Monday, 7 November 2011

The BCCare Ball ; or, What I've Learned from Organising a Charity Fundraiser

I’m lucky enough to have some pretty inspirational friends – one of whom is battling breast cancer. For the second time. And she’s only thirty. Talking to her and hearing about all the support she’s had from Breast Cancer Care made me really want to do my part to raise money for this fantastic charity. I asked a friend with experience of fundraising for some advice and thought to myself, “Throwing a charity gig – how hard can that be?”

The answer is, very hard.

The support I’ve got from friends and family has been really heart-warming, but the going has been tough and there have been a lot of set-backs. I’ve learned some great lessons from my experience, though, so if you’re thinking of raising money for charity yourself I’ve got some great tips for you. Before I get to that, though, a plug for my event!

The BCCare Ball is on Friday 18th November, upstairs in O’Neills, St Mary Street, Cardiff. Doors open 7pm, tickets are £10 and that includes the buffet, raffle entry, a set from DJ Tom Loud and a live music from The Big What?! Band. Everyone over 18 is welcome to attend! To get tickets just email me - if you can't attend, you can still donate via Just Giving. Dress code is smart, with something pink!

Plug done, I’ll get back to tips for hosting a fundraising of your own. Organising my Ball has been a challenge. The best piece of advice I got was, no matter how much time you think you’ll need to organise a charity event, give yourself more time. Putting together your own event takes a lot of work, a lot of organisation and a lot of planning.  If you’re thinking of raising money for charity here are the lessons I’ve learned.

Firstly, pick a charity that’s close to your heart. The more you believe in the charity the more work you’ll be willing to put in to raise money for their cause and the easier you’ll find it to convince people to donate their money and time as well. If you’re really behind a charity then you’ll be totally committed to raising money for them. Organising an event of your own is a real challenge and you will need to keep reminding yourself how much it means to the people your charity helps, in order to keep pushing on and stay dedicated to putting on the best event you can. Make sure you register with your chosen charity, too! Go to their website, give them a call and register yourself and your event. The charity can then send you letters of authenticity to show people that your event is legitimate, which will reassure people that any money or gifts they’re giving you will go to the charity.

Secondly, pick the right way to raise money. Ask your family, ask your friends, start a Facebook poll, post questions on forums – you may think that a banjo gig is the best thing ever, but if no one else agrees with you then you won’t get anyone turning up to your event and you won’t get many donations. Pick something that you want to do, something that you are happy to put effort into throwing, but make sure that it’s also something other people are interested in, too. Pick your timing as well; if there’s another big event on in the same town on the same day, chances are that your fundraiser will lose out to it. Ask your friends when they’ve got a free night, check that you’re not trying to host a party on Christmas Eve or something and go from there. Remember, too, that big seasonal events can be an advantage – maybe try holding a romantic dinner on Valentine’s Day, or a bake-off on Pancake Day. Just make sure that you think about the time of year and the type of event you want to organise and get the two to match up as best you can.

Thirdly, be prepared for rejection. Asking for donations, asking for venues to let you use their space for free, asking for raffle prize donations – you will come up against a lot of people saying “no”. Get used to it. Try not to take it personally, either; it’s not a rejection of you, or the charity you’re representing. Companies get asked a lot for donations, they can’t say “yes” to all the requests. You’ll have to put in a lot of leg work and make a lot of phone calls. Try calling the head offices and getting in touch with local branches of larger companies.

Fourthly, don’t be afraid to ask for favours. Ask your friends, ask your family, and ask them to ask their friends and family. Know someone in a band? Ask them if they could play a set. Know someone with a talent for art or design? Ask them if they can do a poster or flyer for you. Ask local shops if they can put up your poster; ask people if they can donate their time, a raffle prize, their talent or their money to your cause. After a lot of work getting in touch with different venues in Cardiff, O’Neills were kind enough to offer their upstairs room for free. After much pleading, the band offered do to their set for free because they are lovely people who want to help raise money for this great cause; and as I work with a guy who is also a DJ, I managed to pull a favour there and he’s offered to spin the decks gratis. Swallow your pride and pull every favour you can. I got the lovely Ana Catris to do a poster for me!

 Lastly, don’t forget the power of the Net! Create a Facebook page for your event, set up a Just Giving page so people know they can donate securely to your cause, set up a Twitter account for your event or get a hash tag going so people can tweet about your event and link to it easily. Ask for retweets, share your Facebook page and Just Giving link, go to websites like What’s On In Cardiff and get your event listed – make sure that your event is out there and that as many people as possible know about it. Tell your friends and family and get them to tell everyone they know, too; word of mouth can really boost your event! Make sure you get all the support you can from the charity you’re fundraising for – after all, they want to help you make as much money as possible so they’ll be happy to help in any way they can.

It will be an uphill struggle, no mistake. You might not sell as many tickets as you hoped, you might not be able to raise as much money as you wanted, you might not be able to get as many raffle prizes as you thought. It will definitely be challenging – so why do it? Well, aside from helping a charity in these incredibly tough financial times, there’s a lot you can get out of it, too. It will really move you, how many people are willing to donate their time and their skills to help you; how many people are willing to chip in, to give you money and to help out in any way they can. Organising an event for charity can also help you, too. In today’s world it’s tougher than ever to get a job and throwing a fundraising event shows that you have determination, creativity, perseverance, organisational skills and shows off your social awareness. All of these are the kind of skills that can really make your CV stand out from the crowd and it’s the kind of experience that you can draw on in the workplace. Once you’ve persuaded the manager of a busy pub to let you use their venue for free, facing negotiations in the workplace won’t seem so scary.

So my final advice, if you’re thinking of raising money for charity? Do it. Be prepared for a struggle, but if it’s a charity that really means something to you then you know how important it is that they have enough money to keep up their good work.

To buy tickets for my event go to - hash tag #CharityBall on Twitter.

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