Shhh…I have a Secret…

03 Jun


Every day it seems, I get phone calls and emails from all over the United States asking me how to do this or what’s the secret to do that.  I talk to all of our Fundraising Consultants constantly, giving them the “Inside Track” to a successful Charity Fundraiser.  There are a few key aspects that absolutely will spell “Success” for a fundraising event and after careful consideration; I thought I would share them with you.

I am going to share two (2) of the key’s with you in this Blog.  If you’re reading this, then you must have a need to learn these.   When I find myself telling clients these, most time they want to argue or provide some alternate explanation why these don’t work for them.  However, one thing to keep in mind is, do you want to be successful or not?

Here are the secrets:

  1. Mass Ticket Sales:

Every single fundraising event wants to sell out, filling each seat and more with people.  However, fundraising committee’s want to work very little to meet this goal.  Hard work and determination always is the absolute key to selling an event out.  Furthermore, fundraising committee’s want to believe that advertisement or a very beautifully laid out Event Poster is the miracle cure – however, it is not.

Here is the perfect example, here is a video of a first year event, which SOLD OUT at 830 following the methods detailed here: – Watch and see.

The secret to selling out an event is….hand to hand ticket sales.  Here is what you must do to sell out an event:

1.  Quality Event – One of the keys to my fundraising success is…I plan events NOT as the organization, but as the attendee or guest.  What would I like to see, what would make me buy a ticket to go and finally, what kind of items would I spend my money on.

No one wants to attend a “hum-drum” fundraising event.  No one wants to go to a place or  venue which is not clean, the food is okay at best and the items available are more like a flea market.

If your goal is to host a highly profitable fundraiser, you must host it in a very nice venue.  Furthermore, you must ensure your guests are treated to an excellent meal in a clean, hospitable atmosphere.  For instance, recently a client was planning on hosting an event at a catering facility near Baltimore.  While I was speaking to a few friends about their event, they asked where it was being held.  After telling them, they refused to attend based solely on the venue.  What’s important to keep in mind, both of these individuals are very well off and love to show their wealth at charity fundraisers.

Also, even though I live in the North East, I can tell you that if you chose to host your event in a “not so nice” venue, with “ok” food – OR – have the fundraiser in the basement of a building and you were able to get a friend to donate food; don’t expect the high rollers to attend.  Remember the adage “Build it and they will come” from Field of Dreams?  That works here to…construct an incredible event, with great food etc. and believe me, they will come.

If you are worried about the ticket price being higher than your normal event…then what kind of money did you raise at your normal event venue?  Do you think you are attracting the wrong crowd; the right venue is most likely part of the problem.  Change it.

In order to attract A LOT of people, you must have it in a venue with great food that everyone will love to be a part of.  Generally, everyone loves a night out – Great Dinner, drinks, great time.  Now imagine this all at your event.

Now this statement will most likely make someone mad, however,  remember I am the one writing it.  If you host your charity fundraising event in the basement of the church and are having hamburgers, hotdogs and potato salad.  Don’t expect to raise much – it’s a simple fact.  I know hundreds of people won’t attend these types of fundraisers simply because of that.  Ok, you can say then “Well then we don’t want those type of people there anyway” …ok to that too but honestly, why are you doing the fundraiser?  I already asked this question once – do you want it to be the best it can possibly be or just ok?

1.  How to properly sell a “Sell Out” – First and foremost – NO TICKETS SOLD AT THE DOOR!!!  A sold out event ALWAYS sells out prior to the event.   Does an event which you can walk up and buy a ticket sound like the event you want to be at?  Seriously, if you can buy tickets at the door…do you really think that sounds exciting?  No way, no how.

There must be urgency about why people should buy their tickets early.  If you are heading to a sell out and want to sell out, then that is the way you should approach it.  Tell people that is what is going to happen and that is why they should buy early.

Hype up your event, tell people how good it’s going to be…be excited about it, let people hear it…nobody wants to miss a great event.  Also, why do you think I refer to a fundraiser as an event?  Man has this caught on across the U.S.  The simple fact is, there is a banquet or dinner on every street corner…this is different, it’s an “Event”!!!

The bigger it is, the better it’s going to be…the more people will want to be there.

Now, don’t say that “No Tickets at the door” and then go out and except that statement from people.  People use the statement “Oh I’ll be there, I’ll pay at the door” yeah and I have a water front property in Arizona to sell you.

Stick to the plan!!!  If you can have people pay at the door, then the people you want, aren’t going to be there – believe me, it’s a fact.  I have seen it time and time and time again, no pre-sold tickets is a recipe for D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R!!!

Now to answer the question of exactly HOW YOU SELL OUT AN EVENT – You absolutely positively must get on the phone, call everyone.  Go to their houses, talk to as many people as humanly possible about your event.  As you are talking, when they say they want to come, get their information and sell them their tickets right then and there!!!  Sell entire tables.  When somebody says they will in a few days, call them back.  Go to wherever they are and sell them tickets.

