Recently, I had a client ask if I could create a giving experience that was the same for all their donors, regardless of how much they could afford to give. The goal was to reduce the pressure typically associated with a Fund-A-Need and standardize the giving experience. I put together a unique approach to the Fund-A-Need that I am so excited to share with you.
I call it the Centerpiece Fund-A-Need.
Here’s how it works:
- Come up with an image that represents your nonprofit, leave space on that image for your donors to write their name and their Fund-A-Need gift amount. Get creative. The sky’s the limit when it comes to theming.
- Create mini bid paddles by affixing the image to the top of a small dowel or stick.
- Collect buckets or other containers that you can theme to your event. Fill them with sand, gravel, dirt, or glass pebbles and place it in a prominent place in the event space. The idea is that the mini paddles stay upright when placed in the container.
- Communicate with your major donors before the event and explain this new approach, so that they are prepared to give during the Fund-A-Need.
- Make the ask at your event. Ask your attendees to plant a seed for change by opening their wallets and giving any amount they can. Invite them to write their generous gift on their mini bid paddle and stick their paddle into the container.
This approach provides a moving, visual illustration of the impact your donors have on your nonprofit and the community. Looking around the room, your donors will see all the paddles standing up in the containers and they’ll understand how impactful their donations really are. It’s a wonderful activity that the entire room can engage in at one time, keeping the communal nature of the Fund-A-Need alive.
Having no set giving levels allows for donors to feel welcome to give any amount they can. The experience becomes purely about the donor’s connection to the nonprofit and what they feel comfortable giving.
Your auctioneer is free to make the ask multiple times during the evening without it feeling stilted. You can use the ask as a transition if you are moving your donors from one room to another. You can use it as a transition between other pieces of your event. You can end with a final ask inviting anyone who hasn’t already given to do so, and providing extra mini bid paddles for those who are moved to give a second time.
I particularly like this approach when it comes to private schools, which have some of the largest wealth gaps of any of the organizations I work with. Some parents pay full tuition for their children and some children attend on full scholarships, so there’s a wide range of giving capacities. When the school throws it’s annual gala, who is supposed to come? Only the wealthy parents? Or, do you encourage everyone to come and have a good time regardless of what they can give?
I think you know where I’m going with this.
Event fundraising, especially auctions and Fund-A-Needs, can feel very elitist. Sometimes, at large Fund-A-Needs with high giving levels, those who can’t give very much are uncomfortable when a major donor gives $50,000. They may feel that their $50 donation is pointless next to someone who can part with such a large sum. This approach removes the potential for elitism and creates the exact same experience for all donors, while presenting them with a visual representation of the impact of their giving.
Looking to have a Fund-A-Need at your next event? Give the Centerpiece Fund-A-Need a try and let me know how it goes.