ALG Quiz Night - Charity Fundraising

Fundraising with Friends – a Quiz Night

I remember our first Quiz Night well. At Nothing Hill Kitchen, a to-do list extracted out of some fundraising website, quiz questions extracted from another fundraising website and not much more. We focused on the event only and had no secondary donations generation. We ran a fun night but limited in terms of charity fundraising.

The Eight Edition

This week, we ran our eight editions, on repeat in an Italian pizzeria for the last 5 rounds. We try to run the Quiz Night every 6 months. Whilst the organisation gets easier each time, nothing gets easier about attracting a good crowd or ensure a good charity fundraising at the event.  Our goal is to fundraise but also to keep people close to our charity in a fun and engaging way.

As we wrap up from a successful night, I put pen to paper on what works to make it so. Here are my 2 cent tips for a small scale charity fundraiser.

Start Early

Whilst we are able to organise this on short notice, we have to ensure we decide to go ahead with enough time to avoid last-minute crunches. A few points to bear in mind:

  • Date: you can’t just set a date, if that is what you are thinking. You need to check for conflicts, such as school holidays, big sports events or the like. We have had to postpone a year where we failed to notice there was still a world cup game going. Part of the date decision is also about the day of the week. It will depend on your target audience if you want to do a calm Sunday evening for those that want to hang out and have no kids, or a weekday for the ones that reserve weekends for family and no longer work past 7pm. Tough choice.
  • Venue: the choice of venue is a big one and we have some times failed either because of food or value. It needs to be solid quality, not necessarily high cuisine,  and enough that people don’t think too much of it. At Rosso Pomodoro we found a solution with a decent budget and food, very supportive staff on their side, and flexibility on dates. We recognise we probably need to make a change soon, but this venue has gone for a while absent of negative reactions, which is part of what we need.

Rally people

This is as hard as it gets. We sometimes have early traction, other days we are stressed to the last minute debating whether there is enough critical mass. To run a charity event – you need people!

  • Invite early – the London scene means people are planning theatre and restaurant months out so you need to get ahead. Again it will depend on target crowd – some people may be travelling for work during the week and cancel last minute. Others will travel for fun on the weekends and will know long in advance.
  • Invite multiple times – email is a jam these days and it is hard to get through. Moreover, we know our event is not a priority for many, so we seek to make it easier. We try and send at least 3 notices in the month running up to the event, if not more. Sometimes people may say they will go and buy later, so they may require a little prompt so they actually do so.
  • Use multiple means – not everyone responds to email these days. I have quite a few emails on my Gmail that I want to get to but I just take my time. It is important to find how people like to communicate – WhatsApp, FB messenger, Instagram, and be present in all those means. We have tried location targetted paid adds, but found no success from there, in case you are wondering.

Find key anchors

You don’t want the dinner to be just a bunch of friends. I mean, it is nice if your friends are there – I personally give double brownie points to my friends that attend the quizzes. But it is even nicer if your friends’ friends are also there. Even better, friends or colleagues of your Ambassadors! And people if you have never seen in your life!

  • Friends of friends ensure that your friends have fun. They will also quickly feel close to the charity as your friends are endorsing it. They are likely to be in one of the noisy tables and even try some cheating! Because they are having fun with friends! Most importantly, they are likely to come back.
  • Friends of Ambassadors or people you have never met ensure you are spreading your network. They can be people you would not necessarily meet day to day, and if your Ambassadors do it right, there will be a strong endorsement from them. They have chosen to represent your charity over any others, and that means a vote of confidence. In charity, trust matters.

By the way, if you end up with unfilled tables, make sure you spend some time thinking about those people and how you will match them to other open tables. It is always a bit awkward for people to sit with someone they never met but again you can make it a great social event for everyone and maybe introduce some new relationships! No-one said you can’t make friends at a charity fundraising event.

Have multiple ways to ask for money

That is something we have not done at the beginning and it made us wonder if these nights were worth it. We were doing it more for the social and engagement part but we could not really measure the long term effects of that.

