On Fundraising: Get Your Community Involved

Experts provide advice and experience on how to advance fundraising efforts.

By Matt Misichko

IStock 173931025

It’s considered impolite to ask for money, but for most associations, it’s a necessity. Fundraising isn’t unique to non-profits (just look at the startup world), but mission-based work certainly changes the way you approach it.

Whether your organization is just starting to develop fundraising campaigns, or you’re looking to breathe new life into your strategy, read on. We interviewed three individuals from different areas of the National Concierge Association (NCA): the founder and CEO, and two chapter presidents, who spoke on current trends in fundraising and offered tips for any association looking to raise money.

FORUM: Could you provide some background on your organization’s history of fundraising?

Sara-Ann Kasner, founder/CEO, National Concierge Association (NCA): “The NCA has been in existence for about 23 years. We have raised funds for both the organization and for philanthropic purposes. We have been all over the map with our philanthropic events at our various chapters. Currently, each of the chapters design their own event. For example, in Phoenix, the NCA Arizona Chapter has been instrumental in raising funds every year for the Fetch Foundation, an organization focused on assisting rescue dogs. The chapter plans a huge fundraiser, and members of the community donate items such as mountain bikes, TVs, jewelry and more. They invite members from the community in to understand what concierges do for a living, which creates valuable networking opportunities. They also hold a silent auction.

The Minnesota Chapter does a lot of fundraising and philanthropic work with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The chapter raises thousands of dollars for St. Jude throughout the year. But just as frequently as these events assist in a philanthropic manner, a portion of the funds helps the organization send their team leaders to an annual educational conference. Each of our chapters has its own cause.

We do not focus on a charitable cause from a national level. We encourage our chapters to get involved philanthropically and get involved in the community. When we are talking about fundraising as an organization, this is how it is structured for us.”

I can’t think of any better advice for any organization than to find people who are connected and willing to help.

Sara-Ann Kasner, Founder/CEO, National Concierge Association

FORUM: During the year, what do your fundraising goals look like, and what are some examples of the fundraisers that your organization is currently undertaking?

Joyce Fong, president, NCA Chicago Chapter: “We hold regular meetings and we choose one charitable organization to work with for the year. This year happens to be “Chi Gives Back,” which assists teachers by raising money and gathering items that teachers need in their classrooms. We are doing a toy drive with them this year and an annual auction at the Hospitality & Tourism Summit. We have been partnered with them for many years and they give us space to hold our silent auction. We have raised between $10,000 and $17,000 each year.”

Anthony Curtis, president, NCA Washington, D.C. Chapter: “Our goals are determined by trying to raise money each year to send board members to the annual educational conference. Our chapter has a larger board than some other chapters, and we try to raise enough money to make sure everyone can attend the conference.

The past four years, we’ve held a Bachelor/Bachelorette Auction. Last year, we added a Fall Fundraiser, which was a party cruise. We had an affiliate member donate a yacht that held about 80 people. The affiliate provided an open bar and the only thing we had to pay for was the food. It was a complete win-win on our end. This year, we also held a ‘Day Party’ fundraiser—we basically took over a club during the day on a Saturday and celebrated as if it were midnight. When we have our fundraisers, we aren’t only raising money for our annual educational conference, but also for a specific charity. With the ‘Day Party,’ we were raising money for the American Cancer Society. We did a ‘Pink and White’ party and encouraged everyone to wear pink for breast cancer awareness. We had a silent auction at the event, as well. A lot of our members reached out to their connections to get hotel stays and restaurant gift cards as auction items.

We also hosted a Halloween costume party as a fall fundraiser. It was at a club and we had several financial sponsors and donations to the silent auction. We got to keep all the money that came through the door and the club didn’t charge us anything, which was great for our budget.”

FORUM: What changes have you seen most in the ways organizations raise funds now? Is there more reliance on technology?

SAK: “When we started out, not every concierge service had access to the internet—believe it or not. Also, because our industry has changed and technology has now become more prevalent, we are able to do things like set up an electronic kiosk where we input information about an organization and raise funds electronically. We are also able to set up fundraisers online. A lot of what we do involves GoFundMe pages.

This allows us to reach a wider audience who can contribute and substantially increase total donations. Years ago, it all relied on having an event and hopefully enough people would show up and spend money. Now, you can combine events with technology so that even if someone is not able to attend, they can say ‘I would like to donate $100, $1,000 or $5,000’ and because it’s electronic, you can be assured that your money is going to that cause. I am completely in favor of it.”

JF: “For the silent auction, we had tried to use more technology, but it didn’t seem to really work for us. We tried to do an online auction, and I think we had difficulty creating exposure and communication about the event.”

AC: “The cruise event was the first time that we used technology to raise funds online. We previously only allowed tickets to be purchased at the door. EventBrite has a component where you can purchase a ticket online when you register, so that has been a great addition. We really push the events through social media, like Instagram and Facebook. The effectiveness of social media has definitely increased—the only thing we did previously was email flyers for events and rely on word-of-mouth marketing. These aren’t bad tactics, but our engagement and participation went to a different level when we started using social media.”

FORUM: For an association that is contemplating fundraising for the first time, what pieces of advice would you give?

SAK: “One thing that comes to mind is getting like-minded folks involved and tapping into people who are very resourceful. We’re lucky at NCA because concierges are world-champion networkers by nature.

I can’t think of any better advice for any organization than to find people who are connected and willing to help. It is a matter of reaching out, selling the product and believing in the cause. People are always wondering ‘How did you get Mr. ABC to contribute that?’ Largely, it’s word-of-mouth and being connected to people who can afford to do so. Find volunteers who can make connections with others naturally and who are resourceful.”

JF: : “Start early and stay organized.”

AC: “Give yourself enough time for preparation. Make sure you have a solid team together that is committed. If people are assigned to do particular jobs, you have to trust them to do those jobs. All of our team members are association members and often board members.

It’s also important to make sure your fundraiser is relevant and appealing. We stopped doing previous events because they weren’t attractive anymore to the relative market. For example, we previously set up a wine tour where we bussed people out to the Virginia suburbs for a day of wine tasting at one or two vineyards. Now in downtown D.C., with the increase of wine events, the question was ‘Why do I need to pay to be transported to a winery when they are having this wine event right down the street?’ Our event was no longer relevant, so we changed it.”

FORUM: Does your organization use its fundraising campaign to serve as notice to others in the community that the association exists and you are doing good things for the community?

SAK: “Yes, and it helps when you tie yourself to a cause and one that makes sense to people. Asking people to donate because ‘We want to send lots of concierges to a specific conference or event’ isn’t easy. But when we tie ourselves to a cause like St. Jude, people relate and give more easily.”

JF: “I have seen an increase in exposure for our organization through these campaigns. These organizations also promote what the NCA Chicago Chapter does for them. We don’t necessarily see a membership boost because our membership tends to be somewhat specific for concierges, but there are other benefits. We also have affiliate companies who provide goods and services to the concierges. We feel that our dollars and our assistance better help at the local level.”

Big Benefits: The Association Forum Foundation raises money through donations to help fund scholarships and education for association professionals. For more information, visit associationforum.org/foundation.

About the Author

Matt Misichko is an associate in the Chicago office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP, and can be reached at Matt.misichko@btlaw.com.

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