Thank you very much for your email. I have been offered many products to do fundraising, and I always decline.
My thing is this: We are a small nonprofit organization for the visual and performing arts that in the city of Homestead, Florida. A nonprofit fine arts gallery with a studio and a patio for workshops, art making and jazz jams.
We took our own money to open this place, and we have been striving to be self-sufficient with charitable contributions as a plus.
In terms of fundraising, I don’t want to sell chocolate or tea or little stuffed animals. If I sell products not related to the arts, it would be harder for me to sell art or art services now and later.
Your series of virtual lectures is great!
Any thoughts for us?
Natalie M. Prieto
The Children’s Gallery and Arts Center, Inc. Homestead, Florida,
Thanks so much for writing! I really appreciate the time you took to get in touch. This is exactly the type of response I was hoping for when I wrote the email!
I found your website online, and I love your organization! If I didn’t live so far away (northern Michigan) I’d want to definitely be involved. It looks eclectic, diverse, fascinating, creative, everything that really gets me going!
Now, from just reading your email and looking at your site, I don’t have a ton to go on, but I have had some initial thoughts. Of course, I don’t know exactly what you’ve tried or what your style is, but I’ll share some ideas anyway. Take them as you want.
The most important thing I see is that you absolutely have to stick to who you are. Don’t go anywhere near crappy product sales like cookies or candy. You’ll never make any real money doing that, and that’s not at all who you are. You’ll cheapen your brand if you go that way. Take advantage of the unique product you put out on a daily basis- original art. The truer you are to your organization’s personality and mission, the better you will do.
Also, I think that any fundraising activity you undertake should have a primary goal of gaining the attention of generous (wealthy!) donors in your area. Therefore, all your fundraisers need to be unique and eye-popping, so that you can attract the attention of every TV news outlet and every major newspaper. You are lucky to be so close to a major city, so there will be lots of opportunities for potentially generous donors to be moved by your cause. If you want to land those big fish, you’ve got to get in the boat!
Also, I don’t know how developed a “brand” you have. I’m talking about a logo, a motto, a mission statement, a color scheme, a mascot, whatever. You’ll want to prominently include your branding in all your fundraising events and materials, so the public comes to recognize you by that brand. It will identify you and set you apart from other organizations. That should all be ready and in place BEFORE the news vans show up.
You should also develop a really powerful “elevator speech” that you can deliver by heart and with emotion at the drop of a hat. It should encapsulate your organization’s mission, success, and vision. But, it can only be 30 seconds to a minute at the most- basically the length of an elevator ride! If you’re going to be on the news and in the paper, you’ve got to have that pitch ready.
As far as specific fundraisers go, you have to do things that only YOUR organization can do. Here are seven ideas that would capitalize on your unique selling position and reflect your group’s dynamic personality (way better than selling tubs of cookie dough ever would!)
1. Everyone can do a golf outing. Everyone can sell brick pavers. But, you are artists. You can be a little edgy, a little out there. For instance, I saw on your website that you teach “Life” drawings. What about producing a calendar with stunning pictures of models covered only in body paint so “nothing” is really visible? Obviously, you’d want to make it artistic and tasteful. But, with the right vision and execuition, that could be a really popular selling item, both in your facility and online. It would certainly gain a lot of attention!
2. Another idea you could try is to form a temporary partnership with another local non-profit that serves an at-risk or a special needs population, and you could provide a week of art therapy for the clients. That could certainly get a lot of media attention and hopefully catch the eye of a wealthy donor or two, in addition to providing a valuable service to people in need. There are all sorts of benefits to such a collaboration. It’s truly a win-win.
3. Here’s a fun one: Your group could try to set some kind of Guinness world record relating to art. Off the top of my head, I don’t know what kind of art record you could set, but I’m sure there are all sorts of things you could do that would get media coverage. Maybe something like the most people ever on one location making tie-dye t-shirts. You could also raise money in various ways at the site of the record breaking attempt, as well, with your organization’s t-shirts, hoodies, hats. etc.
4. I was also very intrigued by the live jazz performances you have at your facility. Have you ever considered recording a CD from the jazz musicians who play there? You could sell it in the center and online. It wouldn’t make a ton of money, but it would help with your branding. Or, the CD could also make an excellent promotional piece for you to distribute as a thank you to donors or as an incentive for becoming a member of the organization.
5. Also, have you ever considered selling the naming rights to your various spaces? The patio, the studio, the gallery? You can sell those on an annual recurring basis. This may sound a little bit like “selling out”, but if it pays the electric bills, I’d happily visit the “Macy’s Jazz Patio”
6. Oh, here’s an idea I had while thinking about your situation. What about holding a REVERSE CAR WASH? I’ve never actually seen this before, but I’m sure some group must have tried this, or something like this, somewhere. Your team would set up in a store’s parking lot and instead of washing cars, you offer to “beautify” them with washable painted flowers, peace signs, designs, etc. You can “tattoo” a car for $10 each or something like that! I don’t know how many people would want their cars painted, but it would only be temporary. I’m sure teen-agers and parents with little kids would love it! Imagine how fun that would be in your town. Seeing all those decorated cars!
7. I had one more idea that hit me this morning. You could develop a signature line of refurbished dishware and furniture. Go to local thrift shops and garage sales and buy up a bunch of good, but plain looking items. Then take them back to your studio, clean them up and then paint them in really bright colors and fun designs. Each piece would be unique and branded by your organization. You could package them together or sell them individually online, in your facility, or even on consignment in other stores. They could be very exclusive.
Again, I don’t know what you’ve already tried, and I don’t know your community. But, I do know that you have a special place that was built by real people with passion. I say double down on your passion as much as you can. You can’t go wrong that way!
Alright, let me know what you think. I’ll be curious to follow your progress!
PS. And, stay away from the cookie dough and candy!
NOTE: If you have fundraising questions, I would be happy to try and answer them the best I can. Please feel free to get in touch! Leave a comment or send an email to me at email@example.com.