Hand Sales is the one and only key to a sell-out.  There is no other method that is proven as hand selling tickets.  You absolutely must go through your rolodex and call everyone.  Go through you entire phone, your email addresses, call and talk to as many people as possible.  Don’t be afraid to talk to the guy standing across from you pumping gas.  Talk to people at work…everywhere.  If you do not do this and rely on “Fancy” advertisement, you will be sorry.  Everyone wants to believe that advertisement is the key…NOPE, hand selling tickets is.

There is no need for me to go any farther on this topic – because if you do not personally contact everyone, you won’t sell out.

Selling an event totally out is like putting together a puzzle.  It takes hand selling tickets, it takes hype, it takes advertisement…it takes “HARD WORK AND DEDICATION.”

    In the movie the Untouchables, Sean Connery was lying on the floor in his apartment, about ready to die from a gunshot wound.  With his last breath, he whispered to Kevin Costner perhaps the best line I have ever heard in a motion picture which perfectly states what I am saying above.  Sean Connery’s line was:

                    “What are you prepared to do?”

Ask yourself that question even before you start planning your fundraiser, what are you prepared to do to ensure it is a success?  Seriously, are you prepared to work hard and dedicate yourself to its success?  Or will you blame it’s failure on some other issue.   They key is you.

  1. Large Volunteer Committee – When the thought first enters your mind about hosting a fundraiser or Benefit, the first thing you should do is start attracting as many people to help as humanly possible.  Once you have ten people, ten people who actually are going to show up for your first planning meeting, ask those people to also ask ten people – you will go from ten to thirty.

Here is why a large committee is part of the key to a sold out Fundraising Event – Each person knows at least ten (10) people who will buy a table of ten (10).  So using the math, 30 people means “AT LEAST” 300 people.  However, some of these 30 committee members will be “Ticket selling machines.”  I know of one person who personally sold 330 tickets himself for an event which ended up with 640 people.

How do you build a large committee?  Ask everyone, your family, friends, people at work, people you see every day…ask everyone.

Also, a large committee will bring in a ton of donations to your event…another key aspect which I will touch on in my next blog.

2.  Big Spenders:

Recently I was having a discussion with a client and was informing her about the items she should have in her live auction.  Her response was “I don’t think we will have people there who would be interested in traveling out of state.”  Now, you may think there isn’t anything wrong with her statement, however, I do.   Read between the lines, that means that there will not be anyone in the room who can spend the money needed to sell an out of state excursion.  So what is the cure?

1.  Attracting the right people – If you want to attract the right people, first you must follow the steps above.  Then go to the people you think will are your target market.  Ask everyone about the people who would be big spenders at event.  Go to them, hype up your event and SELL SELL SELL.

2.  Auction Items – A highly successful event must have incredible hard to find items.  People want to believe that charity attendees walk in the room with a blind fold on and just throw around money – that is simply not the case.  People come to your event and if they find something that they find attractive or exciting, then they will spend fact, if it’s very attractive, they will spend more than you could ever expect.  You must have incredible excursions, incredible items there to excite bidding, to entice the “High Rollers” to want to first buy a ticket or a table then to spend or donate their money for it.

                 a.  Attracting Incredible Items – There are varying different ways to acquire High End or exciting items, but you already have the solution to this issue right in front of you – BW Unlimited’s “No Risk Auction Items.”

In every single crowd, there are Sports Fans.  No matter what kind of event you are hosting, there are fans for your local teams and players.  Furthermore, these items are investments – over time, the prices increase.  People will bid through the roof if there is a Sports Item there, especially from a very well-known or relevant athlete.  For instance, in Baltimore, anything with Ray Lewis’s name or likeness is a major hit.  Now, if it’s autographed…forget it, watch out.

These items are provided to your event at well below wholesale, plus at “No Risk” and your organizations keeps 100% of the profit.

Next, our Charity Travel Packages and Hunting & Fishing Excursions take a hum drum auction to a heavy hitter in no time.  Start telling people about these items and you will be the talk of the town.  Everyone will want to know how you were able to get an autographed helmet or jersey, a signed Guitar or Album, Jewelry etc.   Just smile and keep walking.

Also, it does not matter what kind of event you are hosting, you should always have items for women, especially if there are women in the crowd.  “Papa” isn’t spending a dime on that hunting trip of a lifetime or that signed football, if “Momma” doesn’t agree or have something there she has her sights set on.  Even if women’s aren’t there, men love to buy a piece of jewelry for their wives or girlfriends as a surprise – it also lessens the blow when she finds out he spent a lot of money on a favorite sports item.

When selling your event, you and your committee should tell potential guests of the exciting items you have there for them to bid on – they will tell their friends, so on and so on.  That will also get them geared up to how much they plan to spend that night and how high they are going to bid.

Out of State or sometimes, out of the country excursions are what attracts the big spenders and take your Church Basement event to the Taj Mahal.


Everything you read above is proven and time tested over 18 years with millions of dollars raised for charities all across North America.  However, ignoring these suggestions or Rules for a Successful fundraiser have also been seen, with low ticket sales and low producing fundraisers.

You be the judge and make your own decision.  We would love to help you with your next fundraising event no matter the size or the location.  Contact us today, review our website at and let’s help you host a fantastic, high impact, highly profitable fundraiser…one that everyone will enjoy – especially your organization.

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Posted by on June 3, 2012 in Uncategorized


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