Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Case Study: Can you change up the Dessert Dash and still make money?

Post two of this blog series pointed out what an organization missing by not mixing up annual fundraising events. Bottom line is that you are missing crucial fundraising opportunities by working the same party plan. It is easy to be critical and harder to be creative so today, I offer up one example on how to rethink a successful giving element in an evening of fundraising.

Case Study: The Dessert Dash

By way of example, I offer up one of the current traditions at our event that you will also find at many fundraising events -- the Dessert Dash. Tables bid on desserts (home-made and professionally-made), and compete against each other to raise the most money. Winning that bidding session gives you the right to run to the dessert table and grab your favorite dessert.

Our Dessert Dash raised almost 13% of the total raised at the live event in 2011. The Dessert Dash takes a total of 15 minutes to execute (bid, report, dash for your dessert). This giving opportunity had 75% of the attendees participating. That's pretty spectacular! This one element is so successful -- are you crazy to try to change that?

Seeing the Dessert Dash with a singular view hurts the party planners and ties their hands. Looking at the Dessert Dash from all the different angles to try to understand the basics behind this giving opportunity will allow the party planners to leverage that type of opportunity but turn it into something that works with that year's plan.

Why did so many of the attendees give to the Dessert Dash?
  • Do they love dessert?
  • Do they love to compete?
  • Do they love to gamble?
  • Do they get to match more of the donation with corporate matching because the item is so cheap ($5/person who participated in our case)?
  • Do they feel that they have to participate?
  • Do they have another motive that we aren't considering?
In what amounts did they give?
  • Was there a popular donation amount?
  • How many "big" givers?
  • What were the average amounts given in different categories (e.g. small, medium, big)?
  • How many people fall into the different categories of givers?
What are the key charactartistics of the Dessert Dash?
  • Peer pressure with group bidding.
  • Competitive bidding between tables.
  • Bidding for something desirable.
  • Champions easily come forward (table captain or rabble-rouser).
  • Completed early in the live event (right after dinner) so people haven't bought that big donation item yet.
Going through this exercise should give event organizers a good deal of information about this one giving opportunity. It should also make it easier for planners to incorporate a similar one that works with their plan.

By way of example and staying with the food theme, here are some new ideas on how this could be done:

  • Have the event catered table by table by different local restaurants and each table bids for different catered meals (e.g. top donating table or group would get the most expensive dinner and least might get deli sandwiches or the like).
  • If the plan is to skip a sit down dinner, hold the Dessert Dash by classroom or pre-arranged or randomly arranged teams.
  • Chinese Auction Dessert Dash - Sell dessert tickets and set up fishbowls next to the desserts. Organizers pull 8 tickets per dessert (or one to do it by the dessert) to decide who gets a slice (the more tickets one person or table purchases and puts into a fishbowl the higher their chances of getting what they want).
  • Have a competition to see which table is first in line at a buffet or to be served.
  • Have a wine competition instead of dessert.

Of course, replacing a Dessert Dash only requires that the key characteristics be similar so forget the food connection and provide anything super desirable and appropriate for the evening. It could be a competition individually or by group for anything. Last licks on the Silent Auction items, preferential parking on campus, skipping a job for the next parent event or VIP seating at the next campus event -- anything wanted by a good portion of the community.

If people knew that elements of a fundraising event were going to be changed up year after year, they would attend to see what was going to happen.  Changing up old elements is also a boon for organizers because there is more flexibility and no creativity constraints. Do you do a Dessert Dash at your fundraiser or have you mixed it up lately? Tell me about it below.

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