In time, we have been course correcting and now offer multiple possibilities for people to participate. The fundraising at the event now almost doubles the net ticket value. It is a charity fundraising event after all!

  • Raffles – this is the most effective option Who does not like a good raffle? We display the items and everyone gets a list of what is at stake. We go table by table at every break and there is barely a handful of people who don’t get any at the end. Peer pressure does wonders and don’t forget to the generous anchors in each table as the amount they buy will determine what the average of that table is. Make sure you have a good mix of men and women good, beyond the wine bottles and the spa voucher. And a lesson from this last one – make sure you have something – large or small – that everyone hopes to get. It keeps the emotions up at sweepstake time.
  • Quiz Bonus – a few quizzes back our Quiz Master spontaneously added double points opportunities. In exchange for a small donation; you get to double your points for the next round. Whilst not a lot of people liked to get it in the beginning, it now became a must and people are now negotiating how to get more. A few variations we tried included i) 5-pound breaks or ii) 5-pound phone cheating penalty. We may grow this later one a bit more for the next one.
  • Straight donations – weird right, to just ask people for money in exchange for nothing! We are not very forceful about it but include ‘mission items’ in all our raffle lists, where we show different suggested amounts of donations for the different projects. In the last 3 Charity Quiz Events I have asked less of these, as I focused on pledges (next point) but it does not hurt. And remember to include a donation link for those that can’t attend. Always share it with those that bother telling you that they can’t come. Often people will donate the ticket amount;
  • Pledges – this has been my new focus for the last few quizzes. Each seat now has a small pledge card that people can fill in and make their pledge as little as 5 pounds a month. This regular loyal base of supporters is something we have not worked in the past (other than as event attendees) and it gives me great satisfaction to come home with filled in pledge cards each time.

Tell people why they are there

  • The speech: in the beginning, I did not really prepare a proper speech. In time, I have come to realize that people expected it so I might as well prepare and follow my own advice. This is the opportunity to explain to people why they are there beyond the fun, the raffles and the social. This is the 5 minutes you get to create the most impact on those attending, so make it count.
    • Whether they have been there before or they are first time attendees, words will resonate with people in different ways and at different times. This time, making it personal and emotional was too easy, in light of the recent cyclone in Mozambique. Even though I was not making a specific appeal for it, it was all very real to people;
  • The impact: ensure you explain at different times what their money is doing. Ideally, when you start (e.g. How much people have given just by being there); when you are halfway, in order to incentivise some more donations to keep coming and remind them it is all about the money; and at the end, to congratulate everyone on a job well done. And don’t speak in pounds only, make sure you convert that in real impact. For us, we talked about the over 300 children we could now give a meal a day for one month after that successful night.

Thank people and ask for feedback

  • Thank people: round up the numbers and send out a direct note again to remind people of how good the night was and what you will do with the results. Allow people ways to stay connected (do you have a blog or Facebook page?). Allow people to remember they did not do the pledge card at the restaurant. And hopefully, leave them with a positive spirit to come back next time.
  • Ask for feedback: we had done this informally last year and got a few thoughts, but too little to make much of it. This time, we had survey forms distributed to all the tables and asked people for an extra 2 minutes to share how we can improve. As we are still processing through, the fact people give that feedback is very positive. We got at least 20 in an event with less than 50 people so I find that a positive. Means people want to help you get better, so use the opportunity!

Follow Up

We have historically been a big zero on this. Other than inviting people to another event, we have rarely done direct follow-ups after an event. This is part of our 2019 change. Do I know exactly what we will be doing? No, not yet, but I am certain we will come up with a few good ideas on systematic personalised follow-up so that, in time, more people become regulars – donors and attendees. I am hoping my next interaction with them is not an invite to another Quiz Night!

Charity Fundraising Events

Fundraising is all about growth – it allows you to do more. We have not always been a fundraising-focused charity, with a lot of our time focused on project management and the field. As we try and stabilize a few funding sources, especially in the UK, we know we can’t depend on small events for our existence, we need more. But we also know that these small events can be a great way to grow your network and keep people engaged.

We will experiment more this year, I am always looking for growth.

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