3 Pricing Strategies for Your Fundraising Event

There are many components to pricing your fundraising event right. A few weeks ago, I talked about strategies for pricing your event tickets. Today, however, I’d like to talk about other pricing components for your event, such as how do you price your silent auction, live auction, paddle raiser and additional fundraising opportunities?  These are questions that every charity event planner grapples with. On one hand you want your event to reach its maximum fundraising potential, after all, it IS a fundraising event. On the other hand, you don’t want to nickel and dime your donors to death. That strategy can backfire and turn off potential donors from donating altogether.

Let’s begin by introducing a simple analogy when it comes to determining how to price items. Think of a wedding registry. If you were going to a friend’s wedding and they sent you their registry with items priced at: $20, $50 or $75, which item would you buy? Either the $25 or the $50 is the most common answer. Now imagine if that same friend sent you their registry with items priced at: $50, $100 or $150, which item would you buy then? Mostly likely you would buy either the $50 or the $100 item. You are there to support your friend and buy what they need or want. A registry works in general because it removes the ambiguous request for a gift and allows your friend to feel good knowing they got you the right gift.

At the end of the day, they can spend what they want but they always appreciate a guide. Likewise, your guests appreciate clear calls to action and the opportunity to decide how they will give. With this concept in mind, let’s review some pricing strategies for your event:

(1) Price Small, Get Small:  

Remember, this is a fundraising event benefiting an amazing cause. People that attend intend on showing some sort of support for your organization. With people in the mindset that they WILL be donating to your organization, you need to price your minimum threshold for donations correctly to ensure you hit your fundraising goals.

Let’s take a drawing or raffle, for example. If you price the tickets at $10 per raffle ticket, then donors make this purchase feeling good that they’ve “done their part.” After all, they gave you exactly what you asked for.  While $10 is still $10 for your organization, it doesn’t raise the kind of dollars you need to keep your organization alive and growing, and it hardly covers your costs to hosting that guest.

Instead, consider making your minimum opportunity drawing ticket $100 or more. This way guests who attend your event are guided to give the appropriate donation amount ($100) for your event and organization. If your event is upscale (i.e. steak dinner and black tie), consider your minimum threshold at $200 or higher.

If you’re worried your attendees will be insulted or turned off by a higher minimum, publicize “prices” ahead of time. This gives them time to consider if they want to come to your event, or if they want to support your cause in another way.

(2) Too Many Choices = Analysis Paralysis:  

While you want to give your donors many opportunities (and options) to support your organization, don’t give them too many choices or they will succumb to paralysis by analysis. Too many options can overload them and make their heads spin, leaving them to donate zilch in the end.

As an example, for your silent auction, the general rule of thumb is to have one item per five guests. If you have more items than this, consider packaging them together. Too many items is one of the largest fundraising mistakes since the lack of scarcity removes a sense of urgency with bidding and incites a bargain hunting mentality from guests. Additionally, too many choices overwhelms guests and leaves them unable to sift through all of the options in their brain, therefore, leaving them paralyzed. Even worse, your guests may be afraid to bid on silent auction items for fear of winning more than they budgeted to spend. Remember when in a boutique store, we are choosey and tend to really value the items we buy there. On the other hand, a flea market or garage sale makes us deal hunt and we often times don’t value our cheap purchases as much.

To add to this concept of not overloading guests, it’s important to pace – and space out – donation opportunities. For example, once a donor knows she won only two of the four silent auction items she bid on, she can then access her budget and see what she still has left to donate to the paddle raiser. Now would be a good time to present her with more opportunities for her to open her wallet and support your charity.

(3) You Get What You Give:  

Think about what kind of tone you want to set with guests. For example, if your event is a black tie affair complete with a steak dinner and chocolate fountain, then the type of guests you’ll attract will likely be larger donors.  Of course, with a more upscale setting, you’ll be putting forth more money upfront. Your strategy is that you’re willing to spend more in order to make more. On the other hand, if your event is a casual beer tasting in a park, then you’ll likely attract younger, perhaps less affluent crowd. In a sense, you invested less money in the event, so you may not raise as much.

Given this information, it’s very important to price your fundraising “asks” strategically. You may want to have additional giving opportunities ranging from $25 to $250 if your event is more casual, while a more upscale event might have opportunities ranging from $100 to $1,000. You may want to have $5,000 trips up for bid at the live auction for an upscale event, while you’ll likely want modestly-priced trips available at a casual fundraising event.

So What Do You Do?

When pricing tickets, auction items and additional fundraising opportunities, you want to meet your guests where they are AND still raise a lot of money for your organization. Hold your donors to a higher standard and allow them to decide if they can or cannot support you. By having higher minimum thresholds, limited, well-paced donation opportunities, and putting out a vibe that you’re serious about raising money, your charity will be set to host a successful fundraising event.

Remember, your end goal is to make money for your organization and fund the cause you deeply care about. Guide your donors to dig deep to support your cause when they attend your charity fundraising event. They are there to support and will appreciate the clear guidance you provide along the way!

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