"There was a moment in the planning process when Jo and I both looked at each other and said, 'Just screw it. You write out a check. I'll write out a check.' Then, we realized it's bigger than that. It's not just about the money."
- Pat Camuto, PIH Engage Southern Connecticut
Our network is unique in that we have many different types of people coming together for the right to health. For much of our network, hosting 5Ks and walk-a-thons is a great way to cap off the end of the year. But this isn't the best idea everywhere. In this post, we highlight the work of our Southern Connecticut PIH Engage Team, who held their culminating fundraising event at Two Roads brewery in Stratford, CT on April 2,2016.
Pat Camuto and Jo Van Ancken, Team Coordinators of the Southern Connecticut PIH Engage Team, organized a silent auction at the local Two Roads brewery in Stratford, CT, to Raise a glass to global health! Below, they describe their process of planning and advertising, including their advice for organizing successful fundraising events.
(left) Pat and Jo (middle) Two Roads sign (right) Attendees of fundraiser
How did you come up with the idea for this fundraising event?
We are a community team, not campus-based, and our members are older, so things that work on campuses don't work for us. We always have to go a little rogue and come up with things that are a little different. In southern Connecticut, people like things that are social. Rather than a symposium or a lecture, what they are more used to is an exchange, like a wine and cheese or shopping for charity. Our group likes getting a night out and feel young. So, we thought, let's do it at a local brewery: Two Roads. We thought people would love to go out for a night, drink a beer, and feel a little cool. When we started three years ago, we were a very tiny team. We had our very first Strides for Solidarity, and we always joke that fifteen people and five dogs showed up. We've come a long way since then. We have realized that a Strides event does not resonate with our community!
"When we started three years ago, we were a very tiny team. We had our very first Strides and we always joke that fifteen people and five dogs showed up. We've come a long way since then. We have realized that a Strides [in Solidarity] event does not resonate with our community!"
How did you get across the PIH message?
We did a little messaging, but not everybody came to drink the PIH Kool-Aid. Everyone came to drink the beer. But we did still talk about PIH and PIH Engage, and we put literature all over the place. We had posters with the PIH logo because we wanted people to recognize it, since they'll see it on the news or on Facebook and they'll remember it. We wanted the event to be a party, and so the messaging had to be kind of soft. We wanted people to associate coming to this fundraiser and having a great time, while feeling like they were giving to a great cause. We were telling people to look around at the literature and see what their money was buying, and we figured if people were interested, they would contact us.
How did the silent auction work?
We realized we had room to do a raffle or a silent auction to raise money on top of ticket sales, so we went around to get sponsors. Some members on my team have worked for other charities and were really bold; they kind of empowered us. We are a team of about 11 people, and everyone went out to all the local boutiques and restaurants, and people were amazingly generous. A $100 gift certificate for this and that, the local baseball team gave us opening night tickets, a dentist donated a teeth cleaning, all sorts of crazy things. We got about 26 auction items, which ranged from $50 to over $200-300 in value. It was unbelievable. We made almost $1600 on the silent auction alone!
"We had posters with the PIH logo because we wanted people to recognize it, since they'll see it on the news or on Facebook and they'll remember it."
What was the process of planning and brainstorming different fundraising strategies like?
Over the six months we planned the event, it just blew up and things really started to snowball. Someone even knew an acoustic group that would volunteer their time to play the whole evening. We ended up selling out of tickets, over 80 of them, since our venue held 75-100. That was really exciting, and all of a sudden, people were calling asking, "Can you get me in?" It was the place to be on a Saturday night in Fairfield! In net total, we raised $3445. We also put a link on our invite, saying, if you can't come, please still support. So, a lot of people who couldn't come still donated anyway! Another huge hit was door prizes, which were raffled through the night for free. Small giveaways like a mug, a phone card holder, or a T-shirt - people loved that!
How did you go about advertising?
With advertising, we were very lucky. We started out with Eventbrite, and our entire team made up a little invitation to email out to friends and family. We put it on Facebook, and we had a media partner, a local radio station, WPKN, which was announcing our event 5 times a day. WPKN also had our link on their website. We really started publicizing around the end of February because we wanted to give it a good six weeks before the event. By March, we were live.
"Organization is key. It is worth spending a month making that timeline!"
What is your advice for planning successful fundraising events?
This is so hard with a campus group, but give yourself enough lead time. Make a timeline spreadsheet! If you're not giving it enough time, then move the event out. Have enough people to delegate. We had the buffet group, the silent auction group, the welcome group. Everyone should have their own task. Be obsessively organizing. For anything you want to do that's new, try to anticipate everything that could go wrong. For us, we picked at everybody's brain that had been at or run a silent auction before. Organization is key. It is worth spending a month making that timeline! Be obsessive about requests and thank you's - we hand delivered thank you's to everybody the week after the event. Give people feedback, and treat your donors well.
How have you reflected on this last culminating event of the campaign year?
There was a moment in the planning process when Jo and I both looked at each other and said, "Just screw it. You write out a check. I'll write out a check." Then, we realized it's bigger than that. It's not just about the money. The money compared to the whole PIH budget is minimal. It's about reaching out to all these people who have never heard about PIH before, and not just people who attended, but donors who gave and who didn't. When I was looking for donors, one of my Italian deli guys told me, "Pat, I don't want to hear about the babies anymore. I'm just giving you the platter." But now he knows about the babies and tells me, "I love Partners!" (Partners is what he calls PIH). So, you really raise a lot of awareness even in the door-to-door stopping. Even the people who have slammed the door in your face have heard about PIH now. There's no metric for that. And now, in the future, we can say, well, you've donated to us before, so now you're a supporter of PIH whether you like it or not!
As we gear up for the 2016-2017 Campaign year, PIH Engage staff hope that stories like Pat and Jo's will help us think creatively about how to raise funds for the right to health. This event is one example out of many that shows how PIH Engage teams around the country are working to involve their community in the work of PIH.