by Dallas Rising
I recently organized a successful house party for VINE Sanctuary, helping to raise thousands of dollars for their new duck pond. Having learned from that experience, I can say with confidence that this can be a rewarding way of making a truly substantial contribution to a cause you care about.
The basic idea behind a house party fundraiser is bringing several people together for the primary purpose of generating funds for a cause. In addition to raising funds for vital projects, vegan house parties foster feelings of community among vegans while also introducing new people to veganism.
The house party host provides a comfortable and inviting space for guests to gather and learn more about the cause while enjoying food and drinks. The guests are already aware that the event is intended to raise funds before accepting the invitation, so everyone attending is very likely to donate. House parties are easier to organize than bake sales as you only need to rely on yourself and maybe a friend to host instead of recruiting lots of volunteer bakers. House parties are more expedient and profitable than peddling merchandise and engage people on a deeper level than online giving campaigns.
Here are the steps to organizing a house party for your favorite sanctuary:
1. Choose an organization or project you feel passionate about. Give this some thought as you will be in the position of introducing many of your guests to the group or cause. The more you care about the project, the more likely you are to influence them to give and feel great about it.
2. Ask the sanctuary for help in choosing a specific project to support and explaining the organization to potential donors. What distinguishes this sanctuary from others? Why is this project important? Why should your guests give right now? What will their money buy? Knowing the answers to these questions will boost your own motivation while enabling you to answer any questions your friends and family may have.
3. [optional] Choose a target amount you want to raise. This might be based on the actual costs you hope to help the sanctuary cover or based on your own estimation of what is reasonable. Even if you choose a random amount, the sanctuary can help you by specifying exactly what that amount would buy — a necessary piece of equipment, for example, or a particular amount of food, bedding, or medicine. While you don’t need to set a target amount, this can help your own motivation while giving you something concrete to tell potential donors: “We’ve raised X so far! If we can raise Y more, then the sanctuary can buy Z!”
4. Pick a date for your event. Be aware of potential conflicts such as other local fundraisers or times of year when people may have extra cash or be tight on cash. Try to find a time when your guests are most likely to be able to come. If you are planning to invite several teachers, for example, the end of a semester may be a poor choice for an event date. Give people enough time to plan — about three weeks notice is usually enough and not too far out.
5. Choose a space that will be comfortable. Ideally, this would be someone’s home to give a more intimate feel to the event.
6. Invite guests! Social media is a popular way to organize events, and it’s an easy way to keep people up to date and generate excitement and anticipation, but don’t forget about email, phone calls, texts, or even old-fashioned invites through the mail. If you really want someone to be there, make sure to personally invite them. When inviting people, make sure they understand this is a fundraising event so they don’t feel tricked or pressured into donating. Not only is that not cool on a personal level, but it can reflect poorly on the organization you’re trying to help.
Be genuine and personal in your invite text. Provide some background, or a story, that explains a bit about the organization or project and why it matters to YOU. Your friends, relatives, neighbors, and coworkers will be more likely to support a cause that they know is personally meaningful to you.
Continue to touch base with guests as the time for the event nears, being sure to thank them effusively if they’ve already donated.
7. Encourage people who cannot attend to donate anyway. Make it easy for them to do so! A link to a simple online donation form, set clearly apart from the text of your invite, is helpful. (Work with the sanctuary if you don’t know how to set this up.) Make sure it’s easy for your invitees to find the info and take action. Encourage them to tell YOU when they’ve made a donation, so that you can thank them personally.
8. Plan your menu. If that sounds daunting to you, hit up the talented vegan cooks and bakers in your social circle for advice. Keep in mind potential food sensitivities, and if you can play with the theme at all, go for it. For a duck pond house party fundraiser, we served “Splish Splash Spring Rolls”. They were ordinary spring rolls, but the cute name helped create a celebratory vibe reinforcing the purpose of the gathering. Don’t forget the drinks!
9. Sort out how you want to educate your guests on the organization or project. A simple slide show, video, or Powerpoint presentation can be helpful. Ask the organization to support you with images you’d like to use, and familiarize yourself with their website to get to know enough about them that you feel you can explain who they are and what they do in a few minutes to a small group. Visuals are wonderful – photos of the residents, anecdotes about their personalities, details about their stories, and how their lives will be improved by donations are helpful.
On the day or night of the event, a representative from the sanctuary may be available and happy to call or Skype in at a designated time, and that can be a wonderful way for guests to be acknowledged and thanked by the people receiving the funds. It also can provide an opportunity for questions you couldn’t answer to get answered. It’s a great way to let donors know they’re appreciated and their generosity really does make a difference.
10. When it’s time to collect donations, make sure you have correct contact information for everyone so they can get letters for their taxes.
11. Keep track of how much you raise along the way and at the event itself. Make sure to let your guests and the people who donated who could not make it know how much was raised in total. Keep them appraised of the progress toward a goal if you have one. This is also a time when you can ask for donations online one more time if you have not reached your goal yet. Anything you can do to let your guests and donors know that it meant a lot to you personally that they stepped up and contributed to this thing for which you care so much is worth it.
12. On the day after the event, share photos of the fun on social media. After all of the donations are in, get a photo of some sort from the sanctuary, showing the donations at work in some way, and share that directly with your guests and on the same social media platforms you used for your invitations. That way, even those who did not attend or donate will see that it was worthwhile and may say “yes” to your next fundraising event.
Contributing to Seagull Pond and the new duck coop by hosting a house party was a gratifying experience and much easier than I anticipated it might be for the results generated. I would love to help you host your own house party for VINE with your own twist to it – just drop me a note and we’ll get started!
Dallas Rising is a longtime animal advocate and rescuer based in Minneapolis who will be helping VINE raise funds in 2016.