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No-Show Fundraisers

No-show fundraising events are not a completely novel idea. But in this difficult economy, non-profit organizations are starting to take a new look at this fundraising opportunity that offers fairly easy and low-cost planning and therefore yields almost pure profit.

So what is a no-show fundraiser? It is what it says – people receive invitations to a non-event and are asked to make a donation to the non-profit host of the “event” for the privilege of not attending the “event.” It is an attempt to both alleviate the large expense that goes into hosting gala dinners, golf tournaments, and charity auctions, while easing the busy schedules of your benefactors.

There definitely is a place for real events. But non-profit organizations should at least consider a non-event because there are huge benefits to both the hosting organization and the “attendees.”

The benefits to the hosting organization include:
• Tremendous reduction in expenses (think food, drinks, entertainment, decorations, parking, security, etc.)
• Less planning time required, leaving staff free to handle other key projects.
• Zero concerns about event cancellation due to weather conditions (you can’t play golf in the rain, can you?)
• Practically all donations for the non-event benefit the cause at hand.

The benefits to the “attendees” include:
• No need to pay for fancy dresses, tuxedo rentals, hair stylist, etc.
• One less event to put on your busy calendar.
• The opportunity to support a cause you are passionate about without leaving your home.
• You can feel better about your donation knowing almost all of it will truly go to a worthy cause.

Recently, I helped a local shelter for homeless moms and their children plan a “Stay-At-Home” Mother’s Day Tea Party. I wrote a poem about mothers, which was attached to a tea bag. The poem, tea bag and a recipe for banana bread were sent to the shelter’s donor base, along with a request for a donation to the shelter. We also sent press releases asking reporters to alert their readers to the non-event. Since I donated my time, the only expenses were the purchase of the tea bags, the paper to print the poem and recipe, and the postage.

A library or a school can host a no-show “Read-A-Thon.” Send invitations in the shape and design of a book, and ask your constituents to make a donation to your organization in exchange for enjoying a good book in the comfort of their own home. Include a bookmark printed with your organization’s mission. Try to get the local bookstore to “sponsor” your no-show event and include a coupon for a book purchase in the invitation.

Hospitals or health organizations can host a “Stay-at-Home Health Fair.” Include valuable health tips in the invitation. Secure a sponsorship from a company that can mail first aid kits or other appropriate products to every person who makes a donation to your non-event.

Love marathon events, like hop-a-thons, dance-a-thons, and jump-a-thons? Mail a jump rope to your donors and include an invitation to a “Jump-at-Home” event to raise money for your organization. Get the local toy store to sponsor the jump ropes. Hold a “contest” for the person who “jumps the longest” (makes the largest donation). Ask the sponsor for a store gift certificate and send it to the person who wins the contest.

The local Food Bank can send an invitation to a “No-Show Food Drive.” Print invitations that look like a canned food item, and mail to your donors asking them to send in donations to support the Food Bank. Inside the invite, include recipes using canned foods.

The trick to a successful no-show event is creativity. You can turn almost any real event into a non-event, and then everyone reaps the benefits. If you venture into the no-show event fundraising territory and it proves to be a huge success for you, you can turn it into an annual “non-event.”

So why not consider a non-event when planning your next event? If it lowers your expenses and brings in needed funds, it’s worth taking a good look at.

For more creative fundraising ideas, check this out

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