There are many ways for small grassroots organizations to promote their fundraising events. I will explain a few approaches that will successfully work together.
Since 2005, I have had the privilege of planning events for some of the most effective, though humble organizations in Houston. Most of the events I organized were fundraisers that started without a budget. It is very difficult to plan events with little or no funds, but I have specialized in this for seven years.
As the one of the founders of Creative Women Unite (CWU), a grassroots organization that promotes an inter-generational, multi-ethnic movement of female artists in Houston, I continue to help plan events without a budget. Every year since 2007, CWU has organized events in celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. The main purpose of the events is to serve the organization’s mission and to support a worthy cause. This year the cause was the 2012 Houston Peace and Dignity Journey.
Over thirty artists participated and eight organizations cosponsored the most recent event. The successful event brought in a profit of over $1,200, while having no expenses. It is important to note that this event was only possible through broad community support and co-sponsorships.
Below are a few techniques that may assist any grassroots organization with their fundraising events.
PURPOSE AND WORKING WITH GROUPS: Make sure the lead organizers understand the purpose and are passionate about it. Planning events with little or no budget takes a lot of time and energy. It will be difficult to work in a group with people who don’t know the purpose and who may not agree. Make sure everyone is on the same page by reviewing the organization mission and goals.
NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS ARE A RESOURCE: Team up with a non-profit organization that aligns well with your mission and set up a transparent accounting process. Non-profit organizations can help small groups of people provide resources for a community event. Many non-profit organizations seek groups of people to provide programming that they are unable to facilitate because of being understaffed or they lack certain expertise.
For the past five years CWU has partnered with Women Healing and Empowering Women (WHEW), a reentry non-profit organization that addresses interconnected challenges women face such as former incarceration, homelessness, and domestic violence. Together CWU an WHEW has organized events around issues that effect women on a daily bases. As a grassroots organization, CWU has greatly benefited from WHEW’s non-profit status. We have increase our donations by providing a 501c3 tax number to our donors. CWU has also gathered more exposure with the help of WHEW. In return, CWU has provided extra programming for WHEW, as well as provided volunteer help and assists with promoting their events. Together we can provide more education and art programming to the community we are dedicated in serving.
Mark Larson and Bill Day at the Artery taking care of sound
BUILDING COMMUNITY: Collaborating with artists, collectives, businesses, and organizations will go a long way when your program needs free resources. Building healthy and strong relationships with individuals and groups within your community is essential for broadening your reach and gaining support in the community. Allowing local businesses and non-profit organizations to cosponsor your event by providing in-kind services, goods or marketing will help you better promote your cause. This establishes a support system that unites communities and helps promote awareness of issues that will positively impact society.
For the 2012 PDJ fundraiser in March, CWU partnered with a few organizations to gather resources and help better promote the event. The Artery, a local Houston art space, donated their space to us for the day. They also provided all the sound and lighting equipment as well as the technical engineers. Another one of our big sponsors was the Houston Institute for Culture (HIFC), a non-profit organizations that promotes cultural knowledge and experience through public arts and educational programs. HIFC helped us making the connection between the Artery and CWU. They also provided volunteers and grant funds to pay for marketing materials and beverages. The help that these organization provided was the reason the event ran smooth and successful.
INVOLVING ARTISTS: Artists and other creative people will attract an audience. It is important to provide a venue for artists to express themselves while promoting your cause. Many artists that are passionate about creating positive change within their communities share a similar message and are willing to offer their art for free. It is also important to acknowledge that many artists make their living with their art and to continuously ask them for free services may be an insult. Make sure you are able to offer networking opportunities or free publicity in exchange. You may want to share a commission with them for sales of their work.
HAVING FAITH: It is difficult to offer your time and energy on an ongoing basis if you feel you are not receiving anything in return. Having faith that your work is making a positive impact in your community will give you the energy and dedication to continue moving forward. Surround yourself with people who truly believe in your cause and who will provide positive re-enforcement through their support of your efforts.