It can be heart breaking to put a lot of time and effort into a fundraising event only to find you aren’t selling enough tickets to break even let alone make a decent profit.
What are the reasons you might not be selling tickets and more importantly – what can you do about it?
People don’t like your event
Maybe this is the eighth ‘pets fashion parade’ you have done in a row, or maybe you are throwing a poker night to raise money for a nunnery. Have you read your crowd wrong? Are people bored with this type of event? Does it involve social threats such as dressing up, heights, meeting strangers or being locked in a small space for a period of time? Ask (in a non-threatening way) people why they’re not coming, or get a third party to ask on your behalf. Don’t repeat your mistake for next time.
The timing is wrong
Have you organised your event on the same night as the AFL Grand Final? Are there two major school/club events in a row? Is it too close to school holidays or a long weekend? Before scheduling a major fundraising really do your homework – ask the school admin, check fixtures of local sporting teams, check for religious and cultural holidays, look at event websites to see if there is something else major happening on the same night.
The cost is wrong
It’s too expensive – people understand that schools and clubs need to raise funds, but that doesn’t mean they are a bottomless pit of funds. Don’t just look at ticket prices, you also need to take into account that people might need to pay for babysitters, and if food/drinks aren’t included in ticket prices, then this is an extra cost. If you expect people to be forking out extra for raffles and auctions, then you need to take some of the cost away from the tickets.
You are doing too many events
Most families will come along to one or two major fundraising events each year – any more than that and they will begin choosing between one and the other. If your school or club is running a major fundraiser every term, you are probably overwhelming your school community (not to mention your volunteer base) and you need to focus your efforts into no more than two events a year (perhaps one for adults only, and one for the whole family).
They don’t know about it
People are busy – and they are not mind-readers – if you have an event you need to tell people about it. And you cannot simply rely on one form of marketing. Not everyone reads the school newsletter. Not everyone is on Facebook. Some people work 12 hour days and never come into the school grounds and won’t see signs plastered around the classrooms. Some kids let notes and flyers turn to dust in the bottom of their bags before they remember to hand them to their parents. You must cross-promote. Repeatedly.
How can you turn things around? Ways to get people to buy tickets
Call back the old timers
You wanted to sell 150 tickets to your event but have only managed to sell 100? Why not approach graduates or alumni – even if you approach the previous two years of graduated families (whose children have now left the school) you may find you reach your target. They are familiar with the school, they probably still know other families at the school, and if you market it as a ‘reunion’ or ‘alumni’ event it may attract people who are missing their old friends.
Offer different pricing structures
If people are complaining your event is too pricey, considering offer discounts for large groups or pre-bookings. By offering a significant discount to groups of 6 or more, you are effectively passing on the responsibility of finding extra guests onto other people and they will do your marketing for you. Offering reduced tickets in the days before the event is still cheaper than cancelling the event due to inadequate ticket sales.
Offer an early-bird prize
If you need an injection of cash to pay a deposit on a venue or performer, then you need tickets being sold sooner rather than later – offer discounts or an early bird prize for people who buy their tickets before a certain date.
Does your fundraising event have to be limited to your own school community? Depending on what you are organising you might consider approaching the principals or P&C of nearby schools and ask them to extend the invite to their communities.
Approach the local paper and ask them to do a piece on the event (perhaps don’t mention the fact you can’t sell tickets, make it is sound like a sell-out and people will be afraid of missing out).
Have you tried marketing your event via social media? Facebook is a great way of building excitement and people can see who is coming.
Offer tickets to sponsors
If it is a matter of bums on seats (rather than making extra money) then offer free tickets to sponsors who have provided prizes or grants. Depending on the event you can always offer two or four tickets for free, and then extra tickets at a reduced rate.
Offer prizes for top sellers
Offer a substantial prize to the person who sells the most tickets or brings the most friends on the night. It might be a matter of re-allocating a prize hamper or silent auction prize to use as the prize, but if it brings in an extra thirty or forty paying guests, it will pay off financially.