Last spring, all I could think about was boobs. And walking. And money.

Much of my spare time went into planning a wine-tasting fundraiser - plotting about food, publicity, raffle prizes, etc. I solicited prize donations from area businesses and strangers on Etsy. I even made a few brassiere purses myself (which I still think are super-cute). Food was a cheese and cracker tray, a fruit tray and a bunch of cute pastries from a local shop.

The event was held at a local wine shop, which charged me $5 a person and allowed me to keep anything above that in ticket sales. The owner was really nice and helpful, and he also donated a portion of the wine sales from that evening to the walk.

On the day of the event, I lived in fear that NO ONE WOULD COME. Except my aunt and (then) boyfriend, who kindly wore a T-shirt I had bought him that said "Real men wear pink." (Is that a relationship test or what?) Anyway, people came. 18 people. Not as many as I would have liked, but at least I wasn't standing there by myself.

In the end, I came home with most of the fruit and cheese and crackers and $465. $50 of that was money I had contributed for change at the door, and I took out another $100 for the food. So, that left $215 to fight breast cancer. Better than nothing, but certainly not as much as I had hoped for after weeks of work.

But, in retrospect, I could have used my resources better. If I were to do it again, here are some things I would keep in mind:

1) Publicity is king. I spread the word through Facebook, work friends and a short blurb in the newspaper. That probably wasn't enough, especially if the event is in a location that doesn't have much traffic. In retrospect, I would suggest using fliers, newspaper resources, church bulletins, friends, etc. at least 6 weeks before the event. Don't spend any significant amount of money on your promotional efforts, but make sure the materials tell people how to donate if they can't make it to the event. And repeat the publicity efforts as much as possible up until the day of the actual event. Publicize until you are sure you are annoying people. (Because, honestly, people are busy. You probably aren't annoying them.)

2) Apparently people buy wine in the fall, not the spring. The shop owner pulled my boyfriend aside half-way through the event last May and mentioned that he gets most of his sales in the fall leading up to the holiday season, when people tend to drink more wine and use it as gifts. So, depending on when your particular 3-Day event is, a wine-tasting might a good option for your first event of the fundraising season in late October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) or early November.

3) Don't go overboard on food. I could have done with half (or less) of the food I had. The food ate into the proceeds, and if I had run out, I'm not sure any of the guests would have been disappointed. They were there for wine and to support breast cancer ... and the wine portions were not so large that I felt people needed to consume food or risk leaving intoxicated.

4) Spend more time on publicity; less time on raffle prizes. I sold raffle tickets, so of course I needed raffle prizes. I ended up having 10 packages - and yes, because I had 18 people come, more than half the people who came won something. You need something for people to look at and talk about, but your time is probably better spent trying to get people in the door that trying to get prizes for the prize tables.

Of course, everyone learns through experience. And most 3-Day walkers do not have business or marketing degrees. My attitude throughout fundraising was to simply to keep at it and avoid putting all my eggs in one proverbial basket. After one fundraiser, I already knew I would be working on another so it was easy to keep the pressure light.

Anyone else have any suggestions on strategies to keep in mind while planning a fundraising event?

P.S. Want to make your own brassiere purse? I made a few more after stumbling upon a clearance rack at Wal-Mart. I'll post some instructions on how I put them together next Friday :)
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4 Responses
  1. Kinley's Mom Says:

    I second your food comment. I did a fundraiser and did all kinds of cute pink food (even homemade red velvet cupcakes with pink frosting). There was a lot of food left over and it cost too much. In the future, I'd take people up on their offers to bring food to the event. I personally donated the food, so fortunately it didn't have to come out of the profits.

  2. We are throwing an event in July as a 5-year (survivor)anniversary party and Benefit for the 3-day walk. A local American Legion has donated space and we will be inviting lots of friends and family (plus doing fliers)and my mom & I are planning to ask every local business in the area to donate food & raffles (kind of a benefit of being from a small town). Also, I'm sure many family members will offer to bring a salad or dessert and I plan to take them up on it. I just did a Crop for a Cure last week. We ended up with only 15 people but we came away with $450. A lot of my customers offered to bring desserts and at first I was declining, then I started taking people up on their offers. It worked out great because there was a lot less $$ for my sister and I to spend on food. I love all your fundraising ideas and tips. This is my first year walking so I'm taking it all in. Thanks for the great info!

  3. debra Says:

    we also did a wine tasting, we had a blast, had only about 25 to 30 ppl show up. had 20 baskets, all wine and Breast Cancer themed. We charged $25, of which the winery wanted $15, but they also would not let me advertise with a banner at the location, I got them to charge me 7.50 because they did not follow thru with a lot of things they said they were going to do, they did donate a $1 per glass, and $5 per bottle sold.I did a lot of advertising elsewhere, had way to much food, (I had a gift certificate for $500 worth of catering, just before the rest. went out of business so it was good I used it. We made about 700 $,doing it again this yr, at a different location, a rest. that does wine tasting once a month. they have about 30 or so ppl that come every month so with my 25 to 30 and theirs we should do well. I do this for my daughters who walk.

  4. Drew Watts Says:

    I am going to arrange a wine tasting fundraising party at one of venue New York. Was looking for some great ideas for the day and will check online for unique ideas online from so many days. Really want to arrange everything best there.